Throughout 2017, Minnesota Public Radio will celebrate 50 years on the air by sharing highlights from our archives, connecting Minnesota's past to its present. | This speech by John Kerry originally aired in 1971.
Grow the Future of Public Media
MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!
Be advised, Kerry's speech included descriptions that some listeners may find disturbing.
Long before he was elected a United States senator, John Kerry stood before a U.S. Senate committee on April 22, 1971, speaking on behalf of the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
During his speech, Kerry cited an investigation that resulted in over 150 honorably discharged veterans testifying to war crimes committed in Southeast Asia.
"Not isolated incidents, but crimes committed on a day to day basis, with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command," he said.
The testimonies were filled with emotional and horrific accounts of what their country, in a sense, had made them do, Kerry said. And by sending its men overseas to commit these crimes, America had created a monster.
"A monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence," he said. "And who were given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history."
Kerry and his fellow veterans were angriest at the fact that despite what their superiors had told them about the fight against communism in Vietnam, they found the people they were supposedly trying to save were not at all invested in the fight — and in fact, couldn't distinguish communism from democracy.
"Because we couldn't lose, and we couldn't retreat. And because it didn't matter how many American bodies were lost to prove that point," Kerry said.