Friday, June 6, 2014
THE VIETNAM WAR: HOW TO EXPLAIN IT 40 YEARS ON TO A GRADUATING H.S. SENIOR?
News Reports From
the Fall of Saigon
Television brought obscene
images such as these dead
bodies being loaded onto vehicles
into Americans' living rooms
for the first time,
showing just a tiny taste
of what war really means.
American involvement in Southeast Asia (the region where Vietnam is located) began with the introduction of non-uniformed ‘advisors’ under the John F. Kennedy Administration. After President Kennedy’s assassination in November 1963, Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) became President of the U.S. Under LBJ, the United States became increasingly involved in the conflict already ongoing in Vietnam.
After World War II the United States, under President Harry Truman and the dictator of the Soviet Union, Josef Stalin, agreed to carve up large parts of Asia and Europe. For example Poland, Czechoslovakia and East Germany were conceded to belong under Soviet influence while West Germany and the remainder of Western Europe were under U.S. and our allies control. In Asia we agreed that North and South Korea would be divided and that North and South Vietnam would also be carved in the same manner. North and South Vietnam are one nationality, speak one language and we signed treaties following WW II agreeing to this division. The people of Vietnam were NOT happy with this division, which divided families, friends and neighbors. A battle ensued between South Vietnamese opponents of the government supported by the U.S. and the North Vietnamese government. In the 1950s France tried to end the rebellion by force in Vietnam, but failed.
Images such as this one, the instant a bullet
entered a poor unarmed and tied up
Vietnamese man's head
went viral worldwide.
In August 1964 the USS Maddox, an American Navy Destroyer ship was conducting illegal espionage on Vietnam when it attacked three North Vietnamese ships, but the United States claimed North Vietnamese guilt, and passed through Congress what is now known as the Gulf Of Tonkin (the body of water off Vietnam to the east) Resolution. Under the U.S. Constitution a formal Declaration of War is required for us to go to war, but this resolution was easier to get through Congress because a 2/3rds vote was not required, only a majority of 50% plus one in both the Senate and House. So at the very beginning of the introduction of U.S. troops in 1965 our involvement not only violated international law (the American post-WW II treaties, and laws outlawing attacks against other sovereign nations) but it also violated our own Constitution.
A major turning point in the war happened
during what we now know as
the My Lai Massacre.
American Army soldiers committed
atocities including the murder
of 500 unarmed civilians,
torturing them and gang-raping women and
children in 1968.
THIS is what war is.
WAR IS NEVER THE ANSWER,
IT IS THE PROBLEM.
Gradually our involvement went to as many as 500,000 uniformed troops on the ground, and Navy and Air Force bombardments of the South and the North. The people in South Vietnam had a leader we were supporting named Nguyen Van Thieu, who was corrupt and despised by his own people. In the South a movement of native South Vietnamese sought to stop the American attempt to occupy the nation, and they were called the Viet Cong. A rag tag group, they fought a different style of warfare called ‘guerilla warfare’ which was very effective in demoralizing American troops, prolonging the war and enabling opponents of the war in America to mobilize against the war. In North Vietnam the leader there’s name was Ho Chi Minh, and he was viewed as a national leader and he had the support of China and the Soviet Union with weapons (but NO troops from either Russia or China).
In case what Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
is quoted as saying here is too small, the
Nobel Peace Prize winner,
the only American non-President
to have a national holiday named after him,
(and killed himself by a
stranger with a gun)
"The greatest purveyor of violence in the world:
my own government.
I CANNOT BE SILENT."
During the buildup of the war under LBJ, American boys, 18 and 19 years old were being forced to fight because a draft was instituted, and virtually all young men in the 1960s were drafted. Lots of young people saw the illegality and the immorality of the U.S. war on the other side of the world which did NOT threaten the United States in ANY way, and began to refuse the draft. There were many protests against the war, and many draftees refused to go.
Here is John Lennon
singing his great anti-war tune,
Give Peace A Chance
at an event he called a
with his beloved wife, Yoko
and a bunch of friends.
Meanwhile, a secret war was being conducted by the United States against two neighboring nations-Laos and Cambodia. Congress never authorized these wars, and they were expanded under LBJ’s successor as President, Richard Nixon (who took over from LBJ after Johnson was bound to lose the 1968 election because of his Vietnam atrocities). We bombed these nations obscenely, illegally and mercilessly; dropped chemical weapons, defoliants called Agent Orange, Agent Red, and so forth designed to eliminate huge parts of the jungles in those two countries imagining this would end the shipment of weapons to South Vietnam from North Vietnam. Unfortunately this led to several horrid results. First is that huge numbers of American soldiers got sick and/or have died from these chemicals, and still suffer to this day (as do Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese). So it backfired. Second, our attack on Cambodia actually led to the takeover of that country by a horrible dictator named Pol Pot who killed nearly half of his own people (well over 1 million people), and is the cause for the famous movie “The Killing Fields.”
Opposition to the war, the lies and deceit of the American government became so intense, and the casualty tolls so high (over 58,000 uniformed Americans died in the war and hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians died) that it almost seemed at times here in our country that we were on the verge of our own civil war against the war. Fortunately most opponents of the war such as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lennon, and many others advocated a peaceful approach to protesting. Nixon resigned under disgrace in 1974 for trying to steal the 1972 election, and after 10 long years, the capitol of South Vietnam, then known as Saigon and renamed by the victors as Ho Chi Minh City, fell and Americans as well as Vietnamese workers in the U.S. Embassy had to be evacuated from the roof by helicopter in what are harrowing videos. At that time Vice President Gerald Ford had just taken over (in summer of 1974, Saigon fell a year later) from the disgraced American President Nixon.
One-time Beatle founder
and peace activist
was also killed
by a gun.
He (and countless others) also helped to put
an end to this unjust war, the very
first war the USA lost outright.
Followed rapidly by losses
in our illegal wars in Laos
kept a secret even from
the American people
as long as they could
get away with it.
I grew up and graduated High School the summer before the war ended in 1975. My whole time growing up I had to decide what I would do if I were drafted. My other three brothers were all drafted. One went to Vietnam, the other two did not. I would have protested, I opposed this unjust war, and continue to oppose war whenever and wherever it can be avoided. Which I believe is almost always, especially since the United States is separated from any serious potential enemy by thousands of miles--both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Thank you so much Anna, for giving me this chance to reflect on this sad and tragic chapter in American history. Peace...
John Lennon's widow,
has kept John's dream of peace
alive by offering
an annual award
named after John,
Lennon Peace Prize.
Check out the website: