Nixon Note Exposes Lie About Vietnam Bombing

He knew it was accomplishing nothing, continued it anyway
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 12, 2015 12:19 PM CDT
Nixon Note Exposes Lie About Vietnam Bombing
In this Feb. 16, 1969, file photo, President Richard M. Nixon, is shown at his desk in the White House.   (AP Photo/File)

A newly released note reveals a pretty big presidential lie, the Washington Post reports. As Richard Nixon was in the beginning stages of running for re-election, anti-Vietnam War sentiment was strong in the US, and Nixon was looking for a way to settle the conflict without it being labeled a loss for the US. Bombings were one of the few ways the president had left to put pressure on Hanoi, and in December 1971 he ordered that North Vietnamese targets be bombed once again. Shortly thereafter, there were reports of a North Vietnamese buildup, which worried Nixon because it could mean an offensive was coming. On Jan. 2, 1972, Dan Rather asked Nixon during a primetime TV interview, "On everyone’s mind is the resumption of the widespread bombing of North Vietnam. Can you assess the military benefits of that?" Nixon answered in the most politically expedient—though not actually true—fashion.

"The results have been very, very effective," Nixon said, then announced that he was going to bring home, essentially, the last of the US combat troops in Vietnam. But the very next day, at the top of a memo to National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger, Nixon complained, "K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result = Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force." That note is revealed in The Last of the President's Men, a book by Bob Woodward out Tuesday based on previously unreleased documents taken from the White House by Alexander P. Butterfield, deputy to Nixon's chief of staff and the man who told Senate investigators about the White House taping system during the Watergate scandal. As Woodward writes, though Nixon knew the bombing was not working, he continued intensifying it to bolster his chances of re-election because doing so was "politically popular." Kissinger apparently agreed, telling Nixon weeks before the election, "I think you won the election on May 8," when Nixon ordered more military targets bombed and Haiphong Harbor mined. Click for more from the book. (More Richard Nixon stories.)

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