John Kerry, War Criminal or Hero

Was it a good strategy for Kerry to raise issues of Bush's war service? Only if his own military record can withstand the same scrutiny. We all know about Kerry's antiwar activity, but could it be that John Kerry accused Americans soldiers of war crimes because he felt that he got his Silver Star for an action that bordered on a war crime? On a personal note, I researched Kerry's medals because my father, Franklin Gagliardi, and John Kerry won the exact same decorations—the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. While I want to honor John Kerry for his service in Viet Nam, I can find few parallels between what the two men went through for these honors.
Kerry won his Silver Star as a captain of a 5-man swift-boat, Patrol Craft Fast 94. Read a vet's questions about Kerry's war history here. To summarize, after a B-40 rocket attack, his crew responded with heavy machine gun fire, routing and wounding a single Viet Cong with a small rocket launcher. When the man hid behind a small shack, the crew riddled the building with heavy fire. Afterwards, Kerry beached his boat, went behind the building and returned with the B-40 launcher, claiming to have finished the Viet Cong with his 45. For this action, he won the Silver Star. Could he have taken the man prisoner instead of executing him? Was the wounded Viet Cong killed in self-defense? We don't know. No one does because only John Kerry was there. Let us assume the best: he did his job, but where is the heroism here? Did he win his awards so quickly and for such minor engagements because he was the scion of a famous Boston Brahmin family (the Forbes) and had political connections or was this award standard in Viet Nam? I don’t know.
However, when he came back, Kerry became an anti-war activist, accusing Americans of war crimes in the Winter Soldier Investigations admitting that, on another patrol craft he had killed a woman, her baby, and a 12-year old boy while targeting Viet Cong. I have to ask the question, does his joining the antiwar movement arise from a guilty conscience? Did Kerry give us a clue to what happened in his 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relation's Committee? In that testimony, he said specifically, "the killing of prisoners [was] accepted policy by many units in Vietnam." Suspiciously, this section of his testimony has been edited out of many posted versions on the web (see here) sometimes just this single line about killing prisoners (see here). Wow, that really hits me as suspicious. And elsewhere he said, “war crimes committed in South East Asia, not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
On the other hand, I do know why my father and his younger brother earned the same awards. They were stationed together on the Philippines when it was attacked the day after Pearl Harbor. My father was the head non-com in communications. They were the first on the airbase to learn of arrival of Japanese planes. It fell to them to warn the others at Clark airfield. My father’s brother, John Ralph Gagliardi was killed on the air strip, the first American killed in the war outside of Pearl Harbor. My father fought through the months of resistance on Corregidor and Bataan, lived through the Death March of Bataan, and survived years of starvation as a Japanese prisoner in Mukden, Manchuria. (Read more about the battle of the Philippines here.) Until the end of the war, it was thought that both he and his brother were lost. They both were awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart. In the hospital, after the war, he met my mother, Anita, an Army nurse, married, and had a family, but he never recovered his health, dying when he was forty-seven. I was thirteen at the time. However, his experience and especially his poor opinion of the decision-making abilities of General McArthur was one of the reasons I developed a life-long interest in the philosophies of The Art of War and feel spreading its philosophy is so important.