Tags: Kerry | the | Record: | Ties | With | Vietnam

Kerry on the Record: Ties With Vietnam

Tuesday, 17 February 2004 12:00 AM

Part 1:

WASHINGTON – One of the issues sure to be dogging Democrat presidential front-runner John Kerry will be whether a member of his family improperly benefited from the senator’s leading role in “normalizing” relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

Massachusetts' junior U.S. senator was rather summarily cleared of wrongdoing by the staff of the Senate Ethics Committee. But questions persist.

In the early 1990s, Kerry headed a Senate committee that was supposed to determine whatever became of American troops in the Vietnam War whose whereabouts were not recorded.

Under his leadership, the panel concluded there was “no evidence” that any Americans left behind in Vietnam were still alive. Some veterans groups and the vice chairman of Kerry’s committee dispute that claim.

A few weeks after the Senate panel’s hearings had concluded, according to Center for Public Integrity, Kerry’s participation in the committee became “controversial” when Hanoi announced that it had awarded a fat contract to Boston real estate firm Colliers International, then headed by the senator’s cousin Stuart Forbes.

Coincidence? And was there really “no evidence” that American fighting men left behind in Vietnam were alive? Experts who have examined the issue ridicule the former or vehemently reject the latter.

Taking the question of “no evidence” first:

“There was plenty of evidence,” said the vice chairman of the Kerry committee, Robert Smith, then a Republican U.S. senator from New Hampshire.

Smith, now seeking a U.S. Senate seat from Florida, declined to criticize Kerry directly, but agreed to be interviewed by NewsMax.com on “anything but presidential politics.”

He cited testimony by former Defense Secretaries Melvin Laird and James Schlessinger, as well as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. Based on intelligence information and reliable eyewitness accounts, all believed that men were left behind and unaccounted for who might very well be alive.

“They [the North Vietnamese] captured them. They must have known what happened to them. If [the American prisoners] died, they [North Vietnamese] should have told us,” he said.

As for Hanoi’s awarding a contract to a firm headed by a Kerry relative, Senate Ethics Committee staff director and chief counsel Victor M. Baird acknowledged the Senate rules stipulated no senator shall aid in passing legislation whose “principal purpose” is to benefit “only” himself or a member of his family.

Nothing in the publicity on the contract “suggests that Senator Kerry had anything to do with the decision of the Vietnamese government to trade with Colliers International,” Baird stated in a letter to Ted Sampley, who now heads a group called Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry.

“When was the last time the Senate Ethics Committee did anything to their members?” scoffed John LeBoutillier, a former congressman who is a columnist for NewsMax.com.

“It’s a small world, isn’t it, when the cousin of the key senator who cleans up this [MIA] issue suddenly gets the contract? Now, what are the odds of that?” he asked.

LeBoutillier heads Skyhook 2 Project, dedicated to recovering living American POWs in Southeast Asia. During his congressional days, the Long Island, N.Y., Republican was a member of a Special House POW/MIA Task Force.

In an interview with NewsMax, he expressed disgust that Kerry and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., both Vietnam veterans, had “ignored the evidence” and made a bipartisan pitch to “normalize” relations with Hanoi.

“Kerry trashed the evidence. He wouldn’t hear of it,” added LeBoutillier.

Smith puts it this way: “We know they [North Vietnam] have answers, and I get sick and tired of these people saying we’ve gotten the fullest possible accounting. That’s just total garbage. We have not. Dead or alive, they still have information.”

In the letter washing his hands of the whole question of Kerry’s cousin benefiting from “normalization” with Hanoi, the Senate Ethics staff director wrote, “Absent some evidence of improper conduct or a violation of a rule or law,” the committee would not review the matter because “the final decision on a Senator’s public decisions is generally reserved for the voters.”

Interested parties interpret that as a way of saying the Ethics Committee’s level of curiosity will not lead to an investigation to determine if there has been “improper conduct or a violation of a rule of law.”

Thus, although we might never know, the senator’s quest for the White House will introduce the issue to a wider group of voters than those within the confines of Massachusetts.


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Part 1: WASHINGTON - One of the issues sure to be dogging Democrat presidential front-runner John Kerry will be whether a member of his family improperly benefited from the senator's leading role in "normalizing" relations between the U.S. and Vietnam. ...
Tuesday, 17 February 2004 12:00 AM
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