MIA Facts Site

What To Do
Now
that a
Republican President has Gone Wrong?

It appears now that the MIA "activist" community may have themselves a problem.  A problem with their new President. 

Shortly after we established diplomatic relations with Vietnam, Senator Bob Smith and some of his colleagues in the House of Representatives wrote into the Defense Appropriations Bill a requirement that the President certify  that Vietnam is cooperating with the US in searching for missing Americans.  They did this, not in an attempt to assist the development of US -Vietnam relations and not in an attempt to honestly certify Vietnamese cooperation.  Instead, this was a move calculated to give them something else on which to attack Bill Clinton.  Each year, teh requirment was written into law and each year President Clinton certified Vietnamese cooperation on the MIA issue and each year he was attacked.   Now, President Bush, Jr. has done the same thing -- he has even used the very same language that President Clinton used. 

Below you will find the following:

  1. Certification issued by President Clinton in 1999.
  2. Response to Clinton's certification by the National League of Families.
  3. Certification issued by President Bush, Jr. in 2001.

The Bush certification puts the League in a bit of a spot because the League Executive Director, much of the Board, and a good part of the membership is openly Republican.   When I was on active duty and attending League meetings, the pro-Republican attitude was damn near palpable.  President Carter's administration had been moving toward normal relations with Vietnam when they invaded Cambodia -- Carter even made the statement that "the fullest possible accounting (of our missing) was a hoped-for by-product" of normal relations.  That statement earned him the eternal enmity of the League's Executive Director.  The League's roots are firmly in Southern California Republican politics -- and I can only imagine the joy in the League HQ when Bush Light became president.

Now, Bush, Jr. has committed the same crime as Bill Clinton -- he has certified that Vietnam is cooperating with us in searching for our missing men.  Read Clinton's certification, read the League's response, then read Bush's certification.  What will the League do now that one of their Republican own has committed the same sin as Bill Clinton?

President Clinton's Certification

 

For Immediate Release: February 3, 1999

Presidential Determination No. 99-12

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE:

SUBJECT: Vietnamese Cooperation in Accounting for United States Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA)

As provided under section 609 of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 1999, as contained in the Omnibus Consolidated and Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 1999, Public Law 105-277, I hereby determine, based on all information available to the United States Government, that the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is fully cooperating in good faith with the United States in the following four areas related to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans unaccounted for as a result of the Vietnam War:

  1. resolving discrepancy cases, live sightings, and field activities;
  2. recovering and repatriating American remains;
  3. accelerating efforts to provide documents that will help lead to the fullest possible accounting of POW/MIAs; and,
  4. providing further assistance in implementing trilateral investigations with Laos.

I further determine that the appropriate laboratories associated with POW/MIA accounting are thoroughly analyzing remains, material, and other information and fulfilling their responsibilities as set forth in subsection (B) of section 609, and information pertaining to this accounting is being made available to immediate family members in compliance with 50 U.S.C. 435 note.

I have been advised by the Department of Justice that section 609 is unconstitutional because it purports to use a condition on appropriations as a means to direct my execution of responsibilities that the Constitution commits exclusively to the President. I am providing this determination as a matter of comity with the Congress, while reserving the position that the condition enacted in section 609 is unconstitutional.

In making this determination, I have taken into account all information available to the United States Government as reported to me, including the full range of ongoing accounting activities in Vietnam, joint and unilateral Vietnamese efforts, and the concrete results we have attained as a result of these efforts.

Finally, in making this determination, I wish to reaffirm my continuing personal commitment to the entire POW/MIA community, especially to the immediate families, relatives, friends, and supporters of these brave individuals, and to reconfirm that the central, guiding principle of my Vietnam policy is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of our prisoners of war and missing in action.

You are authorized and directed to report this determination to the appropriate committees of the Congress and to publish it in the Federal Register.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON

National League of Families Response to Clinton's Certification

National League of Families

League's official position on
President Clinton's recent certification to Congress:

The League rejects as invalid the President's February 3rd certification to Congress that Vietnam is "fully cooperating in good faith" with the US to resolve the POW/MIA issue. The Clinton Administration has repeatedly issued such false certifications, despite the knowledge of US specialists that Vietnam's cooperation to date does not meet reasonable expectations based on long-held US Government intelligence and numerous official assessments.

Further, the language of the four criteria for certification, initially outlined by President Clinton, has been repeatedly altered and downgraded to accommodate the administration's real highest priority objective -- normalization of bilateral economic and political relations. The congressionally required certification has become little more than staged rhetoric to pave the way for even more US economic steps.

One can only conclude that the President is misinformed or that he is being advised to certify these distortions to mislead the media and the American people. It is apparent that those with direct policy responsibility for implementing the President's stated priority on resolving the POW/MIA issue are not dealing with facts or are ignoring valid information. Whatever the reasons, it is unfortunate that these Presidential certifications mislead the Vietnamese into thinking that they need not account for Americans last known to be alive in captivity or in close proximity to capture who have not been returned, alive or dead.

While the League appreciates the President affirmation of his commitment that achieving the fullest possible accounting is "the central, guiding principle" of his policy toward Vietnam, there is no solid basis for the steady stream of praise heaped on the Vietnamese leadership by the Clinton Administration. When Vietnam resumes unilateral actions to provide accountability for well known discrepancy cases, the US should be prepared to respond with economic steps to meet Hanoi's objectives. Until then, the timing is up to Hanoi.

February 12, 1999

Bush, Jr's Certification

The following was released today (May 11, 2001) by the White House:

Presidential Determination No. 2001-15

MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY OF STATE

SUBJECT: Cooperation by Vietnam in Accounting for United States Prisoners of War and Missing in Action

As provided under section 610 of the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary and Other Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2001, as contained in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY 2001, Public Law 106-553, I hereby determine, based on all information available to the United States Government, that the Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is fully cooperating in good faith with the United States in the following four areas related to achieving the fullest possible accounting for Americans unaccounted for as a result of the Vietnam War:

  1. resolving discrepancy cases, live sightings, and field activities;
  2. recovering and repatriating American remains;
  3. accelerating efforts to provide documents that will help lead to the fullest possible accounting of POW/MIAs; and,
  4. providing further assistance in implementing trilateral investigations with Laos.

I further determine that the appropriate laboratories associated with POW/MIA accounting are thoroughly analyzing remains, material, and other information and fulfilling their responsibilities as set forth in subsection (B) of section 610, and information pertaining to this accounting is being made available to immediate family members in compliance with 50 U.S.C. 435 note.

I have been advised and believe that section 610 is unconstitutional because it purports to use a condition on appropriations as a means to direct my execution of responsibilities that the Constitution commits exclusively to the President. I am providing this determination as a matter of comity, while reserving the position that the condition enacted in section 610 is unconstitutional.

In making this determination, I have taken into account all information available to the United States Government as reported to me, the full range of ongoing accounting activities in Vietnam, including joint and unilateral Vietnamese efforts, and the concrete results we have attained as a result.

Finally, in making this determination, I wish to reaffirm my continuing personal commitment to the entire POW/MIA community, especially to the immediate families, relatives, friends, and supporters of these brave individuals, and to reconfirm that the central, guiding principle of my Vietnam policy is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of our prisoners of war and missing in action.

You are authorized and directed to report this determination to the appropriate committees of the Congress and to publish it in the Federal Register.

GEORGE W. BUSH

One wonders if the League will "reject as invalid" this certification by President Bush.

One man's opinion

I will not be surprised to see in the Bush administration a dramatic reduction in the size and activities of the Defense POW-Missing Personnel Office.  There is no reason to have the number of people and the amount of money committed to the little bit of research being done in DPMO.  Consider the following.

bulletIn the first place, the matter of determining what happened to missing men is not, and has not been for decades, an intelligence and analytic matter -- it's a graves registration matter requiring field operations and laboratory work.  And, we have had all the necessary units and operations functioning for years:  the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA), the Central Identification Laboratory - Hawaii (CILHI), and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL).  All this means, in my view, a ramping down of the DPMO -- as it should be.
bulletWe know that all missing men from previous wars are dead and that most of them are likely to never be recovered. 
bulletIn the case of the Korean War, we are mobing gradually to a working relationship with the North Koreans that will led to slow and limited access to battlefield sites, wartime burial sites, and gravesites associated with POW camps. 
bulletIn Cambodia, we have solved all the MIA cases. 
bulletIn Vietnam, we have excavated the "easy" ones, we have access to their records and to the old battlefields, and we are working our way through the cases of missing men and will recover those who can be recovered. 
bulletThings move much more slowly in Laos, owing mainly to the remote, trackless nature of much of the country.
bulletWe need to end the useless "live sighting" investigations.  We know that there are no US POWs held anywhere in the world.  We have collected these "live sightings" for years knowing that there was no substacne to them and it's time to end this bit of kabuki theater.