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Defending John Kerry: was he a war criminal?

(Author's note: as I've mentioned before, I have never served in the military, nor am I lawyer. Consequently, I am in no way a military lawyer, nor any kind of expert on military law. I'm just a guy with way too much time on my hand to read and think about things.)

There have been a lot of questions about John Kerry's service in Vietnam. I was particularly bothered by the ones that looked at the circumstances surrounding his receiving a Silver Star. According to a variety of sources, Kerry was on patrol in his Swift Boat when they spotted a teenager with a rocket launcher. Before he could fire, Kerry's gunner wounded him, and he fled. Kerry jumped off the boat, chased him behind a hut, and killed him.

Now, here's where people start accusing Kerry of war crimes. After all, it's only fair -- Kerry himself admitted to committing war crimes himself while accusing others of the same. But let's break down just what happened, according to Kerry, and see whether anything constitutes war crimes.

Killing a fleeing combatant: Not a crime.
Do a Google search on "highway of death." During the first Gulf War, Iraqis were fleeing Kuwait and heading back to Baghdad along a long highway. US air forces repeatedly attacked and killed them, only stopping when the pilots grew sick of the slaughter and refused to continue. Further, as the old saying goes, "he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day."

Killing a wounded combatant: not a crime.
Wounded enemies can still fight, and often do. Hell, John Kerry received three Purple Hearts, making him technically wounded, and didn't even require hospitalization. Wounded combatants are still "fair game."

Killing a teenaged combatant: not a crime.
The word "combatant" trumps all modifiers. Anyone who picks up a weapon during war is instantly "fair game." Triggers don't card the person pulling them. Hell, it doesn't even only apply to people. Arming ANYTHING makes it a legitimate target. Put a gun on a hospital or an orphanage, and the other side is perfectly free to blow it up. And any civilian casualties are the fault of the side that put the gun there.

Killing a helpless combatant: not necessarily a crime.
A soldier who tosses a grenade into a barracks full of sleeping enemy soldiers isn't committing any crime. A helpless enemy isn't guaranteed to stay that way very long.

Killing a surrendering combatant: a crime.
This is the only possibility where Kerry could have committed a war crime. If the teenager was trying to surrender and Kerry killed him anyway, then Kerry is guilty. However, there is absolutely no evidence that that was the case, and even then one could mitigate it by citing "heat of the moment." But I'm going to take Kerry at his word (just this once) and say that the teenager was not trying to surrender.

So, by my reckoning, calling John Kerry a "war criminal" is unjustified, even though he himself claimed the title in sworn testimony before Congress.

Now, I'd really, REALLY like to put Vietnam and Bush's National Guard service behind us, and focus on issues and more recent accomplishments. I hereby challenge Kerry's supporters to cite three major accomplishments of John Kerry's from the last 20 years. If ANYONE can point out a few positive things Kerry has done since getting elected to the Senate, I'd be eternally grateful.

Bonus points will be awarded to those who come up with the most plausible explanation why Kerry's missed 83% of all roll call votes in the Senate and 75% of all public hearings of the Intelligence Committee over the last year isn't more compelling evidence of his being "AWOL" from his duties as a Senator than were ever presented in regards to Bush's National Guard service.

J.


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Comments (22)

I will protest Kerry by wea... (Below threshold)

I will protest Kerry by wearing my "Kerry was a WAR HERO, before he was a TRAITOR!"

Bonus points to anybody stu... (Below threshold)

Bonus points to anybody stupid enough to publish this crap. Or for that matter anybody who believes it. Let's work on fact, not fiction. You can vote for a war hero w/ three purple hearts. Or you can vote for DUI convict. Yes, George has a conviction for drinking and driving. Add this to two daughters who are on the Betty Ford's list of people to keep an eye on. Bring it on!

Shirt.....sorry got a littl... (Below threshold)

Shirt.....sorry got a little trigger happy!

Or you could vote for an ad... (Below threshold)

Or you could vote for an admitted war criminal!

Apparently my challenge to ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Apparently my challenge to Randy was too much for him. He can't come up with a single reason to vote for Kerry that isn't over 30 years old; he's too busy calling that which he doesn't like "fiction." Randy, let me say it again. This time, I'll say it more slowly and use smaller words. "Can you give me three good reasons to vote for John Kerry?" Note very carefully that I did not say "three good reasons to not vote for George W. Bush." I would very much like to hear positive reasons to vote for Kerry.

One last point, Randy: you're very strident about supporting "war heroes." Did you feel this way in 1996? In 1992? Just when did this feeling come over you?

J.

Not hard, but I couldn't li... (Below threshold)

Not hard, but I couldn't limit myself to any three. Sorry!

2002
1. Massachusetts Telecommunications Council "Policy Maker of the Year"
2. NAM Vets of Cape Cod and Islands Award For Significant and Exemplary Support Rendered To Veterans of This Country and of the Cape and Islands
3. John W. McCormick Award for Public Service

2001
1. June 21, 2002
Parents for Residential Reform, Mass Families Organizing for Change and the Federation for Children with Special Needs presented The Powerful Friend Recognition Award to Senator Kerry "for his outstanding leadership and national voice on behalf of children with disabilities and their families".
2. Visiting Nurse Association of America's "Legislator of the Year"
3. Gerry Studds Stewardship Award from the Boston Harbor Island Alliance for his work to preserve the Boston Harbor Islands
4. Institute of International Education's "Steven P. Duggan Award for International Understanding" for lifetime achievement in public service and leadership in the U.S. Senate

2000
1. Massachusetts Association of Home Health Care's "Legislator of the Year"
2. American Jewish Committee's "Congressional Leadership Award" for efforts on religious freedom in the workplace

1999
1. Friends of the Public Garden's "Henry Lee Award" for efforts to preserve Boston's green spaces

1998
1. "Zero to Three" Association's "Achievement Award" for work on early childhood development issues
2. Association for Enterprise's "Leadership Award" for leadership on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
3. Assumption College's "Presidential Medal"


1997
1. National Health Association's "Legislator of the Year Award" for support of expanded child care and attention for at-risk children. Sponsored 1997 Early Childhood Development Act

1996
1. Armenian Assembly of America's Award for service and commitment to the Armenian people. John Kerry was co-sponsor of Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, providing aid to Armenia and other nations
2. Time Magazine's "Honest Man in Politics Award" f or being only Senator up for reelection in 1996 to vote against Defense of Marriage Act

1995
1. Environmental Business Council Paul Keogh Award June 9, 1995 for distinguished commitment to environmental industries

1993
1. Tri-Community Chamber of Commerce George B. Wells Award December 7, 1993 for leadership in tourism

1990
1. Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense Fund "Minority Business Development Trendsetter of the Year" June 17, 1990
2. SMU Labor Education Center Arnold M. Dubin Award November 15, 1990 for outstanding contributions to the causes of labor and social justice

1998
1. League of Conservation Voters Award honored for having one of the best For environmental voting record over previous 5 years

1988
1. Commencement speaker for Umass/Boston 20th Commencement UMass Boston Honorary Degree
2. Brockton Little League's "Appreciation Award" March 7, 1988 for work with special needs division

1986
1. B'nai Brith Council of Greater Boston's "Man of the Year"

1985
1. National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy Award honored JK at a reception at the Boston Center for Adult Education

And now my Bush accomplishm... (Below threshold)

And now my Bush accomplishment list. But it's small.

-DUI

Randy, excellent research! ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Randy, excellent research! I am very impressed by your ability to cut and paste from here. That shows true dedication to Google, and a highly-trained mouse hand. I doff my hat.

But I'll answer you the same way that commenter was answered, and ask you if you can possibly differentiate between AWARDS and ACHIEVEMENTS. Public officials collect awards like crap collects flies; they're usually part of the compensation for giving speeches to groups. (See the first item under 1988 for explicit proof.)

Let's see... I see Kerry was actually the lead sponsor of the 1997 Early Childhood Development Act, so there's one. The Humanatarian Aid Corridor Pact was authored by Bob Dole and mainly sponsored by Paul Simon, so there goes that one. And are you sure you want to brag about him receiving an award named for a former Congressman who sodomized a 17-year-old Congressional page, when said Congressman was more than twice that age?

Randy, Randy, Randy... I owe you an apology. I issued you a challenge that you were grossly unprepared to meet. Next time I'll make it something simpler. Have you mastered tying your own shoes yet?

J.

I think I met your challeng... (Below threshold)

I think I met your challenge. You're just two stubborn to admit it. Whatever! Go buy a gun.

Just a note. Awards are a t... (Below threshold)

Just a note. Awards are a type of achievement. But, I guess you when you grasp for GWB straws, you come up w/ another DUI conviction or crap.

No one, including the Swift... (Below threshold)
KJC:

No one, including the Swift Vets, is calling John Kerry a war criminal for his actions in this incident. What they ARE saying is that this incident was not worthy of a Silver Star, and that it didn't go down the way John Kerry said it did.
I've seen John O'Neill on many interviews over the last week or so, and he has made this point about as crystal clear as is humanly possible. John O'Neill is the head of the Swift Veterans for truth and a co-author of Unfit for Command.

If I read correctly, the ch... (Below threshold)
Alex:

If I read correctly, the challenge was to cite major accomplishments. You just listed awards that don't mention Kerry's record in the Senate. I think it means things like investigations he participated in, bills he sponsored, proposals he made, etc.

Besides, what little sense that made was lost by dismissing the opposition with "DUI."

Randy continues to make my ... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Randy continues to make my point for me. He can't possibly talk about Kerry in a positive manner without his argument devolving into "he's not George Bush!"

I'm done answering him. He's refusing to give people positive reasons to vote for John Kerry, he's not responding to my responses with anything more than a rhetorical "well, so's your mother," and he's in general wasting my and everyone else's time.

Finally, he's managed to successfully hijack the topic from my actually defending John Kerry in one instance on to his own issues. Once before I let someone hone in on a single, meaningless part of a posting and ignore the main thesis of the piece. I will not participate in that again.

J.

Looks like Wizbang picked u... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Looks like Wizbang picked up another pet troll.

This one seems about as smart as the last one but only has one drum.

BTW Jay- You forgot to ment... (Below threshold)
Paul:

BTW Jay- You forgot to mention that he (by his own admission) burned down some village. We don't know which village- he's never said- Guess it was somewhere is Cambodia.

Jay, I must have won that l... (Below threshold)

Jay, I must have won that last argument, because you changed the subject. Thanks! I'm glad to hear you agree that Kerry is the better candidate.

(Disclosure: I'm supporting... (Below threshold)
meep:

(Disclosure: I'm supporting Bush... so discount the following according to your prejudices, I suppose.)

Here's a few things --
http://www.livejournal.com/users/meep/787291.html

quoting myself:
"Kerry was key in the Iran-Contra investigation (getting it started), getting info that Noriega was running drugs to finance his side, and brought down BCCI, the bank that was laundering the money for Noriega. Oh, and he led the POW-MIA hearings on Vietnam with McCain."

I'm not sure about how good that second thing is, as I don't know enough about the POW-MIA issue (and that, of course brings us back to Vietnam), and his involvement in the Iran-Contra affair isn't totally pristine, either, as he was backing up the communists (or whatever they were calling themselves) who were at least as bad as the Contras, if not worse. So those are things that he can "take ownership of" (in corp-speak). I do know he had his name on three pieces of very minor legislation, one of which had to do with women-owned businesses. I think the other two were related to the POW-MIA thing.

I don't know that it's enough to base a Presidential campaign on, especially as that stuff is from the 80s or early 90s (what have you done for us lately?), but it's more than 4 months in Vietnam.

If you're really for abortion rights, Kerry is your man -- he always votes against any possible restrictions, and for any governmental money to be spent on abortions. As well, in the arena of gay rights, he voted against DOMA (which wasn't a popular stance at the time)...though it seems he won't do anything positive to advance gay marriage, he would definitely not stand in the way of judges that want to decree it as a civil right. These are definitely in stark contrast to Bush.

I'm just hoping this election cycle will stop both parties from thinking "war vet" = "electable". I thought Clinton smashed that idea, but I guess not. Luckily, there's been no major draft since Vietnam, so demographics will force the issue. It's not like a lot of politicians coming from my generation (X) will have any military service in their background.

And it's sad that it takes ... (Below threshold)
meep:

And it's sad that it takes a Bush-supporter to find stuff Kerry has actually =done= (as opposed to awards won) that people may wish to support him for. And some distinction from the Senate, however old it may be.

If you're a social liberal, and those issues trump all else for you, Kerry is your man and Bush definitely isn't. I think that much is clear.

meep,I wont pretend ... (Below threshold)
KJC:

meep,
I wont pretend to be an expert but I wouldn't be so quick to count the POW/MIA thing as a positive for Kerry. (I understand you support Bush, so I am of course not suggesting you have an ulterior motive!)

I've read a few articles about it over the past few months, and my understanding is that Kerry effectively shut the door forever on anyone who might still be left in Vietnam. I also understand there are more than a few families of these men who to this day despise Kerry for that action.
I'm sorry I don't have any links handy.

Lastly, my take on Kerry is this in a nutshell: he doesn't want to answer questions about his service in Vietnam, doesn't want to answer questions about his behavior after returning home, doesn't want to answer questions about his Senate record. He even offered a "secret plan" for Iraq, only to be revealed after he is President. He is expecting the American public to elect him as Commander in Chief on a wing and a prayer.

One thing Kerry acheived in... (Below threshold)

One thing Kerry acheived in the past 20 years? He got rich didn't he?

Here's one site regarding K... (Below threshold)
KJC:

Here's one site regarding Kerry and his POW/MIA situation:
http://www.powmiafamiliesagainstjohnkerry.com/

Yeah, I thought the POW/MIA... (Below threshold)
meep:

Yeah, I thought the POW/MIA thing might actually not be good... and I do still see the POW/MIA flag around lots of places. People who fly that may not be happy.

It seems to me Kerry has definitely been running away from his record, as he doesn't even seem to be bringing up his most solid part, that of making sure any possible abortion procedure is legal, even if the fetus is 5 minutes away from being born normally. Too bad that particular stance is popular only among the NARALites.




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