If in fact it did happen. If there was an old man, an old
woman and three children being killed. Was it or was it not
within the rules of engagement for you and your men as you
understood it, if necessary, to kill those people?
Yes, Again, I don’t know how you’re gonna cut this tape, but
I don’t have any doubt that the people that we killed were
at the very least sympathetic to the Viet Cong. And at the
very most, were supporting their efforts to kill us.
Old men, women and children
Yes, I mean, the Viet Cong, in a guerrilla war, the people
that get caught in the middle are the civilians. And the Viet
Cong were a thousand per cent more ruthless than any standard
operating procedure that any American GI or Navy SEAL had.
Scheer’s "good man" STILL saying that the babies
he killed "were a thousand per cent more ruthless"
than any US force or procedure.
slice of Rather’s CBS interview with Kerrey’s fellow SEAL,
This is also where Bob Kerrey says his unit came under attack.
Did you take fire coming in?
Gunfire of any kind?
Anything even remotely sounding like gunfire?
No, not that I can recall. No.
What’d you do this time?
We gathered everybody up, searched the place, searched everything.
What was the make-up of this group?
Probably a majority of em were kids. And women. And some younger
So you got all the people out of there.
We herded them together and in a group.
Were any of these people armed?
I don’t believe so.
Fair to say you didn’t see any weapons?
I didn’t see any.
Did you decide pretty quickly or not that the target of your
mission, the Viet Cong leader, was not among them?
Yeah we got together and we were, hey the guy ain’t here.
Now we got these people, what do we do now?
What did you do then?
We killed em.
What do you mean, you killed em?
We shot em all.
Was an order given for that or was it more or less spontaneous?
I don’t think we would have acted spontaneously on something
like that. There was an order given.
What was the order?
To kill em.
Cause we’d already compromised ourselves by killing the other
Whose responsibility, whose obligation was it to say that?
The ultimate responsibility fell on Bob Kerrey.
Do you remember him saying that?
I don’t remember his exact words, but he was the officer in
charge. The call was his.
And then what happened?
We lined up, and we opened fire.
Individually or raked them with automatic weapons fire?
No. We, we just slaughtered them. It was automatic weapons
fire. Rifle fire.
At roughly what range?
Six feet, ten feet, very close.
Then did the shooting stop?
Yeah, for a little bit.
Was it quiet?
It was dead quiet. It was dead quiet. Then you could just
hear certain people, hear their moaning. So we would just
fire into that area until it was silent there. And that was
it. And, and until, we were sure that everybody was dead.
You said certain people were moaning or making noises. Were
all those adults?
A few. I remember one baby still crying. That baby was probably
the last one alive.
What happened to that baby?
Shot like the rest of em.
On camera we told Bob Kerrey about Gerhard Klann’s account
of the events at Thanh Phong, and also revealed to him that
much of Klann’s story is supported by a woman who says she
was an eyewitness in the village. Senator Kerrey seemed stunned,
but then conceded that what happened at Thanh Phong may have
been worse than he remembers.
Caldwell wrote in New York Press, Kerrey maybe
didn’t remember too clearly what happened at Thanh Phong because
his unit was doing the same thing every night.
been claiming that he’s felt anguish and remorse down the
years. Nothing he’s said in recent weeks supports this claim.
Mostly he’s been saying that it was all an honest mistake,
perpetrated under orders that permitted him to kill anything
in Thanh Phong that moved.
All but one of the victims were women and children. There
was one man described as an older man. That being the case,
why shouldn’t it be considered a war crime? Or an atrocity?
Or be an investigation?
To describe it as a war crime, I think is wrong. Or to describe
it as an atrocity, I would say, is pretty close to being right.
Because that’s how it felt and that’s why I feel guilt and
shame for it.
Are you concerned at all about the consequences of this becoming
Well am I, certainly, I’m that’s a possibility. I’ve got to
be prepared to tolerate any consequences of this. I understand
that that are all kinds of potential consequences, up to and
including somebody saying, this is a war crime. And let’s
investigate and charge him and put him in prison.
reasonable. Let’s push a trial of Kerrey, and of his commanding
officers. Let Kofi Annan send a UN unit down Fifth Avenue
to the Village, to seize Kerrey. If Blanton can get put in
the dock for what he did in the Sixties, so can the former
Senator, now running the New School where fugitive scholars
from Hitler’s Germany were given shelter, and where Hannah
the preface to her book, The
Origins of Totalitarianism Arendt wrote, "We
can no longer afford to take that which was good in the past
and simply call it our heritage, to discard the bad and simply
think of it as a dead load which by itself time will bury
in oblivion. The subterranean stream of Western history has
finally come to the surface and usurped the dignity of our
tradition. This is the reality in which we live. And this
is why all efforts to escape from the grimness of the present
into nostalgia for a still intact past, or into the anticipated
oblivion of a better future, are vain."
PRESS! I have now received a call from Hitchens. He is eager
to stress that at the time he made those comments on Fox he
was not up to speed on Kerrey’s account of his actions at
Thanh Phong. (We should note that Hitchens appeared on Fox
on Monday, April 30, by which time the Kerrey affair had been
headline material across the weekend.) In his call Hitchens
was at particular pains to stress his disgust at the New School’s
board members who have issued a statement asserting that it
is improper to attribute specific blame for war crimes, which,
as noted above, has been a standard liberal line.
said he was forwarding the text of an open letter to his colleagues
at the New School. I have received portions of this, though
a middle section is lacking, and in its place, possibly owing
to Hitchens’ lack of proficiency in using his computer there
is what appears to be the email address of the NYU faculty.
However, I do have the creditable final section, which runs
[the statement] also but this is only a detail
takes at face value the sleazy and evasive and self-pitying
utterances made by our new President and my former friend.
That passive acceptance might just have passed muster if Kerrey
had said ONE WORD about the Vietnamese civilians he admits
to having killed. (Let's pass over the ones he isn't so sure
he killed.) But examine the remarks issued under his name
and under the names of Tishman and Scaturro [NYU trustees].
There isn't even a polite nod in the direction of the victims.
This is a scandal pure and simple. Should I dilate on the
supposed principles of the School? Why embarrass myself, or
you? Last month you didn't know that Kerrey had left a ditchful
of civilians behind him and accepted a medal for an action
that read officially phrased 21 VC KIA (BC).
That means twenty-one Vietcong, killed in action (body count).
So a liar as well as a killer, since he knew the figures
were falsified. This month you do know. So perhaps by the
watercooler or in the corridor we hear: ‘Oh hi Bob! Shit happens,
© 2001 Alexander Cockburn
520 S. Murphy Avenue, #202
Sunnyvale, CA 94086
Contribute Via our Secure Server
Credit Card Donation Form
Contributions are now Tax-Deductible