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APRIL 15, 2001



After we finished the entry that appears just above, we received an e-mail informing we that "I think you need to get over this. Ms Fonda has admitted she made serious mistakes in her effort to bring peace. She has asked forgiveness of those she offended. Unless you've never made a mistake or offended anyone, I don't think you have a right to continue to condemn her. P.S. I'd like to see if you add this to your list of comments received by those viewing your web site."

Although virtually every email that we have received at HANOIJANE.NET has been supportive of our attempt to make known the facts and legal significance of Fonda's July 1972 propaganda trip to wartime North Vietnam, there have been a few letters making this "forgiveness" point. Accordingly, we're going to address it now, for all time.


But first, a few other subsidiary points must be made about the above-quoted email.


Fonda has not admitted with any specificity that "she made serious mistakes." If she had, our research would have turned up such an admission(s). Indeed, under the dates of February 9 and March 12 on this website we have shown that her purported "apologies" were glib and superficial, and that while she may have "convinced the gullible that Hanoi Jane is truly sorry for what she did in North Vietnam . . . [s]he is not, and never was."


The email writer mis-characterizes Fonda's broadcast and other assistance to the North Vietnamese's worldwide anti-American propaganda campaign as a "serious mistake." Serious it was. A mistake it was not. Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language defines "mistake" as "to understand or perceive wrongly." By her own admissions - repeated in Hanoi, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles - Fonda knew exactly what she was doing, and why. Her zealotry on behalf of the North Vietnam Communists both in Hanoi and upon her return to the United States was unmistakably knowing and intentional. Indeed, if one were to have accused her at a press conference in any of those cities of "understanding or perceiving wrongly" her activities on behalf of the Communists, doubtless she would have defiantly denied the accusation. Further, the texts of her Hanoi broadcasts and other conduct there make abundantly clear that Fonda believed that she was in the right and that the United States was in the wrong.


Next, the email writer equivocally states that Fonda was making an "effort to bring peace." Whatever this means, when one examines her broadcasts and other conduct in North Vietnam, as "Aid and Comfort" does in great detail, it quickly becomes clear that Fonda's idea of peace was a Communist victory. Indeed, in one broadcast she virtually says so. Thus, the email writer's statement amounts to a recognition that Fonda's "efforts" were directed to a "peace" favoring the North Vietnamese.


The email writer refers to "those she offended." This is obscene. Webster's says that "'offend' implies causing displeasure or resentment in another . . . by wounding his feelings. . . ." Fonda's broadcasts and other conduct in North Vietnam did much, much more than cause "displeasure or resentment" or "wound feelings." Yes, some POWs were "offended," but, as my book makes clear, many of them, as well as troops in the field and airmen on carriers, had their morale seriously undermined by what Fonda did.


Then, the writer's "people-who-live-in-glass-houses" point: "Unless you've never made a mistake or offended anyone, I don't think you have a right to continue to condemn her." In other words, there is no objective right and wrong, and the ability (or duty) to condemn is contingent on the accuser's own record. Righteousness, according to the writer, belongs to the pure. On that theory, commission of a "mistake" or "offense" disqualifies one from making moral judgments. Or, to put the point slightly differently, "judge not lest ye be judged."


Well, among other things, the American legal system doesn't work that way. Which brings us to our main point, "forgiveness."


The writer - and the very few others who have sent us similar emails - claim that, for whatever reason(s), Fonda should be forgiven. Either because she has "apologized," or because that's the charitable thing to do, or because so much time has elapsed since July 1972, or because she was stupid, or because she was well-intentioned, or because she was trying to end the war. Unfortunately, these notions of "forgiveness" are equivocal, and those who urge them neglect to specify exactly what concept of forgiveness they seek to invoke. This is regrettable because there are different concepts of forgiveness. For example, religious: "Go and sin no more"; personal: "It's OK, I won't hold it against you."


But there are only two kinds of forgiveness that are relevant in Fonda's case, moral and legal.


One may choose to forgive Fonda morally for her transgressions, and while that form of forgiveness is wrong, that is the forgiver's own business.


Legal forgiveness, however, is an entirely different matter. The law is quite clear that forgiveness has no place in assessing liability for one's acts (though it may be somewhat relevant as to punishment). Under the law, one is either liable civilly or guilty criminally - or not. The law does not, nor should it, "forgive." It is the duty of the law only to assess culpability or its absence. Thus, when viewing the case of Hanoi Jane from a legal perspective, there is no room for the concept of "forgiveness." Either Jane Fonda committed treason, or she did not. If she did, the law does not forgive. And if she did, even a genuine apology would be wholly irrelevant. Were it otherwise, make it real what this would mean. Added to the seemingly unlimited modern defenses to criminal conduct - for example, abuse as a child, drunkenness, "diminished" mental capacity, youth, discrimination - would be the "apology defense": I'm really sorry that I broadcast enemy propaganda to American troops and prisoners, that I met with some POWs, that I fraternized with senior North Vietnamese civilian and military leaders, that I held press conferences around the world and lauded the Communists and attacked America, that I provided Communist journalists and photographers with major photo opportunities, that I used my celebrity to advance the enemy's cause. I'm sorry, and so you can't touch me."


Well, friends, it doesn't work that way.


Sorry about that.