UK Telegraph Reports Bush Admin Makes Next Move in Dirty Campaign?

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:

UK Telegraph

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.

At this writing Judicial Watch's website glosses over the actual text of the complaint that I summarized above and instead flogs this additional issue, not part of its actual filing to the Navy:

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.

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7 Responses to UK Telegraph Reports Bush Admin Makes Next Move in Dirty Campaign?

  1. Let’s be objective here.

    One document has either an obvious mistake or obvious fraud, since the Combat V (for special valor) doesn’t get awarded with a Silver Star. Period. It would be like awarding a Congressional medal of Honor with a Combat V — both awards are given based upon the valor shown. The question is if the mistake is the Navy’s, Kerry’s, or both.

    The Lehman citation is also an interesting topic. Usually when a citation is misplaced or lost by the recipient, the Pentagon simply issues a new copy. The language on the Lehman one is “enhanced”. How did this happen, as it constitutes an extraordinar changing of the record? And Lehman would remember signing this one, because there were not a lot awarded in during his time as SecNav (we were not in the midst of an ongoing “hot” conflict) — certainly not for a sitting US Senator.

    And how is it that a man who served in theater for 4 1/2 months (yes, longer if you count the time the Gridley was on station off the coast) gets a record indicating 4 campaign stars on his Vietnam Service Medal – indicating he served in 5 of the 17 eligible campaigns. Again, clerical error of fraud?

    Such things are regularly looked into by the Navy when brought to its attention, and this one should be handled in precisely the same way. Officers have had their careers broken over lesser offenses — and Adm. Boorda took his life in shame over his error.

    And while I’m at it,let me quote Kerry on the issue when Boorda committed suicide:
    “In a sense, there’s nothing that says more about your career than when you fought, where you fought and how you fought,” Kerry said.

    “If you wind up being less than what you’re pretending to be, there is a major confrontation with value and self-esteem and your sense of how others view you.”

    Of Boorda and his apparent violation, Kerry said: “When you are the chief of them all, it has to weigh even more heavily.”

    If John Kerry wants to be the commander in chief, then he ought to embrace this investigation wholeheartedly and provide full cooperation.

  2. Michael says:

    It’s hard for me to imagine Nixon didn’t look into all this stuff years ago.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Precinct Chair,
    OK, let’s be objective: if the Telegraph story is basically right (and we don’t know that), then this is a blatantly political misuse of government resources for partisan political gain. An obvious typo (if it is, indeed, a typo — a lot of people seem to have “silver stars with combat ‘V'”‘s) would not justify this sort of thing anywhere but in the mind of the most craven, shameless Bush partisan.

    In short, this would amount to the dirtiest of dirty tricks, and it will appear that way to most people. Why, exactly, should Kerry “embrace this investigation”? To even suggest such is insulting.

  4. Barry Freed says:

    IWell that’s one way for Bush to win:

    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

    He’ll declare Kerry an “unlawful enemy combatant” and haul his ass off to Gitmo. By the time the Supreme Court gets around to taking up his habeas petition the election will be long over with. Why even now Gonzalez and the OLC are debating the finer points of whether to gitmoize Kerry or just declare him a material witness and hold him incommunicado indefinitely until well after the election.

    It’s pure genius, really. Pure evil genius.

    Why does everything this admininstration does in CYA mode (which mode it is in most of the time on account of it’s astounding incompetence) remind me of the odious racketeering of a gang of mobsters. Remember when that Ron Suskind book about Paul O’Neill’s experience in the White House came out? And how did the Bush administration react to that?

  5. Jonathan — I’d be interested to see if that is what his records show, or whether it is a reporter screwing up the story. By the way — how does one other example add up to “lot’s of people.”

    By the way — this investigation is OBLIGATORY when a report of false medals is made to the DoD. It isn’t “The Administration” doing anything outside of its normal function. People regularly get jail time for the offense. Is it your desire to give John Kerry special treatment just because he is the Democrat nominee ? Are you actually supporting a different standard of justice for the rich and powerful? And would you prefer that the American people vote without the results of this investigation into a criminal matter? If that is the kind of justice the Left in this country wants, that is just one more reason to vote for Bush.

  6. Jonathan says:

    A quick Google search found some 22 instances of soldiers’ credentials around the Web including a decoration called “Silver Star with Combat ‘V'”. Clearly, it it’s a typo, it’s a common one.

    While I agree with you that this sort of behavior (sleazy, underhanded tricks) is “normal” for this administration, I believe you know full well that this “investigation” isn’t an issue of “the rich and powerful” vs. everyone else (as though Bush weren’t “rich and powerful”). Do you expect us to forget that Bush was behind the smears in the first place, PC? Do you really expect people to believe this is just part of the normal course of government business? How stupid do you think we are?

    This is self-evidently dirty pool — the lowest kind. This is abuse of government resources and taxpayer dollars to perpetuate a political smear job. And I repeat: only the most craven of Bush partisans would see nothing wrong with it.

    But you know all that, don’t you?

  7. Barry Freed says:

    You know I’ve heard from several unimpeachable sources who are in a position to know that Dick Cheney has been credibly accused of sexually molesting children in his office. Seriously, I expect dozens if not hundreds of victims to begin coming forth very soon. In fact I’m rather puzzled why this hasn’t come to light yet. Their stories are credible. I’ve also heard from at least three highly placed sources that Cheney keeps a veritable harem of young Iraqi and Afghani boys at Site R underneath Raven Rock mountain, near Waynesboro, PA where he hides out a lot. I mean just look at that face of his. He looks like a typical Chester the Molestor.

    Now there may in fact be nothing at all to these rumors. I don’t know myself. I report, you decide. But, as you well know, an investigation is OBLIGATORY when a report of child sexual abuse is made to the relevant law enforcement authorities and Child Protection Services. It isn’t “The Democrats” doing anything outside of their normal function. People regularly get jail time for the offense.Is it your desire to give Dick Cheney special treatment just because he is the Vice President? Are you actually supporting a different standard of justice for the rich and powerful? And would you prefer that the American people vote without the results of this investigation into a criminal matter? If that is the kind of justice the Right in this country wants, that is just one more reason to vote for Kerry.

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