ZIEGLER: The Inquisition on RighTalk Radio with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler. Today we have the distinct honor to interview Mr. B.G. "Jug" Burkett, who is one of the foremost authors on exposing false veterans and telling the truth about how Vietnam veterans have been maligned.

Welcome to the show.

BURKETT: Thank you.

ZIEGLER: Jug, it's great to have you here. Scott's got a bunch of questions for you today. Obviously he has quite the background in this with his background at WinterSoldier.com.

Scott, welcome to the show.

SWETT: Thank you.

Let's start off with the book, "Stolen Valor," which of course can be found at StolenValor.com. When you wrote the book in 1996, you were pretty much a voice crying in the wilderness. In retrospect, I think it would be fair to characterize your work as pioneering work in what has become a full-fledged movement to restore and rehabilitate the reputations of Vietnam veterans. How did you get started in this?

BURKETT: Well, I had been a stockbroker here in Dallas, Texas, for a couple of decades, and a buddy of mine that I went to Vanderbilt with was involved on a committee that just started trying to build a state memorial, and he asked me to come, and I did, and eventually my friend and another guy, we basically took over the whole thing, and I became the co-chairman. And I thought it was going to be easy because I'm in the money business. My business is to go call to get $100,000 and that kind of thing.

And every place I approached, every foundation, every corporation, their attitude was: why should we give money to those bums, meaning Vietnam veterans.

And it just, it upset me tremendously because this state lost almost 3,500 Texans in that war. My roommate from Ft. Hood who died in the 25th infantry, he was from Texas. I was in the 199th; we lost about almost 750.

So I realized that I was going to have to answer all of these negative perceptions. So I started doing studies. I went to the VA, I went to the Selective Service, Department of Defense, and you know, got what I call macro statistics: who served, who didn't, how many were drafted, you know, how many atrocities were there, that kind of thing.

And everything I discovered was completely contradictory to the common wisdom. And I used that to raise the money, and of course, you know, one thing led to another, and when we finished building the memorial and we got President Bush Sr. to dedicate it, I decided to use what I had gathered to write a book with it, and that's - you know, I couldn't get a publisher, but I self published in 1998.

ZIEGLER: Why couldn't you get a publisher?

BURKETT: Excuse me?

ZIEGLER: Why couldn't you get a publisher?

BURKETT: Well, I exposed a couple of hundred people in here, and a lot of -- you know, I really go after CBS and Mike Wallace and Dan Rather and I exposed Brian Dennehy and I exposed Dan Rather's military record, and they were just scared to death of the libel possibilities. I mean, they just thought, oh my God, who is this guy? He's a stockbroker. He's not an academic; he's not a government official. He's just a crazy man. And you know, they wouldn't do it.

So I put up 300,000 bucks of my own money and I started a publishing company and I published it myself. You know, it won the William E. Colby award for Outstanding Military Book. And here in the past year the Secretary of the Army awarded me the highest decoration the Army gives a civilian, and again got President Bush Sr. to present it.

SWETT: Let's talk for a minute about some of the specifics of what that research uncovered. One of the things that I think jumps out at most people is the perception of Vietnam is that the people who fought there were primarily draftees. They didn't want to be there, they were in a war that seemed to have no purpose, and that they were overwhelmingly conscripts. But in fact, the percentage of Vietnam veterans who were drafted is significantly lower than that in World War II. Is that correct?

BURKETT: That's absolutely true. There were approximately nine million men who served during the Vietnam era. Seven million were volunteers; only two million were drafted. We had a volunteer rate that was two and a half times higher than the World War II generation. They had 50 million men registered with the draft. Only five million of those men voluntarily enlisted, and an additional 11 million were drafted to serve.


BURKETT: And the same thing about the minorities. The minorities actually were under represented, not over represented. Black males, draft-age males, constituted 13 and a half percent of the draft pool of those males who could be drafted in those ages, 18 to 26. They suffered 12 and a half percent of the casualties, but you know, the positive side was never presented. Twenty Medals of Honor among African-Americans, a hundred Distinguished Service Crosses. And of the thousands of college-educated black officers who served in Vietnam, almost 300 have gone on to become admirals and generals in one branch of the service or another.

SWETT: That, again, seems to conflict with another of the persistent myths of the Vietnam War, which was that blacks were used essentially as cannon fodder and that the casualties suffered by black Americans in Vietnam was disproportionate to the suffered by other groups, particularly whites.

BURKETT: Well you know, interesting enough, if you remember the first units that went into Vietnam, one was the Marine Corps, and the other on the Army side was the 173rd Airborne. They were 100 percent volunteers, and of course, they had a high component of blacks who were also 100 percent volunteers. That's just the negative rub that they put on this. They turn these heroes into victims, and it's just - it's a sad commentary on our media and on our whole society.

SWETT: One of the other misperceptions in the same area that "Stolen Valor" digs into is the incidence of psychological problems among Vietnam veterans. The perception in the public, and of course, amplified through both the media and through a variety of movies is that the Vietnam veteran, on average, is you know, drug addled, unable to cope with society, difficulty holding a job, wakes up in the middle of the night screaming about helicopters, that sort of thing. What did your research find?

BURKETT: Well, I majored in economics at Vanderbilt, and one of the what I call a foundation statistic on any society, if you can tell me the employment rate of the male population in that society, I can tell you a lot of other things about it.

And that, of course, is one of the problems in the Middle East. Over half of the males, you know, like 18 to 30, are unemployed, and that's, you know, fertile ground for terrorists to be recruited and - you know, hand a kid a gun and 20 bucks and, you know, go kill somebody kind of thing.

The employment statistics - and this was in the early nineties when I did this. I asked them for the employment of Vietnam veterans. There was woman named Sharon Kohaney (phonetic spelling) at the Labor Department who does a single study every year, a big thick study, on male unemployment in America. She said, "I have those statistics." You know, "I'm going to - annual report's going to come out in about four months. I will include that. I never have before, but you're right. That's interesting."

So I mean, it wasn't just Vietnam veterans. It was all veterans. But it, you know, broke it down into the categories and peace time and Korea and all that kind of thing.

Unemployment among all males at that time was six percent. Among all veterans it was five point five percent. Among the veterans who served during the Vietnam War who did not go to Vietnam - and of course, the public doesn't understand two out of three guys who served during that year didn't go to Vietnam. They went to Europe, Germany, Korea, Panama, et cetera. But the unemployment rate of the Vietnam era veteran was four point two percent. The Vietnam veteran, the guy who went to Vietnam, his unemployment rate was three point nine percent, the lowest unemployment rate of any major group in America, but he also had the highest educational rate, because almost something like 71 percent used the GI Bill after the war for some element of education. They had the highest per capita income. They had the highest home ownership rate.

And what that tells you right there, they're not going to have a high population of drug addicts, people in prison, people wandering the street as homeless. You know, they're employed, they're getting up every morning going to work at eight o'clock and paying a mortgage.

SWETT: What about suicides? Again, a perception is the suicide rate is way higher among Vietnam veterans and their contemporaries.

BURKETT: Actually, in the year, couple of years after the war, there was a mild elevation of suicides, but it was predominantly due to the absence of the guy there. The wife had taken off with his best buddy or she had cashed out all his stocks and, you know, she was gone, and this type of thing. I mean, it was more personal problems than it was horrors of war type of thing, but it was elevated.

SWETT: And of course, Vietnam veterans came home to a reception very different from those of the veterans of all other American wars.

BURKETT: Right, they were basically just shunned. You just didn't bring it up. But after that two-year period, it actually - the suicide rate has dropped lower than our peers who never went in the military. We've got one of the lowest suicide rates in America. Our suicide rate, collectively today, Vietnam veterans, is less than half of professions like medical doctors.

World War II veterans now have an incredibly high suicide rate due to their age, because when you get older your money's run out, your wife's died, your kids have left, et cetera, et cetera. So that World War II suicide rates right now are four times greater than Vietnam suicide rates.

SWETT: Primarily as a function of age.


SWETT: Let me touch one more topic. You mentioned atrocities, and of course, that was at the center of the recent election because of John Kerry's role, having testified to overwhelming atrocities and ravages similar to the armies of Genghis Khan before the Senate in 1971. What did you discover about the actual atrocity rates in Vietnam?

BURKETT: Well, you know, one of the things we Americans have done - because typically we've always won our wars, and when you're the winner, I mean, you tell the good stories, not the fumbles, as it were.

We have committed atrocities in every single war we've ever fought in, starting with the Revolutionary War. I mean, it happens. It happens in war. It's not, you know, because of us, them, the enemy, or anything else. It's just there's a lot of stress and anger and fear and all that kind of thing.

The atrocity rate in Vietnam was probably the lowest atrocity rate of any war we ever fought, but what happened is you had TV cameras and reporters roaming all over the place, so even the most minor incident would be blown up, and when you have a very major incident like My Lai, I mean that lingers to this day as being, oh my God, everybody was doing it.

Now, I'll give you an example: World War II. Between Normandy and the armistice in Europe, there were almost a thousand GI's tried for capital crimes, mostly execution of prisoners, rape and murder of civilians. Virtually all of them were convicted. Four hundred and forty-three were condemned to death and 96 were executed and buried in an American World War I cemetery outside the main gate.

Now, that's never been in the history books, never been in the press, but if you go to the Army and the JAG files, all of those cases are in there.

But you know, there's this thing about oh, the American GI in World War II was handing out candy bars. Three hundred American GI's were executed for crimes during World War II.

SWETT: Well of course, you're talking about a huge population of GI's during World War II. How does that rate compare, just roughly, to say, the murder rate in a major city? It's actually not any worse, is it?

BURKETT: Well, no. You're exactly right. I mean, the same thing with, I mean, like drugs in Vietnam. Hell, the drugs in Vietnam would have been the envy of any major high school in America type thing.

The drug rate in Vietnam was lower than anyplace in the Army, including the States, until late 1969. It started to go up. '70, '71 it got bad. I mean, it was the worst place in the Army, but by that time frame 90 percent of the guys who served in Vietnam had already come and gone. Of the ones who used drugs, over half of them used drugs before they went in the military, so it wasn't the military or Vietnam that made them do it. And the vast majority of them that used drugs in Vietnam got off of drugs within the first 12 months after they came back. So it's not a lingering epidemic that still continues to, you know, affect society today.

SWETT: Okay, well then, to sum up a little bit, in terms of drug use, atrocities, casualty rate among minorities, psychological problems, success in life, whether they volunteered or were drafted, the picture that most people have of the Vietnam War and those who fought there is really a pack of lies. Is that a fair characterization?

BURKETT: Oh, it's completely distorted.

(Cross talk.)

BURKETT: I got into fight with a local editor here because I made the comment that there were virtually no homeless Vietnam veterans, and he looked at me like I was crazy, and he sent a reporter out with a photographer. They spent weeks going to all the vet centers, the homeless shelters, all that, and presented me this big stack and said, "Prove to me these men aren't Vietnam veterans."

And these were all guys were claiming to be Vietnam veterans. I mean, they had to sign. They signed in with the county as Vietnam veterans and all this kind of thing.

I got their military records. A handful of them had been in the military. Virtually every one of them who had been in the military had a bad conduct discharge. None of them had been in Vietnam. There was one Marine who had a felony conviction as a youth offender, got a waiver, went to Vietnam, slugged an officer over there and got a dishonorable discharge. That's the only Vietnam veteran they were able to find in a population of North Texas of over five million.

SWETT: How did they react to that when you presented them with that information?

BURKETT: Oh, it shocked them. I mean, it actually shocked them. They actually did a little - they were doing a story on the book, and they included that at the tail end as an addendum to the story, showing the pictures of these guys and what they said their record was and then what their real record was.

SWETT: Well, that would certainly qualify as at least a minor victory on that front.

Back when you were raising money for the proposed Vietnam Memorial in Texas, you were surprised to find these guys, these guys hanging around street corners with signs saying they're Vietnam veterans, you know, telling wild stories to reporters and so forth. Is that really what moved you from doing essentially statistical research into doing specific research of phony Vietnam veterans?

BURKETT: Well, I was trying to get the press to do a positive story. We had hundreds of Vietnam veterans here in town that were on the city council. They were president of a major corporation, Roger Staubachs, here. You know, Heisman Trophy and Super Bowl and all that stuff. And they'd never do a positive story. It was always about some bum.

And right as I was, you know, just starting to make some headway, there was a murder in downtown Dallas where a vagrant walked up to a police officer who was writing a ticket, pushed him over the curb, and managed to grab his pistol out of his holster, pointed at him, and some stupid kids started chanting, "Shoot him, shoot him." Shoots him in the face and kills him, wanders off, gets in a gunfight with two other officers, is killed, and the headline is, "Vietnam Veteran Goes Berserk."

And I was working with the archives on the Texas casualties, and the guy said, " Well, why don't you get the killer's military record?" I didn't know you could. I just assumed it was, you know, private, you know, personal record.

And he said, "No, no, no. Freedom of information. You can get the basics of his military record."

So I sent for it. The guy had spent four months in the Navy in training and gotten kicked out because he was mentally ill. Basically, you know, the old section 8 from World War II. The guy wasn't a Vietnam veteran.

The press refused to retract the story because they said well, we have evidence he is. And I said, well, here's his military record. Go get it yourself.

What they had, I found out months later, was a county welfare form that he had filed himself in which he had checked off "Vietnam era veteran," because they asked if you're a veteran, yes, and then they had the other blocks.

Right after that there was a killing in Edmond, Oklahoma. A postal worker killed 14 workers and then committed suicide. Seven men and seven women he killed. "Vietnam Veteran Goes Berserk." I get his record; he was a Marine who never left the States. And again the press wouldn't correct the story.

I then, though, went and got the records of the seven males who got killed, and there were glowing stories in the press about them being Cub Scout leaders and deacons and all this, but not one of those stories mentioned military. Turned out two of those guys were Vietnam War heroes, but see, the press considered that a negative thing to be a Vietnam veteran, so they weren't going to put that in the story.

SWETT: So they had it exactly backwards. Why do you think that large elements of the press are so resistant to the reality of who Vietnam veterans are?

BURKETT: Well, I personally think this started during the antiwar movement, you know, very early on, you know, toward the late sixties, where if you vilify the warrior, you discredit the war, and if you're presenting these people as being turned into butchers and rapists and killers and all this kind of stuff. And the difference in our generation of warrior versus the World War II guys, they had a definitive victory that ended on a certain date, and they came home, total divisions came home, and a lot of them were National Guard units that would go back to the local, you know, society, and if you started badmouthing them, they just rose up as a political force and, boy, met with that editor and set him straight.

We came back one at a time and had no clout, and frankly, if you stood up, all you did is get a lot of personal flack and you got no support. So, you know, we went on for 20 years believing even bad things about ourselves. Well, it's not me, it's not my unit. It must be those Marines, kind of attitude. And I've had more and more real Vietnam veterans who said, boy, I didn't understand all this until I read your book, because he said, I believed some of this.

SWETT: So because their credibility had been successfully undermined, Vietnam veterans had very little opportunity to set the record straight on that, and I would add to that that they had little access to media.

How much of that would you attribute to - you know, coming off the recent election - the work of the VVAW, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and John Kerry, to publicize war crimes as being routine and authorized at all levels of command?

BURKETT: If you go back and look at the press before that, there were stories, but the stories came out of Vietnam. You know, there'd be Arnett or somebody in Vietnam about an episode or incident that happened in Vietnam. When Kerry came to the mall with all those ragtag bums, you know, the bandannas and the fatigues, and, you know, the disheveled, bearded look, the first time America ever really saw collectively a group of Vietnam veterans, and that was just seared in their mind forever.

SWETT: Seared in their memory.

We'll talk a little bit more about this when we come back. Tim, you want to close us out?

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition on RighTalk with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler interviewing Jug Burkett, and we're going to go pay some bills and we'll be back in a few minutes and we'll continue the discussion.

(Commercial break.)

ZIEGLER: Hi, this is Tim Ziegler and Scott Swett with the Inquisition with Jug Burkett today from StolenValor.com, and we've been discussing some very interesting information that is diametrically opposed to what the mainstream media has put forth about Vietnam veterans.

Scott, you were headed into a discussion about specific cases. Do you want to carry on with that?

SWETT: Sure. Thank you, Tim.

Jug, you have exposed something like a couple of thousand phony Vietnam veterans. Let's backtrack a little bit. You mentioned how you got into the business of exposing phony veterans related to work on the Vietnam Memorial in Texas. How did you make yourself familiar with the detailed mechanics of obtaining records from the archives and finding the necessary information to expose phonies?

BURKETT: Well, I mentioned in the previous segment, you know, those first two cases were just sort of, you know, they - I wasn't doing it to expose them. I was doing it to remove the negative image that they were giving my fund-raising by saying here is another Vietnam veteran bum killer kind of thing.

But what happened is I had made the contact with the people in the archives. They taught me how to get it, you know.

I grew up in the military, so I'm familiar with the culture. I served in the Army. I've been a military historian, you know, amateur, since I was probably about eight years old.

I would get a military record, and often - every time you get a piece of information, it creates more questions. You know, if I got his military record and found out he was in a certain company, in 25th Infantry at a certain time, you know, I'd look up to see who the commanders were, and I may contact the commanders. I might get the duty roster; I might get the after-action report. You know, I'd figure out what hospital the guy went to, and I could get stuff, you know, that's still in the archives for the hospital.

So in the beginning it was merely to knock down these stories that were damaging my fund-raising, but after that I had so many of these cases, and they just got - it was like pulling on a string on a sweater. It just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.

You know, there was a guy here who was on the national committee for the VVA, and he was an adviser to one of the congressmen. He testified in front of Congress about post-traumatic stress. Hell, the guy had been incarcerated several times. He had charges filed against him for virtually everything on the book, and the only place he'd served was in the Coast Guard and he took one cruise to Honolulu, and that was it, and got kicked out of that because, you know, he got in trouble.

SWETT: At what point did you come to understand that instead of a few isolated incidents, that what you were looking at was a massive nationwide fraud?

BURKETT: Well, I think that was probably about a year after we dedicated the memorial because in that year I kept doing this. You know, I was no longer raising the money. We dedicated the memorial in 1989, Veterans Day, and into 1990 I had this mojo going with getting the records, and I had a lot of unresolved cases, and the more I did, the more I came in contact with the press.

And as an example, Reader's Digest, one of their editors was writing a military book, and the Pentagon told him to call me. And he called me and he says, well, what university are you with kind of thing. And I said, "No, no. I'm a stockbroker."

"Well, why the hell would they tell me to call you?"

And I said, "What is it you're doing?"

And he was trying to get some background on two or three Vietnam veterans that he had in his book, and he named them. Well, I knew they were, and they were all bogus as hell. And he kept saying, "No, no, no. These guys have been interviewed extensively."

And I said, "Well, I've got their military records. I'm telling you they weren't there. That one guy served in Korea. He was never in Vietnam."

And he just got flabbergasted, flew down here, went through my files, and did a Reader's Digest story. That led to a 20/20 piece which actually won a Finney award, and that producer at 20/20, they had never checked a military record for any of their interviews. I mean, if a guy was the commander of the VFW, they just took it at face value. So what they started doing after that is checking the record. They knew how to do it.

Over the next 12 months they had six different stories that they were working on where the main party to be interviewed was a Vietnam veteran. Every one of them was bogus.

SWETT: Gee. So the picture that society is getting of Vietnam veterans is based on fraud from one end to the other.

One of the examples that struck me during the recent campaign of that sort of fraud was a - I believe it was a 60 Minutes special, our friend Dan Rather, in 1982 called "The Wall Within," where they put out - they trotted several purported Vietnam vets before the cameras. One guy said that he had killed and skinned some 50 civilians in his time in Vietnam. That was one of the things you exposed in "Stolen Valor." Would you care to amplify that a bit.

BURKETT: Well, I heard about that documentary. In that time frame, I mean, it was out there, and at the time he did the documentary, it was 60 Minutes and he ran on prime time.

But then Walter Cronkite overdubbed the introductory and everything, and CBS included it in that - they had a six-tape series, "The History of the Vietnam War," which they were given to colleges and schools, high schools, and they were selling it in the video stores.

Anyway, I got that thing, identified the six veterans in it and got their military records. Five of them just made it up.

And I went to CBS, and it was Paul and Holly Fine were the producers, and they basically just told me to go to hell. I mean, they said, "We're satisfied with what we've got," you know. "We do good work. Who the hell are you?"

And that was actually - when the 20/20 guy came to me, that's the task they took on was to expose CBS's screw up on that, and it embarrassed the hell out of them to the point that they withdrew - they never admitted it, but they withdrew the tapes from the stores and then re-crafted the series so that "The Wall Within" was no longer in the series.

And it was not too long after that another CBS 60 Minutes story, which was Mike Wallace's, there was a VVA president of a prison chapter in Boston, in Massachusetts, and he had been convicted of murder.

The VVA started this campaign to get Joe Yandle out of prison because he had suffered enough, he was a hero at Caisson, he had post-traumatic stress, and in the murder he was one of two guys that killed this fellow in a liquor store, and he hadn't actually pulled the trigger, and it went on and on and on, the sympathy thing.

Mike Wallace did three pieces on this guy about what a war hero he was at Caisson and won a Bronze Star and Purple Heart and all this. I got his military record. The guy was in the brig at Yorktown while Caisson was going on, and the only place he had served overseas was in Okinawa as an inventory clerk. And I argued with Wallace for four months about, you know, correcting that story and doing a mea culpa. He wouldn't do it.

I took it to 20/20. They ran the story on a Friday night. They put Yandle back in prison Saturday morning and Wallace went on the air after they'd closed the curtain on 60 Minutes Sunday night. Suddenly he's sitting there saying, "Oh, my God, we're the victim of a fraud." You know, and they don't act like they had anything to do with it, that Joe Yandel was this master con man, and you know, how terrible, terrible, terrible.

SWETT: It never seems to be their fault, does it?


SWETT: Well, let me just underscore the point on "The Wall Within," that without your intervention, the entire educational establishment would have accepted this fraudulent piece as legitimate history, that educators everywhere would have used this example of horrible atrocities, you know, skinning helpless civilians, as what American soldiers did in the Vietnam War. This is fraud and misrepresentation on an almost Soviet level.

BURKETT: Oh, absolutely. You know, one of the guys was claiming he was a Navy SEAL, and his primary job was to execute friendly Vietnamese village chiefs and then leave communist paraphernalia around the body, you know, in order to turn the people against the Communists. And he was just, you know, was blase' about, you know - it was like he went to an eight-to-five job, just went out there and, you know, killed civilians.

SWETT: Charming. Let's give you a chance to tell a couple of war stories. You recently put a Navy captain in prison, or at least your testimony led to that result.

BURKETT: Well, there was a fellow named Roger Edwards, was an 06 Navy captain in the Commandant of the Marine Corps's office, liaison for military services. You know, the Navy provides all the hospitals, medics, nurses, that type thing. And the Marines were so taken with him, the commandant decided to make him an honorary Marine just before his retirement. So they had a big ceremony, made him an honorary Marine.

And I got a call from a person at the ceremony who will go unnamed, but he said, "Burkett, you've made me paranoid. I'm going to send you this program." And he sends me the program, and this guy had been in the military for 30 years. Actually, a little bit more than 30 years, and - but his career started as an enlisted man in the Army where he was a Green Beret medic in Vietnam and was airborne and served over there and got, you know, Silver stars, Bronze Stars, Purple Hearts, on and on and on.

I got his military, Army military, record. He was a practical nurse in a hospital in Canto. You know, this was the guy that's cleaning up the bedpans and putting in a new IV type thing.

SWETT: Somewhat less glamorous.

BURKETT: Right. He didn't have any of these medals, and he had been wearing them on his Navy - you know, Navy career, you know, of course, getting elevated against his peers for his heroic record. And I reported it initially to Jim Webb, who I knew, the former secretary of the Navy.

SWETT: Right.

BURKETT: Just saying, who should I go to? I walked the Navy through it and then I gave it back to the Marine Corps. I worked with the Marine Corps investigator, and then they brought me on board as an expert witness, and actually , I didn't have to testify in that - I was in the court the whole time, but the guy gave it up. They convicted him and they marched him to the brig right out of the courtroom in his dress whites. Didn't get to go home for a toothbrush or anything. They just sent him straight to prison.

SWETT: A lot of people, I think, don't realize that in addition to being bad form, it is illegal and a felony to wear medals in that way that you have not earned.

BURKETT: Right. Of course, this guy was under the jurisdiction of the military, but in civilian life, if you wear a legitimate military decoration to which you are not entitled, it's a federal crime. You can be arrested and prosecuted. And I work - I've got a handful of FBI agents that will actually go after these guys. I mean, once I've got them pretty much nailed down, they'll go do the other half of the issue.

SWETT: You - I'm sorry. Go ahead.

BURKETT: No. I was going to tell you another story, but go ahead.

SWETT: No. Throw it in.

BURKETT: Another - which I think is another kind of - this is another angle on this. The assumption is that if a guy is a war hero that everything he says is legitimate. Well, the reality is there are as many liars among legitimate war heroes as there are in any other segment of society.

A guy named Bruce Cotta, Rhode Island, Providence, Rhode Island. The guy was a medic in Vietnam for real, got a Silver Star and a Purple Heart, but he thought he got screwed, that he should have gotten a Medal of Honor.

So he gets his buddies who were allegedly on the scene, and they write witness statements, and - today to get things upgraded, you've got to go through your congressman. So they submitted it to Patrick Kennedy, Rhode Island.

It's submitted; it's denied. They get more witness statements. They get a former commander to write a statement, which is kind of hilarious because the guy appeared to be senile, and the letter was just a rambling kind of nothing. But anyway, they submit this again; it's denied again.

A few weeks later Patrick Kennedy gets a packet from the Army, same office, same letterhead, same signatures, the whole bit, saying they've reconsidered, and although unfortunately they can't award the Medal of Honor, they are giving Bruce Cotta the Distinguished Service Cross. And the medal is in there with the certificate, the citation, the general order, everything.

They have a big ceremony. They present it. Bruce Cotta is now the most decorated living Vietnam veteran. I mean, he's the toast of the town. He's lecturing at the Naval War College Annapolis, you know, all the universities around, and everything else.

And I work with a lot of medals collectors who kind of keep the history of - some of them are specific. There's one guy working on the Distinguished Service Cross asked me if I had a general order, and I said no. But he's joined the Legion of Valor, and I know the people there, and that's one of the requirements, so I can get you the general order. I took one look at that general order and knew it was forged. Turned out Bruce Cotta had forged the whole packet himself.

SWETT: Oh, wow.

ZIEGLER: Oh, man.

SWETT: That's a piece of work.

BURKETT: Oh, I know.

SWETT: Just real quickly, why do you think that somebody who actually had a legitimate record of achievement would feel the need to amplify it further?

BURKETT: Well, you remember going in college or high school where you had these guys that just - I mean, they were just driving for an A, they had to have an A. And it got so overwhelming that if they didn't do it for real, they'd be willing to cheat to get it, even though they might have been the smartest kid in the class.

SWETT: You just never know.

BURKETT: That's right. I mean, there's some angle in there that's low self-esteem where you've got to have more.

ZIEGLER: This is RighTalk, the Inquisition with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler. We'll be back in a couple of minutes and we'll finish up with Jug Burkett. This is The Inquisition.

(Commercial break.)

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler, interviewing B.G. Burkett, otherwise known as Jug.

We've been having a fascinating discussion about not only his book, but the preparation of this book and subsequent events and exposures of false Vietnam veterans and the media impression about what the Vietnam veteran is. And one of the questions I had for him over the break was: Mr. Burkett, what would you do differently? How would you do it if you were doing this again? And while every TV show in the 1970s had a Vietnam veteran as the bad guy, from Hawaii Five-0 to Cannon, how could we portray the Vietnam veteran much more accurately and what can we do differently to achieve that?

BURKETT: Well, I think we're doing it now. I mean, we've gotten the momentum, and of course, this campaign brought on some of that, but what I could have done individually, frankly, I don't think I could have done it any real - you know, any differently because, one, I had a day job during the whole period of time, and I was - you know, it was an accident of fate that I was doing that memorial and discovered how, you know, pernicious this phenomenon was.

But I'm only one guy, and I had to self learn over the years. You know, I got more and more educated as to where the information is and that type thing. I mean, it's kind of hilarious, but the Pentagon calls me now to ask me where their data is.


BURKETT: I mean, the archival data.

SWETT: You're also working as an expert witness for the FBI in a number of cases. That sounds like fun.

BURKETT: Well, it is, because I mean, it works both ways. I mean, they - you know, within the FBI - as a matter of fact, one of the cases I worked was the President of the FBI Association, and they had a presidential assassination attempt by, quote, a "Vietnam veteran," and once they - we started getting into it, it was pretty obvious the guy wasn't a Vietnam veteran, but he also was getting a hundred percent disability from the VA.

They convicted him of the assassination attempt and then went after him for the fraudulent gaining of the benefits from the VA, and I think added another eight years to his sentence.

But it flows both ways. I mean, I develop these cases and then turn them over to them for prosecution, and then other times when they're working on a case and it's got some military element, it's just a matter of me directing them in the proper direction of how would we find his company commander or where would the after-action reports be or, you know, that type of thing.

SWETT: Uh-huh. You mentioned the VA. Were you involved in or merely aware of a recent study of PTSD disability recipients in the VA?

BURKETT: I was the consultant.

SWETT: You were the consultant in that. Okay.

BURKETT: I mean, they brought me on as the consultant for the military records. As a matter of fact, I just checked with the guy, and it's going to be published in March in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

SWETT: And the implication of that study is that the fraud in the VA is at an impressive level indeed.

BURKETT: Well, what they did is they pulled a hundred records at random in one hospital of Vietnam veterans getting a hundred percent disability of trauma in Vietnam. They redacted all the names and Social Security numbers so I didn't have any personal identifiers, and then I - well, I showed them how to get the record under a FOIA, which voided all the ethics problems that might have been involved.

SWETT: Freedom of information request.

BURKETT: Right, the Freedom of Information. And then I analyzed the records, and of the hundred, only 39 of those guys had any discernible connection to combat in their military records, and by that I mean: be a combat unit, have an M-O-S, have a wound, have a combat medic's badge, have - you know, be a patient in a hospital, you know, on and on and on and on.

Out of approximately 50, maybe a few less, were also in Vietnam but they had most decidedly non-combat jobs.

Now, obviously that doesn't mean they couldn't be stressed, but you'd have to ask yourself why do they end up with more clerk typists from air-conditioned buildings than they do combat troops, you know, getting the benefit. And then about -

SWETT: What sorts of legitimate ways could a noncombatant get a post-traumatic stress disorder?

BURKETT: I mean, you could be in the barracks and a mortar round go through and go off and kill six of your buddies and leave you untouched, and, I mean, you're sitting there in the dark and the guys, a couple of them, are still moaning and groaning, and I mean, you know, he could say he's having nightmares about that and everything else. I mean, that's not necessarily, you know, no fraud involved in something like that.

It's just that the possibilities are significantly less if you're in a huge base camp or you're working in the Pentagon East or, you know, you run the bowling alley at Tan Sanut, than they would be if you're a combat recon Marine type thing.

SWETT: And yet the study, if it's a legitimate statistical sample, seems to be indicating that most of the people receiving that sort of disability are non-combat.


SWETT: That's pretty strange.

BURKETT: Now, see the other half of this that we didn't get into, which we hope this study breaks open, is: we didn't get to pull the medical records and find out what they said in the interview. It could be the clerk is claiming he's a Navy SEAL and convinced the psychiatrist that he did all these combat missions. I mean, that's the next part of the story which we didn't have access to, but we think this first study is going to suddenly bring that question up.

Now, the big news, too, though, is that 10 of those guys either were not in Vietnam or were never in the military.

ZIEGLER: Oh, that's huge.

BURKETT: You know, and they're getting close to 40 grand a year tax-free inflation indexed for life.

SWETT: That's a lot of money when you add it up. Approximately how many people are being supported by the VA?

BURKETT: Well, I'm getting different figures, but it's, you know, well into six figures of people that are getting - probably people that are getting 100 percent, and that's not counting, you know, those that are getting 90, 80, 70, 60.

And the game is that you come in and get 60, you work to get it up, and you keep working until you get it to a hundred. I mean, that's the game that is played constantly.

SWETT: Looks like there might be a real opportunity to clean up some of this, some of these long-standing and probably institutional problems in the Veterans Administration.

BURKETT: Oh, it's -

SWETT: Do you see it that way?

BURKETT: It's in the billions of dollars.

SWETT: Billions of dollars.

ZIEGLER: In your -

SWETT: Even Washington, that's a significant amount of money.


ZIEGLER: In your experience, how many legitimate winners of the Purple Heart, or awardees of the Purple Heart, never had to have a day in hospital?

BURKETT: Well, about half of them didn't go to the hospital.


BURKETT: I mean, so. But you know, that brings up an interesting point too. The original study that confirmed post-traumatic stress, you know, that set everybody off on this DSM-IV and post-traumatic stress is a terrible epidemic and all these Vietnam veterans got it. I went through that study. In Vietnam there were about 200 - and the numbers are a little bit vague now, but there was about 225,000 Purple Hearts were issued. I mean, that's collectively across the board.

SWETT: Uh-huh.


ZIEGLER: Multiple winners, multiple recipients?

BURKETT: Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean, and there are guys that have got four or five of them, so - but there - individual Purple Hearts, so there actually were less than 225 individuals because of the multiple awards. You're exactly right, but my bet is that the multiple awardees are no more than about 10 percent. You know, most guys that got a Purple Heart, they got one, but regardless -

ZIEGLER: And 55,000 of those who got the Purple Heart died receiving it.

BURKETT: Well, yeah. No, no, no. I'm - yeah, but I'm not talking about the - yeah, you're exactly right.

All right, but in this study the proportion of people that they interviewed in the study claimed to have Purple Hearts at four times the rate that they were issued in Vietnam.

Now, there's one of two possibilities: either they packed the study with people who legitimately had Purple Hearts and would more likely be traumatized or they've got a bunch of people making up stories.

ZIEGLER: Well, I can't imagine what -

SWETT: Hopefully subsequent investigation will help determine which that is.

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler, and we're interviewing Jug Burkett, the author of "Stolen Valor." You can get the book at StolenValor.com. It is a fascinating study.

We're going to go pay some bills, and we'll come back up and we'll finish, and we sure appreciate Mr. Burkett being here today. This is The Inquisition on RighTalk Radio.

(Commercial break.)

ZIEGLER: We're back on The Inquisition with Scott Swett and Tim Ziegler.

Scott, you've got a couple of questions to finish us up with? We've got a real quick segment.

SWETT: Yeah, but we could have gone another hour with this one for sure.

Mr. Burkett, you've been sued a couple of times on "Stolen Valor." Have you ever had to pay anybody or -


SWETT: To what extent can you talk about that?

BURKETT: Well, you know, of course, I had libel insurance, but - and it's funny. I ranked the people in the book as A, B, C, meaning the A's were, you know, probably going to sue me, the B's might, and the C's were possible. And these two guys who sued me, I'm going, "Who in the hell are these guys?" You know, so one of them I got a reverse judgment against the guy and forced him into bankruptcy.

SWETT: All right. Let's go in -

BURKETT: The other one, I actually - my lawyers advised me to settle because he was looking for saving face, but I only agreed - and I said this from the very beginning, that I wasn't paying a dime to anybody, and that case was resolved with that premise still intact.

SWETT: You have given the number of people who you have unmasked. That's a remarkable record.

Let's shift gears real quick. Let's talk briefly about your work with the Swift Vets and the POWs who did "Stolen Honor" as an advisor. What did you do to help those guys?

BURKETT: Well, I was in the original meeting with the Swift boaters, and we -

SWETT: John O'Neill.

BURKETT: - strategized on what they were going to do. They took off, and their first foray fell flat on its face, as you may know.


BURKETT: I mean, at the National Press Club. But then they hit on writing that book, and that just exploded the thing on the scene, and, you know, what a job. I mean, they raised 25 million bucks, ran hundreds of commercials. Of course, they had, you know, the people among themselves to interview.

In the meantime I told them I would organize the POWs because I'm in with them. We got them together, I got a couple of other brokers in my firm. I know Carlton Sherwood. I mean, he's talented in the media area. And the four of us made that "Stolen Honor" documentary.

ZIEGLER: Is the information -

BURKETT: And I got News Max, you know, to run it the three days before the election all through Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

ZIEGLER: Is the information the Swift Boat Vets put out about Kerry accurate?

BURKETT: Oh, it's absolutely. I mean, everybody kept saying they had been discredited. I don't know anything that was discredited.

SWETT: Okay, well we're running out of time. Let me just personally say, Mr. Burkett, thanks for your work on behalf of the truth.

BURKETT: Well, thank you for having me on.

SWETT: I'll let Tim close us out.

ZIEGLER: This is The Inquisition on RighTalk Radio. We just had a great hour of radio with Mr. Jug Burkett. We really appreciate it. You can get his book at StolenValor.com. We'll see you in two weeks.

(End of transcript.)

Last Updated Monday, November 05 2007 @ 07:51 AM MST|5,859 Hits