MSNBC analyst Pat Buchanan echoed attacks levied against Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in the second advertisement sponsored by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, and he lauded the group for "tell[ing] the truth" about Kerry's 1971 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As a guest on the August 20 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, Buchanan alleged that "Kerry went up on Capitol Hill and called these vets baby killers, murderers, and all the rest of it"; and said, "[T]here is no defense of that squalid, lying performance against his buddies that served. Sliming them when they're still over there dying." Meanwhile, Buchanan boasted, "These Swift Boat guys are out and trying to tell the truth, that they deeply believe in their heart. ... [A]nd quite frankly, they're showing more guts in this debate than the Bush administration."
Both the latest Swift Boat Veterans ad and Buchanan's smears distort Kerry's 1971 Senate testimony. As Kerry, who testified in his capacity as spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), stated at the time, he was relating the stories of other Vietnam veterans who came home and testified to their personal experiences in what was known as the Winter Soldier Investigation, which VVAW had commissioned a few months earlier in Detroit, Michigan. From Kerry's April 22, 1971, testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
KERRY: I would like to talk, representing all those veterans [VVAW members], and say that several months ago in Detroit, we had an investigation at which over 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia, not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command.
They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.
The Swift Boat Vets ad and Buchanan also failed to recognize that Kerry did not blame the soldiers for the atrocities they reported having committed in Vietnam; contrary to Buchanan's claim that Kerry was "[s]liming them when they're still over there dying," Kerry's testimony was an indictment of the leaders at the time. More from Kerry's 1971 testimony:
KERRY: We are also here to ask, and we are here to ask vehemently, where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We are here to ask where are [secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Robert S.] McNamara, [national security adviser in the Johnson administration, Walt Whitman] Rostow, [national security adviser in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, McGeorge] Bundy, [deputy secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Roswell L.] Gilpatric and so many others. Where are they now that we, the men whom they sent off to war, have returned? These are commanders who have deserted their troops, and there is no more serious crime in the law of war.
And while Buchanan's claim that Kerry's testimony was a "lying performance," in an August 3 appearance on FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes, retired General Tommy Franks stated in response to Kerry's testimony, "I'm not sure that -- that activities like that didn't take place. In fact, quite the contrary. I'm sure that they did."
There have been detailed reports of the atrocities committed by American forces in Vietnam. Beyond the well-documented accounts of the infamous My Lai massacre, reporters from the Ohio daily newspaper the Toledo Blade recently won the Pulitzer Prize for journalism for a series titled "Buried Secrets, Brutal Truths," which uncovered the atrocities committed by an elite U.S. Army fighting unit in Vietnam called Tiger Force. According to the Toledo Blade, "What the series found was that the highly trained reconnaissance unit killed unarmed civilians, including children, and that Army leadership knew of and in some cases encouraged the unit's actions."