National Security Advisor to Nixon (1969-73) and Secretary of State for Nixon and Ford (1973-77), Kissinger spoke for the U.S. during Vietnam peace negotiations, and in 1973 received the Nobel Peace Prize.
"What they [the Democrats] say now is that if we had accepted a proposal that the North Vietnamese made in May of '69, they would have been willing to take that proposal. That proposal required the total withdrawal of American forces, the overthrow of the Vietnamese government, and would have produced absolute, total chaos. I don't think they would have accepted this. Certainly, it was not in the Democratic platform, which was only eight months old. It was not even in the dovish platform, which had caused the riots in Chicago, where they talked about mutual withdrawal.
"We had one irreducible condition for which I do not apologize. We knew we could settle the military side. We would not overthrow the people that our predecessors had put into place as a price of leaving the war, and turn the country over to the Communists who, when they came in, killed a million people and drove hundreds of thousands into boats, and put hundreds of thousands into concentration camps where they stayed for a decade and more.
"So, that we weren't willing to do.
"We were willing to withdraw our troops. We were willing to settle all the military issues. We were willing to have a ceasefire, which we offered immediately, and we were willing to have a coalition government. But we could never agree with them, even to discuss a coalition government, because we could never find anyone that they found acceptable.
"So, one of the things that bothers me about this current debate is this:
"It was a tough problem, the Vietnam War, and people were truly anguished about it, and I have never accused any of our opponents of bad face. But 30 years after the war, people ought to be able to look at existing documents and say, 'this is what happened,' and not apologize…not present the history of the Vietnam War as if a bunch of power-crazed maniacs, first in the Johnson administration and then in the Nixon administration, who loved to kill people, continued a senseless war, which the moral protestors wanted to end.
"How plausible is such an interpretation of history?
"Everybody thought they were serving America, and if it had been that simple, we would have ended the war."
Excerpted from a 2001 interview for "The Sixties".