RULES OF WARFARE
responsibility is left out of Charen's equation, too,
because, you see, during the Vietnam war "Americans never
knew when a 'civilian' they came across might pull a gun
and kill them." Therefore, there should have been no attempt
to distinguish between combatants and civilians, eh, Mona?
Oh, but "they'd seen it happen to friends." I guess this
would qualify as a "revenge killing" just like
the Anglo-American media's popular description of what
has been going on in Kosovo since "liberation." "And if
Americans therefore killed more civilians than they otherwise
would have," she avers, "that guilt lies with the Vietcong."
Oh, you're so right, Mona: why, how dare
those nasty Viet-cong guerrillas not wear easily identifiable
uniforms perhaps something in a nice bright red.
You know, like the British at Lexington: and can someone
please tell me why they insisted on hiding in those
nasty old jungles? Why couldn't they fight out in the
open, like Real Men?
NOTE FROM THE PEANUT GALLERY
galling is Ms. Charen's scoffing at the credentials of
those "pampered journalists" who get to critique, some
thirty years later, the actions of rough-hewn he-men like
Kerrey: she wonders aloud "whether the journalists pepper-spraying
former Sen. Bob Kerrey about his conduct on a moonless
night in Vietnam 32 years ago have ever faced anything
more harrowing than air turbulence between New York and
Washington." Of course, La Charen, being a mere slip of
a girl in 1969, has the perfect out: this was way
before they took chicks (we called them "chicks" back
then) in the military, so she didn't serve, yet has a
perfect right to take a stance. But, please, no criticism
from the (male) peanut gallery.
Mona, but it won't wash: if you have the right to cheerlead
from the sidelines, then I have the right to condemn Kerrey
provided, of course, that the facts are there.
Are they? That is the only question journalists ought
to be asking: instead, we are getting long accounts of
Kerrey's "anguish," and his "feelings" yes, but
what about the extinguished feelings of the god-knows-how-many
women, children, and old men slaughtered that night? Do
they count for nothing?
discounting the idea of individual responsibility in wartime
a concession not granted to politically incorrect
soldiers, such as Germans (during World War II) and Serbs
(today) both touchy-feely liberals and hard-nosed
conservatives also ignore what is known about this
incident. To begin with, Kerrey
lied about the civilian casualties, and only came
clean when faced with exposure. Recently declassified
reports documenting the Thanh Phong massacre make no mention
of any civilians killed in what is depicted as a battle
with Vietcong guerrillas. Kerrey claims that his written
report did mention civilians: if so, then where
is this report? We'll never know if Kerrey's Senate ex-colleagues
Mad John McCain, Chuck "Bomb Belgrade" Hagel, and
Senator John Kerry have their way. All
three came out against any official inquiry. Kerry,
the Massachusetts DemocRAT, averred: "``To now talk about
an investigation, it seems to me, is just the wrong way
to go. If the Pentagon asked me, I'd say no." Never mind
the evidence, we need to get beyond this: so just
move along, because we need to "heal." Oh please
where-oh-where have we heard this jive before?
media campaign being waged by Kerrey is a real killer
of the truth, that is and, according
to Neal Travis of the New York Post's "Page
Six" column, no expense is being spared. Kerrey has hired
a pricey Washington public relations firm to attend to
his damaged public image, and the whole thing "was planned,
you could say, like a military operation," notes Travis.
Yeah, but who's paying for it? Travis says that
the 5 members of "Kerrey's Raiders" supporting Kerrey's
ever-shifting version of events were flown in from all
over the country, and put up at the ritzy Lowell Hotel
in New York City. Ah yes, the Lowell, where Hollywood's
elite don shades and assumed names whenever they feel
Garbo-esque. The group then repaired, professional spinners
in tow, to Kerrey's cool Manhattan digs provided
courtesy of the New School University, where Kerrey has
just been appointed president to get their story
straight. Meanwhile, the verdict is nearly unanimous:
Kerrey is off the hook, at least so far, and all this
before the chief witness against him Gerhard
Klann, a veteran Navy SEAL and a member of "Kerrey's Raiders"
even gets a chance to tell his side of the story
on CBS tonight.
of Sixty Minutes II won't be broadcast until
way after my deadline, but from the partial account given
by Klann to Gregory
Vistica in the New York Times Magazine, the
two stories are so completely at variance that one
of these guys must be lying. From the evidence so far,
in my opinion it isn't Klann. For Kerrey's "defense"
it was a "moonless night," his squad was supposedly on
the receiving end of some gunfire, their vision (as well
as their reason) was obscured by "the fog of war"
doesn't even address the specific accusations made by
Klann. Klann contends that they burst in on a "hooch"
GI vernacular for a Vietnamese house with a thatched
roof and dragged out an old man, who was unarmed
but (for some reason) had to be killed. However,
Klann couldn't do it alone. The old guy "refused to die,"
and fought back. Klann told Vistica that "Kerrey came
over and helped push the man to the ground. Kerrey put
his knee on the man's chest, Klann says, as Klann drew
his knife across his neck." So, even if it had been
a "moonless night" (more on that later), even if they
had received incoming fire (Klann denies it), this
old guy a grandfather was unarmed
and still Kerrey helped slit his throat.
more: Kerrey was the commander of this little band of
American freedom-fighters, not some bystander who happened
to be in the neighborhood: it stands to reason that he
gave the orders, including the order to execute a grandfather
whose name I can find nowhere mentioned in any of the
published reports. (It's all part of the Kerrey public
relations strategy: keep the victims faceless, and keep
the focus on Kerrey's heroic "anguish.") And this does
not even begin to address the rest of the atrocities
that were committed that night: the throat-slitting was
just a prelude to the real orgy of blood-and-guts to follow,
when Kerrey and his merry Raiders fired into a crowd of
women and children.
BOTHER ME WITH FACTS
apologists aren't going to let a few bothersome facts
get in the way of their making a point: to
William Safire, this is yet another manifestation
of the hated "Vietnam Syndrome," in which Americans foolishly
hold back from napalming their overseas "enemies" because
they are wallowing in pseudo-pacifistic "guilt." Never
mind the Vietnamese witnesses to this atrocity: since
they live in Vietnam, chafing under the heel of the Commie
authorities, anything they say must be automatically discounted.
How convenient. That leaves Klann, but Safire never so
much as mentions his name, noting only that he is a minority
of one among seven. "No hard evidence is offered to support
this grave allegation," writes Safire but just
how "hard" does our evidence have to be? Many people have
been executed for murder on the basis of a witness's testimony.
Why should Kerrey be held to a different standard? "In
our system of justice," avers Safire, "the burden of proof
is on the accuser and a presumption of innocence belongs
to the accused." Yes, but what if the accused is caught
in a lie isn't that ample reason to begin to doubt
the purity of his "innocence"?
claims he filed a report that mentioned the civilian deaths:
but since there is unlikely to be an inquiry, he won't
be forced to produce what he claims is a written report.
The official reports, apparently based on information
given to Kerrey's immediate superior, mention no civilian
casualties, only the number of "Vietcong" killed. Secondly
and suspiciously the stories on this all
sound exactly alike, reflecting not only the conventional
wisdom but utilizing the same imagery to make the point
of Kerrey's essential innocence: virtually
all of them mention that "it was a moonless night,"
implying that Kerrey was firing into pitch-blackness and
just happened to have knocked off a bunch of civilians.
This "moonless" guff is being put out by Kerrey, and dutifully
picked up by his amen corner in the media, but it wasn't
a moonless night. On February 25, 1969, the moon was
two-thirds full: it set over South Vietnam at 1 a.m. (Check
it out for yourself: go
here for the phases of the moon, courtesy of the US
Naval Observatory, and here
for the time the moon set). According to Vistica's piece,
the massacre occurred at midnight.
Kerrey is lying about this, then what else is he
lying about? Oh, but perhaps he wasn't really lying: what
about this famous "fog of war" we keep hearing about?
Not to mention the fog of time: maybe he just didn't remember
correctly. After all, it was a long time ago. Yes,
but what about the media how come they picked up
this non-fact and kept repeating it like a mantra, without
bothering to check? Neal Travis writes that "by late Saturday
afternoon, Kerrey was emboldened enough to claim that
sections of the media were involved in a conspiracy against
him." If there's any kind of "conspiracy" going on here,
it's not against him but for a cover-up. It's kind
of scary, frankly, when we at Antiwar.com appear to be
the only ones checking the (easily checkable) story
Kerrey is handing out scary, but all too true.