Palin opened a door to McCain's relationship with
a former Viet Cong terrorist
By Ted Sampley
U.S. Veteran Dispatch
October 6, 2008
John McCain's vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin accused Democrat Barack Obama of
"palling around with terrorists" because of his political relationship with a former 1960s radical.
Palin, who in two years stepped from a small-town mayor to become governor of Alaska, and
then the first female running mate on a Republican presidential ticket, is being used by McCain
to characterize Obama as undesirable to American voters.
Palin's reference was to Bill Ayers, an American communist who co-founded the violent
Weatherman organization in 1969. Weatherman members took credit for bombings in the United
States, including at the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol, during the Vietnam War.
Ayers and his wife Bernadine Dohrn, also an extremist in the 1970s, remain unrepentant about
their bombings of U.S. government facilities and police stations. Ayers told the New York Times
in an interview released Sept. 11, 2001, "I don't regret setting bombs. I feel we didn't do enough,"
Obama served on a charity board with Ayers several years ago and the two have appeared
speaking together at public events. In 1995, the first organizing meeting for Obama's state
senatorial campaign was reportedly held in Ayers's apartment. The Obama campaign has
admitted that Obama and Ayers are "friends."
Palin told a group of donors at a private airport in Englewood, Colo, "Our opponent ... is
someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling
around with terrorists who would target their own country." She also said, "This is not a man
who sees America as you see America and as I see America."
By bringing up Obama's relationship with the unrepentant communist
Ayers, Palin opened the
door to vetting McCain on his post-Vietnam War relationship with the late Vo Van Kiet.
Kiet was a Viet Cong terrorist in South Vietnam who rose through the communist ranks to
become Vietnam's Prime Minister and McCain's political friend. Kiet served as prime minister
from 1991 until 1997.
McCain blocked a May 1992 attempt by former Vietnam POWs Larry Stark, Dan Pitzer, and
Jose Anzaldua to have the Bush administration investigate Kiet for ordering the executions of
McCain traveled to Vietnam in October 1992 to collaborate with Kiet and other communist
leaders on how best to remove the POW/MIA issue as an obstacle to normalized trade and
diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the United States.
While in Vietnam, McCain and Kiet warmly greeted each other reaffirming both their
governments' desires for early normalization of relations and accelerated cooperation to resolve
the issue of Americans missing in action. McCain has since referred to Kiet as his "friend."
McCain's chummy meeting with Kiet gave President Bill Clinton much needed political cover to
lift the Vietnam trade embargo and withdraw U.S. opposition to Vietnam's access to multi-million dollar loans from the International Monetary Fund. Clinton did so before Veterans Day
1993, a move that jump started Hanoi's troubled economy. The about-face also removed any
incentive for that country's leaders to explain the fate of U.S. prisoners of war who were in
Vietnam's possession, but not released at the end of the war.
Kiet died in June 2008 at the age 85.
Unlike McCain who came from a family with political influence, Kiet was born to a peasant in a
village in the Mekong Delta. His birth name was Phan Van Hoa. He changed it to Vo Van Kiet
when he joined the Indochinese Communist Party in 1939. He also went by the nickname, Sau
As a member of the communist-led Viet Minh independence movement, Kiet became a staunch
communist leader fighting against the French in the first Indochina war (1946-54) in southern
Vietnam. Following the division of the country according to the Geneva accords of 1954, Kiet
helped organize the South Vietnamese Viet Cong National Liberation Front (NLF). In total, Kiet
led communist fighters in bloody wars against the French and Americans for nearly four decades.
By late 1960, Kiet had achieved an influential and high-ranking position as a member of the
secret Viet Cong NLF Central Committee. He was also Secretary in Command of the Saigon
Special Zone, one of the six zones by which the NLF divided Vietnam below the 17th parallel.
In May of 1963, Kiet's power and influence was strengthened when the NLF organizational
structure reorganized South Vietnam into three interzones (literally groups of provinces). Kiet's
Saigon-Cholon-Gia Dinh area remained as a Special Zone.
As leader of the Special Zone, Kiet wielded much influence within the NLF Central Committee.
His powerful position on the NLF Central Committee was enhanced even more by his
membership in the Lao Dong communist party, which reported directly to Hanoi. This allowed
him to set Viet Cong war-making policies, which included the treatment of American prisoners
of war held in South Vietnam.
Under Kiet's guidance, the NLF Central Committee developed an official policy authorizing the
use of terror tactics and reprisal executions against the South Vietnamese population and
American POWs the Viet Cong were holding.
Palin was only a few months old and McCain was well launched into a career as Navy aviator
when, in the spring of 1964, Kiet approved an ambitious Viet Cong plan to assassinate U.S.
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Henry Cabot Lodge, the U.S. ambassador to
The plan called for Viet Cong terrorist Nguyen Van Troi to plant a bomb under the Cong Ly
Bridge near Saigon. The intent was to blow up the bridge as U.S. officials drove across. He was
discovered and arrested by the South Vietnamese.
It was revealed during Troi's trial that he was a member of a Viet Cong terrorist cell, which
operated in the Saigon area beginning as early as 1961.
According to U.S. government reports, during the time Troi was active in the terrorist cell; a
bomb was exploded May 20, 1962 in front of the Hung Dao Hotel, Saigon, injuring eight
Vietnamese and three Americans who were in the street at the time. A grenade was thrown into a
holiday crowd in downtown Saigon, killing six people, including two children, and injuring 38
others. Viet Cong terrorists hurled a grenade into a Saigon home where an American family was
having dinner, killing a French businessman and wounding four other people. Two powerful
explosions set off by terrorists on bicycles killed two Vietnamese and wounded 10 others in
Saigon. Terrorists set off three grenades in Saigon injuring 16 people, including four children; the
first was thrown in a main street, the second along the waterfront, and the third in the Chinese
On Oct. 18, 1964, a South Vietnamese government firing squad executed Troi after convicting
him of the unsuccessful attempt to assassinate McNamara and Lodge, as well as "other terrorist
acts, which included tossing bombs into civilian-filled restaurants in Saigon."
In response, Kiet's NLF Central Committee ordered retaliatory executions of American prisoners
of war. The NLF Central Committee announced on Jun. 24, 1965, that POW Harold Bennett, an
Army E4 from Perryville, Ark, had been shot.
Green Beret Capt. Humberto Roque "Rocky" Versace of Norfolk, Va., and Sgt. 1st Class Kenneth
M. Roraback were chosen by the NLF Central Committee for execution. The Viet Cong had
labeled both men as "unrepentant reactionaries" because they refused to violate the U.S. Military
Code of Conduct to become willing participants in communist propaganda used in the POW
Versace was marched to Central Committee headquarters in September 1965 and publicly
executed Sept. 26, 1965 after being forced to kneel and apologize for his "war crimes." He was
shot in the back of the head. The murder was reportedly filmed by communist photographers and
it is widely speculated that Kiet was present.
Although reports vary on the circumstances of Roraback's death, witnesses say a Viet Cong camp
guard was ordered to execute Roraback. The guard's chosen method of murdering the American
prisoner was to walk up behind Roraback and shoot him in the back of his head as he was eating
his meal of rice and water.
The executions of Versace and Roraback were announced Sept. 26, 1965 over Liberation Radio,
the voice of the Viet Cong NLF Central Committee. Both men, the radio broadcast declared,
were shot in reprisal for the deaths of Viet Cong terrorists executed by the South Vietnamese.
The executions of the three U.S. prisoners of war were reported in the Oct. 1, 1965 edition of
Newsweek, which quoted a State Department spokesman describing the executions an "act of
wanton murder" in violation of the Geneva Convention.
Not only did McCain clearly use his tag as former POW and his political influence to protect
Kiet from a war crimes investigation, but he has pushed for every piece of legislation Vietnam's
communist government has asked our Congress to pass.
Despite McCain's friendship with Kiet, Hanoi still has not returned the remains of Bennett,
Versace or Roraback.
Palin said donors on a greeting line had encouraged her and McCain to get tougher on Obama.
She said an aide then advised her, "Sarah, the gloves are off, the heels are on, go get to them. "In
going after Obama, accusing him of "palling around with terrorists," Palin may have
inadvertently opened a door McCain can't afford to walk through.
Last spring, McCain asked of Obama, "How can you countenance someone who was engaged in
bombings that could have or did kill innocent people?"
That's a good question Johnny boy. How did you "countenance"
with someone like Vo Van Kiet who ordered your fellow POWs executed ....
You owe America some explanations.