According to the UK's Daily Telegraph — not the world's most reliable news source for US news, and a good place for right-wing planted stories — the Bush Pentagon has ordered an official investigation into the awards of the Democratic senator's five Vietnam War decorations. This despite the total implosion of the credibility of his accusers.
The request for an investigation originates from Judicial Watch. Their website does not confirm the story, saying only that the “Inspector General (“IG”) of the Department of Defense has informed the Secretary of the Navy” of his receipt of their complaint. And indeed the letter reproduced on Judicial Watch's site is nothing more than a receipt (.pdf).
A quick look at the complaint suggests it's pretty silly, and based largely on the Swift Boat Vets testimony that is now thoroughly discredited. The two main charges are (1) O'Neill's book says Kerry's medals are frauds and the various discredited swift boat vets (e.g. the doctor who didn't actually treat him) agree; and (2) [brace yourself:]
Dishonorable and possibly unlawful actions by Senator Kerry during the early 1970s – actions that manifestly benefited a foreign power with which the U.S. was at war – are so grievously damaging to the dignity, honor and traditions of the U.S. Navy and the American republic that the Secretary of the Navy may be compelled to revoke Senator Kerry’s awards.
And did I mention (3), (4) and (5): “dereliction of duty; misuse and abuse of U.S. government equipment and property; war crimes”?
In other words, Judicial Watch thinks stay-at-home Bush's Navy should revoke Kerry's award in the middle of a Presidential campaign — for opposing the Vietnam war and testifying to Congress! You can't make this stuff up.
While the Judicial Watch complaint and the Navy's receipt of it are verified, there is at this moment no confirmation of the Telegraph's account of the opening an actual investigation either on CNN, the NYT or Washington Post web sites, so I have some doubts the Telegraph report is true. The version running in the Chicago-Sun Times is much less detailed and also more credible and consistent with Judicial Watch's website—but might also have been filed earlier than the Telegraph's report.
But, no, I can't believe it — the statute of limitations must have passed for any offense imaginable, and hence the Navy would have no grounds for an investigation even if it thought Kerry was on LSD the whole time. I just won't believe this until it's confirmed elsewhere.
Meanwhile, to coin a phrase, I report, you decide. Below, excerpts from the Telegraph's report and then the Sun-Times's, and a little more about Judicial Watch's latest odd allegations:
the Pentagon has ordered an official investigation into the awards of the Democratic senator's five Vietnam War decorations.
The highly unusual inquiry is to be carried out by the inspector-general's office of the United States navy, for which Sen Kerry served as a Swift Boat captain for four months in 1968, making two tours of duty.
He was wounded in action and subsequently awarded three Purple Hearts, a Silver Star and a Bronze Star. But for the past month, the exact details of Mr Kerry's military service in Vietnam have become shrouded in a controversy that the navy has now decided warrants a full-blown search for the truth.
Last week, the Kerry campaign attempted to leave the Vietnam debate behind, as signs appeared that the controversy was damaging Mr Kerry's standing in the polls. But to the consternation of campaign strategists, the US navy has now agreed to a request by Judicial Watch, a bi-partisan lobby group, for a full inquiry. Judicial Watch is calling for the Navy to report before the elections, but Navy officials are so far refusing to give any timetable for the inquiry.
In an August letter to the Pentagon, the group's president, Tom Fitton, requested an investigation into the “determination and final disposition of the awards granted to Lieutenant (junior grade) John Forbes Kerry, US Naval Reserve”, in response to the Swift Boat Veterans' allegations.
A navy spokesman confirmed on Friday that the inspector-general's office at the Pentagon had authorised the inquiry. “It is the responsibility of all personnel to correct errors in official records,” said the spokesman. Another official said privately: “There's a feeling that it's time to deal with this thoroughly, once and for all.”
Among other records to be examined is a citation of Mr Kerry for bravery that was apparently signed by the former Navy Secretary, John Lehman, and contributed to the award of his silver star. The glowing citation states: “By his brave actions, bold initiative and unwavering devotion to duty, Lt Kerry reflected great credit on himself.” But Mr Lehman denies all knowledge of the commendation. “It's a total mystery to me,” he said last week. “I never saw it, I never signed it and I never approved it.” The inquiry will also investigate other reports and citations leading to the award of Mr Kerry's medals.
On Friday, Mr Lehman endorsed the investigation of Mr Kerry's awards, saying that the relevant navy records needed to be “thoroughly researched and the facts established”. Mr Fitton said: “We hope this is the beginning of an actual investigation of the legitimacy of Sen Kerry's awards by the navy and the Pentagon.”
In an angry statement from the Kerry campaign headquarters, Michael Meehan, Mr Kerry's senior adviser, condemned the navy probe as an expensive waste of the Pentagon's resources.
“The facts are clear,” said Mr Meehan. “The navy awarded John Kerry the Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V and three Purple Hearts. This is a waste of taxpayers' dollars and the Pentagon's time, especially during wartime.”
The Chicago-Sun Times version reports on the fact of Judicial Watch's allegations but just says that the Navy has received them and that “no investigator has been assigned at this time”.
The Defense Department's inspector general informed the Navy secretary Thursday of a complaint by a conservative legal watchdog group that requests an investigation into Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's military service.
Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the inspector general's office, said that “if a complaint looks like a potential violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, we refer it to the branch of service in which the violation was alleged to have occurred. We don't make a determination. It is up to the service department that has the records.”
According to the complaint, filed Aug. 18 by Judicial Watch, “The, as yet, unresolved allegations include: false official reports and statements; dishonorable conduct; aiding the enemy; dereliction of duty; misuse and abuse of U.S. government equipment and property; war crimes; and multiple violations of U.S. Navy regulations and directives, the Uniform Code of Military Justice and U.S. Code.”
While the inspector general and the Defense Department services have the responsibility for investigating charges under the code of military justice, in the event they have reason to believe they have identified possible violations of the U.S. civil or criminal law, they are required to refer them for investigation to the U.S. attorney general's office.
If the Department of the Navy determines after a review of documents that it is warranted, an investigator is assigned by the naval inspector general to examine the validity of the charges.
A spokesman for the Navy said that no investigator has been assigned at this time.
On Tuesday, August 31, 2004, Judicial Watch called upon Senator Kerry to remove the Silver Star citation from his political campaign Internet site pending a review of the granting of the award by the U.S. Navy. Senator Kerry’s political Internet site displays a document listing a “Silver Star with Combat 'V.'” The Combat “V” device is never awarded with the nation’s third highest award for heroism. A U.S. Navy spokesperson has reportedly stated: “The Navy has never issued a 'Combat V' to anyone for a Silver Star.” Additionally, former Navy Secretary John Lehman was quoted with respect to the Silver Star citation as saying: “It is a total mystery to me. I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me.”
At least it's a new slur. Oh, wait. It's not new.