Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) was established in 1967 by Jan Barry, an army veteran who had been stationed in Vietnam in 1963. The organization’s founding mission was to “expos[e] the ugly truth about U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia and … the unjust nature of that war”; to promote “amnesty for war resisters,” including veterans with “bad discharges” from the military; and to “hel[p] make known the negative health effects of exposure to chemical defoliants and the [Department of Veterans Affairs’] attempts to cover-up these conditions as well as their continued refusal to provide treatment and compensation for many Agent Orange Victims.”
Hundreds of veterans joined VVAW during 1967-68, when the organization focused heavily on promoting Democrat Eugene McCarthy’s bid for the White House. But ultimately, of the 2.5 million Americans who served in Vietnam during the ’60s and ’70s, just 30,000 became members of VVAW. As William R. Hawkins pointed out in the Washington Times: “This is a very low number given that the Army was filled with draftees during an unpopular war. But then VVAW was not a mainstream organization like the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Its portrayal of U.S. troops as war criminals turned off most vets.”
One of VVAW’s most famous new members in the late Sixties was Ron Kovic, a disabled veteran who authored Born on the Fourth of July, a book that later served as the basis for Oliver Stone’s 1989 film of the same name. Another prominent VVAW member was Al Hubbard, a black radical with ties to the Black Panthers and the Communist-controlled People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice (PCPJ).
VVAW’s contempt for the U.S. military was fierce and unrelenting. According to Jonah Goldberg‘s book Liberal Fascism, the organization in the 1960s “internally debated whether or not it should assassinate politicians who supported the war.”
A November 1978 Heritage Foundation report described the fledgling VVAW of the late Sixties and early Seventies as: (a) “an overtly pro-Communist and pro-Hanoi organization that was eventually taken over by the Maoist Revolutionary Union”; (b) “among the most active components of the Communist-dominated People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice”; and a collection of activists “who later progressed to involvement with such Maoist groups as the Venceremos Organization and such avowedly terrorist operations as the Symbionese Liberation Army.”
Future U.S. Senator John Kerry, who served in Vietnam as a member of the U.S. Navy from 1966-70, joined VVAW in June 1970. Before long, he was appointed to the organization’s Executive Committee. During the Labor Day weekend of September 4-7, 1970, Kerry was a featured speaker at VVAW’s “Operation RAW” (Rapid American Withdrawal), where 150 combat veterans convened and marched—wearing their army fatigues and carrying toy rifles—from Morristown, New Jersey to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Their intent was to convey the horrors of war and the barbarity of the American military. At Valley Forge, Kerry came into contact with VVAW’s most prominent promoter, actress Jane Fonda, who told those in attendance: “My Lai [a 1968 massacre by U.S. soldiers against unarmed Vietnamese civilians] was not an isolated incident but rather a way of life for many of our military.”
Shortly after the Valley Forge event, VVAW’s leaders made plans to start new chapters of their organization; to furnish the United Nations with testimony about American “war crimes”; and to send executive secretary Al Hubbard on a speaking tour of college campuses with Jane Fonda.
In 1971 Fonda was the chief financier of VVAW’s infamous Winter Soldier Investigation (WSI), a war-crimes tribunal that was held in Detroit from January 31 through February 2 of that year. WSI featured some 125 self-identified Vietnam veterans who gave testimony about gruesome atrocities which they claimed to have perpetrated or witnessed in Vietnam, where rape, torture and murder were allegedly standard practices for the American military. In reality, writes Scott Swett , author of the 2008 book To Set the Record Straight, WSI was merely a continuation of “the anti-U.S. war-crimes propaganda campaign [which had begun] in Europe with KGB-sponsored events that were organized before the first American ground troops ever arrived in Vietnam.” “Several of the discussion panel moderators,” Swett explains, “were radical leaders who had previously met with top North Vietnamese and Vietcong representatives in Hanoi and Paris. Also present were leftist psychiatrists, psychoanalysts and clinicians, who pressured the witnesses to help end the war by publicly confessing their ‘crimes.’” It was later learned that numerous WSI witnesses had lied, and that others were imposters who had never been in Vietnam.
In mid-April 1971, VVAW members spent a week protesting in Washington, DC, where – in front of the U.S. Capitol and the Justice Department – they engaged in street theater simulating the American military’s murder of innocent civilians.
On April 22, 1971, John Kerry – in the role of VVAW spokesman – testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he delivered his famous characterization of American servicemen as cold-blooded assassins. Asserting that “war crimes committed in Southeast Asia [are] not isolated incidents but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command,” Kerry said that American soldiers had “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 fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam.” As to what forces might actually endanger the United States, Kerry said that “the crimes threaten it, not Reds.”
According to historian Gerald Nicosia, by 1971 VVAW was being “heavily infiltrate[d]” by the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), a “very violent, extremely violent, far left Maoist organization.” “They [RCP] eventually took it over around ’73 and basically pushed out all the real veterans and brought in all the RCP functionaries and destroyed the organization,” added Nicosia.
In 1971, VVAW executive secretary Al Hubbard signed – on his organization’s behalf – a “People’s Peace Treaty” aligning the group with the Viet Cong’s conditions for ending the Vietnam War. Drafted jointly by leaders of North Vietnam and their communist sympathizers in the U.S., the Treaty included such noteworthy passages as these:
VVAW’s collaboration with America’s enemies in Southeast Asia was made plain in a 1971 North Vietnamese “Circular” that discussed ways of coordinating the Communists’ own domestic propaganda campaigns with the American anti-war movement’s activities which were being orchestrated by North Vietnam. As Scott Swett and bestselling author Jerome Corsi note: “Further analysis of this document supports the contention that Madame Binh” – foreign minister of the Provisional Revolutionary Government (PRG) of South Vietnam, also known as the Vietcong – “used her Paris meeting with John Kerry to instruct him on how he and the VVAW might best serve as Hanoi’s surrogates in the United States.”
A second document proving VVAW’s ties to America’s enemies was a May 12, 1972 Communist Directive whose purpose was to encourage discussions within Vietnam about how to most effectively promote the activities of the U.S. antiwar movement. “The fifth paragraph of this document,” write Swett and Corsi, “makes clear that the Vietnamese communists were utilizing for their propaganda purposes the activities of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War.” The authors conclude that “the North Vietnamese, the Vietcong, the PCPJ, the Communist Party of the USA, and John Kerry’s VVAW … worked closely together, using the Paris Peace Talks as a central point of communication, to employ the strategy and tactics devised by the Vietnamese communists to achieve their primary objective: the defeat of the United States of America in Vietnam.”
Asserting that “other examples of the VVAW’s advocacy of Vietnamese communist positions during the period of John Kerry’s leadership abound,” the website WinterSoldier.com states:
“The group [VVAW] issued a proclamation in February 1971 calling for mass civil disobedience and military mutiny if American forces entered Laos. After the war, North Vietnamese military leaders acknowledged that one of their greatest fears was that America would move significant forces into Laos to interdict the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The VVAW’s eagerness to comply with the wishes of the Vietnamese communists even extended to its choice of nomenclature. The VVAW’s Executive Committee stated in a July 1971 meeting that the terms Vietcong and North Vietnamese were not to be used in VVAW press releases and communications. Instead, PRG (Provisional Revolutionary Government) and DRV (Democratic Republic of Vietnam) ‘are to be used by us [VVAW] to reflect our acceptance of their designations.’ And the VVAW’s unremitting insistence that American forces were mass-murdering Vietnamese civilians perfectly echoed the primary propaganda theme put forth by the Vietnamese communists, their international communist allies, and their Soviet sponsors.”
According to historian Gerald Nicosia – author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans’ Movement – VVAW in the early Seventies became “heavily infiltrate[d]” by Maoists affiliated with the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). “They eventually took it over around ’73 and basically pushed out all the real veterans and brought in all the RCP functionaries and destroyed the organization,” adds Nicosia.
As the Seventies progressed, the contingent of radical, RCP-affiliated communists within VVAW became increasingly large and influential. In 1978, these factions split off from the existing organization and formed their own group, “Vietnam Veterans Against the War – Anti-Imperialist” (VVAW-AI). This group still active today and refers to the U.S. as “Amerikkka.”
Ever since the 1970s, VVAW has continued to oppose every military action the United States has taken. Moreover, the organization contends that “many veterans are still denied justice — facing unemployment, discrimination, homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder and other health problems, while already inadequate services are being cut back or eliminated.”
Soon after 9/11, VVAW issued a statement that briefly condemned the al Qaeda terrorist attacks and expressed sympathy for the victims in a pro forma manner, before proceeding to extensively characterize the United States as a racist, militaristic, immoral nation whose unjust policies had sown the seeds of inevitable Islamic rage and retaliation. Some excerpts:
During the early years of the Iraq War, VVAW was a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition. VVAW also denounced the Patriot Act and characterized the post-9/11 detention of Muslim and Arab suspects as an assault on civil rights.
VVAW was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document condemning military tribunals and the detention of immigrants apprehended in connection with post-9/11 terrorism investigations. The document read, in part, “[T]hey [the U.S. government] are coming for the Arab, Muslim and South Asian immigrants. Based on their racial profile, over 1500 have been rounded up and the government refuses to say who they are, where they are jailed and what the charges are!!! … The recent ‘disappearances,’ indefinite detention, the round-ups, the secret military tribunals, the denial of legal representation, evidence kept a secret from the accused, the denial of any due process for Arab, Muslim, South Asians and others, have chilling similarities to a police state.”
Though most VVAW members are veterans of the Vietnam War, the organization “welcome[s] veterans of all eras, as well as family members and friends,” to its ranks. The annual membership fee is $25.00, though no payment is required of “homeless, unemployed or incarcerated vets.”