Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 16, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

NGUYEN VAN KHOAI....In their story about John Kerry's Silver Star on Thursday, Nightline interviewed a Vietnamese man who said this wasn't the first time he'd been asked about Kerry's medals:

Back in Tran Thoi, villager Nguyen Van Khoai said that about six months ago he was visited by an American who described himself as a Swift boat veteran and told him another American from the Swift boats was running for president of the United States. Nguyen said the man was accompanied by a cameraman.

When I initially wrote about this, my assumption was that the "Swift boat veteran" in question was probably someone from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, trying to dig up dirt on Kerry. However, it turns out there are two pieces of evidence that suggest SBVT wasn't involved in this.

First, there's a dispatch from AP reporter Margie Mason, who took a trip up the Bay Hap river in August. Apparently she interviewed the same guy:

"I think it's American politics," said Nguyen Van Khoai, 61, a former Viet Cong who fought American troops in the area but never attacked the Swift boats. "On any side, a soldier who made an outstanding feat is given a medal, but maybe some people try to think otherwise."

Second, a few minutes ago I spoke with a Vietnam vet named Doug Reese, who works with Vietnam's official tourist agency and has visited the country frequently. In particular, Reese visited Tran Thoi in March and spoke with several villagers who were witnesses to the Silver Star incident. He identified himself as a journalist, not a Swift boat vet, and he didn't have a cameraman with him, but he thinks it's likely that Khoai confused his visit (March) with Mason's visit (Swift boat related) to come up with the quote he gave Nightline. Reese is a Kerry supporter and no fan of SBVT, but even so, he says, "I'm confident the Swift boat guys didn't go there."

It's impossible to say for sure who Khoai spoke to in March (Reese doesn't know if Khoai was one of the villagers he talked to), but it appears it probably wasn't someone from SBVT. My apologies for jumping to conclusions about this.

Kevin Drum 4:50 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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