Summary. In the strange world surrounding the Vietnam War MIA issue, there is a double standard applied to anyone who steps forward. If you are a government employee, if you question the belief that US POWs were abandoned in SEAsia or were taken to Russia, China, or Korea, then you are a fool, a liar, a criminal, or worse. The MIA cultists cannot call you enough dirty names and cannot concoct enough lies about you. On the other hand, if you produce tales of US POWs still rotting away in bamboo cages, decades after the end of the war, you, my friend, are a hero.
The article below has two examples of the double standard at work.
This page is being written in may 1998. In Helms' case, seven years have passed and no freed POW has emerged. Smith's claim was made four years ago. How many of his 572 have appeared?
If I, as the Deputy Director of the Defense POW-MIA Office, had made such a claim as Helms or Smith, I would have been required to deliver. Can you imagine the outcry if I had made such claims then never produced?
Yet, Smith is one of the heroes of the MIA cult. Anyone who questions his claims is attacked, often by Smith. In this article, I quote from an interview that Smith did with Reed Irvine of Accuracy in Media. Of all the assertions in this article, the only ones that are true are that Smith was a POW during the Vietnam War and that he commanded the Special Forces Detachment in Korea. His other claims are bogus.
Helms continues as a Senator, in fact, he is now chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Will there ever be a call for accountability? Don't hold your breath.
Major Mark Smith and the 572
The following text is excerpted from a longer article that can be found on the Accuracy in Media website. July 1994, http://www.ipsystems.com/powmia/documents/aim.html .
BEGIN QUOTE FROM A.I.M. ARTICLE.
Here's a bombshell story you haven't seen in the national media.
A highly-decorated Army Special Forces officer, now retired and running a POW search network from Bangkok, tells us that the Vietnamese army is itching to release 572 Americans, now being held in Laos camps.
The Vietnamese military, according to Major Mark W. Smith, fears being held responsible for war crimes should it kill the men, as the Hanoi politburo is urging.
Vietnam knows the Clinton Administration is on the brink of restoring full trade and diplomatic relations.
The POWs, held for two decades as "bargaining chips" and "trophies of war", are now being dumped into Laos, under the care of three Vietnamese divisions, which prop up the puppet government there.
It is these divisions which control the POWs - and wish to get rid of them, according to Smith. Smith made his revelation on July 13, 1994 on the AIM TV show "The Other Side Of The Store". He formerly headed a top-secret Special Forces unit based in South Korea, that in the early 1980's was tasked to search for American MIAs in Southeast Asia.
We met Smith when he was in Washington to speak at the annual conference of the National Alliance of Families, headed by Dolores Alfond of Bellevue, Washington. Her brother is an MIA. Both Smith and Alfond appeared on our TV show.
Smith's efforts seemed about to bear fruit in 1983, when he was promised the release of three Americans.
Then superior officials whom he cannot identify intervened, and he was abruptly stripped of his assignment and forced out of the army on trumped-up charges.
Disgusted, he moved to Bangkok, Thailand in 1985 and has been trying to do on his own, what his government refuses to attempt.
He is working chiefly through a network of agents he developed while with the army - members of the Laotian resistance, who are fighting their country's communist government, Thai Special Forces and other persons who travel in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.
After eliciting Smith's distinguished military background, Reed Irvine asked, "You are now in touch with the Vietnamese units in Laos?"
Smith said he was in contact with three Vietnamese divisions.
"And they have how many live American POWs under their control?" Irvine asked.
"Five hundred seventy-two," Smith replied, "as of the first of this year."
At the same time, the American government says there are none.
"This is shocking!" Irvine exclaimed.
. . .
"Dumping POWs in Laos"
How much of Major Smith's information is authentic?
POW/MIA activists give him high marks, and his distinguished military credentials are unchallengeable.
Our friends at Soldier of Fortune magazine in Colorado, who have a keen eye for POW shysters, describe Smith as a "straight operator" whose South Asian sources seem sound.
And as Dolores Alfond says, unlike many charlatans who prey upon MIA families, "Mark Smith doesn't go around with a little tin cup asking for money."
Smith said that the actual number of men still being held captive is unknown since the Vietnamese continue to move prisoners into Laos, and that the 572 figure might include persons formerly being held in Vietnam.
He summarized the situation: "Now Vietnam is moving towards diplomatic relations [with Washington]. The gun is away from their head, and little Laos, which we bombed, and the Vietnamese occupied, is again being stuck.
They are dumping the POWs into Laos." Smith said he has obtained the names of many of these men through his network of agents in Laos, especially members of the Laotian resistance.
SMITH: Unlikely as this seems, and I will predict this to you on your show, that the North Vietnamese army - that we fought for so many years, [and now] finds itself between the rock and the hard place, between two governments - is going to be the prime mover in returning these men to their families.
IRVINE: Is the U.S. government going to let these dead men' return, or is it going to be too embarrassing to our government?
SMITH: They are going to try to stop it, but the problem is I think we have a way to do that ... I think that they are going to be placed in the hands of people in Asia who know that this is a terrible thing, and that the United States of America will never be able to stand up to anybody as long as this egg is on its face over the Vietnam War. They are going to force the United States to take these people back.
Smith does not think that any money would be involved; he does not agree with the idea of paying "rewards", but if necessary "I will pay them." As to the time frame, Smith said the release could happen "any time now".
Due to the sensitivity of the prospective return, Smith declined to
be specific about any details.
The Vietnamese, in Oriental fashion, kept the POWs as "spoils of war ... trinkets of ego." He told of one American, now demented, who was kept chained to a post in a village for the amusement of residents.
END QUOTE FROM A.I.M. ARTICLE.
This quoted excerpt is such a collection of lies, half-truths, and misinformation that, to refute it all, would require more storage space than is on the entire WWW. The only facts presented above are that Smith was a POW in Vietnam and he was once commander of the Special Forces in Korea. That's it. The rest is nonsense.
Here are two articles that further describe Mark Smith's nonsense:
Senator Helms: What is the Progress?
In October 1991, Senator Jesse Helms (R, NC) stood on the Capitol steps, with the CNN cameras rolling, and announced that he had information that a "US POW" would be freed from Southeast Asia in "thirty to sixty to ninety days."
I was stationed in Japan at the time. We had English language CNN news on the post cable TV system, which is where I saw Helms' announcement. I wrote to CNN and obtained a transcript of the broadcast. That is exactly what he said.
Thirty days later, I wrote to Senator Helms' office, inquiring as to the progress of the release. No answer. At the sixty day point I wrote again. Again at ninety days. Never did get an answer.
On the Other Hand
I served two tours involved with the POW-MIA issue. First, in the Defense Intelligence Agency Special Office for POW-MIA Affairs and later in the Defense POW-MIA Office. In each office, a major activity was answering the mail. Much of our mail was from MIA cultists -- some call themselves "activists" -- demanding that we answer long, involved letters. Many of these letters were forwarded through Congressional offices. We answered everything; we answered completely and truthfully, not necessarily to the satisfaction of the questioner.
It was not unusual for me to appear at a meeting of a family or veterans' group and have a member of the audience stand up, wave around a letter we had written, or a newspaper article with a quote from me, and demand that I explain what I had said. Often, the question centered on a quote taken completely out of context. I was required to answer.
At the end of the Vietnam War, 2,583 Americans were "missing." Since that time, mroe than 500 have been accounted for by US government efforts that recovered and identified remains and by the Vietnamese returning remains to us (this article contains current statistics). Not a single American has been accounted for, found, or returned by Sen. Smith, Mark Smith, Hendon, or any one outside the US government. Not one. Not a bone fragment or a tooth.
When will Mark Smith and Jesse Helms be required to answer for their claims? When will anyone hold Bob Smith and Billy Hendon accountable for their lies, half-truths, and misinformation?
You know the answer to that one.