This is a partial transcript from "The O'REILLY Factor," Oct. 19, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Unresolved Problems" segment tonight, there is no question that the swift boat vets have had a major impact on this presidential race.
Now, last night on “THE FACTOR”, we talked with Douglas Brinkley, the author of "Tour of Duty" about John Kerry's Vietnam experience. It's a bestselling book.
This morning, we got a e-mail from some former Vietnam POWs who wanted to tell their points of view. Of course, we agreed to that. These men are patriots and are entitled to be heard.
First up, from San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Tom McNish, a retired Air Force colonel who was held by the North Vietnamese for six-and-a-half years after being shot down 12 miles northwest of Hanoi.
All right, Colonel. You take it away. Why did you call us, and what do you want to say?
TOM MCNISH, M.D., FORMER VIETNAM POW: Well, thank you very much for letting me being on your program, Bill, and I — the main thing that I wanted to bring out were that Mr. Brinkley's comments, which were mostly grouped toward the end of his part last night, included three things which I think were very wrong and needed to be at least addressed in a fair way.
Now, of course, Mr. Brinkley himself was only 10 years old when this was going on, and so he cannot possibly have the feel for the sentiment of those times. He certainly can't share the sensitivities and the feelings that those of us who had to interface with the enemy on a daily basis had.
He stated that only three of us believe that Mr. Kerry's activities had any effect on our treatment. He then went on to make statements that seemed to imply that just because there wasn't torture that the treatment must be OK and must not have been effected by Mr. Kerry.
I would point out that the enemy openly and freely admitted that they were fighting a propaganda war against us. Mr. Kerry's activities, both in Paris where he secretly and perhaps illegally met with the enemy and their negotiators to discuss their points of view and then coming home to espouse their points of view and his activities which were filmed during his testimony in the Senate, also during his episode of appearing to throw medals over the wall, certainly enthused our guards and our interrogators to a point where they — they took great pleasure in pointing out to us that even though we had refused after four years of brutal treatment, including fairly regular torture up until about 1969, 1970 — even though we had refused to admit that we were war criminals, here they had an active — well, an officer who had been in active duty, who was still in the Reserve, who was saying — defaming both us and the soldiers who were still fighting in the South.
O'REILLY: Now, Doctor, did you ever hear them...
MCNISH: I sincerely believe...
O'REILLY: Yes. Doctor, did you hear them mention the name John Kerry? Did anybody mention that name to you?
MCNISH: Bill, I can't swear that I heard that name. I definitely and positively remember hearing voices and transmissions which were reported to have been from representatives of Vietnam veterans against the war. I now know that Mr. Kerry was certainly the most outspoken of those.
I — since I've gotten home and seen some of the things which were Mr. Kerry's and were pointed out to be him, I remember having been shown those by the Vietnamese while I was in prison and having that used against me to claim that, see, you are a war criminal, and, when this war is over, we're going to — to prosecute you as a war criminal.
Regardless of the fact that Mr. Kerry himself believed the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong when they said, oh, yes, if you guys surrender, withdraw unilaterally, we'll let the prisoners come home, that would never have happened. That is the absolute naivete that could exist, and that naivete in dealing with the al Qaeda today would result in nothing but national disaster.
O'REILLY: All right, Doctor. We appreciate you coming on and giving us your point of view. Certainly, you're certainly a patriot. And thanks again.
And now from Washington, we're going to get another point of view on this. Ambassador Pete Peterson, also a former Vietnam POW and former ambassador to Vietnam under President Clinton.
All right. You just heard the doctor who, you know, spoke very eloquently and from the heart. How do you reply, Mr. Ambassador?
PETER PETERSON, FORMER VIETNAM POW: Well, I'm actually saddened that I'm actually having to debate Tom. He and I were locked up in Vietnam for almost identical periods of time, and our lives crossed paths many times there and, of course, here as well.
But I'm really very upset, frankly, that we have vet against vet now, which has been promulgated by this new film that Mr. Sherwood has created essentially for his own purposes, I think, and, in fact, we have a circumstance where we're politicizing and stealing the honor of the service that we POWs made in Vietnam.
O'REILLY: But didn't the — didn't the POWs and swift boat vets come before the film? Weren't the sentiments that the doctor just offered up really in the hearts of these men before any film was made?
PETERSON: I — you know, I think they must have thought they were really making a documentary, but the swift boat allegations, to my knowledge, have been proven to be false.
O'REILLY: Some. Some are true, and some are not.
PETERSON: You know, one can make all of that...
O'REILLY: You know, we did a major investigation that angered both sides, and we found that some are true and some — but the point, Mr. Ambassador, is this: You do have men like the doctor who — you know, look, he's sincere. He believes...
PETERSON: Of course.
O'REILLY: ... that his ordeal, all right, was made worse by the actions of Senator Kerry, and I don't know how to deal with that. I can't tell him he's wrong because I don't believe that.
PETERSON: Well, let me — well, let me say that I think he's wrong. I was there. I've never heard John Kerry's name uttered. I don't recall any kinds of transmission to myself that would indicate that there was something out there, if you will, in the anti-war movement.
Now I had an interrogator on one occasion say, you know, there are anti-war demonstrations in the United States. Did I believe my interrogators? Absolutely not. In fact, we were trying to resist.
O'REILLY: But they were telling you the truth.
O'REILLY: You didn't believe them, but they were telling you the truth.
PETERSON: Look, did I start out my prison life believing my interrogators? Give me a break. I'm not going to do that, and I — what I'm saying is that the differences of opinion here is that we are having an argument about what happened 30 years ago as opposed to what's happening now. The last I looked, we only have one war going on, and that's Iraq. Why are we fighting Vietnam?
O'REILLY: No, but I think it — with all due respect — and I said that before, 35 years ago, people change, men change. But I think there is a core issue. There has to be because this is too big a story. It hasn't gone away in months, and it will continue for the next two weeks.
The core issue is that men like the doctor feel betrayed. They feel betrayed. And other men like Kerry's boat mates, most of them, feel that he did his duty. So you have two differences of opinion sincerely held.
PETERSON: Yes, let me...
O'REILLY: Don't you believe that John Kerry should talk directly to the doctor? See, I would have done that. If I were John Kerry, I would have said, listen, Doctor, I want to talk to you about this. Let's hash it out. That's what he should have done.
PETERSON: If we weren't in the middle of a political campaign, he probably would have.
O'REILLY: But this is the political campaign. Who is John Kerry?
PETERSON: Let me finish, if I may.
PETERSON: The reality is — and I think Tom made note of this — our treatment got better after late 1970. In fact, I don't know that we can attribute any direct torture to the anti-war movement.
And let me point out, at the same time that the anti-war movement was ongoing, Ross Perot had a very strong movement to bring us home alive in which my wife worked very deeply with him, traveled all over the United States and, of course, Europe and Asia as well.
In fact, I believe they actually met the Vietnamese in this process, and they weren't traitors, and they didn't do anything wrong, and I think they helped bring us home early.
O'REILLY: OK. All right. Well, look, it's a very emotional issue. And, Mr. Ambassador, we respect you and your service very much, and we appreciate you coming on the program.
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