Thursday, January 11, 2007

peace with honor . . .

In May 2006 a transcript of the June 20, 1972 meeting between Dr Henry Kissinger and Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-lai to discuss disengagement of American troops from Vietnam was declassified and released under the Freedom of Information Act. It's interesting to note that John Negroponte was present at the meeting. Prime Minister Chou would be the go-between with the Hanoi government. On page 37, Dr Kissinger said:

If we could talk to them the way we talk to you, Mr. Prime Minister -- I don't mean in words but in attitude -- I think we could settle the war. As a practical matter, we think the quickest way to end it now is on the basis of ceasefire, withdrawal, and return of prisoners. That's the least complicated and leaves the future open. We are prepared in addition to declare our neutrality in any political contest that develops and in terms of foreign policy we are prepared to see South Vietnam adopt a neutral foreign policy.

We can also go back to our proposal the President made last January 25 and which was formally presented on January 27, and perhaps modify this or that provision and that involved political discussions also. But in practice, political discussions take forever. And the practical consequence of any political solution is either it will confirm the existing government in Saigon, which is unacceptable to Hanoi, or it will overthrow the existing government in Saigon, which is unacceptable to us. And it is almost impossible to think of a possible compromise between these two.

So we should find a way to end the war, to stop it from being an international situation, and then permit a situation to develop in which the future of Indochina can be returned to the Indochinese people. And I can assure you that this is the only object we have in Indochina, and I do not believe this can be so different from yours. Se want nothing for ourselves there. And while we can not bring a communist government to power, if, as a result of historical evolution it should happen over a period of time, if we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina.

. . . if we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina.

Nearly 700 Americans -- and I have idea how many others -- died between the time Dr Kissinger told Prime Minister Chou the US would accept a communist government in Vietnam and the time the last Marine, 19 year-old Judge Darwin Lee of Iowa, died there.

There was of course no mention of Dr Kissinger's concession in President Nixon's Peace with Honor speech on January 23, 1973.

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I thought the most unusual thing about President Bush's New Way Forward in Iraq address last night was that he gave it at all. That as much as anything, I suspect, signals the end. We will be making up for this misadventure for a long time. Best we get started.

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