September 8, 1968

Richard Nixon issues Statement in support of Biafra

On September 8, 1968, Richard Nixon, then Republican candidate for president, issued “Nixon’s Call for American Action on Biafra,” which called on  the US to take a central role in the Nigerian Civil War, and to intervene in the growing humanitarian catastrophe that was unfolding in secessionist Biafra. Like many Americans in 1968, the candidate felt strongly supportive of Biafra. As Roy Doran shows in “Foreign Policy from Candidate to President: Richard Nixon and the Lessons of Biafra,” as a candidate, Nixon described the Nigerian government’s treatment of Biafra’s secessionists as a genocide. He demanded that the United States take a leading role in stopping what he termed “the destruction of an entire people.” “While America is not the world’s policeman,” Nixon declared, “let us at least act as the world’s conscience in this matter of life and death for millions.”

But this position would evolve quickly after Nixon became President in January of 1969, and began to face the realities and limits of US policy in the Vietnam-era.