Veterans will never forget #039;Hanoi Jane#039;

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 29, 2005

Jane Fonda's back in the news again with the recent release of her autobiography entitled "My Life So Far." For the thousands of Vietnam veterans who endured the hardship of returning to a country that did not love them, the mere mention of Fonda's name is the equivalent of pouring a pound of salt into a wound that will not heal.

While her father, Henry Fonda, made his mark on the big screen starring in war epics and gunfight sagas, his daughter embraced the role of pacifist and anti-war crusader in the turbulent decade of the 60s. For Fonda, the Vietnam War was a personal affront. It was an attack by her homeland on a smaller, weaker nation in order to further the agenda of America's military industrial complex.

And in 1972 she thought she would change that by going to North Vietnam. What she hoped to accomplish - other than becoming a walking, talking piece of propaganda for the Communist regime in Hanoi - only Jane Fonda knows. What she did accomplish was to become a traitor in the eyes of America's war veterans.

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For two weeks Fonda toured Hanoi and the surrounding area, visiting hospitals, villages, and factories. While in Hanoi, Fonda broadcast 10 messages over the radio denouncing US military and political leaders as 'war criminals.' She shared meals with the Vietnamese people and played with their children. She posed for photographs and television cameras willingly. One such image will haunt her until her death - the image of an American woman laughing as she peered through the sights of a Northern Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun, the same type of artillery used to shoot down American planes.

Rumors abound on the harm Fonda's trip to Vietnam caused American servicemen held captive at the 'Hanoi Hilton,' the NVA's infamous prisoner-of-war camp. One story is that when Fonda met with several American POWs, she shook their hands and was secretly given slips of paper upon which was written each serviceman's social security number. She then handed those papers over to a guard and three members of the group were beaten to death.

That story is a complete fabrication, but Fonda did verbally assault the American POWs when they arrived home, some having experienced nine years of captivity. They told of the torture, the beatings, and the day-to-day horror of what they suffered in the hands of the Northern Vietnamese government. Fonda called the former POWs, "military careerists and professional killers" who were trying to "make themselves look righteous."

She told the country not to "hail the POWs as heroes, because they are hypocrites and liars."

Fonda has since offered a public apology (albeit, in front of cameras, again) to the veterans of Vietnam for her actions, which she termed as 'thoughtless and careless.'

The Vietnam War continues to be a subject of heated debate. The policymakers of the time dictated our involvement but 30 years of wisdom says that we should have kept our boys at home. What was gained in Vietnam? Nothing. What was lost? Countless lives and future generations. And for what? A long, black memorial engraved with the names of a thousands in Washington D.C?

However, whether the war was right or wrong does not excuse the actions of Jane Fonda. Because of two weeks in 1972, her life, so far, garners no respect from us.