Former President Richard M. Nixon's move to open relations with China was a ploy to continue an immoral war in Vietnam, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh told a crowd of about 150 last night at the Kennedy School forum.
Among a series of accusations and revelations largely drawn form a book on the Nixon White House that he will release next fall. Hersh disclosed that Nixon traveled to China without any commitment from Chinese leader Mao Tse Tung that the two men would meet-a move Hersh said the former President made to draw voters' attention from the Vietnam war.
Hersh also told the receptive audience that former President Gerald R. Ford's pardon of Nixon was part of a "commitment" the two had agreed upon before Nixon resigned.
"Does anyone here believe that he [Nixon] didn't have a commitment? I'm here to tell you that he had a commitment; the alternative would have been to impose a military government." Hersh said, though he later labeled the statement an opinion in response to a question from the audience.
Hersh did not restrict his comments to the Nixon Administration. In response to a question from a member of the audience, he charged that the Reagan Administration had satellite evidence of an Argentinian buildup nine days before the seizure of the Falkland Islands. President Reagan's failure to act before the crisis began, he charged, is characteristic of a foreign policy of "chaos."
Hersh claimed we now have a "presidency by kitchen cabinet," adding that major foreign policy issues are being compressed by Reagan's aids into paragraph form so that the President can understand them.
"He's being programmed," Hersh said.
Hersh, who has won numerous major journalism onwards, began his career in 1959 as a UPI correspondent. After serving as a New York Times correspondent form 1963-1977, he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1970 when he uncovered the Mai Lai Massacre