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SWETT: Hello, and welcome to The Inquisition. This is Scott Swett. Tim Ziegler is on an airplane headed for Washington D.C. and CPAC, so he's not with us this week.

We have the privilege today of talking with Dr. Robert Turner. Dr. Turner is the co-founder of the Center for National Security Law at the University of Virginia School of Law. He has nearly four decades of experience with Vietnam, first as a Vietnam veteran, and he has also lectured and taught about the conflict for all this time.

He is the author of "Vietnamese Communism: Its Origins and Development," which was the first major English language book on the history of Vietnamese communism, written in 1975. The American Political Science Review described that book as, quote, "the definitive account of Vietnamese communism."

We could spend a considerable amount of time actually just going over Dr. Turner's scholarly resume. Maybe we'll touch on some more of that as we get into it.

Dr. Turner, welcome to The Inquisition.

TURNER: Scott, my pleasure to be here.

SWETT: Let's start out by talking about your own experiences in Vietnam, first as a veteran and then when you went back as an observer.

TURNER: Well actually, my first - I did my undergraduate honors thesis on the war while an undergraduate at Indiana, and then my first actual visit to Vietnam was as a journalist in '68.

I went in the Army shortly after I returned and wound up in infantry recon, but because I had written a lot about the other side, the Army was more interested in my scholarly or political, whatever you want to say, assessment.

I actually wrote an article about the leadership struggle after Ho Chi Minh died on September 3, 1969. I predicted that Le Duan would come out on top, and learned years later that CIA and DIA were predicting Trun Chin (phonetic spelling) would come out on top, and so the embassy became interested in this, you know, young Army lieutenant, and I was asked to come over on an extended TDY, and did, and then went back and was in Hawaii for about two to three months working in the psychological warfare office at US Army Pacific headquarters, and then was back in Vietnam for my normal, you know, year-long tour.

But when I got back, I was supposed to be - you know, fate had it that I was going to be a psy-ops advisor for a province, and as soon as I got back in country, I got a call from the embassy saying, "Would you come back and work for us?" And they had created a special job for me called Assistant Special Projects Officer in the North Vietnam Vietcong Affairs Division of the embassy, the same shop that Douglas Pike, a dear friend of mine who passed away a couple of years ago, used to work in.

And so I wound up traveling extensively, but my focus was primarily upon the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong. And I did a lot of terrorism investigations. I was up in Hue when they were digging up bodies from the '68 massacre that occurred, as you well know.

When I left the Army at the end of that tour, I went to the Hoover Institution at Stanford for three years, first as a research associate and then as a fellow. That's when I did "Vietnamese Communism." It was actually written in '73, but it came out in '75.

SWETT: On behalf of the Hoover Institute.

TURNER: While I was there, exactly.

SWETT: Okay.

TURNER: And then I was their senior Vietnam War expert, if you will, and did some presentations there, but most of my work was writing.

And then I went to Washington on a fellowship that put me on the Hill in the Senate for what was supposed to be a year, but I got hired off the fellowship and spent five years working as National Security Adviser for Senator Bob Griffin of Michigan on the Foreign Relations Committee, and in that capacity I visited Vietnam at least once a year until the end, when I was actually there during the final evacuation of Saigon.

I was trying hard to get into Cambodia to get some orphans out. We had some constituents in Michigan who were trying to help get orphans out of Vietnam, and they needed someone who knew the country to go over and, you know, deal with the bureaucrats. And I knew the ambassador and a lot of the South Vietnamese leadership, and so I went over, and it became clear there were large numbers of orphans in Cambodia whose lives were in danger, and I still have a handwritten note from one of the senior embassy officials telling me that it was not possible to get country clearance to go into Cambodia to do what I wanted.

What I wanted to do was we had these rice flights flying in from Vietnam to Cambodia every day with rice coming back empty, and I wanted to bring back some orphans. And there were a bunch of wonderful airline cabin attendants who had - were over there and were volunteering to help with the orphan lift, and several of them were willing to go with me into Cambodia, where I had spent a lot of time the previous year, and try to bring back kids. And I've still got a note that says basically - I think I can give it to you verbatim. It says, "Mr. Turner, regret not possible to get clearance for Phnom Penh. Will explain later."

And on the way over to the embassy that day, I saw the Saigon Post had a banner headline that said, "Phnom Penh Falls," and I guess the rest, as they say, is history.

Virtually all of those kids were murdered by the Khmer Rouge in the year that followed, and I still wish I'd been just a little bit smarter a little bit sooner and we might have saved a few hundred kids. It was one of the many costs of that tragic conflict that most Americans don't fully appreciate.

SWETT: That's heart-wrenching stuff.

Let's go ahead then and get right into some of the tougher aspects of this. You were there when they dug up the victims of the massacre at Hue.

TURNER: I wasn't there for all of it, but I was there for parts of it. I mean, there were thousands of bodies found there, many of them in mass graves with their arms tied behind them. Some had clearly been buried alive.

And I had - in fact, Doug Pike and I both had done a lot of work on the issue of Vietcong terrorism. I guess -

SWETT: Let me jump in just for second.

TURNER: Yeah, sure.

SWETT: Douglas Pike is the guy who put together what has to be the greatest repository of Vietnam records anywhere, the Pike collection, at -

TURNER: Yeah.

SWETT: - Texas Tech University -

TURNER: He was originally -

SWETT: - and died a couple of years ago.

TURNER: - at the University of California at Berkeley.

SWETT: Okay.

TURNER: And then he moved it to Texas Tech, oh I'm going to guess, 10 years ago or so, although time seems to be passing faster every year.

SWETT: I hear that.

TURNER: So it may have been more than that. But yeah, Pike was clearly America's leading authority on the Vietcong and North Vietnam.

He was - he published his book "Vietcong" with MIT Press back, I think it was February of '66. And in that era when the country was getting pretty split on Vietnam, I don't think you'll find another Vietnam book that got rave reviews in both National Review and the New Republic.

In those days the New Republic was a champion of the anti-war cause, and everybody, I think, recognized that Pike had done a real serious piece of scholarship.

And he worked in the same office I did. Ironically, we sort of traded - the jobs were not exactly alike because my job involved a lot more field work than his did, but we both were, you know, at various times - I was there twice and he was there, I think, three or four times, never overlapping but missing each other often by weeks, as sort of the senior American expert on the Vietcong and especially North Vietnam. I actually focused more on North Vietnam.

The Vietcong was, of course, as a political entity, was a puppet of Hanoi, and although many of its members didn't know it.

And so, but Doug was a superb scholar. Ironically, he was as liberal Democrat in his private views when he started out. He was denounced by some of the anti-war people because he recognized that we were dealing with a, for want of a better term, an evil enemy in the sense that we were dealing with Stalinists who wanted to slaughter people, and did, and wanted to repress their -

You know, actually, Ho Chi Minh, in August of 1945 actually quoted Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. He had help from some OSS operatives in reconstructing the language about all men are created equal and endowed -

SWETT: Right.

TURNER: - by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. But it was all a facade.

Pike - or - Sorry. Ho had been a Comintern agent for 30 years, and as soon as the Communists actually took control in the North, they suppressed liberties, and when they took control of South Vietnam, it too went the way -

Indeed, Nhan Dan, the party daily in Vietnam, had a statement, I think, in about '77 saying the idea that men are created with inalienable rights has been bankrupt now for many years, or something, you know, just dismissing the Jeffersonian concept of individual liberties that are beyond the control of the state.

SWETT: Well, isn't that essentially classic communist doctrine -

TURNER: Of course.

SWETT: - that you go into the country that you're going to subvert and you take their nationalistic heroes and their nationalistic statements and then you appear to adopt them?

TURNER: Exactly. What you do - in fact, I've got a great - in the book I've got a great quote from one of the party leaders saying, you know, if we want people to follow us, we must be creative and design programs and platforms that will appeal to their aspirations.

In fact, one of the roles of the Comintern back in 1930 and '31 was to tell the Vietnamese Communists to stop talking about communism and start pushing nationalism and civil liberties and the anti-French cause. In other words, people aren't going to follow you if you talk about collectivizing or getting rid of religion or, you know, other classic communist roles, so you must hide those and obtain the support of the people by, you know, appealing to their patriotism and - especially the anti-French cause.

But one of the interesting things about the Vietnamese communists and Ho Chi Minh was that long after Stalin's death in '53 and essentially the purge of the personality cult in February - was it '56? - at the 20th Party Congress, most of the communist parties around the world, you know, took down Stalin's pictures, if you will, and -

SWETT: Right.

TURNER: - stopped following him, but well into the sixties pictures of Stalin were featured prominently on public buildings in Hanoi. In other words, like the Chinese and the Albanians, the North Vietnamese, or the Vietnamese Communist Party or what they call the Dang Lao Dong Viet Nam, or the Workers Party, was a Stalinist party, and they didn't buy into this revisionism.

One of the great myths of the war is that people say, well Ho would've been a buffer to Mao and he was going to be an Asian Tito who would prevent the expansion of the communist - you know, Chinese communism into Southeast Asia, when in fact Ho and his associates said that it was precisely Comrade Mao who has correctly, you know, implemented the lessons of the great Lenin.

And at the Third Party Congress in 1960 they said that the greatest enemy of international communism was the Titoist revisionist clique in Yugoslavia, and they said that if we want to protect communism, we must direct our first blows or our main blows against the Titoist clique and this idea of national communism.

They were not nationalists at all.

Certainly Ho Chi Minh got involved in this as a patriot. He loved his country. He was offended by the French oppression, which is an accurate description. The French exploited the hell out of Vietnam.

But you know, after he became a Leninist, he became an internationalist, not a nationalist, and indeed, one of the central themes of the party was we have to set aside, you know, bourgeois nationalism, or narrow nationalism, and recognize our internationalist duty to support revolutions in other countries and so forth. And so -

SWETT: Well, Ho Chi Minh lived outside of Vietnam for decades, did he not?

TURNER: Yeah, for 30 years. He left Vietnam in, I think it was December of - let's see, December 1911, I think it was, and he showed up in France by 1919. He returned to Vietnam in, I think it was May of 1941. So from 1911 to 1941 he was outside the country.

He started off in France. He got involved with a fairly left-wing movement of Vietnamese intellectuals in Paris and joined the French Socialist Party, which was part of the Second International, and then was a leader in the movement to join the Third International, or the Comintern, the Communist International.

And indeed, there are - I have a photo of Ho Chi Minh giving a speech at the December 1920 French Socialist Party Conference where they made a decision to become communists and follow Moscow. And shortly thereafter Ho was sent to Moscow for training, where he studied for several years, and then he started traveling around the world on a Soviet passport paid by the Communist International promoting revolution.

SWETT: Essentially KGB.

TURNER: Yeah, yeah. He was in Thailand. He was in - you know, he made it to New York at least once. There are a lot of stories; we don't know if they're true or not, but we know he was in South China for a good period of time.

There's a new book out called "The Missing Years of Ho Chi Minh" or something like that that actually I've been asked to review for the Harvard Journal of Law - Harvard Journal of Cold War History that is quite good.

And this young woman - or I don't know how old she is. This woman has - the scholar has gone through some Soviet archival material and also some French archival material and found a lot of good material on what Ho did in the twenties and thirties, and as I read her book, I was pleased because I think I got it close to right in my book written 30 years ago, but in those days, you know, we had lots of loose bits to go on.

The French had leaked certain things that might or might not have been true, but there were a number of other accounts, but what was very clear - and indeed, the irony is if you read Hanoi's own biographies they don't mask the fact, and even during the war they didn't mask the fact that Ho Chi Minh had been a Comintern agent for years and hadn't set foot in Vietnam for three decades.

SWETT: Dr. Turner, let's bounce back to your comment a minute ago that the Vietcong were essentially puppets of the North Vietnamese, and of course, the fiction of the Vietcong was that this was a revolution from within South Vietnam, that this was a spontaneous outrage by peaceful agrarian reformers, if you will, and Tet, the Tet Offensive in 1968, was supposed to be the revolution from within.

TURNER: Exactly.

SWETT: But that's not what happened. TURNER: No. Indeed, the irony - as an undergraduate doing my honors thesis, it became absolutely clear to me just from reading Hanoi's own publications in English, they would - I went to a teach-in - I spoke to over a hundred, you know, teach-ins, debates and other public programs between, you know, about '65 and going in the Army in '68, and one of them was at Queens College in New York, and somebody came up after the program and gave me a little piece of rice paper that had on it, "If you want to know more about the American war of aggression against the people of Vietnam, write" essentially "People's Committee for Solidarity with the American People, Box so-and-so, Hanoi Vietnam," or something like that.

SWETT: Uh-huh.

TURNER: And so I wrote them. And just I followed their language. I said, "Please send me more information about the American aggression against the people of Vietnam."

And it became interesting because maybe two or three times a year I would get a little care package from Hanoi that would maybe be, oh, anywhere from two to seven inches thick and have booklets - I got all four volumes of Ho Chi Minh's selected works. I got major political treatises, economic reports and so forth.

And in fact, much of my book was based upon - in fact, the London Times reviewer said that 19 out of every 20 of my footnotes were to communist sources. That really overstated it, but it was certainly a majority, and perhaps, you know, maybe five out of six. I don't know. I've never calculated it, but -

SWETT: It's always handy if you can get on the other guy's mailing list like that.

TURNER: It was real easy. The real irony came when I was an Army officer and the stuff started getting forwarded around to me at Army bases, and the intelligence people would come to my door saying, "Why are you on Hanoi's mailing list?"

And I would have to explain that I'm trying to understand our enemy. You remember Sun Tzu: know your enemy. And -

SWETT: Know your enemy.

TURNER: But anyway, back to the NLF, Hanoi published in English a multi-volume set of the proceedings of the Third Party Congress in 1960 where Le Duan and Ho Chi Minh both said, it's time for our people in the South to set up a national united front under the leadership of a communist party, or a party of the people, and right after that they passed a resolution to that effect, and you know, three months later Hanoi announced that the National Liberation Front had been set up in the South.

You know, this was so obvious that if you understood Leninist strategy and the role of the United Front -

SWETT: (Unintelligible)

TURNER: You know, anybody with any intelligence and understanding of history should have understood that the NLF was a facade. And in Vietnam I got to know a number of a very senior defectors, including the man who was -

Do I hear music? Well, hold this, but let me tell you about Boi Cong Tung (phonetic spelling) when we come back because he was in some ways perhaps the most important Vietcong defector we had in the entire war.

SWETT: Okay. Well, we'll hold that thought for right now.

You're listening to The Inquisition. This is Scott Swett. Tim Ziegler is in the air somewhere over the middle of the country.

Dr. Turner, author, scholar, Vietnam veteran.

We'll be back and we will go further into the ways and means of the Vietcong in about two minutes, so don't touch that mouse.

(Commercial break)

SWETT: Welcome back to The Inquisition. This is Scott Swett. Tim Ziegler is not with us today, but we do have Dr. Robert Turner, and we continue our discussion of the events of 1968, the Tet Offensive, the Hue massacre, and the failure of the Vietcong idea.

The Vietcong were destroyed effectively as a fighting force after the Tet Offensive, although that's not what American television viewers perceive. Is that correct?

TURNER: That's correct.

We broke, and I promised to tell you about Boi Cong Tung, and maybe it makes sense for me to spend a minute or so.

SWETT: Go right ahead.

TURNER: Tung was one of the senior people in what the - South Vietnam had changed, but when I was there most of the time it had 44 provinces, and the Vietcong had a slightly different, but overlapping, geographic division. And what they call Binh Tray (phonetic spelling) Province, which is where they claimed that the revolution began and the national liberation front was founded, we called it Khanh Hoa Province.

And Boi Cong Tung was the director of education, culture, propaganda and training for the Vietcong, in what they call Binh Tray Province, and he defected in either '69 or '70 and was - he was basically the equivalent of a full Colonel, if you will, in terms of his importance.

And I spent a lot of time with him, interviewing him, traveling around the country. I took them back to Binh Tray and the city, and that was the famous city where Peter Arnett fabricated the story we had to destroy the village to save it -

SWETT: Yes.

TURNER: - or the city to save it, or whatever.

SWETT: Manufactured the quote.

TURNER: Yeah. It was not - it was not destroyed; it was not close to destroyed, and most of the destruction that was there the communists did.

But anyway, we actually matched him up with some of the South Vietnamese people who had been involved in the same battle in the Tet Offensive, and they had some laughs together pointing out, you were around that corner and I was over here, and so forth.

But he just laughed when we talked about the independence of the NLF, and I had a long - we were driving back to Saigon one night, and I'll never forget it because I'd always been interested in Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been the South Vietnamese leader prior to his assassination in November of '63.

SWETT: Yes.

TURNER: And I asked him, you know, "What do you think of Diem?"

And he looked at me and he said, "We considered him a great patriot," you know, in the same league or same category as Ho Chi Minh. And he said, "Because he would not accept the party's leadership, we had to discredit him and we told the people that he was," you know, "corrupt and," you know, "a puppet" and so forth.

And he said, "When we heard he had been killed, we thought it must be some sort of a trick." He said the Americans could not be so stupid as to allow Diem to killed because -

I had actually, because of my own private interest, while I was over there, looked up some senior, you know, retired, if you will, Vietnamese leaders and some Americans who had been around for a long time, and you know, the vision I got of Ngo Dinh Diem was of a very honest, honorable, principled patriot, a man who had not a corrupt bone in his body. I learned that when he was in Paris during the 1946 negotiations, he refused to stay at the big hotels. He would live in a little flophouse on the Left Bank and would come over for the meetings and the negotiations, and then when - I'm sorry. That was in - '46. That was in '54. Excuse me.

SWETT: Okay.

TURNER: But I also met a Chinese man who knew him when he was at the Maryknoll Seminary. Ho did - sorry. Diem did flee South Vietnam after World War II, but that was because Ho Chi Minh had first invited him to join his government. He wanted him to be, you know, a puppet positioned to help build support, and Diem refused. And then Ho put out a contract on him, essentially an order to assassinate him.

And so unlike most of the non-communist Vietnamese nationalist leaders who were murdered by the communists, the ones that the French didn't kill, Ho took off and came to the United States and lived in a Maryknoll Catholic seminary in New Jersey for a while. And I've talked to people who knew him then, and they said he was so poor he had to bum cigarettes from people.

And he was a very respected leader, but at any rate, it was interesting. When we talked about the role of the party in the NLF, several of the senior defectors just laughed about it and said, "We had no idea it would be so successful in deceiving the West about the party's control of the resistance."

And this is - it parallels the Viet Minh front that was set up in '41. And you know, people were told to join it to fight the French, but from the beginning it was controlled completely by members of the Communist Party and -

SWETT: I think -

TURNER: - took orders from Moscow.

SWETT: I think it's reasonable to say that the American Left was deceived because they wanted to be deceived, or more accurately, they wanted to believe that this was a popular uprising.

TURNER: I think there were some on the Left who understood exactly what was going on and thought it was in the party's interest, and then the non-communists on the Left and an awful lot of them in the mainstream were deceived just because, you know, when you hear your government is doing evil things, you know, you don't want that to happen, and you know, the Left went around from church to church telling people, oh, the Americans are standing in the way of free elections and violating treaties and propping up corrupt puppets and so forth, and you know, as Americans, that upsets us.

And an awful lot of the anti-war movement was made up of very decent people who honestly believed that our government had all of a sudden, if you will, gone rogue and was doing horrible things.

And we did some stupid things in Vietnam, but in general our motives were good, you know, and I think our purpose for the war was every bit as honorable as any war we've ever fought in. We were trying to keep communist forces from imposing their way on people by force and in violation of international law, and you know, it was the same reason we went into Korea and it was quite similar to the reason we went into Germany during World War II. I mean, the Japanese attacked us, but we on our own, you know, declared war against Germany.

SWETT: True.

TURNER: And that was because we understood that taking over all of Europe was a threat to us in the long run.

SWETT: Well, that moves us directly into the topic that catapulted Vietnam back onto the front pages after all these years, which of course, is John Kerry's candidacy for the presidency and his own personal history as a key figure in the atrocities propaganda campaign -

TURNER: Yes.

SWETT: - that alleged that American participation in Vietnam was characterized by, if not genocide, the very next best thing.

TURNER: Yes.

SWETT: So let's talk about that a little bit.

TURNER: I have a very clear memory, if I can paraphrase Kerry's story about his Cambodia trip.

I had just started my second tour in Vietnam as a junior Army captain in January of 1971, and the end of that month and the first days of February, he was involved in the so-called Winter Soldiers inquiry or investigation in Detroit funded by Jane Fonda, where they had all sorts of Vietnam veterans telling stories about the war crimes they had witnessed or participated in.

And you know, many of them were absolute fakes that later turned out that if they had served in the military at all, they had been clerks in South Carolina or aircraft - helicopter mechanics in Germany, hadn't even been in Vietnam, or if they had been in Vietnam, again, they had been clerks in -

SWETT: In non-combat roles.

TURNER: Yeah, other than combat.

So you know, the ones that - well, classic was the executive director, or executive secretary, of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Al Hubbard, who was a Black Panther and claimed to have been an Air Force captain who was seriously injured on his second combat tour in Vietnam while landing at Danang. He even had a big scar on his back to show his proof of his disability.

And finally a journalist got curious and checked military records and found out he had, you know, never been above the rank of sergeant. His job had been to basically manage cargo for the Air Force. And they said while it was possible he could have landed at Danang or somewhere else to take on fuel or drop off cargo or something like that -

SWETT: But he was never stationed there.

TURNER: And the fact that his record did not have an award for the Vietnam service medal, which he would have gotten if he had spent 10 minutes in country, strongly suggested he had never even landed there, much less served two tours there, and as for the scar on his back, it turned out he had had back surgery as a result of an injury in a 1961 soccer game. He had never been wounded in combat, and you know, he was just a liar.

It also seems clear to me, although one has to do a certain amount of speculation on this, but you know, he did admit that his travel expenses when he went to Paris on behalf of the VVAW and when he went to Hanoi, that his expenses were being paid by the Communist Party USA, and my own strong guess is that he was a member of the party and that in fact the whole - the whole VVAW operation just reeks of classic agitprop, agitation and propaganda, operation.

It was common for - you know, when the communists were in conflict, they would get their people on the other side to dress up as, you know, enemy soldiers and go through, you know, mock executions and things for the people. You know, it was like theater. Guerrilla theater, it was sometimes called.

SWETT: Yeah.

TURNER: But the purpose was to turn the public against the, you know, hated enemy soldiers. And Hanoi was putting out all sorts of the very sophisticated propaganda material around the world in different languages.

SWETT: Not just Hanoi. The KG- -

TURNER: Oh sure. Moscow was bankrolling it and helping to orchestrate it, and indeed -

SWETT: The World Peace Council.

TURNER: Yeah. Andropov was right in the middle of it and viewed it as one of the most important roles to try to discredit the United States.

One of the ironies is - when I mentioned Boi Cong Tung earlier, there's a famous photograph of a Catholic procession in the liberated areas of South Vietnam that shows, you know, a bunch of priests and others walking down the center of a village as people lined the sides.

SWETT: I remember that one.

TURNER: Yeah, exactly. When you look at it carefully, you notice one of the priests is smoking a cigarette, and you think how many Catholic priests smoke cigarettes in formal processions, and Boi Cong Tung looked at that picture and he said, "That's me," and he pointed to the priest smoking the cigarette. And you look at the picture; it is him. And he laughed and he said, "Nobody told me that priests didn't smoke cigarettes during processions. They just said get in line. They were going to, you know, make this film." And so he went ahead and did it.

And there's another one in the same book that has a woman pleading with a South Vietnamese soldier as you see her house burning in the background. She's holding a baby in her arms and saying, "Please don't burn our homes."

And when you look at it several things are strange.

One, they didn't have a full South Vietnamese military uniform, so the guys only got parts of the uniform, but more interestingly, when you look at the shadows of the woman and her baby on one side and the soldier on the other, if you trace this shadows, they intersect, which is to s

ay that the earth must have had two suns on that day to cast competing shadows. What it was, Tung told me, he said, "Oh, that was staged and we had stage lights on it." There was one light on the woman, you know, and the child and one on the man, and the background was a painting. And -

SWETT: Well, even -

TURNER: - so it was very effective propaganda.

SWETT: Even crude propaganda can be effective. One of the techniques that Vietnam Veterans Against the War used to great effect was to place the burden of proof on the people they were accusing. So they would spin these nebulous and really horrible stories of atrocities without giving enough specifics to really let investigators tie them down, and then essentially, you know, dare somebody to disprove them.

TURNER: Yeah, and refuse to cooperate whenever the military -

SWETT: They refused to cooperate; they would not sign affidavits and so on.

TURNER: Yeah. When the military tracked some of them down, on many of them they found out the people had never been anywhere near Detroit, and somebody was just using their name and giving testimony.

SWETT: Yeah, according to Gunter Lewy's "American in Vietnam," he said he saw the Naval Investigative Service report, and that some of those people had their identities stolen -

TURNER: Yeah.

SWETT: - by VVAW members. That's true.

TURNER: And others were just absolute frauds. There was another one, this young Floridian, Steve Pitkin, who -

SWETT: Okay, we're going to have to wrap up.

TURNER: Okay. Go ahead. We'll get to Steve Pitkin later.

SWETT: Yeah. We'll touch on Steve Pitkin and his association with the Winter Soldier investigation when we come back. There's more of that at WinterSoldier.com for anybody who's interested.

TURNER: Sounds good.

SWETT: This is Scott Swett. This is The Inquisition. We're talking to Dr. Robert Turner, and the fastest hour in radio will continue in three minutes.

(Commercial break)

SWETT: Hello again. This is Scott Swett. This is The Inquisition. We are here with Dr. Robert Turner, and Dr. Turner is certainly one of the leading living scholars on the Vietnam War.

We're going to talk about Steve Pitkin, who was a member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, who said that he was pressured, not merely by the VVAW, but personally by John Kerry, to tell stories about atrocities in Vietnam which he knew not to be true.

Dr. Turner, would you care to take it from there.

TURNER: Sure. The irony - you know, Pitkin has signed a sworn affidavit, and I've talked to him personally about it. He was, you know, a true combat soldier who had been injured in Vietnam, evacuated, had gotten back.

What he actually talked about when he was forced to testify was the abuse he personally experienced when he got back to San Francisco and some hippies confronted him and started calling him names and abusing him.

SWETT: That's not what they were looking for.

TURNER: Yeah, and that wasn't what they wanted to hear, but he says that he actually rode up to Detroit in a van with John Kerry and others from Baltimore, and that when they told him, "You have to testify also to" - he went up to - because there were supposed to be a rock star and some cute chicks there, basically. He said he went up to meet girls.

SWETT: Uh-huh.

TURNER: And when they told him, "You have to testify to war crimes," he said, "I didn't see any war crimes." And they said, "You have to testify anyway."

And he said Kerry personally told him, you know, he had to testify, and one of Kerry's associates said, "If you don't, you may have to find your own way back to Baltimore." So he did testify, but his testimony was to the effect of, "Well, everybody knows about all the war crimes, so," you know, "let me talk about something a little bit different and that is how I was abused when I came back."

SWETT: Right.

TURNER: And a lot of people had that experience coming back. You know, people talk about - I saw one story in the press that nobody ever got spit on and so forth, but I can remember chasing one person down the hall in the airport in Los Angeles when I went down - I was out of the service, but my Marine Corps brother who had also done two tours in Vietnam came to meet me in his uniform, and a hippy type, whatever you want to call him, started, you know, calling him names, knowing that if he had responded he would get court-martialed, and - but I wasn't in the service and so I told the guy, I said, "You know, he can't do anything, but nothing keeps me from kicking your butt." I didn't want to hurt him. I just wanted to chase him down the hall, and I guess I had about 100 pounds on him, so he decided he'd better beat feet. But, you know, there was a lot of abuse like that, and -

SWETT: Dr. Turner, I actually looked into that a little bit. It seems that the source of the claim that the spitting incidents were urban legend is a guy named Jerry Lemke, who wrote an essay later expanded into a book called, "Spitting Image." He's a sociologist and, fascinatingly enough, a former member of the VVAW.

TURNER: Yeah.

SWETT: He also appeared at a conference that was intended to celebrate, I think, one of the anniversaries of the Communist Manifesto and so forth.

So my conclusion was perhaps he wasn't looking too hard for spitting incidents.

TURNER: One other anecdote about the VVAW that people might not know, and I stumbled across this. I was involved through an ABA committee that I later chaired in getting Congress to pass the intelligence Agent Identities Protection Act, which was a response to Philip Agee's releasing the names of hundreds of -

SWETT: Yes, CIA agents.

TURNER: - covert CIA and also British intelligence agents. And we now know - we didn't know it then although we suspected it - that Agee was working for the KGB and the Cuban DGI, and indeed, after Cuban - I mean, after Soviet defectors confirmed that, he went to live in Cuba, where he still lives.

But when Agee was thrown out of Great Britain because of his - he had helped cause the death of two British intelligence officers, the - I'm sorry. Before that, he actually outed these people through a publication called "Counterspy," and the publication was co-founded by Agee, another CIA renegade named Marchetti, and members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

In other words, this fits in my idea that the core of them were probably Communist Party members, although an awful lot of their members also were undoubtedly wannabes who just enjoyed it for the pretty girls and/or whatever, and some real veterans who were just, you know, angry and - you know, war is not a very pleasant thing, and you know, somebody who doesn't know why he's there comes back and then says, "Hey, this is the one place you can - you know, people will welcome you for your status as a veteran." It was one of the few places veterans could go and be appreciated. All they had to do was denounce the war. And it's really not all that shocking that some real veterans got involved with it along with the wannabes and the, you know, the pro-Soviet faction.

But anyway, go ahead. What's your - I know we don't have much time. What was your next item?

SWETT: Well, I wanted to call to the attention of our listeners a document that you took the lead in preparing called "The Boston Manifesto," and that was a really good size serious essay that summarized the testimony of a group of Vietnam veterans explaining why they opposed Senator John Kerry and providing some context for the Vietnam War. That document can be found online at ButtonDepress.com/BostonManifesto, and it's in various formats there, primarily as a PDF document.

In that document you and the other authors make the statement that Kerry didn't just oppose the war, which of course is a claim of his defenders, that he honorably opposed an immoral war, but he actively collaborated with the enemy and parroted the Hanoi party line, and in fact, you and others suggested that he committed felonies by violating, among other things, the Logan Act. Could you elaborate on that.

TURNER: Yeah. The Logan Act was passed in the very end of the 18th century during the presidency of John Adams, and it was passed because a Quaker pacifist named George Logan from Pennsylvania had gone to France during a time of heightened tensions, and in fact, there had been some military confrontation, and basically just told the French government, "The American people want peace; can't we work things out."

And the French exploited him pretty well and actually released some prisoners into his custody. And he came back, and Adams was absolutely furious and most of Congress was outraged, and Adams wrote a letter to Congress saying, you know, perhaps something should be done to make this a crime.

And in the debates - it was interesting because one of the, you know, not strong supporters, one of the Republican leaders, Albert Gallatin of Pennsylvania, who was a friend of Logan's, questioned whether they really needed a law, but in the process he said that, you know, for a - you know, he first said to go to - he said, This is not high treason because we are not at war with France, but because of the current situation with France, it's close to that and it is a high crime.

And then somebody else went - or he went on to say, Gallatin went on to say, that for a member of this house, meaning the House of Representatives, to communicate directly with France at this time would be highly improper. And using his examples, and they overwhelmingly passed the statute that's been on the books since 1900 - I'm sorry since 1800.

SWETT: Since 1800.

TURNER: It was actually the debate was mostly in 1799, but it was passed, I think, in January of 1800. It's been part of our law ever since then, and it makes it a crime to communicate - for an unauthorized person - and that includes private citizens, but also I would argue members of Congress - and given the history of it, that would seem fairly clear - to communicate with a foreign government or prince about a matter at which the U.S. has an interest contrary to that interest so as to try to undermine U.S. policy.

SWETT: Okay, and so -

TURNER: In a direct contribution -

SWETT: And so of course, the reference there is to John Kerry's multiple meetings with Madame Binh and with representatives of the North Vietnamese communists in Paris, details of which are not available even today.

When we come back -

TURNER: And also later with his senator meetings in Nicaragua with -

SWETT: Okay, we're going to have to -

TURNER: - Daniel Ortega.

SWETT: Ah, okay. Another example.

When we come back we'll ask if - we will continue our conversation with Dr. Turner.

I'm Scott Swett. This is The Inquisition. Sit tight.

(Commercial break)

SWETT: This is Scott Swett. Once again, you're here with The Inquisition. We have Dr. Robert Turner with us. And the fastest hour on radio, the sands are almost through the hourglass.

Let me ask very quickly, Dr. Turner: Was sedition ever prosecuted during the Vietnam era, to your knowledge?

TURNER: - knowledge.

SWETT: I'm sorry, sir.

TURNER: I said not to my knowledge, no.

SWETT: Not your knowledge. And of course, there were no shortage of opportunities.

TURNER: Yeah, certainly Jane Fonda was a classic case of treason.

SWETT: Okay, let's talk about the human cost of what happened after we pulled out of Vietnam, essentially conceded defeat. There was a bloodbath throughout Southeast Asia that was never widely publicized because it didn't fit the dominant media agenda of the day.

TURNER: And ironically Kerry and his staff were among the leaders in trying to play it down. In fact, Kerry hired as his legislative assistant in the senate a man named Gareth Porter, who had written numerous articles saying the charges of the Cambodian genocide and bloodbath were all CIA lies, and it - you know, the best estimates are that about three million people were slaughtered in the two or three years after we pulled out. And of course, we had the war largely won by the end of '72, but then congress in May of '73 passed a law -

SWETT: Cutting off all the funds.

TURNER: - making it illegal to continue spending money on combat operations.

And at that point the North Vietnamese said, Hey, they're giving it to us, and they sent columns of tanks. But in the two or three years after the war, an estimated one point seven to two million Cambodians in a country of seven or eight million were slaughtered, small children being picked up by the fee and bashed against trees to save bullets, and the world community paid very little attention until after it was over.

In Vietnam an estimated half a million people may have lost their lives fleeing at sea in the boat lift, and at least 100,000 were killed in the concentration camps they set up in the name of reeducation camps.

And today Vietnam, communist Vietnam, ranks among, quote, "the worst of the worst human rights violators" as it continues to repress its people.

SWETT: Dr. Turner, we very much appreciate your being here to give us this overview.

Let me note just one more point on that. Leftist scholars, when they did admit to the massacre in Cambodia, tried to hang it on Richard Nixon.

TURNER: Exactly, exactly. And Kissinger.

SWETT: And Kissinger, of course.

Well, the fastest hour in radio is gone.

TURNER: My pleasure.

SWETT: Tim Ziegler will be back with us next week, or actually two weeks from now after CPAC comes to a conclusion.

Thank you, Dr. Turner. It has been a privilege.

TURNER: My pleasure.

SWETT: This is Scott Swett signing off for The Inquisition.

(End of transcript)

Last Updated Monday, November 05 2007 @ 08:08 AM MST|4,813 Hits