[sixties-l] Shocked Over Kerrey? It's How We Fought the War

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri May 04 2001 - 15:59:03 EDT

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    Shocked Over Kerrey? It's How We Fought the War


    Here's one of the many unsettling things about Bob Kerrey, and it doesn't
    even address the issue of what exactly he did in the Vietnamese village of
    Thanh Phong. Supposedly riddled with indecision whether to accept the Medal
    of Honor for a military action subsequent to the one now under dispute, he
    finally did so on May 14, 1970, just 10 days after after the Ohio National
    Guard killed four anti-war student protesters at Kent State.

    In other words, at a moment of maximal national revulsion against the Vietnam
    War, former Sen. Kerrey went along with the Pentagon's urgent desire for
    heroes and presented his chest to President Richard M. Nixon, who pinned the
    medal to it. So much for "ambiguity," one of the words used now to salvage
    his reputation. And now, and only now, is he considering whether to give back
    the Bronze Star awarded him for the 1969 mission in which (if you believe, as
    we do, his fellow SEAL Gerhard Klann) he assisted in the throat-slitting of
    an elderly Vietnamese peasant and ordered the killing of 13 women and babies,
    or (if you believe him) less wittingly supervised the slaughter of an old man
    and 13 or more women and children.

    It's pretty clear that Kerrey's raid was part of the CIA's Phoenix program
    (as was My Lai, where "Task Force Barker" killed 504 men, women and children
    the preceding year). The intent of Phoenix was terror, precisely the killing
    of not only suspected Viet Cong, but also their families. The late William
    Colby, the CIA man who ran the program, told Congress that between 1967-1971,
    20,587 Vietnamese "activists" were killed under the Phoenix program. The
    South Vietnamese declared that 41,000 had been killed. Other estimates go as
    high as 70,000.

    Barton Osborn, an intelligence officer in the Phoenix program, spelled out in
    a congressional hearing the prevailing bureaucratic attitude of the agents
    toward their campaign of terror: "Quite often it was a matter of expediency
    just to eliminate a person in the field rather than deal with the paperwork."

    And who was classified as a "VC sympathizer" and, therefore, fair game to be
    slaughtered by units like Kerrey's? The CIA's Robert Ramsdell, one of the two
    men who developed the My Lai operation, said, "Anyone in that area was
    considered a VC sympathizer because they couldn't survive in that area unless
    they were sympathizers." Thanh Phong was in "that area," which lends credence
    to Klann's account of what Kerrey's raiders did.

    The death squads run by the CIA men supervising Phoenix were a particular
    favorite of the man who pinned the medal on Kerrey: Nixon. After My Lai there
    was a move to reduce funding for these killing programs. According to
    journalist Seymour Hersh, Nixon passionately objected: "No. We've got to have
    more of this. Assassinations. Killings." The funding was swiftly restored.

    When he was at Newsweek in 1998, reporter Gregory Vistica had Kerrey cold,
    but the newsmagazine's editors decided that since Kerrey was no longer a
    presidential candidate it wasn't worth exposing him. It was apparently OK for
    a U.S. senator to be an alleged war criminal. Then the New York Times finally
    decided to run Vistica's story because Kerrey had left the Senate. Given the
    lack of disquiet among faculty and students, it's also apparently OK for an
    alleged war criminal like Kerrey to be head of the New School University in
    New York, which in earlier days hosted refugees from Nazi Germany.

    So will the Kerrey brouhaha nudge the nation or Congress into confronting the
    past and what the Vietnam War really involved? Of course not. Right before
    the last election, CounterPunch ran a story by Doug Valentine, who wrote "The
    Phoenix Program," one of the best histories of what really happened in
    Vietnam. Valentine's CounterPunch story concerned Robert Simmons, in the
    midst of an ultimately successful campaign to represent Connecticut in
    Congress. The specific charge against Simmons, originally leveled in the
    Connecticut paper New London Day in 1994 was that he routinely violated the
    Geneva Convention while interrogating civilian prisoners during his 20 months
    of service with the CIA in Vietnam. Simmons claimed he'd always steered clear
    of the dirty stuff. Same way Kerrey claims that when his unit cut the throats
    of the old folk in a Thanh Phong peasant hut, he was outside.

    When Simmons was battling to become a congressman (after a long career in
    state government in Connecticut), no national paper cared a whit about the
    fact that a possible torturer and war criminal was on the hustings. Small
    wonder Congress is being protective of Kerrey, admonishing the Pentagon not
    to probe what happened at Thanh Phong. How many executive agents of the
    Phoenix program are strolling up and down the aisles of government?

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