On the Edge of Treason?: John Kerry's exploitation of POWs and their Families

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When John Kerry testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in April 1971, he admitted that he had probably broken the law by going to Paris and meeting with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders. (From page 188 of the hearing record: "I realize that even my visits in Paris . . . in a sense are on the borderline of private individuals negotiating, et cetera. I understand these things." The prohibition against private individuals negotiating--which has been on the criminal statute books since John Adams was President--is contained in 18 U.S.C. Section 953 and is a felony.)

I was serving my second tour of duty in Vietnam at the time, and while I was painfully aware of the lies Kerry was telling Congress and the American people about what was happening in Vietnam (pretending to speak for "all" Vietnam veterans, calling us "war criminals," saying 60-80 percent of us were "stoned" twenty-four hours a day, and the like), I was unaware until recently that he was also involved in exploiting the families of American POWs in Vietnam.

In addition to ridiculing the demands of our Government that Hanoi fulfill its obligations under the Third Geneva Convention by ceasing the torturing of our POWs (referring to "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" [Transcript, pp. 184-85]), Kerry demanded that the United States withdraw "immediately and unconditionally" from Vietnam--excluding even the option of conditioning our withdrawal on getting our POWs back.

But this new information (see attached newspaper article from the New York Times of July 23, 1971, p. 2) raises an even more troubling issue. By way of background, upon returning from Vietnam (where I had been detailed by MACV to work in the North Vietnamese/Viet Cong Affairs Division of the Embassy, because I had done my undergrad honors thesis on the war and had correctly predicted who would emerge in the power struggle after the death of Ho Chi Minh in Sept. 1969), I accepted a position at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University, where I wrote my first book, Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development and served as Associate Editor for Asia and the Pacific of the Yearbook on International Communist Affairs.

Because of my expertise on the Vietnamese communists, I was approached by some POW wives in 1972 and asked to talk with them about Hanoi's attitude towards POWs. That led to an invitation to address the November 1972 annual meeting of the National League of Families of POWs in Washington, DC. During this association, several wives of POWs told me about being contacted by a woman named Cora Weiss (reportedly the daughter of a prominent member of the American Communist Party) who often visited Hanoi and would bring back mail and other information about their husbands--IF family members would first agree to denounce the war in public. Most of the wives and family members showed incredible courage in this setting, refusing to cooperate even when they were told that if they denounced the war their husbands or sons would get better treatment in Hanoi. I was--and I remain--tremendously proud of them.

I mention this, because it seems like a remarkable coincidence that -- after having gone to Paris and met secretly with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders repeatedly (I would add that this was in a setting where Congress, by a vote of 504-2, had 40 years ago this month passed a joint resolution formally authorizing the use of armed force against North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, so we were essentially in a state of declared war with them), John Kerry just happened, coincidentally, to take part in an identical activity to one we know Hanoi was coordinating with other American radicals -- pressuring POW family members to denounce their government.

I would add that some POW family members also showed up at Kerry's January 1971 "Winter Soldier Investigation" in Detroit, where a group of alleged "Vietnam veterans" (many of whom were later exposed as total frauds) told stories about raping and murdering and committing "genocide" against innocent civilians in Vietnam. One of the many frauds in Kerry's "Vietnam Veterans Against the War" was the group's "Executive Secretary," Al Hubbard, a Black Panther and alleged Air Force "captain" who claimed to have been seriously wounded by shrapnel while landing a plane at Da Nang during his second Vietnam tour. Hubbard sat beside Kerry on "Meet the Press" and appeared with him (and Jane Fonda) at other anti-war programs. After the press had investigated and learned Hubbard had been an Air Force sergeant, not a captain and not a pilot -- and he had not spent a day in Vietnam but had been injured in a 1961 soccer game, Hubbard was forced to resign. Showing an unusual loyalty for John Kerry, the future Senator praised Hubbard for having the "courage" to "admit" his deception--not mentioning that the "admission" came only after the press had exposed his fraud.

But back to the interesting question. We don't know what was said between Kerry and the Communist leaders he met with in Paris. But if his role in pressuring POW family members to denounce their government was discussed in advance with the Communist leaders--for example, if they encouraged him to promise mail from or special privileges for POWs held in Hanoi if their relatives would denounce the war, it is quite possible that John F. Kerry committed not one felony but two--the other being Treason.

I honestly don't know what was said in Paris. I don't know why Kerry became involved in putting on a press conference where POW family members spoke out against the war. As the New York Times article notes, the wives of several other POWs showed up and denounced Kerry for "'constantly using our suffering and grief' for his political ambitions." One of the angry POW wives reportedly shouted: "What office are you going to run for next?"

Much of the media doesn't seem much interested in covering the story of John Kerry's behavior during the war. When a majority of the men in the photo Kerry was using in his TV ads held a press conference declaring that Kerry was "unfit" to be Commander in Chief, the Associate Press decided not to run a single line about it--apparently believing that the voters didn't really need to know that information.

The issue, it seems to me, is whether the Internet now gives the people the power to bypass the media and get the truth out despite their biases and the threats of Kerry's lawyers to "sue" any TV station that runs the SwiftVets advertisement.

Please note that I am NOT accusing John Kerry of Treason. I have absolutely no way of knowing what went on during his illegal secret meetings with our nation's enemies during the war. But I do know Hanoi was using American radicals to pressure POW family members to denounce the war in return for promises of mail and better treatment for their POWs. And (thanks to the Associated Press and the New York Times in the attached clipping) we now know that Kerry was personally involved in publicizing statements against the war by relatives of POWs. It seems to me that on these facts Senator Kerry owes the POW families an apology and owes the American people a serious and detailed explanation of exactly how many times he met with our enemies and what was said on each occasion.

The views I have expressed here are entirely personal. (That is to say, I've had absolutely no contact with either the Bush or Kerry campaigns and my views certainly do not represent those of my employer or any group or organization with which I am or have in the past been associated.) In the interest of full disclosure, I have had a passionate dislike for both John Kerry and Jane Fonda ever since I followed their activities in the media while serving in Vietnam. So read the attached story and make up your own mind. Like a lot of Vietnam veterans, I'm clearly prejudiced against Senator Kerry. He not only betrayed the promise of John F. Kennedy that America would "pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty," and the sacrifice of 58,000 of our comrades in arms who came home--if at all--in body bags, but when in May 1973, under the leadership of people like Fulbright, Church, and Ted Kennedy, Congress made it unlawful for the American military to continue defending the Indochinese people from Communist aggression, the Communists conquered their neighbors behind columns of Soviet-made tanks and proceeded to butcher about three million human beings. That didn't have to happen, because by the end of 1972 we had the war in Vietnam essentially won. Even in the modern era, John Kerry has blocked Senate action on legislation that might pressure Hanoi to respect minimal human rights for its people. He just doesn't seem to share many of the values I hold dearly.

As I read his testimony, Kerry told the Senators not only that we could not stop Communist aggression around the world, but that we should not even try because Communism really was not a threat to us. Had Kerry's view prevailed, America might well have lost the Cold War.

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-- Dr. Robert Turner

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Attached clipping from New York Times, July 23 1971:

Anti-War Veteran Accused of Exploiting POW Issue

For recent stories on human rights in Vietnam today, see:

Vietnam today

VIETNAM: Prominent writer sentenced

For a laudatory biography of Cora Weiss, see:

CORA WEISS, President, Hague Appeal for Peace, 777 United Nations Plaza

Other relevant links:

When Night Fell In Indochina

Viet Vets Didn't Kill Babies, and They Aren't Suicidal


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