A veteran's group that is critical of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry appears to be preparing to launch new TV attack ads featuring prisoners of war.
Two highly decorated Vietnam veterans said they were recently interviewed by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth for material to be used in the television spots.
The ads, the veterans said, continue the shift in focus from Kerry's service in Vietnam to his outspoken criticism of the war after he returned to the United States. Two former POWs have been featured in a controversial ad criticizing Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran.
Jack Fellowes of Annapolis, a retired Navy captain who spent more than six years in a Hanoi prison camp, said the group invited him to Washington last month to talk on-camera about Kerry's anti-war activities. Kerry criticized "atrocities" by American troops.
"I spent two more years in prison because of Kerry and Jane Fonda's anti-war movement," said Fellowes, a 1956 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. "And when Kerry talked about the torture, they [the captors] came after us, interrogating us and calling us war criminals - it was devastating."
During Kerry's speech before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22, 1971, he criticized military and political leaders and asked, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"
Kerry's words that day still haunt retired Col. George "Bud" Day, a former fighter pilot who escaped from prison in North Vietnam, only to be recaptured by the Viet Cong and spend more than five years in captivity.
Day, who said a Swift Boat Veterans crew filmed an interview with him at his Florida office three weeks ago, recalled that Kerry's testimony enraged Vietnam POWs.
"At the time, all we learned was some naval officer was telling these stories of atrocities," Day said. "It was upsetting because we knew it was what Vietnamese wanted to hear."
Day said he has had second thoughts about appearing in the ads, citing President Bush's criticism of political spots by independent groups known as 527's.
Mike Russell, a spokesman for Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, declined to comment on the content of future ads, but he confirmed that the group will soon launch additional spots.
"Stay tuned - we'll have more," Russell said.
Asked about the potential new Swift Boat Veterans ads yesterday, Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton dismissed the group as "a pack of liars."
John Hurley, national director of Veterans for Kerry-Edwards, emphasized that although some veterans resent Kerry's opposition to the war, others understand its underpinnings. He pointed out that Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican and former POW in Vietnam, has condemned the group's ads.
"When I came back from Vietnam, I was angry and frustrated," Hurley said. "Guys were dying because Nixon's war policy was not working - more than 40,000 had died by then - and people protested the war to save lives."