War records aren't the only fabrications or exaggerations that people
engage in to enhance their popularity or their pocketbook. The Nazi
Holocaust against the Jews has produced some like a Swiss writer who
wrote a convincing best seller about his experiences before being
Congressman Tom Lantos, who has been in Durban this past week and in
Geneva before that, lobbying against any condemnation being made of
Israel's racist policies at the South African anti-racism conference,
advertises himself as the "only Holocaust survivor in Congress" which
would lead one think that he had been in a concentration camp. But
Lantos, who was a child in Budapest during the war was one of the lucky
ones and was hidden out while 750,000 Hungarian Jews went off to
Auchswitz. One might say that made him a "Holocaust survivor" as well,
but only in the most general sense since a life hidden out was very
different from one in the death camps.
Lantos is no stranger to fabrication having been responsible for hosting
a hearing of his Congressional Human Rights Caucus during the build-up
to the Gulf War at a time when much of Congress was hesitant to initiate
the bombing campaign.
At his hearing, Lantos, with the creative talents of the Hill and
Knowlton public relations agency, produced a "nurse" from Kuwait who
told the shocked House members how she had watched Iraqi soldiers come
into her hospital and throw scores of Kuwaiti babies out of incubators
so they could take the incubators back to Iraq.
The story, later exposed by Harper's publisher John MacArthur, was a
complete hoax, but it was enough to move Congress to approve the
bombing. The "nurse" was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, she
hadn't been to the hospital, and there hadn't been anywhere near the
number of incubators she described in the entire country. When Kuwaiti
doctors were asked about it, they didn't know what the questioner as
talking about. Yet this pathological liar, who has a free office for his
Freedom Foundation provided by the same Hill and Knowlton, is revered
and respected inside and outside of Congress because of his "Holocaust"
Using that background, he has been the point man in maintaining the
sanctions, justifying the deaths of Iraqi children by saying children
were also victims of the bombing of Germany by Roosevelt and Churchill
in WW2. He also has been among the House members leading the effort to
apply sanctions against the Palestinians.
The most famous Holocaust survivor of them all, the man who has made a
comfortable living from his experience, is Eli Weisel, and he is a
different kind of liar.
Yes, Weisel, was in Auchswitz, but what happened after that is not quite
how he describes it. When Weisel came out of the camp, he went to Israel
and became an Israeli citizen, learned Hebrew, and became a journalist
for the newspaper of Betar, the journal of Menachem Begin's ultra
right-wing youth group. At some point he had a bright idea. He would go
to the United States and pretend he was stateless, and so he did, and
eventually became a citizen, writing a number of books about his
Whether these were true or not is not the issue. In Israel, he is
generally viewed with contempt, from the right because he chose to hide
his Israeli citizenship, and by the left because of his role as an
unmitigated apologist for Israel's barbaric behavior towards both the
Palestinians and the Lebanese. One writer even wrote a humorous piece
about how "the doors of Auchswitz open and Weisel goes directly to the
Nobel Prize," another, a satire about him opening Holocaust boutiques.
Weisel's excuse? Not being an Israeli, he says, I have no right to
criticize, but he certainly even now has been playing a major role in
drumming up support in America and in Congress for Israel's heavy-handed
response to the Palestinian intifada.
Compared to the actions of both Lantos and Weisel, these Americans who
have made up their Vietnam war records appear to mostly pathetic. What
they are not complicit, like Lantos and Weisel, in crimes against humanity.
On September 9th, Lantos is being honored by the West Coast Chapter of
Israel's Jewish National Fund, the agency responsible for taking
Palestinian land out of Arab hands and keeping it that way, and there
will be a protest against him and the JNF.
> > Tin soldiers
> > For years it was the war that nobody wanted to remember. But now
> > thousands of Americans who have never seen combat are claiming they are
> > battle-hardened Vietnam veterans. Duncan Campbell reports on the wannabe
> > heroes and the men and women who hunt them down
> > by Duncan Campbell
> > Tuesday August 21, 2001
> > The Guardian (UK)
> > His mission had been a dangerous one, acting as a CIA operative working
> > underground in Laos during the Vietnam war in the late 60s. And he had
> > been awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in the groin by stray
> > shrapnel during combat. All of which, along with his distinguished legal
> > career and outstanding academic qualifications, made Patrick Couwenberg
> > ideal material for the position for which he had applied: judge in the Los
> > Angeles County superior court. There was only one problem: it was all a lie.
> > Last Wednesday, Judge Couwenberg, aged 55, was sacked after an
> > investigation discovered that he had lied during his application to the bench
> > and had lied again during the subsequent investigation to check his claims.
> > The commission on judicial performance ordered his removal for "wilful and
> > and prejudicial misconduct".
> > The judge's economy with the truth had first come to light three years ago
> > when a colleague on the San Diego bench, who was a genuine military
> > veteran, read a newspaper profile of Couwenberg and smelled a rat. He had
> > claimed that between 1968 and 1969 he had worked for the CIA in Laos. He
> > had also claimed to have carried out other missions for the CIA in Africa in
> > 1984.
> > However, the commission's investigators discovered that not only was
> > Couwenberg never in the CIA, but during the time of his claim to be working
> > for them, he was actually a social worker in Orange County, California. His
> > military service had been carried out in the US Naval Reserve. Couwenberg's
> > explanation was a poignant one: his wife had typed out his application and
> > he had been unable to tell her that the service career he had invented for
> > himself when they had first met was bogus. His lawyers argued that the
> > judge was suffering from a condition called "pseudologica fantastica".
> > But what is remarkable about Couwenberg's case is that it is far from
> > isolated. Last Friday, Professor Joseph Ellis, a Pulitzer prize-winner, was
> > suspended for a year without pay from his post at Mount Holyoke college in
> > Massachusetts because he had also invented a Vietnam war past for
> > himself. He had told his students that he had been a platoon commander
> > near My Lai when he had, in fact, spent his service time teaching history at
> > West Point. Yesterday, Professor Ellis said in a statement: "I intend to find
> > time for self-reflection." He has already apologised to his students and to all
> > Vietnam vets.
> > Another judge, Michael O'Brien from Chicago, has been exposed as having
> > falsely claimed to be a winner of two Medals of Honour, while the Toronto
> > Blue Jays baseball team manager, Tim Johnson, was fired from his job after
> > his claims to wartime heroics proved bogus. Almost every week it emerges
> > that some public figure has invented a fictional war history for himself. The
> > Unknown Soldier has been eclipsed by the Non Existent Soldier. Derring-do
> > becomes derring-didn't.
> > While truth has long been accepted as the first casualty of war, what had not
> > been apparent until this year had been just how much of a casualty it had
> > been, especially in Vietnam. But now a combination of dogged researchers,
> > disgruntled veterans' organisations and the internet is exposing dozens of tin
> > soldiers who have strutted at the head of their veterans' parades or used a
> > bogus war record to parlay their way into a job or a relationship.
> > "They are multiplying like cockroaches," says Mary Schantag, who logs the
> > phoney war heroes on a website from her home in Skidmore, Missouri. "It's
> > an epidemic. I had another eight calls only yesterday." She and her husband
> > Chuck, a computer programmer and Vietnam vet who was wounded as a
> > marine, came across the phenomenon by chance after setting up the PoW
> > Network, a project that chronicled all former prisoners of war. People would
> > call them having looked at the list of PoWs to ask why, say, their neighbour
> > who had told them stories of his time in a Vietnamese prison camp was not
> > listed. The Schantags would investigate, a relatively simple procedure, and
> > discover that many of the claims were untrue. So they started a special
> > section of their website dedicated to exposing "phoneys". Soon the trickle
> > became a flood.
> > While some of the phoney soldiers claimed to have served valiantly in the
> > second world war, the recent rash of exposures has concerned service in
> > Vietnam. "The Vietnam war is not the no-no it used to be," says Mary. "I
> > think a lot of people feel that they missed the chance to face their demons,
> > to sleep in the jungles in Vietnam, to face that psychological test. This
> > country is so deeply in need of heroes that no one is willing to check out
> > their backgrounds, they want to believe it is true. When you have someone
> > who says he rescued people in darkest Cambodia, people are so desperate
> > for it to be true that they don't check. It's a morality problem. It tears us
> > apart."
> > The first phoney, as Mary calls them, came to light in 1998, and since then
> > the Schantags have constantly been asked by employers, local newspapers
> > and by neighbours if they can check out people's claims. All too often they
> > turn out to be nonsense.
> > "They often make the mistake of choosing to be in elite units like special
> > forces (much like the SAS in Britain) or Navy Seals or the CIA which are very
> > easy for us to check - and I am a detail freak," she says. "There are now so
> > many books and so much information about the war that we are able to find
> > out more about a battle than the people who were in it. The people who were
> > in it only know what was happening in their vicinity, but the phoneys, the
> > wannabes have all the details."
> > The Schantags have no hesitation in exposing people, saying that they are
> > "stealing the honour and glory" that others have fought for. The number of
> > those who have invented a military past keeps growing: so far 740 bogus
> > PoWs have been listed but they represent only a tiny minority of bogus
> > veterans. When confronted, some of those exposed claim that their operation
> > was so secret that there is no official trace of it - but even if
> > operations were
> > secret, a service record is not. Some threaten to sue but none has yet done
> > so.
> > The Schantags are by no means the only way of tracking the bogus vets. In
> > 1998, BG "Jug" Burkett wrote Stolen Valour, a book that has become the
> > bible for the phoney-hunters. And a former Navy Seal, Larry Bailey, runs a
> > website, cyberseals.org, which has a wall of shame with hundreds of names
> > on it. Bailey, now a schoolteacher, reckons that more than 100,000
> > Americans have invented military backgrounds for themselves, often using
> > them to get benefits.
> > "Epidemic is an understatement," says Bailey. "It's the craziest thing I've
> > ever come across." He had first been alerted to the phenomenon when
> > teaching at the Seals' training school in California. Many police departments
> > contacted him to check out applicants' claims to have been Seals: "They
> > were all fake." He says that "pseudologica fantastica" was "putting a big
> > name on someone who has a vacuum inside them that they have to fill.
> > These people are absolute scum. How do they get away with it? Well, you
> > know how gullible and how lazy we are."
> > Bailey's wesbite also supplies handy tips for spotting bogus Seals, who tend
> > to be the kind of person who "wear camouflage clothing with multiple patches
> > and ribbons . . . Talks about his medals. (Seals don't talk about their
> > medals.)" For people who have asked why they bother, Bailey gives many
> > reasons, one being that many women have been "emotionally swindled" by
> > men claiming a war record: "There are literally thousands of lascivious
> > Lotharios who prey on the unsuspecting and trusting women who believe
> > their lies and misrepresentations. If we can save one such lady by exposing
> > these liars, then all our time and expense will have been worth it."
> > The irony behind this spate of inventions is that, 20 years ago, people were
> > more likely to have told lies in order to cover up their involvement in the
> > Vietnam war. While many may have embellished their part in the first or
> > second world wars, the Vietnam war was not one that seemed likely to
> > attract claims of involvement, because of its association with failure and
> > humiliation. It is only in the last few years that Vietnam veterans have
> > started
> > to emerge as heroic figures in the American media and with that realignment
> > have come the stories.
> > In the presidential election, Al Gore frequently used his service in Vietnam -
> > which was brief and as a reporter - to contrast himself with George Bush,
> > who had taken the rich boy's option of staying at home in the Reserve. Not
> > that "pseudologica fantastica" is peculiar to America. There are plenty of
> > fantasists in Britain who claim to have served in the SAS or the commandos
> > in the Falklands or the Gulf war or to have been in bomb disposal - a popular
> > fantasy - in Northern Ireland. But nowhere seems to have acquired so many
> > cardboard heroes as the US, a country in the midst of a new romance with
> > the second world war: three of the books on the New York Times bestsellers
> > list this week are odes to second world war heroics.
> > What the phoney-hunters have found is that few of those exposed show
> > much contrition and some continue to protest their involvement regardless of
> > the evidence. One or two, such as Professor Ellis, have apologised. "Denny"
> > appears on the cyberseals website to say sorry for the "shameless pit" into
> > which he has dug himself. But these are very much the exceptions. The truth
> > has turned out to be even more painful than shrapnel in the groin.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Sat Sep 08 2001 - 14:15:42 EDT