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The Smearing of Captain Yee

The Army owes Captain James Yee, a Muslim Army Chaplain who was arrested on Sept. 10, 2003, an apology and an explanation. Last year, officials at a Naval Air Station in Jacksonville, Florida discovered allegedly classified documents in Yee's bags. At the time of his arrest, Yee was serving in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he ministered to prisoners at the Navy's detention facility. He ensured that the prisoners were able to hear the Muslim call to prayer, and occasionally clashed with military officials over the treatment of Islamic detainees.

Yee was accused of espionage, sedition, mutiny and aiding the enemy (crimes punishable by death). He sat in solitary confinement for 76 days after his arrest while Defense Department officials anonymously pressed their case in the national media, portraying Yee as part of a Guantanamo spy ring that sympathized with Al Qaeda, and raising suspicions that Yee had passed military secrets to the Syrians. "The fear was that he had started mixing his loyalties," one official told the Washington Post.

Another official explained Yee's decision to become a spy this way: "He was disappointed that he wasn't being integrated into the interrogation process. He wasn't happy with the mission, and thought the detainees were being mistreated." (At the time, Yee's concerns about conditions at Guantanamo Bay were echoed repeatedly by human rights activists.)

All allegations against Yee were eventually dismissed. But then, in a decision that can only be characterized as outrageous overreaching, the Army decided to prosecute Yee for committing adultery and downloading porn onto his computer. Neither act is a criminal offense, and the move was widely regarded as vindictive because, traditionally, the only times when the military prosecutes adultery cases is when other charges like rape or sexual harassment are also involved.

Yee received a reprimand, but a month later, an Army general threw out even this judgment. Exonerated on all charges, Yee received word last week that the Army had authorized his honorable discharge, which is now set for January.

Experts in military justice have expressed disbelief at Yee's Kafkaesque journey from well-regarded Army Chaplain to Public Enemy No. 1. The malice exhibited towards Yee and the Army's incompetent handling of his case are staggering. "This whole thing makes the military prosecutors look ridiculous," John L. Fugh, a retired major general and onetime judge advocate general (the highest uniformed legal officer in the Army), told the New York Times.

The military owes Yee an apology because it dragged his name through the mud, damaged his family and destroyed his reputation. Yee said the Army's pursuit of the case against him has "irreparably injured my personal and professional reputation and destroyed my prospects for a career in the US Army."

But an explanation must also be forthcoming. "The notion that you would keep an officer in maximum security based on these charges is preposterous," Yee's civilian lawyer, Eugene Fidell, said while Yee was sitting in solitary confinement. The Army must explain why Yee was held in such primitive conditions on trumped-up charges.

It's also fair to ask whether Yee's questions about prisoner abuses put him in the crosshairs of Major General Geoffrey Miller.

Miller, who is a central figure in Sy Hersh's new book, Chain of Command, had been in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison, where he brought a no-holds barred attitude to the interrogation process that created a climate of fear in which abuses were condoned. "Miller was permitted to use legally questionable interrogation techniques at Guantanamo, which could include, with approval, sleep deprivation, exposure to extremes of cold and heat, and placing prisoners in 'stress positions' for agonizing lengths of time," Hersh reported.

It was Miller, according to the US Southern Command, who made the major decisions about how to handle Yee's case, including deciding to bring the initial charges against him, to have him detained in the brig and to include the additional charges.

Miller may well have seen Yee as a threat to his mission to interrogate prisoners freely and without dissent. During his stint in Guantanamo, Miller was dispatched to Iraq to "Gitmoize" prisoner interrogations, where Miller's team, according to the report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, insisted that "the guard force be actively engaged in setting the condition for the successful exploitation of internees." When asked about Miller, Fidell said: "It is incomprehensible that General Miller would have been put in charge of Iraqi prisoners given his conduct in [the Yee] case."

Former counter-terrorism officials have pointed out that military commanders responsible for abuses were instructed to "[take] off the gloves" to glean better intelligence from prisoners. Yee was caught up in this "gloves-are-off" atmosphere. A kind of hysteria surrounded his case, and his treatment may well have been a result of his warnings about abuse of detainees. In prosecuting its case against Yee, the Army trampled on the values that underpin American ideas about fair play and equal justice for all.

Moreover, as David Cole pointed out in a recent Nation article, it is a record of prosecutorial abuse and failure: John Ashcroft has compiled a 0 for 5,000 record when it comes to successfully prosecuting foreign nationals the government has detained on suspicion of sponsoring terrorism.

"Yee was defamed and smeared and accused of being a spy," said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Now that the case against Yee has disintegrated, it seems plausible, in retrospect, that Yee's only real crime in the brass' eyes was his willingness to raise questions about abuse of prisoners when few in the military, the media and the federal government had the wisdom to do so. Yee deserves better.

Rather Ridiculous

Just about the only sensible voice in the whole controversy over the documents CBS News used in its ham-handed attempt to raise questions about George W. Bush's "service" in the Texas National Guard came from retired typist Marian Carr Knox. As a former assistant to Lt. Colonel Jerry Killian, Bush's squadron commander who allegedly suggested that officers had been pressured to "sugar coat" their evaluations of the politically-connected young Guardsman, Knox was in a position to know more than just about anyone else about the authenticity of the documents and of the sentiments expressed in them.

In interviews with several news outlets, including CBS, Knox suggested that the Killian memos were forged but accurate.

Now that CBS News anchor Dan Rather has acknowledged that he made a "mistake in judgment" when he relied on what now appear to have been bogus documents for a "60 Minutes" report that detailed some of the favorable treatment Bush received, Knox's seemingly strange statement offers one of the few realistic routes out of the thicket of spin the Bush administration has erected to avoid a serious discussion of the president's Vietnam-era "service" in the Guard.

Knox said she did not think the memos that were purported to have been written by Killian were genuine. But, she said, they reflected sentiments the National Guard commander expressed at the time. Thus, the documents that have caused such a stir as this year's presidential campaign enters its final weeks could indeed be both forged and accurate.

So where should Knox's insight lead us?

First, anyone who wants to know the truth about Bush's pampered "service" should be furious with Rather and the CBS crew. When they refused to follow basic fact-checking standards, they failed their viewers and the broader American public that would, for the first time, be exposed by the September 8 "60 Minutes" broadcast to a seemingly serious review of irregularities related to Bush's entry into the guard, his ignoring of direct orders, his failure to show up for duty and a pattern of reassignments that seemed always to benefit the son of a then-congressman from Texas rather than the country he was supposed to be serving.

After more than a month of virtually round-the-clock assessment of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service, major media has a responsibility to reexamine the president's controversial service record.

Yet, by doing a haphazard job of reporting and then rushing to broadcast the supposed "blockbuster" story, Rather and his crew played into the hands of a Bush spin machine that is now expert at peddling the lie that a liberal media is out to distort the president's record. While their intent may have been to shed light on an interesting and potentially significant story of the special treatment accorded this son of privilege, Rather and CBS, in their search for a "scoop," created a fog so thick that it could well obscure the story for the rest of the campaign.

By relying on a few documents that were not adequately verified, CBS handed White House political czar Karl Rove exactly what he needed to steer attention away from the real story. Of course it remains true that, as Rather says, "Those who have criticized aspects of our story have never criticized the heart of it... that George Bush received preferential treatment to get into the National Guard and, once there, failed to satisfy the requirements of his service."

Unfortunately, the "heart" of the story has been largely obscured by the controversy over the doctored documents.

As such, Rather and CBS are guilty of undermining not just their own story but the truth. That's particularly tragic because it was never really their story in the first place. The basic story of the machinations that George Herbert Walker Bush performed to help his son avoid serving in Vietnam, and the dirty details of the son's failure to do his duty as a Guardsman, was well reported almost five years ago by Texas columnist Molly Ivins and Texas investigative reporter Lou Dubose in their still-essential assessment of young Bush's path to power, Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Vintage). That book's chapter regarding Bush's Vietnam-era Guard duty is exceptionally well-reported, compelling and, ultimately, more damning of the Bush family and the current president than anything produced since its publication.

So why didn't Rather and the CBS crew simply invite Ivins and Dubose, both experienced Texas reporters with long histories of sorting fact from fiction when dealing with the Bush family, to help produce a "60 Minutes" report that would have told the story accurately and thoroughly? Perhaps CBS executives thought that, because Ivins and Dubose write with a point of view, rather than feigning journalistic impartiality, they could not be trusted to get the straight story. That, of course, is the common bias of the elite broadcast media in the United States.

Unfortunately, that bias led Rather and CBS to produce a story that has done severe damage to the prospects that the great mass of Americans will ever learn the truth about their president's Vietnam-era actions. There is a lesson to be learned here: There was never any need for Rather and CBS to go searching for a "scoop" regarding Bush's time in the Guard. The story has already been reported and written by Ivins and DuBose. What there was a need for was a network with the courage to take that story, attach some pictures and broadcast it. Unfortunately, CBS proved incapable to performing that simple task. And, in so doing, CBS put the truth a little further out of reach for most Americans.

One Sweet Victory

A friend and I were watching CNN the other night. After fifteen minutes of the Headline News, she asked, "Is there any good news in the world?"

Yes. But it's harder and harder to find.

As I wrote in this space last July, "It can be difficult, in these times, to maintain a sense of hope--as war, corruption, lies and injustices large and small loom all around,and outrage threatens to overwhelm us. But in these past months, as millions of us slug away, agitate, organize and mobilize, there have been some hard-fought victories to celebrate."

One sweet victory took place last week in Albany, New York when a young activist attorney named David Soares rocked the county (and the state) with his stunning landslide victory in the Democratic Primary for District Attorney. A nominee of the Working Families Party, his race was a referendum on the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws, and his victory was a magnificent accomplishment for the urban-suburban, black-white, gay-straight, grassroots community-labor campaign led by Albany WFP chair Karen Scharff.

Soares brought a struggling Democratic machine to its knees--defeating incumbent Albany County District Attorney Paul Clyne, one of the strongest defenders of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. (Final tally was 62 percent for Soares compared to just 38 percent for the incumbent, with record turnout of more than 22,000.)

Soares, wrote the Albany Times Union, "had the nerve to stand up to the entire political establishment in Albany, fight for what's right--and win...Support for his stance on repeal of the strict Rockefeller Drug Laws and his platform of inclusion was seen in the incumbent's staggering across-the-board loss."

Soares' victory is a clear sign of popular support for reforming antiquated and cruelly ineffective drug laws. "This is the single most important development in more than a decade of trying to reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws," according to the Drug Policy Alliance Network, which supported Soares' candidacy. "It's also the first time in contemporary American history that voters have thrown a politician out of office because he's a drug war zealot."

Soares' resounding defeat of an incumbent district attorney in New York State's capital, even in a primary election, sends an unmistakable message to other District Attorneys who, for years, have been the principal obstacle to reform. "All 'lock-'em-up, throw-away-the-key' DAs should take notice of what just happened to Paul Clyne," said Drug Policy Alliance's Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. "I can't think of anything which will do more to change the prospects for...reform than this."

This victory is also a testament to the Working Families Party's role as a growing force in New York State politics. "The primary result," according to the New York Times, "highlighted the party's power to organize, raise money, make phone calls and knock on doors, as it did in aiding Mr. Soares in a county where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 82,300 to 43,516 as of February."

As Dan Cantor of the WFP argues, Soares' victory is "evidence that a campaign that has a crystal clear stance on key issues, that appeals to the voters' best instincts, and that is unrelenting in getting its message out door by door by door can actually overcome the status quo and the advantages of incumbency."

Soares still has to win the general election in November, and the reform of the Rockefeller Laws still awaits legislative action, but it's worth savoring this sweet victory.

In the next few weeks, here are a few things you can do to support David Soares and the fight to repeal the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws:

1/ Support the Working Families Party.(Click here for info.)

2/ Support the Drug Policy Alliance Network(Click here for info.)

3/ If you live in New York State, write your local paper and call your local talk-radio show to stress how important Rockefeller reform has become in this year's election. You might even commend the New York Post for its editorial last week calling for reform of the drug laws. This represents a major reversal of the Murdoch-owned paper's longtime position. (Click here for contact info for your local media outlets.)

4/ Vote for David Soares in November if you live in Albany County--or tell your friends who live there to vote for him. And contribute to his campaign no matter where you live.

Finally, please click here to send me your nominations for small and sweet victories worth noting. I plan to keep highlighting them in this space in the weeks and months ahead and I want to include your responses.

McCain: The October Surprise?

Will John McCain be the October Surprise?

Months ago, when the Republican senator who is often dubbed a maverick finally started campaigning with George W. Bush--after news reports noted that John Kerry had delicately discussed with McCain the idea of McCain becoming Kerry's running mate--the question asked by political commentators (and cable talk show consumers) was, what does McCain want? Did he want to make peace with the GOP establishment so he could run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 (when he would be 72 years old)? Was he looking to be secretary of defense? Was he hoping that Bush would bounce Dick Cheney and put McCain on the ticket?

The obvious answer was that McCain was just yielding to the overwhelming Ds-and-Rs dynamic of Washington's binary culture. In his case, the issue was whether McCain was a Republican or not. And if he did want to continue being a GOPer in good standing, then he had to do right by the Family. (Think The Sopranos.) That meant putting aside the resentment and anger he must have felt toward the Bush clan, which--take your pick--ran or countenanced an ugly and vicious campaign against McCain in the South Carolina primary in 2000 that included questioning McCain's commitment to veterans and spreading rumors that McCain had been brainwashed in a Vietnamese prison camp, that his adopted daughter was a love-child he had had with a prostitute, and that his wife was a junkie. So this year McCain sucked it up and hit the trail for Bush, even as the Bush brigade was mounting the same sort of trash-and-slash attack against McCain's colleague, John Kerry. At least, McCain could point to the war in Iraq as a point of agreement with Bush. Though McCain, according to a McCain adviser, has not accepted the neoconservatives' argument (adopted by Bush) that the Iraq war is necessary as an initial step in remaking the region, he believed that because Saddam Hussein posed a possible threat and was such a tyrant he needed "to be taken out."

But maybe there was another reason beyond loyalty to the party and to the commander-in-chief why McCain saddled up with Bush. Perhaps he wanted to get near enough to knife Bush--metaphorically speaking, of course. As in, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. (Think The Godfather.)

Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, McCain whacked Bush on Iraq. He accused Bush of making "serious mistakes after the initial successes by not having enough troops there on the ground, by allowing the looting, by not securing the borders. There was a number of things that we did. Most of it can be traced back to not having sufficient numbers of troops there." When he said "we," McCain actually meant Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice. He noted that the Bush administration has allowed insurgents to establish sanctuaries--such as in Falluja--where anti-American rebels or terrorists can be trained and harbored. McCain, saying he still supports the US mission in Iraq, was making a serious charge: that Bush and his gang have screwed things up tremendously.

Anchor Chris Wallace then asked what seemed to be a Bush-friendly question: "Some have suggested that what we're seeing, to use a Vietnam analogy, is kind of a rolling Tet offensive to try to break the will of the American and Iraqi people and to play a role in defeating President Bush. Do you think that's what's going on?"

While other GOPers have tried to make such a point to shore up support for Bush among potential voters, McCain would not. "I don't think they're interested so much," he replied, "in defeating President Bush."

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on a top military commander claiming Iraq is lost, the Kerry campaign's lag on analogies, Bush's most recent campaign-trail fibs, and the never-ending flap over Bush's Air National Guard service and those CBS memos.

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McCain challenged Bush's assertion that progress is under way in Iraq, noting "the situation has obviously been somewhat deteriorating, to say the least." Bush, he remarked, "is not being "as straight as maybe we'd like to see." McCain called for the declassification of the recent National Intelligence Estimate that raised the possibility of civil war in Iraq. "The key," said McCain, who urged more extensive US military action in Iraq, is to "recognize those mistakes, correct those mistakes, and prevail." He added, "I'd like to see more of an overall plan articulated by the president."

McCain's remarks were not what a consultant would call politically useful to the fellow whom McCain is supposedly trying to help get reelected. These comments came the day before John Kerry was to give a major speech blistering Bush for mistakes and miscalculations in Iraq. McCain--as well as Republican Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar, who on other talk shows each said the administration's handling of postwar Iraq has been incompetent--softened up Bush for Kerry's blows. But McCain's words, given his standing in the media, hit the hardest.

Earlier this month, an editor at The Nation, dreaming of magic-bullet scenarios, asked me whether Secretary of State Colin Powell might break with Bush in October and swing the election to Kerry. Not a chance I said, read this. Powell is completely in the tank for the Bush crew, enabling the neocons. But McCain--now he might cause further difficult for his "good friend" in the White House in the final weeks of the election.

The Bush campaign eagerly embraced McCain early in the summer when Bush was slipping in the polls due to the mess in Iraq. So when McCain (rather than Kerry) says Bush hasn't articulated a plan for Iraq, can the White House dismiss this serious statement? It sure cannot be pooh-poohed by Bush's mouthpieces as partisan rhetoric. Might such a remark cause Bushies to wonder whether McCain infiltrated the Bush campaign in order to better zing the man whose lieutenants once bitterly and scurrilously attacked McCain's family and questioned McCain's loyalty to veterans?

The McCain-Bush face-off has been one of the most-watched soap operas in Washington. Now it appears that when McCain hit the campaign trail for Bush this summer, the conflict was not ultimately resolved. A few more twists and turns could come, and in this relationship, McCain at the moment has more power. (Remember McCain's home state of Arizona could end up being a key state on November 2.) With his recent comments, McCain has essentially called out the administration and undermined Bush's spin. If McCain continues to talk so candidly, he will be serving as a wingman for Kerry. Is this calculation or coincidence? Revenge being served out of a deep-freezer? McCain likes to promote his reputation as a straight-talker, but next time I see him in a green room, I'm not going to bother asking him to answer the question. Let him do what he's gotta do--especially if it's personal. Anyway, who would want to know the end of this melodrama before the final page?

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DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.

Go Noam (No Ralph)!

"Anyone who says, 'I don't care if Bush gets elected' is basically telling poor and working people in the country, 'I don't care if your lives are destroyed. I don't care whether you are going to have a little money to help your disabled mother. I just don't care, because from my elevated point of view I don't see much difference between them.' That's a way of saying, 'Pay no attention to me, because I don't care about you.' Apart from its being wrong, it's a recipe for disaster if you're hoping to ever develop a popular movement and a political alternative."--Noam Chomsky, 2004

This quote comes from a recent e-mail sent out by Progressive Democrats of America--just one of a slew of groups, including Greens for Kerry, Repentant Nader Voters and United Progressives for Victory--making the case that even if you agree with Ralph Nader and/or the Greens on the issues, the paramount priority is to (re)defeat Bush in November.

Their appeal--and that of former Nader supporters issued last week--is ever more important now that the Florida Supreme Court has bolstered President Bush's prospects in a crucial swing state by ruling that Nader can appear on that state's ballot as the Reform Party presidential candidate.

Circulate Chomsky's quote widely!

Swift Vets Keep Misfiring

The Swift Vets have done the damage they set out to do. By hurling unsubstantiated charges against John Kerry and accusing him of somehow obtaining medals for his Vietnam service that he did not deserve, this Republican-financed band of anti-Kerry veterans succeeded in making their questions about Kerry a media issue, and that accomplishment probably has affected how some voters view Kerry. The so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth accomplished their get-Kerry mission even though the group could not prove many of its key accusations and the official record generally confirmed Kerry's account. (See my scoop on how Navy records undermined one of the Swift Vets' main allegations.) After losing skirmish after skirmish on the details--while perhaps winning the battle by shifting public opinion--the Swift Vets quickly changed course to attack Kerry for the antiwar activism he engaged in after returning from Vietnam, and that is their current focus.

But the group is still taking its shots at Kerry's combat record. Yesterday, John O'Neill, the Swift Vets leader who coauthored its primary indictment of Kerry, Unfit for Command, pointed to what conservatives have touted as a recently discovered document to substantiate one of the Swift Vets' original accusations: that Kerry has misled the public about the combat incident that occurred on February 28, 1969 and that earned Kerry his Silver Star. Claiming vindication, O'Neill crowed to the New York Post that the document shows Kerry "was pursuing a wounded man and not charging alone into superior numbers and intense fire," as his Silver Star citation claims. The Post headlined its article, written by Deborah Orin, as "New Kerry Medal Flap."

The problem for O'Neill and the Post is, this document--an after-action report written by Kerry--is not a new find. Kerry aides have been handing it out to reporters for several years. A Boston Globe columnist wrote about it in 2000. (The Kerry campaign says that this report was inadvertently left out of the war records posted on the campaign's website.) And there is another problem for O'Neill: this particular record also happens to undermine O'Neill's account of the Silver Star incident--as does another Navy record that came out recently but has been largely overlooked.

In the book promoted by the Swift Vets, Unfit for Command, O'Neill and coauthor Jerome Corsi (who was sidelined by the Swift Vets after news reports disclosed he had made anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments), zeroed in on the Silver Star incident in their effort to brand Kerry a phony. Kerry's citation for that medal notes that on that day Lt. Kerry, captain of Patrol Craft Fast 94, was in tactical command of a three Swift boats on the Dong Cung River. When all three boats came under "intense automatic weapons and small arms fire from an entrenched enemy force less than fifty feet away," according to the citation, Kerry "unhesitatingly" ordered the boats to charge the enemy and fired back. "This daring and courageous tactic surprised the enemy and succeeded in routing a score of enemy soldiers," the citation says. It then notes that Kerry's Swift boat and the Swift boat piloted by Lt. William Rood Jr. went up river to suppress enemy fire and again encountered enemy fire, with a B-40 rocket-launched grenade hitting Kerry's boat. Kerry again ordered a charge and beached his boat. Kerry then went ashore "in pursuit of the enemy," and the landing party he led uncovered an "enemy rest and supply area" that they destroyed. While ashore, Kerry chased down a Viet Cong who was armed with a rocket launcher, and he killed the man. The citation does not mention that part of the counterattack, but it refers to the "extraordinary daring and personal courage" displayed by Kerry "in attacking a numerically superior force in the face of intense fire."

In their book, O'Neill and Corsi claim "what happened that day differs from the retelling in the citation" and that Kerry did not engage in conduct that warranted a Silver Star. They note that Kerry's boat was not the first to beach in the ambush zone, and they write, "After the first boat beached, Kerry's boat moved slightly downstream and was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade in its aft cabin." They also maintain "there was little or no fire after" the first boat beached. O'Neill and Corsi say that the enemy soldier Kerry chased and killed was a "young Viet Cong in a loincloth...clutching a grenade launcher which may or may not have been loaded," who was already wounded. The pair also dismiss this episode for being preplanned by Kerry as an effort to win a medal.

On August 22, William Rood, now an editor at the Chicago Tribune, published an article in his newspaper about what happened on the Dong Cung River. It was the first time Rood had addressed the matter publicly. Before doing so, he had been called by Kerry, who asked him to speak out. Rood's account backed up Kerry's citation. He noted that before this mission, Kerry had indeed discussed with him and Lt. Don Droz, who commanded the third boat, the option of responding differently than usual to an ambush. Swift boats routinely encountered ambushes in this area, and they generally fired back and kept moving. Kerry suggested that if they hit an ambush they should turn their boats toward the enemy, beach the boats, and fight back. Rood and Droz agreed. According to Rood, on the day of this particular ambush, after Kerry gave the order to "turn 90" all "three boats roared in on the ambush. It worked." Then Kerry ordered his and Rood's boat upstream where there was another ambush and another counterattack ordered by Kerry. "Again it worked," Rood wrote. And according to Rood, the VC soldier Kerry chased on shore was a grown man wearing traditional VC garb (not a "loincloth") and that Kerry returned holding a loaded B-40 rocket launcher.

When Rood published his account, it was a blow to the Swift Vets. O'Neill called Rood's article "an obvious political move." O'Neill defended his book's account of the Silver Star episode by claiming it "mirrors almost identically" to the accounts in other books, including Douglas Brinkley's Tour of Duty. But Brinkley's book does not contend--as does O'Neill and Corsi's book--that there was little or no fire after the first boat beached, that the order of beaching was significant, or that after the first ambush Kerry's Swift boat merely drifted down stream. O'Neill and Corsi's intent is to diminish Kerry's conduct. Rood's article disputed their characterization. And his recollections are supported by the citation for the Bronze Star he was awarded for his part in this operation.

His citation--which was posted by the Chicago Tribune yet drew little notice--says that the three Swift boats commanded by Kerry, Rood and Droz "came under a barrage of enemy small arms fire from the river bank" and "immediately responded and charged the Viet Cong positions, taking the enemy under devastating fire." It continues, "The Viet Cong, caught completely off guard by this tactic, stood up and began running from their positions. The fleeing Viet Cong were taken under fire by the three Patrol Craft Fast and three enemy were killed prior to the insertion of [Vietnamese] Regional and Popular Force troops." The citation does not distinguish between the Swift boats in terms of the order in which they beached. According to this account, they each participated in the daring counterattack.

Next, the citation says, Kerry's and Rood's boats "moved upstream to investigate an area from which gunshots were coming. Arriving at this area, both of the Patrol Craft Fast came under heavy enemy automatic/semi-automatic weapons fire from well fortified positions along the river bank." This account undercuts O'Neill and Corsi's assertion that Kerry and his crewmates encountered "little or no fire" following the first counterattack. It also shows that O'Neill and Corsi left out a crucial element of the tale, for the citation reports that Kerry and Rood again turned their boats and "charged directly into the enemy fire while summoning" Droz's boat to "come to the area and provide additional firepower." Then the three boats "saturated the area with gunfire and placed assault parties ashore in pursuit of the fleeing enemy." O'Neill and Corsi do not mention this second charge.

Nor do they note the additional attacks mounted against Kerry's boat and the two others. Rood's citation says that after the assault parties had returned to the three Swift boats--that is, after Kerry had killed that Viet Cong holding the B-40 launcher--"these craft again came under a hail of enemy fire, this time from the opposite river bank. Again, the three Patrol Craft Fast poured withering fire into the enemy positions and then cleared the area." But that was not the end of it: "Later...the Patrol Craft Fast were again taken under enemy fire. The three craft returned fire and silenced the enemy."

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries on Bush's most recent campaign-trail fibs, the flap over Bush's Air National Guard service, and Kitty Kelley's new Bush-bashing book.

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O'Neill, as far as I can tell, has not commented publicly on Rood's citation, which was signed by Vice Admiral E.R. Zumwalt Jr. But after syndicated television commentator Mark Hyman, a conservative, posted the after-action report on this mission written by Kerry, O'Neill declared that his criticism of Kerry had been confirmed. But neither he nor Hyman seemed to realize that this after-action report--which Hyman obtained from Navy archives--has been in public circulation for years.

What excited O'Neill and Hyman was that the report notes that the enemy soldier killed by Kerry was wounded. The relevant--for them--portion reads:

"PCF 94 beached in center of ambush in front of small path when VC sprung up from bunker 10 feet from unit. Man ran with weapon towards hootch. Forward M-60 gunner wounded man in leg. [Kerry] jumped ashore and gave pursuit while other units saturated area with fire and beached placing assault parties ashore. [Kerry] chased VC inland behind hootch and shot him while he fled capturing one B-40 rocket launcher with round in chamber."

Hyman claims this report contradicts Kerry's depiction of this incident. "For more than 30 years," Hyman said in a commentary, "Kerry has portrayed a heroic version of a life and death struggle--of staring down a suspected guerilla who was about to fire upon Kerry's swift boat." But the document contradicts nothing. It does indicates that Kerry had a dramatic encounter with an enemy soldier (a man who jumped out of a spider hole ten feet away from the boat), that the Viet Cong soldier was able to flee, and that he was carrying a loaded weapon. In Brinkley's Kerry-friendly Tour of Duty, Kerry crewmate Michael Medeiros is quoted saying that this surprised enemy soldier tried to prepare his rocket launcher to fire at their boat but that he was too close to arm his weapon in time and ran off. And according to Brinkley's account, the man was hit by fire from the Swift's M-60. "The guy fell down," Medeiros said, "but he got back up with the B-40 rocket launcher in hand....[A]nd he ran down this little trail."

In their book, O'Neill and Corsi claim that Kerry shot the fleeing VC "in the back," yet this after-action report does not specify how or where the man was shot. Hyman noted that the after-action report calls into question "the Silver Star Kerry was awarded for killing a Vietnamese man." But Kerry's Silver Star citation only refers glancingly to this piece of the action, merely saying that Kerry "personally led a landing party ashore in pursuit of the enemy." It does not cite Kerry's killing of this soldier. The Silver Star was awarded to Kerry for his actions during the entire mission.

Moreover, this after-action report corroborates much in the medal citations for Kerry and Rood--and contradicts O'Neill and Corsi's rendition of this episode. It notes that when the first ambush occurred, each of the three Swift boats--including Kerry's--"charged [the] ambush completely." It notes that Kerry's boat and Rood's boat then moved down the river to investigate reports of enemy gunshots, that "both units received heavy small arms fire," and that Kerry again ordered another counterattack. And according to this after-action report, the three boats did receive additional enemy fire after leaving the site of the second ambush--which the report characterized as a location "of considerable tactical importance" because the "area was major VC supply point and waystation for infiltration."

In their account, O'Neill and Corsi downplay the entire operation and make it seem that Kerry did little more than arrange a stunt designed to win him a medal. They give him no credit for ordering an untraditional move and participating in the initial counterattack. O'Neill and Corsi diminish the threat Kerry and his comrades faced by denying there was significant enemy fire. And they leave out entire parts of the story that are inconvenient for their anti-Kerry purposes.

The article Rood wrote was an effective counterattack to the Swift Vets' assault on Kerry's Vietnam record. But Rood's Bronze Star citation goes even further in rebutting O'Neill and Corsi's characterization of the Silver Star episode. And so does the not-so-new after-action report being hyped by O'Neill, Hyman and the Post. Once again, official records do not support charges made by the Swift Vets. With their book, O'Neill and Corsi were firing blanks, but, unfortunately for Kerry, those rounds still caused plenty of harm.

********

DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.

It's a Small World After All

The International Ethical Collegium is an important new global voice. Its membership includes philosophers, diplomats, scientists, human rights activists and current and former Heads of State and governments, like ex-President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, who want the global community to respond "intelligently and forcefully to the decisive challenges facing humankind." (The group has recently published an important Open Letter to George W. Bush and John Kerry, which is reprinted below.)

The Collegium sees three great challenges confronting the modern world--all of which require robust multilateral solutions: an ecological threat that includes global warming, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and a shortage of drinkable water in many of the world's poorest regions; a global economy in which deregulation has created massive disparities in income and a less secure world; and, finally, a "crisis of thought and meaning" whereby humanity is thwarted by forces like "violence and intolerance [and] materialistic obsession."

In an interview this week, the International Collegium's Secretary General Sacha Goldman talked about how sovereign states' own self-interest, threatened to undermine the hope of collective action to confront the world's most immediate problems. "The US is losing its moral leadership," Goldman said, and that's troubling because nations "don't exist anymore on their own." Interdependence, as the Open Letter states, "is the new reality of this century--from global warming to global markets, global crime and global technology."

The Collegium was formed in the period leading up to the Sept. 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks. The former President of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, and the former French Prime Minister, Michel Rocard, serve as its co-chairs. While the group has proposed solutions to specific transnational problems, the Collegium is most valuable for its ethics-based approach to problems like terrorism, poverty and environmental degradation.

The Collegium's Open Letter is another sign that our upcoming election isn't just about the American people. It's about America's future role in the world. Citing a "new era of interdependence," the Collegium's members are asking Bush and Kerry to make clear their views about large issues like the prospects for democracy at the global level, and the possibility of formulating common interdependent values.

Sadly, however, the possibility of the global community working together to tackle the world's vast inequities has been greatly diminished due to Bush's hyper-militaristic approach to solving global problems, his illegal and un-necessary war in Iraq, and his contempt for the UN in particular and the international community in general. Worse, Bush's policies have made the US more isolated--even hated--among former friends and foes alike. Recent polls conducted by GlobeScan and the University of Maryland show rising international mistrust of the US. Transatlantic Trends 2004 recently released a survey revealing that 76 percent of Europeans disapprove of Bush's handling of foreign affairs, up 20 percent in the last two years.

"If the people of the world were going to participate in the US election, Kerry would win handily," said Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. While that fact might be exploited by the Bush campaign, the Collegium's open letter should serve as a wake-up call to Americans that the US is stronger when it builds alliances. This assertion isn't new, of course, but this fact has gotten lost in this stormy campaign in which Vietnam--and a debate about whose service was nobler--has eclipsed the debate about Iraq's future, the genocide in Darfur, rising tensions in the Middle East, and Iran's nuclear weapons programs.

For the first time since 1972, international affairs and national security are the top concern of the American electorate. In turning his back on the concept of multilateral action to solve common problems, however, Bush has made America less secure by turning internationalism on its head.

Bush and Kerry have an obligation to listen to the Collegium's concerns and begin to address our greatest challenges in a serious and intelligent way. The Collegium's letter to the candidates provides an opportunity for both candidates to take that step. Read it below.

*****

Collegium International

To The Candidates of the 2004 United States Presidential Elction: President George W. Bush and Senator John Kerry.

On November 2, one of you will be elected the next President of the United States. Because your great country is powerful far beyond its borders, billions of women and men who cannot vote will be profoundly affected by the choice made by the United States electorate.

We, the members of the International Ethical Collegium, write to you as citizens of the world who are in effect your constituents, but who have no vote. We ask that you consider your responsibility not just to the United States and its citizens but also to the world in this new era of interdependence, when sovereignty still circumscribes elections but can no longer circumscribe the consequences of elections.

Interdependence is evident in our world, from global warming to global markets, global crime, and global technology. However, more than anything else, terrorism has unveiled this fateful interdependence that defines our twenty-first century world. The atrocious attacks of September 11, 2001, like those that followed in Casablanca, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere, elicited the condemnation and sympathy of the entire world, even as they showed that no nation can any longer be secure or sovereign by itself.

We believe that the realities of interdependence require that the promise of its benefits be realized in affirmative ways through an architecture of interdependence that assures full equality in the distribution of economic, social and human resources. This condition requires the United States to recognize four crucial principles and needs, that define the central concerns of the Collegium:

** the need to establish democracy at a global level, where it can regulate and offer popular sovereignty over global anarchic forces that have escaped the sovereignty of individual nations, and at the same time secure diversity and equality among diverse democratic cultures and civilizations;

** the need to define the public goods of our common world, and to protect them as common heritage--including such crucial goods as access to knowledge and information and communication technologies, as well as to such non-renewable resources as drinking water and fossil fuels;

** the need to establish and formulate common interdependent values that can act as a bulwark against relativism and cynicism, even as they invite intercultural and intercivilizational dialogue and democratic deliberation;

** the need to define economic, social and cultural rights as intrinsic to and inseparable from political rights, extending across cultures and generations.

We believe that these needs represent the fundamental concerns of the world's voiceless citizens who will have to live with the consequences of United States leadership. At the same time, we recognize that, as leaders of your great nation, you are agents of hope, capable of using the power given to you by the American people to the advantage of all humankind. We also know that since the United States can no longer find peace or justice without engaging cooperatively and multilaterally with the world and itsinternational institutions, the world can have neither justice nor peace without the involvement of the United States.

In this spirit, although you have a legal obligation only to your countryís citizens, we would ask you to read this letter and offer the world's citizens--your other invisible constituents--a considered response. You can be sure it will be met with a gratitude that recognizes that you have moved beyond the responsibilities of politics to embrace the responsibilities of ethical leadership and in doing so, have affirmed both the reality and the promise of interdependence.

Endorsed on behalf of the International Collegium members by:

Milan KUCAN , former President of Slovenia andMichel ROCARD, former Prime Minister of France,Co-chairs of the International Collegium

Andreas VAN AGT, former Prime Minister of the Netherlands;Henri ATLAN, Bio-physicist and Philosopher, France;Lloyd AXWORTHY, President of University of Winnipeg, former Foreign Minister of Canada; Fernando Henrique CARDOSO, former President of Brazil; Manuel CASTELLS, Sociologist, Spain;Mireille DELMAS-MARTY, Professor of law, Sorbonne and College de France; Ruth DREIFUSS, former President of the Swiss Confederation; Gareth EVANS, President of the ICG, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Australia; Malcolm FRASER, Chairman of the InterAction Council, former Prime Minister, Australia; Bronislaw GEREMEK, former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Poland;Bacharuddin Jusuf HABIBIE, former President of Indonesia; H.R.H. HASSAN BIN TALLAL, Jordan; Vaclav HAVEL, former President of the Czech Republic; Stephane HESSEL, Ambassador of France; Alpha Oumar KONARE, former President of Mali; Claudio MAGRIS, Author, Italy;Edgar MORIN, Philosopher, France; Sadako OGATA, President of Japan International Cooperation Agency(JICA), former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Japan; Jacques ROBIN, Philosopher, Founder of Transversales, France; Mary ROBINSON, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland;Wolfgang SACHS, Economist, Germany; Mohamed SAHNOUN, Ambassador of Algeria; George VASSILIOU, former President of the Republic of Cyprus; Richard VON WEIZSACKER, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany; Huanming YANG, Director and Professor, Beijing Genomics Institute, China.

Mobilize for Public Schools Today

This won't be a surprise to Nation readers, but with Congress back in session, the White House and the GOP majority are pushing hard to continue shortchanging America's public schools. A memo leaked from the president's budget office shows deep cuts planned for nearly every education program in 2005.

In response, the Campaign for America's Future--along with The Nation, MoveOn.org, the National Education Association and more than 40 allied groups--is working to forge support for a national movement with the power to force Washington to make our public schools a priority.

One of the many ways that CAF is suggesting people help their campaign is to sponsor house parties on September 22. Similar gatherings have proved effective venues for discussing critical issues with many people at once, allowing them to ask questions and get the information they need to effectively organize in their own communities. So, please consider hosting a house party for America's public schools. Already, many thousands of teachers, parents, students, and community members have signed up to host events. Click here to sign up. With your help we can build the largest national mobilization for public schools ever.

As a house party host, you'll receive a free video to show, and a resource kit to guide you every step of the way. A house party can offer the opportunity to get your neighborhood working together and making a difference.

Ex-Nader Leaders Change Tune

If there was ever any doubt that Ralph Nader's former supporters understand that redefeating Bush is the top priority for progressives in this election, it ended this morning when the overwhelming majority of Nader's 2000 National Citizens Committee issued a strong statement urging support for John Kerry and John Edwards in all swing states. (Click here to read the statement.)

Among the more than 75 signers are Phil Donahue, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Ehrenreich (who used one of her New York Times column to come out against Nader), Jim Hightower, Howard Zinn, Tim Robbins, Eddie Vedder, Susan Sarandon, Ben Cohen and Cornel West.

This urgent call comes at a time when it appears that the Nader campaign has qualified for the ballot in some 23 states, a minimum of 10 of which are considered swing states. Nader will probably also qualify for several other swing state ballots by the time of the election. In a race which remains both close and highly polarized, any one of these states could end up as the new "Florida," and tip the electoral college vote to Bush.

While the 75-plus signers include a spectrum of views, all are united around a single proposition: Ending the national nightmare of Bush. As Noam Chomsky describes the stark choice: "Help elect Bush, or do something to try to prevent it."

A number of signers also stress the importance of working to (re)defeat Bush on behalf of the world community. "We are not just voting for ourselves," says political strategist Steve Cobble. "The entire world wishes they could vote in our presidential election--so they could vote against George W. Bush, pre-emption, bullying and unilateralism."