© Copyright 1996-2005
by David H. Hackworth
All Rights Reserved
Reed Irvine's Letter to the Chairman of CNN
From: Accuracy In Media
June 16, 1998
The establishment media are questioning Matt Drudge's right to claim to be a journalist because he "published" a story about Sidney Blumenthal that turned out to be false. Drudge admitted his error and apologized the day after he put the Blumenthal story in his report. I hope that after you examine the evidence laid out in this letter you will follow Matt Drudge's example and retract the false charges about Operation Tailwind made in the segment titled "Valley of Death" on NewsStand CNN/TIME on Sunday, June 7 and essentially repeated on June 14 and issue an apology. I would go further and suggest that those responsible for this journalistic atrocity should be given their walking papers.
CNN took the story of an incredibly dangerous operation in which the Special Forces exhibited the courage, stamina and skill for which they are famous and converted it into a defamatory attack on the Army, the Special Forces and the United States. You made three charges:
1. The purpose of the operation was to find and kill American defectors working with the enemy in Laos.
Comment: We have talked to seven of the men who were on the Tailwind team. All deny that the mission had anything to do with finding and killing American defectors. All agree that the purpose of the mission was to blow up a bridge and disrupt traffic on the Ho Chi Minh trail. The idea was to create a diversion that would relieve pressure being put on CIA-backed Hmong tribesmen by the North Vietnamese army. They also say that the base camp they destroyed on the fourth day was stumbled upon by accident when they were trying to get to the landing zone where helicopters were to evacuate them.
To justify the charge that the mission was to kill Americans, you rely on a statement by James Cathey, who claims to have been an Air Force enlisted man in charge of coordinating resupply of the Tailwind team. His claim to have done this from on the ground in Laos is considered ludicrous by Special Forces veterans, but that aside, he was in no position to know the purpose of the mission, and he admitted that what he told you was only speculation. You have not named a single person who is in a position to know the purpose of the mission who has confirmed Cathey's speculation. Inexcusably, you failed to report that those who were in a position to know all reject it.
2. Deadly sarin nerve gas was used against a village, killing women and children.
Comment: You do not cite a single source for either the claim that sarin was dropped on this "village" or that women and children lived there. No one who was there that I have talked to saw any women or children. I am told that the word for this camp in Vietnamese is binh tram. That translates as logistical sub-headquarters and they were located all along the Ho Chi Minh trail. It was not a village. No one that I have interviewed believed that the camp had been bombed, strafed and gassed the night before they discovered it. The Tailwind team camped overnight very close to the camp. One said as close as 200 yards. They discovered it because they heard dogs barking. They moved in, shot up the camp and killed everyone who did not escape by fleeing. Had there been any bombing, strafing or gassing the night before, not only would they have known it, but they would have been in grave danger of being killed by it. That alone is evidence that it didn't happen.
3. Sarin was dropped on North Vietnamese troops who were trying to prevent the evacuation of our commandos, many of whom lacked usable gas masks and inhaled the lethal gas that drifted in their direction.
Comment: This charge is supported by only one member of the Tailwind team that I have spoken to, Michael Hagen. He insists that the gas was sarin because in recent years he has experienced serious health problems that his doctor says are the result of exposure to organo-phosphates, which is what sarin is. Hagen is bitter because the government refuses to accept this diagnosis. He says some of the other team members have experienced health problems which his doctor also attributes to organo-phosphate exposure. He mentioned Jim Brevelle, who had already told me that he was sure the gas was CS. Sarin is regarded as an effective weapon because it is supposed to kill quickly, not 30 years after exposure. Gen. Walt Busbee, the Pentagon's expert in chemical weapons, says that tracking of those who have survived exposure to sarin shows that they do not experience any long-lasting effects. Your program did not explain why Hagen is so certain that he was exposed to sarin. Why? Did the producers fear that this would hurt the credibility of the one member of the team they were relying on to make their case?
Robert Van Buskirk appeared to support the claim that nerve gas was used, but he pointed out to me that he did not say that on your program. The transcript supports his denial. There is only an implication that he believes it was nerve gas. He is shown making a statement that implies that he was warned that lethal gas would be used, but in my taped interview, he says he was told that the gas would be CBU-17, tear gas. You showed him saying that after the gas was dropped, he looked down into the valley and could see only bodies that "they were not fighting anymore." He points out that he never said they were dead. He acknowledged that the symptoms he experienced were similar to those caused by CS.
Jay Graves appeared to lend credence to the charge that nerve gas was used, but Graves, who was not part of the SOG team, told me he had no knowledge of the use of nerve gas in Operation Tailwind. He said the CNN interviewer insisted that the use of nerve gas was taught at the Special Forces school where he was an instructor, but he said that was false. Graves appears to have been tricked into making it appear that he confirmed the use of sarin in Tailwind. Here is how it was done.
ARNETT: Tell me. What was the call sign for the sleeping gas used on Tailwind?
GRAVES: GB. We started calling it knockout gas, then it was GB, then they changed it to something else, which I can understand why they was doing it now.
ARNETT: Why were they doing it?
GRAVES: 'Cause they was using nerve gas in that shit and not telling anybody about it. (The word "shit" was omitted from the transcript posted on your web page.)
That sounds like confirmation, but Graves claims he was talking about a period long after Tailwind. I believe that in replying, he focused on the question about the call sign for "sleeping gas," not on the words "used on Tailwind." I am sure it never occurred to him that CNN would treat his answer as confirmation of something about which he had denied any knowledge.
The transcript shows that this same tactic was used to get Adm. Moorer's "confirmation" of the use of nerve gas.
OLIVER: So isn't it fair to say that Tailwind proves that CBU-15 GB (a cluster bomb filled with sarin) was an effective weapon?
MOORER: Yes, but I think that was already known. Otherwise it never would have been manufactured.
This was the only basis I can find for Arnett's claim that "Moorer confirmed that nerve gas was used in Tailwind." Adm. Moorer says he made it clear that he was not involved with Tailwind. He told me, "That was all handled by the CIA. I have never seen an operation order, never seen a battle plan, had no authority to release the use of gas. Later, I heard rumors to the effect, and I told these reporters that they ought to go talk to the people that were there." Oliver must have asked him if he knew if sarin was used in Tailwind. His answer to that question was not used on the program because it did not provide the confirmation Oliver wanted. The question about the sarin cluster bomb being effective was obviously a trick question just like the one used on Jay Graves.
Your charge that sarin was used in Operation Tailwind brought this comment from Prof. E.W. Pfeiffer, author of the book Chemical Warfare in Vietnam: "My impression of that piece is that it is a total hoax....I can't understand why a well-respected reporter like Peter Arnett would have anything to do with that." Pfeiffer, an opponent of the Vietnam War who visited North Vietnam as a guest of the government in 1970, points out that if there had been any credible evidence that we used sarin, North Vietnam would have made the world aware of it. He also is very impressed by the fact that the same gas that your program suggests caused the Vietnamese to drop like flies, was inhaled by those Americans whose gas masks had been damaged or lost and by the Montagnards, most of whom were not equipped with gas masks. Not a single one of them died from poison gas. The initial symptoms of CS and sarin are very similar. Inhale CS and you think you are going to die, but you don't. Inhale sarin and you die, unless you get prompt treatment. That is the proof that the gas that caused some of our men to vomit and choke was CS, not sarin.
Monday, June 15, 1998
CNN military adviser resigns over 'Tailwind'
Retired general demanded retraction of Arnett's Vietnam 'nerve gas' story
By Joseph Farah
Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith quit his long-time job as a military adviser to CNN, over the weekend, in protest of what he regards as major inaccuracies in Peter Arnett's "Operation Tailwind" report on the use of nerve gas by U.S. troops in Laos during the Vietnam War, WorldNetDaily has learned.
Initially, Smith was disturbed that the Arnett report, which received enormous publicity a week ago, was aired without his consultation. He addressed his concerns with top executives of CNN and demanded that the network run a retraction about the use of nerve gas. When he did not get satisfaction, he resigned in protest.
"I had tried very hard for a week to convince (top executives) to do a major retraction, but to no avail," said Smith. "Lots of people at CNN were solidly with me on this, but not the top bosses and the team that put that terrible special together. There is an outside chance that my resigning in protest may finally get attention -- only time will tell."
CNN's "Operation Tailwind" report of Sunday, June 7, alleged the U.S. government used lethal nerve gas during a mission to kill American defectors in Laos in 1970. Arnett claimed to have based his report on eight months of work and 200 interviews. Yet, the sensational charges hung primarily on the claims of one man -- Lt. Robert Van Buskirk, a platoon leader in "Operation Tailwind." Van Buskirk recalled throwing a white phosphorous grenade down a hole to kill two suspected U.S. defectors during the 1970 mission. He also claimed to have witnessed the use of the nerve agent Sarin gas on a base camp used by a group of defectors.
Doubts were cast upon the claims when another Vietnam Special Forces vet, Tom Marzullo, pointed out that Van Buskirk had authored a book in 1983 called "Operation Tailwind," in which he made no mention of the defectors or the Sarin gas. Van Buskirk's superiors also discounted his story.
CNN also failed to mention that shortly after his tour of duty in Vietnam, Van Buskirk was arrested by U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division officials in Germany for arms trafficking and forced to leave the military.
Other troops and officers involved in the mission have come forward to criticize Van Buskirk, Arnett's CNN special and the notion that nerve gas was used. Even the historical records of the North Vietnamese army make no claims that the U.S. ever deployed lethal chemical weapons in its conduct of the war or in the Laotian incursion.
Gen. Smith had been on retainer as a military adviser to CNN since the Persian Gulf War.
"As the CNN military analyst, I would have expected that someone would have checked with me before going on air, but that was not the case," he said. "I have told the CEO of CNN that I have committed myself to seeking and finding the truth. I have already told him that now that I have talked to the pilots, have the ordnance and logistics records -- that he must run a retraction on the use of nerve gas. I have also told him that I think it is extremely unlikely that we tried to kill American defectors, but my research is not as conclusive on that issue."
Arnett served as CNN's "Man in Baghdad" during the Persian Gulf War. He was granted unusual access to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. In a report last September, Arnett also suggested U.S. Special Forces had used chemical weapons on the battlefield in Vietnam. Some media critics and commentators have characterized his reports from Baghdad and Southeast Asia as "anti-American" in tone.
©1998, Western Journalism Center
CNN's TAILWIND PROGRAM DISINFORMATION DISAPPROVED
by Tom Marzullo
Purpose of the Raid
CNN/TIME alleges that the purpose of the raid was to kill American defectors. Van Buskirk makes no mention of this purpose in his 1983 book titled "Operation Tailwind." However in a telephone interview with the Special Forces S-2 (Intelligence) Officer who planned that raid for some months prior to its start, that officer stated that the raid was designed to interdict the flow of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at Chavan and to draw North Vietnamese Army units away from a beleaguered Laotian unit in the area.
Robert Van Buskirk (former Lt.)
Arrested by US Army (CID) Criminal Investigation Division in Germany in early 1970s for arms trafficking and other questionable activities. Was subsequently forced to leave military service.
In the Special Forces community, Van Buskirk developed a reputation for deceit and unreliability. There are witnesses who can testify to his behavior while assigned to SF and MACV-SOG.
In the early 1980's, he wrote the fiscally unsuccessful book "Operation Tailwind" where there was no mention of the alleged American deserters or a plan to kill them. This story was revived by April Oliver and Peter Arnett of CNN with the expressed purpose of branding the United States as a user of lethal chemical weapons. This is from their own e-mails to me and others and the previous MACV-SOG related CNN Impact program broadcast of September 1997 where April Oliver had a hired "chemical weapons expert" to declare MACV-SOG veterans "War Criminals" for the use of non-lethal weapons.
With the exception of Van Buskirk, there were no direct answers to questions that were directed towards the use of a lethal chemical agent during tailwind. Admiral Moorer's statements were general in nature and in answer to general questions by April Oliver.
Speculation and suppositions by some member's of the mission ground personnel were inserted as to make these appear that this was direct admission of the use of lethal chemical agent. Again, there was no preceding question shown on screen that tied the answer shown on screen to Tailwind.
One of the MACV-SOG veterans (J. Graves) interviewed on camera by CNN has been contacted and has strenuously protested the out of context and inappropriate use of some scant seconds of his comments taken from over 7 hours of interview time.
The lead pilot for the A-1E Skyraider aircraft that supported the extraction denies the use of a chemical agent such as alleged by CNN. This pilot is available to confirm this statement.
Air crews of helicopters used in the extraction were not provided with any respiratory protection of any kind. If any lethal or incapacitating chemical agents (such as those alleged) had been used, the effects on the pilots would have been such that is highly probable that none of these aircraft entering the LZ (landing zone) would have made it back to base. There were no plans for decontamination of these aircraft after return from the mission as is an absolutely basic requirement in handling chemical agents.
There was a mention of the use of both BDU-15 and BDU-19 type ordnance during the program as the type of chemical munitions delivered. Which is the one that is alleged to have been used?
The M-17 mask shown was incorrect. The mask shown was a early prototype used in the 1950's and early 1960's. The M-17 mask specified in the CNN show was a black, full face mask without external filter cartridges and was the standard mask issued to virtually all US forces during the mid-1960s and onward (with a few modifications). Looking at any riot control situation in archival footage during the late 1960's and early 1970's where the National Guard was employed will give an excellent view of this type mask. All conventional forces in SVN were issued the standard M-17 mask.
Standing Orders for MACV-SOG Missions and the Capture of Prisoners
Enemy prisoners were always a mission priority. Many missions were launched with the express purpose of capturing enemy personnel and teams undertook extraordinary risks to attempt to capture of any enemy personnel. As a result, several US-led MACV-SOG teams were lost to enemy action. Amongst MACV-SOG personnel, prisoner snatches were well understood to be some of the riskiest missions to be assigned because the team had to come in to the closest possible proximity of enemy troop concentrations in order to have any chance of success.
Foreign prisoners were a assigned a higher priority than North Vietnamese. The recovery of any Americans had the highest priority of all mission objectives. This policy was disseminated at all operational levels of MACV-SOG and was one of the points stressed in the Reconnaissance Team Leaders School (1-0 course) conducted at Camp Long Thanh.
Van Buskirk's On-The-Air Confession of Killing Two Unarmed Americans
Are former Lt. Van Buskirks statements, made on camera and broadcast during the program, outright lies or the truth? Many members of the MACV-SOG veteran community would like to get to the truth of this matter and demand that Van Buskirk immediately be arrested and brought to trail for the murder of two unarmed alleged American citizens. We very strongly feel that only when investigated in this public manner will the entire truth come out.
According to Van Buskirk, no effort was made to determine if the alleged "American defectors" were in fact, Eastern Bloc Caucasians. This most rudimentary of intelligence requirements is alleged to have been ignored by the MACV-SOG team. No other ground personnel confirm his allegations.
Physical Injuries Reported
The CNN report included at statement by Van Buskirk that a building had a stack of bodies that "looked like hamburger." Despite this, Van Buskirk described this momentary glance as his personal confirmation the presence of dead Americans and the prior use of chemical weapons. However, chemical weapons simply do not cause these kind of injuries, but conventional weapons do.
The personnel on the ground were virtually all wounded in some way by conventional weapons. Despite these open wounds and lacking any respiratory protection, there were absolutely no fatalities from chemical agents among them or the also completely unprotected air crew who landed in the center of this "nerve gas contaminated" LZ. Why? Please refer to the technical section on the various chemical agents listed below for more complete information.
CS and CN gases are commonly used for riot control in the US and are not considered lethal. They are visible under most conditions and can be detected by their peppery odor. CS irritates mucous membranes and CN can cause vomiting. Both can form toxic chemicals when burned and both can be lethal in very high concentrations in an enclosed space to a person not wearing respiratory protection. Both were commonly used by US forces in SVN.
BZ is an odorless, colorless, tasteless incapacitating agent that has a range of effects and is not very predictable. It can be lethal in high concentrations in an enclosed space to a person not wearing respiratory protection.
GB or "Sarin" (the pre-WWII German name for the chemical) is a non-persistent nerve agent that is colorless, odorless and tasteless. An extremely small exposure is quite sufficient to cause significant muscular spasms and renders the affected persons helpless in much less than an hour. Inhalation and exposure to mucous membranes or wounds is the most common route by which it enters the body.
Van Buskirk reported on the program that he knew that there was a chemical agent employed at the LZ because he "could see" the wisps of vapor coming into the area. This is highly unusual because the type of chemical agent alleged by CNN and Van Buskirk is known to be odorless, colorless and tasteless. This makes it impossible to detect by a person using their five senses, until they begin to notice symptoms of exposure. The wisps of vapor noted by Van Buskirk therefore cannot possibly be from the chemical agents alleged. Smoke from fires set by tracer bullets fired by supporting aircraft would be the most likely cause (standard ammunition for these weapons uses a tracer every fifth shot). It also could have come from the standard White Phosphorus (WP) smoke rockets typically used to mark targets by US aircraft that were heavily supporting this MACV-SOG mission.
Van Buskirk and other ground personnel also reported the targeted "village" as being quiet and deserted. Van Buskirk asserts that this is positive proof of the employment of chemical agents, yet he and the others also state that it took their company three days of fighting to reach the targeted village. This correlation does not make sense as it ignores the three days the North Vietnamese had at their disposal to evacuate the village in an orderly manner. Generous amounts of loud gunfire will frighten away or silence almost all jungle creatures, so that is a more reasonable alternative explanation than the use of lethal chemical agents given the total lack of obviously undamaged, but dead bodies and the stated facts that they were under enemy fire while in the enemy camp.
North Vietnamese Army Chemical Corps and Wartime Press Releases
Consider the absurdity of the notion that Hanoi would have remained silent about the use of lethal gas -- if we had ever used it.
Peoples Army of Vietnam (PAVN) official history of its operations on the HCM trail (it bears their classification of Secret), PAVN's official history of its Chemical Command, and PAVN's official history of the 968th Volunteer Infantry Division (which was responsible for defense of the region in question) contain not the slightest hint that the US ever used lethal gas against PAVN forces. PAVN's concerns about our use of chemical agents was limited to our use of CS gas - - an agent each US soldier was exposed to during basic training and that many saw used in combat operations in SVN
The history of PAVN's Chemical Command notes the importance of capturing American chemical munitions (e.g., CS grenades) and equipment (e.g., gas masks) to support Hanoi's "political and diplomatic struggle" (i.e., for propaganda purposes). It is absurd to think that Hanoi would have remained silent if we had used lethal chemicals.
Synopsis of the Story's Factual Basis
The lack of credible evidence as shown on the program and the obvious cut and paste approach used in an attempt to show correlating statements by Admiral Moorer is a clear indication that CNN has failed to meet a reasonable burden of proof in airing it's internationally inflammatory allegations.
CNN/TIME and the Money Trail
The CNN/TIME connection with Iraq. Why does Peter Arnett of CNN make the direct connection between the known Iraqi use of chemical agents against it's own civilian populace to a 28 year old story from Vietnam. Arnett goes on to directly make the point that if their story's allegations are true, how can the United States have any moral imperative to prevent the use of such agents by Iraq.
Remember, Peter Arnett was CNN's "Man in Baghdad" during that war and as such was available to the Iraqi's for consultation with their agencies into follow-up actions after the war.
When our young military personnel of DESERT SHIELD/ DESERT STORM ended that conflict early, CNN had to return $1.34 Billion, yes billion, worth of already collected advertising revenues, for the next 90 days. Remember that, according to the press, this was expected to be a long war, and every advertiser wanted to be on the "THIS IS CNN" broadcast.
While the person who reported this to me was at FORSCOM, Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, GA, he met some of their people and they told him that the CNN higher ups were pissed, and would get even. One of the most poignant comments they made was "dead soldiers sell", when I asked what it meant, they said that the desert was the ideal environment for their cameramen, no messy foliage to cover the bodies and the blood, it would be right there for their cameramen to send back live. Dead bad guys don't count, they need dead US troops to make their editorial comments about, to start the American people to get mad and then they could obtain additional ratings and revenues covering the demonstrations. These CNN representatives said that the more American dead the higher the ratings. When the person making this report disclosed to them that he was in the military, they became highly distressed and immediately silent.
In consideration of the above facts, it is reasonable to implement a public investigation into the financial and political ties between the CNN/TIME media conglomerate and the government of Iraq. This is a money trail that clamors to be followed. At the very least this broadcast is an attempt by a US-based, multinational media conglomerate to adversely affect US foreign policy.
Technical Section on Chemical Weapons
For an accurate, user friendly technical resource on Chemical Weapons, please refer to URL: http://nbc-med.org/search.html and search using the name of the chemical you wish to obtain information on. I recommend using US Army Field Manual FM 8-10-7.
Special ops vets: Sarin never used
One Of The Three Retired Generals Calls The Claims ``An Insult;'' Another Says Such An Operation Wouldn't Make Sense.
by BRUCE ROLFSEN Daily News Staff Writer
Allegations that Air Force special operations pilots dropped nerve gas bombs during the Vietnam War are lies and are illogical, according to three retired Air Force generals who oversaw special ops forces during the war.
"I think it is completely false," said retired Lt. Gen. Leroy Manor of Shalimar.
Manor was in charge of the American effort to free prisoners of war from the North Vietnamese camp at Son Tay and commanded Air Force special forces in 1970, the year of the alleged nerve gas attack.
Harry "Heine" Aderholt, a retired Air Force brigadier general who was a wing commander in Thailand and later military liaison with the Thai government, used stronger words to describe the CNN-Time magazine story that was released Sunday.
"It's an insult to everyone in Air Force special operations. It's an insult to everyone who flew a rescue mission," said Aderholt, who lives in Fort Walton Beach.
The scenario presented by Time and CNN doesn't make sense because it would have endangered pilots as well as Americans on the ground, said retired Maj. Gen. Richard Secord of Fort Walton Beach, who worked on Southeast Asia military and CIA operations during the conflict.
The joint CNN and Time report claimed that a military version of sarin nerve gas called "G8" was used on more than 20 missions. The news organizations didn't name their source for information.
The former Air Force commanders said they had never heard of nerve gas being used during the war and nerve gas wasn't an option presented when missions were mapped out. If nerve gas bombs were dropped, the officers would have been in positions to have approved their use or been notified.
The generals said that CNN and Time writers had talked with them as long as a year ago, and that the writers wouldn't accept their explanation for why a nerve gas attack didn't happen.
The people quoted by Time and CNN may have mistaken a commonly used military form of tear gas called "CS gas" for sarin nerve gas, the generals said. CS gas was often dropped by special operations pilots to temporarily incapacitate enemy forces when the Americans were trying to rescue downed air crews. Special forces infantry troops also carried shells filled with CS gas.
Sarin was developed by the Nazis. In 1995, Japanese terrorists used sarin to attack commuters on a Tokyo subway, killing a dozen people.
Secord gave this typical scenario for the Air Force using CS gas.
When an airman was shot down, the North Vietnamese would often not immediately try to capture the American in order to let him call for rescuers. As a recovery task force of helicopters and A-1 "Sandy" Skyraiders attack planes neared a downed pilot, the North Vietnamese would open fire.
To protect the slow-moving helicopters, the A-1s would blast North Vietnamese positions with bombs and bullets. If assaulting the North Vietnamese with regular bombs could endanger the downed airman, then Sandy pilots would release bombs filled with canisters of CS gas.
Breathing in the gas would immediately make the North Vietnamese sick to their stomachs, convulsive and unable to fight.
Although the gas also made the downed airman sick, the airman could be carried on to a rescue helicopter. By the time the gas wore off, the American aircraft were out of range.
During the war, A-1 pilots were trained at Hurlburt Field to drop CS gas, Aderholt said. Because the propeller-driven planes flew so close to the ground, their pilots had to wear gas masks to keep from breathing in gas they released.
"To think a Sandy pilot would release sarin nerve gas doesn't make sense," Secord and Aderholt said. "Sarin can be lethal simply from touching a person's skin. It could kill the A-1 pilot just as well as troops on the ground."
Aderholt said he would have known if sarin nerve gas had been stored at any Air Force base in Thailand where A-1 crews were located. The introduction of nerve gas would have required more base security to protect the nerve gas and the approval of the Thai government.
The CNN and Time report said the nerve gas attack happened in September 1970 while U.S. Army troops and their Montagnard mercenaries had been ordered to attack a Laotian village where a dozen suspected American defectors were living.
"I heard of two defectors but never a dozen," said Manor about reports of Americans freely living in Laos and North Vietnam.
Aderholt recalled that in 1966, he helped plan a mission to find and bring him back an American in the Mekong River Delta who had reportedly defected.
"There were no orders to kill the guy," Aderholt said.
The alleged defector disappeared before American troops could find him.
"If a raid into Laos had turned up Americans living in a village, the troops would have tried to bring the Americans out alive," Secord said. "And if the alleged defectors died in a battle, then the Army soldiers would have scoured the area to determine the men's identities, and he would have seen those reports."
As for the Army special forces soldiers quoted as witnessing a nerve gas attack, the Air Force generals believe the Army soldiers mistook CS gas for sarin nerve gas.
Secord pointed out that had sarin be used, then the Army troops would have died because they had only gas masks, not the necessary full-body protection clothes.
Aderholt and Secord believe their explanation of CS gas being mistaken for sarin gas was ignored by CNN/TIME because jointly owned news operations were out to discredit the American military.
On a wall of Aderholt's office is a picture of Jane Fonda during a war-time propaganda visit to North Vietnam.
"You know who she is married to now?" Aderholt asked.
Fonda is married to CNN founder Ted Turner.
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The Big Lie
On Sunday morning, 14 June, I decided to resign my position as military analyst for CNN. Just before I left for church, I telephoned the CEO of the CNN News Group, Mr. Tom Johnson, to give him the news. I had been CNN's military analyst since 16 January 1991, the day the Gulf War had started. For the past couple of years, CNN had paid me a modest retainer so that I would be on call in case of a military crisis or war. I resigned because I had fundamental objections to major portions of CNN's Newsstand which aired at 10 PM eastern time the previous Sunday night (7 June).
In the Newsstand production, CNN made the case that the United States Air Force used lethal Sarin gas to kill some American defectors in Laos during the period 11-14 September 1970. While I watched Newsstand, I had serious reservations in two major areas. Were there US military defectors in a group in Laos? Did the US use lethal gas to kill them? The fundamentals of the story just didn't ring true to me. I had flown over Laos for a year from August, 1968 to August, 1969, amassing 130 combat sorties (as well as 50 over North Vietnam). I was the weapons and tactics officer for the 555th Fighter Squadron which flew out of Udorn Air Base in Thailand. During that time and since, I had never heard of the presence of a group of American defectors in Laos or the use of lethal gas by anyone in the American military. There had been some reports of the North Vietnamese military using a lethal gas called "yellow rain" to kill both enemy soldiers and Laotian civilians but not eve a rumor had ever reached my attention of the use of lethal gas by the American military.
This story so worried me that I got very little sleep for the next week. In some ways this was a blessing since it gave me time to surf the Internet at night and make phone calls during the day. If I could validate the story, I planned to support CNN's effort to shed light on this heinous act of 28 years ago. If, however, these allegations were in error, I planned to make an effort to have CNN retract the story. I decided that the most productive avenue of inquiry and research was not to determine if defectors were in Laos, but if lethal gas was used. Having written six non-fiction books, I had some experience in doing research. I quickly learned that gas had been delivered that day by two aircraft flying out of an air base in Thailand, Nakhon Phanom. I talked individually to both pilots by telephone and they each told me that he had carried and dropped CS gas, which is a strong, non-lethal tear gas. One pilot, Art Bishop, had maintained a diary which had a 15 September 1970 notation which stated that on the previous day he had dropped two loads of CBU-30 (CS gas).
I then went to my favorite Air Force historian of the Vietnam era. He has helped me many times in the past, has access to an extensive data base and has always given me carefully researched and accurate data. I asked him to take examine the records for munitions expenditures on 14 September by A-1 aircraft flying out of NKP. By Wednesday he had the answer--CBU-30 (Tear Gas). I asked him if there was any possibility that lethal gas was used. He said he had examined that issue with great care and found it impossible. There were no storage facilities for nerve gas at NKP, nor any nerve gas of any kind there. We then discussed at length how CNN might have become confused. He had a thesis. In the years prior to 1969, CS gas had been delivered by a dispenser which shot the gas canisters out the back. A new dispenser (the SUU- 13) had been designed which was quite different in that it pushed the gas canisters straight down. If the SUU-13 was loaded with CS tear gas, the bomb was called a CBU-15. However, if the same dispenser was loaded with lethal nerve gas, the bomb was called a CBU-15. It is possible that the use of the identical dispenser for both bombs may have caused confusion between the tear gas bomb and the nerve gas bomb. By September 1970, the Air Force had been using CBU-30s in Southeast Asia for over a year to help rescue Americans and allied troops closely pursued by enemy ground forces.
Once I was certain that the logistics and munitions records were solid, I decided to surf the net to try to find someone with evidence that there were nerve agents (or even hints or rumors of them) anywhere in the combat theater. I also made many phone calls, concentrating heavily on people who had been stationed at NKP. I could find no one who could validate the charge. I became convinced by Thursday morning that the nerve gas portion of the CNN story was in error. I then attempted to get the senior leadership of CNN to put together a major retraction of Newsstand. In the meantime, the Newsstand producers were working on a follow-up story. Sadly, from my point of view, it clearly was not going to be a retraction.
Having made my best efforts to get CNN to do a full retraction, I decided on the night of 13 June (six days after the first Newsstand production) that I could no longer serve CNN. What triggered my decision was an e-mail I had just received from an active duty Lieutenant Colonel who was stationed at Fort Benning. I quote one paragraph from his e-mail. (please note, when he refers to "fast movers" he means jet fighters like the F-4, F-105, F-100 etc. ). "Sir, please assist us in regaining our honor, you "fast movers" never let us down in SVN, you and your peers got me out of hot water many times, so I hate to impose and ask you to once more leap into the breach. So many of the men of SOG that ran those dangerous missions are dying now as a result of the wounds received, the diseases that ran through them, malaria, dengue, etc., the physical abuse one's body had to absorb in the performance of duties, that this is having a terrible effect on them. Please don't let their last thoughts be that once again their sacrifices were in vain, and that the press can once again crucify us as they did thirty years ago."
At this point, my strategy was as follows. If I resigned in protest, perhaps the CNN leadership would have a change of heart and retract the story. So far, this strategy has failed. In fairness, CNN continues to work hard to examine all the questions which have been raised from many quarters about this story but as of the moment, CNN is sticking with the story that the US Air Force used lethal gas to kill both Laotian civilians and American soldiers who had defected. I have talked to a number of Americans who had extensive combat experience in Vietnam and have been cleared for secret, classified and compartmentalized military programs at the highest levels. The most prominent of these are Colin Powell, Norman Schwarzkopf and Andrew Goodpaster. They all have express to me their certainty that nerve gas was not used. Also, each one is very skeptical that there were defectors grouped together in Laos, and that the United States would ever target Americans, even if they were defectors, for assassination.
My permanent cessation of work for CNN has caused me some sadness. CNN has many serious journalists of very high integrity. In the past seven years, many have become my friends. I will miss them. But this was a major issue of integrity for me. How could I be associated with a news organization that would not retract a story that was so fundamentally flawed.
With this Newsstand report, CNN has damaged the United States of America quite seriously. Saddam Hussein can now accuse America of hypocrisy on the issue of the use of lethal gas. He can use CNN as the source of his information. In addition, CNN has badly hurt itself. CNN has sullied its reputation with the US military as a reliable source for accurate and up-to-date information. The next time there is a military conflict, many people in the military will not trust CNN reporters and military analysts. They will withhold information from CNN for fear that it will be misused. In fact, this has already happened with one of the military services in the aftermath of Newsstand. I predict that CNN sources will dry up, at least to some degree. Hence CNN will, in the future, be less accurate in its reporting of military activities. A downward spiral will probably occur. As CNN becomes less accurate, it will become less credible and fewer and fewer knowledgeable people will talk to CNN reporters and correspondents.
What lessons can be drawn from this episode. 1. Networks who have military analysts on their staff should use them when a major military story is being developed (this may seem like a "no brainer" but I was not contacted even one time during the eight months that this story was being developed). 2. Reporters and producers should not assume high quantity equals high quality as far as research is concerned. 3. On military stories involving combat action, the most reliable source for weapons use is the shooter not the "shootee". The pilots had much better knowledge of what was shot and dropped that day than did the grunts on the ground. (As a boy, I witnessed the attack on Pearl Harbor. We on the ground saw lots of explosions but it was the Japanese pilots who knew what bombs and torpedoes had been used). 5. Media companies should be very skeptical of conspiracy theories and assumptions that most people in the military or in government are lying or covering up. In fact, it has been my experience after sixty-three years of close association with military people of all ranks and all services, that, despite some notable exceptions, the integrity of military professionals is of the highest order.
-- Major General Perry M Smith, US Air Force (Ret.)
Perry Smith retired from the military in 1986. He lives in Augusta Georgia with his wife of 39 years. He is the president of Visionary Leadership and teaches leadership, strategic planning and ethics to corporations, non-profits and military and government organizations. He has just completed the manuscript of a biography of his father-in-law, Lt. Colonel Jimmie Dyess, USMCR, the only person to have earned America's two highest awards for heroism, the Medal of Honor and the Carnegie Medal. Some of Smith's other books include "Taking Charge", "Assignment Pentagon", "Rules and Tools for Leaders" and "How CNN Fought the War."
THE REAL QUESTION TRAITORS OR POWs
The damage done by the joint Time and CNN investigation into the use of sarin gas in support of Operation Tailwind in Laos in September 1970 is perhaps irreconcilable and irreparable. The credibility of the US government is often suspect and, despite whatever the facts may actually be, many people will always have a nagging suspicion that our government allowed nerve gas to be used.
The facts of the operation seem plain enough. Starting with the MACSOG Command History, six paragraphs tell of an operation in which the company-sized SOG unit was inserted (after the placement of a pathfinder team) as a diversion, presumably to blow up an ammunition dump in support of larger force actions elsewhere. Taking fire, they attempted to have their wounded evacuated but were engaged by a company-sized force which maintained contact throughout the night. The next day, contact continued, however the enemy engaged in defensive fires of a battalion-sized base camp, which seemed to be used as a supply depot. This camp was the apparent site of the purported "round-eyes", according to some (but not contained in the command history) they were US defectors or deserters. "Thirty-six sets of TACT AIR" (tactical aircraft) were then used in extracting the force still under fire.
The CNN/Time investigation differs significantly from the official history. Their reporting has the SOG company deliberately entering the area in search of defectors/deserters with the mission of killing everyone they found. They then called in A-1/Skyraiders (TAC AIR) and instructed them to use sarin gas (also known as GB) to aid in their own extraction by helos.
At once we have a dilemma. Or do we? No Skyraider pilots have come forward authenticating the story (at least one has said the opposite). The use of tear gas by Skyraiders (especially in recovering downed US pilots) was well known and employing it required them to also don a gas mask when delivering the gas. Great attention has been paid to the issuing of gas masks to the ground force in this operation when having a gas mask was a normal requirement of all US Army personnel in Vietnam.
The major story then should have been US defectors or deserters but again the story gets muddled. No mention of these people had occurred prior to the CNN/Time investigation. One person involved in TAILWIND has said that the "round-eyes" were not restrained, therefore they must have been defectors.
The Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army were known to have operated POW camps in the jungle. While places like the Hanoi Hilton are infamous places of captivity, the jungle camps were hundreds of times worse hellholes. A degree of freedom inside these camps was apparently common, precisely because they were located deep inside the bush and most of the prisoners suffered greatly from various jungle fevers and malnutrition -- they couldn't and wouldn't be able to go far.
If the battalion-sized camp inside Laos had "round-eyes," it is just as likely that they could have been captured Americans. EGRESS/RECAP (BRIGHTLIGHT) reports were the titled means for any sighting or other information concerning potential US military personnel being held or seen anywhere in the area. This was an absolute -- in reporting and in the requirement to be transmitted within a very short period of time.
There were deserters and defectors in Vietnam. In 1966, one defector was believed to be in the Mekong Delta. At least as late as 1972, a "Salt and Pepper" team of US defectors operated west of Chu Lai with a Viet Cong propaganda platoon.
With the POW/MIA question lingering in the American conscience perhaps the CNN/Time investigation should have centered on this question instead.
-- Bob Baker
Having spent the past 27 years in intelligence and threat analysis (in the US Army and in industry), I was also the intelligence analyst for the 1st Battalion/525th Military Intelligence Group (headquartered in Da Nang) in 1971-72.
You are being contacted in an effort to counteract a malicious campaign of disinformation against American veterans in general, and Special Forces soldiers during the Vietnam war in particular. The campaign was initiated by CNN and Time Magazine on 7 June and continued on 14 June.
Very briefly, the program, NewsStand, carried an article about Operation Tailwind, an operation that took place in Laos. The main thrust of which was that the operation had as, at least one of its missions, (if not the MAIN mission) the assassination of American defectors in Laos, and that in carrying this mission out, the MACVSOG aircraft utilized nerve gas.
The editors of the program specifically refused to accept testimony from the vast majority of troops and airmen actually involved in the operation, and relied primarily on the testimony of one former 1st Lieutenant Van Buskirk, who did time for arms trafficking and who was known by his associates to fabricate and fantasize for the sole purpose of self-aggrandizement. This individual alleges that, acting on orders from above (which no participants in the operation can corroborate), he personally killed at least two Americans who he believed were defectors. Moreover, this individual alleges that nerve gas (Sarin) was utilized by the Air Force and/or Army helicopters and that he personally was able to see vapors given off by this gas despite the fact that one of the scientific properties of this gas is that it is colorless, and that unlike the enemy and the montagnards involved in the operation, some of whom were killed, all of the Americans involved survived due to their utilization of their gas masks. Van Buskirk does not bother to mention that the masks issued at the time to the troops in the operation protected only against tear gas and that it would be impossible for any gas mask to protect against the effects of Sarin which is lethal upon skin contact alone. The editors also did cut-and-paste distortions of Admiral Moorer, giving the impression that he confirmed the use of nerve gas (Admiral Moorer later said, in rebuttal of the distortion of the program, that he could not possibly have either confirmed or denied the use of nerve gas since no mention of its existence or utilization was ever made either officially or unofficially to him at any time.
Sergeant Graves was more vociferous in his outrage over being misquoted and taken totally out of context in order to create an impression that was totally contrary to the testimony that he actually delivered.
CNN's military advisor since Operation Desert Storm, Gen. Perry Smith, was bewildered by the first program (7 June) and did extensive research on his own. Satisfied that virtually every major point being put forth was totally false, he confronted CNN's management with his findings and insisted upon a retraction. When CNN refused to do so, he resigned. A copy of his statement of his reasons for doing so is on file and can be obtained through GreenBeret.net.
This site, operated by CPT Robert(Bob) Golden is where the moral outrage and factual disproof of the entire military community is being channeled, focused, and coordinated into a campaign against CNN's campaign of disinformation deliberately and maliciously designed to defame and dishonor the memory of our brave and valiant soldiers and airmen involved in the operation. It is important to note that while this particular program specifically targets only Special Forces and MACVSOG airmen, it is, in a much larger sense, an affront and an attack on ALL military personnel. It seeks to portray them as engaging in acts which we tend to think of as typical of Hitler, Stalin, and Saddam Hussein. If we do not immediately react, there is no way of telling which unit/service might be next.
We are mobilizing the entire veteran community and all sympathetic to preserving the reputation of honor that our military men have so dearly earned to join in our campaign to refute the lies that CNN seeks to perpetrate against the military. It is not for nothing that Ted Turner, the owner of CNN is frequently referred to as "Red Fred" and we all know who his wife, "Hanoi Jane" is and how her treasonous acts displayed where her sympathies lay. In any other period of U.S. history such acts of brazen disloyalty would have resulted in prison time.
Accordingly, we are requesting of you the following information on either yourself, your organization, and/or any members who you feel would like to be kept informed of the status of this project and would be willing to become active in this project:
Handle/Nickname (if any):
Telephone number (bus.):
Telephone number (res.):
Beeper Number (if any):
Snail mail address
Snail mail City, State, Zip
Point of contact (in case above info is not sufficient)
Computer System O/S (Win95/NT/Mac/Unix..)
Your E-Mail Program (Netscape, Eudora, Outlook, etc):
Your Computer Hardware (CPU, RAM, Hddr, Printer, Scanner, Fax, etc):
Specialized Computer or Communications Gear:
Your Strongest Skills:
How Can You Help Us To Spread The Word About The Truth Of Operation Tailwind and CNN's Lies:
Anything Else That Would Better Help Us Utilize Your Talents and Efforts:
Thanks for your help!