Full Transcript: Sec. of State John Kerry on ‘This Week’

By ABC News

Dec 15, 2013 9:00am
ABC john kerry this week jef 131214 16x9 608 Full Transcript: Sec. of State John Kerry on This Week

ABC News

Below is the full interview transcript of Martha Raddatz’s exclusive interview with Secretary John Kerry for “This Week,” conducted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated. Go here to read our full show transcript.

MARTHA RADDATZ:  Mr. Secretary, I want to get right to reports out of North Korea that the young leader, Kim Jong Un, has executed his uncle, his mentor, one of the most powerful people in North Korea.

What does this tell you about the danger coming from North Korea?

JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Well, it tells us a lot about, first of all, how ruthless and reckless he is.  And it also tells us a lot about how insecure he is, to a certain degree.

It tells us a significant amount about the instability, internally, of the regime, with the numbers of executions.  This is not the first execution.  There have been a significant number of executions taking place over the last months which we’re aware of.

And most importantly, it underscores the importance for all of us of, uh, finding a way forward with North Korea in order to denuclearize the peninsula.  We’ve made progress with China.  China is critical to any successful outcome with respect to denuclearizing North Korea.  And we are now doing a more cooperative approach to, uh, to the peninsula.

But it’s a — it’s very — it’s an ominous sign of the instability and of the danger that does exist.

RADDATZ:  What — what does it tell you about him?

We know so little about him.

Do we know any more about him?

KERRY:  Well, we don’t know.  I mean North Korea remains relatively opaque.  It is not easy.  But we do have insights.  And the insights that we have tell us that he is a, you know, spontaneous, erratic, uh, still worried about his place in the power structure and maneuvering to eliminate any potential kind of a adversary or competitor and does so, obviously, ruthlessly.

I mean you — you saw the pictures of his uncle being arrested in front of everybody at this…

RADDATZ:  And this was so public.

KERRY:  — meeting.  I mean it really reminded me of — of a video that we saw of Saddam Hussein doing the same thing, having people plucked out of an audience and people sitting there sweating and nobody daring to move or do anything.

Um, this is the nature of this ruthless, horrendous dictatorship and of his insecurities.  And — and I think we — we need to factor that into the urgency of getting China, Russia, Japan, South Korea, all of us, uh, to stay on the same page and to put as much effort into the denuclearization as possible.  To have a nuclear weapon, potentially, in the hands of somebody like Kim Jong In — Jun — just becomes even more unacceptable.

RADDATZ:  I want to move to the other headline, which is out of Iran and Robert Levinson.  The FBI agent who was reportedly working with the CIA in Iran, disappeared seven years ago.  His family has confirmed to ABC News that he did have ties to the CIA.

I know you’re not going to confirm anything like that, but I wanted to tell you what his family said.

They say that the U.S. government has abandoned and betrayed him and is getting lip service from the Obama administration on their efforts for his release.

Has there been any real progress?

KERRY:  Well, there hasn’t been progress in the sense that we don’t have him back.  But, uh, to suggest that we have abandoned him or anybody has abandoned him is simply incorrect, uh, and — and not helpful.

The fact is, that I have personally raised the issue not only at the highest level that I have been involved with, but also through other intermediaries.  So we don’t have any meeting with anybody who has something to do with Iran or an approach to Iran where we don’t talk to them about how we might be able to find not just Levinson, but we have two other Americans that we’re deeply concerned about.

RADDATZ:  Do — do you have any…

KERRY:  And we’re looking for proof of life.  We’re working on several processes that I’m not free to talk about.  But there are a number of different channels that are being worked aggressively.

RADDATZ:  Do you believe the Iranian government is responsible for his disappearance?

KERRY:  I — I think the Iranian government — I can’t tell you what happened or how the sequence was, but I think the Iranian government has the ability, uh, to help us here, and we hope they will.

RADDATZ:  The major news out of Syria this week, the U.S. has suspended non-lethal aid because Islamist rebels took over a warehouse.

KERRY:  Yes.

RADDATZ:  How did that happen?

KERRY:  Well, it happened because there’s a certain amount of infighting taking place within the opposition.  And this is the nature of the beast that has been unleashed by Bashar Al-Assad, who probably is feeding some of it himself, because he likes to try to play the card that he is the better alternative to these extremists.

So there are some indicators that he’s even fueling some of that.

The problem is, you have some radical Islamic elements there.  You have, obviously, Al-Nusra, which is really al Qaeda.  You have, um, the, uh, Islamic Front, uh, of Iraq in the Levant, which is the Iraqi — the Iraqi state, of the — and it is very, very violent, I mean it is al Qaeda-esque.

You have, um, other groups, like Aral al-Sham and some that are very radical.  Then you have a group of, you know, less radical, more moderate.  You have the new group that’s formed called, you know, the Islamic Front…

RADDATZ:  But — but isn’t that the problem, though?

You have — the rebels are not united.

KERRY:  Well, it’s only one of the problems, Martha.  And it’s true and nobody…

RADDATZ:  So what’s the next move?

KERRY:  Well, there is a more — the moderate opposition has been united up until recently.  And we believe they still can be united.  And we’ve had conversations, uh, constantly — I’ve talked this week with foreign ministers in the region.  We’re working — there’s a meeting that’s going to take place, I think next week.  People will be coming together.
uh, it’s a — a complicated management task.

But the point is, we are aiming toward the Geneva 2 Conference, which will take place in January, in the latter part of January.  We are committed to try to bring people together, a strong representation of the opposition together with the Assad regime representatives and with maybe 30 or so other countries and all try to work in the same direction, which is to get a political settlement out of Syria.

It’s hard, but that’s the only way you’re ever going to end the fighting and establish some kind of a governance structure that builds a future for the Syrian people.

RADDATZ:  When can you start the non-lethal aid back again to those moderate rebels?

KERRY:  I think very quickly.  We — we’ve already had…

RADDATZ:  What are you waiting for?

KERRY:  — well, we’ve already had — we’ve already had some, um, proffers who have the warehouse protected and other kinds of things.  But I think people want to be careful, have the meetings that we need to have and make certain we can pre — proceed forward thoughtfully.  Nobody wants to just build a warehouse up again and have it taken over again.  That doesn’t make sense.

So we need to make sure of where we’re going.

But look, this is complicated.  This isn’t easy.  You know, a year ago, before the president started to focus on — on — on this and figured that we have to accelerate the efforts to get a political solution, nothing was happening except fighting and killing.  And — and a year ago, chemical weapons were being used and under the control of the Assad regime.

Now, through our diplomatic efforts, we are moving toward a peace conference…

RADDATZ:  And you really think…

KERRY:  — difficult as it is…

RADDATZ:  — that’s going to happen next month?

KERRY:  I believe we have the ability to be able to meet and Lakhdar Brahimi, the special representative at the U.N., is working on it hard.  We’re committed to going.  The Russians are committed to going.  Countries are committed to going.

It’s not easy.  We also now are removing all of those chemical weapons from Syria.  That wasn’t happening a year ago.  People were being killed by them.  Now we have them under control…

RADDATZ:  But you’ve still got this massive…

KERRY:  — and we’re moving them.

RADDATZ:  — humanitarian crisis.

KERRY:  We have a massive humanitarian crisis, Martha.  You know, look, these things are complicated.

How do you go in and get the humanitarian assistance if the Assad regime is preventing it from happening?

No one on America wants to put American troops on the ground.  We could get the food in there very quickly if we did that.  But that choice isn’t available.

And no one really wants to go to war in Syria because it’s a huge sectarian, you know, mess, with all kinds of implications.

So you have to work with the tools that you have that are permissible.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing, trying to make the most of the diplomatic tools available in order to be able to have an impact.

RADDATZ:  In — in the meantime, John McCain says the moderate opposition groups are losing.  As a result, extremists are filling the void and entire sections of Syria stretching deep into Iraq are now effectively safe havens for al Qaeda.

True?

KERRY:  Uh, there’s some truth to it.  Yes, it’s absolutely true.  Al Qaeda has greater clout there than it had before and it’s an increasing threat.  And it’s a threat we’re going to have to confront.

Uh, the — but John also understands that the members of Congress with whom he serves were not willing to put additional money in in order to fund overtly and put money into the opposition significantly.

So we have some money, some help going.  But Congress is not disposed to try to provide additional assistance.  The American people do not want America involved in another war, in that particular war, at any rate, for these particular reasons.

And I think, uh, given the circumstances, we’re doing pretty well at managing to get it toward a political, um, conference where, hopefully, a — an alternative can be put into play.  That’s our — that’s our best shot, Martha.

RADDATZ:  Let — let’s turn to the war we are still in, and that is in Afghanistan.  And there’s very little progress, it appears, with Hamid Karzai, the president, who does not want to sign this security agreement that would allow U.S. forces to remain beyond 2014, making it clear, that’s what the U.S. wants to allow troops to stay beyond 2014.

KERRY:  Well, the U.S. wants success in Afghanistan.  And success means having an Afghan arms force that has the ability to sustain itself and provide security to the people of Afghanistan so they can continue on the road to developing their society, their institutions, their, uh, health care system, their education and other things that are happening today.

I mean if you, you know, when America went into Afghanistan, Martha, there were about 900,000 kids in school and they were all boys.  Today, there are about seven or eight million children in school and almost 40 percent of them are girls.

So there’s a huge transformation taking place…

RADDATZ:  And if…

KERRY:  — and we want to try to…

RADDATZ:  — don’t leave those…

KERRY:  — hold onto that.

RADDATZ:  — if we don’t leave those troops there, can you guarantee that young women can still go to school over there?

KERRY:  No, absolutely not.  You can’t guarantee anything, I think, if — if American forces, uh, were not there, I think there would be serious challenges with respect to Afghanistan’s security.

But — here’s the but.  I believe that Hamid Karzai, either he or his successor will sign this.  Now, I think he needs to sign this.

RADDATZ:  His successor.

So it’s OK if his successor…

KERRY:  I’ve said they will.  No, no, no.  I said either he or they will.  But he needs to sign it.  And the reason he needs to sign it is because of the planning that is necessary, because of the — the slide scope — the glide slope that we’re on now for the withdrawal of troops, because you have more than 50 nations that have been involved in supporting this.  They all have budgets.  They all have planning requirements.  And it is vital that Hamid Karzai recognize the importance of doing this.

RADDATZ:  By when?

KERRY:  We negotiated…

RADDATZ:  Give me a date.

KERRY:  Let me just finish — we negotiated an agreement.  That wasn’t in place, by the way, a year ago.  Now we have an agreement that’s been negotiated and he has said to me personally, and as — as recently as a day ago, reiterated through his minister that the language is fine.  He’s not going to change — to seek a change in the language.  He’s not going to seek any change in the outcome of the Loya Jirga.

So we are very close to the ability to move forward.  And I believe it will be signed.  And I hope it will be signed as soon as possible.

RADDATZ:  Is there a cutoff date where you have to say we can’t — we can’t leave the troops there?

KERRY:  Well, there is a cut-off date, but I’m not going to get into cut-off dates.  I think what’s important…

RADDATZ:  First it was October, then it was…

KERRY:  — to understand is that…

RADDATZ:  — does it have to be by January?

KERRY:  No.  This needs to be signed as soon as possible.  And I think he understands that.  I’m in conversations with him now, through his minister.  Uh, it’s clear what I think he needs in terms of assurances.  I believe it may be possible to try to move this forward.  And I hope it will be signed as soon as possible.

RADDATZ:  Isn’t this so frustrating, the — we have influence over Iran.  You’re negotiating with Iran.  But you can’t get Hamid Karzai, where we’ve spent all this blood and treasure, to sign this agreement?

KERRY:  Well, I — I — I’m not sitting here feeling — look, we negotiated in good faith an agreement.  I negotiated that with him.  He closed out the language.  He’s not seeking any change in the language.

So we have the language of the bilateral security agreement.

He said he would submit it to the people through what they call the Loya Jirga.  That came together.  It passed and — and agreed to the — the bilateral security agreement.

Now he wants an assurance, in the wake of a killing that took place of — of an innocent civilian, he wants some assurances with respect to the road ahead.

I believe that it’s possible to work this through and I don’t think, uh, you know, we’ve reached the point of throwing up our hands.  I think it’s…

RADDATZ:  How long do you want troops to stay there?

KERRY:  Well, that’s up to the president of the United States and it’s up to the process on the ground.  But the president has already said we are prepared to be there for a number of years going forward in a very different role, a very diminished role of training, advising and equipping the Afghans.

We will not be in combat.  America will not be engaged in combat…

RADDATZ:  But counterterrorism troops…

KERRY:  — which is very different.  And we will be doing…

RADDATZ:  — you want there, as well.

KERRY:  — and we’ll be doing counterterrorism, that is correct.

RADDATZ:  That’s combat.

KERRY:  Well, it is not — not automatically, not directly.  It can be intel gathering.  It can be, um, providing information to the Afghans that they act on.  Uh, and in some cases, it might wind up being kinetic by American forces.

But the point is, it’s not day to day combat against the Taliban on behalf of the Afghan people.  It’s counter-terrorism to fight against terrorists, al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, others who are threatening American assets and America itself.

RADDATZ:  I — I want to — I want to quickly turn to Iraq.  We do not have a troop presence there anymore because you couldn’t get an agreement.  An average of 68 car bombs a month this year.  Al Qaeda signs on Syrian border areas.  The death toll for 2013 has already topped 8,000.

Do you think that would be different had we remained there in some capacity with troops?

KERRY:  Not necessarily.  And I’m not going to get into any hypotheticals.  It’s just impossible to answer a question like that.

What — what is important to understand is that what is happening in Iraq is a reflection of the sectarianism that has been, uh, unleashed in its worst, most contentious ways, as a result of what Assad is doing, as a result of some of the Hezbollah and Iranian impact in Syria and a traditional, long-term divide that is centuries old in Iraq itself.

Shia, Sunni, that particular sectarian balance of power was completely reversed when President Bush went into Iraq and a Sunni dominant, uh, regime was replaced with a Shia regime, elected Shia regime.  Eighty percent of the country is Shia.

But unfortunately, there has not been an adequate level of outreach, an adequate level of — of — of process that brings people to the table, includes them in the governance and seeks to really resolve the fundamental divisive issues of the country, which are the constitution, the division of the oil revenues and — and so forth.

That could happen.  If that happened more effectively — and we are working very hard at encouraging Prime Minister Maliki to do more of this and to engage in a greater dialogue, to reach out to the Kurds, reach out to the Sunni and create better governance.

That’s what’s needed.  And I think if that happens, a lot of that violence would recede.

RADDATZ:  You – you’ve put so much effort in your first year into Mideast peace.  You’ve got the parties talking.

But has there been any real concrete progress on the really tough issues?

KERRY:  Yes, actually, there has been.  But we’ve agreed not to be talking about what we’re doing because it — it just creates great expectations.  It creates pressure.  Uh, it — it creates opposition, in some cases.

I think it’s much better for us to do exactly what we’ve been doing, which is negotiate quietly and privately, work with a negotiating team, work with the leaders directly, try to resolve very difficult issues.  And that’s exactly what we’re doing.  And I’m — I’m personally encouraged that very tough issues are beginning to take shape in terms of various options that may or may not be available to the leaders to choose between to help resolve it.

And — and these things just don’t happen overnight.  If this conflict was easy, Martha, this would have been done years ago.  It’s confounded presidents and secretaries State for 30 or 40 years…

RADDATZ:  And you feel this time it’s different…

KERRY:  — and it’s complicated — now, well, I think we’re in a different moment now.  You know, I’m not claiming any special, you know, capacity personally at all, but I think this is a different moment.  I think what’s happening in the region, I think the fact of all the work that’s been done before has laid a pathway people can build on.  I think there are many options that have been vetted before that leave you a different set of choices.

I think that the dynamics of the Middle East offer a different moment, the possibilities of peace with the Arab League, the, um, the realities of what might and might not, uh, stare people in the face if you don’t get an agreement.

I think all of these things make this a different moment.  And — and hopefully, the leaders will seize this moment and — and at least move the ball forward somewhat.

RADDATZ:  Let — let me ask you — go ahead.

KERRY:  Go ahead.

RADDATZ:  Let me ask you a couple of…

KERRY:  Yes?

RADDATZ:  Let me ask you a couple of big picture questions here.

We’re sitting in Ho Chi Minh City.  You’re a Vietnam War veteran and an anti-war activist after the Vietnam War.

How much of your world view comes from your time spent here?

KERRY:  Well, obviously, some of it, Martha.  But one thing I’m very careful — very, very careful not to do is see everything through the lens of Vietnam.  That would be a huge mistake.

And, um, it’s informative, but it doesn’t imprison me.  It’s — it doesn’t dominate me.  It — it gives me lessons that I can apply to make sure I ask the right questions, to make sure that I probe, to make sure I understand the fundamentals of a conflict properly, uh, and control the difference between a civil war and a strategic interest of the United States and how you might thread the needle.

All of those things are important.

But — you know, every place is different.  Every conflict has its own history, its own narrative, its own cultural input, its own religious input, its own strategic dynamics.  And I’m very, very careful to try to draw the lines between them.

RADDATZ:  Your — your first year has been an incredibly active year as secretary of State.

But what keeps you up at night?

What’s the most dangerous thing that’s happening now?

KERRY:  Well, there are a number of most dangerous things.  Uh, the potential, uh, rise of rogue states slash, you know, interested state strategic efforts to get nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction should scare everybody.  It’s — it’s of enormous consequence.

The rise of radical religious extremism, uh, is of huge consequence to all of us.

The numbers of young people in the world in so many countries that don’t have strong institutions where those young people don’t have education opportunity and job opportunities and where the vacuum gets filled by extremist elements and forces, that’s very, uh, threatening to all of us.

And, finally, I think, uh, the threat of global climate change and of, you know, broad-based environmental degradation of the oceans, of air, of, uh, land and — and, uh, crops and other things.  I mean the capacity to have food security in the long run with this burgeoning population and the threat of climate change is as big a challenge as there is.  And unfortunately, we still have too many people calling it into question and there are many people who just think they have to throw up their hands and can’t do anything about it.

RADDATZ:  Are we less safe today?

KERRY:  No, I think we’re safer in many, many, many ways.  Absolutely safer in many, many ways.  When you look at the — I mean what we have done to counter terror is quite remarkable, on a global basis.  Far, far fewer people are dying in broad-based wars than were in the 20th century, far fewer people.

So, yes, we have these incidents of violence and yes, we have car bombs and we have suicide bombers and that’s tied to the religious extremism and it’s tied to the, uh, absence of meeting the aspirations of people, those young people that I talked about a moment ago.  There are a lot of reasons for that.

But it’s not taking the numbers of lives and creating the kind of broad-based conflicts that the world was consumed by in the course of the 20th century.  We have much better health care.  We have much greater middle class building up in many parts of the world.

People tend to see things as the glass half full, half empty.  You can go half empty and find some tough things to focus on.  I think it’s actually half full.  And I think there are lots of really remarkable things happening in the world.  If we concentrate our activities and our energies on the things that I listed, I have confidence that we have ways to solve those things.

I mean just take climate change.

What’s the solution?

It’s called energy policy.  If we were to put in place some of the clean energy opportunities we have, if we moved faster away from fossil fuel, we can solve this problem.  And we can also create millions of jobs as we do it.

So the fact is, everything staring us in the face has a solution.

And the question is, we will be able to move fast enough to embrace those solutions?

RADDATZ:  Thanks very much, Mr. Secretary.

KERRY:  Thank you.

PART II: John Kerry Walk and Talk with Martha Raddatz

KERRY:  It was really (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ:  I know.  This morning was pretty amazingly hot.

KERRY:  It’s nice.  Yes.  (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ:  I know you’ve been back here a lot…

KERRY:  I have.

RADDATZ:  — but it must be incredible every time you come.

KERRY:  Uh, you know, I’ve — actually, I mean I’ve gotten used to it.  I came here so many times during the efforts to normalize and to solve the POW/MIA issue.

RADDATZ:  Right.

KERRY:  In the beginning, it was beyond bizarre.  But, you know…

RADDATZ:  But this is the first time as secretary…

KERRY:  Well, it’s the first time in 10 years.

RADDATZ:  — of State.

KERRY:  Yes.

RADDATZ:  And the first time as secretary of State.

KERRY:  Well, yes, but, uh, you know, I came here a lot as a senator.  It’s a different job but it’s still here.  The same thing.

Um, what are we doing?

I mean do you ever believe — I mean seriously?

Talk about…

RADDATZ:  I sort of think…

KERRY:  — doing things.

RADDATZ:  I know.  Well…

KERRY:  You’ve been, uh, in all these war zones and…

RADDATZ:  Yes, well…

KERRY:  — trouble spots in…

RADDATZ:  — not quite in the — in the trouble that you’ve been in in these war zones.

KERRY:  Well, you were in the zones, but you didn’t get in trouble.

RADDATZ:  Right.  Right.

KERRY:  (INAUDIBLE).

RADDATZ:  Right.  I was lucky.

KERRY:  You were.

RADDATZ:  I was very lucky.

KERRY:  Yes, you were.

RADDATZ:  I — I want to ask you a little bit, I know you’re going down the Mekong, sort of your memories from the Mekong in particular.

KERRY:  Well, I mean the thing I remember, uh, I mean I just remember the incredible team you had, the work of the people, uh, who were with you on the boat.  It was just this incredible bonded team of people, uh, all of whom were, uh, obviously, facing the same, you know, dangers and so forth, but who just worked together as a team.

What I really remember about it more than anything is the sense of, uh, everybody’s commitment to doing their job, getting things done, working together effectively.  And, uh, obviously, it was exciting and scary and exhilarating and all kinds of emotions — sad.  I mean it was all kinds of things at the same time.

But what really sticks with you is, you know, you were — you were just sort of a — there was a camaraderie and a sense of accomplishment and purpose that was very special.  And that kind of sticks with you.

RADDATZ:  I’ve been reading through “Tour of Duty” and through a lot of your old letters you wrote home, a lot of your old war journals.

You saw a lot of death, but you also took a man’s life.

Do you think about that?

KERRY:  Yes, sometimes.  Sure.  I mean, you’re — I think it — inevitably.  But I don’t get stuck there.  I just — you know, I always refuse to get stuck there, kind of a purposeful decision, um, it — it happened, it’s what it was.  We were in a war.  And it ended.  And my goal became the future.  My goal became how do we take that and make something better out of it?

What do we do to, you know, give it a different kind of meaning.

And — and one of the goals we always had, those of us who worked on this question of normalizing and — and — and really making peace.  I mean that’s really what we thought we ought to do, because there wasn’t a peace.  There was still a — a huge divide in America and between America and Vietnam.

And I think that, uh, you know, a lot of us got together and said we’ve got to put this behind us and we’ve got to make something better out of it.

And that’s when John McCain and I became involved together and we — we knew that we needed to define a different future with Vietnam.

So we set about to deal with the problems.

How do you solve the problem of MIA/POW?

How do you ultimately get the embargo lifted?

Then how do you normalize?

With a vision that out of that would come exactly what we’re seeing today, you know, you know, a country where young people have a different future, where it’s a marketplace.  It’s exciting.  Uh, we have Harvard education going on with Fulbright here.  We have, uh, technology.  We have intel, Google, Microsoft, you know,Reebok, you know, um, you know…

RADDATZ:  But how did you change…

KERRY:  — and New Balance from Massachusetts.

RADDATZ:  — and New Balance.  OK, there you go.

There you go.

(LAUGHTER)

KERRY:  Yes, make sure I say (INAUDIBLE)…

RADDATZ:  Almost blew that one.

KERRY:  Well, I’m not at the center anymore.  But I don’t want to definitely New Balance.

RADDATZ:  But you’re — come on, you’re a Massachusetts guy.

KERRY:  No, but the point I’m making is simply that this future is now blossoming.  And life is changing.  They have to do more on human rights.  They have to do more on freedom of association, assembly, things like that.  But it’s gotten better in the last years.

And I think it’s on the right track.  That’s exciting to see.

RADDATZ:  I think one of the things, particularly for me, who — who deals with a lot of veterans…

KERRY:  Yes.

RADDATZ:  — is I look at somebody like you, who described the exact same things I’m seeing now — anger, bitterness at that time.

How did you move on?

How did you — how did you put that in the past?

KERRY:  Well, I — I just — you know, I had a — well, look, I spent some time protesting the war.  And a lot of people didn’t like that, obviously.  And, uh, uh, in a sense, I put some of that energy into trying to end the war.

But once the — the day to day fighting had ended and America was out of Vietnam, then I felt there was something more we had to do.

We wanted to get to the day when we could say the word Vietnam and people would think about a country, not a war.  And that’s where we are today.  I think it’s very exciting.

I’m — you know, I don’t think about the war being here right now.  I mean, occasionally I see a place and I say, oh, yes, I remember that or this or — but you don’t.  You think about this vibrant, energized country that’s dealing with a lot of problems.  And — and tomorrow, what we’re going to focus on is the Mekong Delta, not in terms of my war, but in terms of global climate change and the threat to the environment, which is critical for all the people who live here.

And — and that makes me feel good.  That’s the future.

RADDATZ:  You do understand…

(SPEAKING IN VIETNAMESE)

RADDATZ:  You understand — I mean is there any irony in the sense that you are now making a lot of decisions about Afghanistan and there are a lot of people protesting against that in terms of they want everybody out of there?

KERRY:  Well, I understand that.  But I think they’re different.  I think they’re very different.  You know, we went into Afghanistan because we were attacked from Afghanistan and because, um, terrorism is a scourge that continues to threaten the United States and the rest of the world.

Uh, and we are, uh, now drawing down the troops with a view to having a completely independent Afghan army that’s defending and protecting — defending the country and, you know, dealing with the security issues.  We’re going to be there only to train, advise and assist, out of combat and of war for the United States.

And we’re managing that.  It’s slow.  It’s tough.  But I think overall, we’re making progress.  And, you know, it’s a — there’s a lot of lessons, for sure, a lot of warning signs that I always see staring me in the face.  But if you heed the warnings and keep moving in the right direction, hopefully you avoid the pitfalls.

RADDATZ:  Just one last question, and that is about your faith.  It’s one of the things you talked about.  You’re Catholic.  You talked about the Vietnam War really shaking your faith.

How did you get that back?

You went to mass this weekend here in Ho Chi Minh City.

KERRY:  Well, you know, at that — at a certain point in time, yes, it did.  And I — and I said something about that publicly previously.  Um, but I really, you know, I just thought about it a lot.  I think I had a sort of epiphany, a moment where it just occurred to me that, um, there still is a purpose, uh, in God’s work, that defines itself, sometimes, differently than the ways one might superficially think.

And, you know, you read the letters of St.  Paul and you read, uh, other parts of the scripture and it talks about suffering and it talks about adversity and, you know, I sort of began to put that in a better place, not see it so much as, you know, a — a determinative God who, you know, makes every decision for everything that happens, but rather creates a framework within which we’re responsible for making things.

Remember President Kennedy’s words, here on work, here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own.

And, um, I — I think that pretty well sums it up.

RADDATZ:  And Pope Francis, “Time’s” Man of the Year.

KERRY:  And Pope Francis is (INAUDIBLE) — he’s — he’s, uh, really, uh, been extraordinary the way that he has refocused things, I think.  Uh, and I think a lot of people admire his initiatives enormously.  It’s very exciting to watch.

RADDATZ:  OK, thanks.

KERRY:  Thank you.

RADDATZ:  All right, see you back there, huh?

KERRY:  All right.  You want anything?

Can I buy you some (INAUDIBLE) or something?

RADDATZ:  Are you going to buy something?

KERRY:  Boy, I…

RADDATZ:  I don’t think you’re taking…

KERRY:  — I’m not going to buy this, actually.  I’m — I’m looking — I have to buy some Christmas presents badly, you know.

RADDATZ:  OK.

KERRY:  I’ve got to go do some some time tonight, I don’t know.

RADDATZ:  I’ll give you some recommendations.

KERRY:  I’ll see you back there.

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