A Christmas to remember

By Hal Lindsey

At least a half-dozen times on the record, John Kerry claimed to have spent Christmas Eve, 1968, in Cambodia. Several times, including once from the Senate floor, Kerry claimed the memory was “seared – seared – into my mind.”

“I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia,” Kerry said in 1986 at a Senate committee hearing during a debate on U.S. policy toward Central America. “I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there – the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared – seared in me.”

A June 2003 article in the Washington Post quotes Kerry talking about a mildewed and faded green camouflage hat he carries in his black attache.

“My good luck hat,” Kerry told the Post. “Given to me by a CIA guy as we went in for a special mission in Cambodia.”

The book “Unfit for Command,” put out by members of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, contends “all the living commanders in Kerry’s chain of command … indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone” to Cambodia.

So far, the Kerry campaign is sticking to its story … er …uh … sort of.

“Swift Boat crews regularly operated along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to the rivers of the Mekong south and west of Saigon,” said Michael Meehan, a senior adviser in the Kerry campaign. “Boats often received fire from enemy taking sanctuary across the border. Kerry’s was not the only United States riverboat to respond, inadvertently or responsibly, across the border.”

“In the early afternoon,” the campaign’s statement continues, “Kerry’s boat, PCF-44, was at Sa Dec and then headed north to the Cambodian border. There, Kerry and his crew along with two other boats were ambushed, taking fire from both sides of the river, and after the firefight were fired upon again. Later that evening, during their night patrol, they came under friendly fire.

“Many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien” on the Gulf of Thailand, Meehan said in his statement.

Hoffmann disputed Kerry’s claim to have ventured into Cambodia in early 1969 to deliver CIA operatives or Special Forces soldiers.

“I was always properly informed. The whole time I was there, I don’t recall” such a mission, Hoffman said.

The two accounts are irreconcilable. Only one can be true, since Kerry says he was in Cambodia, even involved in CIA “special missions” and all the available evidence, including the recollections of even Kerry-friendly swiftboat veterans, say he was not.

So what that means is this. Either John Kerry is lying outright, or every single living member of Kerry’s chain of command – from his fellow swiftboat commanders to the admiral in charge of the swiftboat task force – is lying outright!

Kerry’s defenders have dismissed the discussion of when and whether he fought in Cambodia as a ploy to diminish his military honors – a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts.

“We’re quibbling over these details when a man volunteered for service and earned these honors protecting his fellow comrades in arms,” said Michael Golden, spokesman for Kerry’s Missouri campaign.

Quibbling over details? Kerry’s official Senate testimony was of a memory of an illegal combat action that was “seared – seared – into” Kerry’s memory in 1986.

John Kerry has made a career of his service in Vietnam, to the virtual exclusion of all his other life experiences. He used Vietnam as a springboard to national prominence, by testifying that he personally committed wartime atrocities.

He told the Congress that most vets were also war criminals, and that U.S. soldiers routinely, raped, pillaged and burned out whole villages – just for the fun of it.

Kerry used his anti-war activities to attain national prominence which he rode into the Senate, where he underwent a conversion from angry anti-warrior through penitent war hero all the way through to the proud, decorated Vietnam warrior who opened the Democratic National Convention with a snappy military salute and a hearty “reporting for duty.”

But is the Cambodian story true? Rather than answer the charges directly, the Kerry campaign has begun a systematic smear campaign against the men the Kerry used to call his “band of brothers” – before they became lying apparatchiks of the Republican Party.

The next question that comes to mind is, why does it even matter? Kerry’s whole political career hinges on his service in Vietnam. Kerry himself has made it the centerpiece of his campaign, right down to that snappy salute that opened his presidential convention.

If he lied about Cambodia, he did so from the well of the Senate in his official capacity as a U.S. senator. Then, it was seared in his memory – but now, it is somewhat less clear.

The Kerry campaign has begun to float trial explanations … “maybe it was January or February, instead.” “Maybe Kerry was near Cambodia, but not quite inside it.”

But Kerry said he ran secret missions into Cambodia for the CIA – he even kept souvenirs. How can those claims square with “maybe I was just near Cambodia”?

The Democrats and the liberal media continue to characterize the swiftboat veterans’ charges as a “smear campaign” – but these are charges easily proved or disproved.

None of the major liberal media has given the swiftboat veterans the time of day. None of them have conducted an independent investigation of the swiftboat veterans’ charges. Journalistic ethics demand evidence. Either it is a smear campaign – meaning the charges aren’t true. Or it isn’t a smear campaign – in this case, their investigation will lead them to believe they are telling the truth.

But absent an investigation, the swiftboat veterans’ charges are no less a smear campaign than the Kerry-inspired media frenzy into whether or not George Bush attended every National Guard meeting before being honorably discharged.

In the Bush National Guard controversy, the absence of evidence was deemed by the media to be evidence of being absent without leave. Then Terry McAuliffe’s charge that “George Bush was AWOL from the National Guard” was quoted – verbatim without comment – in every major newspaper in the country.

Scores of reporters demanded White House spokesman Scott McClelland prove George Bush’s military service was completed. They said his honorable discharge was insufficient evidence.

The fact one of Bush’s commanders couldn’t remember him was widely touted as proof positive that he failed to attend National Guard meetings in Alabama.

But the testimony of Adm. Roy Hoffman that Kerry “just outright lied” about his military service is dismissed as part of a Republican organized smear campaign.

The Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are invariably described as being “Republican-funded” – but Moveon.org (funded by long-time Democratic contributor and billionaire George Soros) is described as “a liberal advocacy group.”

Whether or not Kerry lied about being in Cambodia in December 1968 is not “quibbling over details,” especially since John Kerry himself is the one who made it the centerpiece of his campaign.

John Kerry is either a war hero, or he is a liar. And if he is a liar, he is not just a run-of-the-mill liar. He would be a blatant, shameful liar who slandered the men with whom he served in order to attain power.

Was the Cambodia excursion “seared” in his memory? Or was it a self-serving figment of his imagination? Shouldn’t the media investigate this with at least half the fervor did concerning George Bush’s National Guard Service? But this issue cannot just be forgotten and swept under the rug.

John Kerry himself did not leave that option open to us.