Sometimes the hypocrisy is just too damn much
by Scott Marshall* Former Senator Bob Kerrey should be put on trial for war crimes. Period. Kerrey led an attack on the South Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong on February 25, 1969. His `raid' resulted in the murder of 15 to 20 non- combatant civilians, mostly women and children. Kerrey was the officer in charge. In all versions of the story, at least 13 of the victims were found huddled together in a group in the village's central square, riddled with bullets. There are two eyewitnesses — a Vietnamese woman from the village and an American soldier who was a member of Kerrey's squad. Both say that the women and children were rounded up in the central square nd machine gunned twice by Kerrey and his squad. It just makes you sick. Where are all those, including in Congress, who have been calling for War Crimes tribunals in Bosnia and Yugoslavia. Many of them are proclaiming Kerrey an "American Hero. Those who say that America has never come to grips with the Vietnam War are right, if they mean that we have never, as a nation, acknowledged that it was a dirty US war and criminal in its conduct. Let's be clear. It was a war for what we now call capitalist globalisation. It was a war of, by and for, the military-industrial complex that Dwight Eisenhower warned about. (Eisenhower also noted that had free and fair elections been held in Vietnam before US involvement, Ho Chi Minh would have won overwhelmingly in both the North and South.) It was a war that slaughtered not only Vietnamese, but tens of thousands of working-class, and especially racially-oppressed, young American men and women. For the American working class and people it was not "our war. Bob Kerrey isn't the only one who should be put on trial. A real war crimes tribunal should include then Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, General William Westmoreland, Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Jr and down through the chain of command to the actual murderers like Bob Kerrey. It was the top brass who ordered the war be conducted with "free-fire zones and "body counts. In the official military body count, these women and children were listed as "Viet Cong kills. This gets personal with me. In 1968, I was drafted into the US Army and sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky. After about three weeks of basic training, I was arrested and thrown in the stockade for three months and then Undesirably Discharged from the Army. My real crime was "failing to get with the program and loudly proclaiming that I would never fight in an unjust war like Vietnam. One of the things that really set me off was a basic training class we had on how to conduct ourselves in Vietnam. I was only 18 at the time, but my drill instructor's words are burned in my memory. With several officers present, he said, "You can't take prisoners, you have to waste them. He told us, a classroom full of teenagers, that even though killing prisoners was against the Geneva Conventions and official Army rules, that, "You have to be realistic. This is not that kind of war. What's all this got to do with Bob Kerrey? Kerrey claims self-defence. Kerrey and others have defended these murders by saying that they killed the women and children because they couldn't take prisoners. Kerrey is quoted in the New York Times saying, "Standard operating procedure was to dispose of the people we made contact with, he said. "Kill the people we made contact with, or we have to abort the mission. He later argued that the murders were for the "safety of his men. How twisted can you get? How twisted was Kerrey trained to be? In Nuremberg, the infamous and repeated Nazi defence was, "I was only following orders. How is this any different?
* * ** Scott Marshall is a vice-chair of the Communist Party USA and chairman of the Communist Party's Labor Commission. People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party USA.