It has become part of liberal mythology; the tale of how in April of 1971 young John Kerry, called before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs on short notice to represent the Vietnam Veterans Against the War during their protest in Washington, improvised a powerful speech denouncing America's war in Vietnam that stunned and impressed the Senators, and the nation. According to the Kerry campaign's web site:
"By the time Senator Kerry returned home from Vietnam, he felt compelled to question decisions he believed were being made to protect those in positions of authority in Washington at the expense of the soldiers carrying on the fighting in Vietnam. Kerry was a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America and became a spokesperson for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War... In April 1971, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he asked the question of his fellow citizens, 'How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?' Sen. Claiborne Pell, (D-R.I.) thanked Kerry, then 27, for testifying before the committee, expressing his hope that Kerry 'might one day be a colleague of ours in this body.'"
In reality, Kerry's presence in Washington came as no great surprise to the anti-war leadership of the Senate Democrats - after all, they had helped Kerry and the VVAW finance their demonstration.
In "Home to War," a comprehensive history of the Vietnam veterans' anti-war movement, Gerald Nicosia noted that the VVAW was flat broke the week before the Washington event was to take place, with no way to transport the protestors. At that point, "Kerry immediately got on the phone to some of the biggest Democratic Party fund-raisers in New York and set up a meeting. When it broke up, VVAW was $75,000 in the black, and busfare for at least a few hundred out-of-towners was assured." In his book "Winter Soldiers," Richard Stacewicz quoted an FBI memorandum dated April 13, 1971 as follows, "VVAW had received fifty thousand dollars from United States Senators McGovern and Hatfield, who... obtained the money from an unknown New York Source."
Senator Fulbright, the anti-war Democrat who chaired the Senate Finance Committee, showered Kerry with wet kisses throughout his appearance. "I don't know a better source [for accurate information about the war] than you and your associates." "He is making a very significant statement." "I can't imagine anyone communicating more eloquently than you did." "I am sure you can sense the committee members appreciate very much your coming." And why not? Senator Fulbright and his fellow doves in the Senate had been opposing the war for five years in speeches and press conferences to little effect. Now, in John Kerry, they had found a much more effective tool - an ambitious, charismatic young politician willing to use his credibility as a veteran to attack the war effort from the inside. They were more than willing to give the 27-year-old former Naval Lieutenant all the time he wanted to expound on geopolitics and international affairs.
In recent weeks a number of journalists have noted Kerry's jarring - and false -- charge before the committee that American atrocities in Vietnam were "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command." Kerry's gruesome list of particulars, taken from the VVAW's discredited "Winter Soldier Investigation" has also received a fair amount of attention, as has his claim that America was "more guilty than any other body" of violating the Geneva Convention. All these remarkable observations occurred in the set speech that Kerry delivered at the start of his testimony.
However, John Kerry's prepared remarks take up only about six of the 32 pages in the Congressional Record that record his complete appearance. Some of the most interesting and overlooked material appears elsewhere.
For example, when asked for a recommendation about possible courses of action for Congress to pursue, Kerry stated that in Paris he had "talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government..." - in other words, Hanoi and the Vietcong. No mention of the other two interested parties; South Vietnam and the United States. Kerry went on to speak in support of "Madam Binh's points." Madam Nguyen Thi Binh was at that time the Foreign Minister for the PRG. Kerry was careful to emphasize the key PRG talking point -- that once the U.S. set a withdrawal date American prisoners of war would be returned.
On the topic of morale among the troops, Kerry offered this helpful advice: "...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 we are going to change prescriptions. They are going to have to change doctors, because we are not going to fight for them."
In a discussion about the global threat of communism to American security and freedom, Kerry attempted a bit of dry humor: "I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands." Asked about possible reprisals against the South Vietnamese after our withdrawal, Kerry suggested that perhaps 3,000 people "may have to leave that country." When Senator Aiken pointed out that there were 800,000 refugees from North Vietnam after the French lost at Dienbienphu, Kerry dismissed the matter as trivial, making it clear once again who he considered the real war criminals: "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..."
Kerry was, of course, wrong on both counts. In describing casualties among the South Vietnamese, historian Guenter Lewy wrote, "...the number of civilians killed deliberately by the VC is appallingly high. No counterpart to this death toll caused by communist terror tactics exists on the allied side." History also records the slaughter after Saigon fell -- 2 million Cambodians and tens of thousands of Vietnamese. Several hundred thousand Vietnamese were sent to re-education camps, and millions more fled the country.
How could Kerry have been so completely wrong?
Former Romanian general and spy chief Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer ever to defect from the Soviet bloc, described Kerry's testimony as sounding "exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and 'news reports' about invented American war atrocities." As the leader of this effort, General Pacepa "produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe." KGB chairman Yuri Andropov, who managed the anti-Vietnam War operation, described the Vietnam disinformation campaign to Pacepa as "our most significant success."
So there you have it. John Kerry launched his political career by parroting KGB propaganda and Vietcong talking points while representing a protest financed by the very same Democratic leadership that invited him to speak. In the process he exaggerated and encouraged mutiny among the troops still fighting overseas, trivialized the real risk of a communist genocide after America's withdrawal, and smeared the U.S. military he had once served with false charges of atrocities and mass murder.
Somehow, it doesn't seem quite as heroic as the Kerry for President campaign's version.
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Last Updated Thursday, June 03 2004 @ 08:09 AM MDT; 9,216 Hits