John Kerry is running as a Vietnam veteran. The Kerry campaign Web site states: "When John Kerry returned home from Vietnam, he joined his fellow veterans in vowing never to abandon future veterans of America's wars. Kerry's commitment to veterans has never wavered and stands strong to this day." But Kerry's resume tells a very different story.
Kerry's actions in Vietnam were heroic, but his actions upon his return were inexcusable. Kerry associated with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, a rabid anti-war group that defamed United States soldiers and often protested under the banner of the Viet Cong.
Kerry testified before Congress that American soldiers had "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs ... poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam." He has never named anyone who committed these atrocious acts and admits that he never witnessed these war crimes. Kerry's words certainly contributed to fortifying Viet Cong morale and promoting Viet Cong interests.
Kerry's abandonment of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam wasn't over yet. When he became a senator, Kerry continued to stab Vietnam soldiers in the back. Kerry began pushing normalization of trade with Vietnam. To that purpose, he founded the Senate Select Committee for POW/MIA Affairs. Kerry became chair of the committee. In order to normalize trade, the Vietnamese government would have to prove that its hands were now clean with regard to POW/MIAs.
Kerry tried to erase the possibility that prisoners of war were still alive in captivity in Vietnam. I spoke Monday evening with Mike Benge, a POW/MIA activist. Benge was a civilian POW held from 1968 until 1973 by the North Vietnamese Army; he spent 27 months in solitary confinement, one year in a "black box," and one year in a cage in Cambodia. Benge accuses Sen. Kerry of shredding key papers documenting "live sightings of POWs in Vietnam and Laos" during the POW/MIA hearings. According to Benge, Kerry attempted to shred all copies to prevent leaks and future declassification of the materials.
John F. McCreary, a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst assigned to Kerry's committee, reported knowledge of Kerry's document shredding to Vice Chairman Bob Smith. A memorandum by McCreary explains: "Senator John Kerry ... told the Select Committee members that 'all copies' would be destroyed. This statement was made in the presence of the undersigned and of the Staff Chief Counsel who offered no protest." On April 9, 1992, McCreary verified that the original document was destroyed, as well as 14 copies. The memo continues: "On 15 April 1992, the Staff Chief Counsel, J. William Codinha ... ridiculed the Staff members for expressing their concerns; and replied, in response to questions about the potential consequences, 'Who's the injured party,' and 'How are they going to find out because its classified.'"
On April 16, Kerry stated that the original documents had remained in the Office of Senate Security all along, so nothing wrong had been done. Actually, this was not the case, according to McCreary: "the Staff Director had deposited a copy of the intelligence briefing text in the Office of Senate Security at 1307 on 16 April." In a classic CYA maneuver, Kerry had ordered a non-original copy of the document entered into the Office of Senate Security -- but only after protests from staff caused him to rethink complete destruction of the documents. As McCreary stated, this "constitute(d) an act to cover-up the destruction."
Mike Benge also told me that Kerry hung one POW/MIA testifier out to dry. Garnett "Bill" Bell was chief of the U.S. Office of POW/MIA Affairs in Hanoi when he testified before the Senate Select Committee. Benge says that he brokered a deal with Bell: Kerry would grant Bell immunity from retaliation by the Defense Department if Bell testified. Bell testified; the immunity never came. Bell was fired, Benge stated.
Normalization for Vietnam passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, largely due to Kerry's persistence. Kerry's pro-normalization views seem particularly strong when viewed in comparison with Kerry's other foreign-policy positions. Kerry has flip-flopped repeatedly on the war in Iraq, but his support for the Vietnamese government has been unwavering. According to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, in 2002 Kerry blocked the Vietnam Human Rights Act from coming to a vote.
Is John Kerry committed to Vietnam veterans? Perhaps the ones back in the United States. But for the Vietnam soldiers who died because Kerry provided aid and comfort to the Viet Cong, or the POWs who may have lived out their lives in cages, Kerry's lack of commitment had tragic consequences.