Face the Nation Transcripts May 24, 2015: McCain, Schiff

The latest on the protests erupting in Cleveland, the global terror threat ISIS poses, and the 2016 presidential race

(CBS News) -- A transcript from the May 24 edition of Face the Nation. Guests included Sen. John McCain, Rep. Adam Schiff, Jerikca Duncan, Clarissa Ward, David Rohde, Rajiv Chandrasekhar, Peter Arnett, David Kennerly, Bill Plante and Laura Palmer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on FACE THE NATION: ISIS on the move and another American city on edge.

Cleveland authorities are on high alert after a white policeman is found not guilty in the shooting deaths two of African-Americans. We will have the latest. And, as ISIS terrorists continue to rampage through Iraq and Syria, we will ask the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, John McCain, and the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Adam Schiff, what can be done to stop them.

Plus, on this Memorial Day weekend, a look back at Vietnam and what`s changed in the 40 years since the fall of Saigon.

It`s all ahead, because this is FACE THE NATION.

Good morning.

We are beginning this morning in Cleveland with the fallout overnight from the case of Cleveland officer Michael Brelo, who was acquitted yesterday of voluntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths of Melissa Williams and Timothy Russell. That was two-and-a-half years ago.

CBS News correspondent Jericka Duncan is in Cleveland.

Good morning, Jericka.

JERICKA DUNCAN, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bob.

The judge ruled yesterday that the use of force by officer Brelo was justified under the circumstances. Now, right after that verdict was read, Brelo was obviously overcome with emotion. He was clearly relieved. He hugged his attorney and cried.

Now, outside the courthouse in downtown Cleveland, there was outrage from the victims` family and some here in the community. For the most part, though, Saturday`s protests remained peaceful. However, police say 71 people were arrested, mainly at night.

Now, this case goes back to November of 2012, as you mentioned. Russell led police on a 22-mile chase. Police mistook the car`s backfire for gunshots and shot at the car 137 times. Yesterday, Judge John P. O`Donnell described the bullet wounds and explained why he could not conclude Brelo`s shots alone caused the death of Williams and Russell.

Brelo, according to prosecutors, kept shooting at the car when other officers stopped and prosecutors argued that he jumped on the hood of the car and fired those final 15 shots. Now, officials here and community leaders again have been able to keep the streets here peaceful. This is again, though, a city that is waiting to see whether criminal charges will be pursued in the shooting deaths of 12- year-old Tamir Rice -- Bob.

SCHIEFFER: Jericka Duncan in Cleveland, thank you so much.

We turn now to the campaign against ISIS. The Islamic terrorists have been on the move and have seized the Iraqi city of Ramadi just outside Baghdad and they captured the historic city of Palmyra and other key areas in Syria.

CBS News foreign correspondent Clarissa Ward is just back from Beirut. She joins us now from London -- Clarissa. .

CLARISSA WARD, CBS NEWS FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Bob.

Well, ISIS has taken control of another border crossing between Iraq and Syria. Fighters captured the al-Waleed crossing this morning, given them control of the two main roads between Syria and Anbar province in Iraq, where the group has been pushing forward after taking the city of Ramadi last weekend.

Iraqi forces today launched a counteroffensive in Anbar to try to regain some of their losses. Among those forces are thousands of members of Shiite militias. Of course, the concern there is that the presence of those Shiite militias in Sunni-dominated Anbar will only raise the specter of an all-out sectarian bloodbath.

But certainly the Iraqi government doesn`t appear to have a lot of options. Videos from Ramadi last Sunday showed Iraqi security forces fleeing the battlefield, abandoning their bases, leaving behind their American supplies, weapons and equipment, this in spite of intensified U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in the run-up to the fall of Ramadi.

And just days later, ISIS took the Syrian city of Palmyra. This is a strategic victory because it`s surrounded by gas fields, but it also, Bob, puts the future of some of Syria`s most precious cultural heritage in jeopardy. That ancient city`s 2,000-year-old ruins are now under the control of ISIS fighters who have previously destroyed cultural relics that they deem to be un-Islamic.

So, two significant victories in two countries in the course of a week really calling into question, Bob, the effectiveness of the U.S.` strategy for dealing with ISIS.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Clarissa Ward in London, thanks so much, Clarissa.

And for more on this, we`re now joined by the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, John McCain.

Well, you heard what Clarissa just said. You have called this a strategy a disaster, but what can, what should we be doing about this?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think there`s a lot of things we can do.

First, have the president recognize that he was incorrect when he said we`re not losing. We had before the Senate Armed Services Committee this week two architects of the surge that won. And we did have it won, until the decision was made to withdraw all troops.

And I won`t get into that fight with you, but Senator Graham and I predicted at the time that this would happen. I`m sorry we were wrong. We need to have robust strategy. We need more troops on the ground. We need forward air controllers. But just referring to airstrikes, do you know that 75 percent of those combat missions return to base without having fired a weapon? It`s because we don`t have somebody on the ground who can identify a static -- a moving target. And we learned -- you`re going to be talking about the Vietnam War later on in this.

We found in Vietnam that if you don`t have the right strategy, airpower is minimal in its effect. But we need to have forward air controllers. We need to have special forces. We need to have more of those kind of raids that were so successful into Syria.

We need to have a strategy. There is no strategy. And anybody that says that there is, I would like to hear what it is, because it certainly isn`t apparent now, and right now we are seeing these horrible -- reports are now in Palmyra they`re executing people and leaving their bodies in the streets.

Meanwhile, the president of the United States is saying that the biggest enemy we have is climate change.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, Senator, and the president called these latest setbacks, he called them technical setbacks or something to that effect.

But there`s no appetite in this country, I think it`s fair to say, for sending a lot more American troops into Iraq. But is that in the end going to be necessary? And I guess the reason I would ask you that, is this posing a threat to our national security?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, there is a larger number of Americans that believe we ought to have more American troops on the ground, not the massive 82nd Airborne, but certainly in the realm of several -- a number of thousands, so we can do the missions that I just described to you.

The beheadings had a profound effect on American public opinion, as it should have. And your second question was?

SCHIEFFER: Well, what can we do?

MCCAIN: Yes.

SCHIEFFER: Yes.

MCCAIN: We can, as I say, forward air controllers, special forces, training, equipping.

Right now, it`s Shia militia, the same ones that we fought against during the surge, that are now doing the fighting. The overall winner in this whole conflict right now is not ISIS. It`s Iran. It`s Iran who is in -- controlling four countries now and on the move.

SCHIEFFER: Well, so where does that put us in relation to this arms deal we`re trying to work out to limit nuclear power with Iran? In the end, is that a good thing or a bad thing, Senator? MCCAIN: I think it`s a good thing if it`s a good deal. But in the words of Henry Kissinger and George Shultz in an editorial in "The Wall Street Journal," it went from trying to prevent Iran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon to delaying it.

And, of course, we continue to hear the ayatollah and others say, there will be no inspection of military facilities, that their -- sanctions will be listed immediately. We`re hearing two different stories. And I`m glad at least the Congress of the United States is going to have a role to debate this and to make a judgment on it.

SCHIEFFER: You know, we`re hearing in this campaign, which is already well under way, the Democrats are saying this is all George Bush`s fault for going to Iraq in the first place. The -- we`re hearing the Republicans say, no, wait a minute, this is all Barack Obama`s fault for pulling out our troops too soon from Iraq.

Whose fault is it, and does that really matter any more whose fault it was?

MCCAIN: Well, obviously, we don`t want to ignore the lessons of history, but given information that was there at the time given to the American people and Congress, that vote is certainly understandable.

And there`s a lot of questions about it. Then there should be the question, should we have pulled everybody out? And anybody who says we couldn`t have stayed is not telling the truth, because Lindsey Graham, Joe Lieberman and I were on the ground there and know full well we could have could have left -- we could have had a residual force or a sustaining force.

And do they realize that we had it won? The surge had succeeded. I called for the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld, my own president`s secretary of defense, because I saw we were losing. Then, George W. Bush at least had the guts to reverse and sponsor the surge, which we eventually then succeeded.

I wish, I pray that Barack Obama would do the same thing.

SCHIEFFER: You know, former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates was on our broadcast last week.

MCCAIN: I saw it.

SCHIEFFER: And he said that, in his words, most of the Republican candidates for president, he said, "I`m not very impressed so far." And he said, you know, they really don`t have very much experience on foreign policy.

What do you think about the current Republican field?

MCCAIN: Obviously, Senator Lindsey Graham understands. He`s on -- been boots on the ground. He`s an Air Force colonel, has served all this time in Baghdad and in Kabul.

But I would say this. Ronald Reagan didn`t have a lot of foreign policy experience, but he surrounded himself with the smartest guys and people in America. And I think that the next president, whoever he is, can do that as well.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think Hillary Clinton, if she should win the nomination and get -- and be elected, do you think she would be a good president if? Is she qualified?

MCCAIN: I`m not here to judge her qualifications. I will be supporting whoever the Republican nominee is.

But I do believe it`s a legitimate question to say, what was the accomplishments of her four years as secretary of state? And there are still many unanswered about -- questions about Benghazi as well. And I think that some $150,000 a speech is in the Hawaiian missionary tradition doing well by doing good.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator McCain, it`s always a pleasure to have you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: We`re going to turn now to the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, California Congressman Adam Schiff.

Well, Congressman, you heard John McCain. Give me your analysis for what is going on right now in Iraq and Syria.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: The loss of Ramadi, I think, was a very serious setback. And it`s one that is deeply felt, I think, by Americans.

We lost a lot of our troops in Ramadi. And this Memorial Day weekend, we think abut those losses. They weigh heavily on us. But in terms of the Iraq War itself, I think there is an important lesson here. And that is, we won Ramadi, but it didn`t stay won, because the political problems that preceded the first Iraq War haven`t been solved.

And that is, the Sunnis have not been bought into the government adequately. Sunni forces haven`t been adequately trained and integrated into the military. And until those changes are made, until Iraq makes the political decision to fully incorporate the Sunnis, we can add more forces, we can win these battles, but they`re not going to stay won. I think that is the real lesson of the last Iraq War and what is going on now.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you know, years after we came through the Vietnam experience, I remember thinking, you know, we kept asking during that period, are we winning?

And when you have to ask the question, generally, you`re not winning, because victory, it is always obvious. Do you think we`re winning now? SCHIFF: I wouldn`t say that we`re winning. I don`t think we`re losing either, but I think we`re seeing an ebb and flow, and largely a stalemated situation in the war against ISIS.

I get concerned when I hear administration use the metric of how many sorties, how many bombing runs we`re doing. I think the more important metrics are, how are we doing at stopping foreign fighters entering the country, how are we doing at drawing up ISIS` resources, how are we doing in working with our Gulf allies on fighting the ideological fight within Islam that we`re not positioned to fight ourselves, and how are we doing in terms of our military support?

And on that latter point, that`s where I think Ramadi really comes into play. I think we still have a lot of work to keep the pressure on the Iraqi government to fully incorporate the Sunnis, to peel the Sunni tribes away from ISIS, because, until that happens, we`re not going to be successful in the military strategy.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what can we do, in a realistic standpoint? Is it possible to turn around what seems to be happening right now?

SCHIFF: It is possible.

And I think we have to intensify efforts first to bring those Sunnis into the government and into the military. I think bringing in Shia militias is the wrong answer. That`s going to just aggravate those sectarian tension. I think sending in our own troops isn`t the answer either. We can`t fight this fight for the Iraqis.

But we have got to use all the pressure we can to get them to make the political fixes necessary. At the same time, we have made little progress in dealing with the foreign fighter problem. We have to intensify, I think, pressure on Turkey to close down that border to foreign fighters coming in and to oil resources trafficking back and forth across that border.

And, more broadly, we need more help from our Gulf allies on the ideological struggle against this perversion of Islam.

SCHIEFFER: I will ask you just what I asked Senator McCain, because I think, for Americans, it`s the most important question. And that is, is what is happening there really a threat to our security as the nation?

SCHIFF: It is a threat to our security. And if ISIS is able to hold that ground unmolested, there`s no question that they have the aspiration to attack us here in the United States.

In fact, they`re already inspiring homegrown radicalism here, as we have seen here in attacks like we saw in Garland, Texas. So, they are a threat. But, again, I think we have to make sure that we don`t react the wrong way to that threat. And we could aggravate it by sending a lot of Americans troops in. And there`s a particular risk of escalation if we do.

SCHIEFFER: One other subject. Congress failed to get a deal to extend the National Security Agency surveillance program, which allows for the bulk collection of telephone numbers in this country. Do you see any kind of a compromise on the horizon on this, or is this program just going to shut down on July 1 -- or June 1, I guess it is? And if it does, what will be the impact of that?

SCHIFF: Well, ironically, we had a great compromise. We passed in the House with over 330 votes, very bipartisan. And there`s a majority of support in the Senate itself for that very same compromise.

So, what happened this week in the Senate, I think, was a catastrophe in terms of rejecting a very well-thought-out, broadly supported compromise that the intelligence community itself embraces. It has the merit of reforming those authorities to end bulk collection, but maintaining the surveillance tools that are necessary to protect the country.

What happens right now, looks like this program is going to expire. Now, I think Senate, when it comes back in, I hope, will see wisdom and pass what we passed in the House. That`s the only way to prevent a real interruption in this program.

And, Bob, bear in mind that`s not just the authority for bulk collection that`s going to expire. It`s some other very important tools as well that deal with roving wiretaps, that deal with lone wolf threats, as well as the more rudimentary use of Section 215 to get records like hotel records or financial records.

SCHIEFFER: All right, we have to stop there. Congressman, thank you so much for adding to our broadcast this morning.

SCHIFF: Thanks, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: And we`re going to be back in a minute with some reporters who have had lot of experience dealing with all of this in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: Back now on analysis with David Rohde. He writes for Reuters. And Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who covered Iraq and the Middle East for "The Washington Post," he`s now starting his own media company.

David, you bring a lot of experience to this subject we`re talking about. You were actually captured at one point by the Taliban. And thank goodness you`re back with us and safe and all that.

But I just want to ask both of you, what`s happened here? A week ago, we were talking about killing an important ISIS leader and then here they are on the march again. It just doesn`t seem to be very much good news here.

DAVID ROHDE, REUTERS: It shows that this is a very organized, very determined opponent. These are huge propaganda victories for them in jihadists circles. I saw this when I was in captivity. They`re going to use this to recruit more and more people to this caliphate. And they have a caliphate. We are not shrinking the size of it. They clearly control the Sunni sort of heartland in Iraq and Syria.

And you`re asking the right question, this is a national security threat to the United States, because it`s not going away. And we don`t really seem to have any answers to it.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think it`s a threat to our security?

ROHDE: I do. I`m biased because of this time in captivity. I was in another safe haven they had in the tribal areas of Pakistan. And they do recruit young men. They brainwash them. They tell them to go be suicide bombers.

And I think they will -- it`s more of a threat to Europe initially, but there will be ISIS-inspired attacks I think eventually in the United States.

SCHIEFFER: What do you think, Rajiv? And here`s David is talking about they have established a caliphate, which is what they were talking about. Is something that is going to stay in place?

RAJIV CHANDRASEKARAN, AUTHOR: Well, they certainly have organized, semi-organized system of government, military command-and- control, with their expansion now into the areas around Palmyra in Syria, access to more natural resources there that they can smuggle out, which they have used very deftly to fund their operations.

They have obviously seized an awful lot of materiel from Iraqi forces in Mosul and now presumably in the Ramadi area. Look, the threat facing United States and our European allies is a significant one, and one that will continue for some time to come. According to U.S. intelligence community estimates, there are more than 20,000 foreign fighters that are part of ISIS drawn from about 100 different countries.

Many of these guys are going to go home and women, too, eventually, and some of them could well be behind the attacks of the future in those countries.

SCHIEFFER: The president is saying in interviews he thinks -- he still thinks we`re winning against ISIS. What do you all hear from people at a level below the president, national security officials? Are they feeling the same way, David?

ROHDE: They`re not. I think they`re discouraged this idea of -- and they really see the Obama philosophy was to let -- to sit back and force the Iraqis to carry out the fight themselves.

Senior officials, the defense secretary has just said that Iraqis didn`t have the heart to fight. They actually fled Ramadi. So, I think they`re very discouraged in the White House. The strategy is not working. To be fair to the White House, there`s no easy answer. The American public doesn`t want 100,000 troops there again. Where -- how do you find a local partner and how do you empower that local partner? And to be fair to both sides, there is no easy answer.

SCHIEFFER: What do you see coming? What do the Iraqis need, Rajiv?

CHANDRASEKARAN: Well, the Iraqis need a will to fight.

They also need significant outside pressure to really come together in a more pluralistic way to address the political challenges they have in Baghdad and to get their military to get back into the fight. Some of that, I think, unfortunately, will have to involve some greater U.S. assistance on the ground.

I think Senator McCain is right. You can`t have effective airstrikes unless you have on-the-ground spotters, and those have to be from the U.S. military or from close allied nations that can direct those airstrikes to prevent civilian casualties. But you have to get the Iraqi government in Baghdad to make some meaningful steps to accommodate that Sunni minority. Right now, they have been completely disenfranchised and they are acquiescing to ISIS, because they see that, sadly, as a better option than the central government in Baghdad.

And what it`s doing is, it`s opened the door to Iran to come in, and with the Iranian-backed militias now going through and trying to retake those parts of the country from ISIS, it`s simply going to harden positions. And, unfortunately, we`re heading toward a de facto split of the country.

SCHIEFFER: All right, I`m sorry. We`re going to have to leave it at that.

But thank you both.

We will be right back. I will have some personal thoughts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: This Memorial Day comes in a year when we mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, when the communists came to power.

They still rule there, but we call Vietnam an ally now in the part of the world where we need friends. Vietnam is one of the countries with which the administration hopes to sign a massive trade agreement that will cover 40 percent of the world`s gross domestic product.

Vietnam has become a place where Americans are welcome now, a place where English is spoken as a second language. Much of the credit for that goes to Senator John McCain, who for five years was a prisoner of war there. Yet it was McCain who went back to Vietnam to reconcile with those who had brutally tortured him. In so doing, he opened the way to restore diplomatic relations and showed us that sometimes forgiveness can be as powerful a force for change as any weapon we might possess.

America learned some hard lessons in Vietnam. That may have been one of them.

We will talk about that with some of the reporters who covered that war when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCHIEFFER: Some of our stations are leaving us now. But for most of you, we will be right back with lot more FACE THE NATION, including a look back at Vietnam 40 years ago. We will talk to reporters who were there.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And welcome back to FACE THE NATION.

This Memorial Day comes as we mark the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon which ended the Vietnam War, one of the most divisive conflicts in American history. More than 58,000 Americans died in that war, some 2,000 are still missing.

Many reporters also died there and our friends at the Newseum here in Washington have just opened an exhibit on the role the press played in reporting the war. It`s been dedicated to our late colleague, Bob Simon, who filed many reports from Vietnam.

Well, to talk about it and the parallels to today`s military conflicts, we brought together some veteran Vietnam hands, Peter Arnett who won a Pulitzer for his reporting there for the Associated Press. His new book is Saigon Has Fallen.

Photographer David Hume Kennerly also won a Pulitzer for photography while working there for United Press International.

Laura Palmer was 22 when she went to Vietnam. She there was for the fall of Saigon.

And our own Bill Plante filed many reports for CBS news from there as well.

And then there was this young reporter who went there for the Fort Worth Star Telegram in 1965. He seems not to have aged at all.

Welcome to all of you.

You know, I`m struck by -- when we think about the length of this war. I went there in 1965, Peter you were there before I met you in Saigon. And then David, by the time you got there it was a totally different war. Peter, tell me about how the war changed as the years went by.

PETER ARNETT, AUTHOR: Well the earlier period when I arrived there in `62 it was the Kennedy administration war. It was an advisers` war and it was conducted basically secretly. We made increasing observations of American military direct involvement with helicopter attacks and aerial bombardments and we sort of -- felt it was our job to start reporting on the direct American involvement, because of the casualties being taken in the battlefield that was said by the administration to be accidental casualties.

So, but it was a very different conflict in 1965, of course, when American troops began coming in large numbers and when you actually arrived with them.

SCHIEFFER: But as the war went on in those very early days most Americans really didn`t know very much about what was happening there, by the time you got there, David, the country was very divided over the war. And there were demonstrations back here at home.

DAVID HUME KENNERLY, POLITICO: Well, that`s right. Our responsibility as photographers was to show what was happening to the people, whether it be the soldiers or locals. We have died doing that.

SCHIEFFER: I have heard you say, David, that a picture -- and it was actually a picture taken by Mal Browne may have been what caused President Kennedy to say, we need to try to do something to stop this.

KENNERLY: Well, yes. Because it was a burning Buddhist monk, and he was protesting the fact that they were being persecuted by the Catholic government really.

If you look at the trajectory of photographs through the Pulitzer prizes Eddie Adams` photo of General Loan shooting the guy in the head to Nik Ut`s photo of the little girl running down the road, the whole arc of the war is really captured in photographs. And they go right to your soul.

SCHIEFFER: Bill, you were there pretty early, too. In fact, you were in and out Vietnam over a pretty long period of time.

BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: When I first went there, Bob, in 1964, there were American advisers. We knew that they were helping out and sometimes actually fighting, but we basically bought the notion that they were there to help South Vietnamese.

And by the time I came back a second time in 1967, it was pretty apparent that the Americans were doing all the fighting and the South Vietnamese not doing much.

And the other thing was that what we were seeing in the field didn`t match what the government of the United States was saying both in Saigon and in Washington. Lyndon Johnson was fighting a limited war and they had to sell it to the American public as such, but you could just go on any battlefield or out in the country and see that the facts didn`t match the story.

So, we got what they called the credibility gap. Our -- and Morley Safer used to wear a badge that said "I was ambushed at Credibility Gap."

SCHIEFFER: And Laura, you were there at the fall of Saigon.

LAURA PALMER, AUTHOR: I was there from `72 to `74 and then I returned in April of `75. And I left on the choppers on the last day April 29th.

SCHIEFFER: What did you feel while that was happening? We`ve all seen again these dramatic photos of that evacuation. It was remarkable that they were able to do what they did, but it was the end of the war.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The final American withdrawal from Vietnam.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PALMER: It was the end of the war. And I am part of a generation who was defined by Vietnam. I started college in 1968, I protested the war for the four years I was there. I went to Saigon. It`s where the rest of my life began. And then there I was on the last day. I was one of the youngest reporters there.

And as the chopper lifted up from Saigon, we were holding hands, and we were silent. And there was nothing to say.

Sometimes in those moments silence is the truest speech and we just watched Vietnam recede into the distance. It was over.

SCHIEFFER: And Peter, you stayed. You did not leave. Tell us what that was like.

ARNETT: I stayed because at the beginning, several of my friends had been killed covering the war. And I had grown to believe, along with my colleague, that our audiences, the American public, the world, needed the kind of firsthand description of what was going on as we`d been trying to give throughout the whole war.

So, I must say that I was intellectually ready for it. But when I saw the trucks, Molotova -- the Russian Molotova trucks rolling down Tudo Street (ph) loaded with these young Communist soldiers with their guns and looking up at the tall buildings, because not many had seen tall buildings in the jungle, it was sort of -- I was overcome with an emotion.

And I went back to our office and it was not easy to write that dispatch that Saigon has fallen. PALMER: I think one of the remarkable things about the evacuation, it struck me at the time, and I still think of it now, is that it was so peaceful. They never turned on us, the South Vietnamese, as we were clearly fleeing and abandoning them.

It was a superb military operation. The marines who came in on the choppers for hours to rescue us were stellar. But we knew as we were waiting to get to the chopper that the North Vietnamese had surrounded the airport. Any of those choppers could have been shot down with a heat-seeking missile, but the decision had been made not to have a blood bath. And they were winning. They just wanted us to go.

SCHIEFFER: Do you think, Bill, some said at the time, and I`m not sure, there may still be a feeling by some, that the press somehow lost Vietnam. What was your take on that?

PLANTE: I don`t think so. The television is usually what is blamed for bringing the war into America`s living rooms. And people could see the horror of it.

But the army`s own official history of Vietnam says it wasn`t the press but the casualties that turned the American public against the war. It also says that the press reports were often more accurate than the public statements of U.S. officials. And that President Johnson -- this is in the army`s own history -- and his advisers put too much faith in public relations. They were trying to fight a war which had so many contradictions that were so evident because there was no censorship, because we could go just about anywhere and she what was happening, that it was simply not winnable in that sense.

SCHIEFFER: David, you were there. You were also involved in lighter American conflicts and photographed them. How different was the way the press was treated and where we were allowed to go as to what the rules are these days.

KENNERLY: Well, if you wanted to go to a battle -- and part of the problem is trying to figure out where the action was. But once you found out they were happy to take you there. You`d hop on a helicopter, go into the battle. The thing that I really -- was remarkable to me was how much the GI`s loved seeing you show up, that`s why we were there. We were there to tell their story of what was going on and not as a political thing.

And I agree with Bill, I mean, the press didn`t lose the war, but when you started ringing up all the body bags coming back, and several from the high school I graduated from, classmates of mine, class of `65 in high school, how can you win a war in public opinion?

SCHIEFFER: If you were willing to go where the action was, to where these troops were, they were glad to see you. In some cases they were just lonesome. And I remember my assignment was to -- for the "Star-Telegram" -- was to track down kids from Fort Worth and to go and to talk to them and do a story about them and send it back home.

And I`ll always remember a young Marine, I walked up to him and he was in full battle dress and all of that, and I said, "Your mom asked me to come by say hello."

The kid, in full battle gear, just broke into sobs.

And if you were willing to go where they were, they were glad to see you. Back in Saigon, of course, they weren`t always so happy to see you.

What was the hardest thing for you, Bill?

PLANTE: The hardest thing was to see the desperation at the end in the South Vietnamese, who had worked for the U.S., who had worked for their own government. I remember in April of 1975, standing outside the U.S. embassy, there were lines that went around the block of Vietnamese, trying desperately to get to the consulate and get a visa to the U.S. to get out of there. Most of them, of course, did not.

They would come up to anyone, a reporter, anyone, and thrust papers and say, I work for Mac V (ph) and I did this, I need visa.

And all I could say was, I`m sorry, I can`t help you.

The sense of abandonment by the U.S. for these people, whose lives we basically controlled for so many years, was one of the hardest things I`ve ever witnessed.

SCHIEFFER: We`ll take a short break then we`ll be right back with more from our panel.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: We`re back now with our panel.

David Kennerly, after your work as a war reporter, you wound up being the White House photographer for Gerald Ford and he actually sent to you Vietnam at one time.

What was that about?

KENNERLY: Well, right toward the end, President Ford sent General Wein (ph) to see if there was anything that could be done to stabilize the situation, I went with him. I took photos, and I brought all these pictures back to the president and showed them to him.

The pictures made a profound impact on him. It went right, really, just struck him that he had to keep the door open for Vietnamese. And one of the things that I did was I put these photographs of refugees and people dying up in the West Wing of the White House, where normally it was a cheery party, pictures in color and all that.

At some point during the night, first night they were up, somebody took them down because they were offended.

And the president got so angry, he ordered that they be put back up on the wall. He said, "You`ve got to know what is going on over there." And that`s the power of the photograph. And it really struck him, it made a big difference.

SCHIEFFER: Peter, you were involved in the first Iraq war, how, as all of this has evolved, has the relationship between the military and the press been different?

ARNETT: My last reporting period was really most of the 2000s in Iraq. And I was embedded a few times. I signed an eight-page document that restricted basically everything except going to the toilet and maybe that was in the fine print.

But it meant that no photographs of any wounded or harmed American, not getting close to any sort of action; any interview I would have with anyone in the military would have to be approved and supervised. In each of these embedding periods I had, I had a sense that I wasn`t sure what was going on.

We have really what I feel is increasingly draconian restraints on the press. And I think that is not good for the public.

SCHIEFFER: Are you all struck by the parallels between Vietnam and what`s going on now in Iraq?

And I say this, you know, we went to Vietnam, not to conquer territory but to try to protect the South Vietnamese from a Communist take over. We went to Iraq not to conquer but to kind of protect and then we wind up fighting the war instead of helping those who were there fight the war.

And then once we began to draw down, we leave, we turn over the equipment and the whole thing collapses.

PLANTE: Well, it seems to me, Bob, that in both cases, we`ve misjudged the enemy. We misjudged the North Vietnamese. We were worried at the time about the dominoes falling in Southeast Asia, all those countries becoming Communist. That might indeed have happened.

But South Vietnam and North Vietnam were one country that had been fighting the Chinese for a thousand years. Yet we thought the Chinese were going to take them over. We didn`t understand. And I`m not sure we understand exactly what`s going on today in the Middle East.

KENNERLY: I think is the most dangerous possible place to cover. I think it`s more dangerous than Vietnam. At least in Vietnam you had a safe place to go back to for all intents and purposes in Saigon.

But being an American or a European correspondent in that area, you might as well put a big sign on that says "kidnap me" or "kill me." And it`s really tough. There`s no independent reporting coming out of there at all. They`re picking up all sorts of ISIS propaganda and whatnot, but that`s not how you want to get your facts.

PALMER: People say, weren`t you afraid in Vietnam. It was a war. And actually we were very safe in Vietnam. We knew which highways were dangerous. We knew where not to go. There were no suicide bombers. We are in such a much more dangerous world in terms of reporting.

Those who have reported from Syria have taken such enormous risks to tell a story. And I think that is a tremendous shift.

ARNETT: Oh, indeed it`s dangerous era. But we must realize that how do you measure the risk you take as a reporter for your news organization as against public interest and what you`re covering.

I had no doubt in Vietnam that when me and my colleagues, photographers reported and went out in the field, there was a real audience wanting to know what we were reporting.

KENNERLY: Nobody was interested in what you were writing about in 1962 or `63. I mean, that was a war that most Americans weren`t focused on at all.

So where do you --

(CROSSTALK)

KENNERLY: -- make that determination really.

ARNETT: It was not interested because the Kennedy administration said, don`t worry, everything is under control.

It became interesting when we discovered that the claims of the government were erroneous and fraudulent in fact. And that`s where public and political interests grew in Vietnam, that somehow the government was obscuring.

SCHIEFFER: The American people became interested when the body bags started coming back. That`s when we --

PALMER: And the draft.

SCHIEFFER: -- and there was also a draft.

Let me ask you this, Bill, do you think -- I think Vietnam changed America. I think before then, we were the victors in World War II. We thought there was no foe that we could not conquer. We were in the midst of the Cold War.

And then after Vietnam, we began to question a lot of things, not the least of which -- I mean, there was this divide between military and the civilian population. You didn`t have that before, even with the draft. Everybody felt like they had a stake in this.

It seems to me since then, and I think it`s a very sad thing, you have the military community here and you have the civilian community here. And I know people now who, some of whom that probably don`t know a single person in the U.S. military. And I think that is very bad thing.

PLANTE: Vietnam ended the Pax Americana which followed the Second World War; that was one huge upheaval. The other was, as you say, the separation of the military and the civilian population. The pressures of Vietnam War ended at the draft. There are many people today who believe that some kind of obligatory government service would be very good for young people, but we`re not likely to see it. And it did set two separate classes of people apart, those who served and those who don`t.

ARNETT: Just one point to remember, in the past connecting those who served with the people at home with the media. It was the Ernie Piles and the reporters back into the late 19th Century who made the connection. In Vietnam, we`re talking earlier about going out and writing hometown stories. One of the great pleasures was to talk and -- you go back to the unit and say I got the clipping from my mom and that picture looks great.

We were the connecting point. But the restrictions that the military and government imposes on journalists today, you don`t have reporters telling those stories any more. This is a problem. And I hope the government ultimately realized that we have a role to play when our own people are committed to these foreign conflicts.

SCHIEFFER: Laura, we really don`t end wars, though, do we?

PALMER: No. One of the things that Vietnam taught me and the reporting I did subsequently after the war was that wars don`t end. They come home, and it`s the women and the children who fight them.

There is a war to find beauty and meaning in life again. There is sometimes a war to learn how to pick up a fork, how to tie a shoe, how to reconnect with a world that sent you to do something you never really thought you were going to do. And the aftermath of war is something that is profound.

And I think -- while, we didn`t recognize the soldiers enough after Vietnam, I think one of the outrages was we blamed the war on the people who fought and we in time learned to separate the warriors from the war.

Now sometimes you come home from war and you get a Super Bowl ticket or you get parades, but you still should not have to wait ten months to get mental health support at a V.A. And I think there is a tremendous amount of work that still needs to be done to help people make it home from the war.

SCHIEFFER: Well, some thoughts for all of us on this Memorial Day weekend. Thanks to all of you.

We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: We`ll be talking next week with former Florida governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, that`s next Sunday right here on FACE THE NATION.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SCHIEFFER: Well, our time`s up for today. I hope you can join me next week for my last broadcast as host of FACE THE NATION. Hope to see you then.