Tuesday, December 07, 2004

No More Vietnams - Four

CHAPTER FOUR - How We Won the War


Nixon begins Chapter Four by claiming that although the United States won the Vietnam War, Congress would not support the peace. When Nixon comes to office he had to manage a situation that had evolved over the terms of four presidents. Nixon outlines Kennedy’s mistake - choosing a diplomatic and not a military solution to Communist aggression, and Johnson’s mistake - trying to maintain congressional support for the "Great Society" by pledging a bombing halt. Nixon presents the choices confronting him when he came to office and his decisions regarding them. He describes the political forces he faced and the determination of the North Vietnamese with which American had to contend. Nixon defends the "secret bombing" of Cambodia. He explains how he had to appeal over the heads of the Congress and the press directly to the American people in his "Silent Majority" speech. Nixon indites the media, explaining why the Cambodian campaign was necessary and how the media and academics blamed the U. S. for the atrocities of the Communists. Nixon next turns his attention to draft dodgers and the anti-war movement. He judges then on their motives. Nixon says outright that the "best and brightest" went to Vietnam not to Canada. He talks about the radical, often violent, nature of the war protestors and points out the devastating effect they had on the war effort. There is plenty of foreshadowing here of the criticism John Kerry will face. Nixon describes how the South Vietnamese were integrated into the conflict. He describes how Congress and the Media interfered in the war. He particularly condemns the media’s treatment of our South Vietnamese allis and the exploitation of the Pentagon Papers. Nixon demonstrates how the Congress and the press fully turn against the war even as the South Vietnamese are proving themselves in battle. North Vietnam’s response to the successes of the South Vietnamese is to use the Media to manipulate the U. S. Congress. Nixon expresses his own hatred of the war and the divisiveness it brings to America. Nixon laments the bitter death of L. B. J. He concludes the chapter explaining how the U. S. won the war the only way it could, by setting up the conditions to keep the peace.


1. "On January 27, 1973 . . . we had won the war in Vietnam. We had attained the one political goal for which we had fought the war: The South Vietnamese people would have the right to determine their own political future. . . . But in the United States, the people were tiring of the burdens of the war, and congressional opposition soon began to build. We had a limited period of time to prevail in Vietnam before the political support we needed to fight the war evaporated in Congress." (Pg - 97)

2. "John F. Kennedy declared: "let every nation know, whether it wishes us well of ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." . . . But he backed away from taking strong action to match his strong words." (Pg 99)

3. ". . . he [Johnson] refused to give his military commanders the authority to conduct the war in the way that would have won it. He desperately wanted to end the war by negotiations. To demonstrate his desire for peace, he repeatedly ordered pauses in the bombing of North Vietnam – all of which he ruefully told me in 1969, had been mistakes." (Pg 100)

4. "We could have bombed the elaborate system of irrigation dikes in North Vietnam, though this would have resulted in floods that would have killed hundreds of thousands of civilians. Or we could have used tactical nuclear weapons against enemy forces. . . . Our goal, they [some of Nixon’s advisors] argued, should not be to defeat the enemy but to stay long enough so that after we withdrew there would be a "decent interval" before South Vietnam fell to the Communists. . . . As President, I could not ask any young American to risk his life for an unjust or unwinnable cause. . . . To seek peace at any price was no answer to an enemy who sought victory at any price. . . . I considered it unthinkable that we would fight a bitter war for four years, lose 30,000 men, and spent tens of billions of dollars for the goal of getting our POW’s back." (Pg 103)

5. "Our goal was not to conquer North Vietnam but to prevent North Vietnam from conquering South Vietnam." (Pg 104)

6. "I knew it would not be possible to sustain public and congressional support for our military efforts unless we could demonstrate that we were exploring every avenue for ending the war through negotiations." (Pg 106)

7. "In February 1969, while we were negotiating in Paris and preparing a new peace initiative to probe Hanoi’s intentions, the North Vietnamese launched a savage offensive in South Vietnam. Communist forces killed 453 American in the first week, 336 in the second, 351 in the third." (Pg 107)

8. "In March we decided to bomb one of theses bases in retaliation. We also decided to keep the bombing secret. We did this for two reasons: We wanted to avoid the domestic uproar that might result from a publicized air strike, and we wanted to avoid putting Prince Norodom Sihanouk, Cambodia’s head of state, in a perilous political position. . . . Om March 18, our first bombing run in Cambodia took place. It was a great success" (Pg 106)

9. "Some critics later contended that the secret bombing was an illegal abuse of presidential power. There was no substance to this charge. No reasonable interpretation of the Constitution could conclude that a President, as commander in chief, was forbidden from attacking areas occupied by enemy forces and used by them as bases from which to strike at American and allied troops, Congress was consulted within the limits imposed by the necessary secrecy of the operations." (Pg 110)

10. "I then explained that a unilateral withdrawal from Vietnam would be a disaster for the cause of peace in the world. . . . Peace could not be won through a withdrawal bordering on surrender. "It would not bring peace," I said, "It would bring more. war." . . . I sought to go over the heads of the antiwar opinion makers in the media and to appeal directly to the American people for unity: "And so tonight – to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans – I ask for your support." . . . Let us be united for peace. Let us also be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that." (Pg 114-115)

11. "The American news media had come to dominate domestic debate about the purpose and conduct of the war in Vietnam and about the nature of the enemy. . . . But it conveyed little or no sense of the underlying purpose of the fighting." (Pg 115)

12. ". . . condemning the United States for invading neutral Cambodia – in the sense of committing an aggressive act – was as absurd as condemning Britain from invading neutral Holland in 1944." (Pg 121)

13. "We prevented the fall of Cambodia and relieved the pressure on Phnom Penh. We undercut North Vietnam’s offensive striking power and thereby bought time to press forward with Vietnamization. Our Cambodian incursion was the most successful military operation of the entire war. Of all the myths about the Vietnam War, the most vicious one is the idea that the United States was morally responsible for the atrocities committed after the fall of Cambodia in 1974. . . . To assign blame for the genocide in Cambodia to those in the United States who sought to prevent a Communist victory, rather than to the Communists who committed the atrocities, is an immoral act in and of itself." (Pgs 123-124)

14. ". . . most [draft dodgers] were not acting out of moral convictions. Many, drawn into the moral vacuum of the 1960's, saw no moral issue at stake in the war. Some of them felt that we had nothing worth fighting for because they had lost faith in what the United States stood for in the world. Others felt that we had nothing worth fighting against because they believed that life in North Vietnam was as good as or better than life in South Vietnam. . . . Like most draft dodgers in our previous wars, including the two world wars, they were understandably afraid of risking their lives." (Pg 125)

15. "Antiwar protesters were another matter. Some were pacifists who opposed all wars, or idealists who believed our values were being corrupted by the Vietnam War. Others were pragmatists who did not believe that this war could be won. Still other were isolationists who did not want to see the United States play a world role. But many key leaders of the antiwar movement were hard-core militants of the New Left who hated the United States and wanted to see our country humiliated in Vietnam. They did not hide their allegiance. They openly flew the Viet Cong flag at their rallies. Destroying the American system was their goal, and they did not shrink from using violence to try to achieve it." (Pgs 125 - 126)

16. "Whatever my view of their motives – and whatever their estimate of mine – the practical effect of their actions was to give encouragement to the enemy to fight on or refuse to negotiate a peace. That the brightest and the best in our great educational institutions could not recognize that their peace protests prolonged the war is one of the tragic ironies of the Vietnam era. More than once North Vietnamese negotiators taunted our delegates at the Paris peace talks and Henry Kissinger at our secret negotiations by quoting the statements of antiwar leaders on our campuses and in the Congress." (Pg 127)

17. "Our best young men did not go to Canada. They went to Vietnam." (Pg 128)

18. "News media reporting portrayed our troops as divided along racial lines, undisciplined and addicted to drugs, and guilt-ridden over their involvement in the war. None of these problems was unique to the Vietnam War. But all of them were exaggerated in the press. It was commonly asserted during the war that blacks constituted a disproportionate number of combat casualties and that this injustice, in turn, stirred racial animosities. But in fact casualties among blacks were not out of proportion to their share of the population. My March 1973, when blacks comprised 13.5 percent of all American men of military age, blacks accounted for 12.3 percent of combat deaths." (Pg 128)

19. "All our fighting men were heroes . . . but our prisoners of war, who had been courageous in action and even more courageous in captivity, were among the most remarkable heroes of the Vietnam War. . . . During the war, the news media virtually ignored reports that trickled out about the mistreatment of our prisoners and were bamboozled by antiwar activists engaged in a concerted propaganda campaign to portray North Vietnam’s treatment of our prisoners as humane. . . . These antiwar activists knew or should have know what was going on." (Pg 128)

20. "Congressional restrictions made it illegal for us to use American ground troops in Laos." (Pg 136)

21. "The documents had been illegally turned over to the Times. . . . Because it was written in 1968, it could contain nothing about my administration’s actions. . . . Most of the accusations were based on grotesque distortions of the historical record." (Pg 139)

22. "Since 1969, we had been faced with the danger of Congress legislating an end to our involvement. Anti-war senators and congressmen had been introducing resolutions to force us to trade a total withdrawal of our troops for the return of our POWs. By 1972, the Senate was regularly passing these measures, and the votes in the House were getting close. We were able to prevent the passage of the bills only because our withdrawal announcements provided those whose support for the war was wavering with tangible evidence that our involvement was winding down.

23. "At both Anloc and Quang Tri, North Vietnamese troops indiscriminately fired artillery shells into crowds of refugees who were fleeing the fighting. Thousands were killed. In Communist-occupied areas of Binh Dinh Province, there were public executions of hundreds of individuals suspected of having ties to the Saigon government. In one hamlet, forty-seven local officials were buried alive, In Quang Ngai Province, Communists troops strung land mines around forty victims and then, as their wives and children watched, detonated the mines, blowing the helpless captives to bits." (Pg 144)

24. "Antiwar critics and the news media competed with each other in denouncing our action [mining of North Vietnam’s ports, and the bombing of prime military targets] One senator remarked that the decision was "reckless and wrong." Another said that "the President must not have a free hand in Indochina any longer." One newspaper called the decision a "desperate gamble" and urged that Congress could cut off funds for the war to "save the President from himself and the nation from disaster." Another claimed that the President "has lost touch with the real world." One legislator topped them all when he breathlessly intoned that the President "has thrown down the gauntlet of nuclear war to a billion people in the Soviet Union and China . . . Armageddon may be only hours away." (Pg 146)

25. "In the spring of 1972, South Vietnam’s army had held off the North Vietnamese onslaught without the assistance of any American ground combat troops. . . . [they] had proved that, if properly equipped and led, it could hold its own against North Vietnam’s best troops." (Pg 150-151)

26. "If we did not settle the war quickly, Congress would probably legislate an end to the war in January. (Pg 155)

27. "Meanwhile, the North Vietnamese had decided to try to take advantage of our differences with Saigon. Hanoi had come to two conclusions: that a lack of progress in the talks would be blamed on Thieu [President of South Vietnam] and that, if an agreement was not forthcoming Congress would pull the rug from under us. Therefore, its delegates started to stall."

28. "Our bombing provoked hysterical outbursts form our critics. A news magazine wrote that "civilized man will be horrified at the renewed spectacle of the world’s mightiest air force mercilessly pounding a small Asian nation in an abuse of national power and disregard of humanitarian principles." One newspaper wrote that it caused millions of Americans "to cringe in shame and to wonder at their President’s very sanity." On columnist said the bombing was the action of "maddened tyrant." and another stated that we had "loosed the holocaust." One senator said it was a "stone-age tactic." Another called it "the most murderous aerial bombardment in the history of the world" and "a policy of mass-murder that’s being carried on in the name of the American people." Seldom has so much heated rhetoric been so wrong." (Pg 157)

29. "I hated the Vietnam War. But even more, I hated all wars. I knew that I must not end the Vietnam War in a way that would lead to more and larger wars in the future." (Pg 160)

30. "What distinguished the war in Vietnam was the trauma we suffered on the home front. It was the most divisive foreign war in American history. . . . It turned many in the news media who previously prided themselves on being objective into viciously biased critics of the American war effort. . . . Equal credibility was granted to enemy propaganda and United States government statements; and while our statements were greeted with skepticism, North Vietnam’s word was taken at face value. . . . The Vietnam War started the tradition of "adversary journalism’ that still poisons our national political climate today." (Pgs 161- 162)

31. "The war in Vietnam had destroyed this intensely proud, strong, and patriotic President [LBJ] just as if he had been killed in battle. Over and over he had heard the obscene chant "Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" (Pgs 163-163)

32. "I know that the enemy would keep the peace only if he was convinced that the price of breaking it would exceed whatever gain he could make by doing so." (Pg 163)

1 comment:

Dr. Health said...

He explains how he had to appeal over the heads of the Congress and the press directly to the American people in his "Silent Majority" speech.