Mr. KERRY. Yes, sir; that is correct.
The CHAIRMAN. It did not drag on. They didn’t continue to fight. They stopped the fighting by agreement when they went to Geneva and all the countries then directly involved participated in that agreement.
I don’t wish to press you on the details. It is for the committee to determine the best means, but you have given most eloquently the reasons why we should proceed as early as we can. That is, of course, the purpose of the hearing.
Mr. KERRY. Senator, if I may interject, I think that what we are trying to say is we do have a method. We believe we do have a plan, and that plan is that if this body were by some means either to permit a special referendum in this country so that the country itself might decide and therefore avoid this recrimination which people constantly refer to or if they couldn’t do that, at least do it through immediate legislation which would state there would be an immediate ceasefire and we would be willing to undertake negotiations for a coalition government. But at the present moment that is not going to happen, so we are talking about men continuing to die for nothing and I think there is a tremendous moral question here which the Congress of the United States is ignoring.
The CHAIRMAN. The Congress cannot directly under our system negotiate a cease-fire or anything of this kind. Under our constitutional system we can advise the President. We have to persuade the President of the urgency of taking this action. Now we have certain ways in which to proceed. We can, of course, express ourselves in a resolution or we can pass an act which directly affects appropriations which is the most concrete positive way the Congress can express itself.
But Congress has no capacity under our system to go out and negotiate a cease-fire. We have to persuade the Executive to do this for the country.
And this, Mr. Chairman, is what we are trying to convey.
I understand. I really am aware that there are a tremendous number of difficulties in trying to persuade the Executive to move at this time. I believe they are committed. I don’t believe we can. But I hope that we are not going to have to wait until 1972 to have this decision made. And what I am suggesting is that I think this is an extraordinary enough question so that it demands an extraordinary response, and if we can’t respond extraordinarily to this problem then I doubt very seriously as men on each that we will be able to respond to the other serious questions which face us. I think we have to start to consider that. This is what I am trying to say.
If this body could perhaps call for a referendum in the country or if we could perhaps move now for a vote in 3 weeks, I think the people of this country would rise up and back that. I am not saying a vote nationwide. I am talking about a vote here in Congress to cut off the funds, and a vote to perhaps pass a resolution calling on the Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the war, and to do the things that uphold those things which we pretend to be. That is what we are asking. I don’t think we can turn our backs on that any longer, Senator.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Symington?
Mr. Kerry. Yes, I do.
Senator SYMINGTON. And a Purple Heart?
Mr. Kerry: Yes, I do.
Senator SYMINGTON. How many clusters?
Mr. KERRY. Two clusters.
Senator SYMINGTON. So you have been wounded three times.
Mr. KERRY. Yes, sir.
Senator SYMINGTON. I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Aiken. [Applause.]
Mr. KERRY. Well, Senator, if I may answer you directly I believe we are running that danger with the present couse of withdrawal because the President has neglected to state to this country exactly what his respons will be when we have reached the point that we do have, let us say, 50,000 support troops in Vietnam.
Senator AIKEN. I am not telling you what I think. I am telling you what the Department says.
Mr. KERRY. Yes, sir; I understand that.
Senator AIKEN. Do you believe the North Vietnamese would seriously undertake to impede our complete withdrawal?
Mr. KERRY. No, I do not believe that the North Vietnamese would and it has been clearly indicated at the Paris peace talks they would not.
Senator AIKEN. Do you think they might help carry the bags for us? [Laughter.] [Applause.]
Mr. KERRY. I would say they would be more prone to do that than the Army of the South Vietnamese. [Laughter.] [Applause.]
Senator AIKEN. I think your answer is ahead of my question. [Laughter.]
Mr. KERRY. Well, I think if we were to replace the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and offer these men sanctuary somewhere, which I think this Government has an obligation to do since we created that government and supported it all along. I think there would not be any problems. The number two man at the Saigon talks to Ambassador Lam was asked by the Concerned Laymen, who visited with them in Paris last month, how long they felt they could survive if the United States would pull out and his answer was 1 week. So I think clearly we do have to face this question. But I think, having done what we have done to that country, we have an obligation to offer sanctuary to the perhaps 2,000, 3,000 people who might face, and obviously they would, we understand that, might face political assassination or something else. But my feeling is that those 3,000 who may have to leave that country —
Mr. KERRY. Well, Senator, this, obviously is the most difficult question of all, but I think that at this point the United States is not really in a position to consider the happiness of those people as pertains to the army in our withdrawal. We have to consider the happiness of the people as pertains to the life which they will be able to lead in the next few years.
If we don’t withdraw, if we maintain a Korean-type presence in South Vietnam, say 50,000 troops or something, with strategic bombing raids from Guam and from Japan and from Thailand dropping these 15,000 pound fragmentation bombs on them, et cetera, in the next few years, then what you will have is a people who are continually oppressed, who are continually at warfare, and whose problems will not at all be solved because they will not have any kind of representation.
The war will continue. So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America, and we can’t go around — President Kennedy said this, many times. He said that the United States simply can’t right every wrong, that we can’t solve the problems of the other 94 percent of mankind. We didn’t go into East Pakistan; we didn’t go into Czechoslovakia. Why then should we feel that we now have the power to solve the internal political struggles of this country?
We have to let them solve their problems while we solve ours and help other people in an altruistic fashion commensurate with our capability. But we have extended that capacity; we have exhausted that capacity, Senator. So I think the question is really moot.
Senator AIKEN. I might say I asked those questions several years ago, rather ineffectively. But what I would like to know now is if we, as we complete our Withdrawal and, say, get down to 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or even 50,000 troops there, would there be any effort on the part of the South Vietnamese government or the South Vietnamese army, in your opinion, to impede their withdrawal?
Mr. KERRY. No, I don’t think so, Senator.
Senator AIKEN. I don’t see why North Vietnam should object.
Mr. KERRy. I don’t for the simple reason, I used to talk with officers about their — we asked them, and one officer took great pleasure in playing with me in the sense that he would say, “Well, you know you Americans, you come over here for 1 year and you can afford, you know, you go to Hong Kong for R. & R. and if you are a good boy you get another R. & R. or something you know. You can afford to charge bunkers, but I have to try and be here for 30 years and stay alive.” And I think that that really is the governing principle by which those people are now living and have been allowed to live because of our mistake. So that when we in fact state, let us say, that we will have a ceasefire or have a coalition government, most of the 2 million men you often hear quoted under arms, most of whom are regional popular reconnaissance forces, which is to say militia, and a very poor militia at that, will simply lay down their arms, if they haven’t done so already, and not fight. And I think you will find they will respond to whatever government evolves which answers their needs, and those needs quite simply are to be fed, to bury their dead in plots where their ancestors lived, to be allowed to extend their culture, to try and exist as human beings. And I think that is what will happen.
I can cite many, many instances, sir, as in combat when these men refused to fight with us, when they shot with their guns over tin this area like this and their heads turned facing the other way. When we were taken under fire we Americans, supposedly fighting with them, and pinned down in a ditch, and I was in the Navy and this was pretty unconventional, but when we were pinned down in a ditch recovering bodies or something and they refused to come in and help us, point blank refused. I don’t believe they want to fight, sir.
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.
Mr. KERRY. Yes, sir. I think we have a very definite obligation to make extensive reparations to the people of Indochina.
Senator AIKEN. I think that is all.
The CHAIRMAN. Senator Pell.
Senator PELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As the witness knows, I have a very high personal regard for him and hope before his life ends he will be a colleague of ours in this body.
I think that this committee, and particularly Chairman Fulbright, deserve a huge debt of gratitude from you and everyone of your men who are here because when he conducted hearings some years ago when we were fighting in Vietnam. At that time the word “peace” was a dirty word. It was tied in with “appeasement” and Nervous Nellies. and that sort of thing. Chairman Fulbright and this committee really took public opinion at that time and turned it around and made “peace” a respectable word and produced the climate that produced President Johnson’s abdication.
The problem is that the majority of the people in the Congress still don’t agree with the view that you and we have. As the chairman pointed out, and as you know as a student of political science, whenever we wanted to end this war, we could have ended this war if the majority of us had used the power of the purse strings. That was just as true 5 years ago as it is today.
I don’t think it is a question of guts. We didn’t have the desire to do that and I am not sure the majority has the desire to do that yet. Whenever we want to as Congress, we could do it. We can’t start an action, but we can force an action with the purse strings.
I think it is wonderful you veterans have come down here as a cutting edge of public opinion because you again make this have more respect and I hope you succeed and prevail on the majority of the Congress.