The Vietnam War
“If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read – Vietnam,” wrote Dr. Martin Luther King in 1968 in Where Do We Go From Here?
In 1964, over 57,000 American servicemen and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were about to die, due to the insidious river of ‘Forrestal paranoia’ that had infected the U.S. government’s foreign policy decisions. The administration’s Domino Theory predicted that as each country fell to Communism, it’s neighbor would also fall. The National Security Act had made the USA the ‘world’s cop.’ Our destiny! We must fight Communism anywhere in the world!
A simplistic overview follows. The French, reoccupying Vietnam after WWII, were defeated and withdrew. Recognizing the internal dissension as a civil war, the U.N. Geneva Agreement in 1954 said that: 1. the 17th parallel would be a temporary dividing line, not a political or military line. 2. Elections would be held within 2 years to unify the country. President Eisenhower, estimating that 80% of Vietnam would vote for Ho Chi Minh the Communist leader, influenced Diem the Southern faction leader, to refuse the ‘will-of-the-people’ elections. Every year from 1955 to 1959, Ho Chi Minh’s appealed for elections, and was refused. They are still Communist!
The U.S.A. contravened our declaration of support of the Geneva Agreement; contravened our own Constitution in waging an undeclared war; and contravened the U.N. Charter, Article 33, with reference to settlement of disputes. The U.S. viewed it as 2 countries, the ‘South’ invaded by the ‘North.’ Robert. McNamara later agreed, in In Retrospect that that was wrong.
I joined the Pacific Unitarian Church in Palos Verdes, California in mid July 1964 because of their active anti-Vietnam War program. I attended some downtown L.A. protests (including the memorial of Florence Beaumont who had, in protest, burned herself to death on the steps of the Federal Building); wrote at least 101 letters to politicians etc.’ and 68 letters to organizations — some in protest, and some in approval of their stance. Soldiers were dying at more than 1,000 a month in 1968. As the ‘body-count’ lies etc. became clear, distrust in the U.S. position there, turned to rebellion at home.
I recorded over 36 letters to Presidents Johnson and Nixon mostly with ‘boiler-plate’ Dept. of State answers, but on two occasions annotated as “Read at the White House.” My letters were short and direct, while others were 2 or 3 pages of argument. In 1987, 15 years after the U.S. end to the Vietnam War, Professor Walter Capps (subsequently a Congressman) of the University of California, in Santa Barbara, appeared on ’60 Minutes’, speaking of his course to freshman students who, that soon, knew very little about the war. I subsequently contributed my materials to the University, including photocopies of the letters, the Presidential answers, plus a substantial list of other political figure’s letters regarding the war.
We now know that President Kennedy had planned to withdraw all U.S. forces from Vietnam by the end of 1965. But when President Johnson won the 1964 election after the JFK assassination, he did the reverse, pouring in almost 500,000 troops. The Kennedy assassination bullets, had brought the deaths of over 57,000 American serviceman! That is why that chapter in my book, Perspective – The Golden Rule, is named “Politics by Assassination.”
Commentary next week.