tv Conversation with Henry Kissinger CSPAN May 21, 2016 1:38am-2:57am EDT
secretary of state to president nixon and to president ford but also a part-time consultant to president kennedy and johnson as was just alluded so more than any living person you see of the commander in chief's can you talk about each of those men and what characterized theirther whbition of for? >> first of all, let me say what an honor is for me to be here and to participate in the conference which is needed to heal wounds with the debates over vietnam's or want to congratulate the library for organizing this am providing the
opportunity. it is symbolic that secretary kerry is coming here tomorrow night he was walking outside the white house.make is [laughter] the point i want to make is they have become good friends he came to my 90th birthday party and made a toast where he pointed out of with his actions had been and it was a pity that we did not have an opportunity to talk rather than confront each other in that period. in the spirit we have worked together with the foreignha
relations committee and i really respect his efforts now it is very meaningful that a conference would end with the speech with the leader of the american now so now to answer your question with the kennedy administration, a vietnam vet first was a peripheral issue the dominant concernturn d and because they in turn to be revised from president eisenhower then it could
determine the future of vietnam there was the document of the chinese who said the whole world would be characterized by this struggle of the countryside in the kennedy administration talking about indochina as part of the process but in those days we had only a few thousand advisers but that number would increase of 50 doesn't with the kennedy, administration but it was not yet a central of session
of american policy but then lyndon johnson had the situation in which the government of vietnam was overthrown the northgu vietnamese had infiltrated those divisions so i could observe johnson thought he was carrying out the sport but dash the spirit of a policy that was started by president kennedy when he ordered the increase ofs the adi forces but then gradually does the administration went on, all his life was known
as concerned prime minister was in the division of the country that in a way has lasted to the state for foreign policy and i must say he was english to because he wanted peace and those notions is that you make a compromise and that is the one paying that the north vietnamese were never prepared to do so then i became involved because the normal attempt to achieve negotiations had beeno blocked by became involved in the following way at that
time was a professor atchy in harvard with no standing in the hierarchy of washington and i attended a scientific conference in europe there were two people who'd talked to me because they knew i had ben in vietnam for a few weeks earlier that year at the invitation of the ambassador. what did these two people were the host that when coach gene in lived in paris to negotiate peace he offered to go to vietnam on behalf of peace for the
united states i call that secretary mcnamara to tell them about this the secretary discussed the matter and amazingly president johnson interested a professor at harvard which was not the constituency. [laughter] to be the intermediary that two frenchmen had never heard of before. [laughter] so he said he had a message for president johnson to ho chi minh so under the circumstances he was prepared and they came back
that was implied after six years of negotiations did ministrations have learned that was typical of vietnamese they replied basically the proposal made it sound navy there was something i will not go through all the details but i was sent back with another message and with none of the effort to never see a vietnamese negotiator they threaten to for the three months than realized they
were stalling that i mention thd this because of presidenthim toe johnson to achieve the peace from the very beginning of how ht nixon had a problem of how he inheritedere r the war with all the troops in vietnam he had to take issue and how do youop withdraw the troops without leading to a collapse of the old structure in indochina?
and south asia you can ask me questions in president ford was from those very last days of the war but i want to say at the very end when it was obvious in your talking about the evacuation's with the last batch of civilians stuck at the airport in saigon i called and said we have to permit the evacuation of saigon in that conversation
he realized we had to leave but he wanted to see if we can rescue a few more so he wanted to find a peaceful solution to bring american honor to the ending of the war and that caused thented war. dilemma because nobody wanted war or to escalate the war they all wanted peace but the question was under what conditions can you do that without turning over the millions that the
previous presidents had committed themselves? >> going back to kennedy there is widespread speculation if not assassinated he would have reversed course and withdrawn troops despite evidence is there anything that you saw that lead tom just over time he would haveould withdrawn our support for the war in vietnam? >> i have never seen the slightest evidence of this it is impossible to say he might have but all of the moves of the kennedy administration they increase the commitment and not
diminished but it was a simpler problem but i have never seen a piece of paper that would indicate this from the chief advisers of president kennedy from johnson when he became president and that was adapted in tow it got a difficult but i know no evidence of president kennedy. >> clinton johnson was a domestic policy sage he knew
instinctively many thought he was head of his depth with foreign policy what was your view with johnson with foreign policy? >> president johnson from the first day in office you can really judge foreignca policy of the president's who was swallowed up by the war in vietnam. master johnson was the master of domestic policy he did not
know the foreign leaders as well so did not come as naturally to him as domestic policy but those issues other than the war in vietnam but had a good relationship with our allies and was very eager to come with the soviet union i thought president johnson was a formidable individual in some ways it was a personal tragedy that so much of his life to achieve the office in order to read
those things that were not a major focus but he was a strong figure in the felt great respect. >> has long been alleged that nixon's presidential campaign tampered with the peace process by sending an emissary to the south vietnamese to urge them tothe nt withhold from negotiations because they might get a better deal from president nixon what is your view? >> i have no personal knowledge if that actually took place the way it has been alleged but assuming it
is correct, i do not believed ae that would never nixon did have the influence that was vietged you have to remember this aspect of our relationship with the, vietnamese and our allies is were nearly desperate to in needed our help and was a central component such as the peace process was going on had a tendency to agree to the provisions that we put forward in 68 wers
experienced what nixon experienced that when the undert time came for the negotiations there would have to assume responsibility for the outcome in the south vietnamese leaders felt they could demonstrate to their own people by the united states so then that started a debate about something venture president johnson and i know president nixon and hour period but were already settled so one of the key issues was to sit
down at the table and then of course, produce with the south vietnamese at the table who have been fighting to overthrow from the south vietnamese so on the issue rose with the negotiations it started a debate the way the negotiation could even start we face the same thing in a different way four years later with the north vietnamese we thought the
south had agreed to each of the terms as we had discussed them but what was put forward we went through six weeks of controversy that was inherited would have happened with nixon or so o not and secondly between the announcement in my opinion was inevitable but one otherab thing to remember that peace could have been made if they had all set the same table there is absolutely no chance of this whatsoever
minister. one of the great men i met, he inherited a seminar with a per capita income of $600.220 years and do a significant country, the per capita income of 55,000. without any natural resources -based on the dedication and quality of its population. he was convinced, and so were many others, that is vietnam collapsed at the time that then it would be
engulfed, and the same thing within happen in indonesia, malaysia, and elsewhere. and he maintained that opinion. and he was not a cold warrior in the abstract. he was a judge of what it took to keep the little country secure. >> see you agree? >> i agree with that. and yes. and so i think that the president, reason for making them. >> and is 2015 book bob woodward writes of the january 1972 memo that you wrote to president nixon
updating them on the military situation in laos. president nixon wrote a handwritten note on that same memo which read k in kissinger. we have had ten years of total control in the air in laos and vietnam. the result equals else. there is. there's something wrong with the strategy of the air force. dand yet the night before in a cbs interview with dan rather president nexus of the bombing, the results have been effective. their effectiveness will be demonstrated. publicly president nixon is saying the bombing is effective privately to you. how do you account for that? >> it is one of the curses of modern activism that every scrap of paper be
collected. in the same way as if it were legal document. eighteen hours a day, under constant pressure. they write a note to their advisor that it is still going on, and nixon hattaway of exaggerating his comment. he said, what did you do when you receive this? i said, i did not. and he could not believe it. why would i do nothing. because i had worked with president next for ten years. or eight years.
and when you get the message like this have attendance after a while to wait to see whether there be a follow-up and if you think about it, that is what made the normal way. on the assessment of the campaign you cannot positively say it may not have achieved everything you have to break it down. i think probably nixon might have slightly exaggerated what he said publicly.
he surely exaggerated his frustration in a handwritten note, probably written late at night. and i think we ought to analyze each document that is floating around from that point of you. paul was the context in which the comment was made. >> but nixon is a very enigmatic person. and you person. and you write often that he would say one thing and meet another, so you have to judge when he was saying -- >> it did not mean that i had a very clear idea of what he wanted. and you have to understand, you cannot survive a security advisor.
you have only one constitute. the president of the united states. and you must be absolutely straight with them. and the most important thing is security advisor can do and must do is to tell the president the options he has sometimes he has to say to the president from ill considered 1st, and if you abuse that utility, it is at an end. so nixon now generally known , hated personal confrontation, and so therefore in face-to-face confrontations it was like it was possible that he
expressed himself ambiguously. but if you in any written you can absolutely rely, and if you look at his record he knew he was a very strong president in sticking to his basic convictions. he took an enormously difficult decisions, and there was no ambiguity about them. but it was better to discuss them with him then have aa face-to-face conversation. and one will find going through the archives that most of the key decisions
when i was security advisor were based on memoranda and nine conversations. the conversations played a very important role in creating the mood and establishing the general context, but when a precise decision was needed it was best to do it in writing. it is a good way anyway to relay between presidents. >> right. mentioned your commitment to the peace process and the fact that you in 1973 along with your north vietnamese counterpart won the nobel peace prize. there are many who will i see you are a war criminal due to the systematic carpet bombing of laos and cambodia why was that necessary to our strategy and winning
more? >> you know, in my 90s, i heard. the word war criminal should not be thrown around. it is a shameful reflection on the people who use it. that is look what was the situation. there was no carpet bombing, so that is absolute nonsense, not true. the situation was as follows, the judgment, the north vietnamese moved four divisions into the border areas of vietnam and cambodia on cambodian soil and established areas from which they wants attack and
vietnam, and put there in opposition to the cambodian government. in fact, the cambodian government told them there is representative of lbj that if we bomb those areas that did not kill any cambodians that they would close their eyes to it. the lbj administration decided not to do this because we were already under pressure domestically and for other reasons that may be known by others better than i. but then the -- one nixon
came nixon had already, just before he assumed office sent a message to the north vietnamese that he was eager to resume negotiations. in the 3rd week of the nixon presidency they started out offensive in which every week 500, up to 500 americans were killed, and many of these attacks, more than half of these attacks came from the areas that were occupied by those four divisions inside cambodian territory. and after we had suffered 1500 casualties, and ten
years of war in afghanistan nixon ordered an attack on the areas within 5 miles of the vietnamese border that were essentially unpopulated. so when the french cup -- when the phrase carpet bombing is used, it is, i think, probably much less than what the obama administration has done in similar areas. which i think is justified. and therefore, i believe that was done in cambodia was justified and eventually wiped out the areas.
the casualties were down by 80 percent, and so those were the decisions, and i would bet that sooner or later and he president would have had to do it because this is one that is you find during a war and those areas from which the killing units extend, then you are in an absolutely hopeless position. i was security advisor. i was not -- a different matter. strongly supportive of it, and it was in the american interest.
and there are a billion casualties from this bombing alone. we have to ask ourselves another thing, the argument against doing it was a cambodia was a neutral country. but a country that had four divisions. it is not actually a neutral country. and the leader of cambodia told the johnson administration that he would in no way welcome this bombing. only then actually did it he
said at a press conference, i don't know what goes on in that part of my country in which no cambodians live in which is occupied by vietnamese. if any cambodians killed i will protest. he never protested. >> two of the others, robert mcnamara expressed regret over the war and how it was wage saying that the wall was futile and that his conduct was wrong, terribly wrong. have you any regrets on any of the actions you took? >> no. you always make -- i believe
people are being pressed together. therefore americans have a tendency to think that piece is the normal condition of one people, among countries. when there is instability it is sort of an accident. you can remedy by one set of action after which you can go back to a condition of stability. clearly. been involved in the five
worst since world war ii. which we, in fact, lost. we ended each of these wars with a wide public consensus there was an 80 percent support for everyone of these initial ask, but then after some period time people say we have to end it and you need an extrication strategy, well, the best one is just to get out. you can also call that defeat. so if you enter a war you should not do it for objectives.
those are message. and and they also have to moderate our domestic debate because the vietnam war, what started as a huge level debate about whether we were engaged in the process that we could master, most since formed into an attack. the moral quality of american leadership. and when one teaches a people it is basically patriotic for 20 years they are run by criminals and fools, you can get a political debate the becomes
more and more violent and we suffer from it and some of the current political debates. that is one lesson we should learn from the vietnam war. should moderate the argument that make them people. >> based on that you how would you assess the war in iraq? >> the war in iraq, well, 1st of all, i want to be clear, i supported it. i had in mind a different kind of war. i thought we would withdraw after saddam was overthrown. ..
it is -- one of them was syria that had a majority of sunnis, and a minority of shia, which in syria, of course, otherwise -- and iraq it was the opposite. it had a minority of sunnis and a majority of shias so in each case, the american president said, let's get rid of the top guy and we will have stability. but getting rid of the top guy produces a conflict among the various minority groups who are then fighting for preeminence, and so we have to learn that when we get into
nation-building, it's such a war we have to engage in nation-building, and so i think we did not understand the complexities of nation-building as a general proposition in several administrations. that's how i would assess the war in iraq. we got into something deeper than we assessed at the beginning. >> dr. kissinger has graciously consented to take a few questions from the audience, and i will ask him another question. as you wish to ask questions, queue up behind the microphones on either side of the aisle itch ask, please, that you ensure that your question is in fact that, a question and not a statement, and that you be as brief as possible in asking that question. dr. kissinger, it's impossible
to ignore the election as it plays out. you said in a 2014 interview with scott simon of national public radio that you think hillary clinton would make a good president about you intended to support the republican nominee. >> i'm not going to get into the -- [laughter] [applause] >> is it fair to say that that 2014 was a long time ago? are you still inclined to support whoever the republican party nominates? [laughter] >> i have not made any pronouncements. >> fair enough. >> if i might add, you were kind enough to say i could --
consented to answer questions. insisted on answering questions. >> you insisted. >> i wanted to give the audience -- [applause] >> i must say to dr. kissinger's everlasting credit he called me several weeks ago and said, i want to take questions from in the audience. i'll take any question they offer to me. i ask that you ask your question again briefly and in a civil manter and we'll start with this gentleman on the left. >> dr. kissinger, when the accord was signed in laos in 1962, they counted on the vietnamese to honor the neutralization of laos, which didn't happen, and they did not acknowledge that accord was broken. in your agreement, you had a side expectation of the north vietnamese moving their troops out of cambodia, laos and that
didn't happen as expected. how do we -- >> it's a tentative proposition, you can say, at least until recently, the north vietnamese -- the record for breaking agreements. the 1962 agreement on laos, if you -- president eisenhower was convinced that laos was the key to vietnam; that if one believed that vietnam was important to the security of the united states, then one had to keep laos from falling under north
vietnamese domination, and he is -- the accord i believe did recommend to the incoming administration that they should make an issue of laos, and seemed to imply he would send some american troops to achieve this. laos being less complex country in which to achieve his objective. the kennedy administration was not willing to put in forces but it said it might, and as a result there was a neutralization agreement, and that was broken by the north vietnamese almost immediately, and they turned laos into a
supply base and all the supplies which most -- most of the supplies which went through laos in 1972, when the nixon administration made its agreements, we had a lot of practice in violated north vietnamese agreements. but we were faced with the near certainty that the congress would vote an end to the war no matter what action would be taken, and secondly, we believed that the provisions of the vietnam agreement, if we could enforce them, would also protect the other two countries.
we thought that the south vietnamese forces that existed could withstand all but an all-out attack, and we with woo have enforced or meant to enforce the agreement if there was an all-out attack. then watergate destroyed that possibility, and then the congress legislated a prohibition against any attempt to enforce the agreement. so, we will not know what might have happened, but you are right, by the time that these agreements were made in 1972, the american domestic position had disintegrated to a point where those who were the -- those were the best terms available and it goes back to
the point i made earlier, we must -- if we end the war, also make sure that the domestic base for it can be sustained. that's part of the responsibility of the administration. but the opponents also have to understand that if they achieve their objectives by undermining all confidence in government, that, of course, no strategy could succeed. >> yes, ma'am. >> thank you. my name is jean, a vietnamese american. dr. kissinger it is -- you have agreed to avenge for china to take over the island in 1974, on
whose behalf did you do so, and even the current south china sea situation and all the concerns in asia and pacific ocean, what at vade size would you with president xi, president obama, and secretary kerry. thank you. >> i'm not sure i fully understood the question. it's a question that we tacitly agreed in 1974 that china could take over south -- >> i'm not quite sure i understand that. restate the question. >> it was understood that the u.s. and your supervisor, the security adviser, had arranged so that china would take over the islands in 1974, so that we don't lose that area to russia.
now, today, what would you suggest us do on behalf of the national security of the u.s. and even the attack for china is doing on the u.s. do you think the agreement that you signed with mao in 1972- -- 71-72, that time -- is worthy of our 58,000 deaths of the american soldiers? >> thank you. >> well, first of all, as for the benefit of the two or three nontexas graduates here who m not know what the islands are, those -- it's a group of islands
in the south china sea located between china and vietnam. and depending on from which point of land you measure the distance, they're either closer to vietnam than to china. anyway, it's disputed issue. the chinese claim these islands because hundreds of years ago, a chinese emperor drew a line in the pacific, near the philippines, and said everything on that side belongs to china. so, and chiang kai-shek claimed these islands. the vietnamese also claimed these islands. the american position, with
respect to the islands, has been consistently that we do not take a position on the sovereignty of these islands. in 1974, in the midst of watergate, a war in the middle east, i can assureow, the islands were not foremost on mind, but there is no agreement that was ever signed in which we gave china a right to occupy the islands. nor have the chinese ever claimed, that, and so i think yu are not well-informed.
there was no specific negotiation. >> -- u.s. navy. >> thank you, ma'am. >> what was the last -- >> yes, sir. your question. >> i was a south vietnamese soldier who spent ten years in prison thanks to the very agreement you signed with hanoi in 1973. you destroyed my present field. you was a fraud. you would send troops to help our nation, our country, to resist the -- and the result is vietnam fall to hanoi, and i expect that you should answe the question, what we learn from
vietnam war that we would never betray any ally that depend on us, and trust it very much. thank you. >> i have great sympathy for these questions from vietnamese. they had a right to think that we had promised them support through a number of administrations, including the one in which i served. when vietnam was collapsing, it was impossible to convince the congress to pass any additional funds. we're talking now about 1975.
there were 35 other nations that had signed on to the agreement when it was made in 1973. we appealed to all of them, and none of them was willing to act. it was one of the saddest moments of my life, and all of us who were -- the day of the evacuation of saigon was one of the saddest moments of my life and of all of us who had been -- had seen the dedication of vietnamese, the dedication of those people who served, little of which have written letters
that i have sympathy for your question, and i hope no other american leader gets asked similar questions, but the fundamental failure was the division in our country. without that we could have managed it. >> yes, sir. [inaudible question] >> -- an honor -- is it working now? >> i didn't get it. >> he justified himself. >> 198 infan tray i-corps vietnam, 68-69. after the tet offensive, after lbj refusing to run again, after walter cronkite, there was peace with honor as a striving, yet it cost tens of thousands of casualties. it would have been better to skip the honor and dodge so many
of the casualties? getting out earlier? >> what's the question? >> would it -- given the fact that peace with honor took such a toll in terms of human life, would it have been better just to withdraw altogether? is that a fair -- >> yes. the invasion of cambodia, the extended time of the u.s. soldiers, certainly later '69, '70, sustained a lot of casualties. perhaps we should have withdrawn. thank you. >> if you look at the american political debate there was no one -- if you look at the position of the democratic party at that time, you will find that
nobody in 1969 and '70 recommended unilateral withdrawal; that the position of the johnson administration was that the vietnamese troops had to withdraw first, and six months after that, american withdrawals would start. so, a unilateral withdrawal of american forces in the middle of a war, declaring we cannot stand the consequences of this war, i don't know anybody who recommended it at that time. then by two years later, we were talking about infantry --
withdrawal -- in retrospect, was the war worth all these casualties? of course if you lose a war, you cannot say, but what it achieved in any event was that the southeast asia was not overrun and probably made the contributing factor to the opening to china. but it was a bitter ending. >> i do not blame you or any administration, perhaps the cause is not in the stars but all of ourselves. >> what did he say? >> just a statement, dr. kissinger.
the last question on the right here. >> hello, dr. kissinger, a pleasure to hear you speak this evening. always been a fan of and find you fascinating. may not agree with you always but you're an interesting individual and influenced or world in many ways. the war on drugs was issued under nixon and the long term, we have more people in prison in china, 70% of our prisoners are nonviolent. do you think the war on drugs was worth it, and do you think it should be continued into the 21st century and you think we should continue it or look at it as a failure or was it's victory? that do you think of that? the war on drugs and how it affected the last 40-some-odd years. >> the war on drugs, the domestic policy matter? >> under nixon.
>> i don't think any statement i can make on the war on drugs would be -- >> fair enough. >> but i want to make one other point here. my observations are directed at an american -- at the american audience. i have great sympathy for the vietnamese who are in this audience, and of course, their perspective had to be -- has to be different, and i'm sorry but not because of any action the administration in which i was involved in, but if it -- historic tragedy that mesh found itself so divided and could not solve its domestic debates so
that it could come out of the war with a result that was more compatible with what, on a bipartisan basis, it had entered, and that is a lesson we should learn. >> dr. kissinger, you have made your mark on history. what will history say about henry kissinger? [shouting] >> i have no -- i had the good fortune of being able to come to the united states when most of the -- many of the people with whom i grew up were killed in germany. so i have always been deeply grateful to this country, and i know what it represents to the
peace in the world. i've been lucky in being able to execute my concerns as my profession, and so i'm -- i'm not involved in what i'm doing in order to get history written about me. there is a extensive record and some people -- i must say the way the mass of material that is produced now in the internet age, i'm not too sure whether you can say history will come to a fair judgment.
anyway, that is not my concern. i try to do the best i could, and that's all i can say. [applause] >> we are not only grateful to you, dr. kissinger, for being our honored guest about for serving your country as a -- in world war ii. we have many veterans out there, including yourself, and i would ask now that you stand and be recognized by this audience, please. [applause] [applause]