In September 1973, a former government official in Laos, Jerome Doolittle, wrote in The New York Times: “ …After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us”. For 11 years, the most powerful nation in the world made every effort to defeat a nationalist revolutionary movement in a tiny poor country, and failed.
The French had been trying to conquer take over long before, but they too had to withdraw at some point after fighting for long with no victory. The U.S., being the “Yankee imperialists” that we are, took it upon ourselves to help “protect the world” from communism. The Domino Theory developed in 1950, backed their beliefs by saying if one country in the surrounding area fell to communism, other would so the same, and the courageous Americans had to stop this. For 11 years this is what the public were told and believed. It was a patriotic act and was certainly justified in order to prevent the spread of communism. Why then were homes being burned and thousands of innocent civilians executed? Was there really a need for twice the amount of bombs used in Europe and Asia during World War II?
In August 1964, President Johnson used a ridiculous lie in order to launch a full-scale war on Vietnam. Johnson and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stated that the U.S. destroyer underwent an unprovoked attack while on routine control in international waters. A few lies here and there, leave out the important details, and you’ve got yourself a justified war. First, it was not a routine patrol because the ship was on a special spying mission. In addition, it was not in international waters, but in Vietnamese territorial waters. Lastly, how realistic is it to claim that a little gunboat fired upon a huge U.S. destroyer, and first world power? Pretty bad lie if you ask me. At this point, the Tonkin Resolution was passed giving the president power to be hostile and use any means necessary to fight back, without ever declaring it a war.
And use any means they did. They fired on military villages and the everyday poor villages. A Buddhist pagoda and Catholic Church was “accidentally” bombed 3 times in one year. Large areas of South Vietnam were declared “free fire zones” giving American the right to drop bombs at will, as this declaring everyone in those area, be it men, women, or children, the enemy. Three out of four patients treated for burns from the napalm were village women. “Operation Phoenix” secretly and without trial executed at least twenty thousand civilians who were suspected of being members of the Communist underground. Another incident on March 16, 1968 was another seemingly unnecessary action taken against these poor people. People who were shoved in a ditch were fired upon while mothers tried to save their children, and the men trying to save the mothers. But they would all die.
This news deeply affected the soldiers there. When it reached America, the government chose not to acknowledge it, while the people began protesting and having demonstrations against it, realizing what they were doing was wrong and was all lie. The first signs of opposition came out with the Civil Rights movement. Under the excuse that the government was fighting for their freedom from communism, the blacks thought it ridiculous to fight for the white man’s freedom while they themselves did not have their own. Students claimed that no black person should fight for a while mans freedom, until they had theirs back at home. Muhammad Ali, a black boxer and heavy weight champion, refused to fight in this war, and was then stripped of his championship title.
Was all this destruction and lack of moral really needed in order to “save the world” from communism? We didn’t get the title “Yankee Imperialists” for nothing. With Southeast Asia being the principle world source of natural runner ant tin, and a producer of petroleum, made it strategically necessary to have that land under the U.S. We had to have it. There was a lush climate, fertile soil, rich natural resources and it was stated that there was a relatively sparse population making it convenient for room to expand. The whole communist excuse was just a cover up. We wanted to expand and we would do, and did do everything to get what we wanted.
The next question you have to be asking yourself is why and how did we lose the Vietnam war? Eisenhower himself had to wonder why the poor Communist forces of Vietnam always had better morale then the democratic forces. General Maxwell Taylor reported in late 1964: “the ability of the Viet-Cong continuously to rebuild their units and to make good their losses is one of the mysteries of the guerrilla war… Not only do the Viet-Cong units have the recuperative powers of Phoenix, but they have an amazing ability to maintain morale. Only in rare cases, have we found evidences of bad morale among Viet-Cong prisoners or recorded in captured Viet-Cong documents’. Maybe he summed it perfectly. Maybe it was because there was no purpose or strategic idea in this whole thing. Yes we wanted to stop communism, and yes we wanted their resources and positioning, but if after 11 years of that kind of fighting and you don’t have what you went out for, then you must not know what you went looking for in the first place. Even after Nixon and South Vietnam signed the peace treaty, the bombing still went on, accomplishing nothing. With no real purpose of going in there, we never knew when to call it quits.
Paper written for a AP U.S. History 2 class about the Vietnam war.