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Radio and Television Reports to the American People on the Situation in the Dominican Republic [May 2, 1965]

 

Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I have just come from a meeting with the leaders of both parties in the Congress which was held in the Cabinet Room in the White House. I briefed them on the facts of the situation in the Dominican Republic. I want to make those same facts known to all the American people and to all the world.

There are times in the affairs of nations

when great principles are tested in an ordeal of conDict and danger. This is such a time for the American nations.

At stake are the lives of thousands, the liberty of a nation, and the principles and the values of all the American Republics. That is why the hopes and the concern of this entire hemisphere are, on this Sabbath— Sunday, focused on the Dominican Republic.

In the dark mist of condict and violence, revolution and confusion, it is not easy to find clear and unclouded truths.

But certain things are clear. And they require equally clear action. To understand, I think it is necessary to begin with the events of 8 or 9 days ago.

Last week our observers warned of an approaching political storm in the Dominican Republic. I immediately asked our Ambassador to return to Washington at once so that we might discuss the situation and might plan a course of conduct. But events soon outran our hopes for peace.

Saturday, April 24th—8 days ago—while Ambassador Bennett was conferring with the highest officials of your Government, revolution erupted in the Dominican Republic. Elements of the military forces of that country overthrew their government. However, the rebels themselves were divided. Some wanted to restore former President Juan Bosch. Others opposed his restoration. President Bosch, elected after the fall of Trujillo and his assassination, had been driven from office by an earlier revolution in the Dominican Republic.

Those who opposed Mr. Bosch's return formed a military committee in an effort to control that country. The others took to the street and they began to lead a revolt on behalf of President Bosch. Control and effective government dissolved in conBict and confusion.

Meanwhile the United States was making a constant eRort to restore peace. From Saturday afternoon onward, our embassy urged a cease-fire, and I and all the officials of thc Americati Government worked with every weapon at our command to achieve it.

On Tuesday the situation of turmoil was presented to the peace committee of the Organization of American States.

On Wednesday the entire Council of the Organization of American States received a full report from the Dominican Ambassador.

Meanwhile, all this time, from Saturday to Wednesday, the danger was mounting. Even though we were deeply saddened by bloodshed and violence in a close and friendly neighbor, we had no desire to interfere in the affairs of a sister republic.

On Wednesday afternoon, there was no longer any choice for the man who is your President. I was sitting in my little oflice reviewing the world situation with Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, and Mr. McGeorge Bundy. Shortly after 3 o'clock I received a cable from our Ambassador and he said that things were in danger, he had been informed that the chief of police and the governmental authorities could no longer protect us. We immediately started the necessary conference calls to be prepared.

At 5:~4, almost 2 hours later, we received a cable that was labeled "critic," a word that is reserved for only the most urgent and immediate matters of national security.

The cable reported that Dominican law enforcement and militan officials had informed our embassy that the situation was completely out of control and that the police and the Government could no longer give any guarantee concerning the safety of Americans or of any foreign nationals.

Ambassador Bennett, who is one of our most experienced Foreign Senice officers, went on in that cable to say that only an immediate landing of American forces could safeguard and protect the lives of thousands of Americans and thousands of other citizens of some 30 other countries. Ambassador Bennett urged your President to order an immediate landing.

In this situation hesitation and vacillation could mean death for many of our people, as well as many of the citizens of other lands.

I thought that we could not and we did

not hesitate. Our forces, American forces, were ordered in immediately to protect American lives. They have done that. They have attacked no one, and although some of our servicemen gave their lives, not a single American civilian and the civilian of Ahy other nation, as a result of ~is protection, lost their lives.

There may be those in our own country who say that such action was good but we should have waited, or we should have delayed, or we should have consulted further, or we should have called a meeting. But from the very beginning, the United States, at my instructions, had wotlted for a cease-fire beginning the Saturday the revolution took place. The matter was before the OAS peace committee on Tuesday, at our suggestion. It was before the full Council on Wednesday and when I made my announcement to the American people that evening, I announced then that I was notifying the CounciL

When that cable arrived, when our entire country team in the Dominican Republic, made up of nine men—one from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, our Ambassador, our AID man and others—said to your President unanimously: "Mr. President, if you do not send forces immediatedy, men and women— Americans and those of other lands—will die in the streets"—well, I knew there was no time to talk, to consult, or to delay. For in this situation delay itself would be decision—the decision to risk and to lose the lives of thousands of Americans and thousands of innocent people from all lands.

I want you to know that it is not a light or an easy matter to send our American boys to another country, but I do not think that the American people expect their President to hesitate or to vacillate in the face of danger just because the decision is hard when life is in peril.