Navy flag-lowering plan confirmed
CINCPACFLT officer: 'There was a proposal to change the regulations'

By Geoff Metcalf
A high-ranking U.S. Navy officer has confirmed WorldNetDaily's Aug. 23 report that President Bill Clinton wanted to lower the American flag beneath the level of Vietnam's flag during a planned trip to the Southeast Asian country before he leaves office.

One of WND's more controversial reports in recent months, the exclusive story by reporter Geoff Metcalf had two parts: One, that the president was secretly planning a trip to Southeast Asia after the November election but before the end of his term, and two, that he planned to have a U.S. Navy ship, with him onboard, lower its flag -- in violation of long-standing Navy regulations -- to below the level of the Vietnamese flag when the U.S. ship pulled into Vietnam's territorial waters.

While the idea of the commander in chief using the Navy's flag to "bow" before the communist Vietnamese infuriated an enormous number of U.S. military personnel, the story also elicited swift denial from the Navy.

"The Navy is not aware of any planned trips by the President to China or Vietnam aboard a Navy ship," said Alan P. Goldstein, assistant chief of information for technology integration in the Navy's Office of Information in the Pentagon. "I ... can assure you that there are no plans to change the regulations governing the flying of the U.S. flag on U.S. Navy warships," Goldstein added, noting that "federal statutes determine Navy Regulations on the flying of the national ensign on Navy vessels and are not subject to alteration by the Department of the Navy."

At the same time, in an e-mail alert widely circulated on the Internet, Phil Alperson, legislative director for Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., announced:

I have spoken with White House officials. They UNAMBIGUOUSLY state the following:

  1. There are no plans at this time for the President to make such a trip.

  2. If he were to make such a trip, there is no way he will alter Navy regulations requiring that the U.S. flag always fly above any other flag.


Nevertheless, within weeks the White House acknowledged that Clinton would indeed make the trip, a development reported widely, by the Associated Press and USA Today among others.

As to the validity of the second half of WND's story -- the alleged plan to avoid offending the Vietnamese government by temporarily lowering the American flag below the level of the communist nation's flag -- there has been no independent confirmation until now.

Yesterday, WorldNetDaily received this letter, on letterhead, from a high-ranking U.S. Navy officer in CINCPACFLT (Commander In Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet), written to a high government official who was one of WND's original sources for the story. Per the CINCPACFLT officer's request, his name and rank are being withheld from publication:

Thanks for sending those news accounts concerning Clinton's planned trip to Vietnam and the proposed change to Navy regulations.

You asked what the hell is going on in the Navy. In a nutshell, and unfortunately, one or more of our Navy spokesmen are not being truthful. That in itself is a sad event and serves to illustrate what has happened to the military under this administration. There was a proposal to change the regulations to accommodate a presidential trip to Vietnam and Vietnam requires that its flag fly in the superior position. ... The good news is that there appears to be no support for the proposal on the staff, but the bad news is there is more to this story.

The direction to submit the request apparently did not originate on the CINCPACFLT staff, but was directed from above, probably up at the SECDEF [Secretary of Defense] level. Unfortunately, everyone serving in this administration seems to have been corrupted by it, or perhaps all of Clinton's DoD appointees were corrupt coming in the door. No one is talking about this issue on the staff anymore, which strongly suggests that the news story killed the initiative. If I were a betting man, I would bet that this is a dead issue.

To clarify one facet of the story, I am sure that there never was any intention for Clinton to go to Vietnam on a Navy ship, although he may envision himself traveling on a Navy ship, as did Franklin D. Roosevelt. I believe that the concept was for a port visit by one of our ships concurrent with his visit. In any event, is it not interesting that the White House finally owned up to the visit after this news article broke? I put nothing past this guy and I hope Mr. Metcalf keeps burning him. I'd like to get word to him that his story is accurate, but this administration is vindictive and I would like to leave the Navy with my rank and retirement intact.

Clinton, who conferred with Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong about the upcoming trip during Tran's September trip to the United Nations Millennium Summit, will reportedly discuss the development of economic ties with Hanoi. In 1995, Clinton reestablished diplomatic relations with Vietnam.