Posts tagged ‘Vietnam’

10/21/2012

McGovern 1972: Better Man on Vietnam

Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic candidate for President, passed away today, and he should remembered and honored now for his courageous opposition to the Vietnam War.

McGovern was a combat veteran who enlisted in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and flew 35 missions over Europe, where was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Upon receiving a Phd. in history from Northwestern University, he won a House seat in South Dakota, and later became a U.S. Senator.

McGovern was an intelligent man, who understood most conflict in the second half of the 20th Century was against French, British, Dutch, and Portuguese colonial rule, and not a part of some grand Communist conspiracy to conquer the world. Yes, the insurgents got their guns from the Soviets, but this was only because they couldn’t get them from their colonial masters in Western Europe.

McGovern studied French colonialism, which started in Vietnam in 1843. He knew their modern Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, was a Nationalist, who after WWI petitioned for self-determination. He followed what happened during and after WWII, and was aware Roosevelt’s Office of Strategic Services had funded and trained Ho’s forces to resist the Japanese occupation, beginning in 1944. McGovern never forgot that as Ho declared independence in 1945, U.S. Agents were with him.

The Senator knew President Truman misread the situation in 1950 when he sent aid and advisors to help colonial France in response to Ho’s declaration his government was the only legitimate one.

McGovern knew President Eisenhower and Vice-President Nixon erred as to their Vietnam policies. Following the 1952 election, Nixon advocated direct U.S. intervention to bail out the French Army, but Ike sent more aid and Air Force personnel to provide additional technical assistance. By 1953, the Eisenhower-Nixon team was subsidizing 80% of France’s war. Sec. of State John Foster Dulles ramped up the anti-Communist hysteria, saying in 1954, if Vietnam fell, the rest of Asia would fall like dominoes. After a 55-day siege at Dien Bien Phu in 1954, the French Army surrendered and finally withdrew from Vietnam.

McGovern knew conservatives in the U.S. misconstrued the end to colonial rule as a step towards global communism. They made the major mistake of dividing North and South Vietnam at the 17th Parallel, under the Geneva Accords of 1954, an error that would not be corrected until 1975, by the Vietnamese themselves.

McGovern correctly saw the Vietnam War as a civil war, between the North, led by Ho, and the South, ruled by Diem. He knew Diem used rigged elections to maintain power from 1955 onward.

McGovern would not have increased the number of advisors in Vietnam from 700 to 3,000 in 1961, to 11,000 in 1962, or to 16,000 in 1963, when Diem and then Kennedy were assassinated.

After American ships falsely claimed they were attacked in 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving President Johnson the authority to wage the American War in Vietnam (1964-73). This caused McGovern distance himself from Johnson and to become more critical. While Johnson pledged to stay until the Vietnamese were defeated, McGovern correctly accepted Ho’s statement that peace would only come when the U.S. withdrew.

McGovern heard Richard Nixon say in 1968 he had a secret plan to end the War in Vietnam. But instead of withdrawing promptly, Nixon tried to win the war, by slowly de-escalating the 543,000 men who were stationed there. His withdrawal was in fact so slow Ho would die before it was completed. Nixon still had 475,000 troops in Vietnam in 1970, when he broadened the conflict into neighboring Cambodia. In Jan. 1971, 234,000 men remained, as Nixon re-escalated into another neighbor Laos, causing the Vietnam Vets against the War, led by John Kerry, to throw their medals away at the Capitol.

McGovern ran against Nixon, because there were still 156,000 men in Vietnam on Jan. 1, 1972. That spring, as the North and the Viet Cong launched an offensive, Nixon ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, and resumed the bombing of North Vietnam, following a 3½-year moratorium. When McGovern told the American people it was a mistake to have gone to war, or to stay, he was telling them something they didn’t want to hear. At that time, most were not even close to admitting their country had been wrong. Just before the Nov. 1972 election, Nixon’s Sec. of State announced Peace is at hand, sealing McGovern’s defeat.

Six weeks after the deceptive pre-election statement that peace was at hand, in Dec. 1972, Nixon resumed an unnecessary full-scale “Christmas Bombing” in Vietnam, before ultimately settling for the same terms they could have had years earlier, including a release of prisoners. More than two years after the Paris Peace Accords were signed on Jan. 27, 1973, the North finally sweep into Saigon in April 1975, and reunited the country, prompting President Ford to declare: “America is no longer at war.”

In the final analysis, McGovern knew there was no good reason for 58,183 Americans to die in Vietnam, or for thousands more to sustain permanent injuries. He was equally as certain there was no justification in killing roughly 2 million Vietnamese. McGovern was clearly the better candidate in 1972, and he will be missed.

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12/07/2011

Romney: Weak Foreign Policy President

Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, like George W. Bush, would be another weak foreign policy President, since he is not going to stand up to the special interests, but will instead continue the War in Afghanistan, and perhaps start another conflict in Iran, or in some other place the Israelis want us to deploy our troops.

VIETNAM: Romney, who is not a military veteran, would freely send the children of others into combat, even though he did not serve. Born in 1947, he came of age in 1965, just as the War in Vietnam was escalating. He was exposed to the draft throughout the war. He first obtained a 2-S student deferment, as a freshman at Stanford (1965-66). He then used Mormon missionary exemptions, while in France, from July 1966 through Jan. 1969. Curiously, he stayed in Europe, out of the reach of his local draft board, for a half year beyond his normal two-year Mormon hitch, which should have ended in July 1968. Upon returning to the U.S. in Jan. 1969, he added more deferments, by promptly enrolling at Brigham Young University, and by getting married on March 21, 1969. In the first military draft lottery, held in Dec. 1969, he luckily drew number 300. After finishing at Brigham Young in May 1971, the hawkish Mitt could have enlisted, but he played it safe, by enrolling at Harvard Law School. By the time the U.S. War in Vietnam ended, and the draft was abolished in 1973, he had successfully avoided military service for 8 continuous years.

ISRAEL: Romney sounds weak, like George W. Bush, because he would allow others to control our foreign policy. Not surprisingly, he said his first foreign policy trip would be to Israel. Although Israel continues to illegally construct settlements in occupied Palestine, Romney panders, claiming it’s wrong to criticize them.

MILITARY: Romney wants to appear tough, like John Wayne, by also pandering to the military.  He said in no uncertain terms he will not cut any defense spending, even though it is a major source of our national budget deficit. He seeks military support by complaining about proposed cuts for the F-22, Air Force bombers, and delays in new Navy aircraft carriers and cruisers, but he irresponsibly never suggests raising taxes to pay for these things.

FOREIGN AID: While Romney would somehow find money for guns, he has nothing for butter. He said we spend more on foreign aid than we should, and we should let China do it, because he said it makes no sense to borrow from China, to give aid to others.

ASSASSINATION: Romney incorrectly thinks it is legal for a President to order the death of Americans suspected of terrorism. He said if an individual allies himself with a group that declared war on the U.S., and bears arms, it is fair to simply execute them.

AFGHANISTAN: Although the U.S. has been in Afghanistan for 10 years, Romney cowardly fails to show any courage, by refusing to pledge a withdrawal, at any time before 2014. He instead promises to defer to the generals and conditions on the ground, code for staying indefinitely. He uses slogans from the Vietnam Era, like we cannot “cut and run,” or withdraw precipitously. The truth of course is we can, if we just did it. It would be easy. While Romney said he will not deal with the Taliban, because he does not negotiate with terrorists, he contradicts himself by saying the Afghans are now free of the Taliban, due to our efforts. Romney dupes unknowing Americans into believing we need to “train” Afghan Security Forces, as if they are utterly stupid, and learned nothing over the past 10 years.

PAKISTAN: Romney wants to make sure Pakistan allows us to go after the Taliban and Haqqani Network, but laments that only 12% of Pakistanis approve of us. He admits we aren’t doing a good job. He thinks Pakistan is fragile, nearly a “failed state.”

IRAN: Romney believes it is unacceptable for Iran to develop nuclear power for energy purposes. He worries they would obtain a nuclear weapon, if Obama is re-elected, and thinks the President should have clearly said we will take military action to keep that from happening. Romney will do what Israel wants, by imposing crippling sanctions against Iran, even though the Iranians have done nothing to the U.S. While it is ok to support the dissidents who took to the streets, and to encourage regime change, if that fails, Romney would make the mistake of using our military to illegally intervene in the internal affairs of Iran.

SYRIA: Romney correctly supports the rebels fighting Syria’s dictatorship, and favors sanctions and covert action to bring down Assad, but instead of justifying his position on democratic principles, he unnecessarily links Syria to Iran. He seriously thinks Hezbollah is at work in Latin America. Get real Mitt.

SAUDI ARABIA: Instead of calling for the end of the absolute monarchy in Saudi Arabia, Romney, a weak person, says we should support the backward kingdom, because they support us.

EUROPE: Romney’s ability to speak French is a definite plus by global standards, but a skill that will certainly raise serious suspicion among Tea Party wing nuts. While Romney believes the Europeans should take care of their own problems, he contradicts himself by saying if the economies of the world were collapsing, he would take action. When asked about U.S. contributions to the International Monetary Fund used to help the Euro-Zone, he said the U.S. must focus of our own deficits, but then he contradicts himself saying we need to prevent a contagion from affecting U.S. banks. So, no one really knows what Romney thinks, or what he would do, except perhaps speak French while in France.

RUSSIA: In one debate, Romney sounded like he considered Russia an enemy, as he accused Obama of giving them what they wanted. It was a strange, because the Soviet Union dissolved 20 years ago, and we’ve been allied with Russia for many years now.

America would be better off with Obama, than a man willing to send others into battle, despite his own avoidance of the draft. Romney is far too eager to do what Israel wants. The U.S. needs a strong President, willing to resist the Israeli Lobby. We need to withdraw from Afghanistan, a place where our troops have no winnable mission. Yet Romney promises to stay. We need to avoid additional conflict in Iran, but again Romney is not man enough to keep us out. Romney should not become our leader, as he would be just another weak foreign policy President.

06/24/2011

Afghanistan Withdrawal Like Vietnam’s

Although I respect President Obama and would vote for him over any Republican, his schedule to withdraw from Afghanistan looks more like a political timetable, than anything connected to the reality on the ground, and it resembles Nixon’s Vietnam plan.

Richard Nixon was elected in 1968, based on a secret plan to end the War in Vietnam. At the start of President Johnson’s last full year in office, in Jan. 1968, the U.S. had 486,000 men in Vietnam. When Nixon was sworn in, he first increased troop strength from Jan. through April 1969, to a peak of 543,000, before starting a very slow de-escalation. By Jan. 1970, 475,000 boots were still on the ground and nearly as many as there were two years earlier.

Instead of just getting out of Vietnam immediately, as he implied in the 1968 campaign, Nixon broadened the war in April 1970, by conducting an invasion into neighboring Cambodia. That surge, if you will, accomplished nothing, but more death and destruction.

While Nixon told the American people in Jan. 1971, the U.S. was pulling out, the number of troops still stood at 234,000, two years after he took office. Instead of simply withdrawing, which is what most Americans wanted, Nixon re-escalated the war again in Feb. 1971, by backing a South Vietnamese invasion into Laos. Among other losses, that effort destroyed 89 U.S. helicopters and crews.

As of Jan. 1972, three years after Nixon was sworn in, the U.S. still had 156,000 troops in Vietnam. When the North Vietnamese launched an offensive across the DMZ in March 1972, instead of just letting it go, Nixon resumed the bombing of North Vietnam, which President Johnson had halted 3½ years earlier. Nixon then ordered the mining of Haiphong Harbor, in May 1972.

To insure a political victory, Nixon instructed Sec. of State Henry Kissinger to announce: “peace is at hand” in Oct., just before the Nov. 1972 election. This helped Nixon defeat Democratic Sen. George McGovern, a decorated WWII combat pilot. Once Nixon was in his second term, in Dec. 1972, he quickly resumed a vicious full-scale bombing campaign over Vietnam, known as the Christmas Bombings. Nixon finally gave up in Vietnam on Jan. 27, 1973, under the same terms he could have had 4 years earlier.

Two years later, after Nixon had resigned, the inevitable occurred on April 30, 1975 as the North reunited all of Vietnam and finally ended the conflict for the Vietnamese. President Ford acknowledged: “America is no longer at war,” on May 7, 1975.

Like Nixon, Obama gave the impression he would end the war, sooner than later. Under the recent plan however, it will take at least four years to get out of Afghanistan. Like Nixon, Obama increased troop strength, before starting to reduce it, a cleaver plan someone in the Pentagon must have dreamed up. Like Nixon’s incursion into Cambodia, Obama’s cross-over into Pakistan was without legal authority.

The Afghan withdrawal, scheduled to be done by Oct. 2012, is timed to insure victory in the Nov. 2012 election, just like Kissinger’s peace is at hand statement in Oct. 1972 was made to seal a win in Nov. 1972. The saddest part of the whole thing, is just like Nixon, Obama could have obtained the same result, if he had withdrawn immediately, upon taking office in Jan. 2009. The sad truth is we will not have gained anything but more body bags by staying another four years. The reality on the ground is we can never “win” in Afghanistan, no matter how long we stay. It was a lesson most Americans learned about 40 years ago already.

05/27/2011

Constitutional Power To Declare War

Is President Obama breaking the law by engaging in a military conflict in Libya, without first having a formal Declaration of War from Congress? Although the U.S., as a member of NATO, has been using military force in Libya since March 20, 2011, the Congress has not voted to approve or disapprove of the campaign.

The U.S. Constitution clearly gives Congress the power to declare war (Art. I Sec. 8). The President has only the power to act as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces (Art II, Sec. 2).

Congress last passed a formal Declaration of War in WWII, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor (1941). During the Vietnam War, the issue was hotly debated, because, young men were dying in a far away land, but Congress had not declared war. They instead passed a Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on Aug. 6, 1964, which gave President Johnson authority to use all necessary force.

When President Nixon expanded the war into Cambodia and Senators learned he had conducted a secret bombing campaign, the Congress passed the War Powers Act (1973), to stop the Executive Branch from engaging in unauthorized conflict. Under the law, the President is allowed to engage in military conflict without Congressional authority, only where there is an attack against the U.S., and only for a limited period of 60 days.

With respect to Libya, there was no attack on the U.S. and since the 60 days expired on May 20th, the Commander-in-Chief is violating the War Powers Act and Art I Sec. 8 of the Constitution.

The remedy lies in the Republican-controlled House. They clearly have the power to pass a law saying the President shall not engage in military action in Libya. If the President vetoed it, they could override, with a 66% vote. Since the House also controls all revenue bills (Art I, Sec. 7), and no money can be taken from the Treasury, except by appropriation made by law (Art I, Sec 9), the Congress clearly has the authority to defund the Libyan conflict.

As the North African war continues, and we move closer to the 2012 election, it should be remembered House Republicans tacitly approved of the Libyan fight. If the war goes bad and Republicans complain, they should be asked why they did not end it.

05/05/2011

Thailand’s Claim to Ancient Cambodia

Fighting broke out again last month along the frontier between Thailand (Siam) and Cambodia, over which country has the right to control certain ancient sites along their mutual border

The ancient areas were historically within the Kingdom of Siam. When Colonial France arrived, they took Cambodia (1863), and made it part of French-Indochina. As the French moved further inland, they pressured Siam to give up what is now western Cambodia, under the Franco-Thai Treaty (1904). A Boundary Commission set the border between Siam and Indochina (1904-07), and a Frenchman prepared a map that put the ancient sites in Cambodia, which they agreed to under a treaty protocol (1907). Cambodia thereafter owned the temples, pyramids and stone figures at Angkor Wat, the Preah Vihear Temple, and other sites.

When France surrendered in WWII (1940), Siam (now Thailand) invaded Cambodia in the Franco-Thai War (1940-41), and seized the ancient lands, but they had to give them back five years later, as France threatened to veto Thailand’s UN membership (1946).

After France surrendered in Vietnam (1954), they withdrew from Indochina, and Cambodia became independent. Thailand filled the void by sending troops to seize the ancient sites (1954), causing Cambodia to sue in the International Court of Justice (1959).

In Cambodia v Thailand (1962), the issue was whether the Preah Vihear Temple was inside of Thailand or Cambodia. Even though the French border map contained mistakes, and the Preah Vihear Temple should have been located on the Thai side of the border, the court found Thailand accepted the old map 50 years earlier, and ruled they were now barred from arguing otherwise.

International law has ruled upon the border, and even though Siam had the famous temples before the colonial French arrived, the world has lived by an international rule-of-law since WWII, and Thailand must now make every effort to keep the peace with Cambodia, by staying on their own side of the fence.