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'Stolen Honor' Tenders Truth
October 18, 2004

By James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.
contributor to

"A censor is a man who knows more than he thinks you ought to."
- Laurence Peter

"Stop Sinclair" the headline blares.

This is the way lefty Web site Common Dreams characterizes Sinclair Broadcasting's recent decision to air on its 62 television stations the film "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal."

Common Dreams contends that the company's decision has nothing to do with political discourse but has been made for greed, indicating that "Sinclair's mission is clear: sway the election in favor of an administration that lets companies like Sinclair get even bigger. It's great for Sinclair's bottom line - terrible for our democracy."

In an e-call to arms, the site declares, "This is not about 'liberal' or 'conservative.' It's about corruption, the threat to democratic discourse, and the manipulation of elections. Together, we can stop them."

Cyber-leftists the web over are aggressively encouraging e-mails be sent to Sinclair, its sponsors and, of course, the FCC.

One site is using an automated advocacy system in its effort to get readers to contact Sinclair's advertisers. "All it takes from this new site is TWO SECONDS," the site crows, adding that "it automatically emails ALL advertisers at once!"

The site also claims that "over 50 Sinclair advertisers have already pulled out and Sinclair's stock is sinking. It works!"

Through his Web site, David Brock has penned a letter to Sinclair, asking the company to halt its televising of the film. Brock calls Sinclair's broadcast decision "an abuse of the public airwaves for what appears to be partisan political purposes."

Columnist Molly Ivins asserts that by broadcasting a program that includes "Stolen Honor," Sinclair is engaging in "creeping fascism, state propaganda, Big Brother and brainwashing," affixing the tagline, "What, me hyperbole?" In addition, she dismisses the film as "just a very long Swift Boat Liars ad."

Spokesperson for the Kerry campaign Mark Nevins states that the veterans who appear in the documentary are "the poor, distant cousin of the Swift Boat Veterans for Bush. It's comprised of people with questionable backgrounds whose sole mission in life is to smear John Kerry." The Boston Globe in a house editorial entitled "Sinclair's Slander" refers to the film as an "anti-Kerry attack ad masquerading as a documentary." The paper also maintains that the movie is "a slur against John Kerry."

Eighteen Dems, including Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein and Patty Murray, have been hard at work trying to stop the Sinclair showing by filing formal complaints with the FEC and the FCC. And in the event that all movie squelching attempts fail, Kerry's campaign has formally requested equal time to respond.

Many are wondering, Why such an uproar over the 45-minute piece? With this question in mind I watched the film and give you my take.

(A note about the film's producer Carlton Sherwood. He's a Pulitzer Prize and Peabody Award-winning journalist as well as a multi-Emmy Award recipient. He has worked as a hard news reporter for the Gannett News Service, CNN and the Washington Times. He's also a decorated Marine Corps Vietnam combat veteran.)

The film is direct in its presentation. Its content is factual and details are delivered primarily through eye-witness accounts.

Vietnam POWs tell their stories in their own words. They remind us all of the suffering they had to endure; suffering that, in connection with anti-war protests, propaganda and a would-be politician's ambitions, ended up being extended in length and breadth. They tell, too, of the shameful treatment they received upon their return, which was delayed as the result of the testimony of one man. One of their own. One who holds the highest of governmental aspirations - John Kerry.

The distinguished decorated veterans, including two Medal of Honor winners who were prisoners of war in North Vietnam, describe the intolerable torture they had to bear at the hands of the North Vietnamese and the additional suffering they were subjected to because of the testimony given by Kerry at the 1971 Fulbright Hearing.

At the hearing, fellow officer Kerry claimed that American forces were guilty of widespread war crimes, and he spoke of his own participation.

While Kerry was offering testimony, "Stolen Honor" veterans were being tortured, held in solitary confinement and experiencing severe psychological and physical maltreatment.

Retired Colonel Leo K. Thorsness is the holder of a Medal of Honor, Silver Star, six Distinguished Flying Crosses, 10 Air Medals, two Purple Hearts and the Good Conduct Medal. He sets forth in the movie the connection between Kerry's deeds and his own personal anguish.

Thorsness spent over five years imprisoned by the North Vienamese communists and shares how he and others "were held captives longer, because of the antiwar people, from the Kerrys to Fonda and Hayden...[who] encouraged the enemy to hang on."

Retired Captain James H. Warner is a Marine and the holder of a Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts, 11 Air Medals and a Navy Commendation Medal. Warner, who was also held as a prisoner for more than five years, recounts how the North Vietnamese coerced him to read Kerry's 1971 testimony and tried to use it to browbeat a confession of war crimes out of him.

He explains in personal terms the horror of solitary confinement and the realization that the dank facility was intended not only for incarceration purposes but for intense and barbaric punishment as well. "We were constantly fed propaganda, and the propaganda from home was always about the antiwar movement," Warner remembers. He recalls that "after we had talked for quite some time, the interrogator showed me a transcript of testimony that my mother had given at something called the Winter Soldier hearings. I had no idea what these were. I read her testimony and it wasn't damning, but then I saw some of the other stuff that had gone on at this Winter Soldier hearing, I wondered 'how did somebody get my mother persuaded to appear at something like this?'"

Warner then describes the use of Kerry's testimony by his captors. He says, "Shortly thereafter he [his captor] showed me some statements from John Kerry. He said that John Kerry had helped organize the Winter Soldier hearings because he was so motivated because he had been an American officer, served in the U.S. Navy. And then he started reading some of the statements that John Kerry had made. I'm sorry I can't quote them, but essentially he [Kerry] accused all of us in Vietnam of being criminals, that everything we had done was criminal.

"The North Vietnamese had told us from the time that they got their hands on us that we were criminals, that we were not covered by the Geneva Convention, so it was okay for them to do whatever they wanted to do to us. And they told us that they were going to put us on trial and some of us would be executed."

Warner's summation is terse and damning. "[John Kerry] abandoned his comrades. He burned up his band of brothers membership card when he did that," he says.

Kerry's testimony gave wings to his political career. But it also blighted the reputation and integrity of 2.5 million Vietnam veterans by marking them as war criminals and baby killers, labels that would result in aspersion, distress, and yes, stolen honor.

The way I see it, Kerry operatives are now trying to suppress the broadcast presentation because of its powerful conveyance of "inconvenient" truths.

If you're like me, when you view the movie you'll cringe at the thought that our soldiers were ever treated in the horrific manner they were abroad, upon their return and by a fellow soldier. You'll work to somehow compensate for our failure to extend the proper acknowledgement and gratitude at their homecoming. And you'll salute them once again for their enormous courage and continued service.

When the veterans who appear in "Stolen Honor" were held at the Hanoi Hilton, the oppressive silence would only be broken by the cries of pain.

The silence on John Kerry's role in the prolonging of the torture of his fellow soldiers and the shameful treatment of our Vietnam vets must be broken to assuage the still-festering wounds of heart and spirit.

Thanks go out to Sinclair for its willingness to tender the truth.

Reproduced with the permission of . All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004
James L. Hirsen, J.D., Ph.D.

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