Aug. 11, 2004

Swift Boats, Continued:

I had an interesting talk today with Jim Hurley, the head of Vietnam Veterans for Kerry. Not surprisingly, he disparaged Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, whom he called “Swift Boat Veterans for Bush,” and urged one and all to look at the military records reproduced on the Kerry for President website. The most interesting part of the talk concerned the latest account of John Kerry’s whereabouts on Christmas Day, 1968. Kerry’s account of this list has shifted and changed constantly over the last 35 years. Some versions have him spending the day in Cambodia, dropping off spies. Others have him in a barracks, 55 miles from the Cambodian border, scribbling entries into his diary. Hurley offered a hybrid today, saying Kerry was ordered onto the water Christmas day, made his way to the Cambodian border, endured three separate engagements with the enemy, and returned home. I count at least six distinct versions of Kerry’s whereabouts on that day, including this one, released Wednesday by Michael Meehan of the Kerry campaign:

“During John Kerry's service in Vietnam, many times he was on or near the Cambodian border and on one occasion crossed into Cambodia at the request of members of a special operations group operating out of Ha Tien.

"On December 24, 1968 Lieutenant John Kerry and his crew were on patrol in the watery borders between Vietnam and Cambodia deep in enemy territory. In the early afternoon, Kerry's boat, PCF-44, was at Sa Dec and then headed north to the Cambodian border. There, Kerry and his crew along with two other boats were ambushed, taking fire from both sides of the river, and after the firefight were fired upon again. Later that evening during their night patrol they came under friendly fire.

"It is an acknowledged fact that Swift Boat crews regularly operated along the Cambodian border from Ha Tien on the Gulf of Thailand to the rivers of the Mekong south and west of Saigon. Boats often received fire from enemy taking sanctuary across the border. Kerry's was not the only United States riverboat to respond and inadvertently or responsibly across the border. In fact, it was this reality that lead President Nixon to later invade Cambodia itself in 1970.”

Curiouser and curiouser. Stay tuned.

Tongue Fried:

Alison Buckholtz introduced an interesting disciplinarian technique in The Washington Post this week: “hot saucing,” also known as “hot tonguing.” This form of discipline follows a very old theory: make misbehavior so unpleasant for kids that they surrender their bratty ways and listen to good ol’ Mom and Dad. When parents drip a little hot sauce on kids’ tongues, kids experience a flavor surge they would rather forget – and voila! They behave. That, at least is the theory.

Not surprisingly, “child care professionals” have declared themselves unimpressed and unamused, and some states have begun legal proceedings against parents guilty of dribbling pepper juice on their miscreant kids’ taste buds. Mothers cited in the article defend their decision to hot-tongue their youngsters from time to time. One e-mailed complaining friends, “It works like a charm.”

I have more devilish tortures for my children, such as forcing them to listen to me playing the saxophone, but the practice did spawn a brilliant brainstorm. Forget about kids: Why not hot-sauce lying politicians? It might require the regular delivery of fiery liquids in 55-gallon barrels, but what the heck? I also promised to accept similar punishment, should I ever get caught on air telling a deliberate lie.

Don’t Back Off:

U-S military forces today backed off from a promised “final” assault on insurgent forces in Najaf, Iraq, but tried to assure one and all that the move merely represented a “postponement” of an inevitable offensive. There is only one truly good reason for such a move, and that is the possibility that Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the rag-tag revolt, has agreed to disband his army, turn over arms caches, abandon mosques that he has transformed into armories and surrender (Iraqi authorities want to try him on charges of murdering a fellow cleric shortly after the fall of Baghdad). If the U-S backed off in order to appease skittish allies (as we did when we abandoned plans this spring to attack Fallujah, where Saddam loyalists incinerated four American security workers) or to await the full training of Iraqi military forces, it will be making a strategic and human mistake.

American forces have crushed al-Sadr’s so-called “Mahdi Army,” often killing hundreds of insurgents without suffering a single casualty. If we finish the fight quickly, we can spare the lives of hundreds of other Iraqis, mostly young kids, who have been thrust into battle by al-Sadr. We can secure the holy city of Najaf. And there’s an unheralded benefit: Lower oil prices. The present price of oil (about $45 a barrel) contains a “fear premium” of about $15 per barrel. Investors worry about war-caused interruptions of oil supplies, and so have driven crude prices to the highest levels ever. Some firm and successful action can calm jittery markets and lance the boil responsible for making oil more expensive than it ought to be.

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