I've been dealing with Kerry supporters who want to trash the Swift Boat Heroes
and their charges against John Kerry. While some just want to call names, some are genuinely convinced that they are right in their support of John Kerry, and that Kerry was right those many years ago to lay charges of war crimes and atrocities at the feet of the men who served in the United States military in Vietnam. Mackubin Thomas Owens
presents his response to such folks
on National Review Online
Owens argues that the charges of atrocities are unsubstantiated and contradictory. He makes a special point of documenting that the tales that Kerry repeated from the Winter Soldier hearings were never substantiated, and that
When the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) attempted to interview those who allegedly had witnessed atrocities, most refused to cooperate, even after assurances that they would not be questioned about atrocities they may have committed personally. Those who did cooperate never provided details of actual crimes to investigators. The NIS also discovered that some of the most grisly testimony was given by fake witnesses who had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.
This is documented in Guenter Lewy's seminal book, America in Vietnam
, as is the failure of a similar Army investigation to produce any actual evidence of such atrocities. Similarly, Owens points out that the accusations of widespread war crimes are patently untrue.
And it was, after all, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese who turned hamlets into battlefields. The Communist practice of 'clutching the people to their breast' was a violation of the Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits a combatant from using the civilian population as a shield: 'The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.' And while the Hague Convention IV (1907) prohibits the attack or bombardment of inhabited areas that are not defended, it is the general practice of states to treat a town occupied by a military enemy as a defended place, subject to attack.
That the official U.S. position was to avoid indiscriminate attacks on civilians is indicated by a 1966 directive from the U.S. military command: "Firing on localities which are undefended and without military significance, is a war crime." Clearly, the U.S. command attempted to abide by the principle of discrimination, but the method of fighting employed by the enemy made discrimination difficult in practice.
In short, the very tactics of the Communists in violation of international law created a situation in which the tactics used were within the scope of international law!
He also points out the contradictions inherent in the position Kerry took in 1971 and that he takes now. In 1971, the American soldier was a creature of whom Americans should be afraid,
a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence. . .; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.
Today those soldiers is one of a band of brothers who nobly fought for America, men of whom we should be proud. The two positions cannot be reconciled, but Kerry seeks to hold to both.
And let me add a note on the hypocritical irony of Kerry and his defenders. John Kerry's defenders are always quick to point out that Kerry had a right to protest the war. Owens notes that the Swift Boat Heroes don't disagree with that point, but rather with Kerry's words and his methods. But today it is that Kerry himself who will not concede that same right to his comrades -- unless they support him. Dissent appears to be a one way street for the Left, as usual.