“More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells”

demons

This 17 August 2018 CounterPunch article is the third in a trilogy.  Here are the first and second articles.  This should be my last word about this sad story.  

Pardon the nasty military metaphor but it’s not nearly as nasty as some of the quotes from “one of the most influential figures in the US-Viet Nam relationship you’ve never heard of” in a January 2018 interview.  

Here’s an excerpt:  

The Victims

As I mentioned to an FUV official who was involved in Kerrey’s appointment in a previous incarnation, what I’ve discovered in all of this is how invisible the victims of that massacre at the hands of Bob Kerrey and his unit are, both the dead and the living, not to mention the millions of whom Thomas Vallely spoke in a couple of throwaway sentences.

That is my main motivation in writing and speaking out about this, not “sticking it” to any individual or institution.  The tendency of most people involved with this issue to completely ignore the victims is both heartless and morally reprehensible.

The last of the Buddha’s Five Remembrances about impermanence is relevant here (translation by Thích Nhất Hạnh):  “My actions are my only true belongings.  I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.”  The ground upon which Thomas Vallely once stood dissolved into quicksand the moment those chilling words about civilian deaths in the Mekong Delta and Thạnh Phong spilled out of his mouth.

Peace, MAA

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The Fat Lady Finally Sings: Bob Kerrey Quietly Resigns from Fulbright University Vietnam Leadership Position

Below is an excerpt from my latest CounterPunch article about Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University Vietnam.  Think of it as the 2017 bookend to my 2016 CP article, Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking?, published a month after the controversy erupted.  Follow this link to read it in its entirety. 

MAA

“One simply cannot engage in barbarous action without becoming a barbarian… one cannot defend human values by calculated and unprovoked violence without doing mortal damage to the values one is trying to defend.”

– J William Fulbright, The Arrogance of Power

list of victims
List of victims of the massacre.  (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC)

More than 48 years after mortal damage was inflicted with a vengeance on both human beings and human values in a quiet village in Bến Tre province in the Mekong Delta, justice, fairness, and common decency won a minor victory when Bob Kerrey, former Nebraska governor, U.S. senator, New School president, decorated veteran, and self-confessed war criminal, quietly resigned from his high-profile position as chairman of the Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV) board of trustees, according to reliable sources.

Kerrey, whose appointment was announced one year ago at the iconic Rex Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) by then Secretary of State, John Kerry during President Barack Obama’s visit to Viet Nam, has stepped down behind closed doors.  He was reportedly replaced by Đàm Bích Thủy, a prominent Vietnamese businesswoman who is the current FUV president.

eyewitness2
Bùi Thị Lượm, the sole survivor of the attack. (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC.)

It was Bob Kerrey himself who said in an interview last June, as all rhetorical hell was breaking loose, that he would not step down.  This about-face came after first saying, in response to questions emailed to him by a New York Times reporter, that he would resign if he felt his role was jeopardizing the U.S.-Vietnamese joint education venture.  I’m not a diplomat and therefore have no need to play the quiet game.  Bob Kerrey was appointed with much fanfare and some fanfare should accompany his surrender.

Never Say Never

Never say never and never forget this timeless wisdom from Proverbs 16:18:  “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  It was Kerrey’s arrogance that made him dig in his heels and delay the inevitable.  It was a firestorm of controversy and, most importantly, steely and steadfast official Vietnamese opposition, that forced him to do the right thing.  It wasn’t only about Bob Kerrey.  Jeopardize FUV he did, at the end of the day, as some predicted.

sewer
The sewer in which three children were hiding.  All three were stabbed to death. (MAA Photo:  War Remnants Museum, HCMC.)

Kerrey’s long overdue resignation is a cause for celebration and a sense of vindication for many.  It is, however, a bitter disappointment for his supporters, both Vietnamese and U.S., who probably still cluelessly wonder why a man who led a U.S. Navy SEALS unit that murdered 21 men, women, and children in the village of Thạnh Phong in February 1969 would not be considered morally fit to assume such a leadership position.

Keep in mind that this is a man who has the dishonor and disgrace of having his very own war crimes exhibit in the War Remnants Museum in HCMC, one of many such incidents in the bloodbath and industrial-scale slaughter that was the American War in Viet Nam.

47 Signatories Urge Bob Kerrey to Resign from Fulbright University Viet Nam Position

kerrey-fulbright-univ-vn
Photo:  US State Department via The New York Times

Below is a letter that was sent to Bob Kerrey about his controversial appointment as chairman of the Fulbright University Viet Nam board of trustees, announced by John Kerry during President Obama’s May 2016 visit to Viet Nam.  In case you’re interested and are not up-to-date on this situation, here are some articles that have appeared since:

When Phoenix Came to Thanh Phong: Bob Kerrey and War Crimes as Policy in Vietnam by Douglas Valentine (7.6.16; a reprint of a May 2001 article published after the story of his war crime broke that spring)

Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam by Viet Thanh Nguyen (20.6.16)

Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? by Mark A. Ashwill (8.7.16)

Fulbright University Vietnam – ‘Put this war behind us’ by Mary Beth Marklein (16.7.16)

Bob Kerrey’s Unit Slaughtered Civilians in Vietnam; Why Was He Appointed to Chair Fulbright University? by John Marciano (23.8.16)

Bob Kerrey, Fulbright University, and the Neoliberal Erasure of History by Paul Street (1.9.16)

I will continue adding names and sending updated versions to Bob Kerrey.  The names in red are the original signatories.


7 September 2016

Dear Mr. Kerrey,

We are writing with the heartfelt and urgent request that you resign from your position as chairman of the Fulbright University Viet Nam (FUV) board of trustees.

It is our firm belief that you should never have been offered this appointment and, having been offered it, should have declined the offer.  We strongly believe that there are other more appropriate roles for you to play in support of FUV, and that there are better qualified people without your historical baggage.

Mark Bowyer, an expat in Viet Nam, expressed doubt in an early June 2016 blog post that “reminding the world of previously unpunished US atrocities in Viet Nam is a judicious use of the political capital accumulated during Barack Obama’s recent successful visit.”

Shawn McHale, a George Washington University colleague, wrote the following comment in response to your interview with WBUR’s “Here & Now” program:

Bob Kerrey is letting his ego get in the way of US-Vietnamese rapprochement. The man has done a lot of good — but killing civilians, a war crime, makes him unfit to be head of the Fulbright University Vietnam Board of Trustees. For the good of the university, he should recognize that he is not the person for the job.

Finally, Linh Dinh, a Vietnamese-American writer, poet, and a signatory to this letter, wrote that “This sick and vain spectacle is hurting not just him but the university. By hanging on, he’s focusing the spotlight on his war crime.”

We agree with these assessments. Your appointment is a politically- and emotionally-charged issue that is not going to go away, least of all in Viet Nam.  In early June, you told the New York Times via email that you would resign, if you felt your role were jeopardizing FUV.  That time is now.

There are many US veterans who have returned to Viet Nam to do penance, so to speak, some on short trips and others for the long haul.  They are each making a modest contribution, trying to find a way to give back, to make amends, to make whole that which they and their government tried to destroy.  On a personal level, as you can imagine, they also find this experience to be therapeutic and even cathartic.

We’d like to take the liberty of offering you some advice.  Travel to Thanh Phong.  Arrange to meet with the victims’ family members and the survivors.  Ask for their forgiveness.  Burn incense and pray at the graves of the people you and your unit killed.  And do all of this with the greatest sincerity, contrition, and humility.

Offer to meet a local need, to build something of lasting value that will benefit the community.  We believe that these acts will be greatly appreciated and may help you find a measure of peace.  You could even invite the other members of your unit to join you.

Thank you for taking the time to read our note.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Wishing you peace and happiness,

Mark A. Ashwill, Ph.D.
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Educator; First US American to be awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant to Viet Nam, 2003
Author of Bob Kerrey and Fulbright University – What were they thinking? (7-8-16)

Patrick Barrett, Ph.D.
Madison, WI
Havens Center for Social Justice
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Dennis Berg, Ph.D.
Professor Emeritus, CSU, Fullerton
Vietnam (S.E. Asia) Workshop Facilitator (1991-2016)
Fulbright, VEF, SSRC, USSH-VNU Faculty Scholar in Vietnam
Awarded Vietnam’s National Medal for Higher Education

John Chen
Long Beach, California

Robert Chenoweth
UH-1 Helicopter Crew Chief 1967-68
POW from February 1968 to March 1973

Dr. Stephen Cottrell
USMC
S/Sgt,Vietnam 66′ 67′
0311 grunt, I Corps,Zulu Company
Fulbright Ambassador Emeritus

Herbert Covert
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, Anthropology
University of Colorado Boulder
Fulbright Scholar with the Department of Geology and Minerals of Vietnam 2001-02
Fulbright Scholar with the Institute of Tropical Biology of Vietnam 2008-09

Linh Dinh
Philadelphia, PA
Political essayist, fiction writer, poet and translator. Author of Postcards from the End of America

John V H Dippel
Executive Director
Teachers for Vietnam
Salisbury, CT

Daniel Ellsberg
Berkeley, CA
Former Foreign Service Office (Reserve) in Saigon, 1965-67
Author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

W. D. Ehrhart
Haverford, PA
formerly Sergeant, USMC
Author of Vietnam-Perkasie: A Combat Marine Memoir
Editor of Carrying the Darkness: Poetry of the Vietnam War

Mark Hallett
Fort Collins, CO

Mike Hastie
Portland, OR
Army Medic Vietnam

Van Hillier
San Diego, CA

C. J. Hopkins
Berlin, Germany
Playwright, author of Horse Country, The Extremists, and screwmachine/eyecandy, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Bob

Sanford Kelson
Conneaut Lake, PA
Lawyer, Labor Arbitrator, Educator – Lessons of the Vietnam War

Soren Kirchner
Hanoi/Saigon
American Global Management Association

Ann Hibner Koblitz
Tempe, AZ
Professor of Women and Gender Studies, Arizona State University
and Director of the Kovalevskaia Fund

Neal Koblitz
Seattle, WA
Professor of Mathematics, University of Washington

Dr. Deepa Kumar
New Brunswick, NJ
Professor of Media Studies, Rutgers University
Activist, Unionist, Author

John Marciano
Talent, OR
Professor Emeritus, State University of New York
Author, American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

Shawn McHale 
Associate Professor of History and International Affairs
Elliott School of International Affairs
George Washington University
Washington, D.C.

Tom Miller
Berkeley, CA
President, Green Cities Fund
Co-founder, Center for Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery established in Saigon in 1966 to treat war-injured children
Co-founder Vietnam Green Building Council

Greg Nagle, Ph.D.
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Scientific Researcher/Faculty Member

Michael Montesano
ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

Dzung Kieu Nguyen
Ph.D., Economics, SUNY Albany

Le Minh Nguyen
Hanoi, Viet Nam
London School of Economics

Viet Thanh Nguyen
Los Angeles, CA
Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Associate Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California
Author of The Sympathizer, Awards: Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author
Author of Bob Kerrey and the ‘American Tragedy’ of Vietnam (6-20-16)

T.T Nhu
Berkeley, CA

Andrew Pearson
Kittery Point, ME
TV news and documentaries

Deryle Perryman
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Documentary Filmmaker
Producer/Director: Same Same But Different
Artillery Crew Chief, Central Highlands, 1967-68

Hiep Pham
Educator
Taiwan

Peter Shaw
State College, PA
Korean War veteran, co-founder of the State College Peace Center and creator of its documentary film series, lifetime member of Veterans for Peace

Daniel Shea
Portland, OR
Marine Corps Combat Viet Nam 1968 Veteran, Agent Orange Survivor, co-founder of Education Without Borders and Board Member of Veterans for Peace

John Stauber
Madison, WI
Founder, Center for Media and Democracy
Author of books, including Weapons of Mass Deception

Jeffrey St. Clair
Portland, OR
Editor of CounterPunch; Author of Born Under a Bad Sky

David Swanson
Charlottesville, VA
Director, World Beyond War
Author of books, including War Is A Lie

Paul Street
Iowa City, IA
Journalist and author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics

Fred Tomasello, Jr.
Cheektowaga, NY
Former platoon commander, forward air controller and casualty assistance officer during the Vietnam War
US Postal Service (Retired)

Michael Uhl, Ph.D.
Walpole, ME
Author Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens Commission of Inquiry on US War Crimes and The War I Survived Was Vietnam: Collected Writings of a Veteran and Antiwar Activist (Oct. 2016)

Douglas Valentine
Longmeadow, MA
Author of The Phoenix Program

Peter Van Buren
New York City, NY
Former US Diplomat

Brad Van Den Elzen, Ph.D.
Stevens Point, WI

Giang Vu
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Press Consultant

Vũ-Đức Vượng
Editor,  TRỒNG  NGƯỜI
A Clearinghouse on Education in Viet Nam
San Francisco, CA

Brian Willson
Portland, OR
Author of Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson
Subject of documentary, Paying the Price For Peace: The Story of S. Brian Willson
http://www.Brianwillson.com
Viet Nam veteran, peace activist, and trained attorney

Lý Thái Xuân
Camarill, CA

List of signatories updated on:  18.10.16