Categories
Uncategorized

Is Asperger’s a Learning Disability?

Currently many services for both children and adults diagnosed with the Asperger's Difference fall under the umbrella of learning disabilities. Indeed some professionals seem eager to broaden the definition of learning disabilities to encompass a whole host of individuals whose learning patterns may diverge somewhat from the norm. To confuse matters more the term is often interchanged freely with learning difficulties. Why should we take offence at these sweeping generalisations? After all in the spirit of official initiatives such the Same As You report in Scotland we should all embrace diversity and simultaneously be lulled into a false sense of equality.

What is a Learning Disability?

In practice it replaces the older terms mental handicap and mental retardation. However offensive this category may seem, it does specifically refer to individuals with a significant intellectual deficit, usually defined as 70 or below in crude IQ terms. To avoid confusion with learning difficulty, the term intellectual disability is preferred in scientific literature. Learning disabilities cover a very wide spectrum with diverse causes and aetiologies. Many individuals with learning disabilities do live fulfilling lives, have accomplished major feats in arts and sports, some work and a few have had families. Although people with learning disabilities may lack the intellect to analyse society methodically, many have excellent social skills and crave company when left alone for brief periods. Intelligence is indeed multifaceted and clearly in many learning disabled individuals the faculties of instinctive socialisation, so lacking in AS individuals, are very much intact.

And what about Learning Difficulties?

As we all learn new skills in slightly different ways, we all have relative learning difficulties. Some children may learn to read later and still flourish at university. Cultural comparisons prove instructive, e.g. in the UK children start formal education at the age of 5, but in most other European children do not begin to learn to read or write at school before they turn 6 or 7, yet often overtake their UK counterparts in key literacy and numeracy benchmarks by school leaving age. Asperger's is often considered a pervasive developmental disorder, but delay would more accurately describe the phenomenon. Although many aspies are hyperlexic at a young age and excel at maths, we tend to have a longer learning curve when it comes to coalescing different strands of knowledge and excellence or applying specialised skills to new more fruitful purposes. This is largely because of the different way we process information focusing on one task and on one aspect at time and then matching all the pieces in a puzzle before moving on. We can learn to approximate, but usually in a characteristically methodical way.

Aspies are not alone in having a learning pattern that doesn't fit in well with mainstream schooling, but certainly belong to the group of students who benefit most from more personalised attention, something that is hard with class sizes of 20 or more. Currently the main options available for children on the spectrum are either learning support in a mainstream setting or so-called special needs education.

The latter option often means mixing a diverse group of students with radically different needs and sensitivities. Most aspies have considerable academic potential in marked contrast with the intellectually disabled. However, if we interpret learning difficulty in its more literal sense, this may well apply to aspies as we don't respond to teamwork and group teaching methods as positively as other kids. Ironically many talented aspies thrive in more traditional or formal teaching environments, but may still encounter problems coping with socialising patterns outwith the classroom. Even if more resources were available for special schools for ASD children, this would not be the best way to prepare teenagers and young adults for their integration into the real world of university and work.

In practice with tight spending restrictions and large class sizes, auxiliary learning support staff is the commonest option today to help students with AS. While this approach may be preferable to special needs education, it suffers three drawbacks. The learning support worker is unlikely to have the same academic and pedagogic expertise as a trained teacher. With a plethora of other developmental conditions and social problems, the learning support worker may not empathise sufficiently with the predicament of an aspie to help him or her flourish academically. Third students requiring learning support staff are singled out as weirdoes or thickos, and thus excluded from much socialising essential to a balanced childhood.

More important we need to take a more critical look at current social trends in the UK and how they impact socially vulnerable children and young adults. Successive governments have failed miserably in bringing down class sizes to continental European levels. Much of a child's day is dedicated to groupwork, in which aspies are at a natural disadvantage. More disturbingly children and young adults have never been so engrossed in a virtual world of 24 hour TV, video games, action heroes and pop music with role models with whom few can realistically hope to compete. In previous eras social rules, while more formal and rigid, were easier to follow for individuals who lack a predisposition for learning through social immersion and interpretation of subtle body language. Increasing emphasis is placed on presentation, networking and soft skills. Never has the gap between rhetoric, with platitudes about embracing diversity and delivering equal opportunities, and action been so wide, i.e. people are learning to lie convincingly and conform to a hive mentality at younger and younger ages.

Some aspies cope by overcompensating their conformity with the expectations of mainstream society, but in the process suppress so much of their real selves that they are forced to live a very sheltered life. Others simply adopt an isolated counterculture (although usually controlled by the same corporate forces responsible for the more social aspects of our hedonistic culture) often spending hours or days on end watching TV or engrossed in video games. A small minority grow paranoid of mainstream society and develop misanthropic tendencies.

With a growing number of adults being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and more considering themselves borderline AS, many psychologists and neurologists (e.g. Simon Baron-Cohen) feel we should reappraise our assessment of AS as a marginal disorder affecting fewer than 1% of people. Rather it should be viewed as one end of a continuum that extends across the general population. There have always been people with more introvert or extrovert, conformist or rebellious, independent or gregarious, focused or versatile tendencies. Minor genetic or epigenetic differences (encoding within genes that may be influenced by environmental factors) responsible for our neurological wiring interact with the social environment to form our characters.

If education and social services are serious about helping AS individuals thrive at college and work, then why not change the overall environment to reach out to a wider section of the community who feel marginalised, experience prejudice and bullying and are vulnerable to mental health problems. Smaller class sizes, less social competition at work, less noise and loud music in public places and less emphasis on presentation make sense for everyone but the coolest dudes in town.

A recent EU directive seeks to address discrimination against workers because of their advanced age as more and more companies feel the younger generation are more culturally attuned with the needs of their customers. We should extend this principle to make it equally unfair to discriminate against people because of their perceived lack of social skills or aloof expressions. Eye contact and body language should not be issues that employers may consider.

As most AS individuals have endured personal ordeals, it comes as little surprise that many lack either the experience or qualifications they need to access the kind of jobs for which they are best suited. Employers should be encouraged to relax requirements for people on the spectrum and extra financial help should be given to enable full or part-time study to let AS individuals catch up with their neurotypical peers and find their niche in society.

It is society as a whole and not just those labelled different, who should embrace people with disabilities. Our disabilities are very subjective, more a handicap in a world obsessed with social conformity and self-image.

Categories
Uncategorized

AS vs Autism Neuroimaging

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2004 Mar;61(3):291-8. Investigation of neuroanatomical differences between autism and Asperger syndrome.

Lotspeich LJ, Kwon H, Schumann CM, Fryer SL, Goodlin-Jones BL, Buonocore MH, Lammers CR, Amaral DG, Reiss AL.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California 94305, USA.

Linda.Lotspeich@stanford.edu

CONCLUSIONS: Lack of replication between previous autism MRI studies could be due to intersite differences in MRI systems and subjects' age and IQ. Cerebral gray tissue findings suggest that ASP is on the mild end of the autism spectrum. However, exploratory assessments of brain-IQ relationships reveal differences between HFA and ASP, indicating that these conditions may be neurodevelopmentally different when patterns of multiple measures are examined. Further investigations of brain-behavior relationships are indicated to confirm these findings.

Functional connectivity in an fMRI working memory task in high-functioning autism.

Neuroimage. 2005 Feb 1;24(3):810-21. Epub 2004 Nov 24.

Koshino H, Carpenter PA, Minshew NJ, Cherkassky VL, Keller TA, Just MA.

Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA; Department of Psychology, California State University, San Bernardino, CA 92407, USA.

An fMRI study was used to measure the brain activation of a group of adults with high-functioning autism compared to a Full Scale and Verbal IQ and age-matched control group during an n-back working memory task with letters. The behavioral results showed comparable performance, but the fMRI results suggested that the normal controls might use verbal codes to perform the task, while the adults with autism might use visual codes. The control group demonstrated more activation in the left than the right parietal regions, whereas the autism group showed more right lateralized activation in the prefrontal and parietal regions. The autism group also had more activation than the control group in the posterior regions including inferior temporal and occipital regions. The analysis of functional connectivity yielded similar patterns for the two groups with different hemispheric correlations. The temporal profile of the activity in the prefrontal regions was more correlated with the left parietal regions for the control group, whereas it was more correlated with the right parietal regions for the autism group.

Semin Pediatr Neurol. 2004 Sep;11(3):205-13.

Imaging data in autism: from structure to malfunction.

Acosta MT, Pearl PL.

Department of Neurology, Children's National Medical Center, The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC 20010-2970, USA. macosta@cnmc.org

During the last two decades, neuroimaging studies have improved our knowledge of brain development and contributed to our understanding of disorders involving the developing brain. Differences in cerebral anatomy have been determined in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Morphological studies by magnetic resonance imaging have provided evidence of structural differences in ASD compared with the normal population. This has enhanced our view of autism as a neurobiological disorder corresponding with different stages and events in brain development. Alterations in volume of the total brain and specifically the cerebellum, frontal lobe, and limbic system have been identified. There appears to be a pattern of increased and then decreased rate of brain growth over time. We integrate these observations with neurobehavioral findings to provide a developmental hypothesis of the pathophysiology of autism.

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2004 Nov;46(11):760-4.

Voxel-based morphometry elucidates structural neuroanatomy of high-functioning autism and Asperger syndrome.

Kwon H, Ow AW, Pedatella KE, Lotspeich LJ, Reiss AL.

Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, California, USA. howerk@alum.mit.edu

Efforts to examine the structural neuroanatomy of autism by using traditional methods of imaging analysis have led to variable findings, often based on methodological differences in image acquisition and analysis. A voxel-based computational method of whole-brain anatomy allows examination of small patterns of tissue differences between groups. High-resolution structural magnetic resonance images were acquired for nine males with high-functioning autism (HFA; mean age 14y [SD3y 4mo]), 11 with Asperger syndrome (ASP; mean age 13y 6mo [SD2y 5mo]), and 13 comparison (COM) participants (mean age 13y 7mo [SD 3y 1mo]). Using statistical parametric mapping, we examined contrasts of gray matter differences between the groups. Males with HFA and ASP had a pattern of decreased gray matter density in the ventromedial regions of the temporal cortex in comparison with males from an age-matched comparison group. Examining contrasts revealed that the COM group had increased gray matter density compared with the ASP or combined HFA and ASP group in the right inferior temporal gyrus, entorhinal cortex, and rostral fusiform gyrus. The ASP group had less gray matter density in the body of the cingulate gyrus in comparison with either the COM or HFA group. The findings of decreased gray matter density in ventromedial aspects of the temporal cortex in individuals with HFA and ASP lends support to theories suggesting an involvement of these areas in the pathophysiology of autism, particularly in the integration of visual stimuli and affective information.

PMID: 15540637 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Hippocampus and amygdala volumes in parents of children with autistic disorder.

Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Nov;161(11):2038-44.

Rojas DC, Smith JA, Benkers TL, Camou SL, Reite ML, Rogers SJ.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Box C268-68 CPH, 4200 E. 9th Ave., Denver, CO 80262, USA. Don.Rojas@uchsc.edu

OBJECTIVE: Structural and functional abnormalities in the medial temporal lobe, particularly the hippocampus and amygdala, have been described in people with autism. The authors hypothesized that parents of children with a diagnosis of autistic disorder would show similar changes in these structures. METHOD: Magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed in 17 biological parents of children with a diagnosis of DSM-IV autistic disorder. The scans were compared with scans from 15 adults with autistic disorder and 17 age-matched comparison subjects with no personal or familial history of autism. The volumes of the hippocampus, amygdala, and total brain were measured in all participants. RESULTS: The volume of the left hippocampus was larger in both the parents of children with autistic disorder and the adults with autistic disorder, relative to the comparison subjects. The hippocampus was significantly larger in the adults with autistic disorder than in the parents of children with autistic disorder. The left amygdala was smaller in the adults with autistic disorder, relative to the other two groups. No differences in total brain volume were observed between the three groups. CONCLUSIONS: The finding of larger hippocampal volume in autism is suggestive of abnormal early neurodevelopmental processes but is partly consistent with only one prior study and contradicts the findings of several others. The finding of larger hippocampal volume for the parental group suggests a potential genetic basis for hippocampal abnormalities in autism.

PMID: 15514404 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Cerebellar function in autism: functional magnetic resonance image activation during a simple motor task.
Biol Psychiatry. 2004 Aug 15;56(4):269-78.
Allen G, Muller RA, Courchesne E.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas, USA.

BACKGROUND: The cerebellum is one of the most consistent sites of neuroanatomic abnormality in autism, yet it is still unclear how such pathology impacts cerebellar function. In normal subjects, we previously demonstrated with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) a dissociation between cerebellar regions involved in attention and those involved in a simple motor task, with motor activation localized to the anterior cerebellum ipsilateral to the moving hand. The purpose of the present investigation was to examine activation in the cerebella of autistic patients and normal control subjects performing this motor task. METHODS: We studied eight autistic patients and eight matched normal subjects, using fMRI. An anatomic region-of-interest approach was used, allowing a detailed examination of cerebellar function. RESULTS: Autistic individuals showed significantly increased motor activation in the ipsilateral anterior cerebellar hemisphere relative to normal subjects, in addition to atypical activation in contralateral and posterior cerebellar regions. Moreover, increased activation was correlated with the degree of cerebellar structural abnormality. CONCLUSIONS: These findings strongly suggest dysfunction of the autistic cerebellum that is a reflection of cerebellar anatomic abnormality. This neurofunctional deficit might be a key contributor to the development of certain diagnostic features of autism (e.g., impaired communication and social interaction, restricted interests, and stereotyped behaviors).

Less white matter concentration in autism: 2D voxel-based morphometry.

Neuroimage. 2004 Sep;23(1):242-51.
Chung MK, Dalton KM, Alexander AL, Davidson RJ.
Department of Statistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA.
mchung@stat.wisc.ed

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting behavioral and social cognition, but there is little understanding about the link between the functional deficit and its underlying neuroanatomy. We applied a 2D version of voxel-based morphometry (VBM) in differentiating the white matter concentration of the corpus callosum for the group of 16 high functioning autistic and 12 normal subjects. Using the white matter density as an index for neural connectivity, autism is shown to exhibit less white matter concentration in the region of the genu, rostrum, and splenium removing the effect of age based on the general linear model (GLM) framework. Further, it is shown that the less white matter concentration in the corpus callosum in autism is due to hypoplasia rather than atrophy.

Categories
Uncategorized

Dear Tony

In all honesty, hand on heart, do you seriously believe the main motivations of the US administration behind the occupation of Iraq were to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, overthrow a tyrant, combat terrorism or spread democracy? On these counts your mission has failed dismally. The world is still plagued by WMDs, terrorism and state repression. Gross violations of human rights and economic misery are still rife in Iraq. More important the so-called Coalition's notion of democracy is demonstrably an utter sham. Only compliant governments will be tolerated. Can you seriously dismiss voluminous empirical evidence linking US foreign policy to direct or indirect control of the world's fossil fuel resources?

The timing of the US-led invasion of Iraq coincided with the key Peak Oil event. From now on oil will become scarcer. If only the US and UK governments had invested 120 billion US dollars in the development of renewable forms of energy and a transition to a more sustainable world with a much lower level of material consumption, you might have saved millions of lives.

Instead your verbal actions and utter mendacity have merely empowered a voracious global elite. As snippets of the truth emerge amid a fog of lies and deceit from the corporate and state media, your place in history will be set alongside the new century's greatest war criminals. By harking on about Saddam Hussein's crimes, you vainly hope we will forget yours. The fact remains that not only did Saddam Hussein enter politics as a CIA asset, not only did your corporate backers arm his regime back in the 1980s, but without the spectre of Saddam (as you like to call him), the invasion of Iraq could never have been justified. Let us remember that a permanent US-led occupation of the Middle East has long been the end game.

Yours sincerely
Categories
Uncategorized

Technocracy and Science

Science
Study of the physical world and its manifestations through empirical observation of natural phenomena and monitoring of systematic experimentation.
Technology
the study, development, and application of devices, machines, and techniques for manufacturing and productive processes
Technocracy
Power based on the control of technology in which scientists, engineers and technicians useful to the ruling class may enjoy high social standing and exert influence

Broadly speaking a better understanding of our physical environment, origin, capabilities and limitations helps us plan our future and learn from our mistakes. Science is applied to develop technology, but may also reveal its adverse effects. Technology may be beneficial or detrimental and have good or bad applications, while technocracy concentrates power in the hands of those who control technology. If we aim to build a fairer, more open and democratic society, scientific research is not just good but essential, while technology should be applied only if it enhances our enjoyment of life and benefits the long-term sustainability of society as a whole.

The short-term benefits of new technology may lead in the long term to conflicts over the distribution of resources, empower the masters of technological know-how and radically alter the fabric of society. Just consider the immense impacts of television and automobiles on wealthy countries over the last 60 or so years. Together they have discouraged communal transport and entertainment and encouraged mass consumption and the atomisation of communities and families. Many workers commute over 30 miles to benefit from lower property prices or safer neighbourhoods. Cultural life revolves around mass entertainment whether it's multichannel TV, radio, high-profile interactive web sites (which nearly always require a dedicated team of content managers), mass-marketed pop music, movies or pulp fiction. The tentacles of big business reach far and wide. Opponents of such developments are inevitably dismissed as luddites. Think of the benefits. TV educates, informs and shows parts of the world most viewers would never see. Cars broaden horizons beyond the parochial bounds of one's home village or town. Supermarkets provide a variety of food products local grocers could never hope to match and at more competitive prices. Sooner or later even traditionalists are driving to church, watching soaps on TV and doing the weekly shopping at sparkling new supermarkets 10 miles away. While we're lulled into a false sense of freedom, we have inadvertently empowered an even tinier elite to run our lives. Without fossil fuels, electricity and potable tap water our lives would soon grind to a halt. While consumers use and admire the wonders of technology, few can either create or control it. Our governments fight wars over resources needed to sustain a lifestyle promoted by the mass media.

Common sense holds that technology should serve people and not the other way round. We need a more thorough application of science and less blind faith in technocracy.

Categories
Uncategorized

Technical Aspects of Fragmentation Bombs

In Vietnam the Americans are utilizing a new type of anti-personnel arm based on the following principle: a hollow metallic envelope into which are cast certain projectiles such as ball-bearing-like pellets, needles, etc., numbering into the hundreds. These explode on the ground or in the air to fire the projectiles in a sunburst pattern for many metres. The effects of the projectiles are insignificant on fixed installations. Two types of these weapons are principally in use in Vietnam. The ‘pineappleÂ' bomb with {117} cylindrically symmetrical explosion: this weapon consists of a hollow metallic envelope made of an alloy of copper and iron with traces of zinc, having a total weight of 800 grammes and a thickness of 7 millimetres. Into the envelope, which resembles the shape of a pineapple, are cast 300 pellets of steel 6.3 millimetres in diameter. On the top of the bomblet are placed six ‘wingsÂ' which are folded when the bomb is at rest and which snap up in flight by means of a spring at their base. These fins stabilize the fall of the bomb in the same manner as the feathers do a badminton shuttlecock. The lower part of the bomblet is closed with a metallic plate pierced by a hole through which penetrates the point of a spring-loaded firing pin. Upon impact - if the bomblet falls vertically, as it is supposed to - the spring releases and the percussive force causes the explosion of 160 grammes of Cyclotol A3 which is composed of 91 per cent hexogene trimethylene-trinitramine and 9 per cent wax, an explosive three times more powerful than TNT. The explosion projects the pellets in a sun-burst pattern at an angle of about 20° with the horizontal to a distance of 15 metres; the pieces of the casing are propelled about 50 metres. Craters from these bomblets are small: 30 to 40 centimetres maximum diameter in loose soil and with a depth of 10 to 20 centimetres; their damage to structures is insignificant.

Method of employment: a pod containing 19 cylindrical tubes of a diameter slightly larger than the bomblets is fixed beneath an aircraftÂ's wings and parallel to them. Each tube contains 20 bomblets with the fins folded back. The aeroplane flies horizontally at an altitude of about 800 metres and fires the pineapples from the tubes by means of a directed explosion of several grammes of powder. The bomblets disperse in the same manner as a ‘stickÂ' of parachutists over an elliptical zone about 500 metres long by 250 metres wide. This weapon was first used, to the best of our knowledge, on 8 February 1965 against Le Thuy, in the province of Quang Binh.

From a purely military point of view, these weapons had two drawbacks: 1. there were numerous ‘dudsÂ' as the bomblet did not always fall vertically as was necessary for proper detonation; 2. the horizontal, straight-and-level flight of the aircraft at the low level - no more than 1,000 metres - necessary to assure maximum effective dispersal of the pineapple bomblets rendered the attacking {118} aircraft extremely vulnerable to ground-fire. For these reasons the pineapple anti-personnel weapon seems to have been largely superseded by the ‘guavaÂ' bomb with spherically symmetrical explosion. This weapon is round, resembling a conventional hand grenade, and has a total weight of 400 grammes. Like the pineapple, it consists of a hollow envelope 7 millimetres thick of the same alloy and is filled with 50 grammes of Cyclotol A3. Into the casing are cast 260 to 300 steel balls 5.56 millimetres in diameter. Also cast into the casing in meridional direction are 4 small fins or ‘wingsÂ' which catch the wind and by friction set up a spinning motion along the polar axis. In the centre of the explosive filling a new type of detonator is located which operates by centrifugal force. This detonator consists of three small hammers which are cocked by the spinning of the bomblet and which are spring-loaded. If the spinning stops for any reason, the hammers fall, exploding the bomblet, and firing the steel pellets into an isotropic distribution in a sun-burst pattern for a distance of about 15 metres.

It is the nature of the bomb that when it touches the ground or even if, while in flight, it glances off a roof, a wall, or a branch of a tree, thereby interrupting or changing the axis of rotation away from the original polar axis, or, as shown by blast studies in Japan, if the axis changes spontaneously or the rate of spinning slows, the bomblet explodes. Like the pineapple, the craters produced are small and the effect of the bomblet on structures is insignificant. Method of employment: these bomblets are packed into a hollow #145;motherÂ' bomb casing about 2.1 metres long by 40 centimetres in diameter which holds roughly 640 guava bomblets. The mother bombs have a timing device which separates the container casing at an altitude of about 800 metres. The 640 guava bomblets are flung out and follow a parabolic trajectory and are distributed over the objective in an elliptical pattern about one kilometre long by about 500 metres wide.

This weapon was used for the first time on about 18 April 1966, on the village of Moc Chan in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Because of the spherical symmetry of the explosion and the tendency for a percentage of the bomblets to explode as air-bursts, traditional trenches and open individual shelters are rendered ineffective for cover; these weapons are therefore extremely {119} dangerous. They are usually employed in a three-stage raid: first comes observation, then bombardment with high explosives and/or napalm and then by CBUs (container bomb units) containing the guava steel pellet bombs.

Categories
Uncategorized

Report from North Vietnam

I arrived in Hanoi on the evening of 30 December 1966. The following afternoon I inspected bomb damage in Hanoi. This was the result of raids on 2, 13 and 14 December 1966. We were informed that some 450 bombs had been dropped altogether in the course of these attacks. The 2 December raid hit a doctorÂ's house near the centre of Hanoi by missile, injuring the doctor himself and severing the foot of a child. The 14 December raid damaged the Chinese Embassy, among others; it was possible to see the damage from outside the gates, but we had no opportunity to inspect at closer quarters. In the attack of 13 December an area of working-class housing in Hanoi was bombed: the area looked like a battlefield, and we were told 300-plus dwellings had been completely destroyed - certainly there was little that was habitable left standing, and the area was pitted with craters. We interviewed a number of local inhabitants and ascertained the nature of the raid; they said there had been four deaths and ten injuries, and that the bombs had exploded in the air before actually striking the ground.1

On 1 January 1967, we drove south, starting at an early hour, to inspect bomb damage in outlying population centres. The first step was Phu Ly, about sixty kilometres from Hanoi, and not far {120} south from road and rail bridges that have been frequently bombed. Once a thriving town, it is now almost completely destroyed, having suffered eight raids up to the time of my visit. The main street and market were smashed flat, and among destroyed buildings I made out a church, a school and a pagoda. The water-control dam had obviously been bombed, and craters, as yet unfilled, were obvious near by. We were told that total casualties in Phu Ly were eleven dead and twenty-nine wounded.

Next stop was Nam Dinh, formerly an important textile city of some 93,000 inhabitants. Repeated bombing had, however, led to mass evacuation and dispersal of industry. US bombing had commenced on 22 May 1965, and up to the end of November 1966 there had been, we were told, 641 air raids, using some 4,930 bombs of various kinds. We inspected the damage, which included new workersÂ' flats, kindergarten and schools. We agreed that much of the damage to wood and brickwork was consistent with the use of fragmentation bombs. We looked at Hang Thao Street, which had been subjected to a sudden and savage surprise attack on 14 April 1966, killing forty-nine people and wounding over 100. It had been the busiest street in town, but had been largely evacuated. We interviewed a thirty-three-year-old mother, Tram Ahi Mai, three of whose six children had been killed in the 14 April raid - one of them a babe in arms. While we were in Nam Dinh there was a ten-minute air-raid alert, from about 9.55 A.M. till about 10.5 A.M. Note that this was during the New Year truce.2 Planes approached but then veered off. We were told that they had not been reconnaissance planes. We scrambled over the rubble of what had been busy commercial streets. I noticed a good many rats among the ruins; this, one presumes, is something of a public health menace.

Since we were in the vicinity of Nam Phong village, and it had been bombed the previous day (31 December 1966) at 5.10 A.M. - just fifty minutes before the truce came into effect - we proceeded to it. It looked as if the dikes had been the target here. The local people interviewed claimed that there had been ‘manyÂ' (some said twelve) raids on the dikes. Appreciating the dangers of breached {121} or weakened dikes the people - everybody in the village it appeared - were toiling to make good the damage. We saw the corpse of an eighteen-year-old boy whose head had been sliced open by a bomb fragment. Three others had been killed - the husband and two children of a family of whom mother and baby remained. We also interviewed an orphan who had been living with his grandmother, also killed in this raid. Much damage had been inflicted upon the flimsy wood and thatch huts and outbuildings of the village. There wasnÂ't a possible military target within miles, as far as we could see. There were, as always and everywhere in North Vietnam, bridges, but in the immediate neighbourhood of Nam Phong none but flimsy bamboo pontoon-type constructions, obviously unsuited to military traffic. The only conclusion open to me is that the target here in Nam Phong was the dikes, with the intention of weakening and/or breaching them so that when the rains come later in the year serious flooding and inundation of the crops will occur.

After lunching at Nam Dinh, we pressed on south to Phat Diem in Ninh Binh province. All the way from Hanoi we had been able to observe the extent of damage to communications systems, and my conclusion was that attacks on bridges, roads and railways had had their military purpose frustrated completely by the initiative and improvisations of the Vietnamese. This might conceivably account for the apparent extension of bombing bit by bit to more and more blatantly civilian targets - including targets well off the main north-south communications routes - such as Phat Diem.

Phat Diem has been described by some US reports as a ‘naval baseÂ'. It is clear on the ground that it is nothing of the sort, and it must unquestionably be clear as well, that it is not from the air. The town is in the heart of a Roman Catholic area, as is clear from the large number of spires which decorate the landscape. It seemed to me that Phat Diem had been subjected to a pretty systematic attempt to flatten all modern-looking stone and brick buildings. This seemed to be the pattern of the bomb runs, along the line of the main street. We inspected a number of churches. The first had been attacked and badly damaged in a raid on 10 July 1966. Across the river another had been completely smashed flat, so that the grounds seemed to me to be just a pattern of {122} water-filled craters. It was interesting to see that attempts were being made to make the best of a bad job by growing vegetables on bomb sites (and on the roofs of air-raid shelters). This second church was said to have taken something like forty-eight bombs in all. The third church, the biggest of the ones we saw, had been badly damaged as far as we could see examining its exterior façade: Mass was in progress, and we did not enter. My conclusions about Phat Diem are roughly as follows. There are no local military targets (if one excludes the fishing boats and the bridges). No main road runs through Phat Diem, and the road which does go through the town runs east-west not north-south. There is no railway and no industry in the region. It is a fairly prosperous agricultural town, which used to be well-known for its handicrafts, especially basket-work. The main access bridge looked to me too flimsy for heavy military traffic. Bombing, therefore, would seem to have no reason but terrorism of the population. This is a comparatively densely populated area, with 5,700 people in two square kilometres. What had prevented much heavier casualties was obviously the intensive shelter-building programme, combined with strict discipline associated with taking shelter as soon as the alert sounded. We were informed that total fatal casualties in more than fifty raids on Phat Diem had been in the region of 100. But seventy-two of these had been suffered during the course of one sneak raid on the fourth church we visited; this raid, on 24 April 1966, had caught a congregation on the point of leaving after a service, and it had been the first raid of the long series.

On 3 January, I spent the day considering evidence of the bombing of hospitals, the use of fragmentation bombs, and the nature of civilian casualties. The morning was spent at the Department of Health building, where we heard testimony and interviewed doctors and others who had been eye-witnesses of American raids on hospitals and sanatoria. We interviewed Dr Oai, who witnessed the repeated bombing of Quynh Lap leprosorium. The first raid occurred at 8 P.M. on 12 June 1965, the planes flying over and then returning to drop twenty-four bombs and fire missiles. A night nurse was wounded. The following morning, all patients had been evacuated, but at 1.45 P.M. on 13 June 1965, when some of the patients had returned, large numbers of US planes came over {123} and bombed and strafed the hospital in turn. The centre was demolished completely. In the following few days, the Americans returned again and again until the sanatorium had been completely destroyed. The raids of 12-21 June 1965 were reported to have killed 140 patients in all. Dr Oai was moved to another hospital, while the remaining patients were dispersed to a variety of institutions. We also interviewed three other eye-witnesses - a man Hoang-Sinh, who had been wounded in one of the raids, Duong Thi Lien and Vu Thanh Mui, two women. These corroborated the testimony of Dr Oai in respect of the most important details - i.e. the height of the planes, the fact that the bombs were followed up by strafing of the patients and staff as they sought shelter. Dr Oai, in response to questions, asserted that there had been ‘at least sevenÂ' low-flying reconnaissance flights before the first bombings. The implication is, of course, that the Americans must have known what the target at Quynh Lap was.

We also interviewed a patient at the time of the June raids, Nguyen Van Ang. whose testimony again corroborated the evidence of the others. I asked the North Vietnamese present whether they had any admissions from captured American airmen that they had actually been briefed to bomb Quynh Lap, knowing it to be a leprosorium. They said they would inquire about this, but I never heard any more about it. It seemed to me that some such evidence from the US side would absolutely clinch the argument. As it is, I am sure the weight of evidence now available affords strong grounds for indicting the Americans of deliberate bombing of hospitals. The point about what the US pilots were told in their briefing meetings is, however, an important point upon which, I hope, further evidence will become available.

In the afternoon of 3 January 1967, we visited St PaulÂ's Surgical Hospital, Hanoi. The surgeon-in-charge introduced the hospital, and said we would be seeing victims of US bombing of Hanoi and neighbourhood. Many wounded, he explained, had been evacuated, but the worst injured had to be kept there for expert attention. He and two other doctors took us through the details of a number of cases, showed us X-rays, showed us some victims nearing discharge, and finally showed us round some of the patients in bed. I quote from my notebook: {124}

Victims of the raid of 13 December 1966 [presumably on Hanoi - M.C.], a girl of six years - Vu Thi Hanh - and her brother - Vu Hong Nguyen - of four years. The mother had been killed in a raid on the south of North Vietnam. The girl had suffered a skull fracture, but had been cured and evacuated; the boy had had an arm fracture.
A baby of ten months, Le Dinh Lap, injured on the same day at the same place. Feet injuries. Also a splinter entered just below the eyebrow and lodged in the skull. Has been operated upon, and is considered satisfactory, despite a remaining fragment. Found beside his dead mother. The father was absent at the time. Older siblings had fortunately been evacuated.

Ngo Van Phu - fragment caused bleeding in the brain, operated upon, and now in good health.
Nguyen Thi Thanh - another case of fragment injury. Also operated on and saved (ten months old).
Nguyen Thuan - pellets from an anti-personnel fragmentation bomb in the skull - hit fifty kms. north of Hanoi - at Vinh Phuc.
Nguyen Quang, a school-boy of twelve years, also at Vinh Phuc. Fragment entered the temple region and produced severe damage to the eyes - yet another fragmentation bomb victim.

The surgeon-in-chief interrupted at this point to speak more generally about fragmentation bombs. He stressed that the fragments are particularly dangerous lodging in the skull, menacing not only the life but also the intelligence of the children if they survive. They continually threaten abscesses. They violate the Geneva Conventions. Victims are horribly mutilated. The objectives of US bombing, he said, are the populated areas, and mothers and children are the most frequent victims. These tiny fragments from fragmentation bombs, he said, cause permanent mutilation. The seriousness of the injuries is caused by the force of the explosion of each container (300 in each ‘motherÂ' bomb) and by the smallness of the fragments.

Dr Dang Hung Khanh, a traumatologist, took over, and took us through a number of cases of bad burning and more fragmentation-bomb victims. He had several cases of fragmentation bomb damage from Gia Lam province, near Hanoi, and from Van Dien, about ten kilometres south of Hanoi. He stressed in general that the fragments are dangerous because they travel very low, so that even those who throw themselves on the ground can be badly hit. {125}

I am not a medical doctor, and so must leave evaluation of the cases from that point of view to others better qualified. But the sheer number of fragmentation bomb victims we saw at the St PaulÂ's Surgical Hospital, Hanoi, fits in with the impression we had from other evidence about the frequency of their employment by the Americans in North Vietnam. One can corroborate in various ways, all of which we did. First, one can inspect bombed buildings for characteristic marks. Second, one can interview local eye-witnesses of raids. Third, one can examine fragments of bomb-casing and unexploded or recovered bombs in situ. The impression that builds up is unmistakable and unavoidable in its implications - namely that the United States is deliberately, consistently and methodically employing fragmentation bombs - a specifically anti-personnel weapon - throughout North Vietnam.

We inspected some of the patients and confirmed on inspection what had been said about them as cases. We heard their own stories of how they had been injured. I quote one typical interview from my notebook:

We interview another patient, Nguyen thi Thanh (ten months), through the mother Ngo thi Ky (29), Hoang Hanh Street, Hanoi, 1/2 km. from Hanoi central market. ‘At noon on the 13th [December -M.C.] I went to work. At 3 P.M. there was bombing and I hastened to rejoin my household, but everything was destroyed; but baby had been sent to hospital, and the baby was wounded [burned?]. I went to the hospital; the babyÂ's brain was sticking out of his head. I thank the doctors very much who looked after my baby. Our house was completely burned down, and the neighbouring house all [too]. When the bombs fell, I was at the small lake.Â' ‘Did you see the planes?Â' ‘I took shelter, but saw the planes come in. When I am at work, neighbours look after the baby - in the raid they were lightly wounded. It was doctors and nurses who removed the child to hospital.Â' The doctor commented that a fragment in the head originally caused left-sided paralysis, but that this had gone.

Afterwards, we toured one or two wards, and I was appalled at some of the terrible injuries to patients from fragmentation bombs. The only limitation on our compilation of cases was obviously the amount of time at our disposal. In the hospital were cases of fragmentation-bomb damage to people living both in Hanoi, and the north, south, east and west of it. In other words, it {126} would appear that these weapons are used regularly throughout North Vietnam.

On Wednesday, 4 January, we visited the Hanoi War Crimes Investigating Committee, to be briefed on the American raids on Hanoi and suburbs. An interesting point to which I would draw attention, in connexion with what I had to say about the hospital evidence, is that the Hanoi Committee estimated that so far fragmentation bombs had outnumbered other types of bombs in a ratio of greater than 6:1. We inspected fragments of recovered bombs and other visible and tangible evidence of this from the Hanoi area.

We went on to visit Tu Ky hamlet in the village of Hoang Liet, in the suburbs of Hanoi. We interviewed Nguyen Thi San, an elderly woman of fifty-seven; she described the 2 December 1966 raid, explaining how the US planes ‘dive-bombed and strafedÂ'. The school here is a ruin, the ground pitted with many bomb craters. All round this agricultural hamlet the ground is ploughed up with water-filled bomb craters, like a miniature Ypres or Passchendaele. There is no military target in sight. The Tu Ky pagoda also badly damaged.

We then visited Phu Xa, in the suburbs again of Hanoi. It was completely destroyed in the course of a raid on 13 August 1966. It has since been rebuilt. The hamlet grows mulberry for silk. There are now deep trenches and shelters everywhere, because many people died (twenty-four) and many others were wounded (twenty-three) during the first attack, in which fragmentation bombs predominated. We saw a large fragment of bomb case, clearly stamped ‘Loading date 7/66Â' and marked with its weight ‘139 lbs.Â' There is a village memorial, with many relics and artefacts of the raid. Besides human casualties, the people of the village have recorded the destruction caused to crops, farm animals, etc.

On Friday, 6 January, we attended the press conference of the visiting Japanese delegation, whose report will be submitted independently to the International War Crimes Tribunal. This was interrupted by an air-raid alert lasting about fifteen minutes. (I had twice before this, and once more subsequently, to take shelter during alerts; the last one, later this day, was accompanied by fairly heavy anti-aircraft fire, but I did not record any bombs {127} falling. The Japanese had been bombed, and had brought back some interesting evidence of the use of napalm, etc.

Early on Saturday, 7 January, I left Hanoi by plane for Phnom Penh.

NOTES

  1. The raid of 14 December 1966 badly damaged a trade-union school and nearby workersÂ' housing, only completed a few years ago. This is a site about four kilometres from the mile-long bridge spanning the Red River. Here we were told there had been two deaths and seven wounded.Back
  2. We were told that Ninh Binh town had been bombed at 10 A.M. on 31 December 1966 - in contradiction of the New Year cease-fire. Twenty people were reported killed and wounded.Back
Categories
Uncategorized

Report from Cambodia and North Vietnam

We spent the first few days in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, speaking to government leaders.... Then we went to Svay Rieng where, after meeting with the provincial governor, we were taken to the border at Bave - this is the border with South Vietnam. It was interesting to see that in Bave there was a deliberate attempt on the part of the South Vietnamese puppet border guards to create an incident with the Cambodian officers accompanying us. At one stage, when a Cambodian photographer tried to photograph the border, the South Vietnamese puppet officers came to our side of the border with pistols cocked and threatened military action unless the film was handed back to them. Fortunately an incident was prevented only by the tact displayed by the Cambodian officers on the Cambodian side of the border.

We were told that there was a Special Forces camp just across the border and that the Americans flew in with helicopters, strafed Cambodian villages, and then took away villagers for interrogation. In the village of Soc Noc I spoke to a villager named Muy Tith, twenty-nine years old, who had been captured by the United States Special Forces. He told me that he was tortured and beaten by the South Vietnamese Special Forces and also by the Americans, who then asked him whether there were any Viet Cong in his village. As the man could not speak any Vietnamese, he kept saying, ‘No, no, no!Â' until finally, after tying him up for two hours and beating him consistently, they released him and let him go back to his village. We were also told that others had not been so lucky, and while we were in the village of Soc Noc there were {133} twelve villagers who had not been returned: no one knew what had happened to them...

After we had seen the villages which had been bombed by the United States, after we had seen the destruction which had been caused by these attacks, and after we had met the victims of these attacks, we went back to Phnom Penh. After two days of talks with officials there, we went on the so-called Sihanouk and Ho Chi Minh Trails, which were long journeys. It was absolutely clear to us from the trails we visited that it would have been impossible for any large force, whether it belonged to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam or whether, as the United States claimed, it belonged to North Vietnamese divisions, to use those trails. It was impossible for any heavy trucks to go on those trails, and further on the river could not be bridged. We saw the area where the United States said that there was an airport which landed North Vietnamese and NLF battalions when they were coming back or going to the South. It was very clear to us that this was in a clearing, but the rough nature of the ground and the fact that there had been bushes growing on it for over the last two years, would have made it impossible for any plane to land. We also saw near the site of the so-called airport a lot of diamond mining going on, and they had large bamboo sticks sticking up into the sky, which the United States claimed were antennae for an underground radio station.

In any event, there was no doubt in our minds that neither the Sihanouk nor the Ho Chi Minh Trails could be used by the North Vietnamese and National Liberation Front forces, and that the United States was merely using this as an excuse to bomb and strafe Cambodian border villages. This becomes increasingly significant when one learns that at the recent conference in Guam, it was suggested to President Johnson by Westmoreland and other military leaders that two Cambodian provinces be occupied and the war extended to Cambodia to stop the infiltration of North Vietnamese troops. In Cambodia we found (and any other investigation teams that go to Cambodia will find the same) that there was no evidence whatsoever that there had been infiltration by the North Vietnamese forces.

Continuing our journey into the southern districts of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, we visited Ninh Binh province {134} and spoke to the Roman Catholics there and saw for ourselves the churches which had been bombed. The churches were mainly isolated, with a couple of mud huts next to them.

But the most traumatic experience was in the province of Thanh Hoa. It was 29 January 1967.... We were told that at 2.30 P.M. that afternoon we would be taken to the hospital in Thanh Hoa to meet and interview some of the victims of the air raids. But the same day, while we were having lunch, we heard the planes roaring overhead and making their way towards the town. Then we heard the bombing and the thuds which have become a feature of life in North Vietnam today. We were told that the trip was off. A major said that they were bombing Thanh Hoa.

At 4.00 P.M. we visited the hospital, the first place on our itinerary. This was the hospital where we should have been at 2.30. At 3.00 P.M. it had been bombed and some of the patients killed. While they were being removed from the hospital and taken to the first-aid station, there was another attack and the first-aid station had been completely destroyed. Incendiary bombs had been used and some houses were still burning. When we visited Thanh Hoa, it was on fire. There were embers and flames everywhere. We saw a large crater caused by an American rocket. Anti-personnel weapons had been used.

Mrs Nguyen Thi Dinh had rushed out of her house just in time to save herself, but she saw her house and its contents burned to the ground. When I spoke to her, she was weeping silently. She said, ‘Do you think I will ever forgive them for what they are doing to us? Never! Never! They must be made to pay for their crimes.Â'

Two hundred homes had been damaged or destroyed, and 125 families were homeless.

A hospital with Red Cross markings and a first-aid station had been singled out and destroyed. If the shelters provided by the authorities had not been so effective, the casualties would no doubt have been higher. Half of Thanh Hoa had been evacuated in advance as well, and this too was fortunate. I looked around for anything which could conceivably have been a military target in the town itself. There was no sign of any military object.

The part of the province which had been bombed almost without respite was Dinh Gia district, at its southern extremity. The {135} bombing was so heavy that no one had been taken there before for fear of casualties. We travelled there during the night, crossed a few bridges, and reached Dinh Gia safely. The next day was the most depressing day I spent in Vietnam. I saw bombed schools and hospitals. They had been direct hits. There could be no doubt whatsoever that this was deliberate. In the village of Hai Nan, a coastal village not far from the 7th Fleet, almost every house had been destroyed. The attack which had destroyed the village had taken place four days earlier. The destruction was obviously fresh.

I spoke to Nguyen Thi Tuyen, a twelve-year-old girl who had lost a leg. She told me her story in the following words:

I had just returned from school and was about to have a bath when the aircraft came from the direction of the sea. They dived down and dropped lots of bombs. I grabbed my younger brother and rushed to the shelter, but it was too late. A bomb fragment hit my brother in the stomach and killed him. Another fragment cut my leg off, as you can see for yourself. Our house was burned down. My uncle could not put the flames out in time. Now I live with some relatives. Will you please tell me why they are bombing us? ...

This was the story in almost every village I visited. These were no military targets, and the United States could not but be aware of this fact. The schools in the district had been dispersed to avoid casualties. Some of them were in shelters. Hospitals had been dispersed. Hospitals which had been bombed previously were now under the ground. At this stage I think it is fair to point out that the Vietnamese doctors are the most impressive group of people I have met anywhere. They are dedicated, and they have seen more suffering than anyone else, but it has not affected their morale in the least. {136}/

Categories
Uncategorized

Dear Blairite MP,

Dear Ms Rachel Squire,

The record shows that you have consistently supported the government on matters of war. In my humble opinion, all recent military interventions have directly inflicted death and destruction and sown the seeds of more interethnic violence. I doubt you have time to investigate the complex history of foreign involvement in civil wars still raging or simmering in Afghanistan and the Balkans, so let us consider the government's stated aims and its true motivations behind the recent invasion of Iraq, which you supported wholeheartedly.

So far, five reasons have been given to justify an expenditure of $120 billion, money - I hasten to add - that could work wonders if invested in sustainable development in the world's poorest countries. All prove fallacious under closer scrutiny.

  1. The pre-invasion Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction. We now know it did not, but any chemical and biological weapons it might have had were remnants of stock supplied in the 1980s when Ronald Reagan's and George Bush Senior's administrations, under which many members of George W Bush's cabinet worked, had friendly relations with the Baathist Regime. Key evidence publicised by the mass media, in particular, the Sun and Daily Record read by many traditional Labour voters here in Scotland, proved to be based on false evidence.
  2. Saddam Hussein collaborated with Al Qaeda. Utter nonsense, not a shred of evidence. The only real link between the two is that the US government supported them in previous guises in the 1980s.
  3. We need to impose democracy on the region by overthrowing a brutal dictator. That Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator is beyond dispute. But he would never have gained power without US support. More important, by democracy the US administration clearly means compliance with the dictat of unaccountable multinationals. Most of Iraqi industry has already been privatised and the oil ministry will continue to work under the watchful guidance of US-based oil corporations and be required to pay off debts that date from the 1980s war with Iran.
  4. By removing an inimical regime, the world will be a safer place. Clearly fallacious, no-one outside a small pro-US or pro-Israeli elite seriously believes Iraqis will have any effective control after the staged handover of power on 30th June. The newly appointed prime minister Iyad Allawi is a former CIA and MI6 asset (very much like Saddam Hussein).
  5. Iraqis will benefit from greater economic prosperity. Actually, despite the war with Iran and despite the regime's undeniably repressive nature, the 1980s marked the heyday of the Iraqi economy as a sizeable proportion of oil revenue filtered back into the economy. The 1990s witnessed a collapse in oil exports (to less than 1/4 of the previous level) and a harsh sanctions regime, that both Denis Halliday and Hans von Sponeck have described as genocidal.

Yet while Labour MPs such as yourself fell victim to a campaign of deception, the world is experiencing another crisis, much bigger and more dramatic in scale than the threat posed by any dictator of a medium-sized nation. In one word, OIL. Our economy depends on material growth, which is rapidly outstripping supply. Recent price rises are but a foretaste of things to come. We'd need hundreds of thousands of wind turbines blighting our landscape to substitute a sizeable fraction of the energy we get from fossil fuels. Other alternatives such as nuclear, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, biodiesel etc. all have their limitations. Hydrogen is but a carrier requiring electricity for electrolysis from water or fossil fuels. Cold fusion is at best 30-40 years from the making and at worst a myth that contradicts the laws of thermodynamics.

In short control of the world's last plentiful and cheap supply of fossil fuels in Iraq and neighbouring Saudi Arabia and Iran plays a pivotal role in the continued supremacy of a world order centred around US multinationals. The evidence linking leading members of Bush regime to the oil industry is compelling. The Project for a New American Century urged the occupation of Iraq back in the mid 1990s. Indeed it has long been their intention to create a situation, in which the US could justify a permanent presence in the region. IN this context one understands much more lucidly the role played by the infamous Saddam Hussein. First they armed his regime, next they tricked him into invading Kuwait, then they imposed sanctions against his people while ensuring his regime stayed in intact and lastly they occupied his country less than two years after a terrorist attack on the US. Without Saddam Hussein none of this would have been possible.

It seems blatantly clear to me that the last thing the corporate powers behind Tony Blair's leadership want in Iraq is for the people of the Middle East to control their own destiny. Thanks to your vote, millions more will die in a long and protracted war that will dwarf the US misadventure in Vietnam. More to the point the real reasons for this war, greed and control, go against everything the Labour movement has ever stood for.

I invite you to justify your stance and debate the issue at a time and place of your choosing.

Fax your MP: http://www.faxyourmp.com
Categories
Uncategorized

The United States in Vietnam 1944-66: Origins and Objectives of an Intervention

The United States in Vietnam 1944-66: Origins and Objectives of an Intervention

The intervention of the United States in Vietnam is the most important single embodiment of the power and purposes of American foreign policy since the Second World War, and no other crisis reveals so much of the basic motivating forces and objectives - and weaknesses - of American global politics. A theory of the origins and meaning of the war also discloses the origins of an American malaise that is global in its reaches, impinging on this nationÂ's conduct everywhere. To understand Vietnam is also to comprehend not just the present purposes of American action but also to anticipate its thrust and direction in the future.

Vietnam illustrates, as well, the nature of the American internal political process and decision-making structure when it exceeds the views of a major sector of the people, for no other event of our generation has turned such a large proportion of the nation against its governmentÂ's policy or so profoundly alienated its {76} youth. And at no time has the government conceded so little to democratic sentiment, pursuing as it has a policy of escalation that reveals that its policy is formulated not with an eye to democratic sanctions and compromises but rather the attainment of specific interests and goals scarcely shared by the vast majority of the nation.

The inability of the United States to apply its vast material and economic power to compensate for the ideological and human superiority of revolutionary and guerrilla movements throughout the world has been the core of its frustration in Vietnam. From a purely economic viewpoint, the United States cannot maintain its existing vital dominating relationship to much of the Third World unless it can keep the poor nations from moving too far towards the Left and the Cuban or Vietnamese path. A widespread leftward movement would critically affect its supply of raw materials and have profound long-term repercussions. It is the American view of the need for relative internal stability within the poorer nations that has resulted in a long list of United States interventions since 1946 into the affairs of numerous nations, from Greece to Guatemala, of which Vietnam is only the consummate example - but in principle no different from numerous others. The accuracy of the ‘dominoÂ' theory, with its projection of the eventual loss of whole regions to American direction and access, explains the direct continuity between the larger United States global strategy and Vietnam.

Yet, ironically, while the United States struggles in Vietnam and the Third World to retain its own mastery, or to continue that once held by the former colonial powers, it simultaneously weakens itself in its deepening economic conflict with Europe, revealing the limits of AmericaÂ's power to attain its ambition to define the preconditions and direction of global economic and political developments. Vietnam is essentially an American intervention against a nationalist, revolutionary agrarian movement which embodies social elements in incipient and similar forms of development in numerous other Third World nations. It is in no sense a civil war, with the United States supporting one local faction against another, but an effort to preserve a mode of traditional colonialism via a minute, historically opportunistic comprador class in Saigon. For the United States to fail in Vietnam {77} would be to make the point that even the massive intervention of the most powerful nation in the history of the world was insufficient to stem profoundly popular social and national revolutions throughout the world. Such a revelation of American weaknesses would be tantamount to a demotion of the United States from its present role as the worldÂ's dominant super-power.

Given the scope of United States ambitions in relation to the Third World, and the sheer physical limits on the successful implementation of such a policy, Vietnam also reveals the passivity of the American military establishment in formulating global objectives that are intrinsically economic and geopolitical in character. Civilians, above all, have calculated the applications of American power in Vietnam and their strategies have prompted each military escalation according to their definitions of American interests. Even in conditions of consistent military impotence and defeat, Vietnam has fully revealed the tractable character of the American military when confronted with civilian authority, and their continuous willingness to obey civilian orders loyally.

It is in this broader framework of the roots of United States foreign policy since 1945 that we must comprehend the history and causes of the war in Vietnam and relate it to the larger setting of the goals of AmericaÂ's leaders and the function of United States power in the modern world.

*

Throughout the Second World War the leaders of the United States scarcely considered the future of Indochina, but during 1943 President Roosevelt suggested that Indochina become a four-power trusteeship after the war, proposing that the eventual independence of the Indochinese might follow in twenty to thirty years. No one speculated whether such a policy would require American troops, but it was clear that the removal of French power was motivated by a desire to penalize French collaboration with Germany and Japan, or de GaulleÂ's annoying independence, rather than a belief in the intrinsic value of freedom for the Vietnamese. Yet what was critical in the very first American position was that ultimate independence would not be something that {78} the Vietnamese might take themselves, but a blessing the other Great Powers might grant at their own convenience. Implicit in this attitude was the seed of opposition to the independence movement that already existed in Vietnam. Indeed, all factors being equal, the policy towards European colonialism would depend on the extent to which the involved European nations accepted American objectives elsewhere, but also on the nature of the local opposition. If the Left led the independence movements, as in the Philippines, Korea or Indochina, then the United States sustained collaborationist alternatives, if possible, or endorsed colonialism.

Although Roosevelt at Yalta repeated his desire for a trusteeship, during March 1945 he considered the possibility of French restoration in return for their pledge eventually to grant independence. But by May 1945 there was no written, affirmative directive on United States political policy in Indochina. The gap was in part due to the low priority assigned the issue, but also reflected growing apprehension as to what the future of those countries as independent states might hold.1

At the Potsdam Conference of July 1945, and again in the General Order Number 1 the United States unilaterally issued several weeks later, the remaining equivocation on Indochina was resolved by authorizing the British takeover of the nation south of the 16th parallel and Chinese occupation north of it, and this definitely meant the restoration of the French whom the British had loyally supported since 1943. One cannot exaggerate the importance of these steps, since it made the United States responsible for the French return at a time when Washington might have dictated the independence of that nation. By this time everyone understood what the British were going to do.

Given the alternative, United States support for the return of France to Indochina was logical as a means of stopping the triumph of the Left, a question not only in that nation but throughout the Far East. Moreover, by mid-August French officials were hinting that they would grant the United States and England equal economic access to Indochina. Both in action and thought the United States government now chose the reimposition of {79} French colonialism. At the end of August de Gaulle was in Washington, and the President now told the French leader that the United States favoured the return of France to Indochina. The decision would shape the course of world history for decades.2

The OSS worked with the Viet Minh, a coalition of Left and moderate resistance forces led by Ho Chi Minh, during the final months of the war to the extent of giving them petty quantities of arms in exchange for information and assistance with downed pilots, and they soon came to know Ho and many of the Viet Minh leaders. Despite the almost paranoid belief of the French representatives that the OSS was working against France, the OSS only helped consolidate WashingtonÂ's support for the French.3 They and other American military men who arrived in Hanoi during the first heady days of freedom were unanimous in believing that Ho ‘... is an old revolutionist ... a product of Moscow, a communistÂ'.4 The OSS understood the nationalist ingredient in the Vietnamese revolution, but they emphasized the communist in their reports to Washington.5

During September the first British troops began arriving in the Indochinese zone which the Americans assigned them and imposed their control over half of a nation largely Viet Minh-controlled with the backing of the vast majority of the people. The British arranged to bring in French troops as quickly as they might be found, and employed Japanese troops in the Saigon region and elsewhere. ‘[On] 23 September,Â' the British commander later reported to his superiors, ‘Major-General Gracey {80} had agreed with the French that they should carry out a coup dÂ'état; and with his permission, they seized control of the administration of Saigon and the French Government was installed.Â'6 The State DepartmentÂ's representative who visited Hanoi the following month found the references of the Vietnamese to classic democratic rhetoric mawkish, and ‘perhaps naïvely, and without consideration of the conflicting postwar interests of the “Big” nations themselves, the new government believed that by complying with the conditions of the wartime United Nations conferences it could invoke the benefits of these conferences in favour of its own independence.Â'7 From this viewpoint, even in 1945 the United States regarded Indochina almost exclusively as the object of Great Power diplomacy and conflict. By the end of the Second World War the Vietnamese were already in violent conflict with the representatives not only of France, but also of England and the United States, a conflict in which they could turn the wartime political rhetoric against the governments that had casually written it. But at no time did the desires of the Vietnamese themselves assume a role in the shaping of United States policy.

1946-9: United States inaction and the genesis of a firm policy

It is sufficient to note that by early 1947 the American doctrine of containment of communism obligated the United States to think also of the dangers Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh posed, a movement the United States analysed as a monolith directed from Moscow. It is also essential to remain aware of the fact that the global perspective of the United States between 1946 and 1949 stressed the decisive importance of Europe to the future of world power. When the United States looked at Indochina they saw France, and through it Europe, and a weak France would open the door to communism in Europe. But for no other reason, this {81} meant a tolerant attitude towards the bloody French policy in Vietnam, one the French insisted was essential to the maintenance of their empire and prosperity, and the political stability of the nation. Washington saw Vietnamese nationalism as a tool of the communists.

In February 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall publicly declared he wished ‘a pacific basis of adjustment of the difficulties could be foundÂ',8 but he offered no means towards that end. Given the greater fear of communism, such mild American criticisms of French policy as were made should not obscure the much more significant backing of basic French policy in Washington. By early 1949 Washington had shown its full commitment to the larger assumptions of French policy and goals, and when Bao Dai, the former head of the Japanese puppet regime, signed an agreement with the French in March 1949 to bring Vietnam into the French Union, the State Department welcomed the new arrangement as ‘... the basis for the progressive realization of the legitimate aspirations of the Vietnamese peopleÂ'.9 Such words belied the reality, for the course of affairs in Asia worried Washington anew.

The catalysis for a reconsideration of the significance of Vietnam to the United States was the final victory of the communists in China. In July 1949 the State Department authorized a secret reassessment of American policy in Asia in the light of the defeat of the Kuomintang, and appointed Ambassador-at-Large Philip Jessup chairman of a special committee. On 18 July Dean Acheson sent Jessup a memo defining the limits of the inquiry: ‘You will please take as your assumption that it is a fundamental decision of American policy that the United States does not intend to permit further extension of Communist domination on the continent of Asia or in the southeast Asia area... Â'10 At the end of 1949 the State Department was still convinced the future of world power remained in Europe, but, as was soon to become evident, this involved the necessity of French victory in Vietnam. {82}

Most significant about the Jessup CommitteeÂ's views was the belief that, as a State Department official put it, ‘In respect to south-east Asia we are on the fringes of crisisÂ', one that, he added, might involve all of Asia following China.11 It appears to have been the consensus that Bao Dai, despite American wishes for his success, had only the slimmest chance for creating an effective alternative to Ho in Vietnam. The Committee compared French prospects to those of Chiang Kai-shek two years earlier, and since they acknowledged that the Viet Minh captured most of their arms from the French, the likelihood of stemming the tide seemed dismal.

There were two dimensions to the Vietnam problem from the United StatesÂ' viewpoint at the end of 1949. First, it was determined to stop the sweep of revolution in Asia along the fringes of China, and by that time Vietnam was the most likely outlet for any United States action. Second, it was believed that small colonial wars were draining France, and therefore Europe, of its power. Yet a Western victory had to terminate these struggles in order to fortify Europe, the central arena of the Cold War. ‘I found all the French troops of any quality were out in Indochina,Â' Marshall complained to the Jessup Committee, .... and the one place they were not was in Western Europe. So it left us in an extraordinarily weak position there. ...Â'12 Massive American intervention in Vietnam was now inevitable.

1950-53: America escalates the war in Indochina

The significance of the struggle in Vietnam for the United States always remained a global one, and for this reason Vietnam after 1950 became the most sustained and important single issue confronting Washington. The imminent crisis in Asia that the Jessup Committee had predicted was one John Foster Dulles, even then one of the key architects of United States diplomacy, also anticipated. Dulles, however, thought it a mistake to place the main emphasis on American policy in Europe, and he, like everyone else in Washington, was not in the least impressed by the future of {83} the Associated States of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia which the United States recognized on 7 February 1950, with a flurry of noble references to independence and democracy. A ‘series of disasters can be prevented,Â' Dulles advised in May 1950, ‘if at some doubtful point we quickly take a dramatic and strong stand that shows our confidence and resolution. Probably this series of disasters cannot be prevented in any other way.Â' It would be necessary, he believed, even to ‘risk warÂ'.13

The official position of the Truman Administration at this time was to insist on regarding Vietnam as essentially an extension of a European affair. As Charles E. Bohlen of the State Department explained it in a top-secret briefing in April:

As to Indochina, if the current war there continues for two or three years, we will get very little of sound military development in France. On the other hand, if we can help France to get out of the existing stalemate in Indochina, France can do something effective in Western Europe. The need in Indochina is to develop a local force which can maintain order in the areas theoretically pacified...
It is important, in order to maintain the French effort in Indochina, that any assistance we give be presented as defence of the French Union, as the French soldiers there would have little enthusiasm for sacrificing themselves to fight for a completely free Indochina in which France would have no part.
14
Suffice it to say, the French were hard pressed economically, and they needed United States aid on any terms, and in May 1950 direct United States economic aid was begun to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Immediately after the Korean affair Truman pledged greater support to the French and the Bao Dai regime. 15

During mid-October 1950, shortly after some serious military reverses, Jules Moch, the French Minister of National Defence, arrived in Washington to attempt to obtain even greater United States military aid. By this time, despite earlier reticence, the French had come to realize that the key to their colonial war was in Washington. {84}

The aggregate military aid the United States contributed to the French effort in Vietnam is a difficult matter of book-keeping, but total direct military aid to France in 1950-53 was $2,956 million, plus $684 million in 1954. United States claims suggest that $1.54 billion in aid was given to Indochina before the Geneva Accords, and in fact TrumanÂ's statement in January 1953 that the United States paid for as much as half of the war seems accurate enough, and aid rose every year to 1954.16 The manner in which this aid was disbursed is more significant.

The United States paid but did not appreciate French political direction, though no serious political pressure was put on the French until 1954. Dulles, for one, was aware of Bao DaiÂ's political unreliability and inability to create an alternative to the Viet Minh, and he regretted it. ‘It seems,Â' he wrote a friend in October 1950, ‘as is often the case, it is necessary as a practical matter to choose the lesser of two evils because the theoretically ideal solution is not possible for many reasons - the French policy being only one. As a matter of fact, the French policy has considerably changed for the better.Â'17 It was Dulles, in the middle of 1951, who discovered in Bao DaiÂ's former premier under the Japanese, Ngo Dinh Diem, the political solution for Indochina. At the end of 1950 he was willing to content himself with the belief that the expansion of communism in Asia must be stopped. The French might serve that role, at least for a time.

In developing a rationale for United States aid, three major arguments were advanced, only one of which was later to disappear as a major source of the conduct of United States policy in Vietnam. First of all, the United States wished to bring France back to Europe via victory in Vietnam: ‘The sooner they bring it to a successful conclusion,Â' Henry Cabot Lodge explained in early 1951, ‘the better it would be for NATO because they could move their forces here and increase their building of their army in Europe... Â'18 The French insistence until 1954 on blocking {85} German rearmament and the European Defence Community until they could exist on the continent with military superiority over the Germans, a condition that was impossible until the war in Vietnam ended, gave this even more persuasive consideration special urgency. From this viewpoint, Vietnam was the indirect key to Germany. In the meantime, as Ambassador to France David Bruce explained it, ‘I think it would be a disaster if the French did not continue their effort in Indochina.Â'19

Victory rather than a political settlement was necessary because of the two other basic and more permanent factors guiding United States policy. The United States was always convinced that the ‘dominoÂ' theory would operate should Vietnam remain with the Vietnamese people. ‘There is no question,Â' Bruce told a Senate committee, ‘that if Indochina went, the fall of Burma and the fall of Thailand would be absolutely inevitable. No one can convince me, for what it is worth, that Malaya wouldnÂ't follow shortly thereafter, and India ... would ... also find the Communists making infiltrations. ..Â'20 The political character of the regime in Vietnam was less consequential than the larger United States design for the area, and the seeds of future United States policy were already forecast when Bruce suggested that ‘... the Indochinese - and I am speaking now of the... anti-Communist group - will have to show a far greater ability to live up to the obligations of nationhood before it will be safe to withdraw, whether it be French Union forces or any other foreign forces, from that countryÂ'.21 If the French left, someone would have to replace them.

Should Vietnam, and through it Asia, fall to the Viet Minh, the last major American fear would be realized. ‘[Of] all the prizes Russia could bite off in the east,Â' Bruce also suggested, ‘the possession of Indochina would be the most valuable and in the long run would be the most crucial one from the standpoint of the West in the east. That would be true not because of the flow of rice, rubber, and so forth... but because it is the only place where any war is now being conducted to try to suppress the overtaking of the whole area of south-east Asia by the Communists.Â'22 {86}

Eisenhower and Nixon put this assumption rather differently, with greater emphasis on the value of raw materials, but it has been a constant basis of United States policy in Vietnam since 1951. ‘Why is the United States spending hundreds of millions of dollars supporting the forces of the French Union in the fight against communism?Â' Vice President Richard Nixon asked in December 1953. ‘If Indochina falls, Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this whole part of south-east Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist, must inevitably be oriented towards the Communist regime.Â'23

The loss of all Vietnam [Eisenhower wrote in his memoir], together with Laos on the west and Cambodia on the southwest, would have meant the surrender to Communist enslavement of millions. On the material side, it would have spelled the loss of valuable deposits of tin and prodigious supplies of rubber and rice. It would have meant that Thailand, enjoying buffer territory between itself and Red China, would be exposed on its entire eastern border to infiltration or attack. And if Indochina fell, not only Thailand but Burma and Malaya would be threatened, with added risks to East Pakistan and South Asia as well as to all Indonesia.24

Given this larger American conception of the importance of the Vietnam war to its self-interest, which impelled the United States to support it financially, the future of the war no longer depended largely on whether the French would fight or meet the demands of the Vietnamese for independence. Already in early 1952 Secretary of State Dean Acheson told Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, as recorded in the latterÂ's memoir, ‘... of the United StatesÂ' determination to do everything possible to strengthen the French hand in Indochina. On the wider question of the possibility of a Chinese invasion, the United States Government considered that it would be disastrous to the position of the Western powers if south-east Asia were lost without a struggle.Â'25 If Acheson promised prudence {87} by merely greatly increasing arms aid to the French, he also talked of blockading China. The war, even by 1952, was being internationalized with America assuming ever greater initiative for its control. When Eisenhower came to the Presidency in January 1953, Acheson presented Vietnam to him as ‘an urgent matter on which the new administration must be prepared to actÂ'.26 Given DullesÂ's experience and views on the question, AchesonÂ's words were not to be wasted.

By spring 1953 the United States government was fully aware of the largely tangential role of the French in its larger global strategy, and it was widely believed in Congress that if the French pulled out the United States would not permit Vietnam to fall. The United States was increasingly irritated with the French direction of affairs. The economic aid sent to Vietnam resulted merely in the creation of a speculative market for piastres and dollars which helped the local compradors enrich themselves while debilitating the economy. ‘Failure of important elements of the local population to give a full measure of support to the war effort remained one of the chief negative factors,Â' the State Department confided to Eisenhower.27 ‘[It] was almost impossible,Â' Eisenhower later wrote, ‘to make the average Vietnamese peasant realize that the French, under whose rule his people had lived for some eighty years, were really fighting in the cause of freedom, while the Viet Minh, people of their own ethnic origins, were fighting on the side of slavery.Â'28 Bao Dai, whom the United States had always mistrusted, now disturbed the Americans because, Eisenhower recalls, he ‘... chose to spend the bulk of his time in the spas of Europe...Â'29

The French, for their part, were now divided on the proper response the massive American intervention into the war demanded. But during July 1953 Bidault and Dulles conferred and Dulles promised all the French desired, also admonishing them not to seek a negotiated end to the war. In September the United States agreed to give the French a special grant of $385 million to {88} implement the Navarre Plan, a scheme to build French and puppet troops to a level permitting them to destroy the regular Viet Minh forces by the end of 1955. By this time the essential strategy of the war supplanted a strict concern for bringing France back to NATO, and the Americans increasingly determined to make Vietnam a testing ground for a larger global strategy of which the French would be the instrument. Critical to that strategy was military victory.

The difficulty for the United States undertaking was that, as General LeClerc had suggested several years earlier, there was.... no military solution for VietnamÂ'.30 The major foreign policy crisis of late 1953 and early 1954, involving DullesÂ's confusing ‘massive retaliationÂ' speech of 12 January 1954, was the first immediate consequence of the failure of the Navarre Plan and the obvious French march towards defeat. The vital problem for the United States was how it might apply its vast military power in a manner that avoided a land war in the jungles, one which Dulles always opposed in Asia and which the Americans too might lose. At the end of December 1953 Dulles publicly alluded to the possibility that in the event of a Chinese invasion of Vietnam the Americans might respond by attacking China, which several weeks later was expressed again in the ambiguous threat of the American need ‘... to be willing and able to respond vigorously at places and with means of its own choosingÂ'.31 Every critical assumption on which the United States based its foreign and military policy they were now testing in Vietnam.

1954: the Geneva Conference

Given the larger regional, even global, context of the question of Vietnam for the United States, a peaceful settlement would have undermined the vital promise of Washington since 1947 that one could not negotiate with communism but only contain it via military expenditures, bases and power. In February 1954, as Eden records, ‘... our Ambassador was told at the State Department {89} that the United States government was perturbed by the fact that the French were aiming not to win the war, but to get into a position from which they could negotiateÂ'.32 The United States was hostile to any political concessions and to an end to the war. To the French, many of whom still wished to fight, the essential question was whether the United States government would share the burden of combat as well as the expense. The French would make this the test of their ultimate policy.

At the end of March the French sought to obtain some hint of the direction of United States commitments, and posed the hypothetical question of what United States policy would be if the Chinese used their aircraft to attack French positions. Dulles refused to answer the question, but he did state that if the United States entered the war with its own manpower, it would demand a much greater share of the political and executive direction of the future of the area.33

It is probable that the United States government in the weeks before Geneva had yet to define a firm policy for itself save on one issue: the desire not to lose any part of Vietnam by negotiations and to treat the existing military realities of the war as the final determining reality. EdenÂ's memory was correct when he noted that in April the Under Secretary of State, Walter Bedell Smith, informed the British government .... that the United States had carefully studied the partition solution, but had decided that it would only be a temporary palliative and would lead to Communist domination of south-east AsiaÂ'.34

During these tense days words from the United States were extremely belligerent, but it ultimately avoided equivalent actions, and laid the basis for later intervention. On 9 March Dulles excoriated Ho and the Viet Minh and all who ‘... whip up the spirit of nationalism so that it becomes violentÂ'. He again reiterated the critical value of Vietnam as a source of raw materials and its strategic value in the area, and now blamed China for the continuation of the war. After detailing the alleged history of broken Soviet treaties, Dulles made it clear that the United States would go to Geneva so that ‘... any Indochina discussion {90} will serve to bring the Chinese Communists to see the danger of their apparent design for the conquest of south-east Asia, so that they will cease and desistÂ'.35 Vice-President Richard Nixon on 16 April was rather more blunt in a press conference: Geneva would become an instrument of action and not a forum for a settlement. ‘[The] United States must go to Geneva and take a positive stand for united action by the free world. Otherwise it will have to take on the problem alone and try to sell it to others. ... This country is the only nation politically strong enough at home to take a position that will save Asia. ... Negotiations with the Communists to divide the territory would result in Communist domination of a vital new area.Â'36

The fact the United States focused on, Chinese ‘responsibilityÂ' for a war of liberation from the French that began in 1945, years before the Chinese communists were near the south, was not only poor propaganda but totally irrelevant as a basis of military action. There was at this time no effective means for United States entry into the war, and such power as the Americans had would not be useful in what ultimately had to be a land war if they could hope for victory. War hawks aside, the Pentagon maintained a realistic assessment of the problem of joining the war at this time from a weak and fast-crumbling base, and for this reason the United States never implemented the much publicized schemes for entering the war via air power. The United States government was, willy nilly, grasping at a new course, one that had no place for Geneva and its very partial recognition of realities in Vietnam.

On 4 April Eisenhower proposed to Churchill that the three major NATO allies, the Associated States, the ANZUS countries, Thailand and the Philippines form a coalition to take a firm stand on Indochina, by using naval and air power against the Chinese coast and intervening in Vietnam itself. The British were instantly cool to the amorphous notion, and they were to insist that first the diplomats do their best at Geneva to save the French from their disastrous position. Only the idea of a regional military alliance appealed to them.37 Despite much scurrying and bluster, {91} Dulles could not keep the British and French from going to Geneva open to offers, concessions and a détente.

On 7 May, the day before the Geneva Conference turned to the question of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, Dien Bien Phu fell to the victorious Vietnamese. Psychologically, though not militarily, the United States saw this as a major defeat in Vietnam. Militarily, about three quarters of Vietnam belonged to the Vietnamese and imminent French defeat promised to liberate the remainder. That same evening Dulles went on the radio to denounce Ho as a ‘Communist ... trained in MoscowÂ' who would ‘deprive Japan of important foreign markets and sources of food and raw materialsÂ'.38 Vietnam, Dulles went on, could not fall ‘into hostile handsÂ', for then ‘the Communists could move into all of south-east AsiaÂ'.39 Nevertheless, ‘The present conditions there do not provide a suitable basis for the United States to participate with its armed forcesÂ', and so the hard-pressed French might wish an armistice. ‘But we would be gravely concerned if an armistice or cease-fire were reached at Geneva which would provide a road to a Communist takeover and further aggression.Â'40

The United States position meant an explicit denial of the logic of the military realities, for negotiations to deprive the Viet Minh of all of their triumphs was, in effect, a request for surrender. Even before the Conference turned to the subject, the United States rejected - on behalf of a larger global view which was to make Vietnam bear the brunt of future interventions - the implications of a negotiated settlement.

The Geneva Agreement

Others have authoritatively documented the United StatesÂ' role during the Geneva Conference discussions of 8 May-21 July - the indecision, vacillation and American refusal to acknowledge the military and political realities of the time. The British, for their part, hoped for partition, the Russians and the Chinese for peace {92} - increasingly at any price - and the Vietnamese for Vietnam and the political rewards of their near-military triumph over a powerful nation. The American position, as the New York Times described it during these weeks, was .... driving the US deeper into diplomatic isolation on south-east Asian questionsÂ', and ‘Though the US opposes ... these agreements, there appears to be little the US can do to stop themÂ' 41

To the Vietnamese delegation led by Pham Van Dong, the question was how to avoid being deprived of the political concomitant of their military triumph, and they were the first to quickly insist on national elections in Vietnam at an early date - elections they were certain to win. As the Conference proceeded, and the Russians and then the Chinese applied pressure for Vietnamese concessions on a wide spectrum of issues - the most important being the provisional zonal demarcation along the 17th parallel - the importance of this election provision became ever greater to the Viet Minh.

To both the Vietnamese and the United States, partition as a permanent solution was out of the question, and Pham Van Dong made it perfectly explicit that zonal regroupments were only a temporary measure to enforce a cease-fire. Had the Viet Minh felt it was to be permanent, they unquestionably would not have agreed to the Agreements. When Mendès-France conceded a specific date for an election, the world correctly interpreted it as a major concession to Vietnamese independence. By the end of June, the Vietnamese were ready to grant much in the hope that an election would be held. During these very same days, Eden finally convinced the United States that a partition of Vietnam was all they might hope for, and on 29 June Eden and Dulles issued a statement which agreed to respect an armistice that ‘does not contain political provisions which would risk loss of the retained area to Communist controlÂ'.42 Since that loss was now inevitable, it ambiguously suggested that the United States might look askance at elections, or the entire Agreement itself. When the time came formally to join the other nations at Geneva in endorsing the Conference resolutions, the United States would not consent to do so. {93}

The final terms of the Agreements are too well known to need more than a resume here. The ‘Agreement on Cessation of HostilitiesÂ' that the French and Vietnamese signed on 20 July explicitly described as ‘provisionalÂ' the demarcation line at the 17th parallel. Until general elections, the Vietnamese and French respectively were to exercise civil authority above and below the demarcation line, and it was France alone that had responsibility for assuring conformity to its terms on a political level. Militarily, an International Control Commission was to enforce the terms. Arms could not be increased beyond existing levels. Article 18 stipulated ‘... the establishment of new military bases is prohibited throughout Vietnam territoryÂ', and Article 19 that ‘the two parties shall ensure that the zones assigned to them do not adhere to any military allianceÂ', which meant that Vietnam could not join the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization the United States was beginning to organize.43 The Final Declaration issued on 21 July ‘takes noteÂ' of these military agreements, and ‘... that the essential purpose of the agreement relating to Vietnam is to settle military questions with a view to ending hostilities and that the military demarcation line is provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundaryÂ'.44 Vietnam was one nation in this view, and at no place did the documents refer to ‘NorthÂ' or ‘SouthÂ'. To achieve political unity, ‘... general elections shall be held in July 1956, under the supervision of an international control commissionÂ', and ‘consultations will be held on this subject between the competent representative authorities of the two zones from 20 July 1955 onwardsÂ'. 45

To the United States it was inconceivable that the French and their Vietnamese allies could implement the election proviso without risk of total disaster. It is worth quoting EisenhowerÂ's two references to this assumption in his memoir: ‘It was generally conceded that had an election been held, Ho Chi Minh would have been elected Premier.Â'46 ‘I have never talked or corresponded {94} with a person knowledgeable in Indochinese affairs who did not agree that had elections been held as of the time of the fighting, possibly 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the Communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader rather than Chief of State Bao Dai.Â'47

The United States therefore could not join in voting for the Conference resolution of 21 July, and a careful reading of the two United States statements issued unilaterally the same day indicates it is quite erroneous to suggest that the United States was ready to recognize the outcome of a Conference and negotiated settlement which it had bitterly opposed at every phase. EisenhowerÂ's statement begrudgingly welcomed an end to the fighting, but then made it quite plain that ‘... the United States has not itself been a party to or bound by the decisions taken by the Conference, but it is our hope that it will lead to the establishment of peace consistent with the rights and needs of the countries concerned. The agreement contains features which we do not like, but a great deal depends on how they work in practice.Â'48 The ‘United States will not use force to disturb the settlement We also say that any renewal of Communist aggression would be viewed by us as a matter of grave concern.Â'49 Walter Bedell SmithÂ's formal statement at Geneva made the same points, but explicitly refused to endorse the 13th article of the Agreement requiring consultation by the members of the Conference to consider questions submitted to them by the ICC,‘... to ensure that the agreements on the cessation of hostilities in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam are respectedÂ'.50

1955-9: the aftermath of Geneva: the US entrenchment

The United States attached such grave reservations because it never had any intention of implementing the Geneva Agreements, and this was clear from all the initial public statements. The Wall {95} Street Journal was entirely correct when on 23 July it reported that ‘the US is in no hurry for elections to unite Vietnam; we fear Red leader Ho Chi Minh would win. So Dulles plans first to make the southern half a showpiece - with American aidÂ'.51

While various United States missions began moving into the area Diem controlled, Dulles addressed himself to the task of creating a SEAT 0 organization which, as Eisenhower informed the Senate, was .... for defence against both open armed attack and internal subversionÂ'.52 To Dulles from this time onwards, the SEATO treaty would cover Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, even though they failed to sign the Treaty and in fact the Geneva Agreement forbade them to do so. Article IV of the SEATO treaty extended beyond the signatories and threatened intervention by the organization in case of aggression ‘against any State or territoryÂ' in the region, or if there was a threat to the ‘political independence ... of any other State or territoryÂ'.53 Under such an umbrella the United States might rationalize almost any intervention for any reason.

The general pattern of United States economic and material aid to the Diem regime between 1955 and 1959, which was $2.92 billion in that period, indicates the magnitude of the American commitment, $1.71 billion of which was advanced under military programmes, including well over a half billion dollars before the final Geneva-scheduled election date.

That elections would never be held was a foregone conclusion, despite the efforts of the North Vietnamese, who on 1 January 1955 reminded the French of their obligation to see the provision respected. Given the internecine conduct of the local opposition and its own vast strength among the people, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam had every reason to comply with the Geneva provisos on elections. During February 1955 Hanoi proposed establishing normal relations between the two zones preparatory to elections, and Pham Van Dong in April issued a joint statement with Nehru urging elections to reunify the country. By this time {96} Diem was busy repressing and liquidating internal opposition of every political hue, and when it received no positive answer to its 6 June pleas for elections, the DRV again formally reiterated its opposition to the partition of one nation and the need to hold elections on schedule. During June the world turned its attention to DiemÂ's and DullesÂ's response prior to the 20 July deadline for consultations. DiemÂ's response was painfully vague, and the first real statement came from Dulles on 28 June when he stated that neither the United States nor the regime in the south had signed the Agreement at Geneva or was bound to it, a point that Washington often repeated and which was, in the case of the south, patently false. Nevertheless, Dulles admitted that in principle the United States favoured ‘... the unification of countries which have a historic unityÂ', the myth of two Vietnams and two nations not yet being a part of the American case. ‘The Communists have never yet won any free election. I donÂ't think they ever will. Therefore, we are not afraid at all of elections, provided they are held under conditions of genuine freedom which the Geneva armistice agreement calls for.Â'54 But the United States, it was clear from this statement, was not bound to call for the implementation of the agreement via prior consultations which Diem and Washington had refused until that time, nor did Dulles say he would now urge Diem to take such a course.

Diem at the end of April 1955 announced he would hold a national referendum in the south to convoke a new national assembly and on 16 July he categorically rejected truly national elections under the terms of Geneva until ‘.. . proof is ... given that they put the superior interests of the national community above those of CommunismÂ'.55 ‘We certainly agree,Â' Dulles stated shortly thereafter, ‘that conditions are not ripe for free elections.Â'56 The response of the DRV was as it had always been:

Geneva obligated the Conference members to assume responsibility for its implementation including consultations preparatory to actual elections, and in this regard Diem was by no means the responsible party. But the British favoured partition, {97} and the French were not about to thwart the United States government. The fraudulent referendum of 23 October which Diem organized in the south gave Diem ninety-eight per cent of the votes for the Presidency of the new ‘Government of VietnamÂ'. Three days later Washington replied to the news by recognizing the legitimacy of the regime.

In reality, using a regime almost entirely financed with its funds, and incapable of surviving without its aid, the United States partitioned Vietnam.

To the DRV, the United States and the Diem AdministrationÂ's refusal to conform to the Geneva Agreements was a question for the members of the Geneva Conference and the ICC to confront, and while it had often made such demands - during June and again in November 1955, and directly to Diem on 19 July - in September and again on 17 November 1955 Pham and Ho publicly elaborated their ideas on the structure of an election along entirely democratic lines. All citizens above eighteen could vote and all above twenty-one could run for office. They proposed free campaigning in both zones and secret and direct balloting. The ICC could supervise. On 25 February 1956, Ho again reiterated this position.

On 14 February 1956, Pham Van Dong directed a letter to the Geneva co-chairmen pointing to the repression in the south, its de facto involvement in an alliance with the United States, and the French responsibility for rectifying the situation. He now proposed that the Geneva Conference reconvene to settle peacefully the problem of Vietnam. The British refused, and again on 6 April the Diem government announced that ‘it does not consider itself bound by their provisions Â'.57 On 8 May the Geneva co-chairmen sent to the north and south, as well as to the French, a demand to open consultations on elections with a view to unifying the country under the Geneva Agreements. Three days later the DRV expressed readiness to begin direct talks in early June at a time set by the Diem authorities. Diem refused. The DRV continued to demand consultations to organize elections, submitting notes to this effect to the Geneva co-chairmen and the Diem government in June and July 1957, March and December 1958, July 1959 and July 1960, and later, for arms reduction, resumption {98} of trade and other steps necessary to end the artificial partition of Vietnam. These proposals failed, for neither Diem nor the United States could survive their successful implementation.58

WashingtonÂ's policy during this period was clear and publicly stated. On 1 June 1956, after visiting Diem with Dulles the prior March, Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State, attacked the Geneva Accords, which ‘... partitioned [Vietnam] by fiat of the great powers against the will of the Vietnamese peopleÂ'. He lauded DiemÂ's rigged ‘free election of last MarchÂ' and stated the American determination ‘to support a friendly non-Communist government in Vietnam and to help it diminish and eventually eradicate Communist subversion and influence.... Our efforts are directed first of all towards helping to sustain the internal security forces consisting of a regular army of about 150,000 men, a mobile civil guard of some 45,000, and local defence units. ... We are also helping to organize, train and equip the Vietnamese police force.Â'59 Such policies were, of course, in violation of the Geneva Agreements forbidding military expansion. The term ‘eradicateÂ' was an apt description of the policy which the United States urged upon the more-than-willing Diem, who persecuted former Viet Minh supporters, dissident religious sects and others. An estimated 40,000 Vietnamese were in jail for political reasons by the end of 1958, almost four times that number by the end of 1961. Such policies were possible because the United States financed over seventy per cent of DiemÂ's budget, and the main United States emphasis was on the use of force and repression. There were an estimated minimum of 16,600 political liquidations between 1955 and 1959, perhaps much higher. Suffice it to say, every objective observer has accepted Life magazineÂ's description in May 1957 as a fair estimate:

Behind a facade of photographs, flags and slogans there is a grim structure of decrees, ‘re-education centresÂ', secret police. Presidential ‘Ordinance No. 6Â' signed and issued by Diem in January 1956 provides that ‘individuals considered dangerous to national defence and common security may be confined on executive orderÂ' in a ‘concentration campÂ'. ... Only known or suspected Communists ... are {99} supposed to be arrested and ‘re-educatedÂ' under these decrees. But many non-Communists have also been detained. ... The whole machinery of security has been used to discourage active opposition of any kind from any source.60

The International Control CommissionÂ's teams complained of these violations in the south, and in the north they claimed that the only significant group to have its civil liberties infringed was the Catholic minority, approximately one tenth of the nation. The cooperation of the DRV with the ICC was a critical index of its intentions, and an example of its naive persistence in the belief Geneva had not in reality deprived it of its hard-fought victory. The vast military build-up in the south made real cooperation with the ICC impossible, and its complaints, especially in regard to the airfields and reprisals against civilians, were very common. In certain cases the Diem regime permitted ICC teams to move in the south, but it imposed time limits, especially after 1959. Although there is no precise way of taking a count of what figures both Diem and the United States were attempting to hide, by July 1958 the DRVÂ's estimate that Diem had 450,000 men under arms was probably correct in light of RobertsonÂ's earlier estimate of United States plans and the $1.7 billion in military expenditures for Diem through 1959.61

Although the large bulk of American aid to Diem went to military purposes, the section devoted to economic ends further routed an entirely dependent regime to the United States. That economic aid was a total disaster, exacerbated a moribund economy, ripped apart the urban society already tottering from the first decade of war, and enriched Diem, his family and clique. Yet certain germane aspects of the condition of the southern economy are essential to understand the next phase of the revolution in Vietnam and further American intervention, a revolution the Americans had frozen for a time but could not stop.

The Viet Minh controlled well over half the land south of the 17th parallel prior to the Geneva Conference, and since 1941 they {100} had managed to introduce far-reaching land reform into an agrarian economy of grossly inequitable holdings. When Diem took over this area, with the advice of United States experts he introduced a ‘land reformÂ' programme which in fact was a regressive ‘modernizationÂ' of the concentrated land control system that had already been wiped out in many regions. Saigon reduced rents by as much as fifty per cent from pre-Viet Minh times, but in fact it represented a reimposition of tolls that had ceased to exist in wide areas. In cases of outright expropriation, landlords received compensation for property that they had already lost. In brief, the Diem regimeÂ's return to power meant a reimposition of a new form of the prewar 1940 land distribution system in which seventy-two per cent of the population owned thirteen per cent of the land and two thirds of the agricultural population consisted of tenants ground down by high rents and exorbitant interest rates. For this reason, it was the landlords rather than the peasantry who supported ‘agrarian reformÂ'.

Various plans for resettling peasants in former Viet Minh strongholds, abortive steps which finally culminated in the strategic hamlet movement of 1962, simply helped to keep the countryside in seething discontent. These agrovilles uprooted traditional villages and became famous as sources of discontent against the regime, one which was ripping apart the existing social structure. In brief, Diem and the United States never established control over the larger part of south Vietnam and the Viet MinhÂ's impregnable peasant base, and given the decentralization and the corruption of DiemÂ's authority, there was no effective basis for their doing so. The repression Diem exercised only rekindled resistance.62

In the cities the dislocations in the urban population, constantly augmented by a flow of Catholic refugees from the north, led to a conservative estimate in 1956 of 413,000 unemployed out of the Saigon population of two million. The $1.2 billion in non-military aid given to the Diem regime during 1955-9 went in large part to pay for its vast import deficit which permitted vast quantities of American-made luxury goods to be brought into the countryÂ's {101} inflationary economy for the use of the new comprador Class and DiemÂ's bureaucracy.

The United States endorsed and encouraged the military buildup and repression, but it did not like the strange mélange of mandarin anti-capitalism and Catholic feudalism which Diem jumbled together in his philosophy of personalism. Diem was a puppet, but a not perfectly tractable one. The United States did not appreciate the high margin of personal graft, nor did it like DiemÂ's hostility towards accelerated economic development, nor his belief in state-owned companies. Ngo Dinh Nhu, his brother, regarded economic aid as a cynical means of dumping American surpluses, and the United States had to fight, though successfully, for the relaxation of restrictions on foreign investments and protection against the threat of nationalization. Ultimately Diem was content to complain and to hoard aid funds for purposes the United States thought dubious.

The US thought of Vietnam as a capitalist state in south-east Asia. This course condemned it to failure, but in April 1959, when Eisenhower publicly discussed Vietnam, ‘... a country divided into two parts, and not two distinct nationsÂ', he stressed VietnamÂ's need to develop economically, and the way ‘... to get the necessary capital is through private investments from the outside and through government loansÂ', the latter, in so far as the United States was concerned, going to local capitalists.63

1959-64: the resistance is rekindled

Every credible historical account of the origins of the armed struggle south of the 17th parallel treats it as if it were on a continuum from the war with the French of 1945-54, and as the effect rather than the cause of the Diem regimeÂ's frightful repression and accumulated internal economic and social problems. The resistance to DiemÂ's officials had begun among the peasantry in a spontaneous manner, by growing numbers of persecuted political figures of every persuasion, augmented by Buddhists and Viet {102} Minh who returned to the villages to escape, and, like every successful guerrilla movement, it was based on the support of the peasantry for its erratic but ultimately irresistible momentum. On 6 May 1959, Diem passed his famous Law 10-59 which applied the sentence of death to anyone committing murder, destroying to any extent houses, farms or buildings of any kind, or means of transport, and a whole list of similar offences. ‘Whoever belongs to an organization designed to help to prepare or perpetrate crimes ... or takes pledges to do so, will be subject to the sentences provided.Â'64

The regime especially persecuted former members of the Viet Minh, but all opposition came under the sweeping authority of DiemÂ's new law, and between 1958 and the end of 1961 the number of political prisoners quadrupled. The resistance that spread did not originate from the north, and former Viet Minh members joined the spontaneous local resistance groups well before the DRV indicated any support for them. Only in 1960 did significant fighting spread throughout the country.

At the end of 1960 the United States claimed to have only 773 troops stationed there. By December 1965 there were at least fourteen major United States airbases in Vietnam, 166,000 troops, and the manpower was to more than double over the following year.65 This build-up violated the Geneva Accords, but that infraction is a fine point in light of the fact that the United States always had utter contempt for that agreement. In reality, the United States was now compelled to save what little it controlled of the south of Vietnam from the inevitable failure of its own policies.

It is largely pointless to deal with the subsequent events in the same detail, for they were merely a logical extension of the global policies of the United States before 1960. One has merely to juxtapose {103} the newspaper accounts in the United States press against the official rationalizations cited in Washington to realize how very distant from the truth Washington was willing to wander to seek justification for a barbaric war against a small nation quite unprecedented in the history of modern times. To understand this war one must always place it in its contextual relationship and recall that the issues in Vietnam were really those of the future of United States power not only in south-east Asia but throughout the entire developing world. In Vietnam the United States government has vainly attempted to make vast power relevant to international social and political realities that had bypassed the functional conservatism of a nation seeking to save an old order with liberal rhetoric and, above all, with every form of military power available in its non-nuclear arsenal.

By 1960 it was apparent that Diem would not survive very long, a point that an abortive palace revolt of his own paratroop battalions emphasized on 11 November. When Kennedy came to office amidst great debates over military credibility and the need to build a limited-war capability, Vietnam inevitably became the central challenge to the intellectual strategists he brought to Washington. In May 1961, Kennedy and Dean Rusk denounced what they called DRV responsibility for the growth of guerrilla activity in the south, a decision Rusk claimed the Communist Party of the DRV made in May 1959 and reaffirmed in September of the following year. This tendentious reasoning, of course, ignored the fact that the prior September, Pham Van Dong had again urged negotiations on the basis of reciprocal concessions in order to achieve unity without recourse to ‘war and forceÂ'.66 By the fall two missions headed by Eugene Staley and the leading limited-war theorist, General Maxwell Taylor, went to Vietnam to study the situation. On 18 October Diem declared a state of emergency, and on 16 November Kennedy pledged a sharp increase in aid to the regime, which newspapers predicted would also involve large United States troop increases. During November the Wall Street Journal, for example, admitted that aid would be going to a regime characterized by ‘corruption and favouritismÂ', and described {104} the ‘authoritarian nature of the countryÂ' which allowed the National Liberation Front, formed at the end of December 1960, to build up a mass base among ‘the farmers who welcome an alternative to corrupt and ineffective appointees of the regimeÂ'.67

The United States government could hardly admit that the problem in southern Vietnam was the peopleÂ's revolt against the corruption of an oppressive regime that survived only with American guns and dollars, and not very well at that, and so it was necessary, while once again violating the Geneva Accords, to build up the myth of intervention from the DRV. At this time, the United States government effected a curious shift in its attitude towards the Geneva Accords, from denouncing or ignoring it to insisting that it bound the other side and, implicitly, that the United States had endorsed it. When asked about how a vast increase in United States military aid affected the agreement, Washington from this time on insisted, in RuskÂ's words, that ‘the primary question about the Geneva Accords is not how those Accords relate to, say, our military assistance programme to south Vietnam. They relate to the specific, persistent, substantial, and openly proclaimed violations of those Accords by the north Vietnamese. ... The first question is, what does the north do about those Accords?Â'68 ‘If the North Vietnamese bring themselves into full compliance with the Geneva Accords,Â' Rusk stated on 8 December as he released the so-called White Paper, ‘there will be no problem on the part of South Vietnam or any one supporting South Vietnam.Â'69 Only the prior month Ho publicly called for the peaceful reunification of the country via the terms of Geneva.70 Not surprisingly, Rusk never referred to the question of elections.

The United States White Paper of December 1961 was inept, and an excellent source of information for disproving nearly all the American claims of the time. It consisted of a melange of data, case histories and quotes from DRV statements, most obviously {105} out of context. As for China or Russia supplying the NLF with arms, the White Paper admitted, ‘The weapons of the VC are largely French- or US-made, or handmade on primitive forges in the jungle.Â'71

Evidence ranged from South Vietnamese interrogation records to reproductions of human anatomy from a Chinese text book to photos of medical equipment made in China and the cover of a private diary. The White Paper exhibited no military equipment and the long extracts from various DRV congresses and publications revealed merely that the DRV was officially committed to ‘... struggle tenaciously for the implementation of the Geneva AgreementsÂ' and ‘peaceful reunification of the fatherlandÂ'.72 The State DepartmentÂ's incompetent case was less consequential than the renewed and frank exposition of the ‘dominoÂ' theory: if all of Vietnam chose the leadership of Ho and his party, the rest of Asia would ‘fallÂ'. Above all, as the American press acknowledged, if the United States did not intervene the shabby Diem regime would collapse without anything acceptable replacing it.Â'73

During early 1962 the United States announced and began the Staley Plan - Operation Sunrise - for razing existing villages and regrouping entire populations against their will, and in February created a formal command in Vietnam. Officially, to meet ICC complaints, the United States reported 685 American soldiers were in Vietnam, but in fact reporters described the truth more accurately, and Washington intensified a long pattern of official deception of the American public. Yet the United States position was unenviable, for on 27 February DiemÂ's own planes bombed his palace. This phase of the story need not be surveyed here - more pliable and equally corrupt men were to replace Diem. One American officer in April 1962 reported of growing NLF power, ‘When I arrived last September, the Viet Cong were rarely encountered in groups exceeding four or five. Now they are frequently met in bands of forty to sixty.Â'74

On 1 March, while alleging DRV responsibility for the war, {106} Rusk declared it ‘all in gross violation of the Geneva AccordsÂ'. The problem, he argued over the following years, came from the north. As for the DRVÂ's appeal that the Geneva Conference be reconvened, he suggested, ‘There is no problem in South Vietnam if the other side would stay its hand.... I donÂ't at the moment envisage any particular form of discussion... Â'75 No later than March, American forces in Vietnam were actively locked in combat.

Despite propaganda of the lowest calibre which the State Department and White House issued, more authoritative statements from various government agencies indicated reluctance to base planning on the fiction that the DRV started the war in Vietnam. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations report of January 1963 admitted that the NLF ‘is equipped largely with primitive, antiquated, and captured weaponsÂ'.76 Despite the weakness of the NLF in this regard against a regular army of well over 150,000, plus police, etc., ‘by 1961 it was apparent that the prospects for a total collapse in South Vietnam had begun to come dangerously closeÂ'.77 American intervention had stayed that event. Speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in early March, General David Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps, freely admitted there was no correlation between the size of the NLF and the alleged infiltrators from the north: ‘I donÂ't agree that they come in there in the numbers that are down there....Â'78

Not until July 1963 did the United States publicly and unequivocally claim that, for the first time, it had captured NLF arms manufactured in Communist countries after 1954.

By the summer of 1963 it was obvious that the American government and its ally Diem were headed towards military defeat in Vietnam and new and unprecedented political resistance at home. DiemÂ's oppression of all political elements, his active persecution of the Buddhists, the failure of the strategic hamlet programme, the utter incompetence of his drafted troops against {107} far weaker NLF forces, the American press described in detail. At the beginning of September Washington was apparently bent on pressuring Diem but preserving him against mounting Buddhist protests, but as Kennedy admitted on 9 September as audible stirrings from senators were heard for the first time, ‘What I am concerned about is that Americans will get impatient and say, because they donÂ't like events in south-east Asia or they donÂ't like the government in Saigon, that we should withdraw.Â'79 Quite simply, he stated four days later, ‘If it helps to win the war, we support it. What interferes with the war effort we oppose.Â'80 The Americans would not sink with Diem.

On 21 October, after some weeks of similar actions on forms of economic aid, the United States Embassy in Saigon announced that it would terminate the pay for DiemÂ's own special political army unless they went into the field. On 30 October this private guard was sent out of Saigon. The next day a military coup brought DiemÂ's long rule to an end.81

The United States recognized the new Minh coup on 4 November, amid disturbing reports of continued squabbling within its ranks. On the 8th Rusk confirmed that the mood in Washington was now tending towards winning military victory by rejecting a neutralist solution for Vietnam south of the 17th parallel, linking it to ‘far-reaching changes in North VietnamÂ', again insisting that the north was responsible for aggression. ‘The other side was fully committed - fully committed in the original Geneva settlement of 1954 to the arrangements which provided for South Vietnam as an independent entity, and we see no reason to modify those in the direction of a larger influence of North Vietnam or Hanoi in South Vietnam.Â'82 The creation of this deliberate fiction of two Vietnams - North and South - as being the result of the Geneva Accords now indicated that the United States government would seek military victory. {108}

The new regimes were as unsatisfactory as the old one, and by mid-December the American press reported dissatisfaction in Washington over the dismal drift of the war. In his important dispatches in the New York Times at the end of 1963, David Halberstam described the failure of the strategic hamlet programme, the corruption of Diem, the paralysis of Minh in these terms:

The outlook is that the situation will deteriorate unless the Government can wrest the initiative from the guerrillas. Unless it can, there appear to be only two likely alternatives. One is a neutralist settlement. The other is the use of United States combat troops to prop up the Government.83
The drift towards a neutralist solution at the beginning of 1964 was so great that Washington sought to nip it in the bud. In his New YearÂ's Message to the Minh regime, President Johnson made it clear that ‘neutralization of South Vietnam would only be another name for a Communist takeover. Peace will return to your country just as soon as the authorities in Hanoi cease and desist from their terrorist aggressionÂ'.84 Peace would be acceptable to the Americans after total victory. To alter their losing course, they would escalate.

At the end of January, as the Khanh coup took over, one of the new rulerÂ's grievances against his former allies was that some had surreptitiously used the French government to seek a neutral political solution. During February, the New York Times reported that Washington was planning an attack on the north, with divided counsels on its extent or even its relevance to internal political-economic problems. The United States preferred air bombing and/or a blockade, because as Hanson Baldwin wrote on 6 March, ‘The waging of guerrilla war by the South Vietnamese in North Vietnam has, in fact, been tried on a small scale, but so far it has been completely ineffective.Â'85

On 15 March Johnson again endorsed the ‘dominoÂ' theory and {109} avowed his resolution not to tolerate defeat. On 26 March McNamara in a major address stressed the ‘great strategic significanceÂ' of the issue, and Vietnam as ‘... a major test case of communismÂ's new strategyÂ' of local revolution, one that might extend to all the world unless foiled in Vietnam. Behind the DRV, the Secretary of Defense alleged, stood China. The Americans rejected neutralism for Vietnam, reaffirmed aid to the Khanh regime, and darkly hinted at escalation towards the north.86 During these same days, for the first time in two decades key members of the Senate voiced significant opposition to a major foreign policy. It had become a tradition in the Cold War for Presidents to marshal support from Congress by creating crises, thereby defining the tone of American foreign policy via a sequence of sudden challenges which, at least to some, vindicated their diabolical explanations. A ‘crisisÂ' was in the making.

All of the dangers of the Vietnamese internal situation persisted throughout spring 1964. On 24 July the New York Times reported that Khanh was exerting tremendous pressures on the United States to take the war to the north, even by ‘liberatingÂ' it. During these same days both the French, Soviet and NLF leaders joined U Thant in a new diplomatic drive to seek an end to the war by negotiations. Washington, for its part, resisted these pacific solutions.

On 4 August Johnson announced that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had wantonly attacked the US destroyer Maddox in the Bay of Tonkin and in international waters, and as a result of repeated skirmishes since the 2nd he had ordered the bombardment of North Vietnamese installations supporting the boats. The following day he asked Congress to pass a resolution authorizing him to take all action necessary ‘to protect our Armed ForcesÂ'.87 It was maudlin, fictional and successful.

It was known - and immediately documented in Le Monde - that the United States had been sending espionage missions to the north since 1957 - as Baldwin had implied the prior February - and that on 30 July South Vietnamese and United States ships had raided and bombarded DRV islands. It was too far-fetched that {110} DRV torpedo boats would have searched out on the high seas the ships of the most powerful fleet in the world, without scoring any hits which the United States might show the sceptical world. On 5 August the press asked McNamara for his explanation of the events. ‘I canÂ't explain them. They were unprovoked ... our vessels were clearly in international waters ... roughly 60 miles off the North Vietnamese coast.Â' When asked whether reports of South Vietnamese attacks in the area during the prior days were relevant, McNamara demurred: ‘No, to the best of my knowledge, there were no operations during the period ....Â'88 In testimony before the Senate during the same days it emerged that United States warships were not sixty miles but three to eleven miles off DRV territory, even though, like many states, the DRV claimed a twelve-mile territorial limit. Over subsequent days more and more information leaked out so that the essential points of the DRV case were confirmed, the long history of raids on the north revealed. By the end of September the entire fantasy was so implausible that the New York Times reported that the Defense Department was sending a team to Vietnam to deal with what were euphemistically described as ‘contradictory reportsÂ'. They did not subsequently provide further details, for ‘contributing to the Defense DepartmentÂ's reticence was the secret mission of the two destroyersÂ', a mission the New York Times described as espionage of various sorts.89

The United States escalated in the hope that it could mobilize a Congress at home and sustain the Khanh regime in Vietnam, which nevertheless fell the following month. During these days the United States government admitted that the war was now grinding to a total halt as the Vietnamese politicians in the south devoted all their energy to Byzantine intrigues. With or without war against the DRV, the United States was even further from victory. In assessing the condition in the south a year after the downfall of Diem, the New York Times reported from Saigon that three years after the massive increase of the American commitment, and a {111} year after DiemÂ's demise, ‘the weakness of the Government [has] ... once again brought the country to the brink of collapse.

... Once again many American and Vietnamese officials are thinking of new, enlarged commitments - this time to carry the conflict beyond the frontier of South VietnamÂ'.90

The bombing of the DRV

On 20 December 1964, there was yet another coup in Saigon, and during the subsequent weeks the difficulties for the United States resulting from the court manoeuvres among generals who refused to fight were compounded by the growing militancy of the Buddhist forces. By January of 1965 the desertion rate within the South Vietnamese army reached thirty per cent among draftees within six weeks of induction, and a very large proportion of the remainder would not fight. It was perfectly apparent that if anyone was to continue the war the United States would have to supply not only money, arms, and 23,000 supporting troops as of the end of 1964, but fight the entire war itself. During January, as well, a Soviet-led effort to end the war through negotiations was gathering momentum, and at the beginning of February Soviet Premier Kosygin, amidst American press reports that Washington in its pessimism was planning decisive new military moves, arrived in Hanoi.

On the morning of 7 February, while Kosygin was in Hanoi, American aircraft bombed the DRV, allegedly in response to a NLF mortar attack on the Pleiku base in the south which cost eight American lives. There was nothing unusual in the NLF attack, and every serious observer immediately rejected the official United States explanation, for the government refused to state that the DRV ordered the Pleiku action, but only claimed the DRV was generally responsible for the war. The United States attack had been prepared in advance, Arthur Krock revealed on 10 February, and the New York Times reported that Washington had told several governments of the planned escalation before the 7th. The action was political, not military in purpose, a response to growing {112} dissatisfaction at home and pressures abroad. It was already known that de Gaulle was contemplating a move to reconvene the Geneva Conference - which he attempted on the 10th, after DRV urgings - and during the subsequent weeks, as the United States threatened additional air strikes against the DRV, both Kosygin and U Thant vainly attempted to drag the United States government to the peace table. In response, the Americans now prepared for vast new troop commitments.91

On 26 February, the day before the State Department released its second White Paper, Rusk indicated willingness to consider negotiations only if the DRV agreed to stop the war in the south for which he held it responsible. Hence there was no possibility of negotiating on premises which so cynically distorted the facts, and which even Washington understood to be false. ‘[They] doubt that Hanoi would be able to call off the guerrilla war,Â' the New York Times reported of dominant opinion in Washington barely a week before the Rusk statement.92 The DRV could not negotiate a war it did not start nor was in a position to end. The United States determined to intervene to save a condition in the south on the verge of utter collapse.

In its own perverse manner, the new White Paper made precisely these points. It ascribed the origins of the war, the ‘hard coreÂ' of the NLF, ‘manyÂ' of the weapons to the DRV. The actual evidence the Paper gave showed that 179 weapons, or less than three per cent of the total captured from the NLF in three years, were not definitely French, American or homemade in origin and modification. Of the small number of actual case studies of captured NLF members offered, the large majority were born south of the 17th parallel and had gone to the north after Geneva, a point that was readily admitted, and which disproved even a case based on the fiction - by now a permanent American premise - that Vietnam was two countries and that those north of an arbitrarily imposed line had no right to define the destiny of one nation.93 The tendentious case only proved total American {113} responsibility for the vast new increase in the aggression. Despite the growing pressure for negotiations from many sources, and because of them, by March the United States decided to implement the so-called ‘McNamara-Bundy PlanÂ' to bring about an ‘honourableÂ' peace by increasing the war. On 2 March air strikes against the DRV were initiated once more, but this time they were sustained down to this very day. There were incredulously received rumours of vast increases in troop commitments to as high as 350,000. Washington made an accurate assessment in March 1965 when it realized it could not expect to save Vietnam for its sphere of influence, and that peace was incompatible with its larger global objectives of stopping guerrilla and revolutionary upheavals everywhere in the world. Both McNamara and Taylor during March harked back to the constant theme that the United States was fighting in Vietnam ‘to halt Communist expansion in AsiaÂ'.94 Peace would come, Johnson stated on 13 March, when ‘Hanoi is prepared or willing or ready to stop doing what it is doing to its neighboursÂ'.95 Twelve days later the President expressed willingness to grant a vast development plan to the region - which soon turned out to be Eugene BlackÂ's formula for increasingly specialized raw-materials output for the use of the industrialized world - should the Vietnamese be ready to accept the fiction of DRV responsibility for the war.

It made no difference to the United States government that on 22 March the NLF, and on 8 April the DRV, again called for negotiations on terms which in fact were within the spirit of the Geneva Accords the United States had always rejected. It was less consequential that on 6 April the official Japanese Matsumoto Mission mustered sufficient courage to reject formally the thesis of DRV responsibility for the war in the south and its ability, therefore, to stop the Vietnamese there from resisting the United States and its intriguing puppets. More significant was the fact that, as it announced 2 April, the Administration had finally decided to send as many as 350,000 troops to Vietnam to attain for the United States what the armies of Diem, Khanh, and others could not - victory. The official position called for ‘peaceÂ', but in his famous Johns Hopkins speech on 7 April Johnson made it {114} clear that ‘we will not withdraw, either openly or under the cloak of a meaningless agreementÂ'. Though he agreed to ‘unconditional discussionsÂ', he made it explicit that these would exclude the NLF and would be with an end to securing ‘an independent South VietnamÂ', which is to say permanent partition and a violation of the Geneva Accords.96 From this time onwards the United States persisted in distorting the negotiating position of the DRVÂ's four-point declaration and effectively ignored the demand of the NLF for ‘an independent state, democratic, peaceful and neutralÂ'. It refused, and has to this day, a voice for the NLF in any negotiations, and insisted that the NLF and DRV had attached certain preconditions to negotiations which in fact did not exist and which on 3 August the NLF again attempted to clarify - to no avail.

Experience over subsequent years has shown again and again that the words ‘peaceÂ' and ‘negotiationsÂ' from official United States sources were from 1964 onwards always preludes to new and more intensive military escalation.97

To the United States government the point of Vietnam is not peace but victory, not just in Vietnam but for a global strategy which it has expressed first of all in Vietnam but at various times on every other continent as well. JohnsonÂ's own words in July 1965 stressed this global perspective while attributing the origins of the war to the DRV and, ultimately, China.

Its goal is to conquer the south, to defeat American power and to extend the Asiatic dominion of Communism.

And there are great stakes in the balance...

Our power, therefore, is a very vital shield. If we are driven from the field in Vietnam, then no nation can ever again have the same confidence in American promise or American protection. ... We did not choose to be the guardians at the gate, but there is no one else.98

One does not have to approve of this vision to accept it as an accurate explanation of why the United States government is willing to violate every norm of civilized behaviour to sustain the successive corrupt puppet governments in the south. But any {115} careful reading of the declarations of Rusk and McNamara in the months preceding and following this statement reveals that it was not the Geneva Accords but rather SEATO and, more critically, the survival of United States power in a world it can less and less control that has defined the basis of United States policy in Vietnam. This official policy, as Rusk expounded it again in March 1966, is that Vietnam is ‘the testing groundÂ' for wars of liberation that, if successful in one place, can spread throughout the world.99 When, as in January 1966, Under Secretary of State George Ball explained that Vietnam ‘is part of a continuing struggle to prevent the communists from upsetting the fragile balance of power through force or the threat of forceÂ', in effect he meant the ability of the United States to contain revolutionary nationalist movements, communist and noncommunist alike, unwilling to accept United States hegemony and dedicated to writing their own history for their own people.100

*

Any objective and carefully prepared account of the history of Vietnam must conclude with the fact that the United States must bear the responsibility for the torture of an entire nation since the end of the Second World War. The return of France to Vietnam, and its ability to fight for the restoration of a colony, was due to critical political decisions made in Washington in 1945, and the later repression depended on financial and military aid given to France by the United States. First as a passive senior partner, and then as the primary party, the United States made Vietnam an international arena for the Cold War, and it is a serious error to regard the war in Vietnam as a civil conflict, or even secondarily as a by-product of one for in that form it would hardly have lasted very long against a national and radical movement that the vast majority of the Vietnamese people always have sustained.

The United States government responded to its chronic inability to find a viable internal alternative to the Viet Minh and the NLF by escalating the war against virtually the entire nation. To escape certain defeat time and time again, it violated formal {116} and customary international law by increasing the scale of military activity. The United States met each overture to negotiate, whether it came from the Vietnamese, the French or the Russians, by accelerated warfare in the hope of attaining its unique ends through military means rather than diplomacy.

Ultimately, the United States has fought in Vietnam with increasing intensity to extend its hegemony over the world community and to stop every form of revolutionary movement which refuses to accept the predominant role of the United States in the direction of the affairs of its nation or region. Repeatedly defeated in Vietnam in the attainment of its impossible objective, the United States government, having alienated most of its European allies and a growing sector of its own nation, is attempting to prove to itself and the world that it remains indeed strong enough to define the course of global politics despite the opposition of a small poor nation of peasants. On the outcome of this epic contest rests the future of peace and social progress in the world for the remainder of the twentieth century, not just for those who struggle to overcome the legacy of colonialism and oppression to build new lives, but for the people of the United States themselves.

Notes

  1. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States: The Conference of Berlin (Washington, 1969), I, p.920.Back
  2. Charles de Gaulle, Memoirs de Guerre: Le Salut, 1944-6 (Paris, 1964), pp. 467-8. See also Marcel Vigneras, Rearming the French (Washington, 1957), p. 398.Back
  3. General G. Sabathier, Le Destin de LÂ'Indochine (Paris, 1952), pp. 336-8. During October 1945 Major Patti of the OSS approached DRV officials with the offer to trade aid in building an infrastructure for certain economic rights for American interests. The offer was declined, but it is most questionable if Patti spoke with official authority or whether this was a means for obtaining information.Back
  4. General Philip Gallagher to General R. B. McClure, 20 September 1945 (Department of State Report, Gallagher Papers).Back
  5. Department of State, Research and Intelligence Service, Biographical Information on Prominent Nationalist Leaders in French Indochina, 25 October 1945.Back
  6. UK Documents Relating to British Involvement in the Indo-China Conflict, 1945-65, Cmd 2834 (London, 1965), p.50. See also F. S. V. Donnison, British Military Administration in the Far East 1943-6 (London, 1956), pp. 404-8.Back
  7. Department of State Report, Gallagher Papers, p.10.Back
  8. New York Times, 8 February 1947. See also Bernard Fall, Two Viet Nams (New York, 1963), pp. 75-6.Back
  9. William C. Bullitt, ‘The Saddest WarÂ', Life, 29 December 1947, p.69.Back
  10. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings: Nomination of Philip C. Jessup (Washington, 1951), p. 603.Back
  11. Department of State, Conference on Problems of United States Policy in China, 6-8 October 1949, p.207; see also pp. 99 ff.Back
  12. ibid., pp. 222-5.Back
  13. ibid., p.405.Back
  14. ‘Statement of Charles E. Bohlen Before the Voorkeers Group, 3 April 1950Â', Joseph Dodge Papers, Detroit Public Library.Back
  15. Ellen J. Hammer, The Struggle for Indochina (Oxford University Press, 1954), pp. 270-72.Back
  16. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 14 January 1965 (Washington, 1965), p. 137; US AID, Obligation and Loan Authorization (Washington, 1962), p.12; Harry S. Truman, Memoirs New English Library, 1965), II, p.519.Back
  17. Dulles to Frank C. Laubach, 31 October 1950, Dulles Papers.Back
  18. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings (Washington, 1951), p.207.Back
  19. ibid.Back
  20. ibid., p.208.Back
  21. ibid.Back
  22. ibid., p.211.Back
  23. Allan B. Cole (ed.), Conflict in Indo-China and International Repercussions: A Documentary History, 1945-55 (Ithaca, 1956), p.171.Back
  24. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Mandate for Change (Heinemann, 1963), p. 333.Back
  25. Anthony Eden, Full Circle (London, 1960), p.92.Back
  26. Truman, op cit., II, p.519.Back
  27. Eisenhower, op. cit., p.168.Back
  28. ibid., p.337.Back
  29. ibid., p.338.Back
  30. Quoted in Alexander Werth, ‘Showdown in Viet NamÂ', New Statesman, 8 April 1950,p.397.Back
  31. Department of State Press Release, No. 8, p.4. {89}Back
  32. Eden, op. cit., p.100.Back
  33. Eisenhower, op. cit., p.345.Back
  34. Eden, op. cit., p. 102.Back
  35. Department of State, American Foreign Policy, 1950-55 (Washington, 1957), II, pp. 2374 ff.Back
  36. Cole, op. cit.; p.174.Back
  37. UK Documents Relating to British Involvement, pp. 66-7.Back
  38. American Foreign Policy, II, p.2385.Back
  39. ibid., p. 2386.Back
  40. ibid., pp. 2389-90.Back
  41. New York Times, 27 June 1954.Back
  42. Eden, op. cit., p. 149.Back
  43. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Background Information, p. 35, pp. 28-42.Back
  44. ibid., pp. 58-9.Back
  45. Eisenhower, op. cit., pp. 337-8.Back
  46. loc. cit.Back
  47. ibid., p.372.Back
  48. Background Information, p.60.Back
  49. ibid.Back
  50. ibid., pp. 60-61.Back
  51. Wall Street Journal, 23 July 1954.Back
  52. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings (Washington, 1954),p.1.Back
  53. Background Information, p.63.Back
  54. American Foreign Policy, II, p. 2404.Back
  55. Cole, op. cit., pp. 226-7.Back
  56. Quoted in F. B. Weinstein, VietnamÂ's Unheld Election (Ithaca, 1966), p.33.Back
  57. UK Documents Relating to British Involvement, p.95.Back
  58. Weinstein, op. cit., p.53.Back
  59. American Foreign Policy: Current Documents (Washington, 1959). p.861.Back
  60. Quoted in Robert Scheer, How the United States Got Involved in Vietnam (Santa Barbara, 1965), p.40. See also Nguyen Kien, Le Sud-Vietnam Depuis Dien Bien Phu (Paris, 1963), p.109; Jean Lacouture, Le Vietnam Entre Deux Paix (Paris, 1965), p.46.Back
  61. DRV, Imperial Schemes (Hanoi, 1958), pp. 30 ff.Back
  62. Jean Lacouture and Philippe Devillers, La Fin dÂ'une Guerre: Indochine 1954 (Paris, 1960), pp. 301-2; Kien, op. cit., pp. 122-30; Lê Châu, La Révolution Paysanne du Sud-Vietnam (Paris, 1966), pp. 16-24, 54-79.Back
  63. Background Information, p.75. See also Kien, op. cit., p.131; John D. Montgomery, The Politics of Foreign Aid (Pall Mall, 1963). pp. 67-94; Fall, op. cit., pp. 303-6.Back
  64. Marvin E. Gettleman (ed.), Vietnam: History, Documents and Opinions on a Major World Crisis (New York, 1965; Penguin Books 1966), p.79. See also Fall, op. cit., p.344; Devillers in Gettleman, op. cit., pp. 210 ff.; Lacouture, op. cit., pp. 34 ff.; Z, ‘The War in VietnamÂ', pp. 216; James Alexander, ‘Deadlock in VietnamÂ', Progressive, September 1962, pp. 20-24; and especially George McT. Kahin and John W. Lewis, The United States in Vietnam (New York, 1967), Chapter V.Back
  65. Background Information, p.137; New York Times, 1 December 1965; New York Herald Tribune, 17 October 1966.Back
  66. DRV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Memorandum (Hanoi, 1962), p.33; see also Background Information, pp. 76-8.Back
  67. Wall Street Journal, 8 November 1961.Back
  68. Background In formation, p.81; New York Times, 13 December 1961.Back
  69. Background In formation, p. 83.Back
  70. Lacouture, op. cit., pp. 56-7.Back
  71. Department of State, A Threat to the Peace: North Viet-NamÂ's Effort to Conquer South Viet-Nam (Washington, 1961), I, p.9.Back
  72. ibid., II, p.5.Back
  73. ibid., I, p.52; New York Times, 27 November 1961.Back
  74. New York Times, 19 April 1962.Back
  75. Background Information, pp. 88-9.Back
  76. US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Viet Nam and Southeast Asia (Washington, 1963), p.5.Back
  77. ibid.Back
  78. US Senate, Committee on Armed Services, Hearings: Military Procurement Authorization, 1964 (Washington, 1963), p.707.Back
  79. Background Information, p.101; New York Times, 27 April, 23 July, 9, 21 September 1963.Back
  80. New York Times, 13 September 1963.Back
  81. Franz Schurmann et al., The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam (New York, 1966), pp. 23-5; New York Times, 3 October 1963; Background Information, p. 102.Back
  82. New York Times, 9 November 1963.Back
  83. ibid., 23 December 1963; 29 November, 10, 14, 15, 20 December 1963.Back
  84. Background Information, pp. 106-7.Back
  85. New York Times, 6 March 1964; 23 February 1964; Schurmann et al., op. cit., pp. 27-34.Back
  86. Background Information, pp. 111-17.Back
  87. ibid., p. 124.Back
  88. New York Times, 6 August 1964; Le Monde, 6-12 August 1964.Back
  89. New York Times, 11, 14 August, 25 September 1964; Schurmann et al., op. cit., pp. 35-43; DRV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Memorandum, August 1964 (Hanoi, 1964); US Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, Hearings: The Gulf of Tonkin (Washington, 1968).Back
  90. New York Times, 2 November 1964; 25, 27, 28 August, 4 September 1964.Back
  91. ibid., 19 January, 3, 8, 10, 12, 13 February 1965; Schurmann et al., op. cit., pp. 44-61.Back
  92. New York Times, 18 February 1965; 26 February 1965.Back
  93. Text in Gettleman, op. cit., pp. 284-316; answer by I. F. Stone, ibid., pp. 317-23.Back
  94. New York Times, 12 March 1965; 1, 3, 28 March 1965.Back
  95. ibid., 8 April 1965.Back
  96. ibid., 8 April 1965; 26 March, 3,7 April 1965.Back
  97. Schurmann et al., op. cit.Back
  98. New York Times, 29 July 1965.Back
  99. Department of State, The Heart of the Problem ... (Washington, 1966), pp. 12-13; Why Vietnam? (Washington, 1965), pp. 9ff.Back
  100. George W. Ball, The Issue in Viet-Nam (Washington, 1966), p 18.Back
Categories
Uncategorized

False alarms over BNP distract us from main threat

As mainstream politicians justify acts of mass murder in the name of bogus democracy and US control of the world's oil supplies, Joan McAlpine ("Be wary when fascists try to hide behind racist poison" Herald 29/04/04) asks us to focus our attention on a relatively small group of isolationist anti-immigration rightwingers.

We already have clear laws forbidding harassment, assault or incitement to racial hatred. The true liberal tradition has always distinguished gratuitous offence and intimidation from reasoned arguments and radical thinking.

Why should we need to go one step further to curtail intellectual freedom? By raising false alarms about the alleged BNP threat, when the real danger to millions of dark and light-hued people around the world comes from the rightwing cabal behind George W Bush's presidency and the growing concentration of wealth and power in a handful of transnational corporations, Joan McAlpine would like us to set a precedent we may live to regret.

Indeed she correctly observes our government has already gagged an Islamic fundamentalist cleric, which begs the question: Where do we draw the line? Who defines unacceptable Neo-Nazism or Islamic fundamentalism? Who decides which orthodox historical accounts may be challenged? Who decides which arguments constitute hate speech? A commission set up by the state or the corporate media? If they could ban the BNP, would they seriously stop there? Would 9/11 sceptics be incarcerated? These are very serious questions as the new rulers of Baghdad close down newspapers and radio stations and even rebuke the Qatar government over the graphic nature of Aljazeera's coverage of the Iraqi war of resistance.

As Noam Chomsky said "It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers". Nearly six decades after the end of WW2, it comes as no surprise that today's authoritarians pose as anti-fascists. The German National Socialist Party did not rise rapidly in the early 1930s because they were afforded free speech, but because big business, including many foreign multinationals, bankrolled them. Today the same ruling elite supports Bush, Blair and Sharon.

Published in the Herald 29/04/2004