Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Nixon - Kissinger Cover-Up of American POWs in Vietnam?

These facts are known.

In the Paris Peace Accords ending the U.S. War against Vietnam, the U.S. promised reparations to Vietnam. Vietnam promised assistance in determining the fate of all American MIAs.

There was a separate signed agreement by Nixon, and negotiations in Hanoi with Kissinger, that the American reparations would be $4.75 billion dollars over five years.

On April 1, 1973 less than 600 American POWs returned to the United States released by North Vietnam.

The United States never paid the reparations agreed to.

Since 1973 North Vietnam has given limited support to determining the fate of MIA's, pointing to the letter signed by Nixon promising $4.75 billion dollars.

There have been persistent reports of more POWs in Vietnam and Laos never returned to the United States.

Watergate occurred and Nixon resigned in 1974. In 1975 South Vietnam was conquered and reunited with North Vietnam.

Now to the recent allegations in An Enormous Crime.

North Vietnam had received advice from Fidel Castro in Cuba who had received ransom money for the Bay of Pigs prisoners. The $4.75 billion dollars was supposed to be the ransom for the American POWs in Vietnam. North Vietnam released around half the POWs and was to release the rest upon the payment of the money. Nixon was fighting for his political life as the POWs were being released and felt he could not get money from Congress. Nixon and Kissinger just declared that was all the prisoners, the war was over. The official cover-up begins.

Vietnam, uncertain how to respond, simply told each visiting delegation from the United States and made repeated contacts through third parties that it had more information on MIAs in return for the agreed to $4.75 billion dollars. The United States never responded to these offers and Cheney offered an explanation years later - if it was ever believed that the United States government left men behind after a war it would destroy the U.S. military, break the bond of trust between soldiers and their government.

The accusation in the book is that Nixon, Kissinger, Ford, Cheney and a long series of high-level Washington officials have known about hundreds of American POWs held in Vietnam and as a matter of policy have repeatedly destroyed the evidence to keep this from coming out.

Rep. Bill Hendon and MIA activist Elizabeth Stewart have lots of documents and some other information including satellite photos to make their case.

Without my having read the book, it suffers from one major flaw. If Vietnam had hundreds of Americans it had not turned over it is totally illogical and unbelievable they would not have used them to put more public pressure on the United States to honor its agreement to provide billions of dollars in aid as Nixon had agreed to. While frightened of United State viciousness and military might and Nixon at the time, in the decades since it has had numerous opportunities to do so.

There is a difference between Vietnam claiming it has more information on MIAs and it holding hundreds of POWs, this is often conflated in the arguments by the authors.

There is another minor flaw, Republicans Hendon and Stewert are counting on the "honorable" Dubya to do the right thing and send a high level team or person to Vietnam to make the deal. If their story is true, the allegations of Republican dishonor and deceit would be very bad for the GOP and they would try to avoid this. Democratic officials have plausible deniability as to the extent of their knowledge. If high-level Democrats have known about this it makes for even fewer people wanting for this to come out. Besides, after reading two biographies and being otherwise well informed on the Bush's I have never known the person occupying the Oval Office now to ever have done an honorable thing if a dishonorable choice was available.

I have no doubt that a few American POWs could be in Southeast Asia. Some could be held by Laotian groups. Perhaps a few held by Viet Cong in jungles and tunnels that were remote from the North Vietnamese when the deal was arranged. Perhaps some POWs brainwashed or otherwise who had provided aid to the Vietnamese and might feel ashamed or frightened to return to the United States. North Korea had perfected techniques in the Korean war that had spread rapidly to other communist countries and later to the Western secret services like the CIA who admired their effectiveness.

I have no doubt Nixon and other officials like Cheney are dishonorable enough to do this but the principle claim of hundreds of American POWs still in Vietnam is unbelievable. It is a sad fact that had the reparations been paid we would know more about the MIAs and this leverage may have delayed the eventual takeover of South Vietnam by the North, one of the Nixon-Kissinger reasons for the five-year reparations deal.

This was discussed on Coast to Coast AM last night.

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