Politics & Policy

Seared in Their Memories

Former POWs remember Kerry all too painfully well.

Amid the controversies over John Kerry’s and George W. Bush’s real and invented military records, the Mainstream Media spotlight has avoided one amazing fact: Former Vietnam POWs remember their captors using Kerry’s words as instruments of intimidation and torture.

”The interrogator went through all of these statements from John Kerry,” recalls James Warner, a Marine pilot who was shot down and held near Hanoi for five years and five months. “He starts pounding on the table. ‘See, here, this naval officer. He admits that you are a criminal and that you deserve punishment.’ …I didn’t know what was going to come next. In other words, for the rest of the time we were in that camp, I was very ill at ease.”

Warner–who earned a Silver Star and two Purple Hearts–appears in Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal. This 45-minute documentary, produced by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carlton Sherwood, is available via stolenhonor.com. It presents POWs who argue that John Kerry’s fallacious spring 1971 claims that U.S. atrocities occurred “on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command” amplified their agony under America’s North Vietnamese enemies. (See, also, Kate O’Beirne, “Honor Reclaimed.”)

“That was a very difficult time,” says former Air Force pilot Leo Thorsness, a Congressional Medal of Honor winner who spent five years and 19 days in North Vietnamese hands. “The things he [Kerry] said were just devastating, because he was using words like ‘war criminal’ and that kind of stuff. As a prisoner of war, we were being told we were war criminals, and that we’d be tried for war crimes, and unless we confess, and ask for forgiveness, and badmouth the war, and take their side in the war, we’d never go home.”

Adds retired Air Force colonel Ken Cordier: “I was outraged and still am that he [Kerry] willingly said things which were untrue–the very same points that we took torture not to write and say.” Cordier was incarcerated for six years and three months.

Stolen Honor describes the conditions in which POWs were detained. They were held in solitary confinement and communicated among each other by tapping coded messages through the dark, dank walls. Some prisoners were hung from the walls with their wrists behind their backs, causing shoulder injuries that persist even today. Others, who broke limbs in combat, were forced to sit or stand in positions that exacerbated their agony. The North Vietnamese constantly tormented them psychologically, to fracture their will and shatter their morale. John Kerry’s voice aided those efforts.

Former Navy pilot Paul Galanti remembers his jailers at the so-called Hanoi Hilton playing English-language radio broadcasts of Kerry’s April 22, 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“They made a big deal about this guy who was a naval officer, talking about all these atrocities and war crimes,” Galanti told Human Events. “They’d been for years saying, ‘You’re not prisoners of war, you’re war criminals. You’re never going home. We’re going to try you after the war, and you’ll all be found guilty of war crimes.’”

Not long ago, Galanti linked that voice from yesterday with the man running for president today. While recently watching a documentary on the peace movement, Galanti heard Kerry claim that American GIs in Vietnam “razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan.” Kerry distinctly pronounced “Genghis” with soft Gs (as in “gelatin”) rather than hard ones (as in “grit”).

“Right away, I said, ‘Hey, wait a minute. That’s the guy I heard in Hanoi,’” Galanti concluded.

Former Air Force captain Tom Collins also remembers his North Vietnamese captors forcing him to listen to Kerry’s statements as well as Jane Fonda’s antiwar remarks.

“I wasn’t necessarily disappointed in Jane Fonda,” Collins told Human Events. “I figured she’s just some airhead Hollywood actress. So what? But then along comes this military officer…I expected more out of a Navy lieutenant. That’s why I was so demoralized. It was far worse for him to do it.”

Put yourself in these men’s shoes: Imagine the prospect of hearing from the Oval Office the same voice your jailers used 33 years ago to break your mind in two.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor and a contributing editor of National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.

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