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POW airs criticism of Sen. Kerry in film

October 29, 2004|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

ROHRERSVILLE - Jim Warner of Rohrersville - a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War - is interviewed in a new film skewering Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic nominee in Tuesday's presidential election.

A series of pro- and anti-Kerry documentary films have come out in recent months.

A new release, "Stolen Honor," in which Warner appears, attacks Kerry for his public criticism of the Vietnam War, including his April 1971 testimony before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Warner, 63, an attorney for the National Rifle Association, said news stories containing Kerry's name and opinions reached Vietnam. He said one of his captors interrogated him about the story in May 1971.

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About half of the three-hour interrogation session was spent sparring over Kerry's comments and the implications, Warner said.

Warner said he had been tortured as a prisoner, but it stopped about two years before that interrogation.

Another Vietnam POW, Douglas "Pete" Peterson, 69, of Tallahassee, Fla., doubted Warner's claim and asked him to produce proof.

"I can find no evidence from anyone that anyone had ever heard of the name John Kerry while we were in captivity," said Peterson, a former Congressman from Florida and U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.

He said he was held captive at the same time and place as Warner and he knew who he was.

Peterson called The Herald-Mail after a reporter asked if the Kerry campaign could talk about Warner's comments.

Peterson said he knows Kerry from Congress and is campaigning for him.

Warner contributed $1,000 to President Bush's campaign in 2000 and again this year, according to Federal Election Commission records.

In 1971, representing a group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Kerry - a Naval officer who served in Vietnam - called for the United States to end the war.

A transcript shows that he testified bluntly about U.S. soldiers' reports of gruesome acts: "They told the stories at times they had personally 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 in addition to the normal ravage of war...."

The war stories to which Kerry referred were told by soldiers several months earlier in Detroit at what was known as the "Winter Soldier Investigation."

That came two years after word got about the My Lai massacre, in which American soldiers killed hundreds of Vietnamese civilians.

In March 1967, Warner, a Marine officer, was in a plane that was shot down. He was held captive for almost 51/2 years.

In an opinion piece in Soldier of Fortune magazine in July, Warner wrote that a captor gave him articles about Kerry's comments and an article in which Warner's mother said she hoped the war would end soon.

Warner said he felt betrayed by Kerry's public stance.

"It was very demoralizing," he said.

Warner said his opinion piece circulated on the Internet. Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - a group of veterans critical and skeptical of Kerry's Vietnam service - asked him to be in a television ad, which he did.

Swift Boat Veterans for Truth has the backing of Republican contributors.

Warner said his Swift Boat ad led to his inclusion in "Stolen Honor."

This month, word spread that Sinclair Broadcast Group planned to tell all of its public television affiliates to run "Stolen Honor." However, Sinclair said that was never a concrete plan; instead, it aired a one-hour special with clips of "Stolen Honor" and other movies related to the presidential race.

Asked if he aired his criticism of Kerry when he first returned from Vietnam, Warner said his views were in the minority at the University of Michigan, which he attended, so there was little point.

Peterson, an Air Force fighter pilot during the Vietnam War, was in a plane shot down in 1966. He was held captive for about 61/2 years.

He said prisoners of war had no outside information about the anti-war movement in the United States.

"The only part of John Kerry's testimony that was out of line was his allegation of war criminal activities," Peterson said.

In an interview with NBC's Tim Russert in April, Kerry said those words were "honest," but "a little bit over the top," according to a show transcript.

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