August 31, 2004
How Kerry stood up for veteransBy Steve Gilbert
John Kerry has often stated how proud he is of how he stood up for Vietnam Veterans when he came back from his four month tour in Vietnam. A recent example appeared on CNN's website on March 23, 2004:
"I'm proud of the way I stood up for veterans when I came home from Vietnam, and proud of what we achieved as veterans speaking up for our fellow veterans who were still carrying on the fighting."
Were Kerry's actions and statements something he should be proud of? Did he stand up for Vietnam Veterans and those still fighting the war when he came back?
Below is the transcription of a leaflet from the Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) demonstration in Valley Forge, in September 1970, which Kerry helped organize. Kerry was also one of the featured speakers at this event—along with Jane Fonda:
(From Home to War, by Geraldo Nicosia.)
A US INFANTRY COMPANY JUST CAME THROUGH HERE:
MR. CROSBY NOYES (Washington Evening Star): Mr. Kerry, you said at one time or another that you think our policies in Vietnam are tantamount to genocide and that the responsibility lies at all chains of command over there. Do you consider that you personally as a Naval officer committed atrocities in Vietnam or crimes punishable by law in this country?
KERRY: There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 calibre machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages.
All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this is ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.
On national television again four days later, John Kerry said the following in his sworn testimony before the US Senate's Foreign Relation Committee:
I am not here as John Kerry. I am here as one member of the group of 1,000, which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit at this table they would be here and have the same kind of testimony.
I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day—to—day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command...
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, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country...
We could come back to this country; we could be quiet; we could hold our silence; we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we 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.
We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on'the Vietcong.
We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.
We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shooting anything that moves, and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals.
We watched the U.S. falsification of body counts, in fact the glorification of body counts. We listened while month after month we were told the back of the enemy was about to break. We fought using weapons against "oriental human beings," with quotation marks around that. We fought using weapons against those people which I do not believe this country would dream of using were we fighting in the European theater, or let us say a non—third—world people theater....
We are here in Washington also to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying as human beings to communicate to people in this country, the question of racism, which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions also, the use of weapons, 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, in the use of free fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, the bombings, the torture of prisoners, the killing of prisoners, accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam...
An American Indian friend of mine who lives in the Indian Nation of Alcatraz put it to me very succinctly. He told me how as a boy on an Indian reservation he had watched television and he used to cheer the cowboys when they came in and shot the Indians, and then suddenly one day he stopped in Vietnam and he said "My God, I am doing to these people the very same thing that was done to my people." And he stopped. And that is what we are trying to say, that we think this thing has to end...
Senator SYMINGTON. There have been many reports of widespread use of drugs by U.S. servicemen in Vietnam. I might add I was in Europe last week and the growth of that problem was confirmed on direct questioning of people in the military. How serious is the problem and to what do you attribute it?
Mr. KERRY. The problem is extremely serious. It is serious in very many different ways...
The problem exists for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the emptiness. It is the only way to get through it. A lot of guys, 60, 80 percent stay stoned 24 hours a day just to get through the Vietnam...
Mr. KERRY. You see the mood is changing over there and a search and destroy mission is a search and avoid mission, and troops don't — you know, like that revolt that took place that was mentioned in the New York Times when they refused to go in after a piece of dead machinery, because it didn't have any value. They are making their own judgments.
There is a GI movement in this country now as well as over there, and soon these people, these men, who are prescribing wars for these young men to fight are going to find out they are going to have to find some other men to fight them because are going to change prescriptions. They are going to have to change doctors, because we are not going to fight for them. That is what they are going to realize. There is now a more militant attitude even within the military itself, among these soldiers evidenced by the advertisements recently in the New York Times in which members of the First Air Cavalry publicly signed up and said, "We would march on the 24th if we could be there, but we can't because we are in Vietnam." Those men are subject obviously to some kind of discipline, but people are beginning to be willing to submit to that...
Senator JAVITS. I wish to associate myself with the statement Senator Symington made when I was here as to your credentials. That is what we always think about with a witness and your credentials couIdn't be higher.
The moral and morale issues you have raised will have to be finally acted upon by the committee. I think it always fires us to a deeper sense of emergency and dedication when we hear from a young man like yourself in what we know to be the reflection of the attitude of so many others who have served in a way which the American people so clearly understand. It is not as effective unless you have those credentials. The kind you have.
Your testimony about what you know and what you see, how you feel and how your colleagues feel, is entitled to the highest standing and priority...
I couldn't think of anybody whose testimony I would rather have and act on from the point of view of what this is doing to our young men we are sending over there, how they feel about it, what the impact is on the conscience of a country, what the impact is on even the future of the military services from the point of view of the men who served, than your own.
Thank you very much.
So Kerry is proud of having called Vietnam Veterans and the men still fighting there drug—addled genocidal war criminals? That is how he stood up for Vietnam Veterans?