[sixties-l] Who Made Bob Kerrey Do It?

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Tue May 22 2001 - 22:58:30 EDT

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    Who Made Bob Kerrey Do It?

    Gerhard Klann: We Just Slaughtered Them

    by Nat Hentoff
    Village Voice
    May 23-29, 2001

    I would not call it a war crime. To describe it as an atrocity, I would
    say, is pretty close to being right, because that's how it felt. Bob
    Kerrey, CBS-TV's 60 Minutes II: "Memories of a Massacre," May 1

    Soon after The New York Times Magazine and 60 Minutes II focused on the
    sharply dissonant stories of what happened in the Vietnamese village of
    Thanh Phong on a dark night in 1969, there were pickets outside New School
    UniversityRobert Kerrey, presidenton West 12th Street.
    They were from the Internationalist Group, part of the League for the
    Fourth international, in short, Trotskyites. Amid the shouts, they
    distributed a flyer with the headline:

    "Drive Out War Criminal Bob Kerrey! He Should Be Brought to Justice by a
    Court of His Surviving Victims in Ho Chi Minh City!"

    But now, the pickets gone, Kerrey is off the front pages, as well as the
    inside ones, and his name is seldom heard on talk radio or television.

    In a May 3 article in the Lincoln, Nebraska, Journal Star, which used to be
    the former senator's hometown newspaper, Kerrey was described as "relaxed .
    . . The public's fixation on that night in Thanh Phong could be over, he
    said. . . . 'Enough is enough,' " Kerrey added.

    It does indeed look as if there will be no official investigation of the
    charge made by one of the seven members of Kerrey's Raiders that night,
    Gerhard Klann. On 60 Minutes II and in the April 29 New York Times
    Magazine, Klann said that at Kerrey's direction, 15 or so young children,
    including a baby, were herded together and, at close range, shot to death.

    "We just basically slaughtered those people," Klann said. After the
    fusillade, the baby was still crying. Says Klann: "The baby was shot to
    death like the rest of them."

    Kerrey denies Klann's account. He says they were in a free-fire zone on a
    moonless night. The seven Navy SEALs were fired upon and returned fire in
    the dark. Only when they went into the village did Kerrey and others see
    the corpses. (U.S. Naval Observatory records say the moon was 60 percent
    visible until an hour after the killings.)

    According to Gerhard Klann, "Kerrey kneeled on an old man's chest and
    slashed his throat."
    The worst may be over for Kerrey so far as most of the media is concerned.
    But questions remain. Columnist Michael Kelly (New York Post, May 2): "Why,
    as Kerrey admits, were the corpses all found huddled in a group in the
    middle of the village, in a manner suggestive of an execution, and very
    hard to explain under Kerrey's version?" (The May 5 Economist asks the same
    As soon as the story broke, three United States senators who had served in
    VietnamJohn Kerry, Max Cleland, and Chuck Hagelsaid of their former colleague:

    "Many people have been forced to do things in war they are deeply ashamed
    of later. Yet for our country to blame the warrior instead of the war is
    among the worst, and regrettably, most frequent mistakes we as a country
    can make."

    This resolutionif not total absolutionappears to be the consensus of the
    majority of those, in and out of public life, who have spoken about that
    night in Thanh Phong. Robert Mann, who has written about the Vietnam War,
    summed it up in the April 30 New York Times:

    "Let us not forget that official decisions made in Washingtonin the White
    House and in Congressresulted in the needless death of millions."

    Even at New York's War Resisters League, the nation's most persistently
    active group of pacifists, this was the core reaction, as Felicia Lee
    reported in the May 6 New York Times: "With Kerrey, we are blaming the
    victim again. . . . He was doing what tons and tons of people were doing."

    A.J. Mustethe radical pacifist who turned Martin Luther King on to
    direct-action pacifism and was a key strategist in the antiwar and civil
    rights movementswould have agreed with that analysis. But he would have
    gone deeper, as I think the War Resisters League knows.

    In my biography of A.J., Peace Agitator, I quote Mustewho has had an
    abiding influence on my lifeas saying more than once that each of us must
    understand that "this naked human being is the one real thing in the face
    of the mechanics and mechanized institutions of our age." And A.J. cites
    the antiestablishment political scientist C. Wright Mills as requiring "the
    resolution of one human being to take his own fate into his own hands."

    (See also Christopher Hitchens, "Leave No Child Behind?" The Nation, May 28.)
    In all the commentary about Kerrey's anguish about the atrocityand the
    original sin of those in the White House and Congress who were
    fundamentally responsible for all the killings in Vietnamone voice stood
    out. Patricia Sette's letter in the April 30 New York Times:

    "Everyone, including Mr. Kerrey, seems to think that this story is about
    him. It's almost as if those who were killed have become mere stage props
    in some morality play instead of real human beings who suffered a
    terrifying and undeserved death. No matter what degree of understanding Bob
    Kerrey deserves, it is the victims who are at the center of this story."

    On 60 Minutes II, Kerrey would not call the terrifying deaths of those
    victims a war crime. Had there been any survivors, would that distinction
    have made a difference to them?

    And as Michael Kelly asks: If Kerrey's versionthat Kerrey's Raiders just
    returned fireis true, "Why did they all die? Why did none survive with only

    What of the baby who was still crying and had to be terminated with extreme
    prejudice? To be continued.

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