The Link Between Vietnam and Nixon’s Recognition of China

A Disrespectful Loyalty, Episode 9

The Vietnam War

Directed by Ken Burn and Lyn Novick

Film Review

Last night Maori TV showed part 9 of the Vietnam War series.

During the period covered (February 1970 – March 1973), Nixon’s sole focus with to withdraw US troops from Vietnam without losing the 1972 election. He knew he would be defeated if Saigon fell. Much of this episode consists of tape recordings of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations with his chief security advisor Henry Kissinger.

Although the filmmakers refer to 1/4 of US GIs using marijuana in Vietnam and 40,000 being addicted to heroin, for some reason they neglect to mention the South Vietnamese army was the main source of these drugs.

They do report on the growing influence of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and play an excerpt of former naval lieutenant John Kerry’s (a VVAW member) compelling testimony before a Senate investigative committee.

1971 also saw the New York Times publican of the Pentagon Papers, leaked by whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg. This Defense Department study, covering 1945-1967, revealed successive US presidents had been continuously lying to the American public regarding their true motives waging war in Vietnam.

Nixon’s paranoia about documents Ellsberg and others might possess about his own lies led him to create “The Plumbers,” a secret team that broke into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office (in the hope of finding material they could use to blackmail him).

Much of this episode focuses on the Paris peace talks, and Nixon’s efforts to force North Vietnam to agree to a favorable peace treaty. To this end, he resumed bombing raid on North Vietnam, which were far more brutal (in terms of civilian casualties) than those Johnson had been condemned for.

I was surprised to learn that Nixon’s recognition of Communist China (after nearly 40 years) was part of a ploy to increase Chinese and Russian pressure on their North Vietnamese allies to sign a peace settlement favorable to the US.

The latter would be signed on January 23,1973, and over the next few weeks the last US troops would leave Vietnam.

As of March 1973, over 58,000 GIs and 2 million Vietnamese had been killed in North Vietnam.

 

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.