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tv   Washington Journal 1968 - Vietnam War  CSPAN  March 28, 2018 4:07am-5:42am EDT

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jack webb. these marines have just returned from a tough battle in the north. their weapons are clean and care this is neither a clean or easy life but they have learned to accept the hardships of the battle as a father's day before. -- as their fathers did before. ♪ in this famous him, here in fromam, except for snow, the soft blues of the rice paddies. then they pushed forward into
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the jungle that -- where elephant rest has of the skin. giant trees cut off the sun. ♪ >> it is not just a matter of long walks, each and every step must be a cautious one for the viet cong repair the way with mines and booby-traps so watch your step. your ankle is. by a trap that only -- your mine.is trapped by a shells waiting for the unwary foot and you will never know what innocent piecing -- innocent looking piece of grass contains bamboo spikes. marine engineers said the roads and trails in search of color minds. -- killer mines. the troops provide a screen of
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security in which the americans can assist the vietnamese. it is necessary to control the outline villages and countryside to deny reentry to the viet cong. -- throughout the i corps area each week. one of the more difficult jobs in this war without a front is the distinguished friend from foe -- is to distinguish friend from foe. each person must be searched and vc orfied, whether captured in combat, they are treated with fairness under the geneva convention. marines have found that such treatment of a cruel enemy quickly results and information they reveal the whereabouts of the enemy. in possession of such knowledge is come marines react quickly.
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as they move in, they are met by small arms fire the results in some casualties. -- that results in some casualties. host: that film from 1967 and the narration of jack webb as we begin our conversation, welcome back 50 years ago. 1968: a year in turmoil. we are pleased to welcome, jim webb, the author of "i heard my country calling." senator, thank you for being with us.
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david, he is with the washington post. let me begin with where we were early in 1968. who was winning the vietnam war. guest: no one was winning, everyone was losing. for different reasons. the united states government without telling the public face had decided that they did know how to win the war. public still supported the war. it was completely unknown what was going to happen next. i would say that everyone was losing at that point. host: you read it now academy in the 1960's, what was that like? >> i got to the naval academy in 1964.
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1968 and people seemed to understand pretty clearly that there were objectives. is what place to start is it that we were attending to achieve? and how could you measure that now? we saw how the war ended but what was it looking like in 1968? they were strategic reasons for us going into vietnam. if you look at the east asian region as a whole coming out of world war ii, it was torn apart by war. japan had receded back into its boundaries. the european colonial powers had left and there was a lot of turmoil in terms of governmental systems and economic systems. we had the korean war. there was a legitimate, international communist movement.
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we can smile a little bit about that now. trained in had moscow for years. was how do you fight the war? and what was going on back here in terms of articulating what our objectives were? when i was in vietnam, on any given day we were fighting three different wars. we were fighting a conventional war against north vietnamese and viacom -- viet cong. and we were fighting a terrorist war. this country really did not understand at the time. that was the reason that john kennedy decided to put american troops into vietnam in 1961. the communist assassination squads were killing 11 government officials today. how do you take all of that and see who was winning or losing? that is sort of turmoil, it is
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hard to say. host: let me take senator webb's point about the objective. if you look at conference that commit tree shifted from the time of truman through conch -- truman through john kennedy. >> 1967, the policy that shifted, yes. mcnamara, theary pentagon papers have not come out yet but they decided that they were not going to win the war. the best thing to do was a stalemate. that is what they were dealing with. the war has to be dealt with in three ways. the military which jim was a part of. one was the policy. the third is society. host: that is outlined in your book, "they marched in the
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sunlight." yet the antiwar demonstrations around the country. you had dow chemical. you had the horrific deaths of 70 people in vietnam. -- horrific deaths of so many people in vietnam. tied to three together -- tied the three together. >> the protest at the university of wisconsin was the first student protest that turned into a violent confrontation on campus. it was against dow chemical company recruiting on the campus at a time when most students were opposed to the war. there was a connection that you can only make in retrospect which is as much as the students were protesting the war for a combination of idealism that he does want to fight in the war. toy were also opposing
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chemicals which had a profound negative effect on the soldiers and all the people in vietnam. destroyed debts was agent orange had the most long-term, debilitating affect on the people in vietnam and the soldiers. many of them i have dealt with .ver the years they are dying of bladder cancer in the -- in their 60's. host: did you see that? >> agent orange? i did see that. let's take a look at the framework under which this war was being fought. it was the most complicated war that the united states has ever had to fight. a negativeecessarily thing to say but maybe a given thegiven
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circumstances and the power of the antiwar movement was an acceptable goal. just like north korea versus south korea. just like east germany versus west germany. that was the way that a lot of people looked at what we were trying to do. can you preserve a portion of the country? and develop a democracy? and at something different come out of it? thing that should be remembered is there were of the extreme left, there were people who had revolutionary goals in this country that did not connect with vietnam at first. the great example, the students for a democratic society. in 1962. formed that the race would be the issue with which they could galvanize
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america into revolutionary change. the war came along and affected everyone potentially. it folded into these other issues that they were debating. the north vietnamese -- i spent a lot of time in vietnam since the war. i've written 10 books. i have met with the leaders in the north and the people fought. he was the kernel who was on palace grounds in 1975. he later said that the rear front of the commonest effort was here to galvanize the antiwar movement and to demoralize the war.
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that folded into a lack of clarity on the political and strategic objectives. the other thing that needs to be said because it isn't talked about enough is the policy of the communist government since 1958. a classic policy of tracking communism to have assassination as a key element of a strategy. they will go after people who were a part of the leadership of south vietnam. by 1960 whentoday john f. kennedy decided we needed to do something. we didn't know how to do that. we had incidents that were regretful and discussing. generally they were the result peopleional overload and -- they were aberrations from what our policy legally -- that
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is not true on the other side. when you look at the way it was use as an example in a number of these recent -- 2000 south vietnamese people assassinated when they had temporary control. we don't hear them talking about that. there is a number of ways for the audience to engage in our conversation. if you are a vietnam veteran, we would love to hear from you. you can follow us on twitter. we had a poll that is now underway on who is winning in the 1968. we would love to have you participate. >> i would like to disagree with some of that. and theyou take scf
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revolutionary guard in the united states as one thing but that doesn't represent the antiwar movement. it was a more diverse and more oriented toward other things. >> i would agree with you on that. >> i think that was a little bit of a stretch to take it to that place. there were very valid reasons to opposes war. .- suppose this war on the media me side, the warwar -- this was a civil and it was involved in the south and the soviet union were controlling it. nonetheless, that doesn't make the war itself valid just because of that. it doesn't make what the response was as we would see an engine 68. objective bys the the military?
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>> there was a debate in the north vietnamese military whether to do it or not. there was a general who opposed it. year, generally 31st, 1968 just january 31st, 1968, they would have a massive attack -- every worker they could to discombobulated the americans and to have an effect on everything. they knew there would be a lot of casualties which affect happened. then witt, and north enemies lost in terms of military aspects but one in terms of plasticity -- in terms of publicity. host: the tet offensive. of january, 1968,
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saigon was alive with the festive spirit. the people of vietnam, tech is a joseph--joyous in sacred time of year. troops seem to promise the people safe holiday free from the ever present anxiety of war. at the temple, people gathered to pay respects to the ancestors. on the eve of the new year, thousands of saigon families faced before the offer -- faced before the altar of their families. additional firecrackers of the celebration became the fireworks of war. the viet cong was taking advantage of the celebration and lost a savage attack on saigon, violating the truce. areas became a blazing inferno.
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block in ther capital city burned with the fires of viacom treachery. this viet cong treachery. taking place in january 1958. president johnson addressed the nation claiming he would not seek another term. said march 31j 1968. >> their attack during the tech holidays failed to achieve its printable objective. collapse the elected government of south vietnam or shatter its army anti-communists had hoped. it did not produce a general uprising among the people of the city's, as they had predicted. the communist were unable to
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maintain control of any of the more than 30 cities that they attacked. they took very heavy casualties. they did compel the south vietnamese and their allies to move certain forces from the countryside into the cities. they caused widespread disruption and suffering. their attacks and the battles oft followed made refugees half a million human beings. the commonest may renew their attack any day. they are, it appears, trying to make 1968, the year of decision in 19 -- decision in vietnam. turning that brings a point in the struggle. march 31, 1968.
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jim webb, your wrapping up your tenure at the u.s. naval academy. -- >> what was happening in this timeframe? >> this is a show about 1968 but it is difficult to talk about the vietnam war and freeze-frame it into one year are even a few months. vietnamwas born in during the tet offensive, 1968 and our family remembers it well. -- and her family remembers it well. one thing you will see in the communist strategy on the vietnam war is every presidential year, they were able to mobilize some sort of offensive them get the attention over here. the other -- this is interesting because we just showed a clip of
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a south vietnamese explanation. in so many of these other documentaries, you get straight propaganda footage out of hanoi about what their soldiers were doing. the record interviews with the macon marines and soldiers who were reminiscing in a very personal way and they are sitting next to each other and people can be led to one conclusion or another. winning militarily, the 20th anniversary of the fall of saigon, 1995, hanoi announced officially that they lost 1.4 million soldiers. we lost her teeth thousand. that's we lost 58,000. our people did their job on the battlefield, in terms of articulating our message. it was very difficult. it was an evolving message. it was unclear as to what goals were going to continue as the
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situation changed. i can remember reading the washington post. peter bracer than the vietnam war, and marine who had been wounded in korea. you can read the front page of the washington post and have factual reporting on the battle. you get to the editorial pages of the political people -- and i have been a political person over there. it was just, this is a working. it is time to do something else. difficult for the country to process what a win or loss was until much later. the tet offensive was a military failure, that was not what was being reported. host: we are going to go to your callers.
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,et's put this in perspective yet the tet offensive in late january, 1968. >> americans killed in one week during the tet offensive. over 500. host: yet president johnson speech. >> you had march 12, the new have your primary. he gets 42% of the vote against lbj. robert f kennedy enters the race. you have two candidates running against johnson. he is about to lose the wisconsin primary when it decides not to run. cronkitehow significant was th? >> there were only three networks.
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walter concrete was the voice of --al -- walter concrete walter cronkite was the voice of middle america. walter cronkite was the entire army. host: our conversation with david maraniss. jim webb of -- jim webb, the author of nearly a dozen books. let's get to phone calls. james here in washington, d.c., a veteran. class fromf of my , 12 wereolina, 21 boys vietnam veterans. americans, 8000 marines wouldrs, volunteer for vietnam almost every year of the war. you can i get none of the
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president to move on the backlog of claims of over 400,000 people , people waiting to in three years. infantry people like myself can i get our plans moved at the va hospital, year after year. that seems to be one of the legacies of those who served in vietnam. you dealt with that in the senate. firsto with that as the -- i have been working veterans issues all my adult life. i would like to say to the gentleman, and appreciate very much your stepping forward and serving. there's been a great misunderstanding in this country about how proud the people served in vietnam are. we did a survey when i was on the committee counsel in 1980, $6 million survey exhausted
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attitudes toward vietnam veterans. 91% of the people who served were glad that the served. 74% said they enjoyed their time and two out of three said even knowing the end result, they would go back again. a, i got tothe v the senate in 2007, the backlog was 600,000 claims. when i left, it was 900,000 claims. part of that was increasing difficulty of the system with attorneys involved in a way that they had been before. a lot of it was plain leadership. i worked very hard on that. one of the lessons from vietnam is the g.i. bill for the people served was miniscule, compared to the world war ii g.i. bill which enabled the futures of 8
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million of our 16 million world war ii soldiers. i wrote and passed when i was in the senate and 60 months, the post-9/11 g.i. bill which the best g.i. bill and the history of the country. >> i would like to say, everything that happens with the v8 is a reminder that war does not end when the battles and. host: joe is next, also a vietnam veteran. caller: good morning. how are you doing? the question about winning the war to me, the people who won who supplyer people the bombs and bullets in vietnam. incident, the gulf thatnkin, i double checked
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prior to the gulf of tonkin, the united states had advisers who were running with the south vietnamese against the vietnamese at the time so the incident regarding the gulf of tonkin was supposed to be a push back. i work for the vna and i see disability claims and these claims are just fraught with incidents of undiagnosed illness, chronic fatigue, these are not bombs and bullets. this is the kind of stuff that us andr here brought to we don't seem to get the message that we've got to keep our young men and women safe, and not put them in this kind of harm's way. have a great day. host: thank you for the call. this goes back to your point about agent orange. >> very much so. there were a lot of different aspects to that. has a material aspect
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to it. people who benefited. you can make the argument that the war is for because of that. i disagree with that. i think it is a byproduct of it. wars are for because of policy. just wars are fought because of policy. host: we are beginning a nine part series on c-span and we are pleased to be joined at the table as we look at the vietnam war. what the german said about who wins. issues like agent orange, i have worked on those since 1978. trying to find the nexus between -- bioxin.by oxen
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to gettaken a long time that to a place where we can resolve it for veterans who were affected. there was a man who created modern singapore he was one of the most brilliant minds in the one of the most brilliant minds of the last 100 years and east asia. he repeatedly used to say the united states effort in vietnam actually created a win for the region because it slowed down the sorts of revolutionary movements. it allowed these other countries to invigorate new governmental systems and economic systems. i think when we put into the formula of the attempt we made to preserve in incipient democracy that there were strong positive long-term results out of that. >> also more than one million vietnamese depths and 58,000 american deaths. host: was the u.s. winning the
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war -- the vietnam war in 1958? 1968?reciate -- in 38% said yes, 32% said no. .avid marinus and jim webb we will go to michael joining us from alexandria, virginia. a vietnam veteran, good morning. caller: hello washington and the world is listening to the station. i have direct knowledge about why the vietnam war went on. it goes all the way back to the turn-of-the-century when the french went there. the economists went there to take charge of indochina it was called. they utilized it as a stepping stone for their economy of rubber plantations and opium.
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host: is that correct? >> i would say when you go to vietnam, jim has gone there almost every year. i've been there for my book. in thel see that perspective of the vietnamese today, the americans are the least -- the countries they think the least out of the french, the chinese and the americans. the french colonized them. that's a different thing than fighting a war. i think the french aspect was totally economic. those rubber plantations were a vital part of that. host: a key player in all of that, william westmoreland. how does history view his role? >> let me say something about those just said. it's an important part of how we process this war. i hope more people in this country will talk to the vietnamese-american community.
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you will learn about a lot of the stakes that were in play during this war that we never talk about. vietnam.h colonized ,hen you talk to the vietnamese i speak vietnamese and i can get away from translators. the japanese were the worst -- of vietnam.e in th great have a long colonial history. the question in this post-world war ii period, how does vietnam , away from a colonial system. there were a number of anti-french political, away frol groups and leaders that were also anti-communist and a great percentage of them got killed before we got there. when ho chi minh was taking over in solidifying the communist
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system. a lot of vietnamese who were on them,de, we forget about 245,000 of them died on our side. 1,000,000% to reeducation camps after the war. 13.5 years in reeducation camps after the war, came here, rebuilt a life and system, if it had been in place over there you would see these are vigorous cultures. you would see explosions of -- very patient working with the vietnamese government to open the doors and re-create the the enemies in the communist government. thee was a lot at stake for m. >> wouldn't it be better to say --the united states >> i think both is true.
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i think there were common interests strategically for us and governmentally and politically for them. they have host: been great americans. let me go back to my point about general westmoreland. how does history view his role in this? >> i don't want to some that up. it's just out of the area where i spent my time. the united states marines who were in vietnam, we sent 400,000, 300,000 were killed or wounded. more total casualties than any other war. war has its downsides but in terms of serving their country and doing their job, they were the finest people have ever been around. >> my perspective, westmoreland was a disaster. net october of 1967, westmoreland was the one pushing the hardest to say this war to one thing as a battle of
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attrition. host: as you point out in your book lyndon johnson was saying give me numbers that will reinforce that. >> johnson was buying into that at that point. he had no clue how they were ever going to win the war. host: i want to get your cronkite.o walter it seems now more certain than ever the bloody experience of aetnam is to and in stalemate. every 90 to the eight, you are about to graduate from the naval academy and served our country. february 1968, you are about to graduate from the naval academy and served our country. walter cronkite made a different broadcast i don't dig was widely published, is saying something much more positive than that. in terms of a stalemate, here is
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what i was believing and i still believe. when i went into vietnam, first , i adjust taken four years of education from for the naval academy to learn to serve my country. there were people over there, the war was not going away and they needed leadership. i took people on the political side of this, five years from now, six years from now come back and i will tell you what i really think. one of the things that i saw, we keep mocking -- these guys were not any good. i was a rifle team commander -- rifle platoon commander in a company commander. the belief that i had was the young artists that were coming, my age and younger that were being trained and learned different ways of military leadership are strong and
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overtime, maybe in the formula of north and south korea along have we waited? someday korea will unite. i worked in europe as assistant secretary of defense and no one believed germany was going to unite as quickly as they did. you could have seen that same potential in vietnam. >> vietnam was united. it is a very different place today. >> there's no way you can wind back the clock. i started working with the inside vietnam in the vietnamese community here for many years. inside it not as i do here, sometimes i got mean trouble, the mantra from the communist on the cd american veteran is shake hands, makepeace.
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-- let'sshake the hand all move together in the future. host: that your conduct of vietnam on occasions, other physical remnants of the war? >> as i was first going back in the committee 1, 1992, drove the entire length of the country. host: which took how long? >> about a month. we started in hanoi, drove near highway -- the national road all the way to cambodia. the agreement was let's treat veterans from both sides. let us help treat the amputees who were in the south vietnamese army and we will also treat the people from both sides. but bring them together. at that point, there were a lot
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of what you call remnants or reminders. some of them were deliberate. the communists are very smart. would -- he would drive by and see the wings go up and you would remember those people left us. i went out to the battlefields. the first vietnam veterans go to the arizona valley where we thought and talk with the villagers. host: was that surreal? >> it was healthy to go talk to been underwho would fire from both sides. the hanoia good -- side, the communist side, built many cemeteries for their
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soldiers. victory monuments and those sorts of things. host: you were there in 2005 into this six. it's available on our website at c-span.org. what did you see? >> we saw many remnants. . 44 miles northwest, met a farmer there would thought with the vietcong in battle. north vietnamese vision -- division commander. the commander of one of the companies of the first divisions black lions who fought in that battle. we met the farmer who'd been there at the time. we walk through fields out to the exact side of the battle and that one of his sons, who the
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year before had lost his arm when an american bomb exploded as he was working the field. we also went up to hanoi. i'm short term has visited the peace hospital of their. these descendents, young girls 1314 years old with mutated limbs, largely from the effect. i've done ittext dozens of times without having to have a government handler come in and arrange prebrief the enemy on the other side so you can do nothing. i've stumbled on these, walk out in the arizona valley and deliver these other areas and bump in the who start talking
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the who start talking about what they did. welsch, theyou one american tremendously -- walk arm and arm with the commander of the vietcong first division as they went through the battlefield together. ,id not speak the same language tried to kill each other some 40 years ago. we are respecting each other. that whole time as we walk the battlefield. host: a year in turmoil. driving issue was the vietnam war as we begin a nine
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part series part of c-span3's american tv. follow all of it on our website at c-span.org can't follow us on twitter at c-span history. clyde joining us from minnesota. another vietnam war veteran. inc. you for waiting. -- caller: thank you for taking the call. i'm proud of the fact that my father served in world war i. i enlisted in the navy in 1967. also haved to performed and achieved conscientious objector show after enlisting in the navy yet i got orders to vietnam and i served in the rivers over there for one year. i could have refused orders but i did not. the gunboats were our escorts. i want to make this point. we need to be careful who we elect as leaders.
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in 1975. out nixon went to china. whose side -- was applied to vietnamese? china. moral character, ethical character. very much matters. the truth, and i mean the truth, we need to get back on track with people we elect and the decisions they make that put so many people in families and harm's way. thank you for taking my points. thank you so much. host:'s service in vietnam and what he saw in the election of asian boys doead that and not american soldiers. >> i want to say how much i appreciate your call. there's a couple of important points that were made. one is, one of the things i
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learned during the vietnam period not just during my service, was to respect anyone in this country who was operating within our legal system when it comes to you serve or whether you don't serve. there were a lot of people who felt very strongly on the other side. no question about that. respect the tradition of serving the country for those who step forward. the vietnam war has been characterized as a draft in war. i did a lot of work on this in the 1920's trying to say who was it, who served from a how does compared to other wars. two thirds of people who went into the war in vietnam were volunteers. 73% of the people who died were volunteers. my family has a history of volunteering.
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you asked me what was my political view in 1968, i was a marine. i wanted to lead people. , during the iraq period, he and i both were very opposed to the strategy. i wrote a piece five months before the invasion saying this is going to empower iran and china. my son dropped out of penn state and enlisted in fought in ramadi during some of the worst fighting in iraq. served, not career people like the mccain family whom i admire and respect. when the time comes, we serve. that needs to be on the table where we remember these. host: you will also hear from senator mccain. johnson's chief
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of staff. he had said richard nixon undercut any efforts late in 1968 by president johnson to bring an end to the war. >> there's a new biography of richard nixon by my friend jon notes -- found the writing about the way they were trying to undercut the efforts right before that election. through others working at that time. it is conclusive that was going on. could i make a larger point about the truth? -- you couldif you argue about policy. it's hard to argue the united states government was lying. wereok, that point there lying about body counts. they wanted to make the argument
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that it's going to win the war. the battle of attrition. if they killed enough north vietnamese naval in the war. in this battle, that was a devastating loss to the black , general hay the first division commander lied. host: why did president johnson simply not pull the plug? since we say we are leaving. peace with honor. we will let the vietnamese deal with this issue. >> that have a long history to it and i would say it has to do it politics in united states and the way the republican party -- theed the notion of cold war through that period. in terms of body counts, there are two things that can be
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set. it was a war of attrition and ho chi minh used to say for every one of you, you will kill kind of us and in the end you will get tired. -- came outnt pretty exact. one point 4 million soldiers dead weather one battle or another it was exaggerated and were losing an awful lot of people. that just needs to be sent. host: we will go to frank joining us and pau -- in palm bay, florida. caller: hello. i have a question for jim webb. i was with the fifth marines the same time he was. i know exactly where the village was where he was wounded. i wanted to know if he remembers the first test measures the frustration leads to feel --
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remembers the frustration we would feel going to the same places taking the same wounded. they knew when we were coming and going. it was the same thing day in, day out. hillot hit next anderson and please do go there all the time. it was in and out. frustration because we weren't getting anywhere. host: can you stay on the line, frank? senator webb. >> good to hear from somebody in the fifth marines. wasfirst time i was wounded off anderson hill. the second time was in the arizona valley. one of the things that was frustrating as a rifle platoon company commander, the lack of continuity of our intelligence. i was sitting with a good friend of mine years ago who got his eyes shot out in the arizona
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valley. we were sitting in his backyard. hesked where he was wounded pulled out a map and said right there. i said i was wounded 800 meters away only two months later. is the inevitability of when you have these operations that are continually over the same areas trying to make contact with the enemy. find, fix and destroy as the fifth marines used to say. that was our job and we did it well. it was extremely frustrating. the fifth marines took a lot of casualties. host: did you want to follow up, frank? caller: thank you taking my call. really appreciate it. i really enjoy jim's books. hopefully he can make a bigger impact on vietnam veterans. >> semper fi.
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host: c-span brian lamb sitting down with senator mccain. he was a prisoner of war in vietnam for 5.5 years. here's part of that interview. [video clip] >> one of the great things about being a fighter pilot, you are sure everybody else is going to get shot down but not you. >> and when that happened how many vietnamese were around you in that lake? , it's ai first went in long story but i was barely able to get back to the surface. a bunch of them jumped in and there's a picture which i'm sure you will show of them pulling me out of the lake. you can see my arm is broken. once they pulled me out they weren't very happy to see me. because i just finished bombing the place. we got pretty rough.
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broke my shoulder. hurt my knee again. i don't blame them. we were in a war. i didn't like it, but at the , when you are in a war in your captured by the enemy, -- you cannot expect to have tea. pull me out of the lake, put me on the truck to mobile you a lo. a five minute drive away. it's a very long story about how they found out my father was and decided to give me treatment and two wonderful americans moved me -- who thoughte
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they'd move me and to die in they nursed me back to health and after they saw me in better health, they put me into solitary confinement. host: the full interview is available on our website. 45 years ago this past week senator mccain releasing this video on his twitter page. his release from captivity. you can see him walking to freedom. friend mccain is a great . i've known him since 1978. i tease him all the time because when i go to hanoi, if you drive to the west like you will see that memorializes were john mccain went into the lake. i like to tease john that he is the only american that has a memorial to him inside vietnam. morrison the guy who tried to kill mcnamara, also has a plaque. >> that does not surprise me.
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down, igetting shot guess there are reasons the micro plaque there. -- they might put a plaque there. host: explain that story. >> i don't want to much about it. i saw the plaque of that, of an american who tried to kill mcnamara. considered a hero in parts of vietnam. host: let's get back your phone calls. fred from austin, texas. where and when did you serve? caller: i served in 1970-71. of combat infantryman out carried the m-16 machine gun in the bush, the mountains and the rice patties.
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who iscombat infantryman over there and suffer through all of that, the one thing that really irked me, the politicians were making the rules of engagement. toward the end of my tour we could barely defend ourselves. coming back from admission to the rear for a couple of days, we would see that civilians that were working there in the mess halls that were hired, they were vietnamese. we carried the enemies scouts. these were captured prisoners that were converted into scouts to come along with us. they want the most trustworthy -- they were not the most trustworthy. we had our backs to the wall and we had no way to protect ourselves as the rules of engagement changed for political reasons. if you weren't there you put down on paper these rules. put the combat infantryman in a dire situation.
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that was the one thing that irked me. i served and i'm glad i served. proctor observed in all i want to do is say airborne all the way -- all i want to say is airborne all the way. >> first of all i want to say thank you. i was in that first marine division. .he mountains separated us .e still see flares every night appreciate what you did. it was a very bad area in terms of combat in vietnam. out.oing to give one shout there were not many people from professional sports world who went to vietnam. one for this one was roger staab bach. bleier, greatcky
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back for the pittsburgh steelers. draft. he accepted the he might have volunteered. wounded. a series of fights of june 69. always had tremendous regard for him. the rules of engagement were stretch. became more stretch. many times, very frustrating. the other hand, we are a nation of rules. while the great failings on our fault pointedd this out in 19 six the one -- in 1961ent in before we went in, we used artillery and supporting arms tactically, set a permit drop and you had on calls at night because the enemy would stage
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themselves and attack you. it was random in the villages they would seek stuff come out of the sky. civilians were often heard. communists used assassination as a tool of diplomacy. the worst thing i saw was when people would say the south vietnamese district chiefs all corrupt. we make sure our company in herer said let's get and have a meeting with the villagers. we got 30 delegates and put in -- said the bottom of our perimeter 30 people in a small room. they came in with three hitmen, through three can -- through three grenades, killed 19 of the 30 people. up. need to own i say this to my friends. friends in the government in vietnam, he any to own up to the stuff that went on as a matter of policy.
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host: we want to remind our audience we're focusing on america in 1968. america turmoil. the first nine part series. all of it available on our website at c-span.org. -- webb, niemi --y veteran, marine corps naval academy graduate, marine corps veteran. .nd david maraniss he wanted to follow-up. 1968.king about it was march 16, 1968. engagement,k about that is the worst that can happen when you don't follow rules of engagement. hundreds of old people, kids, civilians literally slaughtered
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by american troops. anaerobic american health -- a heroic helicopter pilot stop them. it could've gone for longer. there have to be certain ethical, moral rules of engagement standards or that can happen. host: the objective of was what? and how many people died? >> several hundred. at least 500. host: the earlier point of the caller and what was happening on the home front. there was more additional oversight in 1968. how significant were that. ? >> every step of that was significant. you have to understand in 1968? , the war had lasted for another seven years. in terms of the turning point,
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congressional approval over the next two to three years, it changed the war considerably. i don't know the exact number of people killed. whatever it was, it was atrocious. we recognize that. this is the most important point i can make. system of morality we declare this as an aberration. before communist cadre lined up about 2000 the 2000es and kill them -- and vietnamese and killed them. it was part of the policy. we can't seem to get that into the history. about --e are talking
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when we are allowing one side to cleanse the history of footage that was the propaganda footage mixed into her documentaries. it seems that we were the evil source and that was all that was going on. i accept that there was a different system in vietnam that i would like to have seen. i brought american companies and to vietnam after the trade embargo was lifted. we need to have an honest discussion about our history. host: jensen is next from new hampshire. go ahead. caller: thank you for taking my call. senator webb, thank you for your service both in the service and afterwards in congress. -- i was at west point from 1968 to 1972. a classmate of mine wrote a book
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about vietnam in retrospect. -- theof thesis general staff wanted to run the model of the war the europeans fought in world war ii. there were some pilot projects, what he called the inkblot approach, securing an area protections-hour for indigenous ash through indigenous forces as well as our military and spending those forces so people would see the benefits of a change of government. those projects, even though they had successes, they were abandoned because of higher level priorities. if you wed, i believe
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are a republican i would be addressing you as president webb. [laughter] people during vietnam protested too much. i have different feelings about that. i now feel because people don't have skin in the game, don't have family at risk, people don't protest enough. if you still have the draft in people -- if military service was more widespread, we would have different policies in terms of iraq and afghanistan and elsewhere. host: thank you, from new hampshire. >> excellent points. one thing that i went through when my son was in iraq, it's one thing to go and fight in war, it's another thing to have your kid or your spouse over
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there. it's a different feeling. i used to say if one third of the congress had family members , theyse people at risk would wake up every morning and wonder -- when you wake up every morning and wonder if your son is alive you have a different feeling. nothing this german said that i nothing this german said that i would disagree with. i'm not sure i would've one is in -- this gentleman said that i would disagree with although not sure i would have won as a republican. every young man of my age was debating with a reduced they were drafted if they opposed the war. their girlfriends and their parents -- it's created that atmosphere that led to it. him can protest
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enough. vital life blood of american democracy. .ost: you wrote about that i want to click on the table this photograph associated press photo from eddie adams called a turning point in the war. 1968. photograph from it is -- capturing a moment beyond thef power reality of what was happening in terms of those two people. the nightly broadcasts in vietnam which were showing much more than universal in iraq in terms of the brutality of war.
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affects people in a more visceral way. host: when you agree with the washington post? eckersley photo of a saigon execution that's shocked the world. agree or disagree? >> i would say the facts of that -- i knew eddie adams. he passed away. he is a friend of mine. he did the photography on a number of stories i did for parade magazine. he also was a marine in korea. individual who was shot had just killed family members of some of those people -- exactly what we're talking about in terms of just killing people. i'm not sure about the general. i know he was a police chief. maybe he was a general. eddie adams said to me pierce even award for that photograph. -- he received an award for that photograph and when they read this sort of comment about his
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picture he cried. intention of taking a photograph like that. he was a professional photographer. host: the cut line describes him h -- yourut general and national police. from athens ohio, chester. caller: in reference to that photo, that police chief what he'd done, he killed several people in the village so he was a terrorist. he deserved to be shot. my point is -- host: you knew eddie adams. did he have any sense that this was about to happen? >> eddie adams was great photographer. i think he saw an event and started snapping. magellan makes an excellent point. that's exactly -- the gentleman makes them excellent point.
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cut: i did not mean t you off, chester. caller: i think we should be allowed to protest. yet be careful of protest. on a protesting going on back then, their foreign-policy that controlled what we did -- by protesting all of this it handcuffed our troops. we could not go over to cambodia and chase people. they used it as a buffer and i think into be careful when you talk about protesting. i don't the goal ever forget with those people did. the policyit was that handcuffed the policy. host: let's go to bonnie joining us from bellevue, washington. hello. i'm the wife of a vietnam veteran. the war affected us at home in aly as those --
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different way as those serving abroad. the point i wanted to make was that in 1968 on only were the protests going on, april, may, --e of that year when we had my husband and i were 1964 graduates of high school, 1960 graduates of college. i don't believe most people were volunteers. my husband was a volunteer only because he was going to be drafted in three months. he walked in and volunteered because he wanted to choose the time to go. he felt he had no choice. , we had manylass who passed away, who were killed. ptsd. extreme cases of that from the
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class of 64 and the class of 68. training. was in we had martin luther king killed, bobby kennedy killed. we had riots. it was a very tumultuous unsettling unhappy time. host: i want to jump in and remind you we are going to focus next week on those political events. but thank you for adding that to the conversation. all i want to thank you and your husband and your for what they did during the period and for him having step forward and served. it was difficult for a lot of people making those decisions.
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i know you're going to talk about it in your next segment, in the months before i graduated from the naval academy in 1968 martin luther king was killed on april 7 i believe. robert kennedy was killed the night before he graduated. tremendous amount of turmoil in the country. you made a point which ought to be put on the table. as a family member of people served, i grew up in the military. there was one point when i was young my dad was gone for 3.5 years. he was able to come back for visits but he was stationed overseas. my mom's 24 years old with four kids living in a town where there was no support. now there are great support structures for nothing people but the price the families pay
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and sacrifices they make we don't often put into the formula so thank you. host: you have both studied this war probably more than anyone else. going back to 1968, was there a path to victory for the u.s. ? >> i think we disagree about this. i think not. i think no matter what it was not going to be enough. cladding on someone else's turf like that -- fighting on someone else's turf like that is an impossible task. it depends on how you define victory. if you define it as a stalemate by korea perhaps they could have lasted but i don't think the american public had the patience for it. think with the growth of --tnamese military leaders
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in terms of what you're attractive what have been in 1968 as opposed to 1963, totally different set of circumstances, i believe if we had lived up to wouldligations that there -- we would have been able to have had a stalemate. the chinese think in terms of hundreds of years we think in terms of months and election cycles. we should not forget the way this war ended in 1975 when we pulled the plug and let them hang. they were down to two artillery rounds. host: talk to my brother who inved two tours of duty vietnam. hasn't left a scar on the
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generation? >> if left scar on his country. absolutely. vietnam?t about in >> the number is the youngest country in the world. so the vast majority of the the american war of aggression as they call it a speedbump in their history. over,he communists to go there's only one thing that's really taught. you have the vietnamese americans over here, 2 million -- americansnamese of vietnamese descent, that is a scar that needs to be healed. i've worked very hard over the years. you are a south vietnamese army veteran in vietnam you have no veteran status. host: explain that. >> you have no veteran status.
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it's a little bit like the confederate army after the civil war. that's how states rights got so big. you are not recognized as a veteran. no medical care, no sorts of things. the cemeteries for the south to fallse were allowed apart. a big cemetery outside of saigon where they put the word traitor. thousands of south vietnamese .oldiers who'd been killed that meets be healed. we did this in this country. it took a long time. we did it. there's a confederate memorial in arlington national cemetery put in there in 1912. i like to take them there and say this is how we make peace.
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we bring people together. we could do a whole show on that. host: we're talking with james as wend david maraniss look back on 1968. john from los angeles, vietnam war veteran, thank you for waiting. and.r: thank you, gentle i find the conversation a little scary. i would like to focus my remarks to the senator, who i do believe falls in the category of those who experienced things but forgets lessons this post to learn from them. vietnam was a terrible war. i don't know about the senator's recollection but most of the people in the field were drafted into the service. most of those people came back with that have not been healed
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and probably can never be healed . my personal experience was i went over to vietnam volunteering. after my experience volunteering i realized that i was doing the wrong thing and most of the people around me were realizing the same thing. i came back and was not expecting thank you for your service and i'm hoping you don't say that to me. i came over realizing i made a mistake and i was wondering what i could do about it. i started on a quest of trying to figure out what the truth is. what's really going on. i found out now most people in this country forgot something. the wound has healed and sometimes people's wounds that he'll forget the pain. the pain we've had from those bones has been torn open by the way we are conducting ourselves in this world. what we're supporting, the
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hawkish attitudes that this program infers, is most just settling -- most unsettling. >> let me give you some thoughts on the. in america everyone is entitled to their own opinion and have their own reactions to things they went through. life lookingof my at this issue, the issue of service. what this war was all about. i've spent time in vietnam looking at it. i represented an individual who was wrongly convicted of homicide inside vietnam for six years pro bono. there's room for different opinions but if you look at -- i'm sorry to say this to you. if you look at the polling data of people who served in the it, 91% are glad they served, 9% are
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not. 74% that they enjoyed their time in the military to some extent and two out of three said they would do it again. there are people who do not agree with that. however you look at the views i've been talking about today with respect to vietnam i think you should take some time and look at the views i've had on other foreign-policy situations in this country. i was the first major figure to iraq wasnvasion of ,oing to be a strategic blunder although my family does have a tradition of service. we are a big country, 300 million people. a lot of different viewpoints. as david said, i think dissent and debate is a healthy thing so
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i appreciate what you said. host: this is from 1970. interviewing some of those veterans involved in that operation that led to so many deaths. [video clip] >> we spoke to five of the lay --an soldiers at mi james of man -- of niagara falls of don'tgary crossley rio, texas. of tarponl bernard springs, florida. >> it's going to be a free-for-all. you can shoot anything that moves. >> shoot everything, men, women, children. every living thing. that was sort of the order. this is something a soldier
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has to do. take orders and carry them out. >> run around yelling kill kill kill to get it in our heads. wethat morning about 7:00 boarded the choppers and went into the village. when we got off the chopper we started shooting. >> there were infants. it makes you think you and if they were considered beasts that you would think maybe a water buffalo calf or a low pay glick would fare better than -- a little piglet would fare better than a child. >> why give them an opportunity to grow up? >> how did the guys look? >> they look like they were having a good time. >> did you see anyone not? >> i think everybody was busy. >> what do you think a war crime is? >> i consider a war crime being over there. the idea of being there. host: david maraniss, infants,
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women, children, teenagers and civilians. >> lieutenant william kelly, the commander responsible for this massacre, was brought to justice through that. people tend to forget there were -- the american soldier who intervened received hate mail from all over the country. kelly got a lot of support. it was a divisive argument even after this happened. that last point of the young man saying the war crime was being there, that is interesting. host: shoot anything that moves. you talk about saluting him following best saluting and following orders but at one point you say we can't do this? >> that clearly should not have happened. i think we understand that legally and morally as opposed to something that happened on the other side.
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in those kinds of situations something should be said. that is the leaders should be held accountable. i represented this individual am an african american, 18 years old, 11 days in vietnam. the squad leader said shoot, he shot or the person who gave the order had civilian counsel from the states and got off. my guy had military council and he got convicted murder. representative for six years. he killed himself and three years later i cleared his name. the man says shoot, he'd never been told you're not supposed to abandon order. -- you're not supposed to obey an order. that is what i would say about that. >> in my opinion it goes all the way up to the top. to the president of the united states. host: gary, -- actually we will
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go to john from chicago. you will get the last word. caller: great conversation. wish we had three more hours. namedp with a fella harvey. iran through boot camp with a fellow named emilio garza. cousin was ont the hilltop with a fellow named hayes from southern illinois. to talk threeough of my grammar school buddies into joining the marine corps. we come back all our fingers and toes. we've all got survivors blessings. will you guys talk about gratitude? it has been wonderful to see both ends of the seesaw with you guys talking. pts meetings with
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a fellow that served in the unit you write about in your book. talk about grace and gratitude. jim, we need you back in politics. host: thank you, the last word. final comment. >> one of the soldiers in this battle who that the medal of ofor, i would like to think all of the 61 men killed in this reminder that wars don't and when the battles and. host: senator webb? >> i think this is a great conversation. this is what america is all about. host: the legacy and lessons today? >> of the vietnam war? war, firstk of the of all i can't help but think about the omission in our conversation is the south vietnamese who were with us and how they were treated after the
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war. the greatest mission for healing process is to reach across and .ave the vietnamese be together that will eventually happen i think. on april luther king 4, 1967 one year before he was assassinated at riverside church in new york said if america's soul becomes totally poisoned part of the autopsy will be vietnam. host: david maraniss, associate editor and author of several books. webb, u.s. senator, jim author of 10 books. y said nothing about it. >> i don't feel like this was some isolated circumstance. it's happened many times before and many times after. c-span's "washington journal," live every day with news and policy issues that
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impact you. coming up wednesday morning, sarah cliff from fox.com and the "washington examiner's" kimberly leonard on the future of u.s. health care and the latest on the affordable care act. later, taxpayers for common sense vice president steven ellis looks at the recently passed $1.3 trillion spending bill. be sure to watch c-span's "washington journal" live at 7:00 a.m. eastern wednesday morning. join the discussion. while the senate's out of session for the easter passover recess, it's "booktv" in primetime. wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, authors and books on the environment. charles mann on "the wizard and profit." then rupurt darwell in "green tyranny." catherine charles in her book "quakeland." jeff goodell reported ond the rise of sea levels in his book
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"the water will come." all that on "booktv" this week at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span2. and here on c-span3, it's "american history tv" starting wednesday at 8:00 p.m. eastern with more from our series "1968: america in turmoil" focusing on the 1968 presidential campaign. we'll hear from former nixon white house special assistant and communications director pat buchanan who also worked on richard nixon's 1968 campaign. and remarks by the director of presidential studies at the university of virginia's miller center. barbara perry.
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