From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu May 03 2001 - 16:05:46 EDT

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    From: SendMeHack@aol.com
    Date: Wed, 2 May 2001
    Subject: Mail From Hack, 2001-05-02



    Ex-Sen. Bob Kerrey's admission about a 1969 Vietnam atrocity might have
    generated a media feeding frenzy, but it's not news to me.

    Nine years ago at Newsweek, I got a call from a man who claimed he was a
    "former SEAL" and whispered last week's headline news. But after some picking
    and shoveling, editor Maynard Parker and I walked away. Years later, another
    Newsweek reporter, Gregory Vistica, came up with the same story, and it, too,
    was spiked.

    We never ran with my story because:

    * The allegation couldn't be backed up. Participants had conflicting recall,
    common among warriors even immediately after a fight and especially decades
    later. No big surprise. Most eyewitnesses to a traumatic experience --
    battle-related or civilian -- remember it differently.

    * The whisperer couldn't explain why, since military law was on his side, he
    didn't stop the massacre. You know, "Lt. Kerrey, cease/desist or I'll shoot
    you." Or why he didn't immediately report the "war crime" per Navy regs. Or
    why he then sat on it for so many years.

    Another reason was based on my almost five years in Vietnam, where, during
    that shameful war, there were thousands of such atrocities. My parachute
    battalion's first big "kill" in 1965 was a night ambush at An Khe that
    destroyed a tribal family who hadn't gotten the word about the curfew. The
    draftee unit I skippered in 1969 -- as I've recently discovered while doing
    interviews for a new book -- had at least a dozen such horrors. Most were
    reported at the time as "enemy killed." Thirty-two years later, the
    participants say: It was the easy way out; we couldn't handle the shame; the
    command was constantly pushing the body-count figure.

    Everywhere our young men fought in Vietnam, where there were civilians, there
    was carnage. Especially in the Mekong Delta -- where Kerrey's commandos were
    hunting and being hunted by an armed enemy who was everywhere.

    Most of us have heard of William Calley's My Lai massacre, where hundreds of
    noncombatants were cut down in a bloodbath led by a madman. But ask anyone
    who fought in the Delta, where 35 percent of Vietnam's population lived, if
    civilians got caught in the middle of the cross fire -- and the answer has to
    be yes.

    Few innocents were killed on purpose. But it was a war with no front, and few
    of the enemy in the Delta wore uniforms or fought by the rules of war. Also,
    many women, children and old men were "freedom fighters" not unlike Americans
    during our War of Independence.

    My division in the Delta, the 9th, reported killing more than 20,000 Viet
    Cong in 1968 and 1969, yet less than 2,000 weapons were found on the "enemy"
    dead. How much of the "body count" consisted of civilians?

    John Paul Vann told me in April 1969 when he was in charge of pacification in
    the Delta that "at least 30 percent were noncombatants" and that he'd spoken
    to President Nixon about having the 9th immediately pulled out of the Delta.
    A month later, the division got its marching orders.

    Gen. Julian Ewell, who commanded the 9th, never ordered his soldiers to kill
    civilians. Nor did I. Nor, in my judgment, did Bob Kerrey. Nor did most of
    the scared young men -- lying out in the mud night after night thinking every
    sound was an enemy who'd soon take their lives -- purposely kill civilians.

    The Vietnam War was a 25-year running sore in which more than 5 million
    Southeast Asians died, nearly half a million Americans bled and millions of
    others still bear the pain and the shame and the scars.

    This week, Vistica finally presents his sensational story of events long ago
    in print, followed by Dan Rather on television. But neither was on that op;
    neither has been a combat grunt. Vistica never served; Rather did have a go
    at becoming a Marine but never completed boot camp. As far as I'm concerned,
    neither is qualified to pass judgment on soldiers or sailors.

    Matter of fact, neither of these frequent military bashers is fit to shine
    Kerrey's one jungle boot -- the other having been left behind in Vietnam with
    his foot in it while he bravely answered his country's call.

    (c) 2001 David H. Hackworth
    Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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