The spin on Kerry’s Winter Soldier testimony seems to be two-fold. First, as Matt Yglesias notes over at TAPPED: it was an unfair and untrue slam on specific vets, such as Karl Rove’s poor maligned uncle. Second: it was true, but it was an admission of specific acts that Kerry himself committed. Here’s something Hannity said last night, in an interview with Tommy Franks (transcription mine):
You served in Vietnam, and you led a lot of boys into battle. If one of these boys ever admitted that they, in their own words, committed atrocities, if they ever admitted that they violated the Geneva Convention, if they ever admitted they burned down villages, do the American people need an explanation for what John Kerry admitted?
I happened to be listening to his radio show earlier in the day, and he was using this same riff in an interview with someone else, maybe Newt Gingrich. Now, just for the record, here’s part of what Hannity seems to be referencing:
We found also that, all too often, American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by the flag, and blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search-and-destroy missions as well as by Viet Cong terrorism, – and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.
We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai, and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.
We learned the meaning of free-fire zones shooting anything that moves and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals.
We are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? We are here in Washington to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying, as human beings, to communicate to people in this country the question of racism, which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions, such as the use of weapons: the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage at the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war, when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free-fire zones; harassment-interdiction fire, search-and-destroy missions; the bombings; the torture of prisoners; all accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam. That is what we are trying to say. It is part and parcel of everything.
Now clearly, Kerry is not saying that he, personally destroyed a village in order to save it, as Hannity apparently unfamiliar with the reference seems to believe. Or at least, is pretending to believe. Just as he is either pretending not to know, or truly unaware, that atrocities did occur in Vietnam.
As the “search and destroy” mission unfolded it soon degenerated into the massacre of over 300 apparently unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly. Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire. According to eyewitness reports offered after the event, several old men were bayoneted, praying women and children were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped, and then killed. For his part, Calley was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a fury of machine gun fire.
(Just in case you, too, were under the impression that John Kerry simply made it all up.)
Finally, one more excerpt from the 1971 testimony of the man the Swifties accuse of disrespecting his fellow vets:
We are here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We’re here to ask where are McNamara, Rostow, Bundy, Gilpatrick, and so many others? Where are they now that we, the men they sent off to war, have returned? These are the commanders who have deserted their troops. And there is no more serious crime in the laws of war. The Army says they never leave their wounded. The Marines say they never even leave their dead. These men have left all the casualties and retreated behind a pious shield of public rectitude. They’ve left the real stuff of their reputations bleaching behind them in the sun in this country….
We wish that a merciful God could wipe away our own memories of that service as easily as this administration has wiped away their memories of us. But all that they have done, and all that they can do by this denial, is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission: To search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war; to pacify our own hearts; to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more. And more. And so, when, thirty years from now, our brothers go down the street without a leg, without an arm, or a face, and small boys ask why, we will be able to say “Vietnam” and not mean a desert, not a filthy obscene memory, but mean instead where America finally turned, and where soldiers like us helped it in the turning.
Why these words are cause for shame, I truly do not understand.