Exclusive: After resigning over the Watergate political-spying scandal, President Nixon sought to rewrite the history of his Vietnam War strategies to deny swapping lives for political advantage, but newly released documents say otherwise, writes James DiEugenio.
By James DiEugenio
Richard Nixon spent years rebuilding his tattered reputation after he resigned from office in disgrace on Aug. 9, 1974. The rehabilitation project was codenamed “The Wizard.” The idea was to position himself as an elder statesman of foreign policy, a Wise Man. And to a remarkable degree through the sale of his memoirs, his appearance with David Frost in a series of highly rated interviews, and the publication of at least eight books after that Nixon largely succeeded in his goal.
There was another aspect of that plan: to do all he could to keep his presidential papers and tapes classified, which, through a series of legal maneuvers, he managed to achieve in large part. Therefore, much of what he and Henry Kissinger wrote about in their memoirs could stand, largely unchallenged.
It was not until years after his death that the bulk of the Nixon papers and tapes were opened up to the light of day. And Kissinger’s private papers will not be declassified until five years after his death. With that kind of arrangement, it was fairly easy for Nixon to sell himself as the Sage of San Clemente, but two new books based on the long-delayed declassified record one by Ken Hughes and the other by William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball undermine much of Nixon’s rehabilitation.
For instance, in 1985 at the peak of President Ronald Reagan’s political power Nixon wrote No More Vietnams, making several dubious claims about the long conflict which included wars of independence by Vietnam against both France and the United States.
In the book, Nixon tried to insinuate that Vietnam was not really one country for a very long time and that the split between north and south was a natural demarcation. He also declared that the Vietnam War had been won under his administration, and he insisted that he never really considered bombing the irrigation dikes, using tactical nuclear weapons, or employing the strategy of a “decent interval” to mask an American defeat for political purposes.
In No More Vietnams, Nixon said that after going through a series of option papers furnished to him by National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, he decided on a five-point program for peace in Vietnam. (Nixon, pgs. 104-07) This program consisted of Vietnamization, i. e., turning over the fighting of the war to the South Vietnamese army (the ARVN); pacification, which was a clear-and-hold strategy for maintaining territory in the south; diplomatic isolation of North Vietnam from its allies, China and the Soviet Union; peace negotiations with very few preconditions; and gradual withdrawal of American combat troops. Nixon asserted that this program was successful.
But the currently declassified record does not support Nixon’s version of history, either in the particulars of what was attempted or in Nixon’s assessment of its success.
When Richard Nixon came into office he was keenly aware of what had happened to his predecessor Lyndon Johnson, who had escalated the war to heights that President Kennedy had never imagined, let alone envisaged. The war of attrition strategy that LBJ and General William Westmoreland had decided upon did not work. And the high American casualties it caused eroded support for the war domestically. Nixon told his Chief of Staff Bob Haldeman that he would not end up like LBJ, a prisoner in his own White House.
Therefore, Nixon wanted recommendations that would shock the enemy, even beyond the massive bombing campaigns and other bloody tactics employed by Johnson. As authors Burr and Kimball note in their new book Nixon’s Nuclear Specter, Nixon was very much influenced by two modes of thought.
First, as Vice President from 1953-61, he was under the tutelage of Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and President Dwight Eisenhower, who advocated a policy of nuclear brinksmanship, that is the willingness to threaten nuclear war if need be. Dulles felt that since the United States had a large lead in atomic weapons that the Russians would back down in the face of certain annihilation.
Nixon was also impressed by the alleged threat of President Eisenhower to use atomic weapons if North Korea and China did not bargain in good faith to end the Korean War. Nixon actually talked about this in a private meeting with southern politicians at the 1968 GOP convention. (Burr and Kimball, Chapter 2)
Dulles also threatened to use atomic weapons in Vietnam. Burr and Kimball note the proposal by Dulles to break the Viet Minh’s siege of French troops at Dien Bien Phu by a massive air mission featuring the use of three atomic bombs. Though Nixon claimed in No More Vietnams that the atomic option was not seriously considered (Nixon, p. 30), the truth appears to have been more ambiguous, that Nixon thought the siege could be lifted without atomic weapons but he was not against using them. Eisenhower ultimately vetoed their use when he could not get Great Britain to go along.
Playing the Madman
Later, when in the Oval Office, Nixon tempered this nuclear brinksmanship for the simple reason that the Russians had significantly closed the gap in atomic stockpiles. So, as Burr and Kimball describe it, Nixon and Kissinger wanted to modify the Eisenhower-Dulles brinksmanship with the “uncertainty effect” or as Nixon sometimes called it, the Madman Theory. In other words, instead of overtly threatening to use atomic bombs, Nixon would have an intermediary pass on word to the North Vietnamese leadership that Nixon was so unhinged that he might resort to nuclear weapons if he didn’t get his way. Or, as Nixon explained to Haldeman, if you act crazy, the incredible becomes credible:
“They’ll believe any threat of force that Nixon makes because it’s Nixon. I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that ‘for God’s sake you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry, and he has his hand on the nuclear button.’”
Nixon believed this trick would work, saying “Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”
Kissinger once told special consultant Leonard Garment to convey to the Soviets that Nixon was somewhat nutty and unpredictable. Kissinger bought into the concept so much so that he was part of the act: the idea was for Nixon to play the “bad cop” and Kissinger the “good cop.”
Another reason that Nixon and Kissinger advocated the Madman Theory was that they understood that Vietnamization and pacification would take years. And they did not think they could sustain public opinion on the war for that long. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird and Secretary of State William Rogers both thought they could, their opinions were peripheral because Nixon and Kissinger had concentrated the foreign policy apparatus in the White House.
Playing for Time
Privately, Nixon did not think America could win the war, so he wanted to do something unexpected, shocking, “over the top.” As Burr and Kimball note, in 1969, Nixon told his speechwriters Ray Price, Pat Buchanan and Richard Whalen: “I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no way to win the war. But we can’t say that, of course. In fact we have to seem to say the opposite, just to keep some degree of bargaining leverage.”
In a phone call with Kissinger, Nixon said, “In Saigon, the tendency is to fight the war for victory. But you and I know it won’t happen it is impossible. Even Gen. Abrams agreed.”
These ideas were expressed very early in 1969 in a document called NSSM-1, a study memorandum as opposed to an action memorandum with Kissinger asking for opinions on war strategy from those directly involved. The general consensus was that the other side had “options over which we have little or no control” which would help them “continue the war almost indefinitely.” (ibid, Chapter 3)
Author Ken Hughes in Fatal Politics agrees. Nixon wanted to know if South Vietnam could survive without American troops there. All of the military figures he asked replied that President Nguyen van Thieu’s government could not take on both the Viet Cong and the regular North Vietnamese army. And, the United States could not help South Vietnam enough for it to survive on its own. (Hughes, pgs. 14-15)
As Hughes notes, Nixon understood that this bitter truth needed maximum spin to make it acceptable for the public. So he said, “Shall we leave Vietnam in a way that by our own actions consciously turns the country over to the Communists? Or shall we leave in a way that gives the South Vietnamese a reasonable chance to survive as a free people? My plan will end American involvement in a way that will provide that chance.” (ibid, p. 15)
If the U.S. media allowed the argument to be framed like that, which it did, then the hopeless cause did have a political upside. As Kissinger told Nixon, “The only consolation we have is that the people who put us into this position are going to be destroyed by the right. They are going to be destroyed. The liberals and radicals are going to be killed. This is, above all, a rightwing country.” (ibid, p. 19)
Could anything be less honest, less democratic or more self-serving? Knowing that their critics were correct, and that the war could not be won, Nixon and Kissinger wanted to portray the people who were right about the war as betraying both America and South Vietnam.
Just how calculated was Nixon about America’s withdrawal from Vietnam? Republican Sen. Hugh Scott warned him about getting out by the end of 1972, or “another man may be standing on the platform” on Inauguration Day 1973. (ibid, p. 23) Nixon told his staff that Scott should not be saying things like this in public.
But, in private, the GOP actually polled on the issue. It was from these polls that Nixon tailored his speeches. He understood that only 39 percent of the public approved a Dec. 31, 1971 withdrawal, if it meant a U.S. defeat. When the question was posed as withdrawal, even if it meant a communist takeover, the percentage declined to 27 percent. Nixon studied the polls assiduously. He told Haldeman, “That’s the word. We say Communist takeover.” (ibid, p. 24)
The polls revealed another hot button issue: getting our POW’s back. This was even more sensitive with the public than the “Communist takeover” issue. Therefore, during a press conference, when asked about Scott’s public warning, Nixon replied that the date of withdrawal should not be related to any election day. The important thing was that he “didn’t want one American to be in Vietnam one day longer than is necessary to achieve the two goals that I have mentioned: the release of our prisoners and the capacity of the South Vietnamese to defend themselves against a Communist takeover.” He then repeated that meme two more times. The press couldn’t avoid it. (Hughes, p. 25)
Still, although Nixon and Kissinger understood they could not win the war in a conventional sense, they were willing to try other methods in the short run to get a better and quicker settlement, especially if it included getting North Vietnamese troops out of South Vietnam. Therefore, in 1969, he and Kissinger elicited suggestions from inside the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA, and Rand Corporation, through Daniel Ellsberg. These included a limited invasion of North Vietnam and Laos, mining the harbors and bombing the north, a full-scale invasion of North Vietnam, and operations in Cambodia.
Or as Kissinger put it, “We should develop alternate plans for possible escalating military actions with the motive of convincing the Soviets that the war may get out of hand.” Kissinger also said that bombing Cambodia would convey the proper message to Moscow.
If anything shows that Kissinger was as backward in his thinking about Indochina as Nixon, this does. For as Burr and Kimball show — through Dobrynin’s memos to Moscow — the Russians could not understand why the White House would think the Kremlin had such influence with Hanoi. Moscow wanted to deal on a variety of issues, including arms agreements and the Middle East.
So far from Kissinger’s vaunted “linkage” theory furthering the agenda with Russia, it’s clear from Dobrynin that it hindered that agenda. In other words, the remnants of a colonial conflict in the Third World were stopping progress in ameliorating the Cold War. This was the subtotal of the Nixon/Kissinger geopolitical accounting sheet.
Judging Kissinger on Vietnam
Just how unbalanced was Kissinger on Vietnam? In April 1969, there was a shoot-down of an American observation plane off the coast of Korea. When White House adviser John Ehrlichman asked Kissinger how far the escalation could go, Kissinger replied it could go nuclear.
In a memo to Nixon, Kissinger advised using tactical nuclear weapons. He wrote that “all hell would break loose for two months”, referring to domestic demonstrations. But he then concluded that the end result would be positive: “there will be peace in Asia.”
Kissinger was referring, of course, to the effectiveness of the Madman Theory. In reading these two books, it is often hard to decipher who is more dangerous in their thinking, Nixon or Kissinger.
In the first phase of their approach to the Vietnam issue, Nixon and Kissinger decided upon two alternatives. The first was the secret bombing of Cambodia. In his interview with David Frost, Nixon expressed no regrets about either the bombing or the invasion. In fact, he said, he wished he had done it sooner, which is a puzzling statement because the bombing of Cambodia was among the first things he authorized. Nixon told Frost that the bombing and the later invasion of Cambodia had positive results: they garnered a lot of enemy supplies, lowered American casualties in Vietnam, and hurt the Viet Cong war effort.
Frost did not press the former president with the obvious follow-up: But Mr. Nixon, you started another war and you helped depose Cambodia’s charismatic ruler, Prince Sihanouk. And because the Viet Cong were driven deeper into Cambodia, Nixon then began bombing the rest of the country, not just the border areas, leading to the victory of the radical Khmer Rouge and the deaths of more than one million Cambodians.
This all indicates just how imprisoned Nixon and Kissinger were by the ideas of John Foster Dulles and his visions of a communist monolith with orders emanating from Moscow’s Comintern, a unified global movement controlled by the Kremlin. Like the Domino Theory, this was never sound thinking. In fact, the Sino-Soviet border dispute, which stemmed back to 1962, showed that communist movements were not monolithic. So the idea that Moscow could control Hanoi, or that the communists in Cambodia were controlled by the Viet Cong, this all ended up being disastrously wrong.
As Sihanouk told author William Shawcross after the Cambodian catastrophe unfolded, General Lon Nol, who seized power from Prince Sihanouk, was nothing without the military actions of Nixon and Kissinger, and “the Khmer Rouge were nothing without Lon Nol.” (Shawcross, Sideshow, p. 391)
But further, as Shawcross demonstrates, the immediate intent of the Cambodian invasion was to seek and destroy the so-called COSVN, the supposed command-and-control base for the communist forces in South Vietnam supposedly based on the border inside Cambodia. No such command center was ever found. (ibid, p. 171)
Why the Drop in Casualties?
As for Nixon’s other claim, American casualties declined in Indochina because of troop rotation, that is, the ARVN were pushed to the front lines with the Americans in support. Or as one commander said after the Cambodian invasion: it was essential that American fatalities be cut back, “If necessary, we must do it by edict.” (ibid, p. 172)
But this is not all that Nixon tried in the time frame of 1969-70, his first two years in office. At Kissinger’s request he also attempted a secret mission to Moscow by Wall Street lawyer Cyrus Vance. Part of Kissinger’s linkage theory, Vance was to tell the Soviets that if they leaned on Hanoi to accept a Nixonian framework for negotiations, then the administration would be willing to deal on other fronts, and there would be little or no escalation. The negotiations on Vietnam included a coalition government, and the survival of Thieu’s government for at least five years, which would have been two years beyond the 1972 election. (As we shall see, this is the beginning of the final “decent interval” strategy.)
The Vance mission was coupled with what Burr and Kimball call a “mining ruse.” The Navy would do an exercise to try and make the Russians think they were going to mine Haiphong and five other North Vietnamese harbors. Yet, for reasons stated above, Nixon overrated linkage, and the tactic did not work. But as Kissinger said, “If in doubt, we bomb Cambodia.” Which they did.
As the authors note, Nixon had urged President Johnson in 1967 to extend the bombing throughout Indochina, into Cambodia and Laos. Johnson had studied these and other options but found too many liabilities. He had even studied the blockading of ports but concluded that Hanoi would compensate for a blockade in a relatively short time by utilizing overland routes and off-shore unloading.
But what Johnson did not factor in was the Nixon/Kissinger Madman Theory. For example, when a State Department representative brought up the overall military ineffectiveness of the Cambodian bombing, Kissinger replied, “That doesn’t bother me we’ll hit something.” He also told an assistant, “Always keep them guessing.” The problem was, the “shock effect” ended up being as mythical as linkage.
In 1969, after the failure of the Vance mission, the mining ruse, the warnings to Dobrynin, and the continued bombing of Cambodia, which went on in secret for 14 months, Nixon still had not given up on his Madman Theory. He sent a message to Hanoi saying that if a resolution was not in the works by November, “he will regretfully find himself obliged to have recourse to measures of great consequence and force.”
What were these consequences? Nixon had wanted to mine Haiphong for a long time. But, as did Johnson, he was getting different opinions about its effectiveness. So he considered massive interdiction bombing of the north coupled with a blockade of Sihanoukville, the Cambodian port that was part of the Ho Chi Minh trail apparatus on the west coast of Cambodia.
Plus one other tactic: Kissinger suggested to his staff that the interdiction bombing use tactical nuclear weapons for overland passes near the Chinese border. But the use of tactical nukes would have created an even greater domestic disturbance than the Cambodian invasion had done. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird objected to the whole agenda. He said it would not be effective and it would create too much domestic strife.
Backing Up Threats
So Nixon and Kissinger decided on something short of the nuclear option. After all, Nixon had sent a veiled ultimatum to Hanoi about “great consequence and force.” They had to back it up. The two decided on a worldwide nuclear alert instead, a giant nuclear war exercise that would simulate actual military maneuvers in attempting to mimic what the U.S. would do if it were preparing for a nuclear strike.
As Burr and Kimball write, this was another outmoded vestige of 1950s Cold War thinking: “It was intended to signal Washington’s anger at Moscow’s support of North Vietnam and to jar the Soviet leaders into using their leverage to induce Hanoi to make diplomatic concessions.” (Burr and Kimball, Chapter 9)
It was designed to be detected by the Soviets, but not detectable at home. For instance, the DEFCON levels were not actually elevated. The alert went on for about three weeks, with all kinds of military maneuvers at sea and on land. Finally, Dobrynin called for a meeting. Kissinger was buoyant. Maybe the ploy had worked.
But it didn’t. The ambassador was angry and upset, but not about the alert. He said that while the Russians wanted to deal on nuclear weapons, Nixon was as obsessed with Vietnam as LBJ was. In other words, Dobrynin and the Soviets were perceptive about what was really happening. Nixon tried to salvage the meeting with talk about how keeping American fatalities low in Vietnam would aid dÃ©tente, which further blew the cover off the nuclear alert.
Burr and Kimball show just how wedded the self-styled foreign policy mavens were to the Madman Theory. After the meeting, Nixon realized he had not done well in accordance with the whole nuclear alert, Madman idea. He asked Kissinger to bring back Dobrynin so they could play act the Madman idea better.
The authors then note that, although Haiphong was later mined, the mining was not effective, as Nixon had been warned. In other words, the Madman idea and linkage were both duds.
Nixon and Kissinger then turned to Laird’s plan, a Vietnamization program, a mix of U.S. troop withdrawals, turning more of the fighting over to the ARVN, and negotiations. The November 1969 Madman timetable was tossed aside and the long haul of gradual U.S. disengagement was being faced. Accordingly, Nixon and Kissinger started sending new messages to the north. And far from isolating Hanoi, both China and Russia served as messengers for these new ideas.
The White House told Dobrynin that after all American troops were out, Vietnam would no longer be America’s concern. In extension of this idea, America would not even mind if Vietnam was unified under Hanoi leadership.
Kissinger told the Chinese that America would not return after withdrawing. In his notebooks for his meeting with Zhou En Lai, Kissinger wrote, “We want a decent interval. You have our assurances.” (Burr and Kimball, Epilogue)
Timing the Departure
But when would the American troops depart? As Ken Hughes writes, Nixon at first wanted the final departure to be by December of 1971. But Kissinger talked him out of this. It was much safer politically to have the final withdrawal after the 1972 election. If Saigon fell after, it was too late to say Nixon’s policies were responsible. (Fatal Politics, p. 3)
Kissinger also impressed on Nixon the need not to announce a timetable in advance. Since all their previous schemes had failed, they had to have some leverage for the Paris peace talks.
But there was a problem. The exposure of the secret bombing of Cambodia began to put pressure on Congress to begin to cut off funding for those operations. Therefore, when Nixon also invaded Laos, this was done with ARVN troops. It did not go very well, but that did not matter to Nixon: “However Laos comes out, we have got to claim it was a success.” (Hughes, p. 14)
While there was little progress at the official negotiations, that too was irrelevant because Kissinger had arranged for so-called “secret talks” at a residential home in Paris. There was no headway at these talks until late May 1971. Prior to this, Nixon had insisted on withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam.
But in May, Kissinger reversed himself on two issues. First, there would be no American residual force left behind. Second, there would be a cease-fire in place. That is, no withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops. As Kissinger said to Nixon, they would still be free to bomb the north, but “the only problem is to prevent the collapse in 1972.” (ibid, pgs. 27-28) The Decent Interval strategy was now the modus operandi.
And this strategy would serve Nixon’s reelection interests, too. As Kissinger told Nixon, “If we can, in October of ’72 go around the country saying we ended the war and the Democrats wanted to turn it over to the communists then we’re in great shape.” To which Nixon replied, “I know exactly what we’re up to.” (ibid, p. 29) Since this was all done in secret, they could get away with a purely political ploy even though its resulted in the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and civilians. All this was done to make sure Nixon was reelected and the Democrats looked like wimps.
Kissinger understood this linkage between the war’s illusionary success and politics. He reminded Nixon, “If Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam go down the drain in September of 1972, they they’ll say you went into those … you spoiled so many lives, just to wind up where you could have been in the first year.” (ibid, p. 30)
In fact, the President’s February 1972 trip to China was directly related to the slow progress on Vietnam. Kissinger said, “For every reason, we’ve got to have a diversion from Vietnam in this country for awhile.” To which Nixon replied, “That’s the point isn’t it?” (ibid, p.32)
A Decent Interval
In preparations for China, Kissinger told Zhou En Lai that Nixon needed an interval of a year or two after American departure for Saigon to fall. (ibid, p. 35) He told Zhou, “The outcome of my logic is that we are putting a time interval between the military outcome and the political outcome.” (ibid, p. 79)
But aware of this, Hanoi made one last push for victory with the Easter Offensive of 1972. Remarkably successful at first, air power managed to stall it and then push it back. During this giant air operation, Nixon returned to his Foster Dulles brinksmanship form, asking Kissinger, should we “take the dikes out now?”
Kissinger replied, “That will drown about 200,000 people.”
Nixon said, “Well no, no I’d rather use a nuclear bomb. Have you got that ready?”
When Kissinger demurred by saying Nixon wouldn’t use it anyway, the President replied, “I just want you to think big Henry, for Christ’s sake.” (Burr and Kimball, Epilogue)
The American press took the wrong message from this. What it actually symbolized was that Saigon could not survive without massive American aid and firepower. (Hughes, p. 61) But even with this huge air campaign, the Pentagon figured that the north could keep up its war effort for at least two more years, even with interdiction bombing.
The political ramification of the renewed fighting was that it pushed the final settlement back in time, which Nixon saw as a political benefit, a tsunami for his reelection.
Nixon: “The advantage, Henry, of trying to settle now, even if you’re ten points ahead, is that that will ensure a hell of a landslide.”
Kissinger: “If we can get that done, then we can screw them after Election Day if necessary. And I think this could finish the destruction of McGovern” [the Democratic presidential nominee].
Nixon: “Oh yes, and the doves, which is just as important.”
The next day, Aug. 3, 1972, Kissinger returned to the theme: “So we’ve got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two, after which, after a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater no one will give a damn.” (Hughes, pgs. 84-85)
All of this history renders absurd the speeches of Ronald Reagan at the time: “President Nixon’s idealism is such that he believes the people of South Vietnam should have the opportunity to live under whatever form of government they themselves choose.” (Hughes, p. 86) While Reagan was whistling in the dark, the Hanoi negotiator Le Duc Tho understood what was happening. He even said to Kissinger, “reunification will be decided upon after a suitable interval following the signing.”
Kissinger and Nixon even knew the whole election commission idea for reunification was a joke. Kissinger called it, “all baloney. There’ll never be elections.” Nixon agreed by saying that the war will then resume, but “we’ll be gone.” (ibid, p. 88)
The problem in October 1972 was not Hanoi; it was President Thieu. He understood that with 150,000 North Vietnamese regulars in the south, the writing was on the wall for his future. So Kissinger got reassurances from Hanoi that they would not use the Ho Chi Minh Trail after America left, though Kissinger and Nixon knew this was a lie. (ibid, p. 94)
When Thieu still balked, Nixon said he would sign the agreement unilaterally. How badly did Kissinger steamroll Thieu? When he brought him the final agreements to sign, Thieu noticed that they only referred to three countries being in Indochina: Laos, Cambodia and North Vietnam. Kissinger tried to explain this away as a mistake. (Hughes, p. 118)
When Kissinger announced in October 1972 that peace was at hand, he understood this was false but it was political gold.
Nixon: “Of course, the point is, they think you’ve got peace. . . but that’s all right,. Let them think it.” (ibid, p. 132)
Nixon got Senators Barry Goldwater and John Stennis to debate cutting off aid for Saigon. This got Thieu to sign. (ibid, p. 158)
In January 1973, the agreement was formalized. It was all a sham. There was no lull in the fighting, there were no elections, and there was no halt in the supplies down the Ho Chi Minh Trail. As the military knew, Saigon was no match for the Viet Cong and the regular army of North Vietnam. And Thieu did not buy the letters Nixon wrote him about resumed bombing if Hanoi violated the treaty.
But Nixon had one more trick up his sleeve, which he pulled out as an excuse for the defeat in his 1985 book, No More Vietnams. He wrote that Congress lost the “victory” he had won by gradually cutting off aid to Indochina beginning in 1973. (Nixon, p. 178)
It’s true that the Democratic caucuses did vote for this, but anyone can tell by looking at the numbers that Nixon could have sustained a veto if he tried. And, in fact, he had vetoed a bill to ban American bombing in Cambodia on June 27 with the House falling 35 votes short in the override attempt.
Rep. Gerald Ford, R-Michigan, rose and said, “If military action is required in Southeast Asia after August 15, 1973, the President will ask congressional authority and will abide by the decision that is made by the House and Senate.”
The Democrats didn’t buy Ford’s assurance. So Ford called Nixon and returned to the podium to say Nixon had reaffirmed his pledge. With that, the borderline Republicans joined in a shut-off vote of 278-124. In the Senate the vote was 64-26. (Hughes, p. 165)
Having Congress take the lead meant that Nixon did not have to even think of revisiting Vietnam. He could claim he was stabbed in the back by Congress. As Hughes notes, it would have been better for Congress politically to double the funding requests just to show it was all for show.
As Hughes writes, this strategy of arranging a phony peace, which disguised an American defeat, was repeated in Iraq. President George W. Bush rejected troop withdrawals in 2007 and then launched “the surge,” which cost another 1,000 American lives but averted an outright military defeat on Bush’s watch. Bush then signed an agreement with his hand-picked Iraqi government, allowing American troops to remain in Iraq for three more years and passing the disaster on to President Barack Obama.
Hughes ends by writing that Nixon’s myth of a “victory” in Vietnam masks cowardice for political courage and replaces patriotism with opportunism. Nixon prolonged a lost war. He then faked a peace. And he then schemed to shift the blame onto Congress.
As long as that truth is masked, other presidents can play politics with the lives hundred of thousands of innocent civilians, and tens of thousands of American soldiers.
At Nixon’s 1994 funeral, Kissinger tried to commemorate their legacy by listing their foreign policy achievements. The first one he listed was a peace agreement in Vietnam. The last one was the airing of a human rights agenda that helped break apart the Soviet domination in Eastern Europe. These two books make those declarations not just specious, but a bit obscene.
James DiEugenio is a researcher and writer on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and other mysteries of that era. His most recent book is Reclaiming Parkland.
“Thank you for your service.” They know not the meaning of what they have been shamed into saying. Think for yourself, quit saying that and join and build another peace movement so that I can truly say to you, thank you for your service. A vet.
Nixon, you cussing, tiger-caging, water-boarding, dike-bombing, crook.
At the end of the day, they heaped the blame for the debacle that was Vietnam on the veterans, who had the least to say about how the war was conducted.
THANK YOU! What a brilliant, well-written, and very informative article in some respects. But, as even a young teenager, growing-up in the U.S. during that era, I had somehow been, able to sense in my bones that every official account that I was then seeing or hearing in respect the Viet Nam War was undoubtedly false. And, that quite far from all of my earlier instilled patriotic beliefs, I could then in no way ignore the fact that it was nothing other than my own formerly beloved country which was out there behaving the very worst sort of murderous brute and bully on the world stage. And, I tell you that my own conscious did at that point seemingly demand that I entirely renounce and henceforth distance myself from the then clearly all too immoral actions of my country.
And, during the 50 years or so since, I have come to regard myself as having then been made a largely stateless person on account of the criminally undertaken Viet Nam War. So, thatâ€™s what that damned LBJ, and later, that damned RMN, had personally done to me! They had forever more robbed me of any sense of citizenship to an in fact honorable nation, which should have otherwise been mine to claim as a birthright. Whilst at the very same time leading most of my fellow citizens into all of those other dark and terrible places – to which my own conscious had demanded – I could simply not go.
Funny, how we apparently all too few conscious-equipped persons, who had so very long ago been so right as to the actual nature of the Viet Nam War, had everywhere been denounced as both misfits and radicals by our fellow countrymen. But, has anything since really changed? Or, might the likely fate of all would-be truth-tellers, in this seemingly ever more perpetually-lying nation – have subsequently grown into something which is undoubtedly much worse?
Yet, I believe, that most of us now older and wiser persons – do already well know in our hearts – what is most likely in store for us in the future. And, itâ€™s scary! Itâ€™s blood-chillingly scary! Yet, that does still nonetheless appear to be the most likely fate of any actually honest person, amidst this by now quite thoroughly corrupted land where, indeed: Never might any real truth in respect to any real matter – but only a quite nearly endless stream of officially told and sanctioned lies – shall ever be allowed to seemingly prevail.
So: Lies? Lies? Lies? And, yet, still more lies from both the media and official sources – has it ever really stopped? What else might anyone have ever known in this country – excepting a whole bellyful of ultimately indigestible lies – if they have indeed been living in the USA since the November 22, 1963 date that President Kennedy had been killed? And, because I had only been but 10 years old at that time, I might perhaps be forgiven for having not then realized it. But, it does now seem to me now that quite everything that might have once been thought best in respect to this great country had also been caused to die on that terrible day. Everything! And, such little else, as might still be left of our formerly proud nation, does nowadays appear to me to be hardly worth saving and thatâ€™s a fact!
So, go ahead! Just go ahead and simply flush the whole stinking lying mess – which had used to be our nation – right down the toilet bowl of history; and, then, see if I might still really care. But, chances are I wonâ€™t!
Strong feelings !! Lies ! Lies ! Lies ! Yes . Not only about Viet Nam war but many other criminal actions ! Invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan, truth about BenLaden, AlGaideh , ISIS , WW II, Pearl Harbour……..
These lies have been the accepted practice in recent Western history– oh not recent !! The real motives behind Crusades ,Napoleonic wars ….. What are the gullible honest people of the USA snd Europe going to do about it ? Just submit or disown ?! Would that change anything ? Perhaps there is some democratic, civilised chice of action to put the criminally minded lying politicians aside and make it possible for the honest morally bond individuals to come forward ??
GIVING UP JUST MAKES IT EASY FOR THE VILLAINS !!
Kissinger and all those involved in this conspiracy that cost us 50,000 plus lives, should be tried for treason. Nixon’s body should be exhumed and throw in the garbage, and he be declared as a traitor.
When are we going to learn that we have no right to police the world, and dictate other people what kind of government are they supposed to have?
You cannot regain bygones !! Make sure it does not happen again . The latest was George W. Bush. Those who are trying to reverse the Iran nuclear deal are the same sort of people.
I put down Vietnam as my first choice on my Duty Station Wish List while going through Boot Camp at the Naval Great Lakes Traing Center during the winter of 1968-69. The next day my Company Commander (a E6) called two other recruits and myself into his office. The three of us boot campers had requested Vietnam as a preferred duty station after we had all suffered somekind of patriotic duress. I will never forget how our company commander stated, how he had just returned from his second tour of duty in Vietnam. He then said, ‘if I thought we were there to win it,n I would be the first to recommend it for a tour of duty’. Then he erased our request, and asked us three for another preferred duty station.
I met a lot of returning Marines while stationed in the Navy Amphibs. Like many other Americans I waited at home for high school friends who would never return. Accepting a young friends death is unbearable, but equally sad was seeing the wounded who came home to rehabilitate themselves back into everyday life. All these buddies from my growing up years in my estimation are truly heroes. Hero maybe overused these days, but the kind of people I am talking about here, were and are just plainly put…Good People! The kind of Good People you are happy and proud to call ‘My Friend’.
These days I like to research many different topics. One subject which intrigues me the most is the JFK assassination. Kennedy had signed NSAM 263 in October. NSAM 263 was his directive to begin the evaluation of U.S. Troops from Vietnam, and to be completely out of that country by the end of 1965. I believe that the Kennedy Coup D’Ã©tat was a successful operation, unlike the cabal’s failure when attempting to hire Smedeley Butler in the thirties to over throw FDR. This collaborative effort I feel was at their high end a rogue CIA element who was sponsored by the Kennedy hating corporatist benefactors. The Alpha 66 Cuban Nations, and the Mafia provided the ‘plausible deniability’ cover which the assassin authors needed in order to protect their cover. Why, I get stuck on his assassination, is due to my belief that this assassination was the last obstacle (JFK) to get out of the way before proceeding any further towards escalating the Vietnam war.
In fact there is now a theory being written about by Roger Stone that Nixon got his demise handed to him by basically the same cabal has had ordered the Kennedy assassination. I’m not promoting that view, but I am mentioning it as something to contemplate. Never the less, as I commented on before how America needs some ‘Real Time Transparency’, and we could really use it now. If nothing else then survey who benefited the most from America’s involvement in Vietnam, and then you maybe on to something.
“As McNamara was leaving the room to give the news of the withdrawal to White House reporters, Kennedy called out to him, â€œAnd tell them that means all of the helicopter pilots, too.â€ Nine days later he signed NSAM 263, thus making official government policy the McNamara-Taylor recommendations for the withdrawal of â€œ1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963â€ and â€œby the end of 1965 .Â .Â . the bulk of U.S. personnel.â€ Nevertheless, Kennedy still hesitated as to how he was going to justify the withdrawal in political terms.” ….James W Douglas ‘JFK the Unspeakable: Why He Died, Why It Matters’
NSAM263 does not go undisputed, although there is ample sources who describe Kennedy’s desire for evacuation from Vietnam as proof of his intentions were being aimed in that direction. Remember that in 1963 there was still plenty of support in America to stop the communist domino theory, that plenty of caution would have been taken by the White House to secure JFK’s re-election.
Roger Stone, a since College a dirty trickster for the Republicans who cut his teeth on Nixon’s CREEP, played a central role in stopping the Florida recount in the 2000 election by arrangin the Brooks Brothers Riot, and who recently went on the press circuit with a JFK Assassination book pinning it all on LBJ seems to me like a professional disinformation guy. For the same Watergate scenario you broadly outline, I’d much rather use books by Jim Hougan and Len Colodny, respectively. The slender volume White House Call Girl builds on them, and is tantalizing as well.
Joe, I concur with your findings-and suspicions about the JFK assassination. He was THE focal point, everything that was America, it’s greatness, vision and staggering wealth and power was, for a precious moment, symbolized by the Office of The President with JFK at the helm. Everything political and diplomatic that came afterward developed, ever so gradually, into an ugly, dark, antithesis to our Constitution, Bill of Rights, privacy, security, all supplanted on that dreadful November day. In ancient scripture (Apocryphal gospels) these evil forces were referred to as the “Giants” and they devoured the peoples of the Earth until a unanimous scream from them brought God himself down to destroy those who possessed angelic powers. Just as the good root of Jesse survived that calamity so did the root of Asmodaeus and obviously his brood are back and once again, it’s global! So the common voices cry to the heavens once again!
During Nixon’s funeral coverage on national television, over and again the so-called ‘liberal media’ praised this crook and claimed him redeemed. As far as the Marine was and is concerned, a Democrat sent me to Vietnam in 1968 and in 1969, a Republican kept me there. I didn’t feel redeemed by that ‘coincidence’. Did any of you?
I am one week late to this post, but for those interested, read a history of the Tonkin Bay incident. Written by Robert Honyak, CIA historian, It details how the N Viets decided to attack a US destroyer in broad daylight and their torpedo boats were shot up badly by US jets. One night later another US Destroyer fired over 300 five inch shells at heavy wave action, even though US planes told them there were no N Viet missile boats attacking. The boat Captain filed a fraudulent report and an Admiral, even though he had doubts, forwarded that report. The unusual title is, “Skunks, Bogies, Silent Hounds and Flying Fish; The Gulf of Tonkin Mystery, 2-4 August 1964” C
Why did you exclude the french corporation, Michelin Rubber and Tire Corp in this article? They are the reason for this war. Ho Chi Minh simply wanted control of all the Vietnam resources for the Vietnamese people, and the French said, “Go fu*k yourself”. That is what started the war with the French that they did lose…than we got involved. But, the rule was that NO fighting would take place in any of the Michelin Tire rubber plantations or the USA would have to pay the losses. What a crock of Chit! Viet Cong new this and hid, staged attacks and stored supplies in the plantations.
Any Nam war vet, and their families, should for the rest of their lives boycott Michelin Tire here in the USA…tell them to “Go fu*k themselves”
Mr DiEugenio, please!, let go of Tricky. Yes it’s true that Hubert Humphrey was cut off by the political treachery and guile of Nixon, this is “normal practice” in such circles. However Nixon was the proverbial pawn in the hands of the CFR clique (mainly the Rockefeller’s) and ‘ol Tricky’s shadow, Henry K- points to the REAL movers and shakers AND the real menace! Those Eastern Establishment billionaires with their Georgetown crowd- ET Al, loathed to live next door to the Kennedy family as did their precious Pentagon Pals. The smothering control by this CFR clique over the Office of the presidency, really overwhelmed Nixon and in reaction, he succumbed to both paranoia and evil machination. Thus, Nixon’s “conclusions” regarding a victorious outcome to the Vietnam War, merely parroted what JFK tried to- or rather, strained to say during his last white house lawn interview….. that, jungle fighting required a USA ten, to one (Cong) foot soldier ratio for any successful outcome. Alas, for telling this truth, JFK was murdered and this assassination left Nixon holding the bag. Just as General Douglas MacArthur finally came to understand- absolute victory and the installation of democracy had absolutely nothing to do with the new war model or for that matter, US foreign policy goals-War was and is, just a racket- to make a lot of money, control a lot of people and nothing else. Makes you wanna just SPIT!
Exposing the Global Population Control Agenda
By Brian Clowes, Ph.D.
The Formalization of United States Population Policy
The United States National Security Council is the highest decision-making body on foreign policy in the United States. On December 10, 1974, it promulgated a top secret document entitled National Security Study Memorandum 200, also called The Kissinger Report. Its subject was â€œImplications of Worldwide Population Growth for U.S. Security and Overseas Interests.â€ This document, published shortly after the first major international population conference in Bucharest, was the result of collaboration among the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Departments of State, Defense and Agriculture.
NSSM-200 was made public when it was declassified and was transferred to the U.S. National Archives in 1990.
Although the United States government has issued hundreds of policy papers dealing with various aspects of American national security since 1974, NSSM-200 continues to be the foundational document on population control issued by the United States government. It therefore continues to represent official United States policy on population control.
The Purpose of NSSM-200
The primary purpose of U.S.-funded population control efforts is to maintain access to the mineral resources of less-developed countries, or LDCs. NSSM-200 says that the U.S. economy will require large and increasing amounts of minerals from abroad, especially from less developed countries â€¦ That fact gives the U.S. enhanced interest in the political, economic, and social stability of the supplying countries. Wherever a lessening of population pressures through reduced birth rates can increase the prospects for such stability, population policy becomes relevant to resource supplies and to the economic interests of the United States.
In order to protect U.S. commercial interests, NSSM-200 cited a number of factors that could interrupt the smooth flow of materials from LDCs to the United States, including a large population of anti-imperialist youth, whose numbers must be limited by population control. The document identified 13 nations by name that would be the primary targets of U.S.-funded population control efforts.
NSSM-200 also specifically declared that the United States was to cover up its population control activities and avoid charges of imperialism by inducing the United Nations and various non-governmental organizations to do its dirty work.
This document, which is completely devoid of morality or ethics, has directly and inevitably encouraged atrocities and massive human rights violations in dozens of the nations of the world.
NSSM-200 explicitly lays out the detailed strategy by which the United States government aggressively promotes population control in developing nations in order to regulate (or have better access to) the natural resources of these countries.
The following outline shows the elements of this plan, with actual supporting quotes from NSSM-200:
The United States needs widespread access to the mineral resources of less-developed nations (quote shown above).
The smooth flow of resources to the United States could be jeopardized by LDC government action, labor conflicts, sabotage, or civil disturbances, which are much more likely if population pressure is a factor: â€œThese types of frustrations are much less likely under conditions of slow or zero population growth.â€
Young people are much more likely to challenge imperialism and the worldâ€™s power structures, so their numbers should be kept down as much as possible: â€œThese young people can more readily be persuaded to attack the legal institutions of the government or real property of the â€˜establishment,â€™ â€˜imperialists,â€™ multinational corporations, or otherâ€”often foreignâ€”influences blamed for their troubles.â€
Therefore, the United States must develop a commitment to population control among key LDC leaders, while bypassing the will of their people: â€œThe U.S. should encourage LDC leaders to take the lead in advancing family planning and population stabilization both within multilateral organizations and through bilateral contacts with other LDCs.â€
The critical elements of population control implementation include:
Identifying the primary targets: â€œThose countries are: India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Colombia.â€
Enlisting the aid of as many multilateral population control organizations as possible in this worldwide project, in order to deflect criticism and charges of imperialism: â€œThe U.S. will look to the multilateral agencies, especially the U.N. Fund for Population Activities which already has projects in over 80 countries to increase population assistance on a broader basis with increased U.S. contributions.â€
Designing programs with financial incentives for countries to increase their abortion, sterilization and contraception-use rates: â€œPay women in the LDCs to have abortions as a method of family planning. â€¦ Similarly, there have been some controversial, but remarkably successful, experiments in India in which financial incentives, along with other motivational devices, were used to get large numbers of men to accept vasectomies.â€
Investigating the desirability of mandatory [NSSM-200â€™s language] population control programs: â€œThe conclusion of this view is that mandatory programs may be needed and that we should be considering these possibilities now.â€
Considering using coercion in other forms, such as withholding disaster and food aid unless a targeted LDC implements population control programs: â€œOn what basis should such food resources then be provided? Would food be considered an instrument of national power? Will we be forced to make choices as to whom we can reasonably assist, and if so, should population efforts be a criterion for such assistance?â€
Throughout the implementation process, the United States must hide its tracks and disguise its programs as altruistic: â€œThere is also the danger that some LDC leaders will see developed country pressures for family planning as a form of economic or racial imperialism; this could well create a serious backlash. â€¦ The U.S. can help to minimize charges of an imperialist motivation behind its support of population activities by repeatedly asserting that such support derives from a concern with:
The right of the individual couple to determine freely and responsibly the number and spacing of children and to have information, education, and means to do so; and
The fundamental social and economic development of poor countries in which rapid population growth is both a contributing cause and a consequence of widespread poverty.â€
Point (6) above cannot be emphasized enough. The motivation for population control is purely selfish. Therefore, the organizations promoting population control must engage in a massive program of deception. They must present their programs as supporting personal freedom, or as concern for the welfare of poor nations.
The Basic Question: Is Population Control Necessary?
There is growing awareness that the world â€œpopulation explosionâ€ is over or, indeed, that it never actually materialized. When the population scare began in the late 1960s, the world population was increasing at a rate of more than two percent per year. It is now increasing at less than one percent per year, and is expected to stop growing in about the year 2040, barely a generation from now.
NSSM-200 predicted that the population of the world would stabilize at about 10 to 13 billion, with some demographers predicting that the world population would balloon to as high as 22 billion people. Now we know that the population of the world will reach about eight billion, and then will begin to decline.
The worldwide application of the strategies recommended in NSSM-200 has resulted in regional population growth rates decelerating so fast that they are already causing severe economic and social problems in Europe, the former Soviet Union, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. Many developing nations are now aging even more rapidly than the developed world, which foretells of even more severe problems for their relatively underdeveloped economies. The developed nations had the opportunity to become rich before they became old; if a nation becomes old first, it will never become rich.
From the very beginning, the concept of a â€œpopulation explosionâ€ was an ideologically motivated false alarm specifically designed to allow rich nations to pillage the resources of the poorer nations. The resulting push for population control in LDCs has borne absolutely no positive fruit in its decades of implementation. In fact, population control ideologies and programs make it even more difficult to respond to the impending grave crisis looming in the form of a disastrous worldwide â€œpopulation implosion.â€ It is time to begin urging families to have more children, not less, if we are to avoid a worldwide demographic catastrophe.
The first step in such a massive change in policy is, of course, to change our vision and our values. In order to do this, we must repudiate old ways of thinking and outmoded ways of accomplishing our objectives.
NSSM-200 represents the worst aspect of the â€œadvancedâ€ nations meddling in the most intimate affairs of lesser developed nations. It symbolizes as no other document does the face of the â€œugly American.â€ It advocates violating the most precious freedoms and autonomy of the individual through coercive family planning programs.
NSSM-200 does not emphasize the rights or welfare of individuals or of nations, just the â€œrightâ€ of the United States to have unfettered access to the natural resources of developing nations. The United States and the other nations of the developed world, as well as ideologically motivated population control NGOs, should be supporting and guiding authentic economic development that allows the people of each nation to use their resources for their own benefit, thereby leading to an enhancement of human rights worldwide and healthier economies for all.
No human relationships are closer or more intimate than those found in the family. Yet the â€œdevelopedâ€ world has spent more than 45 billion dollars just since 1990 attempting to control the number of children born to families in developing nations through the widespread imposition of abortion, sterilization and birth control under the umbrella terms â€œfamily planning servicesâ€ and â€œreproductive health.â€
All that the tens of billions of dollars of population control expenditures have accomplished is to make hundreds of millions of large poor families into small poor families. If this massive amount of money had instead been put to the service of authentic economic developmentâ€”better schools, drinking water, roads, health careâ€”hundreds of millions of people would be living much better lives now.
I’m an American retiree living in central Luzon, the Philippines. On the one hand, in this country of 100 million where 85% self-identify as Roman Catholics, contraception and family planning are now legal; on the other hand, abortion is a premeditated, capital crime where all involved but the mother will die in prison without possibility of parole, probabion or clemency (in my opinion, the life expectancy of a male foreigner convicted of abortion, introduced into the general prison population is probably about 24 hours). Personally, I’d prefer a total global population closer to 5-5.5 billion persons. I think the world would be a better place if economic decline and disease (and best of all, conscious decisions by millions of women not to bear children for two generations) would effect that reduction in the population.
I’m Dave Laibow; you can contact me directly any time at “caballafamily[at]yahoo.com”.
Informaive. Thank you . Now they deliberately destabilise countries and loot their natural resources cheaper and easier, i.e. Iraq, Libya , …. The new formula is implanting fake revolutionaries , religious or any other forms of extremism and serious internal conflicts and get the natural resources by arrangements with the leaders of the conflicts ,easy and cheap. SO MUCH FOR FAIR AND FREE COMPETITION, DEMOCRACY , MORAL VALUES, WESTERN CIVILISATION … …. JUST LOOT THE POOR BY ANY TRICKS !!!!
Thanks to Jim DiEugenio and always to Robert Parry for publishing such distinguished Voices. JFK â€œgotâ€ that America could not win at the game of Empire, and few have been better at research on President Kennedyâ€™s outlook on empire than Jim and Lisa Pease. If JFK had made it to the oval office on Monday November, 25th; no doubt in my mind, we would live in a far different and better world than the current one.
One had to live through BushCheney to understand the Dick Nixon vice presidency.
Hats of to Mr. DiEugenio for staying on top of the Nixon Kissinger mind numbing schemes. My one wish would be that it wouldn’t take some 40 years, or more to gain such information. Just for the fact that Kissinger is protected until five years after his passing is obscene. Shielding him is by no means a requirement of national security. In fact, this guardianship over his likes stands watch over his well being alone, and by no means gives way to having a better informed electorate. These time limits that halt the American public from learning of anything in real time is a disgrace. I am greatful to people like Mr. DiEugenio for his efforts at working with the Freedon of Information Act, because I know his job isn’t an easy one. I will place my money on the great desire Mr. DiEugenio more than likely has to gather even more information on the JFK assassination. I applaud this reporter for his deliberate and patient efforts in regard to working with FOIA …. Well done Mr. DiEugenio, you go guy!
I wonder why it is Republicans don’t defend Richard Nixon the way they do Ronald Reagan?
Their moral character and legal philosophy was basically the same for both, in that the ends always justified and means.
While Nixon was held accountable to some degree for his crimes, Reagan was able to weasel out of the box he put himself in — and it seems this fact of weaseling out appeals to the Republican sense of what power is and should be — while in this case it is not power, but is lack of power to control criminal impulses.
I’m no Democrat so don’t get too excited. Neither party represents “we the people” but defending either Reagan or Nixon is nothing but a partisan endeavor in denial of the facts and reality.