- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Veteran of Foreign Wars made it clear yesterday that it is none too pleased with Sen. John Kerry’s1970s role in the defunct Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which, at the time, called the VFW a “a paramilitary, pro-war organization” out of touch with young veterans.

Mr. Kerry was VVAW’s chief spokesman during the early 1970s and is slated to make a campaign pitch today in Cincinnati to the annual convention of the VFW.

But in 1971, Mr. Kerry’s anti-war group denounced the VFW as a war-mongering lobby responsible for getting the United States into the Vietnam War and harbored hopes of perhaps replacing the VFW as a veterans’ group.

“All our national officers are Vietnam veterans. I am too, and where … is the Vietnam Veterans Against the War now?” said VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry.

Noting that VFW members filled the 6,000-seat convention hall in Cincinnati to capacity, Mr. Newberry said, “When I asked all those who had served in Vietnam to stand up, almost all of them did. That speaks for itself.”

Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton said yesterday that his boss “has always stood up for what he believes. He has a record of fighting for veterans benefits, finding out the truth about POWs and MIAs in Vietnam and getting funding for victims of Agent Orange. He’ll stand up for veterans in the White House just like he has in the U.S. Senate.”

Mr. Kerry, whose presidential campaign has emphasized his service as a Navy lieutenant in Vietnam, joined VVAW in 1970, after returning from Vietnam and denounced the VFW in a 1971 book.

“We will not quickly join those who march on Veterans Day waving small flags, calling to memory those thousands who died for the ‘greater glory of the United States.’ … We will not readily join the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars,” he wrote then.

A 1971 VVAW fund-raising letter, titled “Men of Peace” and signed “yours in peace,” accused the VFW and the American Legion of promoting an agenda of “world domination.”

A copy of the letter, obtained by The Washington Times, is part of an extensive collection of VVAW’s papers in the collection of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin in Madison. Records do not indicate whether the letter was sent.

The American Legion and the VFW “were partly responsible for the military attitudes in this country though their unlimited lobbying power — somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million,” the VVAW letter said. “That kind of influence must be confronted and dealt with.”

VVAW “could support counteractions that will allow men to exist without the threat of nuclear annihilation or constant military ones,” said the fund-raising letter.

The letter suggests that Mr. Kerry’s group might replace both the VFW and the American Legion, which it said “have not been able, at the national level in the past five years, to recruit successfully among the younger veterans. These younger veterans are obviously not content with a paramilitary, pro-war organization representing them. We are their answer.”

The VVAW letter suggests to potential donors that the dissident group could in time diversify and offer benefits similar what the VFW and the American Legion were offering, “but with a view toward total world peace rather than world domination.”

In response to that claim, Mr. Newberry, the VFW spokesman, said yesterday: “We have 1.8 million members, this is our 105th annual convention and, again, where … are the Vietnam Veterans Against the War? And quote me on that.”

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