do you think of the Vietnam thing? I'd like to hear you talk a
RR: It's the
damn worst mess I ever saw.... I knew we were going to get into
this sort of mess when we went in there. And I don't see how we're
ever going to get out of it without fighting a major war with
the Chinese and all of them down there in the rice paddies and
jungles.... I just don't know what to do.
the way I've been feeling for six months.
RR: It appears
that our position is deteriorating. And it looks like the more
we try to do for them, the less they're willing to do for themselves....
If it got down to...just pulling out, I'd get out. But then I
don't know. There's undoubtedly some middle ground somewhere.
If I was going to get out, I'd get the same crowd that got rid
of Diem to get rid of these people and get some fellow in there
that said he wished we would get out. That would give us a good
excuse for getting out....
LBJ: How important
is it to us?
RR: It isn't
important a damn bit, with all these new missile systems.
I guess its important to us -
RR: From a
LBJ: I mean,
yes, from the standpoint that we are party to a treaty. And if
we don't pay attention to this treaty, why, I don't guess they
think we pay attention to any of them.
but we're the only ones paying any attention to it!
Johnson describes his own sense of the situation.]
LBJ: I spend
all my days with Rusk and McNamara and Bundy and Harriman and
Vance and all those folks that are dealing with it and I would
say that it pretty well adds up to them now that we've got to
show some power and some force, that they do not believe - they're
kinda like MacArthur in Korea - they don't believe that the Chinese
Communists will come into this thing. But they don't know and
nobody can really be sure. But they're feeling is that they won't.
And in any event, that we haven't got much choice, that we are
treaty bound, that we are there, that this will be a a domino
that will kick off a whole list of others, that we've just got
to prepare for the worst. Now I have avoided that for a few days.
I don't think the American people are for it. I don't agree with
[Wayne] Morse [Senator from Oregon] and all he says, but -
RR: No, neither
do I, but he's voicing the sentiment of a hell of a lot of people.
LBJ: I'm afraid
that's right. I don't think the people of the country know much
about Vietnam and I think they care a hell of a lot less.
the conversation, Russell expresses his fears.]
RR: It's a
tragic situation. It's just one of those places where you can't
win. Anything you do is wrong.... I have thought about it. I have
worried about it. I have prayed about it.
LBJ: I don't
believe we can do anything -
RR: It frightens
me 'cause it's my country involved over there and if we get into
any considerable scale, there's no doubt in my mind but that the
Chinese will be in there....
LBJ: You don't
have any doubt but what if we go in there and get 'em up against
the wall, the Chinese Communists are gonna come into it?
RR: no sir,
no doubt about it.
my judgment, and our people don't think so....
expresses concern over the political pressure from Republicans.]
the Senators, Nixon, Rockefeller and Goldwater all saying let's
move, let's go into the North.... Lodge, Nixon, Rockefeller, Goldwater
all say move. Eisenhower -
RR: Bomb the
North and kill old men, women, and children?
LBJ: No, they
say pick put an oil plant or pick out a refinery or something
like that. Take selected targets. Watch this trail they're coming
down. Try to bomb them out of them, when they're coming in.
RR: Oh hell!
That ain't worth a hoot. That's just impossible....
they'd impeach a President though, that would run out, wouldn't
they? I just don't believe that - outside of Morse - everybody
I talk to says you got to go in, including Hickenlooper [Republican
Senator from Iowa], including all the Republicans.... And I don't
know how in the hell you're gonna get out unless they tell you
ends soon thereafter.]