Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Was the Vietnam Anti-War Movement a Fifth Column?

It wasn’t all sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. The Vietnam era counterculture was not all about self-fulfillment, self-actualization, self-realization and self-indulgence.

Student activists believed that the Vietnam War, the one that had been conducted by the Kennedy-Johnson administrations, was profoundly unjust. They believed that American military and militaristic culture was a scourge that had to be stopped. They might have believed that they were all for peace and love. They were really a fifth column, undermining the war effort from within.

They did not quite recognize that fighting against a war while their nation was engaged in it could only help the opposing force. Rarely, if ever has America seen so many of its own citizens militating against her own armed forces. Rarely, if ever have we seen such a rank disregard of patriotism and loyalty.

Now, of course, at a time when we are supposed to believe that dissent is the highest form of patriotism, our current president is leading the charge toward surrender, toward military disengagement and toward diminishing and demeaning the nation.

Be that as it may, a former Viet Cong official has just written a thank-you note to the anti-Vietnam War activists—you know, like Obama’s good friend Bill Ayers—for helping them to defeat America and South Vietnam.

In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day and President Barack Obama’s scheduled trip to Vietnam, a prominent Vietcong communist leader privately thanked American anti-war activists for helping defeat the U.S.-allied government in Vietnam in the 1970s, saying protest demonstrations throughout the United States were “extremely important in contributing to Vietnam’s victory.”

For Vietnamese guerrilla leader Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, who sent the private letter from Hanoi dated April 20, “victory” meant the communist takeover of South Vietnam. The letter addressed veteran American anti-war activists who gathered in Washington, D.C., at a May 3 reunion of radical “May Day” anti-war leaders….

In her letter, she extolled the American anti-war movement, saying it was “a key component” that advanced the communist takeover of South Vietnam.

“The Vietnamese people have great appreciation for the peace and antiwar movements in the United States and view those movements’ contribution as important in shortening the war,” she wrote and which was read to an assembled group of “May Day” anti-war activists in Washington, D.C.

As for what happened then, the Daily Caller recounts the history:

The war temporarily ended in 1973 when the Paris Peace Treaty was signed that imposed a ceasefire on all parties.

That ceasefire was abruptly broken in 1975, however, when the North Vietnamese forces launched a surprise “Spring Offensive.”

Leading the offensive were hundreds of T-54 and T-55 heavy Russian tanks that left secret sanctuaries in neighboring Cambodia and flooded into South Vietnam. Regular North Vietnamese troops spearheaded the offensive, along with guerrillas tied to the Vietcong, which also called themselves the National Liberation Front of Vietnam.

By the time the Russian tanks were about to drive into Saigon, a liberal Congress filled with anti-war lawmakers already had hamstrung their South Vietnamese allies. Congress cut military aid to Saigon by 50 percent and handcuffed the South Vietnamese military facing the communist onslaught by barring any U.S. air support or other meaningful military assistance to the government.

The offensive was relatively quick, trapping hundreds of thousands of pro-American Vietnamese troops and millions of civilians who had trusted Washington and openly supported the United States.

And then:

The defeat ultimately triggered an international humanitarian crisis where at least 800,000 Vietnamese “boat people” fled their communist conquerors. Many bravely undertook perilous journeys in small boats across the Gulf of Thailand to escape the new communist warlords. An unknown number of refugees drowned in the exodus.

After the communists defeated the South Vietnamese army, more than 1 million South Vietnamese citizens who had supported the United States were left behind and imprisoned in “re-education camps.” About 100,000 faced summary execution by the communist victors.

Whatever their lofty ideals, students at the time were oblivious to the effect their actions were having on the war effort. Their leaders, however, along with the mainstream media, were colluding with the enemy:

Bill Cowan, who was a Purple Heart Marine platoon leader in Vietnam, told TheDCNF that U.S. troops were demoralized when the U.S. media only highlighted anti-war protesters and not the heroism of many of the Vietnamese who were trying to keep their country free.

“The media fueled the anti-war movement, empowering the protestors, the North Vietnamese, and the Vietcong,” he told The DCNF.

“It was rare to have a ‘good news’ story about what was happening there,” Cowan said.

“I recall a reporter coming to interview me at the village I was living at and apologizing after she was done by saying, ‘You know, this story will probably never see the light of day. My editors will quash it because it has too many good things in here about what you guys are doing.’” Cowan told TheDCNF.


Ares Olympus said...

It feels good when we can scapegoat antiwar protestors to explain why we still have to feel shame over a war we lost 40 years ago.

It wasn't our fault. We could have won, if only we had been more unified, more determined, more brutal. If only we could have kept feeling better about broadcasting daily body counts for another decade or two, Vietnam could have become a democracy, standing tall against Red China and the communist menace.

The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians killed vary from 800,000 to 3.1 million. Some 200,000–300,000 Cambodians, 20,000–200,000 Laotians, and 58,220 U.S. service members also died in the conflict, with a further 1,626 missing in action.

Vietnam was the last "war" we fought with conscripted soldiers. Now we have a freedom-loving all-volunteer army and the peaceniks and hippies can stay home and make love not war.

War deaths are an interesting statistic. This page says 215,000 in the civil war, 53,000 in World War I, 291,000 in World War II, 33,000 in Korea, 47,000 in Vietnam, and 5100 in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now we do much of our fighting via remote drone strikes, so we can kill without any risk of our soldiers dying. Maybe soon we'll perfect our robot avatar soldiers and our deaths on foreign battles will go down to zero?

And then the peaceniks can finally protest without threaten in the lives of our own soldiers.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

The Soviets made it plain that they infiltrated Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) with the intention of using agitprop to foment chaos on campus and in the streets.

That said, it was a deeply unpopular war. The case for Vietnam's strategic value was not clear in the way Korea's was. Vietnam seemed more remote, more exotic, more miserable and more confusing for the GIs who fought there. When the entire populace might be your enemy, you're always on edge.

Could the U.S. have won in Vietnam? Maybe. But it would've required us fighting with a level of face-to-face brutality far beyond what we inflicted, and the soldiers' post-war trauma shows those risks. It wasn't worth it, and the communists' commitment would've required serial intervention and a long-term garrison like we have in Korea today.

Was Korea worth it? I say yes. Was Vietnam worth it? I say no. Yet the true national shame was the way we treated Vietnam vets returning home... we're still living with the consequences of that shameful oversight. SDS had a lot to do with that.

Sam L. said...

Of course it was. They were pretty clearly not against war, but against the US fighting Communism. If they had been against war, they'd have been against North Viet Nam for invading the south.

Anonymous said...

priss, I've read your comments here for a while. Have you ever negotiated anything? Negotiators cannot have everything one way. You bring up these issues like there were no other participants or considerations in the room. It's a difficult process.

sestamibi said...

All of what you say is true, and no one can deny the malevolence of the anti-war leaders and their lasting impact on American life and culture.

However, as far as Vietnam is concerned, forty years later it might also be appropriate to ask who won THEIR culture war. I am a real estate aficionado and occasionally I manage to uncover articles about the complaints of some Vietnamese that the second home market there has become unaffordable, news about luxury condos under construction in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and some intrepid Americans actually choosing Vietnam for their retirement locales (and why not? there must be some pretty awesome beaches along that coast). So what's next, Somalia?

Anonymous said...


For your edification.

Anonymous said...

I was there. Came back to the Chicago Riots.

Protests stopped when the Draft ended.

ARVN soldiers were motivated, but left hanging in the wind without weaponry & materiel.

Dean Acheson said SKorea was NOT a vital interest. The invasion followed. Sheesh. -- Rich Lara

Dennis said...

Rich Lara,

After 2 years in SEA I had the unfortunate luck of being re-assigned to a base north of San Francisco in 1970. That was a real awakening. Like men today, Vietnam veterans were the evil that existed in the world. We were "baby killers" even though many a soldier died protecting women and children. An aside here is that the same group of people were involved in both fictions. In Hollywood we were the convenient bad guys in every movie. I could go on, but why dredge up what many of these useful idiots did to aid and abet communists. Sadly many of them became part of academe where they controlled the narrative, which has taken hold as one can note by some of the comments, and conveniently left much of the context of that age out.
You note that "ARVN soldiers were motivated, but left hanging in the wind without weaponry & materiel.". That was because a democratic Congress cut off funds to them, as I remember, despite the 1975 Peace Accords. Something many have forgotten or had the desire to dismiss. Interestingly the dreaded "TET Offensive" is when the VC realized they had been used by and lost control of their own destiny to the NVA
Maybe historians in a future time will correct the record, but given academe as it has existed since the Left basically took over maybe not. I have often wondered whether the "sit in" protestors changed their grades vice earning them or by threatening the professoriate at the time, much like students of today. It is interesting to have lived long enough to see history repeat itself. Same people, same lies.

priss rules said...

"priss, I've read your comments here for a while. Have you ever negotiated anything? Negotiators cannot have everything one way. You bring up these issues like there were no other participants or considerations in the room. It's a difficult process."

Vietnam was under French imperialism for over a century. Ho Chi Minh led the movement for liberation. Too bad he was a commie, BUT he was seen as hero by many Vietnamese.

US should not have stood in the way. Why not leave other people alone?

Also, US could have worked with communist Vietnam. The Communist Bloc was a myth.

Yugoslavia broke from Soviet orbit. China and Russia broke apart.

Romania became friendly with the US.

US should not have played a role in dividing Vietnam or Korea for that matter.

No nation wants to be divided, esp by foreign power.

Dennis said...

press rules,

Might I suggest a couple of books that might give you a far more extensive view of civilizations.

"Asia A Concise History" Authur Cottrell

"The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World" Samuel P Huntington

They might give you a more complete idea about things at a global level throughout history.