tv Conversation with Henry Kissinger CSPAN May 30, 2016 9:47am-11:41am EDT
role in vietnam war to gathering. some 40 years after the fall of saigon and america's withdrawal from vietnam he called the 1975 saigon evacuation one of the saddest moments of his life but insisted he had no regrets. kissinger sat down with lbj library director as comments that organizers call the vietnam war summit then took questions from the audience. this program is about 90 minutes. please welcome mrs. linda johnson rob, the honorable hubert voe, ms. lucy johnson, daughter of linden and lady bird
johnson. [ applause ] >> the archive of this library contains thousands of letters to our 36th president, many of which concern the vietnam war. here are two letters from soldiers stationed in vietnam during the height of president johnson's tenure in office which reflect contrasting views of the war held by americans including our troops. dear mr. president here is a picture of a little girl and myself. she has three older sister, two
older brothers and a younger brother. they live in a village. their mother was killed by the vc. because of us she is able to smile. it is our duty to keep the smile which portrays so much on her face. there are many more who do not have the freedom smile which she has. it is our duty as americans to bring happiness to those who may never be as free of care as she. to be able to pose with her and have her look so happy gives the idea of the good we are doing here. this is worth fighting for. this is worth dying for. i know the weight you must carry on your shoulders, sir&i pray that god will help you. i hope this let skpr picture will bring you a blessing. she says the marines are number one. sincerely yours, first corporal u.s. marine corps. dear sir, hope this letter finds
the president in the best of health. before i begin allow me to introduce myself. united states marines in vietnam. this is the topic like most of the servicemen fighting here i don't fully understand this war. we're given training and long talks and finally a weapon and told we have a war to fight so that the people of vietnam can have a communist free government. in short, sir, we're fighting this war for the vietnamese people and i would like to know why? why should they have to die fighting for what hes doesn't understand or believe in. i've been here for seven months and probably until my 13 is completed if all goes well but never will be able to understand why are these americans and maybe myself must die for people who really don't seem to give a damn. most of us are hoping one day to see our loved ones and to me this seems the most important to
most of us. if you were to ask the question, what are we fighting for? the honest men would tell you, to get through these 13 months to get back home. i hope you can understand our feelings and answer our questions in this letter. thank you, sir, for your time to read this letter, yours truly, p pfc charles nichols, united states marine corps. >> i'm going to read two letters from my husband who also was a marine in vietnam we got married in december in washington and he left in march. he came home on our daughter's six month birthday. this is may 31st, 1968. my darling linda, i was a lucky man, 11:00 this morning i was back at the bunker ba fall onand
walking towards the command bunker when i heard the familiar sound incoming mortars. i yelled incoming and dived for the nearest home. just as the first round landed about 20 meters away. within ten seconds other marines had dive into the very same hole on top of me which is only big enough for two people to begin with. rounds continued to land all around us for the next minute or so. then there was a pause of about 30 seconds and one last round landed right on the opposite edge of the fox hole. fortunately, all of the shrapnel went forward in the same direction the round was headed and none of it came back into the fox hole. as it was, that one round which completely destroyed the two company office structures next to my office and killed a small dog which was not smart enough to get into a hole in the incoming started. my office structure was only slightly damaged and only marine
casualties from the last round were the two mild concussions suffered by two men who piled in on top of me. had the round landed just 6 inches shorter, all of us would have been killed. needless to say, we felt very lucky, even though there were a few others in the general area who did not fare so well. often chuck's company provided security for road sweeps and this is in august 5th, 1968 letter. i usually outpost the road all the way out and pick up the troops on tanks and tracks on the way back. otherwise the roundtrip would take a day each way. we were a little past the half point -- halfway point when one of the am trucks was blown up we what we later discovered was a demand detonated 5-pound box
line. command detonated means it was set off by a person hiding some distance away with a fuse box instead of a pressure relief mechanism. it was immediately engulfed in flames as the mine ignited six of the gas tanks. i had one entire platoon on the vehicle at the time. in addition to a three-men forward air control team and four-man crew. the net result was 30 casualties, many from shrapnel but all from burns. just yesterday i had received a fairly large number of replacements and assigned over half of them to this platoon to make up for previous losses. now they are back down to almost nothing again. for tomorrow's convoy, i've already made arrangements to borrow a platoon from another company. someone is watching over me personally because i was on the amtrak right behind the one the
enemy decided to blow up and would have been just as good a target. fortunately the enemy doesn't launch a group attack -- a ground attack to go with it. i was very proud of the company again when the chips are down, they are tremendous. >> this is a letter written to president johnson by captain of the republic of vietnam army, in alabama, on america's 190th birthday, july 4th, 1966. fourth of july, 1966, the honorable lyndon b. johnson, president of the united states, the white house, dear mr. president, i'm captain of
vietnam now under training at the u.s. army center at fort mcclellan, alabama. i'm grateful to you for your recent thoughtfulness speeches which make me read over and over again u.s. history and declaration of independence. again i found your speeches, the spirit of liberty that make america strong and free. i'm confident with a generous action of your heroic nation we shall emerge victorious in the struggle for freedom and independence. a study i have tried to write in english for the first time. i'm taking the liberty to bring to your attention as a token of my appreciation, i sincerely hope that it may express to you
our burning desire to fight for freedom that almost it may serve as a self-explanation of a humble but grateful people who truthfully show his weakness to a true friend in order to be helped more effectively. with my very best wishes and respect to you, the leader of the free world and to your honorable family, may i congratulate you, mr. president, on the occasion of your independence day. thank you. >> when patrick and i met the summer of 1965, he was graduating from college and already a member of the air national guard. we married a year later with a dream reception in the white house.
our first child was nine months old in april of 1968 when patrick volunteered for vietnam. patrick did not have to go to war he went because he wanted to serve his country. like many wives of servicemen, i frequently went home to my parents, lying in my bed in the white house, i often heard the picketers say, hey, hey lbj, how many boys did you kill today. i lived in the terror of knowing my husband and brothers in law chuck rob and jerry nugent might be one of those boys. for my father it was all so very personal. three of you don't understand troops in vietnam were family,
all felt like it. it was daddy's constant struggle to bring them home safely and our country to the peace table. and in january of 1969, patrick wrote his father-in-law and commander in chief a letter. my father shared it with me because he was so proud of patrick and grateful to him. his children and i remain so forever. 12 january. my dear mr. president, chuck and i had a very peaceful and eventful christmas eve and christmas day and in the yul tide season was a telephone call from you, mrs. johnson and lucy and linda.
lynn made a strong effort to converse with his daddy but the conversation was one sided, all on his side. sunday i look for him to be president of at&t that is, christmas day, chuck and i made three stops to distribute the articles he had gathered and our first stop was a small village, some 30 miles southwest of danang, where he passed out food and toys to the villagers. we went weto the catholic orphanage and handed out all sorts of toys to the children. our final stop of the day was the naval hospital in danang where we visited with the patients in the orthopedic ward. we also handed out write gs materials and christmas 1968 will always be a memorable one
for two reasons, number one, my first christmas away from my family and i hope the last. and too i was able to help other people appreciate the meaning of christmas. the war activity is increased somewhat since the beginning. everyone is half expecting some sort of offensive. the hot areas are located northwest of saigon along with cambodian border. ten days ago, my aircraft came under mortar fire as we were coming to a halt on the runway. as usual, i didn't realize that we were being fired upon. my primary concern was to offload the 56 gis i had on
board. thank god no one was hit. never received a scratch. the number of days i have remaining in vietnam is diminishing quite rapidly. or as the gis refer to it, i'm getting short. as of this writing, i have 88 days remaining. last week in effect state i'm to report to burke strom air force base for separation from active duty upon return stateside. this letter will be my last addressed to you as my commander in chief. i consider it both an honor and a privilege to have served under your command and direction. i didn't want to see you vacate
the presidency since you are the best we have. but at the same time, i respect your decision and i am extremely proud of you. our men in vietnam know that you have done everything in your power to bring about a peaceful solution to the war. unfortunate unfortunately, we cannot negotiate with ourselves. nor it is our desire to abandon the hope of a free and democratic south decree vietnam. you and mrs. johnson are in my prayers and thoughts today and every day. love, pat. ps, i enjoy talking to everyone last night.
thank you. >> and tonight it is indeed a tremendous honor for me to speak to you as we come together to honor our vietnam veterans and particularly those brave men and women who sacrificed their lives for fighting for freedom and democracy in vietnam. around this time on april 30th, vietnamese american communities commemorate and honor the fallen soldiers. we also remember and mourn the loss of millions of lives in vietnam who die seeking freedom. today on behalf of the vietnamese american community, i would like to express my deepest gratitude for the sacrifices made by america during the vietnam war. 58,000 brave american soldiers and their families made the ultimate sacrifice which allow vietnamese american communities
to survive and migrate to this great country. 50 years ago, south vietnam stood in the fort res of freedom and democracy, safeguarding against the expansion of communism in indochina. 58,000 americans together with 250,000 south vietnamese lost their lives. north vietnam was to prevent foreign occupation and independent integrity and over 450,000 north vietnamese soldiers died in the fight for that cause. today what can we say achieve these great losses? communist states around the world have already fallen. vietnam still remained a communist state. north vietnam primary obtdive
has now turned vietnam into a chinese vessel state. vietnam today still has neither freedom nor democracy. what has transpired in 21 years since the war ended, does not change. we have for the brave men and women of the vietnam war is we honor them today. i mention these facts to honor those heroes we must examine what their sacrifice means to us today and how much the cost of for which they died still remains to be achieved. one day when vietnam is no longer under communist control and once a land of freedom and democracy, the vietnam war will no longer be a reminder of division, instead it will be a reminder of a high price that freedom requires in all great countries. on that day, i believe that we
will have finally truly honored these soldiers and source of those brave men and women, we'll be proud that the sacrifice the most important blessing foreman kind, freedom. why am i here today? i'm here today because a young man saved my life and changed my life. in four years of combat there were many soldiers who did this for many of us. the name larry moreford. he was 24 when he was killed. 15 days before coming home.
this man was in a battalion i commanded in '69, '70. in that area, if you can remember, it was the height of the anti-vietnam war. larry was a christian. yet he was one of the very few who volunteered in a battalion i had over 90% were draftees, he was one of the very few volunteers. one day i asked larry, why if you're such a christian, are you here? i know you don't believe in combat as the way to resolve conflict. and i know that you don't believe we should be in vietnam. why are you here? his answer was simple, sir, i could not stay home when others were fighting this war.
sir, also, the job that you and i are doing is the job of the beast. and the least beastly of us should be doing it. and that was sergeant moreford's message. he lived his sermon. he's the man that has inspired me to create an award every year at west point, sergeant moreford award that sends west point cadets to china also, to teach preventive medicine in chinese high school. he along with a corporal by the name of laj fun, killed at age 24 are two soldiers that are remembered in china. we're trying to make soldiers be role models of what a good citizen should be. as cardinal spellman mentioned, a religious leader in the united
states, he said it this way, if i cannot been a priest, i most certainly would have been a soldier. because they are both called to do the same thing, protect the innocent and right the injustice. i listened to mark, our host and he has given me a strict rule and i must tell you that i left the army and went to medical school and became a missionary in africa and in africa the rule is simple, you can only speak as long as you have one leg up. when you can no longer keep that leg up, you must give up the podium or the audience can spear you. let me end by saying, it's only fitting my remembrance of larry
place. he would particularly have been proud that the valor and commitment of the men and women who served this country in vietnam is being recognized and honored here. while few people seek disagreement and dispute, lyndon johnson never shied away from controversy. when this library was dedicated lbj famously pro claimed it's all here. the story of our time with the bark off. there is no record of a mistake or of an unpleasantness or criticism not included in the files here. the exhibits and papers in this library certainly testify to the remarkable accomplishments of lbj's legacy. his monumental success is in civil rights were kron keled in the summit program held two years ago. but this library does not ignore lbj's anguish. the tragedy of the vietnam war.
his greatest disappoint was the failure to achieve peace in the war in vietnam that he inherited and pursued. president johnson also wanted this stage to be the forum for the great issues of the day. that includes reflections and revisiting of events of an earlier period to learn lessons to apply to the current time. so that is why i can say with certainty that president johnson would welcome the discussions of this summit including criticisms of decisions and actions that were taken 50 years ago. to borrow president johnson's own words, the aspirations of this summit is to revisit the entire story of vietnam with the bark off. there should be no record of a mistake or an unpleasantness or criticism that is not included in this forum.
now it is my pleasure to introduce lbj foundation chairman emeritus tom johnson who will present the program tonight. [ applause ] >> thank you, larry. it is my honor and my priflth to introduce my friend dr. henry kissinger. dr. kissinger and i have known each other since 1967 when he was a relatively young professor at harvard university and i was a very low ranking member of president johnson's white house staff. in july 1967, dr. kissinger was a top secret channel for president johnson through french interimmediate yarryes with
north vietnamese prime minister and ho chi minh. he offered a bombing halt if a cessation of bombing would lead to productive discussions between the united states and hanoi. president johnson proposed a direct meeting between dr. kissinger and hanoi's representatives. as a good faith measure, president johnson unilaterally halted bombing in the vicinity of hanoi. the north vietnamese response was entirely negative. and i quote, we can neither receive mr. kissinger or comment on the american views as transmitted through this channel. in a very highly classified meeting in the cabinet room on october 18, 1967 president johnson, secretary of state dean russ, secretary of defense
robert mcnamara asked dr. kissinger to make one more attempt, the north vietnamese response and i quote, there's no reason for us to talk again. what we soon learned was hanoi was planning a massive all-out assault throughout vietnam, a sledge hammer blow designed to shadow the north vietnamese army and hopefully to drive the united states out. on january 30, 1968, hanoi launched its tenth offensive. it was much more massive than the cia or our military leadership had anticipated. president johnson and virtually all of us around him were shocked. the north vietnamese and viet
co cong, attack d 36 capitals and five of the six largest cities. thousands were killed but united states forces prevailed and won in every single battle, including a massive battle at way. despite his best efforts and efforts of the french intermediary, kissinger paris channel nicknamed philadelphia was -- as well. no two men so wanted an admiral peace in vietnam as did dr. kissinger and president johnson. lbj died about the peace treaty was negotiated but they did advise president johnson at the ranch just a few days before his death that what they thought would be an honorable peace
agreement was about to be signed. unfortunately the peace agreement dr. kissinger negotiated with violated by hanoi and completely disregarded within months of its signing. but the american people especially the anti-war activists and we know there are many in this room tonight of that era, anti-war activists everywhere, especially on american campuses and american congress and american press had had all of the war that it could take. united states troops did not lose the war. they literally won every engagement. however, after eight long years most americans had lost the will to fight. the price had become unacceptableably high in hanoi ho chi minh never seemed to lose their will to continue the war
until they had reunited north and south. i know there are men and women in this auditorium tonight who have disagreed and continue to disagree with henry kissinger. yet, i will assure you that he and lbj also wanted peace as much as they did and, an honorable peace that would stop the war and permit the people of south vietnam to remain free from communism from repression and from toe tal tear yan war. i know because i was there and took the notes of their conversations. i read the transcripts of their telephone calls and their meetings sometimes without dr. kissinger knowing i was on the line. i serve the as confidential link between dr. kissinger and former
president johnson until president johnson died. they both wanted an honorable peace. for his efforts dr. kissinger won the nobel prize and after you see a brief presentation, a video of dr. kissinger after he negotiated that peace treaty, we will bring him forward to introduce him to you. thank you. [ applause ] >> the united states is seeking a peace that heals. we have had many visits in indochina, we want a peace that will last. and therefore, it is our firm intention in our relationship to the democratic republic of
vietnam, to move from hostility to normalization and from normalization to con sill yags and cooperation. and we believe that under conditions of peace, we can contribute throughout indochina to a realization of the humane aspirations of all of the people of indochina and we will in that spirit perform our traditional role of helping people realize these aspirations in peace. >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the former secretary of state, dr. henry kissinger.
[ applause ] >> dr. kissinger, welcome. it is a privilege to have you on this stage. one of the things i think most people don't realize is that you were not only the national security adviser to and secretary of state to president nixon and secretary of state to president ford, but also a part-time consultant to president kennedy and president johnson as tom johnson just alluded to. so more than any living person, i think you saw all of the principle commanders in chief around vietnam up close. can you talk about each of those
men and what characterized their position on the war? >> first of all, let me say, what an honor it is for me to be here and to participate in a conference which is needed to heal wounds of the debates about vietnam and i want to congratulate the library for organizing this and providing the opportunity. i'd like to say it's sort of symbolic that secretary kerry is coming here tomorrow night. he was walking around with placard outside the white house when i served there. and the point i want to make is,
we've become good friends in the interval and he came to my 90th birthday and made a toast in which he said, he pointed out what his actions had been then and that it was a pity that we didn't have an opportunity to talk rather than confront each other in that period. in that spirit, he and i have worked together when i was chairman of the foreign relations committee and i greatly respect his efforts now and it's very meaningful too that this conference would end with a speech by the leader of america now. now, to answer your question, in
the kennedy administration the vietnam was at first a relatively peripheral term, it was the future of laos and because they in turn received the advice from president eisenhower in the transition, that the future of laos might determine the future of vietnam. then as the conversation went on, there was a document that the chinese produced by a successor to mao who said that the whole world was going to be
characterized by the struggle of the countryside against the cities. and the kennedy administration intended to interpret what was going on in indochina as part of that process. in those days we had only a few thousands advicsers there but te number was increased to 50,000 in the kennedy administration. but it was not yet a central obsession of american policy. then lyndon johnson inherited a situation in which the government of vietnam had been overthrown. the north vietnamese had infiltrated regular divisions and so it's accurate up to
lyndon johnson thought he was carrying out the spirit of the policy that had been started by president kennedy when he ordered the increase of forces. and then gradually, as the administration went on, a president who all his life had been known as concerned primarily with domestic policy, was engulfed in a division of the country that in a way has lasted to this day in its perception of foreign policy. and i must say he was an anguished person because he
wanted peace and but his notions of peace were that you made a compromise. and that is the one thing that the north vietnamese were never prepared to do. and indeed, i became involved because the normal attempt to achieve negotiations had all been blocked and i became involved in the following way. i was at that time a professor of harvard with no standing in the hierarchy in washington. and i went -- i attempted to conference in europe. at that conference there were two individuals who talked to me because they knew i had been in
vietnam for a few weeks earlier that year at the invitation of ambassador. one of these two people had been the host of ho chee min when he lived in paris for a year to negotiate peace with the french. he offered to go to vietnam and called on his acquaintance on behalf of peace for the united states. i called up second mcnamara to tell him about this. secretary mcnamara discussed the matter with president johnson. and amazingly president johnson entrusted a professor at
harvard, which was not the constituency that most favored him, with being ab intermediary to two french men who no one had ever heard of before. so they send off with a message from president johnson to ho chi minh that outlined the circumstances under which he was prepared to make peace. and they came back with a reply which after six years of negotiations in various administrations we learned was it typical north vietnamese, vague reply that basically rejected the proposal but made is sound as if maybe there was
something so they wrote back the reply and i don't go through the details. i was sent back with another message and it -- none of this effort did i ever see a vietnamese negotiating. i dealt with the two french men. they dealt with the vietnavietn. this went on for three months an after a while rerealized that they were stalling. but i mention this only to show the dedication of president johnson to achieve an honorable negotiated peace from the very beginning. president nixon had the problem of how he inherited the war.
there were already 500 plus thousand troops in vietnamand the he had the same issue as president johnson. how do you end this war? and how do you withdraw these troops without leaving it to a collapse of the whole structure in indochina and some of our allies in the rest of south asia without telling us the collapse of the whole structure. you can ask me questions about individual decisions. >> sure. >> that were taken. and president ford was president in the very last phase of the war. but i want to say at the very
end, when the war -- when it was obvious and we were talking only about the evacuation of the last batch of civilians that were stuck at the airport in saigon, and i called him and said that we -- it is now -- we have to permit the evacuation of saigon and if you read that phone conversation between him and me, he realized that we had to leave but he wanted to squeeze out another 12 hours to see whether we could rescue a few more people. so all the presidents were haunted in their way. each of them were dedicated to coming with -- to finding a
peaceful solution. each of them had the dilemma how you relate american armor to the ending of the war. and that was the dilemma. there was nobody who wanted war. there was nobody who wanted to escalate the war. they all wanted peace. but the question was under what conditions can you do that without turning over the millions who in reliance of the word of previous presidents had committed themselves. >> dr. kissinger, let me go back to john f. kennedy. there's widespread speculation that had he not been assassinated, president kennedy would have reversed course and withdrawn troops from vietnam, despite any evidence to that end. is there anything you saw from president kennedy that would
suggest over time he would have withdrawn our support for the war in vietnam? >> i've never seen the slightest evidence of this. it is possible to say that he would have done this but all of the moves of the kennedy administration while kennedy was alive were in the direction of increasing our commitment. and not diminishing it. all based on the belief that it was a simpler problem than it turned out to be. but i have never seen a peace of paper that would indicate this and all of the chief advisers of president kennedy who would
taken over by president johnson when he became president, were unanimous in both presidencies in supporting the course that was adopted until things got very difficult. and then of course, divisions appeared. >> right. >> but i have never seen them -- know no evidence that president kennedy would have done this. >> lyndon johnson was a democrat policy sage. he knew how to get deals done he knew instinctively what to do. there were many who think he was out of his depth in terms of foreign policy. what is your view of johnson as a foreign policy president? >>. >> president johnson was saddled with the war from the first day
in office. so you can't really judge what the foreign policy tendencies of a president who was swallowed up in a way by the war in vietnam. without any question, johnson was a master in knowing the nuances of domestic policy. and he did not know the foreign leaders as well as he did the domestic constituencies. and so it would become natural to him as it did domestic policy. but on the foreign policy issues other than the war in vietnam, he had a very good relationship
with our allies and our enemies. he was very eager to come to some agreement with the soviet union but everything was so overlaid by the war in vietnam i thought president johnson was a formidable individual of in some ways it was a personal tragedy that he spent so much of his life to achieve that office in order to be i am peled to do the things that had not been his major focus. but i thought he was a strong figure. and i felt great respect and affection for him. >> it is long been alleged that richard nixon's presidential campaign in 1968 tampered with
the peace process by sending an em sarry to the south vietnamese to urge them from withhold from negotiations because they might get a better deal from a president nixon. what is your view of that, dr. kissinger? >> i have no personal knowledge whether that contact actually took place in the way it has been alleged. but assuming that the story is essentially correct, i do not believe that it had -- that whatever nixon did had any of the consequences that have been alleged. you have to remember this aspect of our relationship with the vietnamese, the vietnamese
allies were always in a nearly desperate position. they needed our help if -- as a essential component. so when the peace process was going on, they had a tendency to agree to provisions we put forward on the theory that the north vietnamese would overtake them. so in '68, we experienced or nixon then experienced four years later, that when the point came actually to undertake the negotiations and they would have to assume responsibility for the outcome, that the leaders felt
it necessary to demonstrate to their own people that they hadn't just been forced by the united states to do this and so it started a debate about something that until president johnson in his day and i know president nixon in our period, thought that had already been settled. so one of the key issues was actually to sit down at the table and that of course then produce the necessity for the south vietnamese to sit down at the same table with the people who had been fighting to overthrow the -- from the south vietnamese cabinets.
so when that issue arose as a consequence of the negotiation, president dug in and started a debate about the way the negotiation could even start. >> right. >> we faced exactly the same thing in a different way four years later. we made a tentative agreement with the north vietnamese and we thought south vietnamese agreed to each of the terms when we discussed them. but then when -- when they were actually put forward, we went through six weeks of controversy about nuances and details. so that was inherent, that would
have happened whether nixon or not. secondly, so you can -- some delay between the announcement and the sitting down was in my opinion inevitable. there's one other thing to remember, in the perfect debate it is often alleged that peace could have been made if somehow they had all sat at the same table. there was absolutely no chance of this whatsoever because on november 3rd, two days after the announcement were made, the vietnamese, published their conditions, which she never changed throughout the administration and nixon administration which were the united states had to withdraw totally. and form a coalition cabinet
dominated by communists before any negotiation could take place about anything else. so the official position at that time was public's position that the north vietnamese had to withdraw before any withdrawal of americans could even take place. so those conditions were maintained for the rest of the administration and they were the principle obstacle to the failure of the negotiations in the nixon administration until the vietnamese were defeated in the sequel to the offensive, johnson mentioned. because the one thing that the
nixon administration would not concede, it said that we would overthrow an ally government that had supported the united states in reliance on promises made by other prominent presidents. as soon as the north vietnamese government agreed that the existing government could stay, which was at the very end of the nixon administration, settlement was achieved. and i mention this only because america should not torture itself on the view that it could have had had a settlement earlier if their president had been more willing. they could not have had a settlement except for just
selling out and restoring unconditionally which nobody would have supported. >> there was a bob haldman, president nixon's chief of staff said in a 1978 television interview, nixon had no intention of quickly pulling out of vietnam. he aimed to exploit the rivalry between china and soviet union to improve relations with both of them of the vietnam was an expedient where america's bon fids and inmotives were being acted out. nixon believed that america had to negotiate from strength to prove its willingness to fight vietnam became that place. how do you respond to that? is that characterized in your view nixon's position on the war? >> that characterizes parts of nixon's position in the war. this can be interpreted by professional critics of it, of nixon to mean that he fought so
that he could do the other things. that was not what he thought. he thought that if america discredited itself by abandoning its commitment in vietnam, he could not do the bigger things that were needed in order to make vietnam fit into a global perspective and so in the sense that he said this is not only about vietnam but this is about trying to create a world order in which vietnam can no longer occur, in that sense it's correct. >> right. you say in your book ending the vietnam war that the domino theory was real, the domino effect would have played out. what would have been the
consequences of not waging a fight in vietnam in your opinion? >> look, the problem of any foreign policy decision is that you have to make it on the basis of assessment. you cannot prove true when you make -- that they depend on a judgment and you can always come up with a counter factual argument. a person who had a great influence on our thinking and i believe also to some extent on president johnson's thinking, certainly on ours, was prime minister from singapore. one of the great men that i have met, he inherited with a per capita income of $600 and turned
it in 20 years into a significant country with a per capita income of $55,000, without any natural he was convinced, a were many others that if vietnam collapsed at the time that presidents kennedy and johnson made theirs, that then the hole south ash why would be engulfed and that the same thing would then happen in indonesia and malaysia and elsewhere. and he maintained until his death.
he was not a cold war rae he did what it took to keep his little country secure. and i agree with that. so i think that the president who made the decisions had a reason for making them. >> in his 2015 book, bob woodward writes of a january 1972 memo that you wrote it president nixon updating him on the situation in laos. president nixon wrote a handwritten note on that same memo which read, "k, we had ten years of total control in the air and on land in laos. the result equals zilch.
yet the night before president nick nixon said of the bombing, the results have sbrbeen very, very effective." publicly he's saying the results were very effective. privately he was saving to you is that they were zilch. how do you -- >> no, one of the curses of modern -- that every scrap of paper i've collected is treated as if it were a legal document. here are the precedents. they were 18 hours a day, under constant pressure and they write a note to their adviser in frustration that it's still going on and nixon had a way of
follow-up. if you think about it, that would be the normal way you -- i mean, on the worst assessment of the air cam pin, you cannot possibly say that it achieved nothing. you can say it may not have achieved everything that he wanted and you'd have to break it down and what the various components were. i think probably nixon might have slightly exaggerated what he said publicly, and he sure live exaggerated his frustration in a hand written note. probably did it late at night. i think to analyze the documents
in that point of view, health insurance the context in which the comment was made. >> nixon is a very enigmatic person. you say often he would say one thing and mean another. you had to judge when he was saying -- no, no, it didn't mean that i had a very clear idea of what he wanted. and you have to understand you cannot survive a skurpt adviser. you have only one consistent that's the president of the united states. and you must be absolutely straight with him and the most important thing a security adviser can do and must do is to tell the president the options. yes, sometimes he has to save
the president from ill-considered first moves. and if you abuse that utility -- nixon, now generally known, hated personal confrontations. and so, therefore, if face-to-face confrontations, it was like it was possible that he expressed himself ambiguously. but if you -- in any written exchange, you were could absolutely rely on what he was saying. and if you look at his record, he knew he was a very strong
president in sticking to his basic convictions, and he took enormously difficult decisions and there was no ambiguity about them but it was better to discuss them with him in writing than as a face-to-face confrontation. and one will find in going through the archives, which are now available, that most of the key decisions when i was security adviser were based on memoranda and not on 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,
which i think is a good way anyway in relations between presidents and their key people. >> right. tao johnson mentioned your commitment to the peace process and in conjunction with your associates won the nobel peace prize. some will note you were a with war criminal because of the carpet bombing in -- >> i'm now in my 90s so i've heard this. i think the word war criminal should not be thrown around in the domestic debate. it's a shameful -- it's a reflection on the people who use
it. let us look at what was the situation. first, there was no carpet bombing. so that is absolute not true. the situation was as follows: in the johnson administration, the north vietnamese moved four divisions into the border areas of vietnam and cambodia on cambodian soil in made bases and divisions were put there in opposition to the local -- to the cambodian government. in fact, the cambodian
government tochld chester bowles, who was there as a representative of lbj that if we bombed those areas and they kill any cambodians, they would close their independents to it. the lbj administration decided not to do this because they were already under pressure domestically and for other reasons that johnson may know better than i do. but then the -- when nixon came in, nixon had already before he assumed office sent a message to the north vietnamese that he was eager to resume negotiations. in the third week of the nixon presidency, they started an
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 occupi occupi occupied by those four divisions inside cam bode -- cambodian territory. after we had suffered casualties, more than in afghanistan, nixon ordered an attack on the base areas within five miles of the vietnamese border that were essentially
unpu unpop lau unpopulated, so when the word carpet bombing is used, it was probably much less than what the obama administration has done in similar base areas in pakistan, which i think is justified and, therefore, i believe that what was done in cambodia was justified and when we eventually wiped out the base areas, the casualties went down by 80% and so those were the decisions. and i would bet that sooner or later any president would have had to do it because this is one that if you fight to get in the war and permit base areas from
which the killing units of the killers are sustained then up are in an absolutely hopeless position. our security adviser, i strongly favored him but i was not the -- but it doesn't matter. i'm certainly strongly supportive of it. it was correct and it was in the american interest and the civilian casualties from this bombing along the five-mile stre streak, it was justified. we have to ask ourselves another thing. the argument against doing it was that cambodia was a neutral
country. but a country that had four divisions, it's not actually a neutral country. and the leader. cambodia told the johnson administration that he would in a way welcome the bombing. and when we didn't actually did it, he said in the press conference i don't know what goes on in the part of my country in which no cambodians live and which is occupied by the vietnamese. if any cambodian is killed or even a -- gets killed, i will protest. he never protested.
>> toward the end of his life, robert mcnamara stood on the stage after publishing a book and expressed regret over the war and how the war was waged. he said that the war the future al and that his conduct was wrong, terribly wrong. have you any regrets on any of the actions that you took in vietnam? >> no. we took -- you always make tactical mistakes. i believe that the american preside presidents and those of us who worked with them were acting on the basis of their best judgment at the time.
decisions. >> what is the biggest lesson we should learn from vietnam, dr. kissinger? >> the biggest lesson is not from the vietnam war. we have lived behind two oceans where the consciousness of foreign dangers inherently could not develop in the same way as asia and europe where people are being pressed together. so therefore americans have a tendency to think that peace is the normal condition among people, among countries. and when there is war or when
there is instability, it is sort of an accident, sort of an unusual condition which you can remedy bip one set of actions after which you can go back to a condition of great stability. but most deep international problems are caused by circumstances that have a very long time to develop. so to answer your question, we clearly -- we've been involved in five wars since world war ii. we ended each of these wars with a wide public consensus, there was an 80% support for every one of these initial acts but then
after some period of time, then people say we have to end it. and you need an extrication strategy. well, the best extrication strategy is to get out but you can also call this defeat. so if you enter the war, you should not do it for objectives that you can sustain and if you cannot do it for objectives that you can sustain, you shouldn't enter it. secondly, you have to distinguish, you as a country, between those things you will do only if you have allies and those you must do because your national security requires it, regardless of whether up have
allies or not. so you are have to make that distinction. and we have to learn -- and this is, i would apply this criticism to almost all administrations, not to get into these conflicts unless you can describe an aim that you're willing to sustain and unless you are willing in the extreme to sustain it alone or to know when you have to end it. those are lessons you have to learn also from vietnam and but we also have to learn to moderate our domestic debate. because in the course of the vietnam war, what started as a reasonable debate about whether
we were engaged in a process that we could master formed into an attack on the moral quality of american leadership. and when one teach's people that it's basically patriotic for 20 years that they are run by criminals and fools, then you can get a politic debate that becomes more and more violent and we suffer from it in some of our current political debates. that is one lesson we should draw from the vietnam war, which also means we should moderate the argument but make them deeper. >> based on that view, how would you assess the war in iraq?
>> the war in iraq. well, first of all, i want to be clear i supported it. i had a different -- you were thought we would withdraw after saddam was overthrown. we failed to make in iraq and maybe syria that we failed to make these analogies, which goes back to my original thought namely. we look at these countries as if they were one unit. >> right. >> and then we'd see a ruler
that is oaf pressive and we say let's get rid of this ruler and then the people of iraq or the people of syria have a democratic government. and can restore stability. but what has happened if iraq and in syria was at the end of world war i, the european victors organized a group of tribes, religions ethnic entities. one of them was syria that had a majority of sunnis and a minority of shi'a, which in syria are called alawiteses.
and in iraq it was the opposite, it had the majority of -- minority of sunnis and majority of shi'a. and they said let's get rid of the top guy but getting rid of the top guy creates a conflict among the minority groups who are then fighting for preeminence. so we have to learn that when we get into nation building, they we -- in such a war we have to engamg in nation building. and so i think we did not understand the complexities of nation building as a general
proposition in several administrations. >> right. >> that's how i would assess the war in iraq. we got into something deeper than weep apr april sesessessed beginning. >> >> dr. kissinger has graciously agreed to take some questions from the audience. i ask that your question be a question and not a statement and you be as brief as possible in asking that question. 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 but you intended to support the republican
nominee. >> i'm not going to get into the -- [ laughter ] >> is it fair to say that 2014 was a long time ago. are you still inclined to support whoever the republican party nominates? [ laughter ] >> i haven't made any profession pronouncements. >> fair enough. >> you are kind enough to say i consented to answer questions. i insisted on answering questions. >> you insisted. >> i wanted to give the audience a chance. [ applause ] >>ism mu is must say to dr. kiss ever lasting credit he called me
several weeks ago, i want to take questions from the audience, i'll take any question they'll ask to me. i ask again that you ask a question briefly and in a civil manner. >> dr. kissinger, when the accord was signed in laos in 1962, they counted on the vietnamese to honor the neutralization of laos, which department 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 and laos and that didn't happen as expected by the negotiators. how do we -- >> you can say at least until
recently that the north vietnamese must hold the olympic record for breaking agreements. the 1962 agreement on laos, if you generalize 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 reported and i believe did recommend to the incoming administration that they should make an issue of laos and seemed
to imply that he would favor even using some american troops to april chief this. laos being a less objected country in witch to achieve this. . kennedy administration -- there was a neutralization agreement which was brian the north vietnamese almost immediately and they turned laos into a supply base and all the supply routes -- most of the supply routes went through laos. there p in 1972 when the nixon
sfrags was in practice, we had a lot of breaking of the agreements. we were faced with 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 frokt the other two countries. we thought that the south vietnamese [ inaudible ] could withstand all but an all-out attack and we would have enforced the agreement if there
was an all-out attack. then watergate destroyed that possibility and then the congress legislated a prohibition against any attempt tone force the agreement. so we will not know what might have happened. but you're right. by the time these agreements were made in 1972, the american domestic position that was integrated to a point where those who were the best that were available and it goes back to the point i made earlier, the must -- if we end the wars, also make sure that the domestic page for it can be sustained, that
imparted responsibility of the administration, but the opponents also have to understand that if they think, if they achieve their objectives by undermining all confidence in government, no strategy can succeed. >> yes, ma'am. >> thank you. dr. kissinger, it is widespread that you have tacitly agreed to range for china to take over the parasol's island in 1974. on whose behalf do you do so? and given the current south china sea situations and out of concerns in asia and indo pacific ocean, what advice would you give presidency, president
obama and secretary kerry? thank you. >> i'm not surism fue i sure i understand the question. if the question that we great in 1974 -- >> i'm not sure i understand it. restate the question. >> yes. it was understood that the u.s. under your supervisor as the security adviser had advantaged so that china could take over the parr ch parasol islands in 1974 so we don't lose that area to russia. today what would you suggest us do on behalf of the national security of the u.s. and given all the attacks that china is doing on the u.s. on all front. do you think that the agreement
that you signed with mao in 1972, ' 1 and '73 over all that time is worthy of the 58,000 deaths of the american soldiers? >> thank you. >> first of all, for the benefit of the two or three nontexas graduates here who may not know what the parasol islands are, tho those. -- the parasol islands is a group of islands in the south china sea located between china and vietnam. and depending from which point
of land you mentioned, they're either closer to vietnam than to china. it's anyway a 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 he said everything on that side belongs to china. and they already claimed these islands. the vietnamese also claimed these independent laslands and position with respect to the islands have been that we do not take a position on the sovereignty of these islands. in 197 4 in the midst of
watergate and a war in the middle east, i can assure you the parasol islands were not foremost on our mind. but there is no agreement that was ever signed in which we gave china a right to occupy the p a parasol islands, nor have the chinese ever claimed that. and so i think you're not well informed. there was no specific negotiation. >> [ inaudible ]. >> what was that last part? >> yes, sir. your question. >> mr. kissinger, i was a south vietnamese soldier who spent ten
years in communist prison thanks to the perry agreement that you signed with hanoi in 1973. 47 years ago you are [ inaudible ] you were sent to help our nation, our country to defend the north vietnamese if they invaded vietnam but you did nothing. and the result is that vietnam voted to become hanoi. and i expect that you should answer the question what we learn from vietnam war that we would never betray the ally that depend on us and trust us very much. thank you. >> i have great sympathy from
these questions from vietnamese. they had a right to think that we had promised them support tluch a -- 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 and the day of the evacuation of saigon was one of the saddest moments of my life and of all of us who had been and seen the dedication of vietnamese, the dedication of those people who served there, a little of which you heard in the letters that were read. i have sympathy for your question and i hope no other american leader of its time gets asked similar questions, but the fundamental failure was the
division in our country. without that we would have managed it. >> yes, sir. [ inaudible ]. >> is it working now? >> 198th th infantry. after lb j refusing to run agai, after walter cronkite, there was peace with honor yet it caused tens of thousands of casualties. would it have been better to skip the honor and skip the casualties given out earlier? >> what is the question? >> given the fact this peace with honor took such a toll in terms of human life, would it have been better just to withdraw all together? >> yes, the invasion of
cambodia, later '69, '70 sustained a lot of casualties and perhaps weep shou should ha withdrawn -- >> and dispense with honor. thank you. >> if you look at the political debate, there was no one -- if you look at the position. democratic party at that time, you will find that nobody in 1969 and 70 recommended unilateral withdraw, that the position of the johnson administration was that
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 incelrements of withdrawal and relatively few casualties. in retrospect you would want to
avoid all those casualties but if you lose a war, you cannot say what it achieved in any event was that southeast asia was not over and it probably made a contributing factor to the opening -- to the o but it was a bitter ending. >> i do not blame um you or any administration. perhaps the fault is not in you or anyone else but in all of ourselves. >> what did he say? >> it was a estimate. >> i'm a fan of you dr. kissinger. the war on drugs was issued under nixon and the long term of
it, we have more people in prison than china, 70% of our prisoners is non-violent. 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 filliailure or a victory? what do you think of the war on drugs and how had has affected people -- >> the war on drugs, it was under nixon. >> i don't think any statement i can make on the war of drugs will be sufficient 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 has to be different. and i'm sorry not because of any action the administration in which i was involved in but it -- i -- it's an historic tragedy that america found itself so divided and could not solve its domestic debates so that it could come out of the war with a result with something more compatible. that's a lesson we oon we shoul.
>> dr. kissinger, you have made your mark on history. what will history say about henry kissinger? >> i have no objection about this. 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've always been deeply grateful to this country and i know what it represents to the peace in the world. i've been lucky in people 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 an extensive record and some people and it will be judged, all thothough i must sa way the mass of material is produced now in the internet age, i'm not so sure whether you can say history will come to a fair judgment. anyway, that is not my concern. i tried to do the best i could and that's all i can say. >> that's all anyone can say. [ applause ]
>> we'll are not only grateful to you, dr. kissinger, for being hour ch o our honored guest tonight but for searching your country in world war ii be. we have many veterans of world war ii in the audience and i would ask you stand and be recognized, please. thank you, dr. kissinger, for your service and thank you for your time tonight. thank you all.
mention video titled oucident y identify --" gunning for safety." a special thanks to our cable partners for helping to coordina coordinate. >> marshall university professor cat williams teaches a class about women and life on the home front during world war ii. she describes the war of women in aiding the war factor in aiding military units smeech also talks about the