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Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Mark Steyn picks up the "Christmas in Cambodia" story

in today's Telegraph (UK)
For decades, John Kerry has told anyone who'd listen that at Christmas 1968 he was on an illegal mission inside Cambodia. On the floor of the Senate in 1986, while attacking President Reagan for turning Central America into another Vietnam quagmire (wrong as usual), Kerry said: "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the President of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared – seared – in me."

The illegal Yuletide foray was so seared into him that he brought it up at every opportunity.
As he told the Boston Herald in 1979, "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon claimed there were no American troops was very real."

LBJ was President on Christmas Eve 1968, but let that pass. Here's an Associated Press story from 1992: "Navy Lt John Kerry knew he had no business steering his Mekong River patrol boat across the border into Cambodia, but orders were orders… By Christmas 1968, part of Kerry's patrol extended across the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia."

Just one problem. It never happened. Every living officer up his chain of command says Kerry was never ordered to Cambodia. At least three of his five crewmen say their boat was never in Cambodia. And if you don't believe any of his fellow veterans, read the excerpt from Kerry's own journal published in Tour Of Duty, the recent hagiography by Douglas Brinkley.
On December 24 1968, Kerry was at Sa Dec – that's well inside Vietnam, 55 miles from the Cambodian border – and waxing wistful to his diary about a quiet Christmas far from home: "Visions of sugarplums really do dance through your head and you think of stockings and snow and roast chestnuts and fires with birch logs and all that is good and warm and real. It's Christmas Eve."

I'm Vietnammed out. But it's the centrepiece of Kerry's campaign: the other day, [when] asked a straightforward question about 9/11, he stuck to the current millennium for a good 20 seconds and then veered off into "the war that I fought in was a war where we saw America lose its support for the war, where the soldiers came back having had to do what our soldiers are doing today, carry an M-16 in another country, try to tell the difference between friend and foe. I know what it's like to go out at night on patrol", etc, etc. So, since Vietnam seems to be the only subject on which he has anything to say, it would be reassuring to know that at least he's got that right.

For most of his adult life John Kerry has peddled as his central Vietnam anecdote – the one that drove him to turn on his nation's leaders – what appears to be a complete fantasy. Why would he do such a thing? If there's a good answer to that question, maybe someone in his doting press pack would like to ask it.
Amen.