Mr. KERRY. I don't think I would be here if I didn't believe that it call be made to work, but I would have to say, and one of the traits of my generation now is that people don't pretend to speak for other people in it, and I can only speak as an individual about it, but I would say that I have certainly been frustrated in the past months, very, very seriously frustrated. I have gone to businessmen all over this country asking for money for fees, and met with a varying range of comments, ranging from "You can't sell war crimes" to,"War crimes are a glut on the market" or to "well, you know we are tired now, we have tried, we can't do anything." So I have seen unresponsiveness on the racial question in this country. I see an unwilliness on the part of too many of the members of this body to respond, to take gutsy stands, to face questions other than their own reelection, to make a profile of courage, and I am - although still with faith - very, very, very full of doubt, and I am not going to quit. But I think that unless we can respond on as great a question as the war, I seriously question how we are going to find the kind of response needed to meet questions such as poverty and hunger and questions such as birth control and so many of the things that face our society today from low income housing to schooling, to recent reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on busing.
But I will say that I think we are going to keep trying. I also agree with you, Senator. I don't see another system other than democracy, but democracy has to remain responsive. When it does not, you create the possibilities for all kinds of other systems to supplant it, and that very possibility, I think, is beginning to exist in this country.
The CHAIRMAN. That is why I ask you that. The feeling that it cannot be made responsive comes not so much from what you have said but from many different sources. I can assure you I have been frustrated too. We have lost most of our major efforts. That is we have not succeeded in getting enough votes, but there has been a very marked increase, I think, in the realization of the seriousness of the war. I think you have to keep in perspective, as I say, the size and complexity of the country itself and the difficulties of communication. This war is so far removed. The very fact, as you have said, you do not believe what happens there to be in the vital interest of this country, has from the beginning caused many people to think it wasn't so important.
As I said before, I think this came about not because of bad motives, but by very serious errors in political judgment as to where our interest lies and what should be done about it.
I am only saying this hopefully to at least try to enlist your consideration, of the view that in a country of this kind I don't believe there is a better alternative from a structural point of view. I think the structure of our Government is sound.
To go back to my own State certainly, leaving out now the war, its affairs are being well managed. The people are, as you may say, maybe too indifferent to this.
Mr. KERRY. As it does in Massachusetts, too.
The CHAIRMAN. I have often thought they were too indifferent to it, but they have responded to the arguments as to where our interest lies quite well, at least from my personal experience. Otherwise I would not be here. But I think there is a gradual recognition of this.
The thing that has inhibited us in doing things about what you mention has been the war. It has been the principal obstacle to dealing with these other problems with which you are very concerned, as, I think, the Congress is. Always we are faced with the demands of the war itself. Do you realize that this country has put well over $1,000 billion into military affairs since World War II?
I think it now approaches $1,500 billion. It is a sum so large no one can comprehend it, but I don't think outside of this war issue there is anything fundamentally wrong With the system that cannot be righted.
If we can give our resources to those developments, I don't have any doubt myself that it can be done. Whether it will be done or not is a matter of will. It is a matter of conviction of the various people who are involved, including the younger generation.
In that connection, I may say, the recent enactment of the right of all people from 18 years up to vote is at least a step in the direction where you and your generation can have an effect.
I hope that you won't lose faith in it. I hope you will use your talents after the war is over, and it surely will be over, to then attack these other problems and to make the system work.
I believe it can be made to work.
Do you have anything else you would like to say?
Mr. KERRY. Would you like me to respond at all, sir?
The CHAIRMAN. If you care to.
Mr. KERRy. Well, my feeling is that if you are talking about the ideal structure of this country as it is written down in the Constitution, then you or I would not differ at all. Yes, that is an ideal structure.
I do agree with you that what happened in Vietnam was not the product of evil men seeking evil goals. It was misguided principles and judgments and other things.
However, at some point you have to stop playing the game. At some point you have to say, "All right we did make a mistake." At some point the basic human values have to come back into this system and at this moment we are so built up within it by these outside structures, other interests, for instance, government by vested power which, in fact, you and I really know it is. When a minority body comes down here to Washington with a bill, those bodies which have the funds and the ability to lobby are those which generally get it passed. If you wanted to pass a health care medical bill, which we have finally perhaps gotten to this year, we may, but in past years the AMA has been able to come down here and squash them. The American Legion has successfully prevented people like Vietnam Veterans against the War from getting their programs through the Veterans' Administration. Those bodies in existence have tremendous power.
There is one other body that has tremendous power in this country, which is a favorite topic of Vice President Agnew and I would take some agreement with him. That would be the fourth estate. The press. I think the very reason that we veterans are here today is the result partially of our inability to get our story out through the legitimate channels.
That is to say, for instance, I held a press conference here in Washington, D.C., some weeks ago with General Shoup, with General Hester, with the mother of a prisoner of war, the wife of a man who was killed, the mother of a soldier who was killed, and with a bilateral amputee, all representing the so-called silent majority, the silent so-called majority which the President used to perpetuate the war, and because it was a press conference and an antiwar conference and people simply exposing ideas we had no electronic media there.
I called the media afterward and asked them why and the answer was, from one of the networks, it doesn't have to be identified, "because, sir, news business is really partly entertainment business visually, you see, and a press conference like that is not visual."
Of course, we don't have the position of power to get our ideas out. I said, "If I take some crippled veterans down to the White House and we chain ourselves to the gates, will we get coverage?" "Oh, yes, we will cover that."
So you are reduced to a situation where the only way you can get your ideas out is to stage events, because had we not staged the events, with all due respect, Senator, and I really appreciate the fact that I am here obviously, and I know you are committed to this, but with all due respect I probably wouldn't be sitting at this table. You see this is the problem.
It goes beyond that. We really have a constitutional crisis in this country right now. The Constitution under test, and we are failing. We are failing clearly because the power of the executive has become exorbitant, because Congress has not wanted to exercise its own power, and so that is going to require some very fundamental changes.
So the system itself on paper, no, it is a question of making it work, and in that I would agree with you, and I think that things are changing in a sense. I think the victory of the ABM was a tremendous boost.
The CHAIRMAN. SST.
Mr. KERRY. SST, excuse me.
The CHAIRMAN. I hope the ABM. [Applause.]
Mr. KERRY. Wrong system.
I think the fact that certain individuals are in Congress today, particularly in the House, who several years ago could never have been. I would cite Representative Dellums and Congresswoman Abzug and Congressman Drinan and people like this. I think this is a terribly encouraging sign, and I think if nothing more, and this is really sad poetic justice, if nothing more, this war when it is over will ultimately probably have done more to awaken the conscience of this country than any other similar thing. It may in fact be the thing that will set us on the right road.
I earnestly hope so and I join you in that.
But meanwhile, I think we still need that extraordinary response to the problem that exists and I hope that we will get it.
I think the culprit is the war itself. The fact we had been at war, not just the Vietnam war but others too, diverted the attention of our people from our domestic concerns and certainly eroded the role of the Congress. Under the impact of this and other wars we have allowed this distortion to develop. If we can end the war, there is no good reason why it cannot be corrected.
Mr. KERRY. Partially, not totally.
The CHAIRMAN. Why not?
Mr. KERRY. As someone who ran for office for 3 1/2 weeks, I am aware of many of the problems involved, and in many places, you can take certain districts in New York City, the structure is such that people can't really run and represent necessarily the people. People often don't care. The apathy is so great that they believe they are being represented, when in fact they are not. I think that you and I could run through a list of people in this body itself and find many who are there through the powers of the office itself as opposed to the fact they are truly representing the people. It is very easy to give the illusion of representing the people through the frank privileges which allow you to send back what you are doing here in Congress. Congressman insert so often.
You know, they gave a speech for the Polish and they gave a speech for the Irish and they gave a speech for this, and actually handed the paper in to the clerk and the clerk submits it for the record and a copy of the record goes home and people say, "Hey, he really is doing something for me." But he isn't.
The CHAIRMAN. Well--
Mr. KERRY. Senator, we also know prior to this past year the House used to meet in the Committee of the Whole and the Committee of the Whole would make the votes, and votes not of record and people would file through, and important legislation was decided then, and after the vote came out and after people made their hacks and cuts, and the porkbarrel came out, the vote was reported and gave them an easy out and they could say "Well, I voted against this." And actually they voted for it all the time in the committee.
Some of us know that this is going on. So I would say there are problems with it. Again I come back and say they are not insoluble. They can be solved, but they can only be solved by demanding leadership, the same kind of leadership that we have seen in some countries during war time. That seems to be the few times we get it. If we could get that kind because I think we are in a constant war against ourselves and I would like to see that come -- they should demand it of each other if we can demand it of people.
The CHAIRMAN. Take the two cases of what goes on in the House about the secret votes. That is not a structural aspect of our Government. That is a regulation or whatever you call it of the procedures in the House itself.
Now if they are apathetic, as you say they are apathetic, and don't care, then democracy cannot work if they continue to be apathetic and don't care who represents them. This comes back to a fundamental question of education through all different resources, not only the formal education but the use of the media and other means to educate them. Our Founding Fathers recognized that you couldn't have a democracy without an informed electorate. It comes back to the informing of the electorate; doesn't it? That is not a structural deficiency in our system. You are dealing now with the deficiencies of human nature, the failure of their education and their capacity for discrimination in the selection of their representatives.
I recognize this is difficult. All countries have had this same problem and so long as they have a representative system this has to be ' met. But there is no reason why it cannot be met.
A structural change does not affect the capacity of the electorate to choose good representatives; does it?
The CHAIRMAN. That is a common statement, but we had an example during the last year of a man being elected because he walked through Florida with a minimum of money. As he became attractive to the people he may have received more, but he started without money. You are familIar with Mr. Chiles.
Mr. KERRY. Yes, I am familiar. I understand it.
The CHAIRMAN. I know in my own state, our Governor started without any money or with just himself and came from nowhere and defeated a Rockefeller. So it is not true that you have to have a lot of money to get elected. If you have the other things that it takes, personality, the determination and the intelligence, it is still possible. There were other examples, but those are well known. I don't think it is correct to say you have to have a lot of money. It helps, of course. It makes it easier and all that, but it isn't essential. I think you can cite many examples where that is true.
The CHAIRMAN. I agree with that. I can assure you that this committee and, certainly, I are going to do everything we can. That is what these hearings are about. It is just by coincidence you came to Washington in the very midst of them. We only opened these hearings on Tuesday of this week. I personally believe that the great majority of all the people of this country are in accord with your desire, and certainly mine, to get the war over at the earliest possible moment. All we are concerned with at the moment is the best procedure to bring that about, the procedure to persuade the President to take the steps that will bring that about. I for one have more hope now than I had at any time in the last 6 years because of several things you have mentioned, I think there is a very good chance that it will be brought about in the reasonably near future.
I apologize. I am not trying to lecture you about our Government. I have just been disturbed, not so much by you as by other things that have happened, that the younger generation has lost faith in our system. I don't think it is correct. I think the paranoia to which you referred has been true. It arose at a time when there was reason for it perhaps, but we have long since gone out of that time, and I think your idea of timing is correct. But I congratulate you and thank you very much for coming. [Applause.]
Senator Symington would like to ask a question.
Senator SYMINGTON. Yes. Mr, Kerry, I had to leave because we are marking up the selective service bill in the Armed Services Committee, But I will read the record.
Mr. KERRY. If I could answer that, it is very difficult, Senator, because I just know, I don't want to get into the game of saying I represent everybody over there, but let me try to say as straightforwardly as I can, we had an advertisement, ran full page, to show you what the troops read. It ran in Playboy and the response to it within two and a half weeks from Vietnam was 1,200 members. We received initially about 50 to 80 letters a day from troops there. We now receive about 20 letters a day from troops arriving at our New York office. Some of these letters - and I wanted to bring some down, I didn't know we were going to be testifying here and I can make them available to you - are very, very moving, some of them written by hospital corpsmen on things, on casualty report sheets which say, you know, "Get us out of here." "You are the only hope we have got." "You have got to get us back; it is crazy." We received recently 80 members of the 101st Airborne signed up in one letter. Forty members from a helicopter assault squadron, crash and rescue mission signed up in another one.
I think they are expressing, some of these troops, solidarity with us, right now by wearing black arm bands and Vietnam Veterans Against the War buttons. They want to come out and I think they are looking at the people who want to try to get them out as a help.
However, I do recognize there are some men who are in the military for life. The job in the military is to fight wars. When they have a war to fight, they are just as happy in a sense, and I am sure that these men feel they are being stabbed in the back. But, at the same time, I think to most of them the realization of the emptiness, the hollowness, the absurdity of Vietnam has finally hit home, and I feel if they did come home the recrimination would certainly not come from the right, from the military. I don't think there would be that problem.
Senator SYMINGTON. Thank you.
Has the fact Congress has never passed a declaration of war undermined the morale of U.S. servicemen in Vietnam, to the best of your knowledge?
Mr. KERRY. Yes; it has clearly and to a great, great extent.
Mr. KERRY. The problem is extremely serious. It is serious in very many different ways. I believe two Congressmen today broke a story. I can't remember their names. There were 35,000 or some men, heroin addicts that were back.
The problem exists for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the emptiness. It is the only way to get through it. A lot of guys, 60, 80 percent stay stoned 24 hours a day just to get through the Vietnam -
Senator SYMINGTON. You say 60 to 80 percent.
Mr. K ERRY. Sixty to 80 percent is the figure used that try sornething, let's say, at one point. Of that I couldn't give you a figure of habitual smokers, let's say, of pot, and I certainly couldn't begin to say how many are hard drug addicts, but I do know that the problem for the returning veteran is, acute, because we have, let's say, a veteran picks up a $12 habit in Saigon. He comes back to this country and the moment he steps off an airplane that same habit costs him some $90 to support. With the state of the economy, he can't get a job. He doesn't earn money. He turns criminal or just finds his normal sources and in a sense drops out.
The alienation of the war, the emptiness of back and forth, all combined adds to this. There is no real drug rehabilitation program. I know the VA hospital in New York City has 20 beds allocated for drug addicts; 168 men are on the waiting list, and I really don't know what a drug addict does on the waiting list.
And just recently the same hospital gave three wards to New York University for research purposes.
It is very, very widespread. It is a very serious problem. I think that this Congress should undertake to investigate the sources, because I hcard many implications of Madam Ky and others being involved in the traffic and I think there are some very serious things here at stake.
Senator SYMINGTON. In the press there was a woman reporter. I think her name was Emerson. In any case she stated she bought drugs six or nine times openly, heroin, in a 15-mile walk from Saigon. The article had a picture of a child with a parasol and a parrot. She said this child was one of the people from whom she had bought, herself, these drugs; and that the cost of the heroin was from $3 to $6.
If we are over there, in effect, protecting the Thieu-Ky government, why is it that this type and character of sale of drugs to anybody, including our own servicemen, can't be controlled?
Mr. KERRY. It is not controllable in this country, Why should it be controllable in that country?
Senator SYMINGTON. It isn't quite that open in this country; do you think?
Mr. KERRY. It depends on where you are. [Applause.]
Senator SYMINGTON. We are talking about heroin, not pot or LSD. Mr. KERRY. I understand that, but if you walk up 116th Street in Harlem I am sure somebody can help you out pretty fast. [Laughter.]
(Shouts of "No" from, the audience.)
Mr. KERRY. I don't know -
Senator SYMINGTON. I am beginning to think you have some supporters here.
Mr. KERRY. I don't know where they came from, sir, maybe Vietnam.
I had direct experience with that. Senator, I had direct experience with that and I can recall often sending in the spot reports which we made after each mission; and including the GDA, gunfire damage assessments, in which we would say, maybe 15 sampans sunk or whatever it was. And I often read about my own missions in the Stars and Stripes and the very mission we had been on had been doubled in figures and tripled in figures.
The intelligence missions themselves are based on very, very flimsy information. Several friends of mine were intelligence officers and I think you should have them comein sometime to testify. Once in Saigon I was visiting this friend of mine and he gave me a complete rundown on how the entire intelligence system should be re-set up on all of its problems, namely, that you give a young guy a certain amount of money, he goes out, sets up his own contacts under the table, gets intelligence, comes in. It is not reliable; everybody is feeding each other double intelligence, and I think that is what comes back to this country.
I also think men in the military, sir, as do men in many other things, have a tendency to report what they want to report and see what they want to see. And this is a very serious thing because I know on several visits - Secretary Laird came to Vietnam once and they staged an entire invasion for him. When the initial force at Dang Tam, it was the 9th Infantry when it was still there - when the initial recon platoon went out and met with resistance, they changed the entire operation the night before and sent them down into the South China Seas so they would not run into resistance and the Secretary would have a chance to see how smoothly the war was going.
I know General Wheeler came over at one point and a major in Saigon escorted him around. General Wheeler went out to the field and saw 12 pacification leaders and asked about 10 of them how things were going and they all said, "It is really going pretty badly." The 11th one said, "It couldn't be better, General. We are really doing the thing here to win the war." And the General said, "I am finally glad to find somebody who knows what he is talking about." (Laughter.)
This is the kind of problem that you have. I think that the intelligence which finally reaches the White House does have serious problems with it in that I think you know full well, I know certainly from my experience, I served as aide to an admiral in my last days in the Navy before I was discharged, and I have seen exactly what the response is up the echelon, the chain of command, and how things get distorted and people say to the man above him what is needed to be said, to keep everybody happy, and so I don't - I think the entire thing is distorted.
It is just a rambling answer.
Senator SYMINGTON. How do you think this could be changed?
Mr. KERRY. I have never really given that spect of it all that much thought. I wish I had this intelligence officer with me. He is a very intelligent young man.
Mr. KERRY. On that I could definitely comment. I think the press has been extremely negligent in reporting. At one point and at the same time they have not been able to report because the Government of this country has not allowed them to. I went to Saigon to try to report. We were running missions in the Mekong Delta. We were running raids through these rivers on an operation called Sealord and we thought it was absurd.
We didn't have helicopter cover often. We seldom had jet aircraft cover. We were out of artillery range. We would go in with two quarter-inch aluminium hull boats and get shot at and never secure territory or anything except to quote Admiral Zumwalt to show the American flag and prove to the Vietcong they don't own the rivers. We found they did own them with 60 percent casualties and we thought this was absurd.
I went to Saigon, and told this to a member of the news bureau there and I said, "Look, you have got to tell the American people this story." The response was, "Well, I can't write that kind of thing. I can't criticize that much because if I do I would lose my accreditation, and we have to be very careful about just how much we say and when."
We are holding a press conference today, as a matter of fact, at the National Press Building - it might be going on at this minute - in which public information officers who are members of our group, and former Army reporters, are going to testify to direct orders of censorship in which they had to take out certain pictures, phrases they couldn't use and so on down the line and, in fact, the information they gave newsmen and directions they gave newsmen when an operation was going on when the military didn't want the press informed on what was going on they would offer them transportation to go someplace else, there is something else happened and they would fly a guy 55 miles from where the operation was. So the war has not been reported correctly.
I know from a reporter of Time - showed the massacre of 150 Cambodians, these were South Vietnamese troops that did it, but there were American advisors present and he couldn't even get other newsmen to get it out let alone his own magazine, which doesn't need to be named here. So it is a terrible problem, and I think that really it is a question of the Government allowing free ideas to be exchanged and if it is going to fight a war then fight it correctly. The only people who can prevent My Lais are the press and if there is something to hide perhaps we shouldn be there in the first place.
Senator SYMINGTON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
There is a GI movement in this country now as well as over there, and soon these people, these men, who are prescribing wars for these young men to fight are going to find out they are going to have to find some other men to fight them because are going to change prescriptions. They are going to have to change doctors, because we are not going to fight for them. That is what they are going to realize. There is now a more militant attitude even within the military itself, among these soldiers evidenced by the advertisements recently in the New York Times in which members of the First Air Cavalry publicly signed up and said, "We would march on the 24th if we could be there, but we can't because we are inVietnam." Those men are subject obviously to some kind of discipline, but people are beginning to be willing to submit to that. And I would just say yes, I would like to enter the letters in testimony when I can get hold of them and I think you are going to see this will be a continuing thing.
(As of the date of publication the information referred to had not been received.)
The CHAIRMAN. If you would like to we can incorporate some of them in the record.
Mr. KERRY. Yes, I did. I thought it was the most powerful and persuasive and helpful. documentary in recent years.
The CHAIRMAN. But you know what happened to CBS? They have been pilloried by the -
Mr. KERRY. They are doing all right.
The CHAIRMAN. You think they can defend themselves?
Mr. KERRY. I think they have; yes,sir. I think the public opinion in this country believes that, "The Selling of the Pentagon." I was a public information officer before I went to Vietnam, and I know that those things were just the way they said because I conducted several of those tours on a ship, and I have seen my own men wait hours until people got away, and I have seen cooks put on special uniforms for them.
I have seen good come out for the visitors and everything else. It really happens.
The CHAIRMAN. The Senator from New York has returned. Would he care to ask a question?
Senator SYMINGTON. If you will yield, Senator. I have to preside at 1 o'clock. I thank you for your testimony.
Mr. KERRY. Thank you, Senator. [Applause.]
Senator JAVITS. It has gone to the calendar but I think the point has been very well made by, I think, the total number of sponsors. There were some 27 Senators.
The moral and morale issues you have raised will have to be finally acted upon by the committee. I think it always fires us to a deeper sense of emergency and dedication when we hear from a young man like yourself in what we know to be the reflection of the attitude of so many others who have served in a way which the American people so clearly understand. It is not as effective unless you have those credentials. The kind you have.
The only other thing I would like to add is this:
Thank you very much.
Mr. KERRY. Thank you, Senator. [Applause.]
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Kerry, I am sure you can sense the committee members appreciate very much your coming. Do you have anything further to say before we recess?
The CHAIRMAN. You have certainly done a remarkable job of it. I can't imagine their having selected a better representative or spokesman.
Thank you very much. [Applause.]
(Whereupon, at 1 p.m. the committee was adjourned subject to the call of the Chair.)