John Kerry Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement

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Listen: John Kerry - Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement

Captain John Kerry at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearings. Kerry appeared before a U.S. Senate committee hearing on proposals relating to ending the war.


Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

Good morning. This is Robert. Kennedy. Speaking gives new Senate Office Building in Washington DC. This is national public radio coverage of the hearings and deliberations of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee dealing with legislation to end the war in Indochina Associated bills. There is but one witness on the list this morning, he is John Kerry. Mr. Kerry is what the group Vietnam veterans for peace a group which was here in profusion for the opening of the earrings for the testimony of senators Hatfield and McGovern on Tuesday morning. When this card round of hearings began. They are here again this morning and great numbers. There are about 200 people outside this hearing room who are not able to gain admittance. The hearing room is at this moment crowded to Absolute capacity. There are many members of the Vietnam veterans for peace group here in fatigues and army uniforms in various states of disrepair and sort of unofficial uniform.Are they have filled to Absolute overflowing all of the spaces set aside for the public are also several members of the Capital Security Force here to make sure that this group will not be quite as vocal in their appreciation of some of the testimony to go for this morning as they were the other morning with Senator George McGovern and Senator Mark Hatfield. They were quite responsive to several of these suggestions and answers to questions that are those two senators the authors of one of the bills under consideration in this committee. The Vietnam disengagement act Senate Bill 3761 the Senators who are co-authors of that bill spoke on it the veterans werevocal in their response This is the third day in the current round of hearings the hearings began on Tuesday morning with testimony as we said by Senator George McGovern Senator Mark Hatfield, Senator McGovern was the first witness to appear before the committee and following his prepared remarks. They veterans group in the room gave out a shout of right on brother and then a full minute of Applause Senator Fulbright gavel down the noise, but he has been with the four or five minor incidents that we had breaking the quiet of the room. He was rather firm, but I'm very tolerant McGovern was testifying before this committee on behalf of 7376 Vietnam disengagement Act of 1971. Mt. In his prepared remarks reiterated several times the necessity and his view of a definite commitment to a date for a total withdrawal and secession of hostilities in Vietnam. He made reference to his remarks to several possible Alternatives in accomplishing the end of the war and among them. He listed candidacy in opposition to President Nixon in next year's election. That is a path of course, which the senator has already chosen. However, he said that the country could not wait until 1973 for a solution. And so they ending date right now on the bill as it stands for a pullout total cessation of hostilities is December 31st 1971 seated in the Germans position on the bench. Senator Jacob Javits of New York is here. They full committee has not been present for any of the hearings are have been as many as six Senators on the bench at one time. We see Senator Javits from New York today back on the bench as a member of the committee yesterday morning. He was seated at the witness table and testifying to his support of Center 376 Center Drive. It's had one alteration that he said he would like to see in the bill and that was to move the date of termination of the indochinese involvement from December 31st. 1971 to June 30th. 1972. How many photographers are now gathered around the Chairman's position as a mister carry our witness this morning is a standing before the bench in front of the witness table. Having a short and it looks like a cordial conversation with German. I must carry moves to the side of the bench now and is greeted by Center to Javits of New York. Namaste full Riders grass the gavel. There is a rule of absolute silence in the room while a committee is informal session. And so we rely upon the terminal to identify those who speak The committee come to order they committee is continuing this morning. Its hearings on proposals relating to the ending of the war in Southeast Asia this morning the committee with her testimony from mr. John Kerry and if he has an Associates would be glad to hear from them. These are men who have fought in this son fortunate war in Vietnam, and I believe they deserve to be heard and listen to buy the Congress and by the officials in the executive branch. And by the public generally you have a perspective that those in the government who make our nation's policy do not always have and I'm sure that your testimony today will be helpful to the committee in its consideration of the proposals before it. I'd like to add simply on my own account that I regret very much the action of the Supreme Court and denying the veterans the right to use the mall. Wow. I I regret that it seems to me to be but another instance of an insensitivity. I like government to the tragic effects of this war Upon Our People. Hiya. I want also to congratulate Mr. Carry you and your Associates upon the restraint and that you've shown certainly in the hearing the other day when there were a great many of your people here in and I think you conducted yourself in the most commendable manner throughout this week, which I'm sure whenever people gather. It is always a tendency for some of the more emotional ones to do things which are even against their own interests, but I think You had deserve much of the credit as I understand you were one of the one of the leaders of this group and I I have joined with some of my colleagues specifically Senator hard in an effort to try to correct the change the attitude of our government at toward your efforts at expressing and bringing through this committee under the country your views about the war and I personally don't know of any group who would have both a great hair. Justification for doing it and also a better more accurate view of the effect of the war which is you know, there is grown up in this town. A feeling that it's extremely difficult to get accurate information about the Warren. I don't know a better Source than you and your Associates. So we're very pleased to have you and your Associates. Mr. Kerry and in the beginning. If you would give to the reporter your full name and a little of your short briefly your biographical attitude for it so that the record will show that clearly Danielle why I was down there to your encampment yesterday saw the New York group. I just would like to say that I'm very proud of the department and the general attitude of the group. I hope it continues as a lawyer. I hope I joined in the heart resolution to I hope you will find it possible to comply with the order even though as the chairman says he's unhappy about it, but I think it's our job to see that you are suitably setup as an alternative so that you can do what you came here to do and I welcome the fact that you came and what you're doing. Lipsi, but thank you very much, Senator Fulbright. I would like to say for the record that and also for the men behind me who are also wearing the uniform and their medals that My sitting up here is really symbolic. I'm not here is John Kerry I'm here. As one member of a group of 1,000 which is a small representation of the very much larger group of veterans in this country and wear it possible for all of them to sit at this table. They would be here and have the same kind of testimony. I would simply like to speak. In very general terms. I apologize if my statement is General because I received notification yesterday. You would hear me and I'm afraid because of the injunction. I was up most of the night and I haven't had a great deal of chance to prepare. I would like to talk. Representing all those veterans and say that several months ago in Detroit. We had an investigation which / 150 honorably discharged and many very highly decorated veterans testified war crimes committed in Southeast. Asia not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with a full awareness of officers at all levels of command. It's impossible to describe to you exactly what did happen in Detroit the emotions in the room. The feelings of the men who are reliving their experiences in Vietnam. But they did they relive the absolute horror of what this country in a sense made them do. They told the stories of times that day and personally raped cut off ears cut off heads tape wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power. Cut off limbs blown up bodies randomly shot at civilians raised villages in fashion reminiscent of Gingers con shot cattle and dogs for fun poison phone stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of War and the normal. I'm very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. We called this investigation the Winter Soldier investigation. The term Winter Soldier has a play on words of Thomas Paine's in 1776. When he spoke of the sun Sunshine Patriot in summertime soldiers who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough and we have come here to Washington of come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now we could come back to this country and we could be quiet we could hold our silence we could not tell what went on in Vietnam, but we feel because of what threatens this country the fact that the crime threatening not Reds not Redcoats, but the crimes which were committing or threatened it and we have to speak out. I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of of the feeling with these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam. The country doesn't know it yet, but it's created a monster. A monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to DeLand to trade and violence and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history. Man who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped. One who feels this anger. I'd like to talk about it. We're angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country. 1970 West Point Vice President Agnew said some glamorize the criminal Misfits of society while our best men died in Asian Rice patties to preserve the freedoms, which those Misfits abuse and this was used as a rallying point for our effort in Vietnam. But for us his boys and Asia from the country was supposed to support his statement is a terrible Distortion from which we can only draw a very deep sense of revulsion. And hence. The anger of some of the men would here in Washington today. It's a distortion because we in no way considered ourselves the best man of this country because those he calls Misfits with standing up for us in a way that nobody else in this country Dead 2. Because so many who have died would have returned to this country to join the Misfits in their efforts to ask for an immediate withdrawal from South Vietnam because so many of those best man of return does quadriplegics and amputees and they'll I've forgotten and Veterans Administration hospitals in this country, which fly the flag would so many have chosen this their own personal symbol. And we cannot consider ourselves America's Best Men when we were ashamed of and hate it what we were called on to do in Southeast Asia in our opinion and from our experience. There is nothing in South Vietnam. Nothing which could happen that real realistically threatens the United States of America and to attempt to justify the loss of one American Life in Vietnam Cambodia Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of Freedom, which those Misfits supposedly abused is to ask the height of criminal hypocrisy and it's that kind of hypocrisy which we feel is touring this country apart. We are probably much more Angry than that, and I don't want to go into the foreign-policy aspects because I'm outclassed here. I know that all of you have talked about every possible. Every possible alternative to getting out of Vietnam. We understand that we know that you've considered the seriousness of the aspects to the utmost level and I'm not going to try and deal on that. But I want to relate to you the feeling which many of the men of return to this country Express. Because we are probably angriest about all that we would told about Vietnam in about the mystical war against communism. We found that Not only was it a Civil War by a people who had for years been seeking their Liberation from any Colonial influence whatsoever. But also we found that the Vietnamese were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposed to be saving them from we found that most people didn't even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work and rice patties without helicopters and bombs with Napalm burning The Villages and tearing the country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war particularly with this far on the presidents of the United States of America to leave them alone in peace. and they practice the art of Survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time Viet Viet Cong North Vietnamese or American we found also that all too often American men with dying in those rice paddies for one of support from their allies. We saw firsthand how money is from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag is blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by Search and Destroy missions as well as by Viet Cong terrorism and yet we listen to all this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong We rationalize destroying villages in order to save them. We saw American lose her sense of morality. If she accepted very cool Liam Eli and refused to give up the image of American soldiers that hand out chocolate bars in chewing gum. We learned the meaning of free fire zones, shoot anything that moves and we watched while America place the cheapness on the lines of orientals. We watched the United States falsification of body counts. In fact, the glorification of body temps. We listen while month after month. We were told the back of the enemy was about to break. We fought using weapons against Oriental human beings with quotation marks around that we fought using weapons against those people which I do not believe this country wouldn't dream of using will be fighting in the European theater or let us say a non third world people theater. And so we watched while men charged up heels because a general said that he'll has to be taken and after losing one platoon or two platoons. They marched away to leave the hill for the reoccupation of the North Vietnamese because because we watched tried allow the most unimportant of battles to be blown into extravaganzas because we couldn't lose and we couldn't Retreat and because it didn't matter how many American bodies were lost to prove that point. And so they were hamburger Hills and caissons and Hill 881 Firebase sixes and so many others and now we're told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while I exercise the credible arrogance of Vietnamese in Vietnamese. each day making a very significant statement and don't let him proceed each day to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam. Someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows so that we cannot say that we made a mistake. Someone has to die. So that President Nixon won't be and these are his words the first president to lose a war. We are asking Americans to think about that because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake? What we're trying to do that and we're doing it with thousands of rationalizations. And if you read carefully the president's last speech to the people of this country. You can see that he says and says clearly that the issue gentleman. The issue is communism and the question is whether or not we will leave that country to the communist or whether or not we will try to give it a hope to be a free people. But the point is there not a free people now under us and not a free people and we cannot fight communism all over the world and I think we should have learnt that Lesson by now. But the problem is that are in this goes beyond this personal problem because you think about a poster in this country with a picture of Uncle Sam in the picture says I want you a man comes out of high school and says, that's fine. I'm going to serve my country and he goes to Vietnam and he shoots and he kills he does his job. Or maybe he doesn't kill maybe he just goes and comes back gets back to this country. He finds that. He isn't really wanted because the largest unemployment figure in the country. It's very is depending on who you get it from the Veterans Administration 15% various other sources 22% at the margin. and of those veterans 33% of the unemployed of black that means one out of every ten of the nation's unemployed is a veteran of Vietnam. The hospitals across the country won't or can't meet their demands. It's not a question of not trying they haven't got the Appropriations. A man recently died after he had a tracheotomy in California not because of the operation but because it wasn't enough Personnel to clean the mucus out of this too, but he suffocated to death. Another young man just died in the New York VA hospital the other day A friend of mine was lying in a bed to Dad's away and trying to help him, but he couldn't they rang the bell and there was no one there to service that night until he died of convulsions. 57% I understand 57% VA hospitals talk about suicide some 27% of tried and they try because they come back to this country and I have to face what they did in Vietnam and then they come back and find the indifference of a country that doesn't really care that doesn't really care. Suddenly were faced with a very sickening situation in this country because there's no moral indignation. And if there is it's comes from people who are almost exhausted by their past indignities, and I know that many of them are sitting in front of me. The country seems to have line laying down and accepted something as serious as loud as just this week, He trudged off the loss of 700,000 lives in Pakistan. The so-called greatest disaster of all times are here is Veterans to say that we think we are in the midst of the greatest disaster of all times now because they are still dying over there and not just Americans Vietnamese and we are rationalizing leaving that country so that those people can go on killing each other for years to come. American seem to have accepted the idea that the war is winding down at least four Americans and they have also allowed the bodies which were once used by a president for statistics to prove that we were winning this war to be used as evidence against a man who followed orders and interpreted those orders. No differently than hundreds of other men in South Vietnam. We've got two rooms can only look with amazement on the fact that this country has not been able to see that. There's absolutely no difference between a ground troop and a helicopter crew and yet people have accepted a differentiation fed them by the administration. No ground troops are in Laos. So it's all right to kill our oceans by remote control, but believe me the helicopter Crews still the same body bags and they react the same kind of damage on the Vietnamese and lotion Countryside. Is anyone else and the president is talking about allowing that to go on for many years to come and one can only ask if we will really be satisfied when the troops March in the Hanoi. We are asking here in Washington. Some action action from the Congress of the United States of America which has the power to raise and maintain armies and which by the Constitution also has the power to declare war. We've come here not to the president because we believe that this body can be responsive to the will of the people and we believe that the will of the people says that we should be out of Vietnam now, we're here in Washington also to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It's part and parcel of everything that we are trying as human beings to communicate the people in this country the question of racism, which is rampant in the military. And so many other questions also did use of weapons the hypocrisies in our taking umbrage in the indeed in the Geneva conventions and using that as justification for continuation of this war when we argue more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva conventions in the use of free fire zones harassment addiction fire Search and Destroy missions, the bombings the torture of prisoners the killing of prisoners accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam. That's what we're trying to say. It's part and parcel of everything. An American Indian friend of mine who lives on the Indian nation of Alcatraz put it to me very succinctly. He told me how is a boy on an Indian reservation and watch television and used to cheer the Cowboys when they came in and shot the Indians and then suddenly one day he stopped in Vietnam, and he said my God, I'm doing to these people that very same thing that was done to my people and you stopped. That's what we're trying to say that we think this thing has to end. We're also here to ask. We are here to ask and we're here to ask vehement Lee. Where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership? We're here to ask where I McNamara hostile Bundy hill Patrick and so many others. Where are they now that we've the man whom they said off the war have returned. These are commanders with deserted their troops. And there is no more serious crime in the law of war. The Army says they never leave their wounded. The Marines say they never leave these in their dead. These man have left all the casualties and retreated behind a pile Shield of public rectitude. They've left the real stuff for their reputations. Bleaching behind them in the sun in this country. Finally this Administration has done us the ultimate dishonor. They've attempted to disown us. And the sacrifices We Made for This country and their blindness and fear. They have trying to deny that we have veteran so that we served in nam. We do not need their testimony our own stars and stumps of limbs or witness enough for others and for ourselves. We wish that a merciful god could wipe away our own memory is that serve as easily as this Administration has wipe the memories of us. But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission to search out and destroy the Last Vestige of this barbaric War to pacify our own Hearts the conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more and more and so and 30 years from now our brothers go down the street without a leg without an arm or a face and small Boys on ask why we will be able to say Viet Nam and not mean a desert. Not a filthy obscene memory, but me and instead the place where America finally turned and where soldiers like US helped it in the tourney. Thank you.


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