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Debating Vietnam: To Bomb or Not to Bomb?

            To negotiate or to bomb? That was the controversy between Senators J. Stennis on how to get the United States to exit from Vietnam. Fulbright was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC), while Stennis was the chairman of the Preparedness Investigation Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SPIS). Each of these senators had their own way of wanting to settle the conflict in Vietnam. In fact, these two committees held public hearings of national debate in order to investigate U.S. policy in Vietnam.
             On January 27, 1966, U.S. Senator John C. Stennis of the SPIS, announced that the United States' involvement in Vietnam was no "police action," and also stated that what had been "called a 'dirty little war' has become a 'dirty big war.'" (1) Stennis's main concern was not only how to end the war, but how to win it as well. He believed the best way of doing this was to bomb the North Vietnamese port of Haiphong and to stop the flow between the North and the South. He made it clear that the United States would not back down from retaliating with every weapon they had. (1) Senator J. William Fulbright of the SFRC agreed that the United States was involved in a "dirty big war," but he disagreed with virtually every other aspect of Stennis's view on the Vietnam conflict. Fulbright was not a supporter of Stennis's idea of using nuclear weapons against China because of the possible six hundred thousand U.S. troops in Vietnam. (2) He believed it was better to improve the nation's relationship with the Soviet Union and to accept defeat rather than to do something that would create tension. .
             Not only was Fulbright worried about bombing Vietnam, but he and antiwar colleagues on the SFRC realized that there were even more frightening indications that the war was getting out of hand. Fulbright knew the United States needed to make a quick decision, so he and most of the SFRC members voted for public hearings on U.

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