Nixon’s Treason in Vietnam

Chasing Ghosts, Episode 7

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Last night, Maori TV showed Episode 7 of the Vietnam War series, covering the second half of 1968. 1968 was a year of global revolution, when working and oppressed people all over the world revolted against their governments. This happened even in countries like Mexico, Czechoslovakia, Nigeria, Ecuador, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay that had nothing to do with the Vietnam War. See 1968

This episode incorporates excellent footage of the antiwar protests at the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention and the bloody police riot that ensued. Esteemed CBS journalist Walter Cronkite referred to Chicago as a “police state.”

By mid-1968 the new Secretary of Defense Clifford Clark was begging President Johnson to stop bombing North Vietnam. Clark no longer believed the US could win the war, and this was a North Vietnamese condition to begin Paris peace negotiations.

1968 also marked the start of the CIA’s controversial Phoenix program, in which US and South Vietnamese intelligence murdered 20,000 South Vietnamese in an effort to root out the Viet Cong (a secret South Vietnamese revolutionary group) and their supporters.

In the lead-up to elections, Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey also called for an end to the bombing. When Johnson finally halted the bombing on October 31, Humphrey’s poll numbers surged ahead of Nixon’s.

A few days before the election, Nixon sent a secret envoy to South Vietnam promising President Thieu a “better peace deal” if he withdrew from the peace talks – which he did. Because the CIA had caught the conversation on a secret bug in Thieu’s office, Johnson confronted Nixon, who denied it. Viewing it as treason, Johnson chose not to make the incident public. He didn’t want the South Vietnamese government (or the American public) to know how he obtained the information.

Immediately after Nixon’s 1969 inauguration in January, he began secretly (and illegally) bombing Laos and Cambodia. Parts of the Ho Chi Minh trail (which North Vietnam used to send troops, weapons and food south) snaked through Laos, and Cambodia was known to offer sanctuary to North Vietnamese troops.

 

 

Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement

Berkeley in the Sixties

Directed by Mark Kitchell (2002)

Film Review

Berkeley in the sixties is a documentary about the history of 1960s Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement (FSM). Prior to watching the film, I had no idea that Youth for Goldwater helped start the FSM, joining forces with left leaning groups in 12-18 hour strategy meetings aimed at a university ban on political information tables. By necessity, these meetings made decisions by consensus. Decisions based on majority vote always engendered the risk the losing minority would walk away.

In 1963, the FSM would collaborate with black civil rights leaders in a massive civil disobedience that forced San Francisco hotels to end their discriminatory hiring practices.

Following this initial victory, the FSM oriented their protests against the Vietnam War, inspiring similar actions by tens of thousands of students at campuses across the US. In 1967, they successfully shut down the Oakland army induction center for five days.

The documentary also explores the FSM collaboration with the Oakland Black Panther Party in the Free Huey movement, their tenuous linkages with the CIA-fabricated  (see How the CIA Used LSD to Destroy the New Left Haight Ashbury counterculture movement and their involvement in the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

There is some great footage of Berkeley President Clark Kerr and Governor Ronald Reagan behaving like assholes.


*Newton was framed for the manslaughter of Oakland police officer John Frey during a Panther gun battle with the police. He was ultimately released after three unsuccessful attempts to convict him.

Invisible No Longer: Chicago’s Homeless

Street Life: Faces Uncovered

By Neal Karski, George Min, Tyler Dubiak and Scott Hilburn (2016)

Film Review

Street Life is a portrait of the Chicago’s homeless population. It begins by demolishing the myth that homelessness is a lifestyle choice. In addition to a wealth of statistics, the documentary includes interviews with homeless Chicagoans, social service workers, homeless advocates and random passersby. I found it intriguing that none of the women interviewed blamed the homeless for their predicament – while more than half the men did.

On any given night 750,000 Americans are homeless, and yearly 25-35 million spend some nights on the streets or in shelters. Worldwide 100 million people have no housing at all while one billion have grossly inadequate housing. Last year, over a million American children were homeless at some point.

In examining the causes of chronic homelessness, filmmakers identified the following breakdown (in Chicago):

  • 48% suffer from chronic drug or alcohol addiction
  • 32% are mentally ill
  • 25% are victims of domestic violence
  • 15% are unemployed veterans
  • 4% have HIV or AIDS

Because the homeless make huge demands on the public health system, it costs taxpayers far less to pay for their housing than to leave them on the street. After starting a Permanent Supportive Housing program two years ago, Illinois lawmakers reduced emergency room visits by 40%, nursing home days by 975%, inpatient days by 83% and psychiatric services by 66%.

 

Chicago – ‘TPP is Betrayal’ Action