217. Editorial Note

President Gerald Ford surveyed United States foreign relations during an address to a Joint Session of Congress on April 10, 1975, 9:04–10:05 p.m. The preponderance of the President’s speech, televised to a national audience, concerned Indochina. “A vast human tragedy has befallen our friends in Vietnam and Cambodia,” he began. “The chances for an enduring peace after the last American fighting man left Vietnam in 1973 rested on two publicly stated premises: first, that if necessary, the United States would help sustain the terms of the Paris accords it signed two years ago, and second, that the United States would provide adequate economic and military assistance to South Vietnam.” The President concluded that the United States had failed on both counts; the North Vietnamese, meanwhile, had “systematically violated the cease-fire and other provisions of that agreement.” The President continued: “In the face of this situation, the United States—torn as it was by the emotions of a decade of war—was unable to respond. We deprived ourselves by law of the ability to enforce the agreement, thus giving North Vietnam assurance that it could violate that [Page 787] agreement with impunity. Next, we reduced our economic and arms aid to South Vietnam. Finally, we signaled our increasing reluctance to give any support to that nation struggling for its survival.” After President Ford reviewed U.S. options, he asked Congress to appropriate $722 million in military assistance and $250 million in economic and humanitarian aid to South Vietnam no later than April 19. “Fundamental decency,” he said, “requires that we do everything in our power to ease the misery and the pain of the monumental human crisis which has befallen the people of Vietnam.” As for Cambodia, Ford concluded: “In January, I requested food and ammunition for the brave Cambodians, and I regret to say that, as of this evening, it may soon be too late.” For full text, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Gerard R. Ford, 1975, Book I, pages 459–473.