Melvin R. Laird

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Melvin R. Laird, a Republican Representative from Wisconsin, served as in the Richard M. Nixon administration as the 10th Secretary of Defense (January 29, 1969-January 29, 1973).

Laird "currently serves as Senior Counselor for National and International Affairs for The Reader's Digest Association Inc. He has been active on some 27 non-profit organizations.

"From the 1940s to the present, he has contributed to the improvement of health care worldwide. During that time, he has confirmed his support of Marshfield Clinic and Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation." [1]

On the War in Iraq

"During Richard Nixon's first term, when I served as secretary of defense, we withdrew most U.S. forces from Vietnam while building up the South's ability to defend itself. The result was a success -- until Congress snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by cutting off funding for our ally in 1975. Washington should follow a similar strategy now, but this time finish the job properly." --Melvin R. Laird, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2005.


Laird "urged Nixon to follow through on a policy of US troop withdrawal from Vietnam. He coined the phrase 'Vietnamization', meaning that more of the burden of fighting the war should fall to the South Vietnamese forces." [2]

"As a congressman Laird had supported a strong defense posture and had sometimes been critical of Secretary [Robert] McNamara. In September 1966, characterizing himself as a member of the loyal opposition, he publicly charged the [Lyndon B.] Johnson administration with deception about Vietnam war costs and for delaying decisions to escalate the ground war until after the 1966 congressional elections. Laird also criticized McNamara's management and decisionmaking practices. After he became secretary of defense, Laird and President Nixon appointed a Blue Ribbon Defense Panel that made more than 100 recommendations on DoD's organization and functions in a lengthy report of 1 July 1970. The department implemented a number of the panel's proposals while Laird served in the Pentagon." [3]

Laird "developed and strongly supported 'Vietnamization,' a program intended to expand, equip, and train South Vietnam's forces and assign to them an ever-increasing combat role, at the same time steadily reducing the number of U.S. combat troops. During 1969 the new administration cut authorized U.S. troop strength in Vietnam from 549,500 to 484,000, and by 1 May 1972 the number stood at 69,000. During this same period, from January 1969 to May 1972, U.S. combat deaths declined 95 percent from the 1968 peak, and war expenditures fell by about two-thirds. Laird publicized Vietnamization widely; in his final report as secretary of defense in early 1973, he stated: 'Vietnamization . . . today is virtually completed. As a consequence of the success of the military aspects of Vietnamization, the South Vietnamese people today, in my view, are fully capable of providing for their own in-country security against the North Vietnamese.'" [4]

Tobacco issues

In 1974, Melvin R. Laird was senior counselor for national and international affairs for Reader's Digest magazine. In that capacity, he received a letter from Tobacco Institute president Horace R. Kornegay protesting an article in the October, 1976 issue titled "Poison Gases in Your Cigarettes: Carbon Monoxide." This was one in a series of articles about the health hazards of smoking. Kornegay wrote, "Like the earlier articles, in the July 1976 and August 1976 issues, this piece is full of innuendoes and misleading comparisons. It is designed specifically to frighten the smoker into believing that carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke is harmful to his health."[1]

External links


Articles & Commentary


  1. Horace R. Kornegay, Tobacco Institute Letter from Horace R. Kornegay to Melvin R. Laird regarding anti-tobacco articles appeared in Reader's Digest Letter. October 13, 1976. U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Bates No. 2846359/6364