Saturday, October 23, 2004

Remembering Vietnam

None of the Vietnam veterans I work with will be voting for Senator Kerry to be our next President. And a lot of that stems from his 1971 testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, which in turn cited the so-called Winter Soldier Investigation. So with all the noise about the film "Stolen Honor" and Sinclair Broadcasting, I thought I'd compile some background reading for you.

The documentary "Stolen Honor" can be watched on the web, although I'll warn you that it's 42 minutes long. (It's free of charge for a limited time). Here's the director's plot summary from
In the mid 1960's thousands of young American men left their families, homes and jobs and went to fight for their country in Southeast Asia. Many of them never returned. Others were shot down and captured behind enemy lines. They were forced to suffer years of brutal treatment at the hands of the Communist captors. In the opinions of this political affiliation, their horrifying days of darkness, starvation and torture were made worse by the actions of a young American Officer named John Kerry.
Bowing to political pressure, Sinclair Broadcasting did not show the documentary. Readers at have some choice comments about what was broadcast instead. A Wall Street Journal editorial provides more background and wonders about long-term consequences for freedom of the press:
Sinclair bent under enormous political pressure, but notably a kind we haven't seen wielded before to silence the media. We aren't referring to the raft of Democratic complaints filed with official agencies. There's nothing unusual there. A call for an advertising boycott came next -- again, not pleasant, but not unheard of in this business.

The next step was something new: A double team by trial lawyers and government officials threatening shareholder suits. [...]

Now that this trial lawyer-government precedent has been set, who's to stop it if it next turns, as eventually it will, on the New York Times, or CBS? ... If the standard now is that stirring controversy is a fraud against shareholders because it may cost ad revenue, a lot more media owners than Sinclair are going to become political targets.

In the Weekly Standard, author Joshua Muravchik penned "Never Apologize, Never Explain," in which he discusses the smokescreen the Kerry camp has used in "explaining" the 1970-71 visits to Paris and the 1971 Senate testimony.
When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth unveiled the fourth in their series of television ads--this one accusing Kerry of having "secretly met with the enemy" in Paris--both papers went into full debunking mode. The Post ran 600 words under the headline: "Ad Says Kerry 'Secretly' Met With Enemy; But He Told Congress of It." The story explained that the Swifties were "referring to a meeting Kerry had in early 1971 with leaders of the communist delegation that was negotiating with U.S. representatives at the Paris peace talks. The meeting, however, was not a secret. Kerry . . . mentioned it in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April of that year."

The next morning the Post ran a correction. The previous day's story, it noted, "incorrectly said that John F. Kerry met with a Vietnamese communist delegation in Paris in 1971. The meeting was in 1970." The correction did not acknowledge, however, that this apparently minor error invalidated the entire point of the Post's impeachment of the Swifties' ad. Kerry's visit to Paris took place in or around May 1970, eleven months before his Foreign Relations Committee testimony. In other words, his meeting with the Communists (while he was still a reserve officer in the U.S. Navy) appears to have been kept secret for nearly a year.

Other resources: