The Insincerity Of ‘Hanoi Jane’

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - April 14, 2005
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April marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, South Vietnam. North Vietnamese tanks and troops swept into the city after a series of victories over South Vietnamese army units left high and dry by a faithless U.S. Congress, which cut off promised continued military aid and air support after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. For me, as I watched Saigon go down, if I could have just figured out how to feel about it I’d have felt better.

Two years earlier American POWs had returned to the warm reception every Vietnam vet should have received, and now the Communist conversion of Saigon to “Ho Chi Minh City” ended the “Vietnam Era” for our nation, and the psychological and emotional wounds began to heal; all but one — Jane Fonda!

Now she has picked the scab again with her recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl in which she hawked her new book and discussed her 1972 trip to North Vietnam.

For readers who don’t clearly recall or are too young to remember and wonder why all the current fuss, it’s like this:

The “Fonda Phenomenon” has its basis in the anti-war activities of the then young, attractive, privileged actress daughter of actor Henry Fonda. During the Vietnam war she was a leading activist, prominent on campuses and at anti-war rallies, and the darling of the mostly equally anti-war media. She was on record as saying if we really knew what communism was about we would get down on our knees and pray to be Communist, and that we should hope the Communists in Vietnam win the war — all of this while hundreds of thousands of American troops were fighting and many dying there to help the South Vietnamese protect their nascent democracy from both overt and covert communist aggression from the North.

Fonda may be most remembered for that wartime trip to the capital city of North Vietnam where she earned the disdainful title of “Hanoi Jane” by touring Communist air defense units, and with cameras rolling, donned an enemy helmet, sat at the gunners seat of an anti-aircraft gun, and gleefully pretended to shoot down American airplanes. She also interviewed newly captured American POWs — again with propaganda cameras rolling — in the infamous Hoa Lo prison where she parroted the Communist Party line as she chided them for “targeting schools, churches, hospitals, and old folks’ homes” and lectured them to cooperate with the enemy to bring the war to a speedy end (on the Communists’ terms, of course).

She also recorded several radio broadcasts in which she called all the POWs “war criminals, guilty of heinous crimes against the brave Vietnamese people, and unworthy of treatment in accordance with the Geneva Convention on POWs.”

As the loudspeaker in my solitary cell dripped with her venom, I rationalized: Well, I guess sometimes someone has to make the sacrifices necessary to preserve the freedoms that allow someone like her to come to the camp of the enemy and say what she thinks, albeit from total ignorance.

It was abundantly clear that Fonda’s views and activities were misinterpreted by the Communists as being typical of most Americans, thereby encouraging them to fight on interminably for a longer war.

In the 60 Minutes interview, she says her appearance on the anti-aircraft gun was a “betrayal” of the U.S. military and “the country that gave me privilege,” and that it was one of the biggest mistakes of her life, “… the largest lapse of judgment that I can even imagine.” (This is a a confession, not to be confused with an apology) But as for exploiting the POWs for her own propagandizing, “ … it’s not something I’ll apologize for.”

When American POWs returned and recounted the systemic torture, solitary confinement and inhumane treatment that had been the norm, Fonda — too naive to comprehend the new POWs she had talked to had not yet been mainstreamed — called us all “liars and hypocrites.” In all her pseudo apologies over the years, she’s never expressed a shred of remorse for that one.

Bottom line: Should Hanoi Jane be accorded forgiveness for her wartime ego trip at the expense of so many others? Yes — as soon as she sincerely asks to be forgiven.

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