What Else Is In Scott's Head?

The blog site for writer Scott C. Smith. Some observations on the world we live in and life in general. And maybe some politics.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Swift Boat Vets for Lies, Pt. II

The Swift Boat Veterans For the "Truth" have constructed an elaborate fantasy world where John Kerry's service in Vietnam amounts to nothing but a series of lies; medals earned that were not deserved; events that did not occur as Kerry has claimed. Like most deceptions, the misinformation and lies the Swift Boat Vets have built their case on is already starting to crumble under its own weight.

The first to buckle was retired Navy Captain George Elliott, the man who signed off on John Kerry's Silver Star. Elliott signed an affidavit for the Swift Boat group saying Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star. On August 6, in an interview with the Boston Globe, Elliott said he had made a "terrible mistake" in signing the affidavit. But Elliott soon changed his story (again) and signed a second affidavit with the Swift Boat Vets, saying he stood by what he said in their television commercial o' lies ("John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam," Elliott says in the Swift Boat Vets' attack ad, Any Questions?)

Today, the Washington Post reported that it had obtained the Bronze Star citation of Swift Boat Vet Larry Thurlow, who also appears in the Any Questions? ad campaign. The Post filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the DoD's record center in St. Louis to obtain Thurlow's citation.

Thurlow is one of the men claiming that the incident on the Bay Hap River, where one swift boat was rocked by a mine explosion, did not happen as Kerry has described it. This is the attack that caused U.S. Army special forces officer Jim Rassmann to be thrown from Kerry's boat. Rassmann is the life-long Republican who has appeared with John Kerry on the campaign trail because, well, Kerry saved his life that day. Thurlow claims there was no enemy fire; Rassmann maintains that snipers on either side of the river were shooting, and the bullets were flying.

Now, what does Thurlow's citation say? It praises him for providing assistance to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him." The documentation also states that Thurlow's actions took place "under constant enemy small arms fire which LTJG THURLOW completely ignored in providing immediate assistance" to the disabled Swift boat and crew.

Thurlow's reaction to this? Well, for one, he "lost" his Bronze Star citation 20 years ago (funny, I know exactly where my Navy Achievement Medal citation is, and I was awarded that medal 14 years ago...I have to wonder why Thurlow didn't take better care of his military records?) and that, after being read the citation, still maintained there was no enemy fire, going so far as to say that John Kerry might have provided the original documentation used in writing up Thurlow's Bronze Star. Which is an odd thing to allege, considering that Kerry wasn't in the area when Thurlow came to the assistance of the damaged Swift boat and her crew (Kerry returned to rescue Rassmann). How would Kerry know what had happened?

So, at the moment, we have Thurlow's account, backed by nothing, and Kerry's account, backed by three sources: Kerry's own Bronze Star citation; Thurlow's citation; and Rassmann's account of events. Three different sources, all supporting Kerry's (and Rassmann's) recollection of that day.

Thurlow, who is willing to take part in a campaign to call a fellow vet a liar, told the Post he will not authorize the release of his military records because he feared the records would be used to discredit him.

Think about that for a moment. What's he worried about? If he's telling the truth, the release of his records will back up his version of events. I suspect that what his records will show is that Kerry, not the Swift Boat Vets, is telling the truth.

Privacy laws allow for the release of certain parts of a veteran's service record, and the Post will have access to whatever a FOIA request will provide. I wonder what will happen when the Post obtains military records of other Swift Boat vets? I suspect we'll find more evidence that supports John Kerry.


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