As Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, considers a bid for the White House, Americans should know a few things about him that he might prefer go unmentioned -- and I don't mean his $75 haircuts.
When Mr. Kerry pontificated at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Veterans Day, a group of veterans turned their backs on him and walked away. They remembered Mr. Kerry as the antiwar activist who testified before Congress during the war, accusing veterans of being war criminals. The dust jacket of Mr. Kerry's pro-Hanoi book, "The New Soldier," features a photograph of his ragged band of radicals mocking the US Marine Corps Memorial, which depicts the flag-raising on Iwo Jima, with an upside-down American flag. Retired Gen. George S. Patton III charged that Mr. Kerry's actions as an antiwar activist had "given aid and comfort to the enemy," as had the actions of Ramsey Clark and Jane Fonda. Also, Mr. Kerry lied when he threw what he claimed were his war medals over the White House fence; he later admitted they weren't his. Now they are displayed on his office wall.
Long after he changed sides in congressional hearings, Mr. Kerry lobbied for renewed trade relations with Hanoi. At the same time, his cousin C. Stewart Forbes, chief executive for Colliers International, assisted in brokering a $905 million deal to develop a deep-sea port at Vung Tau, Vietnam - an odd coincidence.
As noted in the Inside Politics column of Nov. 14 (Nation), historian Douglas Brinkley is writing Mr. Kerry's biography. Hopefully, he'll include the senator's latest ignominious feat: preventing the Vietnam Human Rights Act (HR2833) from coming to a vote in the Senate, claiming human rights would
deteriorate as a result. His actions sent a clear signal to Hanoi that Congress cares little about the human rights for which so many Americans fought and died.
The State Department ranked Vietnam among the 10 regimes worldwide least tolerant of religious freedom. Recently, 354 churches of the Montagnards, a Christian ethnic minority, were forcibly disbanded, and by mid-October, more than 50 Christian pastors and elders had been arrested in Dak Lak province alone. On Oct. 29, the secret police executed three Montagnards by lethal injection simply for protesting religious repression. The communists are conducting a pogrom against the Montagnards, forcing Christians to drink a mixture of goat's blood and alcohol and renounce Christianity. Thousands have been killed or imprisoned or have just "disappeared." The Montagnards lost one-half of their adult male population fighting for the United States, and without them, there might be thousands more American names on that somber black granite wall at the Vietnam memorial.
As Mr. Kerry contemplates a run for the presidency, people must remember that he has fought harder for Hanoi as an antiwar activist and a senator than he did against the Vietnamese communists while serving in the Navy in Vietnam.
Michael Benge is a Foreign Service officer and a former Vietnam POW (1968 to 1973)