Now we begin to understand where the swift boat fraud is coming from. Kerry's biography portrayed some of them to as incompetent leaders and war criminals. They responded with a frantic barrage of accusations, amplified and encouraged by Bush money and right wing adulation. The more the money, the more the power, the more their memories changed.
There are links to the successful attacks on Dukakis, Clinton, McCain and others. This strategy works, and it works well. The masses can be swayed. Goering perfected these techniques 70 years ago, Rove is merely refining the master's work.
Leo Strauss, idol of the neocons, preached the power of stories to guide the masses. I wonder how he'd feel about how his acolytes are applying these techniques.
Kerry and Edwards need to fight hard, very hard. They have to attack Rove and Bush at every turn, and constantly expose their techniques.
At least the media is beginning to awaken.
The New York Times
August 20, 2004
Friendly Fire: The Birth of an Anti-Kerry Ad
By KATE ZERNIKE and JIM RUTENBERG
After weeks of taking fire over veterans' accusations that he had lied about his Vietnam service record to win medals and build a political career, Senator John Kerry shot back yesterday, calling those statements categorically false and branding the people behind them tools of the Bush campaign.
His decision to take on the group directly was a measure of how the group that calls itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has catapulted itself to the forefront of the presidential campaign. It has advanced its cause in a book, in a television advertisement and on cable news and talk radio shows, all in an attempt to discredit Mr. Kerry's war record, a pillar of his campaign.
How the group came into existence is a story of how veterans with longstanding anger about Mr. Kerry's antiwar statements in the early 1970's allied themselves with Texas Republicans...
... A series of interviews and a review of documents show a web of connections to the Bush family, high-profile Texas political figures and President Bush's chief political aide, Karl Rove.
... the group's television commercial was produced by the same team that made the devastating ad mocking Michael S. Dukakis in an oversized tank helmet when he and Mr. Bush's father faced off in the 1988 presidential election.
The strategy the veterans devised would ultimately paint John Kerry the war hero as John Kerry the "baby killer" and the fabricator of the events that resulted in his war medals. But on close examination, the accounts of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth' prove to be riddled with inconsistencies. In many cases, material offered as proof by these veterans is undercut by official Navy records and the men's own statements.
Several of those now declaring Mr. Kerry "unfit" had lavished praise on him, some as recently as last year.
In an unpublished interview in March 2003 with Mr. Kerry's authorized biographer, Douglas Brinkley, provided by Mr. Brinkley to The New York Times, Roy F. Hoffmann, a retired rear admiral and a leader of the group, allowed that he had disagreed with Mr. Kerry's antiwar positions but said, "I am not going to say anything negative about him." He added, "He's a good man."
In a profile of the candidate that ran in The Boston Globe in June 2003, Mr. Hoffmann approvingly recalled the actions that led to Mr. Kerry's Silver Star: "It took guts, and I admire that."
George Elliott, one of the Vietnam veterans in the group, flew from his home in Delaware to Boston in 1996 to stand up for Mr. Kerry during a tough re-election fight, declaring at a news conference that the action that won Mr. Kerry a Silver Star was "an act of courage." At that same event, Adrian L. Lonsdale, another Vietnam veteran now speaking out against Mr. Kerry, supported him with a statement about the "bravado and courage of the young officers that ran the Swift boats."
"Senator Kerry was no exception," Mr. Lonsdale told the reporters and cameras assembled at the Charlestown Navy Yard. "He was among the finest of those Swift boat drivers."
Those comments echoed the official record. In an evaluation of Mr. Kerry in 1969, Mr. Elliott, who was one of his commanders, ranked him as "not exceeded" in 11 categories, including moral courage, judgment and decisiveness, and "one of the top few" - the second-highest distinction - in the remaining five. In written comments, he called Mr. Kerry "unsurpassed," "beyond reproach" and "the acknowledged leader in his peer group."
... It all began last winter, as Mr. Kerry was wrapping up the Democratic nomination. Mr. Lonsdale received a call at his Massachusetts home from his old commander in Vietnam, Mr. Hoffmann, asking if he had seen the new biography of the man who would be president.
Mr. Hoffmann had commanded the Swift boats during the war from a base in Cam Ranh Bay and advocated a search-and-destroy campaign against the Vietcong - the kind of tactic Mr. Kerry criticized when he was a spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971. Shortly after leaving the Navy in 1978, he [Hoffman] was issued a letter of censure for exercising undue influence on cases in the military justice system.
Both Mr. Hoffmann and Mr. Lonsdale had publicly lauded Mr. Kerry in the past. But the book, Mr. Brinkley's "Tour of Duty," while it burnished Mr. Kerry's reputation, portrayed the two men as reckless leaders whose military approach had led to the deaths of countless sailors and innocent civilians. Several Swift boat veterans compared Mr. Hoffmann to the bloodthirsty colonel in the film "Apocalypse Now" - the one who loves the smell of Napalm in the morning.
... Mr. Hoffmann's phone calls led them to Texas and to John E. O'Neill, who at one point commanded the same Swift boat in Vietnam, and whose mission against him dated to 1971, when he had been recruited by the Nixon administration to debate Mr. Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show."
... About 10 veterans met in Ms. Spaeth's office in Dallas in April to share outrage and plot their campaign against Mr. Kerry, she and others said. Mr. Lonsdale, who did not attend, said the meeting had been planned as "an indoctrination session."
What might have been loose impressions about Mr. Kerry began to harden.
"That was an awakening experience," Ms. Spaeth said. "Not just for me, but for many of them who had not heard each other's stories."
The group decided to hire a private investigator to investigate Mr. Brinkley's account of the war - to find "some neutral way of actually questioning people involved in these incidents,'' Mr. O'Neill said.
But the investigator's questions did not seem neutral to some.
Patrick Runyon, who served on a mission with Mr. Kerry, said he initially thought the caller was from a pro-Kerry group, and happily gave a statement about the night Mr. Kerry won his first Purple Heart. The investigator said he would send it to him by e-mail for his signature. Mr. Runyon said the edited version was stripped of all references to enemy combat, making it look like just another night in the Mekong Delta.
"It made it sound like I didn't believe we got any returned fire," he said. "He made it sound like it was a normal operation. It was the scariest night of my life."
... The book outlining the veterans' charges, "Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against Kerry," has also come under fire. It is published by Regnery, a conservative company that has published numerous books critical of Democrats, and written by Mr. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi, who was identified on the book jacket as a Harvard Ph.D. and the author of many books and articles. But Mr. Corsi also acknowledged that he has been a contributor of anti-Catholic, anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic comments to a right-wing Web site. He said he regretted those comments.
The group also offers the account of William L. Schachte Jr., a retired rear admiral who says in the book that he had been on the small skimmer on which Mr. Kerry was injured that night in December 1968. He contends that Mr. Kerry wounded himself while firing a grenade.
But the two other men who acknowledged that they had been with Mr. Kerry, Bill Zaladonis and Mr. Runyon, say they cannot recall a third crew member. "Me and Bill aren't the smartest, but we can count to three," Mr. Runyon said in an interview. And even Dr. Letson said he had not recalled Mr. Schachte until he had a conversation with another veteran earlier this year and received a subsequent phone call from Mr. Schachte himself.
... Several veterans insist that Mr. Kerry wrote his own reports, pointing to the initials K. J. W. on one of the reports and saying they are Mr. Kerry's. "What's the W for, I cannot answer," said Larry Thurlow, who said his boat was 50 to 60 yards from Mr. Kerry's. Mr. Kerry's middle initial is F, and a Navy official said the initials refer to the person who had received the report at headquarters, not the author.
A damage report to Mr. Thurlow's boat shows that it received three bullet holes, suggesting enemy fire, and later intelligence reports indicate that one Vietcong was killed in action and five others wounded, reaffirming the presence of an enemy. Mr. Thurlow said the boat was hit the day before. He also received a Bronze Star for the day, a fact left out of "Unfit for Command."
Asked about the award, Mr. Thurlow said that he did not recall what the citation said but that he believed it had commended him for saving the lives of sailors on a boat hit by a mine. If it did mention enemy fire, he said, that was based on Mr. Kerry's false reports. The actual citation, Mr. Thurlow said, was with an ex-wife with whom he no longer has contact, and he declined to authorize the Navy to release a copy. But a copy obtained by The New York Times indicates "enemy small arms," "automatic weapons fire" and "enemy bullets flying about him." The citation was first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday.
... As Mr. Lonsdale explained it: "We won the battle. Kerry went home and lost the war for us.
"He called us rapers and killers and that's not true," he continued. "If he expects our loyalty, we should expect loyalty from him."
These men have bloody consciences, victims of a terrible war. It is their own demons that have driven them to madness.
Bush has no such demons, and no excuses. He is using these men and using them well.