CNNís TAILWIND PROGRAM DISINFORMATION DISAPPROVED
by Tom Marzullo
(click here to see the list of signatorees)
Purpose of the Raid

CNN/TIME alleges that the purpose of the raid was to kill American
defectors.  Van Buskirk makes no mention of this purpose in his 1983
book titled "Operation Tailwind."  However in a telephone interview with
the Special Forces S-2 (Intelligence) Officer who planned that raid for
some months prior to its start, that officer stated that the raid was
designed to interdict the flow of supplies on the Ho Chi Minh Trail at
Chavan and to draw North Vietnamese Army units away from a beleaguered
Laotian unit in the area.

Robert Van Buskirk (former Lt.)

Arrested by US Army (CID) Criminal Investigation Division in Germany in
early 1970s for arms trafficking and other questionable activities.
Was subsequently forced to leave military service.

In the Special Forces community, Van Buskirk developed a reputation for
deceit and unreliability.  There are witnesses who can testify to his
behavior while assigned to SF and MACV-SOG.

In the early 1980ís, he wrote the fiscally  unsuccessful book "Operation
Tailwind" where there was no mention of the alleged American deserters
or a plan to kill them.  This story was revived by April Oliver and
Peter Arnett of CNN with the expressed purpose of branding the United
States as a user of lethal chemical weapons.  This is from their own
e-mails to me and others and the previous MACV-SOG related CNN Impact
program broadcast of September 1997 where April Oliver had a hired
"chemical weapons expert"  to declare MACV-SOG veterans "War Criminals"
for the use of non-lethal weapons.

Deceptive Editing

With the exception of Van Buskirk, there were no direct answers to
questions that were directed towards the use of a lethal chemical agent
during tailwind.  Admiral Moorerís statements were general in nature and
in answer to general questions by April Oliver.

Speculation and suppositions by some memberís of the mission ground
personnel were inserted as to make these appear that this was direct
admission of the use of lethal chemical agent.  Again, there was no
preceding question shown on screen that tied the answer shown on screen
to Tailwind.

One of the MACV-SOG veterans (J. Graves) interviewed on camera by CNN
has been contacted and has strenuously protested the out of context and
inappropriate use of some scant seconds of his comments taken from over
7½ hours of interview time.

Air Support

The lead pilot for the A-1E Skyraider aircraft that supported the
extraction denies the use of a chemical agent such as alleged by CNN.
This pilot is available to confirm this statement.

Air crews of helicopters used in the extraction were not provided with
any respiratory protection of any kind.  If any lethal or incapacitating
chemical agents (such as those alleged) had been used, the effects on
the pilots would have been such that is highly probable that none of
these aircraft entering the LZ (landing zone) would have made it back to
base.  There were no plans for decontamination of these aircraft after
return from the mission as is an absolutely basic requirement in
handling chemical agents.

Discrepancies

There was a mention of the use of both BDU-15 and BDU-19 type ordnance
during the program as the type of chemical munitions delivered.  Which
is the one that is alleged to have been used?

The M-17 mask shown was incorrect.  The mask shown was a early prototype
used in the 1950ís and early 1960ís.  The M-17 mask specified in the CNN
show was a black, full face mask without external filter cartridges and
was the standard mask issued to virtually all US forces during the
mid-1960s and onward (with a few modifications).  Looking at any riot
control situation in archival footage during the late 1960ís and early
1970ís where the National Guard was employed will give an excellent view
of this type mask.  All conventional forces in SVN were issued the
standard M-17 mask.

Standing Orders for MACV-SOG Missions and the Capture of Prisoners

Enemy prisoners were always a mission priority.  Many missions were
launched with the express purpose of capturing enemy personnel and teams
undertook extraordinary risks to attempt to capture of any enemy
personnel.  As a result, several US-led MACV-SOG teams were lost to
enemy action.  Amongst MACV-SOG personnel, prisoner snatches were well
understood to be some of the riskiest missions to be assigned because
the team had to come in to the closest possible proximity of enemy troop
concentrations in order to have any chance of success.

Foreign prisoners were a assigned a higher priority than North
Vietnamese.  The recovery of any Americans had the highest priority of
all mission objectives.  This policy was disseminated at all operational
levels of MACV-SOG and was one of the points stressed in the
Reconnaissance Team Leaders School (1-0 course) conducted at Camp Long
Thanh.

Van Buskirkís On-The-Air Confession of Killing Two Unarmed Americans

Are former Lt. Van Buskirks statements, made on camera and broadcast
during the program, outright lies or the truth?  Many members of the
MACV-SOG veteran community would like to get to the truth of this matter
and demand that Van Buskirk immediately be arrested and brought to trail
for the murder of two unarmed alleged American citizens.  We very
strongly feel that only when investigated in this public manner will the
entire truth come out.

According to Van Buskirk, no effort was made to determine if the alleged
"American defectors" were in fact, Eastern Bloc Caucasians.  This  most
rudimentary of intelligence requirements is alleged to have been ignored
by the MACV-SOG team.  No other ground personnel confirm his
allegations.

Physical Injuries Reported

The CNN report included at statement by Van Buskirk that a building had
a stack of bodies that "looked like hamburger."  Despite this, Van
Buskirk described this momentary glance as his personal confirmation the
presence of dead Americans and the prior use of chemical weapons.
However, chemical weapons simply do not cause these kind of injuries,
but conventional weapons do.

The personnel on the ground were virtually all wounded in some way by
conventional weapons.  Despite these open wounds and lacking any
respiratory protection, there were absolutely no fatalities from
chemical agents among them or  the also completely unprotected air crew
who landed in the center of this "nerve gas contaminated" LZ.   Why?
Please refer to the technical section on the various chemical agents
listed below for more complete information.

Chemical Agents

CS and CN gases are commonly used for riot control in the US and are not
considered lethal.  They are visible under most conditions and can be
detected by their peppery odor.  CS irritates mucous membranes and CN
can cause vomiting.  Both can form toxic chemicals when burned and both
can be lethal in very high concentrations in an enclosed space to a
person not wearing respiratory protection.  Both were commonly used by
US forces in SVN.

BZ is an odorless, colorless, tasteless incapacitating agent that has a
range of effects and is not very predictable.  It can be lethal in high
concentrations in an enclosed space to a person not wearing respiratory
protection.

GB or "Sarin" (the pre-WWII German name for the chemical) is a
non-persistent nerve agent that is colorless, odorless and tasteless.
An extremely small exposure is quite sufficient to cause significant
muscular spasms and renders the affected persons helpless in much less
than an hour.  Inhalation and exposure to mucous membranes or wounds is
the most common route by which it enters the body.

Van Buskirk reported on the program that he knew that there was a
chemical agent employed at the LZ because he "could see" the wisps of
vapor coming into the area.  This is highly unusual because the type of
chemical agent alleged by CNN and Van Buskirk is known to be odorless,
colorless and tasteless.  This makes it impossible to detect by a person
using their five senses, until they begin to notice symptoms of
exposure.  The wisps of vapor noted by Van Buskirk therefore cannot
possibly be from the chemical agents alleged.  Smoke from fires set by
tracer bullets fired by supporting aircraft would be the most likely
cause (standard ammunition for these weapons uses a tracer every fifth
shot).  It also could have come from the standard White Phosphorus (WP)
smoke rockets typically used to mark targets by US aircraft that were
heavily supporting this MACV-SOG mission.

Van Buskirk and other ground personnel also reported the targeted
"village" as being quiet and deserted.  Van Buskirk asserts that this is
positive proof of the employment of chemical agents, yet he and the
others also state that it took their company three days of fighting to
reach the targeted village.  This correlation does not make sense as it
ignores the three days the North Vietnamese had at their disposal to
evacuate the village in an orderly manner.  Generous amounts of loud
gunfire will frighten away or silence almost all jungle creatures, so
that is a more reasonable alternative explanation than the use of lethal
chemical agents given the total lack of obviously undamaged, but dead
bodies and the stated facts that they were under enemy fire while in the
enemy camp.

North Vietnamese Army Chemical Corps and Wartime Press Releases

Consider the absurdity of the notion that Hanoi would have remained
silent about the use of lethal gas - - if we had ever used it.

Peoples Army of Viet Nam (PAVN) official history of its operations on
the HCM trail (it bears their classification of Secret), PAVN's official
history of its Chemical Command, and PAVN's official history of the
968th Volunteer Infantry Division (which was responsible for defense of
the region in question) contain not the slightest hint that the US ever
used lethal gas against PAVN forces.   PAVN's concerns about our use of
chemical agents was limited to our use of CS gas - - an agent each US
soldier was exposed to during basic training and that many saw used in
combat operations in SVN

The history of PAVN's Chemical Command notes the importance of capturing
American chemical munitions (e.g., CS grenades) and equipment (e.g., gas
masks) to support Hanoi's "political and diplomatic struggle" (i.e., for
propaganda purposes).  It is absurd to think that Hanoi would have
remained silent if we had used lethal chemicals.

Synopsis of the Storyís Factual Basis

The lack of credible evidence as shown on the program and the obvious
cut and paste approach used in an attempt to show correlating statements
by Admiral Moorer is a clear indication that CNN has failed to meet a
reasonable burden of proof in airing itís internationally inflammatory
allegations.

CNN/TIME and the Money Trail

The CNN/TIME connection with Iraq.  Why does Peter Arnett of CNN make
the direct connection between the known Iraqi use of chemical agents
against itís own civilian populace to a 28 year old story from Vietnam.
Arnett goes on to directly make the point that if their storyís
allegations are true, how can the United States have any moral
imperative to prevent the use of such agents by Iraq.

Remember, Peter Arnett was CNNís "Man in Baghdad" during that war and as
such was available to the Iraqiís for consultation with their agencies
into follow-up actions after the war.

When our young military personnel of DESERT SHIELD/ DESERT STORM ended
that conflict early, CNN had to return $1.34 Billion, yes billion, worth
of already collected advertising revenues, for the next 90 days.
Remember that, according to the press, this was expected to be a long
war, and every advertiser wanted to be on the "THIS IS CNN" broadcast.

While the person who reported this to me was at FORSCOM, Ft McPherson,
Atlanta, GA, he met some of their people and they told him that the CNN
higher ups were pissed, and would get even.  One of the most poignant
comments they made was "dead soldiers sell", when I asked what it meant,
they said that the desert was the ideal environment for their cameramen,
no messy foliage to cover the bodies and the blood, it would be right
there for their cameramen to send back live.  Dead bad guys don't count,
they need dead US troops to make their editorial comments about, to
start the American people to get mad and then they could obtain
additional ratings and revenues covering the demonstrations.  These CNN
representatives said that the more American dead the higher the
ratings.  When the person making this report disclosed to them that he
was in the military, they became highly distressed and immediately
silent.

In consideration of the above facts, it is reasonable to implement a
public investigation into the financial and political ties between the
CNN/TIME media conglomerate and the government of Iraq.   This is a
money trail that clamors to be followed.  At the very least this
broadcast is an attempt by a US-based, multinational media conglomerate
to adversely affect US foreign policy.

Technical Section on Chemical Weapons

For an accurate, user friendly technical resource on Chemical Weapons,
please refer to URL:  http://nbc-med.org/search.html  and search using
the name of the chemical you wish to obtain information on.   I
recommend using US Army Field Manual FM 8-10-7.

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