December 23, 2007
Swiftboating HistoryBy Denis Keohane
It may be Providential that a book of history is soon to be released dealing extensively with certain shameful events of nearly four decades ago, just as others are now seeking to shamelessly and eagerly repeat those events.
Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler have co-authored To Set The Record Straight with the apt subtitle How Swift Boat Veterans, POWs and the New Media Defeated John Kerry. The book all but begins with details of the Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI) of 1971, an event I wrote about here at American Thinker last October. The WSI, organized by the Vietnam Veterans Againt the War (VVAW) was pure anti-American and anti-soldier leftist political theater.
Owing to leading Senators and the monolithic liberal big media of the time, WSI was the primary catalyst in legitimizing the longstanding and widely accepted defamation of 2.9 million Americans who served in Vietnam as baby killers, rapists, war criminals, losers, misfits, drug abusers and psychological "time bombs", to use Makubin T. Owens terminology.
Those broad sweeping charges against the Vietnam vets have survived as a part of our established historical narritive for millions and has been all but enshrined in the arts community, particularly film.
The left side of the web is busy spreading the word that next March the ideological descendent of the VVAW, the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) is planning another WSI dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan, thereby intending to smear another generation of over a million and a half Americans who have served to date in those wars and those who will serve.
Swett and Ziegler's book may serve to prevent history from repeating and in so doing facilitate a cleansing light shining back in time on that first WSI and the despicable defaming of those veterans.
Since the 2004 Presidential election the Democrat left and their auxiliaries in the MSM have used the term swiftboating to mean something in the order of a politically motivated and top-down well coordinated character assassination of an innocent party based on lies. Swett and Ziegler have now provided the definitive and exhaustive historical account of what the swiftboating of John Kerry actually was, how and why it happened and how it accomplished the mission intended. The forward was written by John O'Neill, author of ‘Unfit for Command'.
Ziegler is a former Marine Captain. Swett is the proprietor of WinterSoldier.com, a site he established nearly four years ago. The site is a veritable gold mine of information about the 1971 WSI and the events it brought about, including young John Kerry's infamous testimony to Senator Fulbright's Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971. Swett also ran the SwiftVets' website during the 2004 election.
It is not my intent here to write a review of the book. Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project is far better suited to that task and has delivered. In April 1971 Kesler was enraged by the well publicized antics of the VVAW and John Kerry, and the former Marine sergeant founded the pro-American and anti-left Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace, of which John O'Neill was a member.
However, as it relates to the upcoming WSI on Afghanistan and Iraq, Swett and Ziegler clearly demonstrate in the book that the liberal-left lock on mass media that existed in 1971 is gone, replaced by a new media that accomplished in 2004 what could not have been done decades before. The Swifties and POWs were a grassroots movement of veterans that gave voice to an anger at injustice that had been simmering for nearly forty years.
The Swifties and POWs started with several thousand dollars of their own money. Later they were supported with money by a few who were well heeled, like T. Boone Pickens, but most of their support came in small donations from many thousands of people. The MSM for the most part tried to run interference for Kerry, but the heady days when the three networks and a few big city papers could effectively manage the news were long gone.
The Swift Vets' own website was receiving millions of hits, and the Internet and its bloggers were spreading the word and doing in-depth analysis, as was talk radio and the new kids on the big media block, like Fox. Rather than a political dirty trick run by a few plotters, the Swift Vets had started an avalanche that buried Kerry's hopes to win the Presidency. Swett and Zeigler justifiably call it "the perfect political storm".
The new media is accessible and effective, and Swett and Ziegler provide something of a blueprint but even moreso encouragement and hope that when the upcoming WSI proceeds, it can be met head-on and publicly crushed by truth.
The WSI Pattern
It often appears that former (and not so former) sixties and seventies radicals are forever frozen in those bygone glory days when they believe they caused America to lose a war. Senator Kerry himself is something of a tragicomic emblem of that behavior. In his posting to both Daily Kos and the Huffington Post last September not long before Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crockett delivered their report to Congress on the Surge strategy, Kerry wrote of that effort being a failure. However, he could not bring himself to call it the Surge, and instead used a Vietnam era term, calling it "the escalation" several times. Delusional nostalgia!
Since the inception of the IVAW, the old hands of the VVAW have been offering support, guidance and planning. The new WSI is no doubt an example of the seniors leading the newcomers to engage in an action designed after what those elders perceive as their finest hour.
Like the initial WSI, the current promoters of the new WSI are laying the groundwork for the same blackmail as the first. Those who testified at WSI in 1971 would not sign affidavits or depositions about their claims of crimes they committed or witnessed, thereby hampering attempted investigations and likewise guarding themselves against charges, including such as perjury for making false statements.
According to the IVAW's testimony questionnaire they also do not want the names revealed in testimony of any soldiers or Marines involved in such crimes lower than the officer rank of O3 (Army or Marine Captain) or enlisted E8 (Army or Marine Master Sergeant). During a debate between Kerry and John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett show in June 1971, the subject of affidavits or depositions and names was brought up by O'Neill. Kerry explained their unwillingness this way:
That was Kerry and the VVAW stating that they would not cooperate in investigations of crimes they participated in or witnessed unless they were assured beforehand of where the investigations would lead! IVAW is following suit. No one is legally entitled to such a position. If a person claims to have been a witness to a serious crime, and refuses to cooperate with a legal investigation on the claim that he will not do so unless the investigation pursues a party he concludes bears a burden of guilty, based on an opinion but not established by the particular events he witnessed, that person could and should face legal penalty for obstruction if not complicity. For investigations of crimes to proceed properly they must follow the evidence wherever it leads. One cannot demand the investigation go somewhere while withholding evidence.
The 1971 WSI and VVAW also had credibility problems. The executive director of the VVAW, Al Hubbard, had lied about his own claimed military service in Vietnam. People who testified at the hearing were not who they claimed to be, but used the names of actual veterans who never attended WSI. Others could never be found.
The IVAW also has its own credibility problems. One of its founders, former Marine Jim Massey was found to have lied about atrocities by both the Associated Press and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Jesse MacBeth (foreground) was a member of IVAW, appearing at IVAW marches and rallies. MacBeth had claimed to have been an Army Ranger who had engaged in and witnessed atrocities in Iraq. When he went public with his claims in a video, Greyhawk of Mudville Gazette and other assorted milbloggers spotted him as a phony immediately. Yet for six months that he was a member he was not found out by IVAW to be what he was, a complete fraud.
IVAW knows from the VVAW experience that "phony soldiers", whether the "phony" is their claimed service or the incidents they claim to have witnessed or participated in are a potential weak spot. Their site has this:
That stated need for combat veterans to join their verification team is somewhat striking. The IVAW main page claims over 700 veteran members (or one out of every two thousand three hundred or so who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan). I would have assumed that several dozens at least, if not a few hundred, are combat veterans. Yet they are publicly asking for those combat veterans from outside of their current membership. More than an admission of a possible vetting problem, that also may indicate that while their membership is made up of veterans, they may be extremely light in the number who have actually served in combat or even in Iraq or Afghanistan, contrary to the image they try to present to the public. The IVAW membership criteria specify that a person served in the military since September 11, 2001, not that the person served in a war zone.
Critics of the 1971 WSI and the Kerry Senate testimony have always readily admitted that atrocities were committed by American troops in Vietnam. Supporters of WSI will cite examples of verified atrocities like My Lai and claim that vindicates WSI and Kerry's lies. 2.9 millions Americans served in Vietnam. In any such large population, and particularly one heavily weighted toward young males, there will be crimes, even extremely heinous ones. The question has always been have they been isolated incidents or a routine occurence systematic of policy. In justifying its new WSI, IVAW states:
That is the standard boilerplate of the anti-war left, but another statement by the IVAW is a jaw-dropping unintended admission that what drives them is hatred of America and by extension hatred of the men and women in uniform who protect and defend that nation. In their questionnaire they write:
That they or anyone can only speak to the practices and policies of their own government is blatant nonsense. But to recognize that "individual atrocities occur in all wars" when speaking of such as Al Qaeda in Iraq, while denying that very point when speaking of American soldiers is despicable and evidence of blind hatred. AQI and the assorted Sunni and Shia insurgents have intentionally targeted civilians for death for years as policy and combat strategy. AQI released a long and horrifying sequence of videos of the beheadings of bound and screaming captives in 2004 and used them as a recruiting tool!
AQI intentionally set off the sectarian violence that exploded in 2006 by killing civilians to encourage the killings of more civilians in reprisal, as a military strategy and policy! They've slaughtered whole villages including the children and livestock and driven bombs into crowded markets. Only for AQI and the terror-insurgents will IVAW recognize the idea of "a few bad apples" engaging in crimes and "individual atrocities" during a war!
Prepare the Counterattack
Swett and Ziegler have documented the way. The new media, beginning at the grassroots, should welcome this new WSI and engage it with truth. Despite the now universal acceptance that since the Surge civilian deaths in Iraq have fallen drastically, the IVAW site claims that:
"Currently over 100 civilians die every day in Baghdad alone."
Icasualties, by no means a supporter of the war, places the number of civilians killed in all of Iraq for November at 471.
If Americans are committing atrocities and war crimes as a matter of course and policy, and AQI and the terror-insurgents are the forces with the few bad apples committing "individual atrocities", as IVAW sees it, what explains the numbers? When AQI set off the sectarian bloodbath last year, 3,389 civilians were killed in September alone. In March of this year, as the Surge troops began to arrive and our forces began to move out of their bases and into the civilian areas, 2,762 civilians were killed. April to June 2006 saw an average of just under 1,500 civilians killed per month, a more than fifty percent decrease since the previous September. That was also the worst three month period of the war for our forces, as we suffered an average of 110 killed per month. That was the direct result of our troops aggressively engaging AQI and the terror-insurgents in the areas where they had been slaughtering and terrorizing the civilians. By September 2007, when the full compliment of Surge forces were deployed and engaged, civilian deaths had dropped to 752 for that month. October fell to 565, and November to 471.
If our troops and our policies are what causes the deaths of civilians, how did 30,000 more American troops and our forces pushing out into the civilian areas cause a drop in civilian deaths from 3,389 per month to 471? If AQI and the insurgents had a "few bad apples" committing "individual atrocities", how did killing or driving them out of those areas lead to that drop in civilian killing? Thousands of Iraqis have had their lives spared by those American soldiers and Marines who sacrificed their efforts, blood and even their lives. Those soldiers and Marines are IVAW's target.
The anti-American and anti-soldier left may be about to march a smear too far! Unlike Kerry and the VVAW in 1971, what Swett and Ziegler demonstrate in To Set the Record Straight is that in 2008 the IVAW will have to contend with the likes of Hume, North and Hannity on FOX and Limbaugh, Hewitt and the Northern Alliance on talk radio. They will have to contend with such as Lifson, Feldman, Baehr, Lasky and Moran at American Thinker, Owens at Confederate Yankee, Johnson at Little Green Footballs, Wretchard at The Belmont Club, Maguire at JustOneMinute, Hewitt, Ruffini and Patterson at Townhall, Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, Hinderaker, Mirengoff and Johnson at Powerline, Reynolds at Instapundit and on and on. No doubt that will include Scott Swett at a possible WinterSoldierTwo.com site.
As for the milbloggers, like Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette, Blackfive, Laughing Wolf and Uncle Jimbo at BLACKFIVE, Yon, Sanchez and Totten at Middle East Journal , a request. Please offer your services and those of your acquaintances to help IVAW vet those who want to testify. IVAW should welcome that, since such milbloggers spotted the phoniness of Jesse MacBeth's and Scott Thomas Beauchamp's stories in something like nanoseconds. Those milbloggers don't have to agree with IVAW's goals to do that vetting, and if they do so, it will only add to IVAW's credibility and should be accepted. That would also close down any suspicion that this vetting process contains - coaching. Regardless of whether IVAW accepts such an offer, when the new WSI launches, the milblogging community will be the a combination of the biggest guns and smartest weapons they face.
And for you 1.6 millions Iraq and Afghanistan vets, be prepared to speak up. Loudly. Your elder brothers in arms of the Vietnam War did so, but belatedly, after they returned from war and nobody had their back at home. They have had yours when you were faced with having a Commander-in-Chief with a history of turning on the troops. God bless them, and Swett and Ziegler for telling the story.