Sydney Schanberg in the Village Voice writes that John Kerry “covered up voluminous evidence that a significant number of live American prisoners — perhaps hundreds — were never acknowledged or returned after the war-ending treaty was signed in January 1973.” According to Schanberg, the North Vietnamese almost certainly held back prisioners as future bargaining chips for war reparations. A special Senate committee was convened in 1991 to investigate evidence regarding prisioners who were never returned. But Schanberg argues that Kerry, the committee chair, had a larger goal in mind — to clear a path to normalization of relations with Hanoi. Because getting at the truth about the unaccounted for P.O.W.’s and M.I.A.’s was in conflict with Kerry’s larger goal, he allegedly suppressed testimony, shredded documents, and sanitized the committee’s final report.
Schanberg, a reporter for the New York Times during the Vietnam war, followed the work of Kerry’s committee while a columnist for Newsday. He claims that Kerry started out as if he were a committed investigator, but soon allied himself with the forces, including the Pentagon, that wished to deny the existence of a significant number of live American prisoners. If Schanberg is telling the truth, then the evidence of Kerry’s cover-up activities, including shredding of intelligence documents, is strong. According to Schanberg, the shredding stopped only when some staffers protested and called for a criminal investigation.
Schanberg also recites some of the evidence that causes him to believe that prisioners were held back. It includes first-hand citings, intercepted Communist radio messages, and satellite photos. In addition, three Vietnam-era secretaries of defense, Schlesinger, Laird, and Richardson, all testified that intelligence they had received convinced them that prisoners were held back. Kerry took the position, however, that this was a cruel hoax perpetrated by “charlatans and exploiters.”
This dispute is, of course, totally outside of any expertise I possess. However, Schanberg’s piece is worth a look.
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