Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on Tuesday (24 November), United States' Defence Secretary Melvin Laird said there was no acceptable alternative to last weekend's helicopter raid on prisoner-of-war camp near Hanoi, because the fact that American prisoners were dying could not be ignored.
GV PAN INT Senate Committee seated
GV Laird speaking
TRANSCRIPT: SEQ. 2: LAIRD: "At a time when Americans are dying captivity, some have claimed that this search and rescue attempt might have jeopardised the lives of American prisoners. Mr. Chairman, it is my belief....it is my firm belief...that the lives of our American servicemen held captive are in danger every day, and that Hanoi holds them and refuses to abide by the humanitarian provisions of the Geneva Convention. In the absence of inspection by the International Red Cross or another impartial organisation, we can never be certain of the safety and the well-being of our men."
FULBRIGHT: "Secretary, that's very moving statement, and I would like to know how you feel that both the bombing raid and this raid to the prisoners of war camp will affect the prospects of a negotiated settlement. It would seem to me that it would have an adverse effect, that if there ever was any chance to negotiate.....and you surely thought there was...this makes it much more difficult and would indicate that you've given up all hope of a negotiated settlement."
LAIRD: "Mr. Chairman, we cannot jet the Vietnamisation programme fail simply by continuing negotiations if there is not movement with those negotiations, and there has not been movement...as far as those negotiations are concerned...in Paris during the pat tow months. Our primary objective is still a negotiated settlement but we do have another alternative, and that is the Vietnamisation programme which does complement negotiations."
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Background: Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington on Tuesday (24 November), United States' Defence Secretary Melvin Laird said there was no acceptable alternative to last weekend's helicopter raid on prisoner-of-war camp near Hanoi, because the fact that American prisoners were dying could not be ignored. He also answered criticism of the recent bombing attacks on the north.
Both the President and Defence Secretary have drawn strong criticism for permitting a resumption of bombing, and for the risks involved in the abortive rescue attempt. No American casualties resulted from the helicopter mission, but not prisoners of war were found. At the special hearing dozens of journalists listened to Senator William Fulbright and his committee members conduct a searching interrogation of the Defence Secretary and the wisdom of his actions in permitting such strategy.