Ed Driscoll

Christmas in Cambodia?

Just listening to Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. He’s quoting items from Unfit For Command, including one that I hadn’t heard before: that Kerry claimed he served in Cambodia, during Christmas of 1968 (remember that date):

Did decorated Vietnam War veteran John F. Kerry see military action in Cambodia? He says nothing about it on the campaign trail, but he stated it as fact on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 27, 1986. In that speech, Kerry accused President Ronald Reagan of leading the United States into another Vietnam in Central America, accusing the administration of Nixon-like duplicity and saying that he should recognize it because of his Vietnam experience.Kerry told his colleagues he was on Navy duty in Cambodia at a time when President Richard M. Nixon lied to the public and said that there were no U.S. forces in that country. He even took enemy fire. In his words, “I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by 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.”

This is strictly from a few minutes of Googling, but it appears that there’s a few problems with this story, not the least of which is that President Nixon didn’t take office until January 20, 1969. Second, we didn’t get involved in Cambodia until April of 1970:

The incursion of Cambodia, code-named Operation Toan Thang 42, began on the morning of 29 April 1970, when twelve ARVN infantry and armored battalions totaling approximately 8,700 men attacked the flanks of an area of Cambodia known as the Parrot’s Beak, about 40 miles west of Saigon.(26) During the planning stage for the incursion, MACV became extremely concerned whether ARVN could meet their operational responsibilities and achieve their planned objectives. Hence, MACV limited the South Vietnamese Tactical Area of Responsibility (TAOR,) to a scant ten to fifteen mile penetration across the border.(27) For the most part, the two-month incursion into Cambodia garnered mixed results. Large quantities of arms, ammunition, food, and other enemy supplies were destroyed along with many Vietcong base camps, but the allies were unable to locate and destroy COSVN.

Finally, there’s no other evidence that Kerry’s swift boat ever entered Cambodia. His own Website had a timetable of Kerry’s service in Vietnam which has since been pulled(!), but is reprinted here.

Kerry left Vietnam in April of 1969, when he was “reassigned as a personal aide and flag lieutenant to Rear Admiral Walter F. Schlech, Jr. with the Military Sea Transportation Service based in Brooklyn, New York. ”

If Kerry actually fought in Cambodia, as he said he did, why wouldn’t it be mentioned on his Website? And if he didn’t, why would he mention it to the Senate?

Like I said below, Kerry’s Vietnam timetable really does feel like a Full Metal Möbius Loop at times. And I can’t help but think that he really wants it that way.

Update: Here’s a portion of a chapter from Unfit For Command:

If there is one story told over and over again by John Kerry since his return from Vietnam, it is the heart-wrenching tale of how he spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day illegally in Cambodia. From the early 1970s, when he used the tale as part of his proof for war crimes in Cambodia, through the mid-1980s and the 1990s, Kerry has spoken and written again and again of how he was illegally ordered to enter Cambodia.On the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 27, 1986, Kerry launched one of his many attacks against President Reagan—this time charging that President Reagan’s actions in Central America were leading the United States into yet another Vietnam, claiming that he could recognize the error of the administration’s ways because he had experienced firsthand the duplicity of the Nixon administration in lying about American incursions into Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Kerry charged that he had been illegally ordered into Cambodia during Christmas 1968:

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.20 Kerry also described, for example, for the Boston Herald his vivid memories of his Christmas Eve spent in Cambodia: 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.

As recently as July 7, 2004, Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe repeated Kerry’s Christmas in Cambodia story on FOX News Channel’s Hannity & Colmes, indicating that it was a critical turning point in Kerry’s life. Kranish had no knowledge, even after his extensive study of Kerry, that he was simply repeating a total fabrication by Kerry. And Kranish was right: Study of the Christmas in Cambodia story is central to understanding John Kerry. The story is also in the pages of the 2004 biography written by Krahish and other Boston Globe reporters. As we have come to expect, the story is twisted at the end to provide justification for yet another of Kerry’s political ruses, this time used to justify what Kerry portrays as his noble and continuing distrust of government pronouncements: To top it off, Kerry said later that he had gone into Cambodia, despite President Nixon’s assurances to the American public that there was no combat action in this neutral territory. The young sailor began to develop a deep mistrust of the U.S. government pronouncements, he later recalled. Even without minimal investigation, a critical press should have been able to spot the story as a total fabrication: Richard Nixon did not become president of the United States until twenty-six days after John Kerry’s Christmas in Cambodia.

Take it for what it’s worth: we Google, you decide.