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Hanoi John: Kerry and the Antiwar Movement's Communist Connections (Part 2)

Dewey Canyon III

Planning for Dewey Canyon III began during the WSI when the VVAW leaders met to address how to generate more publicity than the event seemed to be getting. Kerry claims that it was he who suggested the idea of a march on Washington. Jan Barry has a similar recollection, but other VVAW members contradict this, recalling that a spring demonstration in Washington was already being planned, it was only the details that had not been determined. In fact the April 18-23, 1971 date the VVAW selected for the event was chosen to coincide with major demonstrations the North Vietnamese government was coordinating with the two major factions of the antiwar movement that had emerged from the New Mobe.173

During 1970 the New Mobe had divided into factions over the issue of whether to emphasize massive civil disobedience or mass organized demonstrations. After a May 9, 1970 New Mobe demonstration in response to Nixon's invasion of Cambodia and the Kent State shooting, the Socialist Workers Party decided to break away from New Mobe elements advocating civil disobedience and form its own organization oriented towards mass organized demonstrations. Following the SWP's direction, in June 1970 the Detroit and Cleveland branches of the New Mobe split off to form a new national organization, the National Peace Action Coalition (NPAC), coordinated by Jerry Gordon, an Ohio union leader linked to the SWP, and James Lafferty, a Detroit lawyer prominent in the National Lawyers Guild.174 Meanwhile, in September 1970 the faction of the New Mobe advocating civil disobedience, led by Sidney Peck, formed the National Coalition Against War, Racism and Repression (NCAWRR).175

These two factions soon came together in a tenuous alliance negotiated by the North Vietnamese. After Nixon's April 1970 invasion of Cambodia, NCAWRR's Rennie Davis--who had previously been convicted of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago176--began planning for massive civil disobedience to shut down Washington, DC in May 1971 if the war had not ended by then. Meanwhile the NPAC held a rally on October 31, 1970, but the turnout was so poor that afterwords NPAC leaders invited NCAWRR to participate in a December meeting for planning future events. At the meeting the NPAC insisted on holding its rally on April 24, 1971 despite NCAWRR's request to delay settling on a date until after a NCAWRR meeting scheduled for early January. NCAWRR leaders felt that the NPAC was deliberately trying to control the antiwar movement by scheduling their event in April in order to reduce the number of participants who would be able to attend the May event Davis was planning. During NCAWRR's January meeting there was heated debate over the issue, and the participants were only able to agree on a very general program to implement a symbolic "People's Peace Treaty" which had previously been negotiated by Davis, Tom Hayden, and others with Vietnamese students; but the date conflict remained divisive. The next weekend NCAWRR and NPAC met and failed to reach an agreement on a date. Shortly afterwords NCAWRR dissolved and became the People's Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ),177 a coalition that included the Communist Party178 and various Communist front groups such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation,179 the War Resisters League,180 and the American Friends Service Committee.181 Meanwhile in February South Vietnam invaded Laos with US support, prompting North Vietnamese ambassador Xuan Thuy to plead for unity between the factions of the US antiwar movement in order to pressure the Nixon administration into a cease-fire agreement. Subsequently the New Mobe's Sidney Lens helped mediate an agreement that the PCPJ would support the NPAC's April 24 event and not organize any civil disobedience or violence on the week of April 24, in exchange for the NPAC not interfering with any disobedience or violence during the PCPJ's May event, which came to be called Mayday.182

While NCAWRR/PCPJ leader Sidney Peck had been involved in negotiating a date with the NPAC that January, he also participated in the VVAW's Winter Soldier Investigation,183 which concluded with the aforementioned meeting to plan Dewey Canyon III.184 At this time the VVAW and PCPJ had offices across the street from each other in New York at 155 and 156 Fifth Avenue respectively.185 After the NPAC and PCPJ had settled on a date for their Washington demonstration, the PCPJ and VVAW both set up office space on the 9th floor of 1029 Vermont Avenue NW in Washington, DC, the same building the VVAW affiliate LINK had previously shared with the New Mobe and VMC in 1969. The 8th floor of the same building was rented by the NPAC. The 10th floor was rented by a violent faction of the PCPJ led by Rennie Davis, the May Day Collective (which came to be known as the May Day Tribe).186

Joining the activities would be other antiwar veterans groups, including a group of active-duty GIs supported by the CCI and Mark Lane, the Concerned Officers Movement (COM), who had been working out of the office of Congressman Ron Dellums and were scheduled to hold ad hoc war crimes hearings before members of Congress at the same time the VVAW would be demonstrating.187 Various other antiwar groups and leaders would also participate, notably Ruth Gage Colby of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), an old Communist front group; Ralph Abernathy of the Communist-infiltrated Southern Christian Leadership Conference; and Jerry Rubin of the Yippies, whose flamboyant theatrics had inspired those the VVAW would employ at Dewey Canyon III.188

Dewey Canyon III was scheduled to run from Sunday, April 18, 1971 through Friday, April 23. During this time the VVAW planned to join the PCPJ in forming a "People's Lobby", which would involve staging sit-in demonstrations outside major government buildings and lobbying Congress to convene a special joint session to hear war crimes testimony. If as expected Congress failed to grant a session by Friday, the VVAW planned to have sympathetic members of Congress hold a symbolic session, during which veterans would return their medals. This would be followed up on Saturday, April 24 by the NPAC's "March Against War" down Pennsylvania Avenue, which would kick off a week of events culminating in the PCPJ's Mayday civil disobedience on Monday, May 3. Hundreds of VVAW participants in Dewey Canyon III would end up remaining for the Mayday demonstrations, including Al Hubbard.189

To raise money for Dewey Canyon III, John Kerry began a speaking tour.190 A week before the event, Kerry was informed that 5,000 of the participants still needed money for bus tickets, so he had Adam Walinsky arrange for a fundraiser to be held by a group of antiwar New York businessmen hosted by Seagram's chief executive Edgar Bronfman,191 who had organized crime connections.192 Bronfman's associates raised about $50,000 in one hour, Walinsky later recalled.193 At the time an FBI informant reported that "the VVAW had received fifty thousand dollars from United States Senators McGovern and Hatfield, who. . .obtained the money from an unknown New York source" to be ascertained. Later FBI documents identified Bronfman as a source of VVAW funding.194

Senators McGovern and Hatfield belonged to an IPS-linked lobby called Members of Congress for Peace Through Law (MCPL) which supported the antiwar protestors during Dewey Canyon III and the subsequent NPAC and PCPJ demonstrations. During the April 24 March Against the War, the VVAW was addressed by MCPL Senators McGovern, Ted Kennedy, Walter Mondale, and Philip Hart, along with two MCPL Congressmen. Meanwhile eight MCPL Congressmen addressed a PCPJ group.195 Political support also came from other antiwar Congressmen and Senators.196 Most notably, Senator Hart and Senator Claiborne Pell, a critic of US policy towards Cuba as well as Vietnam,197 hosted a VVAW fundraiser which was attended by Senator J. William Fulbright. Fulbright, who sat with Pell on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and shared Pell's views on Cuba and Vietnam, had led Senate opposition to the Vietnam War since 1966,198 and during the fundraiser he invited Kerry to speak to his committee about war crimes. Other members of Fulbright's committee who listened to Kerry sympathetically during his testimony were Stuart Symington, who had been Dean Acheson's favored choice for Democratic Presidential candidate in 1960,199 and Frank Church, who would soon lead a Congressional attack on the US intelligence community which was supported by the VVAW, the National Lawyers Guild, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Cuban and Soviet agents.200

Dewey Canyon III would receive considerably more national publicity than the Winter Soldier Investigation. VVAW publicists were able to convince Time and Newsweek to run stories on the VVAW to make up for the lack of coverage of the WSI. In March Congressman Michael Harrington, who had supported the WSI, lent the VVAW his office for a press conference, resulting in coverage from national papers including The Washington Post and The New York Times, as well as TV coverage from CBS' 60 Minutes. On the Sunday which started Dewey Canyon III, NBC's Meet the Press hosted Kerry and Hubbard. During the week of the event, CBS' antiwar reporter Walter Cronkite ran two sympathetic pieces on the VVAW. Afterwords, Life ran a story quoting extensively from VVAW war crimes testimony, and the Macmillian Publishing division Collier Books published John Kerry's book memorializing the event, The New Soldier.201 Kerry's book recorded that the protestors were addressed by I.F. Stone,202 a pro-Soviet journalist who a Soviet defector recently alleged had worked for the KGB periodically from 1944 to 1968.203 The Communist newspaper Daily World covered Dewey Canyon III closely.204

Dewey Canyon III was coordinated with the Communist movement and the North Vietnamese government from beginning to end. Prior to the conception of Dewey Canyon III, Rennie Davis and others in Sidney Peck's NCAWRR/PCPJ coalition had negotiated a "People's Peace Treaty" with North Vietnamese students, which was to be ratified the week of April 24, 1971.205 Peck participated in the Winter Soldier Investigation,206 which included planning for Dewey Canyon III207 and was followed up by a meeting between WSI participants--including Jane Fonda--and North Vietnamese students in Canada.208 The VVAW held its event on a date which had been chosen by the NPAC and agreed to by the PCPJ at the request of the North Vietnamese ambassador.209 During the preparations for the event, the VVAW sent representative Mike Hunter to join Jane Fonda and Mark Lane on a trip to meet North Vietnamese representatives in Paris in March.210 Funding for the event was transmitted to the VVAW through Senators McGovern and Hatfield of the IPS-linked MCPL lobby, and political support for the event was provided by MCPL Congressmen and Senators.211 Legal support for the protestors was provided by Ramsey Clark212, who had previously assisted the protestors who disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention213 and was now representing several other Communist front groups.214 (Clark and another VVAW lawyer, Peter Weiss,215 would soon join the National Lawyers Guild, the legal bulwark of the Communist Party,216 in defending the Communist terrorist group the Baader-Meinhof Gang.217) The Mayday demonstrations which followed Dewey Canyon III culminated in an attempt to shut down the traffic in Washington, DC and bring the federal government to a halt in order to pressure the Nixon administration into accepting a cease-fire based on the terms of the People's Peace Treaty. The attempt failed due to poor logistical planning on the protestors' part, but in order to control the demonstrators and preserve the government's functioning law enforcement agencies were forced to resort to imposing what was called a state of "qualified marital law", in which 14,000 police and National Guardsmen arrested 13,500 of the demonstrators.218 During the demonstrations, North Vietnamese foreign minister Nguyen Thi Binh issued a statement from Paris praising the demonstrators,219 and some of the demonstrators displayed the North Vietnamese flag.220 A Congressional investigation of the demonstrations found that they were "under substantial Communist influence".221

Meanwhile, FBI reports on Dewey Canyon III noted that, "During VVAW activities, Al Hubbard. . .and others were overshadowed by a more popular and eloquent figure, John Kerry."222

From Dewey Canyon III to the Kansas City meeting

During Dewey Canyon III, a few days after Kerry and Hubbard had appeared together on Meet the Press, the show's host Lawrence Spivak called Kerry to complain that he had learned Hubbard was lying about his rank and possibly about having served in Vietnam, which called into question Kerry's own credibility. After this Kerry's relationship with Hubbard grew strained, leading to a confrontation at a VVAW meeting in November 1971 in Kansas City.223

The deterioration of Kerry's relationship with Hubbard paralleled broader tensions between growing factions within the VVAW. By June 1971 VVAW founder Jan Barry was no longer associated with the VVAW (though he would later return in 1972), and the VVAW was no longer run by its national office in New York but by a six-member National Executive Committee which included Kerry; Hubbard; Hubbard's supporters Mike Oliver and Craig Scott Moore (aka Scott Moore), of the VVAW's New York chapter; Larry Rottmann, of New Mexico; and George "Skip" Roberts, of Connecticut.224 Among the committee's members and between the committee and the VVAW's regional coordinators there were several different political viewpoints in varying degrees of conflict.

Kerry felt the VVAW could be most politically effective by initially focusing on the single issue of ending the war and waiting until the war was over to work towards a broader social agenda. He also advocated working within the system rather than engaging in what he called "confrontational poltics". In speeches at 1971 VVAW events he stressed that the VVAW was against violence, and he encouraged listeners to work to end the war by voting for antiwar politicians. This led many VVAW members to regard him as an opportunist seeking to use the VVAW to advance his own career as an antiwar politician.

Roberts held a position similar to Kerry's, wanting to use the VVAW as a vehicle for recruiting campus veterans to organize mass demonstrations to end the war.

Hubbard in contrast sought to use the VVAW to advance a broad Marxist social agenda encompassing issues such as civil rights and anti-imperialism as well as ending the war. Kerry was not opposed to Hubbard's goals on these issues, but he did not see the VVAW as a means towards achieving these goals in the immediate present, preferring instead to wait until the war was over to work towards these goals through the political system. Hubbard also differed from Kerry on tactics, tending to use more confrontational, Yippie-style tactics than Kerry preferred, and envisioning the transformation of the VVAW's hardcore membership into a vanguard of "weather vets" modelled on the Weathermen.

Aligned with Hubbard but taking his position one step further were a group of VVAW regional coordinators calling themselves the "Anti-Imperialists' Coalition", led by Barry Romo and Sam Schorr of California, who were linked to Communist groups and the Weathermen faction of Students for a Democratic Society. Romo and Schorr's coalition also included Gary Steiger of the Ohio VVAW, Scott Camil of the Florida and Southeastern VVAW, and the Idaho VVAW. The Anti-Imperialists' Coalition advocated using the VVAW to advance a multi-issue social agenda, and was willing to employ extreme confrontational tactics, including assassination and violent demonstrations.225

The internal tensions in the VVAW mirrored external tensions between antiwar groups in contact with the VVAW, particularly between the neo-Trotskyite National Peace Action Coalition and the neo-Stalinist People's Coalition for Peace and Justice. During Dewey Canyon III the tenuous alliance between the NPAC and the PCPJ began to break down into renewed rivalry, which intensified over the course of 1971. The rivalry revolved around the same issues that divided Kerry and Hubbard, with the NPAC like Kerry insisting on a political agenda limited to ending the war and tactics limited to nonviolent mass demonstrations, while the PCPJ like Hubbard advocated a broad social agenda and used civil disobedience tactics.226

Kerry, networking through Adam Walinsky and Jerome Grossman's political contacts in Massachusetts and Washington DC, focused on building his VVAW faction's relationship with the antiwar wings of the Democratic and Republican parties. Democratic Massachusetts Congressman Robert Drinan, whose campaigns were managed by Grossman, spoke at a May 1971 Massachusetts VVAW event Kerry co-organized, Operation POW, and worked to get Congress to pass an amendment that would lower age requirements enough to allow Kerry to run for Senator in 1972.227 Democratic Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy donated to the VVAW and spoke at Massachusetts VVAW events.228 1968 Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy, for whom Grossman had organized, spoke at VVAW events.229 1972 Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern was also linked to the VVAW. McGovern had supported the VVAW since 1970, endorsing Operation RAW and the Winter Soldier Investigation and speaking to the VVAW during Dewey Canyon III. Grossman organized for McGovern, and Grossman's associate Emily Frankovich, who was McGovern's key Massachusetts contact in 1971, demonstrated with the VVAW during Operation POW in May 1971. In June 1971 the VVAW organized a hunger strike to lobby in support of the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, an amendment consponsored by McGovern which aimed to cut off Congressional funding for the Vietnam War. McGovern joined Kerry in speaking to a Colorado student union meeting in August 1971.230 Also joining Kerry and McGovern at the August 1971 meeting was Senator Paul McCloskey, a liberal Republican who had proposed the idea of Richard Nixon's impeachment after the South Vietnamese invasion of Laos that February. McCloskey had previously spoken to the VVAW at Dewey Canyon III, and in January 1972 Kerry delivered a speech favoring him as the best Republican to challenge Nixon in the New Hampshire primaries.231

Meanwhile, Skip Roberts spent the summer after Dewey Canyon III touring with the F.T.A. troupe of Jane Fonda.232

At the same time, Al Hubbard maintained contact with the PCPJ and other groups. After Dewey Canyon III the Washington DC branch of the VVAW and the PCPJ continued to share office space, and the PCPJ and VVAW continued to co-organize demonstrations into at least 1972.233 PCPJ literature from this period listed Hubbard on the PCPJ Coordinating Committee, where he sat alongside Jarvis Tyner, the Communist Party's 1972 Vice-Presidential candidate, and Gil Green, a high-ranking member of the New York CP.234 The PCPJ and War Resisters League cosponsored an August 1971 trip to Hanoi by Joe Urgo, whom Hubbard was training to assist his leadership of the VVAW.235 Hubbard and Urgo joined the Anti-Imperialists' Coalition in pushing for the VVAW to become an armed revolutionary organization.236

As part of this trend towards militancy, Hubbard, Urgo, New York VVAW coordinator Ed Damato, members of the Anti-Imperialists' Coalition, and certain VVAW regional chapters networked with various Communist and militant groups, some of which were trying to infiltrate the VVAW. In "Operation Heart of America", a joint operation with the Fifth Avenue Vietnam Peace Parade Committee, the War Resisters League, and other Communist front groups in New York, Damato used the pretext of donating clothes and medical supplies to smuggle guns collected from VVAW regional chapters to the United Front,237 a black militant group in Cairo, Illinois linked to a St. Louis gang called the Black Liberators.238 Damato, Urgo, Scott Camil of the Southeastern VVAW, Brian Adams of the Colorado VVAW, and members of other VVAW regional chapters joined forces with the Revolutionary Union (RU), a Maoist offshoot of Students for a Democratic Society which sought a united front with other left-wing groups and had been infiltrating VVAW chapters around the country.239 Regional VVAW chapters also networked with or were infiltrated by the Communist Party;240 the Socialist Workers Party and its National Peace Action Coalition front;241 and the New Party led by Bob Kunst, a civil rights and gay rights activist (currently president of;242 among others.

The VVAW's interaction with external groups extended abroad to foreign Communist groups and state sponsors. From late June through early July 1971, VVAW members joined members of the Citizens' Commission of Inquiry into War Crimes in Indochina, Women Strike for Peace, and other antiwar groups as part of a US delegation to a conference of the International War Crimes Tribunal in Oslo, Norway. During the trip the delegation visited among other places Moscow, where they met with representatives of the Soviet Peace Committee and the North Vietnamese embassy; Helsinki, headquarters of the Soviet front group the World Peace Council; and Paris, where they met with a North Vietnamese delegation. Upon returning to the US, the delegation was met by William Kunstler, a lawyer who specialized in defending Communist and terrorist clients (including Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing).243 A little over a month later, in late August 1971, Kerry told VVAW members at a Colorado meeting that he had just returned from a trip to Paris to visit with the North Vietamese delegation.244 In November Al Hubbard also visited the North Vietnamese delegation in Paris, and at some point during this period Hubbard travelled to Moscow to receive an award, which was covered in the Communist newspaper Daily World, prompting Kerry to rebuke him for indiscretion.245 Meanwhile Hubbard's protégé Joe Urgo travelled to Hanoi in August 1971.246 Several VVAW chapters also supported the Venceremos Brigade, a group which sent members to Cuba for intelligence training by Cuban and North Vietnamese advisors.247

As VVAW factions grew closer to Communist and militant groups after Dewey Canyon III, VVAW chapters became increasingly involved in subversive and criminal activity, and the FBI began to investigate the VVAW more actively.248 The VVAW's Philadelphia chapter, co-coordinated by Kerry's associate Joe Bangert, came under FBI suspicion in June 1971 when a group it shared its office with, the Philadelphia Resistance (PR), distributed classified documents stolen from the FBI's Media, Pennsylvania office that February.249 Later that year Daniel Ellsberg, who had recently leaked classified military documents with the help of VVAW associate Richard Falk, began speaking at VVAW events.250 The VVAW's New York headquarters and Southeastern region raised money through drug-dealing,251 and the New York VVAW coordinated regional chapters' smuggling of guns to a black militant group in Cairo, Illinois.252 VVAW chapters in Los Angeles and Cincinnati were investigated in connection with bomb threats reported at the time of the Dewey Canyon III and Mayday demonstrations.253 In September 1971 a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania VVAW rally was addressed by Neil McLaughlin, who was then out on bail and being defended by VVAW attorney Ramsey Clark in relation to charges of conspiring with Daniel and Philip Berrigan and others to kidnap Henry Kissinger and blow up heating systems in federal buildings in Washington.254 Two months later at the VVAW's November Kansas City meeting, VVAW leaders discussed plans to kidnap or assassinate pro-war politicians, along with plans to disrupt next year's Democratic and Republican National Conventions. One of the proposed assassination targets, Senator John Stennis, was in fact shot during an apparent robbery approximately a year later.255

During the Kansas City meeting, Kerry and Hubbard's conflicts over personal issues and tactical differences came to a head. Roberts had devised a plan to remove Hubbard from the National Executive Committee by calling for all committee members to resign and be replaced by new members. Kerry joined Roberts in trying to get Hubbard removed from the committee. Their plan failed, but they ended up resigning anyway. According to the FBI documents, Kerry "resigned from the National Executive Committee of VVAW for ‘personal reasons' but added he would still be active in VVAW and available to speak for the organization" and would be holding his office "until new members are elected in January 1972".256

On the second day of the meeting Hubbard left, but Kerry remained, and was present during subsequent sessions where Scott Camil tried to persuade VVAW leadership to support a plan to assassinate pro-war politicians. Confusion over whether or not Kerry was present during these discussions has been perpetuated by Kerry's campaign and writers friendly to Kerry, particularly Gerald Nicosia and Douglas Brinkley, but declassified FBI documents have established that, as Nicosia was eventually forced to admit, "A full review of the FBI files shows that Kerry not only was in Kansas City, but he also attended the most controversial and explosive session the group ever held. . . At the time of the Washington march, Camil proposed ‘taking out' the prominent senators and congressmen who consistently voted in favor of the war. His assassination plan had little support, and he had put it aside as impractical. But now in Kansas City, in an effort to ‘push people's buttons'. . .Camil says he again brought up his assassination plan. . . The meeting descended into chaos, according to several people who were there. . .Someone found bugs planted by the FBI. The group decided to move to a more secure location. . .The meeting reconvened at St. Augustine's Catholic Church, 7801 Paseo Blvd., in Kansas City, and it was again closed--meaning only national officers and regional and state coordinators. Several things about it are still unclear, especially the chronology, but there is no doubt. . .if the files and witnesses are to believed, that Kerry was present for all of it."257

This has raised the question, did Kerry support or oppose Camil's assassination proposal? The answer is, we don't know for sure. The declassified FBI files on the Kansas City meeting are heavily censored and do not include complete information which would enable a definitive answer. However based on the information available, the best guess is that it's most likely Kerry did not support the proposal. VVAW members are consistent in recalling that Kerry typically opposed Hubbard and the Anti-Imperialists' Coalition's confrontational tactics, and the FBI files are consistent with this, recording for instance that just prior to arriving in Kansas City Kerry had given a speech in Oklahoma emphasizing that the VVAW did not condone violence.258

However this is not the whole story. Even if Kerry did not support Camil's assassination proposal, there is no evidence that he reported it to law enforcement authorities. Furthermore, in addition to his prior support of the VMC and VVAW while he was still in the Naval Reserve, there is evidence that he continued to associate with the VVAW after the Kansas City meeting, when it moved into an overtly violent phase.

After Kansas City

After the Kansas City meeting, Kerry turned his focus towards the 1972 elections. Congressman Drinan had failed to pass the "Kerry Amendment" that would have lowered age requirements enough to allow the 28-year-old Kerry to run for Senator in 1972, so instead Kerry ran for Congress again, moving to another Congressional district in order to avoid having to compete with Drinan this time.259 Kerry also supported other antiwar Presidential candidates. During a January 1972 speech at Dartmouth College he expressed favor for antiwar Democrat Ed Muskie and antiwar Republican Paul McCloskey in the New Hampshire primaries, and added that if George McGovern won the Democratic nomination he would support McGovern over McCloskey.260

During his 1972 campaign Kerry continued to associate with the VVAW. A Portsmouth paper covering Kerry's January 1972 Dartmouth speech described him as "head of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War", while a New York Times article on the event described him as "spokesman for Vietnam Veterans Against the War. The FBI files on the VVAW include a clipping of an April 4, 1972 Boston Globe article announcing Kerry's Congressional run which states, "Kerry has led the Vietnam Veterans Against the War since returning from Vietnam two years ago." Kerry was again described as "a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War" in an Illinois newspaper article covering a New York demonstration he spoke at on April 22, 1972 which was organized by the NPAC and PCPJ and coordinated with the VVAW. Papers continued to describe Kerry as a VVAW representative throughout his Congressional campaign, and even afterwords into 1973.261 VVAW financial statements from early 1972 list a significant percentage of income and expenditures related to Kerry's November 1971 book The New Soldier and the book's editors George Butler and David Thorne.262 Thorne, who was Kerry's best friend and the brother of his first wife, served as Kerry's campaign manager in 1972.263 Chris Gregory, who became one of Kerry's most active campaign staffers in subsequent years, remained associated with the New England VVAW in 1972.264 Kerry's sister Peggy joined leading New York VVAW member Sheldon Ramsdell at a hotel where the VVAW protested the August 1972 Republican National Convention.265

During this period internal tensions in the VVAW continued to divide the organization, as conflict increased between the National Executive Committee and regional VVAW representatives who wanted more voice in the organization. During the November 1971 Kansas City meeting where Kerry and others had resigned from the National Executive Committee, a proposal to move the VVAW National Office from New York to another location had been debated, and a motion had been passed to have the committee members elected by regional coordinators for limited 1-year terms However despite this, Al Hubbard and his allies from the New York area remained on the committee and in effective control of its decisions, provoking dissatisfaction from regional coordinators who had personal and political differences with Hubbard.266 Resentment at Hubbard grew so intense that some VVAW members began plotting to kill Hubbard and his fellow National Executive Committee member Jon Birch, the FBI learned through surveillance of a Harisburg, Pennsylvania VVAW meeting in January 1972.267 The next month at a Denver, Colorado VVAW National Steering Committee meeting regional VVAW coordinators made proposals for for a decentralized structure which would shift power from the National Executive Committee to regional representatives and in the process move VVAW headquarters out of New York. Some proposed changes were accepted, while discussion of others was deferred to the next National Steering Committee meeting, to be held in Houston in April 1972.268 As the April meeting approached, the FBI was informed by an Oklahoma VVAW member that regional VVAW chapters were planning to oust Hubbard and Kerry during the meeting.269 However when the meeting arrived, Hubbard was able to reassert his control and maintain power, at least for the time being.270 Over the next few years the VVAW would splinter into several factions as it was infiltrated and taken over by other groups.271

The struggle between the VVAW's internal factions reflected the influence of external groups struggling for control of the VVAW. Hubbard continued to affiliate with the Communist Party-linked People's Coalition for Peace and Justice, opposing VVAW members who wanted to exclude the PCPJ from the VVAW.272 At the same time, Hubbard opposed infiltration attempts by the Socialist Worker Party-linked National Peace Action Coalition, singling out the NPAC and a related French group as the only antiwar groups not welcome in the VVAW coalition.273 Meanwhile the Revolutionary Union continued its infiltration of regional chapters of the VVAW, increasingly taking over the organization's national structure after 1973. Some RU-linked VVAW chapters would eventually join forces with overtly terrorist groups like the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), whose members kidnapped Patty Hearst and attempted to assassinate President Gerald Ford.274

While maintaining affiliation with the PCPJ, the VVAW national leadership also maintained contact with foreign Communist groups. The VVAW continued to participate in demonstrations at Hanoi's request and to send delegations to North Vietnamese representatives in Paris and Hanoi.275 Some VVAW delegations joined Cora Weiss' Committee of Liaison with Families of Servicemen Detained in North Vietnam (COLIFAM) in helping the North Vietnamese extort POW families,276 and one VVAW delegation to Paris to arrange a POW-related trip to Hanoi was sent two weeks before the infamous July 7, 1972 Hanoi trip of Jane Fonda, who was in close contact with the VVAW during this period.277 The VVAW also sent delegations to Moscow and the Soviet-linked World Peace Council;278 continued to support the Venceremos Brigade in sending delegations to Cuba;279 and met with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), a terrorist group linked to Achille Lauro hijacker Abu Abbas (captured by US troops in Iraq in 2003).280

While in contact with these foreign groups, the VVAW helped antiwar groups gather intelligence on US military installations, operations, and troop movements.281 Meanwhile to pressure the Nixon administration to halt US bombing against North Vietnam, the VVAW engaged in a series of increasingly militant actions beginning in late 1971. Over the 1971 Christmas holiday, VVAW members--among them Kerry's associate Joe Bangert--protested US bombing by taking over several national monuments around the country, including the Lincoln Memorial and Statue of Liberty, and defacing them with antiwar messages.282 In April 1972, at Hanoi's direction, the VVAW sent members to Washington to participate in "Dewey Canyon IV" and related demonstrations organized by the NPAC and PCPJ. In coordination with these demonstrations the NPAC staged a simultaneous demonstration in New York, at which Kerry spoke.283 In May 1972, to protest US bombing and mining operations, VVAW members cornered George H.W. Bush, then United States ambassador to the United Nations, and dumped blood on him.284 In August 1972, the VVAW helped a PCPJ-linked coalition of antiwar groups disrupt the Republican National Convention in Miami by physically attacking delegates and police.285 While this was going on outside the convention, Nixon's Republican rival Senator Paul McCloskey--a VVAW ally whom Kerry had expressed support for in his January Dartmouth College speech286--gave three wheelchaired VVAW members passes so they could try to sneak in and make a scene by pretending to offer to shake President Nixon's hand and then physically grabbing and detaining him until he agreed to listen to VVAW demands.287 Staying with VVAW member Sheldon Ramsdell in the hotel where the convention was held was John Kerry's sister Peggy.288

The FBI's surveillance of the VVAW had alerted the White House to the VVAW's plans for the Republican National Convention, and the White House assigned the FBI and CIA to take pre-emptive action. In May 1972, the FBI had learned that the McGovern campaign had lent the VVAW a station wagon to do a barnstorming tour of college campuses.289 In June, as part of what would become known as the Watergate break-ins, members of Nixon's re-election committee with links to the CIA were arrested after they broke into Democratic National Committee (DNC) headquarters seeking, among other things, evidence of links between the DNC--headed by Ted Kennedy's associate Larry O'Brien--and the VVAW.290 Then early in July on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, where the VVAW was planning to lobby and speak with Democratic politicians, the FBI served subpoenas on Scott Camil and 22 other VVAW members involved in planning the convention activities. 8 of these would ultimately be indicted for conspiring to incite a riot and become known as "the Gainesville Eight".291 Their defense would be provided by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), a legal center linked to Communist lawyers William Kunstler and Peter Weiss.292 Jane Fonda helped raise money for the defense fund.293

In September 1972, while the trial of the Gainesville Eight was progressing, John Kerry's younger brother Cameron was arrested for breaking into the building which served as the headquarters of the Kerry campaign and one of Kerry's rivals in the Democratic primary election. Police arrested Cameron near the trunk line for all the building's phones. Kerry would later claim his campaign had been set up in what he termed "a Watergate in reverse", wherein Cameron had allegedly been lured to the scene by an anonymous phone call threatening to cut their campaign's phone lines on the eve of their get-out-the-vote effort. A more likely explanation seems to be that the Kerry campaign was concerned about their phone lines being bugged. In any case, Kerry lost the campaign, temporarily ending his political career.294

Kerry did not, however, end his association with the VVAW. A newspaper photo dated January 24, 1973 is accompanied by a caption describing Kerry as "head of Vietnam Veterans Against the War".295 Kerry would remain associated with former VVAW members such as Chris Gregory into his Senate career,294 and in 1979 he joined former VVAW associate Bobby Muller in cofounding the Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA), which lists him as a lifetime member.296


The record shows that Kerry began fellow traveling with the Vietnam Moratorium Committee even while he was still on active duty, and he remained a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War even after the VVAW had begun plotting and executing violence against the United States government. In the face of these facts, the controversy over whether or not Kerry specifically approved of Camil's assassination plot is ultimately beside the point. The greater point is that in order to advance his career as a politician running on an antiwar platform, Kerry was willing to promote Communist and even revolutionary groups at the expense of national security. And this is not merely a "historical footnote", as one Kerry spokesman tried to dismiss the evidence of Kerry's participation in the Kansas City meeting; for Kerry's association with America's enemies did not end with his unsuccessful 1972 Congressional campaign, but has continued into his Senate career.

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