Monday, August 16, 2004

More on Christmas In Cambodia

My dedicated readers (Hi, Mom!) will remember that I outlined the various Kerry statements regarding his forays into Cambodia. These conflicting statements have been put to Kerry's biographer, Douglas Brinkley, who has carefully reviewed Kerry's wartime diaries.

"On Christmas Eve he was near Cambodia; he was around 50 miles from the Cambodian border. There's no indictment of Kerry to be made, but he was mistaken about Christmas in Cambodia," said Douglas Brinkley, who has unique access to the candidate's wartime journals.

....He said: "Kerry went into Cambodian waters three or four times in January and February 1969 on clandestine missions. He had a run dropping off US Navy Seals, Green Berets and CIA guys." The missions were not armed attacks on Cambodia, said Mr Brinkley, who did not include the clandestine missions in his wartime biography of Mr Kerry, Tour of Duty.

"He was a ferry master, a drop-off guy, but it was dangerous as hell. Kerry carries a hat he was given by one CIA operative. In a part of his journals which I didn't use he writes about discussions with CIA guys he was dropping off."

Another blogger has pointed out that the Swift Boat member who says Kerry "never" went into Cambodia left the boat at the end of December.

So, to review the bidding, it appears that Option #3 was the correct one -- Kerry lied when he said that his incursions into Cambodia had been on Christmas Eve, 1968. On Christmas Eve, 1968, he was far upriver toward the Cambodian border, and was involved in an "illegal" firefight in that the Christmas truce was under way, but he did not cross over. His memory of Nixon denying the Cambodian incursions was "seared" in his memory because of his trips in early 1969, which did occur despite the Swift Boat claims that it would have been impossible. And he did ferry CIA guys into Cambodia, one of whom gave him his "lucky hat."

Kerry certainly must take a hit for his false statements in the 1979 Boston Globe article (which turns out to have been a discussion of "Apocalypse Now," of all things), and in his 1986 Senate speech. I personally find this to be a legitimate cause for concern. But I also conclude that the entire matter has been blown out of proportion by the Swift Boat vets.

Two things to put this into proportion:

1. Paul Lucasiak has put together an extremely thorough argument for Bush's "desertion" from the National Guard, complete with reproduced citations to the relevant regulations and Bush service records. That is "desertion," not AWOL, as in "the National Guard reported him to his local draft board so that he would be inducted for failure to meet his ANG commitments."

2. A wonderful article by William Saletan in which he reviews all of the Kerry statements that have been edited together by the RNC into the famous "Flipper" video. Kerry has been rock-solid on a single, nuanced position: we need to give the President power to go to war to put "heat" on the Iraqis, but it was wrong for him to go into war immediately without exhausting the other options.

Kerry has disappointed me. But not nearly so much as has our current Commander in Chief.

 8:18 AM

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