An insult to our servicemen

From The Washington Post:

Obama considering John Kerry for job of defense secretary

By  and , Published: November 12

President Obama is considering asking Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) to serve as his next defense secretary, part of an extensive rearrangement of his national security team that will include a permanent replacement for former CIA director David H. Petraeus.

Although Kerry is thought to covet the job of secretary of state, senior administration officials familiar with the transition planning said that nomination will almost certainly go to Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

John O. Brennan, Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser, is a leading contender for the CIA job if he wants it, officials said. If Brennan goes ahead with his plan to leave government, Michael J. Morell, the agency’s acting director, is the prohibitive favorite to take over permanently. Officials cautioned that the White House discussions are still in the early stages and that no decisions have been made.

Petraeus’s resignation last week after revelations of an extramarital affair has complicated what was already an intricate puzzle to reassemble the administration’s national security and diplomatic pieces for Obama’s second term.

More at the link.

Elections have consequences, and one consequence of the re-election of President Obama is that we are going to see liberal Democrats holding the top cabinet posts. But to nominate John Kerry to be Secretary of Defense would show tremendous disrespect for the men and women in our armed services. Your Editor does not refer to the so-called “Swift Boat Veterans” allegations concerning Senator Kerry’s service in Vietnam; that episode involves too much contradictory testimony and unprovable assertions to be disqualifying.1

Rather, I refer to Mr Kerry’s slanders against his fellow servicemen during the Vietnam War. From the New York Post:2

Op/Ed New York Post

Fri Apr 23, 2:15 AM ET

Thirty-three years ago today, a young, unknown political activist named John F. Kerry sat down before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and unleashed a bitter verbal broadside against the war in Vietnam – and, with particularly harsh invective, against the young Americans who were fighting it.

Kerry charged that U.S. soldiers routinely committed the most gruesome of atrocities – “not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

The allegations electrified Washington – and made Kerry a national celebrity.

But the charges were slanderous lies.

“John Kerry (news – web sites)’s 1971 testimony slandered an entire generation of soldiers,” writes military historian Mackubin Thomas Owens, who led a Marine infantry platoon into combat in Vietnam.

“He said in essence that his fellow veterans had committed unparalleled war crimes in Vietnam as a matter of course – indeed, that it was American policy to commit such atrocities,” Owens writes.

The libel served Kerry well, though.

The better part of a half-century has passed; the nation is once again at war – and the junior senator from Massachusetts now stands as the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.

Surely it is no coincidence that now – after all these years – John F. Kerry is trying to rewrite the dialogue that attended his first moments in the national spotlight.

On “Meet the Press” last weekend, Kerry maintained that while his “words were honest,” they were nonetheless “a little bit over the top.”

No regrets.

No contrition.

And, certainly, no apology.

“A little bit over the top”?

Well, here’s what the then-national spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War had to say on April 23, 1971:

“[U.S. servicemen] had personally 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.”

Indeed, he charged, “[Americans] are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free-fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search-and-destroy missions, the bombings, the torture of prisoners – all accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam.”

Did these things really happen the way John Kerry said they did – routinely, as a matter of national policy?

In Oliver Stone movies, maybe.

Yes, some American soldiers committed atrocities. (Though even those crimes paled in comparison to those repeatedly perpetrated by the Vietcong, as an integral part of a decades-long terror campaign meant to coerce South Vietnamese support for the Communist side.)

But even as harsh a critic of U.S. policy as Daniel Ellsberg, the man who leaked the Pentagon (news – web sites) Papers, has said that the men involved in the war’s most notorious event, the My Lai massacre, knew that the killing there was “out of the ordinary. That is why [the soldiers] tried to hide the event.”

But that’s not what John Kerry told the Senate.

Kerry agreed with Jane Fonda, who declared – during a protest at which Kerry was the featured speaker – that “My Lai was not an isolated incident but rather a way of life for many of our military.”

Kerry, to be entirely fair, didn’t actually fashion his charges from whole cloth.

He took them from accounts included in the “Winter Soldier Investigation,” a fabrication purportedly based on testimony from, in Kerry’s words, “over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans.”

That was odious nonsense.

“Winter Soldier” was, in fact, a set-up organized by a JFK-conspiracy theorist, the fabulist Mark Lane.

And it was quickly exposed as a lie by journalists James Reston and Neil Sheehan – themselves harsh critics of U.S. policy – who discovered that many of its supposed eyewitnesses never even served in Vietnam.

To date, John Kerry has never disavowed the Winter Soldier Investigation – or apologized for his role in propagating its notorious falsehoods.

Kerry has tried to explain away his slanderous charges by suggesting they were spontaneous – prompted by the heat of his anger over the war.

But it is now known that Kerry’s speech was in fact carefully crafted by Adam Walinsky, a one-time Robert Kennedy aide and speechwriter – who also coached Kerry in how to deliver it for maximum emotional impact.

That is, for utmost political effect.

John Kerry, you see, had carefully planned a political career – and decided to use the war as his signature issue.

The year before he appeared before Congress, he’d entered a congressional race in Massachusetts. And he would exploit his sudden notoriety to move up the electoral ladder until he reached the Senate in 1985.

There are many ironies in Kerry’s career, not the least of which being the fact that he’s now running for president as the champion of the very same warriors he so viciously slandered 33 years ago.

Sen. Kerry can’t bring himself to apologize for calling the men he purports to represent war criminals.

But he doesn’t hesitate to hit them up for money.

“Most Americans are not familiar with John Kerry’s Vietnam record,” reads a current campaign solicitation that complains about “the Bush smear campaign in the press.”

“Help us fight back by contributing [money]. And if you’re a veteran . . . join Veterans for Kerry right now.”

Not so fast.

As Mackubin Thomas Owens wrote in National Review, “What Kerry did after leaving the Navy constituted a breach of trust with his fellow veterans — because, to protest the war, he cast aspersions upon their conduct.”

Insists Owens: “He should apologize.”

Indeed he should.

Adam Smith of Red State noted that Senator Kerry, as late as November of 2006, two years after his loss in the 2004 presidential race, defended his 1971 statements as the truth:

The American people rely on the truth. And when I came back from Southeast Asia, I told the truth. And I’m proud that I stood up and told the truth then, and I’ve told the truth about Iraq every single step of the way.

We have had several Secretaries of Defense who never served in the armed forces themselves; some have been good and some have been lousy. To ensure civilian control of the military, the Secretary of Defense may not have been on active duty in any branch of the armed services for seven years prior to his appointment.3 But whether a Secretary has served in the armed forces or not, he must be respected by the officers and enlisted men under his authority, and must be seen as respecting them. Given Mr Kerry’s statements in 1971, and his confirmation of them in 2006, those are tests which he cannot meet.

If President Obama wants to appoint him to be Secretary of State, fine, let him; the President is going to appoint a liberal Democrat regardless, and there’s no particular reason to think that Mr Kerry would somehow be worse than any other appointment Mr Obama would ever make. But he should never, ever, ever be appointed as Secretary of Defense, and if the President does make such an appointment, the Republicans in the Senate should filibuster the nomination.
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  1. Though, were Senator Kerry a Republican, he’d most certainly be held to the higher standard of “the appearance of impropriety.”
  2. The original Post editorial has been removed from their website, the text has been preserved on other sites.
  3. This rule was suspended for Secretary of Defense George C Marshall. As a General of the Army, General Marshall would remain on the active duty list for as long as he lived.

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