Kerry Protested Vietnam With 'Hanoi' Jane and 'Radical' Ramsey
On the campaign trail, presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry regularly boasts about his Vietnam War combat experience, which earned him three purple hearts, plus the silver and bronze stars.
But the Massachusetts Democrat doesn't much discuss what he did after returning home, when he became a much-celebrated organizer for one of America's most radical anti-war groups and rubbed shoulders with the likes of 'Hanoi' Jane Fonda and former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.
As a rising star with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry attended a February 1971 seminar bankrolled by Fonda, who was the group's most prominent booster. Watching 125 self-proclaimed Vietnam veterans testify at a Detroit Howard Johnson's about atrocities committed by U.S. forces, the man who would be president later said he found the accounts shocking and irrefutable.
Dubbed "The Winter Soldier Investigation," the protest attracted minimal media attention, according to the Los Angeles Times, because Fonda insisted it be held in the remote Michigan city rather than the less "authentic" Washington, D.C.
Still, the event gave Kerry an idea for a protest that was sure to be a media smash, and he immediately set out to organize one of the most confrontational protests of the entire Vietnam War.
Operation Dewey Canyon III began on April 18, 1971, when nearly 1,000 Vietnam vets gathered on the Washington, D.C., Mall for what they called "a limited incursion into the country of Congress."
The group staged mock firefights on the steps of the Capitol and Supreme Court and defied U.S. Park Police after the Justice Department issued an injunction barring them from camping on the Mall.
The case was taken up immediately by the Supreme Court, which issued a compromise ruling that would have allowed the anti-war protesters to stay on the Mall through the night as long as they didn't sleep. Photos show radical left-winger Ramsey Clark, who represented the group, announcing the decision to the VVAW.
The next day, Kerry made a national name for himself by testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in an episode chiefly remembered by the press for the peacenik politico's exhortation, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
But other parts of Kerry's speech were distinctly reminiscent of some of the uglier rhetoric at the Fonda event two months before.
Kerry painted his fellow GIs as so brutal, for instance, that they could easily be mistaken for Saddam Hussein's Fedayeen killers.
He told Congress that U.S. soldiers 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 a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam."
The night of his testimony, a gang of Kerry's fellow protesters took a large American flag, flipped it upside down and marched around the White House. Critics have said the scene was a deliberate attempt to mock the famous flag-raising at Iwo Jima.
Kerry chose a photo of the scraggly vets carrying the flipped flag for the cover of his book "The New Soldier," which documented the Dewey Canyon demonstration.
The next day, Kerry joined dozens of other protesters who discarded their war medals on the steps of the Capitol. Years later, the presidential hopeful explained that the medals he threw away actually belonged to somebody else, and that his real medals were displayed on the wall of his office.
The antics of Kerry and his colleagues didn't do much for those who were still fighting the Vietnam War.
Last December, former POW Michael Benges told the Washington Times that retired Gen. George S. Patton III lumped Kerry in with Fonda and Clark, complaining that they had all "given aid and comfort to the enemy."
Even the most famous POW of all, Sen. John McCain, later revealed that his North Vietnamese captors used reports about the Kerry-led protest to taunt him and his fellow prisoners.
A few years later the ambitious Democrat found that his book documenting the celebrated peace protest had become something of a political liability.
"Suddenly, copies of ["The New Soldier"] became unavailable and even disappeared from libraries," one old-time Massachusetts hand told The New American Magazine in May.
A search of several rare book Web sites failed to turn up more than a few copies of Kerry's anti-war book for sale anywhere. NewsMax obtained its copy from a bookstore in Great Britain.