HANNITY

Did Kerry's Comments Fuel POW Torture?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," August 23, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: There is one charge being made by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that hasn't received that much attention. According to some Vietnam veterans, John Kerry's comments about the conduct of American soldiers in Vietnam were allegedly used by the North Vietnamese to harass American prisoners of war.

Specifically some of the vets claim that the North Vietnamese tried to get them to admit to the crimes that John Kerry alleged were being committed when he testified before the Senate in 1971.

One of those American POWs, Paul Galanti, was held as a prisoner of war for more than six years and later worked for the presidential campaign of John McCain in 2000. He can also be seen criticizing Senator Kerry in the latest Swift Boat Vets for Truth ad.

Sir, thank you for being with us and thank you for your service to our country. We appreciate that very much.

PAUL GALANTI, VIETNAM WAR VETERAN: Thank you, Alan. It's nice to be here.

COLMES: Tell me specifically what you're alleging here about John Kerry and how his comments were received?

GALANTI: Alan, I never met Senator Kerry, but I did hear his voice. I didn't know whose voice it was. I just knew it was an alleged naval officer saying some pretty bad things, talking about atrocities, war crimes, killing babies and stuff like that.

And in past years, as North Vietnam, they would tell us POWs, "You're not prisoners of war. You're criminals. You're war criminals because you've committed atrocities in killing babies, bombing dams and pagodas."

And here was an American naval officer saying these things. Now I didn't remember hearing his name, but he's the only human being I've ever heard that said, "Genghis Khan." And when I heard him saying that a couple of months ago, said, "My God, that's the same guy that I heard in Hanoi. They were promoting as a big friend of theirs."

COLMES: You know, John Kerry, in that 1971 hearing, was relaying what he had said, he had heard other soldiers say. The "Toledo Blade" recently won a Pulitzer last October, a couple of them, for reporting on atrocities during Vietnam.

So is the issue that John Kerry was not telling the truth or was it that he was telling the truth but should not have said so while the war was still raging?

GALANTI: Their definition of aiding and abetting the enemy during a time of war and that's definitely what he was doing. If he was an officer and he knew about that kind of stuff, you don't do that by going on the public stage and broadcasting it. I've never seen anything that said Lieutenant Kerry reported to his seniors all of these atrocities he heard about.

Frankly, between you, me and the fencepost, just some grandstanding on his part for personal self-aggrandizement.

COLMES: Why do you think it is that so many Vietnam veterans, including those who were with him on his own boat, with the exception of one, this guy Gardner, support him?

GALANTI: I don't think many support him. I was with about 30 swift boat guys and they were all his contemporaries and peers, some seniors, and they knew him a whole lot better than the sailors that served with him on the boat.

Those guys — they worked for him — this was not a big band of brothers slapping each other on the back. He was the officer in charge of the boat or he should have been.

The ones who knew John Kerry best were his contemporaries, the ones who could observe him from the same level. And almost to a man, they denounced everything he did over there.

COLMES: But the ones who were closest to him seem to be the ones who have actually been supporting John Kerry.

And the other question is why are they speaking out now, all these years later? He's been in public life now for 20 years. Ran many times as a senator, but now the timing is suspicious, isn't it?

GALANTI: No, I don't think so. He wasn't running for president before. They are extremely concerned about his taking over as commander in chief and I think it would be a travesty myself.

I don't think anybody that did the things he did as a junior officer, I can't imagine what he'd do if he has his keys on the big machine.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Paul, welcome to the show. I want to just put some emphasis on a little bit about your background and your life. You really are, by every definition, an American hero.

GALANTI: Yes.

HANNITY: Six years, eight months you spent in these war camps. You flew 97 combat missions. You have the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit for Valor, Bronze Star with Valor, two Purple Hearts, and you served up until 1982 when you retired with the rank of commander.

We owe a great service to you. Thank you for what you've done to your country.

Walk us through what happened in your life. You were shot down; you were captured right away. You were actually being shot as you came out of a parachute, as you had to eject. And then all of a sudden your life is taken over. Just tell people a little bit about that experience.

GALANTI: You know, it's interesting, I'd prepared for every eventuality. We had gone through survival schools for captivity, but there's no way you can train for the feeling of suddenly having every speck of control of your life taken away from you.

I came out of the airplane. It was going almost 500 knots, 575 miles per hour. The parachute opened immediately. It popped, ripped out three panels of the parachute. I got shot in the neck almost immediately, hit the ground and was captured within about a minute.

And I radioed to the other, the men on my flight and said, "I'll see you after the war." At the time, thinking it would be maybe six months or maybe a year at the most.

And, you know, Sean, the whole time I was in Hanoi, no matter how bad it got or how good it got, my mind-set was, it's never going to be more — less — probably six months to a year and I'd be back home.

HANNITY: Unbelievable. And you were tortured regularly, Paul?

GALANTI: Yes, the first couple of years. It stopped pretty much — when Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, the torture pretty much stopped unless somebody hit a guard or did something not real wise. But the the routine torture stopped.

HANNITY: All right. And then you're a prisoner of war and then you hear this propaganda. Then you hear this, what you've now put together later is John Kerry saying that your fellow soldiers committed atrocities. And I guess he has the right to say it.

What do you think of the effort now by writing through his lawyers to TV stations to intimidate the Swift Boat guys? What do you think about these efforts of these left-wing groups to get the publisher to pull the book, to get bookstores not to run the book?

These are 64 vets on the record telling their stories. Didn't they earn that right to tell the world their story?

GALANTI: Sure they did. And the fact that they're trying to use lawyers and legal efforts to hold back their free speech, that's pretty telling right there. That's an indictment in its own.

HANNITY: Do you feel — go ahead.

GALANTI: I was with them — I had some roommates from the Naval Academy who were boat drivers. And I've talked to them periodically, but I've never heard stories like I heard in my 24 hours with the Swift Boat guys last month. And that's the only reason I did this.

HANNITY: I only have a little bit of time. Now that you know all that you know about Kerry, now that we know he accused these guys of all of these atrocities, now you know he admitted atrocities: Did he betray you? Do you feel like he's betraying you now? What you do want the American people to hear from you?

GALANTI: It really bothered me. I never had a flashback until I heard his voice again.

When I heard the replay of that Senate hearing, saying "Genghis Khan," it came out. All of a sudden I was back in Hanoi for the first time since I'd been home in 1973.

But I don't think he thought about us. I don't think he thought about anybody except himself when he was reading that prepared speech.

COLMES: Mr. Galanti, we appreciate your time tonight. Thank you for coming on and thank you for serving.

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