CHICAGO, Feb. 8, 1968 (UPI) -- In his strongest attack yet on President Johnson's Vietnam policies, Kennedy said "it is time for the truth - time to drop the mask of official illusion" which he said had been shattered by Communist attacks in Saigon and cities and towns all across South Vietnam.
Kennedy spoke at a book and author luncheon.
The New York senator, long an advocate of a halt in bombing to promote peace talks, denounced "government corruption" in Saigon as well as the official U.S. promise that the Vietnam War will settle the future course of Asia.
He said this American assumption is a "prayerful wish based on unsound hope, meant only to justify the enormous sacrifices we have already made."
"A total military victory is not within sight or around the corner. In fact, it is probably beyond our grasp and the effort to win such a victory will only result in the further slaughter of thousands of innocent and helpless people - a slaughter which will forever rest on our national conscience.
"A political compromise is not just the best path to peace, but the only path, and we must show as much willingness to risk some of our prestige for peace as to risk the lives of young men in war.
"Our nation must be told the truth about this war, in all its terrible reality."
Kennedy said there is an "illusion - that we can win a war which the South Vietnamese cannot win for themselves."
He then attacked corruption in the South Vietnamese government.
"Hundreds of millions of dollars are stolen by private individuals and government officials while the American people are being asked to pay higher taxes to finance our assistance effort," he said.
The senator bitterly criticized official U.S. "reports and predictions of progress" issued during th epast 14 months.
Kennedy said "For those young Americans who are fighting today, if for no other reason, the time has come to take a new look at the war in Vietnam; not by cursing the past but by using it to illuminate the future."
"Our intelligence chief tells us that of 60,000 men thrown into the attacks on the cities, 20,000 have been killed. If only two men have been seriously wounded for every one dead - a very conservative estimate - the entire enemy force has been out of action.
"Who then," Kennedy asked, "is doing the fight?"