On June 6, 1971, John Kerry described the work of the Swift boats to the Washington Star as follows:
“We established an American presence in most cases by showing the flag and firing at sampans and villages along the banks. Those were our instructions, but they seemed so out of line that we finally began to go ashore, against our orders, and investigate the villages that were supposed to be our targets. We discovered we were butchering a lot of innocent people, and morale became so low among the officers on those ‘swift boats’ that we were called back to Saigon for special instructions from Gen. Abrams. He told us we were doing the right thing. He said our efforts would help win the war in the long run. That’s when I realized I could never remain silent about the realities of the war in Vietnam.”
What John Kerry told the Washington Star was a lie.
Contrary to Kerry’s claim, our consistent policy was to take every precaution to avoid harming civilians. On many occasions we did this at the cost of suffering additional casualties ourselves. We have interviewed hundreds of veterans who served on the Swift Boats or supported them, and there is simply no justification for Kerry’s statement. Several members of our organization addressed the issue of atrocities during our May 4 press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
John Kerry also completely misrepresented our meeting with General Abrams and Admiral Zumwalt. Far from being a pep talk for officers distressed by their butchery of civilians, the purpose of this conference with the two highest-ranking American officers in Vietnam was to announce a new Swift boat mission: to drive the Vietcong out of the Ca Mau Peninsula. The goal of Operation SeaLords was to dominate the rivers in this area, and to eventually establish a permanent presence in the Cua Lon River, an effort later named Operation SeaFloat. This was to be done publicly, with the full participation of the media, to negate the claim of North Vietnamese negotiator Lee Duc Tho that Henry Kissinger could not legitimately represent South Vietnam because the U.S. did not control these areas.
We succeeded in that mission. We returned to Anthoi and drove the Vietcong out of the region, and soon the North Vietnamese and Vietcong representatives in Paris returned to the negotiating tables.
As its dominant tactic in their battle against the war, the antiwar movement successfully demonized Vietnam veterans by calling a series of “tribunals” or hearings into war crimes. But… they were packed with pretenders and liars — historian Guenter Lewy, writing in “America in Vietnam”
John Kerry’s lies about the activities of the Swift boats were part of a larger pattern of deception. As a leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), Kerry testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on April 22, 1971, telling the Senators and a national audience that American troops “…had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Ghengis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam…” and accused the U.S. military of committing war crimes “on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.”
Kerry’s charges were based on a VVAW conference called the “Winter Soldier Investigation” — a leftist propaganda event funded primarily by Jane Fonda. None of the Winter Soldier “witnesses” Kerry cited were willing to sign affadavits, and their gruesome stories lacked the names, dates and places that would allow their claims to be tested. Few were willing to cooperate with military investigators. The Naval Investigative Service found that several of the veterans said to have given statements at Winter Soldier were in fact imposters using the name of real veterans.
False testimony and exaggerations were primary characteristics of the war crimes disinformation campaign, and also of the VVAW itself. Executive Secretary Al Hubbard, for example, claimed to have been an Air Force Captain wounded in Vietnam piloting a transport plane. In fact, Hubbard had been a staff sergeant who was not a pilot and who was never assigned to Vietnam.
John Kerry and the VVAW worked closely with America’s wartime enemies, arranged multiple meetings with the North Vietnamese and Vietcong leadership, and consistently supported their positions. Kerry and his radical comrades also played a key role in defining the false, damaging image of Vietnam veterans as psychologically disabled alcoholics and addicts, haunted by the crimes they had been forced to commit in a “racist” war.
Detailed information about the anti-war activities of John Kerry and the VVAW can be found at WinterSoldier.com.
Swift Boat Veterans for Truth: John Kerry’s Phony War Crimes Charges