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I am very proud and honored to bring you a Story about "VOICES OF THE ANITWAR MOVEMENT."  I hope you enjoy it!


By:Victor Davis Hanson
Without quick victory, opposition to war usually arises. Civic dissent results when conflicts drag on, offer no apparent resolution or clear purpose, and become especially bloody - the Athenian-Spartan deadlock during the 27-year Peloponnesian War, for instance, and the stalemate on the Western Front in 1916 and 1917 that ruined a generation of Europen youth. In this context, the American antiwar movement's role in opposing U.S. involvement in Vietnam, was not at first unusual. 
The complexity of America's task in Vietnam was daunting from the onset: repel communist aggression, create and preserve the foundations of consensual government in South Vietnam, and somehow avoid drawing either communist China or the Soviet Union into the conflict. The latter powers were formidable - equipped with nuclear missiles, enjoying vast numerical superiority in the theater, and supplying their clients with sophisticated weapons and highly trained advisers. Practical difficulties were just as challenging. While relying on a largely conscripted army during the greatest period of domestic racial, gender and class upheaval in some 50 years, the U.S. military was asked to wage a limited war 7,000 miles away. Fighting was to take place in cities and on difficult terrain, against adversaries who were often indistinguishable from civilians and sometimes showed allegiance to both sides. Our enemies, it should be noted, galvanized support not on the slogans of their own adherence to communism and authoritarianism but disingenuously through calls for Western ideas of freedom and liberty. Quite unlike most great powers of the past, America had little interest in appropriating foreign land or treasure. Indeed, our ultimate - and often naive - goals were to foster consensual, American-style government where it had not existed before, and thereby allow the Vietnamese to live free of communist totalitarianism that had engulfed hundreds of millions on the country's borders. Given both the strategic constraints and limited objectives, American soldiers were not customarily asked to take and hold ground, occupy enemy cities or invade the north, the source of the aggression.
Instead, our troops were there simply to resist those who sought to impose their will on others. Containment, not conquest, was the order of the day. At best, we envisioned life support for something like a democratic and capitalist Japan - at worst, another independent though authoritarian South Korea or Taiwan that in theory could eventually evolve into a liberal society if protected against communist aggression. If initially the United States reacted clumsily to such baffling challenges, it began by early 1968 to achieve a series of important military victories. After the failed communist Tet offensive of winter 1968, America - for all practical purposes - destroyed the Viet Cong network in the south for more than a year. American military forces also inflicted a crushing military defeat on North Vietnamese regulars when nearly 50,000 of the enemy perished in the bloody battles at Khe Sanh and Hue. Tens of thousands more were wounded or missing. The controversial and occasionally mismanaged Phoenix program, which targeted enemy operatives among civilian cadres, nevertheless had disrupted and demoralized communist agents and infiltrators. A new, more accurate and sophisticated American bombing campaign that culminated in 1972 and 1973 - aimed at conventional communist invasion forces and strategic command and control in North Vietnam - essentially ended large-scale communist aggression from the north altogether.
INFLUENTIAL MINORITY. Despite the corruption of the struggling South Vietnam government, American military and economic aid - coupled with land reform and political liberalization - had persuaded most South Vietnamese they could sustain a viable anti-communist government. And so by 1973, an exasperated North Vietnam was mostly ready for a cease-fire. The war appeared to be over. The Vietnam quagmire had evolved into a Korean-like armistice, enforced by fear of American bombing should the communists renege on agreements. Yet less than two years later, after a series of treaty violations, the north invaded the south and unified the country. A weary United States concluded it could do no more in the aftermath of the Nixon Watergate scandals. A sophisticated, mature antiwar movement had, at last, convinced an influential minority of Americans that defeat was preferable to continue and costly resistance. Throughout the war, there was, of course, room for legitimate criticism of such a difficult and controversial mission, one that American military and civilian planners themselves had not fully grasped for years - perhaps not even until 1969, when Gen. Creighton Abrams' aggressive steps to refashion operational strategy began to show real success. Skeptics inside the military finally saw litle point to search-and-destroy missions and complained that only 15 percent of more than 500,000 American troops deployed in country were actual combat soldiers.
Realists, in turn, wondered whether Vietnam was properly in the sphere of American strategic interests. Other conservatives sometimes voiced worries that we were spreading American forces too thin, thus endangering Europe, Japan and South Korea. They added that China and Russia were themselves sometimes each other's enemies, casting doubt about the supposed worldwide dangers should dominos fall to communism in Southeast Asia. On the other hand, principled liberals complained that bombing in the south was on occasion indiscriminate and callous. The New York Tiimes and The Washington Post ran continual reports that a succession of South Vietnamese governments had proved venal, and after years of American support seemed to grow more dependent on, rather than appreciative of, American support. Such a conundrum played itself out in the American political arena. In 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson chose not to seek a second term. The resignation of a series of administration officials followed. The George McGovern peace candidacy of 1972 advocated unilateral withdrawal. In reaction, the Senate passed several resolutions curtailing American military options and aid. Peaceful protests and moratoriums were near-daily events, even as Vietnamization accelerated and American soldiers systematically began to come home. The nation, in other words, struggled to find either peace at any price or a negotiated settlement with honor. Liberals favored the former, conservatives the latter.
ANTI-AMERICAN AGENDA. Quite apart from this legitimate national debate over both the moral and practical nature of the American involvement, a hysterical antiwar movement arose that united traditional leftists, socialists and communists with students and young American radicals on university campuses. The goal of such a loosely coordinated group was not merely a change in American policy or even the withdrawal of American forces, but rather a clear preference for a North Vietnamese victory and the unification of the country under a communist government - and perhaps a similar revolution here in the United States. In other words, a large group of Americans actively worked for the defeat of their own troops in the field, whom they saw as agents of a destructive capitalism and imperialism. Soon the movement tried to advance a serious intellectual critique that might transcend the spread of Weatherman terrorist bombings and Students for a Democratic Society thuggery on the streets. Its zeal, however, remained marred by flagrant untruths about the war and a visceral anti-Americanism. Protesters claimed that Ho Chi Minh was a modern-day Lincoln who turned to violence only after he had been thwarted in the 1956 elections by American machinations. In fact, "Uncle Ho" was a hard-core communist dictator whose cadres decades before the Americans arrived had driven a million refugees south, suppressed all dissidents and murdered as many as 100,000 during forced land collectivization. Beginning with the 1954 partition of the country - when nine of 10 refugees headed south, not north - until the 1976 "election" when 99.98 percent of the "electorate" voted for a communist-unified government, the North Vietnamese had proved themselves ruthless in suppressing dissent - again, long before, as well as after, American intervention. Critics as diverse as Noam Chomsky and Martin Luther King Jr. claimed that America had waged a war similar to Nazi Germany's - an unintended, though prescient, evocation of Hitler's methods, since after 1975 more than 2 million Vietnamese fled the communist takeover, perhaps more than 100,000 perishing in transit in leaky boats and through starvation. As one communist official admitted to Stanley Karnow, "Open the doors and everyone would leave overnight." Indeed, more civilian Southeast Asians died after 1975 - through failed escape attempts, the holocaust in Cambodia, executions of political prisoners, starvation in re-education camps and ethnic cleansing of Chinese - than during the entire decade of American involvement. The antiwar mythologies central to the movement involved every aspect of the war. Critics claimed we had poisoned the Vietnamese countryside and starved peasants. In fact, only 10 percent of the countryside was subject to the spraying of chemical defoliants where 3 percent of the population lived. In contrast, thanks to imported American agricultural techniques, rice production soared by 1971 to 6.1 million metric tons - the largest harvest in South Vietnam's history. Under American pressure, 2 million acres of farmland were redistributed to some 400,000 family farmers.
Stories of military incompetence, general chaos and near-insurrection were standard television fare, but hardly accurate characterizations of soldiers at large. Incidents of drug use in Vietnam, while worrisome, were no higher than among similarly aged civilians. Blacks and Hispanics did not die in inordinate numbers but suffered losses almost precisely at percentages that reflected their proportion of the American population. Indeed, 86 percent of all battle dead were listed as Caucasian. True, regional and class distortions did exist in the terrible American sacrifice, but not of the type that affluent campus portestors wished to publicize: white, southern enlisted men from the middle and lower classes died in numers not commensurate with their demographic profiles. Nor were tens of thousands of crazed veterans traumatized for life, purportedly in shame and depression over fighting a dirty war. In fact, 97 percent of veterans were granted honorable discharges. Despite hysterical accounts and melodramatic television shows and movies, Vietnam combat veterans showed no higher incidence of mental illness than did the general population. Nor did they experience bouts of permanent psychological trauma at rates higher than those found among World War II or Korean veterans, despite being subject to a much more complex combat experience with far less domestic support and encouragement.
No matter. Critics escalated their attacks with rhetoric that increasingly was near treasonous. Allen Ginsberg, the newbeat poet, wrote "Let the Viet Cong win over the American army! And if it were my wish, we'd lose and our will be broken and our armies scattered." Journalist David Dillinger claimed the North Vietnamese did not torture POWs, at least not in comparison to the U.S. government: "The only verified torture associated with the American prisoners held by the North Vietnamese is the torture of prisoners' families by the State Department, Pentagon and the White House." Stanley hoffman wrote in The New Republic that the communist victory of 1975 was "an important lesson" to Americans since "a collectivist society was likely to produce greater welfare and security for its people" - and "at a cost in freedom that affects a small elite." Nor did antiwar activists limit their efforts to public pronouncements. Hundreds visited Hanoi in the very midst of the fighting and used their trips to issue propaganda statements and live broadcasts, misrepresenting the effects of American bombing and the status of American POWs. Activist Anne Weills summed up best the feeling in a later reflection: "You should understand that it was considered a great honor to be able to go to Vietnam, for us in the antiwar movement, and to meet Mme. Binh in Paris(who led the communist delegation)." Writer Susan Sontag came from Hanoi gushing that communist North Vietnam deserved "to be idealized."
POSTBELLUM MYTHMAKING. While some veteran protestors, like Jane Fonda - who named her son Troi(later changed to Troy)after a North Vietnamese saboteur and issued statements calling for an American defeat - have subsequently expressed some remorse, many have not, and indeed persist in their postbellum mythmaking and unapologetic support for the Vietnamese communists. Chomsky, who visited Hanoi in 1970, still claimed well after the war that the United States started the conflict and had waged genocide thoughout: "We attack a country, we kill several million people, we wipe the place out." Some academics remained even more unrepentant than Chomsky. In an article titled "Rembembering the Tet Offensive," David Hunt waxed eloquent about the surprise holiday attack on American soldiers. "More generally, the Tet Offensive made a powerful contribution to the rebuilding of some sort of socialist presence in the United States," he wrote. "Carried along by the momentum of their endeavor, we wanted to be associated with the Vietnamese revolutionaries and to figure out how our newly discovered vision of 'power to the people' might be realized here in the United States." It is hard to calibrate the exact effect of propaganda on military operations, but North Vietnamese and American veterans both later claimed the visits of Fonda, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and others to Hanoi, coupled with the constant domestic criticism of the war effort, directly affected morale and the conduct of the campaign itself. Gen. Giap, in a series of postbellum interviews, confessed that the North Vietnamese were ready to cease aggression under the weight of the 1972 and 1973 bombing campaigns. He then directly associated the reprieve with the welcome efforts of the radical antiwar movement. Indeed, he told French television that his most important guerrilla ally during the war was the American press. The Vietnam News Agency as early as 1966 wrote, "We praise the American peace champions. The movement of the American people to protest against the war of aggression has really become the second front against the U.S. imperialists." Another communist official, Bui Tinh, claimed that Fonda's Hanoi visits, press releases and much-publicized photo-ops in enemy batteries had helped the communists "to hold on in the face of battlefield reverses."Snap appraisals by journalists and reporters often mischaracterized the actual military situation on the ground. Tet was a stunning U.S. military victory but was reported back home as an American setback, prompting Walter Cronkite to announce to millions of Americans that the war simply could not be won. Communist atrocities such as the murder of more than 3,000 innocents at Hue went unmentioned. President Richard M. Nixon's bombing campaigns of late 1972 proved as effective in thwarting North Vietnamese aggression as American cessation of support in 1974 and 1975 was in encouraging communist resurgence. But after Watergate and years of protests - in December 1972, The Washington Post ran headlines such as "Terror Bombing in the Name of Peace," while The Boston Globe blared "The Reign of Death Continues" - many Americans began to hope the entire Vietnam mess would just go away. As to the nature of the radical antiwar movement, fear of the draft in itself does not entirely explain the vehemence of the protests nor does the undeniable prominence in the ranks of Old Left Trotskyites and Stalinists. Of more interest were the class and educational faultiness that slowly emerged. Few working-class children flocked to demonstrations; likewise, rural people were less likely to oppose the war than those in New York or San Francisco. Nixon's much-caricatured silent majority, in fact, reflected a blue-collar nation that entertained a visceral dislike of commnism and even well until the early 1970s felt victory in Vietnam was both possible and critical to check communist adventurism elsewhere. In contrast, among a largely upper-middle-class elite, Vietnam became a rallying cry for an entire social and cultural agenda that often sought to portray the United States as a rogue imperialist nation, one that practiced deep class, gender and racial oppression. In this view, the United States alone was seen as responsible for much of the world's misery - not the Soviet Union that in 1968 brutally invaded Czechoslovakia, nor communist China that had recently butchered millions of its own people during the Cultural Revolution of the early 1960s. Ironically, the very success of the quarter-century-old Cold War in checking communist aggression had allowed a new generation the luxury of forgetting the Berlin Airlift or the invasion of South Korea and Hungary, and thus in its security and bliss, of fancying that communists, like the North Vietnamese, were not all that different from European socialists, or even American leftists who called for massive government action to refashion American society along more egalitarian lines. And for the less political, opposition to the war became more a cultural brotherhood or perhaps even a youthful rite of passage than an ideology - as Pavlovian as long hair, rock music and the easy use of drugs.
Radically changed social and economic conditions in the 1960s explain much as well. The Great Depression was a distant memory. Millions of youth instead came of age in the booming economy of the 1960s and suddenly found it possible to travel and take time off from school without the drudgery of constant work - an ethic enhanced by parents who wished their children something better than they had known in the 1930s and 1940s. An enormous expansion of the university, massive influxes of federal dollars into education and generous tenure all contrubuted to the rise of a new professorate that had the numbers, time and money to take to heart its vision of a new education - one that sought not merely to impart knowledge or practice disinterested inquity, but rather to insist on radical remedies for perceived social injustice. What can we learn from the dark years of the Vietnam protests? A small minority of Americans remains profoundly pacifistic, whether on pilosophical or religious grounds. Willfully ignoring the past utility of war to free slaves, dismantle Nazism, end Japanese fascism and hold back Soviet totalitarianism, such citizens practice a funny sort of morality that views sin only as the commission of war, never as the disavowal of force that allows wrong to continue. Thus, it was supposedly immoral to bomb a murderous communist elite in Hanoi, but moral to stand by and allow millions to be butchered in Cambodia and sent into camps and exile from Vietnam. Wealth, security and faith in the therapeutic culture also have contributed to insulating millions of Americans from past fears of hunger, disease and bodily injury. Rarely at work or in their upscale neighborhoods do such privileged utopians encounter physical danger or criminals, and so are led to think that our nation's enemies are either misguided, uneducated or in need of mediation, rather than simply aggressive evildoers who cannot be reasoned with, but only defeated. Fonda and Chomsky in their daily sheltered lives quite literally had never quite encountered somone like a North Vietnamese Stalinist with two decades worth of murder to his credit. Others still did not like America in the raw and opposed it in near-automatic fashion. Yet most often, such an unhappy group in universities, the arts and the media - then and now - purportedly left as imperialisic, corporate or exploitative. But in fact, its sneers inevitably are minifested as reactionary dismissals of the less-educated popular culture of Wal-Mart, NASCAR, McDonald's and video games - the new opiates of the supposed unthinking masses. Much of intellectuals' criticism of America, then, is in fact attributable to the snobbery and biases of their class. In the nearly three decades since the fall of Vietnam, these minority factions have not been able to unite to repeat their Vietnam-era success in appealing to millions of Americans to oppose the use of force in Kuwait, Panama, Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq. In the post-Cold War age of a professional army, such recent conflicts were waged against facists such as Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Slobodan Milsevic and the Taliban - not communists who claimed egalitarianism as their creed. And they were short and economical in terms of casualties and treasure, and so threatened neither a conscripted youth nor our economy. But should we ever again find ourselves in a long war that is either costly or waged against purported leftists, the ghosts of Vietnam will surely haunt us again.

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Shirley Ruth Caron * 1221A Community Place * Indianapolis, IN 46227