Skip to comments.An Interview with Scott Swett - Director of the Free Republic Network
Posted on 07/02/2004 9:01:26 AM PDT by The Shrew
THE PLACE FOR UNBIASED INSIGHT
"Much of the media is helping hamstring our efforts by highlighting casualties, ignoring accomplishments, and generally conveying the sense that we cant possibly succeed." - Scott Swett
An Interview with Scott Swett
Director of the Free Republic Network
By: Rich Bowden
· R. Bowden, Independent Bias (Feedback)
Rich Bowden: With national security high on the agenda in the lead-up to the November elections, which candidate do you consider has the better record in this area and why?
Scott Swett: It seems clear that the most immediate threat to Americas national security is international terrorism. President Bush has taken forceful action against terrorist networks and regimes that support them during his first term. His administration seems committed to continuing this policy regardless of whether it polls well or is supported by the media. By contrast, Senator Kerry has a long history of working with individuals and organizations hostile to American interests, dating back to 1971 when as a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War he supported virtually all of the positions advocated by North Vietnam and the Vietcong. It is hard to imagine that Americas current enemies would find President Kerry the same sort of implacable adversary that President Bush has proven to be.
RB: With respect to the ongoing crisis in Iraq, how well has the Bush administration handled the situation in your view?
Swett: Militarily, quite well. Politically, somewhat less so. The administration has been slow to make the case that fighting jihadis in Iraq is vastly preferable to tracking them down after they blow up American shopping centers. The terror networks have been forced to concentrate their efforts on destabilizing Iraq, which has reduced their ability to organize major strikes elsewhere. The process of helping the Iraqis shoulder more of the counter-insurgency burden is coming along, but could be explained and publicized more effectively. That Saddams thugs are no longer in a position to murder 30,000+ Iraqis per year is also worthy of mention. In defense of the Bush administration, they have to deal with predominantly hostile media coverage. A large number of mainstream journalists and broadcasters do not want to see American success in Iraq if it means another 4 years of Republican control of the White House. It is very difficult to get positive stories covered under such circumstances.
RB: The administration has been very keen to portray the recent Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal as the fault of the individual servicemen and woman, denying claims that orders for the abuse came from further up the chain of command. Where do you think the blame should lie?
Swett: The military was already investigating the abuses before they became public, which rules out a systemic cover-up. Also, the fact that the abuses were committed at around 2 or 3 in the morning shows that those involved knew they had something to hide. There seems to have been a serious failure of command that reaches as high as Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, but claims that the abuses were authorized at higher levels appear to be mostly wishful thinking on the part of the administrations opponents.
RB: How do you react to last weeks draft statement of the 9/11 Commission stating that no evidence exists of any link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaeda?
Swett: First of all, the phrasing of this question misrepresents what the 9/11 Commission actually said. They DID find links between Saddam Husseins regime and Al-Qaeda, including several contacts between Iraqi intelligence officers and al Qaeda terrorists. There was also a meeting between Osama bin Laden and a senior Iraqi intelligence official in 1994. The commissions no links statement was far more limited in scope -- they found no evidence that Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks, something the Administration had never claimed in the first place. Since the 9/11 attacks represent the extent of the commissions charter, the question of how closely Saddams Iraq worked with the terror network remains open.
RB: In an interview with Fox News on 1st May 2003 you answered a question concerning peace groups, The war was popular, it was successful, their efforts against it failed. Probably their best bet is to move on to something else and hope everybody forgets what they stood for this time." Over a year later with the war against the Iraqi insurgents still escalating and the latest CNN/USA Today opinion poll showing 54% of people believing the war to be a mistake, do you still stand by your comments?
Swett:Yes. Those remarks were made in the context of whether the American antiwar movement could whip up enough domestic opposition to prevent us from taking out Saddams regime. Their efforts to do this did in fact fail. Now they are working to prevent America from winning the low-intensity conflict required to stabilize Iraq. As I noted above, much of the media is helping hamstring our efforts by highlighting casualties, ignoring accomplishments, and generally conveying the sense that we cant possibly succeed. I believe that as we increasingly hand over control to Iraqis, and as the insurgents are suppressed, it will be much harder to convince the public that our work there was in vain.
RB: As a subject that has received much scrutiny lately with regard to detainees at the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison, do you agree that, in special circumstances, the Geneva Convention rules for treatment of prisoners should not apply?
Swett: Well, the Geneva Convention only applies to members of the military of those nations who have signed the treaty. Protections are provided to combatants, defined as members of the armed forces of a party to an international conflict, members of militias or volunteer corps including members of organized resistance movements as long as they have a well-defined chain of command, are clearly distinguishable from the civilian population, carry their arms openly, and obey the laws of war. As the convention notes, other individuals, including civilians, who commit hostile acts and are captured do not have these protections.
So, Iraqi soldiers captured during the initial conflict would appear to qualify, whereas the Iraqi insurgents and foreign terrorists operating currently would not. I think that is a reasonable distinction.
RB: Should all world governments who are signatories to the Geneva Convention be able to apply these circumstances to soldiers/combatants of every nationality including Americans?
Swett:I assume you mean all national governments. The Geneva Convention is essentially a contract. Clearly if any special circumstances apply to one signatory, they must apply to all. I dont find the arguments for such special circumstances persuasive, however.
RB: President Bush, like President Clinton before him, has been dogged by claims of draft dodging. Critics have claimed that he used family connections to avoid serving his country in Vietnam. Do you agree with this assessment and do you believe it will be an issue in the upcoming elections?
Swett: It seems rather remarkable to apply the draft dodger label to someone who flew F-102 fighters in the National Guard. Such terminology far better fits President Bushs predecessor, who skipped out on his ROTC obligations and went to London to protest the Vietnam War. The charge of using family connections is difficult to either prove or disprove at this point. Certainly these matters will continue be an issue in the campaign, as long as the presidents opposition perceives them as useful. The truth or falsehood of the claims doesnt enter into that calculation.
RB: In April 1971, Senator John Kerrys testimony to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations detailed war crimes committed by American troops in Vietnam, which he argued were committed with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. Do you believe Kerry was telling the truth?
Swett: No. As a leader of Vietnam Veteran Against the War, Kerry charged the U.S. military with committing systematic genocide against Vietnamese civilians. Many members of the VVAW turned out to be outright frauds, including Executive Secretary Al Hubbard, who despite his claims to have been a wounded Air Force officer and pilot was really a sergeant who was never assigned to Vietnam at all. The stories of other VVAW members at the Jane Fonda financed Winter Soldier Investigation cited by Kerry, while imaginative, were worded so as to be virtually impossible to verify or disprove. In the 33 years since, historians, journalists and military investigators have been unable to verify any of these accounts. The VVAWs false charges helped smear the reputations of an entire generation of American troops. Kerry and his cohorts were also remarkably uninterested in the primary cause of civilian deaths in Vietnam - Vietcong terrorism. After Congress cut off all military aid to our former South Vietnamese allies, the victorious communists went on to slaughter millions of people throughout Southeast Asia.
RB: Many commentators have likened the present conflict in Iraq to the war in Vietnam and maintain that mistakes made in Vietnam are re-occurring. Do you agree with this opinion?
Swett: Not entirely. During the Vietnam War, we neglected to destroy the North Vietnamese army, occupy Hanoi, and imprison Ho Chi Minh, so there are obvious limits to the comparison. On the other hand, a major factor in our withdrawal from Southeast Asia and the subsequent defeat of our former allies was the success of the Left in undermining support for the war, a result they achieved primarily by smearing American troops as mass murderers. Todays leftists are using similar tactics as they try to prevent America from creating a functioning democracy in the Middle East. The Abu Ghraib prison scandal was perfect for this purpose, which is why the New York Times splashed it across their front page for 43 out of 47 days. As in the Vietnam era, I expect the war for public opinion to be the decisive factor, rather than military operations in the field.
Scott Swett is a director of the Free Republic Network, an Internet-based non-profit that supports grassroots conservative activism. During the U.S. invasion of Iraq last spring, the FR Network helped coordinate "support the troops" rallies in hundreds of locations across the country. Mr. Swett represented this effort during an April 1, 2003 appearance on Fox & Friends, noting that an overwhelming majority of media coverage was given to anti-war protests -- which he termed "peace riots" -- while ignoring the 150,000 people who had attended pro-America rallies the previous weekend.
Early this year, Mr. Swett began researching the "war crimes" propaganda campaign that successfully undermined public support for America's defense of South Vietnam. The result of this work is WinterSoldier.com, a web site designed as a central repository of information for writers and researchers investigating the actions of John Kerry, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and others during the Vietnam era. The site quickly attracted the interest of Vietnam veterans, hundreds of whom have written in to share their own experiences. Other researchers have now joined the effort, and continue to provide new material and opinion articles.
The Independent Bias staff would like to give special thanks to Mr. Bruce Kesler for helping schedule this interview and a thank you to Mr. Swett for speaking with IB
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