Skip to comments.DYNAMITE Vietnam POWs Say Kerry's Words and Deeds Were Used by Guards to Torture Them
Posted on 08/09/2004 2:06:47 PM PDT by Liz
John Kerry accused American GIs of widespread war crimes while testifying before Congress in the early 1970s.
John Kerry's bid to become commander in chief of wartime America has opened old wounds among some former Vietnam-era POWs who bristle over Kerry's antiwar activism and atrocity allegations during the Vietnam conflict.
Those activities and statements, pushed out of sight by a campaign that spotlights Kerry's service in Vietnam, were used by the POWs' North Vietnamese captors to sap the morale of prisoners and U.S. troops still in the field in South Vietnam, former POWs told United Press International.
"They were always talking about that [antiwar demonstrations], and they picked right up on Kerry's throw-away line, 'Don't be the last man to die in a lost cause, or die for a lost cause,'" said Kenneth Cordier, an Air Force pilot who spent 2,284 days as a prisoner. "They repeated that incessantly. ... They used these photographs and inputs, voice tapes, whatever, from these peace people to try to convince us the whole country had turned antiwar and we were showing a very bad attitude and would never go home."
Jim Warner, a prisoner of the North Vietnamese in the Hoa Lo prison complex -- known to U.S. servicemen as the Hanoi Hilton -- remembers Kerry. He became acquainted with him, he said, when a North Vietnamese guard and interrogator the prisoners nicknamed "Boris" took Warner to the quiz shack in the complex's punishment camp called "Skid Row" in May 1971.
During a four-hour propaganda and harassment session, Boris pulled papers from his pocket and gave them to Warner to think about, he said. Some were clippings from a leftist newspaper in the United States. The other was a typewritten transcript of Kerry's testimony before a U.S. Senate panel in which he repeated allegations of U.S. troops routinely committing atrocities, attacking the war and saying communism was not a threat in Vietnam.
The atrocity allegations were garnered from the so-called Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit in early 1971, in which actress and activist Jane Fonda and Kerry, a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), were involved.
At that event people claiming to have seen combat in Vietnam alleged committing atrocities -- rape, cutting off of ears and heads, murdering women and children -- on a routine basis and with the knowledge of their superiors. Many of the allegations proved false or could not be documented, and the veracity and identities of many witnesses later came into question.
"It was the stuff about the Winter Soldier," Warner said. "The paper he showed me, the statements from John Kerry, were separate. And the stuff that was supposed to be from Kerry was a typewritten transcript of a few pages, but he was pointing to the statements. I can't quote the statements, but essentially they were the same as those being played now on talk shows of his testimony in front of the Senate."
Warner was in his Marine Corps F-4B aircraft when he was shot down over North Vietnam on Oct. 13, 1967, and was held for 1,979 days. He told UPI that in that confrontation with the North Vietnamese officer he was told "these statements [by Kerry] ... were proof I deserved to be punished. I was pretty sure they weren't going to do anything, but in the summer of '69 they had spent four months trying to get information out of me, and I still had the memory of my mistreatment -- sleep deprivation, leg irons, a cement box in the sun [and feet and ankles swollen from chains digging into the flesh].
"The memory of that was still pretty fresh in my mind, and I was extremely uneasy. Every time he mentioned [the papers], this officer said I committed crimes, that this war was illegal. I just had no idea. ... All along they told us they would execute us for our 'crimes.'"
Particularly galling for Warner was his parents' brief participation at an antiwar event in Detroit where they said their son was a prisoner and they hoped he would be released. Warner said he never spoke to his parents about that after his return -- it just wasn't something talked about -- but his sisters had told him Fonda and Kerry were involved in getting his parents to appear, an appearance he believes lent a measure of respectability to the event.
Warner said Kerry and VVAW, which had staged large demonstrations in Washington, often were mentioned in the radio broadcasts that played incessantly over the camp's loudspeakers.
"On our [former POW] listserve there are many people who mention hearing Kerry on Radio Hanoi and how much that infuriated them," Warner said, "but I don't know of anyone else confronted like that."
Cordier, now living in Texas, doesn't recall Kerry's name specifically being used in interrogations, propaganda broadcasts by Hanoi Hannah (Radio Vietnam) or during "attitude checks" -- political indoctrination sessions -- since Kerry was then not a household name. But he said he does remember the North Vietnamese using the so-called Winter Soldier investigations and photographs of war veterans, both real and imposters, throwing military medals over the White House fence.
Paul Galanti, a former Navy pilot who spent 2,432 days in captivity and worked on the 2000 primary campaign of fellow former POW Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), also remembers the broadcasts.
"It was propaganda. They stopped torturing us after Ho Chi Minh died pretty much, but all that stuff we got banged on -- they wanted us to say and to confess to war crimes and killing babies and all this other stuff," he said. "They kept talking about Vietnam Veterans Against the War, they had seen the right way and blah, blah, blah, and they were on our side, they had crossed over to the peoples' side and all that stuff."
Galanti said he didn't know Kerry's name then, although he had seen a newspaper photograph while in captivity that showed someone who looked like Lurch (a character in The Addams Family television show in the mid-sixties). Like others, they had only heard newscasts about a former Navy lieutenant and the antiwar movement. "I figured out who it was later," he said.
Cordier, Warner and Galanti said although the antiwar protest propaganda was sometimes disheartening, the North Vietnamese failed in their attempt to use it to break the prisoners' will.
"It didn't make us want to give up, it just made us feel discouraged that there were people who felt that way about us," said Warner, who works as a corporate attorney.
Cordier, Galanti and Warner are dead set against Kerry becoming president. Cordier says it's just not Kerry's antiwar past, but his record till now, including his voting against funds for troops in Iraq.
"The measure of a person's character is their whole history up until the present," he said. "It's not what they say they believe or what they'll do when president or all these platitudes. ... And he has consistently taken the side of our enemies and other countries that oppose us or have a different viewpoint."
Joe Crecca, who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1966 and held for 2,280 days, won't be supporting Kerry either, accusing him of having "betrayed those who served with him by falsely accusing them of war crimes and a host of other things as soon as he returned to the U.S.A."
Retired Adm. Jeremiah Denton -- held 2,766 days -- helps lead Vets4Bush. Everett Alvarez, who at 3,113 days was the longest-held prisoner of the North Vietnamese, would say only that he would be considered partisan since he had been a Reagan administration appointee.
McCain, who is campaigning for Bush, also was a prisoner at the Hanoi Hilton and counts himself as a friend of Kerry. Calls to his office for comment for this article were not returned. However, in 1973, shortly after his release from the Hanoi Hilton, McCain had a strong negative opinion on prominent antiwar activists, although he did not know Kerry by name at the time.
The Kerry campaign, asked to comment, sent UPI an e-mail message that included two quotes from a Oct. 21, 1996, New Yorker article entitled "A Friendship that Ended the War" and asked they be included.
"John McCain has never changed his mind about Kerry's participation in that antiwar demonstration, but he has changed his mind about the man," the article stated. "When I asked McCain if he would be campaigning for [former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, who ran against Kerry for Senate], he shook his head, an emphatic no. 'I simply would not do such a thing. I couldn't do that. ... I'm surprised you would ask. ... Going to campaign against John Kerry is something I wouldn't consider.'"
The second quote from the same New Yorker article the Kerry campaign wanted cited was from Kerry in the same interview: "'We started talking about the war, and Vietnam, prison -- what happened to him and all that. ... Nothing had brought us together before, and we just talked. We talked about what I had done.' Kerry was referring to the episode that McCain had denounced in the 1984 campaign. 'But by now it wasn't a big hurdle,' he went on. 'To his credit, he didn't make it one. He made it clear that he had moved beyond all that. ... The war was a tough period for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. Both of us decided to put all that kind of stuff behind us, and work together at something.'"
During the Democratic National Convention in Boston last week, a number of anti-Kerry veterans' groups participated in demonstrations opposing Kerry's campaign for the nation's top job, and other groups have more demonstration plans in the works.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth -- former Navy patrol-boat crews, including former comrades and a crewmate of Kerry in Vietnam -- publicly came out in opposition to the senator from Massachusetts last May and plan to launch a television ad attacking his candidacy later this month.
Kerry, meanwhile, is attempting to organize other veterans into a reliable voting bloc. His campaign works with several people who served with Kerry during his four-month stay in Vietnam as testimonials to his service. In July Kerry told CBS's Dan Rather that he was "very proud" of having been a leader of the antiwar movement but admitted some of his language may have been too strong.
Richard Tomkins is a White House correspondent for Insight's sister news service, United Press International.
The Cambodia Story has broken of Fox News (Carl Cameron). Kerry's people stated he never claimed to be in Cambodia. Maybe this new info will change the way some of the "speak no evil" crowd looks at the situation.
Just saw him hiding in the Grand Canyon on the news.
Shout the truth from the rooftops! Kerry is unfit to lead. I'd say he couldn't lead two nuns in a prayer.
Forgiveness? For what? For going when their country called. For doing their duty honorably. For acting like American soldiers have always acted, before and since Vietnam? No they need no forgivess, but they do need appreciation. You can see that by their reactions when they finally get some, as many did in various parades and such after Desert Storm/Shield, when the nation began to see how shabbily it had treated them. Most of course weren't devastated by that treatment, but it still hurt.
Well thought out and formulated post FRiend. God has mercy for us all.
First they just get by getting a lying draft dodger elected...A POLISHED Liar.
Now they've nominated a MALINGERING MALCONTENT who they've branded a "Hero" (by whose definition, I can't find). He's just a BAAAAD Liar.
When they come back to Earth and get with the Webster's Dictionary we all grew up with, maybe they'll have a chance again.
Anyone hear someone named Chris ????? who is an RNC person debate ol' Susan last Friday night? He made absolute mincemeat out of Susan about the Swift Vets.
Anyone know who that was and what his role is? Chris needs to be one of the "key spokesmen" for Dubya. He was awesome.
"Nothing, nothing has changed in regard to John Kerry's treatment of Viet Nam Veterans."
bttt for the People against FnKerry
Add in the on-the-record-lie from FnKerry's on lips in the well of the Senate that he spent Christmas '68 in Cambodia when his commanders say otherwise.....I just hope more of the public is paying attention and see what a low-life lying fraud FnKerry is....typical Dim.
It is they who should forgive us. They did nothing to apologize for. We, collectively, did. We turned our backs on them.
I will not commit this same sin twice.
Of course, what else could he have run on?
I'm understanding that some of these vets have born a psycholological burden so heavy that it has driven the to take their own lives or destroy themselves with booze or drugs. Some came home with feeling of shame, made worse by the treatment they received. I think some are like Eddie in the book, and spend their lives punishing themselves, when it shouldn't be that way at all. But if you come home only to be spat upon and cursed, what other choices do you have?
They absolutely do make the most noble of all sacrifices- another point the book made. The book made a point that what is most important in your life are the sacrifices you make, not the rewards you may expect.
They should be properly honored for that willingness to lay down their life for something greater than themselves. It was heartening to see proper recognition in the Gulf War, but it disgusts me to hear of leftie protestors disgracing some of our soldiers who have been coming back from Iraq.
I hope one of the things that comes out of this, besides the SwiftBoat Vets getting their personal well-deserved victory, is that more people do realize the enormity of the Viet Nam soldiers' sacrifice on so many levels. And maybe some protestors (who still have any remaining semblance of a moral compass) will start to realize the consequences of their words and actions. How many more dead soldiers do we have because of the MSM, the left, and their continual politicized bashing of the Iraq war effort? As far as I'm concerned Kerry, MM, the NYT, Hollyweird, and the whole pathetic lot of them have the blood of our brave soldiers on their hands.
I feel the same rage at people who will kill innocent babies and then accuse our American military of the same thing. God understands our feelings - they are right and just.
But he rewrites history so well
Bet you didn't know in his history book Nixon was President
in Dec 68
Gee I was there in Dec 68 and I could have sworn it was Johnson.