tv Secretary Kerry on the Vietnam War CSPAN May 29, 2016 12:05pm-1:21pm EDT
lots of time to settle in, day comfortable in your job. within a few weeks, the house decided to impeach bill clinton. we got very busy ferry quickly, and had to do a lot of research on impeachment trials. that they leader said really wanted to follow historical precedent as much as they could. >> tonight at 8:00 on c-span's "q&a." secretary of state john kerry served in the vietnam war as a commander and received a silver star, a bronze star and three purple hearts. he later became a vocal proponent of the war and testified in 1971 before congress. next, secretary kerry sharing his views on the war as part of the presidential library presentations in austin, texas. then he will sit down with a conversation with ken burns, his eight hour documentary on the
war debuts next year. this is one hour, 10 minutes. >> please welcome dr. gregory, president of the university of texas at austin. [applause] >> good evening. welcome to the keynote address, the vietnam war summit. the university of texas is truly honored to welcome secretary of state, john kerry. just last friday, on earth day, secretary kerry helped lead 175 countries in signing the landmark paris agreement on climate change. [applause] >> there is a lot of work to achieve the goals of the agreement.
earlier today, the secretary toured our research center where we are developing technologies to generate renewable energy. he led a discussion with faculty, his research -- whose research can help achieve the goals of the agreement. secretary kerry was focused and knowledgeable about the technology and science and the policy and business issues involved in reaching those goals. tonight, we are very much looking forward to hearing the secretary's thoughts on a very different topic. one that is so important to his life experience. the vietnam war remains a complicated and controversial part of american history. as a young boy, i grew up during the vietnam war, watching it on
the news, usually the cbs news. and hearing the support and opposition for the war. it was informative time for my generation. and i am proud that the lbj library and university of texas are now convening this dialogue and this interest -- introspection, so we may like from the past, educate our students and ourselves, and work to build a better future for our country. thank you, secretary kerry for coming to the vietnam war summit -- and now it is my pleasure to introduce ben barnes, a distinguished alumnus of the university, who formerly served as the speaker of the house of representatives in texas, and is the 36th lieutenant governor of texas.
a protege of president johnson, then -- ben took to heart the president's belief in education. his legislative legacy in texas has benefited students in the state. as speaker, he established the higher education coronary board -- coronation board. and throughout his terms in office, texas increased funding for education, rising to the top of its rankings among the 50 states. several new universities and graduate schools were created and there is no doubt that the state of texas advanced because of his leadership. then -- ben has taken his leadership skills to washington dc, where his law firm is located in the former home of teddy roosevelt. when i visit him, i think of the
office as the embassy of texas in the nation's capital. please welcome the honorable ben barnes. [applause] mr. barnes: thank you, very much. it is my pleasure this evening to introduce our secretary of state, my friend, secretary john kerry. as he prepares to speak tonight, i am reminded of the many years of dedication and service that he has brought to our country. before graduating from yale university, secretary kerry voluntarily enlisted in the u.s. navy. serving two terms -- tours of duty in vietnam as an officer. he was awarded the silver star, the bronze star, and three purple hearts. upon his return from vietnam, he
became a national spokesman for the efforts of veterans to win -- speaking about the war that he believed had gone off the tracks. his words echoed with value your, sincerity, and deep consideration, qualities that he has always embodied. i first met secretary kerry when he was serving as a senator. during his 28 years in the senate, he served on the foreign relations committee, where he was one of the most respected voices on foreign policy international security. since 2008, he was -- in 2008 and 2004, he was the presidential nominee. in 2012, he was nominated to become the united states secretary of state. upon his confirmation, he became the first sitting chairman of the foreign relations committee to become secretary of state in
more than a century. with center till once said, -- winston churchill once said, success is not final. failure is not fatal. it is the current to continue -- courage to continue that counts. john kerry has shown this courage time and time again. he has traveled over one million miles, visited 81 countries, and he spent 2368 hours, or 99 days in flight time and we complain about sitting in traffic on i-35. secretary kerry has dealt with a ride range of problems, including the rise of disturbance in the middle east, the ebola epidemic, the emergence of isis in syria and iraq, the russian invasion into
ukraine, a global refugee crisis in which more people have been displaced them at any time -- than at any time since world war ii. i agree that our world is much safer since john kerry's leadership. [applause] mr. barnes: this past august, secretary kerry, in front of all of the eyes of the world, raised the flag upon the united states embassy in cuba, as it reopened for the first time in five decades. [applause] mr. barnes: in the words of harry truman, "america was not built on fear, america was built on courage. on imagination and determination
to do the job at hand." i do not know a person that embodies the courage, the imagination, the unbeatable determination more than secretary john kerry. mr. secretary, we are humbled to have you here tonight and i can say to all the people in the sound of my voice and other people that will learn of your service, that when history is written, for the last quarter of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century, the name of john kerry will be indelibly written as a voice for unity, as a voice for security and liberty for all of the free people around the world. please join me in welcoming the distinguished and honorable, john kerry. secretary john kerry. [applause]
secretary kerry: very nice. thank you. thank you, thank you very much. everybody. ben, for an extraordinary introduction. i will have to find some way to bottlethat one. i am appreciative of it and humbled by it. it is good to have a good friend like ben barnes. anyone in politics in austin during the 1960's knew about then -- ben, who had barely started shaving before he was elected to the house of representatives. then he went on to become the speaker and later lieutenant governor. now he continues his service at the lbj foundation. and wherever you are, ben, thank you so much for being a friend to those in public service and
your continued contributions. it is much appreciated. [applause] secretary kerry: i want to thank greg for the welcome to the university of texas. he mentioned in the introduction, the time we were able to spend at the goal -- pickles research, what a group of people. what really struck me, while texas is so well known as the oil-producing part of america and has built a reputation on that for years, it really is now the energy producing center of america. and what you are doing with respect to research on solar and wind and renewable, is exactly what president obama and i and others hope would happen in the
context of our efforts on global climate change and the agreement that we signed in paris. the agreement will not get the the guarantee that we will have the decrease in tempter, but it will send a message to the marketplace, exciting our next thomas edison or bill gates or steve jobs to find a way to have battery storage or a cheaper form of a solar cell and that is the way that we will solve this problem and the university of texas will contribute to that significantly, so thank you for what you are doing. i want to add my voice to that of so many people here, that i know beforehand that i have always been crazy. what ken burns has done to the study of history and the art of documentary film.
i listened in the corner to the conversation that was taking place and it was fascinating, honest, which is important, on this topic. and i thought immediately that what i need to do is not give some long, quote, keynote addresses, but try to share quick observations with you and then have the time to be able to have ken grill me and we can have a good conversation. i think that will be a little more productive and rewarding for everybody. but his unbelievable accomplishments, the brooklyn bridge, the conservation of our national parks, the epic narrative of the civil war, his new and latest film on jackie robinson, on baseball -- this guy really taps into the pulse
of our nation and he has a way of presenting it that is absolutely sheer delight, subtle, brilliant, honest. i am more than confident that the extraordinary time and passion that is consumed in this project, means that the final product is not only going to be a work of art. you heard him come and they are changing a word or two, but after it is done it will be the definitive examination of -- with profound impact, not only on the way that america thinks about that war, but i think on america's engagement with the issue of war itself. i think it will do so for the better. i know that this conference and
tonight, this topic, these couple of days, call for a serious analysis of what happened and why. it is about history. but it is also about us, our heart and soul and our gut. how wrenching it was in the ways that ken and ben just described. and this examination will help us to understand the famous warning to those who do not need the lessons of the past -- heed the lessons of the past. so i look forward to a good exchange. as you lay the groundwork for the conversation, let me make key points i think arche -- are key, that might not otherwise surface as we are principally looking backwards. first, those who express concern about the way that the war in
southeast asia was conducted, were, i think the film will show, were clearly justified in those concerns. i will not judge up -- dredge up all of the arguments. that is well tread ground, it was tread -- and i think we will be reminded that there were mistakes in leadership, communication, strategy, they were viewed mistakes -- huge mistakes in the basic assumptions about the war. so it is not a surprise that public support virtually disappeared at a critical point of time. and we can talk about that a little bit. my second point is, the confusion that some americans
showed, blending the warriors for the war itself -- blaming the warriors for the work itself, was tragically displaced. the veterans did not receive the welcome home -- [applause] secretary kerry: our veterans did not receive either the welcome home or the benefit or treatment that they not only desert, -- deserved or needed. and the contract between government and soldiers was not honored. as a result, the vets themselves
had to go out and buy another round of battles. i know that well as one of the four cofounders of the vietnam veterans of america. they had to fight to get an increase in the g.i. bill, to deal with homelessness, to deal with the ultimate sacrifice of buddies memorialized on the national mall and i think -- thank mr. scruggs in respect to that. [applause] secretary kerry: so when we talk about vietnam, to me here is less than number one -- whether a war is popular or unpopular, or not even a war, but a conflict, we must always treat the returning vets with the dignity and respect they have earned through the virtue of our nation. my third and final point is that we were right to work hard. we still are working to move forward from the pain and division of the war, to begin the process of healing, within our country and between the united states and vietnam.
we were right to think about what had gone wrong and enact laws that shed greater light on how our government goes about its business. we were right to take steps to help the children and to welcome the many thousands of vietnamese refugees after the fall of saigon. our supreme court was right to uphold the pentagon papers, so that more of the truth of the war would be revealed. and we were right to pursue a full accounting of our fellow citizens who were missing or unaccounted for, even after our pows returned to our shores. [applause] secretary kerry: let me say a word about this accounting.
it is not a well-known story in america. but it should be. for those of us, john mccain and myself particularly as we approach the issue of normalization with vietnam, the accounting, that mia and pows come a it was a prerequisite and nonnegotiable. the process tells you not only about us as americans and are keeping faith with those who have fallen in battle, but it also tells you something quite remarkable about the extraordinary openness of the vietnamese people, who helped us search for the remains of our fallen troops. even as the vast majority of theirs, one million strong probably, would never be found. they allowed helicopters to land unannounced, bringing back bitter memories of the war.
i remember negotiating with them and they permitted us to do that, we needed the element of surprise to show that we were not moving people from where they were kept. the vietnamese did so because they wanted to move beyond the war. they dug up fields and let us into their homes and history houses, their jails, on more than one occasion they guided us across what were actually minefields. even today as i stand here, thank you to a process that was fully embraced by george w bush who i visited yesterday in houston, one of the greatest people in america, together we are able to engage in what has become the single most significant, most comprehensive,
most exhausted accounting of the missing and dead in any war in the history of humankind. and i think that the united states should be very proud of that. [applause] secretary kerry: literally, we have people over there still today as we sit here, working to complete that task of accountability. i have to tell you, having flown in a russian helicopter, which was an experience of holding your breath for hours, across vietnam and landing in these places, i remember walking down 20 feet deep into a pit that was dug for archaeologists because it was a crash site, and looking at the wall of mud in which there was the c-130, looking for remains to bring them home. that is the extent to which we currently go. so, to be clear, i want to emphasize this today, certainly
for me and i think for most veterans, whatever their feelings were about the war and what happened in america around the war, the process of reconciliation and restoring diplomatic ties was not about forgetting. if we forget, we cease to learn. and the tragedy of what happened in vietnam have to be a constant reminder of the capacity to make mistakes, the capacity to see things in the wrong ones, the capacity to miss signals, and ultimately, to miss the constant reminder of the four -- horror and suffering that war inflicts. neither should we become the prisoners of history. i want you to think for a
moment, this is what i thought was a little different from where we would be otherwise, i want you to consider how far we have come since normalization. 20 years ago there were fewer than 60,000 american visitors annually to vietnam. today, it is nearly half a million. 20 years ago, bilateral trade in goods with vietnam was only $451 million. today, it is more than $45 billion a year. 20 years ago, there were fewer than 800 the enemies students -- vietnamese student studying in the u.s. today, there are nearly 19,000. i was very proud as a senator to join in creating with my friend and others, the fulbright's goal that exists -- school that
exists today in ho man city -- and later this year we will be moving ahead with the founding of the fulbright university in vietnam, little operate world-class education and deepen ties between our peoples. i can tell you, a huge percentage of the current governing, government of vietnam, have come over here to go to a university and share in education. that is a small measure, those statistics, of a remarkable transformation. and i can tell you a story, i remember during the war, securing a short pass to get to and then saigon, and coming up from the delta where we were, and is sitting on top of the hotel. in a momentary thought from all of the craziness -- pause from
the craziness, and i was watching the players hopping around -- flares flying around, and occasionally we would hear the the magic dragon -- puff the magic dragon. it was surreal. the essence of a war zone. you go back there today and what i have done, the same hotel and same rooftop, but completely different view. a different nation. the traffic circle outside is filled with motorbikes, it is full of passengers and commerce, from air conditioners, to computer monitors, smartphones, nobody is thinking about the war. in fact, most people, the majority are too young to remember it.
it is a different era and that calls for a very different relationship. no one back in 1968, i can tell you, could have imagined the visit to washington toin last year, or the president's visit to vietnam, next month. nobody could have imagined the agenda we have developed, including science, health, education, the internet, and military to military cooperation. and nobody could have imagined the united states and vietnam joining 10 other nations to achieve a priceless opportunity on trade, the transpacific partnership agreement that represents nearly 40% of the
those issues with respect to freedom and human rights. by the way, within the partnership, vietnam has accepted labor unions, the right to strike which many of you think we made a mistake, but the rights have been enhanced. i have to tell you all, i never thought when i was patrolling in vietnam, then nearly 50 years later i would be involved in a plan to help save that river. but together with partners in the lower initiative, we are working to improve vietnam's resilience to the effects of climate change, which they are already feeling, hugely. and we are focusing aid on clean energy and the development of sustainable infrastructure, and ecosystem resource management. we are working together in the academic arena, the institute of international education, arizona state university, harvard medical school, and the university of hawaii all have partnerships with institutions in vietnam, several with participation in the private sector. two decades ago, when the united states and vietnam normalized relations, we might have been able to foresee that our countries would eventually cooperate on economics, but something far less predicable is the new normal. we are cooperating on security issues, as well. now there is, particularly i might add with respect to the
south china sea, but that is not all. there are many issues of security in which we are engaged with discussions and programs. as i say all of this, is everything where we want it to be? no. there is no question that our government and the government of annoying obviously -- honihanoi obviously have differences, but it is important we talk about them often and productively. for all of you that in to which were to protect the country from the coming communists, let me make it clear to you today that while it is authoritarian and a one-party system, it is anything but communist. because come in is an economic period. within construct -- within the constraints of a one-party system, it is still within the auto of others, like china, who tries to content the population and move forward. history will determine whether that it works out in the long run. it is clear today that the vietnam we are engaged with,
nonetheless could have imagined the context of the discussion that is taking place here in the context of the war. it is clear that vietnam is reaching forward, towards the globalized world. millions of people in vietnam are already freely expressing themselves on facebook. many thousands of workers are freely associating to defend their interests even though sometimes risky. they are the ones asking the government to guarantee in law the freedoms that they are starting to exercise in practice. we know that the more progress that occurs in those areas, the more likely it is that our bilateral relationship, which has already come an
extraordinary distance, is going to be able to ultimately reach its full potential. in 1971, when i testified before the senate about the vietnam war, i spoke about the determination of veterans to undertake one last mission, so that in 30 years, when our brothers went out the street without a leg or an arm and people asked why, we would be able to say vietnam. and not mean a better -- bitter memory, but instead the place where america turned and helped it in turning. [applause]
so it has been 45 years since that testimony, but it is clear that we have turned some very important corners. there are hard choices still to make for our relationship to reach its full potential. now we can say definitively, because so many vietnamese and americans refuse to let our past define our future. vietnam, a former adversary, is now a partner in whom we have developed increasingly personal and economic ties. that is our legacy and's i hope we will continue to strengthen in years to come.
thank you. [applause] mr. burns: mr. secretary, this is an extraordinary honor for me to be at this conference and have the opportunity to have a conversation with you. we have lived with you for many years. we came to you at the outset of the project and told you that we would not interview you, but you would exist, as your colleague john mccain would, in the film and the story. and you do.
and it occurs to me that because your speech was so correctly addressed to the future, that we should dwell on the experience, but briefly, back in vietnam. how does the work come back to your consciousness? secretary kerry: mostly in the context of the current wars. i mean, we are struggling to end the war of absurdities in syria. to end the war in yemen. we are making progress there. to end the conflict in libya. to end the war in afghanistan. to prevent the war in korea. and to prevent other major challenges in failed states that we are making great progress -- we are working very closely with nigeria to end the plague of boko haram there.
and i believe we will. we are making progress in somalia, pushing al-shabab back. we are in a struggle against extremism in many parts of the world. i am constantly confronting a plethora of ak-47's, rockets, artillery, whatever, in too many places. in many ways, it is still living with war as a reality. but i am so pleased to be in a place to try to be making a distant debt -- it -- a difference to end it. there are some things that are not well understood or arctic waited -- were articulated publicly, but we're making progress. if certain things are able to happen with russia or other
areas in the region, we can do it must sooner -- much sooner. that is the way it comes back. there are always reminders. i do not think any veteran will tell you there are not moments where there is a flash of some memory or someone you remember. i just lost one of my crew members a few weeks ago. all my crew guys were in touch with me. some of them were just very moved by that. it stays with you. mr. burns: we started asking questions even before the war ended. what should americans have
learned from the conflict in southeast asia and to what extent have we put it into practice? mr. burns: i will -- secretary kerry: it depends on where you sit or who you are. people are going to take different lessons out of it. some people, unfortunately, our frozen in a place where their minds are not going to open up. they are not going to be able to move beyond the place they were treated to an found safety. that is too bad, that there are people in that place. but i think that, clearly, the lesson i articulated, number one, is don't ever confuse the war with the warriors. particularly in a volunteer status where people are serving their country to try to keep all of us safe and responding to all
of the requests of leaders who are supposed to get it right. that is number one. number two, make sure that the flow of information is as open and free as it ought to be so everyone can make a judgment and invest in the decision. obviously, with respect to the iraq war, there are questions about that because of what we learned about the absence of weapons at a time when people were being told they are there. that still lives with us and we need to obviously insist on that. thirdly, we need to -- as we define our exceptions list, which i believe in deeply, but which i believe we have to manage more carefully in terms of how we talk about it and brandished it -- because other people think they are exceptional too, and they are.
i think it is important for us to look at whatever country it is we're looking at -- as a mentioned a moment ago, so many assumptions, fundamentalist options, were incorrect in vietnam. because we could only see it through one certain lens. it was a particularly-colored lens with respect to world war ii, korea, whatever frustrations may have grown about that. and i think never talked about enough, but i have always thought about it. because of the way we thought about the communist threat and the experience of joe mccarthy and the scare tactics that took place with respect to communism, and people's fear that they never wanted to be on the wrong side and making sure we were
tough enough about that, that, therefore, when threats of the entire asia domino theory were thrown at people, there was a bias towards accepting that notion rather than thinking about the history of vietnam or ho chi minh. burns: seeing it as national liberation -- secretary kerry: and understanding the civil nature. i think those three things -- there are a lot more lessons. you can take the power doctrine, you can lunge through a litany of lessons. mr. burns: you are on the diplomatic side now. obviously, that is intricately tied with military considerations. we tend to, as we made the film in vietnam, relies -- realize we were hearing echoes ahead to afghanistan, iraq, syria today. they are not mentioned, but they bubble up. what has been is now. it occurs to me that we have to look at this through the angle of perpetual war. the military-industrial complex and the extent to which we can fashion lessons that are idea --
dr. kissinger was talking about this last night. secretary kerry: i wish he had heard how he phrased that. i have talked to him a number of times in the last years about these challenges. what he said to me is that we are dealing with a very different world. he acknowledges that right up front. if you read his book, "diplomacy," which i have read several times -- it is brilliant -- he talks about balance of power and interest in state interest and so -- and state interest and so forth. that is the world we have to define. the 20th century was far more defined in a bipolar way because of the strength we had coming out of the war one, the unfinished business of world war i, which was world war ii, and we were the only economic power left standing. but we understood what we were trying to go to with the united nations, with global pacts and agreements on human rights and universal values and so forth, which were translated into these international institutions. at the end of the cold war, forces had been unleashed together with the profound impact of technology and globalization. all of a sudden, the world is
smaller. you have millions of people running around with smartphones in poor countries, poor people who see and know what everyone is doing and thinking of getting on a daily basis. and it changes everything. so i don't agree with this notion that war, per se -- i think we are in a different cycle now. we are not seeing a moment, despite what russia is doing and the ukraine -- there is a reason that russia didn't go to kiev. there is a reason there are limits to what it is doing and will do and can do in syria. what we're seeing today is less the 20th century of nationstates you willing to go to war with
massive casualties as a consequence. now we have nonstate actors as the principal threat to every nation state. that is a different equation. when your struggle is against one human being who decides they want to kill themselves and can go out and take 100 or 200 people with them, or more in the case of 9/11, etc., it is a very asymmetrical struggle because we, the government, have to get it right 24/7/365. and they only have to get it right a few hours or minutes of the day. that is what i think we are seeing today. i think the greatest challenge we face -- which is why i say we cannot be the prisoners of vietnam. it is different and we have to see it differently. i think the challenge today is that we are not the world,
particularly the western world, the developed world, is not doing enough to protect ourselves by investing in the long-term initiatives that will keep people from becoming terrorists because they actually have a future and there is decent governance in their country and they can get a job ultimately and share in what we translate is the american dream and our values. [applause] mr. burns: in your extraordinary effort at normalization, you had the opportunity to meet with a lot of the leaders of north vietnam, some of the people who you were fighting against in that war. how did your interactions then, in the late 1980's and 1990's, with the vietnamese, change or enhance your understanding of the conflict?
secretary kerry: i don't want to disappoint you, but i have to tell you truthfully it did not really change my understanding of the conflict. which i had already spent a lot of energy when i was there and when i immediately went back, trying to understand. and i talked publicly about it. what it did was inform me about our former adversary in a way that you were talking about. it instructed me about just how unbelievably disciplined and patient and open and ready to be so fair-minded and thoughtful, but nevertheless, obviously hurt by -- it taught me to see how
they saw the war. it was not the vietnam war. it was the american war for them. and for them, it was the american war that came before the french war and followed the first chinese war. we had not thought about the longer view of things. obviously, we completely missed the internal dynamics, the struggle of north and south, the civil component to that. but it really refreshed, in a sense, my -- and it was very difficult, i might add, because it refreshed my sense of these folks and gave me confidence to come back and see the normalization. but it certainly was not something that penetrated easily the body politic in the united states. the suspicions that still existed.
in the early 1990's, newsweek magazine carried a cover story of prisoners still being held in vietnam. john mccain and i agreed that we would try to move this process forward, beginning with the p.o. m.i.a.in m it was a next ordinary journey. we spent 10 years trying to do that, to get enough confidence that we could put out a report that ultimately, all 12 members of the committee signed. it was quite remarkable. mr. burns: this is an early diplomatic experience for you. how did you two think that that was possible and that these diplomatic efforts inform these -- your current work as secretary of state? secretary kerry: the current work is informed by the lessons
of patients and tenacity -- patience and tenacity. i will tell you there were some unbelievably hairy moments. there was one time when we were going to go into a prison outside of saigon -- then saigon. not then saigon, but for a lot of people, saigon. we were taking media people because the whole purpose of the for trip was to prove that it was spontaneous and we could get in and people would see that there was nothing there or the evidence was not there. we got there and some local official had not gotten word and the place was closed. for a moment, i said, ok. five years work is not going to blow up in smoke. to the credit of the vietnamese, we had the leadership fully invested in this. i was able to get on the phone and call the foreign minister, who was able to call somebody.
30 minutes later, we broke the walls down and got in. it turned out better because the fact that the local guy refused entrance and had not gotten the word and in a moment, we broke it open and got in there, people have total confidence in the spontaneity of it. we could not have staged it better if we tried. so it worked. another time, a story i have not told in public, and i should probably reserve it for a memoir, but i won't, i had to go into the chairman of the communist party and the president of the nation and persuade them to allow me and
another senator to go down underneath the tomb of ho chi minh because there was intelligence information that there were tunnels under there and the possibility of people being held. you could imagine the chairman of the party and i am telling him i have got to go down and check out whether there is anyone underneath ho. it was pretty amazing. and we did it. i will not tell you the rest of the story. mr. burns: we anxiously await those memoirs. this idea maybe not of perpetual war, but the lessons learned from vietnam, or perhaps missed in various conflicts that we had since. the iran deal stands, as mr. barnes says so eloquently, "in
stark contrast to that." it seems you and the president have been able to arrest a momentum or default practice of war. i am impressed by that. can you talk about that? that was an extraordinary achievement and many americans disagree, but i think the notion that, in an age when the response to everything is let's go in there and put the boots on the ground, this was the opposite of that. you placed faith in a tenuous, at best, outcome. it seems to have been, so far, knock on wood, good for everyone. secretary kerry: president obama and i have talked about this frequently, a number of times. i learned through the war and have said many times that meant -- one of the principal obligations of anyone in the highest positions of
responsibility, and certainly the presidency, is that if you are going to ask young men and women to put their lives on the line and if not die, perhaps suffer grievous injury and live with that for the rest of their lives, you better make damn sure you have tried everything possible that is legitimate to first exercise diplomacy and make war the last resort. [applause] those of us who were privileged to come back from vietnam, my guys and my crew, we still kick it around. we get together and we have a saying. every day is extra. and it is true.
every day is extra. it gives you the opportunity, particularly since i am now in a position of responsibility, to live my beliefs and to live my lessons. and i think that the president shares that belief. he was deeply impacted by the funerals and the letters he had to write, which you have to go through in terms of afghanistan and iraq and so forth and other efforts. so you would think this is common sense, but it is not the automatic instinct of everybody, obviously. burns: this president was a little boy during vietnam. secretary kerry: he is a smart man and he learned a lot. he understood the lesson of vietnam and more. i think the president struck me by how thoughtful he is and the questions that he asks and the way that he probes respective of
the options that are put in front of him. my sense is that we also are living in a different world with a different set of choices. let me be more precise. there are places where we have no choice. i am not a pacifist. even after the experience of war, and i have read a lot about war, world war i, world war ii, particularly. i know you have joe galloway here. one of the battles i most admire and one of the greatest admirals examples of american guts and prowess. there are many examples of that. i think every vietnam vet bristles a little bit about the greatest generation references,
because people feel like they fought just as passionately and valiantly and gave as much of themselves. but the outcome, obviously, was different. the structure was different. that is part of the tension that we live with. it did not invite the great victory parade. there was not some thing where you dropped a bomb and you end a war. the war in europe had already ended and hitler was dead. it was not that. that is not very satisfying for anybody, particularly the people who fight in it. that is one of the reasons there is a lingering anger by some people who have not necessarily worked through, as you have talked about and perhaps quoted that has an impact. but we are living in a period where we have to on people,
unfortunately, to go into harms way, particularly against the daesh, who threaten us and are not willing to negotiate. where do you begin? there is no negotiation. particularly when they threaten and tell you that unless you are going to be them and convert, you are an infidel and doomed to be displaced. mr. burns: you spoke in your remarks about one of the big lessons having to do with not blaming the warrior. i think that is a lesson we have learned, all of us. secretary kerry: well, we haven't. mr. burns: i want to ask you whether the fact that we now have an all volunteer army that suffers its losses apart and alone from everyone separates us and permits us both the luxury of
that respect, but also the distance that that permits as well. i think, to some extent, we hide behind a kind of false patriotism about that. many americans do. secretary kerry: well, i am not going to judge whether it is false patriotism or not, but i think there is a separation. and it is a dangerous separation. there is the kind of permissiveness which has been talked about. and that is dangerous. i have always -- now i am ranging a little bit into the issues that i do not touch on very much in my current role. i try not to. but in the spirit of this evening, i will just say that i
have deep reservations about just an all volunteer military. i think there should be shared responsibility among all americans. [applause] and i think that is one of the best ways that you do not have wars. if you are spreading that responsibility -- one of the great disbeliefs we had in vietnam was the way the draft was applied. it is one of the things that still lingers in the tension of the relationships. i think every american ought to find a way to serve somehow. it does not have to be in the military. there are plenty of other things to do. but i like the idea that everybody ought to give back something. [applause] burns: the war in vietnam had an immense impact on a whole
generation of americans. and, of course, a whole generation of vietnamese and cambodians. when you look back at what has happened in afghanistan and iraq over the past 5, 10, 15 years, what are your thoughts about the potential long-term impact for those people, for those societies? to what extent did those thoughts influence your views concerned with diplomacy and the choices you are making everyday in the middle east, which seems still the center of all of our concern? secretary kerry: it affects it profoundly. it is a big deal in those countries. i will come back to that in a minute because i just thought of something that i wanted to share with people because it is important to take away from here. you mentioned a moment ago that you thought we had learned a lesson and i said, for the most
part. i want to share with people why i said for the most part. we do look at people at home and we do say thank you. we have lots of wage -- ways in which we have built into our daily lives recognition for service. hire veteran programs, outreach programs, service people can get a first-class seat on the plane if it is open. different things, we say thank you. that is super and wonderful and totally well-deserved. but there are more meaningful things to veterans coming home from war. we still have too long a backlog. we have had a reduction of about 180-plus days in the wait time for people to be of a to get
into the v.a. and get an appointment. that is still 180 days taken away from 282 days. that is still too long, 90 days, whatever it is. somewhere in that vicinity. it is just wrong. it is not right. in some days -- cases, that is the difference between life and death. [applause] for mental health, particularly, we need greater intervention and activity. there are other things that matter. families need more help. there are a lot of families that lose extraordinarily. [applause] and women, particularly, have a different set of health problems and sometimes abuse problems that they have to respond to. that has also been complicated. there are things that we need to do even more effectively. i might add, one of the dangers of what we have today in this
volunteer structure is i have met people who are on their fifth and sixth deployments to afghanistan and iraq or somewhere. boy, is that tough. it is really hard for people to hold a family together, raise kids, and do the things we expect. we have got to confront this as a country. that is part of what i say about sharing in war and being able to do what we need to do. i will probably get in trouble for this, but years ago, i proposed, and others have talked about it, that those who want to go to the veterans administration, though to the veterans administration. they deserve the hospital and the choice. those who cannot get in or it is too late, ought to go somewhere else and we ought to be able to take care of them. [applause] burns: i would withdraw my false patriotism comment and say more
that, as i think you have done so articulately, that we have paid a kind of common and easy respect to the veteran, but the harder work of having the resources necessary to reduce that way time and all of the other things you just described, is work that still has to be done. secretary kerry: let me go to your other thing. it is an important question. in any country, you go to the czech republic and they are still worried about a war that happened in 1600-something. obviously, you go anywhere in the middle east and you can learn, which i know all the details well, about what happened to hussein and the fight for legitimacy. it is extraordinary. i gave a speech last night in houston about the importance of
religion in the context of understanding it and reaching out and working with various religious groups as you try to do good foreign policy. because you cannot do it in today's world. four out of five people on the planet are affiliated with one religion or another. many of them are able to take it to some very risky, dangerous places. if you think back historically on the 30 years of war and other things, we should not claim any primacy in our ability to avoid that kind of memory. northern ireland, other places. my point is, we have got to think very carefully about the impression that we are leaving and what we are doing in various places. this can become a long-term -- i mean, look at the crusades and their impact on people's
attitude about some of the things we chose to do or not do in the middle east. it still comes up. we still have to be particularly sensitive about the aftermath and to what the long-term vision is for how we are going to manage to transition people where we want them to go in afghanistan, in iraq, and elsewhere. trust me, it is complicated beyond what i had even imagined at the beginning. we have about six wars going on in syria. most of you probably would not have thought that. you have kudrds versus turkey. you have saudi arabia versus iran. you have sunni versus shia. you have a whole bunch of people versus daesh, isil. and then you have a whole bunch of people versus assad. that is before you get to tribal
and other things. and then you have an enormous muslim brotherhood challenge with respect to egypt and its attitude about qatar and turkey versus other arab countries in the region who are slightly different. you put all of those in a cauldron and bubble lit up bubble it up, it is not easy to find a way to go forward. that is the lens i am talking about. we cannot look at other countries and see them only through an american lens. we have to try to put ourselves wherever we are, into the other person's shoes and see their country as they see their country. and we will do a lot better. [applause] mr. burns: i just had the opportunity to spend some time discussing with a mentor, tom
brokaw, a thorny problem i had in an unrelated subject. he said to me that what we learned is more important than what we set out to do. i think mr.secretary, there is not a person here in this room who does not appreciate that you would spend one of your extra days with us. thank you very much. secretary kerry: my pleasure, honestly. my pleasure. [applause]
>> tewas more from the summit, visit our website www.c-span.org /history. this is american history tv, only on c-span3. throughout the month of may the 40thrking anniversary of the church committees release. and nsatigated cia intelligence activities. here's a preview from the weekends program. >> we have a particular obligation to examine the nsa in
light of its tremendous potential for abuse. it has capacity to monitor the private conversations of americans. nsa ande job of the thanks to modern technological advancements, it does its job very well. the danger lies in the ability of the nsa to turn its awesome technology against domestic communication. thehat was the chairman of committee, frank church of idaho. schwartz.ht was fits , the nsa is a household the for anybody who follows news. how known was the agency in 1975?
>> hardly at all. the joke was nsa stood for no such agency. it was not meant to be discussed at all and it was not generally. have the hearings on the nsa was one of the most hardcourt issues on the committee. the vote and not on partisan lines. i remember speaking to the general counsel of the nsa when information.ing he said to me, but the constitution does not apply to the nsa. idea to an interesting me, that the constitution does not apply to a hold agency.
their work was meant to be foreign, they were meant to be doing things overseas, largely. rejoinder to him was, of course the constitution applies to the nsa when you are doing that affect americans and affect americans within america. respect to wholly domestic communications, is there any statute that prohibits your interception thereof or is it merely a matter of your internal executive ranch directives? >> my understanding, mr. swartz, activities to foreign vacations and we have adopted -- --hink that is >> there is no statute that prevents domestic surveillance.
>> that is correct. >> how to form the importance of the secret agencies and how they do not go yonder there reach and the rights of americans are protected in a world in which there is danger. by agencies that are by necessity secret, but also because they are secret, are potentially dangerous to the rights of americans and to the well-being of the united states. more of the church committees investigation into government intelligence activities saturday night at 10:00 p.m. and sunday at 4:00 p.m. eastern. >> madam secretary, we proudly toe 72 of our delegate votes