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The 'Real' John Kerry
Netlore Archive:  Forwarded email criticizes Senator John Kerry's record as a Vietnam War hero/dissident

Description:  Email flier
Status:  Mostly true
Circulating since:  Dec. 2002
Analysis:  See below

Email example contributed by B. Stevens, 9 Dec. 2002:

John Kerry's war record

As Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, considers a bid for the White House, Americans should know a few things about him that he might prefer go unmentioned — and I don't mean his $75 haircuts.

When Mr. Kerry pontificated at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day, a group of veterans turned their backs on him and walked away. They remembered Mr. Kerry as the anti-war activist who testified before Congress during the war, accusing veterans of being war criminals. The dust jacket of Mr. Kerry's pro-Hanoi book, "The New Soldier," features a photograph of his ragged band of radicals mocking the U.S. Marine Corps Memorial, which depicts the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, with an upside-down American flag. Retired Gen. George S. Patton III charged that Mr. Kerry's actions as an anti-war activist had "given aid and comfort to the enemy," as had the actions of Ramsey Clark and Jane Fonda. Also, Mr. Kerry lied when he threw what he claimed were his war medals over the White House fence; he later admitted they weren't his. Now they are displayed on his office wall.

[Text continues]

Comments:  Make no mistake about it, this is an election year. This text by former Vietnam POW Michael Benge, originally published as a letter to the editor in the Washington Times (full text here), first began circulating in email form in December 2002. It surfaced again in January 2004 immediately after Kerry won the Iowa Democratic caucuses. But, though it is clearly a political attack laced with partisan hyperbole, most of the factual statements contained therein are accurate.

Kerry enlisted in the Navy in 1966, serving twice in Vietnam, first aboard the frigate USS Gridley and later as a Navy "swift boat" captain on the Mekong Delta, where he earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. He became an outspoken critic of the war upon his discharge and return to the United States in 1970, eventually parlaying the notoriety he earned both as a dissident and a war hero into a successful run for the U.S. Senate in 1984. Primarily because of his antiwar activities, Kerry numbers ardent supporters and detractors alike among his fellow veterans to this day.

On to the specific allegations:

1. During Kerry's address at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day 2002, a group of veterans turned their backs on him and walked away.

Probably true. Although I haven't been able to confirm through readily available news sources that a group of veterans reacted precisely as described above, one veteran who was present at the 2002 Memorial Day event and later interviewed by the press did say that Kerry's speech "wasn't well received" by some in attendance.

2. Kerry was an antiwar activist who, in Congressional testimony, accused veterans of being war criminals.

Basically true, although it's more accurate to say, as opposed to his having "accused" all veterans of being war criminals (Kerry being a Vietnam veteran himself), that he merely reported to Congress what other vets had said in public testimony concerning their own involvement in, or witnessing of, alleged war crimes. The relevant portion of Kerry's 1971 testimony pertained to the so-called "Winter Soldiers" investigation conducted by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and went as follows:

I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command....

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

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