By Robert E. Macdonald
Mayor of Lewiston
“I would like to talk on behalf of all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged, and many very highly decorated, veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia.” Thus John Kerry began his testimony before the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations on April 23, 1971.
Kerry had returned home from Vietnam a highly decorated officer (as opposed to enlisted men, who serve on the same battlefields but arrive home with far fewer decorations). His goal was to get into politics by running for office and following the footsteps of his hero, John F. Kennedy.
But in 1971 the “fruit salad” (rows of colorful military ribbons and medals) adorning one’s uniform had now became a liability. Unlike during World War II and Korea, where this type of display identified a person as a warrior and patriot, these decorations now identified one as a war criminal, baby killer and psychopath. These accusations were leveled at law-abiding, selfless, patriotic young men (and women) by those trying to defend their lack of intestinal fortitude.
Faced with the reality that his hopes were fading fast, Kerry did what every upcoming savvy politician would do: he joined the spineless “America is Evil” crowd, turning against his fellow vets. Right or wrong be damned; it was about getting elected.
Kerry then turned to the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. This group had been founded in 1967 by six veterans. It included Al Hubbard, who had served in the Air Force and had lied about being in Vietnam, and Jan Barry, who was a radio mechanic in Vietnam prior to the 1965 troop buildup.
On January 31, 1971 the Winter Soldier investigations began in Detroit. Its major organizers included Jane Fonda, Dick Gregory, Phil Ochs, Graham Nash, David Crosby and Donald Sutherland. Taking place over four days in a hotel room, testimony of war crimes routinely committed against the Vietnamese people by United States military personnel was taken from “Vietnam veterans.”
Years later it turned out that many of these “Vietnam veterans” had served in Vietnam in other than combat positions, such as clerks and supply personnel. Others had served in the military, but not in Vietnam. Still others had never served in the military.
Missing in the testimony was the slaughter of thousands of Vietnamese civilians by the North Vietnamese Communists and their allies in the south, the Vietcong. This was done with the blessing of “Uncle Ho” (Ho Chi Mihn) and celebrated by the anti-war movement on the streets of America. But—like today—why let facts ruin a good story?
When testifying before Congress, Kerry was the face the anti-war movement wanted to project. Unlike the bearded, long-haired, rumpled-clothed, violent veterans seen every night on TV, Kerry possessed the all-American Ozzie and Harriet look. He was articulate and educated. So well educated that he was unable to testify off the cuff—but still relied on a speech written for him by Adam Walinsky, a speech writer for Robert Kennedy.
Before Congress and the world, Kerry lied about the actions of the men and women that had served honorably in Vietnam, sentencing them to years of scorn by many in the public. But, thank God, his betrayal has propelled him to an elected position in our country.
Just prior to his Congressional testimony, Kerry in early April 1971 participated in Dewey Canyon III, a day-long protest against the Vietnam War held in Washington, D.C. It ended with protestors throwing ribbons and medals over the Capitol fence. Apparently, Kerry could not come to throw his medals away. So he threw medals not belonging to him over the fence.
For years, Vietnam veterans have suffered in silence. Their treatment by the press and public lead many toward suicide, drug and alcohol addiction, violent and sometimes fatal behavior towards their families and the public. In recent years the public’s attitude towards Vietnam veterans has changed. But Vietnam veterans’ attitudes toward Kerry have not.
Many Vietnam veterans have more hatred towards Kerry than Jane Fonda. Should Kerry—who equated Vietnam veterans’ actions to those of Ghengis Khan—become Secretary of State, this will be the final intentional nail in a coffin that has been filling up since 1965.
To all you Tea Party members and Republicans who stayed home during the last election: it is your hand pounding in that final nail.