July 26, 1971
Congressional Record - Senate: Pages 27,128 - 27,129
ECONOMIC RAMIFICATIONS OF VIETNAM WAR
Mr. HATFIELD. Mr. President, Mr. Harold Willens has been at the forefront of those who have reawakened the American business community to the serious economic ramifications of the war in Vietnam and our swollen military budget. Mr. Willens is convinced that the wide spectrum of American business cannot prosper in an economic climate that is soured by the war and distorted by inflated military expenditures. Recently he wrote a letter to President Nixon which outlines much of the thinking behind Mr. Willens' efforts. I ask unanimous consent that the letter and an Associated Press article about Mr. Willens be printed in the RECORD.
There being no objection, the items were ordered to be printed in the RECORD, as follows:
APRIL 28, 1971.
President Richard M. Nixon,
The White House, Washington, D.C.
DEAR MR. PRESIDENT: I happened to be visiting South Vietnam when the world heard the welcome news that our ping pong players would be visiting China.
That same day an American soldier gave me a copy of "The Serviceman's Daily Prayer," a leaflet which he said was widely distributed to our military personnel in Vietnam. The leaflet, bearing the address: Service Prayer, 2936 Bremen Street, Columbus, Ohio 43224, contains these words:
"Bestow your blessing on my country and on all who tight against the evils of Communism."
Yesterday Secretary of State Rogers, in speaking about Chinese-American relations, stressed political diversity as a fact of life we cannot change and should accept. Secretary Rogers is right and realistic. By initiating a thaw in Chinese-American relations you were right and realistic, Mr. President.
But your action and your Secretary of State's words are being undermined by the exposure of young American minds to the inflammatory words of the prayer leaflet and similarly irrational military propaganda, revealed by the recent CBS documentary: "The Selling of the Pentagon."
Business has trained me to operate pragmatically. A pragmatic evaluation indicates that our foreign policy in recent years has been counterproductive. Our international behavior has operated against our self-interest. In fact we have inflicted severe damage upon ourselves through a foreign policy which has not kept abreast of changing realities.
One of these realities is the changing nature of communism which has itself fragmented into a number of political divergencies. Changes in communism have been matched by changes in capitalism. My first employer, were he to return from the dead, would be astonished by the "social benefits" we have adopted over the past 35 years.
It seems logical to assume and project a succession further changes "in our direction" within communist countries if international tensions can gradually be eased. Public statements on various occasions reveal your awareness that such easing of tensions would greatly benefit our country.
The dangers and burdens of an endless arms race and misadventures like Vietnam dramatize the advantage of accepting prudent calculated risks for peace. We will be more likely to take such calculated risks if we begin to look upon peace as an incremental process rather than something which appears suddenly and full-blown. And above all we must recognize that the small specific steps in such an incremental process depend upon limited, tentative trust in the other side. That kind of trust can never be developed if our people look upon ideological competitors as mortal theological foes.
Successful businessmen are always conscious of competitors. But I have seen healthy companies destroyed by competitor-obsession. Perhaps there is a lesson to be learned from this, Mr. President. If we become obsessed by our ideological competitors we cannot do justice to improving and winning willing adherents for our own great "product" - free enterprise democracy.
I very much hope, Mr. President, that you will take steps to put an end to the distribution of this prayer leaflet and everything else which furthers the intermingling of theology with foreign policy. Because I realize how complex and massive a job that is, and because I feel the Congress should be willing to help you in this, I am sending copies of this letter to each Senator and Congressman.
BUSINESSMAN'S PEAE ACTIONS GOT HATE MAIL
(By John Cunnifi)
New York - Four years ago Harold Willens, a Los Angeles executive and real estate developer, and Henry Niles, then chairman of Baltimore Life Insurance Co., formed. Business Executives Move for Vietnam Peace (BEM).
"At that time," said Willens, "anybody who spoke out against the war was considered the enemy or a nut."
The hate mail flooded in, Willens said, considerably faster than the membership applications. Willens and Niles felt, however, that the war was a mistake of historical magnitude, a military blunder, a political scandal.
BEM advocated that the businessman-citizen speak out on the issue. But its founders soon realized few establishment figures either cared or perhaps dared to. They disliked tangling with stockholders; they didn't want to rock the boat.
BEM drew memberships steadily, however. And then, since BEM was a one-issue organization, Willens in 1969 founded BEF, or Businessmen's Educational Fund, to fight on a broader scale what he felt was the militarization of America.
Willens, its chairman, devoted what his wife said was 101 per cent of his time to speeches, membership work, lobbying and, most recently, to a Vietnam trip. Results?
Willens thinks he has succeeded to some extent.
In recent months the attitudes of some businessmen appear to have changed. Within the past year the heads of Bank of America, International Business Machines and E. I. du Pont have spoken against the war and blamed it for domestic problems.
Willens, a 57-year-old millionaire grandfather and former Marine, was asked if he felt a major change really has occurred in the business attitude.
"I think the line of the pragmatist and the idealist are meeting," he replied. "Damn few businessmen think we are unpatriotic now. All of them relate inflation to the war, for example."
Do you really think you can end wars?
"Yes. Maybe there'll be little ones. But my feeling is that since we've always had wars it is no reason to extrapolate into the future. We changed the name of the game when technology developed the ultimate weapon."
Isn't that being overly idealistic?
"We have to get away from the fuzzy thinking that says wars are inevitable and that peace is a utopian concept. Either man or war is obsolete. We have to decide."
But why should businessmen try to take a leadership role?
"The businessman's role is critical because he thinks pragmatically. He knows how to build. Peace must be constructed. It is an incremental thing, like constructing a building by putting in the foundation, then the first story and so on. It is a step-by-step operation."
Won't demilitarization weaken the nation's security?
"The present direction is counterproductive to the best interests of the country. Escalation has brought us into disastrous wars, bled our resources and kept us from solving critical domestic problems that erode our strength.
"The other approach, to seek peace, is a calculated risk, such as you take in business. There may not be immediate success. The armaments race grew step by step. De-escalation can proceed in the same way."
It was suggested to Willens that many people feel business executives can only hurt their own particular cause by speaking out on this subject. This lit the Willens fuse.
"Self-interest tells the corporate executive he's got to get in there. The businessman must redefine the corporate and individual responsibility. He must redefine it because his company is dependent upon the nation's policies.
"In order to be responsible to the stockholders, the executive has to act in accordance with the new realities. He must realize that in fact he is doing a deep disservice to stockholders, because business can only thrive in a healthy economy.
"He can't hide in a paneled office. He cannot hide behind the corporate curtain and protect the interest of stockholders, his country and himself.
"I don't think the businessman's alibi is any better than others-than the clergyman who fears what his parishioners will say or the physician who fears his patients."