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.

 

 

“If You’ve Got Dough, You Don’t Have to Go”

Episode 4 – Doubt

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Maori TV showed Episode 4 of the Vietnam War series this week. 1966, Lyndon Johnson’s second year in office, saw a massive escalation of US forces in Vietnam – increasing from 200,000 in January to 500,000 in June 1967. Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea also sent troops to serve in Vietnam. Because both Australia and New Zealand had compulsory conscription until the early 1970s, there was a sizeable anti-Vietnam War movement in both countries.

The UK and Europe, in contrast, opposed the Vietnam War and called for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Johnson also substantially escalated bombing campaigns against North Korea, Laos and Cambodia (the North Vietnamese used a network of jungle roads in Laos and Cambodia to transport arms and personnel to South Vietnam). North Vietnamese civilians, most of them women, worked day and night restoring the so-called “Ho Chi Minh trail following US bombing raids.

Because the US was incapable of gaining territory in Vietnam, it used body counts to measure its success. The latter frequently included civilians and were always exaggerated. The US goal was to reach a “crossover point” – where the US killed more North Vietnamese soldiers than North Vietnam could replace. This never happened.

In May 1966, the US puppet government in South Vietnam nearly collapsed owing to mass demonstrations in Saigon demanding representative democracy and a negotiated settlement to the war.

As US forces swelled in Vietnam, the Pentagon was forced to begin drafting college students, which massively fueled the antiwar movement. It was common for well-to-do families (like the Bushes) to arrange deferments tor their kids. As the saying went, “If you’ve got dough, you don’t have to go.”

In Vietnam, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, a disproportionate number of draftees and casualties were African American.

Untold History of the US – Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam

Part 7 of Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States concerns the Johnson and Nixon presidencies.

The Johnson Presidency

Johnson continued Kennedy’s glorious tradition of overthrowing foreign democratic governments. He openly admitted the military aggression he authorized wasn’t about fighting communism – but about fighting third world peoples for their resources. He saw no other way 6% of the world’s population could control 50% of its wealth.

  • In 1963 Johnson reversed Kennedy’s order to draw down US “military advisors” and introduced ground troops to Vietnam.
  • In 1964 he ordered US troops to overthrow the democratically elected government of Brazil.
  • In 1965 he invaded the Dominican Republic to crush a popular insurrection against a CIA-inspired right wing coup.
  • In 1966-67 he authorized a bloody CIA coup to oust President Sukarno in Indonesia and replace him with the right wing dictator Suharto.
  • In 1967, he ordered the CIA to (illegally) spy on anti-Vietnam War protestors through Operation Chaos.
  • In 1967, he fired Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara when he opposed escalating the bombing in Vietnam.

When a bipartisan group of elder statesman called for US troop withdrawal from Vietnam, Johnson decided to focus on Vietnam peace negotiations instead of running for a second term in 1968.

The Nixon Presidency

Robert Kennedy was the clear front runner in the 1968 election prior to his assassination in July 1968.

Despite basing his campaign on a “secret plan” to end the war in Vietnam, Nixon and Kissinger (who secretly undermined the Paris peace negotiations to help Nixon win the elections) vastly expanded the war, which would last seven more years. More than half the GI deaths in Vietnam occurred under Nixon.

As president, Nixon made 13 separate threats to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam. Stone believes it was only the massive anti-war protests (which deeply unnerved Nixon) that prevented their use.

Nixon and Kissinger were also responsible for secretly and illegally bombing Cambodia and Laos, the 1973 coup that overthrew Chile’s democratically elected government, and Operation Condor, a secret dirty war against pro-democracy movements in Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia.

Part 7:  Johnson, Nixon and Vietnam: Reversal of Fortune – Cataclysm in Vietnam

Untold History of the US – JFK to the Brink

In Part 6 of Untold History of the United States, filmmaker Oliver Stone reveals that Kennedy vacillated between supporting and opposing the anti-communist Pentagon hawks who tried to control his foreign policy.

  • In 1960, JFK made the “missile gap” (ie the so-called Soviet advantage in strategic weapons) a major plank of his campaign – only to discover (on taking office) that the US was far ahead in every category.
  • Under pressure from the CIA and Joint Chiefs, he initially approved the Bay of Pigs invasion, only to refuse to authorize air support when he discovered they had lied to him about domestic Cuban support for the invasion.
  • After the bungled Bay of Pigs operation, he fired Allen Dulles and other top CIA officials and placed all overseas CIA operations under State Department control. At the same time, he also put his brother Bobby in charge of Operation Mongoose, a secret program in Louisiana to train Cuban exiles to overthrow and/or poison Castro (Joan Mellen discusses Bobby’s role at length in her 2013 book on the JFK assassination – see New Evidence in the JFK Assassination).
  • He resisted pressure from the Joint Chiefs to invade Laos.
  • Despite resisting pressure from the Pentagon to increase arms expenditures, in 1961 he warned the American people against dangerous Soviet aggression and encouraged them to build fallout shelters.
  • He approved the deployment of 16,000 advisors (in addition to CIA personnel) to engage in guerilla warfare in Vietnam. He also approved Operation Phoenix, which involved massive defoliation of the Vietnamese with cancer and birth defect-causing Agent Orange, the assassination of labor leaders and human rights advocates and the mass displacement of Vietnamese civilians into concentration camps.
  • He resisted pressure from the Joint Chiefs to launch a nuclear strike on Cuba when a U2 spy plane discovered the Soviets had supplied Castro with nuclear-tipped ICBMs.

Most of the episode focuses on the naval blockade JFK imposed on Cuba during the Cuban Missile crisis and the delicate negotiations between him and Khrushchev to prevent this event from escalating into full blown nuclear war.

It’s Stone’s view that both Kennedy and Khrushchev lost control of their militaries during this period. According to Stone, it was down to a single brave Soviet submarine commander that global nuclear annihilation was averted in 1962. He believes the near-miss in Cuba caused Kennedy to rethink US involvement in Vietnam – and issue National Security Memorandum 263 in summer 1963. The latter ordered the gradual withdrawal of all US forces from Vietnam to commence in December 1963.

Johnson would reverse this directive within weeks of the JFK assassination.

Part 6 – JFK to the Brink