Re: [sixties-l] On Bob Kerrey and Vietnam

From: Ted Morgan (
Date: Fri Apr 27 2001 - 10:00:50 EDT

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    Thanks to radman for posting Brian Willson's statement about the recent Bob Kerrey
    comments. It deserves the widest possible distribution; I'm forwarding copies to
    the local media here.

    I was thinking that Kerrey's statement, a conscience-driven acknowledgement of
    personal participation in immoral wartime actions (and, I believe, the first time
    a public official or recent public official has acknowledged this --not counting
    Sen. John Kerry's pre-electoral comments while in VVAW) was an opportunity for the
    United States to begin to have the kind of "full public reckoning" over the war
    that "we" have avoided for the last 26+ years: a chance to come to grips with the
    fact that the war was structurally a "war" (a massive assault) against the people
    of Indochina, that this constitutes a crime against humanity, and that it was, in
    addition, immoral of our leaders to draft or induce young American boys into this
    moral trap under the guise of "serving our country," or "protecting freedom,"
    fighting a "war" and the like. I have been resisting the temptation to write an
    op-ed to this effect, trying to focus on my longer book project that sorely needs
    attention, so I am glad that Brian Willson, a veteran himself, has come forward to
    speak his powerful and accurate words. The implications are being reflected, once
    again, in Colombia.

    Ted Morgan

    radman wrote:

    > Institute for Public Accuracy
    > 915 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045
    > (202) 347-0020 * *
    > ___________________________________________________
    > PM Thursday, April 26, 2001
    > On Bob Kerrey and Vietnam
    > Former Sen. Bob Kerrey's public statements during the last day -- prompted
    > by revelations about to be reported by the New York Times and "60 Minutes
    > II" about a raid he led that killed unarmed civilians during the Vietnam
    > War -- have raised important issues. This afternoon, the following
    > statement comes from Brian Willson, a former U.S. Air Force captain who
    > served in Vietnam.
    > After participating in the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Air Force,
    > Willson became a peace activist. In 1987, in a civil disobedience action
    > with other activists at a military base, Willson lost his legs when a train
    > carrying munitions bound for Central America accelerated instead of
    > stopping. At the request of the Institute for Public Accuracy, he provided
    > a statement today and will be available for interviews:
    > "My Air Force Combat Security unit was dispatched to Binh Thuy on March 7,
    > 1969, to fortify a Vietnamese-controlled air base a few miles northwest of
    > Can Tho City in Phong Dinh Province, about 100 miles southwest of Saigon. I
    > was the first lieutenant in charge of this unit.... As a security officer I
    > quickly had to acquaint myself with intelligence reports on 'enemy'
    > activity, and locations and types of friendly resources. I had not been in
    > Vietnam more than a month or so when it was becoming obvious to me that
    > virtually everybody, other than a select few identified Vietnamese
    > business, political, and military leaders, was at least secretly hostile to
    > the U.S. presence and sympathetic with the Vietnamese struggle for
    > independence from any outside political force. After Tet 1968, the U.S./CIA
    > Phoenix program had become especially intense in eliminating political and
    > military leadership in the Vietcong, and U.S. air and ground forces had
    > become much more indiscriminate in killing Vietnamese and calling them all VC.
    > "Bob Kerrey and I, along with nearly 4 million other U.S. men and women,
    > were thrust into a fundamentally immoral, lawless intervention against the
    > authentic desires of the Vietnamese to build an independent, sovereign
    > nation. My job was, in essence, to protect airplanes in between their
    > missions bombing villages, the latter all having been identified as being
    > in a 'free fire zone,' which made it easy to rationalize destroying
    > everything. On occasion I witnessed through ground observations the
    > aftermath of villages bombed with only bodies of young women, many
    > children, and a few elderly strewn on the ground. I never saw any weapons
    > in these virtually defenseless villages.
    > "Our lawless, violent intervention in Vietnam was, unfortunately, not an
    > aberration. This is a tough conclusion, one that is extremely painful, to
    > acknowledge about the nation of our upbringing and citizenship. But we
    > veterans have a choice to take courageous responsibility for our actions,
    > even if our government will not. Bob Kerrey and his men killed for this
    > lie, and this terrible assault on the Vietnamese people. The only
    > difference between Kerrey and myself is that I was never in a position to
    > personally kill while in Vietnam. But I was part of a killing machine, even
    > being complicit in the bombing campaigns, and I saw dozens and dozens of
    > the bodies of women and children.
    > "It is time to acknowledge our responsibility and to take leadership in a
    > national healing process. Our souls, and the soul of our country, are at
    > stake. Furthermore, the future of peace in the world may rest on a profound
    > reckoning on the part of people in the U.S. that our imperial policies have
    > been wrong, and that we now want to truly make amends for our crimes. I
    > urge Bob Kerrey to be truly courageous about revealing his role while in
    > Vietnam, and ask other veterans to do the same. The future of the human
    > condition, not just our souls, may actually be at stake."
    > Also available for interviews:
    > BARRY ROMO,,
    > Romo is a national coordinator for Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
    > For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
    > Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; David Zupan, (541) 484-9167

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