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Sometimes worthwhile comments appear late in the day on a particular post, when most eyes have moved on. That's the case with the Bud Day post from a few days back. Because a worthy discussion has indeed begun there, and because it's moved so far down the page, I'm giving them an entry of their own. (Those who haven't read the original entry and its follow up might do so before joining this discussion).
I've added hyperlinks to Keith Nolan's books and web site below. The remainder of his comments are as made.
Keith Nolan 2008-07-08 01:18:36:
A dissenting voice here, if you don't mind.Greyhawk 2008-07-08 04:07:
To begin with, there is no doubt that Bud Day is one of the great military heroes of the Vietnam War.
There is also no doubt that Bud Day's memories of the war are colored through a hard-right perspective. He certainly earned that perspective, but his take-no-prisoners perspective allowed him to put his name behind two falsehoods during the 2004 campaign against John Kerry.
To begin with, Bud Day and the Swift Boaters with which he aligned himself in 2004 charged that the communists used John Kerry's anti-war statements while torturing American POWs in Hanoi. Kerry made his statements in 1971. The torture of American POWs in Hanoi actually stopped after Ho Chi Minh's death in 1969.
Numerous POWs went on the record in 2004 to note that they never heard boo about John Kerry while still being held in Hanoi. Conversely, there were so many anti-war critics with military creds in 1971 (General Shoup, Rep McCloskey, etc.) that Hanoi didn't even need John Kerry's words.
More importantly, Bud Day signed a statement claiming that "Kerry cast a long dark shadow over all Vietnam Veterans with his outright perjury before the Senate [in 1971] concerning atrocities in Vietnam. His stories to the Senate committee were absolute lies..fabrications..perjury..fantasies, with NO substance...."
Bud Day is speaking here of the so-called Winter Soldiers who gave testimony in Detroit in 1971 about their service in Vietnam. As soon as the Winter Soldiers opened their mouths, the Nixon Administration accused them of being phony veterans telling lies about a war in which they had never served.
However, despite decades of diggging by various right-wing organizations, not a single Winter Soldier who gave testimony was ever shown to be a fake veteran. Indeed, many have proven their bonafides over the years with discharge papers, letters, diary notes, award citations, photos of themselves in Vietnam, etc.
More to the point, though a few of the Winter Soldiers were probably exaggerating their atrocity stories, many have been born out over the years. In fact, recently declassified CID reports show that Jamie Henry (B/1-35th Infantry, 4th Div, RVN, 1967-68) was telling the absolute truth when he described at the Winter Soldier Investigation the numerous rapes and murders committed by his comrades during the hard days of the 1968 Tet Offensive.
I could name numerous other Winter Soldiers whose testimony has been validated by CID and NIS reports, contemporary news accounts, official histories, etc.
Bud Day is an American Hero, but he is also a highly-politicized figure who has no problem demeaning the service of left-wing veterans with whom he disagrees.
That he threw his wholehearted support behind hucksters like the SBVFT still makes me cringe.
03Keith,Keith Nolan 2008-07-08 05:58:48
Google: Al Hubbard.
Your comments are welcome here. I only wish you'd made them when the story was still fresh. I urge you to read the more recent entry I made here. In addition to McCain's actual testimony on his Hanoi time, linked therein you might even find my 2004 post in which I waved the bullshit flag on a Newsmax story headlined McCain: Hanoi Hilton Guards Taunted POWs With Kerry's Testimony.
Meanwhile, [how many] of those various investigations of "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" (John Kerry) resulted in convictions? More on that below.
Only a fool would argue that no American soldier ever harmed a civilian, or that soldiers are in their entirety a righteous breed. I'm more familiar with the current crop than the previous generation, but folks don't evolve at a pace where that really matters. I know the Abu Ghraib sort don't represent the overwhelming number of folks in uniform now, and I believe the same of the My Lai crew. Sadly, I can only hope that the Joe Darbys and "Buck" Thompsons are proportionately better represented than that bred or the "Winter Soldiers" who (according to their own testimony) never spoke or acted when it mattered. (Thus in one regard the two sides of the winter solder argument boil down to "they're liars" or "they're cowards".)
I'd question your assertion that Day is somehow chiefly politically motivated. I think his reasons are deeper. I'm quite sure that upon hearing Kerry's testimony for the first time - whenever and wherever that was, he didn't ask what color tie the SOB wore.
I'm not sure that's true of all involved. In fact, the prime question in my mind is one of motive. What motivated these 'Winter Soldiers" to do what they did? What did they hope to achieve? And what was John Kerry's goal? Others ask the same.
B.G. Burkett, Stolen Valor:The same disrespect for the truth was in operation during the Winter Soldier hearings. After all the atrocities were dutifully taken down, the transcript was inserted into the Congressional Record by Sen. Mark O. Hatfield, who asked the commandant of the Marine Corps to investigate the many crimes, particularly those perpetrated by Marines.
"The results of this investigation, carried out by the Naval Investigative Service are interesting and revealing," said historian Guenter Lewy in his book America in Vietnam. His history of the war was one of the first to rely on previously classified documents in the National Archives. "Many of the veterans, although assured that they would not be questioned atrocities they might have committed personally, refused to be interviewed. One of the active members of the VVAW told investigators that the leadership had directed the entire membership not to cooperate with military authorizes.
One black Marine who testified at Winter Soldier did agree to talk with the investigators. Although he had claimed during the hearing that Vietnam was "one huge atrocity" and a "racist plot," he could provide no details of any actual crimes. Lewy said the question of atrocities had not occurred to the Marine until he left Vietnam. His testimony had been substantially "assisted" by a member of the Nation of Islam.
"But the most damaging finding consisted of the sworn statements of several veterans, corroborated by witnesses, that they had in fact not attended the hearing in Detroit," Lewy wrote, "One of them had never been to Detroit in his life." Fake "witnesses" had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans.
Lewy pointed out that incidents similar to those described at the Winter Soldier hearings did occur. "Yet these incidents either (as in the destruction of hamlets) did not violate the law of war or took place in breach of existing regulations," Lewy wrote. Those responsible were tired and punished.
"In either case, they were not, as alleged, part of a 'criminal policy,'" Lewy said. Despite the antiwar movement's contention that military policies protecting civilians in Vietnam were routinely ignored, Lewy said the rules of engagement were implemented and taken very seriously, although at times the rules were not communicated properly and the training was inadequate. That's what made the failure so notable.
..."The VVAW's use of fake witnesses and the failure to cooperate with military authorities and to provide crucial details of the incidents further cast serious doubt on the professed desire to server the causes of justice and humanity." Lewy wrote. "It is more likely that this inquiry, like others earlier and later, had primarily political motives and goals."
Thanks for the quick and courteous response, Grayhawk. Allow me to make some counterpoints:
1.) You wrote: "Your comments are welcome here. I only wish you'd made them when the story was still fresh."
Ah, actually, I've been screaming about the validity of the Winter Soldier Investigation since it became an issue in 2004.
I need to make myself clear. I'm not a particular fan of John Kerry (he's too stiff, too arrogant, too liberal, and pats himself endlessly on his own back for serving in combat), but he did earn a Silver Star and a few other medals in the service of his country.... and I gotta respect that, especially when I think about how many of his rich-kid peers hid under their beds instead of going to Vietnam.
Conversely, the Winter Soldiers, as a group, are a little too radical for my blood.... but, again, I gotta respect their service no matter what side of the political fence they eventually landed.
And that's my beef. If the right-wing had simply argued (in 1971, and when the issue came alive again in 2004) that the Winter Soldiers were addressing the worst U.S. conduct in Vietnam, and that their stories were not representational of the majority of veterans, you'd have heard not a peep from me.
Instead, the right-wing argued (in 1971 and 2004)that the Winter Soldiers were a pack of frauds making up lies about a war in which they never served.
Well, as a historian of the Vietnam War, I've met some of the Winter Soldiers over the years, and know from documents and photos that they were real veterans. I've also spoken to enough Vietnam veterans of all political stripes to know that many of the Winter Soldier stories rang true.
For example, Scott Moore, formerly a platoon leader in the 9th Division, spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation about fake body counts. In fact, the 9th Division under General Ewell was infamous for fake body counts. (See ABOUT FACE by Colonel Hackworth.)
Robert Kruch, formerly a grunt with the Americal Division, spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation about a hyper-aggressive battalion commander who ordered his unit not to take prisoners so to boost the body count, and also about a combat refusal that took place near FSB Center, I Corps, RVN, in August 1969. Well, the combat refusal was covered extensively by the press at the time, and I tracked down Kruch's former company commander who confirmed that, yes, their battalion commander was a little nuts, and did, in fact, put out the word that he didn't want prisoners.
Mike McCusker spoke at the Winter Soldier Investigation of a rape-and-murder incident committed by B/1/5 Marines in 1966. That incident was confirmed in the official marine history of court-martials in Vietnam by LtCol Gary Solis, USMC.
Another Winter Soldier spoke of a company commander in the 9th Marines being assassinated (fragged) by his own men in 1969. Again, that murder was confirmed in LtCol Solis's official history.
Then there's Jamie Henry, formerly of the 4th Division, who cooperated with the CID to have justice done regarding the rapes and murders he had seen--rapes and murders confirmed by the CID--only to have the whole mess swept under the rug as a political embarrassment. (Just as the Tiger Force atrocities were also swept under the rug at the same time by the same agencies.)
In addition, as a researcher/writer with an interest in establishing the veracity of the Winter Soldier Investigation, I began tracking down veterans as of 2004 who might confirm or deny what was said in Detroit in 1971. Numerous veterans provided me old letters and diary entries that confirmed the atrocity tales told by the Winter Soldiers. Some of those same veterans also provided me with old photos of hamlets being burned down, villagers toyed with at gun and bayonet point, prisoners being brutally beaten, and GIs holding up heads hacked from dead Viet Cong.
I could go on and on.
In any event, history might chalk such atrocities up as "isolated incidents"--but confirmation of such incidents makes a lie of the SBVFT claim that Kerry's Winter Soldiers were a pack of frauds.
2.) You wrote: "Google: Al Hubbard."
Ah, Al Hubbard, the achilles heel of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War--the guy who most definitely lied about his military service, exaggerating his rank, exaggerating the extent of his service in Vietnam, ad naseum.
Al Hubbard never made any atrocity claims, however, and never said boo in front of the microphones at the Winter Soldier Investigation.
Incidentally, after decades of digging for dirt on the Winter Soldiers, Al Hubbard is the only guy the right-wing can actually point to as a B.S. artist--and, as I say, he was an organizer who didn't actually offer any personal testimony.
One other thought: I've never encountered a veterans organization of any political persuasion that did not have a few flakes and liars.
3.) Regarding the Winter Soldiers, you write that "they never spoke or acted when it mattered. (Thus in one regard the two sides of the winter solder argument boil down to "they're liars" or "they're cowards".)
Not so fast. It's no simple thing for a stressed-out nineteen-year-old grunt to rat out his buddies when they do something ugly in the heat of the moment--and virtually impossible when some of those ugly things are being done at the orders of lieutenants and captains. You're expecting some kind of moral clarity out of teenagers that often wasn't possible in the confusing landscape of an ugly guerrilla war like Vietnam in which the name of the game was body count, body count, body count.
Also, please bear in mind that the record shows that many war crimes in Vietnam WERE reported by outraged grunts and junior officers--whose reports were then covered up by their superiors who feared having the careers derailed by scandal. (See: My Lai, the atrocity behind the book Casualties of War, etc., etc., etc.)
4.) You reference B.G. Burkett's Stolen Valor (which is really a hilarious piece of work, filled with much feel-good whitewashing and outright distortions of the historical record).
More specifically, you reference an NIS investigation cited by Burkett that claims the former Marines who testified at the Winter Soldier Investigation were confirmed as fakes: "... the most damaging finding consisted of the sworn statements of several veterans, corroborated by witnesses, that they had in fact not attended the hearing in Detroit... Fake 'witnesses' had appropriated the names of real Vietnam veterans...."
Quick point: not one of those real veterans who supposedly had their identities ripped off has ever stepped forward. Names, please!
Longer point: that purpoted NIS investigation is the only "proof" that the Winter Soldiers were fakes. Couple big problems, however. The report was never made public in 1971, and neither Navy nor Marine archivists could locate a copy in 2004.
Guenter Lewy cited the NIS report in America In Vietnam, but when contacted by reporters in 2004, admitted that he wasn't sure if he actually read the report--or merely accepted a verbal paraphrasing of the report from an official at the Pentagon.
In any event, the former Marines who told the wildest tales at the Winter Soldier Investigation (Mike McCusker, Scott Camil, and Joe Bangert) are all real veterans with photos and documents to back up their claims of service. They are certainly not the fakes claimed in the NIS report. McCusker's stories have been confirmed by the historical record. I personally think Camil's stories are half true, half exaggerated, and I doubt anything a maniac like Bangert has to say.
No matter: all three of those guys are USMC veterans of the Vietnam War, no matter what innuendos were floated by the NIS to Guenter Lewy.
Well, this is a lot of verbiage! I'll end by repeating my main point: as a kind of right-wing, pro-military guy myself, I've always been embarrassed that the right-wing (from Nixon to Burkett to Scott Swett to the SBVFT) simply couldn't dismiss the Winter Soldiers as being non-representational of the majority of Vietnam veterans--instead of perpetuating the lie that those poor shell-shocked kids who became Winter Soldiers hadn't actually fought and bled for their country in Vietnam.
Disgraceful. That's the kind of nonsense I'd expect out of a gas bag like Michael Moore, not the Grand Old Party.
So, when is self-admitted war criminal John Kerry going to resign his Senate seat and travel to Vietnam to stand trial for his crimes against humanity?
Alternatively, he could travel to Brussels and stand before the International Criminal Court.
If you did the crime, Mr. Kerry, you need to do the time.Posted by I R A Darth Aggie at July 8, 2008 02:43 PM
... as a kind of right-wing, pro-military guy myself, I've always been embarrassed that the right-wing (from Nixon to Burkett to Scott Swett to the SBVFT) simply couldn't dismiss the Winter Soldiers as being non-representational of the majority of Vietnam veterans ...
If others (including some with more access to the public eye than their opponents in this matter) didn't persist in perpetuating their testimony as typical of not only the Vietnam veteran, but of the American fighting man (and/or conservative political leadership) since then, they could be dismissed as irrelevant.
Unfortunately, we don't have that alternative.
And while we do need to be precise in our assessments, until common sense comes to those who would portray them as typical, the Winter Soldiers deserve our scrutiny.
All quality propaganda is based on a 'grain' of truth. The 'crime' is in the distortion.
One becomes a few becomes some becomes many becomes most becomes all. Propaganda is all in the adverbs and adjectives.
I'm a true believer that Joe McCarthy was right on the money. History bears out that the Soviets were funding various groups in the US.
Unfortunately, like the vast majority of politico's...Democrat or Republican he resorted to distortions in order to make the case and thus discredited himself.
DOD has learned its lesson for the most part...I had a long chat with an OSD PAO...what they are looking for from the news media are independent third parties to 'witness' events.
The only long term effective tool against propaganda is "The Truth".
Unfortunately, "The Truthers" are usually the one's spinning the worst propaganda.
Rosy O'Donnel is correct in stating that the structural beams in the WTC didn't melt...they got hot enough to 'Bend' which isn't melting. Anyone who has ever driven a nail into a piece of wood knows that once a nail starts to bend it only gets
worse from there.
"Meanwhile, [how many] of those various investigations of "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command" (John Kerry) resulted in convictions? More on that below."
Well, with all due respect, that's a bit of a false issue.
Military investigators evidently did not press charges against individuals who had already been discharged even when they found clear evidence of wrongdoing, because they were considered to be out of military jurisdiction. That is one reason for the failure to charge individuals during the Tiger Force investigations:
And same with the investigations based on Jamie Henry's claims.
Though, according to the LA Times article, it seems that they ignored the Army general counsel's advice that it was possible to prosecute ex-soldiers.
In fact, the Toledo Blade recently ran an article saying retired soldiers could possibly still be prosecuted:
But for whatever reason these cases weren't prosecuted at the time, it wasn't for lack of evidence.
Posted by skylark at July 10, 2008 01:06 AM
"Well, with all due respect, that's a bit of a false issue."
It's the key issue to this claim: "not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command"
I asked how many because a) that's one indication of whether that claim is true and b) I don't know the answer. And the poorly written LA Times piece doesn't help.
Here's what the LA Times said: "The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators"
So, who exactly launched these investigations?
Of which, "Investigators determined that evidence against 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners was strong enough to warrant formal charges. These "founded" cases were referred to the soldiers' superiors for action."
Note the verbiage switch - 320 incidents investigated, but 203 soldiers with enough evidence to charge. (Note also this is not proof of guilt.)
Regardless, "Ultimately, 57 of them were court-martialed [no word on whether these were the ones accused of the more heinous crimes] and just 23 convicted, the records show." So an 11% conviction rate of those 'with enough evidence to charge' and a 40% conviction rate of those who went to trial.
You note that some "were considered to be out of military jurisdiction." The choice of words is interesting, as this is more accurate: "were out of military jurisdiction". There is a case today wherein a group of soldiers raped and murdered a young Iraqi girl and her family - some have confessed. However, the chief accused had left the service (discharged for behavior patterns, if memory serves) before the story was uncovered.
He (last I heard) awaits trial in civilian court. [update] The rest of the crew in military court [update]. Such is the law. And there's now another, more contentious case ongoing with similar circumstances.
Did the Army pass the Vietnam-era information on to civilian prosecutors? If that info is in the LA Times story I missed it. If not, a sad failure on the part of the reporters. Given the point of the story (making the army look bad - lets not pretend they give a damn about justice for the victims) I'd think if the Army had failed to do so they'd have noted it.
This is noted: "The Army did not attempt to pursue them, despite a written opinion in 1969 by Robert E. Jordan III, then the Army's general counsel, that ex-soldiers could be prosecuted through courts-martial, military commissions or tribunals."
But that opinion only indicates the Army could make an attempt. They'd have to fight through a battalion of civilian defense attorneys first, and convince civilian courts to surrender jurisdiction, agreeing that Jordan's opinion mattered. That might have happened, and then the Army could try them on the actual charges. Recall that the Army had an 11% conviction rate of the cases in which they had clear jurisdiction and you can see why military prosecutors (who had other fish to fry anyway) weren't eager to take on these admittedly politically unpopular cases. (I'm not excusing or forgiving this.)
Finally, "the Toledo Blade recently ran an article saying retired soldiers could possibly still be prosecuted". Retired soldiers are a different category from separated (veterans) altogether. They are still drawing a pension and are still subject to the UCMJ. While almost never re-activated for this purpose, it happens.
And if it's going to happen here I think a good start would be an investigation of this guy: "...Robert G. Gard, who oversaw the task force as a brigadier general at the Pentagon in the early 1970s.
"We could have court-martialed them but didn't," Gard says of soldiers accused of war crimes."
Court Martialing the General responsible for the investigation - the man who kept his mouth shut for all these years - would seem like a fine start.
I'm not excusing or defending anyone here. I know what soldiers are capable of. (See this for example.)
I also know there were 2,709,918 American soldiers who served in Vietnam, and there are 58k+ names on the memorial wall.Posted by Greyhawk at July 10, 2008 04:41 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(5) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)