Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith quit his long-time job as a military adviser to CNN over the weekend in protest of what he regards as major inaccuracies in Peter Arnett’s “Operation Tailwind” report on the use of nerve gas by U.S. troops in Laos during the Vietnam War, WorldNetDaily has learned.
Initially, Smith was disturbed that the Arnett report, which received enormous publicity a week ago, was aired without his consultation. He addressed his concerns with top executives of CNN and demanded that the network run a retraction about the use of nerve gas. When he did not get satisfaction, he resigned in protest.
“I had tried very hard for a week to convince (top executives) to do a major retraction, but to no avail,” said Smith. “Lots of people at CNN were solidly with me on this, but not the top bosses and the team that put that terrible special together. There is an outside chance that my resigning in protest may finally get attention — only time will tell.”
CNN’s “Operation Tailwind” report of Sunday, June 7, alleged the U.S. government used lethal nerve gas during a mission to kill American defectors in Laos in 1970. Arnett claimed to have based his report on eight months of work and 200 interviews. Yet, the sensational charges hung primarily on the claims of one man — Lt. Robert Van Buskirk, a platoon leader in “Operation Tailwind.” Van Buskirk recalled throwing a white phosphorus grenade down a hole to kill two suspected U.S. defectors during the 1970 mission. He also claimed to have witnessed the use of the nerve agent Sarin gas on a base camp used by a group of defectors.
Doubts were cast upon the claims when another Vietnam Special Forces vet, Tom Marzullo, pointed out that Van Buskirk had authored a book in 1983 called “Operation Tailwind,” in which he made no mention of the defectors or the Sarin gas. Van Buskirk’s superiors also discounted his story.
CNN also failed to mention that shortly after his tour of duty in Vietnam, Van Buskirk was arrested by U.S. Army Criminal Investigative Division officials in Germany for arms trafficking and forced to leave the military.
Other troops and officers involved in the mission have come forward to criticize Van Buskirk, Arnett’s CNN special and the notion that nerve gas was used. Even the historical records of the North Vietnamese army make no claims that the U.S. ever deployed lethal chemical weapons in its conduct of the war or in the Laotian incursion.
Gen. Smith had been on retainer as a military adviser to CNN since the Persian Gulf War.
“As the CNN military analyst, I would have expected that someone would have checked with me before going on air, but that was not the case,” he said. “I have told the CEO of CNN that I have committed myself to seeking and finding the truth. I have already told him that now that I have talked to the pilots, have the ordnance and logistics records, that he must run a retraction on the use of nerve gas. I have also told him that I think it is extremely unlikely that we tried to kill American defectors, but my research is not as conclusive on that issue.”
Arnett served as CNN’s “Man in Baghdad” during the Persian Gulf War. He was granted unusual access to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In a report last September, Arnett also suggested U.S. Special Forces had used chemical weapons on the battlefield in Vietnam. Some media critics and commentators have characterized his reports from Baghdad and Southeast Asia as “anti-American” in tone.
CNN officials were unavailable for comment last night.
CNN’s deceitful Vietnam expose