Justice confirms Navy flag flap
Islands' top judge corroborates high-level talks to placate communists

By Geoff Metcalf
"I can guarantee you that it did happen. I would stake my life on it." --Alan Fields, chief justice of the Marshall Islands Supreme Court, confirming WorldNetDaily's reports on clandestine discussions of subordinating the American flag to that of communist Vietnam

The highest-ranking judicial officer of a foreign nation, corroborating one of WorldNetDaily's most controversial stories of the year, says the U.S. government engaged in high-level discussions about lowering the U.S. flag to below the level of the Vietnamese flag so as not to offend the communist nation.

According to Alan Fields, chief justice of the Marshall Islands Supreme Court, high-level U.S. Navy sources on both the east and west coast have confirmed to him that discussions were held regarding a scheme to subordinate the American flag to Vietnam's during President Clinton's recent trip to Southeast Asia.

WorldNetDaily's Aug 23 story was publicly repudiated by Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon, by U.S. Navy spokesman Alan P. Goldstein and many others in the media and the military. That exclusive story comprised two parts: That the president was secretly planning a trip to Southeast Asia after the November election but before the end of his term, and 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.

The notion of the U.S. military's commander in chief using the Navy's flag to "bow" before the communist Vietnamese caused a firestorm among WND's large military readership. But the official denials also came fast and furiously.

"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.

Phil Alperson, legislative director for Rep. Ronnie Shows, D-Miss., announced in a widely circulated e-mail message:

"I have spoken with White House officials. They UNAMBIGUOUSLY state the following: There are no plans at this time for the President to make such a trip. 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. THIS IS AN UNFOUNDED RUMOR THAT MUST STOP NOW!"

Nevertheless, within weeks the White House acknowledged that Clinton would indeed make the trip, which USA Today, Associated Press and others then reported.

But the second half of the story -- the alleged plot to avoid offending the Vietnamese government by lowering the American flag to below the level of the communist nation's flag -- eluded independently verifiable confirmation, since WND's multiple high-level Navy sources all insisted on anonymity due to fear of retaliation. Even a high-ranking officer in CINCPACFLT (Commander In Chief U.S. Pacific Fleet) wrote a letter confirming, "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." But that too was from a source who didn't wish to risk the possible negative consequences of speaking on the record. The CINCPACFLT officer also explained in his letter that, "No one is talking about this issue on the staff anymore, which strongly suggests that the news story killed the initiative." With the Clinton trip now history, there are no reports that the American flag ended up being subordinated to Vietnam's during the presidential visit.

The officer also clarified one facet of the original story: "I am sure that there never was any intention for Clinton to go to Vietnam on a Navy ship ... I believe that the concept was for a port visit by one of our ships concurrent with his visit." He added, "I'd like to get word to [WND reporter Geoff Metcalf] that his story is accurate, but this administration is vindictive and I would like to leave the Navy with my rank and retirement intact."

Now, as the issue continues to percolate through various Internet news and discussion groups, a high-level source has finally gone on the record. The chief justice of the Marshall Islands Supreme Court has now confirmed the second portion of the controversial story.

Toward the end of a recent broadcast interview with WorldNetDaily, Justice Alan Fields was asked whether, given his proximity to the U.S. Navy headquarters in Hawaii, he had heard of the flag controversy.

"Yes," he replied. "And it was confirmed to me by two sources. High-ranking Navy officials on both coasts ... both sides of the United States ... that there were discussions and these discussions originated not with the Navy but with the secretary of defense office."

He added, "It did happen, and there were discussions. I did eventually see your stories from WorldNetDaily and I suspect without you bringing this forward, it would have quietly been done."

At one point, the interview proceeded like this:

Metcalf: I've been getting two flavors of reaction to the series of stories. First: "Thanks, great job, attaboy, you saved us from an awkward embarrassment." And on the other side: "Shame on you, how dare you, you are a (expletive deleted) hack and are making this up out of whole cloth to hurt the administration." You have heard it from both coasts that it did happen as reported?

Fields: I can guarantee you that it did happen. ... I would stake my life on it.

WorldNetDaily has received assurances from some of its as-yet unnamed high-level Navy sources that, when the Clinton administration is gone, they likely will also go on the record regarding this story.