Viet Cong, Not SwiftVets Asked for "Truth" On Kerry Medals
Remember the ABC Mark Halperin memo one week ago today? The now famous town hall debate in St. Louis at Washington University? The political director, Mark Halperin of ABC wrote a memo that revealed itself perfectly in last night's Nightline program. As he noted, the situation is now grave for John Kerry and ABC has a public responsibility to set the record straight on John Kerry's Vietnam service. You have Kerry's version of events as it relates to his service, specifically as Nightline addressed it last night -- his Silver -- and then you have Vietnam vets, Americans who have been decorated. They are heroes. They have their own medals. They have their version. ABC has talked -- I don't know how much; very little, probably - to them. No, they are not the correct source to go to. ABC went back to the allies. ABC went over to Vietnam. ABC went to the village where this Silver Star event took place and they talked to John Kerry's, they talked to three Viet Cong people, three former Viet Cong communist soldiers and residents of the village. This is in Vietnam.
John Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, is in the North Vietnamese War Museum as a hero, and this is where Nightline goes to solve the crisis, to solve the question, to answer once and for all the questions about Kerry's truth and service in Vietnam. If this doesn't spell out what the ABC memo said. Yu might say what are we going back to Vietnam two weeks before the election for? Because it's time to pull out all the stops. As the memo said, the situation's grave. ABC has a public responsibility to set the record straight. So they did their piece, and then they did -- to their credit, they had John O'Neill, the author of Unfit for Command, on the program, and he had an interview with Ted Koppel. We have some audio sound bites. Here's the first one. Ted Koppel said, "As I mentioned to you, Mr. O'Neill, before the broadcast, we're just going to have time to focus on the one issue that we've looked at tonight. That is the Silver Star issue."
JOHN O'NEILL: May I say, Ted, that's a real shame. It's a shame that you focused only on the one minor accomplishment of John Kerry and refused to ever cover the Sanpan incident where the small family was killed, the two times he fled that are described in the book, and the like --
TED KOPPEL: Mr. -- Mr. O'Neill, it's --
JOHN O'NEILL: -- or the time he visited North Vietnamese.
TED KOPPEL: Mr. O'Neill, you know, maybe we're going to be able to do something more. This was the place that we were brought to. This is --
JOHN O'NEILL: I invite you to, sir. We --
TED KOPPEL: This is the place we found. Let me, though, just for this evening ask you to focus --
JOHN O'NEILL: It's the third time you've covered it.
RUSH: (Laughing) The third time you've covered it. You've gotta love O'Neill because he knows exactly what's going on here. Here's Koppel's question: "Let me ask you to focus on the issue at hand. Tthe first question I have is the sort of the intriguing question about who that swift boat veteran was who talked to that one Vietnamese -- formerly Viet Cong -- that we heard from this evening who said he raised some questions about John Kerry, said this guy was running for president, said he had won awards that he did not deserve. Do you know who that was?"
JOHN O'NEILL: It was no one from our group, Ted, and if anybody implies that it was, it isn't the truth. Ted, John Kerry is in the North Vietnamese War Museum as a hero. He's honored by them as one of the heroes who caused them to win the war in Vietnam.
TED KOPPEL: Mr. O'Neill, I -- I understand --
JOHN O'NEILL: -- right in Saigon.
TED KOPPEL: Forgive me for interrputing you. If you'd just answer my question.
JOHN O'NEILL: And so -- excuse me, I don't believe --
TED KOPPEL: I understand you have your agenda, but if you'll be -- if you'll be good enough just to -- if we can just address the questions first.
JOHN O'NEILL: I did answer your question.
TED KOPPEL: You say you don't know who he is.
JOHN O'NEILL: Your report is unreliable.
TED KOPPEL: Well, it --
JOHN O'NEILL: You went to a country where all the elections are a hundred percent election, and you relied on people that were enemies of the United States in a closed society instead of getting the information that was easily available from us and from the record, and as a result, you produced a report that is truly pathetic.
TED KOPPEL: Mr. O'Neill --
JOHN O'NEILL: That's the truth, Ted, and that's not worthy of you.
RUSH: You can imagine Mr. Koppel getting just a little bit testy with the next question. "My question has to do with what eyewitnesses to the event -- I mean, you can impugn them any way you want to, and I have no way of vouching for their motives or their interest in either supporting John Kerry or doing damage to a group that -- like your own that I'm sure they've never heard of, but why is it that you are so reluctant to address the substance of what they said.
JOHN O'NEILL: Here's the problem, Ted.
TED KOPPEL: -- why -- why -- why is it that you are so reluctant to at least address the substance of what they said? In other words, you make it clear in your --
JOHN O'NEILL: Oh, I'm --
TED KOPPEL: Well --
JOHN O'NEILL: I'm thrilled to address the substance.
TED KOPPEL: Then --
JOHN O'NEILL: Then let's go right to the substance.
TED KOPPEL: Let's get to it.
JOHN O'NEILL: This is the book, Ted, published by The Boston Globe. This is their autobiography of John Kerry, with his assistance. Ted, in their autobiography, they describe, on Page 101, a single teenager in a loincloth, Ted. They weren't trying to make it up. This is John Kerry's own approved biography, "Tour of Duty." [Flipping to page] On Page 296 of that book, John Kerry says, boy, he's glad there was only a single person there and not more. What you've done is go into a closed society, instead of interviewing directly --
TED KOPPEL: Mr. O'Neill --
JOHN O'NEILL: -- and produced a story that isn't even the story in his biography or that of The Boston Globe.
TED KOPPEL: Mr. O'Neill, we -- we have other pieces of evidence, including the after-action report, and of course the citation for the Silver Star itself which talks precisely about a superior enemy force. You're the one who raised questions about the superior enemy force. It appears from the recollections of the Vietnamese who were on hand at the time, they recall a superior enemy force, 12 soldiers from -- You know, forgive me. If you'll put the book down, we can't -- we can't --
JOHN O'NEILL: Ted, if you'll cover --
TED KOPPEL: We can't read it anyway, so --
JOHN O'NEILL: Ted --
TED KOPPEL: -- all you're doing is --
JOHN O'NEILL: -- this The Boston Globe biography--
TED KOPPEL: -- sort of reflecting white light back -- yes. So?
JOHN O'NEILL: Ted, this is the biography by the hometown newspaper of John Kerry. It says there was a single Viet Cong teenager in a loincloth.
TED KOPPEL: I heard you -- I heard you the first time.
JOHN O'NEILL: I asked the author of it, Michael Kranish --
TED KOPPEL: I heard you the first time.
RUSH: Here's what the argument is. The argument is that Koppel and ABC went over and talked to some Viet Cong who put John Kerry in their war hero museum and the Viet Cong say, "Oh, we had a superior force and Kerry came in and he was brave and he shot us all up. We've got the shrapnel. We've got the wounds." Whatever they said. But he came, he was very brave and in Kerry's own book, written by The Boston Globe -- this is the Michael Kranish book -- it was not a superior force, it was one kid in a loincloth. And so that's the argument. And O'Neill is asking, in essence, or trying to make the point to the audience: Why are you relying on people in a closed society who vote in elections where the returns and the results are 100%? These are former enemies of the United States, and you're not relying on the candidate, John Kerry and what he says about the incident, in his own book written by his hometown newspaper reporter, and so that's why it's getting a little testy here. So that's what the argument is about. The argument then continued this way.
TED KOPPEL: I am referring to what you wrote --
JOHN O'NEILL: Oh, come on.
TED KOPPEL: -- in your book and asking you --
JOHN O'NEILL: Yeah.
TED KOPPEL: -- to respond to what you have just heard from a bunch of people who do not seem to have -- no. We got the title, "Unfit for Command." You know, just do me a favor. Stop picking up books and let's see if you and I can more or less look at one another and just get a few questions and answers back and forth. You wrote --
JOHN O'NEILL: Sure.
TED KOPPEL: You wrote --
JOHN O'NEILL: Ted --
TED KOPPEL: -- you wrote --
JOHN O'NEILL: All right.
TED KOPPEL: -- that there was only one man, and in fact you didn't --
JOHN O'NEILL: Right.
TED KOPPEL: -- describe him as a man, you described him as a kid. You described him --
JOHN O'NEILL: I described him --
TED KOPPEL: -- as a kid in a loincloth.
JOHN O'NEILL: That's not true, Ted.
TED KOPPEL: All right? Turns out he was 26 or 27 years old, was sent by provincial headquarters, was a leader of a 12-man Viet Cong unit that was sent to that place -- and I am simply giving you what the folks on the scene describe -- in order to ambush American swift boats. Why do you have trouble accepting that?
JOHN O'NEILL: Ted -- I have a lot of trouble, Ted, because you went to a country that is a closed society. You ignored every single report. You've ignored the written biography of John Kerry by The Boston Globe that concludes exactly what we did. Michael Kranish, who interviewed American after American, including Kerry's crewmen. You ignored Kerry's own autobiography, "Tour of Duty," in which he says he was glad there was only a single gunman. Let me suggest that when we have a choice between Kerry's crewmen and our crewmen all saying there was a single person -- you never interviewed our guys, of course -- but his people and ours saying there was a single guy popping up, and a group of Vietnamese who were opponents in the war living in a closed society, you have made a very strange choice to go all the way there and pick them.
RUSH: Well, I guess that is true. It's a very strange choice, but when you have the political director memo from Mark Halperin it puts all this in context. As he noted, the situation is now grave. ABC has a public responsibility to set the record straight. Remember, Bush is distorting Kerry's record far more than Kerry's distorting Bush's record and Kerry's distortions of Bush are not helping him nearly as much as Bush's distortions of Kerry, so they've got to level the playing field, and as Mr. O'Neill points out the way they level the playing field is ignore what Kerry says -- and you can't really blame ABC because how do you trust what Kerry says? And ignore his own biography, his two biographies, the one written by the Boston Globe, and instead go talk to our enemies over there who claim, "No, we were a 12 man force, Viet Cong, very powerful. We were trying to kill everybody but John Kerry, a single hero, came and wiped up out," blah, blah, blah. "Except for those of us still alive to tell you about it." Koppel decided to close -- or he doesn't decide. He closed the program thus:
TED KOPPEL: One of our own producers this morning raised a question that I suspect a number of you may have on your minds: Why, just when the presidential candidates are starting to focus on real substantive issues, devote yet another program to what John Kerry did or didn't do in Vietnam? Here's why. Questions have been raised about John Kerry's character and honesty. We were offered the chance to set the record straight on one discrete chapter in Mr. Kerry's war record. We didn't know what we were going to find when our crew went into Vietnam. You have the right to expect that we would have reported it either way, and we would. Because not reporting something you know, can be just as much of a political statement as reporting it. Imagine how outraged supporters of Mr. Kerry would have been if we had concealed what we found. Our interviews don't prove that John Kerry deserved his Silver Star, but they are consistent with the after-action report and his citation for bravery.
RUSH: That he wrote.
TED KOPPEL: Finally, once we've checked things as thoroughly as we can, we're in the business of reporting what we learn, not concealing it.
RUSH: (Clearing throat) This is tough for me because I know Ted Koppel. I haven't spoken to him in a long time, and I haven't been on Nightline in quite a long time. But I have to say that Mr. O'Neill is pretty persuasive here. Why go over to Vietnam, talk to people who made heroes of John Kerry and then hold up what they say as the barometer that needs to be reacted to and responded to? John Kerry's not being asked to respond to the swift boats, but the swift boat vets and John O'Neill are being asked to respond to the communist North Vietnamese who have placed Mr. Kerry as a war hero in their country. So if you have Mark Halperin's memo and you have the context of that memo and you juxtapose it with this report last night, it's fine and dandy to say you report what you find, but what if what you report and what you find is not the truth? I mean, after all, you're talking to communists and people in a controlled, closed society. It is an encompassed communist country. And they still live their lives in fear in those places. The record isn't set straight. I know, the record's still not set straight. This muddies it up even more. Or depending on your view,I mean, this could clarify it a little more because it does appear that this is another one of these last-gap efforts to try to get Kerry out of a jam over all this that he doesn't seem to be able to extricate himself from on his own.