response to the
devastating CBS report is so scripted that you can
almost hear his PR flacks prepping him:
#1: "Now remember, downplay Klann and focus on that Vietnamese
#2: "Yeah, we're on top of this, so don't worry. Our
buddies over at Time got the old lady to say
that she didn't see what happened, but only heard it.
It won't be too hard to conflate that into 'heard about
#1: [Chuckle] "Yeah, that
Bill O'Reilly really is not too bright, is he?"
#2: "Now be nice; he's on our side."
subtleties of "spin" often depend on the gullibility of
reporters and pundits, and some are more susceptible than
others. Time merely reported that the woman, Pham
Thi Lanh, "told a different story, saying she had not
actually seen any execution." But, aside from that single
throwaway line, the Time account does not elaborate:
at any rate, according to all other news accounts, she
saw plenty. In addition, there
is another witness, who was a young girl at the time,
and witnessed the whole thing. But naturally the testimony
of these people must be entirely discounted, even though
it matches in practically every detail the story told
by Klann: these, after all, are Commies, and therefore
everything they have to say is nothing but a Commie lie.
But if the Vietnamese government has been coaching Mrs.
Lanh, they haven't been doing a very good job of it. She
told an Associated Press reporter who noted that
Lanh's "account had several inconsistencies" that
"they spoke a language I didn't understand and they wore
helmets and big clothes." This sounds more like the fading
memories of an ill-educated old lady than Communist propaganda.
In any case, the memories of the other witness, Bui Thi
Luom, who was 12 at the time, have not faded. There is
much talk of Kerrey's "anguish," but take a look at Luom's.
. . .
MEN WITH GUNS
to Luom, among the victims that night were her pregnant
aunt and her grandmother: "That night I was sleeping inside
the shelter. My grandmother woke me up, calling everybody
in the shelter to come outside. I counted them
seven men with guns." After Kerrey & Co. had rounded
them up and seated them in a circle near the entrance
to their dwelling, "One woman started coughing and the
American soldier put a gun to her throat. My grandmother
told her not to cough or the soldier would kill her."
They yanked the girl to her feet: she screamed. "My grandmother
turned to help her. I saw her kneel in front of the Americans,
pleading for mercy. After that, the soldiers began to
shoot." As a kind of farewell gift, they threw an explosive
into the shelter before they left.
OUT THE MURK MACHINE
morning [Thursday], WorldNetDaily posted my
analysis of Killer Kerrey's effort at spin control
up alongside O'Reilly's labored effort to cast doubt on
the investigative reporting of Gregory Vistica, who broke
the story, and CBS News, which gave it a vivid visual
element and put the issue front and center. He is honest
enough to admit that Kerrey looked "uneasy" i.e.
guilty as hell while Klann looked "sincere and
definite" (in other words: entirely truthful). And then
there's the bothersome corroborating testimony of that
Vietnamese woman: "But here's where things get very murky."
Ah yes, let's haul out the old murk machine, and hope
it will blow enough smoke to obscure the facts:
Newsweek reporter Gregory Vistica has been working
on the Kerrey story for almost a decade and could not
get it published. He finally convinced the [New York]
Times [Magazine] and CBS that the accusations against
Kerrey and the other SEALS were credible. But it is entirely
possible that the Vietnamese authorities knew exactly
what Vistica was looking into and briefed the Vietnamese
woman before she spoke to CBS, the Times and other members
of the American press. Remember, Vietnamese authorities
were always present during her interviews."
somehow fails to inform his readers that Newsweek
spiked the story not because what Vistica reported
was untrue, but because Kerrey dropped out of the race
for the White House and no longer represented a threat
to Bill Clinton. But what really leaps out at any journalist
in the above quotation is the clear implication that Vistica
was somehow in league with the Vietnamese government to
get Kerrey. For unless Vistica first briefed the Vietnamese
authorities, letting them in on all the details of Klann's
testimony, and carefully coordinated every detail with
Pham Thi Lanh, the scenario described by O'Reilly makes
no sense. The unadmitted premise smuggled into O'Reilly's
argument is revealed by the curious weakness of his punchline:
so what if the Vietnamese authorities were always
present at Vistica's interviews with Pham Thi Lanh? It
wouldn't have mattered unless Vistica filled them in on
what else he knew. Is this what O'Reilly really
means to say?
GETS IN MY EYES
Time story uses the words "ambiguous," "ambiguity,"
and "ambivalence" and various derivatives
no less than five times, and the theme that plays
throughout is the old "fog of war" wafting through the
story of Kerrey's "anguish" and "pain" like a thick layer
of murk. Think of it this cloud of smoke
as the journalistic equivalent of air pollution, like
the gray film that hovers over Los Angeles in summertime,
obscuring the view and making the eyes water. The murk
machine is working overtime, and they've just begun. By
the time they're done, the stark facts will be so completely
covered up that we'll forget all about the accusations,
and start working on an "investigation" of Kerrey's accusers.
This is the direction that Kerrey and his cronies are
pushing the story: a perfectly logical development in
the age of Clinton.
THE AGE OF CLINTON
himself started the process by whining to the Lincoln
[Nebraska] Star-Journal that he found it "odd"
that CBS failed to report Klann's statement to Vistica
that he wouldn't cooperate if "a 1999 incident in which
he was stopped by a trooper for alcohol-related reasons"
was mentioned in the New York Times Magazine piece.
"They ignored it because it interrupts or interferes with
their story," said Kerrey. But why is it relevant? In
true Clintonian style, Kerrey's campaign to whitewash
or, rather, graywash his war crimes is becoming
a campaign of character assassination. During the impeachment
brouhaha, Kerrey called Clinton "an unusually good liar":
now that Bill has a lot of free time, the two of them
might get together and compare notes. No doubt Kerrey
could use a few pointers from the master.
newspaper my good friend Lew Rockwell calls the War
Street Journal is already busily impugning the motives
of Kerrey's accusers, following up the Commie plot angle
with an article by Claudia Rosett demanding to know "When
will Dan Rather hold communists to account?" The murk
machine is spinning crazily, at this point, furiously
spewing out clouds of ink like an angry squid:
this Dan Rather standard of in-depth inquiry shouldn't
stop with unearthing tales of Mr. Kerrey's Navy SEAL squad
and the Vietnamese villagers they killed in a war zone
32 years ago. Step aside, Mr. Kerrey. In the course of
its long struggle with communism, Asia has racked up a
mighty list of folks in far greater need of an invitation
to unburden themselves on prime-time television."
we even talk about what Kerrey is alleged to have done,
we have to preface it with a long, detailed excursion
into the war crimes of the other side: not only the Vietnamese,
mind you, but the North Koreans and the Chinese. And please
don't forget to contrast this with the glorious vision
of 'democracy" that supposedly flourishes on Taiwan. Then
and only then are we supposed to even bring up the uncomfortable
fact that a former US Senator and perhaps future
presidential candidate stands credibly accused
of horrible war crimes. But wasn't it the Wall Street
Journal, during the cold war, that always inveighed
against the "leftist" sin of "moral equivalence"? I guess
it's okay in this instance, since we're trying to justify
American war crimes. "It is a large disservice
to both Americans and Asians to apply civilized standards
only to our own compatriots," avers Rosett. "Communism
is a system that has poisoned every society where it has
ever been tried. Just take a look at the misery and anger
still welling up in the former Soviet Union." We are very
far afield from the question of Kerrey's guilt or innocence:
and that is precisely where Kerrey's spin-doctors want
us to be.
YOUR BETS HERE
someone kindly explain to Ms. Rosett why we insist on
applying "civilized standards" in America in spite of
the lack of such standards elsewhere? Or is she implying
without quite daring to say it that such
standards are impossibly high when dealing with a country
as "uncivilized" as Vietnam? What would, indeed,
be a disservice of a very large order to Americans and
Asians alike would be to sweep the whole thing under the
rug, as O'Reilly, Rosett, and the rest of Kerrey's amen
corner would like. As we used to say during the Vietnam
war era: "The whole world is watching" especially
in Asia. Will the Americans look the other way as one
of their leaders is accused of wantonly slaughtering Asians?
To do so would strike a blow at America's interests in
the region: it would delight her foes, and bewilder her
friends emboldening the former, and endangering
the latter. And so it comes down to this: Kerrey's interests
versus the national interest. Does anyone want to take
bets on whose interests will win out in the end? My hopes
are with Bui Thi Luom but my money is on Kerrey.