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Complete Kerry / O'Neill debate, 06/30/71 (part 2)


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 -E

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.]


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