Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Secretary: Len Aldis.

Flat 2, 26 Tomlins Grove, London E3 4NX UK
Tel & Fax: 44+ 20 8980 7146.
Mobile: 0779 657 1017

Vietnam and the Presidency
A two-day conference

10th and 11th March 2006,
Boston, USA.

To the moderator of the above conference, Mr Brian Williams.

Dear Mr Williams,

Many will welcome this important conference and look forward to hearing the comments from guests, many of whom were deeply involved in the war that ended over thirty years ago. As one unable to participate, will you allow me to raise some points for consideration by your guests?

In the introduction to the conference it is recalled that the American War on Vietnam was the longest waged by the United States, and resulted in the deaths of 58,000 Americans and over 3,000,000 Vietnamese. Unfortunately, not mentioned was the number of those injured and maimed, on all sides, an important statistic that is often ignored in the aftermath of war.

An issue that I hope will be discussed is that of the type of weapons used in the Vietnam War, in particular, chemicals. Here I refer to the one commonly known as Agent Orange that was mixed with Dioxin the world’s most dangerous poison.

Some, if not all, of the conference participants will know that Agent Orange was sprayed over a period of ten-years – which is without precedent in any war prior or since. Research carried out by various scientists, including American, give the amount of chemicals used as being within the range of 82 to 90 million litres.

The massive destruction to the forests of South Vietnam - a war crime in itself, as forests are vital to the environment of any country - through the use of Agent Orange is on record from research carried out by scientists of international repute, amongst them the team headed by the Stellman’s of Columbia University. Their excellent report appeared in the Nature Magazine of 17th April 2003.

Also extremely destructive was the tonnage of bombs dropped on North Vietnam.

Both weapons, chemicals and bombs, have left a legacy to the land and people of Vietnam to this very day in the 31st year of the ending of the war.

One of your guests is former Secretary of State Henry Kissenger.

Mr Kissenger as the U.S. National Security Advisor, played an important part in the Paris talks on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam."

Let me quote a small but vitally important section of the agreements:

Extracts from the
Le Duc Tho – Kissinger Negotiations in Paris.
Chapter VIII
Article 21:

The United States anticipates that this agreement will usher in an era of reconciliation with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as with the peoples of Indochina. In pursuance of its traditional policy, the United States will contribute to healing the wounds of war and to postwar reconstruction of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and throughout Indochina.

Extracts from the
Message from the President of the United States to the Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
(February 1, 1973):

The President wishes to inform the democratic republic of Vietnam of the principles which will govern United States participation in the postwar reconstruction of North Vietnam. As indicated in Article 21 of the Agreement On Ending The War and Restoring Peace In Vietnam signed in Paris on January 27, 1973, the United States undertakes this participation in accordance with its traditional polices. These principles are as follows.

The government of the United States of America will contribute to post-war reconstruction in North Vietnam without any political conditions.

Preliminary United States studies indicate that the appropriate programs for the United States contribution to post-war reconstruction will fall in the range of $3.25 billion of grant aid over five years. Other forms of aid will be agreed upon between the two parties. This estimate is subject to revision and to detailed discussion between the Government of the United States and the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

End of quote.

It would be of interest if Mr Kissinger would comment on the above extracts from the documents with particular reference to the non-payment of the $3.5 billion noted in article 21.

Although the agreements were signed by the then U.S. Secretary of State William P. Rogers on behalf of the United States, it was Mr Kissinger who for three years, carried out the negotiations.

Mr Williams, in this the final point to the conference I would like to comment on the effects that Agent Orange has continued to have on the people of Vietnam.

I am not aware if Ambassador Pete Peterson - another guest at the conference - during his term as Ambassador to Vietnam took the opportunity to visit the International Friendship Village in the suburbs of Hanoi. If he had he would have seen youngsters and veterans with illnesses and disabilities related to the use of Agent Orange.

The village was the idea of an American veteran George Mizo, who sadly died shortly after the Village was opened. He too, along with other American, Australian, Sth Korean veterans, was a victim of Agent Orange. It was a truly international effort to build the Village with support coming from former ex-servicemen and women from France, Germany, Japan, United States and Britain.

I would hope that in his visits to Ho Chi Minh City, Ambassador Peterson would have called at the Tu Du Hospital. There he would have seen a number of tragic youngsters with terrible disabilities caused by Agent Orange.

In war when a bullet or shell is fired, a bomb is dropped, the target – be it man, women or a child - is killed or injured. With Agent Orange the chemical has travelled down the years into the third generation. Children are being born with severe disabilities thirty-five years after the spraying of Agent Orange was stopped in 1972.

Never has a country been faced with such a legacy to its people, and without an apology or compensation from the Government that ordered the use of chemicals as a weapon upon the people of Vietnam.

Let me end with two quotes from a speech made by President Clinton in the White House May 28th 1996 before an audience of American Vietnam veterans.

"This is an important day for the United States to take further steps to ease the suffering our nation unintentionally caused its own sons and daughters by exposing them to Agent Orange in Vietnam. For over two decades Vietnam veterans made the case that exposure to Agent Orange was injuring and killing them long before they left the field of battle, even damaging their children."

After stating that compensation would be made to those affected by Agent Orange including their children President Clinton continued:

"These actions show that our country can face up to the consequences of our actions; that we will bear responsibility for the harm we do, even when the harm is unintended; that we will continue to honour those who served our country and gave so much."
End of quotes

Unfortunately, throughout his speech President Clinton made no mention of the sons and daughters of the Vietnamese.

Today in Vietnam there are over 3,000,000 living Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange. Despite many discussions, appeals etc., the United States continues to ignore the plight of these tragic victims, forcing the Vietnamese to take the issue to the U.S. Courts.

In the month that this conference is held, the appeal for Justice by the Vietnamese will be heard in a New York Court. Millions around the world are hopeful that at long last Justice for the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange will prevail.

Yours sincerely
Len Aldis


News Release

National Archives and Presidential Libraries to Host Historic Two-Day Conference on Vietnam and the Presidency-- Kissinger, Haig, Sorensen, Rather, Halberstam Among Participants --

For Immediate Release: January 10, 2006
Press Contact: Brent Carney (617) 514-1662;

Due to the overwhelming public response, the conference is now closed as we have reached capacity.

Download the Conference Brochure (Requires free Adobe Acrobat Reader)

On March 10 and 11, 2006, the National Archives and the nation’s Presidential Libraries will host an unprecedented two-day conference examining the history of the Vietnam War and the American presidency. The conference, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

"Vietnam and the Presidency" is the first national conference sponsored by all the Presidential Libraries – from Hoover to Clinton – and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Leading historians, key policymakers of the era, and journalists who covered the war will examine the antecedents of the war, presidential decision-making, media coverage, public opinion, lessons learned and the influence of the Vietnam experience on subsequent U.S. foreign policy.

Among those participating in the historic two-day conference will be General Alexander Haig; Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Special Counsel to President Kennedy Theodore Sorensen; Special Assistant to President Johnson Jack Valenti; Senator Chuck Hagel; New York Times columnist Bob Herbert; Ambassador Pete Peterson; General Wesley Clark; professors George Herring, Robert D. Schulzinger, Timothy Naftali, and Marilyn Young; journalists Steve Bell and Dan Rather; Pulitzer Prize-winning authors David Halberstam and Frances Fitzgerald; and historians David Kaiser and Jeffrey Kimball. Former President Jimmy Carter will speak via video and NBC Nightly News anchorman Brian Williams will moderate all of the second day’s sessions.

The Vietnam War was the longest and most controversial war that the United States ever fought. It claimed the lives of more than 58,000 Americans and over three million Vietnamese. From the arrival of the first U.S. military advisors in the 1950s to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, U.S. involvement in Vietnam was central to the Cold War foreign policies of Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon and Ford. The war has continued to affect the policies of subsequent presidents and its legacy is particularly relevant today during America’s war on terror.

"It is our hope and expectation that this conference will reveal a wealth of new information on the history of the Vietnam War and its impact on the office of the President," said Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein. "As keepers of the nation’s official history, the National Archives and the Presidential Libraries are uniquely positioned to provide a forum for examining the effect of the war in Vietnam on our nation, and its citizens."

Reservations for "Vietnam and the Presidency" are no longer available. The conference is fully subscribed. The program is subject to change due to speakers’ schedules. For more information, and an updated schedule of the conference, access the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Web site at

"Vietnam and the Presidency" is sponsored by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum; Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute; Harry S. Truman Library Institute; Eisenhower Foundation; John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum; John F. Kennedy Library Foundation; Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum; Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace; Gerald R. Ford Foundation; Jimmy Carter Library and Museum; Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation; George Bush Presidential Library Foundation; William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum; and the Foundation for the National Archives.

Conference Schedule as of January 9, 2006:

Speakers for the "Vietnam and the Presidency" Conference
Friday, March 10 and Saturday, March 11, 2006
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
Columbia Point, Boston, MA 02125

Friday, March 10
How We Got In: The United States, Asia, and Vietnam
1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Professor George Herring, Alumni Professor of History, University of Kentucky, author of America's Longest War: The United States and Vietnam, 1950-1975.
Professor Robert D. Schulzinger, Professor of History, University of Colorado, Boulder, author of A Time for War: The United States and Vietnam, 1941-1975.
Professor Marilyn Young, Professor of History, New York University, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990.
Moderator, Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States.

Vietnam and Presidential Tapes
2:45 – 4:45 p.m.

On Kennedy: Professor David Kaiser, Professor of Strategy and Policy, Naval War College, author of American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson, and the Origins of the Vietnam War.
On Nixon: Professor Jeffrey Kimball, Professor of History, Miami University, author of The Vietnam War Files: Uncovering the Secret History of Nixon-Era Strategy.
On Tapes: Professor Timothy Naftali, Associate Professor and Director of the Presidential Recordings Program at the University of Virginia's Miller Center for Public Affairs
Moderator, Sharon Fawcett, Assistant Archivist for Presidential Libraries.

Keynote Speaker
5:00 - 5:30 p.m.

David Halberstam
, Pulitzer Prize-winner for his coverage of the Vietnam War for The New York Times; author of The Best and The Brightest, the acclaimed critical history of how and why the United states went to war in Vietnam.

Saturday, March 11
Moderator, Brian Williams, Anchor and Managing Editor, NBC Nightly News
9:00 to 9:30 a.m.
Interview with President Jimmy Carter and Brian Williams (Video presentation)

9:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Inside the White House
Alexander Haig, Military Assistant to National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger; White House Chief of Staff for President Nixon; Secretary of State under President Reagan
Henry Kissinger, National Security Advisor to President Nixon; Secretary of State under President Ford
Theodore Sorensen, Special Counsel to President Kennedy
Jack Valenti, Special Assistant to President Johnson

11:30 to 12: 30 p.m.

12:45 to 2:15 p.m.
The Media and the Role of Public Opinion

Steve Bell, ABC News war correspondent in the 1960s
Frances Fitzgerald, Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award-winning author for Fire In the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam
Dan Rather, CBS News war correspondent in the 1960s

2:30 to 4:30 p.m.
Lessons Learned

Wesley Clark, decorated Vietnam veteran and former NATO Supreme Allied Commander
Chuck Hagel, decorated Vietnam veteran and Nebraska's Senior Senator
Bob Herbert, veteran who served in Korea in the 1960s and New York Times columnist
Pete Peterson, decorated Vietnam veterand and first American Ambassador appointed to Vietnam after the war.

Closing Remarks

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library - Columbia Point - Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 1-866-JFK-1960
Fax: 617-514-1652

John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library Foundation - Columbia Point - Boston, Massachusetts 02125
Tel: 617-514-1550
Fax: 617-436-3395

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