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Unfit For Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry Hardcover – August 15, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Due to the timing of its publication, Unfit for Command could be dismissed as the sort of controversial, loaded book typical in a presidential election year: Either courageous and necessary, or untruthful and malicious, depending on one's political point of view. Filled with interviews of men who served in Vietnam at the same time as John Kerry, the book poses the following question: "Why do an overwhelming majority of those who commanded or served with John Kerry oppose him?" (Note that the issue of "service" has sparked investigation into its definition--in other words, just how close was the interaction between Kerry and those cited in the book during Kerry’s Vietnam tour of duty?)

The charges leveled against Kerry in this book are severe and include filing false operating reports; lobbying for and receiving three Purple Hearts for minor wounds, two of which were self-inflicted; receiving a Silver Star under false pretenses; offering false confessions of bogus war crimes in both print and testimony; and recklessness in the field, including the burning of a village without cause or direct order. The book also claims that Kerry left Vietnam after serving just four months instead of the usual one year tour and that he returned home and accused his fellow soldiers of atrocities without offering any evidence, endangering POWs in the process.

It is debatable whether the book will change any minds, or votes. Instead, readers will likely reach one of two conclusions: Either John Kerry grossly misrepresented his military service or the authors are spinning the interviews that they conducted for ulterior motives. There is a third option, however; readers will further investigate both sides of the debate, and by doing so, may reach conclusions independent of partisan extremes. --Brian Neff

From Publishers Weekly

"What sort of combination of hypocrite and paradox is John Kerry?" ask the authors in this heated critique of the Democratic presidential candidate’s Vietnam–era military service and antiwar activism. O’Neill, a lawyer and swift boat veteran, and Corsi, an expert on Vietnam antiwar movements, argue that Kerry misrepresented his wartime exploits and is therefore incompetent to serve as commander in chief. Buttressed by interviews with Navy veterans who patrolled Vietnam’s waters, some along with Kerry, the book claims he exaggerated minor injuries, self-inflicted others, wrote fictitious diary entries and filed "phony" reports of his heroism under fire—all in a calculated quest to secure career-enhancing combat medals. They also maintain that Kerry, whom they call a "moral coward," committed atrocities that alarmed his peers and superior officers during his four-month tour of duty. Yet his activities on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War clearly raises the authors’ hackles the most, and they present Kerry’s post-war actions as additional, damning evidence of his "total unfitness," claiming that his testimony against the war "caused more deaths and prolonged the war in Vietnam by undermining support at home and contributing directly to a Vietnamese Communist victory." The battle that lies at the heart of this book is the decades-old feud between antiwar veterans and their my-country-right-or-wrong counterparts. The authors’ conservative take on the war is palpable: the U.S. military failed to unleash "massive, indiscriminate bombing" to force North Vietnam’s capitulation; the conflict was a struggle against communism, not a civil war; and the dissenting soldiers undermined homefront morale. Consequently, this overwrought and repetitive polemic seethes with a resentment that compromises the otherwise eyebrow-raising testimonies. Further, without access to Kerry’s full military and medical records, the authors rely heavily on 35-year-old recollections and recent Kerry biographies by Douglas Brinkley and a Boston Globe reporting team. Those looking for a thorough, unbiased investigation into Kerry’s wartime record would do best to wait for more objective, methodical chroniclers who have access to the relevant documents.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Regnery Publishing; First Edition edition (August 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895260174
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895260178
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3,023 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #220,789 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

689 of 816 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Carpenter on August 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Since I wasn't there, let's take the word of a Republican and retired police officer who actually was. I print below the op-ed article from the Wall Street Journal's opinion page:

Shame on the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush

John Kerry saved my life. Now his heroism is being questioned.

BY JIM RASSMANN

Tuesday, August 10, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

I came to know Lt. John Kerry during the spring of 1969. He and his swift boat crew assisted in inserting our Special Forces team and our Chinese Nung soldiers into operational sites in the Cau Mau Peninsula of South Vietnam. I worked with him on many operations and saw firsthand his leadership, courage and decision-making ability under fire.

On March 13, 1969, John Kerry's courage and leadership saved my life.

While returning from a SEA LORDS operation along the Bay Hap River, a mine detonated under another swift boat. Machine-gun fire erupted from both banks of the river, and a second explosion followed moments later. The second blast blew me off John's swift boat, PCF-94, throwing me into the river. Fearing that the other boats would run me over, I swam to the bottom of the river and stayed there as long as I could hold my breath.

When I surfaced, all the swift boats had left, and I was alone taking fire from both banks. To avoid the incoming fire, I repeatedly swam under water as long as I could hold my breath, attempting to make it to the north bank of the river. I thought I would die right there. The odds were against me avoiding the incoming fire and, even if I made it out of the river, I thought I'd be captured and executed. Kerry must have seen me in the water and directed his driver, Del Sandusky, to turn the boat around.
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126 of 147 people found the following review helpful By Concerned Voter on August 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I purchased this book, and I have read it in its entirety.

I had no intention of purchasing, reading, or even giving more than a passing thought to it until John Kerry said that he wanted it banned. I felt it was my duty to support the authors' right to free speech by purchasing it, and of course I also wondered why Kerry was so upset about it.

I found the book to be a real page-turner. Easy to read, and written in an engaging, entertaining style. My only criticism was that it seemed to me to get a little preachy toward the end. I'm an adult, and I can draw my own conclusions. Didn't really need the authors to try to do that for me.

My take on the content of the book was that where there is smoke, there is fire. Probably the most damning stuff in the book is where Kerry's own words are used to demonstrate the inconsistencies of his Vietnam "war stories". His own words show him to be an opportunist who was anti-war when it fit the political climate of the time and he thought it would help him get elected back in the 1970s, and now that he feels it behooves him to play up his role as military war "hero", he's making that the foundation of his current presidential campaign.

There may indeed by a lot in this book that could be shown to be biased, slanted, or selectively edited to further the premise of the authors. In that sense, no different than something like for example, Michael Moore's books or films. However, a couple of things stood out for me that were not based on anyone's OPINION of John Kerry, but are quite simply facts:

John Kerry refuses to release his complete military and medical records, although he has repeatedly demanded that President Bush do so.

John Kerry did indeed "volunteer" to go over to Vietnam.
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156 of 183 people found the following review helpful By L. E. Brown on August 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The popular media had pre-conditioned me to dislike this book. I anticipated yet another political screed filled with half-truths, poor or no documentation, and a bilious tone. Although the authors clearly believe that his service record DISqualifies Kerry to be president, I nonetheless found the tone of this book to be remarkably restrained and even handed. The rhetoric is not inflammatory, it is more ... lawerly and in cases shades toward the scholarly.

In my opinion the most damaging allegations in the book DO NOT revolve around Kerry's various combat medals. I believe that Kerry's well-documented anti-war activities, and his evident cooperation with the Communist government of North Vietnam, and the fact that he failed to disclosed an assasination plot that targeted various U.S. Senators will prove far more damaging.

This latter is especially troubling because Kerry had a moral and legal responsibility to reveal a murder plot to the authorities. The fact that the plot did not unfold is irrelevant. This raises an important question: How can a man who cooperated with foreign enemies and complicitly hid a murder plot be believed when he takes an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States?

In closing let me say that I am not particularly happy with Geroge Bush and I did have anti-Kerry sentiments before I read this book. Having read the book and in sorting out the facts from the ensuing firestorm, I am convinced that Kerry is dangerous.
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460 of 549 people found the following review helpful By Lori Shannon on August 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Karl Rove is a genius. He has all of you reading a book about Vietnam instead of reading the reports of what is happening in Iraq today, or what about the lost jobs to other countries, the increasing poverty level, the increasing number of unemployed and uninsured and the growing disgust the world has for America. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Look behind the George W. Bush curtain and you will find the mighty wizard Karl Rove controlling your every thought.
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