Kerry Mandering

Posted by sepoy on May 05, 2004 · 15 mins read

I cannot believe I have posted nothing on the upcoming election so far - when that election and its coverage occupies so much of my reading nowadays. Last night, on Scarborough Country, was the caption: Is Kerry fit to be the President? Why the question? Because Kerry said this 30 years ago:

>MR. CROSBY NOYES (Washington Evening Star): Mr. Kerry, you said at one time or another that you think our policies in Vietnam are tantamount to genocide and that the responsibility lies at all chains of command over there. Do you consider that you personally as a Naval officer committed atrocities in Vietnam or crimes punishable by law in this country?

SEN. KERRY: There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 calibre machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this is ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

The refrain on Fox etc. is that accusing American military of genocide amounts to dishonoring them as there is no evidence for it. Hence, either Kerry takes it all back and apologizes profusely or we harp constantly about his failure as a human being. Right? Just today, the press carried headlines like: Kerry commanders speak out against him and Crew mates defend Kerry's war record.

I must admit to profound confusion. The "controversy" is that Kerry made unsubstantiated claims on US conduct in Vietnam. I thought the record was very clear that the Americans participated in war crimes. The Vietnamese government even accused Bob Kerrey of war crimes.

Let's look at this a bit more seriously than Mr. Joe Scarborough. Here is the actual statement in which Kerry talks about the atrocities:

They told stories that at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

Here is a recent investigation by Toledo Blade on the Tiger Force unit, for which the Blade reporters won a Pulitzer:

The elderly carpenter was one of the first civilians killed by Tiger Force soldiers in a chain of atrocities that forever changed the Song Ve Valley. The reminders are everywhere: the unmarked graves along the trails, the bend in the river where the men tried to hide from the soldiers, the rice paddy where the bodies were pulled from the mud. The stories of the troops firing on unarmed civilians in the summer of 1967 are told in schools, communal centers, and prayer services. Elderly villagers still describe the Army helicopters dropping leaflets, warning the people to go to relocation camps.

Within days, the soldiers wearing the "chicken patches" - the eagle insignia of the 101st Airborne Division worn by Tiger Force - were rounding up families, seizing their food, and torching their huts. Over the next six weeks, platoon members killed an untold number who refused to go to the decrepit camps, according to a Blade investigation based on Army records and interviews with more than 100 former Tiger Force soldiers and Vietnamese villagers.

The people who carried out these crimes need to be held responsible," said Vo Thanh Tien, 50, a local provincial official. "They made it very hard for the people who live along the river." In seven months of atrocities - May to November, 1967 - a third took place in this valley in Quang Ngai province, a place so remote and timeless the effects are visible decades later.

You can also find the transcript of the Delliums Committee Hearings on Vietnam War Crimes . Some selections:

Statement of Greg Hayward Capt: I graduated from the military academy in 1964 and spent 6 years in the Army as an infantry officer. I had 2 tours in Vietnam. my 1st tour was in 1966, and I was a platoon leader for 6 months and a div commander's aid for the 1st div commander and returned to Vietnam in '68, where I was a company commander for 6 months and General Williamson's aide. I found 10, at least 10-plus civilians, women and children, burned to death in their homes in that village, and asked the platoon that was still there what had happened, had they had a big fight the night before? They hadn't. Not a shot was fired in anger from the enemy, but this platoon leader had called in white phosphorous mortar are that night on this village, and he had done it because he saw people moving in the village at night. People get up out of their homes at night just to go to the bathroom. He had his ambush adjacent to this village, and if he did see shadows moving in the village at night he felt because of this BODY COUNT mania, because of this FREE-FIRE ZONES kind of attitude, that he was justified in firing mortar are into that village, which be did. I reported this to the Bn commander, to his command post at 1st, 27th, when I reached it later that day and then saw a systematic effort to hide this atrocity, if you will, and that was because I think that loyalty to your commander is often a greater value than truth in Vietnam. Certainly this LT wasn't being protected, but that Bn commander was being protected when this didn't reach Bgd, it didn't reach the press, it didn't reach the div level, and it never did.

Statement of Ron Bartek Capt: I did witness an old Vietnamese man brought in by the Bn commander. He had been picked up in the area in action but was unarmed himself and in no other way implicated than his proximity to the action. I was told to interrogate the man. I had a Vietnamese interpreter and talked to him. I was convinced after 15 minutes' interrogation that he was an innocent civilian. I told my Bn commander that. He said, "What did you do, just talk to the man again?" Because I had done similar things before. 'I said, "Yes, I did." He said, "I want you to go back there and interrogate him," and the implication was clear because we had talked about this before, as I said.
I went back in the bunker and just talked to him again and reported once again that he was an innocent civilian. He was not satisfied with that, and he wanted the Bgd intelligence team to come out. This is the LT Col talking to me. The Bgd intelligence team came out, this team worked for a full colonel. The 1st thing they asked for was the field telephone, the type of field telephone that has 2 hot terminals. You connect the wires and you can talk. In this case the hot wires were connected 1 to the man's groin and 1 to the small of his back; his hands and feet were both tied. Right out in the middle of the FSB, right next to the Bn commander's headquarters, in full view of all the American soldiers on the FSB, the man was subjected to torture for about 15 minutes, at which time that Bgd interrogation team determined he was an innocent civilian. The man was released and sent back to his village, I am sure not with very kind words for American involvement in Vietnam.

Testimony Of Daniel Barnes 1/20 Bn, Americal Div:We went into this vill and an old man was sitting there, he was inside and he was about 70-80, and he was dressed in white clothes. He was the only man in the vill that I saw and I went in with another guy and this other guy started tearing the things down off the wall and things and naturally the old man protested. Now this other guy pushed the old man away and shot him in the head. That was really something. It is really hard to explain the feeling of seeing someone falling for no reason at all, just is really a bad act in the sense of the word to put it in that way. He was just laying there trying to stop us and to protect his home, and he was killed worthlessly. It shocked the hell out of me, which is the least I can say as to what it actually did.

Here, you can read the entire proceedings of the International War Crimes Tribunal held in 1967 in Stockholm to evidence the atrocities in Vietnam. Allow me to quote the verdict:

  • Is the Government of Thailand guilty of complicity in the aggression committed by the United States Government against Vietnam? Yes (unanimously).
  • Is the Government of the Philippines guilty of complicity in the aggression committed by the United States Government against Vietnam? Yes (unanimously).
  • Is the Government of Japan guilty of complicity in the aggression committed by the United States Government against Vietnam? Yes, by 8 Votes to 3. (The three Tribunal members who voted against agree that the Japanese Government gives considerable aid to the Government of the United States, but do not agree on its complicity in the crime of aggression.)
  • Has the United States Government committed aggression against the people of Laos, according to the definition provided by international law? Yes (unanimously).
  • Have the armed forces of the United States used or experimented with weapons prohibited by the laws of war? Yes (unanimously).
  • Have prisoners of war captured by the armed forces of the United States been subjected to treatment prohibited by the laws of war?†Yes (unanimously).
  • Have the armed forces of the United States subjected the civilian population to inhuman treatment prohibited by international law? Yes (unanimously).
  • Is the United States Government guilty of genocide against the people of Vietnam?†Yes (unanimously)
  • So, back to Kerry. Is the issue here that Kerry lied? No, he did not. Is the issue that the Americans did not participate in genocide in Vietnam? They did.
    The real issue is that the Bush camp wants re-election to depend solely on one single claim: Leadership (forget WMDs, Jobs, Envio...etc). Is Bush the man for you? Is he a straight-talker? Does he converse with God? Is he loyal? Is he committed to the War on Terror? And Karl Rove wants to prove early on that Kerry lacks something: He lied or he flipped or he flopped. Did he throw the medals? Did he throw the ribbons? and on and on.
    Kerry's new ads are excellent. He needs to stay in that message zone. He needs to emphasize that the conversation on US War crimes is NOT over. The Iraqi prisoner atrocities and the footage from the Apache lead us to renewed concerns. The President went on Arab news media today to show concern [Shock and Awe'd by the footage, I was] that this was an abnormality. Lets see him prove that.


    cheesoo | May 05, 2004

    hallo, came on here through jazz.ipadder.. most delighted to see an intelligent pakistani blog, there are but a few around.. cheers, cheesoo

    Frank Johnson | August 10, 2004

    I was shocked today that Kerry said he would go to Iraq despite knowing that there are no WMD and no connections to Al-queda there. Evidently he believes the endemic war crimes of Vietnam are no longer an issue.

    sepoy | August 10, 2004

    Indeed, I am just as shocked, Frank. My guess is that this is Kerry's attempt to reconcile the flip-flop tag. pretty pathetic attempt.