Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech that slammed Israel with false statements was a fitting end to a career that was launched by slandering a generation of American soldiers with false allegations of widespread war crimes.
Kerry emerged on the public stage in the early 1970s as the spokesman of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), a group of a few thousand anti-war activists.
The position gave him the opportunity to testify in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the group he spoke for was “ashamed of and hated what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia.”
Kerry’s testimony was based on stories collected by VVAW as part of its “Winter Soldier” project, which sought to expose members of the U.S. military for committing various atrocities. Kerry had the idea to organize a public march in Detroit where soldiers could tell their stories.
Kerry included much of the Detroit testimony in his 1971 book The New Soldier, a copy of which was dug up by the Weekly Standard‘s David Skinner during the 2004 Democratic Primary that Kerry emerged from as his party’s presidential nominee.
Kerry’s book contains the stories told by VVAW members, which were woven together to support the idea that American soldiers acted as immoral criminals during the war. According to Skinner, “allegations included torture, intentional dismemberment, and gang rape.”
Many of the testimonies put forth by the group, however, turned out to be questionable once subjected to scrutiny.
An official investigation was launched based on the stories put forth by Kerry’s VVAW and many of the veterans refused to cooperate even though they were offered immunity.
“One soldier,” wrote Skinner, “admitted that his testimony had been coached by members of the Nation of Islam.”
Many of the soldiers denied that they were the ones that gave testimony, claiming that their identities had been stolen, according to Skinner.
Mackubin Thomas Owens, a Naval War College professor who led a Marine platoon in the Vietnam War, has argued that much of what the VVAW was putting forward was based on Soviet Union propaganda.
Owens explained that the Soviet Union aimed “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.”
Former Soviet intelligence chiefs have taken credit for fabricating stories about U.S. atrocities and throwing them towards Western audiences.
Owens cites historian Guenter Lewy, who wrote that the Soviet Union skillfully used its “worldwide propaganda apparatus” to influence “Western intellectuals” who were “too willing to accept every conceivable allegation of [American] wrongdoing at face value.”
Kerry and the VVAW, Owen wrote, were essentially using “Americanized” Soviet propaganda to smear his own country’s troops.
Owens lumps Kerry in with the radical intellectuals who sought to convince Americans that the Vietnam War was “one continuous atrocity” in which “war crimes were par for the course” and that it “represented all that is evil about America—capitalistic exploitation, racism, and imperialism.”
One of the soldiers who was part of VVAW’s Winter Soldier project said in 2004 that he was personally coached by Kerry to say that he witnessed atrocities in Vietnam.