Sunday, August 22, 2004
Viet Nam according to Warren
Somebody asked me to do this for them, in an informal way, on a message board.
These are not all my words. I have C&P much, then simplified it and left out the unnecessary. Although I remember the general outline and important information, its hard to remember the details after so many years. I will not answer request for links although I MIGHT argue with you about it. Some of the replies are noted as quoted text within the post and it isnt in complete chronological order.
***8/25 I'm a Viet Nam (Era) vet. Sorry for any confusion. ***
The people of Vietnam had been at war with each other and their neighbors for about 300 years before we became involved.
The roots of US involvement go back to WW2 and the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, Korea and China. Communist forces (Marxist), made alliances with other political factions in those countries to fight the Japanese. In China, Mao made an alliance with the Nationalist Chinese and turned on them at the end of the war forcing them to flee to Taiwan to escape. Red China became a client state of the Soviet Union (USSR or CCCP) and adopted the policy of exporting Marxist Revolution throughout the world. Marxist Revolution in practice is enforced totalitarianism and in every case involved the murder of millions of innocent people, possibly more than 23 million in the USSR and even more in the purges and so called "revolutions" in China. Millions more in Cambodia and the Baltic States.
Prior to WW2 Vietnam had been a French colony. In 1946 at the end of the war with Japan, French troops landed to occupy their former colony and immediately encountered the fierce resistance of Vietnamese nationalists determined to protect their newly won independence. There followed six months of indecisive negotiations. During this period, French troops were permitted to land in the North.
By December 1946, it became clear than no agreement could be reached and Viet Minh forces attacked the French on a wide front. The war which resulted lasted for eight years and ended with the Geneva Agreement in July 1954, which divided Viet Nam at the 17th parallel into two parts (the Northern part was reserved to the Communists, and the Southern to the nationalists).
The keystone of 1954 Geneva Agreement was the cessation of hostilities in Viet Nam but the Communists in the North organized, directed and supplied armed forces operating against the South, forcing the government of South Viet Nam to seek help in taking defensive measures. On October 1st, 1954 President Eisenhower (of the US) decided to assist the government of South Viet Nam, in developing and maintaining a strong, viable state, capable of resisting attempted subversion or aggression through military means. In 1962, President Kennedy, at the request of the South Viet Nam government established the US Military Assistance Command sustained it by modern airpower and antiguerilla special forces.
In 1963, two days after the death of President Kennedy, President Johnson reaffirmed the US intention to continue its military and economic support for South Viet Nam in its struggle against the aggression from North Viet Nam.
Although there was a pretext that the war in South Viet Nam was a popular war waged by guerrilla fighters in the South, in actuality it was a war of Communist aggression waged by the North against the South which is undeniable when you look at the end of the war and who negotiated with the South and the US without any of the so-called Vietcong included in the negotiations.
After the fall of South Viet Nam at least 65,000 people were executed for political reasons.
Yes the US fought Communism throughout the world. If you find that somehow to be reprehensible then possibly you don't value freedom or human life as much as many Americans do. It is always easy to criticize others for doing a difficult job, it's much easier to do nothing and make soothing noises that mean nothing.
In the 1930s Europe sat on its collective ass and did nothing (while it was still able) as Hitler and Germany dragged the world into war.
The Armistice that ended hostilities in WW1 was violated time and again by Germany but instead of doing the (hard) thing and enforce the Armistice treaty, European Nations followed a path of appeasement that led directly to WW2 and the death of millions.
The same thing has been going on in Iraq for the last 10 years since the end of the Gulf war. Instead of enforcing the treaty that ended the Gulf War, Europe (once again) would follow a path of appeasement. ***I originally put this togeather in 2002.***
I'll go through by point and sight the history of the war as I go. The reason I didn't go into this before is it becomes very complicated because of all the people and groups involved, and the length of time the war went on.
We won the war on the battlefield but owing to many things, (the corruption of the South Viet Nam government, the attitude of our politicians [Lyndon Johnson mainly], the undermining by Marxist groups in our own country and a general unwillingness by our population in general to pay the price). We lost at the bargaining table and South Viet Nam was the biggest loser in the whole rotten deal.
IMO, probably the most disgraceful thing this country ever did was abandon SVN people that were our allies to the mercy of the NVN. I feel that we are equally responsible for those 65,000 executions when the NVN took over. (From now on I'll use the convention SVN & NVN for South & North Viet Nam and VC for Viet Cong).
In October 1955 a referendum was held and Ngo Dinh Diem became the first ruler of the Republic of South Viet Nam. The North became the Democratic Republic of Vietnam under the rule of Nguyen Ai Quoc (Ho Chi Minh).
Between 1955 and 1974 NVN & SVN had no diplomatic, cultural, or commercial relations with each other. From the end of the 1950s, a virtual state of war existed between the two countries. NVNs intensified armed and revolutionary activities made reunification through free elections impossible.
Meanwhile, the United States had reinforced Diem's troops and in three years had transformed SVN into something of an "American protectorate". December 1960 saw the creation of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (FNL) which began launching revolutionary activities against the unstable regime in the South, under the banner of national liberation. The Southern communist movement, christened the Viet Cong by Diem's government, grew considerably during 1961 and 1962.
Facing mounting popular pressures, Diem ordered repressive measures against the Buddhist Church. This move provoked a wave of suicides by Buddhist who set fire to themselves in protest against the regime. On June 11, 1963, Thich Quang Due, a 66 year old monk, immolated himself on a street corner in Saigon in protest of Diem's anti-Buddhist campaign (maybe you have see the pictures that were in Time Magazine). The flames, which consumed him, signaled the beginning of the end for President Diem's regime. Diem and his brother were murdered by Diem's own officers following a coup d'etat on November 1, 1963.
The following years brought a succession of coups, which destabilized the nationalist regime in SVN. Several generals and civilian politicians took it in turn to preside over the unstable Saigon/ SVN regime. In April 1967, the constitution of the Second Republic of South Vietnam was proclaimed and in September, General Nguyen Van Thieu was elected president. South Vietnam's principal aim was to gain the free world's understanding and support for its struggle against NVN and its Southern political arm, the National Liberation Front (NLF/ VC).
Quote:why were the Buddhists all up in arms (figuratively) about the SVN regime?
Partly it was because the Buddhists are as a group non-violent and partly it was because most of the South Viet Nam government was Catholic (French Missionaries and Catholic Schools). Indeed most of the Vietnamese I know are Catholic.
They squeezed the Buddhists out of governmental positions.
The uneducated villagers and fishermen tended to be Buddhists, if anything, so they had popular support. I believe that Diem looked on them as natural allies of the Communists.
Quote: if it was an American protectorate (in some sense), then would not SVN have been democratic?
It was formed as a Republic but you can't just take illiterate people and make them understand Democracy overnight. The Deim regime was somewhat corrupt but not as bad as what was to follow. In a nation involved in war there are many opportunities for the greedy to make money.
The Communists played on class envy and took every opportunity to increase the corruption.
Quote:was the hold of the Buddhists threatened by this regime?
Yes, but Deim made a mistake cracking down on them.
Diem, was under pressure (of course). By its nature Buddhism tends toward socialism and teaches pacifism in the face of oppression. Diem was Catholic as were his government officials. Buddhism was the prevalent religion in SV. With Buddhists protesting his government and urging the population not to comply, it would eventually become impossible for him to keep his government in power and at the same time fight the NV/VC.
I believe he saw the Buddhists as natural allies of the NV/VC, especially when they started protesting his government.
Ultimately I believe that we must hold Johnson at fault because of the responsibility of leadership that goes with the highest office in the land.
Lyndon Johnson was a profoundly insecure man who feared dissent and craved reassurance. In 1964 and 1965, Johnson's principal goals were to win the presidency in his own right and to pass his Great Society legislation through Congress. The Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, was particularly adept at sensing the president's needs and giving him the advice he wanted. Lyndon Johnson knew that he faced a difficult choice between war and disengagement in Vietnam. However, because such a decision would alienate key constituencies on which his domestic goals depended, he sought a middle course aimed at ">placating those on both sides of the issue. McNamara developed the strategy of "graduated pressure" that, along with the profound dishonesty of LBJ and his closest advisers, prevented a debate on Vietnam until it was too late. America was already at war long before the American public recognized that fact. Not only was LBJ's conduct undemocratic, it also removed an important corrective to what was an unwise policy.
LBJ determined what level of military force was politically palatable in the short term, made it available to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and told them to do the best they could with what they got. That is why we had lots of military activity in Vietnam (bombing North Vietnam and killing the enemy in South Vietnam)without a clear idea of how that activity represented progress. That is also why many brave, patriotic men took risks and made sacrifices without knowing how those risks and sacrifices were contributing toward an end of the war. That is why, along with the recognition that they had been lied to for years, many Americans lost faith in the effort.
From November 1963 to July 1965 Lyndon Johnson made the critical decisions that took the United States into war almost without realizing it. The decisions, and the way in which he made them, had a profound effect on the conduct of the war and its outcome.
Robert McNamara was once a statistician in the Army Air Force during World War II, and later, the President of Ford Motor Company. John F. Kennedy enticed McNamara to Washington to head the Defense Dept and Lyndon B. Johnson inherited him at Kennedys death.
In public testimony given in the mid-1980s, McNamara said he had decided the war could not be won militarily as early as 1965--just as he was sending tens of thousands of soldiers into combat.
Instead of the result of the effort to contain communism, the war was only made possible through lies and deceptions aimed at the American public, Congress, and members of Lyndon Johnson's own administration. The decisions Johnson and McNamara made mired the United States in a costly war that could not be won at a cost acceptable to the American public.
During the period in which Vietnam became an American war, Lyndon Johnson and Robert McNamara created the illusion that attacks on North Vietnam were alternatives to war rather than war itself. Thus was born the policy of "> limited warfare.
Once the United States crossed the threshold of war against North Vietnam, the future course of events depended not only on decisions made in Washington, but also on enemy responses and initiatives. Pentagon war games predicted the enemy reaction, a massive offensive on the ground, but McNamara ignored that advice. Indeed, many people within the administration made compelling arguments against the assumption that bombing would affect Hanoi's will sufficiently to convince North Vietnam to desist from its support of the insurgency in the South. Until the massive deployment of ground troops in 1965 forced him to confront the consequences of his earlier decisions, McNamara continued to view the war as another business management problem. The notion that air power alone could solve the military and political problems of Vietnam was based in ignorance and the advocacy of air power zealots.
McNamara developed an attack of conscience in February 1968 and resigned his position as Secretary of Defense.
In a way I believe that LBJ looked at the war as just another situation to be manipulated for political benefit and the greater glory Lyndon B. Johnson. Unfortunately for him, it was his political downfall.
It may have finally dawned on McNamara that Viet Nam wasn't winnable but I believe that is was, if that had been the intention to start with. McNamara and Johnson thought that they could fight the NV to a stand still if they only escalated the pressure to match what was needed.
We could have won if we had acknowledged right off the bat that it was a war against NV and not against insurgents in the south. If we had made the ground war the responsibility of SV instead of "Americanizing" it. We could have provided them with whatever support they needed and we should not have supported corrupt leaders in the South.
Instead we more or less "brushed" the SV army aside and acted in a schizophrenic manor, sometimes acting like we were fighting an indigenous guerrilla army and at the same time bombing the north.
The NV could have been defeated simply by bombing the Dikes that kept the rice fields from being flooded out in monsoon season and starving them out.
LBJ was a complicated and interesting (but not in a nice way). But by all accounts he was a crooked politician. I'm sure that part of the reason was to drum up support in congress for his Great Society programs (Welfare, Medicare, AFDC - aid to families with dependent children, desegregation, affirmative action). Gathering votes and political trades.
I heard a taped conversation he had with a prominent politician. LBJ told him "I'm the GD President and you'll vote the way I tell you to or else!" (As close as I can remember the exact wording). One of his famous quotes was "I trust no man unless I have his dick in my pocket! He was a manipulator and I imagine that he had several reasons.
Quote:when 65,000 political executions take place...that is not a good base to form a country on.
Every Communist government in this world has started in the same fashion. First a promise of equality and increased wealth, then bloody revolution and a purge that ends with the disappearance/deaths of everyone who opposed the revolution. The equality and wealth never appear and the newly formed "workers paradise" becomes more repressive than whatever government it replaces.
These numbers are probably slightly inflated but even if they are off by 50%, they are staggering in number.
USSR under Stalin:
30 million great purge related deaths
25 million during collectivization of farms
18 million deaths by genocide against the Cossacks
15 million deaths in Poland during the partitioning by Hitler and Stalin
5 million deaths in the Baltic states
3 million as a result of the failed counterrevolution in Hungary
In Communist Russia under Lenin:
approximately 2.3 million (not counting deaths in battle of combatants during the civil war in Russia, as combatants are fair game)
USSR from Kruschev to Gorby:
18-22 million deaths total (executions, genocide, gulag, etc.)
18 million peasants opposed to communism killed
25-50 million in gulags killed
60 million killed in cultural revolution
45 million killed in Great Leap Forward
Vietnamese democide: 1,040,000 (1975-87)
Camp Deaths: 95,000
Forced Labor: 48,000
Democides in Cambodia: 460,000
Democides in Laos: 87,000
Boat People: 500,000 deaths (50% not blamed on the Vietnamese govt.)
The Peace Accords!
The U.S. pledged to cease hostilities (ground, air, naval, deactivate or destroy mines in all waterways). Cease-fire in-place also applied to other belligerents. Total withdrawal to be completed in 60 days.
A four-power joint military commission would oversee cease-fire and troop and adviser withdrawal, to be completed in 60 days. Military bases of U.S. to be dismantled in same period.
No introduction (by either Vietnamese party) of new troops, advisers, etc. or arms and war materials into their respective cease-fire zones; this article to be supervised by Four-Power Joint Military Commission.
All parties committed to no further acts of force. This prohibition also included terrorism and reprisals. Both Vietnamese sides were permitted to replace arms and war materials destroyed damaged, or worn-out, under supervision of the Joint Military Commission.
Return of all captured military personnel and foreign civilians within 60-day period, also under supervision of the Joint Military Commission.
Exercise of South Viet Nam's right of self-determination, asserting the 1954 division of Viet Nam as provisional and not political or territorial in nature.
North and South Viet Nam to begin peaceful negotiations on establishing normal relations and reunification.
An International Conference (within thirty days) to acknowledge the signed agreements, guarantee the ending of the war, the peace of Indochina, and the right of self-determination by the South Vietnamese people.
Reconciliation and normalization of relations between the U.S. and the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam. We promised postwar reconstruction aid.
The Paris Peace Accords were signed by the U. S., South Viet Nam, North Viet Nam, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government on 27 January 1973. It restricted the U.S. to a maximum of 50 military personnel in South Viet Nam. Agreement on ending the war and restoring peace in Viet Nam.
There were charges and counter charges of land grabbing, deception, and deceit by both the North and South Vietnamese.
The International Commission for Control and Supervision, virtually powerless, found enforcement of the Paris Peace Accords impossible. The North Vietnamese indifference and flagrant disregard of the peace terms so frustrated Canada that it gave proper notice and quit the commission on 31 July 1973. Announcement of the decision to withdraw came on the heels of the 15 July Viet Cong release of two Canadian observers whom the Communists had illegally seized and held captive since the 28th of June. After a personal request from President Richard M. Nixon to Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, Iran agreed to replace Canada on the ICCS and on 29 August its first observers arrived in South Viet Nam. The new member soon learned what Canada and the other members of the ICCS already knew: some of the signatories to the Paris Peace Agreement had chosen to ignore their own words. Just prior to its departure from Southeast Asia, Canada charged that North Viet Nam regularly had been violating Article 7 "... by moving thousands of troops into South Viet Nam and that the infiltration was continuing on a 'massive' scale.
The Communists argued that the United States did not adhere to the spirit of the Accords. General Tran Van Tra, the Viet Cong representative to the Four-Power Commission, maintained that the United States and South Viet Nam attempted to use the agreement, "in accordance with their existing plans, ... to pacify, encroach, and build a strong army in order to change the balance of forces in their favor and gain
Between 27 January and 27 March 1973 the last American military forces left South Viet Nam. U.S. Army soldiers and U.S. Air Force airmen board a plane bound for the United States while representatives of the four-power Joint Military Commission observed.
Even more critical than the issue of total removal of U.S. forces and their allies from South Viet Nam was the question of what to do with North Vietnamese troops still occupying RVN territory. Despite serving as voting members of the Joint Military Commission responsible for maintenance of the peace, the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong openly violated the cease-fire agreement. Using force wherever necessary to accomplish political ends, Communist military activities focused on strategically important areas. One such area and the site of numerous cease-fire violations was the Mekong River which played a central role in the resupply of Cambodia and U.S. support of that government.
On 29 June 1973, Congress altered that role when it voted on the Case-Church Amendment, a measure to end military assistance to Cambodia. Unlike its predecessor, the Cooper-Church Amendment that had attempted to ban combat activity in Cambodia in 1970, this rider to a continuing funding resolution passed. It prohibited the United States, after 15 August 1973, from engaging in any combat activity in Indochina.
Under the direction of General Van Tien Dung, the Ho Chi Minh Campaign was the final assault on Saigon between April 26 and April 30,1975. During late March and early April, Dung moved eighteen North Vietnamese Army (NVA) divisions into place within a 40-mile radius of Saigon. Dung's attack plan worked flawlessly. The fighting was intense, but ARVN units kept falling back into an increasingly tight circle around Saigon. On April 29 the city was coming under intense artillery barrages, and NVA units had entered the outskirts of the city. The last Americans were evacuated on April 30, and the North Vietnamese took control of Saigon.
The Ho Chi Minh Campaign, and the war, was over.