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1969

Senator George Aiken criticizes Nixon’s handling of the Vietnam War

In a speech on the floor of the Senate, George Aiken (R-Vermont), senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urges the Nixon administration to begin an immediate “orderly withdrawal” of U.S. forces from South Vietnam. Aiken said, “It should be started without delay.” The speech was widely regarded as the end of the self-imposed moratorium on criticism that senators had been following since the Nixon administration took office.

Nixon responded on several occasions that ending the Vietnam War was his “first priority.” His first public act in response to the mounting criticism was to announce in June 1969 that he would begin an immediate withdrawal of 25,000 troops from South Vietnam with additional withdrawals to follow at specified intervals. In order to do this, he instituted his “Vietnamization” program, which was designed to increase the combat capability of the South Vietnamese forces so they could eventually assume responsibility for the entire war effort.

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