12 July 1998
The Legacy of Operation Tailwind
Shortly before a handful of American special forces veterans of Vietnam finally decided to come clean on their wartime experience in Laos involving America's creation and deployment of lethal nerve gas the United States was again justifiably prepared to wage an expensive war, both in economic and human terms, against Saddam Hussein for the same violation of a post-WW2 international agreement. To this day the billions of dollars spent deploying U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf readied to launch lethal force against Iraq continues to rise... with good cause. The United States and the world cannot permit even the slightest use of non-conventional weapons to become a tolerable threshold, acceptable SOP -- standard operating procedure -- in any nation's efforts to force its political will.
It is because of the world's need to arrest research, development and use of anti-personnel toxins that it became essential for opposing factions among our military, veterans, the media and former opponents of the Vietnam War to come together as a united front to discredit the belated reports of anguished American soldiers involved on the ground in Operation Tailwind.
Every individual or group who rallied to denounce CNN's report on America's use of sarin -- the lethal gas atrociously used by Japanese terrorists against subway travelers several years ago -- has a political and public relations stake in discrediting the report.
Just days before CNN published its original report some Vietnam veteran newsgroups on the internet contained angry postings by embittered Vietnam vets still blaming Jane Fonda and anyone she ever met, talked to, performed with or married for America's political loss in Vietnam. But within days of CNN's airing of Operation Tailwind many of these same veterans not only expressed empathy for Ted Turner's "worst day of his life" and support for his hopeful 'recovery', their anti-Jane Fonda postings quickly disappeared... at least for now.
Just as quickly, all media interest in Secretary of Defense William Cohen pursuing a DOD report on the alleged use of sarin in Laos quickly evaporated. Will Secretary of Defense Cohen still produce a published report? Certainly not if the public does not demand one. Definitely not if the media refuses to anticipate one.
It seems that everyone not on the ground in Laos during the now infamous operation has a reason to discredit the CNN report. This includes CNN's rivals CBS, ABC and NBC who revel in humiliating the company that scoops them all, all the time. Among Tailwind's critics is a growing group of Vietnam War revisionists who immediately pounce on any report that displays the Vietnam War veteran in a potentially bad light. Since the inauguration of the Vietnam War memorial in Washington DC Vietnam War revisionists have extolled the victimization of those who served in-country and campaigned against any report that suggests otherwise. For example, female nurses who recently reported their rapes by American personnel were attacked as "attention seekers" and liars. African Americans who talk or write about white racism in Vietnam are attacked as never having served there. Indeed, any Vietnam veteran who exposes a fact of real-life history that proves military service in Vietnam was other than Oliver Stone's "I was a victim of government abuse" is denounced as a psychotic, liar or candidate for attention deficit syndrome counseling. In fact, it is not uncommon to find a half dozen or more Vietnam vets at any reunion gathering who believe in their hearts that My Lai did not happen... or was a communist engineered entrapment to forever embarrass the Vietnam war soldier.
The simple fact is Vietnam War service was not totally disagreeable for many men who served there. The high number of testicular ejaculations resulting in Amer-Asian births proves that. The high number of successfully re-Americanized intellectuals appointed to high office by the two Clinton Administration's -- far exceeding the Bush and Reagan Administrations combined -- confirms that not all Vietnam vets view themselves as victims of "government abuse", but rather as better prepared by their war duty to continue serving their government.
The former Special Operations soldiers who served on the ground during Operation Tailwind continue to stand by their belief that lethal nerve gas was deployed against superior enemy forces determined to destroy them. Oppositely, some of the men who piloted or served on the aircraft involved in Operation Tailwind testify, emphatically, that they were provided detailed information from their commanding officers that the gas they deployed was nothing less than a bronchial discomfort aerosol... an entity lethal only in the imaginations of the men on the ground who filed abridged after action reports within hours of the operation that enemy troops died in wretched agony after inhaling the gas.
Was sarin used during Operation Tailwind? We may never know the truth about Tailwind anymore than we learn about UFO's supposedly landing on U.S. Air Force bases. What we do know, however, is that from this point on any American soldier who comes forward to state something of potential embarrassment to the United States will probably not be published by the American press. This new reality, for America, is disconcerting. Since WW2 American scholars have tirelessly fought against inexhaustible Japanese and German revisionist efforts to favorably alter the historic record of their nation's inhuman wartime conduct and behaviour. Had the Nazi's succeeded in negotiating a truce with the Allies prior to Eisenhower's border crossing the world would never have confirmed the Holocaust. All evidence of the camps and atrocities would have been efficiently erased.
Regardless of the cost America has always stood for truth and justice. But present-day American revisionists seem poised, well financed and now backed by official support to discredit and alter any history they deem embarrassing. Or, at the very least, permit waging the Vietnam War from 'command centers' in Washington DC rather than on the ground in Vietnam... a policy that most Vietnam veterans prior to Tailwind repeatedly complained had caused the political defeat of the war.
No request or effort to uncover confirming or non-confirming evidence in the Laotian operation has been put forth in Hanoi. In fact, the Vietnamese, more than any other nation, appear willing to de-confirm sarin's use. With it's credit rating recently lowered on Wall Street by Moody's, tourist activity declining and international business deals failing across the board the Vietnamese government may be the last to confirm sarin's use... a reversal of their wartime complaints alleging American "genocide" atrocities. Today, Hanoi needs the support of United States financial interests. The communist leadership has, not surprisingly, expressed no interest in investigating Operation Tailwind.
Equally, CNN -- aside from Ted Turner's success in temporarily, at least, pacifying the thirty-year old Vietnam veteran anger against his wife -- with its vast worldwide commercial interests dependent upon U.S. multi-agency assistance made a prudent decision: retaining international support of US government offices at home and abroad is more important than standing by a handful of aging Vietnam vets who believe that America reluctantly joined the Empire of Japan and the Nazi SS in violating the Geneva Convention's use of lethal toxins during wartime.
Should Secretary Cohen produce a final, investigative report on Operation Tailwind it will, predictably, state that no evidence of sarin's use was found. This report will be, literally, truthful because any confirmation of sarin use must irrefutably come from commanders who know for a fact that it was used. If sarin use was ordered, as the Special Forces troops on the ground state, these commanders will never admit to it. No commander realizing what American history will say of him would, understandably, offer a public admission. Nor, having recently witnessed the awesome media power waged by the family of a deceased veteran who succeeded in forcing open America's most revered military monument, the Tomb of the Unknowns, would expose himself to a possible lawsuit or post-service discipline for the killing of an American defector(s).
The law provides that no contradicted, unproved or unsubstantiated testimony shall be accepted as evidence by a testifier unless submitted as a dying declaration. George Armstrong Custer learned this legal fact after his frustrating failure to convince Washington that his detractors and competitors conspired to destroy life.
Are the men awarded for bravery and heroism on the ground during Operation Tailwind testifying factually? We may never know. That is, not until their dying declarations are published. Until then it would seem the only people who remain steadfastly loyal to their stories are the former CNN producers -- both of whom received outstanding employment and peer evaluations -- until their Operation Tailwind report placed CNN in jeopardy of losing official US government contacts.
-- Phill Coleman