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Thursday, August 19, 2004  

Politics: Second Kerry attacker discredited

Another of the Vietnam veterans who has attempted to smear presidential candidate John Kerry has been revealed to be circulating false information. With Election Day approaching, a group of conservative veterans, some who have been attacking Kerry since he was an opponent of the war during the Nixon administration, has revved up its offensive. Television ads describing Kerry as a coward instead of a hero are airing in some media markets. A book which says he does not deserve the medals for heroism he earned in Vietnam will soon be released.

However, the credibility of the attackers is coming under increased scrutiny. Military records and the accounts of the far Right swift boat veterans seldom match. The Washington Post reports.

WASHINGTON -- Newly obtained military records of one of John Kerry's most vocal critics, who has accused the Democratic presidential candidate of lying about his wartime record to win medals, contradict his own version of events.

In interviews and a best-selling book, Larry Thurlow, who commanded a Navy Swift boat alongside Kerry in Vietnam, has strongly disputed Kerry's claim that his boat came under fire March 13, 1969, in Viet Cong-controlled territory. Kerry won a Bronze Star that day.

But Thurlow's military records, portions of which were released yesterday under the Freedom of Information Act, contain several references to "enemy small arms and automatic weapons fire" directed at "all units" of the five-boat flotilla. Thurlow also won a Bronze Star, and the citation praises him for providing aid to a damaged Swift boat "despite enemy bullets flying about him."

As one of five Swift boat skippers who led the raid up the Bay Hap River, Thurlow was a direct participant in the disputed events. He also is a leading member of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The public-advocacy group of Vietnam veterans, dismayed by Kerry's subsequent anti-war activities, has aired a controversial advertisement attacking his war record.

On March 13, 1969, Kerry pulled an officer who had been thrown from a boat out of the water, possibly saving his life. Thurlow has denied that Kerry's boat was under fire when the rescue occurred. He has claimed Kerry's account is "totally fabricated" and that the presidential candidate does not deserve the Bronze Star he received as a result of the incident. Military records say that all of the boats were under fire, including Kerry's. Thurlow himself says the boats were taking fire in the records. In addition to the claim that Kerry's boat was not under attack, Thurlow and other members of the group claim that Kerry fled the scene that day. (Odd, considering that there would have been nothing for him to flee in the absence of combat.) There is no official corroboration of their claims. The group consists of conservative Vietnam veterans who believe the war was justified and winnable. Despite his record of heroism, Kerry came to oppose the war. Veterans who served with Kerry, including the crew of his swift boat, support his accounts of how he came to be a decorated veteran.

11:30 AM