---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 07 Jan 2002 18:03:08 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: The case of Robert Kerrey: war crimes and their supporters in
Vietnam and Afghanistan
The case of Robert Kerrey: war crimes and their supporters in Vietnam and
By Peter Daniels
4 January 2002
The first reports of massacres of Taliban prisoners of war in Afghanistan
appeared six weeks ago. The premeditated killing of hundreds of prisoners
in the town of Mazar-i-Sharif was followed by evidence of other war crimes,
including the mass suffocation of hundreds of prisoners inside metal cargo
containers during a trip to a prison in another location after their
surrender in the city of Kunduz, and the singling out of non-Afghan Taliban
prisoners for extermination.
Calls for an investigation of these blatant violations of the 1949 Geneva
Convention on the treatment of POWs have come from sections of the European
media, as well as from such organizations as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty
International, and United Nations human rights spokeswoman Mary Robinson.
Major US media organizations, however, taking their cue from the Bush
administration, have barely taken note of these appeals. After a brief
flurry of articles a number of weeks ago the subject has been dropped. The
so-called liberal press, including the Washington Post and the New York
Times, has joined in covering up the story and lending its backhanded
support to these atrocities.
The complicity of the liberal media is revealing but not unexpected. Almost
eight months ago there was a preview of their cynical indifference on the
issue of imperialist war crimes.
An article in the New York Times magazine of last April 29 and a report on
the CBS program "60 Minutes II" revealed that former Democratic Senator
Robert Kerrey, recently installed as president of the prestigious New
School University, had participated in a death squad attack in the
Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong in 1969. Kerrey, the commander of a Navy
SEALS unit at the time, was accused of responsibility in the killing of 21
women, children and elderly men.
It was soon revealed that the media had reports of Kerrey's involvement as
far back as 1992, but had covered it up. The revelation of the involvement
of this prominent politician in war crimes, when it finally did emerge,
clearly touched a raw nerve. Kerrey responded evasively, vaguely
acknowledging wrongdoing, at the same time pleading memory lapses, and also
defending US aims in Vietnam and contemptuously rejecting any call for an
investigation of the incident.
Editorialists on both the "left" and right, along with Democratic and
Republican colleagues of the former senator, immediately sprang to Kerrey's
defense. Democratic Senators Max Cleland and John Kerry, both Vietnam
veterans, opposed an investigation of the war crime, saying it would be
blaming "the warrior rather than the war." Various commentators advanced
similar arguments, implicitly admitting the criminal character of the war,
but only in order to cover it up. According to this argument, the fact that
Kerrey was a young man carrying out the orders of President Richard Nixon,
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and other US officials means that there
is no point in holding him responsible. The real aim of this method of
reasoning is to proceed from the exoneration of Kerrey to the covering up
of the higher-ups and of the US ruling elite as a whole.
The WSWS explained last May 4 that the defense of Kerrey was "an
extraordinary official effort to legitimize the ... atrocities of US
imperialism in Vietnam" ["Robert Kerrey and the bloody legacy of Vietnam"
"The media furor over Kerrey's role in Vietnam has been very limited, and
is now beginning to abate," we wrote. "The ruling circles are testing out
public opinion on this issue. If they succeed in retaining an accused war
criminal at the head of one of the best-known intellectual centers in
America, they will have struck a powerful blow for the rehabilitation of
the Vietnam War and of imperialist foreign policy as a whole."
We continued, "The ruling elite seeks to bury" the history of US crimes in
Vietnam "both to cover up its complicity in old crimes, and to pave the way
for new ones. Already the Bush administration has threatened China, bombed
Iraq, stepped up intervention in Colombia, scrapped the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty and provoked its own erstwhile allies with unilateral
actions on trade and the environment."
We explained that the issue of Kerrey's role "is a defining moment in
American politics, and the silence or indifference that characterizes the
response from the New York liberal milieu bespeaks the putrefaction of
American liberalism. Those who are prepared to accept the presence of a war
criminal in the top position at one of the most prestigious American
universities are prepared to accept virtually any atrocity."
We did not have long to wait to see the confirmation of these
warnings. The US ruling class has seized on the events of September 11 to
put in motion long-planned military operations to advance its interests in
central Asia and the surrounding region. The defense of Kerrey was truly
utilized, as the WSWS warned, to pave the way for new war crimes, this time
in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Kandahar and other Afghan cities. The Democrats
and what passes for contemporary American liberalism are thoroughly
complicit in these crimes.
In the final analysis, however, the lessons of Vietnam cannot simply be
obliterated. The ruling elite can overcome its own "Vietnam syndrome"
hesitation, and even whip up temporary support for new acts of
aggression. However, as the WSWS also explained in connection with the
whitewashing of Kerrey's role, this is only the beginning. The cover-up of
war crimes and the drumbeat of "national unity" are designed to obscure the
deepening social contradictions within the US itself. Protracted war abroad
and economic crisis at home will produce social and political struggles on
a greater scale than at the time of the war in Vietnam, thus creating the
social forces which can genuinely fight imperialist atrocities.
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