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Lady Liberty

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Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Non-Swiftboat Veterans for Non-truth
posted by Tom

The Bush haters have a vague idea why it is that 250 or so fellow swiftboat veterans are challenging John Heinz-Kerry's fitness to serve as Commander in Chief, but being Bush haters, they can't quite bring themselves to examine the anti-Kerry swiftboat veterans' charges in the larger context of Kerry's entire Viet Nam record, including his anti-war, anti-American diatribes before Congress and on national television after his return from Southeast Asia. They instead rely on fellow Bush haters in media and on the web to come up with reasons why a few of the 250 or so anti-Kerry swiftboat veterans, some 60 of whom have sworn out affidavits accusing Kerry of either lying about, exaggerating, or embellishing his four month tour of duty, may be wrong in certain details. The strategy is obvious and we've seen it before with Clinton: Find one contradiction in one of your critics' accounts of this or that and declare all your critics untrustworthy. It's the false-in-one-false-in-all doctrine used by the courts taken to a ridiculous extreme. Whereas a jury is instructed that they may discount the entire testimony of one witness if he is found to have lied in any part of it, in the court of public opinion, Democrats extend this to mean that if one critic who challenges their honesty or character is suspect, every critic is a liar.

The anti-Kerry swiftboat veterans' numerous and varied allegations are listed at their website and in a recent bestseller, Unfit For Command. The coverage they've received from a few media outlets - Fox News, conservative talk radio - has caused the left-wingers who control the Democratic Party to froth at the mouth, not because they respect Lt. JG John Kerry's voluntary service in Viet Nam, for which he redeemed himself by publicly selling out his comrades when he came home, but because SBVFT could possibly remove what was considered Kerry's one advantage over George Bush among red state, middle America rubes the Democratic party appreciates only for their votes and so-called independents - his combat service. The very thought of a leftist, anti-American, anti-war organization like moveon.org, for instance, defending a Viet Nam veteran who is "proud" to have fought in what liberal Democrats still regard as the epitome of American imperialism compels one to look around for Rod Serling to provide commentary. There was also the DNC's goofy attempt to silence SBVFT by threatening to sue networks and stations that broadcast their "slander". Curious thing, though: If Kerry and the DNC truly believe that SBVFT is engaging in slander, why threaten to sue the networks? Why not sue the slanderers themselves?

The swifties' allegations against Kerry are arguable he-said/he-said stuff for the most part, but as a result of Kerry's attempts to shut them up through legal threats, disingenuous claims that they are a "front" for the Bush campaign and thus violating campaign finance laws (but Michael Moore, canonized at the Democratic National Convention, is totally independent), and other scare tactics, he's raised suspicions in folks with common sense (thus eliminating the majority of Democrats) that he is loath to argue directly with his ex-colleagues because there is more than a little truth in what they say, or less than truth in what Kerry says, or whatever. He chooses to smear men who are decorated combat veterans like himself using the the false-in-one-false-in-all strategy that Clinton employed so effectively. And Kerry's an expert at smearing veterans. Okay, he's been out of practice for about 35 years, but given the vehemence with which his campaign has gone after these guys, it's obviously like swimming and riding a bicycle - he hasn't forgotten how to do it.

Perhaps the most ridiculous of the early attacks on the anti-Kerry swifties was the claim that their criticism of his Viet Nam service lacked credibility because none of them served with him on board the boats he commanded. Funny how being a shipmate of Kerry's on the Mekong Delta for four months back in the 1960s was not a prerequisite for singing his praises as a war hero when Max Cleland, a wounded veteran who not only didn't serve with Kerry on swiftboats, but wasn't even in the Navy, was trotted out on stage during the Democratic National Convention back in July. Cleland never knew Kerry in Viet Nam, yet was proclaimed leader of the band of brothers assembled on the stage prior to Kerry's acceptance speech and deemed qualified to lecture everyone on Kerry's honorable service. Now we're told that the accounts of Kerry's former commanders and other officers who served directly with Kerry during his four-month stint are suspect. Just when you thought liberal Democrats couldn't get any more outrageous with their double standards, they raise the bar a little higher.

An alleged Kerry whopper SBVFT have been pounding away at recently is his claim that during his four-month tour of combat duty in Viet Nam he illegally entered Cambodia. They challenge Kerry's very detailed description of:

"... spending Christmas Eve of 1968 five miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our South Vietnamese allies who were drunk and celebrating Christmas. The absurdity of almost being killed by our own allies in a country in which President Nixon [sic] claimed there were no American troops was very real." (The Boston Herald, 10/14/1979. We all know at this point that Nixon was not sworn in as president until January of 1969.)
And this one:

"Mr. President, I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. I remember what it was like to be shot at by the Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge and Cambodians, and have the president of the United States telling the American people that I was not there; the troops were not in Cambodia. I have that memory which is seared - seared - in me, that says to me, before we send another generation into harm's way we have a responsibility in the U.S. Senate to go the last step, to make the best effort possible in order to avoid that kind of conflict." [Senate speech opposing President Reagan's policy in Central America, 3/27/1986].
There's also an Associated Press story from 1992:

"But for Kerry, who spent six violent months [sic] commanding a patrol boat on the Mekong River, there's always been a ring of truth to allegations of abandoned Americans. By Christmas 1968, part of Kerry's patrol extended across the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia. 'We were told, "Just go up there and do your patrol." Everybody was over there (in Cambodia). Nobody thought twice about it,' Kerry said. One of the missions, which Kerry, at the time, was ordered not to discuss, involved taking CIA operatives into Cambodia to search for enemy enclaves. "I can remember wondering, 'If you're going to go, what happens to you,' Kerry said."
The one fact everyone finds interesting in Kerry's version of Apocalypse Now is that such a vivid - seared - memory never made it into the contemporaneous journal that Kerry kept during his tour of duty and upon which his biographer, Douglas Brinkley, relied for his book of that name. Note, too that the Associated Press story from 1992 doesn't independently corroborate Kerry's account, but instead relies on Kerry's own words.

Because the story is now refuted by all available evidence, Kerry supporters are doing backflips as they try to explain how he made a mistake - numerous times in various venues. He confused being in Cambodia when he was only near it. Cut through all of the various embellishments of the story over the years - secret CIA missions, Kerry holding off the VC and Khmer Rouge as he heads up river under orders to terminate with extreme prejudice a renegade Special Forces colonel's command, etc - and examine the basic claim: Lt. JG John Forbes Kerry was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968 being shot at.

One dummy for Kerry on the web posted the following explanation for the total absence of any proof that Kerry ever set foot in Cambodia. I don't like embarrassing people, so I won't post his name or his blog address. But this piece is representative of the nonsense the anybody-but-Bush crowd will stoop to, be they internet bloggers, DNC spokespersons, etc. - in order to fulfill their dream of returning to America's glory days of peaceful co-existence with everyone who wants us dead. Pay attention to how the false-in-one-false-in-all doctrine applied to SBVFT as a means of discrediting them doesn't seem to apply to Captain Willard - I mean Lt. Kerry.

First, the writer admits that

... both Douglas Brinkley's biography of Kerry and Kerry's own war journal mention only that he was near the Cambodian border on Christmas Eve, not across it. (Although the journal entry ends with a sarcastic message to his superiors: 'Merry Christmas from the most inland Market Time unit' - at a minimum a reference to being right on top of the Cambodian border. Then: 'You hope that they'll court marshal you or something because that would make sense' - possibly a reference to crossing the border.)"
Right there you'd think a thinking person would find himself forced to admit, "Hey, there's no proof Kerry was in Cambodia," but such is not the case:

"Brinkley said, 'On Christmas Eve he was near Cambodia; he was around 50 miles from the Cambodian border. There's no indictment of Kerry to be made, but he was mistaken about Christmas in Cambodia.'"
This should pretty much settle it, as well, since not even Kerry's biographer, who had unlimited access to his subject's own diaries, can corroborate the story. Forget for the moment the cockamamie idea that 50 miles from anywhere is near that place. For all intents and purposes, near doesn't mean in. Kerry wasn't in Cambodia, yes? Alas, no:

"The assertion that Kerry's whereabouts in the middle of a night some 36 years ago can now be ascertained with a degree of certainty is ridiculous when he was known to be 50 miles from Cambodia during the day, and in command of a boat capable of traveling more than 25 knots. Thus it is entirely possible Mr. Brinkley is mistaken, not Kerry."
Read that again just in case you have to convince yourself someone actually wrote it in defense of Kerry's disputed claim that he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968. Unfortunately for the writer, it isn't a question of a "mistake" on Brinkely's part. Brinkley never participated in the Christmas in Cambodia fairy tale, not even when writing the account of Kerry's tour of duty. One has to determine whether John Kerry, who has asserted with a high degree of certainty that he was physically in Cambodia and being shot at while there - the memory is seared into his mind - is mistaken or a liar. What Kerry has said is either true or not true. All accounts of the period in question, a specific day, December 24th, of a specific year, 1968, place Kerry 50 miles from where this seared memory tells him he was.

Note how the writer tries to further obfuscate the issue by discussing the range of a swiftboat, implying that Kerry could have crossed over into Cambodia on the day in question and then scurried back into Viet Nam. Of course, he could have done anything, but this isn't a case of a guy named John Kerry who went missing in Southeast Asia 35 years ago and investigators are trying to piece together his whereabouts at the time in order to figure out what happened to him. John Kerry is alive and well and has repeatedly said this is where he was at a certain time. The question remains, was he there? But the swiftboat part of the story proves equally problematic, as we will shortly see.

"Official records don't support Kerry's claim, which the Swiftvets have said supports their claim that Kerry is lying about ever having gone into Cambodia. But Mr Brinkley rejected accusations that the senator had never been to Cambodia, insisting he was telling the truth about running undisclosed 'black' missions there at the height of the war and Kerry's citations show he was dropping off and picking up SEALs and SF, a normal Swiftboat task."
The first part is (surprise, surprise) misleading. Swiftboat Veterans for Truth have a little more support than the absence of any official records:

"During Christmas 1968, Kerry was stationed at Coastal Division 13 in Cat Lo. Coastal Division 13's patrol areas extended to Sa Dec, about fifty-five miles from the Cambodian border. Areas closer than fifty-five miles to the Cambodian border in the area of the Mekong River were patrolled by PBRs, a small river patrol craft, and not by Swift Boats. Preventing border crossings was considered so important at the time that an LCU (a large, mechanized landing craft) and several PBRs were stationed to ensure that no one could cross the border.

"A large sign at the border prohibited entry. Tom Anderson, Commander of River Division 531, who was in charge of the PBRs, confirmed that there were no Swifts anywhere in the area and that they would have been stopped had they appeared.

"All the living commanders in Kerry's chain of command -Joe Streuhli (Commander of CosDiv 13), George Elliott (Commander of CosDiv 11), Adrian Lonsdale (Captain, USCG and Commander, Coastal Surveillance Center at An Thoi), Rear Admiral Roy Hoffmann (Commander, Coastal Surveillance Force Vietnam, CTF 115), and Rear Admiral Art Price (Commander of River Patrol Force, CTF 116) - deny that Kerry was ever ordered to Cambodia. They indicate that Kerry would have been seriously disciplined or court-martialed had he gone there. At least three of the five crewmen on Kerry’s PCF 44 boat - Bill Zaldonis, Steven Hatch, and Steve Gardner - deny that they or their boat were ever in Cambodia. The remaining two crewmen declined to be interviewed for this book. Gardner, in particular, will never forget those days in late December when he was wounded on PCF 44, not in Cambodia, but many miles away in Vietnam."
What all this means is that since it's safe to assume Kerry's was not the only swiftboat in Viet Nam, nor was he alone on board his particular vessel, there must be other SB commanders and members of Kerry's own crew who remember covert sojourns into Cambodia, no matter how brief. Particularly the latter would have vivid memories of not only entering Cambodia, but being shot at by friendly as well as enemy troops. Alas, the "band of brothers" who so vividly remember Kerry's whereabouts and his heroic actions at other times during his four-month stint can't seem to recall illegal incursions into Cambodia under fire. The second part of that paragraph is interesting in so far as the biographer who could have been mistaken about Kerry's whereabouts 36 years ago (see above) is now cited once again as a reliable source for uncorroborated information.

Our Clintonian historian now launches into the classic conspiracy theory to explain why Kerry can't prove his claim that he was in a certain place at a certain time under certain conditions and why no one will independently confirm his story:

"Given the mudded history of Vietnam, an official government stance should hardly translate into certain fact - especially now that it's known that the U.S. government conducted numerous secret operations throughout Cambodia during the Vietnam War as early as 1967 (as PBS's 'Frontline,' among myriad others, has reported), but denied it at the time (the point Kerry was trying to make)." [Emphasis added.]
The writer knows full well it's irrelevant what has been documented by "Frontline, among myriad others" [was Kerry featured in such reports?] in terms of who else may have been Cambodia. The question remains was John Kerry in Cambodia when he said he was? Lacking any proof, the writer has to fall back on the classic liberal defense: Even if Kerry lied, he did so in the interest of a higher truth, that the US government lied during the Viet Nam conflict and will always lie when furthering America's imperialist aims. [Well, the Republican President, Richard Nixon, lied, even though he wasn't President in 1968. But Lyndon Johnson, as we all know, was the epitome of veracity, so Kerry had to blame somebody.] And Kerry would not technically be a liar even if incontrovertible evidence disproving his claim he was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve of 1968 or at any time during his four-month tour of duty emerged (which isn't required, but more about that later), because the fictional narrative he was weaving was intended to serve a higher purpose: in this case, blowhard partisan politics.

The writer draws the first of many specious conclusions based on his above smoke blowing:

"So we know Kerry certainly operated in the area of the Cambodian border in late 1968, Americans were definitely making border incursions at the time, and the CIA certainly had a lot of people in Vietnam in 1968. That doesn't mean Kerry's story is true, but it's certainly plausible."
You certainly don't need me to tell you how silly the above is, but in the interest of completeness, I will merely point out that a.) we only know through all available evidence that Kerry was 50 miles away from Cambodia, not that he was anywhere near the border at any time; and b.) what other Americans and the CIA were doing around the time in question does absolutely nothing to support Kerry's claims one way or the other. This is not an issue of plausibility, but of fact, plain and simple. The writer then goes on:

"One swift vet for Bush [i.e., Swiftboat Veteran for Truth - my note] and former Kerry crewmember [emphasis added] claims it was impossible to take a swiftboat into Cambodia, but no support for that claim has appeared. Given that he is part of the group known to make blatantly false charges he simply isn't credible."
What is so hilarious about this statement is that a former Kerry crew member is unreliable when Swiftboat Veterans for Truth are deemed unreliable by Kerry kool-aid drinkers because they weren't Kerry crew members. We now have a situation where Kerry cannot be contradicted even by those who were physically with him in the place and time Kerry claims to have experienced certain things. You have to love, too, the patently false charge that SBVFT as a whole make "blatantly false charges" (false-in-one-false-in-all again) since Kerry has been unable to refute any of their claims and is instead seeking every possible means to silence them.

"A Kerry supporter and former Kerry crewmember, Jim Wasser, says, 'On Christmas in 1968, we were close [to Cambodia]. I don't know exactly where we were. I didn't have the chart. It was easy to get turned around with all the rivers around there. But I'll say this: We were the farthest inland that night. I know that for sure.' Wasser's recollection introduces the idea that Kerry and some members of his crew might simply have been confused about where they were."
Note, first, the obvious contradiction (okay, sniveling hypocrisy) that this former Kerry crew member is more reliable a source than the previous one for no other reason than he is a current Kerry supporter. His claim that they were "close" to Cambodia is meaningless since he says in the very next breath that he "didn't have the chart" and it was easy to get confused. The dope citing this as somehow redeeming Kerry doesn't seem to realize that someone who admits total confusion precluding him from saying he was actually in Cambodia can't be trusted to determine proximity to Cambodia. We're to doubt the word of a former crew member because he belongs to a group opposed to Kerry, but accept the words of a crew member who admits he didn't know where the hell he was. "Close" already defined as anything up to 50 miles away doesn't help much, either. It's also safe to say that someone had "the chart", so someone should be able to clear up any "confusion." Actually, a few someones have: Kerry's own shipmates who say they and he never went into in Cambodia. And what's the point of this, anyway? This whole smokescreen of "confusion" on Kerry's part sinks with the rest of the writer's clumsy defense since Kerry never once said incursion into Cambodia was inadvertent, but under orders (you know, like the atrocities he claimed he and the majority of Viet Nam veterans committed).

"On other occasions, Kerry has said he was not actually in Cambodia but rather 'near the country.' In an interview with the Providence Journal-Bulletin that appeared in April, 1994, Kerry said, 'Christmas Eve I was up getting shot at somewhere near Cambodia.' He might have dropped off teams 'near' the border knowing they were headed across it and that is what he meant by 'being' in Cambodia - that he was involved in operations that breached the border while the government officially lied about it."
This clears up everything, doesn't it? Kerry lied numerous times about being in Cambodia, under fire, on Christmas Eve, 1968, but told others he was near Cambodia; therefore, Kerry never lied about being in Cambodia. And all of the maybes, supposes, perhapses, etc. we are asked to come up with here reflects an intention to use Kerry's vague statement in the interview as a means of canceling out the very definite, specific, and detailed claims Kerry made at other times, most notably before the US Senate.

"Sure," the loopy Kerry supporter is saying, "in 1986 he said he was 'in' Cambodia, but he amended that in 1992 by saying 'near' Cambodia."

What accounts for his saying "in" in 86, then? Read the above explanation and all of its assumptions closely: Kerry adopted the experience of others who actually entered Cambodia as his own. I don't know if the writer realizes it, but he makes Kerry out to be either a liar or a nut. The illegal incursion of others into Cambodia was seared into Kerry's memory as his own experience to the point where he believed it and speechified about it on the floor of the US Senate.

The writer then attempts a summation with a series of equally vague and inaccurate assumptions:

"1. John Kerry was in Vietnam serving in the vicinity of the Cambodian border - true."
Well, no. John Kerry was by all accounts - contemporaneous and through the recollections of others - 50 miles from the Cambodian border, especially at the date and time seared into his memory, December 24th, 1968. For the purpose of this discussion, we're asked to accept that 50 miles from equals "in the vincinty of." It's getting to the point where if you've ever read or heard about Cambodia, you can claim to have been "in" the country.

"2. John Kerry has said repeatedly that he crossed into Cambodia - probably true."
Probably true based on what, Number1? Interesting here is that the issue is to prove that John Kerry was in Cambodia when he said he was. This Number 2 should actually be the conclusion drawn after all of the evidence supporting such a claim is provided, but we see there are three more premises:

"3. Some U.S. forces were crossing into Cambodia during the period in question - true; 4. During the period in question it was being officially denied that U.S. forces crossed into Cambodia - true; 5. The disjoint between (3) and (4) was the point of the story John Kerry was telling - true."
Number 5 is a real howler. We have gone through this exercise in examining Kerry's disputed claim that he was in Cambodia under fire on Christmas Eve, 1968, not to establish the truth of his claim, but to show that he was really telling us that some US government personnel were in Cambodia when it was illegal to do so and the government denied their presence. Why did such a subject that was common knowledge in 1986 require Kerry to inject himself - falsely - into the narrative? Could Kerry's point not have been made in the context of the Senate floor debate over Reagan's foreign policy without claiming he was in Cambodia?

This brings us to the Kerry supporter's ultimate conclusion:

"It is possible Kerry exaggerated to make a point - not an outright lie since he was in Cambodia, or very near it [emphasis mine], and perhaps not on [Christ]mas eve."
Kerry claims to have been in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968. There is no evidence to support that he was ever in Cambodia at all, let alone the day in question; indeed, all available evidence refutes Kerry's presence there, including swiftboat crew members who were physically with Kerry on his boat at the time, the Kerry supporters' own criterion for credibility and accuracy regarding Kerry's time in Viet Nam. Here, the writer makes "in" synonymous with "near", and "near", don't forget, can extend to 50 miles away. And finally, he may not have been there on Christmas Eve.

But it's not an outright lie.

We can only wonder how the person who contrived this nonsense would react to someone who claimed he had been "in" the writer's home on July 1st of this year and witnessed the writer commit statutory rape with a teenaged girl. The accuser has no proof he was ever "in" the writer's home, but he can be placed "near" it - say, six blocks away - on several occasions. Perhaps, though, not on July 1st. Once all of these discrepancies are exposed, the accuser says, "Well, statutory rape is a serious problem and I was exaggerating this situation to make a point. It's not an outright lie because there are statutory rapists, and I have been near the accused's home, just not on the date in question."

An exaggerated analogy, because the Kerry lie is not a criminal matter, but our Kerry supporter can't seem to tell the difference between a political dispute and a criminal case, as reflected in his final pompous admonishment to those who would challenge Kerry's version of events, and let's not forget that the courtroom false-in-one-false-in-all doctrine is being applied with a vengeance to Kerry's critics:

"It is also possible that he told the truth. And it is possible he knowingly lied. That charge should be proven before [Kerry's detractors] claim it is proven. And given the false charges flying about Kerry's honorable service, he is guilty until proven innocent - a tough and unfair position to be in for a candidate." [Empahsis added.]
First, this Kerry voter can't seem to distinguish between probability and possibility, using both interchangeably throughout this tortured explanation. While anything is possible, it is probability that governs our judgment and our actions. Of course, what do you expect from someone who thinks 50 miles from somewhere constitutes being "near" that place and that being "near" a place means you were "in" that place?

Second, he engages in a classic fallacy of demanding those who dispute Kerry's claims to prove a negative - that he was not in Cambodia - when it is Kerry who claims he was somewhere in contradiction to all available evidence and the burden of proof rests on him.

Third, and what really exposes the weakness of the writer's position, is the invocation of constitutional protections of the criminally accused in the context of Kerry's apparent dishonesty and its impact on his political viability. Kerry is in no danger of losing life or liberty if he's lying, only the presidency, and that punishment is only a possibility, not a probability. Here the writer is at best disingenuous, at worst, stupid. Your call. But if he wants to apply the standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt used in criminal cases to this situation, then in the words of his candidate: Bring. It. On.

We've established that:

No swiftboats ever crossed the border, inadvertently or under orders; the only vessels documented as patrolling in the vicinity of Cambodia and could have crossed the border were PBRs, a type Kerry never was assigned to.

Military records and personal recollections - including his own shipmates assumed by his supporters to be the only credible witnesses to Kerry's Viet Nam service - place Kerry 50 miles from Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968.

Kerry's personal, contemporaneous journal does not mention this illegal incursion under fire even though Kerry has said the memory was "seared" in his mind, and his own biographer doesn't recount the episode in the book describing Kerry's Viet Nam service.

Add to the above Kerry's own mistakes in his accounts of the incident - Nixon wasn't president on Christmas Eve, 1968, the Khmer Rouge did not emerge as a fighting force in Cambodia until long after Kerry's departure from Southeast Asia - and the fact his biographer, trustworthy or untrustworthy depending on this Kerry supporter's mood from one paragraph to the next, has corrected the record.

In other words, Kerry's claim that he was under fire in Cambodia on Christmas Eve, 1968, is refuted by all of the available evidence, and no court in the land would accept as proof of his presence in Cambodia that others were in Cambodia at or around the same time. Anyone would find beyond a reasonable doubt that Kerry lied. Unless his supporters wish to claim, as this one does, that he truly believed he was in Cambodia because others were in Cambodia at or around the same time. In which case, we can find Kerry not guilty - by reason of insanity.

posted by Tom | 8/24/2004 11:14:00 AM
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Blogger Karridine said...

"How dare you question my patriotism?"

We dare, because YOU, Kerry, support enemies who seek to kill and enslave us!

You haven't the courage to be an American, so you wrap yourself in a false patriotism that you refuse others, most especially those of us who were there WHERE you were, WHEN you were, even if not WHY you were there.

You fear them, you hide from media who might ask you pointed, unslanted, straight-forward questions. You fear answering truthfully, as that would immediately destroy ANY chance at "The Presidency."

We dare question your patriotism BECAUSE you provided aid, comfort, help, support and propaganda for the Vietnamese Communists, who are avowed and publicly-declared enemies of America. We dare question your patriotism BECAUSE you falsify your love of America, demean America's motives, belittle Americas troops, debase America's ideals and yet claim the protection of America's constitutional rights, EVEN AFTER doing all YOU COULD DO to DESTROY them!

You're trying to get yourself killed by Communists, and me and my loved ones as well! THAT'S why we dare question your patriotism!

6:33 AM, September 01, 2004  

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