Vindication for Those Who Never Gave Up

As of early January 2016, I have 7 posts. Please start with the first post (#1) at the bottom of the posts and then read your way up to #7. That sequence is very important for grasping the following 6 posts.  I anticipate I will issue #8 in February. Thank you very much.

A top-security National Security Council (NSC) document released during the summer by the CIA vindicates all of us who have known for decades that live POW-MIAs were abandoned in Vietnam and Laos by the U.S. Government on the heels of Operation Homecoming in April 1973. The document proves the U.S. Government knew live POW-MIAs were left behind and concluded it was unable to do what it would take to bring them home. By classifying all the vital documents and not telling the truth, the U.S. Government authored a cover-up.

The top-secret document is A Report on US-Vietnamese Talks on POW/MIAs During the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations, prepared by Paul Heer of  the CIA and submitted to Richard  Childress of the National Security Council (NSC) on September 23, 1985. It cites how and why, under three presidents, the U.S. Government failed in regards to the live POW-MIAs. To those of us who have known the truth of the POW-MIA issue all along , there is now a level playing field between us and the U.S. Government for the first time ever.

The document cites Presidents Nixon and Ford as having had good intentions in seeking to resolve the live POW-MIA issue. However, the  USG’s staunch fixation on dealing with the North Vietnamese/Socialist Republic of Vietnam solely on “humanitarian” grounds, and North Vietnamese/SRV’s staunch demand for war reparations (most notably the $3.25 billion), discussions between the two governments never went anywhere. Eventually, the POW-MIA issue was subordinated by President Carter to other global diplomatic priorities including the normalization of relations with the SRV. From then, the POW-MIA issue was just buried deeper and deeper to what it is today.

The NSC document affirms the USG simply gave up on the POW-MIAs and that the POW-MIA issue transitioned from an honest, but inept, effort to account for them to a cover-up that endured.

For all us who have committed countless days, months, years and decades for this truth to finally get told is an extraordinary thing. We prevailed despite the Government’s relentless enforcement of its policy that all the POW-MIAs came home after Operation Homecoming. However, we pursued the truth and never gave up. We have proven the Government’s policy ever since the 1970s was not the truth.

It’s so tragic that it chose its route by making the lie the policy. All it had to do was tell the truth and do something viable to bring the missing men home. Instead, it chose the path of least resistance and just kept the truth away from the American public.

The document was declassified in 2009 for what appears to have been internal USG purposes. It was not made accessible to the public until June of this year when the CIA lost its appeal against declassification of its documents in a Washington, D.C. court.

The document was supplied to me by Mark Sauter, author of multiple POW-MIA books. He is cited in my previous posts. His most recent book, American Trophies, co-authored by John Zimmerlee, is extraordinary.

Please note that the document has its shortcomings. For example, Mr. Heer was a CIA employee and – in my interpretation – was watering down his report to protect the Agency. For example, the Nhom Marrott issue is not cited at all (see post #5) despite it being a live POW-MIA issue in Laos that the CIA was actively pursuing. Also, the CIA had thousands of documents – still classified – pertaining to POW-MIA sightings, many of which were and are live sighting reports. In the report, the CIA is telling the truth while protecting the un-truth. And, the report does not address the fact that the truth was pervasively kept from the American public.

What is happening to the National Security Council document and other documents is the consequence of the CIA losing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) appeal under a federal judge’s ruling in Washington, D.C. The FOIA case had been underway for over a decade led by Roger Hall, a number of his backers, and AIM (Accuracy in Media). Roger’s efforts are why the documents are being released. For decades many of us and Roger have said that the only way to get the truth told about the POW-MIA issue is to declassify the documents held by the CIA and DIA and now the NSC and NSA. It is happening, at last, thanks to Roger.

The document was prepared and submitted to the National Security Council (NSC) and circulated to the CIA and other government entities. The NSC is responsible for planning and developing national security policies and presenting them to the President for his consideration. The National Security Agency (NSA) exists to gather intelligence and execute those policies. In other words, the NSA does the NSC’s dirty work. The NSC is an extremely low profile U.S. Government entity.

At the end of the day, the USG, from Presidents Carter through Clinton, sacrificed the POWs in favor of normalizing relations with Vietnam, which Clinton did in 1995. During President Carter’s administration, the POW-MIA issue had become a serious encumbrance on foreign policy. The USG simply forfeited its duty to those who unselfishly served, including Morgan Jefferson Donahue.

Please also note that part of pages 18 and 19 are still classified in the Heer NSC Report. They could pertain to the Nhom Marrott episode regarding live POWs in Laos (see Post #6) which is entirely possible, especially since Heer was a CIA employee.


JEFF DONAHUE’S PERCEPTIONS

As I have stated before, when you lose a war you have no leverage and, hence, no bargaining chips. And, when you compound the loss with a failure to deliver on your commitment, e.g. the $3.25B promise to fund Vietnam’s reconstruction and development, you dig yourself even deeper into the hole. This is exactly where the USG found itself. On top of that, the SRV’s intransigence on the POW-MIA issue prompted the USG to block Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization, which just further soured the hopes for some productive dialog between the two. The USG eventually approved the SRV’s application to the WTO, and the WTO General Council eventually approved Vietnam’s WTO accession.

Despite having no leverage and no bargaining chips, the USG incessantly kept trying to get the Vietnamese to deal with the USA on a humanitarian basis. From the 1960s onward the U.S. appealed to the Vietnamese for the POW-MIA issue to be treated as a humanitarian one separate from the conduct of war. However, the word “humanitarian” does not even exist in the Vietnamese language and there was no way in the world that the North Vietnamese were not going to deal with the U.S. on that basis alone. The French experience with their POW-MIAs and North Vietnam proves that. Concomitantly, how in the world are you going to bring someone to practice being “humanitarian” when you are busy bombing their country and killing their troops and population? The U.S. did not learn and it failed to understand that when something doesn’t work you try something else.

1966-1Moreover, the United States Government accepted the U.S. prisoner lists presented by the North Vietnamese ahead of Operation Homecoming even when the U.S. knew the North Vietnamese lists were incredibly insufficient, including the list for Laos; see my previous post. And, don’t forget, the North Vietnamese never declared American servicemen as POWs. Rather, the North Vietnamese designated them as “war criminals,” which obviated North Vietnam’s obligations under the Geneva Conventions, including for POW-MIA. In addition, the U.S. accepted Vietnam’s declaration in 1977 that there were no live POWs in Vietnam. Of course, Vietnam had no other option than to say there were no live POW-MIAs. Because economic aid was out of the question, Vietnam could not declare, “Well, we held some back and we’re turning them over as a gesture of good will.” Vietnam would have become a global pariah if it have said that and been subjected to the scorn, opprobrium and contempt by the world. With Vietnam wanting to play on the world stage, there was no way they were going to let that happen.

The secret Nixon letter was intended as an incentive for the North Vietnamese to deal with the U.S. on the POW-MIA issue. When it shortly became clear to the North Vietnamese that the U.S. was not going to deliver on its promise, the North Vietnamese became even more intransigent, and that mindset prevails to this day. They never budged an inch, and they do not even speak about the POW-MIAs then and today.

Guess what? Communist Vietnam was willing to discuss the POW-MIA issue with me because I gave them a proposal that satisfied both sides’ requirements: for the Vietnamese, war reparations (especially the $3.25 billion); for the USA, resolution of the POW-MIA issue. The Vietnamese were willing to talk to me but not to the United States Government. Who put all of this together in the first place? I did. See my Post #1 focusing on North Vietnam’s invitation of me to Hanoi in 1975. [Post #1 is at the bottom of the list of 7 Posts.]

Now that I have connected all the dots, I am overwhelmed.

RELEASING ALL THE DOCUMENTS

The judge’s ruling applies across the CIA’s board and is not limited to the NSC document. However, the CIA is not rushing to Roger’s front door with wheelbarrows full of now-declassified documents. Rather, the CIA likely will delay the document releases as much as possible. Also, the “national security” document classification will be invoked as often as possible. The federal judge opined that the CIA was constantly hiding behind that classification all along. Indeed, the NSC document was buried in the CIA’s public record chest and it took a lot of hunting to find it: Notice of Orders of Judgment In the Case Against the CIA.

If you want further information as to how and why the POW/MIA issue came to be after Operation Homecoming you should read this extremely important document as well: POW/MIA Accounting Deserves Full – Not Selective Accounting, which was written testimony by Roger Hall and submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 2, 2009.

For over 40 years the U.S. Government has had exclusive dominion over the POW-MIA documents and has released them only at its discretion. Its rationale for not releasing key documents always has been its need to “protect security assets” and “sources and methods”. The war was over 40 years ago and the USA was a big-time loser, and the CIA still is declaring it needs to protect antiquated assets and sources and methods? If the CIA is running its current operations as it did back then, we’re all in trouble.

As I and many others have cited, the only way to get the full story about the POW-MIAs and the war is the release of all documents from all U.S. Government agencies pertaining to it. This includes, but is not limited to, the DIA, CIA and NSC. Why doesn’t the USG just disavow the policy-lie and get on with dealing with the Vietnamese on some field that will work for both sides? All of the USG’s efforts are limited to the search for remains because it is fixated on its fraudulent policy that all the POW-MIAs came home at Operation Homecoming.

Also Roger’s additional report, Belated and Withheld Intelligence on American POWs, is just one of thousands of USD documents that Roger has gone through over the years. Many affirm Vietnam’s intransigence regarding the USG’s misguided insistence that the POW-MIA issue was a humanitarian one. This ultimately was fatal to the live POW-MIAs.

Here is a link to the full District Court ruling on the suit for Roger Hall, AIM and others to be awarded attorneys’ fees. https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/2168075/roger-hall-v-cia.pdf. I note that the CIA did attempt an apology to the Court when Roger, AIM and others with them were trying to secure some reimbursement for their fees in pursuing the litigation, “The CIA accepts some responsibility for the unnecessarily protracted nature of this ligation.”


IN SUMMARY

If anyone tells you all the POW-MIAs came home during Operation Homecoming and the US Government has confirmed it since then, just say something to the effect of, “The US Government has relentlessly not told you the truth about the POW-MIA issue and will stop at nothing to get you to believe all the men came home. However, there are plenty of documents to prove that live POWs were left behind including multiple formerly classified U.S. Government documents. Read them for yourself.” You know the truth and the USG has been dedicated to the untruth since 1973.

Roger Hall has an almost unbelievable array of experiences in multiple FOIA confrontations with the CIA. I am certain we will be getting some updates from him. For now, my deep gratitude goes to him and his colleagues, and hopefully the same applies to you.

At the end of the day, Vietnam knows what happened to the POW-MIAs it held back after Operation Homecoming. That is the basis on which we need to deal with Vietnam going forward. I will be offering some suggestions in a future post and I believe that, today, we actually have leverage we previously forfeited.

I send peace and regards,

Jeff

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