- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 21, 2004

Even though I’m one of the few Americans, besides President George W. Bush, to be personally attacked by Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts on a regular basis, it just hasn’t seemed right to respond.

After all, Mr. Bush has been virtually silent as Mr. Kerry used four letter expletives to describe his policies. The commander in chief turned the other cheek when Democrats said he was “AWOL” and a “deserter.” The president was too polite to return fire when Mr. Kerry denigrated National Guard service by equating it with draft dodgers who “went to Canada.”

Given this model of even-tempered presidential propriety, who am I to stoop to throwing mud back at Mr. Kerry just because he has slung it at me?

I have been holding steadfastly to this noble position for several months — through interminable debates and trumped-up reporting from hyperventilated reporters. But this week, one of the young computer wizards who works down the hall informed me, “You’re all over the Kerry campaign Web site.”

“So?” I replied, somewhat irritated at the intrusion. I make it a practice not to read the reviews of my television show or books, and wasn’t prepared to make an exception for some political Web site.

My young informant said, “He says he ‘exposed you.’ ” Given the alleged activities of certain athletes and entertainers, the word “exposed” caught my attention, so I investigated.

On Mr. Kerry’s campaign Web site, the Bay State’s junior senator claims he deserves credit for “holding Oliver North accountable and exposing the fraud and abuse at the heart of the BCCI scandal.” In speeches and interviews, he goes even further — alleging he “blew the whistle” on my “illegal activities” in support of the Nicaraguan Contras.

It is great fodder for the political left and hard-core radicals. It might even leave Ivy League professors panting. There is only one problem: It’s not true.

John Kerry wasn’t even on the so-called bipartisan congressional committee that spent months investigating the so-called Iran-Contra affair. He never asked me, or any of us involved in supporting the Nicaraguan democratic resistance, a single question. At no time did he question me or anyone else I worked with about our efforts to rescue Americans from dungeons in Beirut. He says he held me accountable? How? When? Where?

Perhaps one of the eager news hounds panting after Mr. Kerry will ask him. And maybe Mr. Kerry — or more likely someone on his extensive campaign staff — will produce some convoluted answers. They may even cite some subcommittee hearings Mr. Kerry held months after the close of the official investigation. His little witch hunt eventually did publish a report that was so incredibly biased as to give the word “slander” an inadequate definition.

More likely, the masters of the mainstream media salivating over Mr. Kerry will give him yet another free pass on these questions — like so many others. Unlike President Bush who has now laid bare his entire record of military service, Mr. Kerry has apparently never had to do so. This leads inevitably to the kind of confused hyperbole in the articles attached to the Kerry campaign Web site.

Some reporters, undoubtedly too young to even remember that this is the 36th anniversary of the “Tet Offensive,” describe Mr. Kerry as having served two tours in Vietnam. Others report he served four months on patrol boats in the Mekong Delta. That would be two months less than Al Gore — and nine months less than most of us “Viet Nam Vets.”

Mr. Kerry says, “I know something about carriers,” alluding to his service in Vietnam. Since I don’t know of any aircraft carriers that were deployed to the Mekong Delta, which one was he aboard? How many months did he serve in Vietnam? Where? What carrier? Did he come home early? Was it because of the severity of his wounds or something else? What does the military record say?

Mr. Kerry has the same problem with his post-Vietnam, antigovernment activities. He says that photos of him with Jane Fonda are fakes. Did he ever appear with Jane Fonda? Miss Fonda eventually apologized to America’s Vietnam veterans for actions Gen. Giap and other Vietnamese leaders said prolonged the war and encouraged the North Vietnamese to keep fighting — and killing Americans. Did Mr. Kerry ever apologize? Where? When?

Mr. Kerry testified under oath before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971 that Americans in Vietnam had “raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war.”

Set aside the horrific and defamatory nature of these accusations and ask this: Did he witness these atrocities? Did he try to stop them? If not, was he held accountable for dereliction of duty? If he knows the perpetrators, did he ever see that they were brought to justice? If not, why?

Mr. Kerry and his cronies in the Democrat Party have made Vietnam an issue in this campaign. They have slandered Mr. Bush for his service during the war. Until Mr. Kerry truthfully answers the questions above — and a whole lot more about his actions during the war, many of us are going to wonder what the middle initial “F” in John F. Kerry stands for — is it “Fiction?” Or is it simply “False?”

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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