John Kerry Covered Up Evidence of P.O.W.'s Left Behind in VietnamRoundup: Media's Take
Sidney Schanberg, in the Village Voice (Feb. 24, 2004):
Senator John Kerry, a decorated battle veteran, was courageous as a navy lieutenant in the Vietnam War. But he was not so courageous more than two decades later, when he covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners—perhaps hundreds—were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.
The Massachusetts senator, now seeking the presidency, carried out this subterfuge a little over a decade ago— shredding documents, suppressing testimony, and sanitizing the committee's final report—when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./ M.I.A. Affairs.
Over the years, an abundance of evidence had come to light that the North Vietnamese, while returning 591 U.S. prisoners of war after the treaty signing, had held back many others as future bargaining chips for the $4 billion or more in war reparations that the Nixon administration had pledged. Hanoi didn't trust Washington to fulfill its pro-mise without pressure. Similarly, Washington didn't trust Hanoi to return all the prisoners and carry out all the treaty provisions. The mistrust on both sides was merited. Hanoi held back prisoners and the U.S. provided no reconstruction funds.
The stated purpose of the special Senate committee—which convened in mid 1991 and concluded in January 1993—was to investigate the evidence about prisoners who were never returned and find out what happened to the missing men. Committee chair Kerry's larger and different goal, though never stated publicly, emerged over time: He wanted to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. In any other context, that would have been an honorable goal. But getting at the truth of the unaccounted for P.O.W.'s and M.I.A.'s (Missing In Action) was the main obstacle to normalization—and therefore in conflict with his real intent and plan of action.
Kerry denied back then that he disguised his real goal, contending that he supported normalization only as a way to learn more about the missing men. But almost nothing has emerged about these prisoners since diplomatic and economic relations were restored in 1995, and thus it would appear—as most realists expected—that Kerry's explanation was hollow. He has also denied in the past the allegations of a cover-up, either by the Pentagon or himself. Asked for comment on this article, the Kerry campaign sent a quote from the senator:"In the end, I think what we can take pride in is that we put together the most significant, most thorough, most exhaustive accounting for missing and former P.O.W.'s in the history of human warfare."
What was the body of evidence that prisoners were held back? A short list would include more than 1,600 firsthand sightings of live U.S. prisoners; nearly 14,000 secondhand reports; numerous intercepted Communist radio messages from within Vietnam and Laos about American prisoners being moved by their captors from one site to another; a series of satellite photos that continued into the 1990s showing clear prisoner rescue signals carved into the ground in Laos and Vietnam, all labeled inconclusive by the Pentagon; multiple reports about unacknowledged prisoners from North Vietnamese informants working for U.S. intelligence agencies, all ignored or declared unreliable; persistent complaints by senior U.S. intelligence officials (some of them made publicly) that live-prisoner evidence was being suppressed; and clear proof that the Pentagon and other keepers of the"secret" destroyed a variety of files over the years to keep the P.O.W./M.I.A. families and the public from finding out and possibly setting off a major public outcry.
The resignation of Colonel Millard Peck in 1991, the first year of the Kerry committee's tenure, was one of many vivid landmarks in this saga's history. Peck had been the head of the Pentagon's P.O.W./M.I.A. office for only eight months when he resigned in disgust. In his damning departure statement, he wrote:"The mind-set to 'debunk' is alive and well. It is held at all levels . . . Practically all analysis is directed to finding fault with the source. Rarely has there been any effective, active follow-through on any of the sightings . . . The sad fact is that . . . a cover-up may be in progress. The entire charade does not appear to be an honest effort and may never have been."
Finally, Peck said:"From what I have witnessed, it appears that any soldier left in Vietnam, even inadvertently, was in fact abandoned years ago, and that the farce that is being played is no more than political legerdemain done with 'smoke and mirrors' to stall the issue until it dies a natural death."...
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Richard K. Hertz - 3/24/2004
The POW/ MIAs are dead and have been for a long time. What people like Schanberg don't realize is that just because someon is considered MIA doesn't mean he's being held for... well those Vietnamese are sooooooooo devious aren't they?
Usually it means someone was blown into so many bits that you couldn't fill a Ziploc sandwich bag, let alone a body bag with what's left. Also, the warm, humid climate of Southeast Asia isn't very good for preserving human remains. Vietnam had a tiger population of over 1000 back then, as well as other animals who would have disposed of quite a few corpses. Of the few who were actually prisoners and who weren't returned: Communist regimes have a standard procedure for dealing with those they no longer have any use for and it involves a pistol and a ditch.
There are MANY more POW/ MIAs who never returned from Korea, both World Wars, the Civil War and the Mexican War. They're DEAD! But they are no more dead than their Vietnam War counterparts. Sure, it might be educational to excavate the remains of a long lost Marine who bought it in the halls on Montezuma, but the cranks like Ted Sempley, Bo Gritz and others aren't interested in archaeology. Like Schanberg, they are trying to recreate a Rambo fantasy where "we get to win". I consider them nothing more than political graverobbers. Shame on them!
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