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tv   1966 Fulbright Vietnam Hearings George Kennan  CSPAN  February 13, 2016 10:00pm-10:38pm EST

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congress to do it. it cost $300,000 in 1950's to do that. and the outgoing secretary of the library of congress was responsible for overseeing the program. thank you much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] ornia. so all of us have skin in the game and want to put an next on c-span3. the 1966ck 50 years to vietnam hearings. these are the first televised hearings on the vietnam war. we will see a special report and cbs coverage of the hearings. i began with senate historian -- we begin with senate historian
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emeritus donald richie. >> the vietnam hearings were some of the most extraordinary hearings ever held by congress. they were an investigation in to a war that was still being fought. congress and the senate wanted to know why we were in vietnam, what the administration's policies were, and they wanted to hear from opponents of the war. they give equal status to critics as they did supporters. iswas a real debate and that something that does not happen in wartime. in wartime, everyone rallies around the flag and there is general agreement. the reason was, we never had a declaration of war or a congressional debate. 1954, -- president lyndon johnson could use that to
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get congress to pass the gulf of tonkin, resolution, authorizing him to retaliate. them rallying around the flag in support of the president during a period of crisis. it was done very quickly. senator fulbright brought it to the floor just after an hour's hearing. it was passed with only two dissenting votes in the senate. no one thought it was a declaration of war at the time. fact, senator fulbright said to one of the senators who asked if it could be interpreted that way, it is possible but that is not what the president has in mind. that -- the president did not see it as a declaration of war. he saw it as something to help
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his election in november over barry goldwater. johnson decided to send vietnam in early 1965 between january and july, he debated inside his administration and took the several leaders of congress as to whether or not he should ask for a formal declaration or state of emergency. who chose not to do that because he was afraid it would disrupt his great society domestic legislation. he thought his opponents would use the war as a way to slow down or defund dmomestic
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legislation. he chose to go in pretending he thought it was a declaration of war. 65- 196 5 and 1956 and 1966, congress felt a loss. fulbright felt betrayed. he felt johnson had misused him and he chose to convene public hearings of the senate foreign relations committee to investigate the war. it was controversial just to have them public. themdministration wanted to only testify in closed-door sessions. senator fulbright got the rest of the committee to agree to a public hearing. the secretary of state does
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testify in public, the secretary of defense does not. opponents of the war as well. point, and was just college students picketing or soapbox orators. they did not have stature. senator fullbright gave them shocked the antiwar establishment. president johnson was furious and decided spur of the moment flight to honolulu and hold a special summit with general to bereland who happened taking rest and relaxation in hawaii, and he would call the prime minister of south vietnam to meet him there.
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he decided this so quickly that some of his top aides were literally out to lunch. when i got back they discovered everyone was rushing to arrange a meeting. they had not even booked hotel rooms. this was clearly to steal the thunder from the hearing. the television networks came to broadcast this. abc came.and --some cases the short-lived they would show it live and on other cases they would broadcast and in the evening. opening-day a johnson was furious again. his family owned by cbs station in texas. he felt cbs owed him something. phone and told cbs they were doing a disservice to
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the nation and gets them to all the blood. -- to pull the plug. the next day, cbs shows "i love lucy" reruns. the head chair resigned in protest. all of that gave even more publicity. it made more people tune in to .atch them from that they heard dean rusk defending the policies and george kennan opposing the policies. was a debate and senator fulbright did a huge service to the nation. felt he hadhnson done a huge disservice.
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the president kept the senator from the foreign relations committee at arms length until the end of his term. >> we are about to see george kennan's testimony. for people who do not know the name, who was he? >> one of america's most distinguished diplomats. he had been in moscow during world war ii, and when the war came to an end, the russians had been our allies, but kennan f developing,old war soviet expansionism, and threats to democracy in europe. wrote annnan who ,rticle and signed it mr. x because he was a diplomat and could not take sides, that the policy of the united states
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needed to follow containment. it had to hold back soviet expansionism. until the soviet union collapsed on itself. he did not think it could exist in perpetuity and as long as it could be held inside its borders and not expand, the west would ask would -- the west would prevail. his idea of containment became the underlying principle of the western response and the underlying european xbox -- response. himself came to have great doubts about his own theory. he did not think the united states needed to be a policeman to the world.
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he had much more limited vision of what it was. but containment in the philosophy of containment was the basis for president johnson's decision to support south vietnam believing that the communist vietnam was trying to take over south vietnam. and believing that china was behind north vietnam. the containment theory was the rationale for the united states to send troops to vietnam. here was the author of the containment theory saying it does not apply here. you need to get out as soon as possible this is not a winning situation for the united states. >> from washington, d.c. a special report on this morning's hearings by the senate's foreign relations committee.
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>> report here is our washington news correspondent. >> the senate foreign relations committee resumed with george kennan as its witness. considered an extra he displayed firsthand knowledge on asian affairs. criticalpected to be of americans and the administration's policy and tactics in south vietnam. in his opening comments, he warned against impossible goals and escalation of american involvement. >> a precipitous and disorderly withdrawal could create a disservice to our own interests and even world peace, differences that might have been
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resolved by our failure to engage in the first place. this is a reality which if there is to be any peaceful resolution will have to be recognized by the more critical of our friends and our adversaries. time, i have great misgivings about any deliberate expansion of hostilities on our part directed to the achievement of something called victory. if by the use of that term we envisage the complete disappearance of the recalcitrance with which we are now faced, the formal submission by the adversary to our will and the complete disappearance of our stated political aims. i doubt that these things can be achieved even by the most formidable military successes.
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they seems to be an impression that if we bring the military to their there will be something of a political capitulation on the other side. i think this is a most anger's assumption. i don't say it's absolutely impossible but it is a dangerous assumption in light of the experience we've had with communist elements in the past. vietnamese and the viet cong have between them a great deal of space and manpower to give up if they need to and the chinese would give them more if they needed. communist to the thattion would dictate these people should disappear entirely from the open scene and exclusively on an underground political and military existence rather than to accept terms that would be
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openly humiliating and would represent in their eyes the betrayal of the future political prospects of the cost which they are dedicated. any rotting out of the viet cong from the territory of south vietnam could be achieved if it could be achieved at all only at the cost of the degree of damage to civilian life and of civilian suffering generally for which i would not like to see this and to responsible attempt to crush north vietnamese strength to a point where hanoi could no longer give any support for viet cong political activity in the south and almost certainly it seems to me it would have the effect of bringing in chinese forces at formally orhether in the guise of volunteers.
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thus involving us in a military conflict with communist china on one of the most unfavorable theaters of hostility we could publicly choose. >> mr. kennan warmed up to his suspect -- subject as he testified america has suffered serious damage to its world opinion through its damage in vietnam. this role in inflicting grave injury and damage the peoples of another race and religion. mr. cannon claims -- mr. kennan claimed his -- stated his position and fatah clay. -- emphatically. >> it is clear however justified our opinion may be in our own eyes it is failed to win enthusiasm or confidence from people normally friendly to us. our motives are widely misinterpreted and the spectacle emphasized and reproduced in thousands of press photographs,
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the spectacle of americans inflicting grievous injury on the life-support and helpless people and particularly people of different race and color. no matter how warranted by military necessity or the excesses of the adversary our operations may seem to us to be or may genuinely be, this spectacle produced reactions among millions of people throughout the world profoundly detrimental to the image we would like to hold in this country. not saying it's just or right, i am saying it is so and that it is bound to be so. and the victory purchased at the price of further such damage would be a hollow one in terms of our world interest matter what advantages it might. these are the reasons gentlemen
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why i hope our government will restrict military operations in vietnam to the minimum necessary the security of our forces and to maintain our military presence there until we peacefulve a military resolution of the contract -- contact. and that is why i hope we can pursue vigorously and consistently the quest for such a peaceful resolution of the conflict. this involve some moderation of our stated objective and even if the resulting settlement appears to us as something less than ideal i cannot -- ideal. judge the military aspect but in the political aspects i believe that general gavin is on the right track and
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if i understood him correctly we areas decide what limited we can safely police and defend and restrict ourselves largely to the maintenance of our position there. interest tod with the arguments that have been brought forward in a position to his views and i have not been much impressed with some of them when i am told it would be difficult to do send -- defend such enclaves is hard to understand why it would be easier to defend the far greater areas to which presumably is successful escalation of our military activity would bring us. i also find it difficult for reasons i will not take time to go into here to believe that our allies -- our western european allies, most of whom themselves have driven up -- given up great
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territories within recent years and sometimes in a very statesmanlike way, i find it hard to believe that we would be subject to great reproach or loss of confidence at their hands simply because we followed a defensive rather than offensive strategy in vietnam at this time. in matters such as this, it is but how you do it. i would submit that there is more respect to be won in the opinion of this world by a resolute and courageous liquidation of unsound positions than the most stubborn pursuit of extravagant or unpromising objectives. finally, when i hear it said
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that to adopt a defensive strategy in vietnam would be to return on our commitment to the government of that territory am a little he will dirt and i would like to know what that really consists of and how and when it was incurred. what seems to be involved here is an obligation on all parts, not only to defend the frontiers of a certain political entity against outside attack but to ensure the internal security of its government and circumstances where that government is unable to ensure the security by its own means. any such obligation is one that goes considerably further in its implications than the normal obligations of the military alliance. if we did not incur such an obligation in any formal way than we should not be infecting it for ourselves and assuring
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ourselves that we are bound by it today. fail did incur it, then i to understand how it was possible to enter into any such commitment otherwise than through the constitutional processes which were meant to come into play when commitments of lesser import than this were undertaken. two concluding observations. i would like it understood that what i have said here implies nothing but the highest respect and admiration for the fighting qualities in the forces of our field. i have the greatest confidence in them, men and commanders alike. i have no doubt that they can produce military results that will surprise our skeptical friends and arrogant adversaries.
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it's not there for their fighting qualities. it's the purpose to which they are being employed that evokes my skepticism. secondly i would like to say i'm looking at this whole problem not from a moral standpoint but the practical one. i see a band of ruthless fanatics hartley misled perhaps by the propaganda that has been drummed into them but true in their purposes, dictatorial and oppressive in their aims. i'm not conscious of having any sympathy for them. their claim to represent the people of south vietnam is unfounded, arrogant and outrageous. a country that fell under their exclusive power would have my deepest sympathy and would hope this eventuality at any rate might be avoided by a restrained and moderate policy on our part in south vietnam. in our country should not be
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asked and should not ask of the main shoulder burden of determining the political realities in any other country, particularly not in one remote from our shores, culture and from the experience of our people. this is not our business but i don't think we can do it successfully. continuesoverage after this message. benita santos, fernando garcia, jose diaz, juanita de luz, mariocia de lorenzo diablo and
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paulina del rio think steve murray is great. was not out to win a personality contest when he joined the peace corps it just worked out that way. the world needs more people like steve and you might be one of them. >> ambassador kennan expressed his conviction that simply because a country does go communist it does not severally mean that the nation becomes our arch enemy. remarkre captured by the as he cited his experience to the ambassador of yugoslavia when that country went communist and he appeared to advocate that any independent communist country is able to maintain a satisfactory balance in its policies toward the free world
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and communist allies. mr. cannon's testimony seems to favor the policy of allowing people to decide for themselves what form of government is to be chosen. he sees little danger that orderly withdrawal would endanger other asian nations. >> it is not so that when men call themselves communists some sort of magic transportation takes place within them that makes them different from other human beings are what they were before. feelings of nationalism ordinary feeling still affect them to a large extent. i think this reality plays a thinkn old vietnam idol they want domination by the chinese, i think the fact that -- inis an alternative the form of the soviet union there is an alternative to the commonest world in a country
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that is much more position to give them the economic aid that they need. all of this represents a state of affairs which would be very -- i merelyken into wish to say that while there domination would not be desirable might not be quite as traffic or fateful as many of us assume. are'll think any of us under the illusion that any settlement can be desirable. it's going to be one that is only tolerable but not satisfactory. is that not your view? one of the comments you made that aroused my interest -- you stated on page six that you are
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not looking at this purely from a moral standpoint but it practical one of what can be achieved here. it's a great difference in the culture and race and language and so one. i take it by this you mean that this is simply not a practicable objective in this country that we can't achieve it even with the best of will's. >> this is correct and i have a fear that our thinking about this problem is still affected i some sort of illusion about invincibility on our part. that there is no problem in the world which we if we wanted to devote our resources to it could not solve. i disbelieve in this most profoundly. i do not think we can order the
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areas in realities of a great many other parts of the world. so far as i can see we are not being very successful in ordering them on items close to our own shores. i deeply doubt that we can enter into the affairs of people far efforts and by our own primarily determined the sorts of political conditions that will prevail. this is separate from my sympathies. i have seen as much as anyone in this room of people living under communism. i know as well as anyone does what that means. sympathyple have my but as john quincy adams says there are limits to what our duties and capabilities are. attempt toost in the rescue or even establish the
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liberties of others and particularly people who have never know them as we know them in this country who not even know what the words mean that we use, we can lose our own substance and i think we can have very little to show for it when this is all over. >> is it your view that if the elections had been held in july 1956 as provided by the geneva accord of 1954 that the people of vietnam would probably have voted in officials that would've established a communist regime that would have done so under election procedures set forth in the accord? know a greataim to deal about the realities there and i go largely on a statement in the book of a respected ex-president who said that in everything he could learn
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indicated that the election would have gone 80% in favor of the communist side had it been held at that time. i can't judge the correctness of this but from all i could learn i think it likely that elections held at that time would have gone in favor of the communist side but on the other hand i'm not sure they would have been entirely free elections. people of the country decide to vote themselves a communist regime or decide they are willing to -- support a communist regime, do you think it is a wide policy for the united states to use their power to intervene to prevent those people from having the kind of government that they want? >> know, senator. -- no, senator, i do not. i do not think it was a wise policy.
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it could create difficult problems for our government. it seems to me that as people who profess to believe in the we are in arocess poor position to object to the consequences of any free expression of opinion on the part of people elsewhere in the world. i want to ask mr. cannon speaking of the image we are creating and other parts of the world that it's very helpful for only be tracked as the nation in the world now that maintains overseas bases in overseas land forces. hast britain still singapore which is not a great
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importance but their whole movement of alleged allies has been to withdraw while the military posture of the united states is to take seats of military investment abroad. do you think that is having an effect on our image abroad? >> i think that it is. it's exploited by the communists and does have some effect. i would not like to be understood as saying that i think we should withdraw all our bases abroad. in a think you can generalize. i think there's some that are wanted and useful and there have in the past been ones who we would have done better never to establish. >> let me put it this way. you have two truck types of bases, bases -- two types of bases, bases of which we are a party with such forces such as nato and others where it is a
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unilateral party in a go it alone course. is there a greater danger of misunderstanding when we follow a unilateral policy then when we go with other countries? i think that there is a greater danger of misunderstanding the circumstances that i could conceive it possible where we thosehave to maintain bases even at the extent of a certain amount of misunderstanding. immediatek the withdrawal of united states forces and other activities from vietnam from that country could be used effectively as a propaganda tool and weapon and africa and the emerging nations of africa? the chinese have in making a great effort. >> it would be a six-month sensation but i daresay we would survive it in the end and there would be
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another day. things happen fast on the people'sonal scene and memories are very short. if we run our minds back over the crises of recent years and ask ourselves what has become of them we can realize the truth of that statement. hot ands a time we were bothered over the lebanon and landing troops there. a year or two ago no one would ever have thought the cyprus crisis would be as quiet as it is today. these past more rapidly than one might think. >> the crisis didn't just take care of itself, did it? it was really assured by the imposition of the forceful actions and it was a result of in eachrceful actions instance that discouraged these will who had designs on these
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countries. at least in my view. >> i would survey have no objection if we had been as smart about getting both in and out in south vietnam as we were in south lebanon. into lebanon with sufficient force that nobody there to do anything in things quite a down and we removed the troops. the haven't quite a down in vietnam yet. >> i'm not sure if the situations are comparable, i really wanted to say that we are a great nation and our world position rests in the long run on things more substantial and more important than the propaganda victories of opponents. effect ofink that the an early and unilateral withdrawal from vietnam would be unfortunate and unnecessary -- i
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withdrawal,any such i would say that three to four years hence the world would not look quite so different as we think. >> these hearings continued throughout the afternoon. this special report has been a part of our continuing coverage of the senate hearings on vietnam. >> the american broadcasting company brought vietnam. highlighting the hearings in the senate foreign relations committee regarding the american activity in vietnam. >> the reaction to it cannon's testimony -- kennan's testimony is quite divided. johnson was furious and implied he was somehow racist because he american force to protect democracy in europe but not southeast asia.
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they did everything possible to suggest he was an impractical dreamer. course, kennan became a hero to the antiwar movement. he never agreed with the radicals, but his arguments give a lot of credence to the argument being made at the time. in 1998 they had a tribute to george kennan on the anniversary of this article. they invited dean rusk, mcnamara, monday, and clark clifford to come to analyze george kennan and they invited george kennan to respond to them in that group all agreed completely with his feet to -- thesis that he proposed in 1948 of containment and they all agreed with the way


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