Contrary to the polite, watered-down dismissals of much of the beltway pundit community, there is simply no way to chalk up the opposing stories of John Kerry and the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth as mutually honest differences of opinion.
I've now read the book "Unfit for Command," and am here to tell you that its multitudinous allegations against Senator Kerry are breathtaking. You cannot read this book without concluding that its co-authors John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi -- and the scores of Vietnam veterans they cite by name throughout the book -- are making specific indictments against Kerry that cannot be rationalized away.
John O'Neill doesn't timidly suggest that Kerry might have lied occasionally or exaggerated in Vietnam and afterward during his antiwar crusade. Rather he paints an unmistakable picture of Kerry as a ruthless, self-promoting egomaniac who systematically placed his own interests above his fellow soldiers and who was obsessively involved in building his resume at all costs during the entirety of his short tour in Vietnam.
O'Neill depicts Kerry -- with mountains of documented evidence -- as a pathological, unconscionable liar whose penchant for dishonesty in Vietnam was only exceeded by his brutal, unmitigated slander of his fellow soldiers when he rushed stateside to lobby against them, their superiors and the entire military establishment.
You can certainly say that John O'Neill and the some 250 Swiftees supporting his position are lying. Or you can say that John Kerry was lying about Vietnam and continues to today. But you cannot honestly say that both groups may be telling the truth. That choice is simply not open to us, as anyone who reads the book will be forced to admit.
You can also dismiss these charges out of hand by accepting the propaganda of Kerry's supporters, whose primary tactic has been to discredit the Swiftees as paid Republican mouthpieces who "did not serve on the same boat as John Kerry."
But John O'Neill himself denies that he's a Republican and says that many in his group are Democrats. Let the investigative reporters of the partisan media run that down if they dare.
And to suggest that the Swiftees had to have been on the same boat is flagrantly specious, as the boats traveled in close proximity to one another, affording the Swiftees firsthand knowledge of the events they describe. In one case, O'Neill charges Kerry with taking credit for the heroics actually performed by members of another Swift Boat. You can see how you wouldn't have to be on the same boat with Kerry to testify to that one.
In evaluating the respective disputants' credibility we should note that neither Kerry nor his defenders have even attempted to refute the great majority of the factual assertions in the book. They tried with the "Christmas in Cambodia" incident and dug themselves a far deeper hole, and they're still digging.
They haven't been willing to engage in a debate with Mr. O'Neill. Instead, they have shouted him down. Just review the transcript of O'Neill's appearance on CNN's "Crossfire," where James Carville and Lanny Davis ceaselessly berated O'Neill and literally wouldn't let him speak.
And Chris Matthews, though he allowed O'Neill to speak between interruptions, couldn't seem to get past his perception that Kerry had to be a hero because the Navy, as an institution, bestowed multiple awards on him.
But if Chris had read the book, he would have understood that one of its premises is that Kerry often circumvented those who had actual knowledge of events and duped his superiors into giving him honors by falsifying reports and presumably recommending himself for these awards when his superiors refused to do so.
Kerry could clear much of this up by releasing all his medical and military records, but so far he has been quite selective with their release. We need to know, for example, if he filed false reports, such as claiming that certain self-inflicted wounds were a result of enemy fire.
But what's even more damning to John Kerry's credibility is his unsubstantiated defamation of his fellow servicemen in his opportunistic Senate testimony and elsewhere upon his return from Vietnam. Kerry not only indicts his fellow soldiers as war criminals, but the entire command structure of the U.S. military as directing these types of activities.
Yet Kerry has never been able to produce specific names and dates of those who committed these actions, nor any real proof of systematic, much less top-down orchestrated atrocities. Kerry has never apologized for these slanders.
If just one tenth of what the Swiftees assert is true, we should shudder at the prospect of a Kerry presidency. Where are the media?