Friday, December 10, 2004

No More Vietnams - Five

CHAPTER 5 -How We Lost the Peace


Nixon begins by asserting that our military victory of 1973 was abandoned by congress and outlines the short and long term effects of the US failure. He then goes on to prove these assertions. The flaws of the International Commission of Control and Supervision are exposed as is the pressure from the Congress that makes supporting the Peace Agreement difficult. Nixon shows how Hanoi takes advantage of U.S. and international weakness to block and even attack the Commission. Nixon next presents the growing Communist threat in Cambodia and how Congress blocked action against it. Nixon acts and saves Cambodia, for that time, but the antiwar forces are out to stop the President. Ted Kennedy and others block support and hamstring the South Vietnamese war effort. Senator Mansfield actually threatens to shut down our government rather than support Nixon’s efforts to support Cambodia. Nixon is further weakened by the War Powers Act and Watergate. Nixon laments that the backlash against American action in South East Asia will mean that all our sacrifices will be for nothing. He is right. Nixon next describes the struggles of the South Vietnamese to survive once US support is slashed. Congress seems to equate defeat to peace. Problems with the American economy and the world oil supply further frustrate Nixon’s efforts to support our "valiant" allies. All this is good news for Hanoi. Nixon demonstrates that the South Vietnamese did fight valiantly but to no avail. Nixon presents the atrocities of the fall of Cambodia and exposes the Media’s complicity in these atrocities. The fall of Vietnam is next described, followed by the steps taken by the Communists to reshape South Vietnam in their image. Here Nixon tells us what the antiwar people should have and probably did know but refused to see. He gives statistics of the numbers killed and exposes other crimes. Nixon includes a heartrending letter from a high ranking Cambodian official’s refusal to leave his country. Nixon concludes the chapter by explaining the effects of the US desertion of South East Asia and explains what we must learn from our failure.


1. "Vietnamization had succeeded. But United States power was the linchpin holding the peace agreement together. Without a credible threat of renewed American bombing of North Vietnam, Hanoi would be sorely tempted to prepare to invade South Vietnam again. And without adequate American military and economic assistance, South Vietnam would lack the power to turn back yet another such invasion." (Pg 165)

2. "Thousands of Vietnamese were killed in Hanoi’s prison camps, Hundreds of thousands more drowned in the South China Sea as they fled in the pathetic flotillas of the "boat people." And over 2 million Cambodians – a quarter of the country’s population – were killed in a brutal frenzy of communist vengeance and destruction. . . . Our defeat in Vietnam paralyzed America’s will to act in other Third World trouble spots and therefore encouraged aggression on the part of those who had made them trouble spots to begin with." (Pg 166)

3. "All commission rulings on cease-fire violations had to be approved by a unanimous vote of its members. This meant that the North Vietnamese or their Hungarian and Polish allies would be in a position to block all actions Hanoi opposed. . . . I had no intention of waiting for a representative of Hungary or Poland to give his assent before I ordered retaliatory actions against North Vietnam." (Pg 168)

4. "Congress was ready to vote us out of the war if we did not get an agreement. . . . This would have been an abject surrender to North Vietnam’s most extreme demands." (Pg 169)

5. "Hanoi’s definition of a cease-fire was that we cease and they fire." (Pg 171)

6. "Hanoi began blatantly violating the prohibition on sending additional troops and supplies into South Vietnam. . . . In early February our reconnaissance aircraft sighted a convoy of 175 military trucks moving across the demilitarized zone and a column of 223 tanks driving down the Ho Chi Minh Trail toward South Vietnam. . . . By May 1973, Hanoi had shipped in over 35,000 troops and more than 30,000 tons of material." (Pgs 172-173)

7. "It [Hanoi] obstructed the negotiations on creating the National Council of National Reconciliation and concord, . . . Since the commission required unanimous consent for all actions, the Communist-bloc members were able to veto all motions contrary to the interests of the North Vietnamese. . . . North Vietnam . . . now sought to destroy it. On April 7, while flying over Quang Tri Province along Route 9 toward the Laos border, two commission helicopters were shot down by North Vietnamese forces. . . . Canada soon announced its withdrawal from the commission. . . " (Pgs 173-174)

8. "During 1971 and 1972, North Vietnam had built up the Khmer Rouge forces. . . . Congress had legislated severe limitations on our options." (Pg 175)

9. "Our bombing relieved the pressure on Cambodia’s capital and alleviated the danger of an imminent collapse. . . . Our critics accused us of engaging in indiscriminate terror bombing, which they claimed slaughtered hundreds of civilians. But the record shows that our air strikes were directed against enemy military targets and were highly accurate." (Pg 179)

10. ". . . I had lost the last opportunity I would have to use American power to enforce the peace agreement. . . . It was not a failure of presidential will – I was willing to act – but an erosion of congressional support. . . . Antiwar senators and congressmen launched a frontal assault on our policy . . . a prohibition of all direct and indirect American military actions in or around Indochina. . . . They also sought to forbid the sending of reconstruction aid to North Vietnam. When they succeeded with both efforts, Congress had withdrawn both the carrots and the sticks built into the agreement. Hanoi as a result had no reason to comply with its terms." (Pg 178)

11. "Senator Ted Kennedy, who was a principal sponsor of the measure, said, "If we really want peace in Cambodia – and cease-fire arrangements for all of Indochina – then we should be sending our diplomats to help negotiate these arrangements, instead of sending our B-52s to bomb." It was sadly ironic that Kennedy, whose brother had committed the United States to the defense of the free countries of Indochina was leading the fight to abandon them. . . . Our choice was either to bomb or to accept defeat in Cambodia – which would quickly lead to defeat in South Vietnam. Worse still, antiwar critics were naively ignorant of the fact that diplomacy cannot succeed without power to back it up." (Pgs 178-179)

12. "Senator Mansfield then declared that it was his intention "to attach similar riders [to cut off bombing in Cambodia] to every other possible piece of legislation.". . . "If the President does not want to stop the bombing in Cambodia but does want to stop the government from functioning," Mansfield warned, "that is the President’s responsibility."

13. "On June 30, I signed into law the bill containing the bombing cutoff. The amendment read: "None of the funds herein appropriated under this Act may be expended to support direct or indirect combat activities in or over Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam or off the shores of Cambodia, Laos, North Vietnam, and South Vietnam by the United States forces, and after August 15, after August 15, 1973, no other funds heretofore appropriated under any other Act may be expended for such purposes." This defeat stripped me of the authority to enforce the peace agreement in Vietnam – and gave Hanoi’s leaders a free hand against South Vietnam." (Pg 180)

14. "the War Powers Act. . . . stipulated that the President must consult with Congress before intervening with our forces in an armed conflict. . . . I vetoed the War Powers Act . . . Nevertheless, Congress voted to override my veto on November 7." (Pg 181)

15. "In April 1973, Watergate had became the successor to the Vietnam War as the rallying cry for anti-administration critics. . . . It not only began to consume much of my time and concentration, but also steadily chipped away at my executive authority to act in other areas as well." (Pg 181)

16. "I was caught off-guard by the intensity of this backlash [against war in Indochina]. It was inconceivable to me that, after sacrificing over 55,000 lives in a twelve-year struggle to win a just peace settlement in Vietnam, we would casually cast away what our men died to achieve." (Pg 182)

17. "While North Vietnam rushed troops and supplies to the front lines, Congress slashed the amount of military aid budgeted for South Vietnam." (Pg 185)

18. "Antiwar-senators and congressmen argued that our military assistance was "fueling" the war and that reducing aid to Saigon would bring it to an end – as if South Vietnamese troops were in the North and not the other way around. . . . When Congress cut American aid to South Vietnam, it neglected to slow the flow of Soviet aid to North Vietnam." (Pg 186)

19. "Even if the combat rates stayed at the levels of late 1974, the fact was that South Vietnam would simply run out of all ammunition in May 1975. The availability and quality of medical care for South Vietnamese casualties plunged. Wounded soldiers could not count on evacuation helicopters. Stocks of basic medical supplies were depleted to such critical levels that strict conservation measures were ordered. It was even necessary to wash bandages, surgical dressings, intravenous sets, rubber gloves, and hypodermic needles and syringes so they could be reused. . . . Hanoi’s leaders could not believe their good fortune as the antiwar majority in Congress did their work for them." (Pg 194)

20. "In the presidential campaign of 1972, Senator George McGovern claimed that South Vietnam would collapse within seventy-two hours of the final withdrawal of American troops. But it did not collapse then. It did not collapse when Congress took away the threat to Hanoi of an American retaliation in 1973. It did not collapse when Congress sharply reduced its military and economic aid in 1974. It did not collapse until 1975, when all hope of future American aid was lost. For over two years, South Vietnam held off the hordes of invaders from the North. Our news media portrayed the soldiers of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam as cowards. Americans remember the images of desperate troops clinging to the skids of evacuation helicopters or racing with refugees to see who could escape the fighting the fastest. In fact, some South Vietnamese units did fall apart under fire in 1975. . . . it is important to recognize that it is asking a lot of a soldier to fight bravely when his ammunition is rationed and the enemy’s is not. (Pg 201)

21. "Objective military analysts have stated that South Vietnamese soldiers were, man-for-man, better fighters than the North Vietnamese. . . . Congress turned its back on a noble cause and a brave people. . . . Our South Vietnamese friends were asking us to give them the tools so they could finish the job. Congress would not so our allies could not." (Pg 202)

22. "Indochina Without Americans: For Most a Better Life" read the headline of an article in the New York Times . . ." (Pg 202)

23. "Children were forced to watch as their parents were decapitated or stabbed, bludgeoned, or tortured to death. It was a barbaric ritual repeated thousands of times throughout Cambodia. These killing fields later turned into sunken pits as the hundreds of bodies buried underneath began to decay." (Pg 204)

24. "It has been estimated that Khmer Rouge policies killed over 1.2 million Cambodians in 1975 and 1976. Over 100,000 were executed in the first wave of terror. Over 20,000 died while fleeing the country. Over 400,000 were killed in the Mass exodus from Cambodia’s cities. Over 680,000 were executed or died of disease or starvation in the New Villages in the countryside. . . . By 1978 . . . it is estimated that between 2 million and 3 million Cambodians had died at the hands fo those who had called themselves "liberators." (Pg 205)

25. "Hanoi developed three ways of dealing with those it considered enemies. First the communists built a Vietnamese gulag . . . Second Hanoi sends those it considers potentially disloyal to what it calls New Economic Zones. . . . Third, the Communists caused the exodus of over 1.2 million people in the tragic flotillas of the boat people. . . . Observers estimated that half – 600,000 people – drowned at sea." (Pgs 206-207)

26. "Their [those in the antiwar movement] vicious brand of self-righteousness had grotesquely twisted their moral sense. . . . Today, after Communist governments have killed over half million Vietnamese and over 2 million Cambodians, the conclusive moral judgment has been rendered on our effort to save Cambodia and South Vietnam: We have never fought in a more moral cause. Assertions in the antiwar mews media that life in Indochina would be better after our withdrawal served to high-light in a tragic way the abysmally poor level of their reporting throughout the war. But of all their blatantly inaccurate statements over the years, none was more hideously wrong than that one." (Pg 209)

27. "Dear Excellency and Friend,

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me toward freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which have chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. . . .

Sisowath Sirik Matak [former Premier of Cambodia]." (Pg 209)

28. "After we abandoned the use of power, it was seized by the North Vietnamese and Khmer Rouge Communists." (Pg 210)

29. "A lesson that our adversaries should learn from our intervention in Vietnam is that the United States, under resolute and strong leadership, will go to great lengths and endure great sacrifices to defend its allies and interests." (Pg 210)

30. "One lesson we must learn from Vietnam is that if we do not exercise power for the good, there are plenty of men like Ho Chi Minh, Khieu Samphan, and Pol Pot who will gladly exercise it for evil purposes. Our armed intervention in the Vietnam War was not a brutal and immoral action. That we came to the defense of innocent people under attack by totalitarian thugs is no moral indictment. . . . South Vietnam and Cambodia were worthy of our help -- and the 3 million people who were killed in the war’s aftermath deserved to be saved. Our abandonment of them in their moment of greatest need was not worthy of our country." (Pg 210)

31. "Another lesson we must learn is that in the real world peace is inseparable from power. . . . Our cause must be peace. But we must recognize that greater evils exist than war. Communist troops brought peace to South Vietnam and Cambodia – but it was the peace of the grave." (Pg 211)

1 comment:

Dr. Health said...

The fall of Vietnam is next described, followed by the steps taken by the Communists to reshape South Vietnam in their image.