Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 12. 5 August 1970
Nixon: in defence of neutrality
Nixon: in defence of neutrality
Ten days ago, in my report to the nation on Vietnam, I announced a decision to withdraw an additional 150,000 American troops over the next year. I said then I was making that decision despite our concern over increased enemy activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South Vietnam. Al that time, I warned that if I concluded that increased enemy activity in any of these areas endangered the lives of Americans remaining in Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and effective measures to deal with that situation.
Despite that warning, North Vietnam has increased its military aggression in all three areas—particularly in Cambodia.
After full consultation with the National Security Council, Ambassador Bunker, General Abrams, and my other advisers, I have concluded that the actions of the enemy in the last 10 days clearly endanger the lives of Americans who are in Vietnam now and would constitute an unacceptable risk to those who will be there after our withdrawal of 150,000.
To protect our men who are in Vietnam and to guarantee the continued success of our withdrawal and Vietnamisation programmes, I have concluded the time has come for action. Tonight, I shall describe the actions of the enemy, the actions I have ordered to deal with that situation, and the reasons for my decision.
Cambodia, a small country of seven million people, has been a neutral nation since the Geneva Agreement of 1954—an agreement signed by the Government of North Vietnam. American policy since then has been to scrupulously respect the neutrality of the Cambodian people we have maintained a skeleton diplomatic mission of fewer than 15 in Cambodia's capital since last August. For the previous 4 years—from 1965-69, we did not have any diplomatic mission whatever. For the past 5 years, we have provided no military assistance and no economic assistance whatever to Cambodia.
"... we counselled patience to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed restraints on our commanders."
North Vietnam, however, has not respected that neutrality. For the past 5 years North Vietnam has occupied military sanctuaries all along the Cambodian frontier with South Vietnam. Some of these extend up to 20 miles invaded, massive amounts of military assistance could not be rapidly and effectively utilised by the small Cambodian Army against the immediate threat. With other nations, we shall do our best to provide the small arms and other equipment which the Cambodian Army needs and can use now for its defense. The aid we will provide will be limited to the purpose of enabling Cambodia to defend its neutrality—not for the purpose of making it an active belligerent on one side or the other.page 11
Our third choice is to go to the heart of the trouble. That means cleaning out major North Vietnamese and Viet Cong occupied sanctuaries which serve as bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. Some of these are as close to Saigon as Baltimore is to Washington.
This is my decision—in co-operation with the armed forces of South Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the Cambodian-Vietnam border.
A major responsibility for the ground operations is being assumed by South Vietnamese forces. For example, the attacks in several areas, including the Parrot's Beak, are exclusively South Vietnamese ground operations under South Vietnamese command with the United States providing air and logistical support.
"This is not an invasion of Cambodia."
There is one area, however, where I have concluded that a combined American and South Vietnamese operation is necessary. Tonight, American and South Vietnamese units will attack the headquarters for the entire communist military operation in South Vietnam. This key control centre has been occupied by the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong for years in blatant violation of Cambodia's neutrality.
This is not an invasion of Cambodia. The areas in which these attacks will be launched are completely occupied and controlled by North Vietnamese forces. Our purpose is not to occupy the areas. Once enemy forces are driven out of these sanctuaries and their military supplies destroyed, we will withdraw.
These actions are in no way directed at the security interests of any nation. Any government that chooses to use these actions as a pretext for harming relations with the United States will be doing so on its own responsibility and at its own initiative and we will draw the appropriate conclusions.
A majority of the American people are for the withdrawal of our forces from Vietnam. The action I have taken tonight is indispensable for the continuing success of that withdrawal programme.
A majority of the American people want to end this war rather than have it drag on interminably. The action I take tonight is essential if we are to accomplish that goal.
We take this action not for the purpose of expanding the war into Cambodia but for the purpose of ending the war in Vietnam and winning the just peace we all desire we have made and will continue to make every possible effort to end this war through negotiations at the conference table rather than through more fighting on the battlefield.
"Tonight, I again warn the North Vietnamese that if they continue to escalate the fighting when the United States is withdrawing its forces . . ."
Let us look at the record. We have stopped the bombing of North Vietnam. We have cut air operations by Over 20 percent. We have announced the withdrawal of over 250,000 of our troops. We have offered to withdraw all of into Cambodia. They are used for hit-and-run attacks on American and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam. These communist-occupied territories contain major base camps, training sites, logistic facilities, weapons and ammunition factories, airstrips, and prisoner of war compounds. For 5 years, neither the United States nor South Vietnam moved against those enemy sanctuaries because we did not wish to violate territory of a neutral nation. Even after the Vietnamese Communists began to expand these sanctuaries 4 weeks ago, we counselled patience to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed restraints on our commanders.
In contrast to our policy, the enemy in the past 2 weeks has stepped up his guerilla actions and he is concentrating his main forces in the sanctuaries, where they are building up to launch massive attacks on our forces and those of South Vietnam. North Vietnam in the last 2 weeks has stripped away all pretence of respecting the sovereignty or neutrality of Cambodia. Thousands of their soldiers are invading the country from the sanctuaries; they are encircling the capital of Phnom Penh. Cambodia has sent out a call to the United States and a number of other nations for assistance.
"Unfortunately, while we deeply sympathise with the plight of seven million Cambodians whose country is being invaded . . ."
If this effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast enemy staging area and springboard for attacks on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier—and a refuge where enemy troops could return from combat without fear of retaliation. North Vietnamese men and supplies could then be poured into that country, jeopardising not only the lives of our own men but the people of South Vietnam as well.
Confronted with this situation, we have three options:
First, we can do nothing. The ultimate result of that course of action is clear. Unless we indulge in wishful thinking, the Americans remaining in Vietnam after our next withdrawal would be gravely threatened.
Our second option is to provide massive military assistance to Cambodia. Unfortunately, while we deeply sympathise with the plight of seven million Cambodians whose country is being our men if they withdraw theirs. We have offered to negotiate all issues with only one condition—that the future of South Vietnam be determined not by North Vietnam, not by the United States, but by the people of South Vietnam themselves. Their answer has been intransigence at the conference table, belligerence in Hanoi, massive military aggression in Laos and Cambodia and stepped-up attacks in South Vietnam, designed to increase American casualties.
"We live in an age of anarchy both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on all the great institutions which have been created by free civilisations in the last 500 years. Here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.
"If, when the chips are down, the United States acts like a pitiful helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world. It is not our power but our will and character that is being threatened tonight. The question all Americans must ask and answer tonight is this: does the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world have the character to meet a direct challenge by a group which rejects every effort to win a just peace, ignores our warning, tramples on solemn agreements, violates the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses our prisoners as hostages?"
The following is the text of the speech from which the above remarks were excerpted. The speech was delivered in the United States of America on 30 April by Mr Richard Nixon, a leading member of "the Republican Party" and a person who is alleged to hold high political office in the United States.
This attitude has become intolerable. We will not react to this threat to American lives merely by plaintive diplomatic protests. If we did, the credibility of the United States would be destroyed in every area of the world where only the power of the United States deters aggression. Tonight, I again warn the North Vietnamese that if they continue to escalate the fighting when the United States is withdrawing its forces I shall meet my responsibility as Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces to take the action I consider necessary to defend the security of our American men. This action puts the leaders of North Vietnam on notice that we will be patient in working for peace, we will be conciliatory at the conference table, but we will not be humiliated. We will not be defeated we will not allow American men by the thousands to be killed by an enemy from privileged sanctuaries. The time came long ago to end this war through peaceful negotiations. We stand ready for those negotiations. We have made major efforts, many of which must remain secret. All the offers and approaches made previously remain on the conference table whenever Hanoi is ready to negotiate seriously.
But if the enemy response to our most conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation continues to be to increase its attacks and humiliate and defeat us we shall react accordingly.
We live in an age of anarchy both abroad and at home. We see mindless attacks on ad the great institutions which have been created by free civilisations in the last 500 years. Here in the United States, great universities are being systematically destroyed. Small nations all over the world find themselves under attack from within and from without.
If, when the chips are down, the United States acts like a pitiful helpless giant, the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world. It is not our power but our will and character that is being tested tonight. The question all Americans must ask and answer tonight is this: does the richest and strongest nation in the history of the world have the character to meet a direct challenge by a group which rejects every effort to win a just peace, ignores our warning, tramples on solemn agreements, violates the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses our prisoners as hostages? If we failed to meet this challenge all other nations will be on notice that despite its overwhelming power the United States, when a real crisis comes, will be found wanting.
"I promised to end the war. I shall keep that promise."
My fellow Americans: during my campaign for the Presidency, I pledged to bring Americans home from Vietnam. They are coming home.
I promised to end the war. I shall keep that promise.
I promised to win a just peace. I shall keep that promise.
We shall avoid a wider war, but we are also determined to put an end to this war.
In this room, Woodrow Wilson made the great decisions which led to victory in World War I. Franklin Roosevelt made the decisions which led to our victory in World War IL Dwight D. Eisenhower made decisions which ended the war in Korea and avoided war in the Middle East. John F. Kennedy, in his finest hour, made the great decision which removed Soviet Nuclear missiles from Cuba and the Western Hemisphere. The decision I have announced tonight is not of the same magnitude. Between those decisions and this decision, however, there is a difference that is very fundamental. In those decisions, the American people were not assailed by counsels of doubt and defeat from some of the most widely known opinion leaders of the nation.
- to blame this war on previous administrations and to bring all of our men home immediately regardless of the consequences; even though that 'would mean defeat for the United States.
- to desert 18 million South [unclear: Vietnamés] people, who have put their trust in us and to expose them to the same slaughter and savagery which the leaders of North Vietnam inflicted [unclear: o] hundreds of thousands of North Vietnamese who chose freedom when the communists took [unclear: over] North Vietnam;
- to get peace at any price now even though know that a peace of humiliation for the United States will lead to a bigger war or surrender latter
But I have rejected all political considerations [unclear: i] making this decision. Whether my party gains [unclear: i] November is nothing compared to the lives [unclear: o] 400,000 brave Americans fighting for [unclear: ou] country and for the cause of peace and freedom in Vietnam. Whether I may be a [unclear: one-terr] President is insignificant compared to whether [unclear: b] our failure to act in this crisis the United State proves itself to be unworthy to lead the force freedom in this critical period. I would rather [unclear: b] a one-term President than to be a [unclear: two-terr] President at the cost of seeing America become second-rate power and see this nation accept [unclear: th] first defeat in its proud 190-year history.
I realise that in this war there are honest an deep differences about whether we should have ever become involved in Vietnam. There [unclear: ar] differences as to how the war should [unclear: b] conducted. But the decision I announce tonight transcends those differences. For the lives [unclear: o] American men are involved. The opportunity [unclear: fo] 150,000 American men to come home over [unclear: th] next 12 months is involved. The future of [unclear: 1] million people in South Vietnam and 7 [unclear: millio] people in Cambodia is involved. The [unclear: possibilit] of winning a just peace in Vietnam and in [unclear: th] Pacific is at stake.
"I ask for support of our brave men fighting tonight halfway around the world, not for territory, not for glory, but so that their younger brouthers and their sons and your sons will be able to live in peace and freedom."
It is customary in a speech from the White House to ask support for the President of [unclear: th] United States. Tonight, what I ask for is mor important. I ask for support of our brave me fighting tonight halfway around he world, not [unclear: fc] territory, not for glory, but so that their [unclear: younge] brothers and their sons and your sons will be [unclear: abl] to live in peace and freedom.