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Monday, April 21, 2008
The Robert Garwood Story

The Washington Post has embarrassed themselves by carrying this on their front page.

It was early 1992, and the occasion was an informal gathering of a select committee investigating lingering issues about Vietnam War prisoners and those missing in action, most notably whether any American servicemen were still being held by the Vietnamese. It is unclear precisely what issue set off McCain that day. But at some point, he mocked Grassley to his face and used a profanity to describe him. Grassley stood and, according to two participants at the meeting, told McCain, "I don't have to take this. I think you should apologize."

McCain refused and stood to face Grassley. "There was some shouting and shoving between them, but no punches," recalls a spectator, who said that Nebraska Democrat Bob Kerrey helped break up the altercation.

Problem: Bob Kerrey himself (a Democrat) says that's not what happened:

Since I was mentioned in the Post story I can offer my account of the McCain-Grassley argument. First, I did nothing to intervene; the two Senators worked it out on their own. Second, the subject of the debate - the status of Americans held as prisoner in Vietnam - was one that always provoked violent, ugly debates. The precise point of disagreement between the Senators was over a man name Robert Garwood. Senator Grassley believed he was a hero whose reputation was destroyed by the Defense Intelligence Agency. Senator McCain believed him to a traitor who caused prisoners (like Senator McCain) to receive additional encounters with torture. Both Senators were extremely angry. Senator McCain was explosive (who wouldn't be?) but at no time threatening. Most important: McCain won the argument. My experience is that his anger always has a purpose and in this case the purpose was to defeat Senator Grassley's argument which he did decisively.

Posted By: Bob Kerrey | April 21, 2008 at 07:45 AM

Garwood is an interesting case. He claimed to have been captured by the Viet Cong in 1965, but this claim is doubted by many, and he was charged with desertion (although not convicted). By 1967, according to some POWs, he was assisting the North Vietnamese in POW camps. At his trial, the following evidence was included of his collaboration with the enemy:

"Robert GARWOOD had a multitude of jobs at the camps. He acted as a guard to some of the prisoners. On other occasions he acted as an interpreter for the commander or anybody that spoke Vietnamese and did not speak English."

"Robert GARWOOD carried a wallet or pouch that he had for his possessions, and he carried a picture of HO CHI MINH in it."

"...GARWOOD sucker punched HARKER in the ribs."

"'His' physical condition was better than that of the POWs living at the compound."

"PFC GARWOOD aided the enemy by acting as interpreter, collaborator, guard... He was also an interrogator."

Garwood apparently tired of life in Vietnam by 1979 and requested to be repatriated to the United States. He was placed under a military court martial and was convicted of being a collaborator and assaulting an American POW. At the time he made no claims about Americans still being held in Vietnam, although by 1983 he was claiming to have such knowledge.

He was interviewed in 1981 by the BBC, which includes this account of his original capture:

At each village, young boys threw stones at his head, at his wounded arm and at his testicles. Whenever he yelped in pain, they squealed in delight.

They would sneak up behind him and jab sharp bamboo sticks up his unguarded anus.

The VC marched him all through the second night in a cold, bone-chilling rain.

Garwood, wearing only his shorts, shivered violently as he stumbled along on his bleeding and swelling feet.

Ummm, wearing shorts, but his anus was unguarded? And if the VC had him prisoner, why did the kids have to "sneak up behind him"? Don't get me wrong, I am sure that American prisoners were treated horribly. But this has the aroma of a story that has been compiled from several others that don't mesh perfectly.

He describes a wounded arm, and yet despite appalling details that would lead one to suspect gangrene, somehow nobody describes him as a one-armed man:

By the third day, his would had become infected and his arm had swollen up to three times its normal size and it began to stink like rotting meat.

And get this oddball sentence:

He couldn't see the large dark circles around his sunken eyes.

Couldn't see the sunken eyes either, I'd wager.

If you're as surprised as I am at the MSM covering this story of Vietnamese atrocities, well, understand that it's only a prelude to covering American atrocities to poor Mr Garwood:

Recently declassified files prove that the Pentagon knew Garwood was alive after 1973.

He was abandoned by his own government!

They told his father he was dead.

On his own, he escaped and returned to the United States.

He was charged with Desertion. If convicted, he could have been executed.

The meme that there were still POWs in Vietnam had an oddball resonance with elements of the Left and the Right back in the 1980s. The Right, of course, loved it because it proved what dirty bastards we had been fighting in Southeast Asia. And the Left found a way to accept it as indicating that our government had lied to us yet again about Vietnam. It was one last thing to hate about Nixon.

So eventually the Left began to adopt Bobby Garwood. If what he was saying was true the government had railroaded an innocent and honorable man. And if what he was saying was false, he was a commie sympathizer and collaborator with the North Vietnamese. So either way he's a hero, in the eyes of the Left.

So a TV movie was made for him, starring Ralph Macchio (the Karate Kid) as Garwood. Did it have a liberal slant? I haven't seen the movie, but guess for yourself; the second actor billed is Martin Sheen. His story was also done in book form by a "former Emmy-winning 60 Minutes producer". Not that that means she's a liberal or anything. Except when you read this, you can kind of check off that box:

Now, in a newsbreaking new book, SPITE HOUSE: The Last Secret of the War in Vietnam, investigative reporter Monika Jensen-Stevenson, author of Kiss the Boys Goodbye, unveils the shocking truths behind a contemporary American tragedy. She reveals Garwood's innocence and exposes the U.S. government's dreadful initiatives against its own men in Vietnam.

I always remind myself to watch for confirmation bias, although I am not always successful at avoiding it. I found this discussion of Robert Garwood circa 1999-2005 compelling and very believable, despite the rather obvious fact that the author is the jilted former husband of Garwood's wife. It certainly indicates that Garwood has remained a lowlife.

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