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When John Kerry's Courage Went M.I.A.: Senator Covered Up Evidence of P.O.W.'s Left Behind
Village Voice ^ | February 25 - March 2, 2004 | Sydney H. Schanberg

Posted on 02/24/2004 10:37:29 AM PST by dead

Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.

The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.

Over the years, an abundance of evidence had come to light that the North Vietnamese, while returning 591 U.S. prisoners of war after the treaty signing, had held back many others as future bargaining chips for the $4 billion or more in war reparations that the Nixon administration had pledged. Hanoi didn't trust Washington to fulfill its pro-mise without pressure. Similarly, Washington didn't trust Hanoi to return all the prisoners and carry out all the treaty provisions. The mistrust on both sides was merited. Hanoi held back prisoners and the U.S. provided no reconstruction funds.

The stated purpose of the special Senate committee—which convened in mid 1991 and concluded in January 1993—was to investigate the evidence about prisoners who were never returned and find out what happened to the missing men. Committee chair Kerry's larger and different goal, though never stated publicly, emerged over time: He wanted to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. In any other context, that would have been an honorable goal. But getting at the truth of the unaccounted for P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s (Missing In Action) was the main obstacle to normalization—and therefore in conflict with his real intent and plan of action.

Kerry denied back then that he disguised his real goal, contending that he supported normalization only as a way to learn more about the missing men. But almost nothing has emerged about these prisoners since diplomatic and economic relations were restored in 1995, and thus it would appear—as most realists expected—that Kerry's explanation was hollow. He has also denied in the past the allegations of a cover-up, either by the Pentagon or himself. Asked for comment on this article, the Kerry campaign sent a quote from the senator: "In the end, I think what we can take pride in is that we put together the most significant, most thorough, most exhaustive accounting for missing and former P.O.W.'s in the history of human warfare."

What was the body of evidence that prisoners were held back? A short list would include more than 1,600 firsthand sightings of live U.S. prisoners; nearly 14,000 secondhand reports; numerous intercepted Communist radio messages from within Vietnam and Laos about American prisoners being moved by their captors from one site to another; a series of satellite photos that continued into the 1990s showing clear prisoner rescue signals carved into the ground in Laos and Vietnam, all labeled inconclusive by the Pentagon; multiple reports about unacknowledged prisoners from North Vietnamese informants working for U.S. intelligence agencies, all ignored or declared unreliable; persistent complaints by senior U.S. intelligence officials (some of them made publicly) that live-prisoner evidence was being suppressed; and clear proof that the Pentagon and other keepers of the "secret" destroyed a variety of files over the years to keep the P.O.W./M.I.A. families and the public from finding out and possibly setting off a major public outcry.

The resignation of Colonel Millard Peck in 1991, the first year of the Kerry committee's tenure, was one of many vivid landmarks in this saga's history. Peck had been the head of the Pentagon's P.O.W./M.I.A. office for only eight months when he resigned in disgust. In his damning departure statement, he wrote: "The mind-set to 'debunk' is alive and well. It is held at all levels . . . Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow-through on any of the sightings . . . The sad fact is that . . . a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort and may never have been."

Finally, Peck said: "From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was in fact abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with 'smoke and mirrors' to stall the issue until it dies a natural death."

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What did Kerry do in furtherance of the cover-up? An overview would include the following: He allied himself with those carrying it out by treating the Pentagon and other prisoner debunkers as partners in the investigation instead of the targets they were supposed to be. In short, he did their bidding. When Defense Department officials were coming to testify, Kerry would have his staff director, Frances Zwenig, meet with them to "script" the hearings—as detailed in an internal Zwenig memo leaked by others. Zwenig also advised North Vietnamese officials on how to state their case. Further, Kerry never pushed or put up a fight to get key government documents unclassified; he just rolled over, no matter how obvious it was that the documents contained confirming data about prisoners. Moreover, after pro- mising to turn over all committee records to the National Archives when the panel concluded its work, the senator destroyedcrucial intelligence information the staff had gathered—to to keep the documents from becoming public. He refused to subpoena past presidents and other key witnesses.

When revelatory sworn testimony was given to the committee by President Reagan's national security adviser, Richard Allen—about a credible proposal from Hanoi in 1981 to return more than 50 prisoners for a $4 billion ransom—Kerry had that testimony taken in a closed door interview, not a public hearing. But word leaked out and a few weeks later, Allen sent a letter to the committee, not under oath, recanting his testimony, saying his memory had played tricks on him. Kerry never did any probe into Allen's original, detailed account, and instead accepted his recantation as gospel truth.

A Secret Service agent then working at the White House, John Syphrit, told committee staffers he had overheard part of a conversation about the Hanoi proposal for ransom. He said he was willing to testify but feared reprisal from his Treasury Department superiors and would need to be subpoenaed so that his appearance could not be regarded as voluntary. Kerry refused to subpoena him. Syphrit told me that four men were involved in that conversation—Reagan, Allen, Vice President George H.W. Bush, and CIA director William Casey. I wrote the story for Newsday.

The final Kerry report brushed off the entire episode like unsightly dust. It said: "The committee found no credible evidence of any such [ransom] offer being made."

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A newcomer to this subject matter might reasonably ask why there was no great public outrage, no sustained headlines, no national demand for investigations, no penalties imposed on those who had hidden, and were still hiding, the truth. The simple, overarching explanation was that most Americans wanted to put Vietnam behind them as fast as possible. They wanted to forget this failed war, not deal with its truths or consequences. The press suffered from the same ostrich syndrome; no major media organization ever carried out an in-depth investigation by a reporting team into the prisoner issue. When prisoner stories did get into the press, they would have a one-day life span, never to be followed up on. When three secretaries of defense from the Vietnam era—James Schlesinger, Melvin Laird, and Elliot Richardson—testified before the Kerry committee, under oath, that intelligence they received at the time convinced them that numbers of unacknowledged prisoners were being held by the Communists, the story was reported by the press just that once and then dropped. The New York Times put the story on page one but never pursued it further to explore the obvious ramifications.

At that public hearing on September 21, 1992, toward the end of Schlesinger's testimony, the former defense secretary, who earlier had been CIA chief, was asked a simple question: "In your view, did we leave men behind?"

He replied: "I think that as of now, I can come to no other conclusion."

He was asked to explain why Nixon would have accepted leaving men behind. He said: "One must assume that we had concluded that the bargaining position of the United States . . . was quite weak. We were anxious to get our troops out and we were not going to roil the waters . . . "

Another example of a story not pursued occurred at the Paris peace talks. The North Vietnamese failed to provide a list of the prisoners until the treaty was signed. Afterward, when they turned over the list, U.S. intelligence officials were taken aback by how many believed prisoners were not included. The Vietnamese were returning only nine men from Laos. American records showed that more than 300 were probably being held. A story about this stunning gap, by New York Times Pentagon reporter John W. Finney, appeared on the paper's front page on February 2, 1973. The story said: "Officials emphasized that the United States would be seeking clarification . . . " No meaningful explanation was ever provided by the Vietnamese or by the Laotian Communist guerrillas, the Pathet Lao, who were satellites of Hanoi.

As a bombshell story for the media, particularly the Washington press corps, it was there for the taking. But there were no takers.

I was drawn to the P.O.W. issue because of my reporting years for The New York Times during the Vietnam War, where I came to believe that our soldiers were being misled and disserved by our government. After the war, military people who knew me and others who knew my work brought me information about live sightings of P.O.W.'s still in captivity and other evidence about their existence. When the Kerry committee was announced (I was by then a columnist at Newsday), I thought the senator—having himself become disillusioned about the Vietnam War, and eventually an advocate against it—might really be committed to digging out the truth. This was wishful thinking.

In the committee's early days, Kerry had given encouraging indications of being a committed investigator. He said he had "leads" to the existence of P.O.W.'s still in captivity. He said the number of these likely survivors was more than 100 and that this was the minimum. But in a very short time, he stopped saying such things and morphed his role into one of full alliance with the executive branch, the Pentagon, and other Washington hierarchies, joining their long-running effort to obscure and deny that a significant number of live American prisoners had not been returned. As many as 700 withheld P.O.W.'s were cited in credible intelligence documents, including a speech by a senior North Vietnamese general that was discovered in Soviet archives by an American scholar.

Here are details of a few of the specific steps Kerry took to hide evidence about these P.O.W.'s.

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The Kerry committee's final report, issued in January 1993, delivered the ultimate insult to history. The 1,223-page document said there was "no compelling evidence that proves" there is anyone still in captivity. As for the primary investigative question —what happened to the men left behind in 1973—the report conceded only that there is "evidence . . . that indicates the possibility of survival, at least for a small number" of prisoners 31 years ago, after Hanoi released the 591 P.O.W.'s it had admitted to.

With these word games, the committee report buried the issue—and the men.

The huge document contained no findings about what happened to the supposedly "small number." If they were no longer alive, then how did they die? Were they executed when ransom offers were rejected by Washington?

Kerry now slides past all the radio messages, satellite photos, live sightings, and boxes of intelligence documents—all the evidence. In his comments for this piece, this candidate for the presidency said: "No nation has gone to the lengths that we did to account for their dead. None—ever in history."

Of the so-called "possibility" of a "small number" of men left behind, the committee report went on to say that if this did happen, the men were not "knowingly abandoned," just "shunted aside." How do you put that on a gravestone?

In the end, the fact that Senator Kerry covered up crucial evidence as committee chairman didn't seem to bother too many Massachusetts voters when he came up for re-election—or the recent voters in primary states. So I wouldn't predict it will be much of an issue in the presidential election come November. It seems there is no constituency in America for missing Vietnam P.O.W.'s except for their families and some veterans of that war.

A year after he issued the committee report, on the night of January 26, 1994, Kerry was on the Senate floor pushing through a resolution calling on President Clinton to lift the 19-year-old trade embargo against Vietnam. In the debate, Kerry belittled the opposition, saying that those who still believed in abandoned P.O.W.'s were perpetrating a hoax. "This process," he declaimed, "has been led by a certain number of charlatans and exploiters, and we should not allow fiction to cloud what we are trying to do here."

Kerry's resolution passed, by a vote of 62 to 38. Sadly for him, the passage of ten thousand resolutions cannot make up for wants in a man's character.

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Additional research: Jennifer Suh


TOPICS: Crime/Corruption; Foreign Affairs; Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2004; 2008; 229; coverup; johnkerry; kerry; mccain; pow; powmia; vietnam
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1 posted on 02/24/2004 10:37:30 AM PST by dead
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To: dead
Wow! Schanberg is a liberal. He is the NY Times reporter in the movie "The Killing Fields" who blames Nixon because the communists in Cambodia behaved like communists always do.
2 posted on 02/24/2004 10:39:50 AM PST by Rodney King (No, we can't all just get along)
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To: dead
Wow! This is from the VILLAGE VOICE???
3 posted on 02/24/2004 10:40:38 AM PST by EggsAckley
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To: dead; backhoe
Excellent article! Hey...backhoe..check this out...
4 posted on 02/24/2004 10:41:05 AM PST by Magnolia
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To: Rodney King
I know. Check out the picture accompanying the article:

OUCH!

5 posted on 02/24/2004 10:41:09 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: dead
bookmarked for later
7 posted on 02/24/2004 10:45:19 AM PST by T. Buzzard Trueblood
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To: dead; Conspiracy Guy; xsmommy; Gabz; Dan from Michigan
The left wing Village Voice does a hit piece on Kerry!!
8 posted on 02/24/2004 10:45:39 AM PST by international american (Dimpled chads for sale...buy one, get one free!)
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To: Magnolia
Thanks- I missed this & will link to it.
9 posted on 02/24/2004 10:46:16 AM PST by backhoe (--30--)
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To: dead
More proof that the Village Voice remains the best and perhaps the only true investigative journalism left in America.

They rip Conservative aholes and Liberal aholes.

10 posted on 02/24/2004 10:47:26 AM PST by sakic
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To: dead
Check out the picture accompanying the article:

Now that would make a great campaign poster for the Bush team. Make John f'ing Kerry explain that to America.

11 posted on 02/24/2004 10:47:34 AM PST by Arrowhead1952 (WARNING! DumbocRATs never met a tax increase they didn't like.)
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To: dead
I hated Kerry for his anti-war activities back then, I hate him now, and because of this information, I will continue to hate him far into the future...until I die.

12 posted on 02/24/2004 10:49:08 AM PST by BushisTheMan
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To: dead
Kerry really is creepy. And scary.
13 posted on 02/24/2004 10:50:45 AM PST by isthisnickcool (Guns!)
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To: international american
Thanks for the ping - still reading.
14 posted on 02/24/2004 10:51:58 AM PST by Gabz (The tobacco industry doesn't fund smokers - they don't care about their customers)
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To: All
The Kerry investigative technique was equally soft in many other critical ways. He rejected all suggestions that the committee require former presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush to testify. All were in the Oval Office during the Vietnam era and its aftermath. They had information critical to the committee, for each president was carefully and regularly briefed by his national security adviser and others about P.O.W. developments. It was a huge issue at that time.

Like true Stalinists, have we removed Jimmy Carter from our history?

Overall, not a bad idea, but his omission here is odd.

15 posted on 02/24/2004 10:52:17 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: international american
Yep I read it, but was resting my Kerry poems and songs for awhile.

CG
16 posted on 02/24/2004 10:52:36 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Conspiracy Guy's comments may not reflect his own opinions.)
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To: dead
They're turning up the heat on Mr. Ed -- they want him to go away now, before it's too late.
17 posted on 02/24/2004 10:55:00 AM PST by EnquiringMind
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To: hobson
read later
18 posted on 02/24/2004 10:56:36 AM PST by hobson
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To: backhoe
Thanks backhoe. You do such an outstanding job so we count on your links for archive. Thanks again!!
19 posted on 02/24/2004 10:57:53 AM PST by Magnolia
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Comment #20 Removed by Moderator

To: Rodney King
ping
21 posted on 02/24/2004 11:00:42 AM PST by MarkeyD (<a href="http://www.johnkerry.com/about/">Deserter -> 3 Band-Aids and I'm Out Kerry</a>)
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To: Magnolia
Thank you-- without readers like yourself, it would be useless.
22 posted on 02/24/2004 11:03:08 AM PST by backhoe (--30--)
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To: ThatsAllFolks2
Well, I DO remember back in the sixties and seventies when the VV was about as lefty as you could get.
23 posted on 02/24/2004 11:07:13 AM PST by EggsAckley
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To: dead
BTTT for the pic alone.


24 posted on 02/24/2004 11:14:30 AM PST by machman
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To: machman

25 posted on 02/24/2004 11:34:35 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: JohnHuang2
Hey John - Would you mind doing that King of Ping Thing?
26 posted on 02/24/2004 11:35:41 AM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: dead
Well, looks like the spigot has been turned on, finally.

Of course we know Combat Kerry's cousin got a huge contract with VN as part of the deal. I'm wondering if Admiral Zumwalt's firm was also part of the deal.

Perhaps there's more that will come out on this issue.

Great article.

27 posted on 02/24/2004 11:37:15 AM PST by There's millions of'em (John F. Kerry: a decorated VN war criminal.....)
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To: There's millions of'em
BTT
I am printing this article, handing it out to some former Vietnam Vets I know. They already hate Kerry, but, a little additional reason sure cant hurt.
28 posted on 02/24/2004 11:42:37 AM PST by Iron Matron (Civil Disobediance? It's not just for liberals anymore! FIGHT FOR FREEDOM!)
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Comment #29 Removed by Moderator

To: dead
BUMP
30 posted on 02/24/2004 11:59:23 AM PST by Dante3
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To: Conspiracy Guy
Have you ever read the book Mission M.I.A.? It was written by J.C. Pollock back in 1982 and dealt with the subject of Americans left behind in Southeast Asia. When the wife of an MIA receives solid evidence that her husband is still alive and the military refuses to do anything about it, she and her father turn to her husband's Special Forces buddies to stage a rescue mission. I believe Gene Hackman stared in a movie that was based on this book, but I can't find it on Amazon.
31 posted on 02/24/2004 12:07:12 PM PST by Stonewall Jackson (Eagle Scout class of 1992.)
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To: dead
bump.
32 posted on 02/24/2004 12:26:23 PM PST by ambrose ("John Kerry has blood of American soldiers on his hands" - Lt. Col. Oliver North)
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To: Travis McGee
At what point will the stench of the quisling Kerry creature result in his meltdown? The swine makes Benedict Arnold look pure.
33 posted on 02/24/2004 12:59:09 PM PST by Bedford Forrest (Roger, Contact, Judy, Out. Fox One. Splash one.<I>)
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To: backhoe
Can you post a link to your links?
34 posted on 02/24/2004 1:23:20 PM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: dead
Sure- I thought I had!

-John Kerry- some selected, informative links...--

35 posted on 02/24/2004 1:33:43 PM PST by backhoe (Just an old Keyboard Cowboy, ridin' the TrackBall into the Sunset...)
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To: backhoe
Thanks! Great, great work.
36 posted on 02/24/2004 1:56:04 PM PST by dead (I've got my eye out for Mullah Omar.)
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To: dead
BTTT!
37 posted on 02/24/2004 3:06:50 PM PST by aculeus
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To: Stonewall Jackson
I believe I read the book but it was many books ago. I don't recall seeing it on film.

CG
38 posted on 02/25/2004 4:29:48 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Conspiracy Guy's comments may not reflect his own opinions.)
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To: dead
Is the Hillary/Bill touch behind this? Is someone getting a little nervous about Kerry's growing popularity among democrats? I still think Hillary Clinton will not settle for VP; it's President or nothing for her (and 2008).
39 posted on 02/25/2004 6:09:14 AM PST by Maria S ("I will do whatever the Americans want…I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid." Gaddafi, 9/03)
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To: Conspiracy Guy
I found the movie on E-bay. It's title is Uncommon Valor and it was released in 1983.
40 posted on 02/25/2004 6:16:37 AM PST by Stonewall Jackson (Eagle Scout class of 1992.)
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To: Stonewall Jackson
OK I do remember watching it. Maybe I'll rent it again.

CG
41 posted on 02/25/2004 6:21:28 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Conspiracy Guy's comments may not reflect his own opinions.)
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To: dead
Thank goodness the word is getting out. A traitor like Kerry should never get within one step of the White House. Let the Dems run Edwards for the good of the country, I just hope it's not too late to get rid of this Kerry scum.
42 posted on 02/25/2004 6:31:26 AM PST by #3Fan (Kerry to POW-MIA activists: "You'll wish you'd never been born.". Link on my homepage.)
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To: Howlin
Over here - how about a ping?
43 posted on 03/17/2004 2:54:53 PM PST by mountaineer
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To: mountaineer; 1Mike; 3catsanadog; ~Vor~; ~Kim4VRWC's~; A CA Guy; A Citizen Reporter; abner; ...
All right! (Good searcing -- TomServo would be mad....LOL)

People, this is a VERY IMPORTANT article that dead and mountaineer have found.

Please read every single word of it and send it to EVERYBODY you know.

You will be REALLY surprised at what a piece of scum John Kerry REALLY is.

If you have ping lists, please use them on this article.

44 posted on 03/17/2004 2:57:29 PM PST by Howlin (Bush has claimed two things which Democrats believe they own by right: the presidency & the future)
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To: BushisTheMan
This is just horrible. Horrible.
45 posted on 03/17/2004 2:59:06 PM PST by Howlin (Bush has claimed two things which Democrats believe they own by right: the presidency & the future)
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To: Bedford Forrest
At what point will the stench of the quisling Kerry creature result in his meltdown?

After the nominating convention, and before November. Why hope for the liberal media to carry this now, just so it can be dismissed as "old news" in September?

I have a feeling that Rove's sitting on some really good stuff for just after Labor Day. No sense in spilling it now, save it for the time it can have maximum effect. I want John Effin' Kerry to be the anchor that sinks the Rats.

46 posted on 03/17/2004 3:00:20 PM PST by hunter112
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To: mountaineer; Howlin; Travis McGee; MeekOneGOP; ALOHA RONNIE

BTTT
47 posted on 03/17/2004 3:00:20 PM PST by onyx (Kerry' s a Veteran, but so were Lee Harvey Oswald, Timothy McVeigh and Benedict Arnold.)
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To: Howlin
Kerry: Shredding documents, abandoning veterans
48 posted on 03/17/2004 3:04:45 PM PST by Mo1 (Do you want a president who injects poison into his skull for vanity?)
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To: Howlin
Those of us who remember the POW's coming home also remember that for some years there were questions. I somehow assumed (because this was when I was not so involved in current events and was raising my children) that this issue had been resolved and those still missing had died and were simply unaccounted for due to poor records.

Now I really, really hate Kerry. What a terrible man.

49 posted on 03/17/2004 3:05:02 PM PST by Miss Marple
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To: dead
Hmmm...evidence is mounting.

 

50 posted on 03/17/2004 3:08:49 PM PST by Lady Jag (It's in the bag)
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