"Secretary Rusk Discusses Asian Situation on NBC Program," 5 August 1964, Department of State Bulletin, 24 August 1964

Source: Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 3, pp. 721-722

"Secretary Rusk Discusses Asian Situation on NBC Program," 5 August 1964, Department of State Bulletin, 24 August 1964, p. 268:

Following is the transcript of an interview of Secretary Rusk by NBC correspondent Elie Abel, broadcast over nationwide television on August 5.

Mr. Abel: "Mr. Secretary, are we going to get through this situation without touching off a bigger war?"

Secretary Rusk: "Well, Mr. Abel, one can't be a reliable prophet when the other side helps to write the scenario. But I do want to insist upon one point, that the purpose of the United States in Southeast Asia for these past 10 years or more has been a part of a general policy of the United States since World War II, that is, to organize a decent world community in which nations will leave their neighbors alone and in which nations can have a chance to live at peace with each other and cooperate on a basis of their common interests.

"Now, in Southeast Asia we have been saying over and over again, in conferences such as the Geneva conference of 1962 and elsewhere, that there is only one problem with peace in Southeast Asia and that is these pressures from the north, that if the north would leave their neighbors to the south alone, these peoples of that area could have their peace and could have a chance to work out their own lives in their own way. That is the problem, and to come to the decision to leave their neighbors alone is a necessary decision which Hanoi and anyone supporting Hanoi must reach."

Q. "Why was it necessary, Mr. Secretary, for us to strike as swiftly and abruptly as we did without taking time even to notify our allies?"

A. "Well, in the first place, we had some ships in the Gulf of Tonkin who were under attack, and they were dodging torpedoes. Here is a vast expanse of international waters in which we have a perfect right to be. We had to strike immediately because we didn't expect to ask those ships to run a continuing gauntlet of torpedoes on their way back to the Gulf of Tonkin when their mission was completed, nor were we prepared to have them denied international waters in the Gulf of Tonkin.

"Further than that, if under these attacks there had not been an immediate and appropriate response, then Hanoi and those who might be standing behind Hanoi in this might well have come to a very formidable mistaken judgment about what is possible in the Southeast Asian situation."

Q. "You mean their view that we are a paper tiger might have been confirmed?"

A. "That's correct. They could have made a basic miscalculation about what the commitment of the United States means in a situation of this sort."

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