"I knew it was wrong"


Geraldine Sealey
August 6, 2004 6:22PM (UTC)

John Kerry's former commanding officer now retracts a statement he signed onto at the prodding of the anti-Kerry Swift Boat Veterans that said Kerry didn't deserve the Silver Star. It was a "terrible mistake," and he felt "time pressure" from those involved in the book, the officer says. The Drudge Report, at least partly responsible for the hype around the anti-Kerry ad and book -- and which yesterday bore this blaring headline: "VETS CHARGE: KERRY KILLED FLEEING TEEN; LIED FOR MEDAL..." is linking to the Boston Globe piece with the understated headline "One Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry..."

Yes, one veteran, who happened to be Kerry's commanding officer. Since none of the other veterans who appear in the anti-Kerry ad actually served with Kerry, this retraction delivers a mighty blow to their claims. As the Globe points out: "All of Kerry's crewmates who participated and are still living said in interviews last year that the action was necessary and appropriate, and it was Elliott who recommended Kerry for the Silver Star."

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From the Globe: "A key figure in the anti-Kerry campaign, Kerry's former commanding officer, backed off one of the key contentions. Lieutenant Commander George Elliott said in an interview that he had made a ''terrible mistake' in signing an affidavit that suggests Kerry did not deserve the Silver Star -- one of the main allegations in the book. The affidavit was given to The Boston Globe by the anti-Kerry group to justify assertions in their ad and book."

"Elliott is quoted as saying that Kerry ''lied about what occurred in Vietnam . . . for example, in connection with his Silver Star, I was never informed that he had simply shot a wounded, fleeing Viet Cong in the back.'"

"The statement refers to an episode in which Kerry killed a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher, part of a chain of events that formed the basis of his Silver Star. Over time, some Kerry critics have questioned whether the soldier posed a danger to Kerry's crew. Crew members have said Kerry's actions saved their lives."

"Yesterday, reached at his home, Elliott said he regretted signing the affidavit and said he still thinks Kerry deserved the Silver Star. 'I still don't think he shot the guy in the back,' Elliott said. 'It was a terrible mistake probably for me to sign the affidavit with those words. I'm the one in trouble here.'"

"Elliott said he was no under personal or political pressure to sign the statement, but he did feel ''time pressure' from those involved in the book. ''That's no excuse,' Elliott said. 'I knew it was wrong . . . In a hurry I signed it and faxed it back. That was a mistake.'"

"The affidavit also contradicted earlier statements by Elliott, who came to Boston during Kerry's 1996 Senate campaign to defend Kerry on similar charges, saying that Kerry acted properly and deserved the Silver Star. The book, 'Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,' is to be published next week. Yesterday it reached number one on the bestseller list on Amazon.com, based on advance orders, in part because of publicity about it on the Drudge Report."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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