Skip to comments.Suing Kerry (Long Read)
Posted on 10/13/2005 10:21:30 AM PDT by smoothsailing
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 13, 2005
Frontpage Interview's guest today is Mary Jane McManus, wife of former Vietnam POW, Kevin McManus, who is part of a lawsuit against John Kerry for conspiracy and defamation.
FP: Mary Jane McManus, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
McManus: Thanks so much for this opportunity. I'm a Frontpage fan.
FP: The Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation (VVLF), led by a group of former Vietnam combat veterans, including several POWs, is suing Sen. John Kerry and a top DNC campaign official for conspiracy and defamation. You are also involved. Before I ask you about these developments, could you kindly tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
McManus: Thanks Jamie. I'm the wife of a former POW, Kevin McManus, held by the North Vietnamese for 5 years, 8 months. We became engaged right before he left for Danang as an Air Force F-4 pilot in October 1966. We planned on an August 1967 wedding. The plan changed. We decided to marry on his R&R.
On March 14 while Danang was being mortared, he called to say that he'd be (if luck held out) in Honolulu on the 15th. Somehow he found me at the Oahu airport. We shopped for rings but weren't able to pick them up until after the ceremony. Fr. Hill at Hickham AFB performed the ceremony with a loose-leaf binder ring (which he couldn't let us keep because he needed it). Another Air Force pilot, a classmate of Kevin's at the Air Force Academy, and his wife served as witnesses. A McManus marrying a McCahill deserved a St. Patrick's Day wedding, but we couldn't wait the extra day and tied the knot on the March 16. He returned to Danang on the 19th and I to New York. The wedding reception would be at home in New York in late June when he was scheduled to return.
On June 14, however, his plane was shot down not far from Hanoi, and the usual men in blue showed up at my parents' home in Brightwaters, NY, and at his parents' home in nearby Babylon, to tell us that Kevin was missing in action. Four months later, thanks to many prayers from many people (my mother called it "storming heaven"), I was notified by the Air Force that Kevin was very likely a POW.
Of course there were no official lists (as prescribed by the Geneva Conventions) of POWs, so no one on this side of the world knew for certain who was and was not captured alive. But that wasn't the only convention the communists flouted: there were no Red Cross inspections, no Red Cross package-deliveries, almost no communication between POWs and family members (the first letter I got from Kevin arrived almost three years after he was shot down); POWs were tortured routinely while one of the most brutal regimes in the world at the time claimed they were war criminals--a claim repeated by Jane Fonda and other members of Vietnam Veterans against the War, including a Navy Lt (jg) John Kerry.
In 1970 the policy that had kept most POW/MIA relatives quiet for the sake of the POWs changed. Relatives formed the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia in April. The Reserve Officers Assn. and later the American Legion gave us office space. I worked in that office with the heroic wives of some very heroic men: Sybil Stockdale, Joan Vinson, Dorie Day, Jane Denton, Shirley Johnson, and many others who brought the plight of our relatives to national and international attention.
Kevin came home in February 1973.
We had seven children, the youngest of whom, a son, died of cancer at 16 in 1999. As parents we shared all the usual pleasures and duties of school, church, and athletic organizations, and great pride in our children.
FP: I am very sorry about your son.
Can you kindly tell us about this lawsuit?
McMaus: The Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable, 501(c)(3) organization, was founded early this year to combat the myths that persist--in Hollywood, major news outlets, and most of academia at every level--about Vietnam and the Americans who fought there.
To some the continuation of those myths must be very important indeed because our organization has been sued twice (with another another suit pending), and the producer of Stolen Honor (another myth-shattering vehicle) has been sued three times--twice just three weeks before the 2004 presidential election.
All those who have brought suit against us were members of Vietnam Veterans against the War, an organization to which John Kerry also belonged and for which he was leading spokesman. As spokesman for this organization, John Kerry testified in April 1971 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that American soldiers were committing atrocities and war crimes "on a day to day basis," that this was U. S. policy, condoned "at every level of command." He accused the U. S. of committing 200,000 murders a year and of being "more guilty than any other body" of violating the Geneva Conventions.
FP: So expand a bit on the specifics of your suit against Sen. Kerry and Anthony Podesta? I recognize that all of its ingredients are available on the VVLF website: www.vvlf.org or www.VietnamLegacy.org. But could you kindly give us the general essence of it?
McManus: Well, let's begin with the issue of freedom of speech. Does it mean you can lie and defame people and government policies, say just any old thing you want including outrageous lies? I can't help but wonder: who sued Michael Moore for Fahrenheit 9/11? George Butler for "Going Up River," Jane Fonda for just about anything, or John Kerry for his 1971 senate testimony? Regardless of the content of their statements--truth, fiction, hyperbole--their right to proclaim it is protected. Our rights apparently are not protected.
Rights aside, however, what we're saying is true, not because we're saying it's true, but because at least part of what we're combating is high hyperbole, outrageous generalizations, and utterly illogical statements.
Does anyone honestly believe that American soldiers committed 200,000 "murders a year" in Vietnam? Or that official policy ("at every level of command") allowed any GI to "rape, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turn up the power, cut off limbs, blow up bodies, randomly shoot at civilians, raze villages in a fashion reminiscent of Ghenghis Khan"? John Kerry got away with that statement (his verbs were in the past tense), was elected to Congress & the Senate, and ran for President. No one questioned his free speech rights.
Nor do we. But we do question the accuracy of his and others' statements.
We believe our members earned the right to contest that testimony by taking bullets and taking torture. Unfortunately they weren't here to combat Kerry's testimony; most of them were in cement cells they wouldn't leave for another nearly two years.
Next, we can cover the issue of facts as distinguished from opinion or falsehoods:
The January 1971 "Winter Soldier" investigation in Detroit, financed by Jane Fonda brought some 120 Vietnam Veterans against the War, including a then-Lt. (jg) Kerry, to report (and film) recollections of the atrocities and war crimes they had themselves witnessed or committed. Part of that film was shown in Stolen Honor. (And the whole film, "Winter Soldier," released in August of this year, is now making the rounds at art theatres throughout the country, accompanied frequently by some of its stars who moderate a discussion afterwards.) Not one "testimony" has yet been proved; not one "testimony" was under oath. Several testimonies, as well as several "veterans," however, have been proven false. Their leader, a man claiming to be an Air Force Captain and pilot in Vietnam, turned out to be (as documented on Meet the Press in 1971) not a pilot, not a captain, not an officer, never in Vietnam. And he wasn't alone in such deception.
This is fact, as recognized by all reputable media.
John Kerry not only attended that meeting; he reported on it in detail to the Senate Foreign Relations Committe on April 22, 1971. That testimony is available on the net, in the Congressional Record.
John Kerry admitted in that testimony that he had visited the various communist representatives of North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. He repeated and recommended their negotiating points to the Senate.
This information has never been a secret. Sen. Kerry staked and launched his political career on his antiwar activism.
These facts, along with some opinions (usually first-amendment covered), were brought out in Stolen Honor. Its producer was sued for defamation by individual members of Vietnam Veterans against the War who declared that they had been defamed not because the film showed them as antiwar activists who had committed and witnessed war crimes, but because the narration suggested that some of them weren't indeed Vietnam Vets, or hadn't committed or witnessed war crimes. Rather strange take on "defamation," don't you think?
We, Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation (consisting of four POWs, two other combat veterans, and the wife of a POW) were added in August to the list of defendants in one existing suit and became co-defendants in another. Why? Apparently because we supported Sherwood in his defense. I'm not sure when that became a crime or a tort.
We have recently been accused by a Kerry-aide (as reported on 10-6-05, by AP, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, et al) of continuing the "same smears and sleaze" that began in the 2004 campaign. We're "serial liars."
We'd be interested to know how these accusations came to be levelled at us. Was what we said in Stolen Honor untrue? What is the likelihood, I wonder, of men who took torture to avoid lying to their captors for 5, 6, 7 years, to avoid saying exactly the same things Lt. Kerry told all of America via his testimony . . . what is the likelihood of their lying now when there's no pressure whatsoever to lie, when lying then would have saved them excruciating pain? What possible motive could there be that would induce them to lie now? Does anyone imagine they like disrupted lives, insulting publicity, legal problems, more notoriety or fame? They wouldn't say this, but I can: honor is the only inducement. The overwhelming majority of American servicemen served honorably, heroically, in Vietnam, and not even their own parents or children know it. Some of their children are serving honorably in the Middle East. While imbedded reporters told their story, we all knew how honorably. But we're sliding back into the same old anti-soldier rhetoric that masqueraded as give-peace-a-chance in the 60s/70s. We just can't allow the old let-the-wounds-heal philosophy dictate what is and isn't said about Vietnam today. It's too important.
I wonder at the gall of those who dare question the integrity of our members, never mind our chairman, Col. George E. (Bud) Day, USAF (Ret)--a veteran of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam as well as of three services (the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force) not to mention a Medal of Honor recipient and the most highly decorated Air Force veteran living today, one of the most highly decorated combat veterans ever, an attorney who restored the promise of lifetime health care to our WWII and Korean veterans.
We're not suing to silence anyone. We're also not attacking individuals with personal invectives, slurs, smears, or sleaze. We're trying to unearth the truth about Vietnam. We have no interest whatsoever in ruining anyone's reputation, including Sen. Kerry's. Our abiding interest is to try to restore the reputations of 58,000 dead U. S. combat soldiers and the generation of soldiers from which they came.
We're not suing them for their view. We believe they're free to express whatever sentiments they may have. We'd just like the opportunity to present our very different view of the service of Americans in Vietnam. But it looks as though we've got to sue to get it.
FP: So why now? Why the lawsuit at this particular moment?
McManus: As some Americans are already aware, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War serve in the front ranks of antiwar veterans and activists today. Carefully adjusted claims of atrocities and war crimes have been devised for this generation of soldiers. The allegations are typical: the U. S. tortures its POWs as a matter of policy (never mind that terrorists don't qualify as POWs under the Geneva Conventions; and never mind, too, that the VVAW didn't believe Americans were tortured at all in Vietnam and that their definition of "torture" vacillates predictably depending on who's doing the "torturing"), the U. S. puts nuclear waste in the bullets and bombs we're using in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. Jane Fonda's been replaced by, or gained an ally in, Cindy Sheehan, but the talking points haven't changed much.
FP: So what you are saying is that the lawsuit is crucial at this very moment not only for the principle of truth in and of itself but also a crucial tool to keep the spirit of our soldiers in Iraq high? In other words, this suit is directly connected to legitimizing our fight for freedom in the terror war?
McManus: I wish I'd said that--exactly that way. Today's anti-U.S propaganda machine is turning out new versions of the communist propaganda of the late 60s and 70s. This isn't an idle charge, nor is it our idle charge. Communist generals and spies since 1975 have admitted that they won the war in the streets of America, not on the battlefield, and they won it with KGB talking points. This isn't the best of arguments to use, of course, because one can never be completely sure when a propagandist is telling the truth. We do know, however, that Sen. Kerry and Ms. Fonda are held in high enough regard in that small place that their pictures along with testimonials from the communists hang in Vietnamese military museums.
FP: Can you give us some of your thoughts when you see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial?
McManus: This is my personal opinion, and many don't share it. I know the wall has become one of the most visited, most revered spots in the capital, and it's the only semblance of recognition our generations of veterans ever received. But . . . Is there any doubt that the myth survived and the facts died when you look at that Memorial? Is there anything more "reflective" of America's apparent opinion of the Vietnam Veteran than that Memorial? A multi-paneled headstone, black in a city of white and bronze monuments to heroism, below-ground, a "scar on the landscape," listing neither battles nor victories nor medals nor regiments--nothing but the names of the dead and MIA in chronological order of death (no doubt to remind the name-seeker of just how many lives were "wasted'). What a tribute.
But what can Vietnam vets expect--a parade? If they'd wanted a decent memorial, they shouldn't have committed all those war-crimes. Sarcasm over. Most Americans don't know that not a single Vietnam veteran sat on the selection committee for that monstrosity. Funny--the WWII vets got a white, above-ground memorial that sits prominently in the sun on the mall--important battles, theatres, victories all part of the memorial for a shorter if more universal war. My father's war, Kevin's father's war, our uncles' war. Could anyone doubt they were culturally acceptable servicemen who fought a culturally acceptable war.
Most of WWII vets' sons weren't drafted into their service in Vietnam; they volunteered. Most of the 58,000 who gave their lives there were volunteers--not reluctant draftees who could find no way out of serving in what became an "unpopular" war. And most reluctant draftees served just as honorably.
Someone recently suggested that something was seriously wrong when the hallucinogenic vision of a few vets was allowed to co-opt every facet of the history of America's longest war. How did it happen? How has this view lasted so long? How has its influence permeated the culture? Just look at what our children and grandchildren are exposed to: Movies/documentaries/TV series about Vietnam or Vietnam vets--how many can you name that show U. S. servicemen as heroes? How many can you name that show the U.S. serviceman as a bully, a war-criminal, a drug-addict, insane, riddled with guilt, unstable, or at the very best a misfit (Rambo)? We're working on that now. Of the over 100 film-titles we've looked at, a handful of movies portray GIs as heroes. Most of those films are about POWs. Those POWs, I think it's logical to assume, came from squadrons, battalions, fleets, companies of other heroic men who weren't captured, who came home to America and oblivion (if they were lucky).
FP: What are your personal feelings about an individual like Jane Fonda?
McManus: I'd like to believe that her opinions on Vietnam stemmed from the same feelings of insecurity she describes in her book (yes, I read it, but I didn't pay for it). The price for her free speech, I think, came rather high--not to her, perhaps, but to America. Her money and connections played no small part in the image of the Vietnam vet created and perpetuated in Hollywood, an image somehow accepted by the "major" media and the army of disposable-scholarship producers the draft excused during the war. As an actress, she was accustomed to reading others' lines. All were fiction.
FP: What do you think of the likes of Michael Moore, Tom Hayden, Cindy Sheehan and others today who are cheering on the Islamist terrorists in this terror war? What do you think motivates them? What is in their hearts?
McManus: St. Paul tells us, in effect, that we can't know the content of others' hearts; but we certainly know the content of their speech on the subject of our military. When the role of conscientious objector or isolationist or peace-advocate slid, apparently without objection, into soldier-basher I don't think I could pinpoint; but there's little question that the practice gained important adherents in the late 60s and that the practice was encouraged, if not initiated, in the PR departments of our Cold War enemies, along with notions that attempted communist takeovers were actually popular civil uprisings on a par with the American Revolution, and that communist leaders weren't tyrants but freedom-fighters like George Washington. Not all the old propaganda finds outlet in the war against the War on Terror, but much is recognizable. Re-cycling it even after communism itself has begun to crumble has proved useful to America's enemies at home and abroad. It's hard to improve on the old model. Perhaps when we see a Brittany Spears or a Julia Roberts sitting in on a beheading session we'll realize just how effective the old model (sorry, Ms. Fonda) was and why its de riguer for today's antiwar activists. Cindy Sheehan, I have to hope, is an exception; who knows what grief can cause? And who, indeed, could crawl so low as to exploit that grief?
FP: What are your hopes concerning this lawsuit? Are you optimistic?
McManus: I'd have to be optimistic, wouldn't I? Part of that optimism is based on two elections: Nixon's in '72 and Bush's in 2004. Results in both rejected the same antiwar rhetoric, the first by a landslide, the second by enough. And Reagan's, not directly related, rejected pessimism about our role in the world and our ability to prevail in the Cold War. The other part is common sense. No matter what political views Americans have, I don't believe they're ready to accept passively the slandering of their fathers, sons, brothers, neighbors, or classmates, in any war. My hopes, therefore, are high and many; but I'm not going to tempt fate here by listing them.
FP: Mary Jane McManus, it was an honor to speak with you today. Your husband is a great hero and so are you. And the people you represent are our heroes and we admire you greatly and thank you for your priceless service to this nation. We wish you the best.
McManus: They were and are heroes, but they weren't alone in that regard. Thank you for helping us to honor the rest of their warrior-generation.
Wow...great article. Bookmarked for future reference.
Why hasn't John Kerry been indicted for treason?
My bewilderment about his lack of punishment is something we obviously share.
Because Jimmah Kartah pardoned him and all others like him.
Thank you Smoothsailing for bringing this. I thought that one of the Swift Boat Vets was going to run against Kerry for the Senate next go around. I pray they do. Kerry is a spider.......and worthy of nothing.
I believe the fellow who said he will run against Kerry is Joe Corsi, the author (along with John O'Neill) of Stolen Honor.Joe wasn't a Swiftee, but he is certainly a patriot.