December 23, 2007
By Denis Keohane
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
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
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:
"... the reason that some of these men have not signed
depositions...is that specifically they are not looking to implicate
other people.... They don't want men to... be penalized for those
things that they did that were the result of the mistakes and the bad
decisions of their leaders.."
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:
"If you would like to submit your testimony to Winter Soldier: Iraq
and Afghanistan, contact the Winter Soldier testimony/verification
team...This team will be responsible for collecting and verifying the
authenticity of the testimony. We need combat veterans to join our
verification team. Contact Perry O'Brien for more information."
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:
"Atrocities like the My Lai massacre had ignited popular opposition
to the war, but political and military leaders insisted that such
crimes were isolated exceptions. The members of VVAW knew
differently. Over three days in January, these soldiers testified on
the systematic brutality they had seen visited upon the people of
Vietnam. Over thirty years later, we find ourselves faced with a new
war. But the lies are the same...Once again, politicians and generals
are blaming "a few bad apples" instead of examining the military
policies that have destroyed Iraq and Afghanistan."
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:
"Some veterans might ask why we are not investigating insurgent
atrocities. First, we can only speak to the practices and policies of
our own government. Second, we recognize that individual atrocities
occur in all wars."
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.