The Namier Effect: Does it operate today?
Sir Lewis Namier (1888-1960) famously said we tend to imagine the past and remember the future. Sounds backward doesn’t it? But Sir Lewis was merely observing a human characteristic: We think our past was much better or worse than it actually was. Then, based on a fallacious or misremembered past, we do not have a sound basis for predicting our future.
Perhaps, this is John Kerry’s problem. For some strange reason he has made some events of 35 years ago, when he served four months and 12 days on a Navy Swift Boat, as the centerpiece of his presidential campaign. But, according to over 250 of those who served with him back in 1969, the past John Kerry seems to believe did not happen.
Yet traveling with Kerry’s campaign entourage are 13 of his former subordinates who support Kerry’s version of what happened They are certainly entitled to their version of what happened 35 years ago.
But also entitled to their recollections of those days are of all of Kerry’s former commanding officers and 21 out of 23 of his fellow Swift Boat skippers. The number grows daily; however, over 250 Swift Boat veterans have come forward to voice their opinion that Lt. Kerry was unfit for command back then and unfit for command today. See: www.swiftvets.com.
Obviously, someone isn’t telling the truth or imaging a past that never was. So, whose word do we take? Kerry and the 13 former sailors on his campaign jet? Or, do we believe Kerry’s fellow Swift Boat skippers, and the Admiral, Navy Captains and Commanders who, since Kerry decided to campaign on his war record, have formed Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- an independent organization that is paying to run a TV Ad saying that Kerry lied about his service in Vietnam and lied when he told Congress that all Vietnam veterans were guilty of the same kind of war crimes to which he confessed.
The testimony of two of Kerry’s detractors is particularly disturbing. A Navy medical corpsman who examined one of Kerry’s “wounds,” said it was “nothing more than a ‘Band-Aid’ flesh wound.” A Navy doctor examined another “wound” and dismissed it as a scratch. Kerry did not need evacuation or treatment at a medical facility and lost no duty time. Moreover, his former commanders claim two of his wounds were self-inflicted.
Several readers have asked how, without the knowledge of his commanders, could Kerry’s three Purple Hearts be approved? Conceivably, any officer or senior chief could find a lower-ranking enlisted medical corpsman and browbeat him into filling out a casualty tag. If you are dead, the tag is attached to one toe. If wounded, the tag is attached to your clothing and is supposed to stay with you as you are evacuated to the rear.
But what if you aren’t evacuated? Simply put the tag in the official mail pouch and send it up the line to the appropriate personnel office for processing. Busy personnel yeomen are not likely to question what comes in the pouch. Anyway, that’s one way it could happen.
This observer wonders if using three Purple Hearts to leave Vietnam after only four months and 12 days was Kerry’s own idea? But Swift officer, Thomas Wright, who served on occasion as the Officer-in-Charge of Kerry’s boat group reports that he "had a lot of trouble getting Kerry to follow orders," and that those who worked with Kerry found him ‘oriented towards his personal, rather than unit goals and objectives.’
“[Wright] therefore requested that Kerry be removed from his boat group. After John Kerry ‘qualified’ for his third Purple Heart, Thomas Wright and two fellow officers informed him of the obscure regulation, and told him to go home. Wright concluded, ‘We knew how the system worked and we didn’t want him in Coastal Division 11.’"
Namier Effect or not, most Swift Boat veterans do not want Kerry to be Commander-in-Chief.
William Hamilton, a syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, served two years in Vietnam and Cambodia with the 1st Air Cavalry Division.
©2004. William Hamilton.