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SWIFT VETS:Transcrip of O'Neil vs Kerry on Dick Cavett (sKerry:Disembler then/Disembler now) ^ | Aug 2004 | Dick Cavett via Swift vets

Posted on 08/06/2004 11:11:18 AM PDT by longtermmemmory

The following transcript is taken from ABC's special June 30, 1971 broadcast of "The Dick Cavett Show," during which former Navy Lieutenant John Kerry represented Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He was opposed by fellow Navy veteran John O'Neill, representing Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace.

---------- MR. CAVETT: The fact is I don't have an opening monologue tonight because the subject of the show is quite serious, and I figured why make it more serious with one of my monologues, so I thought I would just start in. You know, I guess, who my two guests are tonight: John Kerry and John O'Neill, and they belong to Vietnam Veterans Against the War on the one hand and Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace on the other.

Both of them have been on my shows in the past. Not together, however. We did two shows a couple of weeks back on Vietnam veterans, and we picked a group of Vietnam veterans to talk about their various problems. This is a very touchy subject, as you know. The whole subject of this incites people to extreme feelings. We had an unprecedented amount of mail about those two shows. We really did. You always say unprecedented, but it was finally in this case. And all kinds of opinions, and just to show you a sampling of some of the reaction to that – it has something to do with how we've done tonight's show.

These are excerpts from letters, but, "Congratulations on your thought provoking moving program with the Vietnam veterans. Excellent. A true public service."

Another one: "I'm writing in reference to June 11th show in which you had several Vietnam veterans as guests. I found the audience reaction to the young man from Anapolis disturbing as well as distracting. I did not agree with all he said, but I respect him for having the courage and conviction to express his own opinion as well as defend it. Perhaps he should have shouted out, interrupted more to be heard over the audience's unfavorable reactions, but it was obvious to me he did the best he could in view of the other mouths of competition."

"Congratulations on your recent conversations with the Vietnam vets. It was one of the most interesting programs I've heard on television, and very thoughtful."

"Dear Mr. Cavett, I'm a 51-year-old veteran of World War II Navy, and I'm one who thinks that Vietnam is a useless battleground."

There were other veterans who wrote in and said that it, of course, was not a useless battleground – is not.

Another lady writes, "This war began as a political war and continues so today with our men not allowed to fight and not backed by the full power nuclear of the nation. The horror of this futile and therefore immoral effort was written in their words" – meaning the men who were here – "and on their faces these two nights. How more just it would have been to spotlight the real villains, McNamara, Gilpatrick, Rostow, et cetera, the whiz kids so aptly indicted by Lieutenant Kerry in testimony before the Fulbright committee."

In another part of the letter she says, "I was filled with incredible revulsion watching this charade. Not revolted by these four men who gave service to their country, but by your exploitation of their futile position. How does it feel to be a latter-day Madame Lafarge? How long will you sit there and knit while your country's head is on the block?"

"Your show against Vietnam soldiers is a perfect example of your workers' bias and also of your New York audience. I know what Mr. Agnew is talking about."

"I commend you, Mr. Cavett, on not intruding your personal views and allowing the veterans to speak for themselves."

Another one: "I can't imagine who you think you are. How dare you be so biased as to put four people against one in favor of your opinion of the war."

"Bravo. Thank you for showing both sides of the Vietnam picture from returned veterans, and thank you for balancing the program with the gung-ho sentiments of Sharp and O'Neill and the anti-war eloquence of Mueller" – it's actually Muller – "and Pickara" (phonetic spelling).

One more. "I dislike the war. I know no one who wants war likes it; however, I'm fed up with biased programs. You are so unfair. I believe you are warped. It appears that Mr. O'Neill has more guts than you will ever hope to have. It might be more fair and more American to have an equal balance of opinion in the future, or is that too democratic for you?"

"I do hope when you have your confrontation between Mr. O'Neill and Mr. Kerry that you won't have the entire studio filled with Mr. Kerry's followers."

Another one registered his support for the young man from Germany [unintelligible].

Well, this indicates, obviously – I'm sorry everybody – not everybody, but a lot of people decided to take a political reaction to the show. We did not pick the fellows on that show to represent whether they were for or against Agnew, for example, or that sort of thing, but to hear their experiences.

Tonight however we do have a kind of opposition, definitely. There's one of each, for the people who like to count the number of guests.

The way this came about was Mr. Bruce Kessler of the Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace challenged Mr. Kerry once in the newspapers about, oh, some weeks back, and I saw that and I offered them both time here. Mr. O'Neill has been picked as a spokesman for Mr. Kessler's group.

We have tried to be as absolutely fair as possible tonight because everybody is obviously uptight on that subject. The gentlemen will each have the same size chair, the same wattage and voltage of lighting, and a neutral makeup lady from Switzerland has been brought on.

So about the audience, both groups have asked for tickets and an absolutely equal number of tickets has been supplied to both groups and their followers, so the audience reaction is in the audience's hands.

I would caution them that 90 minutes is not all that long. It's really closer to 70 minutes of actual air time, and a lot of applause goes – a little goes a long way, so I don't want to muzzle you, but be cautioned in that way.

When we come back, I will introduce the two gentlemen to you tonight. First, you're about to learn something that may save your next vacation. Watch.

[Commercial break]

If you have just joined us, my two guests tonight are, as I said before, they've been on the program separately in the past. They're both veterans. One of them, John Kerry, belongs to Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and John O'Neill belongs to a group called Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace. Will you welcome them both, please.

This is John O'Neill and this is John Kerry, and I even think that we both asked you which profiles you favor equally.

We will actually start, because it was requested that we do this – this may seem ludicrous – with the flip of a coin because – this is not going to follow the actual outlines of a debate, but I thought it might be well for each of you fellows to start out with some statement of what your organization wants and is, if you'd like to do that.

Do you want to call it in the air?

MR. O'NEILL: Heads.

MR. CAVETT: All right. It's an absolute – it's a U.S. quarter, 1966. You got it.

MR. O'NEILL: I'll speak first.


MR. O'NEILL: Hopefully last, too.

I've come here today to speak for peace, a just and lasting peace, in Southeast Asia. There is no one in this country who likes war, least of all, those of us who fought in the Vietnam war. And it is in the spirit of ending that war in a rational manner that I would like to speak today. I think any rational man can see that the Vietnamization program of the president has done more to end this war than all the demonstrations and hate of the last 10 years in this country. When Mr. Kerry and I were in Vietnam there were 550,000 U.S. troops there. When Mr. Kerry marched down in April with his 900 embittered men to Washington, there were 284,000 troops there. When our own organization was formed in May, there were 245,000 troops there. Today there are 215,000, and by the time you see this show tonight, there will be 700 less.

When we were in Vietnam there were 87,000 marines in I-Corps. Today there are 900 in all of South Vietnam, and South Vietnam and I-Corps remain free. The unit we both served in in Vietnam, Coastal Division 11, the first naval combat unit in Vietnam, was one of the last naval combat units out of Vietnam last December. And the South Vietnamese who replaced us there are doing a fine job. They've won victories and they're suffered defeats as any army – as any army does.

But the main story has been that the strength of the North Vietnamese in I-Corps and other areas of that country, including the Mekong Delta where we both served, has been broken.

I think there are three things we can all agree on. First, we all want to see a speedy end to American involvement in Vietnam. Second, we all realize that if we come home from Vietnam leaving our POWs rotting in North Vietnamese jails, that we will leave the heart and soul of this country there also.

Finally, we all want to see the South Vietnamese have the type of government that they themselves freely choose. I suggest that it's time for an end to hate and disruption in this country. I suggest it's time for trust in this country. The same kind of trust we will need when the war in Vietnam is over to live with ourselves here.

I'd like to turn to a second issue. Mr. Kerry is the type of person who lives and survives only on the war weariness and fears of the American people. This is the same little man who on nationwide television in April spoke of, quote, "crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command," who was quoted in a prominent news magazine in May as saying, quote, "war crimes in Vietnam are the rule and not the exception," unquote. Who brought 50 veterans down to Washington to testify about alleged atrocities in April, the same 50 who after they had appeared on every major news network refused to provide any depositions or provide any details of any kind.

Never in the course of human events have so many been libeled by so few.

There were two and a half million of us who served there in Vietnam under the most severe restrictions in this nation's history. We have brought this war close to a close. We never engaged in mass bombing of population centers, as all nations did in World War II, and the reason we did not is because we are a moral people.

Fifty-five thousand Americans died there in Vietnam no matter what they thought about the war because they believed in this country, and those of us who survived came back to this country, by and large determined just to resume our normal lives after the disruption caused by war.

We encountered a variety of problems: unemployment, discrimination, other problems, and then we encountered the biggest problem of them all, the big lie by Mr. Kerry and his group, that we were either each individually war criminals or that we were collectively the executioners of a criminal policy.

You've seen that all before, guilt by association. If one or 50 or 150 veterans testify as to war crimes, then all two and a half million of us must be war criminals. That's the same as saying if one Jew or one black commits one murder in this country, then all the Jews and all of the blacks in this country must be murderers, and that is something that we must not stand for in this country.

We've all heard of Lieutenant Calley. He's accused of the murder of 102 civilians in Son Mai Lai, and the operations – and the law will operate in his case.

This man has attempted the murder of the reputations of two and a half million of us, including the 55,000 dead in Vietnam, and he will never be brought to justice. We can only seek justice and equity from the American people. Every man kills the thing he loves. By each let this be told: The brave man does it with the sword; the coward with the word.

Thank you.

MR. CAVETT: Mr. Kerry, I expect you do have something to say to that. We have a message however from Calgon. Here is how a bath can smooth and soften your skin, leaving you radiant and refreshed with Calgon Bath Oil Beads.

[Commercial Break]

MR. CAVETT: Before that break – and I must apologize for the fact that we do have to keep stopping. It's a commercial medium, and sometimes those things aren't going to mesh very well.

Now, John Kerry.

MR. KERRY: Wow. Well, there are so many things, really, to be said, and it's hard to find a place to start after a barrage like that.

I think, first of all, I'm somewhat surprised at the attitude of somebody who wore the same uniform as I did who served in the same military for the same kind, I hope, of patriotic reasons, and I really haven't come back to this country nor have Vietnam Veterans against the War come back to this country to try in any sense or in any form to show bitterness or to tear the country apart or to tear it down.

I think that what we're doing is we're trying in a sense to show where the country went wrong, and we believe that as veterans who took part in this war, we have nothing to gain by coming back here and talking about those things that have happened except to try and point the way to America, to try and say, "Here is where we went wrong and we've got to change." And I think that the attitude of the Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace is really one sort of of my country, right or wrong, which is really on the intellectual level, I think, of saying my mother, drunk or sober.

And I think that just as when your mother is drunk, you take her and dry her out – God forbid that she is – you take your country, in the words of Senator Carl Schurz, who said, "My country, right or wrong. When right, keep it right; when wrong, put it right." And I think that that's what we veterans are trying to do.

On the question of Vietnamization, this is something which people can argue about for hours and hours. We've just heard it mentioned that it's succeeding, that the Marines have been withdrawing from the north. Well, just the other day Firebase Fuller was overrun and it took the United States to fly supplies in to take care of it. We hear that the Delta is pacified. Well, a few weeks ago the report came out that 54 naval bases and other bases, all the bases in the Delta, had been overrun in the first three months of 1971, and that the reason they were overrun was because in 22 cases sentries were asleep, in 22 cases there were quislings, people who gave up.

You can contest this question of Vietnamization right down the line. The question really is this: Is the United States of America determined to leave Vietnam, and if we are determined to leave Vietnam – which I believe the president has shown some indications of because he has withdrawn troops. We don't deny that. What we say is the troops can be withdrawn faster. What we say is the killing can stop tomorrow, and it can stop if the president of the United States will set a date certain for the withdrawal for all United States combat and advisory troops from South Vietnam. And that's really the major issue.

Now, on the question of war crimes, it's really only with the utmost consideration that we post this question. I don't think that any man comes back to this country to say that he raped or to say that he burned a village or to say that he wantonly destroyed crops or something for pleasure. I think that he does it at the risk of certain kinds of punishment, at the risks of injuring his own character which he has to live with, at the risks of the loss of his family and friends as a result of it, and he does it because he believes intensely that people have got to be educated about the devastation of this war.

We thought we were a moral country, yes, but we are now engaged in the most rampant bombing in the history of mankind. Since President Nixon has assumed office, we have dropped some 2,700,000 tons of bombs on Laos. That is more than we dropped in the entire Pacific and Atlantic theaters in the entire course of World War II. And I think the question of morality really has to enter in here, so I'd say that Vietnam Veterans Against the War are really trying to approach this from a most constructive point of view.

MR. CAVETT: You are both, actually, there each allowed five minutes, and you took a little less. Have you finished your opening statement?

MR. KERRY: No, I'd like to discuss everything possible.

MR. CAVETT: Yeah, right, but now you can both talk.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to comment on a number of things. Our attitude certainly isn't our country right or wrong. We were all 15 and 16 years old when we happened to get into the Vietnam war. What's so interesting about many of Mr. Kerry's backers including Clark Clifford, Roger Hillsman (phonetic spelling) and a number of others, is that they happen to be exactly the same people who sent us to Vietnam. We certainly, obviously, would never support this country if we felt it were wrong. We just feel we need a rational way out of Vietnam. As far as setting a date, that accomplishes nothing.

Finally, Mr. Kerry said that he didn't come here to show bitterness, he didn't feel bitter. He said in his statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 22nd, he said, "We are angry because we feel we have been used in the worst fashion by the administration of this country."

A second thing we object to with Mr. Kerry's organization is his attempt to represent himself as speaking for all veterans, which he clearly did in the same statement.

As far as the 54 bases overrun in the Delta, I can refer him to an article by John Paul Vann in U.S. News and World Report of June 1st which states that the number of incidents in that area is running about 20 per month compared to 120 per month two years ago.

I think that, clearly, the biggest question we're going to have to deal with is the moral question of war crimes. There's quite a difference between coming back to this country and putting on a sack and saying, confessing, "I committed war crimes" and running for the Congress of the United States from Massachusetts and saying, "Well, all three million of us committed war crimes," and I suggest that that's the question that Mr. Kerry and I should be talking about because that's precisely and exactly what he said.

MR. CAVETT: Well, let's talk about that. Did you see war crimes committed and –

MR. KERRY: Well, I have often talked about this subject. I personally didn't see personal atrocities in the sense that I saw somebody cut a head off or something like that. However, I did take part in free fire zones and I did take part in harassment interdiction fire. I did take part in search-and-destroy missions in which the houses of noncombatants were burned to the ground. And all of these, I find out later on, these acts are contrary to the Hague and Geneva Conventions and to the laws of warfare. So in that sense, anybody who took part in those, if you carry out the applications of the Nuremberg principles, is in fact guilty.

But we're not trying to find war criminals. That's not our purpose. It never has been. I have a letter here which I could read to you which we wrote to Washington D.C. in an effort to try and solve the problem of these war crimes, and we sent it to Senator Stennis, and we said, "On behalf of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, we're writing to ask that the Senate Armed Services Committee immediately convene public hearings to examine the testimony presented by these veterans." May I go on?

Among the questions raised were charges. What we're looking for is an examination of our policy by people in this country, particularly by the leaders before they take young men who are the objects of that policy and try them rather than examine the policy at the highest level where it was in fact promulgated.

MR. O'NEILL: that's very interesting that you would say that, John. I've got an article right now. It's from the May 8, 1971, New York Times. It concerns some of the testimony. It concerns a Danny S. Notley (phonetic spelling), who apparently is a member of your organization. The Army pursued him all the way to Minnesota to try and get him to sign a deposition regarding the allegations of war crimes that he made, and he refused to, as have all 50 people that testified there and 150 that testified in Detroit, and so I suggest that if you're honest, you ought to finally produce the depositions after all of us waiting for two months.

The effect of what you've done hasn't been to prevent one or two Kerrys (sic). It's been to label two and a half million of us as – Calleys, not Kerrys, although they may be somewhat interchangeable at times.

That's precisely and exactly what you've done. And I think in honesty, as a just and decent human being, that you'd want to do that. I think there's something particularly pathetic about me having to appear on nationwide television and trade polished little phrases with you to defend the honor of the 55,000 people that died there, the two and a half million of us that served there. I think further that the justification that Hanoi uses for keeping our POWs is that they were engaged in criminal acts there, and I think that someone who comes out and says exactly the same thing could be doing nothing but serving those purposes, although I'm not – obviously those are not your intentions. There's no question about that.

MR. KERRY: We – the Vietnam Veterans Against the War – and I can't even pretend to speak for all the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, let alone speak for all the men who served in Vietnam, and neither in fact can anybody else pretend to speak for a majority. That's entirely in the impossible range. But what we're saying is – and the reason that some of these men have not signed depositions is very, very simple, and it's up to each individual. One reason is that specifically they are not looking to implicate other people. They haven't cited names of individuals involved because they don't want more Calleys. They don't want men to enter double jeopardy, to have to come back to the United States of America and be penalized for those things that they did that were the result of the mistakes and the bad decisions of their leaders.

MR. CAVETT: Uh-huh.

MR. KERRY: And the purpose of them not signing them is literally to call for an examination of policy and not scapegoats and to examine it from the President of the United States to General Westmoreland and others. And when they do that, then they will sign and then they will talk.

Now, there are individuals who are perfectly willing to sign. Nobody's ducking anything.

MR. O'NEILL: Well, who are they? Can you tell me that?

MR. KERRY: well, I have a friend who came all the way from Florida today, and if it's all right with you, he's here now. I'd be very happy to bring him on and let him make a deposition.

MR. O'NEILL: Well, I think just you and I. I've had the same experience of four against one before.

MR. KERRY: You've asked for depositions, and I have the man –

MR. O'NEILL: Yeah, and I'd like to see him sign a deposition after the show.

MR. KERRY: I think you've made a very, very serious charge.

MR. O'NEILL: That's absolutely correct, I have.

MR. KERRY: And there's a veteran here who's come all the way from Florida who, if you didn't mind, would come on television now with names, facts, dates, places, maps, coordinates, and he's be very willing to make it public.


MR. O'NEILL: I've just got two or three things to say. It's amazing, and it certainly is wonderful that you've finally produced someone after two months.

The second thing I have to say is the last time I came on the show, I appeared basically on a four-against-one format, and I prefer it one to one, but I'd certainly be interested in seeing him do that after the show, and I know the people of America would.

It's interesting that you happen to say that you don't claim to speak for all veterans. You said that before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, same testimony previously cited, "I'm here as one member of a group of a thousand, which is a very much – very – which is a small representation of a very much larger group of veterans in this country, and were it possible for all of them to sit here at this table, they would be here and have the same kind of testimony."

I'm here, John. I'm a veteran in this country. I'm here to say that's a lie.


MR. KERRY: May I answer that, please?

MR. CAVETT: You may, after this message, or we'll be in big trouble. We'll be right back.

Commercial Break]

MR. CAVETT: And we're back.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to finish my statement, if I could, Mr. Cavett. I think that it's highly interesting that Mr. Kerry has finally produced one person to sign a deposition after three months of accusing two and a half million of us of being war criminals. I suggest that if he produces another four or five hundred thousand depositions, that his charge might stand up. I think all he'd establish, even if the deposition is correct, is that he has one war criminal that belongs to his organization, and that's kind of pathetic.

Further, I'd like to go on –

MR. CAVETT: [Unintelligible]

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to go on and finish. I served in Coastal Division –

MR. CAVETT: It's easier if we don't jump to a second subject when one is on the table.

MR. KERRY: Well, as to my being a liar, I – in my testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee I did indeed say what he said. I said I represent one of the group of one thousand, which incidentally was one thousand at any one time. There were some two thousand who came through the whole time we were in Washington. And when I referred to the very much larger group within the country, I referred to our membership of our organization. I didn't say a majority; I didn't say all veterans; I said to a very much larger group, which is the some 20,000 members that we have in the country at this particular moment. And that was my reference there.

As to this question of who speaks for the majority and all this personal vindictiveness, I really think that that's not what we're here to talk about. We're here to talk about the question of this war and why it is continuing, why – [unintelligible] – and I really don't think it does just justice to those men who have to give up their lives or be maimed or something or are in Vietnam now to have two veterans of the war sit here and go at each other's throats. I really think we can do better justice to the issue than that, and the issue really is why can't we set a date. Mr. O'Neill has simply shrugged this off, saying that would be absurd.

I want to know why we can't set a date when we know that the prisoners will come home, when we know that people will stop being maimed for the most senseless purpose in the world, and when we know that that in fact can be a solution and release the forces of accommodation in Vietnam which will not be released as long as we are there and as long as we are helping the South Vietnamese.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd certainly like to talk on setting a date, but I suggest that we keep talking about the same two issues we have on the table. Once again from Mr. Kerry's testimony, that same committee, was written, "I understand from Adam Walinsky, your friend – It's interesting to see somebody that has a friend write about his experiences in Vietnam. I wouldn't –

MR. KERRY: How do you know that?

MR. O'NEILL: He says –

MR. KERRY: Wait, wait. How do you know that?

MR. O'NEILL: Well, Mr. Walinsky admitted it in Human Events, also in the Boston Globe.

MR. KERRY: Did you read Mr. Walinsky's letter yesterday [unintelligible]?

MR. O'NEILL: No, I did not.

MR. KERRY: Did you read his letter?

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to finish –

MR. KERRY: May I quote his letter – no.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to quote your speech, if that's satisfactory.

MR. KERRY: No wait. You've just made a charge.

MR. O'NEILL: "The country does not know it yet, but it has created a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and trade in violence who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped." I think that Mr. Kerry is trying to talk for something more than his little group of 20,000. I think that he was attempting to represent himself as representative of all of us.

Second, on the war crimes issue –

MR. CAVETT: Well, wait a minute. We're way past the thing there –

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to -

MR. CAVETT: – about whether or not your speeches were written for you or whether or not –

MR. KERRY: Somehow the group has suddenly jumped to 20,000 in the period of this –

MR. O'NEILL: Whose group has jumped to 20,000? Your group has, you mean?

MR. KERRY: The Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

Two days ago in Leonard Lyons in New York – as a matter of fact, in answer to a charge made by the Vice President of the United States saying a Robert Kennedy speech writer had written my speech, I would be flattered to have one write my speech frankly, but in this letter he wrote to the Vice President, saying, "Dear Mr. Vice President, Thank you very much for insinuating that I wrote John Kerry's speech. I would have been proud to have done it, but I didn't; however, in the future please be sure to mention my name as it will – as it is sure to help me in my next election."

No, Adam Walinsky did not submit a draft to me and he did not write my speech. Now, as to the question –

MR. O'NEILL: I didn't say that, John. If I can quote Human Events of May 22nd, 1971 –

MR. KERRY: Can we move –

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to establish this point. "Former Robert F. Kennedy staffer, Adam Walinsky, acknowledged he had helped Kerry put together his eloquent presentation. Walinsky said that Kerry, the 1966 Yale class orator, was pretty darn good with words all by himself, but added he had a hand in drafting those parts of the Kerry address which were on television." I think it is a relatively minor point. It is your speech I disagree with, not with who wrote it.

My understanding is that's what he told a number of people. The same stories appeared over and over. I think that even more important is this point: You happen to feel that you're being vilified. I think you can imagine how the two and a half million of us whom you have vilified feel at this time.

MR. KERRY: You're speaking for two and a half million.

MR. O'NEILL: I'm speaking for myself now.

MR. KERRY: You're speaking for two and a half million.

MR. O'NEILL: I think, John, if you'd poll the American people instead of taking 75 – poll the veterans in this country instead of taking 75 to Bunker Hill, and you asked them the question, "Do you consider yourself a war criminal," you'd find out that I was speaking for very close to two and a half million.

MR. KERRY: That's very, very interesting. I – you're speaking for most of the guys in your division and everything else? They feel this way, you think.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd say that most of the veterans I have met. I am aware that you did solicit virtually everybody from Coastal Division 11. I had people calling me from all over the country whom you have called. You have financial resources above and beyond ours. And I don't know what results you happened to get. Do you mind telling me, how many people did you get from Coastal Division 11?

MR. KERRY: I didn't reach any, Mr. O'Neill, because I didn't call any personally and talk to any; however, I do have some friends who came back who did.

MR. O'NEILL: Apparently these members of your organization did.

MR. KERRY: Well, it's very strange. You see, I received a letter from one of them, impromptu, that said, "Dear John, about John O'Neill, I can't understand how he could possibly represent any majority whatsoever," and this is from somebody who served in your division with you at the same time. In fact, who turned over the last boat to the Vietnamese.

[Cross talk]

MR. O'NEILL: I should explain the background of this. There were 800 people that served in Coastal Division 11 over the course of the Vietnam war. I've received approximately 12 calls, the furthest away being from Honolulu, from people that your organization has contacted. Now, if you happen to read one letter, all I can say, it's like your organization. Everybody knows about the 10 percent that don't get the word, and your 20,000 make up about 1/20th of the 10 percent that don't get the word.

MR. KERRY: I think – I really think that this is exactly the point that I am trying to make, and that is that we have never purported to represent any majority, nor can Mr. O'Neill sit here and pretend to talk for two and a half million. He can talk for himself. And I think that this contest is ludicrous, that the points to be discussed are the questions of the war, and that's the issue we should get to, and I'd like to talk about that in a rational discussion.

MR. O'NEILL: I suggest it is time to move on. I'd like to make one last point, if I could. I think that Mr. Kerry's [unintelligible] to the American people –

MR. CAVETT: All right, but the world's favorite mother has some important news about bathtub safety. Watch. We'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: Lawry's Seasoned Salt is great on all kinds of meat, on salads, and on chicken too.

Now –

MR. O'NEILL: I just wanted to say, Mr. Cavett, I can certainly see Mr. Kerry's reticence to discuss those issues, and I do agree the war is a very important issue. I think it's a shame that he and his organization couldn't have been discussing just the war, had their own viewpoint on that all the way along the line. I think what is particularly pathetic is the fact, number one, that they attempted to speak for all veterans, which is clearly on the record, and fact number two – fact number two – and if we've accomplished nothing else, at least we've solved that. And fact number two, they've purported to represent all of us as war criminals, and I guess we've accomplished that also.

I'd like to make one last point.

MR. CAVETT: We've all heard the phrase, "your organization, your organization" enough. Probably, we'll probably hear it again tonight, and I think it's obvious that nobody – that neither of you can speak for all veterans, and hopefully we can agree on that because there are – these are not the only possibly reactions to the war.

So maybe it would be well if we reduced the personal animosity between the two organizations and talked about some of the issues.

Did you both start out to be career naval officers, each of you? As I understand, you did, and yet you're not in the Navy now.

MR. O'NEILL: No. I went to the Naval Academy and always figured, Mr. Cavett, that I would give the Navy an honest try, and after being in Vietnam for almost three years, I decided I wanted to go home back to Texas.

I would like to stay on this issue just a little bit longer because I think there are some potential things the American people should know. There have been six nationwide television shows – CBS Face the Nation, CBS 60 Minutes, NBC Today Show, National Educational Television, MetroMedia, NBC Comment, a number of other shows that have asked Mr. Kerry and I to appear on them for a face-to-face stand-up debate, and he's rejected all of those offers. In doing so, I think that he's hurt the American public's right to know – right to hear a dialogue instead of a monologue. I think that's another very important point.

MR. KERRY: This question of equal time perturbs me because two presidents have been speaking for the war for the last eight years, and I really don't think it's as though people haven't had the other side.

I'd like to move on to the question of – we've had some very serious things raised here tonight, and I'd really like to discuss the issues that are at hand, and I think the American people deserve a little more depth on the question of the war itself at this point.

Whether or not the group on the other side knows it or not – in fact, they should change their name from Vietnam Veterans for a Just Peace to Vietnam Veterans for a Continued War because that in fact is really what Vietnamization is. It is nothing more than a way of getting the United States out of Vietnam by changing the colors of the bodies in that country. It's a military solution in a problem that requires a very, very sophisticated political solution. And all that it will do in the end is possibly intricate us into a much, much deeper war than we are in now or at least allow us to withdraw in time for the elections of next year when the president can say, "Yes, indeed, we did withdraw," at which time more Americans will have lost their lives and more Vietnamese will have lost their lives needlessly.

Now, when we talk about something like war crimes, we're not throwing this term out lightly. The Hague Convention, the Geneva Conventions, history has laid down certain laws of warfare. Hague Convention, I believe, Article Four, states that you are not allowed to bombard uninhabited villages or villages that are not occupied by defendants. We have done that constantly in Vietnam.

MR. O'NEILL: [Unintelligible] John. Can you tell me about any war crimes that occurred in that unit, Coastal Division 11? And a second question: Why didn't you attempt to get out of the unit or submit a request when you were there if you saw anything that shocked a normal man?

MR. KERRY: We – Well, I'll come back to the question.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like you to answer that question, if you would. You obviously are quite good on the polished rhetoric, but I did serve in the same place you did, and not for four months but for 18 months, and I never saw anything, and I'd like you to tell me about the war crimes you saw committed there, and also why you didn't do something about them, although [unintelligible].

MR. KERRY: Did you serve in a free fire zone?

MR. O'NEILL: I certainly did serve in a free fire zone.

MR. KERRY: [Reading] "Free fire zone, in which we kill anything that moves – man, woman or child. This practice suspends the distinction between combatant and non-combatant and contravenes Geneva Convention Article 3.1."

MR. O'NEILL: Where is that from, John?

MR. KERRY: Geneva Conventions. You've heard about the Geneva Conventions.

MR. O'NEILL: I suggest – I suggest –

MR. KERRY: May I complete my statement?

MR. O'NEILL: Sure, go ahead.

MR. KERRY: Thank you. Yes, we did participate in war crimes in Coastal Division 11 because as I said earlier, we took part in free fire zones, harassment, interdiction fire, and search-and-destroy missions. The concept of operations, I gather, changed somewhat from the time when I was there and the time when you were there later on. And I believe that we moved into operations called Silver Mace II and some others in which we were not quite involved in as –

But I know that there's no way in the world you can say that you didn't ride through the Ku Alon River or the Bodie River [phonetic spellings] and see huts along the sides of the rivers that were totally destroyed. Did you see them destroyed?

MR. O'NEILL: I think –

MR. KERRY: Were they destroyed?

MR. O'NEILL: May I answer the question?

MR. KERRY: Were they destroyed?

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to answer that question very fully. On those particular raids, as you and I both know, John –

MR. KERRY: How do you know? Were you on them? Were you on them?

MR. O'NEILL: Yes, I was on the –

MR. KERRY: Sealords?

MR. O'NEILL: Absolutely correct.

MR. KERRY: Sealords raids.

MR. O'NEILL: That's absolutely correct.

MR. KERRY: And you never burned a village?

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to continue with my statement, if I may. No, we never – I never – I never burned a village, that's absolutely correct. On those particular raids, as you know, from the time you came into the Ku Alon River to the time you left the Bodie, you're receiving almost continuous fire the entire time. If you went on a little further – and I had the experience of being there after you, which is fortunate – you would have seen that right there on the Ku Alon River at the present time there's a village of 10,000 people that came out from that entire area, refugees – refugees not from us, but refugees from the Viet Cong. People who came there just to have their own type of government and just to be free, and I think we all realize that, as honorable men, we'd never – I don't' know the semantics, perhaps, as well as you, but we all realize that we'd never do anything dishonorable. And I think that you must realize that, that you would have done something about it then. I think it was only the fact that a fellow changes when he runs for congressman from Massachusetts. That's what's – accounts for [unintelligible].

MR. KERRY: If I could – First of all, first of all, we did –

MR. CAVETT: Excuse me, there. You may answer those after this commercial from a car with 25 years of improvement.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: We're back, and two of the charges against John Kerry at the moment, that I remember, are why didn't he leave when war crimes were being committed in front of him –

MR. O'NEILL: Mr. Cavett –

MR. CAVETT: I'm going to finish this sentence.

– and your attitude changed because of your political ambitions. Those are two things that were mentioned.

MR. KERRY: Well, I hardly think the second really merits that much discussion – I'm not sure – that much discussion or consideration.

The fact of the matter is that the members of Coastal Division 11 and Coastal Division 13 when I was in Vietnam were fighting the policy very, very hard, to the point that many of the members were refusing to carry out orders on some of their missions; to the point where the crews started to in fact mutiny, say, "I would not go back on the rivers again;" the point where my commanding officer was relieved of duty because he pressed our objections to what we were doing with the captain in command of the entire operation.

MR. CAVETT: The man above you was relieved of duty?

MR. KERRY: That is correct. The man above me was finally relieved of duty.

To the point that we had a continual rotation going on of new officers coming from the divisions that were not in this to try and replenish our spirit. To the point that the commanding admiral of all forces in Vietnam and General Abrams himself flew us to Saigon – completely stopped the war, put us in an airplane, we put on our khakis and went up there and were briefed for an entire day and told how what we were doing was writing Navy legends and how we were writing a new kind of history in the war, and so on and so on. And then we returned to go back into the rivers to do the same thing.

The fact of the matter remains that after I received my third wound, I was told that I could return to the United States. I deliberated for about two weeks because there was a very difficult decision in whether or not you leave your friends because you have an opportunity to go, but I finally made the decision to go back and did leave of my own volition because I felt that I could do more against he war back here. And when I got back here, I was serving as an aide to an admiral in New York City, and I wrote a letter through him requesting that I be released from the Navy early because of my opposition, and I was granted that release, and I have been working against the war ever since then.

So I don't think that it's a question of principles that change or of ideals or the fact that we didn't try to fight it over there. That's just not true at all. We did.

The bigger issue at hand is the question literally of how the United States is going to get out of Vietnam now, and I have said again and again this evening that we can set a date, that we can bring the prisoners home, but the point is I think this administration is still seeking some kind of victory over there. It is still committed to the idea totally of a non-communist regime, and I think that that's unrealistic in terms of the political forces that are at play in South Vietnam. In fact, in all of Southeast Asia. And we have learned, if we haven't learned anything by now, that we simply can't impose a settlement ourselves.

I just don't understand how they believe or how this other group believes that the Vietnamese are going to succeed in doing with 50,000 Americans what they haven't been able to do with 500,000 Americans, and I'd like that explained.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to respond to both of those points. The first point is I served in Coastal Division 11 for 12 months, not four. I never saw any moral protest there. I think that the story Mr. Kerry has told, if you take a look at it and talk to the people involved, including that admiral who is now the chief of naval operations, is in large measure prevarication. The reason they were brought to Saigon wasn't – and here I'm not speaking from first person knowledge, but there are a number of people I know that could. The reason they were brought there was that they had taken such severe casualties, and the great majority of people in that coastal division weren't opposed to the war.

As I understand Mr. Kerry's release from the Navy, he got it to run for Congress, which was his way of working, you know, against the war. He didn't go down and work at the polls like everybody else. He just ran for Congress.

On the Vietnamization program of the president, I don't think there's any rational man in this country that believes that we should have a military solution any longer to the Vietnam war. The people that escalated the war, as I've indicated, were the same people that are close friends of Mr. Kerry at the present time.

I think the point and parcel and fact of the matter is that we never relied on the Vietnamese. We never armed them; we never had any strategy there until about 1968 when we turned to Vietnamization and we gave them for the first time M-16s. We gave them – we turned over a navy to them. We gave them helicopters. And as we were withdrawn, the truth is in the telling is in what's happened. As we were withdrawn down, where we had one-third of the forces that we had there. When Mr. Kerry and I were there the South Vietnamese still remained free. They've still inflicted severe casualties on the North Vietnamese wherever they've been attacked, Firebase Fuller being a classic example of it.

MR. CAVETT: As of five years from now we will be out of there completely and –

MR. O'NEILL: I think –

MR. CAVETT: – the South Vietnamese will be – there will be a non-communist government –

MR. O'NEILL: I agree with Mr. Kerry. His innuendo, of course, is unique, that somebody would withdraw in time for the election in order to win an election, though. Mr. Humphrey has already indicated his opinion of it. I think it's quite obvious that we're going to be out of there in terms of ground forces and in terms of almost everything within the next year and a half, but the way we're going to help them out is through giving them economic and military aid, which is the same thing the North Vietnamese receive from the Chinese and from the Soviets at the present time.

MR. CAVETT: Interruption. Local stations have a message. We'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: Time is really racing by, and we want to talk about the issues. I'm open to suggestion as to which one you'd like to discuss right at the moment.

MR. KERRY: Well, there was an allusion there that I was just making innuendo, I think, on the question of this election thing. I really – again, I'm trying to impress the fact that what we're saying we're saying from fact. United States Senator Robert Griffin had the following comment on Nixon's report to the nation on April 7, 1971. He said, "It was a sincere, credible and courageous speech infusing new strength and character into the American spirit. In a practical sense he did set a date certain for ending United States involvement, election day 1972."

Then later Senator Scott said in answer to a question what about the date, Scott said he believed it will be before the end of 1972, adding that if the war drags on beyond that point, quote, "another man may be standing on the platform when the next president is inaugurated in January of 1973."

So I think it's very clear that if the two, if the senate whip and the senate minority leader, both have this opinion, that that is not innuendo. The point is that there is a timetable. There is very definitely a timetable, but that timetable is not going to bring the prisoners of war home. As long as there is no negotiated settlement in this war, those prisoners will stay in Hanoi, and we have no bartering position because the president on the other hand has said that he is pulling the number of troops down, and each day that he pulls out more troops, he loses whatever bargaining position there is.

Secondly, we are killing more Americans needlessly. If in fact we have stated that we do have a date certain, even if it hasn't been put out in front of the people, then some American is going to be killed and is going to be the last guy to die for an admitted mistake. Now, I don't think that's right.

MR. CAVETT: There does seem to be a central issue here, and that's –

MR. O'NEILL: May I suggest –

MR. CAVETT: There was an interview – I want to state this – with some women last night on CBS whose husbands were over there, and they were saying, we of course supported the president because we're military wives and so on, but it's pretty hard now when people are back – when we're supposedly backing out of this war, to rationalize the fact that our husbands are still prisoners and that our sons are still dying.

MR. O'NEILL: I suggest it all comes in terms of an understanding of the issue, sir. We no longer, obviously, plan to win a military victory there. I think that all we've done is redefine – or actually accomplish a reasonable definition of victory, which is giving the South Vietnamese the arms and tools to defend themselves, and I think that under the Vietnamization program that's precisely and exactly what we've accomplished.

I find it particularly remarkable that this gentleman who is building his political career apparently upon the misery of all of us that served there, for him to libel by innuendo the President of the United States and to suggest that he's keeping people there any longer than they have to be for political reasons. I think that's a particularly remarkable thing to have happen.

MR. KERRY: Well Dick, I think that the question comes down to this, that really, one can debate for a long time whether or not Vietnamization is working. As a matter of fact, just the other day, a United States colonel with two distinguished service crosses, nine silver stars, nine bronze stars, eight purple hearts, who was the senior advisor to the Airborne during the Cambodia invasion, who has commanded two combat battalions in Vietnam, who was the deputy assistant advisor in the Highlands, and who just completed one year as senior advisor in the Mekong Delta, threw away his career, quit the United States Army, saying that Vietnamization was a Madison Avenue man's dream.

Now, I think that you could go on and on. I – the point is – I'm not trying to say conclusively that proves it's not working. One can debate that forever. The greater issue is this: that as long as the United States has some kind of troops in Vietnam, and it's been proven and the president has not said all will come home and the secretary of state has said in his last press conference that we will have a residual force. As long as that residual force is in Southeast Asia, they will be attacked, they will be harassed, they will be mortared, they will be – there will be confrontation. And as long as there is confrontation, the United States of America will be called on to react, and we have not yet said what that reaction will be.

Secondly, as long as you do not settle the political question of how the Vietnamese communists are going to fit in to some kind of regime, as long as you continue the hypocrisy of saying that we are fighting for a democracy when you have a regime which only recently passed a law which may not let them have other candidates in an election, which has some 40 thousand to 100 to 200 thousand political prisoners in jail, which 14 days ago closed down – excuse me – 10 days ago closed down 14 newspapers because they printed a key speech about the corruption of the government, as long as we're supporting this kind of government that doesn't allow representative forces to be part of it, you are asking for trouble, and that's what we're doing.

MR. O'NEILL: I suggest, Mr. Cavett –

MR. CAVETT: You have to answer that after this message. We have a message; we'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: We were talking about the hopes or lack of them for Vietnamization working.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to respond to what Mr. Kerry said. First of all, he quoted one colonel that suffers from the same problem as his organization did when the press covered 75 veterans out of two and a half million of us.

Obviously, you could talk to many thousands of other colonels who are serving in Vietnam that feel differently. That colonel happened to serve in the Mekong Delta and managed one small area, province there. I can quote from the gentleman that runs the –

MR. KERRY: John, John. You didn't hear me correctly. I said he commanded two combat battalions, he was in the Highlands –

MR. O'NEILL: Yeah, a large amount of experience. At the present time I understand he's in charge of a province, isn't he, in the Mekong Delta?

MR. KERRY: But his overall experience –

MR. O'NEILL: Certainly.

MR. KERRY: – doesn't count?

MR. O'NEILL: This gentleman's –

MR. KERRY: Doesn't count?

MR. O'NEILL: – been there for –

No, I think it counts for a considerable amount, John, and I respect his opinion. It's just a shame the other 10,000 or so haven't appeared. This is the fellow, John Paul Dan [John Paul Vann], who is the director of that entire region. He's a civilian who used to be the director until May 15. He had this to say: He says that, "We are dealing with an enemy who's been actively engaging and attempting to impose its will upon the population for decades. The government control, however, of the Delta has gone from three million to five point eight million." That's because of the Tet Offensive and so on that the population has shifted against the Viet Cong in that area, and I noticed the same things from my own observation. Units like the UN Second Battalion, the Soochow Battalion and so on no longer exists. They were formerly the prime Viet Cong units in the area.

The second point I'd like to make is on political settlement. It seems to me that our position is the most unambiguous possible, which are all North Vietnamese forces withdraw, all U.S. and Allied forces. Let the South Vietnamese themselves have a free election with almost anybody supervising it – the Swiss, the Swedes, the United Nations, anybody else. That's the legitimate way to incorporate other forces into the government. Finally, on a residual force, we're only going to keep a residual force there until our POWs return. If we immediately withdraw from Vietnam as John suggested – it's a very serious situation either way. But if we immediately withdraw, what sort of a bargaining power do we have. All the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese have said is that they'll negotiate with us if we totally withdraw. We've been negotiating for three years or more in this country. They're not the kind of people, I don't think, that you're going to get too far with.

MR. KERRY: I'd like to come back to that again. I keep making the point – many people have made it, Clark Clifford, former secretary of defense, has made it. The newspapers have all made this point, that the prisoners of war, the question will be settled. It's not a question of negotiations. They have said it will be settled.

Now, if we were to set a date for withdrawal from Southeast Asia, we can – the Vietnamese, first of all, have said it will be settled prior to the arrival of that date, but we can set a time limit on that. If the prisoners of war aren't back prior to the arrival of that date, then I think we would have – for the first time in all of our history in Vietnam we would have a legitimate reason for taking some kind of reaction to it.

The point is we can set a date and they will be returned. A residual force is not going to return the prisoners if 500,000 people in the most devastating bombing in the history of warfare couldn't free them, or at least find settlement in Southeast Asia.

Secondly, to the question of Vietnamization, I keep saying I'm not trying to prove it isn't going to work, and nor can it be proven that it can work. The question is is it anything more than a military solution. Does it do anything more than continue a war? And that is in fact what we're doing, and that's – there's no such thing as a just or lasting peace in anything remotely resembling Vietnamization. And you can't call a continued war peace. It just doesn't work somehow.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd say that obviously it's interesting, first of all, John, you quoted Mr. Clark Clifford, who is so intimately connected, according to the Pentagon Papers, with our policy of escalation in Vietnam. I think it's quite evident that certainly our prisoners will be released. I'd suggest if we got to the point where we had no one there, they be released under the following pre-conditions that's been suggested a number of times. First of all, we pay reparations to the North Vietnamese; second, we topple the Saigon government; and third, of course, we'd have to cease all aid to that government. I don't think the POWs, six of whom went to the Naval Academy in my class with me, would want us to do that.

And to go on just a little bit further, I think it's –

MR. KERRY: How will they be returned? By what –

MR. O'NEILL: I think it's quite evident that you'll reach a point in Vietnam when instead of facing Americans who aren't going to go home, you're going to be facing South Vietnamese who are never going – as a matter of fact, they are home right then. I think that the story of the last two years is that the war – that the Viet Cong, that the North Vietnamese effort in that country is less and less indigenous, and I think that at a certain point that the North Vietnamese will certainly realize the futility of our efforts.

I admit both choices are bad. I just suggest that my choice is a better one than yours is. It's a better and surer way of getting the POWs back.

To continue on Vietnamization –

MR. KERRY: I still don't understand why the prisoners will come back.

MR. O'NEILL: I'd say that it is certainly our best hope of getting the prisoners back.

MR. KERRY: But we can guarantee them to come back tomorrow.

MR. O'NEILL: I suggest that if we reach a certain point and – we can't guarantee getting them back tomorrow. There's no one who's ever said that we'd get them back tomorrow if we withdrew from Vietnam. You can't believe that.

MR. KERRY: But it has been said. It has been said very clearly –

MR. O'NEILL: Madame Binh hasn't said it.

MR. KERRY: Madame Binh doesn't hold the prisoners. San Tee [phonetic spelling] does, and he set a –

MR. O'NEILL: They both hold a number of prisoners. As a matter of fact, we've never even – we don't even know how many prisoners the Viet Cong and Laotians and Cambodians have because they've never identified any of them.

I would like to say this on Vietnamization: I think that it's quite evident under the Vietnamization program under what's happened that it is succeeding, that it does provide a viable political solution to the war that's been the story of the last three years.

MR. CAVETT: No one has said that there'll be a bloodbath if we pull out, which is a cliche we used to hear a lot. Does either of you still think there would be a –

MR. O'NEILL: I think if we pull out prematurely before a viable South Vietnamese government is established, that the record of the North Vietnamese in the past and the record of the Viet Cong in the area I served in at Operation [unintelligible] clearly indicates that's precisely what would happen in that country.

MR. CAVETT: That's a guess, of course.


MR. O'NEILL: I'd say that their record at Thua, at Daq Son [phonetic spelling], at a lot of other places, pretty clearly indicate that's precisely what would happen. Obviously, in Thua, we've discovered, how many, 5,700 graves so far, at Daq Son four or five hundred.

MR. KERRY: The true fact of the matter is, Dick, that there's absolutely no guarantee that there would be a bloodbath. There's no guarantee that there wouldn't. One has to, obviously, conjecture on this. However, I think the arguments clearly indicate that there probably wouldn't be.

First of all, if you read back historically, in 1950 the French made statements – there was a speech made by, I think it was General LeClerc, that if they pulled out, France pulled out, then there would be a bloodbath. That wasn't a bloodbath. The same for Algeria. There hasn't been.

I think that it's really kind of a baiting argument. There is no interest on the part of the North Vietnamese to try to massacre the people once people have agreed to withdraw. There's just no pur- –

I realize that there would be certain political assassinations, and that might take place. And I think when you balance that against the fact that the United States has now accounted for some 18,600 people through its own Phoenix program, which is a program of assassination, and when you balance that off against the morality of the kind of bombing we've been doing in Laos and the kind of destruction wholesale of the country of Vietnam, which amounts to some 155,000 civilians a year killed, then I think to talk about four or five thousand people is lunacy in terms of the overall argument and what we're seeking in Southeast Asia.

MR. O'NEILL: I think that's a very highly spurious argument for the following reasons:

First of all, after the North Vietnamese took over in North Vietnam in 1954, everybody knows about the bloodbath that occurred. Nearly 50 to 60 thousand estimated dead at that time. There were a million refugees that came south. As far as the bombing in Laos, it's highly interesting to note that occurred in the area of the Ho Chi Minh Trail primarily where only seven to eight thousand people lived.

It's true that there is a severe refugee problem. There are 700,000 refugees, for example, in Laos. There were 10,000 down at [unintelligible]. I suggest that that all that Mr. Kerry's program does is stop the refugee problem, but it stops it by giving those people no place that they can possibly go to. I think there would be a very severe bloodbath there.

MR. CAVETT: We have a message. We'll be right back. Local stations.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: We don't have much time left, but we haven't even mentioned the Pentagon Papers, which has given the vast segment of the country the feeling that we've been lied to through a number of administrations, particularly the Johnson administration. Has the revelation of these papers made any of you change –

MR. KERRY: Dick, I'd like to just make one point before we get on to that, and that's on the bombing. The bombing has not been constrained only to the panhandle. We've – the Meo Tribe – we've created some 800,000 refugees now in Laos. The Meo Tribe has been, the men about 50 percent decimated and the women 25 percent. The entire Plane of Jars is void of people and buildings now. There were 50,000 people there and they're gone. Fred Branfman, who returned to Laos after four years of work there, has some 1,000 pages of documents documenting from the refugees themselves about the bombing of civilian houses, and I think it's very conclusive.

But I'm glad you've raised the question of the Pentagon Papers because I think that –

MR. O'NEILL: May I respond?

MR. KERRY: – they are a terribly, terribly important aspect of what has happened because they do show – well, they show a great many things and they are partially incomplete, but they certainly show the duplicity and the deceit which has been involved in building up this war because clearly there was a peace candidate who ran in 1964 who was not a peace candidate, and clearly we had – we were committing aggressive acts against – covert warfare against Laos and against North Vietnam prior – without telling the American people. We've been bombing Laos now for seven years, and only this year the American people were told, and I think that this typifies a great deal of the most recent approach of the American government to the people, that they've shown a kind of disdain for the ability of the American people to determine for themselves the difference between right and wrong, and I think clearly that when it comes to a question of sending men off to fight and to die, the people of this country have the ability to make that decision for themselves.

MR. O'NEILL: I would like to respond to that in the following ways:

First of all, on the Meo Tribe, it's highly interesting Mr. Kerry happened to pick them since they happen to be very close allies of the Royal Laotian government and also ourselves. If 50 percent of their men have been killed, they've been killed by the North Vietnamese who are in Laos in clear violation of the Geneva accords of 1962. And I think the biggest point to keep in mind on refugees is the fact that those refugees have come to South Vietnam, they've come to the Royal Laotian government. They've never gone to North Vietnam. Basically they were fleeing from the North Vietnamese. I think, for example, Father Matt Menger, who wrote a book called "The Heart of Mekong," who wrote – lived for 15 years in Laos, his book would clearly show that this point is true.

On the Pentagon Papers, as far as the American people not knowing we've been bombing in Laos until this year, anybody that didn't know that must not have been reading the newspapers because I've read it repeatedly over the last few years. Very little in those papers that – Of course, to read about them reminds you of a telephone conversation, like one guy calling another guy calling another, then finally you get the message at the end of the line. I suggest that when we read all 47 volumes of those documents, we may learn something. All we're doing now is taking selective readings from people who are often are dead, like John Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower.

I suggest that the record of those papers, however, is that in good will we attempted to convince the North Vietnamese to live up to the Geneva Accords of 1954. If we made mistakes, they were honorable mistakes there in Vietnam, and they weren't done with any duplicity.

MR. KERRY: I – I – I ---

MR. CAVETT: The problem with the debate is that you two can't possibly agree with each other on anything, or you'd be there, yet it seems hard that anybody could not think that there has been some cynical treatment of the American public in the political machinations behind the scenes that are reported in those papers.

MR. O'NEILL: For example –

MR. CAVETT: I don't think you'd be losing anything if you –

MR. O'NEILL: Here's someone else –

MR. CAVETT: Do you honestly not feel a little bit of duplicity went on in the –

MR. O'NEILL: Well, apparently there are at least two of us that feel that way because in the New York Times this morning there was an article by Barry Zorthian, who is the vice president of Time Magazine which editorially happens to be against the war. He says the following: He says that a directive issued from Washington to the U.S. mission in Saigon, July 1964, the document says that, calls for an information program based on the principle of maximum candor and disclosure consistent with the principles of security. The article is entitled, "It Was and is the Most Open of Wars."

I don't think that – I think that realistically –

[Cross talk]

MR. KERRY: – in Saigon and listen to them say "no comment, no comment, no comment," you might really begin to wonder just how open –

MR. CAVETT: [Unintelligible]

MR. KERRY: I personally tried to get an article printed about Operation Sealords, and I went to one of the major national magazines, and they refused to carry it because they said they'd lose their accreditation in Saigon. There has been – there have been cases of censorship in this war. There are hundreds of reporters, not the least of which Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, who will testify to that. And so I just think – I happen to know Barry Zorthian what he did over there, and he was intricately involved with the war, and I'm not surprised to see him come out and defend his knowledge of it, which was intricate.

But for the American people, who are supposedly the people who count in this country, there was no knowledge, and for the American people there was no opportunity to vote on going to this war. The American people, there have repeatedly been few opportunities to bring it to a vote, and only this year finally have we had that kind of vote in congress, and still we cannot get congress to respond to the little people in this country.

MR. O'NEILL: I think that the will of the people certainly is not on your side, Mr. Kerry, and further, I'd like to suggest that there was very little duplicity involved in that. It's quite evident exactly what was happening, and that we shouldn't be concerned with those problems now. We should be concerned with what we can do now in 1971.

MR. CAVETT: Sorry. Local stations have a brief message. We'll be right back.

[Commercial break]

MR. CAVETT: There's really no time left. We've run out of time, and I hope that we haven't divided people in this country against each other even further tonight. Do you feel fairly treated, John?

MR. O'NEILL: I feel fairly treated.

MR. CAVETT: Do you feel fairly treated, John?

MR. KERRY: I do. I wish we could get into the issues now.

MR. O'NEILL: I hope you'll appear with me on a large number of other shows. I hope you'll appear with me on the other shows that have offered. I hope you have the courage.

[End of transcript.]


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Foreign Affairs; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 1971; 2004; bush; cavett; dickcavet; dickcavett; johnoneill; kerry; liar; military; records; swift; swiftboat; swiftvets; vets; vvaw
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This is an amazing transcript. He dug up ONE vet after months of accusation. He also was "conected" to the politics of the anti-war machine for political advantage then too.

Kerry's own words damn him then and now.

Couple this with his senate record whre he supported the USSR,

sKerry is unfit for command.

1 posted on 08/06/2004 11:11:23 AM PDT by longtermmemmory
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To: longtermmemmory; MeekOneGOP; Grampa Dave; Mo1; 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub

Bump & Ping

2 posted on 08/06/2004 11:15:02 AM PDT by EdReform (Support Free Republic - All donations are greatly appreciated. Thank you for your support!)
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To: longtermmemmory

Thanks for posting this. It's especially relevant today.

3 posted on 08/06/2004 11:16:32 AM PDT by unsycophant
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To: unsycophant

Kerry's own words damn him.

Kerry's running and hiding from his verifiable military record dams him.

Kerry's refusal to release his records dams him.

Even the alleged retract damns him because the retracts says only "I heard his confession, I did not see his confession"

In a court of law the confession would be admissible. If under those strict standards it gets in why can't kerry deal with the debate in the marketplace of ideas?

4 posted on 08/06/2004 11:19:40 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: longtermmemmory
I remember watching this interview in the ready room of a Nike Hercules site, while serving out the rest of my time. It made me sick then, it makes me sick now.

John Kerry is no better than Lyndon Johnson. Johnson used Vietnam to insure a second term as president, Kerry to gain a first term as president. "JFK" is nothing more than a New England "LBJ". They'll do anything to get elected.

5 posted on 08/06/2004 11:27:50 AM PDT by elbucko (A Feral Republican)
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To: elbucko

Where are the POW's who were shown kerry's speeches during their tortures?

Kerry will not be president with this type of attack.

Kerry is now becoming a thing to be pittied as pathetic.

6 posted on 08/06/2004 11:30:19 AM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: longtermmemmory
I think further that the justification that Hanoi uses for keeping our POWs is that they were engaged in criminal acts there, and I think that someone who comes out and says exactly the same thing could be doing nothing but serving those purposes, although I'm not – obviously those are not your intentions. There's no question about that.

Maybe that's why Kerry's picture is in Hanoi on the wall of "heroes of socialism" or some such wall.

7 posted on 08/06/2004 11:34:43 AM PDT by JPJones
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To: longtermmemmory
There it is...for any who have a mind read for themselves... Truth....about John Kery....

But to quote JK

There has been – there have been cases of censorship in this war. There are hundreds of reporters, not the least of which Peter Arnett, a Pulitzer prize winning reporter, who will testify to that.

Just ask Peter Arnett.....bwahahahahahahaha......birds of a feather....

8 posted on 08/06/2004 11:41:40 AM PDT by joesnuffy (Moderate Islam Is For Dilettantes)
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To: longtermmemmory

C-SPAN ran this debate in the entirety a couple months ago, and I hoope they run it again.

IMHO O'Neill kicked butt, but Kerry had the weight of the times and a sympathetic audience on his side (what could you expect, it was the Cavett show from NYC).

However it does reveal Kerry at his most pompous, detestable, and un-American best.

9 posted on 08/06/2004 11:59:37 AM PDT by angkor
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To: angkor

But will C-Span play it again before November?

will they play it now that it is relevant?

Will they play it during the CFR blackout period?

Playing it early is a way of "getting it over with"

10 posted on 08/06/2004 12:08:25 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: longtermmemmory
This man has attempted the murder of the reputations of two and a half million of us, including the 55,000 dead in Vietnam, and he will never be brought to justice. We can only seek justice and equity from the American people. Every man kills the thing he loves. By each let this be told: The brave man does it with the sword; the coward with the word.

Kerry has had his 15 minutes, now we should let the SwiftVets have theirs.

11 posted on 08/06/2004 12:15:39 PM PDT by Flashman_at_the_charge (A proud member of the self-preservation society)
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To: EdReform

Watch this TV AD!

Swiftvets who served with John Kerry talk about


Excellent anti-Kerry video laying out the VietNam case against him...

Great to forward and spread to the public.

Kerry Fitness Reports in Vietnam Show Him Unfit for Command
(Explodes Central Kerry Campaign Lie)

Kerry’s FITREPs are awash in dings, and some of the reports border on the adverse, particularly his combat FITREPs. The FITREPs convey significant performance problems and suggest problems in conduct, so much so that it is surprising that the campaign chose to release them. This may suggest that the FITREPs held from public view are even more adverse.

In what would customarily be an opportunity for a glowing “swan song” FITREP, the Commanding Officer of USS Gridley (DLG-21) tacitly blasts Kerry on his departure for Swift Boat duty by ranking him significantly below the norm in desirability for virtually every Navy assignment possible -– command, staff, whatever. He is a ship handler who is dinged in ship handling. He is in line for command, but his CO doesn’t want him near the bridge. He is slammed in all performance areas –- most notably and significantly in initiative and reliability. The “nice” narrative emphasizes performance in collateral duties, but in the grades and marks, the CO is telling the selection board and detailer loud and clear that this officer is lazy, unreliable and not suited for command. 3 SEP 68 (W.E. HARPER).

12 posted on 08/06/2004 12:25:57 PM PDT by MeekOneGOP (There is only one GOOD 'RAT: one that has been voted OUT of POWER !! Straight ticket GOP!)
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To: longtermmemmory

Great to see, awesome post.

This put things in perspective. We have been fighting the same people, (John Kerry, Peter Arnett, Socialists) for over 30 years now. We lost Vietnam Politcally here at home not militarily. These people are self-prophesizers they take a subject and oppose it on the basis of ideaology for their own political expediency rather then in terms of what is best for freedom for America and for others around the world. There is no differnce for them between socialist governemtents or communists or western democracies (except the latter are especially despised because of their overwhelming success)

The bottom line is this is a cultural, ideological war for the survival of America. The enemies from abroad are never as dangerous as the enemies at home.

13 posted on 08/06/2004 12:44:05 PM PDT by NeoCon_21
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To: NeoCon_21

The media is not covering this story.

The newspapers are too consolodated to report the real story behind the fake retraction story. Only Rush has been able to reach the Masses. OReily has exposed himself as the populist eunach that he is. Hanity has been doing a good job within his 60 seconds and Estridge was allowed to shout down the Swift vet.

This history and the swiftvets stories shold be pushing kerry left, instead the ENTIRE media is protecting kerry. (and their investigative turf)

14 posted on 08/06/2004 12:59:20 PM PDT by longtermmemmory (VOTE!)
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To: longtermmemmory
MR. KERRY: Well, I hardly think the second really merits that much discussion – I'm not sure – that much discussion or consideration.

The fact of the matter is that the members of Coastal Division 11 and Coastal Division 13 when I was in Vietnam were fighting the policy very, very hard, to the point that many of the members were refusing to carry out orders on some of their missions; to the point where the crews started to in fact mutiny, say, "I would not go back on the rivers again;" the point where my commanding officer was relieved of duty because he pressed our objections to what we were doing with the captain in command of the entire operation.


MR. O'NEILL: I'd like to respond to both of those points. The first point is I served in Coastal Division 11 for 12 months, not four. I never saw any moral protest there. I think that the story Mr. Kerry has told, if you take a look at it and talk to the people involved, including that admiral who is now the chief of naval operations, is in large measure prevarication. The reason they were brought to Saigon wasn't – and here I'm not speaking from first person knowledge, but there are a number of people I know that could. The reason they were brought there was that they had taken such severe casualties, and the great majority of people in that coastal division weren't opposed to the war.As I understand Mr. Kerry's release from the Navy, he got it to run for Congress, which was his way of working, you know, against the war. He didn't go down and work at the polls like everybody else. He just ran for Congress.


15 posted on 08/06/2004 1:11:32 PM PDT by unsycophant
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To: JPJones
Mr. Kerry is the type of person who lives and survives only on the war weariness and fears of the American people. This is the same little man who on nationwide television in April spoke of

"crimes committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command,"

who was quoted in a prominent news magazine in May as saying, quote,

"war crimes in Vietnam are the rule and not the exception," unquote.

Who brought 50 veterans down to Washington to testify about alleged atrocities in April, the same 50 who after they had appeared on every major news network refused to provide any depositions or provide any details of any kind.


16 posted on 08/06/2004 1:17:38 PM PDT by unsycophant
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To: NeoCon_21

This is a fascinating transcript because it contains so many insightful relevant remarks about Kerry even way back then. You're sure right about seeing how some things never change, even 30 years later. SSDD.

17 posted on 08/06/2004 1:22:30 PM PDT by unsycophant
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To: longtermmemmory
I think there's something particularly pathetic about me having to appear on nationwide television and trade polished little phrases with you to defend the honor of the 55,000 people that died there, the two and a half million of us that served there.

That should have left a mark.

18 posted on 08/12/2004 4:38:19 PM PDT by Choose Ye This Day (Kerry: a strange man with nothing to say about anything that has happened since the early 1970s.)
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To: unsycophant

If Kerry's own words aren't used against him by the Bush campaign, in the near future, I'll be very surprised.

Remember, it was Cheney who said at the last convention, "I think we're all a little tired of the 'Clinton-Gore Act.'"

19 posted on 08/12/2004 9:07:44 PM PDT by SerpentDove (November 2004: Win One for the Gipper.)
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To: BartMan1; Nailbiter

This is replaying on CSpan on Sunday...

20 posted on 08/13/2004 5:48:44 AM PDT by IncPen (Quality, not Quantity.)
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