The Johnson Administration Credibility Gap(The Congressional Record, May 14, 1968, page S 5500.) SENATOR MARK HATFIELD (R, OR) in the Senate: "Mr. President, with other Senators I have spoken in the Chamber and accused the Johnson administration of not being candid with the American people concerning the war in Vietnam... But seldom have I seen this `credibility gap' revealed with such incisiveness as it is in a pamphlet prepared by Mr. Rodney Driver of Albuquerque, N. Mex. Mr. Driver has painstakingly researched and presented the administration's many myths about our commitment in Southeast Asia and then given the reader a view of Vietnam that comes much closer to reality."
In 1968 Rod Driver prepared and distributed 10,000 copies of the pamphlet, "Misinformation About Vietnam," which Senator Hatfield inserted into the Congressional Record.
Misinformation About Vietnam
The expression "credibility gap," as part of the American language, indicates a public awareness that the Johnson Administration has not always been quite candid about Vietnam.
But few people yet fully realize the magnitude of the problem ... I certainly didn't for a long time. It was only after hearing several similar accounts of gross misrepresentations that I felt obliged to check some primary references myself.
Having started this, one is led from one item to another- until he is suddenly struck with the alarming realization that his government has been misleading him time and time again.
Disconcerting as this discovery may be, it is vital in a democracy that people should find out what is going on.
Such was the motivation for this pamphlet.
Compiled herein (in bold-face type) are just a few typical statements on Vietnam by the Johnson Administration. These are accompanied by other contradictory information (and more important) with detailed references.
My hope is that you will be sufficiently disturbed by the resulting contradictions to want to find out for yourself.Rodney D. Driver, January, 1968.
Among the finest short general-background documents is The War in Vietnam, by the Staff of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, April 1967. Available as a Congressional Record reprint (May 9, 67, pp. S 6572-6585) from Sen. Bourke Hickenlooper (free), or, in booklet form, from Public Affairs Press, 419 New Jersey Ave. S.E., Washington D.C. 20003 ($1).
One of the best periodicals for a continuing, carefully-documented analysis of myths about Vietnam and other subjects is I. F. Stone's Weekly, 5618 Nebraska Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20015. Subscription: $5.00 per year.
In the present paper, the following abbreviations are used for frequently-cited references:
- Aggression From the North: Dept. of State Publication 7839, Feb. 1965. Also known as the "1965 White Paper."
- CR: Congressional Record.
- Draper: Abuse of Power, by Theodore Draper, Viking Press, Apr. 1967. Available in paper back, $1.95.
- DS Bull: U.S. Department of State Bulletin-the official weekly record of U.S. foreign policy.
- Gettleman: Vietnam; History, Documents, and Opinions on a Major World Crisis, ed. by M. E. Gettleman, Fawcett, 1965. Available in paper back, 95 cents.
- NYT: The New York Times. On microfilm in larger libraries. Many smaller libraries, which do not keep the Times, do keep the New York Times Index which contains much information itself.
- Why Vietnam: U.S. Government Publication, Aug. 20, 1965. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 30 cents.
Most of the references cited are available in any moderate-sized library, and most of the material presented is also available in other sources besides those listed. For example: The Administration statements, which I quote from Department of State sources where possible, can usually also be found in the NYT, and many are in Gettleman.
The AP and UPI dispatches taken from the Albuquerque papers can also be found in other papers. And dispatches from the Albuquerque Tribune marked S-H can be found in other Scripps-Howard papers.
The 1954 Geneva Accords
President Johnson and Secretary of State Rusk have repeated over and over again that the very basis for our involvement in Vietnam is that one country (called North Vietnam) has attacked another (called South Vietnam). And we have come to the aid of the victim. These two countries, they say, were created in 1954:
"... we have had one consistent aim-observance of the 1954 agreements which guaranteed the independence of South VietNam."Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 12, 64, DS Bull, Aug. 31, p. 299.
But the 1954 agreements-the Geneva Accords which ended the between France and the Vietminh-made no mention whatsoever of an independent nation of South Vietnam. In fact they made clear that there was no intention to create two countries out of Vietnam. They referred to a "provisional military demarcation line" near the 17th parallel and to "general elections which will bring about the unification of Vietnam."
The "Final Declaration" of the Geneva Conference, for example, emphasized that "the military demarcation line is provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary," and that "general elections shall be held in July, 1956, under the supervision of an international commission . . . Consultations will be held on this subject between the competent representative authorities of the two zones from July 20, 1955, onward."
The texts of the 1954 Geneva Accords are given in Documents on American Foreign Relations 1954, Harper, 1955, pp. 283-314, and in Gettleman, pp. 137-154. The "Final Declaration" is also in DS Bull, Aug. 2, 54, p. 164.
The United States did not sign the Geneva Accords, but our government made a commitment to "refrain from the threat or the use of force to disturb them ..."Same three sources, on pages 316, 156, and 162 respectively.
The elections were not held. In fact the consultations called for in the "Final Declaration" have not even been held. On numerous occasions in 1955 and 1956 (and later) Premier Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam rejected not only the elections but even the preliminary conferences: "We did not sign the Geneva Agreements. We are not bound in any way by these Agreements..." he declared on July 16, 1955.See Gettleman, p. 193; or NYT, July 17, 1955, p. 7. For other examples, see also NYT, 1955: June 7, p. 1; July 16, p. 3; Aug. 9, p. 6; Aug. 10, p. 5; Aug. 11, p. 1; Aug. 31, p. 4; Oct. 26, p. 4; and 1956: Mar. 15, p. 12; May 13, p. 38; and Aug. 15, p. 5.
It was generally agreed that, had elections been held, Ho Chi Minh would have won overwhelmingly.See Leo Cherne, Look, Jan. 25, 55, or Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate for Change, Doubleday, 1963, p. 372.
In 1961 the U.S. Dept. of State issued a "White Paper" on Vietnam. Referring to the nationwide elections scheduled for 1956 under international supervision, it said, "The authorities in South Vietnam refused to fall into this well-laid trap."A Threat to the Peace, U.S. Dept. of State Publ. 7308, 1961.
"But we insist, and we will always insist, that the people of South Vietnam shall have the right of choice, the right to shape their own destiny in free elections in the South, or throughout all Vietnam under international supervision... This was the purpose of the 1954 agreements which the Communists have now cruelly shattered."Lyndon Johnson, July 28, 1965, Why Vietnam, p. 7. Were Diem and his friends Communists?
Origins of the Fighting
"The root of the trouble in Viet-Nam is today just what it was in April and has been at least since 1960-a cruel and sustained attack by North Viet-Nam upon the people of South Viet-Nam."Sec. of State Rusk, June 23, 65, DS Bull, July 12, p. 50.
But the matter is not that simple, even if one believed that North Vietnam and South Vietnam were two countries. During its 2000-year history, Vietnam has been invaded by the Mongols, the Chinese, the Siamese, the Spanish, the French, and the Japanese. One of the few things uniting the Vietnamese people is a strong common tradition of fighting outsiders.
The opposition to Premier Ngo Dinh Diem (whom the Vietnamese regarded as a representative of the French and the Americans) began in South Vietnam long before the dates cited by the Johnson Administration for the beginning of North Vietnam's involvement. Vietnam experts consider Diem's repressive dictatorial rule the main cause of the rebellion.
"Diem's Presidential Ordinance No. 6 of January 11, 1956, provided for the indefinite detention in concentration camps of anyone found to be a `danger to the state.' . . . The ordinance was followed by other repressive acts which hit harder at non-Communists than at Communists..."
"By a presidential decree of June, 1956, Diem abolished elected village councils and mayors. This imposed directly on the Viet-Nam peasantry the dictatorial regime which he already wielded at the center. In March, 1957, the regime openly violated the last restraints placed upon it by the Geneva agreements with regard to reprisals exercised against `former resistance members'-that is, ex-guerrillas of the Viet-Minh who had fought against the French..."Bernard Fall, Viet-Nam Witness, Praeger, 1966, Chapter. 18.
"Millions of photographs, paintings and sketches of Diem... hang in every public office, stare down from the entrances of every public building and adorn the drab walls of peasant huts ... Behind the facade of photographs, flags and slogans there is a grim structure of decrees, political prisons, concentration camps, milder `re-education centers,' secret police. . . . The whole machinery of security has been used to discourage active opposition of any kind from any source."John Osborne, Life, May 13, 1957, p. 164.
"The Diem government ... launched out in 1957 into what amounted to a series of manhunts ... In 1958 the situation grew worse. Round-ups of `dissidents' became more frequent and more brutal . . . the way in which many of the operations were carried out very soon set the villagers against the regime. A certain sequence of events became almost classical: denunciation, encirclement of villages, searches and raids, arrest of suspects, plundering, interrogations enlivened sometimes by torture, deportation, and `regrouping' of populations suspected of intelligence with the rebels, etc."Philippe Devillers, The China Quarterly (London), Jan.-Mar. 62, pp. 2-23. Reprinted in Gettleman, pp. 210-235.
One of Diem's "political intelligence officers" explained that "they (the villagers) refuse to talk. So they have to be roughed up-or worse. After an operation of this sort, those who aren't Viet Cong already probably will be. It's a vicious circle.' "Newsweek, May 22, 61, p. 38.
"Ngo Dinh Diem.. . is in the vanguard of those leaders who stand for freedom on the periphery of the Communist empire in Asia."Vice President Lyndon Johnson, May 13, 61, in a joint statement with Mr. Diem, DS Bull, June 19, p. 956.
Mr. Johnson was so impressed by Diem that he compared him to George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill.Saigon Times, May 11-14, 1961. See House Republican report on Vietnam, CR, Aug. 25, 65, p. 21843; and NYT, May 13, 61, p. 1.
After Diem's brutal repression of the Buddhists, President Kennedy indicated his displeasure on Sept. 2 and Oct. 2, 1963 (DS Bull, Sept. 30, p. 499 and Oct. 21, p. 624). Then on Oct. 22, 1963 the U.S. cut off its support for those elements of the special forces used as Diem's security guard (DS Bull, Nov. 11, p. 736). Ten days later Ngo Dinh Diem, whom we had supported for ten years, was overthrown in a military coup. He and his brother Nhu were assassinated the following day.See David Halberstam, NYT, Nov. 6, 63. Reprinted in Gettleman, pp. 271-281.
November 1, the anniversary of the overthrow of Diem (Lyndon Johnson's "Churchill of today") is now officially celebrated in Saigon as National Day.
Diem's SuccessorsA succession of ten governments or juntas passed through Saigon in the next 19 months, each of them receiving an enthusiastic endorsement from the Johnson Administration.
On June 14, 1965 the military junta headed by Air Marshal Nguyen Cao Ky and General Nguyen Van Thieu came to power.
"Of the 10 generals in the junta, only one joined the Viet Minh resistance movement against the French in 1945 (not Ky or Thieu) . . . The other nine either fought on the side of the French or took training in French military schools during the Vietnamese war against the French from 1945 to 1954."Parade magazine, June 19, 66, p. 2, in Albuquerque Jour, and other papers. See also NYT, June 11, 67, p. E 4.
"People ask me who my heroes are. I have only one-Hitler."Marshal Ky, Sunday Mirror (London), July 4, 65, p. 1.
"South Vietnam's military Government warned today that penalties of death or imprisonment would be imposed for a variety of offenses ranging from `hooliganism' to support of neutralism. The warning came in a decree issued by Maj. Gen. Nguyen Van Thieu ..." (Emphasis added.)Reuters, July 23, 65, NYT, July 24, p. 2.
"At Da Nang, three persons were executed by a South Vietnamese firing squad . . . The three were among five persons arrested Monday during a demonstration by about 200 persons in downtown Da Nang. They were protesting crop damage from artillery fire and air strikes by U.S. forces."Chicago Daily News (and most papers), Sept. 23, 65.
"Premier Nguyen Cao Ky . . . said his government would continue public executions `because I think they are needed.' "AP, Albuquerque Journal, Sept. 28, 65, p. A-1.
"We are there because . . . we remain fixed on the pursuit of freedom as a deep and moral obligation . . . To defend that freedom-to permit its roots to deepen and grow . . . is our purpose in South Viet-Nam."Lyndon Johnson, Dec. 9, 65, DS Bull, Dec. 27, p. 1014.
Ky and Thieu "have learned that government must meet the outreach of its people's hopes."Lyndon Johnson, Feb. 16, 66. DS Bull, Mar. 7, p. 363.
"Referring to earlier reports quoting him as saying Hitler was his idol, Premier Ky said this was not exactly what he meant. He said that when somebody asked him what South Vietnam needed to unify its people, he had answered a `strong man' and had pointed out that Germany under Hitler was able to rise and grow strong. Besides, he said, amid laughter, he did not like Hitler because `he was not handsome and not a lady-killer.' "Reuters, NYT International Edition, Aug. 13-14, 66, p. 2.
"We saw that democracy is gaining in Viet-Nam."Lyndon Johnson, Oct. 27, 66, DS Bull, Nov. 14, p. 738.
"Free Elections" in Vietnam"We fight for the principle of self-determination-that the people of South Viet-Nam should be able to choose their own course, choose it in free elections without violence, without terror, and without fear."Lyndon Johnson, Jan. 12, 66, DS Bull, Jan. 31, p. 154.
On Sept. 11, 1966 elections were held for members of a Constituent Assembly:
"The government effectively ruled any outright opponents off the ballot by banning candidates considered to be Communist or `neutralists.' . . . When some candidates in Saigon last week did try to criticize the military regime and raise questions about corruption Ky stepped in quickly to suppress them. He said anyone who opposed the war cabinet's policies would be branded as `traitors and henchmen of the Communists.' "Jack Steele (S-H), Albuquerque Trib., Sept. 8, 66, p. E-2. On June 6, 66, Sen. Jacob Javits (R., N.Y.) had urged in vain that the Administration support genuinely free elections, CR, p. 11801.
The military junta continued its policy of press censorship during the campaign. And, to assure a good turnout, it spread the word that non voters could expect trouble from the police.
See, for example, Ralph Kennan, Baltimore Sun, Sept. 5, 66; Richard Critchfield, Washington Star, Sept. 3, 7, and 11; Stanley Karnow, Wash. Post, Sept. 11.
These elections "gave us a lasting lesson in democracy."Lyndon Johnson, Sept. 13, 66. Wash. Post, Sept. 14, p. A2.
"The large turnout is to me a vote of confidence."Lyndon Johnson, Sept. 14, 66, NYT, Sept. 15, p. 11.
In elections held on Sept. 3, 1967, Generals Thieu and Ky ran for President and Vice President. The new constitution was supposedly in effect during the election campaign:
"The Constitution secures freedom of speech and freedom of religion. It guarantees civil rights and due process of law and provides for free political expression by the press, political parties, and trade unions, as well as by individuals."Lyndon Johnson, Mar. 20, 67, DS Bull, Apr. 10, p. 590.
"No candidate or newspaper, (Ky) said, would be permitted to `attack the Government or members of the Government.' The Vietnam Guardian, an English-language daily newspaper that has been suspended since December, will be reinstated after the election, the Premier said. The paper was known to favor the election of one of the Premier's civilian opponents. Asked how he reconciled these policies with the abolition of censorship in the Constitution adopted on April 1, Premier Ky replied: `There are parts of a Constitution that can be respected right away and there are others that take time.' "R. W. Apple Jr., June 18, 67, NYT, June 19, p. 18. Despite a ban on campaigning before Aug. 1, Marshal Ky was already using the facilities of the government for his own campaign.
If, in spite of everything, the military should lose the election, they reserved the right to overthrow the winner:
"If he is Communist or if he is a neutralist, I am going to fight him militarily. In any democratic country you have the right to disagree with the views of others."Marshal Ky, May 13, 67, AP in NYT, May 14, p. 3; Aug. 13, p. E1.
"We are in South Viet-Nam today because we want to allow a little nation self-determination. We want them to be able to go and vote for the kind of leaders they want and select the type of government they want. We want them to be free of terror and aggression in doing that ..."Lyndon Johnson, June 27, 67, DS Bull, July 17, p. 59.
"One of the civilians, (Presidential candidate) Au Truong Thanh, called on the Constituent Assembly to remove General Thieu (and Ky) from the ticket because government employes and military men are required to take leave without pay when they run in the elections . . . (Mr. Thanh) is running on a peace platform."Saigon, July 3, 67, NYT, July 4, p. 3.
"The Government has mounted a campaign to discredit Au Truong Thanh . . . `because he is a Communist.' . . . (Mr. Thanh) served as Economic Minister in the Ky Government and in two other governments since 1963 . . . A high-ranking United States official who worked closely with him said, `I consider him one of the brightest Vietnamese I ever met, and he did a fine job.' `No one accused him of being a Communist when he was in the government,' another American official said."R. W. Apple Jr., July 8, 67, NYT, July 9, p. 5.
"A squad of South Vietnamese national police early today slapped handcuffs on Au Truong Thanh and drove (him) to police headquarters for questioning on allegations that he is pro-Communist and neutralist."UPI, Albuquerque Jour., Sept. 22, 67, p. A-2.
"(On July 18) the assembly's election committee announced that it had not approved the Thieu-Ky slate . . . The move was completely unexpected and was followed quickly by an order from the ruling generals putting police and armed forces in the 3rd Military Region, which surrounds Saigon, on alert."AP, The Denver Post, July 19, 67, p. 5.
"Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan, chief of the national police and a close friend of Premier Nguyen Cao Ky . . . turned up with a squad of hangers-on in the galleries of the baroque old French opera house where the assembly meets. Pistols bulged in the pockets of two of Loan's bodyguards . . . the assembly was confronted with a flood of rumors and reports that the military was prepared to act drastically if the Thieu-Ky ticket was not approved."Raymond R. Coffey, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 19, 67, p. 4A. See also NYT, July 19, p. 1; or Newsweek, July 31, p. 26.
The result was that the Assembly voted to approve 11 slates, including Thieu-Ky, and to disqualify seven, including Au Truong Thanh and General "Big Minh," the hero of Diem's overthrow. Gen. Minh, who lives in exile, was not permitted to return to campaign. However, he received the greatest support in a preliminary vote by the Assembly on July 2 (Saigon Post, July 3).
"My duty is to crush all disturbances of whatever origin."Marshal Ky, Time, Aug. 11, 67, p. 25.
"It is remarkable that a young country fighting a tough war on its own soil has moved so far, so fast, toward a representative government."Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 18, 67, NYT, Aug. 19, p. 10.
"South Vietnam's military government arrested a colonel who was actively working for a civilian presidential candidate and closed down two Saigon newspapers . . . Asked why the government chose to close the newspapers . . . the day before the election, Thieu replied: `Even in a democracy one has the right to suppress newspapers that aid one's enemies.' "Lee Lescaze, Sept. 2, 67, Wash. Post, Sept. 3, pp. Al, A8.
"In South Viet-Nam today, there are 11 candidates for President . . . They are free to attack the government, and most of them have done so. They are free to take their case to the people, and most of them have done so and are doing so at this hour."Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 16, 67, DS Bull, Sept. 4, p. 290.
The runner up in thc election, Truong Dinh Dzu, was one who attacked the government:
"Truong Dinh Dzu, the peace candidate who came in second in the presidential elections in September, has been under house arrest for nearly a month . . . Government authorities have declined to give any reason for Mr. Dzu's house arrest."Bernard Weinraub, Nov. 4, 67, NYT, Nov. 5, p. 3. Actually there are thousands of political prisoners in South Vietnam. See Richard Harwood, Wash. Post, July 4, 67; or NYT, Nov. 4, 67, p. 6.
Thieu and Ky-the only military slate-"won" the election with a vote of about 35%. The remaining 65% was split among the 10 civilian slates . . . On Sept. 29, 67 the election committee of the Assembly recommended that the election of Thieu and Ky be thrown out because of "many irregularities" in the voting. But pressure from the military once again produced the desired result.
See UPI, Albuquerque Trib., Sept. 29, 67, p. A-1, and Los Angeles Times, Sept. 30, p. 2.
"I extend my warm congratulations to you and to Prime Minister Ky on your victory in the election... The election was a milestone along the path toward . . . a free, secure and peaceful Viet-Nam."Lyndon Johnson to Thieu, Sept. 10, 67, DS Bull, Oct. 2, p. 421.
"This is our great adventure-and a wonderful one it is. Our business is to make history... it's wonderful to make it, make history in your own way and your own time."Vice Pres. Humphrey, Oct. 31, 67, UPI, Denver Post, Nov. 1, p. 6.
The Role of North Vietnam and China
"We did not put our combat forces into South Viet-Nam because of dissident elements in South Viet-Nam. We put our combat forces in there because North Vietnamese forces moved into South Viet-Nam."Sec. of State Rusk, Oct. 12, 67, DS Bull, Oct. 30, p. 558.
"At no stage have we wanted a larger war. But it was in November, December, January, over the turn of the year 1964-65 that North Vietnam moved the 325th Division of the regular North Vietnamese Army from North Vietnam to South Vietnam to up the ante here... That was before the bombing started ...".Sec. Rusk, Feb. 18, 66, The Vietnam Hearings, Random House, Apr. 66, p. 263. Mr. Rusk has asserted at least ten times, since Jan. 28, 66, that a whole division of the regular North Vietnamese Army was in the South before our massive involvement.
But this has been contradicted by the Defense Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and by Mr. Rusk himself.
"When the sharp increase in the American military effort began in early 1965, it was estimated that only about 400 North Vietnamese soldiers were among the enemy forces in the south which totaled 140,000 at that time."
Sen. Mike Mansfield (D. Mont.), CR, June 16, 66, p. 12857.
The Defense Department confirmed that it was the source of Sen. Mansfield's figures.See Ted Knap (S-H), Albuquerque Tribune, June 25, 66, p. A-4. For a collection of mutually contradictory official estimates of North Vietnamese involvement in early 1965 see Draper, pp. 73-82; plus Win. P. Bundy and Rusk, DS Bull, Sept. 4, 67, p. 283, Aug. 1, 66, p. 182, and Sept. 18, 67, p. 344.
By Dec. 31, 1964, there were 23,000 American troops in Vietnam.Dept. of Defense figures. CR, Oct. 10, 66, Senate p. 24855.
"There is no evidence that the Viet Cong has any significant popular following in South Viet-Nam."Sec. Rusk, Apr. 23, 65, DS Bull, May 10, p. 699.
But, according to official sources, enemy strength grew from an estimated 5000 in 1960 to 290,000 by July 1967, only 60,000 of which were North Vietnamese regulars. This is in spite of the fact that we claim to have killed between 200,000 and 400,000 during this same period, the lower figure being verified by "body count." By Dec. 1967 the estimate of enemy strength was raised to over 400,000.See J. T. Wheeler (AP), Albuq. Jour., July 9, 67, p. A-5, and Hedrick Smith, NYT, Dec. 20, 67, p. 1.
"...this is really war. It is guided by North Vietnam and spurred by Communist China."Lyndon Johnson, July 28, 65, Why Vietnam, p. 5.
"Now, the flow of weapons from North Vietnam consists almost entirely of the latest arms acquired from Communist China; and the flow is large enough to have entirely reequipped the Main Force units..."Sec. of Defense McNamara, Aug. 4, 65, Why Vietnam, p. 20.
But this last claim was actually contradicted by the very figures offered in 1965 as proof by the Defense and State Departments. Of the approximately 7700 weapons we captured from the guerrillas from June 1962 through Dec. 1963, only 179 (less than 2½ %) were of Communist manufacture. The rest were homemade or captured French or American weapons.Compare Why Vietnam, p. 21, with Aggression From the North, Appendix D. See also I. F. Stone's Weekly, Mar. 8, 65 (reprinted in Gettleman, pp. 317-323.)
And more recently, U.S. intelligence experts have revealed the startling statistic that the Chinese have spent less on the war in 13 years than we spend every three days:
"Since 1953 the Chinese have given Hanoi only $150 million in military aid, 65% of that since August 1964."Frederick Taylor, The Wall Street Jour., Feb. 14, 67, p. 9.
By July 1967 the estimate was raised to $200 million while the war was costing the United States about $25 billion a year.AP, Albuquerque Tribune, July 7, 67, p. A-1.
Efforts to Negotiate"...candor compels me to tell you that there has not been the slightest indication that the other side is interested in negotiation or in unconditional discussion, although the United States has made some dozen separate attempts to bring that about."Lyndon Johnson, July 13, 65, NYT, July 14, p. 20.
A grim, almost unbelievable, pattern has developed since Lyndon Johnson became President. Time and time again evidence of de-escalation of the fighting by the enemy or of an interest on their part in negotiating has been denied, and has been followed by new escalation of the war by the Johnson Administration. These incidents include Johnson's response to: U Thant's efforts in 1964 (finally revealed by Eric Sevareid, Look, Nov. 30, 65); Hanoi's communication during the May 1965 bombing pause; the peace feelers communicated by Italian Foreign Minister Fanfani in Nov. 1965; the lull in enemy action during the 37-day bombing pause which ended Jan. 31, 1966; and many others.
Careful documentation is given in The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam, by Schurmann, Scott, and Zelnik, Fawcett, Oct. 66 (paper back, 60 cents); America's Vietnam Policy, The Strategy of Deception, by E. S. Herman and R. B. Du Boff, Public Affairs Press, Aug. 66 ($2.00); and Draper.
For illustration here is just one example which is quite typical of the many instances documented in the books cited-the peace talks which did not materialize in Warsaw in December, 1966:
Late in November, 1966, Januz Lewandowski, a Polish diplomat on the International Control Commission, arranged for secret talks to be held between American and North Vietnamese representatives in December. President Johnson assigned John A. Gronouski to represent the United States.
But, on Dec. 2 and 4, U.S. planes bombed targets on the outskirts of Hanoi, the closest since June 29, 66, and
"Before any North Vietnamese representative showed up for the meeting, U.S. planes carried out the Dec. 13-14 raids on the outskirts of Hanoi. Some planes, at least, flew directly over the heart of the city . . . It later became known in Washington that one or two planes had in fact jettisoned their bombs over the city when they were attacked . . . Shortly after the Dec. 13-14 incident (Polish Foreign Minister) Rapacki reportedly told the United States that North Vietnam had made clear it no longer was interested in the planned talk because of the bombing of Hanoi."J. M. Hightower (AP), Denver Post, May 9, 67, p. 5; and War/Peace Report, Mar. 67, p. 3. Almost the same thing had occurred in similar circumstances one year earlier. See Draper, p. 186.
But the sanctimonious speeches keep coming:
"I want to negotiate. I want a political solution. I want more than any human being in the world to see the killing stop but I can't just negotiate with myself. Maybe someday, somehow, sometime, somewhere, somebody will be willing to sit down at a table and talk instead of kill, discuss instead of fight, reason instead of murder and whenever they do I will be the first one at that table wherever it is."Lyndon Johnson, Apr. 26, 67, Newsweek, May 8, p. 33.
"Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you're stupid. Did you hear that?-stupid."Asst. Sec. of Defense Arthur Sylvester, July 17, 65, to newsmen in Saigon, Dateline 1966, Overseas Press Club of America. Reprinted in War/Peace Report, June/July, 66, p. 9.
"Certainly the charge that the Johnson administration has been trying to mislead the American people is nonsense. Is nonsense."Sec. Rusk, Sept. 10, 67, answering Governor George Romney's charges, ABC TV "Issues and Answers," official transcript, p. 14. Similar in DS Bull, Oct. 2, p. 414.
"Secretary McNamara said today he had been advised that 137 Vietnamese civilians had been killed in American military operations."AP, Apr. 20, 66, NYT, Apr. 21, p. 18.
It is difficult to estimate civilian casualties in South Vietnam because of the long-standing custom of including dead civilians in the body count of "enemy" killed in action. But McNamara's figures are certainly wrong:
"In the South where the enemy deliberately mixes with the population, a massive toll is taken among civilians by artillery and aircraft. There are estimates that up to 5,000 casualties die each month, with 10,000 wounded ... The American command estimates that up to 40,000 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese regulars have been slain this year alone. But the figure is known to contain a large number of civilians. After a battle, all the dead other than allied troops are counted as enemy, even women and children."AP survey, Milwaukee Journal (and other papers) Oct. 24, 66. Official figures from the Health Ministry in Saigon indicated more than 30,000 civilian casualties in the first half of 1967 not including those in the extensive areas under Viet Cong control. San Francisco Chronicle, July 19, 67, p. 1. For the year, they estimate 100,000. AP, Albuq. Jour., Dec. 12, 67, p. A-12.
"Can you imagine what an isolated village looks like after it has been hit by over 500 750-pound bombs in a matter of seconds. Women, children, old men, cattle and every living thing is struck down . . . This particular village ceased to exist because it was in a Viet Cong dominated area and intelligence reports said it might have been used as a North Vietnamese regiment headquarters. We never found any dead soldiers but, as is the custom in Viet Cong controlled area, all the dead found in the area were listed as Viet Cong..."Letter from a Marine Lieut., CR, June 16, 67, p. S 8351. See also NYT, June 6, 65, p. 1; Apr. 5, 66, p. 4; Jan. 9, 67, p. 8.
"We will use our power with restraint and with all the wisdom we can command . . . These countries of Southeast Asia are homes for millions of impoverished people."Lyndon Johnson, Apr. 7, 65, DS Bull, Apr. 26, p. 608.
Vietnam (North and South combined) is about the size of New Mexico and has a population of about 32 million. Yet, by March 1966 we were dropping 50,000 tons of bombs per month -mostly in the South. This is greater than the average monthly tonnage dropped during World War II in the European and African theaters combined. But, by March 1967 the rate had increased to exceed that of the peak year of World War II.See Sec. McNamara's testimony, NYT, Apr. 21, 66, p. 18; Aviation Week, Jan. 30, 67, p. 25, or James Reston, NYT, Mar. 16, 67, p. 9, or Peter Arnett (AP), Alb. Jour., Dec. 28, 67, p. A-1.
"Our burdens are heavy and will grow heavier. But the Bible counsels that we `be not weary in well-doing.' "Lyndon Johnson, Feb. 16, 66, DS Bull, Mar. 7, p. 364.
"In the children's ward of the Qui Nhon provincial hospital I saw for the first time what napalm does. A child of seven, the size of our four-year-olds, lay in the cot by the door. Napalm had burned his face and back and one hand. The burned skin looked like swollen, raw meat; the fingers of his hand were stretched out burned rigid. A scrap of cheesecloth covered him, for weight is intolerable, but so is air. His grandfather, an emaciated old man half blind with cataract, was tending the child. A week ago, napalm bombs were dropped on their hamlet. The old man carried his grandson to the nearest town..."Martha Gellhorn, Ladies' Home Journal, Jan. 67, p. 108. See also Wm. F. Pepper, Ramparts, Jan. 67; R. E. Perry, M.D., Redbook, Jan. 67; Robert Sherrod, Life, Jan. 27, 67; or David McLanahan, Sat. Review, Mar. 25, 67.
" `If they weren't V.C. what were they doing out of their area?' an American colonel justified (an air strike). He was from Denver. What was he doing out of his area ?"Nelson Algren, The Critic, Feb-Mar. 67, p. 24.
"It is our policy to bomb military targets only."Lyndon Johnson, Mar. 15, 67, DS Bull, Apr. 3, p. 536.
"The Air Force was dropping a variety of CBU's (cluster bomb units)-anti-personnel devices that explode over a large area, hurling shrapnel and even droplets of jellied napalm that sears into the flesh and cannot be rubbed off. The jelly must be cut out quickly with a knife."UPI, Albuquerque Journal, June 12, 66. p. A-1.
"The FACs (forward air controllers) favor CBUs for `recon by fire' missions. They call in a fighter to cruise along a highway or canal, dropping CBUs . . . If you see people break out and run in front of the plane, you've officially flushed some VC. You then call in a Huey or two and wipe them out...
"Another FAC . . . had been ordered to direct artillery against a village because `three VC were reported there this morning.' He got over the village, he said, and looked down and all he could see were men, women and children walking around. He radioed back to the Arvins (Army of South Vietnam) . . . and told them he didn't see anybody who resembled a VC but that there were civilians in the village. Did the province chief really want this place hit? They radioed back that the province chief did, and to send the coordinates."Frank Harvey (in the Mekong delta), Flying, Nov. 66, pp. 54-57.
"...this fighting could be brought to an end very quickly indeed-very quickly indeed if the North Vietnamese were prepared to keep their armed forces at home and leave their immediate neighbors alone in Laos and South Viet-Nam. It's just as simple as that."Sec. Rusk, Jan. 31, 67, DS Bull, Feb. 20, p. 275.
But 90 to 95% of the people we have killed or wounded in South Vietnam have been southerners. Some of the most devastating U.S. "search-and-destroy" operations in 1967 were carried out in the Mekong Delta and the "Iron Triangle" to destroy native South Vietnamese resistance.
U.S. statistics indicated more than half a million "enemy" killed, wounded, or captured from 1960 through June 1967 (plus civilian casualties). Yet Sec. McNamara's estimates of North Vietnamese soldiers entering the South during this period totaled at most about 110,000, of which 60,000 were still active. Compare Why Vietnam, p. 20; NYT, Feb. 8, 67, p. 2; and J. T. Wheeler (AP), Albuq. Jour., July 9, 67, p. A-5.
"The four villages-Bensuc, Rachbap, Bungcong, and Rachkien-have in fact already ceased to exist. As they left, weeping, many of the women saw their homes put to the torch or bulldozed flat . . . `I was very poor in my village, but I didn't mind that,' said Mrs. Le Thi Tau, 24, who is pregnant with her second child. `I wanted to stay. Last week the fish-shaped planes flew over our fields. My husband didn't know what they were. He stood up and they shot him down and killed him. I wish I had stayed and got killed, too...' ".Tom Buckley, Jan. 15, 67, NYT, Jan. 16, p. 9. For a more complete account of this operation, "Cedar Falls," see Jonathan Schell, The New Yorker, July 15, 67, pp. 28 ff.
"As battle rages, we will continue as best we can to help the good people of South Vietnam enrich the condition of their life..."Lyndon Johnson, July 28, 65, Why Vietnam, p. 7.
What do the Vietnamese Want?
"... in Vietnam we are there to help the people and their Government to help themselves ... The United States would never undertake the sacrifice these efforts require if its help were not wanted and requested."Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 12, 65, NYT, Aug. 13, p. 1.
"...the military junta in Saigon would not last a week without American bayonets to protect it."Neil Sheehan, NYT Magazine, Oct. 9, 66, p. 140. This may be an exaggeration. Diem apparently lasted ten days.
"We find ourselves supporting a government of mandarins with little basis of popular support, fighting for an army that has little inclination to do its own fighting."Robert Sherrod, Life, Jan. 27, 67, p. 24.
"Desertions from the South Vietnamese army are running at the rate of 10,000 a month and are expected to total more than 400,000 by the end of the year."Peter Arnett (AP), Albuquerque Jour., Sept. 17, 67, p. A-1. See also Jim Lucas (S-H), Albuq. Trib., Oct. 13, 66, p. F-5.
"I believe it is better to give to the American troops more of the mission of heavy fighting and more to the Vietnamese troops the mission of pacification."Pres.-elect Thieu, Sept. 10, 67, AP, Albuq. Jour., Sept. 11, p. A-1.
"A survey of public opinion in South Vietnam . . . reported yesterday that 81% of those questioned want peace above all else. Only 4% listed victory over communism . . . The poll was organized by the Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton . . . for the Columbia Broadcasting System..."AP, Gazette & Daily (York, Pa.), Mar. 22, 67. The result on this question was censored from the Saigon Post (Mar. 23, p. 1) and voluntarily omitted by most U.S. papers.
"Administration claims 5,188 South Vietnamese hamlets, with a population of eight million, are now under government control . . . But among the eight million, not all are friendly or even fully `pacified.' U.S. officials put them in three categories: friendly (201 hamlets with 600,200 population), pacified (1,895 with four million people), and protected (3,092 with 3.5 million)." (Emphasis added.)S-H weekly size-up. Albuq. Trib., Nov. 18, 67, p. A-1.
"If this is simply invasion from the North, why do we have to `pacify' its victims in the South? Who ever heard of having to placate a people saved from aggression? Did we have to pacify Paris after driving the Germans out?"I. F. Stone's Weekly, May 8, 67, p. 4.
Commitment and Escalation
"Three Presidents-President Eisenhower, President Kennedy, and your present President--over 11 years, have committed themselves and have promised to help defend this small and valiant nation."Lyndon Johnson, July 28, 65, Why Vietnam, p. 5.
"There is going to be no involvement of America in war unless it is a result of the constitutional process that is placed upon Congress to declare it. Now let us have that clear."President Eisenhower, Mar. 10, 54, NYT, Mar. 11, p. 1.
"Under Eisenhower 700 military advisers were sent to Vietnam . . . Although Dulles and Admiral Radford wanted Eisenhower to save the French at Dienbienphu in 1954, Eisenhower refused. He considered the French position already lost, did not relish sending Americans to Vietnam to save and prolong the French colonial regime."Parade, Dec. 26, 65, p. 2, Alb. Jour. See also Chalmers M. Roberts, The Reporter, Sept. 14, 54. In Gettleman, pp. 96-105.
"Some others are eager to enlarge the conflict. They call upon us to supply American boys to do the job that Asian boys should do. They ask us to take reckless action which might risk the lives of millions . . . Moreover, such action would offer no solution at all to the real problem of Viet-Nam . . . Our firmness at moments of crisis has always been matched by restraint-our determination by care . . . and I pledge you that it will be so as long as I am your President."Lyndon Johnson (the peace candidate), Aug. 12, 64, DS Bull, Aug. 31, pp. 299, 300.
Then, after winning the election, Mr. Johnson escalated the war and said that the voters had given him "a direction" and that he had been "chosen by the American people to decide:"
"It was only 20 months ago that the people of America held a great national election and the people of 44 states of this union. . . gave me a direction and voted me a majority for the Presidency of this country . . . there is only one that has been chosen by the American people to decide."Lyndon Johnson, June 30, 66, Vital Speeches of the Day, July 15, p. 582. This portion not in DS Bull, July 25, p. 119.
But it is now known that President Johnson had already planned the escalation of the war, even while he was denouncing Senator Goldwater as "reckless:"
In May 1964, Rep. Melvin R. Laird (R., Wise.) revealed that Sec. of State Rusk had informed him of plans to carry the war to the North. Johnson gave a circuitous denial: "I know of no plans that have been made to that effect."NYT, June 3, 64, pp. 3 and 25.
The testimony of Aug. 6, 1964 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the Tonkin Gulf resolution was finally released-heavily censored-by the Administration on Nov. 24, 1966. Even what was left gives a fair idea of the planning and provocation which preceded the alleged Tonkin Gulf incident.See I. F. Stone's Weekly, Dec. 5, 66, pp. 3, 4.
And, on Nov. 1, 1967, President Johnson admitted that as early as May 1964 he was considering the desirability of asking Congress "to join with us in deterring aggression."NYT, Nov. 2, p. 16. For earlier evidence see Charles Roberts, LBJ's Inner Circle, Delacorte, 1965, pp. 20-22; and NYT editorial, May 20, 66, p. 46.
Toward War with China?"A hostile China must be discouraged from aggression."Lyndon Johnson, July 12, 66, DS Bull, Aug. 1, p. 161.
We have 500,000 troops in Vietnam. But (thus far) the Chinese have sent none and are not preparing to do so:
"I can tell you that we do not have present indication that they (the Chinese) are disposing their forces for a significant intervention in these border areas."Sec. of State Rusk, Sept. 10, 67, DS Bull, Oct. 2, p. 415.
Of course "if 500,000 Communist Chinese troops were within 400 miles of the borders of the United States, say, in the southern part of Mexico or somewhere in Canada, and they started moving toward the borders of our country, we certainly would react very strongly, without worrying too much about whether we were wrong or right."Sen. Thruston Morton (R. Ky.), May 15, 67, CR, p. S 6849.
"A misguided China must be encouraged toward understanding of the outside world and toward policies of peaceful cooperation."Lyndon Johnson, July 12, 66, DS Bull, Aug. 1, p. 161.
"Two U.S. Navy jets were shot down Monday over China as American airplanes raided within six miles of Hanoi . . . The Pentagon announcement. . . was the fifth admission this year that U.S. planes might have intruded into Red Chinese air space."UPI, Albuquerque Journal, Aug. 22, 67, p. A-1.
Question. "The President has now directed planes to bomb targets within seconds of the most populous nation on earth. Do you think that the President should seek authorization of the Congress to undertake such provocation to run such risk of war between the largest industrial nation and the most populous nation in the world?"
Under Sec. of State Katzenbach: "No."Nicholas Katzenbach, Aug. 17, 67, NYT, Aug. 18, p. 14.
"(Congress was) given specific assurance that the Tonkin Gulf resolution was not intended to grant the unlimited sanction which, stretched to their ultimate, the words could be taken to convey . . . For the President to take advantage of the restraint and responsibility of Congress in this situation has been, I think, highly irresponsible."Sen. Clifford Case (R., N.J.), CR, Sept. 26, 67, p. S 13599.
"As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war."Lyndon Johnson, Aug. 5, 64, urging adoption of the "Tonkin Gulf' resolution, DS Bull, Aug. 24, p. 262.
"Your daddy may go down in history as having started World War III ... You may not wake up tomorrow."Lyndon Johnson, June 29, 66, to daughter Luci after ordering the first raids close to the heart of Hanoi and Haiphong, Wash. Post, May 12, 67, p. C-1. Also NYT, May 13, p. 1.