- Organized the 1971 “Winter Soldier Investigation,” which portrayed U.S. troops and the U.S. military as war criminals
- Claims that U.S. foreign policy is “based on corporate exploitation and military domination”
In 1967, six Vietnam War veterans-turned-antiwar activists (Jan Barry Crumb, Ron Kovic, Skip Delano, Carl Rogers, Sheldon Ramsdell, and former Black Panther Al Hubbard) founded Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Over the ensuing decades, some 30,000 people would join this organization.
VVAW’s self-defined initial mission was to “expos[e] the ugly truth about U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia and … the unjust nature of that war.” Its portrayal of U.S. troops as war criminals angered most veterans. In the years following the Vietnam War, VVAW showed more sympathy for those who had refused to serve in the military than for those who served. It sought to gain amnesty for war resisters, including veterans with “bad discharges” from the military. And it “helped make known the negative health effects of exposure to chemical defoliants and the VA’s [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.”
According to a November 1978 Heritage Foundation report, VVAW was “an overtly pro-Communist and pro-Hanoi organization that was eventually taken over by the Maoist Revolutionary Union”; it was “among the most active components of the Communist-dominated People’s Coalition for Peace and Justice”; and it included anti-war activists “who later progressed to involvement with such Maoist groups as the Venceremos Organization and such avowedly terrorist operations as the Symbionese Liberation Army.”
In his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg writes that VVAW “internally debated whether or not it should assassinate politicians who supported the war.”
In June 1970, John Kerry became involved with VVAW. On September 7 of that year, he accepted a prominent role in the organization’s “Operation RAW” (Rapid American Withdrawal), where 150 combat veterans marched, wearing their army fatigues and carrying toy rifles, through the countryside from Morristown, New Jersey to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania in an action designed to convey the horrors of war and the barbarity of American soldiers.
At Valley Forge, Kerry came into contact with VVAW’s most prominent promoter, actress Jane Fonda, who stated, “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.”
From January 31 to February 2, 1971, VVAW organized the “Winter Soldier Investigation,” with Kerry and Fonda playing prominent roles. At this event, 125 self-identified Vietnam veterans testified in condemnation of the American military’s alleged wholesale rape, torture, arson, and murder of South Vietnamese citizens. It was later learned that some participants in the testimony had lied, and that others were imposters who had never been in Vietnam.
On April 22, 1971, John Kerry testified before the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs as a spokesman for VVAW, giving his infamous characterization of American serviceman as murderers and pillagers “reminiscent of Genghis Khan.”
Through the decades, VVAW has opposed every military action the United States has taken, including the current war on terrorism.
“Today,” VVAW says, “… American troops have been sent into combat in the Middle East and Central America, for many of the same misguided reasons that were used to send us to Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, 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.”
Immediately following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, VVAW issued a statement that read, in part: “[O]ur country has to address the reasons behind the violence that has now come to our shores.… As long as U.S. foreign policy continues to be based on corporate exploitation and military domination, we will continue to make more enemies in the poor, underdeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America…. We see many parallels between Vietnam and Afghanistan.”
VVAW is a member organization of the United for Peace and Justice anti-war coalition, which is led by Leslie Cagan, a longtime committed socialist who aligns her politics with those of Fidel Castro‘s Communist Cuba. VVAW has denounced the Patriot Act and views the post-9/11 detention of Muslims and Arabs taken into custody in terrorism investigations as an assault on civil rights.
VVAW was a signatory to a February 20, 2002 document, composed by the radical group Refuse & Resist, 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.”
A notable member of VVAW is Carl Dix, co-founder of the Revolutionary Communist Party.