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Supporting Materials for Sir! No Sir!
An Interview With Mendel Rivers
The following interview with Congressman L. Mendel Rivers was tape recorded on Veterans' Day, November 11, at a “Freedom Day Rally” in Washington, D.C. The interviewer was Vietnam veteran Carl Rogers, the director of Serviceman's LINK to Peace. (LINK is coordinating the defense for Roger Priest.)
ROGERS: Yesterday in the Washington Post there was a story concerning your view on dissent within the military. How do you feel about....
RIVERS: I haven’t seen the Washington Post.
ROGERS: Well, in yesterday's story there was an account of hearings that were held this past July when you, and members of the House Armed Services Committee discussed the “Guidance on Dissent” and, what is, what is your viewpoint on the “Guidance on Dissent”?
RIVERS: I haven't seen the article. I don't know what article you're talking about.
ROGERS: You have not?
ROGERS: Well, it said that there was a crackdown on GI dissent and cited testimony that you had in closed hearings in July, and there were views -- there were reports -- if I'm not mistaken, of your testimony with General Westmoreland, and a quote that you said that you didn't believe he supported the present directive and that if he had an ounce of South Carolina blood in him, I believe, that he wouldn't go along with it.
RIVERS: I don't know. I don't know anything about the article. I read the Washington Post as infrequently as I can and just about anything that's in it I'd have to read it twice, to see what they're talking about. They're not on the same side with me, you know, so I don't quote the Washington Post.
ROGERS: What is your viewpoint about servicemen participating in this demonstration today?
RIVERS: This demonstration today?
ROGERS: Here. Yes.
RIVERS: Well I don't see anything wrong with this is for America. This is on our side. When I say our side I imagine it's your side. This is backing up the President of the United States, and every serviceman takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution and follow the orders of the President of the United States as Commander-in-Chief and, this is backing up the man whom we elected to lead this country, and I would imagine all the servicemen, the great majority of them, want to be here. I can't imagine any serviceman who knows his obligation wouldn't be, ah, something to bring an honorable peace to America. That's what this thing's about today.
ROGERS: What is your view then about those who may be marching or participating in Saturday's antiwar demonstration? (November 15)
RIVERS: Well, there'll be a lot of good Americans in that, but, it's going to be exploited, in my opinion, by a lot of people who carry the Communist, ah, the communist cause in American, ah, I'm sure there'll be a lot of good people in it, a lot of misguided people, but these are the kinds of things where the Communists exploit it on the slightest provocation. This is the danger of this, ah, so-called Moratorium. And I don't believe anybody who knows what he's talking about would want us to just pick up and leave Vietnam now. They're, they're just talking. I don't believe anybody believes that. Because if they did it'd be the greatest blood-bath and the greatest murder in the history of the world. They're just talking there. Now we want to get out fast as we can, but honorably. I wanted to win you know. I'm a hawk. I'm not any dove. And I believe we could have won this war. But since we're not going to win it, let's leave it honorably.
ROGERS: Well, is it your view then that the military should take a strong position against servicemen who protest the war in this week's demonstrations?
RIVERS: They ought to be in jail.
ROGERS: Are you familiar with Seaman Priest's publication?
RIVERS: I, I've seen some of them. He ought to be in jail in my opinion.
ROGERS: Is it your view then that this is not a question of constitutional rights, or free speech, or, or a matter of service men being allowed to speak their views?
RIVERS: No, I don't think so, I, I can't elaborate on that now, you know, there's something that's very close to -- ah, you know you’ve got to distinguish between dissent and treason.
GI Press Service, vol. 1, no. 13