How Kerry Quit Veterans Group

Thomas Lipscomb has a rather breathless report in NY Sun on the matter:

The anti-war group that John Kerry was the principal spokesman for debated and voted on a plot to assassinate politicians who supported the Vietnam War.

Mr. Kerry denies being present at the November 12-15, 1971, meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and says he quit the group before the meeting. But according to the current head of Missouri Veterans for Kerry, Randy Barnes, Mr. Kerry,who was then 27,was at the meeting, voted against the plot, and then orally resigned from the organization.

Mr. Barnes was present as part of the Kansas City host chapter for the 1971 meeting and recounted the incident in a phone interview with The New York Sun this week.

In addition to Mr. Barnes̢۪s recollection placing Mr. Kerry at the Kansas City meeting, another Vietnam veteran who attended the meeting, Terry Du-Bose, said that Mr. Kerry was there.

There are at least two other independent corroborations that the antiwar group Vietnam Veterans Against the War, of which Mr. Kerry was the most prominent national spokesman, considered assassinating American political leaders who favored the war.

Gerald Nicosia’s 2001 book “Home To War†reports that one of the key leaders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Scott Camil,“proposed the assassination of the most hard-core conservative members of Congress,as well as any other powerful, intractable opponents of the antiwar movement.â€The book reports on the Kansas City meeting at which Mr.Camil’s plan was debated and then voted down.

Mr. Nicosia’s book was widely praised by reviewers as varied as General Harold Moore, author of “We Were Soldiersâ€; Gloria Emerson, who had been a New YorkTimes reporter during the Vietnam War, and leftist Howard Zinn. Mr. Kerry himself stated in a blurb on the cover that the book “ties together the many threads of a difficult period.†Mr. Kerry hosted a party for the book in the Hart Senate Office Building that was televised on C-SPAN.

The rest of the piece goes on to show that there are no records proving that Kerry resigned from the group shortly after this vote, as he claims.

While I find this rather amusing after the long flap where President Bush couldn’t quite produce enough proof of his National Guard activities from the early 1970s, the question strikes me as ridiculous. Kerry is rather leftist and certainly became rather strident in his anti-Vietnam War zeal. Still, does anyone really think he took part in a plot to assassinate key Republicans? There’s nothing that I’ve seen in his character that would indicate any such proclivities.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The article doesn’t claim that he took part but that he was present, voted against the plot, and then resigned. If that’s true then he would have had the legal and moral responsibility to report the fact that some members of the group may be plotting assassinations, which he apparently did not.

    If he wasn’t present and had resigned earlier it does point out the radical nature of the VVAW that they were even considering this.

    Either way, if this story has any truth to it, it doesn’t give me a high opinion of Kerry’s anti-war activities and associations.

  2. McGehee says:

    I’m with Randal — the very fact VVAW even debated the question rather than rejecting it out-of-hand says something about the group.

    And if Barnes’s account of the meeting is correct it does raise questions about Kerry for not speaking out about how dangerous certain members of VVAW were. He was certainly happy to go before Congress and speak out about how dangerous and bloodthirsty American soldiers in Vietnam allegedly were.

  3. Tom Royce says:

    You guys have to understand that under the prism that was the 60’s, it was all cool. As long as you were against the man, in the groove, it was no big deal. And come on, all they were doing was talking while the man was bombing the babies. So Kerry was there. He probably was zoned on some hemp. You guys got to chill on the dude.
    NEW DISCLAIMER: For the NY Times, the preceding was satire, not a commentary on your editorial page.

  4. Paul says:

    This does raise more questions than it answers…. As the saying goes.

  5. Pen says:

    Where does this article say Kerry DIDN’T report what happened that day?

    For one thing, you have to ASSUME Kerry doesn’t recall correctly and these two men aren’t mistaken.

    For another, you have to ASSUME Kerry didn’t do anything about it.

    Finally, you have to ASSUME the FBI somehow didn’t know about the plot but evidently they DID KNOW so it’s all a moot point anyways. If the FBI didn’t intervene then obviously there was no real threat to begin with.

    After all, no assassinations ever took place did they?

  6. Joseph Anderson says:

    I had to keep an open mind and read the book by Douglas Brinkley-Tour of Duty -John Kerry and the Vietnam War. On the first page of the prologue Kerry asked “the Foreign Relations Committee and beyond them to the nation at large:’How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake’?” I guess we were trained a little differently in the Marine Corps. Number one, there is a first and last man to die in any conflict, however unfortunate it may seem. Second, Kerry was a Lieutenant (j.g) probably one of the most dangerous (to himself and others) uninformed ranks in any military service. Third, and most importantly, any one’s individual’s opinion on anything is just that. Wars, battles, missions differ so greatly based on enemy situation, your position, your training and that of your men, etc. It is okay to state, write books, and give you experiences to all. But don’t tell me that is what went on over the length of the war, all over the country, by all servicemen. I flew in Huey gunships in Phu Bai and never got south of Chu Lai, An Hoa or Hoi An,so I would never say what we experienced was countrywide. In short, I feel the Mr. Kerry pissed down my back and told me it was raining. Bottom line is that he was protesting while we still had servicemen left behind, still fighting or missing in action. Mr. Kerry still doesn’t get it.