By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The AK Report states as uncontroverted fact that Lieutenant Van Buskirk "has . . . stated that he had repressed-memory syndrome." This allegation appears to arise from a third-party report by Newsweek magazine. Van Buskirk calls it "hogwash."
The notes from the first call made by Oliver to Van Buskirk in October 1997 make it clear that he did not suffer from repressed memory. In that call he references both his killing of a Caucasian who cursed at him in perfect English and the use of a lethal nerve gas.
The AK Report's assertion that Van Buskirk initially referred to the gas as tear gas, when his statements in his initial interview are read, is an extraordinary misrepresentation of what he said.
"That stuff they put in the CBU-19s it made us sick. The enemy was off on the hilltop, and started to come down on us. We had no choice. I had no choice. We were dead meat so I called out for the baddest of the bad. The rotors of the choppers kept it off us, and pushed it away from us." . . . "The rest of the enemy all died from the gas." "Oh, yeah, it was lethal war gas. Course they don't tell us too much . . ." "It came out of NKP. An A1E was carrying it." "It wasn't no incapacitating gas in that CBU-19."
He also describes the symptoms of those exposed to the gas in some detail, including a description of the enemy "laying down to die."
"My unit puked their brains out. We all got amoebic dysentery. Everyone's nose ran and all this mucus started coming out of everyone's nostrils. Lots of enemy started having seizures . . . ."
These are not tear-gas symptoms.
Regardless of Mr. Abrams' dismissal of Van Buskirk because he was "on the ground," the soldiers on the ground are the eyewitnesses, and therefore are obviously best placed to describe their experiences. Furthermore, Van Buskirk, on the ground, was the de facto leader of the operation and was the commando who called for the gas, the "baddest of the bad." Finally, Van Buskirk had been told about a lethal gas and, like Captain McCarley, had been briefed that any weapon in the U.S. arsenal would be available to him except nuclear weapons.
We have always been aware of contradictory information regarding nerve gas and defectors. We sought interviews with many who might contradict the story, including former National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger (he did not return our calls or letters), former CIA Director Richard Helms (who said he did not know anything about it), former SOG commander John Sadler (who told us our request, one of four, was in the trash can), and a former CIA station chief (who did not want to go on camera). Had any of these potential sources spoken, their views would have been aired. (A list of those approached is set forth in Attachment 1 to this Rebuttal.)
In a June 18 meeting, [CNN Worldwide President] Rick Kaplan said this was a public-relations problem, not a journalism problem, and that he did not want this controversy to progress to congressional hearings with "3,000" members of the establishment on one side of the room and CNN and members of the Special Forces on the other. During that same meeting, Kaplan and [CNN CEO Tom] Johnson expressed their concern about the pressure they were receiving from Henry Kissinger and Colin Powell and the threat of a cable boycott by veterans groups.
During that time, Kaplan and Johnson gagged us from publicly defending the broadcast, and pulled Pamela Hill and Jack Smith from a scheduled appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources" program. Nevertheless, CNN continued to air unopposed criticism about the broadcast without any fairness or balance on the "Reliable Sources" program and with a news report from the Special Forces convention.
In the end, we were fired.
We stand by our reporting and producing of both Tailwind stories.
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city