Thursday, August 26, 2004

The Battle Is Joined

Yesterday, Atomizer said, "I know a good fight when I see one." And you know what? He's right. This is turning out to be a damn good one.

It began on Sunday when Star Tribune editorialista, Jim Boyd unleashed a savage, frontal assault on the noble gents at Power Line over a piece they had published that dared question John Kerry's stories about his Vietnam service. Boyd expected to use the Star Tribune juggernaut to roll over his opposition with little resistance. But this time Boyd seriously underestimated his opponent.

For not only did the Power Line crew repulse Boyd's assault with extreme prejudice, they launched a devastating counter-attack of their own. They then challenged Boyd to take the field against them in a showdown at the Minnesota State Fair. But Boyd had enough at that point, and went to ground. He refused to respond to their call for battle, and burrowed deeper into the earth, despite numerous efforts by the Power Line forces to engage him.

On Monday I sensed an opportunity to strike at the exposed flank and so submitted this letter to the editor of the Star Tribune:

Perhaps if Jim Boyd wasn't so busy selectively cherry-picking the arguments presented by Scott Johnson and John Hinderaker that he claimed to be fact checking and scurrilously attacking the characters of both men in his editorial that appeared in Sunday's paper, he might have found the time to address the key component of their argument that has yet to be rebutted. There is no evidence anywhere, other than John Kerry's own words, that he was ever in Cambodia at all, be it Christmas 1968 or January 1969. There is nothing to support the various claims that he and/or his official historian, Douglas Brinkley have made over the years that he was running guns to anti-communist rebels there, dropping off SEALs for clandestine operations, or delivering CIA agents in exchange for charmed chapeaus. The issue is not John Kerry's service in Vietnam. Rather, it is the tall tales that he has told since the war about his time in Vietnam that seek to create a larger-than-life heroic persona in order to further his political ambitions.

I was disappointed, but not surprised that it did not see the light of day at the Strib. It usually takes about ten attempts to land one letter in the Strib. As Wayne Gretzky used to say. "You can't score if you don't shoot."

But I was surprised yesterday, when I received this reply from Jim Boyd himself:

Hey, Chad. How do you know there is nothing to support that? Or do you really mean there is nothing you've seen? And how could you see all?

Here's a challenge for you: I served for a year with an Army outfit named U.S. Army Field Activities Command in Washington. I'll give you a week to find ANY mention of it anywhere. I'll give you two weeks to find out what it really was. I'm not making it up. my DD214 says I served there.

My point: It was a secret agency doing secret work in secret places.

Also, did you see this:

John O'Neill of Swift Vets, in a taped 1971 conversation with President Richard Nixon:

O'NEILL: I was in Cambodia, sir. I worked along the border on the water.

NIXON: In a swift boat?

O'NEILL: Yes, sir.

I'm not making that up either. It comes from Fox, the Hannity and Colmes show, as well as CNN's Newsnight with Aaron Brown.

John O'Neill in a taped 1971 Oval Office meeting with President Richard Nixon.

After the beating he had taken at the hands of the Power Line boys, Boyd was apparently so desperate for a victory, any victory to raise his sagging morale that he was willing to crawl out of his hole for a moment and take a pot shot at a unknown letter writer. But once again, he miscalculated. For this letter writer was not just an isolated crank on a solo sortie, and Boyd ran smack dab into the meat grinder once again.

With Boyd finally in the open, the big guns at Power Line unleashed a withering barrage:

But I'm a state of the art Google searcher, so it took me about a minute and a half to respond to Jim Boydot's challenge. The U.S. Army Field Activities Command does not appear to be a super-secret organization, as Boyd suggests, given that the official, publicly-available Dept. of the Army account of the year 1973 notes that: "Pursuant to the action to terminate area intelligence collection activities, the U.S. Army Field Activities Command was disestablished in November 1972 and its remaining responsibilities assumed by the 902d Military Intelligence Group."

Another reference to the supposedly hush-hush Field Activities Command can be found here.

No doubt if you Googled for another five minutes, more references to the Field Activities Command would tumble out. What is striking to me about this exercise is the spiritual kinship between John (pocketa-pocketa-pocketa) Kerry and Jim (pocketa-pocketa-pocketa) Boyd. Apparently Boyd, like Kerry, envisions himself as a sort of Secret Agent Man. Boyd alluded--vaguely and irrelevantly, of course--to his own Vietnam doings in castigating us as fraudulent, lying smear artists, and, like Kerry, he seems to think that his own Secret Agent Man status gives him a license to slander others while conferring immunity against any response. In that context, it is easy to see why Boyd rises so readily to the defense of Kerry's fantasies. Boyd harbors fantasies of his own.

That wasn't, of course, the epistemological problem that the Trunk posed. But it doesn't take a philosopher to figure out that when there is no record of Kerry's being ordered into Cambodia; Kerry's crewmates say they were never in Cambodia; Kerry's boat was unsuitable for secret missions to Cambodia; no CIA man has come forward to confirm the story of the Magic Hat; there are no documents suggesting that Kerry was ordered into Cambodia; Kerry's journals don't say he was in Cambodia; and the last entry in Kerry's journal depicts him looking wistfully over at the Cambodia border and wondering what is on the other side--well, as I say, you don't have to be an epistemologist to conclude that Kerry was never in Cambodia.

They were aided by their sharp-shooting readers sniping at Boyd as well:

More google searching would find you this link. Check out Wyatt B. Kirby's bio:

"Human Intelligence (HUMINT) Officer in the Army Field Activities Command with assignments in the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Washington, DC. During 1970-1972, he was Chief of Operations, G3, 525th Military Intelligence Group, supervising HUMINT collection in the Republic of Viet Nam."

I'd bet Mr Kirby could provide some interesting information on the "Field Activities Command."

Boyd is a putz.

But I can do even better. The commander of the Field Activities Command was Col Alfred W. Bagot. Google rocks.


Well here's a link. See page 52, second paragraph from the bottom.

The link above was the first return on the search "Army Field Activities Command" in Google. Took about 30 seconds, to get Google up, copy the phrase, get the return and click on the page. Most of the week is left.

Here's another link that suggests that the Army Field Activities Command ran Army Intelligence agents overseas.

As to the second part of Boyd's challenge -- what his old outfit really was -- it appears, based on the material in the second link, to have been involved in internal security within the military, defense department and affiliated organizations.

Obviously, Boyd is lacking in Internet skills or he wouldn't have issued this challenge without Googling it first.

A person working at a newspaper not knowing how to Google? Imagine that.

Next, Steve from Double Toothpicks joined the fun with a volley of his own:

Boyd's view rather typifies the postmodern pragmatic view of truth. Skeptical of information authorities and of absolute truth itself, the postmodern mind becomes subject to all kinds of conspiracy theories and what used to be called 'kooky' ideas. The X-Files tells us that "The Truth Is Out There," code language for this absurd claim: since we can't absolutely deny that alien abductions take place, the government must be covering them up. This view of truth ignores a maxim that has stood well the test of time: extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence. If Kerry really ferried CIA men into Cambodia, then his is the Super-Size burden of proof of this extraordinary claim.

Finally, my latest salvo in response to Boyd's e-mail:


Thanks for the response. I know you're a very busy man, what with the ducking of debates and all. I had hoped that you might see fit to actually publish my letter, but I suppose hoping for any semblance of balance on the Strib editorial pages is wishful thinking.

If I understand your position correctly, you would argue that if John Kerry claimed he paraglided into Hanoi and trimmed a strand off Ho Chi Minh's beard it would be up to me to offer evidence that could conclusively disprove the claim. Otherwise I would have to accept it as fact. An interesting approach to say the least.

As to your challenge, here's what found in a few minutes of research (with a little help).

The commander of the Field Activities Command was Col Alfred W. Bagot. It appears to have been involved in internal security within the military, defense department and affiliated organizations. And it in 1973 it looks like it was dissolved:

"Pursuant to the action to terminate area intelligence collection activities, the U.S. Army Field Activities Command was disestablished in November 1972 and its remaining responsibilities assumed by the 902d Military Intelligence Group."

I am sure that I could find much more detailed information if I had the time (and the inclination). In two weeks I could likely have an multi-page article available on it, which your paper would no doubt refuse to print.

If I'm not mistaken, John O'Neil was serving in Vietnam in 1970 when U.S. forces invaded Cambodia. That makes it quite likely that he was indeed in Cambodia, but does nothing to further John Kerry's claims to have been there in '68 or '69 (depending on which story he's now going with).

I look forward to hearing from you again.



I'll keep you updated on further communications from Boyd. But I wouldn't count on any.

Boyd's strategic position is precarious. He has so been battered and bludgeoned that he has fled the field of battle, beating a hasty retreat. New forces seem to be springing up almost hourly to take shots at him, while allies are few and far between. He may hope that local lefty bloggers will join the fray on his behalf, but he will soon learn that they're not good for much in battle except carrying the Strib's water (sorry-couldn't resist). Meanwhile, the rest of the Northern Alliance waits in reserve, ready, if needed, to deliver further crushing blows.

At this point I don't think they will be sent in. Boyd is no longer a viable force as evidenced by his latest witty rejoinder, directed at those criticizing Kerry's 1971 testimony to Congress:

What relevance this entire issue has to a presidential election 33 years later is, frankly, beyond me, but to my mind Kerry's testimony reflects enormous courage and conviction on the part of a young veteran just home from war.

(Sigh) This time we'll simply let Boyd's word speak for themselves. If he shows up on Saturday, the hostilities will most certainly be resumed.

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