Here is a video clip excerpt of Nixon's speech. Scroll down
for the transcript.
It follows the full text transcript of
Richard Nixon's Cambodia Address, aired from
Washington D.C. - April 30, 1970.
Good evening my
Ten days ago, in
my report to the Nation on Vietnam, I announced
a decision to withdraw an additional 150,000
Americans from Vietnam over the next year. I
said then that I was making that decision
despite our concern over increased enemy
activity in Laos, in Cambodia, and in South
At that time, I warned that if I concluded that
increased enemy activity in any of these areas
endangered the fives of Americans remaining in
Vietnam, I would not hesitate to take strong and
effective measures to deal with that situation.
Despite that warning, North Vietnam has
increased its military aggression in all these
areas, and particularly in Cambodia.
After full consultation with the National
Security Council, Ambassador Bunker, General
Abrams, and my other advisers, I have concluded
that the actions of the enemy in the last 10
days clearly endanger the lives of Americans who
are in Vietnam now and would constitute an
unacceptable risk to those who will be there
after withdrawal of another 150,000.
To protect our men who are in Vietnam and to
guarantee the continued success of our
withdrawal and Vietnamization programs, I have
concluded that the time has come for action.
Tonight, I shall describe the actions of the
enemy, the actions I have ordered to deal with
that situation, and the reasons for my decision.
Cambodia, a small country of 7 million people,
has been a neutral nation since the Geneva
agreement of 1954 - an agreement, incidentally,
which was signed by the Government of North
American policy since then has been to
scrupulously respect the neutrality of the
Cambodian people. We have maintained a skeleton
diplomatic mission of fewer than 15 in
Cambodia's capital, and that only since last
August. For the previous 4 years, from 1965 to
1969, we did not have any diplomatic mission
whatever in Cambodia. And for the past 5 years,
we have provided no military assistance whatever
and no economic assistance to Cambodia.
North Vietnam, however, has not respected that
For the past 5 years, as indicated on this map
that you see here, North Vietnam has occupied
military sanctuaries all along the Cambodian
frontier with South Vietnam. Some of these
extend up to 20 miles into Cambodia. The
sanctuaries are in red and, as you note, they
are on both sides of the border. They are used
for hit and run attacks on American and South
Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.
These Communist occupied territories contain
major base camps, training sites, logistics
facilities, weapons and ammunition factories,
airstrips, and prisoner-of. war compounds.
For 5 years, neither the United States nor South
Vietnam has moved against these enemy
sanctuaries because we did not wish to violate
the territory of a neutral nation. Even after
the Vietnamese Communists began to expand these
sanctuaries 4 weeks ago, we counseled patience
to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed
restraints on our own commanders.
In contrast to our policy, the enemy in the past
2 weeks has stepped up his guerrilla actions and
he is concentrating his main forces in these
sanctuaries that you see on this map where they
are building up to launch massive attacks on our
forces and those of South Vietnam.
North Vietnam in the last 2 weeks has stripped
away all pretense of respecting the sovereignty
or the neutrality of Cambodia. Thousands of
their soldiers are invading the country from the
sanctuaries; they are encircling the capital of
Phnom Penh. Coming from these sanctuaries, as
you see here, they have moved into Cambodia and
are encircling the capital.
Cambodia, as a result of this, has sent out a
call to the United States, to a number of other
nations, for assistance. Because if this enemy
effort succeeds, Cambodia would become a vast
enemy staging area and a springboard for attacks
on South Vietnam along 600 miles of frontier--a
refuge where enemy troops could return from
combat without fear of retaliation.
North Vietnamese men and supplies could then be
poured into that country, jeopardizing not only
the lives of our own men but the people of South
Vietnam as well.
Now confronted with this situation, we have
First, we can do nothing. Well, the ultimate
result of that course of action is clear. Unless
we indulge in wishful thinking, the lives of
Americans remaining in Vietnam after our next
withdrawal of 150,000 would be gravely
Let us go to the map again. Here is South
Vietnam. Here is North Vietnam. North Vietnam
already occupies this part of Laos. If North
Vietnam also occupied this whole band in
Cambodia, or the entire country, it would mean
that South Vietnam was completely outflanked and
the forces of Americans in this area, as well as
the South Vietnamese, would be in an untenable
Our second choice is to provide massive military
assistance to Cambodia itself. Now
unfortunately, while we deeply sympathize with
the plight of 7 million Cambodians whose country
is being invaded, massive amounts of military
assistance could not be rapidly and effectively
utilized by the small Cambodian Army against the
immediate threat. With other nations, we shall
do our best to provide the small arms and other
equipment which the Cambodian Army of 40,000
needs and can use for its defense. But the aid
we will provide will be limited to the purpose
of enabling Cambodia to defend its neutrality
and not for the purpose of making it an active
belligerent on one side or the other.
Our third choice is to go to the heart of the
trouble. That means cleaning out major North
Vietnamese and Vietcong occupied
territories--these sanctuaries which serve as
bases for attacks on both Cambodia and American
and South Vietnamese forces in South Vietnam.
Some of these, incidentally, are as close to
Saigon as Baltimore is to Washington. This one,
for example [indicating], is called the Parrot's
Beak. It is only 33 miles from Saigon.
Now faced with these three options, this is the
decision I have made.
In cooperation with the armed forces of South
Vietnam, attacks are being launched this week to
clean out major enemy sanctuaries on the
A major responsibility for the ground operations
is being assumed by South Vietnamese forces. For
example, the attacks in several areas, including
the Parrot's Beak that I referred to a moment
ago, are exclusively South Vietnamese ground
operations under South Vietnamese command with
the United States providing air and logistical
There is one area, however, immediately above
Parrot's Beak, where I have concluded that a
combined American and South Vietnamese operation
Tonight, American and South Vietnamese units
will attack the headquarters for the entire
Communist military operation in South Vietnam.
This key control center has been occupied by the
North Vietnamese and Vietcong for 5 years in
blatant violation of Cambodia's neutrality.
This is not an invasion of Cambodia. The areas
in which these attacks will be launched are
completely occupied and controlled by North
Vietnamese forces. Our purpose is not to occupy
the areas. Once enemy forces are driven out of
these sanctuaries and once their military
supplies are destroyed, we will withdraw.
These actions are in no way directed to the
security interests of any nation. Any government
that chooses to use these actions as a pretext
for harming relations with the United States
will be doing so on its own responsibility, and
on its own initiative, and we will draw the
Now let me give you the reasons for my decision.
A majority of the American people, a majority of
you listening to me, are for the withdrawal of
our forces from Vietnam. The action I have taken
tonight is indispensable for the continuing
success of that withdrawal program.
A majority of the American people want to end
this war rather than to have it drag on
interminably. The action I have taken tonight
will serve that purpose.
A majority of the American people want to keep
the casualties of our brave men in Vietnam at an
absolute minimum. The action I take tonight is
essential if we are to accomplish that goal.
We take this action not for the purpose of
expanding the war into Cambodia but for the
purpose of ending the war in Vietnam and winning
the just peace we all desire. We have made, we
will continue to make every possible effort to
end this war through negotiation at the
conference table rather than through more
fighting on the battlefield.
Let us look again at the record. We have stopped
the bombing of North Vietnam. We have cut air
operations by over 20 percent. We have announced
withdrawal of over 250,000 of our men. We have
offered to withdraw all of our men if they will
withdraw theirs. We have offered to negotiate
all issues with only one condition--and that is
that the future of South Vietnam be determined
not by North Vietnam, and not by the United
States, but by the people of South Vietnam
The answer of the enemy has been intransigence
at the conference table, belligerence in Hanoi,
massive military aggression in Laos and
Cambodia, and stepped-up attacks in South
Vietnam, designed to increase American
This attitude has become intolerable. We will
not react to this threat to American lives
merely by plaintive diplomatic protests. If we
did, the credibility of the United States would
be destroyed in every area of the world where
only the power of the United States deters
Tonight, I again warn the North Vietnamese that
if they continue to escalate the fighting when
the United States is withdrawing its forces, I
shall meet my responsibility as Commander in
Chief of our Armed Forces to take the action I
consider necessary to defend the security of our
The action that I have announced tonight puts
the leaders of North Vietnam on notice that we
will be patient in working for peace; we will be
conciliatory at the conference table, but we
will not be humiliated. We will not be defeated.
We will not allow American men by the thousands
to be killed by an enemy from privileged
The time came long ago to end this war through
peaceful negotiations. We stand ready for those
negotiations. We have made major efforts, many
of which must remain secret. I say tonight: All
the offers and approaches made previously remain
on the conference table whenever Hanoi is ready
to negotiate seriously.
But if the enemy response to our most
conciliatory offers for peaceful negotiation
continues to be to increase its attacks and
humiliate and defeat us, we shall react
My fellow Americans, we live in an age of
anarchy, both abroad and at home. We see
mindless attacks on all the great institutions
which have been created by free civilizations in
the last 500 years. Even here in the United
States, great universities are being
systematically destroyed. Small nations all over
the world find themselves under attack from
within and from without.
If, when the chips are down, the world's most
powerful nation, the United States of America,
acts like a pitiful, helpless giant, the forces
of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten
free nations and free institutions throughout
It is not our power but our will and character
that is being tested tonight. The question all
Americans must ask and answer tonight is this:
Does the richest and strongest nation in the
history of the world have the character to meet
a direct challenge by a group which rejects
every effort to win a just peace, ignores our
warning, tramples on solemn agreements, violates
the neutrality of an unarmed people, and uses
our prisoners as hostages?
If we fail to meet this challenge, all other
nations will be on notice that despite its
overwhelming power the United States, when a
real crisis comes, will be found wanting.
During my campaign for the Presidency, I pledged
to bring Americans home from Vietnam. They are
I promised to end this war. I shall keep that
I promised to win a just peace. I shall keep
We shall avoid a wider war. But we are also
determined to put an end to this war.
In this room, Woodrow Wilson made the great
decisions which led to victory in World War I.
Franklin Roosevelt made the decisions which led
to our victory in World War II. Dwight D.
Eisenhower made decisions which ended the war in
Korea and avoided war in the Middle East. John
F. Kennedy, in his finest hour, made the great
decision which removed Soviet nuclear missiles
from Cuba and the Western Hemisphere.
I have noted that there has been a great deal of
discussion with regard to this decision that I
have made and I should point out that I do not
contend that it is in the same magnitude as
these decisions that I have just mentioned. But
between those decisions and this decision there
is a difference that is very fundamental. In
those decisions, the American people were not
assailed by counsels of doubt and defeat from
some of the most widely known opinion leaders of
I have noted, for example, that a Republican
Senator has said that this action I have taken
means that my party has lost all chance of
winning the November elections. And others are
saying today that this move against enemy
sanctuaries will make me a one-term President.
No one is more aware than I am of the political
consequences of the action I have taken. It is
tempting to take the easy political path: to
blame this war on previous administrations and
to bring all of our men home immediately,
regardless of the consequences, even though that
would mean defeat for the United States; to
desert 18 million South Vietnamese people, who
have put their trust in us and to expose them to
the same slaughter and savagery which the
leaders of North Vietnam inflicted on hundreds
of thousands of North Vietnamese who chose
freedom when the Communists took over North
Vietnam in 1954; to get peace at any price now,
even though I know that a peace of humiliation
for the United States would lead to a bigger war
or surrender later.
I have rejected all political considerations in
making this decision.
Whether my party gains in November is nothing
compared to the lives of 400,000 brave Americans
fighting for our country and for the cause of
peace and freedom in Vietnam. Whether I may be a
one-term President is insignificant compared to
whether by our failure to act in this crisis the
United States proves itself to be unworthy to
lead the forces of freedom in this critical
period in world history. I would rather be a
one-term President and do what I believe is
right than to be a two-term President at the
cost of seeing America become a second-rate
power and to see this Nation accept the first
defeat in its proud 190-year history.
I realize that in this war there are honest and
deep differences in this country about whether
we should have become involved, that there are
differences as to how the war should have been
conducted. But the decision I announce tonight
transcends those differences.
For the lives of
American men are involved. The opportunity for
Americans to come home in the next 12 months is
involved. The future of 18 million people in
South Vietnam and 7 million people in Cambodia
is involved. The possibility of winning a just
peace in Vietnam and in the Pacific is at stake.
It is customary to conclude a speech from the
White House by asking support for the President
of the United States. Tonight, I depart from
that precedent. What I ask is far more
important. I ask for your support for our brave
men fighting tonight halfway around the
world-not for territory, not for glory, but so
that their younger brothers and their sons and
your sons can have a chance to grow up in a
world of peace and freedom and justice.