Kerry Accused U.S. of War Crimes

Whether his words were intended to describe ongoing acts of mass murder or only prospective acts of mass murder is unclear, but John Kerry left no doubt in Senate testimony 33 years ago that he believed the U.S. was capable of committing mass murder in Vietnam.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, Kerry was asked how a U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam would effect the South Vietnamese army and people. “[Y]es, there will be some recrimination,” said Kerry, “but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America.” (See page 190 of the attached transcript of his entire testimony).

Kerry, who is now a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and the leading Democratic presidential candidate, was a private citizen in 1971, testifying two years after his return from highly decorated naval service in Vietnam. In the opening statement of his testimony he also complained of what he called “the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage in the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war, when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions.” (Pages 184-185.)

‘A Phony Deal’

The same day Kerry spoke those words, Rep. Sam Johnson (R.-Tex.) was sitting in a cell in the infamous Hanoi Hilton POW camp, where he says he was tortured, underfed, and mostly cut off from correspondence by his captors, in violation of those Geneva Conventions. Johnson told HUMAN EVENTS that his North Vietnamese captors had moved him there recently after 42 months of solitary confinement–another convention violation.

“When [Kerry] testified against the war, his testimony was un-American and untrue, and I think he lost all credibility as a real military man,” said Johnson, asked to comment on the full 32-page transcript, which includes Kerry’s answers to questions from senators on the committee. Johnson, a retired Air Force Colonel who was a prisoner of war for seven years after being shot down in North Vietnam in 1966.

Johnson said the idea that 200,000 Vietnamese were annually “murdered by the United States of America” was “not true. Absolutely not true.” He also complained of Kerry’s liberal use of his Vietnam service in his presidential campaign, particularly the use of the slogan “band of brothers,” a Shakespearean reference to the camaraderie of men who have seen battle together.

“It’s a phony deal,” he said. “There are Vietnam veterans that you’ll see who will call you brother and commiserate with you over experiences over there, but his use of that is totally false, and I don’t know how anybody could fall for it.”

HUMAN EVENTS provided Kerry’s senatorial office with a full copy of the transcript on Tuesday, February 10, and asked specifically what Kerry meant by the above statements, as well as whether he stands by what he said. Later that day, a spokeswoman for the senatorial office said she had forwarded the questions to Kerry’s presidential campaign. More than forty-eight hours later, as of press time Thursday, February 12, the Kerry campaign had not responded to numerous inquiries. On that day, in answer to yet another inquiry, a spokeswoman for Kerry’s Senate office told HUMAN EVENTS, “The campaign is handling everything dealing with that issue.”

‘Murdered By the U.S.A.’

Mackubin Thomas Owens, a Marine veteran of Vietnam, quoted other parts of this testimony last week in a cover story for National Review (“The senator’s other Vietnam War record”). The transcript obtained by HUMAN EVENTS includes both Kerry’s prepared opening statement, and also the lengthy question-and-answer session with a group of liberal Democratic and Republican senators that followed. These senators included Clifford Case (D-N.J.), George Aiken (R.-Vt.), Stuart Symington (D.-Mo.), Claiborne Pell (D.-R.I.), Jacob Javits (R.-N.Y.), and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman William Fulbright (D.-Ark.).

In his 1971 testimony, Kerry also repeated charges leveled at Vietnam veterans in the so-called “Winter Soldier Investigation,” a mock trial held in Detroit by anti-war activists in January and February, 1971. At that event, scores of men claiming to be combat veterans fresh from Vietnam accused themselves of atrocities such as throwing Vietnamese POWs from helicopters and making them drink poisonous helicopter hydraulic fluid.

In his introductory statement, Kerry told the Senate committee of the Detroit meeting and its lurid, unproven accusations: “They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war.” These crimes, Kerry said, were “not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”

“It’s just a slap in the face for Senator Kerry to suggest, as he did in that hearing, that people killed other people and committed war crimes on a daily basis,” said Rep. Duke Cunningham (R.-Calif.), a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot who was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972 and later rescued. “Think of the loss of life that [Kerry] has caused directly, and the heartache of thousands of people that have served in the military–this veteran accusing them of criminal action,” he said.

During the 1971 testimony, Sen. Aiken asked Kerry if the South Vietnamese army and people “would be happy to have us withdraw or what?”

“If we don’t withdraw,” Kerry said, “if we maintain a Korean-type presence in South Vietnam, say 50,000 troops or something, with strategic bombing raids from Guam and from Japan and from Thailand dropping these 15,000 pound fragmentation bombs on them, et cetera, in the next few years, then what you will have is a people who are continually oppressed, who are continually at warfare, and whose problems will not at all be solved because they will not have any kind of representation.

“The war will continue,” said Kerry. “So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America.”

It is not clear from Kerry’s testimony when, where or how he believed these people were, or would be, “murdered by the United States of America.”

No Threat

Echoing rhetoric used in a speech at the Winter Soldier Investigation, Kerry also asserted that U.S. soldiers’ atrocities, and not Communism, were the real threat to America: “[W]e feel because of what threatens this country, the fact that the crimes threaten it, not reds, and not redcoats, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out,” he said.

The transcript indicates that later in the testimony, under sympathetic questioning from Sen. Case, Kerry drew laughter from the crowd when he dismissed the administration’s rationale for the war, to keep Communism at bay. “I think it is bogus, totally artificial,” he said. “There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands.”

Kerry also gave and then quickly retracted testimony that the vast majority of soldiers in Vietnam got high on drugs literally all day, every day. “A lot of guys, 60, 80 percent stay stoned 24 hours a day just to get through the Vietnam [War],” he said.

When Sen. Symington appeared incredulous, Kerry altered his testimony: “Sixty to 80 percent is the figure used that try something, let’s say, at one point.”