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Dale Banham

Student Question: JFK and Vietnam

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: What evidence is there that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam?

Background details of the people answering this question can be found at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=1169

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Question: What evidence is there that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam?

There was no public evidence in 1963, but in an "Eyes Only" memo on October 11, 1963, President Kennedy's National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, wrote:

"The President approved . . . plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963."

Kennedy also directed that "no formal announcement be made."

The memo can be seen at: http://www.cs.umb.edu/jfklibrary/images/nsam263.jpg

Tony

Edited by Anthony Frank

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My Year 10 (aged 14-15) are now starting on a piece of coursework: 'Why is JFK remembered so positively?'. I have attached the questions they came up with in groups. Answers and different views from experts would be great for when we start back in September or for pupils to look at over the Summer.

Question: What evidence is there that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam?

dgh01: Might want to see if back issues of Stars and Stripes [Pacific Asia theater military newspaper in circulation at the time - probably STILL is] are on the web. Kennedy's 1,000 man pullout intention was common knowledge amongst MAAG-Vietnam personnel in Vietnam [later summer '63]. It was given [at the time] much press in Pacific Star and Stripes.

having been in-country [Republic of South Vietnam] at the time, 02-'63 thru 02-'64, I'm well aware of the media coverage at the time.

David Healy

-------------

Background details of the people answering this question can be found at:

http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?showtopic=1169

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I think a lot of people would like to believe that JFK would have pulled us out of Vietnam - part of the Kennedy charm I suppose. However, actions speak louder than memos, and JFK is the guy who got us closer to WWIII than any other politician; JFK is the guy who was "out to lunch" when Diem got assassinated; JFK is the guy who authorized the invasion of Cuba; JFK is the guy who raised the number of advisors significantly over what DDE had in place. It is no accident that the names on the Vietnam memorial begin in 1959 - right before JFK took over.

There was a lot of "home for Christmas" BS - even before the Tet offensive in 1968. I regard it as so much propaganda.

Question: What evidence is there that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam?

There was no public evidence in 1963, but in an "Eyes Only" memo on October 11, 1963, President Kennedy's National Security Adviser, McGeorge Bundy, wrote:

"The President approved . . . plans to withdraw 1000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963."

Kennedy also directed that "no formal announcement be made."

The memo can be seen at: http://www.cs.umb.edu/jfklibrary/images/nsam263.jpg

Tony

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miketol wrote; "JFK is the guy who was "out to lunch" when Diem got assassinated."

A Washington Post article on September 22, 1963, about Kennedy’s efforts to oust the repressive Diem-Nhu regime in South Vietnam, said that “certain elements of the CIA believe that there is no alternative to the Diem-Nhu axis. These sentiments also exist among American military leaders . . . The brass simply feels that any change in American policy would wreck the war effort. The firmest opponents of change, however, seem to be certain top CIA people. There is strong reason to believe that the recent Times of Vietnam story exposing an alleged CIA coup attempt was actually leaked by CIA dissidents themselves in an attempt to forestall any American attempt to dump Nhu . . . CIA dissidents see positive virtues in Nhu . . . Ambassador Lodge cannot fully trust his own staff members.”

On October 5, 1963, the Washington Post reported: “John H. Richardson, CIA station chief in South Vietnam, is being recalled to Washington . . . Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge is reported on good authority to have requested Richardson’s replacement . . . Richardson has been one of the key men in development of the U.S. Role of helping the Diem government fight Communist guerrillas . . . There have been persistent reports of differences between Lodge and the CIA staff.”

At a news conference on October 9, 1963, President Kennedy “vigorously defended the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in South Vietnam . . . The President devoted a good share of his 30 minute news conference to the subject of the CIA, a normally sacrosanct matter which the White House never airs in public.”

On November 1, 1963, three weeks before the President who was the antithesis of right-wing megalomaniac endeavors was assassinated, the Diem-Nhu regime was ousted in a coup.

“Diem was defended to the last by the special forces troops trained by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.”

The KGB officers had not foreseen Kennedy’s removal of the Diem-Nhu regime before his death, and Kennedy’s interference with their agenda was a clear reason why they wanted an intelligence officer under their control to be President.

The removal of the Diem-Nhu regime, however, wasn’t going to change the KGB's agenda, especially since they killed the President responsible for it. The KGB officers in the CIA were still intent on having a Communist insurgency take over in South Vietnam, and the CIA and the American military were used to restart the repressive environment. After all, exactly two months before the CIA killed President Kennedy, the Washington Post article said that “CIA dissidents see positive virtues in Nhu,” and American military brass in South Vietnam “simply feels that any change in American policy would wreck the war effort.”

Only President Nixon’s desperate attempt to fend off political fallout from the Watergate scandal as his second term began brought about a ‘peace’ treaty in January 1973, but it was nothing more than an American agreement to bid a hasty retreat from South Vietnam, nine years and three months after President Kennedy “vigorously defended the role of the Central Intelligence Agency in South Vietnam.”

Tony

Edited by Anthony Frank

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It is true that JFK’s close friends have attempted to suggest that he was planning to withdraw from Vietnam. For example, Kenneth O'Donnell, Kennedy's special assistant, wrote in: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1983):

“Kennedy had told me (O'Donnell) in the spring of 1963 that he could not pull out of Vietnam until he was reelected, "So we had better make damned sure I am reelected." ... At a White House reception on Christmas eve, a month after he succeeded to the presidency, Lyndon Johnson told the Joint Chiefs: "Just get me elected, and then you can have your war."

Others have told a similar story and this has been backed up by recently released files that JFK was attempting to negotiate an end to the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What is more, this version of history has been supported by the hawks in his administration. John McCone, Director of the CIA, and the man who persuaded JFK to send military advisers into Vietnam, said the following in an interview with Harry Kreisler on April 21, 1988:

Harry Kreisler: Would our involvement in Vietnam have taken a different course if Kennedy had lived?

John McCone: When Kennedy took office you will recall that he won the election because he claimed that the Eisenhower administration had been weak on communism and weak in the treatment of Castro and so forth. So the first thing Kennedy did was to send a couple of men to Vietnam to survey the situation. They came back with the recommendation that the military assistance group be increased from 800 to 25,000. That was the start of our involvement. Kennedy, I believe, realized he'd made a mistake because 25,000 US military in a country such as South Vietnam means that the responsibility for the war flows to (the US military) and out of the hands of the South Vietnamese. So Kennedy, in the weeks prior to his death, realized that we had gone overboard and actually was in the process of withdrawing when he was killed and Johnson took over.

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It is true that JFK’s close friends have attempted to suggest that he was planning to withdraw from Vietnam. For example, Kenneth O'Donnell, Kennedy's special assistant, wrote in: Memories of John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1983):

“Kennedy had told me (O'Donnell) in the spring of 1963 that he could not pull out of Vietnam until he was reelected, "So we had better make damned sure I am reelected." ... At a White House reception on Christmas eve, a month after he succeeded to the presidency, Lyndon Johnson told the Joint Chiefs: "Just get me elected, and then you can have your war."

Others have told a similar story and this has been backed up by recently released files that JFK was attempting to negotiate an end to the Cold War after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What is more, this version of history has been supported by the hawks in his administration.  John McCone, Director of the CIA, and the man who persuaded JFK to send military advisers into Vietnam, said the following in an interview with Harry Kreisler on April 21, 1988:

Harry Kreisler: Would our involvement in Vietnam have taken a different course if Kennedy had lived?

John McCone: When Kennedy took office you will recall that he won the election because he claimed that the Eisenhower administration had been weak on communism and weak in the treatment of Castro and so forth. So the first thing Kennedy did was to send a couple of men to Vietnam to survey the situation. They came back with the recommendation that the military assistance group be increased from 800 to 25,000. That was the start of our involvement. Kennedy, I believe, realized he'd made a mistake because 25,000 US military in a country such as South Vietnam means that the responsibility for the war flows to (the US military) and out of the hands of the South Vietnamese. So Kennedy, in the weeks prior to his death, realized that we had gone overboard and actually was in the process of withdrawing when he was killed and Johnson took over.

I suggest that anyone interested in Kennedy and Vietnam read this:

http://eserver.org/govt/gulf-war/jfk-lbj-and-vietnam.txt

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In my view the most authoritative answer to this often-asked Vietnam question is a definite "YES, JFK would have pulled out of Vietnam after his re-election," and the reasons for saying so are best documented by Professor John Newman's 1992 book "JFK and Vietnam." Newman's conclusion is backstopped by opinions published by both Robert McNamara and John Connally in memoirs they wrote subsequent to Newman's book; both men stated that JFK would definitely have withdrawn from Vietnam shortly after his reelection, and Robert McNamara, in particular (as SECDEF), was in a position to know. A key document uncovered by the ARRB military records team, the detailed minutes of the 8th SECDEF Conference on Vietnam dated May 1963, confirms Newman's thesis in his book and the later statements of Robert McNamara.

A synopsis of Newman's thesis follows:

Eisenhower told JFK that LAOS was the looming crisis in Southeast Asia before JFK was inaugurated, and warned JFK that the U.S. (i.e., Kennedy) would probably have to commit combat troops to LAOS. After Kennedy assumed the Presidency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff enthusiastically, and even aggressively, lobbied for U.S. combat troops in LAOS, and some of them even opined that the use of nuclear weapons might be necessary! Appalled, JFK opted for the solution that Averell Harriman suggested, namely, to seek a "neutral" diplomatic solution rather than commit U.S. combat troops. Clearly, to JFK LAOS was not worth the committment of American lives. The "neutral" solution there did not satisfy any of the Cold War hawks in the USG. The next looming crisis was Vietnam.

In November of 1961, JFK, via NSAM (National Security Action Memo) 111, vetoed the use of U.S. ground troops in a combat role in Vietnam, as had been recommended by General Maxwell Taylor (who made a study trip to Vietnam at JFK's request) and other high-ranking military personnel. This same NSAM greatly expanded the U.S. advisory effort in terms of numbers of troops in Vietnam, but JFK clearly rejected the recommended use of ground troops in a combat role. JFK was probably not sure at this time what the long range U.S. policy should be in Vietnam, and yet did not want to be perceived as an "appeaser" (like his father was perceived against Nazi Germany). However, he also never equated Vietnam with Berlin in the Cold War struggle with the Soviet Bloc.

As the battlefield reports came in from Vietnam in late 1961 and early 1962, JFK was clearly non-plussed about the South Vietnamese lack of fighting ability vs. the Viet Cong, and even a bit alarmed by the deterioration of the military situation there. As Newman documents in his book, the U.S. military began lying regularly to the President about "progress" in Vietnam in early 1962, to prevent what they feared might be a precipitate JFK pullout. (The hawks in the USG feared another "neutral solution" such as JFK had engineered over LAOS. Tremendously frustrated about the stalemate in Korea in the previous decade, they wanted to defeat communism on the battlefield, and they wanted to do it in Vietnam.) The stream of cautious, but falsely optimistic reports about "progress" in Vietnam used false statistics, and always predicted future success if the U.S. would only continue to increase troop and equipment levels. So the advisory effort continued to increase over time.

By early 1963, Newman concludes that JFK had clearly become aware of the military's deception about "progress" in Vietnam, and had decided to withdraw, regardless of the political consequences for him, AFTER his reelection. His challenge was to allay growing criticism of U.S. involvement in Congress, but more importantly, to also avoid charges of appeasement and a major conservative backlash which withdrawl prior to the 1964 Presidential election would have caused. (JFK shared these sentiments in private with aide Kenny O'Donnell, Senator Mike Mansfield, and Senator Wayne Morse.)

JFK turned the military's lies back on them and began pushing openly, in the Spring of 1963, for total withdrawl in 1965 based upon our "success" in Vietnam! His agent for aggressively pushing this policy through the government was a loyal Robert McNamara, SECDEF himself. As the minutes of the 8th SECDEF conference (from May 1963) reveal, McNamara ordered the JCS to remove 1000 men (out of the 16,000 total) by the end of 1963, and a total withdrawl of U.S. forces by the end of 1965. At this conference he even ordered the JCS to accelerate their plans for total withdrawl in 1965.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Edited by Doug Horne

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:)

Doug at the end of this forum makes some sound observations from his readings of the fine book by Major Newman: JFK and Vietnam.

Over on this side of the Atlantic, there was a video entitled THE MEN WHO KILLED KENNEDY, which was released in 1988. Whilst the video has a lot of hogwash regarding the assassination, it does raise some interesting questions and specifically, to the question asked here is a comment made by TIP O'NEIL THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. He said:

"In one of my last conversations with him (JFK), he said that after the election, once the election is over, I'm going to get the boys (ARMED FORCES) out of Vietnam".

JFK WAS planning to withdraw. Anything else, stated for the official record was pure posturing for the war-mongering elitists.

Regards.

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(This is a continuation of the answer begun above.)

The political and military situation in Vietnam continued to deteriorate in the summer of 1963...President Diem's family corruption and its disdain for ordinary Vietnamese became more obvious, the ineptitude of the South Vietnamese military effort became more obvious, Diem's oppression of the majority Buddhist population in South Vietnam became rather draconian, the Buddhist backlash became truly incendiary, members of the U.S government debated furiously over the issue of whether or not to encourage or support the removal of Diem by a (South Vietnamese military) coup, and the media heat on Kennedy over Vietnam began to build. The Berlin issue had cooled off following the construction of the wall by the East Germans (and the resulting end of their brain drain); Kruschev was no longer threatening war over the status of Berlin. Vietnam, however, was becoming the Cold War "hot topic," and a pressure cooker in the U.S., as policy makers in the USG furiously debated its importance in the Cold War.

Kennedy, still not coming close to equating Vietnam with Berlin, definitely wanted to get out in 1965, but was walking a tightrope politically at home, with the 1964 election looming. (His likely adversary in the Presidential election was going to be Senator Barry Goldwater, an arch-conservative and a military hawk.) He consciously and intentionally sent conflicting and mixed messages to the media during the summer and fall of 1963, expressing both a (sincere) desire to bring American troops home and see the South Vietnamese do much more to fight their own war, and at the same time (falsely) stating, more than once, that he believed in the "domino theory" and that to withdraw precipitately would be a mistake. He sought to both (1) reassure nascent but growing criticism in Congress of U.S. involvement in a possible quagmire, and (2) ward off the inevitable and serious conservative backlash that a commitment to withdrawl would bring prior to the 1964 election.

In an effort to put the best face on things, but to also make clear to the insiders in the government that he was not going to become embroiled in a Vietnam quagmire, he sent a "factfinding mission" of VIPs to Vietnam in September of 1963. The team of USG officials was headed by SECDEF Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor (who was now Chairman of the JCS). By various means---well documented by John Newman in his book---JFK ensured that their "fact-finding mission" would report exactly what he wanted in the way of findings, and especially recommendations. The recommendations he demanded, and got, in their report were to turn over all advisory duties to the South Vietnamese ASAP in 1964 and 1965; to pull out 1000 U.S. troops by the end of 1963, and to completely pull out all U.S. troops by the end of 1965 (based on the "success" of the ongoing war and the full turnover of advisory duties). The report was Top Secret in its precise wording and in its details, and was delivered to JFK by McNamara and Taylor with great fanfare on Oct 2, 1963. On the same day (Oct 2, '63), however, its basic recommendations, engineered by JFK (via McNamara), namely to withdraw 1000 men by the end of 1963, and to complete our tasks and pull out by 1965, were put out in simplified form in a White House Press Release as a "contingency plan" based upon the expected, continued success in the advisory effort and in the South Vietnamese war effort. JFK had made these "recommendations" (his directives, really) sound like they were coming from SECDEF and the Chairman of the JCS, when in reality most persons on the mission had been vehemently opposed to the false optimisim and withdrawl recommendations in the report.

The persons in the USG "in the know" re: JFK's real intentions to withdraw after the 1964 election were McNamara, Averell Harriman, his personal aides, and Senators Mansfield and Morse. Those not in the know about his complete disgust and disillusionment with the war, that he did not consider Vietnam very important, and that he did not any longer trust the military's optimistic reports about progress, were his Secretary of State (Dean Rusk) and his JCS Chairman (Taylor), both ardent hawks in the global Cold War struggle against the so-called Communist Bloc.

As far as Rusk and Taylor knew, JFK was basing his withdrawl plans on the supposed "success" of the U.S. advisory effort.

On October 11, 1963, JFK signed a Top Secret document, NSAM 263, which ordered the implementation of the short term (1963) and long term (1965) withdrawl recommendations in the McNamara-Taylor Report of October 2nd. This formalized a decision he made on October 5th, and is the "smoking gun" that proves President Kennedy was going to withdraw from Vietnam.

Incidentally, LBJ was receiving back-channel information from the git-go from the military, via his military aide, USAF Colonel Burris, about how badly the war was truly going for the South Vietnamese. He was fully aware of how ineffective the U.S. advisory effort had been all along. LBJ was a Vietnam hawk in 1961-63, and had even publicly praised President Diem as the "Churchill of Asia," to the horror of the State Department and the chagrin of JFK. (JFK privately ridiculed LBJ for that statement.) LBJ was an early advocate of U.S. combat troops in both LAOS and Vietnam as early as 1961. To Lyndon and the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as numerous civilian "hawks" in DOD and State, and on the National Security Council, Vietnam's civil war was a Cold War struggle of equal importance with the Cold War tug-of-war over Berlin.

As John Newman says, one can debate the wisdom of JFK's sleight-of-hand with the U.S. public over his true intentions in Vietnam, and even disagree with his intentional broadcast of mixed signals to both sides at his 1963 press conferences, but nevertheless, it is clear that he intended to withdraw in 1965 no matter how devastating the political consequences were at home. He repeatedly told his closest political associates of his true intentions in private, and officially ordered implementation of the withdrawl policy on October 11, 1963 in NSAM 263. Furthermore, he had his SECDEF, McNamara, ramrod withdrawl plans with the military as early as May of 1963 at the 8th SECDEF Conference, before NSAM 263 was even signed.

In conclusion, JFK's intent to withdraw from Vietnam and NOT involve the U.S. in a ground war in Asia---as retired General Douglas MacArthur, George Ball of the State Department, and President DeGaulle of France all strongly advised him NOT to do---is irrefutable. LBJ, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous civilian hawks in the USG opposed withdrawl in the strongest possible terms, and felt a real necessity to "defeat communism on the battlefield" in Vietnam.

Therefore, the question of whether JFK's Vietnam policy may be related to his assassination is a VALID QUESTION. His intention to withdraw from Vietnam is undeniable, based upon the totality of the evidence; the USG's Vietnam policy was reversed after his death during his successor's administration. The question of whether President Kennedy was assassinated in order to change U.S. policy in Vietnam is therefore a valid topic for discussion. However, the answer itself---whether the reverse in the USG's Vietnam policy was the intent of JFK's assassination, or whether it was simply an unintended consequence, is probably not subject to scientific proof, and will therefore be endlessly debated. Such is the nature of history and historical research. END

Edited by Doug Horne

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Between March and May, 1964, Robert Kennedy was interviewed four times by John Bartlow Martin. It is clear that these interviews were not for publication (RFK says some unpleasant things about several people, including LBJ). These interviews were eventually published in the book, Robert Kennedy: In His Own Words (1988).

RFK has some interesting things to say about JFK and Vietnam. RFK is insistent that JFK was not considering withdrawing troops from Vietnam. In fact, he argues that if it was not for Cuba, JFK would have sent “large numbers of troops into Laos and Vietnam” during his presidency. RFK argues that he fully agreed with JFK’s view that if Vietnam fell to the communists, other countries would also go the same way (including India). Both men were strong believers in the domino theory. This of course contradicts the comments made by John McCone, Robert McNamara and Kenneth O’Donnell that JFK was planning to withdraw from Vietnam after the 1964 presidential election.

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:o

RE: STUDENT QUESTIONS ABOUT THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JFK:

JOHN RITCHSON 09/09/04

Greetings:

I have decided to address at least some of the questions posed by students of the JFK assassination. As my research has been rather extensive, for the sake of brevity I'll not try to turn this exercise into a disertation. While I have been reasonally carefull in my research and have faithfully followed the journalistic rule of always varifying one's scources, still, errors may exist which I fully accept as my own.

Respectfully,

John Ritchson

Q1:

What evidence is there that JFK was going to pull out of Vietnam?

The most commonly refered to evidence is the presidential order NASM-263, the precise text of which I'm going to omit for the sake of brevity but can be easily accessed through the net or the US Library of Congress. But to really understand JFK and Vietnam it is important to study the history of that conflict.

By the time JFK was elected, the American Government from about 1958 was already heavily involved in SE Asia. Therefore JFK inherited the situation from the previous administration as he did Cuba. At that time there were many powerful people profiting from the war such as Ladybird Johnson who controled much of the rubber production in SE Asia. Also, Vietnam possessed one of the world's easiest access to raw tungston ore which is absolutely necessary for modern tool technology, as well as a wealth of oil in the Gulf of Tonkin.[The issue of Communism and the Domino-Effect was and has always been a Red-Herring].

As you readers can probably guess, these companies which were extracting the mineral wealth of SE Asia had powerfull lobbies in the US Congress with tremendous congressional support which made it extreamly difficult to pull the plug as it were.

Then there was the politics of Heroin:

To understand what I personally concider the real reason for the JFK murder I will include in this article research by a trusted confederate.

THE POWs, CIA and DRUGS

UGLIER TRUTHS BEHIND THE SARIN GAS STORIES

By

Michael C. Ruppert

Published 7-23-98

© COPYRIGHT 1998, 1999 Michael C. Ruppert. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Permission

to reprint or excerpt only if the following appears: "Reprinted by permission, Michael C.

Ruppert & From The Wilderness at www.copvcia.com."

Did the CIA order the use of Sarin gas to kill American defectors in Southeast Asia? The answer to that question opens a black hole of ugly truths about U.S. foreign policy and covert operations. Those truths all lead to a central reality, which is that covert and paramilitary operations, as conducted by the U.S. Government, do not exist without drug trafficking. Equally tragic is the fact that drugs are a main reason why POWs didn’t come home. The irony on the tragedy is that drugs were also used to fund several sabotaged covert missions to rescue them.

The recent CNN reports on Operation Tailwind (referenced in the last issue of From TheWilderness), their retraction and the object lessons made of CNN Producer April Oliver and Peter Arnett point to much uglier and deeper truths about CIA covert operations than the fact that CIA used nerve gas to kill defectors and deserters in Southeast Asia. As From The Wilderness will show, there is a high probability that Sarin gas was used not only against defectors, but also against unwilling prisoners of war whom the government had decided would be a major embarrassment if they came home alive. Testimony and evidence exists to show that Sarin was in Laos at the time and that it was used at or near known POW camps in Laos. If true, those facts would shed a whole new light on the CNN stories.

Those stories, flawed in their presentation, not only hinted at an ongoing feud between elements of the Navy and CIA, but came dangerously close to far more devastating truths about the CIA's involvement in the abandonment and murder of US servicemen left behind after Vietnam. Those truths undeniably lead back to the drug trade, the Central Intelligence Agency and the covert operatives who have destroyed American democracy.

How does one tie the convoluted pieces together in a coherent manner? And, doing that, how does one stomach wanton betrayal of loyal Americans and values which are the foundation of any government's legitimacy? A government derives its right to exist from its mandate to protect its own people, especially those who risk life to serve it. What legitimacy then, does a government have which betrays and then sentences to death those who stood in the font lines of its exercise of power?

First, let's address the issue of whether or not CIA, MACV-SOG and elements in the Pentagon wanted POW's dead or, at minimum, to ensure that they never came home?

Many of the ugliest truths about deliberate U.S. abandonment or ordered extermination of POWs are extremely well documented in Monika Jensen-Stevenson's 1990 bestseller, Kiss The Boys Goodbye (Dutton). Stevenson, a former Emmy award winning Producer for CBS News' 60 Minutes, produced mountains of eyewitness statements, documents, and even admissions from Ronald Reagan and other White House officials as well as from intelligence experts in the Pentagon and the National Security Council showing that: the U.S. knowingly left POWs behind in Southeast Asia in 1973; the U.S. government sabotaged at least a half dozen rescue attempts with high probabilities for success; and that, the U.S. government ordered covert operatives to "liquidate" live POWs if sighted.

On Pages 318-323, Stevenson described a failed 1981 POW rescue mission involving the perennial "covert source" (and often hard to fathom) Scott Barnes who wrote a book about the mission entitled BOHICA (Bend Over Here It Comes Again). After passing polygraph and truth serum exams Barnes recounted how he had been issued atropine (nerve gas antidote) injectors as a prelude to entering areas in Laos where POW camps were known to exist. He also states that, once in the region, he was ordered to "liquidate the merchandise." "Merchandise" was the code word for POWs. (NOTE: Atropine was issued to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf war to counter anticipated Sarin attacks by Iraq).

If Barnes' statement was not enough, his return from the mission was immediately followed by the alleged violent suicide of Army chemical warfare and Sarin gas expert General Bobby Robinson. Local police doubted the suicide findings of the military.What's more, Robinson was known to have been involved in moving Sarin supplies into the region at the time. Stevenson confirmed this. Sources postulated a cover story to Stevenson that Robinson had been planting Sarin gas to blame the Soviets for its use and thus motivate Congress to increase chemical warfare budgets. Such operations are not unusual in covert operations and are hardly grounds for a suicide. As one source put it to me. "It's much more likely that Robinson could have exposed the use of his Sarin to kill Americans and he had to be killed - especially if he found out what his precious chemical agents were used for."

Several covert warfare veterans have told me that they absolutely believe that Sarin was used under CIA orders against U.S. personnel using deep cover operatives planted in the "Studies and Observation Group" which had reverted to Pentagon control after a 1968 turf battle. The turf battle may have put SOG back under nominal Pentagon control but it did not stop membersof the shadow government and CIA from infiltrating to protect the deepest of dirty secrets. The OSS faction in CIA has no trouble "sheep dipping" people into the Pentagon or any other U.S. Government agency.

Much of the CNN story fell because the Pentagon found no records of Sarin use. Experts likeSpecial Forces Captain John McCarthy, who ran covert ops for CIA while in Special Forces, were quick to point out that the records would all be at Langley and not at the DoD. A CNN electronic bulletin board with more than 2,500 angry responses from veterans pointing out flaws in the retractions was suddenly removed on July 16.

The can of worms was getting legs that wouldn't go away. It was starting to walk off into cyberspace.

How big was the POW problem? Informed sources place the number of American POW's not returned, in spite of Henry Kissinger's outright lies to the contrary, at near 2,500. Add to that the large number of defectors and deserters remaining in the region and the way these men sometimes became intermingled and we see the first part of the reasons for betrayal. McCarthy told From The Wilderness that in 1968 there were known to be some 3,000 deserters living in the Saigon suburb of Cholon alone. Estimates for the whole of Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Laos rose as high as 8,000 according to other sources. Numbers that high would again have brought the legitimacy of the government, and the military into question.

With the signing of the Paris Peace Accords Richard Nixon, in a secret agreement, promised the Vietnamese government some $4 billion in aid to guarantee the return of POW's left behind. This was after Kissinger's announcement that there were no more POW's left in Asia. With Watergate and the collapse of the Nixon Administration the money was never exchanged and the POW's went from desperate cause to a major potential embarrassment. So goes the cover story.

The best way to explain the connection with drug trafficking is to show the correlation in people and organizations between the two issues.

The names of some of those who have been connected to CIA drug trafficking by a multitude of sources are: Ted Shackley (CIA Station Chief in Laos and later Saigon), Tom Clines (Shackley's deputy), Richard Secord (Air Force/CIA liaison to Shackley after flying many missions as a fighter pilot), General Heinie Aderholt (Chief Air Operations strategist for CIA's undeclared war in Laos), Richard Armitage (former Navy officer and covert operations specialist charged with removing key materiel from Vietnam in 1975), Erich von Marbod (Defense Department), John Singlaub, William Casey, William Colby and Oliver North. Other key figures who turn up throwing monkey wrenches into POW rescue efforts who have not been connected to drugs but who turn up in key positions during Iran-Contra or the Bush Administration are Richard Allen (Reagan National Security Adviser who helped write the Paris Peace Accords), Colin Powell (Joint Chiefs Chairman and National Security Adviser to George Bush) and Col. Richard Childress, a National Security Council staffer under Ronald Reagan.

Key institutions connected to CIA drug trafficking include the Nugan-Hand bank, Hawaii investment firm BBRDW (Bishop, Baldwin, Rewald, Dilingham and Wong) and last but not least, the CIA itself.

How do these connect to the POW's?

As Station Chief in Laos Ted Shackley ran the single largest covert operation in CIA's history, a war financed almost in its entirety on the proceeds of heroin. That war was fought almost exclusively by Hmong tribesmen and a Laotian rebel Army under the command of General Vang Pao, an opium warlord who derived his entire budget from heroin. Legion are the stories of CIA's involvement in drug trafficking to fund that war but one anecdote is telling. Former Air America pilot Bucky Blair, who flew supply missions to CIA's Site 85 in Laos, sitting on a remote mountain top, told me that when he flew in to make his drops he could "see the poppy fields stretching out for miles in all directions." Site 85 was overrun in 1968 and eleven live Americans were captured. Imagine what they might have told under the intense torture of Pathet Lao or North Vietnamese interrogators and how that could have been used as propaganda against an America already disintegrating under the war? Imagine what they might have told other POWs they met as they were moved from camp to camp?

Imagine the damage that might have been done in 1985-6 as some of the most intense rescue efforts were being mounted and as stories of CIA drug trafficking in Central America were starting to circulate in the press and Congress?

Did Air America brief Blair on the opium? "I was briefed one time and told that we were moving small amounts of opium for legitimate pharmaceutical uses," he answered. The world's supply of pharmaceutical heroin is less than five percent of total world production. Shackley's CIA pilots could have supplied the world for a year in about a month. This does not take into account the brave testimony of other Air America pilots like Tosh Plumley and Bo Abbott who have spoken out directly about Air America's direct transport of opium in vast quantities over a period of years.

Shackley and his deputy Clines turn up heavily again in Iran-Contra connected to Richard Secord and Ollie North. A former CIA officer told me in 1995 that Ollie North was leasing office space for his 1995 Senate run from Shackley's company, Research Associates International, in Rosslyn, Virginia.

Estimates of live POWs taken in the undeclared (illegal) war in Laos from POW researchers, families and military sources rise as high as 600 according to Stevenson.

In the Reagan Administration, Richard Armitage as an Assistant Secretary of Defense was the Pentagon's highest-ranking official in charge of covert warfare, arms shipments and POW affairs.

Colin Powell, in 1995, referred to Armitage as his white son. Armitage was linked directly to CIA drug trafficking by, among others, the POW's champion, Ross Perot.

John Singlaub, who was quoted in the Sarin gas stories as saying he would have placed a high priority on killing POW's and defectors because they might have compromised military secrets, commanded MACV-SOG during Vietnam and would have had knowledge of SOG operations targeting Americans. He was also a major player in Iran-Contra, dispersing weapons purchased with drug money and engaging in fund raising activities intended to divert attention away from the NSC and Oliver North. I am saving North for last.

The documentation for the involvement of Richard Secord, in Iran-Contra is voluminous and his role in CIA operations in Laos is equally clear as documented by letters from POW family members requesting that Secord be queried about Site 85. Drugs were central to both wars.

General Heinie Aderholt is a mixed bag. While undeniably involved in Laos and as a low-profile operator in Iran-Contra, (connected to the illegal take-over of Bob Fletcher's Florida toy company to establish a front for arms shipments), Aderholt chose to oppose the official line and fight for missing POW's. He confirmed secret intelligence reports revealing the existence of live and obtainable POWs in the region to families and the press.

Bill Colby and Bill Casey need little clarification except to say the Bill Casey was DCI when many of the most intense rescue efforts came into being - and failed. And Colby, who ran the Phoenix Program in Vietnam, was DCI from 1973-6 and on the Board of Directors of the Nugan-Hand Bank.

The Nugan-Hand Bank and its successor firm BBRDW were high rolling investment-banking operations, both of which laundered covert drug profits for CIA. Some of those monies were allocated to POW rescue operations by military elements who refused to abandon their comrades. It is also well documented, however, that millions of dollars were collected by scam artists connected to these firms from hopeful POW families and supporters for rescues, which never took place. That money bought nice vacation homes and went to other unworthy causes.

If we examine the rescue side of the POW issue we come across men like retired Green Beret Lt.Colonel Bo Gritz, Ross Perot and the ubiquitous Oliver North. Gritz undertook two missions into Southeast Asia, both of which were connected in one way or another to the Army's highly secret Intelligence Support Activity (ISA). In Bo's book, Called To Serve (Lazarus, 1991) he talks about a period of time in 1979-80 when he was undercover at Hughes aircraft in Culver City as preparation for his first mission. So, coincidentally, was Oliver North - a fact which Bo neglected to mention. I think I know why. A retired Hughes executive phoned me in 1997 and described the office shared by Gritz and North as having a large picture of a Bengal Tiger on the wall with the caption, "If you can't sleep with the tigers, stay out of the den." He also stated, "You could see them out jogging together every day."

The ISA, which ran Gritz's mission, was created by Army General Richard Stilwell. It has been repeatedly linked to drug smuggling by sources including the daughter of Col. Albert Carone who served as Oliver North's bagman and bill-payer during the eighties. Records left behind after Carone's death in 1990 and eyewitness statements clearly indicate that Carone handled both drugs and drug money for CIA, North and the NSC. Carone's personal phone book contains the home addresses and telephone numbers of William Casey, Gambino crime boss Pauly Castellano and Stilwell. Further hard evidence, in the form of CIA and DIA cable traffic linking to drugs, ISA and DIA operations surfaces in Gary Webb's Dark Alliance (Seven Stories, 1998). These cables and law enforcement records tie Scott Weekly to the drug operations of Norwin Menses, Danillo Blandon and Ricky Ross. Weekly, a firearms master, is Gritz's self-described best friend and went on POW missions to Southeast Asia with Gritz. Coincidentally again, Weekly is an Annapolis classmate of Ollie North.

I have met Bo Gritz twice through my close friend, Mrs. Francis Gary (Sue) Powers. That Bo was, and remains, irrevocably committed to the cause of the POWs cannot be disputed. That Bo brought back utterly damning videotaped interviews with opium warlord Khun Sa in which Khun Sa described the roles of Shackley, Armitage, Clines, and the CIA in heroin trafficking also cannot be disputed. That Bo was a leader in exposing CIA's long standing proprietorship of the international drug trade also is beyond question. But these revelations, taken as a whole, leave wide open the likelihood that, with or without Gritz's knowledge, his own efforts to rescue POWs, as sponsored by elements of the Pentagon, were funded by drug profits. In 1980 the official U.S. Government policy was that cocaine was less harmful than marijuana.

[NOTE: I omit here, discussion of Gritz's alleged white supremacist or racist views because I have never heard him speak or seen him write such views. I will say that if Bo believes in or advocates white supremacy or racism in any form I disagree with him wholeheartedly.]

Then there is Ross Perot. No man in American history has been more closely linked to the cause of the POW's and their families than the Texas billionaire. In late 1986, after funding one rescue mission and spending years as a thorn in the side of the Reagan Administration as he battled national security roadblocks and the outright deception which ultimately condemned the POW's to death, Ross Perot backed six-foot, power weight lifter Richard Armitage into a corner and confronted him with not only the evidence of Armitage's lying about POW's but his direct involvement in Vietnamese gambling and CIA drug trafficking. After going to then Vice President George Bush, and being summarily dismissed, Perot's efforts leaked to the Boston Globe and TIME Magazine. Armitage then lost his almost certain appointment as Secretary of defense under President George Bush.

I have spoken to Perot twice and I served as the L.A. County Press Spokesman for his '92campaign. While I, like many, was crushed by his conduct in pulling out of the race, I have absolutely no doubt that Ross Perot is absolutely unbending in his belief that illegal drugs cannot be used to serve a good purpose - anywhere, at any time.

That leaves us with Ollie.

During the Contra years Oliver North contracted with a small British Security firm, KMS, run by a former SAS Major named David Walker, to carry out commando raids against the Sandinistas. AP, the Washington Post and Congressional hearings all brought out the fact that Walker's company conducted a few marginally successful attacks and provided some air logistic support to the Contras. What was not reported was that North, according to sources I have found in the last three months, was using KMS to train mercenaries for a POW rescue mission inside the Soviet Union. That operation was funded with drugs and the payments were made in London, at the St. George Hotel and through channel island banks by Albert Carone. Sources in Britain and former members of U.S. Army Special Forces described to me how North's plan, which involved training of mercenaries in Morocco and the Ivory Coast, neared success as, "his people got close enough to touch" the skilled electronics warfare officers who had been shipped to Russia for money by Vietnam during the war. But, inexplicably, they never came out. The British source added that North, if he had succeeded, "would have become President of the United States."

The Sherlock Holmes cliché says, "Once you have eliminated the impossible, the improbable, no matter how unlikely, is the answer." The POWs remain, as unrequited ghosts, an embarrassment of astronomical dimension to the U.S. government. Any reporter asking a POW who, what, where, when and how would inevitably pull the covers on some of the U.S.'s dirtiest secrets. But more than that the question needs to be asked, "Did abandoning the POWs serve a purpose in U.S. foreign policy?" The answer is yes.

In 1993 a former Green Beret officer told me, at the point of tears, of how he had been ordered in 1968-9 to rendezvous with Russian Spetnatz commandos in the central highlands of Vietnam. There, under direct orders from the CIA, he exchanged millions of dollars in hard U.S. currency for Russian diamonds. This was at the height of the Vietnam War. Russia's economy (its ability to support North Vietnam) was on the brink of collapse. The hard U.S. currency salvaged Russia's ability to buy needed imports on world markets.

Bobby Garwood, the heroic Marine who remains the only POW ever to return alive, told debriefers at DIA of the amazement the North Vietnamese, struggling with a stone age economy, had at his ability to assemble a simple gasoline generator and the power of a light bulb. He stayed alive because he could fix American things.

Ted Shackley, in his book The Third Option lays out detailed blueprints for the survival of the military-security-industrial state by means of perpetuation of "low intensity" insurgent wars in which it might be necessary to arm both sides of a conflict to keep the military skills sharp and the war machine going. The fact that major U.S. industrialists armed and financed every enemy from Adolph Hitler, to Ho Chi Minh, to Sadam Hussein is well documented and beyond the scope of this article.

Covert operations in Southeast Asia continued unabated after the fall of Saigon in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. They were all financed by heroin, which remains the largest source of capital in the region. Vietnam is now emerging in a world capitalist economy as a consumer and provider of services. Is it coincidental that Henry Kissinger's associate and later Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger was on the first secret mission to explore rapprochement with Vietnam? Is it a coincidence that Col. Richard Childress, who stonewalled POW families for so long, became a Southeast Asian investment consultant in 1990? Is it a coincidence that President George Bush dispatched Richard Armitage to the former Soviet Union as a special economic adviser or that almost immediately after his arrival there was an explosion of drug use in Russia?

I think that the POWs were commodities who, as one CIA source put it to Stevenson, were "Chosen by God to stay" as a form of plausibly deniable economic assistance to enemies we needed to keep in place until other pieces of a larger plan were complete. That phase of the plan was complete in 1990 when Litton Chairman Roy Ash's prediction of one world under state capitalism would come into being. The Soviet Union was dead and Vietnam.was on its way to becoming a trading partner. Ash made that prediction in 1972.

So why kill them? If covert operatives could get close enough to kill POWs then men like Gritz or Jerry Daniels or Ross Perot could get close enough to rescue them. Defectors, enjoying freedom of movement could have surfaced at any time with POW stories as their imagined ticket back home. And that would have upset The Plan and revealed the U.S. government to be as morally bankrupt as the Third Reich.

Such then was the reason JFK was killed. When he discovered the true nature of the SE Asian operations he began in ernest to disband the CIA by first firing Allen Dulles and initiating the total disolution of the CIA including all of its' operations and there was no way these people were going to let the second most lucrative business in the world be disolved, it was then they began in ernest to prosecute the assassination of the 35th President of the United States.

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