Monday, May 02, 2005

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.

Sound familiar?

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.


At 1:48 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger THIRDWAVEDAVE said...

92 Amens....I'm thinking we should begin focusing attention to Tim Russert, in the hopes he will push Kerry into signing. At some point Russert begins to lose cred by not pursuing the issue. Imus doesn't stand to lose anything, but when he latches onto an issue, he can raise a ruckus.

At 4:18 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger Bookworm said...

Kerry apparently was able to have his silver star record cleaned up, since he had it reissued several times. I suspect that he will sign his 180 once he gets that cleaned up too.

At 7:55 PM, May 02, 2005, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

It's interesting, considering all the interest in Bush's time in the Guard that no journalist ever challenged Kerry before the election.
I'm trying to think of a reason besides media bias.

Richard Aubrey

At 8:39 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger Dr. Sanity said...

The truth is that John Kerry has received a free pass his entire life and no one has ever called him on it (well, a few have tried); but Kerry has NEVER suffered any consequences from his behavior. Most people don't even know about the discrepancies in his record or about not signing the form to release his records. He continually counts on the kindness of strangers (the press).

At 9:05 PM, May 02, 2005, Blogger Pancho said...

It's no surprise that many of the Winter Soldiers didn't want to go into details. Then the details of their service may have been looked into. It was later proven that some had never served in Vietnam and some were never in the military at all.

At 12:49 AM, May 03, 2005, Blogger Emmunah said...

I have read personal correspondence from soldiers coming back from Iraq, and/or in Iraq with regard to their "in country" behavior. It does not surprise me that no one is going to sign a deposition.

Soldiers, especially in Vietnam, did not "rat each other out" to the "man". Yeah, yeah, what do I know right? Well, I was assigned to three different Army Medical Centers while I was in the Army, and I served on the psych wards as part of my MOS, so I heard all of the same stories Kerry told...only I heard them before it become "PC" to forget them, or to even use the same terminology that they used then.

Soldiers, at that young age, indoctrinated (yes, the military does that. There is even a psych dept. that studies how BEST to do it) into fighting and relying only on their brothers in arms will do things in a combat situation that they would NEVER do in their natural environment. In Vietnam, depending on where you were, it really was the law of the jungle. This is true of all wars, but Kerry's primary crime was in breaking the code of silence that soldiers keep to themselves and telling people.

You see, it was not ALL Vietnam Vets....but enough...and it was the command structure too...and combined with rampant drug use, a breakdown in disipline and you have a lot of choas and needless death.

Dealing with that is difficult, and there are a few different coping mechanisms. One is to deny, one is to talk it out. If you are the denying kind, then the one that talks steals your honor. All a soldier has is his honor. That's the real reason that these Vet's that talked are hated...and must be brought low...because their honor must be stolen in order to retreive the "rightful" soldiers honor that comes with denial. Nothing frightens those who have repressed memories more than one who would expose those takes a lot of pscyhic muscle to keep those memories at bay.

Having counseled Vets, Victims of Torture (who were often torturors themselves) and's never easy to admit to humanity what you do, or what was done to you. This is why it will always be such a divisive issue.

Sorry this is so long:). I seem unable to write the neat and short paragraphs that so many have mastered in our internet age:)

At 6:24 AM, May 03, 2005, Blogger Goesh said...

I never saw any atrocities or torture in the unit I was with in Nam. Kerry wanted to be perceived as a warrior but he went home after a few months having sustained minor wounds(?). Purple hearts are worn on the body, not on paper. Too bad he didn't have a flair for the dramatic, othewise he could have taken off his shirt and shown the world some of his battle scars. I don't think he has any scars from Viet Nam, just like he didn't witness any atrocities or see any torture. I always found it amazing that as an Officer he was not able to take any action against atrocities yet was able to get himself in front of the cameras and a Senate hearing to take action afterwards.

At 9:05 AM, May 03, 2005, Anonymous neo-neocon said...

Emmunah--The thing is, the Winter Soldiers had already "ratted each other out" in public testimony that was recorded for posterity. The just didn't go that extra mile and sign depositions, even though they themselves were offered immunity. They had done the damage to their fellow soldiers already, though.

Other cases, such as My Lai, were very different. Soldiers were willing to testify against each other there. But, in contrast, not one of the Winter Soldier allegations has ever held up, although multiple investigations have been launched.

What was the difference? Some think the difference was that many of the Winter Soldiers were psychologically damaged, it's true--but that they had not been in Vietnam at all. These issues have never been totally resolved. See here and here for some of the claims against the veracity of those testifying at the Winter Soldier investigations. There is also a book, "Stolen Valor" by BG Burkett, that goes into some detail about this. And the only sworn affadavit of a Winter Soldier testifier apparently is one signed recently by a man named Steve Pitkin, who claims he was coerced into lying and making false atrocity allegations at the Winter Soldier hearings.

There is no question, of course, that some atrocities occurred in Vietnam. And there's no question that some men who served there had psychological damage afterwards (by the way, this happens, to some extent, in every war). But there's a great deal of question about the veracity of those who testified in Kerry's Winter Soldier investigations.

At 3:06 PM, May 03, 2005, Anonymous Barry said...

emmunah does not seem to have read the original piece, which addressed the actions and words of certain individuals, especially John Kerry, not the question of what happened or didn't in Vietnam.

If John Kerry simply jumped on what was, at the time, a popular bandwagon, and lied to get attention, and his words and actions hurt the innocent, as it certainly appears, then he is beyond despicable.

In the context of 1970s zeitgeist, to lie about the atrocities he had seen was similar to lying about one's heroics during a war spent in a cushy job stateside, during WW II. Furthermore, it netted him a political career as a young, inexperienced, and otherwise utterly unremarkable and probably unelectable man. And it left a legacy of damage, as such lies will.

When a man is on trial for murder in Los Angeles, the prosecution is certainly not entitled to bring up random stories about murders in LA. The issue at hand is John Kerry's integrity, not what happened somewhere in Vietnam, at some time, no matter how often it may have occurred.

dr. sanity is right on: "John Kerry has received a free pass his entire life"

Great blog, neo-neo!

At 10:41 AM, May 05, 2005, Blogger Pat said...

Excellent post. The real reason that they didn't sign the depositions is that they didn't want people to focus on specific individual incidents; they wanted folks to believe that the war crimes they described were commonplace and every day. Indeed, look at Bob Herbert's column today on Aidan Delgado (the John Kerry of his generation) in which Delgado makes it clear:

His goal, he said, is to convince his listeners that the abuse of innocent Iraqis by the American military is not limited to "a few bad apples," as the military would like the public to believe.

Get it? The specific charges are bad and deserve investigation. But that does not serve the anti-warrior's purpose, which is to cast blame on the entire system, the entire war.

Of course, another reason that they didn't sign depositions is that many were BS'ing about being in Vietnam, and many others were BS'ing about what they'd done there--Filmstrip Projector Rambo Ward Churchill is just a johnny-come-lately to that effort.

Good to see you getting some recognition in the blogosphere--you really are a terrific writer and thinker!

At 9:29 PM, May 05, 2005, Blogger Mark said...

So to recap, the atrocities occurred but it wasn't the Winter Soldiers who participated in or witnessed the behavior that were genuine because they won't sign depositions they were with John Kerry?

Unflippinbelievable. The terrorists really did a number on you folks. It's like a pack of hollocost deniers. Don't expect thinking Americans to buy it. The facts say otherwise.

At 10:03 PM, May 05, 2005, Blogger dick said...


That is not the issue. The point is that if the soldiers were willing to testify as to what happened, then they should have been willing to sign depositions as to the facts. Since they would not and also since many of them have been found not even to have been in the military let alone on the front lines in vietnam, the impression is that they were lying as to those things happening exactly as they testified. No one at all has said that no incidents happened. The question is the veracity of the people who were testifying, not least Sen Kerry himself.

If you are going to cast stones at the people you served with, then you should have the b*lls to sign that statement or else say nothing at all. Apparently in the case of Sen kerry's Form 180, he prefers to say nothing at all. In the case of the men testifying in 1971, apparently they also refuse to own up to the actual events in a verifiable way. That therefore makes me believe that it was all a big fraud and our servicement have been paying the bill for those pieces of scum for almost 35 years and will continue to pay that bill so long as that big POS Kerry is still around to blather about his vietnam service, fraudulent as it probably is.

At 11:51 PM, May 05, 2005, Anonymous Scrapiron said...

I spent 49 months in Southeast Asia during the war, including my time in country. I was in one of the 'you call, we haul outfits. I never saw nor heard of anything even close to what Hanoi John claimed and I seriously doubt the 'Emmunah' is telling the entire truth. He sounds like a war protestor that would not have served in Nam. People sure like to make up war stories but I learned to tell the difference in a fairy tale and a war story at an early age. A fairy tale always starts with 'once upon a time', and a war story always starts 'now this ain't no BS'. Either one should be taken with a grain of salt. I think 99% of the stuff you hear should start with the latter.


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