An alert reader points me to a "Kerry in Cambodia" cite that, as best I can tell, will be new to the Swiftees, and everyone else. This is an AP story from 1992 interviewing Sen. Kerry about a committee hearing into the fate of missing POWs/MIAs:
Copyright, 1992. The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
By JOHN DIAMOND
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Navy Lt. John Kerry knew he had no business steering his Mekong River patrol boat across the border into Cambodia, but orders were orders.
A quarter-century later, Sen. John Kerry says newly declassified documents have convinced him fellow servicemen captured on such trips were left behind at war's end.
Kerry, D-Mass., announced this week at hearings of the Senate Select Committee on POW-MIA Affairs he chairs that as many as 133 U.S. servicemen may have been left behind, either as unrecorded fatalities or prisoners of war, when the Vietnam War ended in 1973.
This conclusion that the government failed to account for all its soldiers, sailors and fliers did not come easily for the 48-year-old senator. Through two decades of political activism since he returned from Vietnam, first as an opponent of the war, then as a lawmaker, Kerry has remained studiously neutral
on the POW-MIA question.
Veterans groups and researchers of varying credibility raised allegations and published photographs suggesting that Americans might still be languishing in Southeast Asian stalags. Bereaved family members pleaded with lawmakers to rescue loved ones they were convinced were still alive. Kerry said only that
there was evidence that needed to be explored.
"I've always said there's evidence. But I'm not going to draw any conclusions about this until we do a sound, sensible job," Kerry said in an interview. "This conclusion was drawn from documents which no one saw 10 years ago."
But for Kerry, who spent six violent months commanding a patrol boat on the Mekong River, there's always been a ring of truth to allegations of abandoned Americans. By Christmas 1968, part of Kerry's patrol extended across the border of South Vietnam into Cambodia.
"We were told, `Just go up there and do your patrol. Everybody was over there (in Cambodia). Nobody thought twice about it," Kerry said. One of the missions, which Kerry, at the time, was ordered not to discuss, involved taking CIA operatives into Cambodia to search for enemy enclaves.
"I can remember wondering, `If you're going to go, what happens to you,"' Kerry said.
Excerpts continue below.
Quick reaction - if I were a Kerry defender, I would like the CIA, hush-hush, everyone is lying angle.
And that is it for the defense - what about "Everybody was over there"? The Swiftees are not backing him on this, and three of his shipmates seemed to have spent Christmas elsewhere. Maybe they were channeling Yogi Berra - nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded.
One wonders - were any US boats going upriver into Cambodia? And did John Kerry specifically do so? This post strongly rebuts the Kerry story as it has been presented so far.
Many sources at the Vietnam Veterans of America.
This PBS show says that in 1967, "Pursuing their enemy, American and South Vietnamese aircraft often attacked across the Cambodian border. Sihanouk criticized Secretary of State Dean Rusk, who was then trying to repair relations." OK, that could result in POWs/MIAs; it does not mention boats, but how surprised would you be to learn that some boats did cross the border? OTOH, the Cambodians couldn't control their airspace; a river would have been more manageable. On the third hand, covert ops to rescue airmen or scout the VC probably were happening. However, Swift boats were 50 feet long, and noisy; smaller, quieter boats were available, and perhaps more suitable. Beats me, but I am distracting myself - Kerry has no after-action reports, no witnesses, a story by Brinkley that puts him too far from the border, and a less-than-full crew supporting him - not good. Unless everyone is lying except John!
UPDATE: Early reaction is not favorable to Kerry - plenty of links to recap the discussion, and some colorful quotes.
ANOTHER UPDATE: US News and World Report put Kerry in Cambodia in a May 2000 article. This time, he is running supplies on clandestine missions - cool! To be serious, it might be his last mission, running SEALs to the border in support of Operation Menu, Nixon's bombing of Cambodia (Brinkley, p 324-328).
Kerry was wounded three times, received three Purple Hearts, the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. After his Navy tour ended in 1969, Kerry co-founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Declassified documents released at the hearings show that the government altered its intelligence information to hide the fate of U.S. pilots and soldiers downed in secret missions to Cambodia and Laos during the war. The concealment extended to listing a casualty as "killed in action, body not
recovered," when, in fact, the remains had been found.
"What I'm saying is that when the government announced all the POWs are home and when the government said the MIAs are dead, that was not true," Kerry said. "There was a list of people that we had evidence of being captives whom we should have accounted for then, not 20 years later."
Some of the missions were routine cross-border actions, not sanctioned as part of the official U.S. war effort. Others were "black ops," secret operations far into Laotian and Cambodian territory.
Historian Stanley Karnow, author of "Vietnam: A History," said in a telephone interview that secret ground and air raids into Laos and Cambodia continued throughout the Vietnam War in violation of treaties. Cambodian air raids intensified under President Nixon beginning in 1969, leading up to the U.S.
invasion of Cambodia in April 1970, Karnow said.
The military's falsification of records created a lasting problem in sorting out the killed, captured and unknown.
"The lists are so screwed up frankly that it's very hard to patch it together," Kerry said.
Kerry emphasizes that he has no evidence that any U.S. serviceman remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia. Nor does he speak of any Rambo-like rescue mission. Rather, the next step is a methodical and continuing unfolding of the facts.
"It's not a good story but it's important that we understand it and it's important that we put the conspiracy theories behind us if we can," Kerry said. "But we're not there yet."
OK, A US News and World Report story from May 2000 places Kerry in Cambodia, but with no exciting details. Reporter confusion, Kerry resume-padding, or a reference to his last missions on March 19-19 (see Brinkley, p 324-328).
Title: A Mission to Cambodia
Highlight: Is a trial deal near?
Author(s): Kevin Whitelaw
Citation: May 8, 2000 p 33
Section: World Report
Copyright © 2003 U.S.News & World Report, L.P. All rights reserved.
Subjects: CAMBODIA; MULTIPLE HOMICIDES; KERRY, JOHN
Word Count: 247
Abstract: Sen. John Kerry is trying to organize an international tribunal to hear the genocide case against the Khmer Rouge.
Article Text: Sen. John Kerry made his first forays into Cambodia during the Vietnam War as a Navy lieutenant on clandestine missions to deliver weapons to anticommunist forces. When he returned last week, the mission was official, but dicey nonetheless. At the request of the United Nations, Kerry is trying to broker a compromise on how to try leaders of the former Khmer Rouge regime, whose late 1970s reign of terror claimed the lives of some 1.7 million Cambodians.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen wants to control any court looking into genocide charges, but U.S. and U.N. officials have demanded an international tribunal. "You can't have a situation where a justice system that many people view as inoperative will have the ability to trump the international community's consensus," says Kerry. Kerry is offering a compromise to allow for co-prosecutors and co-investigators. Both Cambodian and foreign judges would have to agree before an indictment could be thrown out. Hun Sen had initially accepted the proposal but ran into hard-line opposition from his political allies. Kerry anticipates a deal could be struck as early as this week.
Still, the parliament needs to go along, and many members of the ruling party (including Hun Sen) held low- or mid-level posts in the Khmer Rouge regime and might be reluctant to sign on. A legislative debate has been delayed until late May, ostensibly because of a termite infestation of the parliament building.