[sixties-l] Former Senator Bob Kerrey Discloses His Wartime Role in Civilian Killings

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Wed Apr 25 2001 - 18:37:49 EDT

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] American Storyteller"

    April 25, 2001

    Former Senator Bob Kerrey Discloses His Wartime Role in Civilian

    Staff Reporter

    Former Sen. Bob Kerrey, a possible Democratic presidential candidate in

    2004 and a decorated Vietnam War veteran, has publicly acknowledged his
    role in a previously undisclosed incident: the killing of Vietnamese
    civilians by a Navy SEAL unit he was leading.

    "I went out on a mission and after it was over I was so ashamed I wanted
    to die," the Medal of Honor winner said in an interview Tuesday. "This
    is killing me. I'm tired of people describing me as a hero and holding
    this inside."

    Mr. Kerrey also told ROTC students in a Lexington, Va., speech last
    week that he has yet "to make my own personal peace with what happened
    that night," and that it has "haunted" him for 32 years.

    In Tuesday's interview, recalling the incident with "horror," he
    emphatically denied an account he says was given by one member of the

    "He says we rounded up a bunch of people and shot them," Mr. Kerrey
    said. "It did not happen that way. We didn't go into the area with the
    intention of killing civilians. And we didn't kill civilians in order
    to extract ourselves."

    Mr. Kerrey, who was awarded a Medal of Honor for his Vietnam service,
    said the incident occurred in February 1969, a month after he arrived in
    Vietnam. He said he and a six-man squad entered Viet Cong-held
    territory on a moonless night. His squad was fired upon and returned
    fire. "But when the firing stopped we found that we had killed only
    women, children and older men. It was not a military victory; it was a
    tragedy and I had ordered it."

    He continued: "How, I have anguished ever since, could I have made such
    a mistake? Knowing that the people we killed were probably
    enemy sympathizers … has not helped. Knowing that I followed
    what I considered to be standard operating procedure has not helped."

    The disclosure comes at a time when the 57-year-old Mr. Kerrey, who
    sought the presidency in 1992, is believed to be weighing another try.
    He said he was approached recently about the other Navy SEAL's account
    by two news organizations. He has included the incident in a partially
    completed memoir; divulging it now could also help inoculate him against
    future attacks.

    Mr. Kerrey in November decided not to seek a third Senate term. In
    January, he became president of New School University in New York City.

    Throughout his political career, Mr. Kerrey has spoken of Vietnam as a
    defining experience. "If I hadn't fought, I'd probably be a passive,
    suburban white boy," he once remarked. He has said Vietnam taught him
    that ideology can lead to tragedies, including war. He became an
    independent-minded Nebraska governor and later senator, usually voting
    for liberal causes, but sometimes driving Democratic Senate leaders to
    distraction with his maverick streak.

    Less than a month after his unit killed the Vietnamese civilians, Mr.
    Kerrey led another SEAL unit as it scaled a cliff to attack a Viet Cong
    position on the island of Hon Tre. A grenade exploded at Mr. Kerrey's
    right foot, tearing apart his lower right leg; the leg was later
    amputated below the knee. Despite the wound, Mr. Kerrey remained
    behind until his unit could extricate itself. He was awarded the Medal
    of Honor by President Nixon in 1970.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Apr 25 2001 - 20:09:44 EDT