[sixties-l] John Kerry on Vietnam Atrocities

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: Sat May 19 2001 - 16:37:33 EDT

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    Date: Thu, 17 May 2001
    From: Vietnam Veterans Against the War <xx600@prairienet.org>
    Subject: John Kerry on Vietnam Atrocities

      From VVAW's mailbox to all on VVAWNET and VVAWINC:

    [Looks like Kerry has begun his presidential 'retooling' for 2004--jtm]


    Portion of John Kerry remarks on NBC's "Meet the Press" May 6, 2001:

    MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned you're a military guy. There's been a lot of
    discussion about Bob Kerrey, your former Democratic colleague in the
    Senate, about his talking about his anguish about what happened in Vietnam.
    You were on this program 30 years ago as a leader of the Vietnam Veterans
    Against the War. And we went back and have an audiotape of that and some
    still photos. And your comments are particularly timely in this
    overall discussion of Bob Kerrey. And I'd like for you to listen to
    those with our audience and then try to put that war into some

    (Audiotape, April 18, 1971):

    MR. CROSBY NOYES (Washington Evening Star): Mr. Kerry, you said at one time or
    another that you think our policies in Vietnam are tantamount to genocide
    and that the responsibility lies at all chains of command over there. Do
    you consider that you personally as a Naval officer committed atrocities in
    Vietnam or crimes punishable by law in this country?

    KERRY: There are all kinds of atrocities, and I would have to say that,
    yes, yes, I committed the same kind of atrocities as thousands of other
    soldiers have committed in that I took part in shootings in free fire
    zones. I conducted harassment and interdiction fire. I used 50 calibre
    machine guns, which we were granted and ordered to use, which were our only
    weapon against people. I took part in search and destroy missions, in the
    burning of villages. All of this is contrary to the laws of warfare, all of
    this is contrary to the Geneva Conventions and all of this is ordered as a
    matter of written established policy by the government of the United States
    from the top down. And I believe that the men who designed these, the men
    who designed the free fire zone, the men who ordered us, the men who signed
    off the air raid strike areas, I think these men, by the letter of the law,
    the same letter of the law that tried Lieutenant Calley, are war criminals.

    (End audiotape)

    MR. RUSSERT: Thirty years later, you stand by that?

    SEN. KERRY: I don't stand by the genocide. I think those were the words of
    an angry young man. We did not try to do that. But I do stand by the
    description-I don't even believe there is a purpose served in the word "war
    criminal." I really don't. But I stand by the rest of what happened over
    there, Tim.

    I mean, you know, we-it was-I mean, we've got to put this war in its right
    perspective and time helps us do that. I believe very deeply that it was a
    noble effort to begin with. I signed up. I volunteered. I wanted to go over
    there and I wanted to win. It was a noble effort to try to make a country
    democratic; to try to carry our principles and values to another part of
    the world. But we misjudged history. We misjudged our own country. We
    misjudged our strategy. And we fell into a dark place. All of us. And
    I think we learned that over time. And I hope the contribution that
    some of us made as veterans was to come back and help people
    understand that.

    I think our soldiers served as nobly, on the whole, as in any war, and
    people need to understand that. There were great sacrifices, great
    contributions. And they came back to a country that didn't thank the
    veteran, that didn't-I mean, everything that the veteran gained in the
    ensuing years, Agent Orange recognition, post-Vietnam stress syndrome
    recognition, the extension of the G.I. Bill, you know, improvement of
    the V.A. hospitals, all came from Vietnam veterans themselves
    fighting for it. Indeed, even the memorial in Washington came from

    MR. RUSSERT: By your own comments, Bob Kerrey was not alone in doing the
    things that he did.

    SEN. KERRY: Oh, of course, not. And not only that, we, the government of
    our country, ran an assassination program. I mean, Bill Colby has
    acknowledged it. We had the Phoenix Program, where they actually went into
    villages to eliminate the civilian infrastructure of the Vietcong. Now, you
    couldn't tell the difference in many cases who they were. And countless
    veterans testified 30 years ago to that reality. And I think-look,
    there's no excusing shooting children in cold blood, or women, and
    killing them in cold blood. There isn't, under any circumstances. But
    we're not asking, you know, nor is Bob Kerrey saying, "Excuse us for
    what we did." We're asking people to try to
    understand the context and forgiveness. And I think the nation needs to
    understand what the nation put its young in a position to do, and
    move on and take those lessons and apply them to the future.

    MR. RUSSERT: The folks who oversaw the war, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon,
    Henry Kissinger, you do not now 30 years later consider them war criminals?

    SEN. KERRY: No, I think we did things that were tantamount that certainly
    violated the laws of war, but I think it was the natural consequence of the
    Cold War itself. People made decisions based on their perceptions of the
    world at that time. They were in error. They were judgments of error. But I
    think no purpose is served now by going down that road. I think, you know,
    the rhetoric of youth and of anger can be redeemed by the acts that we put in
    place after time to try to move us beyond that. And I think there are great
    lessons to learn from it. But we would serve no purpose with that now. But
    we have to be honest about the mistakes we made. We don't have legitimacy
    in the world, Tim, if we go to other countries, in Bosnia or China or
    anywhere else, and not say, "You know, we made some terrible mistakes."

    And that honesty, that lack of a sense of honesty is part of what is
    driving people's anger toward the United States today. That's why we have
    the vote in the U.N. That's why people-our allies, too-are disturbed by
    this defense posture. You can't abrogate the ABM treaty and move forward on
    your own to build this defense in a way that threatens the perceptions of
    security people have. And if you build a defense system, Tim, that
    can do what they say at the outside, which is change mutual assured
    destruction, you have invited a potential adversary to build, build,
    build, to find a way around it. The lesson of the Cold War is, you do
    not make this planet safer by moving
    unilaterally into a place of new weapons. Every single advance in weaponry
    through the Cold War was matched by one side or the other, and that's why
    we put the ABM treaty in place, and that's why we need to proceed very
    cautiously and very thoughtfully.

    MR. RUSSERT: John Kerry, we thank you for your views.

    SEN. KERRY: Thank you.

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