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A Footnote to The New Soldier

In Kerry's 1972 book, his testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee appears heavily doctored.

12:00 AM, Sep 15, 2004 • By DAVID SKINNER
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ALTHOUGH KERRY is credited as a co-author of the book, credit also goes to two editors, George Butler, the photographer and director of The Long War of John Kerry, and David Thorne, Kerry's college roommate and formerly his brother-in-law. Both men are old friends of Kerry's and remain his confreres. It is unclear why passages were removed. But that Kerry's testimony was published in The New Soldier without some of its most well-known statements can hardly have escaped the notice of the book's editors. It would be even more surprising if this happened without the full knowledge of Kerry himself.

Two other striking passages came out of The New Soldier before it went to press. In one, a wonkish section on returning veterans and VA hospitals, Kerry complains that returning soldiers cannot find jobs and cannot find adequate medical treatment. It contains also this startling anecdote: "Another young man just died in a New York VA hospital the other day. A friend of mine was lying in a bed two beds away and tried to help him, but he couldn't. He rang a bell and there was nobody there to service that man and so he died of convulsions."

One result of editing the testimony to remove this section is to make the testimony more political, more tightly focused on the conduct of the war. Kerry also faced a barrage of criticism after his testimony from O'Neill and others that he was trying to speak for all veterans, and in this passage he clearly he is speaking for all veterans. So perhaps that was the reason it was taken out.

Another memorable passage removed from the book version of Kerry's testimony contains the following anecdote: "An American Indian friend of mine who lives in the Indian Nation at Alcatraz put it to me very succinctly. He told me how as a boy on an Indian reservation he had watched television and he used to cheer the cowboys when they came in and shot the Indians, and then suddenly one day he stopped in Vietnam and he said, 'My God, I am doing to these people the very same thing that was done to my people.' And he stopped. And that is what we are trying to say, that we think this thing has to end."

From November 20, 1969 to June 11, 1971, just a few months after Kerry's Senate appearance, a hodgepodge band of American Indians occupied Alcatraz island. Taken over by fewer than a hundred, Alcatraz became home to more than 5,000. The occupation was a watershed event for the newly radicalized Indian movement. But for present purposes, the reference to Alcatraz is another indication, like his connection to the VVAW (whose patrons included Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda), that Kerry frequented quite radical circles in this period of his life.

Like the others, the deletion of this passage was not indicated by ellipses or any other punctuation to tell the reader that what was on the page did not reflect the original text.

What to make of all this? That Kerry and his co-editors were pretty inept at editing Kerry's Senate testimony to save him from any future embarrassment it might cause. And that their editorial judgment was more dishonest than sloppy.

David Skinner is an assistant managing editor at The Weekly Standard.