Man Without Qualities

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Pathetic ... And Bound To Lose X: The Henchman Brother?

John Kerry has employed tortured logic to construe Republican criticisms of his post-Vietnam record as attacks on his Vietnam military record. Of course, the Senator's facts supporting his accusations have been more than a bit weak: Asked for examples of Bush attacking his service in Vietnam, Kerry cited published reports that the campaign plans to question his outspoken opposition to the war after he returned. But John Kerry has made it clear that he will confront each such attack: "No one is going to question my commitment to the defense of our nation."

Now the Senator's actual combat brother, PCF-44 Gunner's Mate Stephen M. Gardner, has been found by a TIME reporter and has denounced Sen. Kerry's actual Vietnam military record and his commitment to the defense of our nation, both in pointed terms:

"[I]f John Kerry gets to be president of these United States, it'll be a sorry day in this world for us. We can't stand another Democrat like that in there again. We'll get our asses in such a sling this time; we won't be able to get out of it. And the bottom line to it is, I don't care how much John Kerry's changed after he moved off my boat, his initial patterns of behavior when I met him and served under him was somebody who ran from the enemy, rather than engaged it."

Mr. Gardner thinks Mr. Kerry did a poor job when he was entrusted with Mr. Gardner's life while in Vietnam service - just as John Kerry felt about the job done by the people entrusted with John Kerry's life while he was in Vietnam service. John Kerry made a big deal out of demanding an explanation from those people when he got back from Vietnam, and has continued to make a big deal of it ever since. So doesn't Senator Kerry owe Mr. Gardner a specific, personal response? After all, here is someone offering up exactly the Vietnam-and-post-Vietnam combination of accusations that Mr. Kerry has attributed to the Administration. Doesn't Mr. Gardner's Vietnam military record entitle him to a specific, personal response? By a specific, personal response I mean one that addresses the specific facts of the combat situations raised by Mr. Gardner and Senator Kerry's actions and decisions regarding those facts - not just a statement of blank disagreement with Mr. Gardner.

Is the Senator going to accuse Mr. Gardner of being a Republican "henchman" or one of Mr. Bush's "surrogates" - as the Senator has accused his Senate colleague, Saxby Chambliss? Just what does Senator Kerry have to say to Mr. Gardner? The Senator has certainly been implying that only such "henchmen" and "surrogates" would dare to question exactly the things Mr. Gardner is questioning. So why doesn't the Senator come right out and say Mr. Gardner is one of them?


The Boston Globe reports:

As Gardner recalls it, he was in the "tub" above the pilot house with the twin machine guns, and Kerry was in command, when the Navy swift boat came upon a sampan in the darkness. Gardner flashed a searchlight and ordered the craft to stop. Then, he said, he saw a figure rise up over the gunwale with a semiautomatic weapon. Spotting tracers in the sky and fearing an attack, Gardner said, he laced the sampan with bullets, and other crew members fired as well. Gardner recalls a man in the sampan falling overboard, presumably dead.

After the shooting had stopped and Kerry had ordered a cease-fire, Gardner said, the crew found a woman in the sampan who was alive. There was also the boy, dead in the bottom of the boat. Gardner said there is no way to know which crewmate fired the shots that killed the boy, but he said Kerry was in the pilot house and did not fire. Kerry was livid when he emerged, Gardner said.

"Kerry threatened me with a court-martial, screaming at the top of his lungs: `What the hell do you think you're doing? I ought to have you court-martialed,' " Gardner recalled.

Senator Kerry has given a rather different - and more generalized - account of what seem to be the same events, which is also recounted by the Globe article:

"It is one of those terrible things, and I'll never forget, ever, the sight of that child. But there was nothing that anybody could have done about it. It was the only instance of that happening. It angered me," Kerry added. "But look, the Viet Cong used women and children. Who knows if they had -- under the rice -- a satchel [containing an explosive], and if we had come along beside them they had thrown the satchel in [our] boat. . . . So it was a terrible thing, but I've never thought we were somehow at fault or guilty. There wasn't anybody in that area that didn't know you don't move at night, that you don't go out in a sampan on the rivers, and there's a curfew."

Having placed his pride in his military record at the center of his political career, doesn't the Senator now have an obligation to address Mr. Gardner's version of the facts more specifically? Doesn't the Senator have that obligation both to Mr. Gardner and to the voters who he has asked to focus on his military record in making him President of the United States?

Read the whole Globe article.

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