August 24, 2004

Factchecking Factcheck.org...again
Posted by Jon Henke

Factcheck.org has released an analysis of the latest SwiftVets ad, and it's....er, incomplete.

"Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" announced a second anti-Kerry ad Aug. 20, using Kerry's own words against him. It features the 27-year-old Kerry in 1971 telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee stories about American troops cutting off heads and ears, razing villages "in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan" and committing "crimes . . . on a day-to-day basis."

The Kerry campaign called it a smear and said his words were "edited" out of context. The ad does indeed fail to mention that Kerry was quoting stories he had heard from others at an anti-war event in Detroit, and not claiming first-hand knowledge. But Kerry passed them on as true stories.

It's true, as far as it goes--in his 71 testimony, Kerry was simply passing on hearsay--but this analysis doesn't go far enough. From the commercial transcript, here are the claims Kerry made....
John Kerry: “They had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads. . .”
John Kerry: “. . . randomly shot at civilians. . .”
John Kerry: “. . . cut off limbs, blown up bodies. . .”
John Kerry: “. . . razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan. . .”
John Kerry: “. . . crimes committed on a day to day basis. . . ”
John Kerry: “. . . ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.”
In Factcheck.org's defense....yes, in his 71 testimony, he was simply passing along stories he'd heard. At least, that is what he claimed during that testimony.

But FactCheck.org claims he "was not claiming to have witnessed those atrocities personally", and that's not entirely true.

In his Congressional testimony Kerry did not claim to have witnessed them personally, but he did claim to have witnessed and participated in similar "atrocities". From an April 18 appearance on Meet the Press....

"I committed the same kinds of atrocities as thousands of others in that I shot in free fire zones, used harassment and interdiction fire, joined in search and destroy missions, and burned villages. All of these acts were established policies from the top down, and the men who ordered this are war criminals."
Note that John Kerry seems to believe that the men who ordered this are "war criminals", but he--apparently--claims the "I was just following orders" defense. Note, too, that John Kerry was an officer and it was his duty to know and abide by the Geneva Convention....even to refuse unlawful orders.

Oddly, Mr Kerry admitted participating in what he terms "war crimes" prior to appearing before the Senate.....but he did not admit to his own participation in testimony before the Senate, claiming he was just passing along the testimony of others.

He also admitted to participating in those actions on the Dick Cavett show, though he quickly pointed out that they weren't trying to, you know, turn themselves in or anything....

"I did take part in free-fire zones, I did take part in harassment and interdiction fire, I did take part in search-and-destroy missions in which the houses of noncombatants were burned to the ground. And all of these acts, I find out later on, are contrary to the Hague and Geneva conventions and to the laws of warfare. So in that sense, anybody who took part in those, if you carry out the application of the Nuremberg Principles, is in fact guilty. But we are not trying to find war criminals. That is not our purpose. It never has been."
Let's review:

FactCheck.org claims the SwiftVets ad is misleading, because "Kerry was quoting stories he had heard from others" rather than "claiming first-hand knowledge".

However, of the 6 Kerry statements in the Swift Vets ad, Kerry has claimed firsthand knowledge--even participation--in 3 of them (shooting at civilians, razed villages, and ravaged the countryside), and only claims to have not participated in two of the allegations (those dealing with torture, dismemberment).

FactCheck.org has a good point--one I've made here--that some atrocities similar to what Kerry described did occur. But FactCheck.org fails miserably in claiming that Kerry "was not claiming to have witnessed those atrocities personally".

In addition to the hearsay of the Winter Soldier "investigation", Kerry very clearly did claim to be a witness and an active participant in what he termed "atrocities".

UPDATE: Let 'em know....

Editor@FactCheck.org

UPDATE II: More Kerry-related fact-checking here.

UPDATE III (McQ): This is QandO's second fact check of FactCheck.org.

TrackBack

Comments

You give FactCheck too much leeway. In addition to Meet the Press and Dick Cavett, almost all of Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony (http://www.pbs.org/greatspeeches/timeline/j_kerry_s.html) is phrased, 'We saw this...' 'We did that', 'We committed atrocities...'. "We" includes himself. The precise sentence quoted in the ad isn't phrased that way, but almost all the others are.

Posted by: Dodd at August 24, 2004 09:23 AM

Excellent post, Jon. Impressive work. Right on target.

-------

ALSO: Kerry was a central figure in actively organizing - and he particpated in - the collection of the accounts which he related to the Fullbright committee; they weren't merely hearsay he picked up during his service in Vietnam; the litany of horrendous and shocking charges was deliberately collected - by the V.V.A.W - for the precise purpose to which Kerry, as their official spokesman applied them: to discredit the US military and the Vietnam War.

That's why I believe that when Kerry seeks cover by claiming that "I was merely a reporter" Kerry is being extremely disingenuous and TOTALLY PHONY.
In fact: it's another Kerry lie.

One of the most famous sections of Kerry's statement is the "LITANY OF WE's": "we learned... we watched... we listened... we rationalized... we fought..." It must be abundantly and incontrovertibly clear to anyone who watches Kerry's testimony - or hears it, or reads it - that Kerry is relating, UNDER OATH, the "Winter Soldiers'" positions and that these slanderous positions ARE ALSO HIS OWN.

History also demonstrates a few other important points about Kerry's position on Vietnam: (1) Kerry used these charges - and others like them (isn't the CAMBODIA LIE similar? He claimed in this lie that the USA was illegally making war in Cambodia - a neutral nation), over and over and over again - for years, if not decades; and (2) Kerry has NEVER recanted or apologized for his slanderous lies - not to the Vietnam Vets, and not to the US military.

What's more, Kerry has never recanted his basic position on the war - which he also related in his 1971 testimony: Kerry said that the "war was for nothing." He said that it made NO DIFFERENCE whether Vietnam eas communist or democratic. This means that he rejects the Domino Theory, and that he ignores the horrors which communism has savagely wreaked upon the people of Southeast Asia: the 1.5 MILLION Boat People, the Cambodians slain in Pol Pot's genocide (3 MILLION) - and the fact that because Left-wing Democrats pulled the plug pon financing of the South Vietnames government (in 1975) all of Vietnam today - and for the last 35 years! - is like NORTH KOREA - enslaved and poor, instead of being like South Korea - prosperous and free.

YES: the doves of the anti-war Left - LED BY KERRY - condemned 100 million Asians to 35 years of impoverished tyranny, and Kerry and the anti-war Left also turned the other way as the tyrants MURDERED 3.5 million people.

That horror is the true legacy of Kerry and the anti-war Left. Their deaths are the fault of Kerry and the anti-war Left.

Until he admits his errors, Kerry's judgement must be held in contempt.

Kerry's lifetime of lies AND his poor judgement makes him unfit for any office ESPECIALLY CIC.

Posted by: dan at August 24, 2004 10:02 AM

We appreciate you setting the record straight. One minor bone of contention, however. We would suggest that if there was evidence from Cavett and other interviews of Kerry admitting to participating in certain "war crimes," why didn't SBVT for truth simply use those sound bites rather than to take the testimony out of context? We think people agree that the impression created by the use of the testimony sound bites is that he testified that people committed war crimes. The reality is that he testified that others had claimed there were war crimes, which is hearsay. If he admitted to committing war crimes elsewhere, why not just use those admissions, rather than to create a misapprehension about the 71 testimony?

Posted by: Cominius at August 24, 2004 10:04 AM

from Kerry's testimony:

... not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.

being an officer, being part of "chain of command" Kerry cannot deny personal agreement with the above statement, no metter how you spin it


Posted by: gagarin at August 24, 2004 10:05 AM

And he bluntly states that the returning vets should be ashamed of their service in SE Asia in the 1971 testimony.

Posted by: Bleeding heart conservative at August 24, 2004 10:10 AM

If it is true that Kerry had no personal knowledge of the atrocities he listed, why was he testifying in the first place? This sounds like what is becoming the typical Kerry weirdness - grandstanding, he exagerrates his actions or knowledge, then, if challenged, he slowly modifies his story till it passes the smell test. That the modified version no longer makes sense in the original context seems to escape his supporters.

So the idea Kerry was simply "reporting" what he heard at a meeting makes no sense unless it was his contention that the testimony he heard in Detroit was consistent with his own experience. In which case he was, by implication, admitting to committing or witnessing war crimes.

Posted by: djc at August 24, 2004 10:19 AM

I'd like to think that Factcheck.org is an important non-partisan tool for separating the truth from the noise.

SOMEBODY has got to do it and it sure as hell isn't gonna be the press.

Posted by: Kai at August 24, 2004 10:20 AM

I'd like to think that Factcheck.org is an important non-partisan tool for separating the truth from the noise.
I'd say they are, Kai. I don't think they are partisan...just incorrect. The best of observers will sometimes miss the story.

Bloggers are just another redundancy measure in the line of fact-checkers.

Posted by: Jon Henke at August 24, 2004 10:24 AM

I think that the 1971 Kerry truly believed there was full awareness at all levels of command, because he was personally revolted by his own actions. Misery loves company, so he soothed his conscience by attributing the same and even more heinous crimes to as many other soldiers as he could, then tried to absolve everyone of blame by convincing himself that there was "awareness at all levels."

This is basically the same defense the soldiers who went out of bounds at Abu Graib are using. It's the "culture" that is to blame, right on up to the top.

What is now chewing Kerry's ass to shreds is the creeping realization that he might be exposed for all the world to see has having been way wrong about the "all levels of command" stuff, coupled with the impending failure of his campaign's "Vietnam Hero" meme, which he was really, really hoping would wash away all guilt from his conscience once and for all.

Posted by: Radical Son at August 24, 2004 10:35 AM

I just glanced briefly at your post and at the Factcheck.org link and was going to write a knee-jerk response in defense of them and Kerry, but upon further review you are absolutely right and offer fair criticism. Factcheck.org should add to its analysis the MTP and Dick Cavett transcripts - they are an important part of the record. I think they add something that ought not be overlooked to the debate, there are war crimes and then there are war crimes. The atrocities Kerry admits to witnessing and participating in, such as free fire zones, burning of huts,etc were much more common than the mutilation and torture methods of Tiger Force. We may tend to view the former categories with more forgiveness than the latter as they seem to be tactics almost required by a guerrilla war whereas the My Lai and Tiger Force atrocities are very hard to justify. Where Kerry may have erred was in not making this distinction clear enough by pointing out that My Lai-level crimes were a rare deviation from baseline level crimes which were horrible enough. Where the Swift Vets and many of their champions err today is in not admitting that that baseline level of war crimes existed and deserved to be exposed to the people in whose name they were committed.

Posted by: MaB at August 24, 2004 10:41 AM

I should point out, MaB, that I am neither accusing Kerry of the crimes of which he accuses himself, nor stating that they did, in fact, constitute a "war crime".

I'll leave the accuracy of his statements and definitions to others. I'm merely pointing out what Kerry said.

Posted by: Jon Henke at August 24, 2004 10:45 AM

Yeah, I guess they can make mistakes. I guess it's just a knee-jerk anti-press reaction.

BTW, you got instalaunched.
http://instapundit.com/archives/017351.php

Posted by: Kai at August 24, 2004 10:45 AM

In the new Drudge Report, Kerry is quoted as not attributing these atrocities to the Swiftees... but this doesn't jive with what he said. If he participated in these, he's most certainly implying that others did with him, INCLUDING the Swiftees.

Posted by: HH at August 24, 2004 10:51 AM

Where the Swift Vets and many of their champions err today is in not admitting that that baseline level of war crimes existed and deserved to be exposed

Can you point me to any place where any of the Swift Boat Vets have denied that My Lai (to take the best-known of your examples) existed, or that it deserved to be exposed? Thanks.

Posted by: jaed at August 24, 2004 12:13 PM

Thanks for posting this. Having just finished Ann Coulter’s Slander, I’ve been hypersensitive to media bias. I thought I’d simply imagined that Brooks Jackson & Co leaned ever so slightly to the left… good to hear that someone else noticed, too.

Still, I’d trust Factcheck’s analysis over the NYT’s any day of the week!

Posted by: jen at August 24, 2004 12:53 PM

The title of the analysis was "Swift Boat Veterans Anti-Kerry Ad: "He Betrayed Us" With 1971 Anti-War Testimony"

The analysis had nothing to do with the Cavett show.

The analysis shows how low the SBV will go to server their master and your lack of fact checking the pro-bush FactChecks are telling as well.


Posted by: Nelson at August 24, 2004 02:45 PM

Fact check this from Kerry


"We established an American presence in most cases by showing the flag and firing at sampans and villages along the banks. Those were our instructions, but they seemed so out of line that we finally began to go ashore, against our orders, and investigate the villages that were supposed to be our targets. We discovered we were butchering a lot of innocent people, and morale became so low among the officers on those 'swift boats' that we were called back to Saigon for special instructions from Gen. Abrams. He told us we were doing the right thing. He said our efforts would help win the war in the long run. That's when I realized I could never remain silent about the realities of the war in Vietnam."

Posted by: JTF at August 24, 2004 02:52 PM

The title of the analysis was "Swift Boat Veterans Anti-Kerry Ad: "He Betrayed Us" With 1971 Anti-War Testimony"

The analysis had nothing to do with the Cavett show.


It's a bit disingenuous to bifurcate out April 18th and pretend that, since Kerry didn't say X on April 22, he didn't say it at all.

The SBVs are not being disinguous at all. If you disagree, please provide the inaccurate quote.

Posted by: Jon Henke at August 24, 2004 03:52 PM

There is a book on Vietnam written by black soldiers.

I think it is called "Bloods". Anyway, in it a soldier writes how another soldier in his platoon kept ears as souvenirs.

Now, I read the book back in 1987. My father has my copy somewhere. The first hand accounts noted in the book were also some of the same things Kerry noted that he was told happened in Vietnam.

As far as the atrocities committed by our soldiers in Vietnam, I don' think My Lai was an isolated incident. On the other hand, I would like to believe that the vast majority of our soldiers acted honorably and in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

However, I think we have to acknowledge that war does brings out the worst in people (it also brings out the best in people). Prisoners are going to be mistreated, women are going to be raped, and civillians are going to be killed. I think it is safe to say this happens in every large scale military conflict. And it has happened for centuries.

With that said, I think it is ridiculous to question Kerry's military service, and even more ridiculous to denounce Kerry because of his testimony regarding misdeeds by American soldiers.

In my professional military history, have I heard of this?? My answer is no--not in modern warfare. Do I believe it to be true?? Yes. However, not in a large scale as it is being made out today.

Posted by: CPT Jesse at August 24, 2004 10:33 PM

You are overlooking two important facts: 1. Free fire zones, harassment and interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, and burning villages all were part of official Vietnam policy; 2. All are prohibited by various sections of the Geneva Conventions.

On the infamous Dick Cavett show, John O'Neill is unaware that free-fire zones are prohibited by the Geneva Conventions, and then dismissive of that clear evidence. He calls it semantics, not something a person with respect for the rule of law would do, but he was buddies with Nixon, so not surprising.

John Kerry allegedly did resist one effort to burn down a village, advocating instead a psy-ops mission to "turn" it.

The guy organized the Winter Soldier Hearings, and duly reported what he was told. To claim that he was speaking personally, as though he had witnessed these events, is an outright lie.

Posted by: Dave at August 25, 2004 01:30 AM

Sent this to Factcheck.org on August 11...no replies, sent again...no replies.
==========================

Factcheck.org fails its Mission Statement by its own bias creating skew

1. You imply the funding of such a group is the basis of facts, this is a false conclusion and I expect Kathleen Hall Jamieson, to know better. As this artificial construct is presented in the title it skews the reader in the presentation.

2. Your analysis presumes a conclusion from the start.

3. You bring up critics of the ad as if there statements SHOULD influence the facts. Your job was to check the facts, not to check the commentators.

By doing so you undermine the entire premise of your web site. I frankly find it shameful.

4. Ultimately in the end your site has no basis to even comment on this ad.

Your mission is: "We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding."

The Television ad is comprised of the opinions of 13 people. There statements in the ad are opinions mostly. Appraisals of what they believe...based on their experience. You can not fact check those...you know that. For the statement that are FACTS, you analysis does not check them.

You do not check to see who the Doctor on duty was. That is a fact you should check.

You do not check to see if the other Veteran who claims there was not any enemy fire while men were in the water....you Could and Should check that.
But do not.

You include statements by others within you web site, that appear to be written by fact checkers, while in fact they are biased.

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, PhD, should be embarrassed and ashamed to be putting out such documents. This is the woman that got Networks to put TV ads into little TV looking graphics....so viewers could tell it was a news program air someone's Campaign ad.
But on YOUR own website you present the views of partisans that can not be distinguished between your own writers.

This is shameful and embarrassing. Either your group is the folly of significant group think, ignorant of the WWW as a new medium for
communication, or you are clearly expressing partisan views willfully or unknowingly via your analysis.

You inclusion of some interviews done on the 10th because it was published in the WSJ is just a way of justifying using selective media that only some have access to.
Your job was to check facts.
You failed at your job.
You entered in your own Bias.
You did not clarify.
You added to the confusion by writing in manner that does not clearly present who the speaker is.

If your students did this work it would be failed.
You know better, and should be better.

I formally request that you remove this page from the Internet, and to not put it back up until you have done a proper job. This is an embarrassment
for fair media, and fair analysis. The observer has entered into the experiment and is changing the outcome.

Back to basics....Fix these problems. How can anyone trust you when it's unclear who the authorship is?

Regards

Posted by: reality check at August 25, 2004 01:43 AM

The guy organized the Winter Soldier Hearings, and duly reported what he was told. To claim that he was speaking personally, as though he had witnessed these events, is an outright lie.
You're right that he participated in the Winter Soldier "investigation", and that he simply reported what he was told.

But the fact remains that he did admit--elsewhere--to participating in 3 of the 6 items mentioned in the SBV ad. I included his words. It's hard to deny that.

Posted by: Jon Henke at August 25, 2004 05:18 AM

here are the allegations in the add:

Troops:
1. "raped"
2. "cut off ears"
3. "cut off heads"
4. "randomly shot at civilians"
5. "cut off limbs"
6. "blown up bodies"
7. "razed villages"
8. "crimes committed on a day to day basis"
9. "ravaged the countryside"

John Kerry admitted to #7, but he also objected when ordered to do so by his superiors. He may have done #4 in the free fire zones and H&I fire. #8 and #9 maybe, maybe not.

What you are ignoring though is that the reality of these practices has never been questioned. Kerry's having participated in free fire zones is completely irrelevant because no one doubts that free fire zones existed. They are not allegations, they are facts. The only question is their acceptability, whether they are "atrocities" or not.

The outrageous stuff, i.e., the stuff that the SBVfT consider betrayal, is not stuff that Kerry participated in, merely stuff he was reporting.

Posted by: Dave at August 25, 2004 06:55 AM

What you are ignoring though is that the reality of these practices has never been questioned.
Guess you missed the part where I wrote: "FactCheck.org has a good point--one I've made here--that some atrocities similar to what Kerry described did occur."

Factcheck is charging the SBVs with ignoring the fact that he wasn't alleging that he'd been a part of those events...but, in many instances, he had conceded exactly that point.

Posted by: Jon Henke at August 25, 2004 07:01 AM

Anyone trained in writing up scientific reports knows what the reqirements and methods ARE in presenting material.There is a strict FORMAT.It is DESIGNED in a way which discloses its own methods leading to conclusions.In re. the media...
the entire SWIFT BOAT discussion clearly indicates that both PRESS AND PUBLIC are awash today in SMOG...and folks quite unaware of of what causes all the resulting heat and confusion! Reading your input mail one can find e-mails which DO try to clear things up...but most "pick" and "cherry pick" as is always the case in any unsophisticated and immature angry argument....This is a very ominous and depressing characteristic in any democracy. One HAS to WORRY.

Posted by: joyce adams at August 29, 2004 11:03 AM

Kerry is a rotten son of a bitch who doesn't deserve the presidency, let alone any other public office position. He is a disingenuous hypocrite who is incessantly using a deceptive tone in his campaign endeavors. The democratic party might as well hang its head in defeat. It is their fault for nominating such a weak and fault ridden candidate. Al Sharpton would have had a better chance.

Posted by: BlackSoldier at September 6, 2004 02:28 AM

There is a dirty little trick being used by George Soros that takes advantage of a common information browsing error. People need to know that if they want to read the website factcheck.org...be sure to type ORG instead of COM. If you type COM your browser will be directed to the George Soros website that spews out venomous lies and distortions in an attempt to sabotage the Bush campaign.
I thought that Cheney won the debate last night hands down. When he told the American people to check out the true facts on factcheck.org I couldn't wait to visit the site, but I made the common error of typing COM instead of ORG. BUT WAIT...there's more. Even if you type factcheck.org you can't get through. The message you get is that the server is overloaded. I hope this is from all the people who want to visit the site to read the truth, but I suspect it is another Soros trick to jam the website.

Posted by: Ron at October 6, 2004 12:34 PM

I was doing research on errors related to factcheck.org and came upon this site. I couldn't help but to be distracted by the low-level attacks with which nearly every poster (including the original poster) has relished in regarding Kerry's remarks in '71.

I only make this comment after reading his published remarks (link provided by one of your posters, so don't bother telling me you read it, too... i know) and I must say that I don't see how Kerry is implicating himself with what the he was saying he heard others doing. If you want to break down what he actually mentioned he heard, it's this-

raped,
cut off ears,
cut off heads,
taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power,
cut off limbs,
blown up bodies,
randomly shot at civilians,
razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan,
shot cattle and dogs for fun,
poisoned food stocks,
and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam

I can refute the obvious ones easily (rape, genital torture, decapitation, etc.), but the ones mentioned in the original posting are worth contending, namely, that Kerry might have randomly shot at civilians. Kerry details that he participated in free-fire zones, but that doesn't necessarily mean that there were civilians involved in those zones (they could easily and probably been in desginated combat zones, like the waterways he normally patrolled.)

The other accusation is that he 'razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan', because he mentions 'We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them'. There is plainly no comparison to at least intending to save a village by destroying it, and acting like the most feared barbarian of all time.

Kerry's point in mentioning the atrocities is to state that there were people (not him) that carried out these insane ferocious atrocities because they were forced into a war that itself was insane. It's pretty close to what Rush Limbaugh and other conservative pundits use as a defense to the Abu Ghraib torture scandals "C'mon, they were just blowin' off steam"...

I would implore all who have commented here to re-read Kerry's '71 remarks to Congress. Pay attention to the message: Vietnam was a mistake, and those who forced the mistake, at the cost of brave men and women on both sides, are the ones to blame and hold responsible. He's talking about the leadership... the presidency. He could say the same thing now, and he is. Not much for flip-flopping... it's the same message 30 years later.

happy hunting,

danno

Posted by: whybother at October 7, 2004 02:19 AM

I think that one important point that is often missed is that - although Kerry and his surrogates like to point out that in his 71 senate testimony he was simply reporting what he had heard from others at the "Winter Soldier" hearings - NOT ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHOSE TESTIMONY HE REPORTED WOULD SIGN AN AFFIDAVIT.

This was brought up by O'Neill in the Dick Cavett debate. That being the case, at the very least Kerry was very irresponsible in reporting these unsubstantiated claims to the US Senate.

Posted by: Pinto at October 25, 2004 04:01 PM