Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Vietnam: An Independent Study (July 20)

Vietnam: A Television History - Part 9 - Peace is at Hand (1968-1973)
In Feb 1965, Nixon said that the US must "show the Red Chinese that the United States will not stand by and allow any power, however great, take over another country by aggression."
The statement is comical if so many hadn’t died. I guess it is true because Nixon didn’t say anything about the US doing it. (You ain't standing by cos you was doing it!)
-There is further info about the Vietnamization of the war.
-Ho Chi Minh dying, huge turnout (and I know from the book that he didn't want a monument but they build one. He actually wanted to be cremated and his ashes put in the 3 main parts of Vietnam and instead of mourning or flowers, visitors could plant a tree so eventually there would be forests).
-Fascinatingly, Americans troops, some just back from Vietnam, were deployed to Washington to protect thh captial from demonstrators Nov 15, 1969. Around 250,000 marched on Washington.
- Some believe that any protesters cost American lives as it helped the Vietnamese (the good old 'aid and comfort' to our enemy routine).
-Nixon said that the US must go into to Cambodia to attack the North Vietnamese control centre... it was never found.
-Kissinger secretly meeting with the Communists since 1969
- In 1972, Nixon went to China, and soon after Russia. The trips were for many reasons, but also to have them stop supporting the North
- In March the North attacks strongly, and the US had to deal with how to respond without troops? Well, you mine the harbours and keep on bombing
-The US was content with an agreement reached with Hanoi in Paris. Saigon got the text of the agreement in English... they were not happy. Saigon was never given the explicit content.... and they didn't like it. Why accept the North in the South? But Kissinger said all proposals were seen and approved by Thieu. The North north made it public.
- In the election Nixon wins by landslide, but there was a hostile congress.
- During the peace talks, North won't give in, US threatens bombing... and then does it.
- The bombing supposedly consisted of 'entirely military targets.' Yet on Dec 22, American bombs hit a Hanoi hospital for the second time. Civilians complained of deaths.
- The doc implied the bombing worked, but also states the new terms (in 1973) were pretty much the same as in October: South was one country with two govs, reconcile, US troops would leave, Northern forces could remain in the South.
- In Jan 27, 1973, all parties signed the agreement, but to North and South , Vietnam was still divided.
-600 American airmen, prisoners of war, were released.

The Vietnam Wars - Chapter 13 - 1971-1973
This was very useful to read after just watching the television chapter above as it covered similar content, but the narrative was different.
Many of the general details about the negotiations and the time lines and Thieu's rejection, than acceptance of things were the same, but the doc made it seem like US bombing forced Hanoi to the table. Alternatively, Young presents it as Hanoi was willing to come to table after its offensive and the 3 months of bombing didn't change anything. Negroponte joked that the US "bombed Hanoi into accepting the US's concessions."
Young stated that Saigon had the fourth largest air force (due to US support).
Young points out that Nixon got away with bombing various countries until Congress finally cut him off in 1973 (not explicitly mentioned in the doc chapter above)
Similarly, the sheer number of protesters that marched and demonstrated against the war was staggering. Thousands upon thousands were met with thousands of government police/troops and waves of tear gas. Incredible.
The book had a great little section on the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), which was formed in 1967. William L. Calley was held primarily responsible for the My Lai massacre. As the VVAW thought the public should know more about how this wasn't uncommon behaviour they had their own 'rebuttal' of sorts by having over one hundred veterans and 16 civilians, over three days at a Howard Johnson in Detroit, describe their acts of war. "The witnesses... described acts they had witnessed, acts they had performed: rape, torture, petty brutalities, the routine killing of non-combatants." (p.256)
I had previously wondered how Nixon managed to get re-elected considering the bombing and the deaths and the release of the Pentagon Papers. This section was useful to offer one perspective:
"'The American voter is willing to vote for Nixon Now," one television news executive told a British journalist, "because the voter, who is also the viewer, thinks Nixon has ended the war. And he has ended the war, because you don't see the war on the tube any more. So the war has ended, though we are bombing the hell out of those poor people, more than ever." And if the war was over, what were all those people doing demonstrating in the streets? Nixon's answer and all the campaign strategy that flowed from it were simple: the protesters themselves were the issue - their denigration of American values, their ingratitude to the system that nurtured them, their whining complaints about a war Nixon was clearly ending.' (p. 262)


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