Did Vietnam Anti-War Protests Embolden Our Enemies?





Mr. Kimball's publications include works on war termination, the stab-in-the-back legend, and the Vietnam War. His latest book is THE VIETNAM WAR FILES: UNCOVERING THE SECRET HISTORY OF NIXON-ERA STRATEGY (2004).

Like the larger Tet Offensive of 1968 in Vietnam, the uprising of Sunnis and Shiites that began in April 2004 in Iraq has heightened Americans' anxieties about the prospects for success in the war and given rise to renewed criticism of the administration's leadership. Even though defenders of the war and the administration have rejected others' attempts to draw analogies between the Iraq War and the Vietnam War, they have drawn an analogy of their own. Iraq War supporters have repeated the charge Vietnam War hawks leveled against doves; namely, that domestic opposition to the prosecution of a war has the effect of emboldening America's enemies.

Is there historical merit in this historical comparison? There is abundant documentary and polling evidence to decide the case for the American side. On the Communist side, such evidence is scant. Nonetheless, drawing on interviews, captured Communist documents, newly revealed policy papers, and transcripts of negotiations between Hanoi and Washington, we can infer conclusions that carry more authority than deductions derived from ideological dogma and political spin about Communist thinking.

Public opinion polls in the United States indicate that in early 1968 the citizenry was uneasy about the war and growing more weary of it, with a majority turning against its continued prosecution and favoring gradual withdrawal, Vietnamization, negotiations with the enemy, and a bombing pause. Polls influenced policymakers and politicians, who studied them carefully, comparing the data with their own personal soundings of friends, colleagues, family members, and the press. It was not just the general public's mood that had changed. The confidence of many corporate executives, Democratic policymakers, and informed officers and soldiers in the military was waning. Key Republican leaders had doubts, and rank-and-file Republican sentiment was moving away from all-out support of the war. Driving the changes in public opinion were the war's costs and frustrations. Mounting casualties, economic burdens, social dissonance, and feelings of frustration and futility were the most palpable.

Communist Vietnamese policymakers had correctly foreseen that the American people would come to believe that it was not in their interest to endure heavy costs and suffer high casualties in a distant war for unclear, abstract purposes. They had always assumed that the United States, which had global ambitions and global responsibilities, would be overextended in Indochina and that its troops, fighting on foreign soil, would likely suffer low morale. At the same time, North Vietnamese leaders and Viet Cong cadres put their faith in their own fighting ability, their own morale, and what they considered their own just causes. For Communist leaders, public opinion in Vietnam was therefore much more important than public opinion in the United States. They were, moreover, unsurprised that an antiwar movement had arisen from progressive elements in American society, and while they were marginally encouraged by it, they were also disappointed and realistic about its actual strength and could plainly see that American policymakers were able to continue the war with great violence despite the doubts of the American public and the activities of the antiwar movement. The Vietnamese were realistic enough to know that protest in the United States could not turn the war around in their favor. Its outcome would be decided on the military, political, and diplomatic fronts.

By early 1971 surveys of American opinion indicated that voter support for Nixon and his presidency was soft and that his continuance of the war was a factor. Polling evaluations of his strength and decisiveness were high but declining. His credibility score was down, and the public's assessment of his handling of the war was at its lowest level since the beginning of his presidency. The citizenry was also becoming more dovish, or, if not that, exhausted by the war. By the fall solid majorities indicated they believed the struggle was "morally wrong" and opposed keeping a residual American force in Vietnam, bombing on behalf of a postwar South Vietnam, and continuing massive monetary aid to the Saigon regime.

Nixon and Kissinger blamed the antiwar movement, liberal intellectuals, the press, and Congress for opposing their policies, encouraging the enemy, prolonging the war, and ultimately causing the collapse of South Vietnam. Their public defense of their policies rested on the argument that additional military force would have turned things around. But this argument conveniently omitted consideration of those analyses within the Johnson and Nixon administrations at the time that the use of even greater force than what was already being applied would have triggered Soviet and/or Chinese entry into the war, probably would have failed, and would have overtaxed America's military and economic resources, further damaging the economy, undermining America's global military posture, and provoking political rebellion among mainstream, fence-sitting voters.

Privately, Nixon and Kissinger were influenced by these analyses and additional appreciations. They finally came to understand that the war could not be won in a military victory over the southern guerrillas and the North Vietnamese main-force units, and so they sought a political settlement while withdrawing American troops. How they did it and how they prolonged the war in doing it can be criticized, but the point is that they finally came to appreciate the military and political realities on the ground in Vietnam.

Although there are significant differences between the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, meaningful analogies exist. In a nutshell, if the American public's faith in Bush's leadership and in the prospects of success in the war are slipping, it is mainly because of what is happening on the ground in Iraq, politically and militarily. Critics and opponents of the war provide alternative opinions and analyses that serve much more to point the way out of the quagmire than they serve to encourage America's enemies, who are motivated and encouraged by their own resentments and goals and their own interpretations of their prospects in Iraq. There is another lesson: in a "people's war," excessive reliance on excessive military force is likely to produce more enemies and fewer friends.


comments powered by Disqus

More Comments:


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The "issue" was "argued" many posts ago. As nearly every sensible and openminded American had realized by about 1974, Vietnam was unwinnable on terms acceptable to America's strategic interests. Only those ignorant of that basic reality or in denial of it, give a hoot today about Jane Fonda. Of course she was stupid, and used by Hanoi, and guys like McCain suffered. But to use this tawdry aspect as a smokescreen to pretend that America could have fought harder and longer than the Viet Cong, if only the fifth column "whiners" and Maoist academics had kept their mouths shut and chanted "love it or leave it", is an absurd form of counterfactual lunacy that can only be analyzed in pathological terms. Ditto the inability, in 1000 or whatever it is posts, to ever admit a mistake,


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


This is a debate about morality, a famously unresolvable type of debate, but it is based on a confusion (possibly deliberate in the case of some posters) between myth and history. Myths are also difficult to talk about, but it helps if we can at least identify them.

The moral question: Were Americans morally right to continue fighting a decade-long major war in Vietnam ?

If your answer to this question is "yes", then it follows that to have criticized America’s involvement in that war at the time, thereby (whether intentionally or not) to some degree "emboldening" the Viet Cong guerrillas and North Vietnamese regime (“the enemy”), was morally wrong.

If on the other hand you believe that it was morally wrong (for whatever reason) for American soldiers to remain in Vietnam through the 1960s and into the 1970s, and voiced your criticism of U.S. policy accordingly, then (in the words of one poster here), it "doesn't matter" whether some other morally wrong group (e.g. the Viet Cong) may have been incidentally emboldened as a result of your action. The underlying moral principle in this thought process -notwithstanding some HNN commenters' steadfast ignorance of it- is that two wrongs do not make a right.

All wars are not equal, morally speaking. Most of us here would surely agree that it was morally wrong for Hitler's Germany to start a war with Poland in 1939 and that it was morally right for America to declare war on Japan after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941. For most of us, the Vietnam War falls somewhere in between these extremes; somewhere in between being immediately obviously morally right and being immediately obviously morally wrong. (W. Bush’s war against Saddam although vastly different from Vietnam, is also somewhere in the murky moral middle ground, now that the WMD scare turns out to have been mostly unfounded).

Therefore, to make up your mind as to whether America's long military sacrifices in Vietnam were morally justified or not, you first have to tell yourself a story that is more complicated and less clear cut than stories about who were the good guys and the bad guys in 1939 and 1941.

There are two basic stories about the Vietnam War underlying most of the comments here.

Story 1 is based on a factual knowledge of geography and history: For America in the 1960s, Vietnam was a remote jungle where the opponent was an indigenous group of highly motivated guerrillas with decades of experience in exactly that region. Although America ended up dropping even more bombs on Vietnam and Cambodia than it had in all of World War II, the strategic stakes were much lower. Southeast Asia was not as critical to America's security as Europe was and is, and North Vietnam did not threaten to conquer China and the Pacific the way Japan had. Conclusions: It was morally wrong to fight in Vietnam because even winning there was not remotely worth the cost. War is hell as Sherman said, it should be avoided whereever possible, and only resorted to when necessary, and Vietnam wasn't.

Story 2 is based on a trilogy of movies starring Sylvester Stallon as the Vietnam Vet, “Rambo”. The underlying premise of the movies is a myth akin to the German World War I "Stab-in-the-back" legend: If only the boys in the field had not been betrayed by corrupt and cowardly politicians back at headquarters, victory could have been ours. (Grains of supporting truth do exist for such legends, in fairly copious amounts in the case of Iraq today). Conclusions: Any war Americans officially fought in is morally justified, ergo so was the Vietnam War, and it is morally wrong now to criticize that fight, especially because had it not been for that kind of criticism, we would have won that war.

If you fought or were wounded in Vietnam or someone you knew well died there (those categories cover millions of Americans today) the Rambo Myth is a comforting story. No one wants to think that their buddies, or relatives died for a mistake. It is inconvenient that this story is a myth, especially when the forum one is sounding off in, has a word like “History” in its title. What is even more unfortunate is that these kind of myths tend to have a long lives. Yugoslavia self destructed in the 1990s because, to large degree, of a mythical memory of a 14th century battle at "Kosovo".

True Believers in the Rambo Myth about America's war in Vietnam have posted dozens of articles and hundreds of comments to HNN. I don't suppose this comment will cause many of them to stop and think about whether their fervent beliefs may be based on a distorted and ill-informed picture of history, but maybe the rest of us can at least understand them better by remembering Rambo bravely blowing that helicopter to bits in mid-air with his bow and arrow.

P.K. Clarke










Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

When one is on his 2000th posting at HNN, as Mr. Heuisler approximately is, the bogus arguments, illogic, inconsistency and irrelevancy tend to come in the form of recycled reruns. The "anyone who disagrees with my warped fantasies is a commie" is a very old, very unoriginal, and very boring tack. There are a half dozen other bogus tactics from that reliably unreliable source, a couple of which have already been hinted in previous comments on this page. Welcome to Heuisler's Nonsense Network, Mr. Plotts.

By the way, for the record, I think Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and even Ho Chi Minh were even more evil than Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Rumsfeld are. Certainly the North Vietnamese leaders were more brutal and undemocratic than McNamara, Laird, and Kissinger. But I do recall from Kindergarten that two wrongs don't make a right. If they did, we could have stood by and let Adolf and Uncle Joe duke it out on their own. The Japanese were not un-"emboldened" by America going into Morocco and Normandy.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


So what ? There were no war crimes committed by Americans in Vietnam ?

What was My Lai ? A picnic ?


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


No, after three years at HNN and let's say thousands of postings (of which a good third or so exemplify "If you can't argue the article's question, just attack the people who disagree with you" - hypocrisy does not just have the same first letter as Heuisler), it is more an achievement than a goal.

It's all there in the HNN archives (where we, technically and virtually speaking, actually are at the moment). Good material for someone's PhD in psychology, maybe: Vietnam was winnable if only the presidents and the long-hairs hadn't betrayed us, the '67 war started when Israel was invaded, global warming is a plot of "leftwing science", Saddam had all kinds of nasty weapons of galactic destruction with him there in the spider hole if only the hate-America news media and elitist-Marxist ivory towers like the Hoover Institution would stop conspiring to deny all the great websites with the real truth, and Chomsky is always under the bed waiting to chomp you. Fantastic stuff. And some people wonder why real historians tend to shun this website like the plague.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


After wandering off in his earlier meandering comment about me having "lost touch", Mr. Heuisler now wants to proclaim his great belief in freedom. Ho Chi Minh and Castro made similar proclamations from time to time, but that sort of macho self-promotion has no useful connection to the issue raised by the article and the comment thread I began above, and is inimical to historical understanding as well.

To reintroduce my point more succinctly (see comment 40478 above for details): Whether American anti-war protests “emboldened” North Vietnam is a meaningful question only if one believes in the Rambo Myth. If on the other, factually based, hand, America’s massive military involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s is properly recognized as having been a doomed blunder from the start (irrespective of anyone’s claims to belief in freedom), marginal fillips to boldness in Hanoi during those years are irrelevant to any substantive historical question.


Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


RE: how do you guys handle this stuff?

1. Note the psychology of the individuals. In this instance, imagine if Rambo, with his various God-given talents and aptitudes, had an all-consuming dream of being employed, at some institution that had rejected him as student, as a professor for a required course in "Deprogramming for Hippy Peaceniks".

2. Recognize and accept the (inherently limited) benefits of a dialogue that is about "winning", not about understanding, sponsored by a forum that is about number of “hits”, not knowledge, insight, or truth. Decades ago, when I liked to play Avalon Hill war games, I remember the sales blurbs or "liner notes" quoting one of the retired generals on Avalon's "advisory" board of directors discussing how there was a great need, in researching the "Soviet side in World War II" (for one of that company's "realistic" hexagon checkerboard war games), "not for a mine detector, but for a 'BS detector' ". If you hang out at HNN, you get plenty of practice at using your BS detector. It's one of those few inherently limited benefits.




Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007


(#40478) Peter K. Clarke on August 23, 2004 at 3:53 PM

True Believers in the Rambo Myth about America's war in Vietnam have posted dozens of articles and hundreds of comments to HNN. I don't suppose this comment will cause many of them to stop and think...


(#40522) Bill Heuisler on August 24, 2004 at 12:48 AM

...our political leaders should've let us win...


(#40581) Bill Heuisler on August 25, 2004 at 1:22 PM

What if some of us haven't based our approach to history on Stallone movies...


Which of the above Heuislers belongs to "us" ?


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Jerry,

Meddling in a civil war in Viet-Nam? Not unless one considered all Viets citizens of one state, which they were not. RVN was beset by a North Viet-Nam instigated and supported subversive movement and repeated cross-border military assaults. This propaganda that the war was solely an internal affair ignoes the part North Viet-Nam, backed by the Soviet Union & sometimes by Red China played in the destruction of the Republic of Viet-Nam.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Andrew Todd's assessment is by & large accurate, IMO. Especially so, as per my personal observations those nigh 23 months in 'Nam, relating to the Republic of Viet-Nam.

It comes to mind how offended I was once when a Colonel of the ARVN as much as ordered me to kill scattered farmers near the borders with Laos & North Viet-Nam on the supposition they were V.C. or at the very least were paying taxes to the Communists rather than to the RVN. In my then opinion, his responsibility was to protect & defend the people of the RVN rather than to kill them because they disagreed with him politically. But on reflection in the circumstances my opinion was awfully naive. Even so, I couldn't easily shruge off my Western understanding of the duties & respobsibilities of government which had been engrained within me here in the States.


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Jerry,

You say "the churches were heavily involved in the anti-war movement." Shouldn't that be "Some" churches? Certainly my church in Kansas, St Mary's (Episcopal), Galena, Kansas was not at all involved in such activities. Nor was the Cardinal Spellman led Catholic Archdiocese in New York. The hard-line anti-Communist Catholic Church no-where would have been supportive of a militantly anti-Christian Communist gov't in 'Nam, eh?


Dave Livingston - 1/7/2005

Professor Catsam,

Yes, I indeed will argue that the anti-war protestors were in large part responsible for many of our casualities in Viet-Nam because their activities gave aid, comfort and encouragement to our enemy, encouragement to continue fighting against us. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have been wounded, with a critical MOS (Military occupation speciality) wouldn't have had occasion to return to 'Nam for a second tour had not the war dragged on & on. Essentially we had the Communists wipped by '68, but the anti-war movement over here encouraged the enemy to dig in & hold on in the hope we'd tire of the war, which we dod.

In the circumstances the Communists didn't need to, nor did they usually succeed in doing, win victories on the field of battle to win the war. Indeed, there's that famous confrontation between an American Colonel & a PAVN Colonel after the war, The American said, more or less, "You know, you never won a major engagement on the field of battle." The PAVN Colonel responed, more or less, "So what? That is beside the point that we won the war." He didn't say they won it at the negoiation table, but that is largely what happened, regardless the coup de grace administered by the Communists was a massive cross-border invasion.

In 1972 the Communists launched a massive cross-border invasion, the so-called Easter offensive, that was stopped cold in its tracks by the ARVN with the assistance of U.S. fighter/bombers & bombers with huge losses for the Communists. But in '75 the Communists launched a similar attack but the Democrats in Congress forebade the Administration to keep the promise of bombing assistance in the event of a conventional invasion we'd made. Moreover, the Democrats for petty partisan motives forebade our continuing to supply the ARVN with even miminal resupply of ammunition & parts for equipment, which also we'd promised to do.


Stephen Thomas - 10/29/2004

I am anything but a feminist, but you cannot help but notice that every respondent to this site is male.

Really, what in the world do you all think will happen if you win these arguments? What difference does it make whether one candidate or another wins the presidency?

I suggest a week of silence. These arguments are meaningless and they prove nothing.

Every once in a while I come around here to see if the madness continues. It does. Men, you are wasting your time on this nonsense.

Can anybody explain to me what wonderful thing happens if you triumph in these eternal arguments?


Bill Heuisler - 9/1/2004

Mr. Thomas,
Relax. This isn't about triumph, it's about exercise and sharing points of view with people we would never meet otherwise. Imagine: an ex-cop, small town politician like me arguing with all these high-toned intellectuals. Gosh,
I feel so privileged. So just enjoy the jousting.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 8/29/2004

Plotts & Clarke,
Well done! Instead of arguing the issue you join hands and whine about my unsuitability. Is it a social thing?
Are you concerned I don't know which fork to use?

Analysis of Giap's book? Not today. Estimating how Fonda's well-publicized contempt for the US may have affected the NV war effort? No. The boys don't care.

Plotts is flouncing out of the room. Clarke can't even mention the article in dispute. Disarmament really looks foolish during a battle of wits. Keep it up boys.
Bill Heuisler


tom plotts - 8/29/2004

You cannot be serious. This is it?

I get Oliver North, an outright dismissal of perhaps the prime counterexample to your argument as not being relevant, and a bizarre reposting of a Jane Fonda screed?

Dude, conclude as you wish, but I simply have better things to do than hone up on my special ed skills. Go ahead, claim yourself the victor. I'm sure it'll have deeper meaning for you than me.

To PKC: man, how do you guys handle this stuff? I'm completely creeped out.


Bill Heuisler - 8/28/2004

Mr. Plotts,
If my arguments are bombast, why not refute them? And the French aren't relevant to this discussion because there were no French movie stars in Hanoi during Dien Bien Phu - no mass demonstrations in Paris.

Your assertion about Giap not having written about the anti-war movement is based on an anonymous VVAW article that admits the writer never read either of Giap's books.
My assertion is based on Marine Colonel Oliver North's statements. Neither book is in print. I believe North.

But let's analyze:
In every review I've read, Giap indicated NVA troops in the south were desperately short of supplies and had been defeated on the battlefield time after time. Tet was the last desperate attempt for a success. The VC suffered over 45,000 casualties and Giap apparently viewed the Tet offensive as a failure. Right or wrong, if they were prepared to negotiate after Tet, there were fewer than 10,000 U.S. casualties at the time. If the Vietnam War was about to end - if the NVA was prepared to accept defeat or status quo - then all the subsequent casualties were caused by people like Cronkite proclaiming the success of Tet and TV news showing riots and protests on US streets. Do you really believe a book written about the war would ignore the worldwide press?

According to people quoting Giap's book (How we won the War) these reports inspired the NVA - changed plans from a negotiated surrender and proved they only needed to persevere. Eventually protesters in American would give them victory. Remember, this was when U.S. casualties were fewer than 10,000, at the end of 1967.

Further evidence is a transcript from the US House Committee on Internal Security: "Travel to Hostile Areas, HR 16742, 19-25 September, 1972, page 7671."
[Radio Hanoi, 1 PM GMT, 22 August 1972]
Text:
"This is Jane Fonda. During my two week visit in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, I've had the opportunity to visit a great many places and speak to a large number of people from all walks of life -- workers, peasants, students, artists and dancers, historians, journalists, film actresses, soldiers, militia girls, members of the women's union, writers.
I visited the (Dam Xuac) agricultural coop, where the silk worms are also raised and thread is made. I visited a textile factory, a kindergarten in Hanoi. The beautiful Temple of Literature was where I saw traditional dances and heard songs of resistance. I also saw unforgettable ballet about the guerrillas training bees in the south to attack enemy soldiers. The bees were danced by women, and they did their job well.
In the shadow of the Temple of Literature I saw Vietnamese actors and actresses perform the second act of Arthur Miller's play All My Sons, and this was very moving to me -- the fact that artists here are translating and performing American plays while US imperialists are bombing their country.
I cherish the memory of the blushing militia girls on the roof of their factory, encouraging one of their sisters as she sang a song praising the blue sky of Vietnam -- these women, who are so gentle and poetic, whose voices are so beautiful, but who, when American planes are bombing their city, become such good fighters.
I cherish the way a farmer evacuated from Hanoi, without hesitation, offered me, an American, their best individual bomb shelter while US bombs fell near by.
The daughter and I, in fact, shared the shelter wrapped in each others arms, cheek against cheek. It was on the road back from Nam Din, where I had witnessed the systematic destruction of civilian targets - schools, hospitals, pagodas, the facttories, houses, and the dike system.
As I left the United States two weeks ago, Nixon was again telling the American people that he was winding down the war, but in the rubble- strewn streets of Nam Din, his words echoed with sinister (words indistinct) of a true killer. And like the young Vietnamese woman I held in my arms clinging tome tightly -- and I pressed my cheek against hers -- I thought, this is a war against Vieetnam perhaps, but the tragedy is America's.
One thing that I have learned beyond a shadow of a doubt since I've been in this country is that Nixon will never be able to break the spirit of these people; he'll never be able to turn Vietnam, north and south, into a neo-colony of the United States by bombing, by invading, by attacking in any way. One has only to go into the countryside and listen to the peasants describe the lives they led before the revolution to understand why every bomb that is dropped only strengthens their determination to resist.
I've spoken to many peasants who talked about the days when their parents had to sell themselves to land lords as virtual slaves, when there were very few schools and much illiteracy, inadequate medical care, when they were not masters of their own lives.
But now, despite the bombs, despite the crimes being created -- being committed against them by Richard Nixon, these people own their own land, build their own schools -- the children learning, literacy -- illiteracy is being wiped out, there is no more prostitution as there was during the time when this was a French colony. In other words, the people have taken power into their own hands, and they are controlling their own lives.
And after 4,000 years of struggling against nature and foreign invaders -- and the last 25 years, prior to the revolution, of struggling against French colonialism -- I don't think that the people of Vietnam are about to compromise in any way, shape or form about the freedom and independence of their country, and I think Richard Nixon would do well to read Vietnamese history, particularly their poetry, and particularly the poetry written by Ho Chi Minh."
[recording ends]

Fonda spoke, North Vietnam responded with determination. They found they had allies in America with the power to affect the voters in a Democracy. To say General Giap never mentioned this phenomenon in his book explaining NVA victory is to say he never mentioned morale.

Another thing, John McCain told me a few years ago how the NVA piped that Fonda broadcast day after day through the Hanoi Hilton to demoralize the POWs.
He said it worked.
Bill Heuisler





tom plotts - 8/28/2004

creepy.
Reminds me of some of the movie Max, where you have German veterans who spend their entire days weaving an intricate mythology for why they lost the war. Same rhetorical style, in many cases, same rhetoric. Sort of like watching an unguided missle.

I guess for some people Vietnam will never end, and they'll spend their days trying like mad to pull a 'W' out of an 'L' for reasons that will probably always remain mysterious to me.


tom plotts - 8/28/2004

And nowhere on Giap's record does he suggest that in the absence of protest that the NVA would have stopped fighting, Mr. Heuisler. This is why I mentioned the French, a point you conveniently overlook (I'm shocked).I challenge you to provide that information. Even if you assume that "enemies" take comfort from these things, and I have no doubt that many of them did, this doesn't mean much of squat. And it's never worth the price of clamping on dissent in order to pretend that things are always going well, or wars are always just simply because we wage them.

This may be the kind of world you'd like to inhabit. I'd rather not.

One thing I'll concede: If HNN is simply a forum for bombastic self-delusion, a perpetual nest for people with stab-in-the-back fantasies that rationalize all manner of bad behavior, then you're right. It's probably not for me. But then again, I suspect that may be one of your goals.


Bill Heuisler - 8/28/2004

Plotts and Clarke,
Don't you Lefties ever learn? Your tactics, Clinton's tactics, Kerry's tactics all involve the same dishonest misdirection. Has it occurred that people will notice?
If you can't argue the article's question, just attack the people who disagree with you. That works, right?

Did the demonstrations encourage the NVA? Giap says so. He was a NVA general. Did he miss the point, Mr. Plotts?

Is General Giap bogus and irrelevant, Mr. Clarke? And BTW please save your kindergarten wisdom for the playground.
If historical disputes are overly complex; if your forte is childhood insult, perhaps HNN is truly not for you.
Bill Heuisler


tom plotts - 8/27/2004

Honestly, is there a point you ever fail to miss?

Next time maybe try reading the post you're ostensibly responding to. If you still think my post was a meta-defense of communism, then spare me a further bile bath.


Bill Heuisler - 8/27/2004

Mr. Plotts,
Regret posting? Right. You might even learn something.
Is freedom inane? Does your history book stop in 1973? Does all evil begin with your own country?

You wrote, "Many Vietnamese wanted their country back, and they were willing to fight for it." Do you deny the obvious fact that the South did not want Communism and domination of the North? But actions speak volumes.

In June 1975 Official Communist Party newspaper "Saigon Gai Phong" said Southerners must pay a "blood debt" to the revolution. And they did. According to accounts of refugees, more than 65,000 Vietnamese died in political executions after Saigon fell. This didn't include victims of starvation and disease from the forced communization of South Vietnam's agriculture. Also, a massive flight from South Vietnam began when Saigon fell. Two million people escaped. Many braved open seas in flimsy fishing boats to languish for years in detention camps throughout Southeast Asia. Freedom. Did you somehow miss all this?

There's more about those who "wanted their country back". When Viet Nam was admitted to United Nations in 1977, Prime Minister Pham Van Dong declared a million people who had "collaborated with the enemy" (10% of the South Vietnamese population?) were now allowed to return to civilian life from reeducation camps and jail.

Really inane, Mr. Plotts, are those who ignore the evils of Communism - who blame their own country for trying to preserve freedom - who don't realize how foolish their supercilious cynicism appears in the light of history. Don't you read anything other than Chomsky or the Nation?
Bill Heuisler


tom plotts - 8/27/2004

Agreed. It's so completely self-centered to even ask this ridiculous question, as if a lack of protest would send combatants scurrying for cover.

"If we'd just stop bashing Bush, Al Qaeda would go away."

Get serious.

In the case of Vietnam, last time I checked, the Vietnamese also took on the French and the Japanese, and neither of these conflicts were gauged against public reaction in the respective countries. Dien Bien Phu certainly didn't result from the NVA checking out the French war pulse.

Sometimes the simplest explanation is best. Many Vietnamese wanted their country back, and they were willing to fight for it.

I'll probably regret posting among the Freeper crowd, but this thread has long since gotten inane.


Bill Heuisler - 8/26/2004

Mr. Leckie,
You never answered my question.

But you analyze and then ask your question as follows:
"What makes you angry, partly, is that deep in your heart you know a lot of Marines, soldiers, and Vietnamese died fighting for something that wasn't worth it. Man, how crazy is it to keep on defending it? Why aren't you angry at the nitwits in suits, Democrats or Republicans..."
And you completely miss the point.

Those men died for freedom and for each other. They died for an ideal birthed in the struggle against Fascism - the vision of JFK - freedom for every human being. Those men were sent into battle to defend SVN from Communism and were proud to go. Have you forgotten, Mr. Leckie?Angry at the JFKs, LBJs, McNamaras? Yes. LBJ and McNamara admitted in books and on tape they knew before the huge infusions of American troops that victory was impossible under the strategic limits they felt were in place. War under those strictures is the true obscenity - no one should have to die for political niceties.

The point? Did the protestors prolong the killing? Did they make it politically impossible for a Hubert Humphry to insist on a tough policy of interdiction? Did they encourage General Giap? Yes. Yes. And yes. Am I angry at those who prolonged the war? The political failures did not happen in a vacuum and were the result of Leftist pressure. Am I angry at those who voted to reduce aid to SVN during Nixon's second term? At those in LBJ's term who did not allow the destruction of the Red River Dikes? Those who criticized Nixon for mining Haiphong Harbor?

Yes. Why aren't you? Each vote cost American lives.

And I'm angry at Kerry who gave aid and comfort to the enemy while his "brothers" kept faith with each other. He will pay the price in November for his betrayal. But am I angry at JFK for his magnificent vision of freedom? Of course not. How could you miss such an obvious point?
Bill Heuisler


William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 8/25/2004

Big leap, there, fella, and utterly irrelevant to my point.

And that's a big problem. I recall a commandant named David M. Shoup, who commented on a brazen engagement in civilian politics by JCS, in particular by CNO.

If he were still around, chicken-shit brass wouldn't be pumping Limbaugh into the barracks.

"My men aren't trained to hate," Shoup said. "They're trained to kill."

Shoup was a Marine's Marine, MoH Iwo. Apparently the mobilization of the right since about the mid-70s hasn't given us ex-Marines, but European-style disenchanted nostalgists who cultivate hatred and encourage the bullying of others.

I have encountered the type not just among Americans but other nationalities. Ironically, you belie the American exceptionalism about which the right loves to crow. You are not unique. There are bars and veterans' clubs in France, Germany, Russia, heck, any Italian police fraternity full of guys yearning for Mussolini, where you might feel at home. I know some old Wehrmacht officers who use your language to talk about why they lost the Good War. No--your rhetoric, another language.

The dignity of us all, the idea of a moral commitment to reason, to debate, to a notion of shared justice, not just procedural fairness, among other items, are things I'd fight for. Try stompin' a dog near me for a sampler. At my age, I'll still go one-on-one against any bully, and with hypocrites like those leading a US neo-fascism, it'd take a whole battalion of you guys to go through me. It'll never get to be more than the civilized public process we are so blessed to have, and thank God for that, since you'd find yourself in Chato's land real quick.

In fact, from where I sit in Europe, what the right represents in the US is something very scary, indeed, and alas, I've heard reminiscences of other old timers here about how they simply didn't realize until it was too late that somebody had to say stop. We have a system--in the West, not just the US now--where we can substitute violence for its simulacra; it is part of fighting you that folks like me insist on the integrity of that system, even if you have a leadership that clearly thinks its interests can transcend it.

And what makes the US different--not exceptional, just at this moment better off--is that unlike Europe in the 20s and 30s, there's a very large if still-too-complacent majority that's ready to resist in the media and at the polls.

Your heroes, draft-dodgers to a a wimp--may steal another election--they're already intimidating voters in Florida, questionable results have come out of electronic voting results in local and state elections.

But after nearly a quarter-century of enduring irrationalist offensives from thuggish right-wingers and four years of a corrupt creature of privilege in the White House, it won't quite be the pushover that occurred where I'm sitting in 1932. You squeaked by in 2000 with a judicicial coup d'etat; you won't this time. We are more than willing to debate you, and many of us ain't afraid to stand up for what we believe in.

You are a bunch of pushovers. The right's made a lot of noise, but has neither substance nor honor. That's why you make so much noise, beat your chests and tell us how much combat you've seen. The right has nothing to stand on except an angry nihilism. You know that. That's what the screamers on Fox, like O'reilly, who threatend a 17-year-old relative of a 9/11 victim, what Limbaugh, Drudge, that awful blonde bimbo who insults veterans in print, a legion of other idiots and dark-souled right-wingers, that's what they have to purvey, nothing else. Some of us--no, one helluva lot of us--actually believe in some very positive things.

Old son, some us have fought for'em all our lives. When we haven't, we still feel the sting of shame. But not from losing. We're tougher than you because at least we still have that sense of shame. We know when we have been wrong. You fear that moment that defines the real man in all of us.

What makes you angry, partly, is that deep in your heart you know a lot of Marines, soldiers, and Vietnamese died fighting for something that wasn't worth it. Man, how crazy is it to keep on defending it? Why aren't you angry at the nitwits in suits, Democrats or Republicans, who cares--not a one of whom'd last in a fistfight much less a firefight--who send more young guys into murderous idiocy, deprive'em of health care when they get back, and use their sacrifice for electioneering and dishonest electioneering, at that? Load you and them with ungodlly public debt while they and their pals reap profits? On and on.

Not even YOU really believe in it, Mr. Heuisler. You haven't the guts to admit you're wrong, that you were had and are still being had. You know what your conservative elite really thinks of you? When they don't give speeches to the masses? Or utter bromides and pap on cable? If Bush fiscal policy doesn't give you a hint: Try having a few drinks with the "military intellectuals" retired and enjoying a "global-elite" lifestyle. You know what they say about ordinary folks like you?

But if you want to come up against us "liberals" who don't follow the script they give you, heck, man, I'm even an old-fashioned epeeist who fences as if they were sharp, and that's just for fun. Had forebears who ran barefooted up Little Roundtop with the rest of Hood's Texas Brigade--hell, they tell a story about Karl Rove, that as a high school debater he used to wheel in empty note boxes to intimidate; man, in the Texas Interscholastic League, we knew what to do with phonies like that...Who needed notes? Who needs to brag about what anybody did in whatever war when you have opponents like that? Are you gonna whine about getting your butt kicked and betrayed and still come when the class that betrayed you whistles?

Show some real pride, man.

You should show real honor, show some shame, and side with those of us who have something to stand for and do.


Bill Heuisler - 8/25/2004

Mr. Clarke,
Thank you for setting me straight. Everyone at HNN should thank you for readjusting the article so it fits your blame-America mind-set.

You assert,
"Whether American anti-war protests “emboldened” North Vietnam is a meaningful question only if one believes in the Rambo Myth."
You further assert,
"marginal fillips to boldness in Hanoi during those years are irrelevant to any substantive historical question."

The question was whether VN protests emboldened our enemies. But defining parameters to fit one's predjudices makes everything easier to understand, doesn't it? Kind of like a comic book approach. But there's a problem: What if some of us haven't based our approach to history on Stallone movies and simplistic Leftist rote? Could you supply an original thought or two to the discussion at hand? Or have you run out of movies and Zinn quotes?
Bill Heuisler


Rick Perlstein - 8/25/2004

The problem with this entire discussion is that, even if you grant that protests "emboldened" our enemies, protests were about thirtieth down the list of things that emboldened our enemies.

What emboldened our enemies more? The incompetence of our South Vietnamese allies, the corruption and illegitimacy of its government. The cruelty of the entire America war doctrine, which minted Viet Cong sympathizers at a ferocious rate. The anger at America's allies at the stupidity of our Vietnam adventure. The list goes on and on and on and on.

The difference is that all these things that emboldened our enemy far more than protesters, the American GOVERNMENT was responsible for. The blaming of protesters for our failure there is just one more way to displace honest discussion of the fact that the Vietnam War was a disaster from start to finish, that our leaders had all the evidence they needed to know this and ignored it, and that Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon are responsible for the 55,000 American lives lost there, not Jane Fonda.


Bill Heuisler - 8/24/2004

Mr. Leckie,
So, in your world, there's nothing worth dying for, the frightful decision must always be individual and most wars are fought against, "those of different races or cultures". Such cynicism. But what if "they" are right?

After all, Versailles was a betrayal of the 14 points, Stalingrad was a betrayal of the Wehrmacht and DeGaul betrayed the Paras in Algeria. Robert MacNamara admitted betraying our men in VN. You say, "If they cannot grow up and admit they were conned in the first place, they can--and have--endangered the very things they usually claim to have fought for." Do you claim to know why WWI was fought? Ferguson and MacMillan are the latest who do not. Do you? Defending the Wehrmacht, the VC or the OAS is not possible, but defending the Air Cav, Zhukov's troops and those Algerians who died in the Atlas Saharien also becomes futile under your philosophy.

I believe in Freedom, this country and my fellow Marines. What exactly do you believe in, Mr. Leckie?
Bill Heuisler


William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 8/24/2004

The reactionary myth, shared by others than just people in the US who served in Vietnam or didn't. I've heard it from old French soldiers who were in Algeria and supported the SAS; I've heard it from an elderly member of my own family by marriage, who broods daily about how he and the men he led on the Eastern Front were betrayed by Hitler and "the politicians," and Hitler himself rose to power on the exploitation of this trope of the annointed-and-yet-defeated: Versailles, Versailles; I've heard it while hunched over beers in neighborhood bars longer than I care to admit. With it goes the any chance of learning a lesson: You can be dropped into shit by wimps posing as Rambos and dumb enough not to admit it; even worse, still maintain the enemy was not so tough if....which masks rather nasty sentiments about those of different races or cultures and turns self-loathing inward on those who if they hadn't "betrayed" you...and who were the ones who wanted to getyore sorry asses out....Finally, as my grand-daddy used to say, "Billy, there's no dishonor in un ass-whippin' 'less you blame it on someone else." And, he could've added, no bigger fool than the fellow who let's some jughead make him do his fighting for him. Only boys'll let that happen; that's why they recruit'em. If they cannot grow up and admit they were conned in the first place, they can--and have--endangered the very things they usually claim to have fought for.


Bill Heuisler - 8/24/2004

Mr. Leckie,
We never should've gone. JFK bequeathed fatal altruism and LBJ's phony Silver Star made him think he was too tough to reconsider. We didn't belong there. But when we arrived, our political leaders should've let us win -should have unleashed that strategic interdiction to starve NV into submission while we killed VC in the South. Risk war with China? they asked. In for a penny? Risk one drop of American blood, risk the rest.

While Robert Strange scribbled plans, peered at maps and culled ROEs, men died to rent ground and bomb worthless targets in the North. But they died for their duty and their country and their comrades. They were dishonored by their leaders and some hollow, jaundiced countrymen. And after the fall there was no reassurance, no pride, no understanding, only bitterness and new betrayal. The Left nursed the cause, requited the mistakes and iniquities of JFK and LBJ for their base purposes. And Nixon's pride allowed more to die for future hustings. The Left exulted.

What about the men? Those were not "boys" as you casually stated. Their youth became sour apples; their legacy was shaped by Janus-mouths like Kerry. Don't let your concept of a "ferociously determined enemy" take even one laurel from those American men who did not lose even one battle.

Kerry will reap the whirlwind. His loss in November will largely be due to the seeds he sowed in the rotton ground his hero had prepared and the Left has tended so avidly.
Bill Heuisler


William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 8/24/2004

This entire "debate" has been sparked by the politics of the election campaign; hell, Heuisler's now hearing "today" from an ex-POW who's claiming Kerry's testimony was used agin'im. The swift boat boys have manufactured memories that even contradict their own citations. Finally, the mythology of protests hobbling the war deprives the Vietnamese of acknowledgement of their own determination to whip our butts--hey! Heuisler, you say you were there--do you remember how tough those bastards were? Is that way you have to blame Americans--many of whom had been there too, by the way--who saw that war for what it was? Who recall miserable leadership--the antagonism toward Kerry has roots in quarrels over tactics that affected careers--and one ferociously determined enemy. The politics of Rambo may have reshaped popular memory, but they've always struck me as pretty squirrely, the product of dishonest recall and the classic trope of nervous American masculinity. Diverting attention from the realities on the ground, it it looks to betrayal at home. This has been a hallmark of fascist movements in Europe--another irony for those who stopped eating French fries for a time--including those Frenchmen felt betrayed at home over Algeria and tried a coup. Anyway, this whole debate is handicapped by a shared American parochialism of perspective, and allowed its agenda to be controlled by the right.


Bill Heuisler - 8/24/2004

Mr. Clarke,
In case you've somehow lost touch, the topic questions whether anti-war protests embolden our enemies. The answer is clearly, yes they do.

On Mylai, read "Destroy or Die" by Martin Gershen before your sneer becomes a permanent rictus and destroys what's left of your social life. If you can't unearth some small pity, and even empathy, for those traumatized, barely trained young american boys during that agonizing week then perhaps you are truly lost after all.
Bill Heuisler


mark safranski - 8/23/2004

War crimes are never to be excused. Neither are they a paradigm for Vietnam veterans or indeed, american veterans in general. The latter is, I would suggest at a minimum, an ignorance of statistical analysis and at worst a politically hateful libel.

The number of Americans who served in Vietnam are a sizable population group, equal at least to that of a major metropolitan area. Moreover, unlike a typical American city they were composed almost entirely of the most aggressive demographic, young males. Yet relatively few, statistically speaking, engaged in war crimes ( some of the activities listed by Mr. Morrison were not in fact " war crimes " but lawful tactics he dislikes for their heavy civilian cost).

Compare all war atrocities in Vietnam committed by American troops during the entirety of the war with the estimates of the numbers of known gang members in L.A., Chicago or New York and the numbers of murders, rapes and assaults connected to gang activity in a *single year*.

Sort of gives you a different perspective on the aggregate morality of the American GI - particularly since they were under the high stress of combat. Most soldiers served honorably, a number did not and some of them escaped punishment. That's wrong but it does not condemn America's veterans as a group.


Bill Heuisler - 8/23/2004

Mr. Clarke,
Today I heard a former POW named Galant(sp) recall how NVA captors taunted him with the threat of never going home because he wasn't a POW, but a war criminal. They based this threat on a Navy Officer's (Kerry's) public testimony to the US Senate in 1971.

Kerry lied about his witnesses - most weren't even vets and few had ever served in VN - and accused his fellow officers of war crimes as part of anti-war activities with VVAW. The enemy used his lying testimony to further torture fellow Naval Officers in Hanoi Hilton.

Galant's testimony is similar to many others and puts a final end to the question of anti-war activity aiding the enemy and prolonging the war. Kerry aided the NVA. Kerry also prolonged Galant's war. He was a prisoner for seven years - the last two in despair of ever being released.
Bill Heuisler


William . H. Leckie, Jr. - 8/23/2004

Well now, I can't resist wading in here: If domestic protests had any effect on the conduct of the Vietnam war, why, prithee, was it so long a conflict?

And--since I found the Pentagon Papers so revealing, why have none of our right-wing interlocutors even bothered to grapple with the question whether the war was undertaken on delusional premises, contrived provocations, and duplicitous quantification of battlefield effectiveness? Was that "supporting the troops?"

That the American "stab-in-the-back" mythology--including the POW/MIA hoax--was manufactured in part to sustain the duplicious policies of the Nixon regime? Ditto--sorry Rusdh--all the indignant urban legendary of widespread abuse of returning veterans? Just who in the hell actually "lost" a war and betrayed not only US troops but millions of Vietnamese as well? Led the US to the brink of constitutional crisis? Maintained a class-based discriminatory system of military service, enjoyed by The Man From Hope Who's To Blame for Everything, surely, but also the current occupant of the Oval Office, his corrupt, ideologue Veep, the overrated right-wing "intellectuals" who serve them, most of the GOP leaders in Congress, and as best I know, the right's Larry, Curley, and Moe--Rush, Bill, and Sean? Who exploited the class and racial tensions of the time--anybody remember George Wallace?--for electoral advantage, deepending the nation's divisions, laying the groundwork nationalization of the post-Reconstruction agenda of the South in postmodern terms?

What about a right today, descended from Nixonian duplicity, that espouses "warrior politics" and slanders wounded veterans running for public office? That slashes medical benefits for veterans, including those of Vietnam?

That in the name of a chimerical "transformation" of the military sent troops into Iraqi combat with inadequate numbers and supplies, hallucinatory policy, and with no means to pay, jeopardizing the national economy? Failed to get, what's-his-name? Oh yeah, Osama? Turned Afghanistan into a narco-state? Made and still makes self-righteous assertions that critics aren't true Americans and aid terrorists? Undermines civil liberties? The list goes on.

I recall, quite vividly, my VW Beetle shaking uncontrollably because of the excitement of a too-large load of fellow students I was ferrying home from Wisconsin after we'd gone door-to-door for Gene and LBJ delivered his abdication speech. I also recall, even more vividly, street scenes from the Chicago Democratic convention that year. We thought: The war'll be over.

But even more vividly, I recall first learning that Nixon and Kissinger had back-channeled their way into informal communications with the enemy in Paris; just who really had the influence in the US to control the outcome of the war?

I'm weary of US right. It has no honor or decency. It is intellectually dishonest, swollen with self-righteousness that permits it to continue abusing civic life. Even the public utterances of men who packed a rifle--as the recent Kerry flap shows--corrode the integrity of their memory of service. If indignant self-indulgence is all they have got to be proud of, then something was indeed very wrong with the Vietnam war.


Rob Morrison - 8/1/2004

To Mr. William "if a G.I. cut off the ears of a dead Dink, so what?" Livingston:

Yes, some G.I.s were murderers. Some were rapists. Some were mutilators. Some were so filled with institutionalized hatred that they killed anything with "slant eyes or yellow skin," and chocked it up to body-count. Some G.I.s just participated in the "unfortunate, but expected acts of war" such as carpet bombing, 'village-relocation' and killing anything that moved in free-fire zones.

You have the disgusting, blind ignorance to ask, "Other than the abberation of My Lai & it was an abberation, which was a major reason so much was made of it, what is your evidence that one or more G.I.s committed murder?"

How about the "abberations" described at the Vietnam War Crimes Hearings held by Senator Dellums? How about the close to 150 testimonies of similar behavior described during the Winter Soldier hearings (Not a single one of which has been discredited to date - despite reports of propagandists)? What of the 16 innocent women and children slaughtered at Son Thang? What of the several hundred innocents slaughtered by Tiger Force? The real "abberations" and the number of cover-ups that have been discovered or admitted.

So much was made of the My Lai massacre not because it was unusual, but because it was attrocious - and it was photographed - and it was uncovered, after a year of effort by the administration to try to conceal it.

Bill Heuisler misleadingly asks, "Do you also agree with John Kerry's accusing his brothers in arms of being war criminals and murderers?"

Kerry didn't make that accusation. Kerry accused the criminals and murderers of being criminals and murderers -- and Mr. Heuisler knows this. We're in election season, and Mr. Heuisler knows that if he can, like the proverbial caged monkey, fling enough poo to create a shitstorm, perhaps no one will try to wade through it to find the truth.

Mr. Livingston, you put forth your claim that you did not witness any "deliberate harm" to non-combatants by a G.I. during your stay in Vietnam, as if that were proof that no harm was done. This from the man that can ask, "if a G.I. cut off the ears of a dead Dink, so what?" You further suggest that your 'Lord' allowed you to survive because you never did anything evil.

You'll excuse my revulsion at you and your Lord's sensibilities.


gerald r reynolds - 6/14/2004

My question for the conditions below: which i am sure will be repeated is: Did not all these conditions also fit the Kosovo War? And yet, no large international outbreak of anti-war movements. I still feel a large component of the movement is based more on who is running the show now then the actual actions. Post vietnam, Conservative presidents generate more of this activity than democratic or even new liberal presidents (witness Reagan in the 80s) even though both parties tend to run realpolitik depending upon the context.
GRR
The fact that there are still apologists for the Vietnam War (a massacre of Holocaust-like proportions) suggests that years from now there will still be people trying to justify the Iraq quagmire no matter how many of the war's justifications are found to be fabrications,
lives are lost,
people are maimed,
billions of dollars are wasted,
conventions of international law are broken,
or how many whistle blowers point out the duplicity and incompetence of the debacle's "masterminds."

Who wouldn't protest such a war?


Arnold Shcherban - 5/24/2004

Mr. Heuisler,

You as the multitute of other right-wing, anti-populist ideologues, are constantly trying to rewrite the history
of the US successful and unsuccessful agressive wars in
order to justify the unjustifiable by distorting either the respective facts or substituting the deep historical analysis with the superficial ideological speculations.
The historical truth means nothing to you, as long as it
contradicts the ideological axioms postulated long time
ago by the masters of Western corporate propaganda.

One of the such axioms is the decisive or, at the least, very important role that the US anti-war movement played
in the outcome of the Vietnam war.
This axiom bears close analogy, in its ideological and propagandistic goal, to the other extremely popular among
apologets of the US foreign policy's belligerency axiom:
the Ronald Reigan's declaration of Soviet Union an "evil
empire" as the decisive cause of the fall of communism
in Russia and Eastern Europe.

To be more factual, let's look at some of your main arguments that supposedly undermine the validity of the
Kimball's conclusions.
You wrote:


Thus, provided we take your statement as the undeniable fact, it has to be concluded that the anti-war movement
in question was not significant at all. But the
latter conclusion negates the premise: the anti-war movement seriously undermined the American war effort in
Indochina that time.

Your second major argument was:


Even, if we take Giap's mentioned "revelations" as the
only historical truth in the discussed regard, they tell us little in favor of your point/position on the issue.
In fact, as it should be well known to all interested in the US-Vietnam affair(as it is well-documented) North Vietnam and largely dependent on it Vietkong had been seeking "conditional cessation of hostilities" all along US agression against their country, i.e. before and after the "massive defeat"(whether the defeat was just a Pirrus victory, or a pure defeat.) With 'conditional' being the operative word here. It is exactly those conditions(stopping the US criminal murderous and destructive war against not only the Vietkong and sovereign state of North Vietnam, but against the South and North Vietnam's populus, murdering the very people the "freedoms" of which the US proclaimed to be protecting and forcefully installing pro-American, and what's more important - anti-popular, brutal and corrupted from top to bottom elitist regimes there, i.e. killing democracy in the name of democracy) being unacceptable for the USA military-industrial complex and its ideologues that prevented the US exit from the war.
The US goverment was stopping the bombing of the targets
in North Vietnam once or twice for a short period of time, only to resume it with even greater intensity and scale(read - greater destructiveness and indiscrimination of targets)(alas for Mr. Heuisler) not under the pressure of anti-war movements, but primarily under its doubts on the possibity of reaching the military victory, in recognition of the heavily guarded from the American public fact that the great majority of the North and South Vietnamese supported Vietkong's cause, with those doubts being also well-documented.

North Vietnamese leaders, as would any other politicians
in any similar situation, did entertain some hope
for the democratic pressure on the US goverments
created by the anti-war activists, but not only that hope was never really big one, significantly affecting
their military or political actions, as it is clear from
many written and oral pieces of evidence coming from the
Vietnamese side that time and later, but it has been ultimately proved illusionary by the development of the
pertained events.


Jerry West - 4/26/2004

Dave Livingston wrote:

Yes, I indeed will argue that the anti-war protestors were in large part responsible for many of our casualities in Viet-Nam because their activities gave aid, comfort and encouragement to our enemy, encouragement to continue fighting against us.

JW:

This is highly debatable. One can argue that the Vietnamese were not going to quit until they won, no matter how long it took. Assuming that then anything that resulted in the US pulling out of VN contributed to saving US lives.

There would have been almost no US casualties in VN had we not gotten involved there in the first place. And, since there was no good reason for the US to get involved, where does the responsibility for the casualties lie?

DL:

Essentially we had the Communists wipped by '68....

JW:

According to what I have read they were ready to sign a peace accord in 1968. The same one that they signed for years later. It is reported that acting on Kissinger's advice the South Vietnamese refused to sign, allegedly because a peace deal would have re-elected the Democrats in the US, and HK told the South Vietnamese that Nixon would get them a better deal. One could argue that about 30 thousand US troopers died to win RMN the 1968 election.

DL:

Meddling in a civil war in Viet-Nam? Not unless one considered all Viets citizens of one state, which they were not.

JW:

Vietnam was one state until it was artificially divided as part of the peace process in 1954. Both sides to the negotiations recognized it as a single country and both claimed it. An agreement was reached to hold an election in 1956 to decide who was to govern the entire country. The US side did not let the election go forward.

The unification of the country in 1975 was the result of a long struggle by the Vietnamese to rid their country of foreign domination. Our war was the tail end of a much longer one.

There are lots of books on this and how we wound up in the middle of it. A couple of older ones you might want to check out are:

THE STRUGGLE FOR INDOCHINA, 1940-1955
By Ellen J. Hammer published in 1966, and

WHY VIETNAM
By A.L.A. Patti published in 1980
Patti was an OSS operative in Vietnam at the end of WWII

DL:

You say "the churches were heavily involved in the anti-war movement." Shouldn't that be "Some" churches?

JW:

Of course not all churches. I personally knew Catholic clerics who were involved, as well as Anglicans, Quakers, Unitarians, and Japanese Chistians. It would be a mistake to think that the larger denominations were unified on this issue. There was considerable involvement by religious groups, however.

DL:

Jerry too is partly correct to note that much of the anti-war movement was concerned with ending the war before various individuals were drafted to fight in it, regardless only 26% of the G.I.s who served in 'Nam were draftees.

JW:

From my experience many Vets were concerned with ending the war because it was a bloody mistake. I knew people opposed to the war clear up into the ranks of the field grade officers. Those most likely to be opposed were the company grade officers and E-5 and below enlisted. Many that I knew were not draftees.

DL:

While on the subject of the Viet-Nam War, should anyone know someone seeking orginal source material down at the fighting company level that person may benefit if referred to....

JW:

In the early 1970s I helped with an oral history project at UC Berkeley that recorded the experiences of a number of vets. The material should be archived at Columbia University for those interested in the research.


Andrew D. Todd - 4/25/2004

South Vietnam was rather ambiguously a nation. If it had gone on, it might have become a nation, but that question is moot. I think it is useful to compare South Vietnam to Taiwan and Canada.

In 1954, about 600, 000 refugees from the north arrived in South Vietnam. These people were francophone and Roman Catholic, and they had traditionally been resident in and around Hanoi, the French colonial capital and the economic center of colonial Vietnam. They were the "colonial class," what the French in West Africa called "evolues," or evolved ones, though I am not sure whether the term would be strictly applicable to Indochina or Algeria. Either a high school diploma or a term of service in the army conferred French citizenship, and made one an "evolue." At any rate, these refugees, representing perhaps five percent of the population of South Vietnam, more or less immediately became the directing class.

Refugees from one nation to another practically never become the directing class. Even if the receiving nation is disposed to make use of the refugees' skills, it does not quite trust them, and it therefore puts in its own man to run the show, eg. Gen. Leslie Groves in the Manhattan Project during World War II.

In 1949, about two million mainland Chinese arrived in Taiwan, where they constituted something like 20% of the population, and similarly became the directing class. For something over forty years, they maintained that they were the legitimate government of all China.

In the aftermath of the American war of independence, about 40,000 American Loyalists fled to Canada, 30,000 to the Maritimes, and about 8000 to Quebec. The eastern branch joined about 17,000 New Englanders who had moved up before the revolution, and who had not rebelled against the king. These 60,000 people constituted the nucleus of Anglo-Canada, dominating about 80,000 French-Canadians. They spent approximately the next hundred years arguing with the United States about whether or not they were an independent nation.

In all three cases, the indigenous population displayed limited enthusiasm. They were not inclined to make fine distinctions between different kinds of what they perceived as foreign rulers. The Vietnamese peasant who was basically indifferent to the conflict between communist North Vietnamese and anti-communist North Vietnamese was the heir of the Quebecois habitant who disliked both George III and George Washington equally. The main difference was that the American Loyalists and the Mainland Chinese were sufficiently numerous that they could carry on despite the unenthusiastic natives.


William Livingston - 4/24/2004

It appears both Walter Moeller & Jerry have valid points. Indeed, it is a basic object of war to destroy the enemy's will to resist. All the better if one may destroy an enemy's will to fight without ever engaging him on the battlefield. For instance, we won the Cold War without having to ever fight either the Soviet Union or Red China directly, albeit we fought them in proxy wars such as the Korean & Viet-Nam Wars, Grenada, Greece, Quemoy & Matsu, Malaya & in the Philippines and some quarter of a million troops of the Chinese Red Army served in Viet-Nam, mostly maintaining & defending the Ho Chi Minh Trail (See "Blood Road") against us.

Jerry too is partly correct to note that much of the anti-war movement was concerned with ending the war before various individuals were drafted to fight in it, regardless only 26% of the G.I.s who served in 'Nam were draftees. Granted, probably much of the unrest on campus was related to no higher ideal than seeking an excuse to cut class or to avoid exams.

While on the subject of the Viet-Nam War, should anyone know someone seeking orginal source material down at the fighting company level that person may benefit if referred to
http://www.vietnamproject.ttu.edu/banshee


Andrew D. Todd - 4/24/2004

I am disturbed by the manner in which Bill Heuisler equates speech with the act of assault and battery. He speaks of his "...right to call [a protester] a traitor and break his nose when he objects." Perhaps Mr. Heuisler did not consider his words closely. I am sure he did not mean to teach and advocate the tactics of totalitarian thugs. Certain communist and other totalitarian parties have from time to time employed tough young men to go around to where their political opponents are handing out leaflets,and beat up the leafleteers, on the pretext of being insulted by them. When that fails to deter the leafleteers from exercising their right to freedom of speech and the press, the thugs commonly escalate to shootings, after the fashion of the Aryan Nation. Someone who supports that kind of thing is in essential agreement with Osama Bin Laden. The ostensible difference of totalitarian parties is of little importance: as Adolph Hitler observed, former communists make the best Nazis.

It is understandable that a former police officer should exaggerate the importance of the police. We all have our professional vanities. The truth is that the police would be impotent if the population ceased supporting them. That is of course what has happened in the larger cities. There are never enough police if neighbors are at each other's throats. The public peace is actually secured by what Daniel Patrick Moynahan called "the discipline of democracy," meaning, for example, that you don't simply shoot people you disagree with.


Jerry West - 4/24/2004

WJM wrote:

That is exactly what happened during the Viet Nam War with the anti-war protests. Our will to resist was destroyed right here on the home-front.

JW:

And I thought that the anti-war activists were resisters. It seems to me that our will to fight a war that we had no business being engaged in in the first place was what was destroyed.

WJM:

If that situation had existed during WWII, we would probably be speaking German or Japanese today.

JW:

I doubt it. But you can not really compare WWII to the RVN fiasco. Then we were responding to a direct attack. In RVN we were meddling in a civil war whose outcome either way would have had no serious consequences for us other than casualties.

WJM:

Many of us who fought in VN believe that the anti-war movement was instigated and fueled by the Communists.

JW:

It really doesn't matter if it was or not. I know from experience that the churches were heavily involved in the anti-war movement.

Come to think of it, weren't the communists our allies in WWII?


Walter J. Moeller - 4/24/2004

A strategic goal of war is to destroy the will of the enemy to resist. That is exactly what happened during the Viet Nam War with the anti-war protests. Our will to resist was destroyed right here on the home-front. If that situation had existed during WWII, we would probably be speaking German or Japanese today. And there would be no protests. Many of us who fought in VN believe that the anti-war movement was instigated and fueled by the Communists. It's too bad that we do not have access to their archives, especially the ones on subversion, to verify, or deny, that allegation. WJM


Bill Heuisler - 4/23/2004

Mr. Livingston,
Thank you for your service to our Country. Few if any of my friends and relatives fought for the right of some scumbag to carry a NVA flag on the streets of Philly. His right to insult our dead serviceman and to embolden our enemies vaguely parallels my right to call him a traitor and break his nose when he objects. Who enforces these rights is the question; most cops are vets. Reality 101.
Best, Bill Heuisler


Jerry West - 4/22/2004

Dave Livingston wrote:

You say some G.I.s were murderers. Other than the abberation of My Lai & it was an abberation, which was a major reason so much was made of it, what is your evidence that one or more G.I.s committed murder?

JW:

A mistake made by some critical of the VN War is to imply that murder was a common practice or the norm.

An even more ridiculous mistake by some supporting the war is that there were no murders other than My Lai.

The mistake of the former hinges on one's definition of common practive or what could be considered the norm. The real issue of debate, not that murders were committed.

The mistake of the latter is ludicrous given the scope and duration of the war. It has been a number of years since I have been current in the literature and source materials but recollection tells me that a number of cases were covered in the literature of the time, including the classified documents coming out of RVN which I handled for two years as a comm center supervisor and cryptographer after I left RVN. There is also the case of LtCol Anthony Herbert who I beleived exposed a case similar to My Lai, (it could have been My Lai), and of course we have the recent reports in the Detroit paper about the Tiger Force. An examination of the judicial records of the military in RVN will also no doubt turn up records of actual prosecutions for murder.

The fact that neither you not I were involved in or witness to these acts only tells me that they were not everyday events, not that they did not occur except for My Lai. I have no doubt that the experience of most veterans are similar to ours in this regard.

DL:

I never saw a single instance of deliberate harm, let alone murder, rendered to a non-combatant by a G.I.

JW:

I saw some pretty callous stuff on occasion, but not of lethal or even considerable proportion.

DL:

Some, many, but not all the Viet vets with whom I am acquainted deeply resent, as do I, the American anti-war types and blame them for having given aid and comfort to the enemy whilst our fannies were at risk in exotic Indochina.

JW:

And I have been acquainted with many take the opposite view. I don't think that either side can claim a monopoly on their view. I also don't think we can find universal agreement on exactly who or what the enemy was.

DL:

That which I most deeply resent about the war is the shameful, disgraceful and deadly manner in which we abandoned our South Viet ally to the horrors of a Communist conquest.

JW:

We could go back further to the shameful and disgraceful act of abandoning our ally Ho Chi Minh in 1945 who fought with us against the Japanese. Perhaps if we would not have allowed the French back into IndoChina in the first place all of this could have been avoided.


Jerry West - 4/22/2004

Dave Livingston wrote:

You say some G.I.s were murderers. Other than the abberation of My Lai & it was an abberation, which was a major reason so much was made of it, what is your evidence that one or more G.I.s committed murder?

JW:

A mistake made by some critical of the VN War is to imply that murder was a common practice or the norm.

An even more ridiculous mistake by some supporting the war is that there were no murders other than My Lai.

The mistake of the former hinges on one's definition of common practive or what could be considered the norm. The real issue of debate, not that murders were committed.

The mistake of the latter is ludicrous given the scope and duration of the war. It has been a number of years since I have been current in the literature and source materials but recollection tells me that a number of cases were covered in the literature of the time, including the classified documents coming out of RVN which I handled for two years as a comm center supervisor and cryptographer after I left RVN. There is also the case of LtCol Anthony Herbert who I beleived exposed a case similar to My Lai, (it could have been My Lai), and of course we have the recent reports in the Detroit paper about the Tiger Force. An examination of the judicial records of the military in RVN will also no doubt turn up records of actual prosecutions for murder.

The fact that neither you not I were involved in or witness to these acts only tells me that they were not everyday events, not that they did not occur except for My Lai. I have no doubt that the experience of most veterans are similar to ours in this regard.

DL:

I never saw a single instance of deliberate harm, let alone murder, rendered to a non-combatant by a G.I.

JW:

I saw some pretty callous stuff on occasion, but not of lethal or even considerable proportion.

DL:

Some, many, but not all the Viet vets with whom I am acquainted deeply resent, as do I, the American anti-war types and blame them for having given aid and comfort to the enemy whilst our fannies were at risk in exotic Indochina.

JW:

And I have been acquainted with many take the opposite view. I don't think that either side can claim a monopoly on their view. I also don't think we can find universal agreement on exactly who or what the enemy was.

DL:

That which I most deeply resent about the war is the shameful, disgraceful and deadly manner in which we abandoned our South Viet ally to the horrors of a Communist conquest.

JW:

We could go back further to the shameful and disgraceful act of abandoning our ally Ho Chi Minh in 1945 who fought with us against the Japanese. Perhaps if we would not have allowed the French back into IndoChina in the first place all of this could have been avoided.


William Livingston - 4/21/2004

Adam,

Of course the anti-war movement here at home did not cause our losing the war in Viet-Nam, but it certainly contributed to encouraging the enemy to fight on against us.

As said before, according to Kennedy & Johnson adminstrations policy wonk Ernest W. Lefever, "Wall Street Journal" opinion page of 21 May 1997, "Johnson and Nixon's firmness under relentless and often cynical domestic attack reassured our allies around the world. An America that would not cut and run in far-off Vietnam would hardly abandon its key allies in Europe and the Pacific...Second, our steadfastness in Vietnam strenghtened nationalist and anticommunist forces elsewhere in Southeast Asia...Third, holding the line in Indochina led to a balance of power favorable to the states in the region and to us..."


William Livingston - 4/21/2004

Jerry,

You say some G.I.s were murderers. Other than the abberation of My Lai & it was an abberation, which was a major reason so much was made of it, what is your evidence that one or more G.I.s committed murder? As said before,in my nearly 23 months in 'Nam I never saw a single instance of deliberate harm, let alone murder, rendered to a non-combatant by a G.I. And as said too, it is my guess that one reason our Lord permitted me to survive severe wounds in that last-for-me firefight was that never once did I do anything evil in 'Nam. I.e, never once did I deliberately or through carelessness harm a non-combatant. Moreover, I sleep better knowing that than I otherwise would.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Andrew,

You have a point. While most Americans can comprehend my point-of-view that one of the reasons I fought in Viet-Nam was to defend the right of my fellow American to protest our involvement in the war, but many a person from another culture or society cannot comprehend that attitude. Either way, it is unquestionable that the anti-war protests gave encouragement to our enemy to fight on secure in the knowledge that political pressures here at home were seving their cause.

One organization for which I will forever hold contempt & hostility is the American Friends Service Committee, which provided the enemy not only with morale support but also war materials to use against us. Still, it is one of the sub rosa strenghts of America that the members of the AFSC didn't find themselves in the hoosegow as traitors.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Bill,

In that same train-of-thought it has long vexed me that the Left made such a big deal about the execution of a V.C. commando in a Saigon street during tet. The dramatic photo, as you may recall, shows General Loan, the commander of Saigon's police, having just shot a V.C. in the side of his head with his revolver. But what the photo-journalist failed to add was why General Loan executed the V.C.--because that V.C. had led a commando team which within the hour had executed in their home, General Loan's best buddy and his best buddy's wife AND all nine (09) of their children.

Moreover, the photo lending strength to the anti-war cause by showing how nasty that this South Viet official was failed too to note that the V.C. out-of-uniform was by the rules adopted by the Geneva onvention a spy subject to summary execution. The photo-journalism also failed to note that Genewral Loan by the laws of South Viet-Nam was authorized to execute spies.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Yes, David Horowitz, once a leading figure in the anti-war movement and as editor of the radically Left magazine "Ramparts" has become in recent years a thorn in the side of the American Left, because he has concluded the anti-war movement was naive and mistaken and David has gone from a Left/radical political position to a very conservative one. Nonetheless, David makes a strong case that the anti-war movement was wrong & that the war was justified from the U.S. & South Viet anti-Communist perspectives, as manifested by the horrors visited by the Communists upon South Viet-Nam.

His switch in point-of-view arouses vicious personal attacks upon him by the surviving Left because he disdains their positions not only on the war but also generally.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Bill is IMHO by & large accurate in his interpretation of the effects of the anti-war protests. Whether or no we were morally correct in 'Nam &/or wise from a foreign policy perspective, I happen to believe we were in both cases & they are points I'm willing to discuss or argue, is beside the point that the Leftist-led anti-war protests here at home had a negative effect on the prosecution of the war by encouraging the enemy to fight on. On the other hand, as one of us vets suggested a major motivation for the protests on campus was the student desire to avoid classes.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Johnny on-the-spot is evidently unaware of the homefront hostility led by the Left the French Army faced while it fought in Indochina. This hostility manefisted itself in instances of French port workers refusing to assist in the transfer of wounded French soldiers to shore from ships from Indochina. Of course this was a time the Communists were making a serious effort to replace moderate governments in Western Europe with ones that were Communist-leaning. A common refrain of the Left was that the French Army shouldn't fight to protect the investments of the Bank of Indochina.


William Livingston - 4/20/2004

Jerry West,

My observations in 'Nam, 1st Squadron, 4th (Armored) Cavalry, 1st Infantry Division in III Corps TAO, 1966-7; 2nd Squadron, 17th (Air) Cavalry, 101st Airborne, northern I Corps, 1969-70, differ a mite from yours. The first go-round there was no readily serious drug problem & but a minor racial one, but my second tour both had increased in seriousness. Neither time did I onserve any reluctance to fight by our boys, but post-war expressions of deep resentment of the South Viets manifested themselves now & again--because some of the troops held the South Viets responsible for their having to have been in 'Nam. "If the Viets had handled their affairs responsibly, we need not have gotten involved," seems to be the prevailing attitude.

Some, many, but not all the Viet vets with whom I am acquainted deeply resent, as do I, the American anti-war types and blame them for having given aid and comfort to the enemy whilst our fannies were at risk in exotic Indochina.

It is amusing that while us vets are admonished from time-to-time to forget the war, "That was a long time ago" the issuse simply won't go away. For all I'd like to forget some aspects of the experience, I of a select, a very dubious honor, 23,214 Viet vets cannot, nor wish, to forget the war. Indeed, regardless having been clobbered in that one last firefight I subscribe to the view set forth by one of us: "I wouldn't go through that again for a million dollars, but I wouldn't have missed it for two million."

That which I most deeply resent about the war is the shameful, disgraceful and deadly manner in which we abandoned our South Viet ally to the horrors of a Communist conquest.

Dave (William David)


Bill Heuisler - 4/18/2004

Mr. Ramburg,
1)You obviously agree your anti-colonialist remark was specious. No protestors - no relevance to the argument.
2)If you must quote Robert Strange, he did not say "we" killed "3,400,000 million" Vietnamese (whatever that odd usage means). He said that's how many died throughout the long struggle. He was including thirty year; he included those million or so killed by your admired friends after we left in reeducation camps, slaughtered on the streets and in their homes because they had ties to the West or were fleeing the new Communist tyranny in small boats.
Get your facts (and quotes) straight.
Bill Heuisler


Johnny Ramburg - 4/18/2004

Point 1: The Vietnamese kicked the French out of their country. My point was that they did not require that the French be weakened by a "stab in the back" in the form of French protests against French involvement there.

Point 2: The number of Vietnamese killed (3,400,000) comes from former Secretary of Defense MacNamara. He is not a dovish fellow. That number does not include the number of people who got cancer or suffer from birth defects thanks to Agent Orange.

I am afraid your two points miss the point.


Bill Heuisler - 4/17/2004

Mr. Ramburg,
Two points about your foolish prattle.
1)There were no French anti colonialists marching on Paris streets during the seige at Dienbienphu.
2)Your, "3,400,000 million Vietnamese that we killed" exist only in the fevered, hate-filled pens of Zinn and Chomsky. Instead of asinine illustrations, do a little math, check some population figures and ask yourself who (what) all those inconvenient Boat People were fleeing.

Using misstatements and impossible statistics only reduce your postings to childish polemic. The misuse of terms, ignorance of history and disdain for mere logistics would be embarrassing if I cared enough to care.
Bill Heuisler


Bill Heuisler - 4/17/2004

Derek,
All your trash-talk aside, you evidently believe that
General Giap was lying about the results he perceived from American anti-war protests. Not a pretense, a fact.
You also apparently think if some selfish citizens disagree with a war, it's okay for them to protest that war, even if that protest will embolden an enemy and get more American soldiers killed. Yeah, they have the right, but it's obviously immoral for them to exercise the right if General Giap wrote the truth in his book.

The Sadr reference was to illustrate how words uttered in the US are used by the enemy. Sorry the argument was too complex. You must be either very busy or very threatened by the idea that your buddies on the Left are calmly, determinedly giving aid and comfort to our terrorist enemies. Pass off the blame and ignore the consequences, but trying to argue away the fact that the Saddams of this world really appreciate the ANSWERS with their nasty signs on US streets is deplorable.
Bill


Derek Charles Catsam - 4/17/2004

Didn't get to finish my last post before it disappeared into the nether.
No one has actually done more than assert some pretty tepid evidence about causality between protests and battlefront deaths. There is certainly more evidence that protests got American politicians to pull out of a war that was increasingly unpopular.
This tired canard intended to challenge people's right to oppose their government is at least as noisome as the excesses of those very protesters. At least neither side has a monopoly on idiocy.
dc


Derek Charles Catsam - 4/17/2004

Bill --
"Even for me"? What the hell does that even mean, Bill? Figures you can't respond to a post that disagrees with your opinion without the very first thing you say being not an argument but an insult. For an old marine you are pretty juvenile, and apparently a little thick.
I think you are not reading my point. What I am saying is that if Americans do not think that our troops, who are already being killed and harmed by the enemy -- the first American troops did not die only after protests began -- should be there in the first place, we have the right in a democratic republic that values speech, to protest their presence. This is the "freedom" you love to wax so romantic about in your best fourth-rate echo of Victor Davis Hanson's prose and yet never seem actually to give much of a damn about on the ground. The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were fighting werll before most Americans could even identify the Mekong on a map. That the Vietnamese would have fought less fiercely had there not been opposition in America is a counterfactual neither one of us can answer, your pretenses to the contrary notwithstanding.
I also find it peculiar the way in which you selectively take seriously the words of our enemy. So sadr is credibnle when he is quoting Kennedy because -- surprise -- this helps your argument. Of course sadr has also said we should not be there in what he sees as "his" land -- why do I think you won't be citing those sorts of comments anytime soon?
As for your overwrought "do they help terrorists kill Americans" what does this mean, really? That no one can do anything that will ever result in deaths of troops? If that is the argument, then we certainly have no right to engage militarily anywhere. Many of the policies we puirsue (often rightly) we know will result in people dying. You would never say we should stop supporting israel simply because we know that such support will lead to deaths, because being in israel is right and there is sometimes a cost associated with being right.


Johnny Ramburg - 4/17/2004

The idea of Paul Krugman bolstering the moral of Jihadists is funny insofar as it is detached from reality. The rank and file occupation resisters, I would imagine, could hardly be further separated from the Western anti-war rhetoric.

When the Vietnamese kicked the French out of THEIR country, were French anti-colonialists to blame then as well?

The 50,000 Americans dead in Vietnam are a tragedy. Let's not forget the 3,400,000 million Vietnamese that we killed. To give you a sense of scale, imagine one mass grave containing 69 corpses. One is a dead American. Sixty-eight are Vietnamese. This is the ratio of Americans killed to the number of Vietnamese killed.

Yes, I agree with John Kerry, but I think you are intentionally distorting his claims about the war. He courageously implicates himself in the slaughter over there, rather than trying to justify what can never be justified. How does one determine who is a war criminal in a criminal war?


Andrew D. Todd - 4/17/2004

Obviously, a foreign enemy is going to take account, not just of demonstrations, but also of election results, public opinion polls, newspapers, etc. Similarly, a foreign enemy is going to take account of side issues, such as Enron, tax cuts, school vouchers, abortion, gay marriage, outsourcing, etc., in short, any possible issue which might cost the President a million swing votes or so. Similarly, a foreign enemy is going to take account of religion, taking as a sign of weakness the fact that not all Americans are Southern Baptists. In short, the foreign enemy is going to collect whatever information he can, and distill it as best he can, to figure out what Americans will do under pressure. This is of course very much what the CIA does for foreign countries.

Once you admit the opinions of foreign enemies, and their possible encouragement, as a valid criterion, you are turning the foreign enemy into your lawgiver. In so doing, you would be effectively calling for the abolition of the constitution, and the institution of a dictatorship or a monarchy, complete with a matching theocracy, more or less on the model of North Korea.


chris l pettit - 4/17/2004

without the emotional excess that many of us can interject into our posts at times.

CP


Jerry West - 4/17/2004

Interesting dance in this thread.

Bill Heuisler wrote:

Do you also agree with John Kerry's accusing his brothers in arms of being war criminals and murderers?

JW:

Some of them were. A lot of them were not. It would be wrong to call them all murderers just as it would be wrong to say that all of them were not or to deny that some evil things were committed. There is no excuse for My Lai or any number of other incidents around the world that the US aided, instigated, supported or otherwise was involved in. Likewise can be said for other countries on all sides of the issues. It is not a question of one country's or one groups right or wrongness, but of individual moral failings, and we have had a lot of them, and in high places too. The ICC is a good idea.

BH:

I wonder how you can bear to live in this United States with all of us criminals.

JW:

A statement which is nothing more than gross hyperbole.

All of us are not criminals, though some of us are. One should not confuse US policy with the people of the US, particularly with those who do not have the financial resources to influence the vote and the direction of government.

BH:

The article asked if anti-war protestors embolden our enemy.

JW:

That is correct, but first off, does it matter? Second, who is the enemy? I am reminded of a famous statement in POGO.

BH:

Give me reasons why anti-war protests don't give comfort to some patrons of Al Jazeera.

JW:

Again, does it matter? One could make the argument that people should not criticize thug A because it might embolden thug B.

BH:

Protestors' right to oppose is not the issue....

JW:

It shouldn't be, and when and if sedition laws, censorship and other such things are brought in in the name of security I would hope that all real Americans stand up against them.

BH:

They have the right to be wrong, but do they help terrorists kill Americans?

JW:

It could be debated whether protests lead to more or fewer deaths in the long run. Perhaps we should be looking more closely at the reasons why terrorists kill Americans and what part our policies may have played rather than blaming protestors.


Bill Heuisler - 4/17/2004

Derek,
What a stretch...even for you. You measure "deaths caused by the very presence of the troops that those Americans are protesting" against deaths caused by protestors. Thus you assign blame to the dead for having the chutzpah to unselfishly attempt to prevent a Communist takeover. What about the 600 Marines who died on that first day on Iwo Jima? (We lost fewer people at Pearl Harbor than 9/11). Do you also consider our dead in Korea to have been at fault for their presence? What about those Marines who died in Beirut? Or that woman in the short skirt who was raped? Forget Kierkegaard and answer the question.

Or, if you don't like the question, say so. The article asked if anti-war protestors embolden our enemy. We were not asked if our troops deserved killing for being there. Do protests incite? Do war protestors' words have impact? Al Sadr quoted Senator Kennedy the other day and used the Vietnam comparison. He's paying attention. The celebrants in Jaffa after 9/11 were paying attention. Are you saying the answer is no? Give me reasons why anti-war protests don't give comfort to some patrons of Al Jazeera.

Protestors' right to oppose is not the issue and you duck the question when you bring it up. They have the right to be wrong, but do they help terrorists kill Americans?
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 4/17/2004

Mr. Ramburg,
Krugman? That's funny. But did you think it funny that General Vo Nguyen Giap thought the anti-war movement helped the NVA? Do you consider these Jihadists to be inscrutable, hard-core individualists with no regard for their life or their prospects of victory? Or maybe you think they're just too stupid to be paying attention to the news. Remember the "Arab Street" celebrations after 9/11? They were paying attention.

Does it tickle your funnybone that the likes of Arafat can convince Jihadists to blow themselves up, that OBL can convince Jihadists to fly planes into buildings or that OBL brags about those Americans opposing the war against Afganistan and Iraq? Do you smile when you remember how Saddam warmly praised the ANSWER anti-war marchers prior to the invasion of Iraq?

Your odd sense of humor must depend on a grotesquely deformed sense of proportion. For instance, describing the Vietnam War as "(a massacre of Holocaust-like proportions)" shows a tenuous grasp on reality and an incredible disdain for over 50,000 dead American fighting men. Do you also agree with John Kerry's accusing his brothers in arms of being war criminals and murderers?
Assuming you do, I wonder how you can bear to live in this United States with all of us criminals.
Bill Heuisler


Johnny Ramburg - 4/16/2004

The idea of Jihadists being motivated by the American anti-war movement tickles one's funny bone. It strains credulity to imagine a potential suicide bomber, whose resolve is derived from, say, the words of Paul Krugman.

People seem to forget that Iraqis did not like America before the war, the lies of Ahmad Chalabi not withstanding. Now that Bush's original justifications for the war have proven to have been lies, a new justification for this misadventure has emerged- the idea that a Democratic Iraq will bolster a democratic movement in the Middle East. This "Democratic Domino Theory" is as fallacious as its predecessor.

Bush can lie about the reasons for the war and fool a cowed press and public, but reality catches up. Just as in Vietnam, all the lies justifying the action collide with a terrible reality on the ground. Violence and instability will create ever more people ready to die for their cause. They will take their cues from Clerics and other leaders, not the American anti-war movement.

The fact that there are still apologists for the Vietnam War (a massacre of Holocaust-like proportions) suggests that years from now there will still be people trying to justify the Iraq quagmire no matter how many

of the war's justifications are found to be fabrications,

lives are lost,

people are maimed,

billions of dollars are wasted,

conventions of international law are broken,

or how many whistle blowers point out the duplicity and incompetence of the debacle's "masterminds."

Who wouldn't protest such a war?


Derek Charles Catsam - 4/16/2004

Is anyone seriously going to argue that whatever deaths may have resulted in Americans exercising their right to oppose government actions in Vietnam is even comparable to the deaths caused by the very presence of the troops that those Americans are protesting? It seems bizarre to claim that war protesters are responsible for deaths in a war they want stopped. It seems even more bizarre to say that once a foreign policy is decided upon Americans have no right to oppose it. I must have missed that Constitutional Amendment.
dc


Bill Heuisler - 4/15/2004

Jerry,
We agree a little. That's enough for now.
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 4/15/2004

Adam,
That end of sixth para was supposed to read a pessimistic NEWS story.
Bill


Bill Heuisler - 4/15/2004


Bill Heuisler - 4/15/2004

Adam,
Tet was an unquestionable victory for the US. Tet was bemoaned by the media as a defeat. Tet prompted worldwide anti-war activities. Did you forget that time-line?

This subject becomes too tangled by nuance and emotion. Let's cut to the bone. The answer to the article's Title Question is obvious from General Giap's book and other NVA sources. These sources admit their dependence and affinity for Anti-War groups in the US and elsewhere. Kimball's tortuous attempt to read defeatism into polls and to use unmentioned NVA sources (while ignoring real sources) exposes an agenda.

Elections-as-more-accurate-template was in response to Kimball's broad attributions to polling data. My data is more certain than his in a macro sense. My position is much more utilitarian than asking merely Right or Wrong.

Kimball's thesis that War protests don't effect war is spurious in that it's based on poll interpretation. It's counter-intuitive and neutral on motive and results. For instance, if war protests don't affect war then why did (and do) ANSWER-types invest so much time and effort. First Amendment exercises? Don't ask me to be naive.

Anyhow, the Anti-War Movement's rightness or wrongness is not in question, only it's deleterious affect on our war effort-if troops and results are affected by war protests.
I believe they are. You partially disagree. The evidence is largely on my side, but Kimball avoids that evidence.

As to your other points, the British public, the Russians and Southern families didn't have immediate access to any information about their sons' wars. Their reactions to wars were months/years-irrelevant: connections among families, soldiers, politicians and electorate were tentative at best. Now it's tragically different; boots on the ground watch nightly news. Morale was linked to public opinion in Vietnam because VN was the first TV war where Cronkites formed opinion rather than related and the ponderous, discerning, wheels of time and history never got a chance until the morale-loss had affected the war and our KIAs. Example? My nephew E-mailed me from Al Nasiriyah with corrections of a pessimistic new story.

We agree partially? That implies some cause-effect. In these days of instant communication, responsibility lies with active participants in an activity that just might give comfort to some Jihadist who then decides to go out one more time and kill my nephew. Academic discussions are fine, Adam, but this ain't horseshoes any more.
Bill Heuisler


Jerry West - 4/15/2004

Kimball either does not understand or failed to consider the impact of the civilain anti-war movement on the anti-war movement which blossomed in the military and helped put the military in such an unreliable state that pulling out of RVN and ending the war was necessary to keep the organization from coming completely unglued. I believe it was Maxwell Taylor who said that we had to end the war to save the army.

Bill Heuisler wrote:

Your conclusion that the American war effort is not seriously harmed by Peace protests is undercut by facts.

JW:

I agree, but have a different take on it than you do.

BH:

These statements are obviously and provably wrong. Elections are the most illustrative and exact polls. Nixon ran on winning the war in 1968 and on Peace with Honor in 1972.

JW:

I think you may be comparing apples to oranges when you try to discredit statements based on polls with election results which come at a later date. Adam Moshe makes a good point on why the 1968 election results do not show support for the war. And if one recalls, didn't Tricky Dick run on a "secret plan" for ending the war?

As for 1972, Nixon was already pulling out before the elections, hardly a commitment to vigourously pursue the war. And what does Peace with Honor mean anyway. It is feel good political jargon, nothing more, and it would be a mistake to take it to mean victory. (Unless of course one's definition of victory is scamming huge amounts of taxpayer funds for defense contractors)

BH:

The General also states his intent to seek conditional cessation of hostilities was tempered by his reliance on the Anti-War movement in the US.

JW:

Conditional cessation is victory? We got conditional cessation, though whether one likes the conditions or not is another story.

BH:

....drawing false conclusions about the historic implications of Anti-War efforts is foolish.

JW:

Or incomplete conclusions which is more likely the case.

BH:

Blame for the Vietnam loss lies with political cynicism like yours and the malice of Anti-War leadership waving VC flags and chanting for Ho.

JW:

Actually, blame for the loss lies in the lap of those who foolishly got us engaged there in the first place, and military leaders who did not have the honor and fortitude to stand up and blow the whistle on an operation that was eating American lives with no reasonable end in site except in the fantasies of the true believers.

I was on the ground in RVN from 1965-1967. It was obvious even then that the war we were fighting and the patriotic rhetoric that was being used to justify it were totally divorced from one another.

We were not helping the common Vietnamese, they were caught in the middle and one could easily understand why so many of them supported the North.

The ARVN would barely fight. I have first hand experience with them. Even had them refuse to go on a joint company operation with us against a known VC unit collecting taxes nearby. The CO's words were that it was our war, not his.

By 1970 many of the troops had become disallusioned with the war.

Units were refusing to fight, or more commonly going into the field, finding a comfy spot, and then running a patrol strictly by radioing in different locations every so often.

Respect for authority was dropping.

There was a drug problem.

There was a racial problem.

Particularly egregious officers and NCOs were being murdered.

Aircraft and other equipment was being sabatoged.

So what did the anti-war movement have to do with all of this? The movement did not create the conditions, nor did it create the disallusionment in the forces, but what it did do was provide the inspiration and some infrastructure for an organized resistance within the military, and for military members to exercise their Constitutional right to speak out.

I can tell you from first hand experience that this anti-war attitude to one degree or another extended well into the ranks of the field grade officers.

The folly of the Vietnam War put the security of our country at risk.

Some argue that the anti-war activity lengthened the war and cost more American lives. Since it is probably unlikely that even with a negotiated peace leaving Vietnam in two pieces the Vietnamese would have given up their hopes and plans for a united country it is safe to assume that the only way to end American deaths in Vietnam was to disengage, and anything that hastened that disengagement saved lives.

Had we ended the war in 1968 instead of having the South Vietnamese reject the peace agreement (To give Nixon a better shot at becoming president) we would have gotten basically the same deal we got later with only half as many casualties.


Marc "Adam Moshe" Bacharach - 4/14/2004

1) “Both election results run counter to your main thesis. According to the 11/72 election, the American electorate, given a choice, overwhelmingly supported Nixon and winning the war.”

You seem to have minimized the 1968 Democratic riots, and the split ticket among Democrats, one of whom was the incumbent of the President that escalated the mess in the first place. Your overall problems with the article may be right, but Nixon’s victories do not prove that. Humphrey’s policy on Vietnam differed little to Nixon and McGovern was so extreme the other way, people naturally selected Nixon (I am being extremely simplistic, of course).

There are two assumptions that I believe you make in your post that I disagree with:
1- The anti-War movement caused our failure in Vietnam rather than the reverse, and
2- The anti-War movement tempered the military rather than policymakers, who simply made an objective analysis of the situation based on sound facts, and finally,
3- The anti-War movement was wrong

I don’t mean to put words in your mouth so if I am mistaken, I apologize, but these 3 assumptions seem to be the primary arguments made by people who blame protesters for Vietnam defeat. With respect to General Giap, the Tet-Offensive did not signify a beginning to the end… it signified, to many Americans (correctly, I believe) that there was no end and that after tens of thousands of lives, we were no closer to victory than we had been a decade earlier.

Much of the rest of your post, I believe, exaggerated the mistakes made in the article, attempting to paint the author as nothing more than a foolish partisan. I disagree.


2) “Blame for the Vietnam loss lies with political cynicism like yours and the malice of Anti-War leadership waving VC flags and chanting for Ho. Ask a soldier in Iraq (I'll give you E-mail addresses of members of my family and others).”

This statement again rests of faulty assumptions that I challenge:
1- The Vietcong would have surrendered in the absence of American protest,
2- Widespread opposition to the war was constant from the beginning, eventually wearing the military out
3- Military morale would have been extremely high, despite the massive casualties, the seemingly endless conflict, and the danger of serving in Vietnam, had only the American public been more supportive (which, in fact, they mostly were, up until 1968- see assumption #2)
Again, my apologies if I am putting words into your mouth but these assumptions are incorrect and represents a perspective on history that does not conform to what actually happened.

3) “It's simple logic: Anti-War protests lower our morale and raise the enemys'.”

In general, you are correct, but not always. Was Washington’s fight dependent on the British public’s reaction to the war? Did Germany continue in WWI ONLY because they knew Russians were against it? Much of the North did not support stopping Southern secession, but there is no evidence to suggest that it played a role in troop morale. As someone serving in Iraq, do you honestly believe that your morale is significantly lower since public opinion around Iraq is against the United States? The only time morale has been linked to public opinion in any serious way is Vietnam, and rests on the assumption that the war was winnable and that protest preceded failure.


William A. Henslee - 4/14/2004

I agree with the above analysis. There have been a number of memoirs and documents released by the N. Vietnamese since the war which told of their reliance upon the anti-war movement.

Why these voluntary and spontaneous additions to the war history have been glossed over by the author is as mystifying as it is disingenuous.

Perhaps it is an effort to innoculate the current anti-war activists from crticism that is leveled at them based on the Viet Nam war experience.


Bill Heuisler - 4/14/2004

Mr. Kimball,
Your conclusion that the American war effort is not seriously harmed by Peace protests is undercut by facts.
Your examples draw the wrong conclusions, don't go far enough and seem almost clumsy in their incomplete and fragmentary summation. Are they clumsy or deliberate?

For example, you wrote, "...Public opinion polls in the United States indicate that in early 1968 the citizenry was uneasy about the war and growing more weary of it..."

Later you wrote, "By early 1971 surveys of American opinion indicated that voter support for Nixon and his presidency was soft and that his continuance of the war was a factor. Polling evaluations of his strength and decisiveness were high but declining. His credibility score was down, and the public's assessment of his handling of the war was at its lowest level since the beginning of his presidency."

These statements are obviously and provably wrong. Elections are the most illustrative and exact polls. Nixon ran on winning the war in 1968 and on Peace with Honor in 1972. He won both elections - the second in 1972 by landslide against an anti-war candidate. Both election results run counter to your main thesis. According to the 11/72 election, the American electorate, given a choice, overwhelmingly supported Nixon and winning the war.

After asserting scant evidence on NVA opinions and data you "infer conclusions" from interviews and documents, but ignore a book by General Giap, the most important North Vietnamese after Ho Chi Minh. In this book, written in the early '80s, Giap admits the Tet Offensive was a massive defeat. The General also states his intent to seek conditional cessation of hostilities was tempered by his reliance on the Anti-War movement in the US.

Ignoring the words of the Military leader of the NVA and the results of national elections while drawing false conclusions about the historic implications of Anti-War efforts is foolish. But your use of the word, "quagmire" in the last paragraph underlines bias and reduces this purported scholarly inquiry to propaganda.

Blame for the Vietnam loss lies with political cynicism like yours and the malice of Anti-War leadership waving VC flags and chanting for Ho. Ask a soldier in Iraq (I'll give you E-mail addresses of members of my family and others). It's simple logic: Anti-War protests lower our morale and raise the enemys'.
Bill Heuisler