John O’Neill in the Lion’s Den
John O’Neill of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth coolly fends off all attacks with a relentless barrage of facts, in a Question and Answer session with Washington Post readers: Unfit for Command. (Hat tip: Greg.)
The whole thing is a must-read, but here are a few excerpts:
Arlington, Va.: How would you characterize your group’s relationship with Benjamin Ginsberg?
John E. O’Neill: After we received threatening letters and complaints from at least two law firms representing the Kerry campaign it became apparent that we would need additional council in order to respond and represent us. We therefore retained the Patton-Boggs firm where we worked with several lawyers. We were happy for their assistance. We are proud that Mr. Ginsberg has decided to represent us as opposed to the much larger clients available. We were very surprised at the attacks on him and his firm given that many of the huge Kerry 527 organizations are represented by exactly the same law firm as his campaign. The attacks obviously hold us to a higher standard than the Kerry campaign and that is fine with us. We would want to adhere to a higher standard than the Kerry campaign.
St Augustine, Fla.: Mr. O’Neil, are you saying that John Kerry lied when he reported the information he had received about atrocities in Vietnam to Congress? Are you saying there were not attrocities committed in Vietnam or that they should not have been reported?
John E. O’Neill: All atrocities in Vietnam should have been reported to investigative authorities and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Neither John Kerry nor his associates in VVAW ever reported a single atrocity to the Naval investigative service or any other law enforcement authority. Instead Kerry made a general charge that rape, murder and mayhem was occurring on a day to day basis with the awareness of officers at all levels of command. On the Dick Cavett show in June 1971 I asked Kerry to itemize the specific atrocities that he had seen. He was unable to name any except generalizations. He lied to the United States Congress and to the world when he claimed that our policies in Vietnam were criminal policies and that our troops to the lowest levels were criminals carrying out murder and mayhem on a daily basis. It is one thing to be against the war in Vietnam, it is another to criminalize the kids that the country sent to fight it. Kerry did the second. That was wrong.
Dayton, Ohio: Mr. O’Neill, I recently heard a portion of the White House audio tape of your meeting with President Nixon. I heard you tell President Nixon that you had gone to Cambodia on your swift boat.
I also heard you tell a reporter recently(on tape) that you had never been in Cambodia.
Did you lie to President Nixon or did you lie to the reporter?
Have you ever been in Cambodia, and if so, when did you go and did you go more than once?
If you have never been in Cambodia, how close did you ever get to the Cambodian border (in feet or miles)?
John E. O’Neill: I lied to no one. You quote the first half of the statement but ignore the following sentence. I clearly said that I was on the Cambodian border. I was on a canal system known as Bernique’s Creek located about 100 yards south of the Cambodian border from which it would have been very difficult to get into Cambodia at least from a boat.
I never went to Cambodia. Unlike the Kerry story you are defensive about I don’t believe I can ever fairly be interpreted as saying anything different. John Kerry on many different occasions said that the turning point of his life was being in Cambodia illegally for Christmas Eve and Christmas in 1968. This was in a different area than I was in and close approach to Cambodia was not possible for him in that area. In fact he was more than 50 miles away. How many people invent the turning point of their life and repeat it on the senate floor, in articles and more than 50 times in 35 years?
Washington, D.C.: Earlier this week George W. Bush denounced your ad as well as the ads of all 527 groups. How do you react to the President’s remarks? In light of his rebuke, will you pull these ads? Why or why not?
John E. O’Neill: The answer of Adm. Hoffman our leader was “full speed ahead.” George Bush was not a part of our unit nor is he a part of our story. This is a matter deeply between Kerry and ourselves. It goes beyond politics and deeply involved the honor of our unit, the damage done by his false charges and his wild exaggeration of his service with our unit. We will continue through though the election with the last dollar we raise and the last energy we raise to bring the truth to the American public about the falsehood about Kerry’s charges and the exaggeration of his service to the attention of the American people. We will do that not as a matter of politics but because we know he is unfit to command our children, our relatives and other American soldiers or sailors in a dangerous time in our nation.
Fortunately, the First Amendment and the commitment of the American public to fairness will assist us in doing so. We will let the chips fall where they may.