Just before the American ground war in Vietnam began in March 1965 with the landing of a brigade of US Marines at Danang, General Vo Nguyen Giap, who had been commander in chief of Communist armed forces in Vietnam since 1944, told a television interviewer that “Things are going badly for the enemy, because the South Vietnamese soldiers do not want to fight for the Americans. But we are in no hurry. The longer we wait, the greater will be the Americans’ defeat.”
It was not the first time Communist Vietnam’s senior military strategist spoke with such insouciant prescience about an adversary who possessed the most powerful military force in the world. Nor would it be the last. Giap, a self-trained soldier from a small village in Quang Binh Province, central Vietnam, had already trounced Vietnam’s colonial masters, the French, after eight years of war (1946-1954).
Amid a global decline in Internet freedom, activists are increasingly pushing back against repressive Web controls, according to a new study released Thursday that highlighted deteriorating trends in China and Vietnam, Asia’s worst online oppressors.
Citizen activism online has seen a “significant uptick” worldwide over the past year as activists became more effective at raising awareness of emerging threats and forestalling repressive measures, U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House said in its annual “Freedom on the Net” survey.
In nearly a dozen countries, “negative” laws were deterred as a result of civic mobilization and pressure by activists, lawyers, the business sector, reform-minded politicians, and the international community, the study showed.
In a few countries, it said, civic activists were able to form coalitions and proactively lobby governments to pass laws that protect internet freedom or amend previously restrictive legislation.
But at the same time, broad surveillance measures, new laws controlling web content, and more arrests of social media users have driven a worldwide decline in Internet freedom, it warned.
After his eighth round of chemo, Trai Nguyen is exhausted, his body ravaged. The 60-year-old has a rare and aggressive form of cancer that he believes resulted from his contact with the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
His doctors believe his cancer may now be in remission, but that is little comfort. “My hands shake violently. I can’t do anything,” he says, sitting on a mattress in the two-bedroom apartment he shares with relatives.
The aftermath of war brought Trai to the United States where he rebuilt his life, but now he’s destitute. His fortunes could have taken a better turn had one thing been different in his past: The uniform he wore during the conflict.
As a soldier in the South Vietnamese army, Trai gathered intelligence that helped American soldiers. He fought alongside the Americans and was exposed to the defoliants that are known to have injured them. But he’s excluded from the compensation and health care afforded to U.S. veterans for the same service-connected disabilities.
With John Kerry currently in full Henry Kissinger regalia, parading around the Middle East, brow-beating the Palestinians and their allies in the region and Europe into signing onto a deeply flawed peace accord that primarily serves Israeli and American interests, it may prove a useful exercise to inspect the curriculum vitae of this putative peace-maker, especially during those formative years when the Secretary of State first carved out his name in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Though Kerry has a reputation as an anti-war activist, his brief tenure in Vietnam and Cambodia was notable both for acts of casual savagery and his striking lack of contrition for his own participation in atrocities that in a rational society might easily be classified as war crimes. (Jeffrey St. Clair)
[...] Agent Orange was produced primarily by the Monsanto Corp. and Dow Chemical. Both companies say the defoliant was made according to strict military specifications. “The government specified the chemical composition of Agent Orange and when, where and how the material was to be used in the field, including application rates,” Monsanto says.
But a 1990 report compiled by Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. for the Department of Veterans Affairs that recommended compensation for ailing veterans who’d been exposed to Agent Orange also detailed evidence that Dow Chemical knew as early as 1964 that dioxin was a “byproduct of the manufacturing process” and that the dangers of exposure were clear.
That report cited an internal company memo warning that exposure could result in “general organ toxicity,” in addition to “psychopathological” and “other systemic” problems.
In 1965, according to another memo that’s became public in federal court documents, Dow warned Monsanto and other Agent Orange makers that industry “had to resolve the (dioxin) problem before the government found out.”
Monsanto and other companies ignored this warning and continued to make Agent Orange with high levels of dioxin. Dow changed its manufacturing process so that its product contained much lower levels of the contaminant.
Dow officials later admitted in federal court and in congressional testimony in the 1980s that they didn’t inform the U.S. government about dioxin contamination in Agent Orange until 1969 at the earliest.
Despite these revelations, the federal courts have consistently shielded Dow, Monsanto and other manufacturers from liability because they produced Agent Orange under government contract.
More than 400,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their lands since 2003, often without compensation, as the nation sells off its territory to sugar and rubber barons and property developers. Villagers who protest have been beaten, imprisoned and murdered – such as the environmental campaigner Chut Wutty, who was killed last year – as more than one-tenth of land has been transferred in the past few years from small-scale farmers to agribusiness, rights groups claim. A recent Global Witness report – and investigation by the Guardian – found that Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation were bankrolling massive government-sponsored land grabs in both Cambodia and Laos through two Vietnamese companies, HAGL and VRG, which had been granted recent economic land concessions. Villagers claimed they had little food to eat and no chance of jobs, as hardly any positions were offered by the companies.
The state can take land away from citizens for economic development, national security or defence reasons, or in the public interest. But in recent years the government has grabbed land to make way for eco-parks, resorts and golf courses, much to the anger of the public. Last year, around 3,000 security forces were deployed in the northern Hung Yen province after villagers protested against a 70-hectare land grab to make way for an “eco-urban township”. Around the same time, a family of four fish farmers protested against a state eviction squad armed with homemade shotguns and land mines – a bold move in this one-party nation. While the prime minister declared the fish farmers’ eviction illegal,a court recently handed down a five-year jail sentence to those involved in the protest for making a “bad impact on the social order … [of] the country as a whole”.
The sea gypsies in the southern resort island of Phuket are facing eviction after living on and around the beaches of Rawai for the past 200 years. Thai landowners claim they want the land back to build houses and a “sea gypsy village” in which tourists can buy fish and see how this once nomadic seafaring tribe now lives on land. The sea gypsy communities have so far refused to move, but could be forcibly evicted if no resolution is reached. Sea gypsies in neighbouring areas, such as Khao Lak, have also been forced off their land by resorts and hotels over past decades, while Burmese sea gypsies around the Mergui islands are reportedly being moved out by authorities keen to develop the area for tourism.
SOUTH Korea’s highest court has upheld a ruling ordering two US Agent Orange makers to compensate 39 Vietnam War veterans in one of the country’s most prominent lawsuits.
The Supreme Court recognised the epidemiological correlation between the toxic defoliant and skin diseases for the first time, saying the 39 victims should receive a total of 466 million won ($A454,445) from Dow Chemical and Monsanto.
The veterans had complained that Agent Orange was responsible for skin diseases such as “chemical acne”, which is caused by exposure to dioxin contained in Agent Orange, the court said.
Payment is now up to the US firms, but Dow Chemical said in a statement quoted by Yonhap news agency that it disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision as Friday’s verdict was not backed by clear evidence, citing US court rulings.
by Jason Ditz
Obama Administration officials have hyped their planned “Asian pivot” for awhile, an effort to get more US combat troops deployed in nations across the Pacific Rim in spite of the US not actually being in any wars there. Today Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos revealed his branch’s plans.
The US Marines currently have two battalions “permanently” deployed across the Pacific Rim, mostly Okinawa and Guam. This will be increased to add a third battalion, with an increase in troops in Okinawa, as well as Vietnam and Cambodia.
Camouflaging the Vietnam War: How Textbooks Continue to Keep the Pentagon Papers a Secret ~ Common Dreams
by Bill Bigelow
[...] Like today’s whistle-blowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg knew the consequences for his act of defiance. Ultimately, he was indicted on 11 counts of theft and violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted on all counts, the penalty added up to 130 years in prison. This story is chronicled dramatically in the film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and in Ellsberg’s own gripping autobiography, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
In June of 1971, Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities at Post Office Square in Boston. Forty-two years later, few of the historical secrets that Ellsberg revealed— especially those that focus on the immediate post-World War II origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam—appear in the school curriculum.
Corporate textbook writers seem to work from the same list of must-include events and individuals. Thus, all the new U.S. history textbooks on my shelf mention the Pentagon Papers. But none grapples with the actual import of the Pentagon Papers. None quotes Ellsberg or the historical documents themselves, and none captures Ellsberg’s central conclusion about the United States in Vietnam: “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side; wewere the wrong side.”
Textbooks resist telling students that the U.S. government consistently lied about the war, preferring more genteel language. Prentice Hall’s America: History of Our Nation includes only one line describing the content of the Pentagon Papers: “They traced the steps by which the United States had committed itself to the Vietnam War and showed that government officials had concealed actions and often misled Americans about their motives.” The textbook offers no examples.
Teaching students a deeper, more complete history of the American War—as it is known in Vietnam—is not just a matter of accuracy, it’s about life and death.
by John Pilger
In the wake of Thatcher’s departure, I remember her victims. Patrick Warby’s daughter, Marie, was one of them. Marie, aged five, suffered from a bowel deformity and needed a special diet. Without it, the pain was excruciating. Her father was a Durham miner and had used all his savings. It was winter 1985, the Great Strike was almost a year old and the family was destitute. Although her eligibility was not disputed, Marie was denied help by the Department of Social Security. Later, I obtained records of the case that showed Marie had been turned down because her father was “affected by a Trade dispute”.
The corruption and inhumanity under Thatcher knew no borders. When she came to power in 1979, Thatcher demanded a total ban on exports of milk to Vietnam. The American invasion had left a third of Vietnamese children malnourished. I witnessed many distressing sights, including infants going blind from a lack of vitamins. “I cannot tolerate this,” said an anguished doctor in a Saigon paediatric hospital, as we looked at a dying boy. Oxfam and Save the Children had made clear to the British government the gravity of the emergency. An embargo led by the US had forced up the local price of a kilo of milk up to ten times that of a kilo of meat. Many children could have been restored with milk. Thatcher’s ban held.
In neighbouring Cambodia, Thatcher left a trail of blood, secretly. In 1980, she demanded that the defunct Pol Pot regime – the killers of 1.7 million people – retain its “right” to represent their victims at the UN. Her policy was vengeance on Cambodia’s liberator, Vietnam. The British representative was instructed to vote with Pol Pot at the World Health Organisation, thereby preventing it from providing help to where it was needed more than anywhere on earth.
To conceal this outrage, the US, Britain and China, Pol Pot’s main backer, invented a “resistance coalition” dominated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces and supplied by the CIA at bases along the Thai border. There was a hitch. In the wake of the Irangate arms-for-hostages debacle, the US Congress had banned clandestine foreign adventures. “In one of those deals the two of them liked to make,” a senior Whitehall official told the Sunday Telegraph, “President Reagan put it to Thatcher that the SAS should take over the Cambodia show. She readily agreed.”
In 1983, Thatcher sent the SAS to train the “coalition” in its own distinctive brand of terrorism. Seven-man SAS teams arrived from Hong Kong, and British soldiers set about training “resistance fighters” in laying minefields in a country devastated by genocide and the world’s highest rate of death and injury as a result of landmines.
I reported this at the time, and more than 16,000 people wrote to Thatcher in protest. “I confirm,” she replied to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, “that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with the Khmer Rouge or those allied to them.” The lie was breathtaking. In 1991, the government of John Major admitted to parliament that the SAS had indeed trained the “coalition”. “We liked the British,” a Khmer Rouge fighter later told me. “They were very good at teaching us to set booby traps. Unsuspecting people, like children in paddy fields, were the main victims.”
When the journalists and producers of ITV’s landmark documentary, Death on the Rock, exposed how the SAS had run Thatcher’s other death squads in Ireland and Gibraltar, they were hounded by Rupert Murdoch’s “journalists”, then cowering behind the razor wire at Wapping. Although exonerated, Thames TV lost its ITV franchise.
In 1982, the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, was steaming outside the Falklands exclusion zone. The ship offered no threat, yet Thatcher gave orders for it to be sunk. Her victims were 323 sailors, including conscripted teenagers. The crime had a certain logic. Among Thatcher’s closest allies were mass murderers – Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, responsible for “many more than one million deaths” (Amnesty International). Although the British state had long armed the world’s leading tyrannies, it was Thatcher who brought a crusading zeal to the deals, talking up the finer points of fighter aircraft engines, hard-bargaining with bribe-demanding Saudi princes. I filmed her at an arms fair, stroking a gleaming missile. “I’ll have one of those!” she said.
In his arms-to-Iraq enquiry, Lord Richard Scott heard evidence that an entire tier of the Thatcher government, from senior civil servants to ministers, had lied and broken the law in selling weapons to Saddam Hussein. These were her “boys”. Thumb through old copies of the Baghdad Observer, and there are pictures of her boys, mostly cabinet ministers, on the front page sitting with Saddam on his famous white couch. There is Douglas Hurd and there is a grinning David Mellor, also of the Foreign Office, around the time his host was ordering the gassing of 5,000 Kurds. Following this atrocity, the Thatcher government doubled trade credits to Saddam.
Perhaps it is too easy to dance on her grave. Her funeral was a propaganda stunt, fit for a dictator: an absurd show of militarism, as if a coup had taken place. And it has. “Her real triumph”, said another of her boys, Geoffrey Howe, a Thatcher minister, “was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.”
In 1997, Thatcher was the first former prime minister to visit Tony Blair after he entered Downing Street. There is a photo of them, joined in rictus: the budding war criminal with his mentor. When Ed Milliband, in his unctuous “tribute”, caricatured Thatcher as a “brave” feminist hero whose achievements he personally “honoured”, you knew the old killer had not died at all.
Amid the daily cut and thrust surrounding the disputed South China Sea – a dangerous arena clouded by diplomatic bluster and military posturing – some events are more telling than others.
The PLA Navy’s recent deployment of a fully equipped amphibious task force to stage a neatly choreographed show of sovereignty at an isolated shoal in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia is one move that will not be easily forgotten.
James Shoal is also claimed by Malaysia – it is just 80 kilometres off its coast and also close to Brunei – and is well south of the Spratlys archipelago, which can be seen as the epicentre of the broader dispute that involves Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei as well as Malaysia and China (and Taiwan). It is a territorial tangle that now resonates internationally.
For several years, Philippine and Vietnamese officials have expressed quiet frustration that they must constantly take the lead in confronting China over the “nine-dash line” that is the basis for its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, while Malaysia and Brunei remain in the shadows, according to regional security scholar Ian Storey.
However, the James Shoal mission – unprecedented in scale and led by the 200-metre-long, state-of-the-art landing ship Jinggangshan – draws Malaysia back into the fray, whether it likes it or not. It is a less-than-subtle reminder from Beijing that perceived diplomatic reticence is no defence against being drawn into its enforcement of sovereign claims.
A fish farmer who became a cult hero in Vietnam after fighting off an illegal eviction with homemade guns and mines was jailed on Friday for five years for attempted murder in a case that has stirred public anger over state-backed land grabs.
Doan Van Vuon, plus two of his brothers and one nephew, were given jail terms of between two and five years for injuring seven police and soldiers in northern Haiphong last January, state media reported. Two of their wives received suspended sentences of 15-18 months for resisting officials.
Land grabs, both legal and illegal, are a major source of public discontent with the state in Communist Vietnam, which owns all the country’s land. The case has been a major talking point in social media and blogs, with critics calling for changes in land laws.
The government offered land leases of 20 years to farmers as part of pro-peasant policies in the 1990s, but critics say corrupt state officials have allowed illegal seizures in return for kickbacks from businesses.
State television showed footage this week of the courtroom displaying the cooking gas cylinders, electrical cables and steel pipes Vuon and his relatives used for bombs and hand guns.
The authorities in Haiphong have admitted their eviction was unlawful and several officials face trial next week.
by Nick Turse
Forty-five years ago today, March 16, roughly 100 U.S. troops were flown by helicopter to the outskirts of a small Vietnamese hamlet called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Over a period of four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area’s drinking water.
On this day, I think back to an interview I conducted several years ago with a tiny, wizened woman named Tran Thi Nhut. She told me about hiding in an underground bunker as the Americans stormed her hamlet and how she emerged to find a scene of utter horror: a mass of corpses in a caved-in trench and, especially, the sight of a woman’s leg sticking out at an unnatural angle which haunted her for decades. She lost her mother and a son in the massacre. But Tran Thi Nhut never set foot in My Lai. She lived two provinces north, in a little hamlet named Phi Phu which—she and other villagers told me—lost more than 30 civilians to a 1967 massacre by U.S. troops.
I remember Pham Thi Luyen who lived several provinces north in Trieu Ai village, Quang Tri Province. Decades old Marine Corps court martial records—which told a story of scared and angry Americans under command of an officer bent on revenge for recent casualties—led me to her hamlet. There, she and other survivors told me what it was like to live through a night of sheer terror, in October 1967, when Americans threw grenades into bomb shelters with women and children inside and gunned down men and women in cold blood. It was the night that Pham Thi Luyen became an orphan and 12 fellow villagers died.
I think of Bui Thi Huong who was, according to court-martial records, gang-raped in Xuan Ngoc hamlet by five Marines while her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, and 3-year-old son were shot dead. Her 5-year-old niece was slain too, but by another method. The Marine who killed her did so by “mashing up and down with his rifle,” according to a fellow unit member. Another recalled, “I said one… two… three… And he was hitting the baby with the [rifle] butt!”
I recall too my conversations with Pham Thi Cuc, Le Thi Chung, and Le Thi Xuan who told me about a 1966 massacre by Americans in My Luoc hamlet that claimed the lives of 16 civilians. I think of Vi Thi Ngoi, an elderly woman who told me about the day American and South Korean troops opened fire on more than 100 of her fellow villagers and of the bodies that fell on her tiny frame, shielding her from the bullets. I remember how she explained what it felt like to lie there, for what seemed like an eternity, feigning death, amid the blood and viscera of friends and neighbors.
I remember my time spent talking with Jamie Henry, decades after he had been a young draftee and then a decorated medic. Just over a month before the My Lai massacre, Henry’s unit entered a small hamlet, rounded up the civilians—about 19 women and children—and gathered them together. A lieutenant asked his superior, a West Point-trained captain, what he should do with them. As Henry later told an Army criminal investigator in a sworn statement: “The captain asked him if he remembered the op order [operation order] that had come down from higher [headquarters] that morning which was to kill anything that moves. The captain repeated the order. He said that higher said to kill anything that moves.” Henry tried to intervene, but instead could only watch as fellow unit members opened fire on the civilians. An Army investigation determined the massacre occurred just as Henry said it did, but no action was taken against any of the troops involved, while the files were kept secret and buried away for decades.
In short, on this anniversary, I think of all the My Lais that most Americans never knew existed and few are aware of today. I think about young American men who shot down innocents in cold blood and then kept silent for decades. I think about horrified witnesses who lived with the memories. I think of the small number of brave whistleblowers who stood up for innocent, voiceless victims. But most of all, I think of the dead Vietnamese of all the massacres that few Americans knew about and fewer still cared about.
I think of the victims in Phi Phu and Trieu Ai and My Luoc and so many other tiny hamlets I visited in Vietnam’s countryside. And then I think of all the villages I never visited; the massacres unknown to all but the dwindling number of survivors and their families; the stories we Americans will likely never know.
I wonder if, 45 years hence, someone might be writing a similar op-ed about civilian lives lost these past years in Iraq or Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen; about killings kept under wraps and buried in classified files or simply locked away in the hearts and minds of the perpetrators and witnesses and survivors. Four and half decades from now, will we still reserve only this day to focus on these hard truths and hidden histories? Or will we finally have learned the lessons of the My Lai massacre and the many other massacres that so many wish to forget and so many others refuse to remember.
by MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Forty years after the secret U.S. bombing that devastated Laos, heirs to the war’s deadly legacy of undetonated explosives are touring America to prod the conscience of the world’s most powerful nation for more help to clear up the mess.
Two young Laotians — one a bomb disposal technician, the other the victim of an accidental explosion — arrived Friday on the anniversary of the end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and its far-less publicized bombing of neighboring Laos. The U.S. dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos over a nine-year period up to 1973 — more than on Germany and Japan during World War II.
Manixia Thor, 25, works on an all-female team that clears bombs and other explosives from villages and farm land in her native province of Xieng Khouang, one of the worst-hit areas of the country. Joining her on the speaking tour is Thoummy Silamphan, 26, who lost his left hand to a cluster bombat age 8 as he dug for bamboo shoots to put in soup. He’s from a poor farming family in the same province and counsels victims of ordnance accidents that still maim dozens of Lao each year.
Experts estimate that about 30 percent of the cluster bombs failed to explode after they were dropped from high-flying aircraft, as the U.S. attempted to crush communist forces in Laos and interdict the Vietcong supply line known as the Ho Chi Minh trail. Large swaths of northern Laos and its eastern border with Vietnam remain contaminated.
China has said one of its patrol boats acted reasonably in a confrontation with a Vietnamese fishing boat last week in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The foreign ministry said it was “legitimate” for China to take action.
Vietnam accuses the Chinese vessel of firing on the fishing boat near the Paracel islands, setting it alight.
Both countries claim the islands, which have been controlled by China since a short war with South Vietnam in 1974.
by David Taylor
[...] The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
The BBC’s former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.
But by the time the tapes were declassified in 2008 all the main protagonists had died, including Wheeler.
Now, for the first time, the whole story can be told.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
He orders the Nixon campaign to be placed under FBI surveillance and demands to know if Nixon is personally involved.
When he became convinced it was being orchestrated by the Republican candidate, the president called Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader in the Senate to get a message to Nixon.
The president knew what was going on, Nixon should back off and the subterfuge amounted to treason.
Publicly Nixon was suggesting he had no idea why the South Vietnamese withdrew from the talks. He even offered to travel to Saigon to get them back to the negotiating table.
Johnson felt it was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador’s phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon.
So they decided to say nothing.
The president did let Humphrey know and gave him enough information to sink his opponent. But by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency. So Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway.
Nixon ended his campaign by suggesting the administration war policy was in shambles. They couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table.
He won by less than 1% of the popular vote.
Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives, before finally settling for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968.
The White House tapes, combined with Wheeler’s interviews with key White House personnel, provide an unprecedented insight into how Johnson handled a series of crises that rocked his presidency. Sadly, we will never have that sort of insight again.
Listen to the Archive On 4 programme: Wheeler: The Final Word, on BBC Radio 4 at 20.00 GMT on Saturday or for seven days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.
by Jason Ditz
Obama Administration officials have hyped their planned “Asian pivot” for awhile, an effort to get more US combat troops deployed in nations across the Pacific Rim in spite of the US not actually being in any wars there. Today Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos revealed his branch’s plans.
The US Marines currently have two battalions “permanently” deployed across the Pacific Rim, mostly Okinawa and Guam. This will be increased to add a third battalion, with an increase in troops in Okinawa, as well as Vietnam and Cambodia.
The Vietnam mission is scheduled for July, and will center around training locals in disposing of unexploded land mines still littering the nation since the US war in that nation a generation ago, while the Cambodia deployment will increase US ties with the regime there.
Amos expressed hope that the Vietnam deployment would build relationships to the point where the Marines could establish a training and operational relationship with the Vietnamese military, while Lt. Gen. Terry Robling says that deployments into Malaysia, Indonesia and even India are also “on the horizon.”
US trade Representative Ron Kirk has announced he’ll be stepping down. During his time in the office he has overseen one of the most significant trade negotiations in recent history – the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Now his office has made an assurance that despite his departure the TPP talks will continue. Celeste Drake, trade and globalization policy specialist for the ALF CIO.
by LEIGH MUNSIL
In the jungles of the Vietnam War, Sgt. Chuck Hagel preferred to be the point man.
As the soldier out front, he was responsible for looking out for booby traps, like grenades hanging from trees, and leading his squad safely around ambushes.
“My brother Tom and I together walked a lot of point, which was all right,” Chuck Hagel said in a 2002 interview for a Library of Congress Vietnam history project. “You know what happens to a lot of point men, but I always felt a little better if I was up front than somebody else.”
The former Republican senator from Nebraska, just tapped by President Barack Obama to be the next defense secretary, has been widely praised for his service in Vietnam, which got him two Purple Hearts, the Vietnamese Gallantry Cross, the Army Commendation Medal, the Combat Infantryman Badge and a chest full of shrapnel — some of which remains to this day.
If confirmed by the Senate, Hagel would be the first enlisted service member to be Defense secretary and the first Vietnam veteran in the post. And his brother Tom, who served alongside him, is gung-ho about the prospect as he recalled their grueling days in Vietnam in an interview with POLITICO.
South China Sea tensions have spilled over again in Vietnam as police detained 22 people Sunday at a protest in the capital.
Waving banners with slogans like “the Paracel and Spratly islands belong to Vietnam,” and “China, stop massacring innocent Vietnamese fishermen,” a group of up to 200 people met outside Hanoi’s Opera House and marched through the city center on the way to the Chinese Embassy, flanked by police.
After about 30 minutes police bundled 22 of the protesters into a bus. One of the detainees in the vehicle said they had been taken to detention center Loc Ha. Images from the protests were quickly uploaded onto blogs and social media.
A similar protest was broken up in Ho Chi Minh City but there have been no reports of arrests there. One woman on the march in Hanoi, Bui Thi Minh Hang, 47, said the police had no right to detain the protesters.
She said people came to the march because they wanted to show their patriotism.
The Philippines has become the latest country to say it will not stamp visas in a new Chinese passport because it includes a map of the South China Sea that Manila says shows its territory.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that the visas will be stamped in a separate visa application form.
It said the move reinforces its protest formally conveyed to Beijing last week against China’s “excessive claim over almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.”
It said stamping the passport could be seen as “legitimizing” China’s claims.
Vietnam has already said it will not stamp the passports, while Taiwan has protested against the map’s maritime borders and India has rejected the map’s depiction of its northern border with China. India has retaliated by issuing Chinese citizens visas embossed with New Delhi’s own maps.
The United States, which is taking no side in the territorial disputes but wants to ensure safe maritime traffic in one of the world’s busiest sea lanes, has said it will raise its concerns over the map with Beijing.
China’s Foreign Ministry says putting the map in the passport was not directed at any particular country.
An arms-buying spree across south-east Asia will be the elephant in the room when almost 20 world leaders meet in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, on Tuesday.
Defence spending across the region increased 13.5 per cent to $US25.4 billion ($24.5 billion) last year and was expected to rise to $US40 billion by 2016, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said.
Flush with economic success and wary of China’s military expansion, countries are acquiring sophisticated sea- and air-based arsenals that include dozens of submarines that can operate in secret.
The institute said Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia had increased defence budgets by 66 per cent to 82 per cent from 2002 to last year.
A US aircraft carrier group cruised through the disputed South China Sea on Saturday in a show of American power in waters that are fast becoming a focal point of Washington’s strategic rivalry with Beijing.
Vietnamese security and government officials were flown onto the nuclear-powered USS George Washington ship, underlining the burgeoning military relationship between the former enemies.
A small number of journalists were also invited to witness the display of maritime might in the oil-rich waters, which are home to islands disputed between China and the other smaller Asian nations facing the sea.
The visit will likely reassure Vietnam and the Philippines of American support but could annoy China, whose growing economic and naval strength is leading to a greater assertiveness in pressing its claims there.
The United States is building closer economic and military alliances with Vietnam and other nations in the region as part of a “pivot” away from the Middle East to Asia, a shift in large part meant to counter rising Chinese influence.
The Vietnamese officials took photos of F-16 fighter jets taking off and landing on the ships 1,000-foot-long flight deck, met the captain and toured the hulking ship, which has more than 5,000 sailors on board.
The mission came a day after Beijing staged military exercises near islands in the nearby East China Sea it disputes with US ally Japan. Those tensions have flared in recent days.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, where the US says it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation in an area crossed by vital shipping lanes.
Vietnam, the Philippines and several other Asian nations also claim parts of the sea.
Residents of Okinawa Island have recently been confronted with mounting evidence that their land used to be a major storage site for the toxic U.S. defoliant Agent Orange.
Over the past 18 months, dozens of American veterans have claimed that they were poisoned by the dioxin-tainted chemical while stationed on Okinawa Island during the Vietnam War. At the time, the island was under U.S. jurisdiction and a staging post for the conflict in Southeast Asia in which millions of liters of defoliant was sprayed in an attempt to rob enemy forces of jungle cover and crops. Last month, a U.S. Army document was discovered that seems to prove Okinawa veterans’ claims; the report states that 25,000 barrels of Agent Orange were stored on the island prior to 1972.
Despite this apparent confirmation, the U.S. government denies that Agent Orange was ever in Okinawa and Tokyo has refused to conduct environmental tests. The two governments’ intransigence has angered Okinawa residents and left many of them seeking answers about the potential impact on their island. Last month, they were given the opportunity to speak firsthand to someone who has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about the dangers of these defoliants.
Heather Bowser, 39, is the daughter of a U.S. soldier exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam during the war. “My father had five bypasses on his heart when he was only 38 years old and at age 40 he developed diabetes. When he was 50, he died of a massive heart attack,” Bowser said during the visit.
The notoriously persistent effects of dioxin, which can even sicken the children and grandchildren of those exposed, did not stop with her father; his first two children died in the womb and when Bowser was born, she was 2 months premature and missing her right leg below the knee, several fingers and the big toe on her left foot.
“My father used to say that if he’d known the effects of Agent Orange on his children, he would have fled to Canada to avoid serving in the war,” Bowser said.
During the 1970s and ’80s, the U.S. government and the manufacturers of the chemicals strenuously denied the harmful effects of Agent Orange. But Bowser’s father campaigned to spread awareness and often brought his daughter to rallies — dressing her in a bright T-shirt bearing the message, “Agent Orange Kills.”
Although his activities attracted the attention of the authorities and the family’s telephone, he believed, was tapped, work by activists such as him helped to persuade the U.S. government in the 1990s to offer compensation to American service members directly exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Today they are eligible for compensation for over a dozen illnesses ranging from cancers and diabetes to heart problems. In addition, the sick children of the estimated 1,800 female veterans of the Vietnam conflict are offered assistance. Yet Washington still refuses to help the tens of thousands of poisoned children of male veterans — second-generation survivors like Bowser who are sick with serious health problems.
After her father died in 1998, Bowser carried on his struggle to seek justice for those exposed. In 2010, she became one of the first second-generation survivors in the U.S. to travel to Vietnam to meet with some of the country’s 3 million dioxin victims. Her trip was featured in a Japanese documentary, “Living the Silent Spring,” directed by Masako Sakata.
While in Vietnam, Bowser met a young third-generation survivor whose birth defects mirrored her own. “Meeting him really struck home the legacy of these poisons across generations and borders. And on a personal level, it helped me to come to terms with myself,” said Bowser.
The visit convinced Bowser of the urgent need to reach out to all of those affected by Agent Orange. In January, she set up the nonprofit organization Children of Vietnam Veterans Health Alliance with a fellow second-generation survivor. Today the group has over 350 members on three continents united by its mission statement to serve “as a voice for the children of Vietnam veterans, including second- and third-generation victims of Agent Orange and dioxin exposure worldwide. We will fight for justice globally.”
Last month, Bowser brought the group’s message to Okinawa as part of a program organized by Japanese NPO Peace Boat to highlight the international and intergenerational legacy of Agent Orange. During her three-day stay on the island, Bowser was shown several of the U.S. bases where the toxic chemical had allegedly been stored and sprayed to clear weeds during the 1960s and ’70s.
In the northern Okinawa town of Henoko, Bowser met with people living near U.S. Marine Corps’ Camp Schwab. According to U.S. veterans, the installation had a cache of hundreds of barrels of Agent Orange that was used to kill vegetation within the base and on the adjacent Jungle Warfare Training Center. While in Henoko, Bowser heard how local residents were apparently poisoned in the 1960s after consuming shellfish contaminated by the toxin.
Hiroshi Aritomi, an outspoken critic of the American bases in the area, voiced his anger over the Japanese government’s refusal to conduct health tests among people living near Camp Schwab. “Tokyo is only following Washington’s orders. They’re trying to hide the truth from the people of Okinawa. We need an urgent investigation into medical records of former base workers (who allegedly sprayed Agent Orange).”
Bowser also visited Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, often labeled by locals as the most dangerous U.S. base in the world due to its location in the densely populated central part of the city of Ginowan. In June, The Japan Times reported that dozens of barrels of Agent Orange had been secretly buried on the installation and marine corps officers had attempted to conceal the fact when they were accidentally unearthed in the 1980s.
Bowser expressed her concerns and commented on the geographical similarities between the Futenma base and the former U.S. air base in Da Nang, Vietnam, which today is the scene of a well-publicized dioxin cleanup attempt by the U.S. government. “Both Da Nang and Futenma are located in the middle of residential areas where people have been living alongside contaminated soil for decades. It really makes me worried about the long-term health impact on Okinawa residents,” Bowser said.
Bowser’s concerns were also heightened by accounts from local residents of elevated rates of autism and cleft palates on the island — both of which are common problems among second- and third-generation Agent Orange survivors.
On her final day on the island, Bowser attended a screening of the documentary “Living the Silent Spring” at Okinawa University in Naha. As testament to the islanders’ worries over dioxin, the rainy weekday screening drew over 100 residents. Also in attendance was Seiryo Arakaki, chairman of the Special Committee of Base Issues, and four municipal assembly members whose constituencies host U.S. bases where Agent Orange had allegedly been sprayed.
Following the screening, Bowser told the audience that she felt an affinity with Okinawa people, whose prefecture had been devastated by fighting during World War II and continues to host the majority of U.S. bases in Japan. “My few days here in Okinawa have made a lasting impression on me. When it comes to the legacy of war, you have suffered so much, but I have been moved by your power to see through the ravages of loss and find strength in each other,” she said.
Following a plea for Washington to award compensation to U.S. veterans exposed to Agent Orange on Okinawa, Bowser ended her visit with reassurances to residents that they were not alone in their struggle.
“I urge you to start organizing with each other and reach out to international Agent Orange communities. Demand full disclosure from the Japanese government as to the storage and use of Agent Orange in Okinawa. Now is not a time to stay silent.”
Masami Kawamura, cofounder of Okinawa Outreach, the citizens’ group at the forefront of demands for a full inquest into Agent Orange usage on the island, believes Bowser’s trip paved the way for the struggle for justice that lies ahead. “By sharing her knowledge and experience, Heather has inspired many people. From now on, we will work together in solidarity with her. She has shown us that we need to not only look back at the past, but also work together for our future.”
Fifty-one years and counting! On August 10, 1961, America began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Operation Ranch Hand waged herbicidal warfare for 10 years.
RT recently aired a piece titled, “Homemade bombs beat high-tech? Afghan war failure looms,” in which the astronomical amount of money spent on military weapons systems is examined versus the apparent inability of the US to “win” in Afghanistan.
In all likeness the US’ inability to “win” reflects a failure to balance the weakening of armed resistance to occupation with the propping up of a suitable proxy government. And when fighters are taking up weapons simply to see off foreign invaders – something Afghans have been doing perpetually throughout their history – it would seem that the US, despite all it’s military prowess, would need to impossibly scour every crack and crevice to eradicate every man capable of picking up arms and fighting.
If this sounds like a familiar narrative, it’s because the United States fought a similar war in Southeast Asia spanning Laos and Vietnam. Dr. James William Gibson, author of the book “The Perfect War: Technowar in Vietnam,” was interviewed in 1987 by “Alternative Views” and gave an in-depth cautionary history of a war driven by a “production process” mentality, complete with quotas motivating soldiers, driving commanding officers, and directing policy makers, all within the backdrop of reasserting a slipping global imperial paradigm.
Gibson points out the obvious flaws of using a “production process” approach towoard war. Soldiers motivated to meet quotas for body counts will fabricate numbers, or worse yet, take innocent life in an increasingly desperate and degenerate bid to survive (missed quotas meant more time spent out in the field). Officers likewise will make tactically fatal decisions in pursuit of meeting these irrational quotas in their sycophantic bid to climb up the military hierarchy.
The vector sum is a war not based on the just cause of national defense, nor driven by actual achievable strategic objectives, but a war motivated by opportunistic interests attempting to profit from the “rules” set by policy – from the soldiers on the ground seeking the “payment” of survival, to the officers managing the conflict seeking advancement, to the corporations and their representatives at the top seeking profits and geopolitical corporate-financier hegemony. In this way, the war can take on a life of its own, a dangerous tropism.
The Vietnam and Afghan Wars were never wars of national defense. They were military adventures sold to the public as “necessary” for national defense. In reality, each in turn was a response to shifting geopolitical spheres of influence and the ruling elite’s desire to dominate them. In Vietnam, the goal was to reassert Western influence over the Vietnamese who were setting a dangerous anti-imperialist precedent for the world.
In Afghanistan, the goal appears to be a means of projecting US power against Iran, Pakistan, and even up to the gates of China itself. It has served as a point of geopolitical leverage, destabilization, reordering, and chaos in a region that may have otherwise moved forward together, shaping a multipolar global order that checked or negated the hegemony of Wall Street and London.
Image: The Fortune 500′s newly launched lobbying front, “Defending Defense.” It, in reality, is designed to defend only the bottom line of the military industrial complex and the immense, unwarranted power it has procured and projects globally.
It too has taken on a life of its own, with profiteers and opportunists seeking its preservation, even expansion to justify increasing bottom lines. For example, “Defending Defense” is a lobbying front assembled by the American Enterprise Institute – a think-tank with Fortune 500 interests fully represented upon its board of trustees, advisory council, and “national council.” The lobbying effort not only cites current wars the US is fighting, but cites future potential wars that require yet more money to be shifted from productive peaceful progress, to the pursuit of hegemonic megalomania – because it is not just about war profits, it is about the power derived in the pursuit of global preeminence.
The goal of propping up a proxy government in Vietnam failed, leaving millions dead, with Americans bled dry both literally and financially in the process. The military industrial complex, however, came out only stronger.
Today, these same corporate-financier interests are doing it again. And when asked the question, “have we learned anything in Vietnam?” many people imagine it is posed rhetorically to our leaders.
These leaders have learned the perfect balance of war profiteering, managing public perception, and eliminating political dissent. They have learned that the war must be fought against the people at home just as vigorously as it is fought abroad.
On the battlefield, they have mastered the art of motivating officers seeking promotions, willing to say, do, or believe anything in order to proceed up the next rung. They’ve managed to push soldiers just enough to keep them in line and on mission, but not too much to where widespread meaningful dissent forms. And as Dr. Gibson pointed out in his 1987 interview, in the “production process” of war, soldiers are easily replaced, so with today’s repeated tours of duty, we see merely the system maximizing return on investment.
Indeed, our leaders have learned much from Vietnam. They are on their way to perfecting the “technowar.”
The banners, T-shirts and handwritten posters said it all. “China! Hands off Vietnam!” read one. “Shame on you, bastard neighbour,” said another. “Stop escalating, invading the East Sea of Vietnam,” a third declared.
As the protesters weaved their way through the crowded streets of Hanoi, past the peeling colonial villas and upmarket shops selling stereos and Versace, they charged towards the Chinese embassy, where they hoped to make a stand against what they call “China’s constant aggression”.
“I hate China!” said one fortysomething protester, his voice hoarse from shouting slogans. “Germany invaded Poland during the second world war, now China wants to do the same to Vietnam. History may repeat itself if the international community is not made aware of China’s bullying.”
From government offices to the streets of Vietnam, tensions between Beijing and Hanoi have mounted in recent weeks over what China calls the South China Sea and Vietnam the East Sea, an area where vast deposits of oil and gas, important international shipping routes and fishing rights are of interest not just to Beijing and Hanoi, but also to the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.
But last month’s protesters had only China on their mind. After detaining a group of Vietnamese fishermen near disputed islands this year, Beijing announced that the state-backed China National Offshore Oil Corporation was seeking bids for oil exploration in what Vietnam deems its own sovereign waters.
It also declared Sansha City – on tiny Yongxing in the Paracel islands, which Vietnam lays claim to – China’s newest municipality. The anti-China protest was the third of its kind in Hanoi in one month. “The territorial ambition of China is a common threat – not only for the Philippines or Vietnam but for countries all over the world,” said leading economist Le Dang Doanh, a former government adviser who recently signed an open letter calling for China to abandon its “absurd maritime claims” in the region. “China’s territorial claims are now bigger than China itself.”
Hanoi, 125 miles from the Chinese border, knows it must play a delicate game. Trade between the two countries reached an estimated $40bn last year, and analysts say that ties between the authoritarian, one-party states are considerably closer than either government would like to admit.
The seeming standoff has pushed the US into the game, with recent visits by the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and the defence secretary, Leon Panetta, highlighting America’s interest in its former foe. Panetta’s visit to Cam Ranh bay, a US naval base during the Vietnam war, sparked particular curiosity over the US’s intentions to “protect key maritime rights for all nations in the South China Sea” as it moves to deploy 60% of its naval ships to the Pacific by 2020.