Fear and Loathing in America
By Terry J. DuBose
Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas has the largest non-governmental archive on the Vietnam conflict in the world, and it is still growing. They are making everything available digitally at the Vietnam Project website (www.vietnam.ttu.edu). This wonderful archive exists primarily because of the work of director Dr. James R. Reckner and a dedicated staff.
The Vietnam Center holds triennial symposia on Vietnam. The fifth symposium took place March 17–19, 2005 in Lubbock, Texas. The participants ran the gamut of opinions and attitudes, from Ambassador Michael Marine, current US ambassador to Vietnam, to Hoang Au Phuong (Bao Ninh), author of "The Sorrow of War" and a soldier in the North Vietnamese Regular Army who fought against US troops in the central highlands of Vietnam. In consecutive panels were members of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (now Swift Vets and POWs for Truth) and some representatives of VVAW. These were the best-attended panels of the three days, with standing room only.
When Nancy Miller Saunders—part of the Winterfilm Collective that filmed the Winter Soldier Investigation—learned of the call for papers by the Vietnam Center, she contacted some old VVAW friends and asked if we would be interested in being on a panel to give our side of the debate. At issue were the not-so-Swift Boat Vets' lies about the VVAW and John Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971. Our panel immediately followed that of the swift liars, in the same room.
We had four panelists. Nancy served as our panel moderator, giving the opening statement and introductions. She gave a good opening statement, pointing out that the phrase "My country, right or wrong" had been taken out of context and twisted, then used against the VVAW. Nancy turned that quotation on them as surely as if she were wielding a flame-thrower by giving the entire quote by Senator Carl Schurz (1829–1906): "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right." Her segue into how the Swift Boat Vets had cherry-picked half-truths, ignoring the full context and turning them into lies, was right on.
She then introduced Bill Hager, of Georgia. Bill gave a great extemporaneous speech, titled "Image vs. Reality and the Manipulation Thereof for Political or Personal Gain: Swift Boat Vets vs. the Reality of VVAW." Bill Hager served two tours in Vietnam as a combat engineer with the United States Marine Corps (1965–66 and 1968) and was VVAW's California/Nevada regional coordinator from 1972 to 1974.
Then came my bit, "VVAW Truth and the Half-Truths and Lies of the Swift Boat Veterans." I served with the Army's 53rd General Support Group (1967–68) and was VVAW's Texas regional coordinator from 1971 to 1972.
Alex Prim was third on our panel, with "A Literary Campaign: Vietnam Re-fought in the Books of the 2004 Election. "Alex Primm served as an Army information specialist (1968–9) and was a VVAW member in 1971.
Last was Gerald Nicosia, author of "Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement." Nicosia knows so much about VVAW, John Kerry, the Swift liars, and that period that you could tell he was very aware that there was too much to say in the fifteen minutes he had been allotted. He did a great job of countering the Swift Boat half-truths and lies that were spread around in the last election.
The audience was pretty heavily in favor of the Swift Boat folks, primarily because of familiarity with them in the election, and a lack of familiarity with or understanding of VVAW. Our panel did a good job of describing how the Swift liars had taken everything out of context and twisted meaning, even joining half-truths to create complete lies. The truth of VVAW was driven home with a showing of "Winter Soldier" after our panel.
The Swift Boaters played fast and loose with the truth, acting as an Orwellian ministry of misinformation, taking half-truths and statements out of context, spreading libelous lies.
B.G. Burkett, a Dallas stockbroker and Army veteran involved in the Swift Boat group, said, "John Kerry is the only swift-boater who butchered women and children in a boat. When he says he's a war criminal, he's absolutely right. He is a war criminal." He also said, "I personally think George Bush is a draft dodger. But George Bush never lied about Vietnam. John Kerry did."
Swift Liars groupie Larry Bailey verbally refused to recognize me for a question. The Vietnam Center's director, James Reckner said he found Bailey's actions "totally unacceptable. There can't be a dialogue without questions and answers. You can't answer questions just from your friends."
The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (March 20, 2005) carried this quote by Larry Bailey, organizer of the anti-Kerry "Vietnam Veterans for Truth" and one of the worst of the ministers of misinformation: "We want to drive a stake through his heart," Bailey said, speaking of Kerry.
What I think the VVAW panelists realized is that the Swift Liars are easy to befuddle. When the proper research into their published statements is done, it is easy to point out their contradictions. We must not allow them to appear in public or make statements without someone there to tell the truth, because they are trying to rewrite history—a history that we are repeating in Iraq. We must "speak the truth to power."
The unedited audio and video of the two panels, as well as the rest of the proceedings, are available for viewing at the Vietnam Center's website
Terry J. DuBose was in Vietnam 1967–68 with the 1st Lt. 53rd General Support Group, and was the VVAW Texas coordinator in 1971–72.
He is currently an associate professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Nancy Miller Saunders, Bill "Windbender" Hager, Terry DuBose, Alex Primm and Gerald Nocisia