WASHINGTON — The co-author of the best-selling book “Unfit for Command” says today’s statement by a Chicago Tribune editor and former swiftboat commander does not substantively contradict his findings about John Kerry’s Silver Star.
William Rood, 61, said he decided to break his silence today about the Feb. 28, 1969, mission because recent reports of Kerry’s actions in that battle are incorrect and darken the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.
However, the account of the incident is different from the one presented in “Unfit for Command” by John O’Neill and Jerome Corsi more in tone than in substance.
According to Rood, Kerry told him and another officer that, in the event of an ambush, the three boats would turn into the attackers and beach their crafts. This is not at odds with the “Unfit for Command” story, which explains that the tactic was pre-planned and coordinated with other crew members and officers.
Rood also confirms that it was another of three swiftboats touring together that day that actually beached at the ambush site, not Kerry’s boat. It was Doug Reese and other troops, not Kerry, who disembarked, killed some Viet Cong and captured some weapons.
None of the participants from Reese’s boat received any Silver Stars.
Rood also agrees with the book’s account that Kerry’s boat, along with his own, continued downstream until it was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade.
The only significant difference in the accounts is that Rood believes the young Viet Cong attacker, killed by Kerry, was a grown adult, not a teenager as other eyewitnesses report in “Unfit for Command.”
“Nothing Rood says regarding how the action develops calls into question the main conclusions we reached in ‘Unfit for Command,’” Corsi, co-author of the book, told WND. “Nothing in Rood’s statement disputes the structure of how the event developed as recounted in ‘Unfit for Command.’”
The authors of “Unfit for Command” also question the wisdom of the tactic of beaching the small boats, because it left crewmen helpless in the event of a larger attack and rendered useless their most effective weapons – 50-caliber machine guns – because they could not be used for fear of hitting beached crewmen.
Corsi added: “We are pleased Rood has come forward and we welcome complete disclosure and debate on all details of Kerry’s military service. Many of these questions could be answered if Senator Kerry would only sign Standard Form 180 and authorize the full and complete release of his military records as we have requested.”
Corsi said his co-author John O’Neill, who was traveling today, is still studying the Rood statement. Corsi said he was responding as the book’s editor and the man who interviewed the Swift Boat Vets.
Rood said allegations that Kerry’s accomplishments were overblown are untrue and that Kerry developed an attack strategy that was praised by their superiors.
But the main point of the book is that Kerry’s superiors relied exclusively on after-action reports written by Kerry.
The Kerry campaign has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging the Swift Boat Veterans group is coordinating its ads with the Bush campaign. The Bush campaign has denied the claim and has refused to condemn the book and the group’s TV ads.
Rood wrote that Kerry recently contacted him and other crew members, requesting that they go public with their accounts of what happened that February day.
Rood declined interview requests even from reporters from his own news organization.
When the Tribune asked O’Neill for his response to Rood’s account, O’Neill said the former swiftboat skipper’s version of events is not substantially different from what appeared in his book.
Meanwhile, early press reports by the Associated Press and Reuters are wildly misrepresenting the facts outlined by Rood. The Associated Press report confused the incident, for which Kerry was awarded the Silver Star, with another one for which he won the Bronze Star. Reuters stated Rood’s account “said the tales told by Kerry’s detractors are untrue.” In fact, Rood is dealing with only one very small part of the case against Kerry.
Reuters’ report also attributed the Swift Boat Veterans’ criticism of Kerry to “Republicans.” In fact, the vets have said repeatedly many in their ranks are Democrats and independents.