Jim Warner will never forget when he first heard of John Kerry. It was May of 1971, and Warner was a Marine first lieutenant suffering in solitary confinement in North Vietnam’s infamous Skid Row punishment camp.
Since his F-4 fighter had been shot down three and a half years earlier, Warner had been tortured and interrogated regularly by his captors.
One morning–Warner thinks it was a Saturday–he was subjected to an unusually long three-hour interrogation, during which they made him read the typewritten transcript of a statement by a U.S. Navy officer, who was Vietnam veteran, speaking in the United States. The speech included a litany of American war atrocities against the Vietnamese and advocated an immediate and unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam.
“All I could think of was that this must be a really contemptible human being,” Warner told HUMAN EVENTS.
Warner said he remembers well that the statement was by a Lt. (j.g.) John Kerry, who is today a United States senator from Massachusetts and the Democrats’ presidential nominee. Kerry, who in 1971 accused Americans of regularly committing war crimes in Vietnam, has now made his own Vietnam service the centerpiece of his campaign.
Although it was not identified as such, Warner believes the transcript he saw in Vietnam was probably from Kerry’s April 22, 1971, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (read the full text here), in which Kerry listed dozens of gruesome atrocities he said Americans were committing in Vietnam “on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
“I was taken out to an interrogation and presented with Kerry’s testimony,” Warner told HUMAN EVENTS. “The interrogator kept pointing at Kerry’s words, saying, ‘See? This officer from your Navy says you deserve to be punished.'”
“We can’t expect the rest of the country to share our disgust at Kerry for turning on us,” said Warner. “A lot of people are too young to remember that.”
Paul Galanti served as Virginia co-chairman for fellow former POW Sen. John McCain’s 2000 presidential bid. He also supported Democratic Gov. Mark Warner’s (Va.) campaign in 2001. As a POW in the Hanoi Hilton prison camp, he, like Warner, was tormented with words Kerry had spoken back home in the United States.
Galanti says Kerry’s 1971 Senate testimony was one of the many English-language radio broadcasts his captors played for him and other POWs to demoralize them and encourage them to admit to war crimes.
“They made a big deal about this guy who was a naval officer, talking about all these atrocities and war crimes,” said Galanti. “They’d been for years saying, ‘You’re not prisoners of war, you’re war criminals. You’re never going home, we’re going to try you after the war and you’ll all be found guilty of war crimes.'”
Galanti realized only recently that it was Kerry’s voice the Communists had used to torment him, when he saw a documentary on the anti-war movement and heard Kerry’s unmistakable pronunciation of the words “Genghis Khan.” Kerry pronounced it “Jenjis” in his testimony when, among other atrocities, he reported tales that U.S. troops had “razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”
“Right away, I said, hey, wait a minute, that’s the guy I heard in Hanoi,” said Galanti.
“I couldn’t believe a naval officer would do that–you’re supposed to get court-martialed for stuff like that,” he went on. “I really violently object to him suddenly turning into Rambo and spending almost his entire acceptance speech at the Democratic convention with this huge war-hero routine.”
Galanti, Warner and others have joined forces with the group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth to run television ads on Kerry’s Vietnam service (which many of Kerry’s fellow Swiftees say Kerry has lied about) and on Kerry’s anti-war activities upon his return to the United States. A new round of television ads by the group features Galanti and former POW Ken Cordier.
Tom Collins, a decorated Air Force captain whose plane was shot down in 1965, says he was also made to listen to an audiotape of Kerry’s testimony by his North Vietnamese captors. He explained that the North Vietnamese were constantly trying to elicit confessions of war crimes from Americans.
“What they wanted to do was get us to make statements that they could use for propaganda, no matter what it took to get it” he said. “They would torture us, some were even killed for it. . . . For over seven years, their goal was to get propaganda out of me. And then I see somebody like John Kerry and the Vietnam Veterans [Against the War] giving them the same propaganda they want me to give them, free of charge, on American television.”
“I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in Jane Fonda,” said Collins. “I didn’t know her background, but I figured she’s just some airhead Hollywood actress–so what? But then along comes this military officer. My first reaction was, this is a fake. But it wasn’t a fake. This guy is a traitor. I’m very disappointed in that. . . . I expected more out of a Navy lieutenant. That’s why I was so demoralized. It was far worse for him to do it.”
Collins said he was also shown other VVAW propaganda, including a picture of a famous April 1971 event in Washington, in which the group’s members threw what they said were their military medals over the fence. (Kerry participated in that event, and claimed in an interview at the time that he had thrown away his own medals, although it was revealed later that he had thrown someone else’s medals.)
“He knew he was putting us at risk,” said Warner. “And he was demanding unilateral withdrawal, which means our value as bargaining chips would be gone. And what do you think would have happened to us then?”
Galanti agreed. “I have no doubt if we had done what Kerry was advocating, we’d still be over there,” he said. But for the presence of American forces in Vietnam, he said, “there was absolutely no reason to turn us back. . . . The only reason they let us go was because they got the living daylights bombed out of them by B-52s over the Christmas bombings in ’72. . . . We were home 60 days later,” he said.
Although it was barely covered in the press, Kerry was greeted coolly and even mildly heckled during his appearance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati in August. Several veterans turned their backs on him or walked out during his speech. Kerry will once again face a crowd of veterans next week at the American Legion conference in Nashville.
Kerry’s campaign has been consumed in recent weeks with the controversy over his former Swiftee comrades, 254 of whom have signed a letter calling him “unfit” to be commander in chief of the United States military. The group’s three television ads (here, here, and here) and the surrounding news coverage have panicked Kerry’s campaign and thrown it off stride as it tries to make the case for ousting President Bush.
Kerry’s lawyers and opposition researchers have used legal pressure to try to suppress the ads and even called for a ban on the book by group spokesman John O’Neill, Unfit for Command (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS).
“We can forgive and forget,” said Collins. “But then when he decides to bring it up and run for the highest office in the land based upon outright lies, we’re not going to stand for that.”
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