[sixties-l] The case of Robert Kerrey

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Fri May 18 2001 - 15:06:10 EDT

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    The case of Robert Kerrey: how the US media covered up Vietnam War atrocity


    By Patrick Martin
    18 May 2001

    For a single week in late April, the American media devoted considerable
    attention to the involvement of former US Senator Robert Kerrey, now the
    president of New School University in New York City, in a Vietnam War
    massacre 32 years ago.
    A cover story in the New York Times Magazine and an hour-long report on the
    CBS program Sixty Minutes II touched off the brief and superficial
    examination of the actions of a squad of US Navy SEALS, led by Kerrey, in
    the Mekong Delta village of Thanh Phong, which killed 21 women, children
    and elderly men on the night of February 25, 1969.
    But there was little notice and no condemnation of the fact that Newsweek
    magazine, one of the three big US weeklies, had a draft of the story in
    1998 and decided to suppress it. Gregory Vistica, then a national security
    correspondent for the magazine, had uncovered the truth about Thanh Phong,
    interviewing, among others, Gerhard Klann, the former SEAL who described
    the killings as a deliberate massacre ordered by Kerrey.
    Newsweek Editor Mark Whitaker and assistant managing editor Evan Thomas
    claim that they decided to kill the story after Kerrey announced, in
    December 1998, that he would not be a candidate for the Democratic
    presidential nomination in 2000. "We all agreed there's a higher level of
    scrutiny that goes on for presidential candidates," Whitaker said in
    response to media inquiries. "At that point, in my mind, the relevance of
    this story changed a little bit."
    "We could have run the story," added Thomas, who interviewed Kerrey
    together with Vistica. "We had Kerrey's confirmation. We just didn't want
    to do it to the guy when he wasn't running for president." Thomas said the
    editors were also concerned that they might be accused of driving Kerrey
    out of the presidential contest if they made their investigation public.
    Such scruples appear unlikely on their face, given that the magazine in
    question, Newsweek, conducted a brazenly political intervention into the
    Paula Jones lawsuit and subsequently the Lewinsky affair, working
    hand-in-hand with the right-wing lawyers and political operatives who were
    conspiring to destabilize the Clinton presidency. Newsweek hired former
    Washington Post reporter Michael Isikoff, who befriended Paula Jones and
    devoted himself full-time to uncovering the alleged sexual misdeeds of
    President Clinton.
    Isikoff did the spadework for a 1997 Newsweek cover story on the Paula
    Jones case, portraying it as a legitimate effort to combat sexual
    harassment. He later reported the alleged "groping" of Kathleen Willey by
    Clinton, and was the first journalist to hear the illegally taped
    conversations between Monica Lewinsky and Linda Tripp. Finally he worked
    closely with Tripp and former Nixon dirty trickster Lucianne Goldberg in
    the weeks leading up to the detonation of the Lewinsky scandal in January 1998.
    There is an obvious contrast between the magazine's manic efforts to expose
    a private sexual affair in the Clinton White House, and its reticence about
    bringing to light a mass murder implicating a US senator and presidential
    Even more importantly, it appears that Newsweek first learned of the Thanh
    Phong massacre, not in 1998 but in 1992. According syndicated military
    columnist David Hackworth, a retired Vietnam-era colonel who writes for
    Newsweek, he was contacted by a "former SEAL" in 1992 who told him
    essentially the same story that Gregory Vistica reported last month.
    Hackworth and Newsweek editor Maynard Parker looked into the ex-soldier's
    claims and "walked away."
    Hackworth gives two reasons for not running the story in 1992:
    conflicting recall of the events by participants, and the inability of the
    eyewitness to explain why he did not try to stop the massacre or report it
    later to superiors and waited so long to contact the media.
    Remarkably, Hackworth defends Kerrey today on the grounds that in the
    Vietnam of 1969, most soldiers were engaged in similar actions. "Based on
    my almost five years in Vietnam," Hackworth writes in his May 1 column,
    "during that shameful war, there were thousands of such atrocities... The
    draftee unit I skippered in 1969as I've recently discovered while doing
    interviews for a new book, had at least a dozen such horrors... Everywhere
    our young men fought in Vietnam, where there were civilians, there was
    According to Hackworth, his 9th Division, stationed in the Mekong Delta
    where the Thanh Phong massacre took place, "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?"
    In 1992 Kerrey was one of a half-dozen candidates for the Democratic
    presidential nomination. There were two Vietnam-related exposes about
    Democratic candidates making the rounds of major news rooms. One was the
    story of Bill Clinton's efforts to evade the draft. The other was the
    report that Kerrey had been involved in war crimes. The Clinton
    "draft-dodger" story became an overnight media sensational, though the
    general public shrugged it off and Clinton won both the nomination and the
    presidency. The Kerrey war crimes story was buried, and remained so for the
    next nine years.

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