Tonight I want to talk to you on a subject of deep concern to all Americans and to many people in all parts of the world, the war in Vietnam.
I believe that one of the reasons for the deep division about Vietnam is that many Americans have lost confidence in what their Government has told them about our policy.
The American people cannot and should not be asked to support a policy which involves the overriding issues of war and peace unless they know the truth about that policy.Tonight, therefore, I would like to answer some of the questions that I know are on the minds of many of you listening to me.How and why did America get involved in Vietnam in the first place?How has this administration changed the policy of the previous Administration?What has really happened in the negotiations in Paris and the battlefront in Vietnam?What choices do we have if we are to end the war?What are the prospects for peace? Now let me begin by describing the situation I found when I was inaugurated on Jan.
20th: The war had been going on for four years.
Thirty-one thousand Americans had been killed in action.
The training program for the South Vietnamese was behind schedule.
Five hundred forty-thousand Americans were in Vietnam with no plans to reduce the number.
No progress had been made at the negotiations in Paris and the United States had not put forth a comprehensive peace proposal.The war was causing deep division at home and criticism from many of our friend, as well as our enemies, abroad.In view of these circumstances, there were some who urged withdrawal of all American forces.
From a political standpoint, this would have been a popular and easy course to follow.
After all, we became involved in the war while my predecessor was in office.
I could blame the defeat, which would be the result of my action, on him -- and come out as the peacemaker.
Some put it to me quite bluntly: this was the only way to avoid allowing Johnson’s war to become Nixon’s war.But I had a greater obligation than to think only of the years of my Administration, and of the next election.
I had to think of the effect of my decision on the next generation, and on the future of peace and freedom in America, and in the world.Let us all understand that the question before us is not whether some Americans are for peace and some Americans are against peace.
The question at issue is not whether Johnson’s war becomes Nixon’s war.