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Not So Swift Boater

From The Scrapbook

Aug 8, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 44 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Those of us masochistic enough to have watched the 2004 Democratic convention might faintly recall the name Captain Wade Sanders. Sanders was one of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s fellow Swift Boat veterans, and Sanders was the man who introduced Kerry at the convention, whereupon the candidate saluted the crowd and uttered the immortal words, “I’m John Kerry, and I’m reporting for duty.”

Sanders’s role in the Kerry campaign was small but significant. Kerry was publicly being attacked by dozens of Swift Boat veterans who served with him in Vietnam. And Sanders was one of the few​—​perhaps only​—​fellow Swift Boat vets to defend Kerry’s questionable war record publicly. While Sanders’s record as a Democratic hack suggested he might have political reasons for supporting Kerry, Sanders also had a stellar military record, having been awarded a Silver Star in 1992, and his credibility wasn’t much in question.

That’s why The Scrapbook feels compelled to point out the ignominious denouement of the Wade -Sanders career. Yes, it’s true that Sanders is currently doing time in a federal penitentiary after admitting to being in possession of child pornography. As bad as that is, it’s not nearly as remarkable as what just happened to Sanders.

On July 18, Navy Times reported that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus had revoked Sanders’s Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for combat valor​—​apparently for reasons having nothing to do with his recent criminal conduct.

“Had the subsequently determined facts and evidence surrounding both the incident for which the award was made and the processing of the award itself been known to the secretary of the Navy in 1992, those facts would have prevented the award of the Silver Star,” Captain Pamela Kunze told Navy Times regarding the Navy Department Board of Medals and Decorations’ decision.

Suffice to say, in 2004 Kerry was indignant that his fellow veterans would question the awarding of his own Silver Star​—​and yet, just about the only Swift Boat vet defending Kerry apparently didn’t earn his. Sanders’s offense must have been egregious; the few instances of a Navy commendation being revoked all predate World War I.

Yet, for reasons that The Scrapbook will never fully understand, the normal scrutiny of a presidential candidate’s résumé was deemed in Kerry’s case to be somehow beneath contempt, and the term “Swift Boat” was turned into a verb and a pejorative one at that. 

Recall that the Kerry campaign was forced to admit Kerry had inaccurately claimed he crossed into Cambodia around Christmas of 1968. The basic fact that Kerry spent less than four months in Vietnam and emerged with three Purple Hearts without missing a single day of active duty due to injury should be sufficient to question his veracity.

But most telling is Kerry’s own penchant for recklessly criticizing the combat record of his fellow soldiers, starting with his “winter soldier” testimony before Congress in 1971, when he accused fellow vets of wanton atrocities without proof. Then in the campaign bio authored by Douglas Brinkley, Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War, Kerry said that the distinguished admiral Roy Hoffman, the officer in charge of the Swift-Boat mission, had “a genuine taste for the more unsavory aspects of warfare” and sought “splashy victories in the Mekong Delta” to get promoted. It was an understandably incensed Hoffman who organized the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, not the Bush campaign.

The scrutiny of Kerry’s war record was not only warranted but richly deserved comeuppance. If you still refuse to believe Adm. Roy Hoffman and the rest of the honorable Swift Boat veterans that Kerry didn’t tell the truth about his war record, go ahead and take Captain Wade Sanders’s word for it.


Holding Hands with the Iranians

What do Harvard’s Stephen Walt and the Iranian parliament have in common? Both are obsessed with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a bipartisan think tank in Washington that we’re proud to call our neighbor. Walt and the Iranians, on the other hand, both see FDD as a pillar of​—​you guessed it​—​the “Israel lobby.” 

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