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Lest We Forget: The Case Against Jane Fonda By: Edward J. Renehan Jr.
FrontPageMagazine.com | Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Jane Fonda's 1972 visit to North Vietnam — during which she made speeches over Radio Hanoi, posed astride anti-aircraft guns used to shoot down U.S. planes, and cooperated in the propaganda-exploitation of American POWs — shocked and horrified many of her countrymen at the time. Others, however, applauded Fonda's conduct. In the intervening years, Fonda has seen virtually no negative consequence from her anti-American activities. In fact she has made millions. She has been feted and lionized, and has enjoyed to the maximum all the benefits of a country she once called imperialist: a nation whose servicemen and women she once branded as war-criminals.

In their new and important book Aid and Comfort: Jane Fonda in North Vietnam (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co., 2002. $39.95), Henry Mark Holzer and Erika Holzer — attorneys both — give us an invaluable brief against Fonda on the charge of treason.

Throughout Aid and Comfort, the Holzers quote a great deal from Jane's own statements made during her sojourn in North Vietnam. They then, with devastating effect, use those same words against her.

When Jane arrived in Hanoi on July 8, 1972, she told her welcoming hosts that she carried with her "greetings" from revolutionary "comrades" in America. She was there, say the Holzers, willingly and knowingly, "to provide grist for the North Vietnamese propaganda mill ..."

During one of her subsequent speeches over Radio Hanoi (there were 19 in all), Fonda commented on her recent meeting with seven "U.S. aggressor pilots." She said she had found them "healthy and repentant." She also said of the meeting: "We had a very long talk, a very open and casual talk. We exchanged ideas freely. They asked me to bring back to the American people their sense of disgust of the war and their shame for what they have been asked to do. ..." According to Jane, the pilots requested that she encourage their "loved ones and friends ... to please be as actively involved in the peace movement as possible."

In fact, the pilots with whom Fonda met were neither healthy nor repentant. Nor had they been at liberty to engage in conversation with the starlet.

As one former-POW later recalled: "I was informed ... to get ready to leave. We were put on a bus, blindfolded and driven away. Others were loaded on the bus at another stop and the bus left again. We were unloaded, lined up and had the blindfolds removed. We were then taken into a room and seated. The next thing that occurred was the appearance of Hanoi Jane and she began to speak." He remembers that "Fonda ... was doing a script. At one point she got lost in what she was saying, went back and used exactly the same words again for about two sentences to get back on track. I never got a chance (nor did I want to) say anything. It was a listen and be on display thing ... anything else would have brought on problems."

Problems, of course, is a euphemism for physical punishment. Writing in his foreword to Aid and Comfort, Colonel George "Bud" Day — a holder of the Congressional Medal of Honor and the Air Force Cross — informs us that upon his release from Hanoi and repatriation to the United States in 1973, he was in terrible shape after years of physical abuse. "There were scars on my knees and Achilles tendons from torture, and my buttocks were raw from several hundred strokes of a fan belt. Some of my injuries were shown to the press. Jane immediately insisted that any POW who claimed torture was a liar."

In later years, with the war behind her, Jane proceeded untarnished through a host of frantic crazes. From radical politics she went on to environmentalism, exercise, Ted Turner, Jesus, and other fleeting passions. Through it all, there seems to have been but one constant: her short attention-span.

Some names, in the course of history, have become linked forever with the idea of treason. As the Holzers explain: "Benedict Arnold and Aaron Burr escaped legal punishment as contemptible traitors, yet their names were, appropriately, sullied for all time. The names Axis Sally and Tokyo Rose remain synonymous with betrayal of their country. Apart from legal guilt, these four names have become generic descriptions of persons whose conduct was morally reprehensible at times when their country was at risk."

Admirably, Aid and Comfort goes a long way toward making sure "Hanoi Jane" makes it on to that short but indelible list.

Edward J. Renehan Jr. is the author of several books, most recently The Kennedys at War, 1937-1945 (Doubleday, 2002). His home on the web is http://renehan.blogspot.com

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