After the media tore into President Bush’s 30-year-old National Guard record like a rabid pit bull into a bacon-scented postman, Democrats have been licking their chops in anticipation of highlighting John Kerry’s decorated service during the same time period.
A new web site that launched yesterday (Monday, January 23), however, should give Democrats more than a moment’s pause—and is likely just the opening salvo in exposing the truth about the outlandish actions of Kerry and his comrades as part of an anti-war group known as Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Created by the conservative Free Republic Network, WinterSoldier.com seems to contain the most comprehensive compilation of Kerry’s words and deeds shortly after returning to America more than three decades ago. (It can also be found at JohnKerryforPresident.info.)
The new site is named after the event that helped raise Kerry to prominence in 1971. The Winter Soldier Investigation, as it was called, was held in Detroit from January 31 to February 2—with financial backing from Hanoi Hannah herself, Jane Fonda, according to an historian cited on the web site—where over 100 veterans testified about the most horrendous war crimes imaginable happening every day.
John Kerry was an instant celebrity, and the group behind the three-day conference, Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), certainly served his political ambitions well. But if the wealth of information found at WinterSoldier.com gains any traction, Kerry’s past could come back to haunt him.
Although it is not the most user-friendly site, WinterSoldier.com carries everything from charges leveled at the original Detroit event to excerpts from historians’ books that are quite damning to Kerry and VVAW.
But the bulk of the research for the site, done largely by Free Republic Director Scott Swett, comes from a book authored by John Kerry and the VVAW, “The New Soldier.” Since the out-of-print book is almost impossible to find—Free Republic spent over $400 to obtain its copy—most people will have to rely on the new web site to fully appreciate just how radical VVAW and Kerry were.
VVAW was a media favorite: war veterans who were anti-war. Quite a sales pitch. But the more realistic characterization would have been Americans who were anti-American. (Literally, too: One of the documents at WinterSoldier.com is the minutes of a VVAW executive meeting where members decided to take down American flags from all VVAW offices.)
Their goal was not just to sour Americans on the Vietnam war, but to make them hate America and American soldiers.
Hence the Winter Soldier Investigation.
The three-day circus featured tales of the most sadistic forms of torture, including genital mutilation and gang rape, and wanton mass murder of innocent civilians. In the words of Kerry three months later to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “These were not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
In other words, Kerry and VVAW claimed that almost unprecedented war crimes were not simply rampant, but committed as a matter of U.S. policy.
One of the most shocking quotes comes from Kerry himself, admitting that he had committed war crimes in Vietnam, then shrugging that off as merely a matter of following orders. Following orders, however, does not absolve someone of guilt for committing war crimes. Which begs the question: will Kerry be willing to discuss the details of the war crimes he admits committing?
Though not quite proof of a war crime, WinterSoldier.com has two flyers for a September 1971 event listing both Kerry and the former Mrs. Ted Turner as speakers. Though that issue makes for media fodder, it is far from the most appalling piece of evidence on the new site.
Also under the “documents” section at WinterSoldier.com is a particularly incendiary VVAW flyer with the screaming, all-caps headline, “A U.S. INFANTRY COMPANY JUST CAME THROUGH HERE!” Just below, the top line reads, “If you had been Vietnamese--” and it is followed by eight lines of increasingly inflammatory charges. Each line begins with “We might have” and then finishes with such doozies as “burned your house,” “shot your dog,” “shot you,” and “raped your wife and daughter.”
Some will excuse VVAW’s actions and hyperbolic rhetoric as necessary tactics or as the work of people understandably disillusioned by an embittering war experience. But there is evidence suggesting that many of the atrocities routinely touted by VVAW were, well, made up.
An excerpt of historian Guenter Lewy’s book According to America posted on WinterSoldier.com discusses the results of a government investigation that attempted to corroborate the claims made at the VVAW event in Detroit. The investigators couldn’t.
According to Lewy, the VVAW had told its members not to cooperate with the government inquiry—a probe that was initiated by Sen. Mark Hatfield of Oregon in order to verify gruesome claims made at the VVAW-sponsored event. The historian also notes that government inspectors found veterans whose names had been used by people testifying in Detroit that were not actually there.
In other words, some of the “witnesses” in Detroit were impostors, tarnishing the names of real soldiers.
It appears that Kerry was also something of an impostor. During a massive rally in front of the U.S. Capitol, a number of veterans threw their medals over a high-wire fence. One was Kerry. Or at least so it appeared.
Under a section called “Busted by the historians” is an excerpt from Stolen Valor by B. G. Burkett, Glenna Whitley. Money quote: “But years later, after his election to the Senate, Kerry’s medals turned up on the wall of his Capitol Hill office. When a reporter noticed them, Kerry admitted that the medals he had thrown that day were not his.”
Since Kerry’s comrades seem so eager to judge President Bush’s character by whether or not he fulfilled a handful of National Guard obligations, the door may already have been opened to attacks on the Democratic front runner’s own conduct from those days.
Voters could have plenty of versions of Kerry from which to choose: the communist sympathizer who gleefully defamed America and millions of American soldiers, the war hero too cowardly to throw away his own medals, or the anti-war activist who was so eager to claim he had committed war crimes.
Joel Mowbray (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist and the author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.