Senator Kerry and War Crimes

Written when John Kerry was running for President.

Senator Kerry served 19 years in the Senate, with a relatively modest record. He was also a Lt Governor and a Prosecutor but does not talk too much about that.

What is his major achievement in the past 25 or so years of elected office service?

Interestingly, Senator Kerry made his case for election with great emphasis on his service in Vietnam, instead of relying on his more recent elected service experience. I have taken a good hard look at Senator Kerry's Vietnam record. I served in Vietnam after Senator Kerry, 18 months as a Marine Lieutenant, so I have a little insight into Vietnam.

Several books and numerous web pages provide info:

Douglas Brinkley's "Tour of Duty: John Kerry and the Vietnam War" is an authorized biography, relying heavily on Senator Kerry's diaries and notes. The book is very supportive of the Senator. He is a hero but very conflicted about the war. If you believe this book you vote for President Kerry. It tells the story very well and is compelling. Kerry charges that war crimes were common in this unit and throughout Vietnam.

The Navy granted Lt Kerry the Silver and Bronze Stars, which are significant.

And Senator Kerry could have dodged the draft, but served.

John Kerry's book, "The New Soldier", is also interesting. You can read much of it on the web page below. It includes a number of photos, copies of the Senator's testimony before the Senate, and war crime charges by individuals from the Winter Soldier Investigation.

Famous Quotes from LtJG Kerry's testimony before the Senate


"I would like to talk, representing all those veterans, 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."

(Craig's comment - this is certainly not correct) I served for 32 years, including 18 months in Vietnam. Crimes of any kind that were found out about by officers at any level were quickly condemned and prosecuted. Most of us hated murderers and rapists then, and we still do - Why would moral men permit this kind of crap? The truth is we did not. My Lai and the other atrocities were horrible, but certainly not accepted and not common. I have attended numerous classes taught by officers who told us we were trying to win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese. You can't do that by mistreating them)"

"They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped 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 countryside 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.

(Craig's comment - I never saw such a thing, would not have permitted it, and I am quite sure that is true for most Americans, excepting criminals like Lt Calley and his ilk.)

John O'Neil's "Unfit For Command" is very negative on Senator Kerry. O'Neil was a Swift Boat Commander who served after Senator Kerry on the same boat that Kerry served. They never served together. He and a large number of Swift Boat Veterans are totally against Senator Kerry. They make numerous charges against Kerry, which if true, make it difficult for anyone to vote for him.

But are the charges true? The Kerry campaign says that the O'Neil and the Swift Boat folks are a Republican attack group. O'Neil is an Annapolis Graduate, an attorney in Texas, who says he voted for Gore in the last election. O'Neil opposed Kerry in 1971/2, debated him on the Dick Cavette show, and worked with President Nixon.

The motivation for the Swift Boat people does seem to me to be more anti Kerry than pro Bush. But numerous Democrats attack the Swift Boat folks as Republican partisans, lying about Kerry's record.

Senator Kerry talked a lot about his "Band of Brothers". But the large majority of his Swift Boat comrades do not support Kerry.

Senator Kerry commanded a Swift Boat, a 50 feet long cabin cruiser that mounted five machine guns, including two or three 50 caliber machine guns. It packed a lot of fire power. Most of the enlisted personnel, about 10 or 12 people who served under him in two different boats, support Kerry. Only one of the enlisted men who worked for Kerry does not think he was a good leader.

Many of the Swift Boat Officers are anti-Kerry. Some of them served directly with Kerry, commanding or serving on the boats that were next to Kerry's boat.

The Swift Boats for Truth claim about 250 members, who have signed a letter requesting that Senator Kerry release all of his military records.

We have a huge debate about his heroism and purple hearts between the competing books and web pages. There seems to be enough variance of opinion and memory that I cannot sort out the truth with any assurance. In the fog of war, different people can think that different things happened.

Kerry has been reported to have made Super 8 Movie re enactments while in Vietnam. Most of these we have not seen, except the footage showing him walking with his flack jacket and grenades. This is a little bizarre - I never knew anyone who made movies about their service.

The web pages below tell you something about the Swift Boats.

The Unfit for Command book also makes a number of very hard charges concerning the actions of Kerry's boat. They charge that his boat opened fire with overwhelming fire, against civilian targets, with little or no provocation, and then covered up the action. They charge that Kerry's boats killed civilians.

These charges and counter charges are also confusing, so I will discount them, although they are very disturbing.


On the April 18 [2004] Meet the Press, Tim Russert played a clip from Kerry's April 18, 1971 appearance on the show.

Kerry had asserted:

"There are all kinds of atrocities and I would have to say that, yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free-fire zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50-caliber machine guns which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only weapon against people. I took part in search-and-destroy missions, in the burning of villages.

All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare. All of this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this ordered as a matter of written established policy by the government of the United States from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men who designed the free-fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law, the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals."


This is an excerpt Senator Kerry's interview with Dick Cavett on June 30, 1971

MR. CAVETT: Well, let's talk about that. Did you see war crimes committed and-

MR. KERRY: Well, I have often talked about this subject. I personally didn't see personal atrocities in the sense that I saw somebody cut a head off or something like that. However, I did take part in free fire zones and I did take part in harassment interdiction fire. I did take part in search-and-destroy missions in which the houses of noncombatants were burned to the ground. And all of these, I find out later on, these acts are contrary to the Hague and Geneva Conventions and to the laws of warfare. So in that sense, anybody who took part in those, if you carry out the applications of the Nuremberg principles, is in fact guilty.


CRAIG'S COMMENT - Most of what Senator Kerry says here are not war crimes at all. Free fire zones and harassment interdiction fire are combat control measures. No crime if you are shooting at the enemy. Major crime if you shoot civilians. Nothing wrong with a search-and-destroy missions if you are searching and destroying enemy forces. Nothing wrong with 50 caliber machine guns - it is just a large caliber weapon.


CRAIG'S COMMENT - THIS IS STARTLING Kerry says he burned houses and Villages of noncombatants. Disgusting that he did this. This is criminal unless it was part of a government planned removal of Villages from Communist controlled areas.

And then Kerry says that later on he finds out that these acts are contrary to the Hague and Geneva Conventions. Everyone reading this knows that burning a civilian house or village is wrong. I am sure that most of us learned early from our mothers not to burn down our homes and not to burn other peoples houses down.

Come on.

Senator Kerry never alleges that anyone ordered him to torch the homes. If they did it was a war crime, and Kerry should have refused and turned the officer ordering him in for court martial. Kerry has made no such charge. Apparently Kerry took the initiative to burn civilian homes on his own.

Here is how Unfit For Command on Page 62 describes the home burning.

"George Bates, an officer in Coastal Division 11, participated in numerous operations with Kerry from January 1969 through March 1969. In Bate's view, Kerry was a coward who over reacted with deadly force to protect himself when threatened. Bates, a retired Navy Captain, believed that Kerry treated the South Vietnamese in an almost criminal manner.

Bates is haunted by a particular patrol with Kerry on the Song Bo De River in the first part of 1969. With Kerry in the lead, the boats approached a small hamlet with three to four grass huts. Pigs and chickens were milling around peacefully. As the boats drew closer, the villagers fled. There were no political symbols or flags in evidence in the tiny village. It was obvious to Bates that existing policies, decency, and good sense required the boats to simply move on.

Instead, Kerry beached his boat directly in the small settlement. Upon his command, the numerous small animals were slaughtered by heavy-caliber machine guns. Acting more like a pirate than a naval officer, Kerry disembarked and ran around with a Zippo lighter, burning up the entire hamlet."

Of course, we don't know if Captain Bates story is true. But if this is not the correct story, what is? What possible reason or justification is there for burning non combatant homes? Interestingly, the Winter Soldier Investigation and the Book Kerry wrote, "The New Soldier", have a large number of stories about War Crimes. Senator Kerry did not tell his stories.


You have said you burned non combatant homes. Why?

You have made numerous trips to Vietnam. Have you apologized to your victims?

Have you paid reparations to the people who's homes you destroyed?

You helped to convince the American people and Congress to abandon the war.  Do you have any guilt over the genocide that occurred in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam?

On a happier note, we now have a funny bumper sticker.

It takes a Kerry to Burn a Village

John Kerry Videos

  1. Vietnam War Hearing: John Kerry Testimony ... - YouTube

    May 12, 2013 - Uploaded by The Film Archives
    John Forbes Kerry (born December 11, 1943) is an American politician who is the 68th and current United ...
  2. Sunday Spotlight: John Kerry on Vietnam | Video - ABC News

    Dec 15, 2013
    Secretary of State John Kerry speaks to ABC's Martha Raddatz about the impact of his service in Vietnam.
  3. John Kerry: From Vietnam to Syria - CBS News

    Sep 29, 2013
    How John Kerry's memory of the Vietnam War and his anti-war activism during the early 1970s affects his ...
  4. John Kerry - Anti-War Speech (1971) [short clip] - YouTube

    May 1, 2013 - Uploaded by nerophyte
    On April 22nd, 1971, 27 year-old former Navy Lt. John Kerrytestified against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam ...
  5. John Kerry: From Vietnam to Syria - Videos - CBS News

    Sep 29, 2013
    September 29, 2013, 6:45 PM |How John Kerry's memory of theVietnam War and his anti-war activism ...
  6. John Kerry returns to Vietnam's Mekong Delta 45 years after ...

    Dec 15, 2013
    In this remote part of southern Vietnam, rising sea waters, erosion and the impact of upstream dam ...
  7. Vietnam War Hearing 1971 | Video |

    On April 22nd, 1971, 27 year-old former Navy Lt. John Kerrytestified against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam ...
  8. Vietnam John Kerry vs Syria John Kerry "Criminal Hypocrisy ...

    Sep 4, 2013 - Uploaded by Sharif Matar
    42 years after Vietnam testimony, Kerry returns to Congress with Syria plea. In 1971, a young Naval lieutenant ...
  9. Soldiers who were with John Kerry in Vietnam: he's a traitor ...

    Feb 13, 2014 - Uploaded by ChagaiYochanan Please join the exciting forum of the Jewish Task Force (JTF) ...
  10. John Kerry Vietnam hearing 1971 | Video |

    Feb 5, 2013
    John Kerry testifies against U.S. involvement in Vietnam, April 22nd, 1971.