tv Reel America Amendment to End the Vietnam War- 1970 CSPAN October 22, 2020 2:17pm-2:59pm EDT
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as demonstrations in the street, what was really important here was that leading u.s. senators were siding with the antiwar faction, had an amendment to end the war, were appealing to the public and doing it in a very cool and calm and rational and thoughtful way. this was a very important moment for the antiwar movement, that it wasn't just in the streets. it was in the senate and the congress as well. >> you hadn't seen this before. what's your impressions, your first reaction to just the tone of this thing? >> it's a very serious piece. these are earnest men who are republicans and democrats, moderates and liberals, people who have come to the conclusion that the united states should not be fighting in this war, that tragedy has mounted so much over the years that they have to intervene to stop. and they're trying to use the legislative branch to bring the
war to an end. and in a sense, creating a bit of a constitutional clash with the president of the united states. it's a moving peace and those are all very prominent senators. i knew several of them and worked with them. they look much younger in these pictures. but they're really earnest about what they're saying and they were very convincing to the television audience that -- they had to fight to get that television program in the first place. and so they made the most of it. >> article 1, section 8 of the constitution reads as follows, the congress shall have power to raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years. >> our amendment to end the war fulfills the obligations that we have under the constitution. >> mcgovern/hatfield amendment,
who were they and what would this really have done if it passed? >> to back up just a little bit, the president of the united states, richard nixon, had announced in november of 1969 of the program to remove american troops from vietnam. and the thought at that point was, maybe this was the end of the war, this was cooling down. actually, it was good for me because i was a marine corps supply clerk. because of vietnamization, they weren't sending supply clerks to vietnam anymore. i was spent to pearl harbor instead. instead of the war going down and reducing, it seemed to increase, to escalate. it seemed to be getting more violent. and it seemed to be spreading into the rest of indochina, into laos and cambodia. that's why senator -- first
senator cooper and frank church introduced the cooper/church amendment to stop any american activity in laos and camera bbo and hatfield and mcgovern got together to create the mcgovern/hatfield amendment. it would have stopped all military actions that year and the next year it would have withdrawn all troops. it was a sweeping amendment. they knew they couldn't introduce it as a piece of legislation, so they put it on as amendment to an appropriations bill that was going to eventually go to pass. and so they thought they had a chance that way. but they had to develop american support. the day that they introduced that amendment, april 30th, 1970, that night president nixon went on television, on national television and announced that he was authorizing american troops in cambodia to attack enclaves
of vietnamese. >> in cooperation with the armed forces of south vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to clean out major enemy sanctua sanctuaries on the cambodian/vietnam border. >> this was a huge step forward of the escalation of the war. all hell broke out on american campuses. there were demonstrations on even the most conservative campuses. but the most dramatic, the most tragic took place at kent state just a few days after nixon's announcement when national guardsmen fired on and killed students on campus. about a week later there was a similar shooting at jackson state in mississippi. this was a tragic moment. there were 100,000 people marched on washington to protest at this stage. the senators felt that the
president could get air time any time he wanted but they couldn't respond. if you were lucky enough to get on the news, it was for a minute or two. but they wanted a chance to respond. they went to the federal communications commission and asked for equal time. they wanted free time on national television to respond to the president. the fcc wouldn't grant that. so they basically took out a $60,000 loan and they purchased a half an hour's time on nbc and it broadcast on the evening aon may 12th in 1970. it was up against walter cronkite at that time. and they made that program. and several other stations felt that the program was so important, that they ran it later. so cbs, for instance, ran it if
following sunday, and other networks followed -- local stations followed. the program ends with an appeal for money and for an appeal for petitions and it was so successful it raised a half a million dollars at that time which was maybe a little over $3 million today in terms of how people responded. huge bags of mail were delivered to the senators of offices of people writing in to tell them that they supported this. the public support, however, wasn't enough because when the senate eventually got around to voting on the mcgovern/hatfield, it was defeated 55-39. that was substantial. there were several major antiwar senators who voted against it because they didn't like the principle of telling a president in the middle of the war that he had to stop and they were willing to give the president a little more time to withdraw. but it was showing that there was significant sentiment in
congress for ending the war. and it was important that they did pass the cooper/church amendment. by that time, nixon had withdrawn troops from cambodia and it was making the first steps towards eventually the passage of the war powers act in 1973 which was passed over president nixon's veto. this was an important first step. it introduced senator mcgovern to a lot of the public and just two years later he would be the democratic nominee for president. he would lose very badly in that election. but still it was an indication of the growing strength of the antiwar movement in the united states. >> and i think that the stumbling block now is we're worried about losing face, embarrassing the policymakers that sent us in there. we're worried about admitting that perhaps we made a mistake.
i think it would contribute to the greatest of the united states if we could admitted that we're capable of making a mistake. >> vietnamization is not a change of policy. it's a continuation of the old, old policy. >> what can we learn today as we're just about to watch this program from just listening to how the senators frame the debate and argument and what's happening in the war. why is it important to study this? >> when you consider how polarized politics have become, this is a bipartisan group. when you consider how flamboyant politics have gotten, these people are making serious statements, having a good
dialogue between themselves about what needed to be done. they're also pointing out the tragic nature of the war. at that point, about 40,000 americans had died in the war and countless vietnamese add died in the war. one of the senators says, i think it's senator goodell says, if we don't pass this now, we could have another 20,000, you know, casualties. and in fact, the vietnam memorial in washington has 50,000 names on it. 20,000 names were added after this broadcast was made. and they were quite right about the seriousness. of course, the conclusion of the war was no different in 1973 or 1975 than it would have been in 1970 or for that matter in 1965. looking back at this point, they were right and president johnson and president nixon were absolutely wrong about what they did in vietnam and the united
states has suffered from that ever since. >> donald ritchie, thank you very much for joining us via zoom. >> thank you. >> now from may 12th, 1970, here is that broadcast. >> today in the 1970, the united states of america has been ripped apart. citizens bludgeon each other in the streets of new york. students die in a campus eruption. buildings explode. banks burn. the nation's colleges are shut down. the population is polarized and there are parades of protests everywhere. not since the days of the civil war have americans treated each other like this. at the heart of the trouble lies the war in vietnam. it is a strange war, a war that we have to keep explaining to ourselves year after year after year. and it is a difficult war to
explain. particularly to the people who have to fight on the battlefields. while all the talk goes on, the war goes onto. it continues tonight as it has continued for a backyard. tonight, americans will die in vietnam. tonight americans will die in cambodia. what can we do? on the day before we went into cambodia, amendment number 609 was introduced on the floor of the united states senate. it was cosponsored by a bipartisan coalition of 20 senators. these republicans and democrats call it the amendment to end the war. they regard it as a realistic new thrust for peace. the senate debate on it will begin in the next few days. in the next half-hour, five of these senators will make a case for this amendment. if the american people can effectively urge its passage upon the members of the house and senate, if the amendment to end the war is passed, then the
traditional right of declaring whether or not we shall commit americans to battle will be returned to the congress where it belongs. through protests, petition and an act of law, we shall have at last ended the vietnam war. >> there is no way under the constitution by which the congress of the united states can act either to continue this war or to end it, except by a decision on whether we will appropriate funds to finance the war. article 1, section 8 of the constitution reads as follows -- the congress shall have power to raise and support armies. but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years. >> our amendment to end the war fulfills the obligations that we have under the constitution.
the amendment clearly states that unless the congress shall have declared war, that no monies appropriated on if act to which we attach the amendment or any other law shall be used in vietnam after december 30th, 1970, except for the withdrawal of american troops and other provisions. it provides that no money shall be used for military operations in the country of laos after december of 1970. it provides that no monies shall be authorized for the use of any military operations in cambodia. 30 days following the adoption of the amendment. and that all troops shall be withdrawn from vietnam, all american troops, by june, 1971 unless the president of the united states shall deem it's important enough to extend that time by requesting the congress
to pass a joint resolution authorizing such extension of time. >> the amendment to end the war provides continuing funding for full protection of american troops during the total period of our withdrawal. it also provides adequate funding to provide political asylum for all of those south vietnamese and other civilians who are concerned about a bloodbath. and there are provisions that these civilians may be placed in other places for their own protection. it also provides for a continuing negotiation of exchange of prisoners. >> very soon, the senate will be acting on another amendment offered by senator cooper and myself which is addressed to the cambodia situation and sets the limits on that adventure to those declared by the president. but this end the war amendment takes the full step and provides an orderly method for the extrication of the united states
from the war in vietnam itself. >> and so what we're looking for is a reasonable way to accomplish that withdrawal. and i think that the principle stumbling block now is that we're somehow worried about losing face. we're worried about embarrassing the policymakers that end us in there. they're worried about admitting that perhaps we made a mistake. actually, i think it would contribute to the greatness of the united states if as a free people we could just admit that we're capable of making a mistake and then do the best we can to put an early end to it. >> vietnamization is not a change in policy at all. it's a continuation of the old, old policy. it is dedicated to war, not peace. it means that the war will go on and continue to go on for years to come. it means that there's been no one speaking in this administration or the last of an end to our support commitment in vietnam. it means that we can look into
the future for at least a decade in all probability to a quarter of a million men involved in vietnam. i think every mother and father in america who has a son right now that's 5 or 6 or 7 years old or anywhere up to 15 or 16 should well realize that that boy is going to be involved in our future commitment in vietnam under existing policy. >> we have come to the point where we realize -- and i think the president realized when he went into cambodia, the vietnamization will not work. and it was an admission of the failure of the vietnamization. i think it's time to the american people recognize that the president doesn't have the power to declare war or make war alone. he can ask congress to declare. that's why what we are discussing here and urging support from the american people for is so important. congress can do this. and it's not an irresponsible action with the walls all
falling down around american prestige and power in the world if we decide we're going to get out. congress would simply be saying, okay, we fought for seven years. we've bled and died and spent our resources on this, and now the time has come to say to the south vietnamese, take it over. we'll give you time. over a period of time, we're going to be withdrawing and you can go on getting aid if you fight for yourself in your own civil war. we're not going to stay there and fight in bleed and die for you any longer. >> but the point is simply this, it's not longer the opinion of presidents and no longer the opinion of senators. it's the evidence of history, of over 40,000 deaths and this amount of resource expended has proven each one of the escalations to be wrong. how many more american men have to be heaped upon that pile of
war. after all, the united states is not going to impose any permanent solution in asia to settle asian problems among asian people on the asian mainland. the idea we're going to do that runs against the whole current of history. what's happening is asia is that the western powers are moving out and the asians are taking over for themselves. vietnamization is not the method for extricating us from this morass. it will merely perpetuate our involvement in this war. half of the troops may come home, the other half will stay, and it does not serve the interest of the united states to maintain a permanent military base in southeast asia. >> if the president reiterated the other night that he was going to continue to bring back these 150,000 men in the next 12 months, many americans may feel
that means they're all going to be coming back and nobody is going to be going. under a policy of bringing back 150,000 men in the next 12 months, we will send to south vietnam 276,000 men who are not there now, who are now in the military or about to go into the military and we'll bring back more, 150,000 more than we send, but in the rotation process, there will be this 276,000 men over there to fight and perhaps die. >> and what would we have accomplished? what evidence is there based on past history to lead us to believe that we would be in any better position or that south vietnam would be in any better position one year or five years or ten years hence after tens of thousands of additional americans have been killed than we are now? what would we have gained? >> we have created a crisis of confidence and a deep
disillusionment and an alienuation that doesn't just effect a narrow fringe of radicals on campus, it -- anyone who goes to the campuses knows that this feeling extends to millions of young americans. now, if they grow up without a belief in this system, that seems to me has far greater bearing upon the future of the united states than anything we have now or have ever had at stake out in indochina. >> one of the great tragic by-products of all of this has been the spiritual scarring of our own people, the questioning of our own minds when we're involved in a body count war with total military supremacy, with indiscriminant bombing by spraying chemicals and driving the people off of the land, into
the cities, changing the complex of that little nation involving 16 to 18 million people. and we ask ourselves, can we be happen about the fact that we've killed 10,000 vietnamese and suffers 300 deaths ourselves. in the process, that this complete psychology that we have of destroying life, you know, at any expense, and what the results of it or -- >> brutalizing our own society. >> it's brutalizing us internally. people are fleeing to canada to avoid a war that they consider immoral and attitudes they consider unrealistic in a time and age of where we really are questioning ourselves to find national purpose again. >> what we need to understand is in a there is no way to separate the cost of this war in asia from the cost of our own society. there were stories in the press recently that some of our poor
people, some of the black citizens and other minority groups have shied away from participating in protests against the grounds their concerns is with hunger and racism and poverty. what i think all of our fellow americans need to understand is that the answer to these other problems will not come until we put this war behind us and the enormous drain that the it's taking here in our society, the person who is worried about inflation ought to realize that war is the principle cause of it. the man who is worried about the stock market ought to realize that the stock market jitters are associated to a great extent with the war. and you've said so many times, the governors and the city councilmen and others who are worried about where the money is going to come from, for those
new schools or new sewage projects or other things, they have to understand that the war is robbing them of those ponlts. >> we're talking about 16 to 18 million people in south vietnam. we have 23 million blacks in america who have not been able to find justice in this great country, untold thoughs of american indians who have never been brought to their fulfillment. you have worked so long on the field of hunger with some 35 million people living in poverty with the very foundation shaking of every major city in the nation, with the great basic undergirding of this nation who has kept it stable with those minorities is being drained off and siphoned off in the name of saving face in southeast asia. when we talk, i think you would agree that there seems to be a great paradox in this.
>> the cost of the war last year was $23 billion. so you can say in just about specific terms that one year's cost in this war would clean up all of our waters in the united states. >> the half-hour that this program is being telecast to the american public, to reduce that or to translate in terms of the cost of the war, the federal government will be spending $1 million just in this one half hour period. >> in vietnam. >> in vietnam. just in vietnam. >> mark, you know, the argument is made the world will think we're weak if we withdraw from vietnam. i think of all the arguments that are made, that is the least impressive. actually the world knows we have the power to exterminate every living inhabitant of vietnam if we unloosed that power. we could salt it over the way rome salted over carthage.
it's not our power that's in question out there, it's the wisdom of our policy. and the world sees the biggest, richest, strongest nation dropping more bombs on north vietnam than we dropped in all of europe in the second world war. they see this tremendous disproportion of strength and wealth and that puts us in a very bad light in the world. in fact, this war has done more to undermine america's moral leadership in the world than anything that's ever happened to us. and the faster we put the matter right in southeast asia and end this war, the sooner we will begin to win back again the respect that this country ought to have throughout the world. >> what do you say to people who are really concerned -- and i know they're concerned -- about the fact that we'll lose face in the world. that really will not be a first-rate power as has been
implied by our chief executives in the past and present and the concern of honest americans who want to get out of the war, want to stop the killing and the dying and yet they say this is america, this is a place in the world that unless we accept this challenge, we're somehow failing in world leadership. i think this is the question in the minds of millions of americans today. >> what constitutes leadership, not just power of armorment, but power of ideals. and i say that we are losing in the world today by continuing to be in vietnam. it's not a matter of national pride. it's a matter of whether we're practicing what we preach. it's a matter of our ideals that with embodied in the constitution are really at the center of our policy or whether we're out here with some peripheral object of face-saving and so forth. i say if it's to be humiliated to admit we're wrong and to save
lives, then the sooner we do this, the better it's going to be for our nation. but i don't consider it humiliation. i consider it greatest because only the powerful can take the chance of admitting error and we're that powerful today. >> most civilizations that have died, have died from within. and that's happening now in the united states if we don't get out of this war. >> we clothe this war in the sacred words of justice and freedom and peace. but justice and freedom and peace aren't at stake out there. the government we're supporting is not a democratic government, it's a corrupt military dictatorship. this is a war between two dictatorships for control of vietnam. i think we make a grave mistake when we try to clothe such a war in terms of the ideals for which this country should stand. freedom is not at issue for the
people of vietnam. one way or the other, the kind of freedom we know is not going to be the gift of this war out there. >> i'll make a gut question, frank, and particularly george, we're talking about this amendment to end the war. to most americans is, how can i support this amendment? and at the same time support my country and the involvement we've had over the last 15 years. and i think if people could resolve this in their own minds, they would bring this war to an end through the amendment. >> the president said the other night that if we leave vietnam now, we're going to be threw -- i think he said we're going to be finished as a peacemaker in asia. i think we ought to quit trying to be the policemen for asia. let's quit trying to be a solo policeman and banker and pacifier in asia alone. how ironic it would be if at
long last we succeeded in pacifying southeast asia and couldn't pacify our own society. >> the invasion of cambodia, i think was truly the straw that broke the camel's back. the writing to me at about 8 to 10 to 1 against the president's posture right now in southeast asia. in the belief and hope that the senate of the united states will offer the leadership to author this posture. >> everything we have said tonight is completely unpartisan. we've all been crimintical of t democratic presidents as we have the republican presidents. this war transcends partisanship and i know a great many republicans wells democrats who think our policy now is wrong and we ought to get out. i think the overwhelming number of whatever americans, whatever
their political party, believe this. >> i think what we're trying to do with our amendment to end the war is to say that that is too important a decision to place on the soelhoulders of one man. it's too big of a risk to ask one man to decide alone. the president ought not to have to make that judgment alone. and under the constitution he's not supposed to make that decision alone. what we're proposing to do is to share that responsibility and whatever political risk, whatever opportunity, whatever hazard is involved in making the decision to end this war, we're prepared as elected officials to stand up on that question and answer "yes" or "no" and then take whatever blame or whatever credit is involved. >> in effect, we're providing a situation where the president can withdraw faster, where he can make a determination the war is going to end by a fixed date. we recognize that when you've made a tragic mistake, there's
no painless way to get out of that mistake. we're saying we'll share that pain, we'll share that responsibility, but let's recognize the mistake and get out of it. >> what do we say to the american parents who have sons fighting in vietnam? is this a patriotic move that we're taking in this amendment to end the war? is this support of their sons and of our fighting men in vietnam? >> there's no better way than to protect the young men who are fighting over there than to bring them home. i don't know if any military person in any responsible position doubts that if we made our declaration that we're coming out, that they would be brought home safely. as long as we stay there, the casualties are going to go up. if president nixon's program works over the next three years, we're talking about a minimum of 5,000 more american men dead and probably closer to 20,000. four or five times that many
casualties and four or five times that many vietnamese deaths. >> now what we're proposing is not a disorganized and uncoordinated outcry. we're a specific, legislative act that will have the full force of law and it will say, in effect, no more money for southeast asia for any purpose other than arranging for the systematic and safe withdrawal of our forces,s for exchange of presence, for asylum for those people that might be threatened by our withdrawal. it's an orderly, constitutional procedure for bringing about an end to this war. this brings the congress back to the role that it should have been playing all along. it asks the congress to assume its responsibility to the american people and it brings our democratic system back to
life again in a balanced, constitutional manner and that in itself is as important in the long run to the life of this republic as ending the war in vietnam. >> what do we say to the person people who have been watching and say well, we agree with you, but our voice is not very loud. i'm only one person. i'm just a little person. you hear that many times. does that voice have a place in this whole great issue of war and peace? they say we're tired of speeches. we want some action. a lot of the young people say this to us and a lot of the older people say, all right, turn it off. we agree with you, but what have you done about it? what can we do? we're asking people to make their views known responsibly to their congressmen and we're asking the congress and the senate of the united states particularly to begin to assume its responsibility under the constitution. for years and years now we've abdicated and given all of the
power of the president when it came to war. we've sat on our hands and done nothing and hoped that the people would look the other way. well, the time has come to reassert our responsibility and to stand up and vote on the question of war or peace. we have sort of enshrined silence in the virtue of patriotism in the last year or so, and actually, i think the highest patriotic duty that any citizen has is to speak up, to speak his convictions and his mind. that's the hope that we've got to give to all american people that there is this channel open to them and that we and others like us on this end of the power structure, so to speak are reis nottive and we're not only receptive, but we're inviting them to participate in this amendment to win the war. >> this is what we must do, that we need their help even if we had 40 senators presently on this amendment, we need the help of the people of the united states. there's no other way that we can
succeed and the voice of the people counts in the final analysis, if i am to follow my judgment and to follow my conscience in the position of responsibility, i must tell the people when we're right, and i must tell them when i think we're wrong and expect them to support those positions or to oppose them, but for lord's sake, don't be quiet. write. support or oppose, but do something in this critical time. >> if you want to cast your vote to end the war in indochina, there is something you must do in the next few days, write to your congressman or your senator, just the simple words i vote for the amendment to end the war in southeast asia. >> and there's something else you can do, take a sheet of paper and write at the top, we the undersigned favor the amendment to end the war. leave room for names and addresses and then go out to work, the church, to the supermarket, wherever you can
collect signatures and get people to sign who agree with you. send those petitions to your congressman and to your senators. >> the president of the united states rightfully can command all media to bring a message to the people of the united states any time he deems he has a message of importance. for those of us who have differing viewpoints and wish to express those to you, the american people, it requires that we seek your assistance. >> remember, that 66 cents out of every tax dollar now goes to war. a dollar toward peace could go a long way. so send your contribution, whatever it may be in order that we may continue to speak out. make your checks out to amendment to end the war post office box 1-a ben franklin station washington d.c. >> let me close this broadcast on a very concrete and specific
point. what we are proposing here is that for the first time in the long history of this war, the senate of the united states stand up and be counted yes or no on the question of whether we wish the war to continue or to be ended. we from pose to propose to do t to come in a very short time. we pledge you that that vote will be held. this is not a sense of the congress resolution. it is not a debater's point. it is an act of law which if carried, will put an end to this war in a systematic way. we ask earnestly tonight for your support in that effort. >> in every area of the world? in 1968, a new phase is now starting. >> that general west moreland
strategy is producing results. >> the enemy's hopes are dim. >> if when the chips are down the world's most powerful nation acts like a pitiful, helpless giant. >> in just a few day, debate on the amendment to end the war will begin on the floor of the united states senate. if the american people can effectively urge passage in the house and senate. if the amendment to end the war is passed then the traditional right to declaring whether or not we should commit to the congress where it belongs. through protest, petition and an act of law, we shall have at last ended the vietnam war. >> weeknights this month on
american history tv, we feature the contenders, those who lost an election and had a lasting effect on u.s. politics. tonight we feature texas businessman ross perot who was an independent candidate in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections and it starts at 8:00 p.m. eastern. enjoy american history tv this week and every weekend on c-span3. ♪ ♪ >> american history tv on c-span3, exploring the people and events that tell the american story every weekend. coming up this weekend, saturday at 6:00 p.m. on the civil war, a look at how historical interpretation has changed over the years at appomattox courthouse. on the 75th anniversary of the united nations we'll feature four films. san francisco 1945, the united nations in world disputes. scenes of destiny and army in action, the cobra strikes.
on sunday at 11:00 a.m. eastern, the first presidential debate between president george h.w. bush, bill clinton and texas businessman ross perot, then at 2:00 p.m. eastern, bill clinton and senator bob dole. on american artifact, a discussion of jim crow museum of racist memorabilia in big rapids, michigan and why the offensive artifacts are being used as teaching tools to promote conversation and understanding. exploring the american story. watch american history tv this weekend on c-span3. >> richard nixon accepts his party's presidential nomination for a second term at the 1972 republican national convention in miami beach, florida. president nixon won the 1972 general election in a landslide over democratic nominee george mcgovern carrying 49 states.