Tuesday, June 19, 2007

McCain, Kerry, POWs and the VVAW

I have been up front right from the start that the primary reason I write this column is to draw readers to my website, where if they find my observations interesting, they may also decide to purchase a copy of my book Masters of the Art, A Fighting Marine's Memoir of Vietnam. That is marketing.

But to take one step back from the present, I wrote Masters of the Art in the first place to help offset the negative press that Vietnam vets were saddled with, thanks in large part to John Kerry and his friends at the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. I wanted readers to get a good look at real people who really served, what they accomplished in Vietnam, and how the US government sabotaged what we did over there, setting the stage for millions of civilian deaths at the hands of the communists.

Recently, as our troops fight the War on Terror, it has become obvious that some people who were responsible for the fall of Saigon in 1975 are still in government and trying to do the same thing to today, especially in Iraq.

So Masters of the Art has become a blueprint that shows what will happen on the world stage if Kerry, Kennedy, Pelosi, Murtha, Reid, Clinton, Obama, Kissinger and their cohorts weren't challenged and stopped.

Based on those preconditions, I rarely mention other books here because that is not the purpose of this site. But occasionally I find a book or an author who has a message that I believe should be passed along, and I put that rule aside for the moment.

Today is one of those days, primarily because the subject matter of a new book An Enormous Crime by by Bill Hendon and Elizabeth Stewart, is American POWs who were left behind after Henry Kissinger and the US Congress approved the Paris Peace Accords and declared that all POWS had come home in 1973.

That subject has been close to my heart for decades. I wrote about it in the 80s and 90s when I was a journalist and I have always believed that some of our people were left behind, especially after former Marine POW Bobby Garwood emerged from Hanoi in 1979 - and was promptly screwed over by the US Government.

In An Enormous Crime, Hendon and Stewart make the case that our government knowingly left hundreds of POWs in Vietnam and Laos in 1973, and that every administration since then has covered it up. The authors say the government was caught in a series of lies because billions of dollars in war reparations were demanded by the Vietnamese and promised by Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon at the Paris Peace talks, but were never delivered.

The POWs were bargaining chips to ensure that the money was paid as promised, and when it wasn't the POWs were left at the mercy of the communists. That is not a new story, it has been around ever since the 70s, but the media has conveniently ignored it for the most part.

Now, however, in addition to compiling a mountain of evidence that has been rumbling around underneath the Mainstream Media radar for decades, An Enormous Crime also implicates Arizona Sen. John McCain, presidential candidate and the ultimate Vietnam veteran, for aiding in a decades long cover up that strikes right at the heart of everything that matters to American veterans.

As a close friend and fellow Marine Vietnam veteran said to me after reading about this latest release, "If this is true, why would anyone ever again want to join the military and defend this country?"

Why indeed?

For three decades now we in the Vietnam Veteran community have focused our anger on John Kerry and the lying, manipulating phonies who joined him in the VVAW. And rightfully so. Kerry obviously had an agenda when he went to Vietnam, filmed his 'heroic' exploits, phonied up his awards, and then deliberately sabotaged his country and his fellow veterans by staging phony 'testimony' that branded us as sociopaths.

So few of the alleged 'veterans' who joined the VVAW and 'testified' to their war crimes while in combat were actually Vietnam veterans, they should have named the organization the Wannabe Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The media never made much of that little issue then or now, however, and there still are many who believe without question all the worst that they hear about Vietnam vets, thanks to Kerry.

But while our attention was focused on Kerry, another question also should have been asked. What if one of our own, and especially one of the most visible and respected of our number, was up to his eyeballs in burying evidence that American POWs were still alive in Southeast Asia and trying desperately, even after all this time, to get our attention so they too could finally come home?

What if John McCain was saying publicly that the Vietnam War is over and to put it behind us, knowing all along that for some it is not and never will be?

This again is not the first time this allegation has surfaced. For instance, back in 1992 in an article on McCain in the U.S. Veteran Dispatch, writer Ted Sampley stated that of all the members serving on the Senate Select Committee on POW and MIA Affairs, "None ... have been as vicious in their attacks on POW/MIA family members and activists than the man behind the mask of war hero, former POW, and patriotic United States Senator."

That article has resurfaced recently, and I have seen some McCain supporters react strongly against it. That is fine by me, as long as the reaction is based on evidence that the article was inaccurate, rather than an emotional attachment to the Senator.

For the record, I have long been a John McCain supporter and had planned on working on his 2000 campaign as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay area when I lived in Florida. He never made it there, as we all know, but I have met him since, and other Vietnam vets I know and respect in the political arena are closely aligned with him.

But that only means it is even more of a requirement that he face this issue squarely and honestly, and let those of us who have supported him over the years know just what has been going on - in an open arena, where he can be queried and his responses can be analyzed and challenged if necessary.

I supported the Swift Boat Veterans For Truth when they put the pressure on John Kerry to explain his actions - or lack of them - in Vietnam, as well as his actions and lies after Vietnam. I believe their cause was just, their participation in the political process was honorable and necessary, and thanks to them the real John Kerry was exposed for all to see and judge.

People such as Kerry and McCain who are vying for the position of President of the United States must understand that we have a right as American citizens to know who they are for real, not just the public relations version their campaign staffs want us to know about. If Kerry can be held up to scrutiny, so can, and so should, McCain.

The overwhelming majority of Vietnam veterans I have met over the years have put their service into perspective, and have gone on to productive lives. But we also have many lingering questions and solidly formed opinions about what we did, and what people like Kissinger and Kerry did to us.

Kerry's VVAW membership, his lies about our service, his support of world communism, all are hotly debated in some quarters, even to this day.

Some say let it lie, let it go, it is in the past and bringing it up again does no one any good. But we are again engaged in a divisive war and Kerry is again at the forefront of those who would cut the legs out from under our troops even as they are fighting against an enemy that can, will, and has attacked us on our own shores.

Opponents to the War on Terror use many of the same phrases and tactics as the opponents to the Vietnam War used, and no wonder - many are the same people. Our troops are falsely accused of atrocities, jailed even, when the evidence says otherwise, they are labelled as fighting a battle that can't be won even as they win victory after victory, and efforts in Congress to nullify their successes continue daily, just as they did during Vietnam.

But we have the history of Vietnam to show what will happen if we let Congress decided the conduct of our nation's defense. Kerry claimed in a debate with Swift Boat Veteran John O'Neill on the Dick Cavett show in 1970 that if we left Vietnam to the communists there would be "no blood bath."

Could he possibly have been more wrong? The US government's refusal to intervene to prevent the carnage that raged over Southeast Asia after the fall of Saigon stands as one of the most egregious and reprehensible moments of cowardice ever displayed by the United States Congress.

Many just turned their heads and looked the other way, preferring to mouth the mantra that it was inevitable, when in fact it was all too preventable.

Outside of governmental circles I still see former members of the VVAW, especially those who really were sick of war and wanted something better in its place, explaining their actions then as youthful indiscretions. I understand their quest for peace, but I can't approve of their actions then, nor their refusal to acknowledge even today the travesty that was brought down on America's military and the millions of Southeast Asians as a result of the VVAW's treachery.

It would be relatively simple for a former VVAW member to put that issue to rest, however. Recant and repent.

Acknowledge that what Kerry and the other VVAW leaders did then was treasonous and ultimately fatal to millions. Apologize for supporting them then, and use the knowledge gained from observing their methods of manipulation to ensure that a similar scenario doesn't play out today in the Middle East.

That, I believe, is an honest and effective approach that would put an end to most debates on the issue.

Kerry obviously will never recant, nor repent. He had his chance during the 2004 campaign, and wouldn't acknowledge that what he did was wrong.

McCain on the other hand, still has opportunities to deal with the looming issue of what happened to America's POWs from the Vietnam War. There must be a definitive answer to whether we ransomed the lives of more than 300 patriotic American military men who went to fight for their country.

An Enormous Crime says our government did just that - ransomed them and betrayed them - and John McCain knew it.

These men fought for our country believing that if they were captured we would do all in our power to secure their release. If our government did not live up to that requirement because a handful of politicians and bureaucrats considered it politically expedient for the moment to betray them, we owe it to our brothers-in-arms to bring it to light.

From one Vietnam vet to another, this is not an issue that can or should be swept aside, and if there is even a thread of truth in An Enormous Crime, Sen. John McCain has some explaining to do.


Chris said...

This post came to me via a friend on the Left Coast who knows I am reading "An Enormous Crime" currently. I served from '86-90, but have worn Curtis R Smoot's POW bracelet since '85. Thank you so very much for continuing to bang this drum. Be well brother and WELCOME HOME. Manchu.

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