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THE CAMBODIAN-VIETNAM DEBATE
MONDAY, APRIL 14, 1975
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS,
The subcommittee met at 2:06 p.m., in room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Lee H. Hamilton (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. HAMILTON. The meeting of the subcommittee will come to order. This afternoon the Special Subcommittee on Investigations meets to discuss the situation in South Vietnam and the purpose, extent and intent of the emergency aid requests presented to Congress last week in the President's state of the world speech.
The subcommittee will focus today on two matters. First, we would like to know something about what happened in Vietnam in March, what are our political objectives in Vietnam today, and what we seek to achieve in the coming weeks and months.
Second, we would like to examine the supplemental emergency economic and humanitarian aid requests for Vietnam. In the fast developing and fluid situation in South Vietnam, it will be difficult to devise and implement relief programs. We want to examine this supplemental request carefully.
We are happy to have with us today Mr. Philip Habib, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Arthur Z. Gardiner, Jr., Assistant Administrator for East Asia, Agency for International Development.
Mr. Habib and Mr. Gardiner, I believe that you both would like to say something before we proceed with questions from members, and you may begin.
PURPOSE OF SESSION
Mr. HARRINGTON. Just for the benefit of enlightening myself and perhaps the audience, is this the House of Representatives response to a part of the request made by the President on Thursday evening? Are we dealing with those facets of the requests he made regarding Southeast Asia that we as a committee would have jurisdiction over? Or is this a continuation of what you announced earlier this year-an inquiry into the origins and development of our policy in Southeast Asia? Or is it a mix of the two? Just what are we doing beyond what your brief outline indicated this afternoon?
Mr. HAMILTON. Well, Mr. Harrington, we are meeting to bring ourselves up to date on the general situation in Vietnam as it exists today
and we are also meeting to get further information with regard to the President's request for emergency economic and humanitarian
Now, as I understand it, the leadership of the Congress has not fully resolved the question as to how the various components of the President's program are to be examined, but we have been requested to go ahead with this aspect of it so that we can get as much information before congressional committees as we can. We have time pressure.
Mr. HARRINGTON. Do we have legislation referred to either the full committee or the subcommittee that you chair that would be the basis of our discussion this afternoon?
NO SPECIFIC BILL YET
Mr. HAMILTON. I do not have a specific bill before me. Whether or not it was introduced in the session that just concluded, I do not know.
Mr. HARRINGTON. Has there been any outline given to you by the full committee indicating what the intentions are regarding either your subcommittee or other facets of the full committee to deal with component parts of this?
Mr. HAMILTON. The answer to that is no.
Mr. HARRINGTON. So as far as you are concerned, this is the initial but not necessarily the full response to what was outlined last week? Mr. HAMILTON. That is correct.
Mr. HARRINGTON. And these witnesses were scheduled
Mr. HAMILTON. Prior to the President's request of last week.
Mr. HARRINGTON. And this is the hearing we had on last Thursday afternoon rescheduled for this afternoon?
Mr. HAMILTON. Yes; it is.
Mr. HARRINGTON. Thank you.
Mr. HAMILTON. Any further questions?
STATEMENT OF HON. PHILIP C. HABIB, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR EAST ASIAN AND PACIFIC AFFAIRS
Mr. HABIB. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
That was the understanding on which we were also preparing ourselves for this session.
My opening remarks will be brief and then I will ask Mr. Gardiner to elaborate on one aspect of the program.
Mr. Chairman, the last several weeks in Indochina have been disheartening. In Cambodia, Communist forces have brought strong and incessant pressure on Phnom Penh and on many provincial areas controlled by the Cambodian Government.
After months of seige, and in the face of mounting danger to their lives, President Ford, last Friday, ordered the evacuation of all American personnel from Phnom Penh.
In announcing the evacuation, the President regretted that the United States had found itself unable to provide the assistance that country needed to sustain its defense and provide a basis for an equitable negotiated settlement.
However, despite the departure of the Americans, the United States will continue to do what it can to support the Cambodian Government and its people. A request remains before the Congress for additional military and economic aid to Cambodia.
VIETNAM SITUATION CHANGING FAST
Events have also moved swiftly in Vietnam, and in a direction profoundly disturbing to all Americans.
The Vietnamese decision to withdraw from areas in the highlands and the northern provinces-in the face of numerically superior and heavily armed North Vietnamese forces-led to confusion, disorganization, and panic.
Vast areas were taken over by the Communists, large amounts of weapons and materiel were lost, and the morale of the Army and the people of South Vietnam was dealt a severe blow.
An ominous situation now prevails. At the outset of the offensive, North Vietnam fielded a main-force army larger and better equipped than South Vietnam's. The tragic losses of the last several weeks have heightened that imbalance.
In addition to the serious military reverses South Vietnam has suffered, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians have sought to flee advancing North Vietnamese armies. Many are without adequate shelter, food, or medical attention. Their plight gives cause for deepest concern.
SEVERE TESTS AHEAD
Severe tests lie ahead. Militarily, the outcome will depend in the first instance on the ability of South Vietnam to reorganize its defenses, reform and reequip its units and, in so doing, restore the confidence and morale of its army and its people; but it will also depend heavily on the provision of timely and adequate military assistance from the United States.
Massive relief efforts are necessary to care for the refugees. The United States moved swiftly and effectively, in concert with other nations, to help alleviate the initial suffering of these unfortunate people.
More help is needed. The Government of Vietnam has acted energetically and to the limit of its resources, but it cannot bear this burden alone.
The President has asked that we respond generously, and quickly, to meet the needs of this difficult situation. Specifically, he has asked the Congress to do three things:
First, to appropriate $722 million in additional military assistance to Vietnam in the current fiscal year. In the President's judgment only in this way can South Vietnam's defense plan succeed, and the military situation be stabilized.
Second, to appropriate an additional $250 million in economic and humanitarian assistance for Vietnam, to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population, including those uprooted from their homes.
Third, to enact legislation which would clearly permit the use of U.S. Armed Forces to assist in and carry out humanitarian evacuation from Vietnam, should that become necessary.
As I understand it, draft legislation in each of these areas has been submitted.
Today, with the committee's approval, Mr. Chairman, we are prepared to go into some detail on the request for economic and humanitarian assistance.
With your permission, I will ask Mr Gardiner of the Agency for International Development to do just that.
Mr. HAMILTON. Thank you, Mr. Habib.
STATEMENT OF ARTHUR Z. GARDINER, JR., ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATOR FOR EAST ASIA, AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Mr. GARDINER. Mr. Chairman, I have just 10 minutes ago distributed to the subcommittee a statement and I think each of you have it in front of you.
I think what I would like to do is to move through it rapidly and that may be the best way to proceed.
In the past 3 weeks, the people of South Vietnam, a generation of whom have never known lasting tranquility, have again been faced with a disruptive cataclysm of enormous human proportions. These events are familiar to us all.
Our first thoughts and our first actions were to assist those who sought refuge in the territory still controlled by the Government of South Vietnam.
We dispatched ships to augment the 40-odd craft made available for this purpose by the Government of South Vietnam and the several mercy vessels furnished by other nations.
Events moved too rapidly and we were only partially successful, but through these efforts about 150,000 people were brought to safety. Others, roughly estimated at 850,000-and I would like to emphasize that that is a very rough estimate at this time-moved and are still moving by their own efforts on rivers and by land to the refugee sites that are under ARVN control. To date nearly 500,000 refugees have been officially registered by the government.
This process of counting by registration invariably lags behind the reality of displaced human beings, both because of the time involved in assembling data and because the movement of persons still continues.
1 MILLION REFUGEES
Our best estimate today-and I need not tell you that today's numbers may well be wrong tomorrow-is that the Government of South Vietnam will shortly face the responsibility of caring for approximately 1 million new refugees.
To assist in that effort we have allotted almost all of the limited Foreign Assistance Act resources remaining available to us; in addition, we have made 100,000 tons of rice and an additional 13,500 tons of high protein food supplements available on a grant basis under
Public Law 480 to be distributed by both voluntary agencies and the South Vietnamese Government to those most desperately in need.
Let me note at this point that to the enormous problem of refugee relief must be added the weight of an already severe condition of unemployment in the urban areas—a condition created in large measure by the withdrawal of American forces and funds-that with certainty must worsen drastically as the disruption of war takes its toll on the productive economy.
Many will be without work. Any humanitarian effort must be no less concerned for those who suffer deprivation in the cities than for those displaced by the war. Suffering is made no less bearable for being once removed from its cause.
RELIEF EFFORT CAN BE HANDLED
We are confident that the Government of South Vietnam possesses the all-too-experienced human resources to undertake an orderly and reliable relief effort given some measure of assistance from the voluntary agencies, the international organizations, and AID personnel.
We are equally certain, however, that without new financial resources from outside donors, misery and starvation and sickness, unacceptable on any human basis, will inevitably ensue.
I am here today to approve the commitment by the United States of a large, but by no means all-inclusive, portion of those resources. Specifically, I am asking you to authorize an additional $73 million for that purpose, which taken together with the $177 million previously authorized but not yet appropriated for assistance to Indochina, will make available $250 million to lighten the burden and ease the suffering of the refugees, the war victims and the unemployed of South Vietnam. At the same time, I am asking you to waive previous allocations of Indochina postwar reconstruction funds which could impede the humanitarian effort.
NO LONG-TERM PROJECTS
Let me state at the outset that these funds are not going to be expended on long-term projects. Rather, our request reflects our best estimate of the initial relief costs for the refugees and of the ongoing and elemental requirement, for a period of 6 months, of the people whom I have mentioned the refugees, the war victims, the urban unemployed. (This estimate also takes into account certain assumptions with respect to the levels of assistance which the GVN and third countries and organizations will be able, in the first case, and willing, in the second, to contribute.)
Let me describe briefly for you our projections on aggregate needs. And let me caution that these are our preliminary projections in a very fast changing situation, sir.
They are the best thinking over the past week of what is probably going to be required but I don't want the specific numbers mentioned here to be locked in concrete. They are illustrative of the type and character of the task that we think is going to be facing the Government of South Vietnam and for which we hope to contribute.