By Robert J. Caldwell, April 10, 2005
Forwarded by p38bob

Chris Matthews of MSNBC's Hardball takes on Jane Fonda Friday, April 15, 2005.

BGen Bob Clements, USAF (Ret.) wrote: “At the bottom of all this is Hanoi Jane trying to sell her book. From all reports she had a scarce show at the book signing venues. What would be most interesting would be a face to face with Robbie Risner! Even with all the makeovers, her broom cuts out on takeoff. Total arrogance.”

Colonel Dell Toedt USAF (Ret) added: I would like to include my friend, Swede Larson on that interview. Swede spent 6 years in the Hilton, and shared a torture chamber with Robbie. Robbie is one of my personal heros, as when his wingman, Joe Logan, got shot up in Korea in 1952, Robbie tried to push him home. Joe ejected over Cho Do and drowned, Joe was my best friend. Swede and I were having lunch at the Towers in SA at Christmas, and Swede went over to talk to a small, older man for several minutes. I didn't recongnize him, but it was Robbie Risner. In 1968 I was the head of intelligence for the FAA, and the reports we were getting was that Robbie was taking terrible torture because of his notoriety. Reading his book, makes it all come true. I will watch that program, and hope that Mathews nails her to the cross.

Jane Fonda was photographed in July, 1972 as she sat on the gunner's seat of a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun near Hanoi. The most famous - make that infamous - image of Jane Fonda from her years protesting the Vietnam War was a photograph taken during her wartime visit to North Vietnam in 1972. In the photo, Fonda is sitting on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun clasping her hands, singing, a rapturous smile on her face, a North Vietnamese helmet on her head, surrounded by grinning North Vietnamese soldiers.

Fonda, out promoting her autobiography these days, now says she regrets that particular “betrayal,” and that is her word. In an interview with Leslie Stahl on CBS's 60 Minutes, Fonda said: “I will go to my grave regretting that… It was the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine.”

She expressed similar regrets in an interview in 1988 and again in 2000, when she called posing on the enemy's anti-aircraft gun “thoughtless.” Careful readers will note that “thoughtless” and “lapse of judgment” and even “betrayal” are not apologies. In truth, Jane Fonda has never apologized for eagerly lending herself and her celebrity to the wartime propaganda of an enemy state, a Stalinist dictatorship no less, that killed 58,000 Americans. And she's not apologizing today.

Fonda did a lot more in that 1972 visit to North Vietnam than demonstrate her solidarity with those who were shooting down American pilots. At her request, she made at least 10 broadcasts on Radio Hanoi that included calling American pilots war criminals and urging them to stop bombing North Vietnam. In a propaganda gesture heavily publicized by Hanoi, she also met with a group of coerced American prisoners of war to demonstrate, as the North Vietnamese intended, that the POWs were receiving “humane” treatment. In fact, as we know now, nearly all American POWs in North Vietnam were brutally tortured until 1969, when Hanoi's policy changed to more selective mistreatment. One American POW was strung up from a ceiling by his broken arm until he agreed to listen to Fonda's assertions that the prisoners were being well treated.

When the POWs returned from North Vietnam in 1973 and told of their torture, Jane Fonda declared, “the POWs are lying if they assert it was North Vietnamese policy to torture American prisoners.” For good measure, she also suggested that their recollections of torture were products of “racism” toward the Vietnamese.

Does Fonda regret her propaganda broadcasts for Radio Hanoi or her role in trying to persuade the world that tortured, brutalized American POWs were receiving humane treatment? Not a bit. Is she apologizing? No.

Here's what she told Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes “I don't think there was anything wrong with it. It's not something that I will apologize for… we'd been saying to Richard Nixon, 'stop this'… it needed what looks now to be unbelievably controversial things. That's what I felt was needed.”

During World War II, two equally deluded American women, dubbed by U.S. servicemen Tokyo Rose and Axis Sally, made propaganda broadcasts from the capitals of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. Both were prosecuted for treason after the war, convicted and sent to federal prison.

Fonda escaped that fate partly, one assumes, because of the ultimate unpopularity of the Vietnam War and partly because a prosecution for treason would require that a formally declared state of war had existed between the United States and North Vietnam. Nonetheless, Fonda's treasonous folly speaks to larger truths about a war that inflicted grievous wounds on the American psyche. For millions of Americans, and for millions of America's South Vietnamese allies, those wounds have yet to heal completely, and perhaps never will.

The anti-war movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was, in fact, two parallel movements. The majority of anti-war protesters simply believed that American participation in the war was wrong. Their objective was American withdrawal from Vietnam. But a hard-core, hard-left minority in the anti-war coalition favored a communist victory by the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. However witlessly, Jane Fonda lent herself to that latter goal, a communist triumph in Vietnam.

When the Soviet-armed North Vietnamese army overran South Vietnam in 1975, Fonda's then-husband, the left-wing radical Tom Hayden, expressed his relief and approval. When the North Vietnamese, quite predictably, imposed their totalitarian system on South Vietnam - complete with concentration camps that imprisoned hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese and the extinguishing of all civil and political liberties - Jane Fonda said she couldn't object because the evidence of oppression was unproven.

When, by United Nations estimate, a quarter of a million South Vietnamese boat people perished at sea escaping their supposed liberators in the 1970s and 1980s, Jane Fonda was silent. When 2 million Cambodians were murdered or died of privation at the hands of the communist Khmer Rouge (originally Hanoi's allies), Jane Fonda had nothing to say. When the people of reunified Vietnam were denied basic human rights and continue to suffer today under Hanoi's one-party dictatorship, Jane Fonda apparently was too busy with her personal life to comment.

That's a lot to answer for, Hanoi Jane.

Robert Caldwell is the editor of the Union-Tribune Insight Section, and a Vietnam veteran. E-Mail.