The Vietnam War
It has been 40 years after the end of the Vietnam War. Now, it’s time to reflect on it in a higher level. I wrote about the Vietnam War (which lasted from 1945 to 1975) on many occasions, but this time feels different. I want this work to be my official statement on the Vietnam War as a human being. Vietnamese people have been the victims of colonialism, racism, economic exploitation, and imperialism by a corrupt Western power structure. This power structure is not just found in America or in the UK. It is an international power structure, which has been used to suppress the human rights of people, especially people of color (and get the natural resources of nations via vulturistic capitalism). Their voices have the right to be heard and we have the right to find the truth. I was not born when it transpired, but my parents lived during that time period of the Vietnam War. Even today, the Vietnam War has affected the psyche of American society. The Vietnam War was not only an evil, unjust imperialist war. It caused the deaths of millions of Vietnamese people and the deaths of thousands of American people. Vietnamese and American human beings suffered torture, abuse, and murder during the Vietnam War. There is no justification for that whatsoever. No human being should experience unjust abuse and mistreatment period. Today in 2015, we experience a bloody, evil war on terror too (which dealt with the Bush Doctrine and the Obama Doctrine during our time). In order to learn about the Vietnam War, we have to look at the history of Vietnam long before 1945. We have to go way back. The United States of America and the French lost the Vietnam war.
Vietnam was an independent nation for a long time. For centuries, Vietnam defeated the Chinese (who invaded Vietnam constantly for centuries). During the 19th century, the French wanted to conquer Vietnam. They did it by the late 19th century. As early as the early 1600’s, French missionaries and businessmen went into Vietnam. They converted many of the inhabitants of Vietnam into Catholicism and formed commercial ties with the country. History tells us that many imperialists exploit religion as a way to control societies. There is nothing wrong with people expressing spirituality, but religion has been readily manipulate as a way to control individuals in an unjust fashion. The French wanted more than just the social control of Vietnam. They wanted to control Vietnam’s economic and natural resources. Many European imperial nations like Britain, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Portugal (among other nations) wanted to colonize the planet basically. French imperialism is just as evil as any form of imperialism. The British Empire consolidated their position in India and China. The French wanted to move into the Indochina region and steal Vietnamese resources. The French also worked with Vietnamese traitors (to their own people) in trying to conquer Indochina.
The Vietnamese Royal Court was ruled by the unpopular Emperor Tu Duc (1847-1883). Tu Duc followed appeasement. Tu Duc was from the ruling Nguyen family. Tu Duc’s regime faced the growing revolt of the peasantry. The Emperor viewed the peasants as a greater threat to him than the French off the coast. So, Tu Duc made the big mistake of signing away the country of Vietnam piece by piece to the French. This process began in 1863 when the French captured six Vietnamese provinces around Saigon. By 1874, Tu Duc established more territorial concessions and finally in 1882, the French fleet captured Hanoi. Now, France controlled all of Vietnam. Soon, the French immediately abolished Vietnam as a political entity. They or French forces used a divide and conquer strategy of dividing Vietnam into 3 administrative provinces. The names of these provinces are Tonkin in the north, Annam in the center, and Cochinchina in the south. Tonkin and Annam were called “protectorates” where Vietnamese royal power still was intact allegedly. Cochinchina was ruled directly as a colony, but in actuality, the French ran everything. The French chose the emperor along with advisors. The colonial bureaucracy was dominated by the French. So, the Vietnamese human beings were under French tyranny and racist oppression. The Vietnamese people fought back. The French allowed the economy of Vietnam to benefit the French and their Vietnamese bourgeoisie collaborators.
Paul Doumer was the chief architect of French imperial policies. Doumer was appointed governor general of Indochina and arrived in 1897. Doumer was clear that he wanted Indochina to benefit France economically. He admitted that he wanted Indochina to “…serve France in Asia on the day that it was no longer a poverty-stricken colony…Its strong organization, its financial and economic structures…are being used for the benefit of French prestige." Doumer was instrumental in forming monopolies for the production and marketing of alcohol, salt, and opium. French businessmen were wealthy when their monopolies interlocked with the powerful Bank of Indochina. Rice farming was a huge crop in Vietnam. People in Vietnam lived in farming heavily, but the French stole the best land for themselves. Thousands of acres of land was taken from the Vietnamese and given to the French at cheap prices. Many French people owned 3,000 to 7,000 acres of land. Part of the revolutionary movement of the Vietnamese people dealt with owning land beyond just a nationalistic urge. Most Vietnamese people still owned something despite French robbery of their lands. The French grew their theft of land by 1900. Over half of the peasants of Tonkin and Aannam were landless during the 1930’s. Cochinchina had about 75 percent of their population being landless and the rest owned next to nothing.
Tenant farmers and sharecroppers had to pay from 50 to 70 percent of their crops to landlords and in addition to provide free gifts and services. French economic exploitation of Vietnam continued. Rubber plantations were the locations where many Vietnamese workers were tricked into working at. The conditions for the workers were slave-like. There was malnutrition, malaria, etc. in various Michelin company plantations. The French didn’t just use economic exploitation against Vietnam. They used a paternalistic and racist mentality against the Vietnamese people. The French back then thought that they were bringing “civilization” and “liberty” to Indochina when the French were bringing tyranny and oppression. Even before the French conquest, 80 percent of the Vietnamese people were literate and wrote Chinese ideographs for written Vietnamese. The French banned the Chinese characters and introduced either French or quoc ngu, the Latin alphabet for the Vietnamese language. It proved to be a disaster. On the eve of the Second World War, less than one fifth of school age Vietnamese boys were attending school. Vietnamese people, under French colonialism, were denied of basic human rights. Dissent, which was organized against the French, was repressed. The French police confiscated books and newspapers that they deemed “subversive.” Many of the wealthy Vietnamese people, who set their children to school in France, returned home to Vietnam under repression still.
"...Our resistance will be long and painful, but whatever the sacrifices, however long the struggle, we shall fight to the end, until Vietnam is fully independent and reunified..."
-Ho Chi Minh's statement on December 19, 1946
The Beginning of Ho Chi Minh
Then, there came Ho Chi Minh. Modern Vietnamese nationalism existed in the first decade of the 1900’s via a dissident section of the mandarin class. Some mandarins served the puppet emperors of the French. Yet, some of them questioned their role in colonial Vietnam. Some wanted to use the Chinese and the Japanese as a means for them to defeat the French. Others wanted to use the French to cause Vietnam to be a modern society. Members of both factions were still arrested and oppressed by the French. Ho Chi Minh grew up in a nationalist household with a father. His father was a disaffected mandarin. Ho’s father hated the French and the mandarin system. Ho Chi Minh participated in demonstrations against the French in 1908 when he was just 15 years old.
When the French repressed the demonstrations harshly, Ho Chi Minh was furthered inspired and radicalized in his life. The French police monitored him. He left Vietnam in 1911 in fear of arrest. He went to France via a French ocean liner (where worked there on a job). Ho Chi Minh would never return to Vietnam until 30 years later. In 1917, he moved to Paris. During this period, was the First World War I. There was the Russian Revolution occurring. He lived with a very large Vietnamese community in France with 100,000 people. They had political debates. Ho Chi Minh was known as Nguyen Ai Quoc or Nguyen “the patriot” ironically enough. Ho worked with activists in the French Socialist Party. He became a leading Vietnamese activist quickly in France. Ho Chi Minh wanted desperately for European policies to respect the self-determination of the Vietnamese people during the 1919 Versailles peace conference. That conference was established as a way for European power to resolve the First World War. Ho Chi Minh came there to petition for the human rights of Vietnam. He was inspired by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points program that called for the rights of nations to have self-determination. Ho stopped short of calling for independence for Vietnam back then. Yet, he wanted more democratic rights for Vietnamese people along with the release of all political prisoners. Ho Chi Minh was turned away when he tried to meet with the American delegation. Wilson wanted self-determination mostly for European countries not for oppressed, colonial peoples. Yet, Ho Chi Minh gained prestige for his courageous stand for his Vietnamese people at Versailles.
He was the Indochinese delegate to the French Socialist Party conference in Tours. The party was about to split between a majority who wanted to ally with the Communist International or Cominterm in Moscow and a minority who did not. Ho Chi Minh read a copy of Lenin’s “Thesis on the National and Colonial Questions.” It inspired him to further advocate self-determination of the Vietnamese people. Lenin said that oppressed nations have the right to express self-determination.
"At first, patriotism, not yet Communism, led me to have confidence in Lenin, in the Third International. Step by step, along the struggle, by studying Marxism-Leninism parallel with participation in practical activities, I gradually came upon the fact that only socialism and communism can liberate oppressed nations," he told an interviewer in 1960. Ho joined the new French Communist Party and after several more years of political activity in France he left for Moscow in 1924. In Moscow, the Comintern was degenerating politically. Stalin wanted the creation of socialism in one country at a time (or a nationalist state led development instead of working class internationalism). Even Lenin in his 1920 Cominterm thesis warned revolutionaries to not merge bourgeois democracy in the colonial nations, so the independence of the proletarian movement can exist more thoroughly. Stalin opposed the opposite policy in China. Ho Chi Minh would be a Stalinist for the rest of his life. In Vietnam, many revolutionary groups were formed to fight against the French colonial regime during the 1920’s. These people included peasants, workers, and intellectuals. There were the 1928 strikes, which started in Saigon. It included petroleum workers, brewery workers, rubber workers, railroad workers, etc. The French suppressed the strike. Ho Chi Minh went to the February 1930 Communist meeting. Communist groups agreed to unite in Vietnam in the ICP or the Indochinese Communist Party. They wanted to overthrew the French imperialists, have Vietnam to establish independence, confiscate the stolen wealth held by the French, have equality of the sexes, have universal education, and create an eight hour day including an abolition of unjust taxes. The French imprisoned thousands of ICP members. The French made token concessions like opening up the election process. The French Popular Front government led by the Socialist Leon Blum came to power in July 1936. Later in 1939, a right wing government existed in France. Vietnam saw more repression against the nationalists and the communists. The ICP went underground. Some members like Von Nguyen Giap fled to China too. He led the Vietnamese troops from 1946 to 1980. Almost all of his immediate family died in prison. Ho Chi Minh’s second wife was executed by the French.
Vietnam and World War II
The Second World War came when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. Japan soon controlled Vietnam from the French. Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam in 1941 to fight the French and the Japanese imperialists. Vietminh was created to fight against the Japanese fascists and the French imperialists. They wanted a revolutionary government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Guerrilla fighting occurred for three years. The Japanese and the French worked together to try to destroy the Vietminh, but they couldn’t do it. The Vietnamese people died in heavy numbers because of the famine of the early 1940’s.Yet, Vietnminh forces continued to fight on. The OSS worked with the Vietminh in locating and helping downed Allied pilots in Vietnam. Many of the OSS expressed great sympathy for the Vietnamese struggle for independence and a deep hatred for French colonialism. The August Revolution of August 13, 1945 caused the Vietnamese people to independently create their own independence via insurrection. Emperor Bao Dai wanted to be a citizen not a King. On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the independence of Vietnam. Vietnam was a provisional government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Hanoi, Hue, and Saigon became free. Ho Chi Minh proclaimed independence in front of a crowd of 200,000 people in Hanoi including members of the American O.S.S. Vietnam was the first colony to declare independence after WWII.
Vietnam vs. the French imperialists
The opening line of Ho Chi Minh's speech paraphrased the American Declaration of Independence –"All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." During that day, Ho wanted desperately to seek American aid to support Vietnam’s independence even invoking the American Revolution. He didn’t want France to rule Vietnam again. Yet, the first Vietnam War will exist between the Vietnamese and France from 1945 to 1954. France and Great Britain didn’t want Vietnam to be independent obviously. Chinese nationalist troops were in Vietnam in late August 1945. More than 200,000 Chinese troops were in Tonkin by mid-September. Ho’s government was in Hanoi. The British General Douglas Gracey went into Saigon on September 22, 1945. The British wanted the French to have an empire in Indochina while controlling their own Empire (under the guise of “anti-communism”). The British came into Vietnam; they rearmed the French, and fought the Vietminh. French residents assaulted and killed Vietnamese people on the streets of Saigon. The Vietminh counterattacked on September 24, 1945.
O.S.S. Lieutenant Colonel Peter Dewey was killed that night outside of Saigon– the first American to die in Vietnam. In his last message to O.S.S. command, he issued his warning that "we ought to clear out of Southeast Asia." Gracey fought and negotiated with the Vietminh. The Americans soon armed and equipped the French under Marshall Leclerc. Gracey used a coup to try to bring the French to power. The U.S. government approved by Gracey’s evil. Still, the French didn’t control all of the Vietnam. The Vietminh fought back, but they initially welcomed the British landing. The Vietnamese Trotskyist Committee league disagreed with this. The Vietminh wanted to negotiate with the imperialists in a “moderate” course. They were opposed to the national struggle being transformed into a class struggle against the Vietnamese landlords and capitalists. Later in a few months, the Vietminh murdered the leadership of the Trotskyist movement. This left the Vietminh control of the nationalist movement. Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh made the error of having an agreement with the French in March of 1946. Ho justified this by saying that he rather has a deal with the French than with the Chinese. Once again, the French double crossed the Vietnamese people. The French made Boa Dai the emperor of a new nation based in Cochinchina.
The French refused to recognize the DRV or the Democratic Republic of Vietnam or a tiny mini state in Tonkin. By October 1946, French and Vietminh military forces fought. The French Prime Minister George Bidault ordered the shelling of Haiphong (which was supported by French deputy prime Minister and head of the French Communist Party Maurice Thorenz), which killed 6,000 Vietnamese people. So, this was the beginning of the first Vietnam War and it began with the support of the French Communist Party. The U.S. aided the French from 1947. America funded most of the French war effort by 1954 in the realm of 80 percent or 2 billion dollars. Ho Chi Minh abandoned Hanoi. Ho realized that he stood alone against imperialist brutes. He said that: “…We apparently stand quite alone; we shall have to depend on ourselves." The French had early success. Then, the Vietminh came back and defeated the French. The Vietminh had support among the peasants. The French could never break the spirits of the peasantry. Even 40,000 Legionnaires (over half fought for the Nazis in WWII) could not defeat the Vietnamese people. Mao’s government aided the Vietnamese forces. By 1950, Russia and China finally recognized Ho Chi Minh’s government. The French lost a lot of people. About 90,000 French soldiers died, were wounded, or were captured by 1953. The French said that light was at the end of the tunnel, but there wasn’t. You shall reap what you shall sow. The French were finally defeated at Dien Bein Phu in 1954. The French had a siege and they were defeated by the Veitminh. The French surrendered on May 7, 1954.
The 1954 Geneva Accords
Later, a conference was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The Geneva Accords were a temporary interlude between the two wars. The Geneva meeting involved the U.S, Britain, France, Russia, Vietnam, and China. The Geneva Accords were signed by the Vietminh delegation and the French. They agreed to divide Vietnam into 2 parts into troop re-groupment zones alone the 17th parallel with a demilitarized zone separating them. The divide was temporary. There would be elections in 2 years to decide who will run Vietnam. Laos and Cambodia would become independent countries. America never signed the accords. America just said that it would abide by them, which they didn’t. During this time, Eisenhower was President and the fanatical anti-communist Secretary of State John Foster Dulles didn’t want a nationalist movement to rule Vietnam (that wasn’t controlled by America). Dulles didn’t want the Vietminh to have full victory. Any election would allow Ho Chi Minh and the Vietminh to win a majority of the Vietnamese people. The Chinese put pressure on the Vietminh to make some concessions involving the Geneva Accords. The U.S. wanted to prevent Ho Chi Minh to be elected leader of all of Vietnam. So, they wanted to stop elections and create a puppet anti-communist state in South Vietnam (which was in violation of the Geneva Accords). The U.S. formed a mini state in South Vietnam. Later, that regime used police state tactics, arbitrary arrests, and so many violations of human rights that coups occurred. The South Vietnamese regime was so unpopular that American troops came to intervene to keep it from collapsing. The U.S. got Emperor Bao Dai to appoint Ngo Dinh Diem as President of the new Republic of South Vietnam. Diem was a Roman Catholic who had powerful influences from Cardinal Spellman and then Senator John F. Kennedy. The Diem family was wealthy. Some compare the Diems to Duvaliers of Haiti and the Somoza family of Nicaragua including the Maroces of the Philippines. Nhu or Diem’s brother was the head of the secret police. His other brother was the Catholic Bishop of Hue. Diem was educated in America, but he wanted to have an authoritarian rule of South Vietnam.
Ngo Dinh Diem
The dictator Diem held a rigged referendum on his rule in 1955 after which he announced that he had won 98.2 percent of the vote. Diem wanted to control Saigon. So, the CIA sent a team led by Colonel Edward Lansdale to help Diem launch a war for the control of Saigon. Lansdale defeated armed religious groups, etc. Lansdale used covert acts in North Vietnam. He also helped create the flight of almost one million Catholic refugees to South Vietnam. Many of these refugees were the political base along with landowners, former French collaborators and the local bourgeoisie, for Diem’s anti-communist government.
Diem created a wave of terrorism against the supporters of the Vietminh. By the late 1950’s, thousands of Vietminh members were jailed, killed, or wiped their presence. Diem’s government’s own figures–which most likely underestimated the numbers–reported that they had placed up to 20,000 Vietminh supporters in detention camps and had jailed 48,250 people between 1954 and 1960. In one district of 180,000 people, 7,000 were imprisoned and another 13,000 simply disappeared. So, Diem used a counterrevolution in Vietnam and used the power of the state to return the rich landlords to power. U.S. military and economic aid poured into the country. This formed a new corrupt business class and garrison state loyal to Diem. Opposition grew against Diem in the late 1950’s. Diem supported the Law 10/59, which allowed the Saigon government to jail any person under the allegation of “communist activity." By 1960, Diem’s regime was so corrupt that it was isolated. The masses of the population expressed huge opposition to Diem. Former Vietminh cadre began to rebuild their decimated ranks in the countryside and resume the armed struggle. The streets were filled with people who opposed Diem too. They were led by Buddhist monks. The Buddhists suffered at the hands of Diem’s strident Catholic regime. In Northern Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh and his Workers Party (the newly renamed Vietnminh) consolidated their regime during the late 1950’s. They implemented the Geneva Accords when Diem disregarded it. The Vietminh fighters and political organizers (including their families) wanted Ho Chi Minh to do something about Diem’s repressive regime. Vietminh forces were in North and South Vietnam. On 1959, Ho Chi Minh finally became committed to liberate the South from Diem’s dictatorship and his U.S. supporters.
The NLF or the National Liberation Front was created in 1960. The NLF wanted the Diem regime to be gone. The NLF included Communists and non-Communist opponents of Diem. The NLF wanted a program of democratic reform and eventual reunification of the country. They used the rural population as a basis for support. They used armed struggle. U.S. forces called the NLF "the Viet Cong." By 1960, the NLF had 5,000 armed guerrillas. By the end of 1961, it grew to 15,000. The CIA reported that in 1962, the NLF was in control of most of the South Vietnamese countryside. President John F. Kennedy was inaugurated President in 1961. JFK was once a Diem’s supporter, but President Kennedy knew that Diem was increasingly corrupt. Diem was facing disaster. Diem still refused to stop the repression in South Vietnam. Kennedy wanted to use pressure on Diem to broaden his government base. President Kennedy at first increased the number of military and civilian advisers in Vietnam. He supported counterinsurgency techniques. There was testing of herbicidal warfare in Vietnam via Operation Ranch Hand. The U.S. used the counterinsurgency project of using military incursions to clear the guerrillas. The March 1962 pilot project called “Operation Sunshine” caused the NLF to take over the areas where the population was resettled. The battle of AP Bac was fought on January 2, 1963. It was a major battle in the Vietnam War. The battle took place in South Vietnam. The South Vietnam army and their U.S. advisors attacked the Apc Bac hamlet. Before, there was U.S. intelligence showing a large force of NLF (or Vietcong) soldiers in the Ap Tan Thoi in Dinh Toung Province. The South Vietnamese Civil Guards spearheaded the attack. They came to Ap Tan Thoi from the south. The Viet Cong’s 261st Battalion pinned the forces down. There were about 2,500 troops of South Vietnam’s 7th Infantry Division (being equipped with automatic weapons, armored amphibious personal carriers, and bombers including helicopters) fighting a group of 300 NLF members. The South Vietnamese lost 80 people and 100 people were wounded in action. The VC shot down 5 American helicopters and damaged eight as American advisers also fought in the battle. 3 Americans died in the battle with 8 Americans wounded. 18 NLF or VC members died. The Vietcong won the battle.
Diem’s government was spiraling downward. Diem continued in his barbaric suppression of the human rights of the Buddhists. One Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc protested the Vietnam War by committing suicide (via burning himself alive in the streets of Saigon in broad daylight) on June 11, 1963. This act is called self-immolation. News media people coverage the footage worldwide. Madame Nhu or the wife of Ngo Dinh Nhu (Diem's brother) made a very disrespectful remark that the Buddhist's suicide protests were "barbecues" and that "Let them burn, and we shall clap our hands."
Many American military officials soon wanted to get rid of Diem. There are debates on whether JFK supported the coup on Diem or that he allowed it to occur. Regardless, Diem died in a coup. Diem tried to save himself by having himself and his brother Nhu to approach the North Vietnamese government about a political rapprochement. This was the end. The CIA supported the coup of Diem via his own military on November 2, 1963. This coup was supported by U.S. Ambassador to South Vietnam Henry Cabot Lodge.
Diem’s brother was assassinated too. 2 weeks later, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on November 22, 1963. To this day, people debate what JFK would have done involving Vietnam if he wasn’t assassinated. We do know that JFK probably wouldn’t have escalated the war to the extreme as LBJ did. JFK expanded the advisors from 800 to 16,700, but in private President John F. Kennedy did said that he wanted to end the Vietnam War by 1965 (especially after the 1964 election). He explicitly condemned the usage of United States ground troops in Vietnam (General MacArthur cautioned Kennedy against using military ground forces in Southeast Asia). President John F. Kennedy was moving in a less hawkish direction since his acclaimed speech about world peace at American University on June 10, 1963. It is a fact that President Kennedy was in constant ideological conflict with the U.S. military elites and folks in the intelligence community (we know that factions of the U.S. military/intelligence community abhorred Kennedy’s actions towards the Soviet Union and Cuba too). JFK regularly repelled some of the military brass who wanted a more militarized response in the Soviet Union, Cuba, and in Vietnam. In fact, President Kennedy fired CIA Director Allen Dulles, Deputy Director Charles Cabell and Director of Plans Richard Bissell. That action was unprecedented for that time period. JFK was very skeptical of the actions of the CIA since the Bay of Pigs disaster especially. JFK's NSAM 263 Memorandum was signed on October 11, 1963. It supported plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. Even Robert McNamara's "Fog of War" documentary says that according to McNamara, President John F. Kennedy was strongly considering pulling out of Vietnam after the 1964 election. Kennedy hoped that the Vietnam conflict would be resolved by 1965. As President John F. Kennedy told Senator Mike Mansfield (who recommended to JFK that America withdraw from Vietnam after JFK sent him there in 1962 to assess the situation) was told by JFK the following words in the Oval Officer during the spring of 1963 that: “…I can’t do it until 1965 after I’m reelected.” O’Donnell quotes the President also what he told him after Mansfield left the office in the following words: “….In 1965, I’ll become one of the most unpopular Presidents in history. I’ll be damned everywhere as a Communist appeaser. But I don’t care. If I tried to pull out completely now from Vietnam, we would have another Joe McCarthy red scare on our hands, but I can do it after I’m reelected. So, we had better make damned sure that I am reelected.” (O’Donnell and Powers with McCarthy, “Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye, pp. 16, 472).
John F. Kennedy had secret correspondences with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev in seeking détente with the Soviets. President Kennedy signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. He promoted a neutral government in Laos. President John F. Kennedy refused to invade Cuba and he secretly had discussions in trying to establish an accommodation also with Cuba in 1963 (which has been proven by recently revealed documents) after Kennedy refused to invade Cuba doing the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK made a secret deal with the Soviets (during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962) to get rid of missiles from Turkey while Russian ships left Cuban shores. President John F. Kennedy had said he was willing to accept an invitation from President Sukarno to visit Indonesia in the spring of 1964. JFK was also working with Kwame Khrumah of Ghana. JFK supported nationalist movements globally, which other Presidents have not. This is not just Oliver Stone mentioning these words. Great scholars and authors like James W. Douglas (via his book entitled, "JFK and the Unspeakable), Jim DiEugenio, etc. have outlined this information. Diem’s overthrow caused more chaos in Vietnam and it set the stage for the U.S. invasion of Vietnam overtly (in a high level) by 1965. Now, this doesn't mean that JFK loved Communism. He abhorred it and he didn't want Vietnam to be a Communist state (as he has publicly stated), but he refused to use thousands of grounds troops to invade Vietnam. We can only speculate what Kennedy would have done. Lyndon Baines Johnson became the new President in late 1963. LBJ was more aggressive involving Vietnam policy than President John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy's assassination, President Johnson passed NSAM 273 on November 26, 1963. It reversed Kennedy's decision to withdraw 1,000 troops, and reaffirmed the policy of assistance to the South Vietnamese.
The Vietnam War expands
Diem’s new successor was General Duong Van Minh or “Big Minh.” Many people in South Vietnam greeted Minh. Some Americans soon didn’t like General Minh, because he expressed a rapprochement with the Buddhist forces that organized the massive demonstrations against the Diem regime. Minh was talking about possibly opening talks with the NLF which could have ended the war sooner. Minh called his government non-communist instead of anti-communist. This raised the hopes that that he wanted to promote the policy of “neutrality” in foreign policy world affairs. This clearly angered Americans who wanted an anti-Communist hardliner for a leader. Then, the Americans organized another military coup. They used the Military Assistance Command in Vietnam (or the main body that the U.S. military aid and advisers who were organized through in Vietnam). The coup occurred in January of 1964. It has been called the “Pentagon Coup.” Soon, General Nguyen Khanh was bought to power. Khanh was firmly in opposition to the NLF. He accepted U.S. military strategies and political strategies from the U.S. embassy. He immediately faced a new wave of anti-war activity from the Buddhists and radical students of South Vietnam. Khanh was shocked by this and he began to talk about a negotiated end to the war. The CIA found out that Khanh contacted the NLF in December of 1964. Khanh had more contact with the NLF during January and February of 1965. Certainly, the Western imperialists wanted him to go. So, the Americans (who were led by the new U.S. Ambassador Maxwell Taylor. Taylor was a retired general who returned to government services under Kennedy) sent huge pressure on Khanh. Khanh left Vietnam and was in exile in France.
The power in South Vietnam was sent to the military triumvirate of Generals Nguyen Cao Ky, Nguyen Chanh Thi, and Nguyen Van Thieu. These 3 men ruled South Vietnam for years. The leading person was Ky. Ky was an evil person. Ky would be the Prime Minister while Thieu became the chief of state. Ky had power until 1967 when elections excluded anyone holding “pro-communist” or “neutralist’ views. This caused Thieu to be the Prime Minister. Thieu won only 35 percent of the vote. Ky worked with the CIA back in the early 1960’s in their covert operations against North Vietnam. Ky was wrong to tell reporters that his only real hero was Hitler. Ky and Thieu were both trained by the French and had fought against their own people in the First Vietnam War. So, both men were traitors to the Vietnamese people. On March 1, 1965, they pledged to never negotiate with the NLF or the North Vietnamese. They said that they would follow the lead of Washington on all military, political, and diplomatic affairs. Military coups harmed Saigon in 1964 and in 1965. By mid-1964, the U.S. strategies developed by the establishment were not working to combat the NLF. The Vietcong worked with the nationalists, who controlled 40-50 percent of the countryside. The U.S. sponsored counter insurgency tactics only turned the peasantry against the South Vietnamese regime. Another disaster was the Strategic Hamlet program. This was about the peasants being uprooted from their traditional villages and burial ground by force. They were sent into concentrated walled camps. The villages became concentration camps which were used to separate the peasant population from the guerrillas. NLF fighters kept on fighting. The Army of Vietnam troops (or the ARVN-Diem’s forces) deserted in droves. They didn’t want to defend the regime. Even the Marine pacification expert Lieutenant Colonel William R. Corson admitted that the role of the U.S. puppet regime in South Vietnam was "to loot, collect back taxes, reinstall landlords, and conduct reprisals against the people." As historian James Gibson summed up the situation:
"Strategic hamlets had failed…. The South Vietnamese regime was incapable of winning the peasantry because of its class base among landlords. Indeed, there was no longer a ‘regime’ in the sense of a relatively stable political alliance and functioning bureaucracy. Instead, civil government and military operations had virtually ceased. The National Liberation Front had made great progress and was close to declaring provisional revolutionary governments in large areas."
The NLF grew, because there was massive class inequality in South Vietnam, absence of basic democratic rights in South Vietnam, and a strong desire to the reunification of Vietnam. The puppet U.S. backed South Vietnam regime failed to do these things. The Vietnam War evolved from a proxy war being funded by America to a full-fledged American war. The NLF gained ground and U.S. intelligence said that the Saigon government was on the verge of collapse.
The Gulf of Tonkin incident
The escalation of the Vietnam War came with the 1964 election and the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Lyndon Johnson, in the 1964 Presidential election, ironically spoke about how he didn't want to be involved in a massive American military invasion of Vietnam. Lyndon Baines Johnson was battling against the Republican Senator Barry Goldwater, who threatened to use nuclear weapons if necessary against NLF forces. LBJ said during the campaign that: “…We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.” Yet, the Johnson administration behind the scenes was planning to send hundreds of thousands of U.S. ground forces in Vietnam after the 1964 election. Many of the policies were concealed from the public back then. The credibility gap was about the gap that formed between what the Johnson administration said what was policy in public and what they actually did in Vietnam for real. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in 1964 was the incident that caused the Vietnam War to go into a more massive military direction. The incident involved a real attack on U.S. forces first on August 2, 1964 and then a phantom or nonexistent attack on the USS Maddox on August 4, 1964. There was U.S. Naval ship USS Maddox was conduct DESOTO Operations in Northern Vietnam. The second phantom, false incident still caused the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to be passed. On August 7, 1965, the Senate voted 98 to 2 and the House of Representatives voted 441 to 0 in favor. It was not repealed by Congress until 1971. The resolution allowed Johnson "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.” This resolution gave Lyndon Johnson the legal authority to wage war in Vietnam. LBJ waited after the November 1964 election for him to invade Vietnam in a higher level since American forces were already in Vietnam for years.
On March 8, 1965, there was the beginning of the massive U.S. troops build. Marines landed in Da Nang. At the peak of the Vietnam War, over 500,000 American troops were in Vietnam. The Vietnam War caused the strongest military on Earth to issue unprecedented violence militarily in one of the poorest nations in the world. The United States government still led an aggressive military foreign policy against Vietnam even when there were times when a negotiated settlement could have been created. The U.S. government even rejected a coalition government and neutrality in Saigon. The NLF was ready to accept a proposal. Even Charles De Gaulle or the President of France back then was willing to establish such a plan all over Southeast Asia during that time period. Yet, the West fought against a nationalist movement that defeated French imperialists a decade before. Lyndon Johnson said in 1964 that “Surrender anywhere threatens defeats everywhere.” He said these extreme words since he supported the Cold hysteria myth that if Vietnam was ruled by non pro-Western forces then Communists will take over the whole world. During that time, some people were so paranoid about Communism (which came from the Red Scare, McCarthyism, etc.), that some felt that any negotiation to solve the Vietnam crisis was equivalent to total appeasement. America, after WWII, was the leading capitalist country. Therefore, America wanted to preserve its Empire.
One aspect of that Empire was in Vietnam. The U.S. has many military bases globally while the British Empire decreased its power after 1945. On March 1965, Robert McNamara asked John McNaughton (or the assistant secretary of defense) to summarize U.S. political strategy and war aims in Vietnam. McNaughton never wanted a political settlement or a U.S. withdrawal at all. The war hawks like Maxwell Taylor, McNaughton, etc. felt that a withdrawal would lead to chaos and defeat. Vietnam had no direct economic or strategic importance to America. Vietnam never attacked America either. The war was brutal.
Operation Rolling Thunder started first in March 2, 1965 and it ended on November 2, 1968. It was about over 100 American fighter bombers bombing targets in North Vietnam. It was planned to last for 8 weeks, but it lasted for 3 years. The first U.S. air strikes would occur in the Ho Chi Minh trail, which was a strategy location where the NLF transported weapons and supplies from North to South Vietnam. The bombings would cause millions of South Vietnamese refugees to exist as numerous civilian villages were destroyed. Operation Rolling Thunder included Western & South Vietnamese aerial bombings of North Vietnam. B-52 carpet bombed North Vietnamese people. There are pictures of Vietnamese children running naked with their flesh scorched by napalm. The U.S. invaded and occupied South Vietnam in 1965. The NLF controlled most of the countryside. North Vietnamese army and the NLF fought side by side. The Ho Chi Minh trail was a huge, complex network of roads connected North and South Vietnam among 12,000 miles. General Vo Nguyen Giap was one leader of the guerilla movement in the South.
The U.S. Army General William C. Westmoreland organized the U.S. military response. Westmoreland was a graduate of West Point and he went to Harvard Business School. He was a former commander of the 101st Airborne Division and superintendent of West Point. He came to Vietnam for the first time in June of 1964. $2 billion was spent on the war. Huge American ports and road networks were formed by America too. Westmoreland’s war strategy had huge weaknesses, because he wanted to decimate the North Vietnamese population via a war of attrition. Yet, he failed to outline political solutions or massive social movements to gain support of the South Vietnamese people. The bombing of North Vietnam and the search and destroy missions in the North only galvanized the nationalist movement of Ho Chi Minh. The massive U.S. troop presence and bombing campaign caused Vietnamese people to abhor the reactionary Saigon government. U.S. atrocities in Vietnam caused the Vietnamese people to resist U.S. occupation even more. Operation Starlight was when the U.S. engaged the NLF militarily using air, land, and sea power. 6,000 Marines killed 573 people and lost only 46 of their own. The Vietnamese left mostly to fight another day. The early battle of Ia Drang in November 1965 allowed a fast hit and run battle. Both sides would claim victory for different reasons. Americans said that the battle was a success of military power while the North Vietnamese (like Colonel Nguyen Huu An) saw the battle as strengthening their military tactics. The massive military buildup came from 1965 to 1967. By 1967, over 500,000 American troops were in Vietnam.
South Vietnam was in chaos with a leadership vacuum for a time. The Saigon government was in trouble. President Johnson used reactionary advisors which escalated the war. These men or advisers were Defense Secretary William McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Advisers Walt Rostow and McGeorge Bundy. These were the men who would eventually take the U.S. into total war in Vietnam, but in the meantime they struggled with finding the "right man" to lead the Saigon government.
The Battle of Dong Xoai occurred form June 9-13, 1965. It was a Viet Cong victory. This battle and others refute the long lie that American forces won every major battle in the Vietnam War. First, the Viet Cong 272nd Regiment led an offensive and attacked and captured the Civilian Irregular Defense Group and U.S. Special Forces camp there. The ARVN (or South Vietnamese military) Joint General Staff ordered the ARVN 1st Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, to retake Đồng Xoài district. They arrived on the battlefield on June 10, but were quickly overwhelmed by the Viet Cong 271st Regiment near Thuận Lợi. Later that day, Đồng Xoài was recaptured by the ARVN 52nd Ranger Battalion, who had survived an ambush while marching towards the district. On June 11, further South Vietnamese reinforcements arrived in the form of the ARVN 7th Airborne Battalion. The South Vietnamese paratroopers, while searching for survivors of the 1st Battalion in the Thuận Lợi rubber plantation, were defeated in a deadly ambush by the Viet Cong. On June 13 U.S. Army General William Westmoreland decided to insert elements of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade into a major battle for the first time, because he feared the Viet Cong could secure a major base area in Phước Long Province. By that time, however, the Viet Cong had already withdrawn from the battlefield, so the U.S. paratroopers were ordered to return to base without a fight.
The U.S. attrition strategy didn’t work for numerous reasons. There was the massive U.S. and Western troop presence in Vietnam. There were massive bombing campaigns. These actions only increased the hostility in Vietnam among the people. The failure of the attrition strategy showed up again by Operation Junction City. This was done in the first three months of 1967. It was the largest American operation of the war to that date. It involved 35,000 American and South Vietnamese troops sweeping along the Cambodian border northwest of Saigon. They wanted to destroy the NLF bases of support. There was a huge mobilization of troops, but the U.S. troops failed to engage the NLF in significant fights. The NLF just carefully avoided any contact. The Americans left and the NLF moved in. This transpired throughout the war. Even the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA admitted that the Vietnam War will be long and costly. The U.S. won a large number of battles. Both Battles of Prek Klok were victories of U.S. forces. Both battles occurred in February and March of 1967. These battles occurred in Operation Junction City. This was about an 82 day military operation. It was the largest airborne operation since Operation Market Garden during World War II. The U.S, during the operation used 30,000 men, 240 helicopters, more than 700 combat vehicles, like the M48 tank and the M113 APC. The first Battle of Prek Kok happened on February 28, 1967. The 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry of the United States headed east and were attacked from the front by Viet Cong infantry with gunfire, rockets and mortars. Soon after, they were attacked from all fronts as the communists tried to surround them with a battalion-sized force. However, with superior firepower available, the Americans called in air strikes and artillery, and by mid afternoon, had repelled the communist attacks. The Americans lost 25 killed while the communists lost 167. The second battle involved the U.S. military repelling another NLF attack. There were dozens of battles during the Vietnam War. The PLAF and the PAVN lost many troops, but there was no massive political solution enacted. The US never dominated the field outside of the immediate battle successes. The Johnson administration in private knew that their strategy wasn’t working, but they continued (because they had a fear of being labeled "cowards" or "traitors").
At the end of 1967, General Westmoreland said that the light was at end of the tunnel by 1968. That wasn't the case at all. The war in a stalemate. Many U.S. troops were brought into camps and brutalized. Many U.S. troops used racist terms against the Vietnamese people, which was wrong. There is no need for racism in any form. Even Westmoreland made the racist comment that, “The Oriental doesn’t value life in the same way as a Westerner....We value life and human dignity. They don’t care about life and human dignity." Even Colonel George S. Patton III or son of the WWII general George Patton sent Christmas cards in 1968 which showed photographs of Viet Cong soldiers dismembered and stacked in a pile. Villages regularly aided NLF. Massacres transpire. The My Lai massacre of March 1968 was when Charlie Company (led by Captain Ernest Medina and Lieutenant William Calley, murdered over 350 unarmed women and children. These atrocities against innocent Vietnamese civilians occurred all over Vietnam via Operation Phoenix and other programs. Also, many Americans G.I.s in Vietnam were the victims of torture and unjust abuse by NLF forces. John McCain was a victim of torture during the Vietnam War including numerous American POWs. These actions were wrong as well. Many U.S. soldiers resisted the war too. The NLF used nationalism and class relationships in the nation to continue in their fight. To many people in the countryside, the NLF was a latest name of the Viet Minh (who fought for independence of Vietnam and land reform since the 1940’s). Vietminh forces came into the south to fight. The anti-war movement grew into the next level by 1967. Muhammad Ali and so many courageous people opposed the Vietnam War.
The Tet Offensive and 1968
The Tet Offensive was a turning point in the Vietnam War. It showed the American public the volatile nature of the Vietnam War. It proved to the world that the U.S. establishment was outright wrong about proclaiming that the U.S. was having massive progress in the Vietnam War from a social and political standpoint. American forces won the Tet offensive and numerous major battles in Vietnam, but the Vietnamese would never surrender. Tet shocked Americans and increased doubt that a Western victory was in sight. It massively decreased the popularity of President Lyndon Johnson. General Westmoreland toured the U.S. in 1967 at the behest of LBJ. Westmoreland wanted to defend the war and he said that the Viet Cong was thinning. Tet was the Lunar Year of a major holiday in Vietnam. During the holiday, relatives would travel long distances to visit each other. This was the perfect time for an attack from NLF forces. The U.S. bombing had driven many people into the cities, so many people traveled into the largest cities. The Tet holiday involved fireworks and many strangers would be around. During Tet, Vietnamese human beings would celebrate their ancestors. In fact, the plans for Tet existed a year before in Hanoi. Ho Chi Minh approved of the Tet offensive plan. The North Vietnamese wanted to use Tet as a way for them to shift the course of the war against America. The actual offensive began as early as late 1967. This was during the dry season in Vietnam. This offensive was about how the North Vietnamese and the NLF launched military feints to provoke the American military forces away from the major cities. Before Tet, the major cities had seen little of a war which mostly occurred in the countryside.
The French newspaper Le Monde reported in January 1968 that a "sustained and general offensive" had the Americans pinned back in defensive positions. On January 20, the North Vietnamese Army began a siege of the U.S. Marine base at Khe Sanh near the Laotian border. Westmoreland believed that the Vietnamese wanted to repeat at Khe Sanh the victory they had at Dien Bien Phu 15 years earlier. Johnson wanted Khe Sanh defended at all cost. He even had a replica or model of Khe Sanh in the White House. He was so nervous that he made his generals pledge that Khe Sanh could be held no matter what. President Johnson reportedly barked at his generals that: “I don’t want any d____ Dinbinphoo!” Khe Sah was a base of little strategic value. The NVA was attacking Khe Sanh and Westmoreland then rushed troops to reinforce his besieged troops.
The NLF moved in place to start Tet. In January of 1968, NLF troops moved into larger provincial towns and cities. They smuggled weapons and explosives in coffins. They buried them in cemeteries for future use. There was widespread sympathy for the nationalist movement, so no one told the Saigon government or the Americans that a large NLF military buildup was transpiring. As one American journalist observed, once in the cities "the Viet Cong were absorbed into the population by the urban underground like out of relatives attending a family reunion." On the night of January 29-30, 1968, the main part of the offensive starts. About 70,000 NVA/NLF soldiers attacked 34 of 44 provincial capitals, 64 district capitals, and many military installations. Over 100 targets were hit all over South Vietnam. This included the American embassy in Saigon or the citadel of American power. The combined North Vietnamese Army and NLF forced captured Hue or the ancient capital of Vietnam for a time. Westmoreland believed that the Tet Offensive was a desperate attempt of the NLF and he compared it to the Battle of the Bulge by the Germans during the final time of WWII in Europe. The USA responded with a massive response. Massive air power was executed by the U.S. in response to the Tet Offensive. "The Viet Cong had the government by the throat in those provincial towns," explained one U.S. military adviser. "Ordinary methods would have never gotten them out, and the government did not have enough troops to do the job, so firepower was substituted." The NLF nationalists occupied Hue for three weeks. Americans overtook Hue after Americans virtually destroyed Hue "Nothing I saw during the Korean War, or in the Vietnam War so far," wrote Robert Shapen, who toured Hue after its destruction, "has been as terrible, in terms of destruction and despair, as what I saw in Hue."
Ben Tre in Kien Hoa province was obliterated by U.S. firepower. American firepower ended the Tet Offensive and pushed back the NLF/NVA forces. The costs were heavily. During the offensive, South Vietnamese (ARVN) forces were heavily mauled by the NVA and the NLF. Americans suffered nearly 4,000 causalities between January and March 31. Many American military forces were demoralized after Tet. More U.S. military rebellions grew, especially during the last years of the war. A March 3 State Department report dismally concluded: "We know that despite a massive influx of 500,000 U.S. troops, 1.2 million tons of bombs, 400,000 sorties per year, 200,000 KIA in three years, 20,000 U.S. KIA, etc., our control of the countryside and the defense of the urban levels is now essentially at pre-August 1965 levels. We have achieved a stalemate at a high commitment." The Vietnamese fighters still didn’t quit in war. About 1,000 fighters fought off 11,000 U.S. troops and ARVN troops for three weeks. Tet also caused a huge cost for the NLF. The NLF fighters were attacked in the villages and the Tet Offensive would be a defeat for the NLF/NVA forces. Tet caused huge political consequences in America.
The anti-war movement grew into a higher level. More politicians like Eugene McCarthy, Robert Kennedy, etc. opposed the war. They were running for President for the Democratic Party. Robert McNamara or the secretary of defense and one architect of the escalation of the Vietnam War resigned. Johnson was even told by John J. McCloy, Dean Acheson, and others (of the wise men clique. These men were some of the major architects of the U.S. Cold War policy) to withdrawal from Vietnam. Johnson was stunned and decided to not run for President in 1968. Lyndon Baines Johnson said these words on March 31, 1968. The sentiment of the American ruling class can be summed up by Walter Cronkite, dean of American broadcast journalism, who made a fresh report on Vietnam on February 27: "To say that we are closer to victory is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past…. It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out, then, will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people…[who] did the best they could." 1968 would be one of the most revolutionary years in American history. The Presidential race was continuing. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (a strong opponent of the Vietnam War) was assassinated on April 4, 1968. Afterwards, over 100 American cities would erupt in rebellion. Robert Kennedy was assassinated after he won the California primary in June. In the Democratic convention, Chicago Mayor Daley’s cops attacked brutally antiwar demonstrations. This showed the world more of the political repression in America. Some Soldiers in Vietnam showed rebellion against the war in Vietnam.
One little known event of the Vietnam War is about how Lyndon Johnson’s peace negotiations with Vietnam was ended because of the 1968 campaign efforts. Nixon wanted to prevent the peace talks in Vietnam, so he could be elected President and execute his own plans in dealing with the Vietnam War. Nixon was in a tight race with Hubert Humphrey, because Humphrey just before the election ended came out to support an end to the bombing of North Vietnam. Humphrey called for a ceasefire. So, Nixon via the operative Anna Chennault (who was an anti-Communist extremist) advised the Saigon government that the Nixon administration would offer them a better deal. That is why Saigon rejected the course of the peace process. Lyndon Johnson in private conversations called his action as treason and he was only prevented from saying this in public via his advisors (and LBJ wanted to promote continuity in American politics). Also, President Johnson allowed the FBI to wiretap the activities of Chennault too. The Paris Peace talks failed and President Nguyen van Thieu supported Nixon. Walt Rostow has discussed about this story too. Robert Parry’s excellent book entitled, “America’s Stolen Narrative” documents the treasonous actions of Richard Nixon too. Tom Charles Huston was the national security aide assigned by President Richard Nixon to investigate what President Lyndon Johnson knew about why the Vietnam peace talks failed in 1968. He concluded that Nixon was behind a secret Republican plan to sabotage those negotiations whose collapse cleared for the continuation of the conflict. “Over the years as I’ve studied it, I’ve concluded that there was no doubt that Nixon was – would have been directly involved, that it’s not something that anybody would’ve undertaken on their own,” Huston said in an oral history done for the Nixon presidential library in 2008 and recently released in partially redacted form. So, the Vietnam War had many secrets that tons of people don’t know about.
The Nixon era
Hubert Humphrey was narrowly defeated by Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon said that he had a secret plan to end the Vietnam War, but the end of the war would end in the midst of Nixon’s aggressive military campaigns. The U.S. left Vietnam in a controversial fashion just like the U.S. started the Vietnam War. The antiwar movement wanted the US to leave ASAP while Nixon wanted America to leave Vietnam with the South Vietnamese government intact via his Vietnamization plan.
After Tet, Vietnam would continue to be a bloody, controversial war. Richard Nixon wanted U.S. troops to leave Vietnam, but he wanted South Vietnam to be non-Communist in an American victory. In other words, he wanted a victory in the Vietnam War while gradually withdrawing American military forces. Nixon wanted to accept the role of “peacemaker,” but in actuality he wasn’t. He supported military campaigns not only in Vietnam, but in Cambodia (as he said that North Vietnamese forces were using Cambodia as a base of operations). One big problem was that his bombing of Cambodia was that it was totally secret for a time. It started from March 1969 and ended in August 1973. One big architect of Nixon’s policies in Indochina was Nixon’s national security adviser Henry A. Kissinger. Kissinger knew about the situation of Tet. Nixon’s Vietnamization policy was not new, because America tried Vietnamization from 1960 to 1965. It didn’t work to defeat the NVA and the NLF at all. Nixon wanted to use as much firepower as policy as a way to provoke the North Vietnamese to accept defeat. The first 14 months of the bombing campaign of Cambodia involved more than 3,630 B-52 raids dropping over 110,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia. When the bombing ended, the U.S. dropped about 257,465 tons of explosives on Cambodia (which caused Cambodia to be heavily destroyed and allowed the genocidal and evil Khmer Rouge in 1975 to take power over in Cambodia).
Henry Kissinger wanted to even use a land invasion of the North and bomb dikes, so to destroy its food supply (with the bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong). Kissinger's plan wasn't executed. Nixon announced the withdrawal of 25,000 troops in June 1969. This was a token measure and the anti-war movement knew it. On October 15, 1969, the first Vietnam Moratorium Day existed. On that day, more than 100,000 rallied in Boston and Coretta Scott King led a march of 30,000 past the White House in a silent candlelight procession to protest the Vietnam War. On April 30, 1970, Richard Nixon publicly said that U.S. forces were invading Cambodia. People protested immediately. Strikes exist in more than 100 campuses nationwide. GI soldiers rebelled and protested the war as well. In the summer of 1971, a former RAND corporation worker Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers included documents that detailed the secret history of Vietnam from the Kennedy to Johnson administration. It described 3 decades of lies and deceptions made up by administrations as a means to justify the Vietnam War. Nixon tried to legally stop Ellsberg from releasing the Pentagon Papers in public, but he was unsuccessful. Nixon hypocritically claimed that he wanted peace, but even on December 18, 1972, he allowed B-52 bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong. The U.S. dropped 36,000 tons of bombs on factories, railroad years, and bus stations. Hanoi’s largest hospital was bombed and the residential neighborhood of Kheim Thiem. These are war crimes without question. Many American soldiers were POWs and they were tortured by some NLF forces too. That was wrong and that should be condemned. Torture and abuse are immoral actions no matter who does it.
The End of the Vietnam War
The peace treaty ending officially American military involvement in the war came about via the Paris Peace Accords on January 23, 1973. Nixon was involved in the Watergate scandal. He and many of his administration officials were involved in numerous crimes against the American people. Nixon faced impeachment, so he resigned on August 1974. The Vietnam War continued. Proponents of the war say that the North Vietnamese violated the Peace Accords. The Saigon government soon fell. In April of 1975, the remnants of the Saigon government surrendered to the invading forces of the NVA. The war was over. The United States suffered a defeat in front of the world. The legacy of the Vietnam War is diverse. One part of the legacy is that no one should underestimate the self-determination of oppressed people. Other legacies include that political and social solutions long term ought not to be abandoned, foreign policy is complex not simplistic, solutions to crisis don’t deal necessarily with a one size fit all solution, and imperialism is blatantly wrong and immoral.
It has been over 40 years since the fall of Saigon. The fall of Saigon marked the end of the Vietnam War. There is a lot of historical significance involving the Vietnam War. The fall was the most decisive defeat of the largest U.S. military intervention in American history. 2 years before, the last U.S. combat forces left Vietnam. Later, the puppet regime of General Nguyen van Thieu and its 700,000 strong U.S. trained and U.S. armed South Vietnamese army collapsed virtually without a fight. There are many images of the U.S. personnel fleeing the besieged city of Saigon. There were helicopters that left the embassy. Many Vietnamese escaped not just Americans. The Vietnam War represented a huge debacle of American foreign policy. The effects of the Vietnam War still exist today. U.S. intervention in Vietnam existed even before the days of Eisenhower (when he was President) and it continued until the time of Nixon.
The Vietnam War was a genocidal expression of imperialism. The U.S. dropped more bombs in Vietnam than what the U.S. dropped in Europe during WWII. 536,000 American troops were in Vietnam during its peak. 15 million tons of munitions were dropped in its aerial campaign. Over 58,000 Americans died and over 3 million Vietnamese lost their lives as a product of the war. Vietnam experienced more than 20 million gallons of toxic chemicals. The environment of Vietnam was damaged and even babies being born in Vietnam now have been damaged by pollution from Western military actions. The leaders in planning and prosecuting the war have not been prosecuted for war crimes. Both Democrats and Republicans supported the evil war. The fall of Saigon allowed an oppressed people to be victorious against the most imperialist nation on Earth. The Vietnamese people defeated French colonialism and U.S. imperialism. Yet, today, the West became very slick and is an ally of Vietnam (via neoliberal policies, trade deals, and other policies). Transnational corporations have exploited the Vietnamese workers, so they can make huge profits in the 21st century. 40 years later, U.S. warships return to Vietnam, so the West can promote its “Pivot of Asia” agenda (which is about encircling China, so China’s hegemony won’t exceed U.S. hegemony). One of the real goals of the TPP is for the U.S. to check China’s rising economic power. The treaty could end some of Vietnam’s state run enterprises. While China is Vietnam’s largest trading partner, the US has become its largest export market. The Maoist regime in China invaded Vietnam in 1979 after Hanoi ousted the evil regime of Pol Pot of Cambodia. China’s invasion caused over 100,000 Vietnamese civilians to die and some 125,000 soldiers including militia members to die too. The U.S. antiwar movement and Vietnamese workers contributed to the end of the Vietnam War. The Vietnam War existed in midst of urban rebellions, civil rights developments, and massive strikes in America and throughout the Earth. We face the threats of imperialism, austerity, the 2 business party business parties' agenda, and other attacks on the working class. The essence of the Vietnam War is that imperialism is not only wrong, but that the working class including the poor should unite to end the oppressive system (so a system of justice can exist).
Appendix A: The Anti-War Movement (involving the Vietnam War)
The anti-war movement against the Vietnam War was diverse. The movement included young and old, unions, black people, white people, Hispanic people, Asian people, women, immigrants, the homeless, the poor, a diversity of workers, teachers, women, political activists, clergypeople, etc. It evolved into a very large movement. By the time of when the majority of the country was against the war (which was during the late 1960's), then the anti-war movement was to be reckoned with. The following information will be a chronology of occurrences, so individuals can see the flow of history. As early as 1945, American troops protested American aid to French imperialists, who fought the Vietnamese people. Individual, progressive voices opposed U.S. support for the French fighting Vietnamese human beings seeking independence. Yet, during the era of McCarthyism of the 1950's, voices of dissent were readily suppressed by the American government. Many people were harassed, interrogated by Congress, and even unfairly jailed because of their political views. Paul Robeson and other courageous men and women demanded an end to American involvement in the Vietnam War.
By the early 1960's, things changed. McCarthyism ended and the Old Left grew in power. First, it is time to define what the Old Left was. The Old Left was made up of mainline liberal people who were involved in the anti-nuclear movement, some were anti-war, and many of them were anti-Communist. They opposed the Vietnam War, but they wanted to use more moderate channels in getting their points across. 2 famous organizations of the Old Left were the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy or SANE and Turn Towards Peace. SANE was created in 1957 and it also wanted a nuclear test ban treaty and nuclear disarmament, which are honorable goals. Both groups were anticommunist. Their groups were exclusionary. They didn't even want socialists or especially communists to be in their organizations. Their leaders strongly disagreed with allying with socialists or communists in expressing anti-war views. The younger generation during 1960's felt annoyed by the Old Left, because of their dogmatisim and their exclusive policies of refusing to ally with socialists including communists. Therefore, the New Left started to develop as early as 1960. The New Left was more progressive than the Old Left.
The New Left, SNCC, and the Anti-War Movement
The New Left readily allied with people regardless if someone was communist or non-communist. They opposed the Vietnam War in more militant terms, which caused the Old Left to treat the New Left with scorn and suspicion. The SDS or the Students for a Democratic Society were part of the New Left movement including the SPU. The SPU or the Students Peace Union was created in 1959 in Chicago. The SPU (who included socialists) and the SDS wanted an immediate end to the war in Vietnam. They were more militant than the Old Left. The New Left grew in power and influence during the early period of the anti-war movement (which lasted from 1960 to 1965). The black freedom struggle inspired the SDS too. Many SDS members were part of Freedom Struggle and SNCC in fact. The SDS were moved by the strength and the resiliency of black leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., James Forman, Ella Baker, and other heroes who walked their talk.
SNCC was born in April 1960 at Shaw University. SNCC was formed with the help of Sister Ella Baker and SNCC's greatest strength was that is advanced a grassroots, democratic organizing struggle. SNCC wanted democratic type of organization in order for freedom to come to black people. The SDS copied that ideology in their Port Huron Statement, which called for participatory democratic structures in society. The anti-war movement was global.
In the year of 1963, the anti-war movement was still in its infancy. On May, Anti-Vietnam war protests were found in England and Australia. The War Resisters League (which was a pacifist group) on September 21, 1963 organized the first major U.S. protest against the Vietnam War and against the anti-Buddhist terrorism by the U.S. supported South Vietnamese regime. They advanced a demonstration at the U.S. Mission to the UN in New York City. The same WRL on October 9, 1963 also turned out 300 pickets to protest the speaking engagement by Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu (or the wife of Diem’s brother) at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City.
In 1964, the anti-war movement escalated its protests while the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War escalated as well. As early as February 29, 1964, SDS member Richard Flacks wrote about Vietnam in the memorandum entitled, “New Crisis in Vietnam.” In 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin incident came about and the Johnson administration used deceptive rhetoric in order to promote a more active military involvement in the Vietnam area. The draft resistance movement further develops, which means that many men refused to be drafted to be in the Vietnam War. Some left America. Some went to jail courageously. Others burned their draft cards, which angered the administration. The Progressive Labor Party and the Young Socialist Alliance on May 2, 1964 organization demonstrations nationwide in San Francisco, Boston, Madison, and Seattle. 700 marched in San Francisco. On May 12, 1964, 12 young men in New York City burned their draft cards in public. This was the first major act of American war resistance. As early as Freedom Summer movement of 1964, a huge number of SNCC activists opposed the Vietnam War as admitted by Brother and U.S. historian Clayborne Carson. The young people involved in the Free Speech Movement (this was about students promoting the right to carry out political organizing on campus. Mario Savio was a leader of the FSM. Ironically, he worked with civil rights workers too) also opposed the Vietnam War during the fall of 1964. On December 19, 1964, there were the first coordinated nationwide protests against the Vietnam War. They existed in New York City (it was sponsored by groups like the War Resisters League, Fellowship of Reconciliation Committee for Nonviolent Action, the Socialist Party, and the Student Peace Union. It was attended by 1500 people), San Francisco (with 1000 people), Minneapolis, Miami, Austin, Sacramento, Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington D.C, Boston, Cleveland, and other cities. By the end of 1964, about 23,000 Americans were involved in the Vietnam War. Malcolm X was another strong opponent of the Vietnam War too. In his speeches throughout 1964 and 1965, he criticized the Vietnam War as violation of the human rights of the Vietnamese people. Malcolm X strongly supported the revolutions of Africa and Asia (as he opposed the international Western power structure's agenda of neo-colonialism).
SNCC and the SDS were allies for a time. That changed slowly, because more SNCC members wanted a more black nationalist approach in solving problems (not out of hate, but because SNCC witnessed the betrayal in the 1964 Democratic convention and SNCC members wanted black community control. SNCC was right to mention the fact that the black liberation struggle must be led by black people). SNCC was right to expose the hypocrisy of the Democratic Party. The SDS moved into a more anti-war direction (which they were right to oppose the Vietnam War), but many of their members ignored the necessity of the black liberation struggle. So, the divergence of ideologies caused SNCC and SDS to go in their separate ways despite their agreement on so many issues. Yet, one positive is that both SNCC and SDS agreed in opposing the Vietnam War. Bob Moses is a black man, who shared anti-war views and pro-civil rights views. Moses was one man who was a bridge between the civil rights and anti-war movements. As early as 1965, Bob Moses said the following words to journalist Jack Newfield: "...Most liberals think Mississippi is an accurate reflection of America's values and morality. Why can't the people who killed Andrew, James, and Mickie be brought to justice, unless a majority of the community condones murder? Sheriff Rainey is not a freak; he reflects the majority. And what he did is related to the napalm bombing of 'objects' in Vietnam." Bob Moses was ahead of his time in understanding how imperialist policies in Vietnam harmed the rights of black people including others in America too. For a long time, the more moderate civil rights organizations from the NAACP to the Urban League supported the Vietnam War, because they were anticommunist, they supported LBJ, and believed that the war could help the lives of black Americans in a perverse way (as numerous black people served in every war. Truman allowed the integration of the armed forces during the 1940's. Many black military soldiers were heavily discriminated against unjustly in the battlefield and in America). They (or people like Wilkins and Young) felt that a merger of the peace and civil rights movements would distract the needs of black people in America. They were wrong. Even individual members of the NAACP and the Urban League would oppose the Vietnam War. It would be not until the election of Nixon when the moderate civil rights groups would oppose the Vietnam War via their official policies.
The Early Anti-War Movement Grows
We know that black Americans was the most anti-Vietnam War demographic in America as proven by the national polls. 1965 was the break out year of the anti-war movement. Worldwide, anti-war demonstrations exist like in Budapest, Hungary. There, some 200 Asian and African students protested. The RA Student Peace Union protested the war at Kansas University. On February 8, 1965, the SAD created an ad that called the Vietnam War “hideously immoral.” The ad was found in the Liberator. Teach ins came about too. Teach ins were about lectures in universities nationwide that discussed about the evils of the Vietnam War, organizing political strength, developing anti-war strategies, etc. The SDS sponsored their first teach in at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. About 3,000 students attended the teach in movement spreads nationwide. In 1965, U.S. combat troops readily came into Vietnam. On March 26, 1965, an 82 year old Detroit woman named Alice Herz burned herself to death to protest the horrors of the Vietnam War. Also, on March, the Vietnam Day Committee (with people like Jerry Rubin, and Stephen Smale) organized a huge protest of 100,000 people in Berkeley, California. In April 17, 1965, the SDS sponsored anti-war march came about in Washington, D.C. It had 15-20,000 people there. Paul Potter was there to speak of demanding a radical change in society. Protesters were found in Sylvan Theater and on the grounds of the Washington monument. Speeches were given by Robert Morris, Staughton Lynd, Seator Ernest Gruening of Alaska, and others. Joan Baez, Judy Collins, and a SNCC trio called the “Freedom Voices” sang “We Shall Overcome.” Poetter in D.C. gave an eloquent speech that was greeted with applause. The April 17th March was feared by the Old Left (which included pacificists like A.J. Muste, Bayard Rustin, even socialist Norman Thomas, and members of SANE) that communists would overtake the march.
In May of 1965, Bob Moses gave a stirring speech in a teach in at Berkeley. Moses compared the racism in America to the oppressive Vietnam War. 1965 saw the massive growth of the anti-war movement. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed serious doubts about the Vietnam War in 1965, but he refused to overtly oppose the war in a militant way in public for his fear of losing support by the government for the civil rights struggle. Dr. King commented on the Watts rebellion in 1965 and on other important issues. His actions in Selma (along with the work from SNCC, the DCVL, etc.) allowed the Voting Rights Act to be passed. Yet, as time goes on, the second coming of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would emerge to oppose the Vietnam War in a higher, courageous level. On July 1965, the young Brother named John Shaw was killed in Vietnam. He was involved in the demonstrations at McComb, MS back in 1961. After people heard of his death in America, black Americans in Mississippi protested. Young blacks in McComb, Mississippi learned that one of their classmates was killed in Vietnam and distribute a leaflet (in the summer of 1965) saying "No Mississippi Negroes should be fighting in Viet Nam for the White man's freedom.” This leaflet was reprinted in the MFDP’s newsletter in July 28, 1965.
On July 5 1965, Dr. King told a college audience in Virginia that "the war in Viet Nam must be stopped." LBJ feared that Dr. King would strengthen the anti-war movement if he would publicly condemn the Vietnam War. So, Dr. King in 1965 and in 1966 called for the ending of hostalities in Vietnam. In August 12, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King called for a halt to U.S. bombing of North Vietnam to encourage negotiated settlement of conflict. Johnson sent Arthur Goldberg to try to convince Dr. King to not issue radically anti-war statements about the Vietnam War in public. Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur Goldberg (and Johnson supporter) talked with Dr. King and tried to convince him that a settlement was in a making in Vietnam. We know that to be false since LBJ was escalating the war. Dr. King knew of the complex history of Vietnam. He knew that Ho Chi Minh had a more nationalist philosophy and that French imperialists oppressed the Vietnamese people for a long time. CALCAV was created in 1965. It was made of religious clergypeople who opposed the Vietnam War.
Burning drafts card continued. Some people refuse to serve in the military. The pro-war movement hold their own rally in NYC on October 30, 1965. SANE would sponsored their own March on Washington on November 27, 1965. SANE in its leadership refused to call for an immediate American withdrawal of Vietnam. James Forman and Bayard Rustin sponsored the march. 15-20,000 people attend the anti-war rally. Coretta Scott King was in Washington D.C. and gave a speech against the war too in November 27, 1965. High school students in Des Moines, Iowa, are suspended on December 1965 for wearing black armbands to "mourn the deaths on both sides" and in support of Robert Kennedy's call for a Christmas truce. The students sued the Des Moines School District, resulting in the 1969 U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of the students, Tinker v. Des Moines.
In 1966, the anti-war movement enters a new era and a new phrase. SNCC would courageously oppose the Vietnam War in a higher level. SNCC would also wholeheartedly embrace Black Power, which turned off many white people (since many white people misinterpreted Black Power as a racist slogan of “black racism.” In actuality, Black Power was not about racism, but about the promotion of black personhood and black self-determination. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. agreed with much of the views of the Black Power movement like the pooling of economic and political resources in the black community, but Dr. King rejected separatism. Also, some Black Power proponents promoted explicit capitalism in a reactionary sense not true liberation. Others were more progressive). SNCC did a lot of good just like the SDS. Both groups weren't perfect. Some members in the SDS and SNCC were misogynists. We know that there can be no human liberation without the liberation of women. Groups like the Woman Strike for Peace would not only protest the Vietnam War, but they advocated peace in general. The death of Sammy Young Jr. changed SNCC and the rest of the anti-war movement forever. Sammy Younger Jr. was a Brother who was a leader in SNCC from the Deep South. He was part of the U.S. Navy or a while. To the time of his death, he helped to register black people to vote in Macon, Alabama. Younge was shot in the back of the head by Marvin Segrest, a white gas station attendant at a local Standard Oil station, in Tuskegee, Alabama on January 3, 1966. Younge, opposed a “Whites Only” bathroom sign in Alabama before he was murdered. SNCC opposed the Vietnam before among individual members, but the cruel, inexscuable murder of Younger caused SNCC to mention that Enough is Enough.
SNCC publicly issued a statement to oppose the Vietnam War courageous via a statement on January 6, 1966. The statement reads the following words:
“…The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee has a right and a responsibility to dissent with United States foreign policy on any issue when it sees fit. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee now states its opposition to United States' involvement in Vietnam on these grounds: We believe the United States government has been deceptive in its claims of concern for the freedom of the Vietnamese people, just as the government has been deceptive in claiming concern for the freedom of colored people in such other countries as the Dominican Republic, the Congo, South Africa, Rhodesia, and in the United States itself. ... The murder of Samuel [Younge] in Tuskeegee, Alabama, is no different than the murder of peasants in Vietnam, for both [Younge] and the Vietnamese sought, and are seeking, to secure the rights guaranteed them by law. In each case the United States government bears a great part of the responsibility for these deaths. Samuel [Younge] was murdered because United States law is not being enforced. Vietnamese are murdered because the United States is pursuing an aggressive policy in violation of international law..."
— Press release: The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
SNCC members Cleveland Sellers and Kwame Ture would continue to oppose the Vietnam War. Many well-known members of SNCC were James Forman, John Lewis, Diane Nash, Marion Barry, Julian Bond, Angeline Butler, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Victoria Gray, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Anne Moody, Gloria Richardson, and so many other human beings. SNCC deserves a whole lot of credit for their contributions in the black freedom struggle. The NAACP and moderate civil rights organizations would distance themselves from the 1966 SNCC anti-war statement. SNCC supported their fellow SNCC member and Georgia state Congressman Julian Bond. Julian Bond in 1966 publicly dissented with the Vietnam War, supported SNCC’s anti-war, statement, and he agreed with those who resisted the draft. The reactionaries went wild and tried to prevent him from being in the George State Legislature. Even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. supported Julian Bond’s right to dissent on January 10, 1966. The American Civil Liberties Union or the ACLU, and other groups supported Bond as well. In 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled 9-0 in the case of Bond v. Floyd (385 U.S. 116) that the Georgia House of Representatives had denied Bond his freedom of speech and was required to seat him. In 1966, Dr. King was caught in a space. He morally opposed the war, but didn’t feel it was time to totally break with the Johnson administration (Dr. King feared that the social programs of the Great Society will be gone as a product of the obsession with extending the conflict in Vietnam). On May 29, 1966, Dr. King urges a halt to the bombing on a Face the Nation televised interview.
Anti-war groups continued with massive, international demonstrations on March 25-26, 1966. It was called the Second Days of International Protests. It was organized by the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, led by SANE,Women Strike for Peace, the Committee for Nonviolent Action and the SDS. There were 20,000 to 25,000 people in New York alone. Demonstrators were found also in Boston, Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit, Oklahoma City, San Francisco, Ottowa, London, Olso, Stokholm, Lyon, and Tokyo. In 1966, Muhammad Ali would oppose the Vietnam War in public too. Ali was reclassified 1-A (from 1-Y) in February 1966, so he was eligible to be part of the draft.
Muhammad Ali opposed the draft and sought to oppose the Vietnam War as a conscientious objector (on religious and moral grounds). The reactionaries abhorred Muhammad Ali for this and Muhammad Ali stood his ground like a man. Ali also famously said in 1966: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong ... They never called me n____." Ironically, Muhammad Ali was beloved by the anti-war campus students. Muhammad Ali was very much loved by the black community as well. Protests continued and a scuffle broke outside the US embassy in London over the Vietnam between the police and protesters on July 3, 1966. On October 1966, the Black Panther Party for self-defense was created in Oakland, California. Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton formed it. Its other original members include Elbert "Big Man" Howard, Sherwin Forte, Reggie Forte, and Bobby Hutton. The BPP was a socialist organization who wanted the empowerment of the masses of the people. They wanted black people to confront police oppression and to use the community as a means to establish solutions like free breakfast for children, using trained, discipline people with guns to protect their own communities, medical clinics, and other actions. Its leadership and members would oppose the Vietnam War 100 percent. In fact, the original 1966 platform of the Black Panther Party stated the following words: "...We want all black men to be exempt from military service...We believe that Black people should not be forced to fight in the military service to defend a racist government that does not protect us. We will not fight and kill other people of color in the world who, like black people, are being victimized by the white racist government of America. We will protect ourselves from the force and violence of the racist police and the racist military, by whatever means necessary...." The Black Panther Party was a strong, progressive, and revolutionary organization. It would be the victim of attack not only by the Oakland police, but by the FBI via the illegal COINTELPRO operations. In November 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. publicly criticized the draft system as being classist and how its disproportionately affected also poor black people. Dr. King said that the draft system denied black people both education and educational deferment, which sent them to the military. The Student Mobilization Committee would be established by December 1966.
A New Era of the Anti-War Movement
1967 would be a year of a higher level of militancy in the anti-war movement. Anti-war activists William Sloane Coffin, socialist leader Norman Thomas, and Allard Lowenstein wanted Dr. King to take a public stand against the Vietnam War. They would receive their wish. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s opposition to the Vietnam War was like a series of piecemeal steps. First, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was tired and wanted a rest. Therefore, he took a trip to Jamaica on early January 1967 to relax and to work on his last, prophetic book entitled, “Where do We Go From Here?” He went a house and he started to meditate on the civil rights movement, on the war, and on life in general. Bevel came to inspire him. Bevel told him in Jamaica that he must oppose the Vietnam war as the Vietnamese people are his brothers and his sisters too. Bevel asked Dr. King to be apart of the MOBE anti-war protest rally in April 15th, 1967. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. knew what he had to do. He knew that the Vietnam War was totally evil and unjust, therefore he publicly opposed the Vietnam War in a great level by January 1967. He also saw images of Vietnamese babies being mutilated by napalm bombs. This shocked Dr. King up and he was emotionally stirred up to fight against that war. The pictures were found in Ramparts magazine and it was featured in an article called “The Children of Vietnam” by William Pepper. William Pepper was an author, a human rights activist, and he visited orphanages in Vietnam. On February 21-22, 1967, anti-war activists first issued against Dow Chemical (because Dow helped to create napalm, which was used in the Vietnam War) in the University of Wisconsin in Madison. 19 people were arrested. SDS chapters would fund more anti-Dow Chemical protests in campuses nationwide.
On February 25, 1967. Dr. King criticized the war in a press conference. Mark Hatfield, George McGovern, and Eugene McCarthy were there to back him. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had great arguments for opposing the Vietnam War. He felt that resources were wasted in an imperialist war (when the Great Society programs were sacrificed in the war in Southeast Asia) which could be used to build up the rurual and urban communities of America. He felt that the war interfered with the self-determination of the Vietnamese people and he believed that a peaceful resolution to the conflict could end the war without violence. He felt that the war violated international law. We know that the FBI and the NSA illegally monitored Dr. King, Muhammad Ali, and others because of their anti-war views. Even some of Dr. King’s advisors like Stanley Levison felt that he went too far. Some of his advisors were afraid that he would support in their minds the most “fringe” elements of the anti-war movement. Moderate civil rights leaders (like Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and others), who supported the war, believed that Dr. King was wrong in trying to form an alliance between the civil rights and anti-war movements. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. understood that ending Jim Crow apartheid was not enough and that there must be a radical redistribution of political and economic power, so the poor can have economic justice too. Lyndon Johnson was furious that Dr. King’s opposition to the war. Dr. King had an argument with National Urban League Director. Whitney Young on the Vietnam War. This incident occurred in a private Long Island reception. Whitney Young disapproved of Dr. King’s statement in Los Angeles on February of 1967, because Young supported the war. Whitney Young would later oppose the war after Dr. King’s assassination.. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stood up his ground and said to Whitney Young that what you say may give you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you the kingdom of truth. Whitney Young became shocked and Whitney pointed at Dr. King’s stomach and said you’re eating well. Henry Wachtel stepped in to pull Dr. King aside to prevent any more tension to occur. Later, both men would discuss in private more cordially about Vietnam and Johnson.
One of the greatest speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be his Riverside speech in New York City on April 4, 1967. CALCAV sponsored the Riverside event and Dr. King agreed to speak there. He received huge applause before he gave his address. Dr. King’s Riverside speech was one of the most eloquent speeches on the Vietnam War. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a strong criticism of the Vietnam War. He gave a summary of the history of the Vietnam War, the error of the U.S. supporting the Hitler loving General Ky, he condemned the use of napalm, and he wanted a revolution of values (where human rights are respected without imperialist adventures overseas). Dr. King condemned poverty and made the great point that the Vietnam War is wrong just like the oppressive conditions of the ghettoes of America. Immediately, the establishment turned on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. after he gave that speech. The NY Times, the Washington Post, and Life Magazine (who slandered the Riverside speech as “a demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi”) all criticized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for his views on the Vietnam War. The leadership of the NAACP, Carl Rowan, The Pittsburgh Courier, Whitney Young, and other black people even criticized Dr. King. Spock and others wanted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to run for President in 1967, but Dr. King refused to do so since he said that he wanted to be his own man (and Dr. King at his best was a preacher and a social activist not a politician). So, SNCC especially, CORE (with the anti-Vietnam War activist Floyd McKissick), and the SCLC opposed the war early on. It would be until Nixon would be President until the NAACP and the Urban League to oppose the Vietnam War.
The National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietanm or MOBE (MOBE was a coalition of anti-war activists) planned on a huge April 15, 1967 rally. Dr. King agreed to join it. Levinson, Rustin, and some of his friends didn’t like the rally since it included communists and they felt that it would include so-called “fringe” people. The Spring Mobilization March of April 15, 1967 would go forward as planned. Thousands of people were there like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harry Belafonte, James Bevel, Dr. Benjamin Spock, and others were there in New York City. There were also a simultaneous march in San Francisco, which was attended by Sister Corretta Scott King. Corretta Scott King was there in Kezar Stadium in San Francisco with Julian Bond to oppose the Vietnam War. Kwame Ture and Floyd McKissick also spoke in NYC too to talk about exposing imperialism. The MOBE rally in NYC had an estimated 100,000 to 125,000 people. There was a more militant tone as some people shown North Vietnamese flags proudly in the protest. Many people burned draft cards. Dr. King led the marchers from Central Park, through Midtown, and to the United Nations Plaza.
Appearing for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces on April 28, 1967 in Houston, Ali refused three times to step forward at the call of his name. An officer warned him he was committing a felony punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $10,000. Once more, Ali refused to budge when his name was called. As a result, he was arrested. On the same day the New York State Athletic Commission suspended his boxing license and stripped him of his title. On June 20, 1967, Muhammad Ali would be convicted. He appeals and eventually wins by the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has praised Muhammad Ali for his anti-Vietnam War stance in public.
In October of 1967, protesters again protested the Dow Company in the University of Wisconsin. Yet, the police responded in a more aggressive fashion. The students were in civil disobedience and sang songs. The university officials try to negiotiate with the protesters to leave peacefully. They refused. So, the police cleared the protesters out via violent force. The police with riot gear charged at the students. Many students were bleeding by the police assault. The cops used tear gas, which was the first time tear gas was used in a college campus. Some in the crowd threw bottles and bricks and then the police used mace. In the same month, protesters tried to stop the draft in Oakland, California as well. So, a diverse array of pacifists and other anti-war activists created the "Stop the Draft Week" from October 16-20, 1967. Members of this campaign included members of the SDS, the War Resisters League, and the anti-draft organization called Resistance. Some used civil disobedience at draft induction centers. Later, the police would be violent against the protesters. The protesters would defend themselves. This caused a new era of the anti-war movement to exist. The SDS by the end of 1967 grew in the thousands.
On December 4, 1967, about 500 protesters saw 88 draft cards collected and burned at the San Francisco Federal Building. Benjamin Spock would be arrested in New York City on December 1967.
1968 would be an escalation of the power of the anti-war movement. Singer Eartha Kitt, while at a luncheon at the White House in January of 1968 would spoke out against the war and its effects on the youth, exclaiming, "you send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed," to her fellow guests. "They rebel in the street. They will take pot...and they will get high. They don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam." Eartha Kitt was right.
On March 17, 1968, violent protests exist in London. There are over 300 arrests. On April 3, a National draft card turn in happens. Over 1,000 draft cards existed. In Boston, 15,000 protesters watched 235 men turn in their draft cards. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would be assassinated on April 4, 1968. Then, rebellions in over 100 cities across America existed in April of 1968. His death changed the anti-war movement and the black liberation struggle forever. More militancy will come. Universities nationwide would protest the war. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy would run for President as anti-war Democrats. Unfortunately, Robert Kennedy would be assassinated on June of 1968. He died on June 6.
The 1968 Democratic National Convention protests was an event that was a key part of the anti-war Movement. Demonstrators came to Chicago in August of 1968 to protest the U.S. war on Vietnam and the forces of reaction in America. The protesters were abused, assaulted, etc. by the Chicago city police. They or the police were acting on orders of the reactionary Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley. Daley was part of a political party that was heavily responsible for the war in Vietnam just like the Republicans too. The “liberal” Johnson administration and the U.S. military told the public that in public that the light was at the end of the tunnel. Yet, in private, they knew that the war was in a vicious stage where there were pessimistic about the conduct of the war. LBJ promoted the false “guns and butter” approach which was about how liberal reform at home and the funding of the war in Vietnam would work to caused economic stability in America. This doesn’t work, because the Great Society was abandoned in some ways in favor of the war in Vietnam (many of the resources sent for the imperialist war in Vietnam could have been used to help rebuild urban and rural areas of America). The Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley opposed demonstrations and other similar activities directed at the convention. So, Daley mobilized his police forces (who are known for racist violence and corruption) and he used the National Guard including other military units to intimidate protesters. The Democrats and the Republicans were war political parties. Humphrey in the convention won the Democratic nomination. Even an anti-war resolution was voted down when it was put forward at the convention. The National Mobilization committee to End the War in Vietnam called for demonstrations in the Chicago convention.
Other anti-war groups like the Yippies decided to protest the Chicago convention. The SDS decided to send people to Chicago to convince the young McCarthy supporters of the need to build a movement outside the Democratic Party, but it didn't mobilize for any of the planned demonstrations. 20,000 demonstrations came to Chicago to protest and the city denied permits to protest outside the convention or any of the candidates’ headquarters. When the protesters’ arrived, the cops beat, maced, and arrested demonstrations or legal activities. Reporters and McCarthy supported were targeted by the police. Photographers had their camera broken and their film confiscated by the police. There was violence in the floor of the convention itself. Even Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut condemned Daley for using Gestapo tactics from the podium. Daley was angry and yelled at Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut. So, the police acted violently and this was a police riot. Humphrey would have trouble to gain votes during the Presidential election. Later in the election, Humphrey broke with Johnson’s policy on Vietnam (by Hubert Humphrey wanted to stop the bombing of North Vietnam and he desired a ceasefire) and he almost won the election, but Richard Nixon won it in 1968.
1969 would be a year of the division in America. The SDS was more radicalized by 1969 and some of its members openly condemned capitalism. Yet, divisions between the SDS and the PLP would cause a split. In 1969, the Weathermen Underground would form by leaving the SDS. The Weathermen overtly used violence in trying to stop imperialism, but many of them advanced nihilistic violence and they had no coherent strategy for real social change. They enacted the failure filled Days of Rage where property was damaged and people. About 287 people would be arrested in Chicago. The National Moratorium against the War demonstrations continue in October 15, 1969 in both Washington, D.C. and Boston. Senator George McGovern gave a speech to a large crowd in Boston. The lottery system of the draft existed by late 1969. 4 young people were killed in Kent State University on May 4, 1970. This caused a massive strike among more than 450 universities and colegs. The anti-war movement reaches its peak in 1971. The working class and veterans were also crucial in the anti-war movement too. Many unions joined anti-Vietnam War protests. The VVAW or the Vietnam Veterans against the War came about to hold congressional panels on the Vietnam War. As late as 1973, there was the massive March against Racism and the War in Washington, D.C.