What really happened behind the scenes when the bombing of North Vietnam finally stopped? It is time Averell Harriman told us the full truth. He has been dropping tantalizing clues since he returned home from the Paris talks. These lead one to believe that he could make no greater contribution to peace than to tell the whole story. When the bits and pieces he has let slip are added to what we already know it looks as if it is the story of how Lyndon Johnson might have won the election for the Democrats and put the US firmly on the road to withdrawal and settlement.
Harriman’s latest and clearest hints indicate that the other side made a substantial withdrawal as the bombing stopped. The US, instead of reciprocating with a comparable withdrawal of its own, took advantage of the other side’s withdrawal to escalate and widen the war in South Vietnam. It is important for the country to get the facts clearly now because Nixon has not changed the military orders with which Johnson accompanied the bombing halt. Until those orders are changed, the chance of peace is slim, and the casualties will rise as our military commanders under the cover of the peace talks pursue their dream of a military victory.
Ever since Harriman came back from Paris where he was our chief negotiator, he has talked of the need to cut down the level of the fighting. In the aftermath of Nixon’s report on Vietnam Harriman has lifted the curtain on the fact that as the bombing stopped the enemy did exactly that. This was either part of the price they paid for the end of the bombing, or a concrete move toward de-escalation which they hoped we would reciprocate. Harriman made this revelation on two occasions. One was on CBS May 14 immediately after Nixon’s address. The other was in his speech next day to the American Jewish Committee at the Waldorf. Seldom have more momentous revelations been given less attention by press and public. This is an attempt to call wider attention to them, to place them in perspective, and to ask Governor Harriman to speak out more clearly and fully.
On CBS, after the President’s address, Harriman said:
Well, to me, the all-important question wasn’t touched on, which is how to reduce the violence. I’ve come to believe as a result of my talks in Paris that we won’t get very far as long as both sides are hitting the other as hard as they can. Now the President mentioned the fact that the VC were hitting us. He didn’t mention the fact that General Abrams’s orders were to use all of our ability to put maximum pressure on the other side. And that’s something they have objected to when I was in Paris and they’ve made it very plain—I think this is the most important subject to me to talk …