Let's Not Quibble Over Baby Killers

More from John Kerry’s Meet the Press appearance:

MR. RUSSERT: You used the word “war criminals.”

SEN. KERRY: Well, let me just finish. Let me must finish. It was, I think, a reflection of the kind of times we found ourselves in and I don’t like it when I hear it today. I don’t like it, but I want you to notice that at the end, I wasn’t talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ blame, and my great regret is, I hope no soldier–I mean, I think some soldiers were angry at me for that, and I understand that and I regret that, because I love them. But the words were honest but on the other hand, they were a little bit over the top. And I think that there were breaches of the Geneva Conventions. There were policies in place that were not acceptable according to the laws of warfare, and everybody knows that. I mean, books have chronicled that, so I’m not going to walk away from that. But I wish I had found a way to say it in a less abrasive way.

MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, when you testified before the Senate, you talked about some of the hearings you had observed at the winter soldiers meeting and you said that people had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and on and on. A lot of those stories have been discredited, and in hindsight was your testimony…

SEN. KERRY: Actually, a lot of them have been documented.

MR. RUSSERT: So you stand by that?

SEN. KERRY: A lot of those stories have been documented. Have some been discredited? Sure, they have, Tim. The problem is that’s not where the focus should have been.

Forgive me if I’m confused.

Kerry said he and thousands of other Americans were guilty of “war atrocities” in Vietnam, but it would have been better had he called them something nicer — because “atrocities” is an “inappropriate word” for rape, torture, and the indiscriminate murder of civilians.

Maybe I’m not the one who’s confused. Read on:

And, you know, when you’re angry about something and you’re young, you know, you’re perfectly capable of not–I mean, if I had the kind of experience and time behind me that I have today, I’d have framed some of that differently. Needless to say, I’m proud that I stood up. I don’t want anybody to think twice about it. I’m proud that I took the position that I took to oppose it. I think we saved lives, and I’m proud that I stood up at a time when it was important to stand up, but I’m not going to quibble, you know, 35 years later that I might not have phrased things more artfully at times.

So let me see if I have this right.

To paraphrase:

There were atrocities, but if I hadn’t been so young and enthusiastic, I would have called them something nicer. Maybe “happy accidents,” or “youthful indiscretions in a free-fire zone, which, by the way, were authorized by people way higher up than me at the time.” But whatever we call those “gung-ho baby-rapin’ Americans soldiers,” it’s important not to quibble because time has passed, and I want to look as electable to America in 2004, as I looked in Massachusetts in the 1970s.

Do I have that about right?

(Hat tip to Old Benjamin, who, frankly, really only looks middle-aged.)

UPDATE: Tim Blair does it better, and with a lot fewer words.