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Published: Saturday, 5/8/2004

Why no questions for Kerry?

THE hypocrisy, double standards, and bias of most in the major news media were evident in the meager coverage given a remarkable press conference held in Washington, D.C. May 4.

A group calling themselves "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" declared Sen. John Kerry to be "unfit to be commander in chief."

The group includes 19 of the 23 officers who served in Senator Kerry's swift boat squadron during the time he was in Vietnam, and every officer in his chain of command, up to Rear Adm. Roy Hoffman, who oversaw all swift boats in Vietnam at the time Mr. Kerry was there.

Most of their ire was directed at Mr. Kerry's false accusation that servicemen routinely committed war crimes. But Mr. Kerry's shipmates also accused him of having "withheld and/or distorted material facts as to your own conduct in this war."

Lt. Cmdr. Grant Hibbard, Mr. Kerry's immediate superior, said he doubted Mr. Kerry deserved the first of the three Purple Hearts he was awarded during his four months in Vietnam:

"The briefing of some members of the crew the morning after revealed that they had not received enemy fire," Commander Hibbard said. "And yet Lt. j.g. Kerry informed me of a wound, he showed me a scratch on his arm and a piece of shrapnel in his hand that appeared to be from one of our own M-79s (grenade launcher). It was later reported to me that Lt. Kerry had fired an M-79 and it had exploded off the adjacent shoreline."

Commander Hibbard's doubts are shared by Louis Letson, the physician who treated Mr. Kerry for his wound at the Cam Ranh Bay medical facility: "The story he told was different from what his crewmen had to say about that night. According to Kerry, they had been engaged in a fire fight. He said that his injury had resulted from this enemy action.

"Some of his crew confided that they did not receive any fire from shore, but that Kerry had fired a mortar round at close range to some rocks on shore. The crewman thought that the injury was caused by a fragment ricocheting from that mortar round when it struck the rocks. That seemed to fit the injury which I treated."

Customarily, service members are recommended for decorations by their immediate superior. But Commander Hibbard said he didn't recommend Mr. Kerry for that Purple Heart, and doesn't know how he got it.

The controversy is important not just because Mr. Kerry may have gotten a combat decoration to which he was not entitled, but because he used it (along with his two unchallenged Purple Hearts) to leave Vietnam nearly eight months before the end of his tour. And it may explain why Mr. Kerry has been unwilling to disclose his medical records.

"We endorse nobody at all for president," said John O'Neill, who organized the group. "If Kerry drops out and allows the Democratic Party a genuine choice, we're all going home. We're unified on absolutely nothing, except one thing: John Kerry is not a fit commander in chief based on our experience with him."

It is remarkable that so many of Mr. Kerry's peers and superiors have such a low opinion of their former shipmate. But not to the news media, which buried their story on inside pages, if they reported on it at all. Contrast that with the massive coverage of charges of alleged discrepancies in President Bush's service in the Air National Guard.

Mr. Bush missed several months of drills when he moved from Texas to Alabama to work on a campaign. Guardsmen are permitted to do this, provided they made them up later. The record makes clear Mr. Bush did.

Why is it that all those journalists who had so many questions for Mr. Bush have none for Mr. Kerry?



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