Drowning in Cambodia
by Thomas Lipscomb
February 10, 2005
 
It has been a rough 10 days for Senator Kerry. First Democratic Party
moneybags George Soros said Mr. Kerry's name on the presidential ballot
was a dead loser. Then Teresa Heinz Kerry decided to borrow a dead winner's rather than a live loser's last name, reverting to "Teresa Heinz" for public appearances. But the worst day Mr. Kerry had was a Sunday answering Tim Russert's questions on "Meet the Press" on - what else? - Vietnam.

Asked about his Christmas Eve in Cambodia "seared, seared" in Mr. Kerry's memory, according to one of his Senate speech transcripts, Mr. Kerry tried a half-baked variation on the theme: "Was it on that night? No, it was not on that night. But we were right on the Cambodian border that night. We were ambushed there, as a matter of fact. And that is a matter of record, and we went into the rec - you know, it's part of the Navy records."

Alas, "as a matter of fact," at least according to Mr. Kerry's own
journal, supplied to his biographer Douglas Brinkley for inclusion in "Tour of Duty" that night" Mr. Kerry was in Sa Dec in Vietnam, south of Saigon and 50 miles from Cambodia, writing his parents about "visions of sugar plums." And it isn't "part of the Navy records" either. An "ambush" would require an official after-action report like the ones Mr. Kerry exhibits on his "complete" Web site. So either Mr. Kerry doesn't include one on this because there isn't one, or Mr. Kerry's Web site isn't complete, or both.

It gets worse. Under Mr. Russert's questioning, Mr. Kerry has a burst of
sudden recall. "But we did go five miles into Cambodia. It was on another day. I jumbled the two together, but we were five miles into Cambodia. We went up on a mission with CIA agents - I believe they were CIA agents - CIA Special Ops guys. I even have some photographs of it, and I can document it. And it has been documented."

Unfortunately, there is no indication "it has been documented" and no one has ever reported seeing "some photographs of it." Admiral Roy Hoffman commanded all the Swift boats in Vietnam and had the responsibility for parceling the missions assigned to him to the commanders of his bases. According to Mr. Hoffman, who commanded Mr. Kerry for the four months he served in Swift boats, "In all the time I served in Vietnam, I never assigned a Swift boat mission for the CIA to a South Vietnam base like Kerry's at An Thoi. I assigned Swift boats for several missions for the CIA infiltrating North Vietnam but I believe they are still classified."

Mr. Hoffman, as chairman of the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth, is certainly a Kerry antagonist. But Navy lieutenants do not simply gather their crews and climb in their Swift boats, gas up at the local Total station, buy some ammo at a sporting goods store en route, and go swanning off on "secret missions" their commanders don't know about. And not one of Mr. Kerry's faithful crew members who stood on the stage with him at the Democratic Convention and exactly none of Mr. Kerry's commanders confirmed Mr. Kerry's first story of Christmas in Cambodia and so far, none confirms the "Meet the Press" revision, and neither does Mr. Brinkley.

But even assuming there is somewhere a top-secret after-action report that backs up Mr. Kerry and those nasty Swifties are taking advantage of the fact that we can't see it because it is still classified, Mr. Kerry proudly told Mr. Russert and the world what his top-secret mission was: "We delivered weapons to the Khmer Rouge on the coastline of Cambodia. We went out of Ha Tien, which is right in Vietnam. We went north up into the border. And I have some photographs of that, and that's what we did."

If that is true, America should have shaken up the CIA 35 years earlier.
The Khmer Rouge, so named derisively by Cambodian leader Prince Sihanouk, were the Cambodian communists who were later to murder millions of their fellow citizens in the "killing fields" in 1974. "Ridiculous," snorted a former CIA station chief from neighboring Laos, "That is the equivalent of delivering arms to the Viet Cong." Robert Turner, an expert on North Vietnamese and Viet Cong affairs at the embassy in Saigon at the time and now a professor at the University of Virginia says: "Kerry has gone delusional. This is hilarious." When Mr. Kerry was in Vietnam in 1969 the estimate of Khmer Rouge strength was only 2,500. They would have been hard to find, much less deliver weapons to, scattered around a country of 10 million almost the size of Oklahoma.

All this confusion will be cleared up now that Mr. Russert has gotten Mr. Kerry to agree to sign the Standard Form 180 that will allow the Navy to release all of Mr. Kerry's records, after a false start or two that has the ring of Kerry: "I'd be happy to put the records out. We put all the records out that I had been sent by the military. Then at the last moment, they sent some more stuff, which had some things that weren't even relevant to the record. So when we get - I'm going to sit down with them and make sure that they are clear and I am clear as to what is in the record and what isn't in the record and we'll put it out. I have no problem with that."

A week later the Boston Globe confirmed Mr. Kerry's pledge "to sign Form
180, releasing all of his military records." But Mr. Kerry does want to
"make this clear: My full military record has been made public."

Except that a day later on "The Don Imus Show" Mr. Kerry seems confused
again about what has been made public, and rededicates himself to signing the still-unsigned Form 180 "Shortly -.As soon as I get, as required by the military, precisely -. Because I have a stack of different material they sent me. Every time they send me something I want to know what they sent me. I'll get it done. ..."

As a born-again Christian, professing compassionate conservatism, the
least Mr. Bush can do is appoint Mr. Kerry ambassador to Cambodia before this gets any worse. Perhaps then Mr. Kerry can find out what really did happen before even CBS finally figures out who ran for the presidency based on dubious statements about his military record.

Mr. Lipscomb is a senior fellow at the Annenberg Center for the Digital
Future.