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President Johnson with Senator Birch Bayh.
June 15, 1965, 1:20 p.m.

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LBJ: Hi Birch.

BB: Hi, Mr. President. How are you, sir? I had a rather lengthy discussion with Governor Brannigan. Remember some time ago when I was down there on another matter and we had a little conversation on the Vietnamese situation and you suggested at that time, that it might be helpful for some of us to speak out and to give some thought and ideas. Would it be helpful to have a midwestern governor join in this business? He's talked to both of our state university presidents and I've asked him to follow this up with Perdue and Indiana to see whether we can start a countervailing student movement-I didn't want to muddy the water in this, but I think Roget would go along

LBJ: I think it would be absolutely excellent, what we've got to--But what some of these folks have done, we don't want to say it, because it makes it look like McCarthyism and we detest him so much--But what they have done, throughout the world, they are winning the propaganda war against us. And they are also winning the other war against us, because they are winning the propaganda one and we have to spend half of our time explaining what we are trying to do and so on and so forth.

They have got Harold Wilson on the ropes and they have the Prime Minister of Canada dodging and ducking. Now, none of us want to do what the Joint Chiefs of Staff say you ought to do to win --and that is to go in and bomb the hell out of them. I am holding them up and refusing to do that. On the other hand, if we walked out of there, we would bust every treaty we got and 44 nations would say the U. S. could not be depended upon for anything. Whether it's Tokyo or Berlin or any of the rest of them-- NATO, SEATO, CINTO. So we cannot walk out and we cannot walk in, so to speak, with heavy bombs and atomic weapons and stuff like that.

We are trying to deter them and wear them out, without losing a lot of people. Now we've lost 400, but we've lost 160,000 causalties since WWII: Korea, Greece, Iran, Turkey and all over the world. So 400 compared to 160,000 is not bad, relatively speaking. So if we cannot go in and we cannot go out - what can we do? We can't just sit there. The only pressure that we are putting on them, is bombing their bridges and their ammunition dumps. We have knocked out 20% of their ammunition and knocked out all their bridges and they can't have many more buildups, because we are killing a good many of their people.

This buildup that we have to face between now and the monsoon season, was built up before, we started our bombing in February. But I just held off as long, long, and long as I could because I knew the people would raise hell, I knew it did not look good and did not have a peace image and so on and so forth.

But it has done what we thought it ought to do, primarily three things: it has deterred them; it is hard as hell for them to get any more men down there, they have to load up a truck, they have to get their supplies, when they get to a bridge, the damn bridge is out. Then they've got to get a ferry, load the ferry, go around and unload their boat--their truck and it's too heavy and take it by pieces then they get on the other side and go another four miles and another bridge is out. That's the first thing. Then the second thing is we are requiring a hellava lot of people to be rebuilding these bridges, and as soon as they rebuild, we knock it out again. And their economy is having trouble keeping these things restored-- to try to get them in shape. We just let them get right up to where they're about to finish it and then we take them out again. The third thing is -is it's got them all scared to death-they stay in and hide and stay in their caves so therefore they cannot produce as much.

We're hoping to wear them down so much they'll agree to talk. Whereas before they'd just spit in our face. When we made a pause, and wouldn't do anything for a week, they'd just spit in our face. They wouldn't even open the letter telling them that. And they're arrogant as hell, and I don't blame them. I defeated Goldwater 15 million, but why would I want to give Goldwater half my Cabinet? They're winning, why would they want to talk? If we give up something, they're going to win-

BB: After your conversation down there, I made a speech and every place I go in Indiana, I make sure that we tell the story; because I have found that the people are with you. The thing that gripes me and the thing that I think the governor can be helpful with is these so-called intellectuals-the people who are supposed to have all the brains-- are the people who are clear out in left field. And they just cannot conceive of what you have to do there.

LBJ: That's right. I said to them yesterday -- a group of intellectuals, 'What would you have me do, that I am not doing?' or 'What am I doing, that you would have me stop?' Well, Scotty Reston was one of them and Alistair Cooke of the Manchester Guardian was another one and several people, and they said 'Well, stop your bombing.'

I said all 'O.K., now you want a political solution. The only way you are going to get a political solution as contrast to a military solution is to have some pressure on them. Now the only pressure I've got is the bombing. I don't instigate any instances. We haven't even waked up and buried our dead and they're gone. So the only thing I'm doing is bombing. Now if you ask me to stop the bombing, what do I have? What pressure can I use or what do I have to offer them?' They agreed there was nothing, they said, 'I guess that's right, I guess you have to keep up the bombing, but we just don't like it.' I said, 'Well I don't like it either, I don't even like being out there.'

I asked, 'What else?' 'Well,' they said, 'maybe you oughta try getting some extra countries to give in some people, outside of the United Nations,' because they knew I had tried the UN last August and the United Nations said alright, they would talk about it while they were shooting at our ships out there in the Gulf of Tonkin. So they ordered the North Vietnamese to come in there to the Security Council and the Vietnamese said fuck you. That's exactly what they said, you have no jurisdiction, and we aren't about to.

So Greening gets up today and said we've got to go to the United Nations. Well we've got the UN -- we have asked them to take charge. We have submitted it to them but the other side just said screw you. China didn't belong to the United Nations; and the UN said they'd be willing to help. On the other countries, I told them we had 36 of them out there and I have sent Lodge, Ball and McNamara to see them all. Every country that has 100 troops, I have asked them to send them. I have 2,000 coming through the Philippines; I've got 20,000 coming out of Korea, 1,200 from Australian. But the British have 70,000 in Malaysia, they can't put any in,they're overtaxed now. The French won't, they got the hell whooped out of them. The Germans are putting in money, and we can't take any people out of Germany -because we've got five divisions there, protecting them. That's why we can't take too many out of Korea, because we've got two divisions there, protecting them. And it does do any good to rob Peter to pay Paul. 'Well that's right' but they didn't know that. Here's Scotty Reston, and Alistair Cooke.

So the answer to your question is 'yes' and I wish you would just take a lead in foreign policy. You do not have to be on the Committee. 85% of the people of this country are for what we are doing in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam and the polls show it. I just finished a poll in New York State. I ran 73% in New York in the November election; today I would defeat Rockefeller 89 to 11. Today I would defeat Romney 78 to 22; I would defeat Nixon 79 to 21. And I have beaten the Republicans more than they have ever been beaten before and 85% approve my position of these things. Five or six don't know, and eight or ten are against it, but they're the ones raising hell.

Now we read the Communist bulletins, there are orders to go out and do it. This Dubois youth thing, they're all over colleges, and they have a sit-in tomorrow. They're all let by the Communists; Hoover's got people after them all the time. But if I go out and talk about it it's always about McCarthy. Everybody disagrees with him about the Communists, but that's what they're doing. They're stirring everyone up. The Chinese have got their folks working; the Russians have their folks. This Russian Ambassador - hell -he's talking to all of our Senators and after he has lunch with one of our Senators, it takes me two weeks to get him not to think I am a warmonger.

BB: That is ridiculous. They are using us as propaganda against our own Senators and against us.

LBJ: Oh, yes, what they do, is they get one speech from Morse, they take it, print it and leak it. They then come back and say that the country is so divided. I see in here this morning, some article that 85% of the Senators in the U.S. Senate were really undercover against Johnson's position. I believe 85% of them are for it.

The alternatives are -- do I want to go in with LeMay and bomb Peking? If I do, I will get 35 or 40 divisions the next morning. I cannot do that. Do I want to get out like Morse? No. Do I want to just sit there and get hit like I did for several months? I do not think I should ask an American boy to get shot at and not shoot back. So then what do I do? Well, I tell them to defend themselves, and now they have to have more manpower. And we have to put men in there because they are not going to do anything except build up their forces a try to run us out during the monsoon season. And that is until Sept. 15th, so it is going to be real rough the next 90 days.

We hope that at the end of that period, we will wear them down some, but there is no assurance. They hope they can wear us out. And I really believe they will last longer than we do. One of their boys gets down in a rut and he stays there for two days, without water, food or anything. Never moves; waiting to ambushes somebody. Now an American, he stays down there about 20 minutes and goddamn he's got to get him a cigarette.

BB: Who could he talk to? I told him I did not think he oughta should say anything until I had a nice talk with McGeorge Bundy.

LBJ: He's excellent, if he's here. If not, somebody in his office, just tell them to get right on it. Thank you my friend

BB: Thank you, sir. I will see you soon.

LBJ: Give your sweet wife my love.

BB: I will-

LBJ: I want to get with you sometime, go out on the boat-

BB: Alright. Thank you