Kerry's war record: Where are the media?

Posted: May 25, 2004 12:00 AM

There is no greater evidence of the mainstream media's liberal bias than their refusal to investigate and report credible claims challenging Sen. Kerry's reputed Vietnam heroism and his outlandish allegations against his own soldiers in 1971.

 Since Kerry emerged as the likely Democratic presidential nominee, stories have circulated on the Web suggesting that some or all of his three Purple Hearts were dubiously earned and that he had to lobby for at least one of the medals after first being denied the distinction.

 When I first came across these items I couldn't help but wonder whether the black helicopter crowd was working overtime again. But a surprising number of those who served with Kerry in Vietnam have organized a group, "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth," to speak out against the man and his military record. They are not, contrary to Democratic propaganda, being funded by Republican operatives or the Bush campaign.

 The group is committed to correcting the record about Kerry's Vietnam experience and his defamatory statements against his fellow soldiers. Seventeen of the 23 officers on the swift boats with Kerry are either part of or supportive of the group's mission.

 The group held a press conference at the National Press Club on May 4 to announce its goal of exposing the real John Kerry. The mainstream media were all but silent on the matter, but C-Span cameras were there.

 When the Associated Press (AP) was called on its refusal to cover the story, it released a statement saying it didn't believe it was newsworthy because it contributed nothing to the dialogue between veterans and John Kerry. (Note to AP: This isn't about some New Age touchy-feely dialogue; it's about John Kerry's record.)

 Perhaps the most prominent member of the group is John O'Neill, who succeeded Kerry as skipper of one of the boats. That name caught my eye because I had watched on C-Span a replay of a 1971 debate between this same Mr. O'Neill and Kerry on "The Dick Cavett Show."

 O'Neill was very articulate, impressive and exceedingly credible. He would have none of Kerry casually accusing American troops of repeatedly committing war crimes and took the arrogant young Kerry to school.

 Watching this debate, I knew O'Neill was the real deal. So when he and his fellow officers say that Kerry lacks the integrity to be president, we better take notice.

 In an interview with Investor's Business Daily O'Neill said, "When Kerry came forward with the war crimes charge in 1971, it just tore the soul of all of us." Not only did the overwhelming majority of American troops not commit war crimes, according to O'Neill, they "went to such elaborate lengths to avoid injuring civilians. In our little unit we lost a number of people because we would go into canals and rivers with loudspeakers instead of shooting ?"

 Adding insult to injury, many of "O'Neill's group believe that Kerry actually sought out these Purple Hearts for minor injuries and was able to procure one for a mere scratch on his hand. One of Kerry's commanding officers turned down Kerry's request for a Purple Heart.

 That's not all. Kerry's treating physician remembered the incident. Because some of the crewmen told him -- in 1969 -- that Kerry planned on running for president.

 O'Neill said that each of Kerry's Purple Hearts is "for scratches less than a rose prick. ? Each one involves virtually no serious wound of any kind. He then used the three Purple Hearts to escape from Vietnam."

 The paperwork on how the medal was awarded, according to the group, is missing. And Kerry will not sign the necessary papers to release the records.

 Can you imagine the level of scrutiny the media would employ if similar charges were made against President Bush? Remember the endless AWOL stories?

 But concerning Kerry, does it require any leap of faith at all to believe that a man who has confessed to war crimes would exaggerate injuries and campaign for medals in order to build a presidential resume?

 Admittedly, eight of the nine survivors who served under Kerry have said favorable things. But O'Neill said that just a few years ago, more than half of them wanted nothing to do with him.

 So what happened to make them change their minds? What really happened in Vietnam? And why did Kerry feel it necessary to verbally annihilate the character of the soldiers with whom he served -- when common sense alone tells us that his claims are both absurd and outrageous on their face.

 Where are the media outcries about the public's sacred right to know? Just remember: to the partisan media, character only matters if the "character" is a conservative.