Kerry's Personal Vietnams


It seemed as if John Kerry's actual (and courageous) duty in Vietnam would give him some edge over George W. Bush on the matter of military service (especially given Bush's spotty record in a branch widely taken to be a way of avoiding the draft).

But two recent pieces that Vietnam may haunt Kerry still in a way it won't for Bush.

First, in The Village Voice, Sydney H. Schanberg accuses Kerry of leaving American POWs behind when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs:

What did Kerry do in furtherance of the cover-up [that U.S. soldiers had been left behind in Southeast Asia]? An overview would include the following: He allied himself with those carrying it out by treating the Pentagon and other prisoner debunkers as partners in the investigation instead of the targets they were supposed to be. In short, he did their bidding. When Defense Department officials were coming to testify, Kerry would have his staff director, Frances Zwenig, meet with them to "script" the hearings?as detailed in an internal Zwenig memo leaked by others. Zwenig also advised North Vietnamese officials on how to state their case. Further, Kerry never pushed or put up a fight to get key government documents unclassified; he just rolled over, no matter how obvious it was that the documents contained confirming data about prisoners. Moreover, after promising to turn over all committee records to the National Archives when the panel concluded its work, the senator destroyed crucial intelligence information the staff had gathered?to to keep the documents from becoming public. He refused to subpoena past presidents and other key witnesses.

(I should add that the biggest question raised by the Schanberg story is what the hell he's doing writing for the Voice.)

From the right, Kerry is starting to get pummeled for the (dubious) substance of his anti-Vietnam remarks he made as a young leader of vets against the war. There's this in National Review Online, for instance:

On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.

The odds are looking good that when it comes to Vietnam, Kerry may end up as beaten up as the crew in The Green Berets.

[Thanks to reader Chuck Cole for the NRO link.]