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We, The People Who Care About the Future of Vietnam, Stand Divided

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Today the Communist Government of Vietnam did a good thing. Clemency was granted, for whatever reason, to American citizens held as prisoners. The Americans were basically charged with treason against the Communist Government of Vietnam.

To me, clemency is clemency. I applaud and congratulate and thank the government of Communist Vietnam.

But others do not see it that way.

And that is O.K. too.

Mike Benge sent me this:

"As sop to the Senator Martinez and to the President, "Cuc" Foshee is headed for home; but what about the hundreds of other political prisoners. Remember, Cuc was convicted as a terrorist by the Vietnamese communists for meeting with members of the Vietnamese underground democracy movement. What is one regime's terrorist, is another's freedom and democracy fighter."

I admire Mike Benge. Greatly.

My friend Mike Benge was an enlisted "peacetime Marine" (1955-1959).

As the war in Vietnam heated up, Mike went to Vietnam in 1963 with the International Voluntary Services (forerunner of the Peace Corps) and joined what is now the U.S. Agency for International Development as a Foreign Service Officer in 1965.

Mike was serving as the senior civilian CORDS (Combined Operations Rural Development Support) advisor in Vietnam and was captured by the Communist North Vietnamese during Tet of 1968 while attempting to rescue 4 U.S. volunteers and a group of Missionaries.

Despite the fact that Mike was not a uniformed member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the Vietnamese Communists treated him with the same distain doled out to men like John McCain, James Stockdale and many others.

Mike was joined in prison by two missionaries who later died of malnutrition.

Mike was held captive by the Communists for just over 5 years. The first year, he was held in 12 different camps in South Vietnam. He was held one year in Cambodia then in and three different camps in North Vietnam.

Mike spent 27 months in solitary confinement, one year in a cage and one year in a black box. Finally he reached the Hanoi Hilton where the uniformed American POWs were held. He was released during Operation Homecoming in 1973.

Mike received the State Department's highest award for Heroism for saving the lives of 11 USAID personnel prior to his capture and a medal for Valor for his actions during his imprisonment.

Today Mike continues his service for others. He works for equal rights for the native peoples of tribal Vietnam.

Mike is a Senior Advisor to the Montagnard Human Right Organization in Raleigh, North Carolina at:

Mike is going to continue to fight for human rights in Vietnam and me too.

I respect and admire Mike Benge but on this we do not agree.

Many others have advised me that Mike is right. That we are in a "take no prisoners and give no quarter" fight with the Communist government of Vietnam.

I am sorry. Today I was moved by the compassion and clemency of the Communist government of Vietnam.

I have declared a personal "time out" to last until the President of the United States travels to Vietnam and returns home.

I am going to applaud and congratulate and thank the government of Communist Vietnam.

With Cuc Foshee and her companions, who they have also released, the Communist government of Vietnam has done something good and honorable.

I proudly stand and applaud and congratulate and thank the government of Communist Vietnam.
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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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