Address by Vice-President Humphrey at the National Press Club, Washington, DC, March 11, 1966, "United States Tasks and Responsibilities in Asia," Department of State Bulletin, April 4, 1966, p. 523.

Source: The Pentagon Papers, Gravel Edition, Volume 4, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1971), pp. 647-648

"Why are we in South Viet-Nam?

"We are in South Viet-Nam to repel and prevent the success of aggression against the Government and the people of that country.

"We are there to help assure the South Vietnamese people the basic right to decide their own futures, freely and without intimidation.

"We are there to help those people achieve a better standard of living for themselves and their children.

"We are there to help establish the principle that, in this nuclear age, aggression cannot be an acceptable means either of settling international disputes or of realizing national objectives. If aggression is permitted to go unchecked, we can-not in good faith hold out much hope for the future of small nations or of world peace."

* * *


"At the beginning today, I said the conflict in Viet-Nam was the focus of a wider struggle taking place in Asia.

"During my recent mission I was struck by the depth of feeling, among almost all Asian leaders, that Asian communism had direct design on their national integrity and independence. Almost all cited examples of subversion and in many cases direct military involvement by Communist troops within their countries. And none-without any exception-questioned our involvement in Viet-Nam. There were questions about aspects of our policy there but none concerning the fact of our presence there and our resistance to aggression.

"Among the leaders with whom I spoke, there was repeatedly expressed a deep concern as to whether our American purpose, tenacity, and will were strong enough to persevere in Southeast Asia. Public debate in America was sometimes interpreted as a weakening of purpose. I emphasized not only the firmness of our resolve but also our dedication to the rights of free discussion and dissent.

"For we know that John Stuart Mill's advice remains valid: 'We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false opinion; and if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.'

"Asian communism may be a subject for discussion here. In Asia, it is a clear and present danger. No single, independent nation in Asia has the strength to stand alone against that danger.

"I believe that the time may come when Asian communism may lose its fervor, when it may lose some of its neuroses, when it may realize that its objectives cannot be gained by aggression. But until that time I believe we have no choice but to help the nations of Southeast Asia strengthen themselves for the long road ahead.

"I also said, at the beginning today, that some very basic principles of international conduct were under test in Viet-Nam. Some people think not.

"Of them, I ask this: Were we to withdraw from Viet-Nam under any conditions short of peace, security, and the right of self-determination for the South Vietnamese people, what conclusions would be drawn in the independent nations of Asia? In Western Europe? In the young, struggling countries of Africa? In the nations of Latin America beset by subversion and unrest? What conclusions would be drawn in Hanoi and Peking?"

* * *

Return to Vinnie's Home Page

Return to Vietnam War Page