At a gathering in Omaha, Nebraska at the City Dock on the Missouri River, during ceremonies to mark shipment of the 5 millionth ton of food grain to India, President Johnson spoke at length about the events of the past day, the reason for the stepped up bombings and why Vietnam was an important cause.
President Johnson: “Now I want to point out to you that the conflict there is important for many reasons, but I have time to mention only a few. I am going to mention three specifically.
The first reason: We believe that the rights of other people are just as important as our own. We believe that we are obligated to help those whose rights are being threatened by brute force.
Individuals can never escape a sense of decency and respect for others; neither can democratic nations. If one man here in Omaha unlawfully forces another to do what he commands, then you rebel against the injustice, because you know it is wrong for one man here in Omaha to force another one to do what he wants him to do. Unless human concern has disappeared from all of our values, you also know that it is necessary–I emphasize “necessary”–to help that man that is being forced to defend himself.
This same principle is true for nations– nations which live by respect of the rights of others. If one government uses force to violate another people’s rights, we cannot ignore the injustice, the threat to our own rights, the danger to peace in the entire world.
That is what is happening at this hour in South Vietnam. The North Vietnamese are trying to deny the people of South Vietnam the right to build their own nation, the right to choose their own system of government, the right to live and to work in peace.
To those people in America who say they have never had this thing explained to them, I want to repeat that again.
The North Vietnamese at this hour are trying to deny the people of South Vietnam the right to build their own nation, the right to choose their own system of government, the right to go and vote in a free election and select their own people, the right to live and work in peace.
South Vietnam has asked us for help. Only if we abandon our respect for the rights of other people could we turn down their plea.
Second, South Vietnam is important to the security of the rest of all of Asia.
A few years ago the nations of free Asia lay under the shadow of Communist China. They faced a common threat, but not in unity. They were still caught up in their old disputes and dangerous confrontations. They were ripe for aggression.
Now that picture is changing.
Shielded by the courage of the South Vietnamese, the peoples of free Asia today are driving toward economic and social development in a new spirit of regional cooperation.
All you have to do is look at that map and you will see independence growing, thriving, blossoming, and blooming.
They are convinced that the Vietnamese people and their allies are going to stand firm against the conqueror, or against aggression.
Our fighting in Vietnam, therefore, is buying time not only for South Vietnam, but it is buying time for a new and a vital, growing Asia to emerge and develop additional strength.
If South Vietnam were to collapse under Communist pressure from the North, the progress in the rest of Asia would be greatly endangered. And don’t you forget that!”
By 1966, America was beginning to question our reasons for being in Vietnam – the reasons for stepped-up draft numbers and an escalation in a war that was making less sense with each passing day. Still, there was vocal support for the War – support for what many believed was an important fight against Communist aggression in the Far East. But by 1966, that support was starting to erode. It was beginning to be felt on College campuses and in cities all across the U.S. Demonstrations against the War and our Vietnam policy were coming with increased frequency, and there were signs the Press and Media (most of whom were for the war) were questioning the reports from the field, the upbeat assessments of South Vietnamese Generals and Pentagon spokespeople.
Here is that address made by President Johnson, as it was delivered on June 30, 1966.