The following text is a chapter from Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry by John E. O'Neill and Jerome R. Corsi.
S E V E N
MEETING WITH THE ENEMY
For Pacepa, the case was clear. John Kerry’s 1971 accusations of war crimes in Vietnam sounded to him just “like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era.”1 The KGB had as a top priority the damage of American credibility in Vietnam. To this end, the KGB spent millions producing “the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe.”
According to Pacepa, Yuri Andropov, then chairman of the KGB, ordered agent Romesh Chandra, the chairman of the KGB-financed World Peace Organization, to create the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam as a permanent international organization “to aid or to conduct operations to help Americans dodge the draft or defect, to demoralize its army with anti-American propaganda, to conduct protests, demonstrations, and boycotts, and to sanction anyone connected with the war.” The Communist Party was funding the World Peace Organization to the tune of about $50 million a year at this time, according to Pacepa, with another $15 million allocated for the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam. In the five years of its existence, the Stockholm Conference “created thousands of ‘documentary’ materials printed in all the major Western languages describing the ‘abominable crimes’ committed by American soldiers against civilians in Vietnam, along with counterfeited pictures.” The KGB’s disinformation department manufactured these materials, and KGB operatives in Europe and America printed up and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies.
Whether Kerry knew it or not, his 1971 testimony to the Fulbright Committee was reciting the Communist Party line chapter and verse. Pacepa left no doubt as to his conclusion: “As far as I’m concerned, the KGB gave birth to the antiwar movement in America.”
By November 1970, Al Hubbard had emerged as the most prominent national leader of the VVAW. Hubbard professed strong ties to the Black Panthers. Less well known was his involvement with the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ), a militant antiwar orga- nization with decidedly Communist ties. Key among the PCPJ’s founders was a group of Trotskyite radicals from the Socialist Workers Party who had first emerged in the 1969 National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam.
Al Hubbard turned out to be yet another veteran who lied about supposed service in Vietnam. He claimed to be a decorated Air Force captain who had sustained a shrapnel injury in his spine when flying a transport plane into Da Nang in 1966. His story began to unravel when NBC received a tip, and Hubbard had to confess on the Today Show that he had really been only a sergeant, not a pilot or a captain, in Vietnam.
At first, John Kerry came to the support of his friend, excusing Hubbard’s lie as understandable. Hubbard, Kerry explained, lied because he felt he needed the distinction of rank to be important enough to lead the VVAW. Within a few days, however, the lie completely unraveled. The Department of Defense issued a news release stating that, at the time Hubbard was discharged from the Air Force in October 1966, he was serving as an instructor flight engineer on C- 123 aircraft with the 7th Air Transport Squadron, based at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Washington. The Department of Defense reported that: “There is no record of any service in Vietnam [emphasis in the original], but since he was an air crew member he could have been in Vietnam for brief periods during cargo loading, unloading operations, or for crew rest purposes. His highest grade held was staff sergeant E-5.”2 Moreover, Hubbard had no Purple Heart or Vietnam Service Ribbon, and the Air Force had no record that he had ever been in Vietnam, although it was possible that Hubbard may have stopped off there on a transport run. As it turned out, Hubbard’s injuries were sports injuries—an injury suffered in a basketball game in 1956, and a soccer game in 1961.
John Kerry had appeared side by side with Al Hubbard on NBC’s Meet the Press on April 18, 1971. He had shared the stage with Hubbard in the VVAW’s Dewey Canyon III protest in Washington, D.C., which had set the stage for his testimony before the Fulbright Committee. By June 1971, when Hubbard’s fraud was becoming apparent, Kerry was embarrassed, but he continued to represent the VVAW as its national spokesman, and Hubbard continued to represent the group as its executive director and national leader.
In June 1971, Lo Duc Tho arrived in Paris to join the North Vietnamese Communist delegation to the peace talks. His arrival marked a change in the Communists’ approach to advancing their goals through negotiation. Lo Duc Tho was, with Ho Chi Minh, one of the original founders of the Communist Party of Indochina and one of North Vietnam’s chief strategists.
He arrived to join a comrade, Madame Nguyen Thi Binh, who had been a member of the Central Committee for the National Front for the Liberation of the South and was now the foreign minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) of South Vietnam. The military arm of the PRG was widely known as the Viet Cong, and Madame Binh was recognized as the Viet Cong delegate to the conference.
On July 1, 1971, within days of Lo Duc Tho’s arrival, Madame Binh advanced a new seven-point proposal to end the war. Central to this plan was a cleverly crafted provision offering to set a date for the return of U.S. POWs in exchange for the Americans’ setting a date for complete, unilateral military withdrawal from Vietnam. In other words, America could have its POWs back only if we agreed that we lost, then surrendered, and then set a date to leave.
About one year earlier, two young Americans had also come to Paris, presumably for their honeymoon: John Kerry, a young, cleanshaven Navy war veteran, accompanied by his new wife, the former Julia Thorne, who could trace her lineage back to George Washington. But honeymooning was not John Kerry’s only reason for traveling to Paris. Kerry’s presidential campaign has now acknowledged that he “talked privately with a leading Communist representative” there.
For decades, this meeting had been only a rumor. The rumor stemmed from a comment Kerry made in the less publicized question- and-answer segment of his April 22, 1971, testimony before the Fulbright Committee: “I have been to Paris. I have talked with both delegations at the peace talks, that is to say the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government.”
On March 25, 2004, Michael Kranish of the Boston Globe reported that Michael Meehan, a spokesman for Kerry’s presidential campaign, admitted that John Kerry had traveled to Paris after his May 1970 wedding and, on that trip with his wife, he had a brief meeting with Madame Binh, a meeting that included members of both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (the North Vietnamese) and the Provisional Revolutionary Government (the Viet Cong). Meehan insisted that Kerry did not go to Paris with the intention of meeting the Communist delegations to the Paris Peace Conference and that he did not involve himself in negotiations. Kerry has insisted that the meeting was solely for “fact-finding” purposes.3
On July 22, 1971, Kerry called a press conference in Washington, D.C. Speaking on behalf of the VVAW, Kerry openly urged President Nixon to accept Madame Binh’s seven-point plan.4
Madame Binh’s proposal had been crafted to send a strong emotional message to the American home front—that the only barrier to having our POWs returned was America’s own unwillingness to set a date to withdraw, even if the proposed withdrawal amounted to a defeat. The Viet Cong proposal directly challenged the South Vietnamese proposal to set a date for a truce and a free election designed to unite the divided Vietnam. The PRG and the Viet Cong clearly agreed with the premier of Communist China, Cho En-lai, that complete withdrawal of American military forces from Vietnam was the only precondition that would be discussed.
As the New York Times noted when reporting on the press conference, John Kerry suggested that President Nixon had refused to set a date for withdrawal because North Vietnam had not guaranteed the return of American POWs. Now that the Vietnamese Communists were promising to set a POW return date, Kerry argued that Nixon had no reasonable course left except to set a date for withdrawing U.S. military forces. Kerry failed to mention one consideration President Nixon most likely found compelling—that America’s cause was just and that the interests of freedom might best be served by halting the spread of Communism in Southeast Asia. The United States, in President Nixon’s view, had not fought the war to abandon our allies to Communism but to defend South Vietnam’s right to self-determination.
Today, presidential candidate John Kerry would have us believe that the only goal of his antiwar activities was to speak up bravely against a war he knew to be without justification. All he wanted to do was to stop a war where military policies such as free-fire zones and tactics such as search-and-destroy led inevitably to war crimes, the killing of innocent civilians, and the burning of peaceful villages. Kerry wants us to believe that he has always been against Communists. Yet the historical record raises questions about both claims.
Loyal Americans think twice about violating the legal provision against negotiating with foreign powers (18 U.S.C. section 953) and the constitutional prohibition against giving support to our nation’s enemies during wartime (Article III, Section 3). Anti-Communists do not openly support proposals that amount to an American surrender to Communist enemies, plus a demand to pay war reparations. There is no public record of what Kerry discussed with the Vietnamese Communists in Paris in 1970. Kerry’s presidential campaign has refused to provide any detailed account of the discussion, nor has the campaign answered questions regarding who set up the meeting. There must have been contact between Kerry or his representatives and the representatives of the Vietnamese Communists. Which Communists assisted Kerry in arranging his meeting with Madame Binh, and why?
John Kerry may believe in his own mind that his participation in the antiwar cause lifted him to a new moral plane, one where he would not be restricted by conventional legal distinctions or commonsense understandings of patriotism. Yet, the record shows that Kerry and the VVAW consistently coordinated their efforts with Communists, both foreign and domestic, represented the Communist positions, and repeated their grossly exaggerated claims of American atrocities. In fact, it is hard to find any disagreement whatsoever between Kerry’s words and actions as a leader of the VVAW and those of the Hanoi and Viet Cong leadership. Had Madame Binh herself been permitted to appear at the July 22, 1971, press conference instead of John Kerry, the most noticeable difference in the argument presented might have been the absence of a Boston accent.
John Kerry was clearly welcomed warmly by the Vietnamese Communists. His propaganda value was obvious—a good-looking, cleanshaven, well-spoken, decorated American war hero. How could any Communist apologist not see that here was the next candidate to carry their anti-American message back home? John Kerry had no difficulty getting an appointment from Madame Binh. The Communists welcomed him.
A major goal of the VVAW in 1971 was sending representatives to Paris or to Hanoi to meet with the enemy.
An FBI confidential surveillance report dated November 11, 1971, was released as part of the twenty-thousand-page file on the VVAW, made available after a Freedom of Information Act request and published on the Internet during the 2004 presidential campaign. This report indicates that the FBI was monitoring Kerry to see if he planned another trip to Paris to meet with the Communist delegations:
An analysis of the FBI reports made public make clear that the government’s concern about the VVAW coordinating their activities with the Vietnamese Communists was founded in facts. The VVAW Steering Committee meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, from Friday, November 12, 1971, through Sunday, November 14, 1971, was a raucous meeting, the dramatics of which are emphasized by recently released FBI undercover investigative files. John Kerry is clearly listed in the FBI reports as one of the five members of the steering committee.
The fireworks started a couple of hours into the meeting, when steering committee member Al Hubbard arrived from the airport by taxicab. Hubbard, one of the VVAW’s most controversial leaders, announced to the group that he had just come from Paris, where he had met with the Vietnamese Communist delegations to the Paris peace talks. Hubbard had clearly crossed over to the enemy side. He reported with excitement that he had just concluded negotiations with the Vietnamese Communists, and that they were ready to release a group of American POWs to the VVAW, provided that the VVAW send a delegation to Hanoi around Christmas. Hubbard told the group that the Communist Party of the USA had paid for his trip and that he was now acting as a member of the Coordinating Committee of the People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice.
Consider this extract from the FBI files:
Once again, the “Swanwee” referred to in the report was the phonetic rendition of Xuan Thuy, chief North Vietnamese delegate to the Paris peace talks.
Joe Urgo, a VVAW national staff member, spoke next to the Steering Committee. According to the FBI report, Urgo supported Hubbard’s assertion that the Vietnamese Communists were open to VVAW members coming to Hanoi. The FBI report makes it clear that the discussions the VVAW was having with the Vietnamese Communists were aimed at helping the Vietnamese promote the antiwar movement in America. The “Xuan Tui” referred to in the report is most certainly Xuan Thuy, the chief North Vietnamese delegate to the Paris peace talks. The indication is that the VVAW wanted to work with the Vietnamese Communists to advance their goals, not to pursue a separate or different VVAW agenda:
According to several FBI reports covering these meetings, John Kerry indicates that he was present and heard these discussions. A separate FBI surveillance report, filed on November 24, 1971, provided corroboration of the November 19 report. Again, John Kerry was listed as being present as an executive committee member.
Public records indicate that Kerry continued to represent the VVAW in public speeches through April 1972, nearly five months after learning that Al Hubbard, once one of his antiwar “band of brothers,” had crossed over to the Communist side. Nowhere in the FBI files is there any report that the steering committee at the November 1971 meeting ever stopped to discuss 18 U.S.C. section 953, which directly forbids United States citizens from negotiating with foreign powers, or Article III, Section 3, of the United States Constitution, which defines treason in part as giving aid and comfort to the enemy in time of war. It is clear that the VVAW leaders understood the serious nature of their activities. Over the course of the weekend meetings, they relocated twice to avoid surveillance by government authorities. That turned out to be a vain hope, since the FBI had multiple informers inside the meeting.
The FBI surveillance record now made public clearly indicates that the VVAW as of November 1971 was working directly with the enemy against U.S. military objectives in the war. The VVAW did not stop at attempting to undermine support for the war in the U.S. by propagating its false claims of war crimes and atrocities. It was also actively contemplating attempts to effect the release of POWs as further evidence of the correctness of its position and to take steps to actively encourage soldiers in the field to refuse orders to engage the enemy in combat. Producing tapes for broadcast in Vietnam to induce U.S. service personnel to stop fighting indicates both negotiating with the enemy and the intent to give direct aid to the enemy in time of war.
John Kerry, who until recently claimed to have resigned from the VVAW in June 1971, has now acknowledged that he was present, as the FBI reports show and a number of eyewitnesses have claimed. Still, Kerry insists he remembers nothing of the Kansas City meetings, a fault of memory that is remarkable given the nature of what was discussed.
There is also good reason to believe that prior to the Kansas City meeting in November 1971, Kerry himself had made a second trip to Paris to meet with the Vietnamese Communists. Evidence for this comes from Gerald Nicosia, a very pro-VVAW and pro-Kerry historian who wrote a chronicle of the organization called Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans’ Movement.9 Nicosia originated the Freedom of Information Act request that led to the FBI making public the twenty thousand–document file on the VVAW and John Kerry. Writing in the Los Angeles Times on May 24, 2004, Nicosia noted, “Kerry’s public image was perhaps tarnished most in 1971 by his attempts to hasten the return of American POWs. The files record that Kerry made a second trip to Paris that summer to learn how the North Vietnamese might release prisoners.”10
Discussions of VVAW members traveling to Paris and Hanoi recur throughout the FBI surveillance reports. The discussions make clear that the goal is not just to arrange a release of POWs, but also to enhance the status of the VVAW and to advance the cause of the antiwar movement by the way in which the prisoners would be released to the VVAW. The FBI files now released make one point very clear: John Kerry and his VVAW comrades were welcome guests of the Vietnamese Communists in both Paris and Hanoi, guests who could be counted on to return to America and actively support the leadership of America’s wartime enemy.
The Communist Party of the USA established the Daily Worker newspaper in 1924. By the 1970s, the paper was published under a different banner, the Daily World. Published in New York, the paper developed stories with a focus on America. Various Communist newspapers around the world republished Daily World stories under many different banners. In 1971, the Daily World devoted considerable attention to covering John Kerry and the VVAW antiwar activities.
The Communist world understood clearly then what John Kerry even today still tries to deny. The antiwar movement typified by the VVAW was not simply a protest movement. At its core, the VVAW was avowedly anti-American, willing to propagate lies about “war crimes” allegedly committed by American soldiers on a daily basis. The goal that the VVAW was seeking to achieve through its highly publicized demonstrations in Washington, D.C., during April 1971 was to convey one simple message: The United States had lost its moral way in opposing the Viet Cong. Kerry, as spokesperson for the VVAW, was trumpeting the theme the Communist world wanted heard. Navy lieutenant John Kerry could not have been a more perfect poster boy for the Communist Daily World than if he had been recruited and trained by the KGB itself.
Today, running for president in 2004, John Kerry can object that the Communist Daily World was free to cover whomever it chose, and that he did not seek out the paper’s coverage or give interviews to its reporters. Yet, the deeper reality is that anyone literate at the time, anyone deeply involved in the political and moral struggle that was Vietnam, could not ignore the impact of the extensive coverage given by the Daily World to the VVAW’s Dewey Canyon III April 1971 protest in Washington.
On Friday, April 23, 1971, the Daily World ran a front-page photo of John Kerry on the speaker’s platform, assisting former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark by handing him some papers while Clark addressed a crowd on Capitol Hill. The caption under the photo identified John Kerry as a “former Navy lieutenant and a leader of the group.” Ramsey Clark at that time was serving as legal counsel for the VVAW, and the group was actively engaged in a Supreme Court contest trying to prevent an injunction removing them from the National Mall in front of the Capitol, the spot they had chosen for a campsite during their protest in Washington. The next day, Saturday, April 24, 1971, the Daily World ran John Kerry’s photograph again on the front page, sitting in a studied pensive pose, his right index finger extended to his cheek, in a serious moment during his appearance before the Fulbright Committee.
The FBI field surveillance reports document a speech that Kerry gave in 1971 in which he praised Ho Chi Minh, the founder of Vietnamese Communism. The occasion was a speech Kerry gave to a group at the YMCA in Philadelphia on June 14, 1971. As reported by the FBI:
Kerry gave many antiwar speeches in 1971. His tendency to idealize the Vietnamese Communists and to demonize the United States was possibly most apparent when he chose to praise by association with America’s founding father the man responsible for introducing Communism to Indochina.
interested in reading more from
Unfit for Command:
Chapter 3 - "The Purple Heart Hunter"
Chapter 5 - "More Fraudulent Medals"
Chapter 6 - "A Testimony of Lies"
Chapter 7 - "Meeting With The Enemy"
Chapter 8 - "Kerry's Antiwar Secrets"
Epilogue - "Advantage Swift Vets"
Washington Times excerpt - "'Sampan incident' belies heroic image"
The New Soldier by John Kerry and Vietnam Veterans Against the War