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Veteran retracts criticism of Kerry

Page 2 of 3 -- Meanwhile, a television advertising campaign began yesterday featuring many of the anti-Kerry veterans who are quoted in the book, including Elliott. In the ad, Elliott says, ''John Kerry has not been honest about what happened in Vietnam."

Asked to supply evidence to support that statement, the anti-Kerry group provided a copy of Elliott's affidavit. Elliott said the same affidavit had been used in the production of the book.

It is unclear whether the work contains further justification for the assertion, beyond Elliott's statement.

Kerry won the Silver Star for his action on Feb. 28, 1969, in which he shot a Viet Cong soldier who had been carrying a rocket launcher and running toward a hut. All of Kerry's crewmates who participated and are still living said in interviews last year that the action was necessary and appropriate, and it was Elliott who recommended Kerry for the Silver Star.

In an interview for a seven-part biographical series that appeared in the Globe last year, Kerry said: ''I don't have a second's question" about killing the Viet Cong. ''He was running away with a live B-40, and, I thought, poised to turn around and fire it."

Asked whether that meant that he had shot the guerrilla in the back, Kerry said, ''No, absolutely not," adding that the enemy had been running to a hut for cover, where he could have destroyed Kerry's boat and killed the crew.

The forthcoming book is coauthored by Jerome R. Corsi and John O'Neill, a former Vietnam naval officer who in 1971 debated Kerry on the Dick Cavett show, challenging Kerry's assertion that US atrocities had been widespread in Vietnam. O'Neill met with then-President Richard M. Nixon for an hour before debating Kerry, and his efforts were encouraged by Nixon's aides.

O'Neill could not be reached for comment yesterday. President Bush's campaign denied working with O'Neill on the book or with the producers of the television advertisement.

Meanwhile, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, urged Bush yesterday to disassociate himself from what he called a ''dishonest and dishonorable" attack. In response, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said, ''We have not and we will not question Senator Kerry's service in Vietnam."

The Associated Press reported yesterday that Houston home-builder Bob J. Perry, a major Republican donor, gave at least $100,000 to the organization sponsoring the ad, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

The Kerry campaign spokesman, Michael Meehan, said none of those in the ad had served on a boat with Kerry. ''Some of these men defended John Kerry's honor on his military record in 1996 and so they were either lying then or lying now," Meehan said. ''Either way, it is gutter politics."

The book also raises questions about the action of March 13, 1969, for which Kerry was awarded a Bronze Star and his third Purple Heart, according to an advance chapter of the book.   Continued...

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