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Prisoner of War Panel, Page 3
I guess it's very important for us to hold on to this original notion about what America stands for because what's happening now as more and more Americans become aware of the gap between what America is supposed to stand for and what we are really doing, not only to other people but to ourselves, we are going to see a Mrs. Warner multiply a thousand times. We're going to see these GIs, veterans, multiply a thousand times. We're going to see the people in this room multiply by thousands of times and when that happens, things are going to change in this country. At that point, maybe we'll begin to match the traditions that we always claimed we stood for.

MODERATOR. We'll take questions from the press now.

QUESTION. I'd like to ask the former interrogators to comment further on the American forces' attitude toward and treatment specifically of women, female prisoners of war.

PANELIST. The interrogating I did was basically with the men. That's all we did. With the pacification, we used to round up a lot of women; we would separate families, when we brought them in from the field. We put the children in an area away from their parents and take the women away from their husbands and just totally separate the whole family. We wouldn't let them know what was coming off. I never worked with any torture against women, but we did mess up their minds by taking them away from their children and the rest of the family.

PANELIST. None of my experiences in interrogating women had any sensationalism, if that's what you're seeking.

QUESTION. I wasn't really asking for sensationalism. I was, more than specific incidents of treatment, asking you to talk about the general attitude toward women.

PANELIST. Oh. Most of our prisoners were women and they were treated basically like a Viet Cong soldier was. They weren't taken advantage of in any way. Only if they had a child or something, we would separate them from their child-- try to use that to make them talk. Our basic job was to get information. That was our basic mission and if the situation was that we could exploit a woman, a woman with a child, we would do it. Other than that, women were treated no differently than the men prisoners. They were treated the same way, they were kept in the same areas. They weren't segregated or anything. They were all kept together with the men.

PANELIST. I'd like to add to that. I tried to make obvious the fact that of all the people that I had encountered in military intelligence, this guy was the only black man that I had encountered. I can't attribute it to official Army policy, but to me it seems that the ratio of blacks in military intelligence would have been more than one out of maybe five hundred people that I had seen. I tried to bring that point out. That this was the only black man that I had encountered in military intelligence in two years in the Army.

QUESTION. In a discussion with black GIs yesterday, I was informed that, especially in the 3rd Marine Division, black GIs were always given the dirty work in torturing villagers, slapping around villagers. They always made the black GIs look like devils to the villagers to strike terror into their hearts. Perhaps this is related to the theory that the villagers had about blacks interrogating.

PANELIST. Well, I'd like to make a comment on that statement. In my experiences in Vietnam, the blacks were more apt to identify with the Vietnamese than the white GI was because, they, the blacks, are suffering from racism as the war in Vietnam is a racist war against the Vietnam people. Therefore, they can identify with them in my estimation. I believe that black GIs were less apt to be sadistic and violent with Vietnamese people. The black interrogator that we had refused to interrogate people. Any classification that he put on the prisoner would intensify. If he found the prisoner to be guilty of any of the numerous crimes that they can be guilty of, you know, belonging to Viet Cong organization, they would go to the National Police and he wanted no part of it. He tried to remove himself from it completely.

QUESTION. Was there a difference in attitude between the heads and the alcoholics?

PANELIST. Well, generally, the alcoholics were the career types and their attitude was body counts. Killing people was what they were after, but they didn't have to do it so they were really anxious to send people out into the field to do it. I imagine if they had gone out into the field, they may have tried grass, but seeing as they were in rear areas they had alcohol. It was readily available. But had they gone out and had they experienced some of the combat conditions, which they expected other people under their command to go through, I imagine maybe they would have tried other things.

QUESTION. I was wondering if drug abuse...

PANELIST. I never saw anyone interrogate anyone under the influence of any drugs, other than maybe alcohol. But, I think that had anyone been stoned during an interrogation, they would be less apt to use torture than somebody who was straight or especially drunk.

QUESTION. Earlier, when you testified, you referred to the Viet Cong forcing people to join them. How did you get this information? Was that information extracted from them under duress or force?

PANELIST. Normally they'd volunteer the information. Saying that the Viet Cong had forced them was probably a bad statement to make because to them, especially in the northern part of Vietnam, the government of Saigon is a remote intangible entity. The only government that they've known and they identify with is the Viet Cong. Because the Viet Cong don't own the land that they're farming. The Viet Cong don't tax the land that they're farming. The people in Saigon own the land and it's the constant struggle between the poor and the rich. They give their allegiance to the Viet Cong because Viet Cong are the people they encounter in their daily lives; the people that live in the same way that they do. The people who are fighting for them, as opposed to the government of Vietnam, the official government of Vietnam, the American- sanctioned government of Vietnam, which has nothing to do with the people except levy taxes and kill them.


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