After the CNN-TIME TAILWIND
story aired, SOF Magazine asked me to investigate
the merits or shortcomings of the piece and write, as the findings dictated, a
rebuttal to the charges that the U.S. employed Nerve Gas and attempted to
massacre upwards of 200 American “defectors.” They gave me the assignment
because I served in Indochina from early 1969 until the fall of Saigon in a
variety of covert action, SOG, paramilitary, guerrilla, and clandestine
capacities, i.e. a background in the operations and environment CNN-TIME
I also had a technical training that included bio-chemical warfare and
ordnance experience. Of particular interest to SOF was the fact that I was an
official special investigator into the fate of America’s Unrepatriated POWs
from past wars, and because in my new career as an editorial cartoonist and
writer, I happen to teach courses in journalism ethics to JEA , WJC , and
NEWSEUM audiences and students.
You will be hearing today from Tailwind veterans who were misquoted in the
CNN story and who will refute the very foundation of the story itself. You
will hear from chemical weapons specialists who will refute the possibility of
nerve gas agents discribed in the CNN account. You will hear from
distinquished military leaders who will refute the policies alleged by CNN.
You will hear from qualified sources who are not afraid to be identified.
They will tell you nerve gas was not employed during TAILWIND or anywhere in
Indochina by U.S. forces. Second, there were no defectors or POWs killed
because none were involved in TAILWIND, either as pre-mission targets, or
mission targets of opportunity. The members of this panel, who spent their
careers in this arena and who had access to this nation’s highest secrets,
discount not only CNN’s alleged facts, but decry the violation of fundamental
journalistic standards and ethics in the production of this story.
We will answer, to your satisfaction, all the technical and historical
details and questions to prove that there were no defectors, and no nerve gas.
In the Q&A session, I will be happy to provide background and answers to any
questions you have regarding deserters, defectors, and POWs, as they were
reported in this story, and in general.
What the journalists in this room need to focus on now are the hidden
agendas, ulterior motives, and unprofessional activities of both the sources
and the journalists who produced this disinformation in journalistic clothing.
Did the two primary sources have hidden motives for making this false charges,
and thus lie? Did the journalists themselves willfully discount honest and
accurate sources who told them the story was false? Has one of the
journalists made false or misleading statements about when the investigation
began and what its purpose was? Why did CNN bypass its own in-house military
expert, Generl Perry Smith, for eight months and air the show without his
input? Why did he resign in protest and demand a retraction? Do either of
the journalists producing the nerve gas story have a history, or a pattern, of
producing ill-founded stories with an anti-U.S. military bias to them? Were
sources selected for their willingness to fabricate details or support a pre-
ordained story-line? Were interviewees not actually asked the questions they
were “shown” answering? Was creative editing used in the production to make
it appear that Admiral Moorer and others were confirming points they now deny
You should be aware that the people on this panel are not your typical ex-
American bureaucrats. Many of us have risked our careers in the past to speak
out against wrong-doings. In this case, after a careful examination of the
facts, we are united in our assessment that the wrong-doing in this case was
not on the part of the U.S. military, but on the part of CNN and TIME
journalists. In trying to embarrass the military, they have succeeded
primarily in dishonoring the institution of a free and responsible press.
That is your story. Arnett and Oliver gave us TAILWIND. Let them reap a
Beck is a journalist and editorial cartoonist who owns and operates
POLITICAL GRAPHICS SERVICE of Arlington, Virginia. He is a contributing
writer and combat artist for SOLDIER OF FORTUNE MAGAZINE. For the past 5
years, he has taught ethics in journalism to students around the U.S. and
He served 23 years in
the CIA’s Clandestine Service (1970-1993) as a Special
Operations Group (SOG) Officer, Paramilitary Specialist, and a Chief of
He retired from the Navy
Reserves in 1996 after 33 years service, 8 of which
were active duty assignments. He was a Commanding Officer of a Defense
Intelligence Agency (DIA) unit and a Naval Criminal Investigative Service
Beck served in Indochina
from 1969 to 1975 as a Forward Observer with Marine
Infantry units in Vietnam, a guerrilla advisor and Paramiltiary Officer in
Laos, and as an intelligence and SOG advisor in Cambodia.
He began his active duty
career in January 1968 as a Navy frogman and
Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) specialist with biological-chemical warfare
training, and ended it in October 1996 as a Special Investigator on
Unrepatriated POWs for the U.S.-Russian Joint Commission.