Now on the sponsors of the Cooper-Church amendment you will find very much the same statistics. Eighty-two percent were veterans as compared to 71 percent of the Senate as a whole being veterans. So I would hope what you are doing will have an effect on the Congress.
Wouldn’t you agree with me though that what he did in herding old men and women and children into a trench and then shooting them was a little bit beyond the perimeter of even what has been going on in this war and that that action should be discouraged. There are other actions not that extreme that have gone on and have been permitted. If we had not taken action or cognizance of it, it would have been even worse. It would have indicated we encouraged this kind of action.
Mr. KERRY. My feeling, Senator, on Lieutenant Calley is what he did quite obviously was a horrible, horrible, horrible thing and I have no bone to pick with’the fact that he was prosecuted. But I think that in this question you have to separate guilt from responsibility, and I think clearly the responsibility for what has happened there lies elsewhere.
I think it lies with the men who designed free fire zones. I think it lies with the men who encouraged body counts. I think it lies in large part with this country, which allows a young child before he reaches the age of 14 to see 12,500 deaths on television, which glorifies the John Wayne syndrome, which puts out fighting man comic books on the stands, which allows us in training to do calisthenics to four counts, on the fourth count of which we stand up and shout “kill” in unison, which has posters in barracks in this country with a crucified Vietnamese, blood on him, and underneath it says “kill the gook,” and I think that clearly the responsibility for all of this is what has produced this horrible abberation.
Now, I think if you are going to try Lieutenant Calley then you must at the same time, if this country is going to demand respect for the law, you must at the same time try all those other people who have responsibility, and any aversion that we may have to the verdict as veterans is not to say that Calley should be freed, not to say that he is innocent, but to say that you can’t just take him alone, and that would be my response to that.
Senator PELL. I agree with you. The guilt is shared by many, many, many of us, including the leaders of the get-out-now school. But in this regard if we had not tried him, I think we would be much more criticized and should be criticized. I woUld think the same fate would probably befall him as befell either Sergeant or Lieutenant Schwarz of West Virginia who was tried for life for the same offense and is out on a 9 months commuted sentence. By the same token I would hope the quality of mercy would be exercised in this regard for a young man who was not equipped for the job and ran amuck. But I think public opinion should think this through. We who have taken this position find ourselves very much in the minority.
Mr. KERRY. I understand that, Senator, but I think it is a very difficult thing for the public to think through, faced with the facts. The fact that 18 other people indicted for the very same crime were freed and the fact among those were generals and colonels. I mean this simply is not justice. That is all. It is just not justice.
Senator PELL. I guess it is the old revolutionary adage. When you see the whites of their eyes you are more guilty. This seems to be our morality as has been pointed out. If you drop a bomb from a plane, you don’t see the whites of their eyes.
I agree with you with the body count. It is like a Scottish nobleman saying, “How many grouse were caught on the moor.” Four or five years ago those of us who criticized were more criticized.
Thank you for being here and I wish you all success. [Applause.]
The CHAIRMAN. Senator from New Jersey.
Senator CASE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The question is to get out and leave a reasonable chance for lasting peace. We have to look at this because the American people are going to see the issue in the terms he has defined it. I would be glad to have your comment on this matter, although I won’t press you to discuss it because in a sense you have already said this is not your area.
Mr. KERRY. I do want to. I want to very much.
Senator CASE. And I would be very glad to have you do it.
Mr. KERRY. Thank you, sir. I would like to very much.
In my opinion, what we are trying to do, as the President talks about getting out with a semblance of honor is simply whitewashing ourselves. On the question of getting out with some semblance for peace, as a man who has fought there, I am trying to say that this policy has no chance for peace. You don’t have a chance for peace when you arm the people of another country and tell them they can fight a war. That is not peace; that is fighting a war; that is continuing a war. That is even criminal in the sense that this country, if we are really worried about recrimination, is going to have to someday face up to the fact that we convinced a certain number of people, perhaps hundreds of thousands, perhaps there will be several million, that they could stand up to something which they couldn’t and ultimately will face the recrimination of the fact that their lives in addition to all the lives at this point, will be on our conscience. I don’t think it is a question of peace at all. What we are doing is very, very hypocritical in our withdrawal, and we really should face up to that.
Senator CASE. May I press you just a little further or at least raise the question on which I would ask you to comment.
Mr. KERRY. I wish you would, please.
Mr. KERRY. I would like to discuss that.
It is my opinion that the United States is still reacting in very much the 1945 mood and postwar cold-war period when we reacted to the forces which were at work in World War II and came out of it with this paranoia about the Russians and how the world was going to be divided up between the super powers, and the foreign policy of John Foster Dulles which was responsible for the creation of the SEATO treaty, which was, in fact, a direct reaction to this so-called Communist monolith. And I think we are reacting under cold-war precepts which are no longer applicable.
I say that because so long as we have the kind of strike force we have, and I am not party to the secret statistics which you gentlemen have here, but as long as we have the ones which we of the public know we have, I think we have a strike force of such capbility and I think we have a strike force simply in our Polaris submarines, in the 62 or some Polaris submarines, Which are constantly roaming around under the sea. And I know as a Navy man that underwater detection is the hardest kind in the world, and they have not perfected it, that we have the ability to destroy the human race. Why do we have to, therefore, consider and keep considering threats?
At any time that an actual threat is posed to this country or to the security and freedom I will be one of the first people to pick up a gun and defend it, but right now we are reacting with paranoia to this question of peace and the people taking over the world. I think if we are ever going to get down to the question of dropping those bombs most of us in my generation simply don’t want to be alive afterwards because of the kind of world that it would be with mutations and the genetic probabilities of freaks and everything else.
Therefore, I think it is ridiculous to assume we have to play this power game based on total warfare. I think there will be guerrilla wars and I think we must have a capability to fight those. And we may have to fight them somewhere based on legitimate threats, but we must learn, in this country, how to define those threats and that is what I would say to this question of world peace. I think it is bogus, totally artificial. There is no threat. The Communists are not about to take over our McDonald hamburger stands. [Laughter.]
Senator, I will say this. I think that politically, historically, the one thing that people try to do, that society is structured on as a whole, is an attempt to satisfy their felt needs, and you can satisfy those needs with almost any kind of political structure, giving it one name or the other. In this name it is democratic; in others it is communism; in others it is benevolent dictatorship. As long as those needs are satisfied, that structure will eXist.
But when you start to neglect those needs, people will start to demand a new structure, and that, to me, is the only threat that this country faces now, because we are not responding to the needs and we are not responding to them because we work on these old cold-war precepts and because we have not woken up to realizing what is happening in the United States of America.
Senator CASE. I thank you very much. I wanted you to have a chance to respond to the question of Indochina in a large context.
Mr. Chairman, I have just one further thing to do. Senator Javits had to go to the floor on important business, and he asked me to express his regret that he couldn’t stay and also that if he had stayed he would have limited his participation to agreement With everything Senator Symington said. [Applause.]
It has seemed to me that its origin was essentially a mistake in judgment, beginning with our support of the French as a colonial power, which, I believe, is the only time our country has ever done that. Always our sympathies has been with the colony. If you will recall, we urged the British to get out of Egypt and India, and we urged, many thought too vigorously, the Dutch prematurely to get out of Indonesia. I think there was much criticism that we acted prematurely in urging the Belgians to get out of the Congo. In any case, the support of the French to maintain their power was a departure from our traditional attitude toward colonial powers because of our own history.
It started in a relatively small way by our support of the French. Then one thing led to another. But these were not decisions, I believe, that involved evil motives. They were political judgments which at that time were justified by the conditions in the world. You have already referred to the fact that after World War II there was great apprehension, and I think properly. The apprehension was justified by the events, especially from Stalin’s regime. There was apprehension that he would be able, and if he could he would, impose his regime by force on all of Western Europe which could have created an extremely difficult situation which would amount to what you said a moment ago. You said if our country was really threatened, you would have no hesitancy in taking up a gun. So I think, in trying to evaluate the course of our involvement in this war, we have to take all of this into consideration. It was not a sign of any moral degradation or of bad motives. They were simply political judgments as to where our interest really was.
In retrospect I think we can say that our interest was not in supporting the French, that it was not in intervening, and it was not in undoing the Geneva Accords by the creation of SEATO, but that is all history. I am not saying this in order to try to lay the blame on anyone, but to get a perspective of our present situation, and hopefully to help, if I can, you and others not to be too disillusioned and not to lose faith in the capacity of our institutions to respond to the public welfare. I believe what you and your associates are doing today certainly contributes to that, by the fact that you have taken the trouble to think these things through, and to come here. I know it is not very pleasant to do the things you have done.
While I wouldn’t presume to compare my own experience, I have taken a great deal of criticism since I myself in 1965 took issue with the then President Johnson over his policies. I did what I could within my particular role in the Government to persuade both President Johnson and subsequent political leaders that this was not in the interests of our country. I did this, not because I thought they were evil men inherently or they were morally misguided, but their political judgment was wrong. All of us, of course, know that as fallible human beings we all make errors of judgment.