Kerry--old habits die hard (but who's counting?)
In the course of writing my most recent Vietnam post, I found myself rereading the transcript of the 1971 Dick Cavett Show debate between John Kerry and John O'Neill. I couldn't help noticing that Kerry does something quite familiar during it.
Most people probably know by now about Kerry's January 2005 on-air pledge to sign a Form 180. As yet, it's still unfulfilled, although Powerline reports some tongue-in-cheek progress. Well, here's Kerry and O'Neill in 1971 talking about the Winter Soldier hearings that Kerry had organized, in which testimony was given about egregious American war crimes:
MR. O'NEILL: That's very interesting that you would say that, John. I've got an article right now. It's from the May 8, 1971, New York Times. It concerns some of the testimony. It concerns a Danny S. Notley (phonetic spelling), who apparently is a member of your organization. The Army pursued him all the way to Minnesota to try and get him to sign a deposition regarding the allegations of war crimes that he made, and he refused to, as have all 50 people that testified there and 150 that testified in Detroit, and so I suggest that if you're honest, you ought to finally produce the depositions after all of us waiting for two months....
MR. KERRY: ...But what we're saying is – and the reason that some of these men have not signed depositions is very, very simple, and it's up to each individual. One reason is that specifically they are not looking to implicate other people. They haven't cited names of individuals involved because they don't want more Calleys. They don't want men to enter double jeopardy, to have to come back to the United States of America and be penalized for those things that they did that were the result of the mistakes and the bad decisions of their leaders.
MR. CAVETT: Uh-huh.
MR. KERRY: And the purpose of them not signing them is literally to call for an examination of policy and not scapegoats and to examine it from the President of the United States to General Westmoreland and others. And when they do that, then they will sign and then they will talk.
Now, there are individuals who are perfectly willing to sign. Nobody's ducking anything.
MR. O'NEILL: Well, who are they? Can you tell me that?
MR. KERRY: Well, I have a friend who came all the way from Florida today, and if it's all right with you, he's here now. I'd be very happy to bring him on and let him make a deposition.
MR. O'NEILL: Well, I think just you and I. I've had the same experience of four against one before.
MR. KERRY: You've asked for depositions, and I have the man –
MR. O'NEILL: Yeah, and I'd like to see him sign a deposition after the show.
MR. KERRY: I think you've made a very, very serious charge.
MR. O'NEILL: That's absolutely correct, I have.
MR. KERRY: And there's a veteran here who's come all the way from Florida who, if you didn't mind, would come on television now with names, facts, dates, places, maps, coordinates, and he's be very willing to make it public.
MR. O'NEILL: I've just got two or three things to say. It's amazing, and it certainly is wonderful that you've finally produced someone after two months.
I did some follow-up research, trying to find out whether this man, or any of the other Winter Soldiers, had ever signed depositions. In a recent article favorable to Kerry, I found a brief mention of the fact that depositions were not signed . All the information I could find so far from other sources on the subject seems to indicate that no one ever signed such a deposition.
See here for an article by Owens in National Review that argues against the veracity of the Winter Soldier testimony (although, by they way, it does not flinch from the fact that some atrocities were indeed committed by American servicemen in Vietnam), a summary paragraph of which I quote here:
when the Naval Investigative Service (NIS) attempted to interview those who allegedly had witnessed atrocities, most refused to cooperate, even after assurances that they would not be questioned about atrocities they might have committed personally. Those that did cooperate never provided details of actual crimes to investigators. The NIS also discovered that some of the most grisly testimony was given by fake witnesses who had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.
If anyone can produce evidence that the guy to whom Kerry was referring to in 1971 did sign a deposition--or that any of the Winter Soldiers ever did, I'd be much obliged. I'd actually be relieved to be wrong here. I'd much prefer being wrong to the painful fact that, although we may have been waiting for Kerry's Form 180 for the 92 days that have elapsed since his promise, we've been waiting 33 years and 306 days for those depositions.
And yes, I am well aware that atrocities and war crimes were committed in Vietnam, some prosecuted and well-known, like My Lai, and others still being investigated, such as the alleged "Tiger Force" incident. The aforementioned Owens article features an excellent discussion of a number of these incidents. Like the great majority of people on both sides of the Vietnam issue, I deplore all atrocities that occurred there.
Nevertheless, Kerry's Winter Soldiers and their as-yet-unproven allegations that atrocities were commonplace and accepted during the Vietnam War did a great deal of damage to the veterans who fought there. I'd like to see him held to all of his pledges, so the truth can finally come out about this.