There was a very interesting visitor to this webpage today, Dick Cheney's Halliburton Corp. I took this screenshot of my hitcounter:
THE U.S. INVASION OF VIETNAM
Herbert Hoover, later to become President of the United States did a study that showed that one of the world's largest oil fields ran along the coast of the South China Sea right off French Indo-China, now known as Vietnam.
- Denny, Ludwell, We Fight of Oil, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1928.
The truth about McCain and the Vietnam war.
Five-year-old Agent Orange victim Xuan Minh in Tu Du hospital, Ho Chi Minh City. US groups have announced plans to study Vietnam's wartime contamination with toxic defoliant Agent Orange and with millions of unexploded bombs and landmines(AFP/File)
"In late 1969 Seymour Hersh broke the story of the 1968 My Lai massacre, during which US troops slaughtered more than 500 civilians in Quang Ngai Province, far north of the Delta. Some months later, in May 1970, a self-described 'grunt' who participated in Speedy Express wrote a confidential letter to William Westmoreland, then Army chief of staff, saying that the Ninth Division's atrocities amounted to 'a My Lay each month for over a year.'"
Thursday 13 November 2008
by: Nick Turse, The Nation
By the mid-1960s, the Mekong Delta, with its verdant paddies and canal-side hamlets, was the rice bowl of South Vietnam and home to nearly 6 million Vietnamese. It was also one of the most important revolutionary strongholds during the Vietnam War. Despite its military significance, State Department officials were "deeply concerned" about introducing a large number of US troops into the densely populated area, fearing that it would be impossible to limit civilian carnage.
Yet in late 1968, as peace talks in Paris got under way in earnest, US officials launched a "land rush" to pacify huge swaths of the Delta and bring the population under the control of the South Vietnamese government in Saigon. To this end, from December 1968 through May 1969, a large-scale operation was carried out by the Ninth Infantry Division, with support from nondivision assets ranging from helicopter gunships to B-52 bombers. The offensive, known as Operation Speedy Express, claimed an enemy body count of 10,899 at a cost of only 267 American lives. Although guerrillas were known to be well armed, the division captured only 748 weapons.
In late 1969 Seymour Hersh broke the story of the 1968 My Lai massacre, during which US troops slaughtered more than 500 civilians in Quang Ngai Province, far north of the Delta. Some months later, in May 1970, a self-described "grunt" who participated in Speedy Express wrote a confidential letter to William Westmoreland, then Army chief of staff, saying that the Ninth Division's atrocities amounted to "a My Lai each month for over a year." In his 1976 memoir A Soldier Reports, Westmoreland insisted, "The Army investigated every case [of possible war crimes], no matter who made the allegation," and claimed that "none of the crimes even remotely approached the magnitude and horror of My Lai." Yet he personally took action to quash an investigation into the large-scale atrocities described in the soldier's letter.
I uncovered that letter and two others, each unsigned or signed only "Concerned Sergeant," in the National Archives in 2002, in a collection of files about the sergeant's case that had been declassified but forgotten, launching what became a years-long investigation. Records show that his allegations - of helicopter gunships mowing down noncombatants, of airstrikes on villages, of farmers gunned down in their fields while commanders pressed relentlessly for high body counts - were a source of high-level concern. A review of the letter by a Pentagon expert found his claims to be extremely plausible, and military officials tentatively identified the letter writer as George Lewis, a Purple Heart recipient who served with the Ninth Division in the Delta from June 1968 through May 1969. Yet there is no record that investigators ever contacted him. Now, through my own investigation - using material from four major collections of archival and personal papers, including confidential letters, accounts of secret Pentagon briefings, unpublished interviews with Vietnamese survivors and military officials conducted in the 1970s by Newsweek reporters, as well as fresh interviews with Ninth Division officers and enlisted personnel - I have been able to corroborate the sergeant's horrific claims. The investigation paints a disturbing picture of civilian slaughter on a scale that indeed dwarfs My Lai, and of a cover-up at the Army's highest levels. The killings were no accident or aberration. They were instead the result of command policies that turned wide swaths of the Mekong Delta into "free-fire zones" in a relentless effort to achieve a high body count. While the carnage in the Delta did not begin or end with Speedy Express, the operation provides a harsh new snapshot of the abject slaughter that typified US actions during the Vietnam War.
The Concerned Sergeant
An inkling that something terrible had taken place in the Mekong Delta appeared in a most unlikely source - a formerly confidential September 1969 Senior Officer Debriefing Report by none other than the commander of the Ninth Division, then Maj. Gen. Julian Ewell, who came to be known inside the military as "the Butcher of the Delta" because of his single-minded fixation on body count. In the report, copies of which were sent to Westmoreland's office and to other high-ranking officials, Ewell candidly noted that while the Ninth Division stressed the "discriminate and selective use of firepower," in some areas of the Delta "where this emphasis wasn't applied or wasn't feasible, the countryside looked like the Verdun battlefields," the site of a notoriously bloody World War I battle.
That December, a document produced by the National Liberation Front sharpened the picture. It reported that between December 1, 1968, and April 1, 1969, primarily in the Delta provinces of Kien Hoa and Dinh Tuong, the "9th Division launched an 'express raid'" and "mopped up many areas, slaughtering 3,000 people, mostly old folks, women and children, and destroying thousands of houses, hundreds of hectares of fields and orchards." But like most NLF reports of civilian atrocities, this one was almost certainly dismissed as propaganda by US officials. A United Press International report that same month, in which US advisers charged the division with having driven up the body count by killing civilians with helicopter gunships and artillery, was also largely ignored.
Then, in May 1970, the Concerned Sergeant's ten-page letter arrived in Westmoreland's office, charging that he had "information about things as bad as My Lai" and laying out, in detail, the human cost of Operation Speedy Express.
In that first letter, the sergeant wrote not of a handful of massacres but of official command policies that had led to the killings of thousands of innocents:Sir, the 9th Division did nothing to prevent the killing, and by pushing the body the count so hard, we were "told" to kill many times more Vietnamese than at My Lai, and very few per cents of them did we know were enemy....
In case you don't think I mean lots of Vietnamese got killed this way, I can give you some idea how many. A batalion would kill maybe 15 to 20 a day. With 4 batalions in the Brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 to 1500 a month, easy. (One batalion claimed almost 1000 body counts one month!) If I am only 10% right, and believe me its lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lai each month for over a year....
The snipers would get 5 or 10 a day, and I think all 4 batalions had sniper teams. Thats 20 a day or at least 600 each month. Again, if I am 10% right then the snipers [alone] were a My Lai every other month.
In this letter, and two more sent the following year to other high-ranking generals, the sergeant reported that artillery, airstrikes and helicopter gunships had wreaked havoc on populated areas. All it would take, he said, were a few shots from a village or a nearby tree line and troops would "always call for artilery or gunships or airstrikes." "Lots of times," he wrote, "it would get called for even if we didn't get shot at. And then when [we would] get in the village there would be women and kids crying and sometimes hurt or dead." The attacks were excused, he said, because the areas were deemed free-fire zones.
The sergeant wrote that the unit's policy was to shoot not only guerrilla fighters (whom US troops called Vietcong or VC) but anyone who ran. This was the "Number one killer" of unarmed civilians, he wrote, explaining that helicopters "would hover over a guy in the fields till he got scared and run and they'd zap him" and that the Ninth Division's snipers gunned down farmers from long range to increase the body count. He reported that it was common to detain unarmed civilians and force them to walk in front of a unit's point man in order to trip enemy booby traps. "None [of] us wanted to get blown away," he wrote, "but it wasn't right to use ... civilians to set the mines off." He also explained the pitifully low weapons ratio:compare them [body count records] with the number of weapons we got. Not the cashays [caches], or the weapons we found after a big fight with the hard cores, but a dead VC with a weapon. The General just had to know about the wrong killings over the weapons. If we reported weapons we had to turn them in, so we would say that the weapons was destroyed by bullets or dropped in a canal or pad[d]y. In the dry season, before the moonsons, there was places where lots of the canals was dry and all the pad[dies] were. The General must have known this was made up.
According to the Concerned Sergeant, these killings all took place for one reason: "the General in charge and all the commanders, riding us all the time to get a big body count." He noted, "Nobody ever gave direct orders to 'shoot civilians' that I know of, but the results didn't show any different than if ... they had ordered it. The Vietnamese were dead, victims of the body count pressure and nobody cared enough to try to stop it."
The Butcher of the Delta and Rice Paddy Daddy
During Ewell's time commanding the Ninth Division, from February 1968 to April 1969, his units achieved remarkably high kill ratios. While the historical US average was ten to one, Ewell's troops reportedly achieved seventy-six to one in March 1969. Ewell's obsession with body count was enthusiastically shared by his deputy, then Col. Ira "Jim" Hunt, who served as a brigade commander in the Ninth Division and as Ewell's chief of staff.
"Hunt, who was our Brigade Commander for awhile and then was an assistant general ... used to holler and curse over the radio and talk about the goddamn gooks, and tell the gunships to shoot the sonofabitches, this is a free fire zone," wrote the Concerned Sergeant. Hunt, he said, "didn't care about the Vietnamese or us, he just wanted the most of everything, including body count"; "Hunt was ... always cussing and screaming over the radio from his C and See [Command and Control helicopter] to the GIs or the gunships to shoot some Vietnamese he saw running when he didn't know if they had a weapon or was women or what."
The sergeant wrote that his unit's artillery forward observer (FO) "would tell my company commander he couldn't shoot in the village because it was in the population overlay." The battalion commander would then "get mad and cuss over the radio at my company commander and ... declare a contact [with the enemy] so the FO would shoot anyway. I was there, and we wasn't in contact but my company commander and the FO would do anything to get the COL [colonel] off there back." He went on, "He wouldn't even listen when the FO wanted to wait till after dark and use air burst WP [white phosphorus] rounds to adjust ... so as not to zap any hooches." Instead, the colonel said "it had to be HE [high explosive] right in the houses."
In a 2006 interview I conducted with Deborah Nelson, then a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Ira Hunt claimed that the Ninth Division did not fire artillery near villages. He also denied any knowledge of the Concerned Sergeant's allegations and argued against the notion that a command emphasis on body count led to the mass killing of civilians. "No one's going to say that innocent civilians aren't killed in wartime, but we try to keep it down to the absolute minimum," he said. "The civilian deaths are anathema, but we did our best to protect civilians. I find it unbelievable that people would go out and shoot innocent civilians just to increase a body count." But interviews with several participants in Speedy Express, together with public testimony and published accounts, strongly confirm the allegations in the sergeant's letters.
The Concerned Sergeant's battalion commander, referred to in the letters, was the late David Hackworth, who took command of the Ninth Division's 4/39th Infantry in January 1969. In a 2002 memoir, Steel My Soldiers' Hearts, he echoed the sergeant's allegations about the overwhelming pressure to produce high body counts. "A lot of innocent Vietnamese civilians got slaughtered because of the Ewell-Hunt drive to have the highest count in the land," he wrote. He also noted that when Hunt submitted a recommendation for a citation, citing a huge kill ratio, he left out the uncomfortable fact that "the 9th Division had the lowest weapons-captured-to-enemy-killed ratio in Vietnam."
During Speedy Express, Maj. William Taylor Jr. saw Hunt in action, too, and in a September interview he echoed the Concerned Sergeant's assessment. Now a retired colonel and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Taylor recalled flying over rice paddies with Hunt: "He said something to the pilot, and all of a sudden the door gunner was firing a .50-caliber machine gun out the door, and I said, 'What the hell is that?' He said, 'See those black pajamas down there in the rice paddies? They're Vietcong. We just killed two of them.'" Immediately afterward, Hunt spoke again to the pilot. "He was talking body count," Taylor said. "Reporting body count." Later he asked Hunt how he could identify VC from the helicopter, without seeing weapons or receiving ground fire. "He said, 'Because they're wearing black pajamas.' I said, 'Well, Sir, I thought workers in the fields wore black pajamas.' He said, 'No, not around here. Black pajamas are Vietcong.'"
Like Hackworth, Taylor recalled an overriding emphasis on body count. It was "the most important measure of success, and it came from the personal example of the Ninth Division commander, General Julian Ewell," he said. "I saw it directly. Body count was everything."
In August I spoke with Gary Nordstrom, a combat medic with the Ninth Division's Company C, 2/39th Infantry, during Speedy Express, who described how the body count emphasis filtered down to the field. "For all enlisted people, that was the mentality," he recalled. "Get the body count. Get the body count. Get the body count. It was prevalent everywhere. I think it was the mind-set of the officer corps from the top down." In multiple instances, his unit fired on Vietnamese for no other reason than that they were running. "On at least one occasion," he said, "I went and confirmed that they were dead."
In recent months, I spoke with two Ninth Division officers who feuded with Ewell over division policies. Retired Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, who commanded the division's five artillery battalions during his 1968-69 tour, spoke to me of Ewell's heavy emphasis on body count and said he was never apprised of any restrictions about firing in or near villages. "There isn't any question that our operations resulted in civilian casualties," he told me in July. Gard recalled arguing with Ewell once about firing artillery on a village after receiving mortar fire from it. "I told him no, I thought it was unwise to do that," he said in a 2006 interview with me and Nelson. "We had a confrontation on the issue." Gard also served with Hunt, whom he succeeded as division chief of staff. When asked if Hunt, too, pressed for a large body count, Gard responded, "Big time." "Jim Hunt dubbed himself 'Rice Paddy Daddy,'" Gard recalled, referring to Hunt's radio call sign. "He went berserk."
Maj. Edwin Deagle served in the division from July 1968 until June 1969, first as an aide to Ewell and Hunt and then as executive officer (XO) of the division's 2/60th Infantry during Speedy Express. In September he spoke to me about "the tremendous amount of pressure that Ewell put on all of the combat unit operations, including artillery, which tended to create circumstances under which the number of civilian casualties would rise." Concerned specifically that pressure on artillery units had eroded most safeguards on firing near villages, he confronted his commander. "We'll end up killing a lot of civilians," he told Ewell.
Deagle further recalled an incident after he took over as XO when he was listening on the radio as one of his units stumbled into an ambush and lost its company commander, leaving a junior officer in charge. Confused and unable to outmaneuver the enemy forces, the lieutenant called in a helicopter strike with imprecise instructions. "They fired a tremendous amount of 2.75 [mm rockets] into the town," Deagle recalled, "and that killed a total of about 145 family members or Vietnamese civilians."
Deagle undertook extensive statistical analysis of the division and found that the 2/60th, one of ten infantry battalions, accounted for a disproportionate 40 percent of the weapons captured. Yet even in his atypical battalion, a body count mind-set prevailed, according to combat medic Wayne Smith, who arrived in the last days of Speedy Express and ultimately served with the 2/60th. "It was all about body count," he recalled in June. When it came to free-fire zones, "Anyone there was fair game," Smith said. "That's how [it] went down. Sometimes they may have had weapons. Other times not. But if they were in an area, we damn sure would try to kill them."
Another American to witness the carnage was John Paul Vann, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who became the chief of US pacification efforts in the Mekong Delta in February 1969. He flew along on some of the Ninth Division's night-time helicopter operations. According to notes from an unpublished 1975 interview with New York Times Vietnam War correspondent Neil Sheehan, Vann's deputy, Col. David Farnham, said Vann found that troops used early night-vision devices to target any and all people, homes or water buffalo they spotted. No attempt was made to determine whether the people were civilians or enemies, and a large number of noncombatants were killed or wounded as a result.
Louis Janowski, who served as an adviser in the Delta during Speedy Express, saw much of the same and was scathing in an internal 1970 end-of-tour report. In it, he called other Delta helicopter operations, known as the Phantom program, a form of "non selective terrorism." "I have flown Phantom III missions and have medivaced enough elderly people and children to firmly believe that the percentage of Viet Cong killed by support assets is roughly equal to the percentage of Viet Cong in the population," he wrote, indicating a pattern of completely indiscriminate killing. "That is, if 8% of the population [of] an area is VC about 8% of the people we kill are VC."
An adviser in another Delta province, Jeffrey Record, also witnessed the carnage visited on civilians by the Phantom program during Speedy Express. In a 1971 Washington Monthly article, Record recalled watching as helicopter gunships strafed a herd of water buffalo and the six or seven children tending them. Seconds later, the tranquil paddy had been "transformed into a bloody ooze littered with bits of mangled flesh," Record wrote. "The dead boys and the water buffalo were added to the official body count of the Viet Cong."
In April 1969 Ewell was promoted to head II Field Force, Vietnam, then the largest US combat command in the world. That same month, in an AP story, Ira Hunt defended the body count against those who called it a "terrible measure of progress." The story also quoted a senior officer who denied deliberately killing noncombatants, while granting that noncombatant deaths resulted from Ninth Division operations. "'Have we killed innocent civilians?' [he] asked rhetorically during an interview. 'Hell yes,' he replied, 'but so do the South Vietnamese.'"
In the spring of 1970, as Ewell was readying to leave Vietnam to serve as the top US military adviser at the Paris peace talks, R. Kenley Webster, the Army's acting general counsel, read the Concerned Sergeant's letter at Army Secretary Stanley Resor's request. According to a memo Webster wrote at the time, which was among the documents I uncovered in the National Archives, he was "impressed by its forcefulness" and "sincerity" and commissioned an anonymous internal report from a respected Vietnam veteran. That report endorsed the Concerned Sergeant's contentions:It is common knowledge that an officer's career can be made or destroyed in Vietnam.... Under such circumstances - and especially if such incentives as stand-downs, R&R [rest and relaxation] allocations, and decorations are tied to body count figures - the pressure to kill indiscriminately, or at least report every Vietnamese casualty as an enemy casualty, would seem to be practically irresistible.
In June 1970 Webster sent a memo, with the review, to Resor, recommending that he confer with Westmoreland and Creighton Abrams, by then the top commander in Vietnam, about the matter. According to Army documents, Resor and Abrams discussed the allegations, but no investigation was launched.
News of the atrocities in the Delta was already leaking into public view. That winter, veterans of Speedy Express spoke out about the killing of civilians at the National Veterans' Inquiry in Washington, and the Winter Soldier Investigation in Detroit. In April 1971, at hearings chaired by Representative Ronald Dellums, Vietnam veteran West Point graduates testified to Ewell's "body count mania." That same month, Record's Washington Monthly piece appeared.
Within days, Robert Komer, formerly a deputy to Westmoreland and chief of pacification efforts in Vietnam, wrote to Vann seeking his assessment of the article and noting, "It rings all too true!" In early May 1971, Vann replied to Komer, by then a consultant with the RAND Corporation, that "the US is on very shaky ground on either the Phantom or other 'hunter-killer' airborne missions and literally hundreds of horrible examples have been documented by irate advisors, both military and civilian."
By this time, Ira Hunt had returned from Vietnam and, in a strange twist of fate, was leading the Army's investigation of Col. Oran Henderson, the brigade commander whose unit carried out the My Lai massacre. Although Hunt recommended only an Article 15 - a mild, nonjudicial punishment - Henderson was court-martialed. On May 24 Henderson dropped a bombshell, stating that the mass killing was no aberration. "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace," he said. The only reason they remained unknown was "every unit doesn't have a Ridenhour." In fact, Hunt's brigade did have a whistleblower like Ron Ridenhour, but instead of sending letters to dozens of prominent government and military officials, the Concerned Sergeant fatefully kept his complaints within the Army - fearing, he wrote, that going public would get the Army "in more trouble."
The lack of public exposure allowed the military to paper over the allegations. In August 1971, well over a year after the sergeant's first letter to Westmoreland, an Army memo noted that the Criminal Investigation Division was finally attempting to identify and locate the letter writer - not to investigate his claims but "to prevent his complaints [from] reaching Mr. Dellums." In September Westmoreland's office directed CID to identify the Concerned Sergeant and to "assure him the Army is beginning investigation of his allegations"; within days, CID reported that the division had "tentatively identified" him and would seek an interview. But on the same day as that CID report, a Westmoreland aide wrote a memo stating that the general had sought the advice of Thaddeus Beal, an Army under secretary and civilian lawyer, who counseled that since the Concerned Sergeant's letters were written anonymously, the Army could legitimately discount them. In the memo, the aide summarized Westmoreland's thoughts by saying, "We have done as much as we can do on this case," and "he again reiterated he was not so sure we should send anything out to the field on this matter of general war crimes allegations." Shortly thereafter, at a late September meeting between CID officials and top Army personnel, the investigation that had barely been launched was officially killed.
Burying the Story
In 1971, something caught the eye of Alex Shimkin, a Newsweek stringer fluent in Vietnamese, as he pored over documents issued by the US Military Assistance Command, Vietnam, or MACV, which coordinated all US military activities in South Vietnam: the radically skewed ratio of enemy dead to weapons captured during Speedy Express. At the urging of Kevin Buckley, Newsweek's Saigon bureau chief, and with no knowledge of the Concerned Sergeant's allegations, Shimkin began an exhaustive analysis of MACV documents that offered dates, locations and detailed statistics. From there, he and Buckley began to dig.
They interviewed US civilian and military officials at all levels, combed through civilian hospital records and traveled into areas of the Delta hardest hit by Speedy Express to talk to Vietnamese survivors. What they learned - much of it documented in unpublished interviews and notes that I recently obtained from Buckley - echoed exactly what the Concerned Sergeant confided to Westmoreland and the other top generals. Their sources all assured them there was no shortage of arms among the enemy to account for the gross kills-to-weapons disparity. The only explanation for the ratio, they discovered, was that a great many of the dead were civilians. Huge numbers of airstrikes had decimated the countryside. Withering artillery and mortar barrages were carried out around the clock. Many, if not most, kills were logged by helicopters and occurred at night.
"The horror was worse than My Lai," one American official familiar with the Ninth Infantry Division's operations in the Delta told Buckley. "But with the 9th, the civilian casualties came in dribbles and were pieced out over a long time. And most of them were inflicted from the air and at night. Also, they were sanctioned by the command's insistence on high body counts." Another quantified the matter, stating that as many as 5,000 of those killed during the operation were civilians.
Accounts from Vietnamese survivors in Kien Hoa and Dinh Tuong echoed the scenarios related by the Concerned Sergeant. Buckley and Shimkin spoke to a group of village elders who knew of thirty civilians who were killed when US troops used them as human mine detectors. An elderly Vietnamese man from Kien Hoa told them, "The Americans destroyed every house with artillery, airstrikes or by burning them down with cigarette lighters. About 100 people were killed by bombing." Another man, Mr. Hien, recalled, "The helicopters shot up the area even in daylight because people working in their fields and gardens would become afraid when the helicopters approached, and began to run away."
Another older man from Kien Hoa, Mr. Ba, recalled, "When the Americans came in early 1969 there was artillery fire on the village every night and several B-52 strikes which plowed up the earth." Not only did MACV records show bombings in the exact area of the village; the account was confirmed by interviews with a local Vietcong medic who later joined the US-allied South Vietnamese forces. He told them that "hundreds of artillery rounds landed in the village, causing many casualties." He continued, "I worked for a [National Liberation] Front doctor and he often operated on forty or more people a day. His hospital took care of at least a thousand people from four villages in early 1969."
Buckley and Shimkin found records showing that during Speedy Express, 76 percent of the 1,882 war-injured civilians treated in the Ben Tre provincial hospital in Kien Hoa - which served only one tiny area of the vast Delta - were wounded by US firepower. And even this large number was likely an undercount of casualties. "Many people who were wounded died on their way to hospitals," said one US official. "Many others were treated at home, or in hospitals run by the VC, or in small dispensaries operated by the [South Vietnamese Army]. The people who got to Ben Tre were lucky."
In November 1971 Buckley sent a letter to MACV that echoed the Concerned Sergeant's claims of mass carnage during Speedy Express. Citing the lopsided kills-to-weapons ratio, Buckley wrote, "Research in the area by Newsweek indicates that a considerable proportion of those people killed were non-combatant civilians." On December 2 MACV confirmed the ratio and many of Buckley's details: "A high percentage of casualties were inflicted at night"; "A high percentage of the casualties were inflicted by the Air Cavalry and Army Aviation [helicopter] units"; but with caveats and the insistence that MACV was unable to substantiate the "claim that a considerable proportion of the casualties were non-combatant civilians." Instead, MACV contended that many of the dead were unarmed guerrillas. In response to Buckley's request to interview MACV commander Creighton Abrams, MACV stated that Abrams, who had been briefed on the Concerned Sergeant's allegations the year before, had "no additional information." Most of Buckley's follow-up questions, sent in December, went unanswered.
But according to Neil Sheehan's interview with Colonel Farnham, who served as deputy to Vann, by then the third-most-powerful American serving in Vietnam, word of the forthcoming Newsweek story had spread. In late 1971 or early 1972 Vann met in Washington with Westmoreland and Army Vice Chief of Staff Bruce Palmer Jr. Before the meeting Vann told Farnham about the upcoming Newsweek article and said that he was ducking Buckley in order to avoid questions about Speedy Express. At the meeting, which Farnham attended, Vann told Westmoreland and Palmer that Ewell's Ninth Division had wantonly killed civilians in the Mekong Delta in order to boost the body count and further the general's career, singling out nighttime helicopter gunship missions as the worst of the division's tactics. According to Farnham, Vann said Speedy Express was, in effect, "many My Lais" - closely echoing the language of the Concerned Sergeant. Farnham said Westmoreland put on a "masterful job of acting," claiming repeatedly that he had never before heard such allegations. When Vann mentioned Buckley's upcoming exposé, Westmoreland directed his aide and Farnham to leave the room because he, Palmer and Vann needed to discuss "a very sensitive subject."
In the end, Buckley and Shimkin's nearly 5,000-word investigation, including a compelling sidebar of eyewitness testimony from Vietnamese survivors, was nixed by Newsweek's top editors, who expressed concern that such a piece would constitute a "gratuitous" attack on the Nixon administration [see "The Vietnam Exposé That Wasn't," at thenation.com, which discusses Buckley and Shimkin's investigation of atrocities, including one by a Navy SEAL team led by future Senator Bob Kerrey]. Buckley argued in a cable that the piece was more than an atrocity exposé. "It is to say," Buckley wrote in late January 1972, "that day in and day out that [the Ninth] Division killed non combatants with firepower that was anything but indiscriminate. The application of firepower was based on the judgment that anybody who ran was an enemy and indeed, that anyone who lived in the area could be killed." A truncated, 1,800-word piece finally ran in June 1972, but many key facts, eyewitness interviews, even mention of Julian Ewell's name, were left on the cutting-room floor. In its eviscerated form, the article resulted in only a ripple of interest.
Days before the story appeared, Vann died in a helicopter crash in Vietnam and, a few weeks later, Shimkin was killed when he mistakenly crossed North Vietnamese lines. The story of Speedy Express died, too.
Ewell retired from the Army in 1973 as a lieutenant general but was invited by the Army chief of staff to work with Ira Hunt in detailing their methods to aid in developing "future operational concepts." Until now, Ewell and Hunt had the final word on Operation Speedy Express, in their 1974 Army Vietnam Studies book Sharpening the Combat Edge. While the name of the operation is absent from the text, they lauded both the results and the brutal techniques decried by the Concerned Sergeant, including nighttime helicopter operations and the aggressive use of snipers. In the book's final pages, they made oblique reference to the allegations that erupted in 1970 only to be quashed by Westmoreland. "The 9th Infantry Division and II Field Force, Vietnam have been criticized on the grounds that 'their obsession with body count' was either basically wrong or else led to undesirable practices," they wrote, before quickly dispatching those claims. "The basic inference that they were 'obsessed with body count' is not true," they wrote, asserting instead that their methods ended up "'unbrutalizing' the war."
Ewell now lives in Virginia. During a 2006 visit I made to his home with Deborah Nelson, Ewell's wife told us he no longer grants interviews. Ira Hunt retired from active duty in 1978 as a major general. He too lives in Virginia.
George Lewis, the man tentatively identified by the Army as the Concerned Sergeant, hailed from Sharpsburg, Kentucky. He was awarded a Purple Heart as well as Army Commendation Medals with a "V" for valor for his service in Vietnam and was formally discharged in 1974. Lewis died in 2004, at age 56, before I was able to locate him.
To this day, Vietnamese civilians in the Mekong Delta recall the horrors of Operation Speedy Express and the countless civilians killed to drive up body count. Army records indicate that no Ninth Infantry Division troops, let alone commanders, were ever court-martialed for killing civilians during the operation.
Nick Turse is the associate editor and research director of TomDispatch.com. He is the author of "The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives" and a forthcoming history of US war crimes in "Vietnam, Kill Anything That Moves" (both Metropolitan).
Research support for this article was provided by the Investigative Fund of The Nation Institute. Research assistance was provided by George Schulz of the Center for Investigative Reporting, Sousan Hammad and Sophie Ragsdale.
US groups fund studies on Agent Orange, explosives in Vietnam
Fri Nov 10, 2006
HANOI (AFP) - US groups have announced plans to study Vietnam's wartime contamination with toxic defoliant Agent Orange and with millions of unexploded bombs and landmines.
The private Ford Foundation said Friday it had committed 2.2 million dollars to study environmental hazards related to the dioxin in Agent Orange and bring health services to Vietnamese people living with long-term disabilities.
"Grants will support research to help identify dioxin 'hot spots,' pilot projects to develop new clean-up technologies, and survey research and public health programmes," said the group in a statement.
US forces widely sprayed Agent Orange in southern Vietnam during the conflict that ended in 1975, to deprive enemy guerrillas of forest cover and destroy food crops.
Vietnam says millions of people have suffered a range of illnesses and birth defects as a result, a claim also made by many war veterans from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Korea.
"In Vietnam there is a real desire to make progress on these issues among everyone concerned," said Charles Bailey, head of the foundation in Hanoi.
Separately, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) Friday signed an agreement with Vietnam's defence ministry to extend a five-year-old US government funded survey of unexploded ordnance and landmines.
According to Vietnamese data 350,000 to 850,000 tons of bombs, artillery shells, mortars and rockets remain scattered across the country, said VVAF.
The group's representative Tom Leckinger said cooperation between the former enemies "to clear the land of these deadly legacies of the war sends a very powerful message of peace, friendship and reconciliation between our nations."
Vietnam: The War Crimes Files
By Nick Turse and Deborah Nelson
The Los Angeles Times
Sunday 06 August 2006
The men of B Company were in a dangerous state of mind. They had lost five men in a firefight the day before. The morning of Feb. 8, 1968, brought unwelcome orders to resume their sweep of the countryside, a green patchwork of rice paddies along Vietnam's central coast.
They met no resistance as they entered a nondescript settlement in Quang Nam province. So Jamie Henry, a 20-year-old medic, set his rifle down in a hut, unfastened his bandoliers and lighted a cigarette.
Just then, the voice of a lieutenant crackled across the radio. He reported that he had rounded up 19 civilians, and wanted to know what to do with them. Henry later recalled the company commander's response:
Kill anything that moves.
Henry stepped outside the hut and saw a small crowd of women and children. Then the shooting began.
Moments later, the 19 villagers lay dead or dying.
Back home in California, Henry published an account of the slaughter and held a news conference to air his allegations. Yet he and other Vietnam veterans who spoke out about war crimes were branded traitors and fabricators. No one was ever prosecuted for the massacre.
Now, nearly 40 years later, declassified Army files show that Henry was telling the truth - about the Feb. 8 killings and a series of other atrocities by the men of B Company.
The files are part of a once-secret archive, assembled by a Pentagon task force in the early 1970s, that shows that confirmed atrocities by U.S. forces in Vietnam were more extensive than was previously known.
The documents detail 320 alleged incidents that were substantiated by Army investigators - not including the most notorious U.S. atrocity, the 1968 My Lai massacre.
Though not a complete accounting of Vietnam war crimes, the archive is the largest such collection to surface to date. About 9,000 pages, it includes investigative files, sworn statements by witnesses and status reports for top military brass.
The records describe recurrent attacks on ordinary Vietnamese - families in their homes, farmers in rice paddies, teenagers out fishing. Hundreds of soldiers, in interviews with investigators and letters to commanders, described a violent minority who murdered, raped and tortured with impunity.
Abuses were not confined to a few rogue units, a Times review of the files found. They were uncovered in every Army division that operated in Vietnam.
Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, a Vietnam veteran who served on the task force, says he once supported keeping the records secret but now believes they deserve wide attention in light of alleged attacks on civilians and abuse of prisoners in Iraq.
"We can't change current practices unless we acknowledge the past," says Johns, 78.
Among the substantiated cases in the archive:
Seven massacres from 1967 through 1971 in which at least 137 civilians died.
Seventy-eight other attacks on noncombatants in which at least 57 were killed, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
One hundred forty-one instances in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees or prisoners of war with fists, sticks, bats, water or electric shock.
Investigators determined that evidence against 203 soldiers accused of harming Vietnamese civilians or prisoners was strong enough to warrant formal charges. These "founded" cases were referred to the soldiers' superiors for action.
Ultimately, 57 of them were court-martialed and just 23 convicted, the records show.
Fourteen received prison sentences ranging from six months to 20 years, but most won significant reductions on appeal. The stiffest sentence went to a military intelligence interrogator convicted of committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old girl in an interrogation hut in 1967.
He served seven months of a 20-year term, the records show.
Many substantiated cases were closed with a letter of reprimand, a fine or, in more than half the cases, no action at all.
There was little interest in prosecuting Vietnam war crimes, says Steven Chucala, who in the early 1970s was legal advisor to the commanding officer of the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. He says he disagreed with the attitude but understood it.
"Everyone wanted Vietnam to go away," says Chucala, now a civilian attorney for the Army at Ft. Belvoir in Virginia.
In many cases, suspects had left the service. The Army did not attempt to pursue them, despite a written opinion in 1969 by Robert E. Jordan III, then the Army's general counsel, that ex-soldiers could be prosecuted through courts-martial, military commissions or tribunals.
"I don't remember why it didn't go anywhere," says Jordan, now a lawyer in Washington.
Top Army brass should have demanded a tougher response, says retired Lt. Gen. Robert G. Gard, the highest-ranking member of the Pentagon task force in the early 1970s.
"We could have court-martialed them but didn't," Gard says of soldiers accused of war crimes. "The whole thing is terribly disturbing."
In March 1968, members of the 23rd Infantry Division slaughtered about 500 Vietnamese civilians in the hamlet of My Lai. Reporter Seymour Hersh exposed the massacre the following year.
By then, Gen. William C. Westmoreland, commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam at the time of My Lai, had become Army chief of staff. A task force was assembled from members of his staff to monitor war crimes allegations and serve as an early-warning system.
Over the next few years, members of the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group reviewed Army investigations and wrote reports and summaries for military brass and the White House.
The records were declassified in 1994, after 20 years as required by law, and moved to the National Archives in College Park, Md., where they went largely unnoticed.
The Times examined most of the files and obtained copies of about 3,000 pages - about a third of the total - before government officials removed them from the public shelves, saying they contained personal information that was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.
In addition to the 320 substantiated incidents, the records contain material related to more than 500 alleged atrocities that Army investigators could not prove or that they discounted.
Johns says many war crimes did not make it into the archive. Some were prosecuted without being identified as war crimes, as required by military regulations. Others were never reported.
In a letter to Westmoreland in 1970, an anonymous sergeant described widespread, unreported killings of civilians by members of the 9th Infantry Division in the Mekong Delta - and blamed pressure from superiors to generate high body counts.
"A batalion [sic] would kill maybe 15 to 20 [civilians] a day. With 4 batalions in the brigade that would be maybe 40 to 50 a day or 1200 to 1500 a month, easy," the unnamed sergeant wrote. "If I am only 10% right, and believe me it's lots more, then I am trying to tell you about 120-150 murders, or a My Lay [sic] each month for over a year."
A high-level Army review of the letter cited its "forcefulness," "sincerity" and "inescapable logic," and urged then-Secretary of the Army Stanley R. Resor to make sure the push for verifiable body counts did not "encourage the human tendency to inflate the count by violating established rules of engagement."
Investigators tried to find the letter writer and "prevent his complaints from reaching" then-Rep. Ronald V. Dellums (D-Oakland), according to an August 1971 memo to Westmoreland.
The records do not say whether the writer was located, and there is no evidence in the files that his complaint was investigated further.
James D. "Jamie" Henry was 19 in March 1967, when the Army shaved his hippie locks and packed him off to boot camp.
He had been living with his mother in Sonoma County, working as hospital aide and moonlighting as a flower child in Haight-Ashbury, when he received a letter from his draft board. As thousands of hippies poured into San Francisco for the upcoming "Summer of Love," Henry headed for Ft. Polk, La.
Soon he was on his way to Vietnam, part of a 100,000-man influx that brought U.S. troop strength to 485,000 by the end of 1967. They entered a conflict growing ever bloodier for Americans - 9,378 U.S. troops would die in combat in 1967, 87% more than the year before.
Henry was a medic with B Company of the 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. He described his experiences in a sworn statement to Army investigators several years later and in recent interviews with The Times.
In the fall of 1967, he was on his first patrol, marching along the edge of a rice paddy in Quang Nam province, when the soldiers encountered a teenage girl.
"The guy in the lead immediately stops her and puts his hand down her pants," Henry said. "I just thought, 'My God, what's going on?' "
A day or two later, he saw soldiers senselessly stabbing a pig.
"I talked to them about it, and they told me if I wanted to live very long, I should shut my mouth," he told Army investigators.
Henry may have kept his mouth shut, but he kept his eyes and ears open.
On Oct. 8, 1967, after a firefight near Chu Lai, members of his company spotted a 12-year-old boy out in a rainstorm. He was unarmed and clad only in shorts.
"Somebody caught him up on a hill, and they brought him down and the lieutenant asked who wanted to kill him," Henry told investigators.
Two volunteers stepped forward. One kicked the boy in the stomach. The other took him behind a rock and shot him, according to Henry's statement. They tossed his body in a river and reported him as an enemy combatant killed in action.
Three days later, B Company detained and beat an elderly man suspected of supporting the enemy. He had trouble keeping pace as the soldiers marched him up a steep hill.
"When I turned around, two men had him, one guy had his arms, one guy had his legs and they threw him off the hill onto a bunch of rocks," Henry's statement said.
On Oct. 15, some of the men took a break during a large-scale "search-and-destroy" operation. Henry said he overheard a lieutenant on the radio requesting permission to test-fire his weapon, and went to see what was happening.
He found two soldiers using a Vietnamese man for target practice, Henry said. They had discovered the victim sleeping in a hut and decided to kill him for sport.
"Everybody was taking pot shots at him, seeing how accurate they were," Henry said in his statement.
Back at base camp on Oct. 23, he said, members of the 1st Platoon told him they had ambushed five unarmed women and reported them as enemies killed in action. Later, members of another platoon told him they had seen the bodies.
Capt. Donald C. Reh, a 1964 graduate of West Point, took command of B Company in November 1967. Two months later, enemy forces launched a major offensive during Tet, the Vietnamese lunar New Year.
In the midst of the fighting, on Feb. 7, the commander of the 1st Battalion, Lt. Col. William W. Taylor Jr., ordered an assault on snipers hidden in a line of trees in a rural area of Quang Nam province. Five U.S. soldiers were killed. The troops complained bitterly about the order and the deaths, Henry said.
The next morning, the men packed up their gear and continued their sweep of the countryside. Soldiers discovered an unarmed man hiding in a hole and suspected that he had supported the enemy the previous day. A soldier pushed the man in front of an armored personnel carrier, Henry said in his statement.
"They drove over him forward which didn't kill him because he was squirming around, so the APC backed over him again," Henry's statement said.
Then B Company entered a hamlet to question residents and search for weapons. That's where Henry set down his weapon and lighted a cigarette in the shelter of a hut.
A radio operator sat down next to him, and Henry was listening to the chatter. He heard the leader of the 3rd Platoon ask Reh for instructions on what to do with 19 civilians.
"The lieutenant asked the captain what should be done with them. The captain asked the lieutenant if he remembered the op order (operation order) that came down that morning and he repeated the order which was 'kill anything that moves,' " Henry said in his statement. "I was a little shook ... because I thought the lieutenant might do it."
Henry said he left the hut and walked toward Reh. He saw the captain pick up the phone again, and thought he might rescind the order.
Then soldiers pulled a naked woman of about 19 from a dwelling and brought her to where the other civilians were huddled, Henry said.
"She was thrown to the ground," he said in his statement. "The men around the civilians opened fire and all on automatic or at least it seemed all on automatic. It was over in a few seconds. There was a lot of blood and flesh and stuff flying around....
"I looked around at some of my friends and they all just had blank looks on their faces.... The captain made an announcement to all the company, I forget exactly what it was, but it didn't concern the people who had just been killed. We picked up our stuff and moved on."
Henry didn't forget, however. "Thirty seconds after the shooting stopped," he said, "I knew that I was going to do something about it."
For his combat service, Henry earned a Bronze Star with a V for valor, and a Combat Medical Badge, among other awards. A fellow member of his unit said in a sworn statement that Henry regularly disregarded his own safety to save soldiers' lives, and showed "compassion and decency" toward enemy prisoners.
When Henry finished his tour and arrived at Ft. Hood, Texas, in September 1968, he went to see an Army legal officer to report the atrocities he'd witnessed.
The officer advised him to keep quiet until he got out of the Army, "because of the million and one charges you can be brought up on for blinking your eye," Henry says. Still, the legal officer sent him to see a Criminal Investigation Division agent.
The agent was not receptive, Henry recalls.
"He wanted to know what I was trying to pull, what I was trying to put over on people, and so I was just quiet. I told him I wouldn't tell him anything and I wouldn't say anything until I got out of the Army, and I left," Henry says.
Honorably discharged in March 1969, Henry moved to Canoga Park, enrolled in community college and helped organize a campus chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
Then he ended his silence: He published his account of the massacre in the debut issue of Scanlan's Monthly, a short-lived muckraking magazine, which hit the newsstands on Feb. 27, 1970. Henry held a news conference the same day at the Los Angeles Press Club.
Records show that an Army operative attended incognito, took notes and reported back to the Pentagon.
A faded copy of Henry's brief statement, retrieved from the Army's files, begins:
"On February 8, 1968, nineteen (19) women and children were murdered in Viet-Nam by members of 3rd Platoon, 'B' Company, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry....
"Incidents similar to those I have described occur on a daily basis and differ one from the other only in terms of numbers killed," he told reporters. A brief article about his remarks appeared inside the Los Angeles Times the next day.
Army investigators interviewed Henry the day after the news conference. His sworn statement filled 10 single-spaced typed pages. Henry did not expect anything to come of it: "I never got the impression they were ever doing anything."
In 1971, Henry joined more than 100 other veterans at the Winter Soldier Investigation, a forum on war crimes sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
The FBI put the three-day gathering at a Detroit hotel under surveillance, records show, and Nixon administration officials worked behind the scenes to discredit the speakers as impostors and fabricators.
Although the administration never publicly identified any fakers, one of the organization's leaders admitted exaggerating his rank and role during the war, and a cloud descended on the entire gathering.
"We tried to get as much publicity as we could, and it just never went anywhere," Henry says. "Nothing ever happened."
After years of dwelling on the war, he says, he "finally put it in a closet and shut the door".
Unknown to Henry, Army investigators pursued his allegations, tracking down members of his old unit over the next 3 1/2 years.
Witnesses described the killing of the young boy, the old man tossed over the cliff, the man used for target practice, the five unarmed women, the man thrown beneath the armored personnel carrier and other atrocities.
Their statements also provided vivid corroboration of the Feb. 8, 1968, massacre from men who had observed the day's events from various vantage points.
Staff Sgt. Wilson Bullock told an investigator at Ft. Carson, Colo., that his platoon had captured 19 "women, children, babies and two or three very old men" during the Tet offensive.
"All of these people were lined up and killed," he said in a sworn statement. "When it, the shooting, stopped, I began to return to the site when I observed a naked Vietnamese female run from the house to the huddle of people, saw that her baby had been shot. She picked the baby up and was then shot and the baby shot again."
Gregory Newman, another veteran of B Company, told an investigator at Ft. Myer, Va., that Capt. Reh had issued an order "to search and destroy and kill anything in the village that moved."
Newman said he was carrying out orders to kill the villagers' livestock when he saw a naked girl head toward a group of civilians.
"I saw them begging before they were shot," he recalled in a sworn statement.
Donald R. Richardson said he was at a command post outside the hamlet when he heard a platoon leader on the radio ask what to do with 19 civilians.
"The cpt said something about kill anything that moves and the lt on the other end said 'Their [sic] moving,' " according to Richardson's sworn account. "Just then the gunfire was heard."
William J. Nieset, a rifle squad leader, told investigators that he was standing next to a radio operator and heard Reh say: "My instructions from higher are to kill everything that moves."
Robert D. Miller said he was the radio operator for Lt. Johnny Mack Carter, commander of the 3rd Platoon. Miller said that when Carter asked Reh what to do with the 19 civilians, the captain instructed him to follow the "operation order."
Carter immediately sought two volunteers to shoot the civilians, Miller said under oath.
"I believe everyone knew what was going to happen," he said, "so no one volunteered except one guy known only to me as 'Crazy.' "
"A few minutes later, while the Vietnamese were huddled around in a circle Lt Carter and 'Crazy' started shooting them with their M-16's on automatic," Miller's statement says.
Carter had just left active duty when an investigator questioned him under oath in Palmetto, Fla., in March 1970.
"I do not recall any civilians being picked up and categorically stated that I did not order the killing of any civilians, nor do I know of any being killed," his statement said.
An Army investigator called Reh at Ft. Myer. Reh's attorney called back. The investigator made notes of their conversation: "If the interview of Reh concerns atrocities in Vietnam ... then he had already advised Reh not to make any statement."
As for Lt. Col. Taylor, two soldiers described his actions that day.
Myran Ambeau, a rifleman, said he was standing five feet from the captain and heard him contact the battalion commander, who was in a helicopter overhead. (Ambeau did not identify Reh or Taylor by name.)
"The battalion commander told the captain, 'If they move, shoot them,' " according to a sworn statement that Ambeau gave an investigator in Little Rock, Ark. "The captain verified that he had heard the command, he then transmitted the instruction to Lt Carter.
"Approximately three minutes later, there was automatic weapons fire from the direction where the prisoners were being held."
Gary A. Bennett, one of Reh's radio operators, offered a somewhat different account. He said the captain asked what he should do with the detainees, and the battalion commander replied that it was a "search and destroy mission," according to an investigator's summary of an interview with Bennett.
Bennett said he did not believe the order authorized killing civilians and that, although he heard shooting, he knew nothing about a massacre, the summary says. Bennett refused to provide a sworn statement.
An Army investigator sat down with Taylor at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa. Taylor said he had never issued an order to kill civilians and had heard nothing about a massacre on the date in question. But the investigator had asked Taylor about events occurring on Feb. 9, 1968 - a day after the incident.
Three and a half years later, an agent tracked Taylor down at Ft. Myer and asked him about Feb. 8. Taylor said he had no memory of the day and did not have time to provide a sworn statement. He said he had a "pressing engagement" with "an unidentified general officer," the agent wrote.
Investigators wrote they could not find Pvt. Frank Bonilla, the man known as "Crazy." The Times reached him at his home on Oahu in March.
Bonilla, now 58 and a hotel worker, says he recalls an order to kill the civilians, but says he does not remember who issued it. "Somebody had a radio, handed it to someone, maybe a lieutenant, said the man don't want to see nobody standing," he said.
Bonilla says he answered a call for volunteers but never pulled the trigger.
"I couldn't do it. There were women and kids," he says. "A lot of guys thought that I had something to do with it because they saw me going up there.... Nope ... I just turned the other way. It was like, 'This ain't happening.' "
Afterward, he says, "I remember sitting down with my head between my knees. Is that for real? Someone said, 'Keep your mouth shut or you're not going home.' "
He says he does not know who did the shooting.
The Criminal Investigation Division assigned Warrant Officer Jonathan P. Coulson in Los Angeles to complete the investigation and write a final report on the "Henry Allegation." He sent his findings to headquarters in Washington in January 1974.
Evidence showed that the massacre did occur, the report said. The investigation also confirmed all but one of the other killings that Henry had described. The one exception was the elderly man thrown off a cliff. Coulson said it could not be determined whether the victim was alive when soldiers tossed him.
The evidence supported murder charges in five incidents against nine "subjects," including Carter and Bonilla, Coulson wrote. Those two carried out the Feb. 8 massacre, along with "other unidentified members of their element," the report said.
Investigators determined that there was not enough evidence to charge Reh with murder, because of conflicting accounts "as to the actual language" he used.
But Reh could be charged with dereliction of duty for failing to investigate the killings, the report said.
Coulson conferred with an Army legal advisor, Capt. Robert S. Briney, about whether the evidence supported charges against Taylor.
They decided it did not. Even if Taylor gave an order to kill the Vietnamese if they moved, the two concluded, "it does not constitute an order to kill the prisoners in the manner in which they were executed."
The War Crimes Working Group records give no indication that action was taken against any of the men named in the report.
Briney, now an attorney in Phoenix, says he has forgotten details of the case but recalls a reluctance within the Army to pursue such charges.
"They thought the war, if not over, was pretty much over. Why bring this stuff up again?" he says.
Taylor retired in 1977 with the rank of colonel. In a recent interview outside his home in northern Virginia, he said, "I would not have given an order to kill civilians. It's not in my makeup. I've been in enough wars to know that it's not the right thing to do."
Reh, who left active duty in 1978 and now lives in Northern California, declined to be interviewed by The Times.
Carter, a retired postal worker living in Florida, says he has no memory of his combat experiences. "I guess I've wiped Vietnam and all that out of my mind. I don't remember shooting anyone or ordering anyone to shoot," he says.
He says he does not dispute that a massacre took place. "I don't doubt it, but I don't remember.... Sometimes people just snap."
Henry was re-interviewed by an Army investigator in 1972, and was never contacted again. He drifted away from the antiwar movement, moved north and became a logger in California's Sierra Nevada foothills. He says he had no idea he had been vindicated - until The Times contacted him in 2005.
Last fall, he read the case file over a pot of coffee at his dining room table in a comfortably worn house, where he lives with his wife, Patty.
"I was a wreck for a couple days," Henry, now 59, wrote later in an e-mail. "It was like a time warp that put me right back in the middle of that mess. Some things long forgotten came back to life. Some of them were good and some were not.
"Now that whole stinking war is back. After you left, I just sat in my chair and shook for a couple hours. A slight emotional stress fracture?? Don't know, but it soon passed and I decided to just keep going with this business. If it was right then, then it still is."
Times researcher Janet Lundblad contributed to this report.
US skewed evidence of 1964 Tonkin attack
Dec. 2, 2005
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence officials in 1964 skewed evidence of an attack on two U.S. destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin to support claims of communist aggression that led to a massive escalation of the Vietnam War, according to a newly declassified government document.
An article by a National Security Agency historian, released by the NSA this week along with intelligence reports and other related documents, said officials at the spy agency withheld nearly 90 percent of intelligence on the August 4, 1964, incident to back allegations of a North Vietnamese attack.
"It is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened. It is that no attack happened that night," NSA historian Robert Hanyok wrote.
Hanyok's article, which appeared in a classified NSA publication in 2001, was based on a review of newly discovered signals intelligence documents from 41 years ago. The Gulf of Tonkin incident gave President Lyndon Johnson carte blanche for a huge U.S. military buildup in Southeast Asia that led to the deaths of more than 58,000 U.S. soldiers and over 2 million Vietnamese civilians.
The New York Times reported Friday that some intelligence officials believe the NSA delayed the release of the Hanyok article to avoid comparisons between skewed Vietnam intelligence and flawed prewar intelligence on Iraq.
Officials at NSA, the spy agency that monitors transmission signals, provided the Johnson administration only with signals intelligence that supported claims of an attack. The reports were also flawed by severe analytic errors and contained unexplained translation changes, the article said.
In fact, Johnson's main proof that the August 4 attack occurred proved to be a "conjunction of two unrelated messages into one translation," the article stated.
"Information was presented in such a manner as to preclude responsible decisionmakers in the Johnson administration from having the complete and objective narrative," said the article, which was among hundreds of documents on the Gulf of Tonkin released by the NSA.
"The conclusion that would have been drawn from a review of all ... evidence would have been that the North Vietnamese not only did not attack, but were uncertain as to the location of the (U.S.) ships."
Historians have long suspected that government reports of the 1964 attack were fabricated. Robert McNamara, Johnson's defense secretary, said during a visit to Vietnam a decade ago that he had come to believe the attack did not occur.
BBC article: Vietnam Revisited
As the North Vietnamese entered Saigon, the South Vietnamese soldiers leapt out of their uniforms in a mass striptease.
Their combat gear and boots were left strewn across the streets. Three divisions of the South Vietnamese Army around Saigon melted away, the soldiers returning to their villages.
Army uniforms were discarded on the spot
Colonel Hackworth says the North Vietnamese troops were the most motivated soldiers he had ever seen.
"They had lots of fire in their belly. They were well led. They were totally dedicated and they weren't fighting for communism,'' he adds.
"They were fighting for independence much like the Americans in 1776 were fighting against the British. They wanted their country free of any foreign oppression."
Saigon's leader, President Nguyen Van Thieu, may have commanded the world's fourth largest army, but it was riddled with greed and incompetence.
Colonel David Hackworth, the most decorated US combat officer in Vietnam, says many of the South Vietnamese generals he knew were in it for one thing.
"The Americans were so dumb that they were shovelling money in by the wheel barrow and the [Vietnamese officers] were simply grabbing it and opening business after business.
John Pilger finds our children learning lies
In our schools, children learn that the US fought the Vietnam war against a "communist threat" to "us". Is it any wonder that so many don't understand the truth about Iraq?
02/05/17 "New Statesman" - - How does thought control work in societies that call themselves free? Why are famous journalists so eager, almost as a reflex, to minimise the culpability of a prime minister who shares responsibility for the unprovoked attack on a defenceless people, for laying waste to their land and for killing at least 100,000 people, most of them civilians, having sought to justify this epic crime with demonstrable lies? What made the BBC's Mark Mardell describe the invasion of Iraq as "a vindication for him"? Why have broadcasters never associated the British or American state with terrorism? Why have such privileged communicators, with unlimited access to the facts, lined up to describe an unobserved, unverified, illegitimate, cynically manipulated election, held under a brutal occupation, as "democratic", with the pristine aim of being "free and fair"? That quotation belongs to Helen Boaden, the director of BBC News.
Have she and the others read no history? Or is the history they know, or choose to know, subject to such amnesia and omission that it produces a world-view as seen only through a one-way moral mirror? There is no suggestion of conspiracy. This one-way mirror ensures that most of humanity is regarded in terms of its usefulness to "us", its desirability or expendability, its worthiness or unworthiness: for example, the notion of "good" Kurds in Iraq and "bad" Kurds in Turkey. The unerring assumption is that "we" in the dominant west have moral standards superior to "theirs". One of "their" dictators (often a former client of ours, such as Saddam Hussein) kills thousands of people and he is declared a monster, a second Hitler. When one of our leaders does the same he is viewed, at worst, like Blair, in Shakespearean terms. Those who kill people with car bombs are "terrorists"; those who kill far more people with cluster bombs are the noble occupants of a "quagmire".
Historical amnesia can spread quickly. Only ten years after the Vietnam war, which I reported, an opinion poll in the United States found that a third of Americans could not remember which side their government had supported. This demonstrated the insidious power of the dominant propaganda, that the war was essentially a conflict of "good" Vietnamese against "bad" Vietnamese, in which the Americans became "involved", bringing democracy to the people of southern Vietnam faced with a "communist threat". Such a false and dishonest assumption permeated the media coverage, with honourable exceptions. The truth is that the longest war of the 20th century was a war waged against Vietnam, north and south, communist and non-communist, by America. It was an unprovoked invasion of the people's homeland and their lives, just like the invasion of Iraq. Amnesia ensures that, while the relatively few deaths of the invaders are constantly acknowledged, the deaths of up to five million Vietnamese are consigned to oblivion.
What are the roots of this? Certainly, "popular culture", especially Hollywood movies, can decide what and how little we remember. Selective education at a tender age performs the same task. I have been sent a widely used revision guide for GCSE modern world history, on Vietnam and the cold war. This is learned by 14- to-16-year-olds in our schools. It informs their understanding of a pivotal period in history, which must influence how they make sense of today's news from Iraq and elsewhere.
It is shocking. It says that under the 1954 Geneva Accord: "Vietnam was partitioned into communist north and democratic south." In one sentence, truth is despatched. The final declaration of the Geneva conference divided Vietnam "temporarily" until free national elections were held on 26 July 1956. There was little doubt that Ho Chi Minh would win and form Vietnam's first democratically elected government. Certainly, President Eisenhower was in no doubt of this. "I have never talked with a person knowledgeable in Indo-Chinese affairs," he wrote, "who did not agree that . . . 80 per cent of the population would have voted for the communist Ho Chi Minh as their leader."
Not only did the United States refuse to allow the UN to administer the agreed elections two years later, but the "democratic" regime in the south was an invention. One of the inventors, the CIA official Ralph McGehee, describes in his masterly book Deadly Deceits how a brutal expatriate mandarin, Ngo Dinh Diem, was imported from New Jersey to be "president" and a fake government was put in place. "The CIA," he wrote, "was ordered to sustain that illusion through propaganda [placed in the media]."
Phoney elections were arranged, hailed in the west as "free and fair", with American officials fabricating "an 83 per cent turnout despite Vietcong terror". The GCSE guide alludes to none of this, nor that "the terrorists", whom the Americans called the Vietcong, were also southern Vietnamese defending their homeland against the American invasion and whose resistance was popular. For Vietnam, read Iraq.
The tone of this tract is from the point of view of "us". There is no sense that a national liberation movement existed in Vietnam, merely "a communist threat", merely the propaganda that "the USA was terrified that many other countries might become communist and help the USSR - they didn't want to be outnumbered", merely that President Lyndon B Johnson "was determined to keep South Vietnam communist-free" (emphasis as in the original). This proceeds quickly to the Tet Offensive of 1968, which "ended in the loss of thousands of American lives - 14,000 in 1969 - most were young men". There is no mention of the millions of Vietnamese lives also lost in the offensive. And America merely began "a bombing campaign": there is no mention of the greatest tonnage of bombs dropped in the history of warfare, of a military strategy that was deliberately designed to force millions of people to abandon their homes, and of chemicals used in a manner that profoundly changed the environment and the genetic order, leaving a once-bountiful land all but ruined.
This guide is from a private publisher, but its bias and omissions reflect that of the official syllabuses, such as the syllabus from Oxford and Cambridge, whose cold war section refers to Soviet "expansionism" and the "spread" of communism; there is not a word about the "spread" of rapacious America. One of its "key questions" is: "How effectively did the USA contain the spread of communism?" Good versus evil for untutored minds.
"Phew, loads for you to learn here . . ." say the authors of the revision guide, "so get it learned right now." Phew, the British empire did not happen; there is nothing about the atrocious colonial wars that were models for the successor power, America, in Indonesia, Vietnam, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, to name but a few along modern history's imperial trail of blood of which Iraq is the latest.
And now Iran? The drumbeat has already begun. How many more innocent people have to die before those who filter the past and the present wake up to their moral responsibility to protect our memory and the lives of human beings?This article first appeared in the New Statesman. For the latest in current and cultural affairs subscribe to the New Statesman print edition.
Copyright: New Statesman.
Torture Is News But It's Not New
May 8, 2004
by John Pilger
When I first went to report the American war against Vietnam, in the 1960s, I visited the Saigon offices of the great American newspapers and TV companies, and the international news agencies.
I was struck by the similarity of displays on many of their office pinboards. "That's where we hang our conscience," said an agency photographer.
There were photographs of dismembered bodies, of soldiers holding up severed ears and testicles and of the actual moments of torture. There were men and women being beaten to death, and drowned, and humiliated in stomach-turning ways. On one photograph was a stick-on balloon above the torturer's head, which said: "That'll teach you to talk to the press."
The question came up whenever visitors caught sight of these pictures: why had they not been published? A standard response was that newspapers would not publish them, because their readers would not accept them. And to publish them, without an explanation of the wider circumstances of the war, was to "sensationalize."
At first, I accepted the apparent logic of this; atrocities and torture by "us" were surely aberrations by definition. My education thereafter was rapid; for this rationale did not explain the growing evidence of civilians killed, maimed, made homeless and sent mad by "anti-personnel" bombs dropped on villages, schools and hospitals.
Nor did it explain the children burned to a bubbling pulp by something called napalm, or farmers hunted in helicopter "turkey shoots," or a "suspect" tortured to death with a rope around his neck, dragged behind a jeep filled with doped and laughing American soldiers.
Nor did it explain why so many soldiers kept human parts in their wallets and special forces officers who kept human skulls in their huts, inscribed with the words: "One down, a million to go."
Philip Jones Griffiths, the great Welsh freelance photographer with whom I worked in Vietnam, tried to stop an American officer blowing to bits a huddled group of women and children.
"They're civilians," he yelled.
"What civilians?" came the reply.
Jones Griffiths and others tried to interest the news agencies in pictures that told the truth about that atrocious war. The response often was: "So what's new?"
The difference today is that the truth of the equally atrocious Anglo-American invasion of Iraq is news. Moreover, leaked Pentagon documents make clear that torture is widespread in Iraq. Amnesty International says it is "systematic."
And yet, we have only begun to identify the unspeakable element that unites the invasion of Vietnam with the invasion of Iraq. This element draws together most colonial occupations, no matter where or when. It is the essence of imperialism, a word only now being restored to our dictionaries. It is racism.
In Kenya in the 1950s, the British slaughtered an estimated 10,000 Kenyans and ran concentration camps where the conditions were so harsh that 402 inmates died in just one month. Torture, flogging and abuse of women and children were commonplace. "The special prisons," wrote the imperial historian V.G. Kiernan, "were probably as bad as any similar Nazi or Japanese establishments."
None of this was news at the time. The "Mau Mau terror" was reported and perceived one way: as "demonic" black against white. The racist message was clear, but "our" racism was never mentioned.
In Kenya, as in the failed American attempt to colonize Vietnam, as in Iraq, racism fueled the indiscriminate attacks on civilians, and the torture. When they arrived in Vietnam, the Americans regarded the Vietnamese as human lice. They called them "gooks" and "dinks" and "slopes" and they killed them in industrial quantities, just as they had slaughtered the Native Americans; indeed, Vietnam was known as "Indian country."
In Iraq, nothing has changed.
In boasting openly about killing "rats in their nest," US marine snipers, who in Fallujah shot dead women, children and the elderly, just as German snipers shot dead Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, were reflecting the racism of their leaders.
Paul W Wolfowitz, the Deputy Defense Secretary who is said to be the architect of the invasion of Iraq, has spoken of "snakes" and "draining the swamps" in the "uncivilized parts of the world."
Much of this modern imperial racism was invented in Britain. Listen to its subtle expressions, as British spokesmen find their weasel words in refusing to acknowledge the numbers of Iraqis killed or maimed by their cluster bombs, whose actual effects are no different from the effects of suicide bombers; they are weapons of terrorism. Listen to Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, drone on in parliament, refusing to say how many innocent people are the victims of his government.
In Vietnam, the shooting of women and their babies in the village of My Lai was called an "American Tragedy" by Newsweek magazine. Be prepared for more of the "our tragedy" line that invites sympathy for the invaders.
The Americans left three million dead in Vietnam and a once bountiful land devastated and poisoned with the effects of the chemical weapons they used. While American politicians and Hollywood wrung their hands over GIs missing-in-action, who gave a damn for the Vietnamese?
In Iraq, nothing has changed.
First published in the Mirror
PHOTO: Many Vietnamese children still suffer consequences of Agent Orange.
Between 1962 and 1971, an estimated 20 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, were used in Vietnam.
Vietnam says about three million of its people suffer from birth defects and diseases linked to the dioxin-containing Agent Orange.
Study: Agent Orange Lingers in Vietnam Food
August 11, 2003
HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange continues to contaminate livestock and fish eaten by Vietnamese decades after it was used, a study released on Monday showed.
A 2002 study in Bien Hoa city, about 20 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, showed residents and food had high levels of dioxin, the August issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine said.
The report said about 95 percent of blood samples taken from 43 people in Bien Hoa "were found to have elevated TCDD levels," referring to the most toxic of the dioxins.
"Although the spraying ended over three decades ago, in certain areas of Vietnam food is clearly a present-day route of intake of dioxin from Agent Orange," the study said.
Tests on 16 food samples of chickens, ducks, pork, beef, fish and a toad from the city's markets, a lake and a nearby air base where Agent Orange had been stored found "markedly elevated" dioxin levels in six samples.
Vietnam estimates more than one million of its people have been exposed to Agent Orange, used from 1962 to 1971 to strip trees and plants and deny communist fighters cover and food.
The dioxin-containing Agent Orange, the spraying of which was stopped in 1971, got its name because of the colored stripes on its containers.
U.S. embassy officials in Hanoi did not immediately have a comment on the report.
PHOTO: Le Thi Nhon (L), 24, and her younger sister Le Thi Hoa, 15, both victims of agent orange used during the Vietnam War, stand at the door of their house in Dong Ha, Vietnam. A group representing Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange lashed out at the US for failing to address the consequences of the use of the highly toxic defoliant during the Vietnam War(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)
Vietnam lashes out at US for failing to address Agent Orange legacy
Feb 27, 2004
HANOI, (AFP) - A group representing Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange lashed out at the United States for failing to address the consequences of the use of the highly toxic defoliant during the Vietnam War.
"The Vietnamese people with their tolerant humane tradition have expresed their willingness to cooperate with the United States to resolve post-war issues," the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange said.
"Regrettably, their goodwill has not been reciprocated," the organization, which was established earlier this year under the umbrella of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, added in a statement.
In a move that was considered inevitable given Washington's failure to atone for its use of Agent Orange, the Association filed a lawsuit on January 30 at a Federal Court in New York against more than 30 US chemical companies.
The suit was lodged on behalf of six victims in Vietnam and all other Vietnamese nationals exposed to herbicides during the war. The plaintiffs are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
The defendants, who include Dow Chemical and Monsanto, are accused of complicity to war crimes and crimes against humanity, among other charges.
"The lawsuit is not only for the sake of their own lives but also for the legitimate interests of all Agent Orange victims, including those in other countries and even in the US," the Association said.
The legacy of Agent Orange remains a source of contention between Vietnam and the United States, who only established diplomatic relations in 1995, two decades after the war ended.
From 1961 to 1971, the US and South Vietnamese military sprayed millions of litres of toxic herbicides, mainly Agent Orange, over South Vietnam to destroy the vegetation used by communist forces for cover and food.
Hanoi says Agent Orange has caused health problems for more than one million Vietnamese and continues to have devastating consequences.
A study, released in August last year by scientists from the United States, Germany and Vietnam, found that the defoliant was still contaminating people through their food.
Dioxin, its deadly component, can cause an increased risk of cancers, immunodeficiencies, reproductive and developmental changes, nervous system problems and other health effects, according to medical experts.
Vietnam says the United States has a moral and humanitarian responsibility to heal the wounds of the war but it has never formally asked for compensation for Agent Orange victims.
Washington, however, insists there is no direct evidence linking dioxin with any illnesses. Agreeing to disagree, both governments signed a pact in March 2002 on a framework for more research into the impact of the defoliant.
The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange appealed to "compatriots" across the world to give their backing to the legal proceedings.
"The Association expects and welcomes all sentiments and support from progressive individuals and organizations who fight for human rights in all corners of the world."
US chemical companies engaged in the production of Agent Orange have found themselves in the dock before.
In 1984, in a class action settlement with no admission of liability, they agreed to pay 180 million dollars to US war veterans who died or became ill after exposure to Agent Orange or other defoliants.
But for years US veterans have been seeking additional compensation to that settlement, and in June 2003 the Supreme Court ruled they could continue to pursue claims against the manufacturers despite the earlier settlement.
This file photo dated 01 June 2003 shows Vietnam War agent-orange victim Thai Thi Ha, 13, from the central province of Nghe An, clapping and singing during a fund-raising meeting for agent-orange victims in Hanoi. Ha's father was a Northern Vietnamese soldier fighting in Southern Vietnam. Her skin is napped of black marks.(AFP/File/Hoang Dinh Nam)
A US Air Force C-123 plane drops Agent Orange, code name for a herbicide developed for the military, on jungle during Vietnam war, 3 March 1967.(AFP/UPI-HO/File)
US analyst Ludwell Denny in his book "We Fight for Oil" noted the domestic oil shortage and says international diplomacy had failed to secure any reliable foreign sources of oil for the United States. Fear of oil shortages would become the most important factor in international relations, Denny said.
"That empire in Southeast Asia is the last major resource area outside the control of any one of the major powers of the globe....I believe that the condition of the Vietnamese people, and the direction in which their future may be going, are at this stage secondary, not primary." (Senator McGee, D-Wyo., in the U.S. Senate, Feb. 17, 1965)
In a 1965 speech in Asia, Richard Nixon argued in favor of bombing North Vietnam to protect the "immense mineral potential" of Indonesia, which he later referred to as "by far the greatest prize in the southeast Asian area."
To protect its prizes, the US eventually killed over four million people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos between 1965 and 1975. In South Vietnam alone, the war resulted in a million widows and 879,000 orphans. It destroyed 9000 out of 15,000 hamlets, almost 40,000 square miles of farmland and 18,750 square miles of forest.
Coordinating Committee for Geoscience Programmes in East and Southeast Asia (CCOP)
"The first type of oil and gas agreement applied in Vietnam was the concession system, in which an oil company is permitted by the host country to explore and produce petroleum on a certain area on the condition that it must pay to the State of this country compulsory taxes with a fixed rate. At the early stage of oil exploration in offshore southern Vietnam, the former Saigon Administration allowed oil companies including Pecten, Mobil, Esso and Marathon to conduct petroleum activities through concession agreements. After the establishment of PetroVietnam in 1975, in recognition of the advantage of the production-sharing system, it has been chosen as a basic frame for petroleum contracts."
PETROVIETNAM, EXPLORATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR OIL AND NATURAL GAS IN VIET NAM
I.2 Exploration History
The exploration activities for petroleum started in the early 1960s in the Song Hong Delta, northern Vietnam, with assistance of the former Soviet Union. By the late 1970’s, almost 40 wells had been drilled in the region, however, only one small gas field was commercially developed. At the same period, exploration went on in the southern continental shelf through concession agreements signed with international oil companies including Mobil, Esso, Pecten, Marathon, and Texas Union.
Article: "Viet Nam Finds Success in Program Aimed at Building Oil and Gas Capacity"
Oil and Gas Journal v92, n48
(Nov 28, 1994)
Summary: Viet Nam's efforts to build its oil and gas productive capacity are paying off. From having no hydrocarbon production just a few years ago, Viet Nam is emerging as one of the Asia-Pacific region's significant crude exporters. A second major oil field just started production off Viet Nam's southern coast, and a string of recent discoveries bodes well for further oil production increases.
Russian firms develop Vietnam's oil and gas
Vietnam's gas reserves are estimated at 700 billion to 800 billion cubic meters.
McNAMARA #1: 11 LESSONS FROM VIETNAM
One of the principal architects of the Vietnam War, former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, is back in the news again with the showing of the documentary biography "The Fog of War." In the film, McNamara - who later in life was critical of the war and his own role in it - explains some of the "lessons" he derived from this 14-year imperialist misadventure (1961-1975), which took the lives of millions of Vietnamese and nearly 60,000 GIs from battle or "other" reasons.
In the first of three books in which he expresses his reservations about the Vietnam - "In Retrospect," written in 1995 - the former warhawk put forward 11 specific lessons that must be understood from this war, nearly all of which were obviously disregarded by the Bush administration in Iraq. Here they are:
1. "We misjudged then -and we have since - the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries... and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions."
2. "We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience. We totally misjudged the political forces within the country."
3. "We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.
4. "Our judgments of friend and foe alike reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders."
5. "We failed then and have since to recognize the limitations of modern, high-technology military equipment, forces and doctrine. We failed as well to adapt our military tactics to the task of winning the hearts and minds of people from a totally different culture."
6. "We failed to draw Congress and the American people into a full and frank discussion and debate of the pros and cons of a large-scale military involvement before we initiated the action."
7. "After the action got under way and unanticipated events forced us off our planned course we did not fully explain what was happening and why we were doing what we did."
8. "We did not recognize that neither our people nor our leaders are omniscient. Our judgment of what is in another people's or country's best interest should be put to the test of open discussion in international forums. We do not have the God-given right to shape every nation in our image or as we choose."
9. "We did not hold to the principle that U.S. military action should be carried out only in conjunction with multinational forces supported fully (and not merely cosmetically) by the international community."
10. "We failed to recognize that in international affairs, as in other aspects of life, there may be problems for which there are no immediate solutions. At times, we may have to live with an imperfect, untidy world."
11. "Underlying many of these errors lay our failure to organize the top echelons of the executive branch to deal effectively with the extraordinarily complex range of political and military issues."
Dec. 3, 2003:
Vietnam Agent Orange Victims File 1st U.S. Suit
Feb. 4, 2004
HANOI (Reuters) - Three Vietnamese who say they or their families became ill from Agent Orange defoliant used by the United States in the war nearly 30 years ago have filed the first lawsuit against makers of the product, a victims group said.
The two women and a man filed the suit seeking unspecified damages on January 30 in a New York court, an official at the Vietnam Association of Agent Orange Victims told Reuters on Wednesday. The group was formed last month.
Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co., the two largest makers of the chemical named after the color of its containers, were among the more than 20 firms named in the suit, the official said.
One of the plaintiffs is Phan Thi Phi Phi, who is suing for illnesses from exposure to the chemical, which was sprayed from aircraft.
"I do not want to do this for myself as it has been a long time already, but in Vietnam, the poorest, the most miserable and most discriminated ones are the Agent Orange victims so anything I can do for them, I will," she told Reuters.
American veterans of the Vietnam War exposed to the herbicide have complained for years about a variety of health problems and have also sued the makers.
In 1984, Dow and Monsanto agreed to pay $180 million to U.S. veterans. The chemical was used by U.S. forces to deny the communists food and jungle cover.
Under an agreement with Vietnam, America has pledged to conduct joint scientific research on the defoliant but has consistently declined to discuss any compensation.
The issue has been one of the thornier legacies of the Vietnam War, and was raised during last year's historic visit to Washington by Vietnam's Defense Minister Pham Van Tra.
The other woman is seeking compensation on behalf of herself and a child who died from the chemical, the association official said.
The man, who is dying from lung cancer, is representing himself and his two children who are also Agent Orange victims, the official said.
Among the chemical components of Agent Orange was dioxin, a compound that remains in the soil for a long time and shown to cause cancer, birth defects and organ dysfunction.
Asked about compensation, the official said the applications did not specify any amounts. "We understand that this lawsuit is a long process and it cannot be settled overnight," he added.
Between 1962 and 1971, an estimated 20 million gallons of herbicides, including Agent Orange, were used in Vietnam. Spraying of the chemical was discontinued before the war ended in 1975.
Vietnam says about three million of its people suffer from diseases linked to the chemical.
Legal action by Vietnamese Agent Orange victims was inevitable
Feb. 8. 2004
HANOI (AFP) - Three Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange have begun legal action against manufacturers of the defoliant used by US forces during the Vietnam War, a move analysts say was inevitable given Washington's failure to atone for its use.
The Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange, which was established last month under the umbrella of the ruling Communist Party, filed a lawsuit on their behalf at the US Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York on January 30.
Nguyen Trong Nhan, the organization's vice president, said more than 20 American companies engaged in the production of Agent Orange had been named in the suit, including Dow Chemical Co. and Monsanto Co.
The amount of money the three plaintiffs are seeking in damages has not yet been determined, Nhan said.
"This has been a long time coming. It was almost inevitable because the US government has done almost nothing to help Vietnamese victims," said Chuck Searcy, an American aid worker in Vietnam.
Nhan insisted that the lawsuit was initiated independently from the government. Some sources say it could have been filed at the behest of American lawyers working on a pro bono basis.
"It looks as though the government is watching from the sidelines without intervening to block the case. It could probably do so if it wanted to," said Searcy, a Vietnam War veteran.
His comments were echoed by a Hanoi-based Western diplomat.
"I don't think the government is behind this. They seem sincere in their desire to continue the process of improving US-Vietnam relations," he said. "I'm just surprised it hasn't happened before."
The legacy of Agent Orange remains a source of contention between the two former foes, who only established diplomatic relations in 1995, two decades after the war ended.
From 1961 to 1971, the US and South Vietnamese military sprayed millions of litres of toxic herbicides, mainly Agent Orange, over South Vietnam to destroy the vegetation used by communist forces for cover and food.
Various herbicide mixtures identified by colored stripes on their containers, were used during the spraying programme, which was known as Operation Ranch Hand. Agent Orange was the most common mixture used.
Hanoi says the defoliant has caused health problems for more than one million Vietnamese and continues to have devastating consequences.
A study, released in August last year by scientists from the United States, Germany and Vietnam, found that Agent Orange was still contaminating people through their food.
Dioxin, the defoliant's deadly component, can cause an increased risk of cancers, immunodeficiencies, reproductive and developmental changes, nervous system problems and other health effects, according to medical experts.
Vietnam says the United States has a moral and humanitarian responsibility to heal the wounds of the war but it has never formally asked for compensation for Agent Orange victims.
Washington, however, insists there is no direct evidence linking dioxin with any illnesses. Agreeing to disagree, both governments signed a pact in March 2002 on a framework for more research into the impact of the defoliant.
"Despite the US government saying there is no scientific evidence proving the impact of Agent Orange on human health here, the evidence seems pretty overwhelming," said Searcy.
US chemical companies engaged in the production of Agent Orange, including Dow Chemical and Monsanto, have found themselves in the dock before.
In 1984, in a class action settlement with no admission of liability, manufacturers agreed to pay 180 million dollars to US war veterans who died or became ill after exposure to Agent Orange or other defoliants.
But for years US veterans have been seeking additional compensation to that settlement, and in June 2003 the Supreme Court ruled they could continue to pursue claims against the manufacturers despite the earlier settlement.
Study shows Agent Orange cancer risk
Jan. 29, 2004
A US air force study has found an increased risk of cancer for those exposed to Agent Orange and other herbicides during the Vietnam War.
For the first time, a study shows the sharp increase in prostrate, skin and other types of cancer - a conclusion drawn from a statistical study of US veterans who sprayed toxic chemical dioxins during the war.
Between 1965 and 1970, US forces used more than 19 million gallons of the herbicide over the forests of southern Vietnam in an attempt to expose enemy troops - with devastating health effects on hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and thousands of US troops.
The director of the National Protection Fund for Agent Orange Victims, Le Ke Son, said only 10% of those people disabled by the herbicide were recognized as victims of the chemical agent.
"Incomplete statistics show that there are over 1 million victims of the dioxin nationwide, including second and third generation victims"
The latest study analysised data gathered over the past two decades - information collected for the Air Force Health Study on Operation Ranch Hand
The research suggests that Vietnamese and veterans with the highest exposure to dioxin were more than twice as likely to develop cancer "at any anatomical site" than unexposed veterans who were in southeast Asia for two years or less.
The Ranch Hand veterans' risk of contracting prostate cancer was more than six times greater than that of the other veterans, while their risk of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, was more than seven and a half times greater, the study found.
The analysis will be published in the February edition of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
April 6, 2004
NEW YORK - The Blade of Toledo, Ohio, won its first Pulitzer — for an investigative report on civilian killings by an elite U.S. Army unit in Vietnam 37 years ago.
The investigative reporting prize honored Toledo Blade reporters Michael D. Sallah, Mitch Weiss and Joe Mahr for their articles about an elite Army platoon accused of killing unarmed Vietnamese civilians in 1967. The series prompted the military to begin interviewing ex-members of the unit and trying to determine why an earlier official probe — never before made public — ended in 1975 with no charges.
"We won!" Blade executive editor Ron Royhab yelled to a crowded newsroom after getting the news in a cell phone call. Sallah and Weiss hugged each other and the paper's top editors and publisher.
Weiss reminded the jubilant newsroom not to "forget the people we wrote about. The people in the villages who were killed. The soldiers who are still suffering post-traumatic stress."
Report: U.S. Army Unit Targeted Vietnam Civilians
Oct. 19, 2003
TOLEDO, Ohio (Reuters) - A U.S. Army unit known as Tiger Force committed numerous war crimes during the Vietnam War, including killing scores of unarmed civilians, but an investigation was closed with no charges being brought, The Blade newspaper reported on Sunday.
The Blade said it found the Army had investigated the unit for 4 1/2 years, and found 18 soldiers had committed war crimes. But the Army filed no charges, and allowed soldiers who were under suspicion of committing war crimes to resign.
The newspaper said the accusations against the unit included killing women and children, torturing prisoners and severing ears and scalps for souvenirs.
The paper said the Army's investigation of Tiger Force found 27 soldiers who said the severing of ears from dead Vietnamese was an accepted practice. One soldier told the newspaper that troops would wear necklaces of ears to scare Vietnamese civilians.
The unit of 45 paratroopers was assigned to spy on enemy forces in Vietnam's Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces between May and November 1967, the newspaper said. Unit members told the newspaper that they faced frequent sniper fire and guerrilla attacks, with dozens of soldiers wounded and some killed.
In some areas, so-called "free fire zones" were declared by the U.S. Army, allowing soldiers to attack enemy forces without direct orders from commanders.
"We were living day to day. We didn't expect to live. Nobody out there with any brains expected to live," unit member William Doyle told The Blade in an interview. "So you did any goddamn thing you felt like doing -- especially to stay alive. The way to live is to kill because you don't have to worry about anybody who's dead."
According to The Blade, two soldiers who tried to stop the atrocities were warned by their commanders to remain quiet before transferring to other units.
The Blade said it based its stories on interviews with more than 100 Tiger Force members and Vietnamese civilians, as well as thousands of government documents, some still classified.
The findings of the Army's investigation, from February 1971 to June 1975, were sent to the U.S. secretary of defense, and reports on the investigation's progress were sent to the White House.
The Blade said the Army's Criminal Investigation Command refused to release thousands of records from the investigation It also said Army spokesman Joe Burlas could not explain why no charges were brought in the investigation.
Rion Causey, who served with Tiger Force as a medic, said he believed a new probe was necessary, particularly one targeting a battalion commander nicknamed Ghostrider, who he said was the chief instigator of the atrocities.
"We felt that he should be brought up on charges. I still do," Causey, who now works as nuclear scientist in California, told AFP by telephone. "I think it's his fault. I think he needs to pay for it."
Causey, who could not remember the commander's real name, said reports of US soldiers cutting off ears and scalps from freshly killed Vietnamese and decorating necklaces with them were "all true.
"I personally watched at least 120 people die," Causey said, his voice audibly shaking. "Yes, I know it was bad."
Vietnamese Survivors of U.S. Tiger Force Hold Hope
Oct. 25, 2003
By MARGIE MASON, Associated Press Writer
HANH THIEN, Vietnam - Huynh Thi Gioi's memory is clear as she describes the day American soldiers called her outside of the shelter that once stood here only to fire a single fatal shot into her 6-year-old son.
According to a recent investigation by the Toledo, Ohio, newspaper The Blade, an elite U.S. Army unit killed hundreds of civilians - mainly women, children, and the elderly - in this Central Highland area during seven months in 1967.
After more than three decades, little physical evidence remains in this tiny, poverty-stricken valley to support the allegations, but the atrocities live on in the memories of the few surviving villagers.
During a government-escorted trip to the area, Gioi and her neighbors clustered around a table to tell their stories. They aren't looking for revenge or even justice - they just do not want to be forgotten.
After her son was shot in her arms, "I held his body tight and I was crying and later the translator said the American soldiers killed him because he was a boy and the son of a communist soldier," Gioi said Friday. "I was just a farmer and I did not side with the communists or the Saigon government."
None of the Vietnamese villagers know exactly who was responsible for the killings that spread through Song Ve Valley during those months. They only describe the soldiers as "white" with "big noses" or "tall and big," but most said they were too afraid to look at the Americans in the eye during a raid.
The Tiger Force, as the 101st Airborne Division unit was called, reportedly dropped grenades in bunkers and randomly fired on unarmed civilians during the killing spree, according to a 4 1/2-year military investigation that was closed in 1975, the Blade reported. No one was ever charged in the probe, which was initiated by a soldier outraged by the killings.
Earlier this week, the Army said it lacked sufficient evidence to prosecute those allegedly involved. But based on interviews with civilians and former Tiger Force soldiers, it was estimated the unit killed hundreds of unarmed people, The Blade said.
Gioi, 67, who stands about 4-feet-tall beneath her weathered conical hat, insisted she is not bitter.
"We just want to have peace. It's been a long time, so to put them on trial and send them to jail now, I'm not sure that would help. So maybe the U.S. government should pay reparations for the war - I think that would be the best way," she said.
Other survivors say it took a long time to release their demons and to forgive. But today, as a circle of children shoot marbles in the yard, there is no talk of hatred. Instead survivors speak of the future, and hope that no one else will endure the ugliness that war creates.
"At that time, we had big hatred toward the Americans because they killed my uncle, but now I'm too old so I'm not sure whether I still harbor that hatred," said Tam Hau, 72, who still works the rice paddies with her elderly husband for a meager $65 a year. "I wish I could have the money to rebuild the grave for my uncle."
The violence came just months before the killing of about 500 Vietnamese civilians by an Army unit in 1968 at My Lai, another village in the same province.
"After each raid, the American soldiers threw all the corpses in one place and guarded it," said Vo Minh Phuong, 47. "They just killed people on the spot ... and did not allow the villagers to bury them."
Phuong was 11 when the killings happened and he still recalls the smell of the defoliant sprayed on the area and the sound of the helicopters flying low over the mountains.
"After three days, all the trees died," he said. "Several days later, when we picked up the cassava, it was ruined. It looked like cooked cassava."
Despite living in poverty, many survivors say they are happy to be alive to see Vietnam at peace. The war ended in 1975 when the northern communist forces reunified the country.
"They have committed so many crimes in Vietnam. These crimes should be exposed and not go unnoticed," said Gioi, who still mourns for her lost son. "If the world learned more about the atrocities committed in Vietnam, it may help to prevent future wars."
Vietnam Seeks to Move Past Reported U.S. War Crimes
October 21, 2003
HANOI (Reuters) - Communist Vietnam said Tuesday it wanted to move forward from its war past with America, following a U.S. newspaper report that an army unit known as Tiger Force may have committed war crimes.
The Blade newspaper from Toledo, Ohio, reported Sunday that the unit killed scores of unarmed civilians, but an investigation was closed with no charges being brought.
Asked to respond to the report, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday that while the war with America, which ended in 1975, "caused much suffering and losses to the Vietnamese people," it wished to close the door on such events.
"With a tradition for peace and humanitarianism in relations with the United States as well as with countries that have had a hostile past with Vietnam, our policy is to enhance mutual understanding through cooperation, promoting and continuously improving bilateral relations," the statement said.
"And that also acts as the basis to settle the consequences from the past," it added.
The Blade said it found the Army had investigated the unit for 4 years, and found 18 soldiers had committed war crimes. But the Army filed no charges, and allowed soldiers who were under suspicion of committing war crimes to resign.
The newspaper said the accusations against the unit included killing women and children, torturing prisoners and severing ears and scalps for souvenirs.
The paper said the Army's investigation of Tiger Force found 27 soldiers who said the severing of ears from dead Vietnamese was an accepted practice. One soldier told the newspaper that troops would wear necklaces of ears to scare Vietnamese civilians.
The unit of 45 paratroopers was assigned to spy on enemy forces in Vietnam's Quang Ngai and Quang Nam provinces between May and November 1967, the newspaper said. Unit members told the newspaper that they faced frequent sniper fire and guerrilla attacks, with dozens of soldiers wounded and some killed.
The Blade said it based its stories on interviews with more than 100 Tiger Force members and Vietnamese civilians, as well as thousands of government documents, some still classified.
Some 58,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War, while Hanoi lost three million civilians and military.
30-year-old bombs still very deadly in Laos
Dec. 14, 2003
By Paul Wiseman, USA TODAY
USA TODAY - With their parents working in the rice paddies and nothing much to do in the village, 7-year-old Dam Somphone and his two friends decided to go into the forest to look for a bomb.
It didn't take long to find one. Savannakhet is the most heavily bombed province in one of the most heavily bombed countries in the history of warfare. About 150 yards into the jungle, the boys spotted an unexploded bomblet from a U.S. cluster bomb dropped here during the Vietnam War.
Dam was happy. He wanted to see something go boom. He picked up the bomblet, which was the size of a tennis ball, and carried it back to the village. His friends ran away, but Dam was fearless. He hurled the BLU-63 bomblet against a board. When nothing happened, he picked it up and threw it again. This time, the bomblet detonated, sending dozens of metal fragments flying in all directions. They slashed into Dam's face, his shoulder, his knee and his abdomen, slicing his liver and small intestine.
"Nobody thought he would live," says his father, Pho Somphone, 33.
Dam survived after more than a month in a hospital across the border in Thailand. Now 9, Dam has recovered physically. But he has trouble sleeping. His confidence is gone. He spends a lot of time sitting silently in the gloom of his family's hut in Lampoi village.
Three decades after the bombing stopped, two or three Laotians are killed every month and another six or seven are maimed by unexploded ordnance, called UXO, left over from the war.
Cluster bombs, known here as "bombies," account for about half the unexploded ordnance on the ground and most of the casualties. Since the bombing ended in 1973, 5,700 Laotians have been killed and 5,600 injured by UXO. Through the end of August, 14 of the 30 Laotians reported killed this year and 33 of the 58 injured by UXO have been children.
Cluster bombs contain dozens, even hundreds, of submunitions the size of tennis balls, soft drink cans or D batteries. The submunitions, or bomblets, are scattered over a wide area and are intended to explode on impact. The problem is a high percentage - experts estimate up to 30% in Laos - of bomblets don't go off. Hidden under bushes or buried in the ground, they can detonate if someone touches them, or never explode.
Critics call them de facto land mines. Activist groups such as Human Rights Watch have demanded a cluster bomb ban or a moratorium on their use until the problems with them are resolved. The debate flared again this year when the U.S. military used cluster munitions to attack Iraqi forces in cities and towns. What happened in Laos shows how cluster bombs can continue to kill years after a war is over. But the situation in Laos is worse than in Iraq, where U.S. forces used far fewer cluster bombs with much lower dud rates than the ones used in the Vietnam War.
This impoverished, landlocked country endured one of history's heaviest bombing campaigns. From 1964 through 1973, the United States flew 580,000 bombing runs over Laos - one every 9 minutes for 10 years. More than 2 million tons of ordnance was unloaded on the countryside, double the amount dropped on Nazi Germany in World War II. "Certainly, on a per-capita basis, Laos remains the most heavily bombed nation in the history of warfare," says Martin Stuart-Fox, a historian at Queensland University in Australia and author of A History of Laos.
The United States dropped 80 million cluster bomblets on Laos. Ten percent to 30% did not explode, leaving 8 million to 24 million scattered across the country; 15 of Laos' 18 provinces are contaminated with UXO. In the northern Xiangkhoang province, grazing water buffalo have eaten dud submunitions and exploded.
Savannakhet, a province of 672,000 in southern Laos, was hit hardest. U.S. B-52s were drawn here by the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which snaked through the province. A gravel road follows a river along what used to be the old Communist supply route. The roadside is pitted with craters left by American bombs, now filled with muddy water and populated by ducks.
But the leftovers can still be lethal. In March, three Kengkhuep boys, ages 10 to 12, picked up a BLU-26 submunition - the most common bomblet in Laos - and tried to crack it open. They wanted to use the pellets inside in their slingshots or rifles. Maybe they'd zap a frog and get something to eat. Their prying detonated the bomblet. The explosion sent the pellets ripping into their bodies and killed all three.
Children seem to find bombies irresistible, especially the BLU-24/B, nicknamed "orange" for its spherical shape. The Laotian government's bomb cleanup agency, UXO Lao, is trying to teach kids to stay away from unexploded ordnance, no matter how colorful. But it can be a tough sell. Says UXO Lao spokesman Bounpheng Sisavath: "It looks like food, an orange or an apple. They play; it explodes."
Victims often stumble upon bombies. An 8-year-old Savannakhet boy was killed in August when he hit a hidden cluster bomblet with a stick he was using to probe for frogs in the forest.
Economics also drive Laotians, young and old, toward reckless behavior. Recycling old ordnance has become a big business in Laos, one of the poorest countries in Asia. Scrap metal dealers, many from neighboring Vietnam, offer 2,000 kip (about 20 cents) per bombie and sometimes lend scavengers metal detectors to scour the forests for unexploded ordnance. "UXO is seen as a cash crop," UXO Lao concluded in a 2002 study.
Some parents send their kids into the forest in search of dud bombs. In a country where farm families earn less than $2 a day, the potential income is seductive. "For many of them, it's survival. If they don't do it, they don't have rice," says Didier Bertrand, a researcher with the humanitarian group Handicap International. In a study of the Savannakhet village Tam Luang last year, UXO Lao found only three of 71 households produced enough rice to live on.
There would be more rice to go around if farmers didn't have to worry about unexploded ordnance buried in the brush. Cultivating new land is risky. Savannakhet rice farmer Songkan, 35, learned the hard way. He was trying to clear land for his crop in mid-August when his hoe hit what turned out to be a BLU-26 cluster bomblet, buried about 8 inches deep in mud.
"I didn't know that underground there was a bombie," says Songkan, who uses one name. It exploded. Twelve metal fragments hit him, five in the face. His hands were shattered. He probably won't be able to work this year. He's sold $50 worth of gold jewelry he had set aside for emergencies to pay his medical bills and other expenses. Songkan still owes another $50 in medical bills. That's nearly two months' income. How is he going to support himself, his wife and his three children until he returns to work? "I have no idea," Songkan says with a wan smile.
UXO limits farming
Outside the Savannakhet village of Haise, Phousavien Phetdonxay, 40, owns about 5 hectares (about 12 acres) of land. But he only farms one. "We want to extend our land, but we cannot. We have to wait for the (UXO Lao) clearance team," to remove any unexploded ordnance.
"It's a very sad legacy of the Vietnam War," says Finn Reske-Nielsen, Laos the United Nations Development Program's representative. "UXO inhibits development in rural areas. It is difficult to cultivate new land because you don't know what it contains. It slows the building of new roads and schools and clinics."
The United States, which spent $9 million a day (in today's dollars) bombing Laos for 10 years, last year contributed $1 million to UXO Lao. Douglas Hartwick, U.S. ambassador to Laos, says he wishes the United States could pay more.
Even a bigger budget wouldn't solve UXO Lao's problems. Experts here, noting that unexploded bombs from World War I still turn up in Belgium, doubt that this little country will ever be free of cluster bombs. "Many people ask me how long this project will go on. I say, 50 years, 100 years," UXO Lao director Bounpone Sayasenh says. "The bombies are everywhere.
Media Beat, July 27, 1994
Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam WarBy Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon
Thirty years ago, it all seemed very clear.
"American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression", announced a Washington Post headline on Aug. 5, 1964.
That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: "President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and 'certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam' after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin."
But there was no "second attack" by North Vietnam -- no "renewed attacks against American destroyers." By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.
A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media...leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties.
The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2 -- and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.
The truth was very different.
Rather than being on a routine patrol Aug. 2, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers -- in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force.
"The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam...had taken place," writes scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964."
On the night of Aug. 4, the Pentagon proclaimed that a second attack by North Vietnamese PT boats had occurred earlier that day in the Tonkin Gulf -- a report cited by President Johnson as he went on national TV that evening to announce a momentous escalation in the war: air strikes against North Vietnam.
But Johnson ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.
Prior to the U.S. air strikes, top officials in Washington had reason to doubt that any Aug. 4 attack by North Vietnam had occurred. Cables from the U.S. task force commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, referred to "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing ship's own propeller beat."
One of the Navy pilots flying overhead that night was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event," recalled Stockdale a few years ago, "and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets -- there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power."
In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."
But Johnson's deceitful speech of Aug. 4, 1964, won accolades from editorial writers. The president, proclaimed the New York Times, "went to the American people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans to "face the fact that the Communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have themselves escalated the hostilities."
An exhaustive new book, The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, begins with a dramatic account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. In an interview, author Tom Wells told us that American media "described the air strikes that Johnson launched in response as merely `tit for tat' -- when in reality they reflected plans the administration had already drawn up for gradually increasing its overt military pressure against the North."
Why such inaccurate news coverage? Wells points to the media's "almost exclusive reliance on U.S. government officials as sources of information" -- as well as "reluctance to question official pronouncements on 'national security issues.'"
Daniel Hallin's classic book The "Uncensored War" observes that journalists had "a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn't used. The day before the first incident, Hanoi had protested the attacks on its territory by Laotian aircraft and South Vietnamese gunboats."
What's more, "It was generally known...that `covert' operations against North Vietnam, carried out by South Vietnamese forces with U.S. support and direction, had been going on for some time."
In the absence of independent journalism, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution -- the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam -- sailed through Congress on Aug. 7. (Two courageous senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, provided the only "no" votes.) The resolution authorized the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."
The rest is tragic history.
Nearly three decades later, during the Gulf War, columnist Sydney Schanberg warned journalists not to forget "our unquestioning chorus of agreeability when Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident."
Schanberg blamed not only the press but also "the apparent amnesia of the wider American public."
And he added: "We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."
Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon are syndicated columnists and the authors of Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (Common Courage Press).
Consider this quote from Hermann Goering, president of the Reichstag, Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief:
"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
The Impossible Victory: Vietnam
excerpted from "A People's History of the United States"
by Howard Zinn
In the fall of 1945 Japan, defeated, was forced to leave Indochina, the former French colony it had occupied at the start of the war. In the meantime, a revolutionary movement had grown there, determined to end colonial control and to achieve a new life for the peasants of Indochina. Led by a Communist named Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionists fought against the Japanese, and when they were gone held a spectacular celebration in Hanoi in late 1945, with a million people in the streets, and issued a Declaration of Independence. It borrowed from the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, in the French Revolution, and from the American Declaration of Independence, and began: "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Just as the Americans in 1776 had listed their grievances against the English King, the Vietnamese listed their complaints against French rule:
They have enforced inhuman laws.... They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots, they have drowned uprisings in rivers of blood. They have fettered public opinion.... They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials...
They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty....... from the end of last year, to the beginning of this year... more than two million of our fellow-citizens died of starvation....
The whole Vietnamese people, animated by a common purpose, are deter mined to fight to the bitter end against any attempt by the French colonialists to reconquer their country.
The U.S. Defense Department study of the Vietnam war, intended to be "top secret" but released to the public by Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo in the famous Pentagon Papers case, described Ho Chi Minh's work:
"... Ho had built the Viet Minh into the only Vietnam-wide political organization capable of effective resistance to either the Japanese or the French. He was the only Vietnamese wartime leader with a national following, and he assured himself wider fealty among the Vietnamese people when in August September, 1945, he overthrew the Japanese... established the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, and staged receptions for in-coming allied occupation forces.... For a few weeks in September, 1945, Vietnam was-for the first and only time in its modern history-free of foreign domination, and united from north to south under Ho Chi Minh...."
The Western powers were already at work to change this. England occupied the southern part of Indochina and then turned it back to the French. Nationalist China (this was under Chiang Kai-shek, before the Communist revolution) occupied the northern part of Indochina, and the United States persuaded it to turn that back to the French. As Ho Chi Minh told an American journalist: "We apparently stand quite alone.... We shall have to depend on ourselves."
Between October 1945 and February 1946, Ho Chi Minh wrote eight letters to President Truman, reminding him of the self-determination promises of the Atlantic Charter. One of the letters was sent both to Truman and to the United Nations:
I wish to invite attention of your Excellency for strictly humanitarian reasons to following matter. Two million Vietnamese died of starvation during winter of 1944 and spring 1945 because of starvation policy of French who seized and stored until it rotted all available rice.... Three-fourths of cultivated land was flooded in summer 1945, which was followed by a severe drought; of normal harvest five-sixths was lost.... Many people are starving.... Unless great world powers and international relief organizations bring us immediate assistance we face imminent catastrophe....
Truman never replied.
In October of 1946, the French bombarded Haiphong, a port in northern Vietnam, and there began the eight-year war between the Vietminh movement and the French over who would rule Vietnam. After the Communist victory in China in 1949 and the Korean war the following year, the United States began giving large amounts of military aid to the French. By 1954, the United States had given 300,000 small arms and machine guns, enough to equip the entire French army in Indochina, and $1 billion; all together, the U.S. was financing 80 percent of the French war effort. Why was the United States doing this? To the public, the word was that the United States was helping to stop Communism in Asia, but there was not much public discussion. In the secret memoranda of the National Security Council (which advised the President on foreign policy) there was talk in 1950 of what came to be known as the "domino theory"-that, like a row of dominoes, if one country fell to Communism, the next one would do the same and so on. It was important therefore to keep the first one from falling.
A secret memo of the National Security Council in June 1952 also pointed to the chain of U.S. military bases along the coast of China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea:
Communist control of all of Southeast Asia would render the U.S. position in the Pacific offshore island chain precarious and would seriously jeopardize fundamental U.S. security interests in the Far East.
Southeast Asia, especially Malaya and Indonesia, is the principal world source of natural rubber and tin, and a producer of petroleum and other strategically important commodities....
It was also noted that Japan depended on the rice of Southeast Asia, and Communist victory there would "make it extremely difficult to prevent Japan's eventual accommodation to communism." In 1953, a congressional study mission reported: "The area of Indochina is immensely wealthy in rice, rubber, coal and iron ore. Its position makes it a strategic key to the rest of Southeast Asia." That year, a State Department memorandum said that the French were losing the war in Indochina, had failed "to win a sufficient native support," feared that a negotiated settlement "would mean the eventual loss to Communism not only of Indochina but of the whole of Southeast Asia, and concluded: "If the French actually decided to withdraw, the U.S. would have to consider most seriously whether to take over in this area."
In 1954, the French, having been unable to win Vietnamese popular support, which was overwhelmingly behind Ho Chi Minh and the revolutionary movement, had to withdraw.
An international assemblage at Geneva presided over the peace agreement between the French and the Vietminh. It was agreed that the French would temporarily withdraw into the southern part of Vietnam, that the Vietminh would remain in the north, and that an election would take place in two years in a unified Vietnam to enable the Vietnamese to choose their own government.
The United States moved quickly to prevent the unification and to establish South Vietnam as an American sphere. It set up in Saigon as head of the government a former Vietnamese official named Ngo Dinh Diem, who had recently been living in New Jersey, and encouraged him not to hold the scheduled elections for unification. A memo in early 1954 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said that intelligence estimates showed "a settlement based on free elections would be attended by almost certain loss of the Associated States [Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam-the three parts of Indochina created by the Geneva Conference] to Communist control." Diem again and again blocked the elections requested by the Vietminh, and with American money and arms his government became more and more firmly established. As the Pentagon Papers put it: "South Viet Nam was essentially the creation of the United States." *
During 1965, over 200,000 American soldiers were sent to South Vietnam, and in 1966, 200,000 more. By early 1968, there were more than 500,000 American troops there, and the U.S. Air Force was dropping bombs at a rate unequaled in history. Tiny glimmerings of the massive human suffering under this bombardment came to the outside world. On June 5, 1965, the New York Times carried a dispatch from Saigon:
As the Communists withdrew from Quangngai last Monday, United States jet bombers pounded the hills into which they were headed. Many Vietnamese one estimate is as high as 500 were killed by the strikes. The American contention is that they were Vietcong soldiers. But three out of four patients seeking treatment in a Vietnamese hospital afterward for burns from napalm, or jellied gasoline, were village women.
On September 6, another press dispatch from Saigon:
"In Bien Hoa province south of Saigon on August 15 United States aircraft accidentally bombed a Buddhist pagoda and a Catholic church.. . it was the third time their pagoda had been bombed in 1965. A temple of the Cao Dai religious sect in the same area had been bombed twice this year. In another delta province there is a woman who has both arms burned off by napalm and her eyelids so badly burned that she cannot close them. When it is time for her to sleep her family puts a blanket over her head. The woman had two of her children killed in the air strike that maimed her."
Few Americans appreciate what their nation is doing to South Vietnam with airpower... innocent civilians are dying every day in South Vietnam.
Large areas of South Vietnam were declared "free fire zones," which meant that all persons remaining within them-civilians, old people, children-were considered an enemy, and bombs were dropped at will. Villages suspected of harboring Viet Cong were subject to "search and destroy" missions-men of military age in the villages were killed, the homes were burned, the women, children, and old people were sent off to refugee camps. Jonathan Schell, in his book The Village of Ben Suc, describes such an operation: a village surrounded, attacked, a man riding on a bicycle shot down, three people picnicking by the river shot to death, the houses destroyed, the women, children, old people herded together, taken away from their ancestral homes.
The CIA in Vietnam, in a program called "Operation Phoenix," secretly, without trial, executed at least twenty thousand civilians in South Vietnam who were suspected of being members of the Communist underground. A pro-administration analyst wrote in the journal Foreign Affairs in January 1975: "Although the Phoenix program did undoubtedly kill or incarcerate many innocent civilians, it did also eliminate many members of the Communist infrastructure."
After the war, the release of records of the International Red Cross showed that in South Vietnamese prison camps, where at the height of the war 65,000 to 70,000 people were held and often beaten and tortured, American advisers observed and sometimes participated. The Red Cross observers found continuing, systematic brutality at the two principal Vietnamese POW camps-at Phu Quoc and Qui Nhon, where American advisers were stationed.
By the end of the war, 7 million tons of bombs had been dropped on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia-more than twice the amount of bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II. In addition, poisonous sprays were dropped by planes to destroy trees and any kind of growth- an area the size of the state of Massachusetts was covered with such poison. Vietnamese mothers reported birth defects in their children. Yale biologists, using the same poison (2,4,5,T) on mice, reported defective mice born and said they had no reason to believe the effect on humans was different.
On March 16, 1968, a company of American soldiers went into the hamlet of My Lai 4, in Quang Ngai province. They rounded up the inhabitants, including old people and women with infants in their arms. These people were ordered into a ditch, where they were methodically shot to death by American soldiers. The testimony of James Dursi, a rifleman, at the later trial of Lieutenant William Calley, was reported in the New York Times:
Lieutenant Calley and a weeping rifleman named Paul D. Meadlo the same soldier who had fed candy to the children before shooting them-pushed the prisoners into the ditch...
"There was an order to shoot by Lieutenant Calley, I can't remember the exact words-it was something like 'Start firing.' "Meadlo turned to me and said: 'Shoot, why don't you shoot?'
"He was crying. "I said, 'I can't. I won't.'
"Then Lieutenant Calley and Meadlo pointed their rifles into the ditch and fired.
"People were diving on top of each other; mothers were trying to protect their children...."
Journalist Seymour Hersh, in his book My Lai 4, writes:
"When Army investigators reached the barren area in November, 1969, in connection with the My Lai probe in the United States, they found mass graves at three sites, as well as a ditch full of bodies. It was estimated that between 450 and 500 people-most of them women, children and old men- had been slain and buried there."
The army tried to cover up what happened. But a letter began circulating from a GI named Ron Ridenhour, who had heard about the massacre. There were photos taken of the killing by an army photographer, Ronald Haeberle. Seymour Hersh, then working for an antiwar news agency in Southeast Asia called Dispatch News Service, wrote about it. The story of the massacre had appeared in May 1968 in two French publications, one called Sud Vietnam en Lutte, and another published by the North Vietnamese delegation to the peace talks in Paris-but the American press did not pay any attention.
Several of the officers in the My Lai massacre were put on trial, but only Lieutenant William Calley was found guilty. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but his sentence was reduced twice; he served three years-Nixon ordered that he be under house arrest rather than a regular prison-and then was paroled. Thousands of Americans came to his defense. Part of it was in patriotic justification of his action as necessary against the "Communists." Part of it seems to have been a feeling that he was unjustly singled out in a war with many similar atrocities. Colonel Oran Henderson, who had been charged with covering up the My Lai killings, told reporters in early 1971: "Every unit of brigade size has its My Lai hidden someplace."
Indeed, My Lai was unique only in its details. Hersh reported a letter sent by a GI to his family, and published in a local newspaper:
"Dear Mom and Dad:
Today we went on a mission and I am not very proud of myself, my friends, or my country. We burned every hut in sight!
It was a small rural network of villages and the people were incredibly poor. My unit burned and plundered their meager possessions. Let me try to explain the situation to you.
The huts here are thatched palm leaves. Each one has a dried mud bunker inside. These bunkers are to protect the families. Kind of like air raid shelters.
My unit commanders, however, chose to think that these bunkers are offensive. So every hut we find that has a bunker we are ordered to burn to the ground.
When the ten helicopters landed this morning, in the midst of these huts, and six men jumped out of each "chopper", we were firing the moment we hit the ground. We fired into all the huts we could....
It is then that we burned these huts.... Everyone is crying, begging and praying that we don't separate them and take their husbands and fathers, sons and grandfathers. The women wail and moan.
Then they watch in terror as we burn their homes, personal possessions and food. Yes, we burn all rice and shoot all livestock."
The massacre at My Lai by a company of ordinary soldiers was a small event compared with the plans of high-level military and civilian leaders to visit massive destruction on the civilian population of Vietnam. Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton in early 1966, seeing that large-scale bombing of North Vietnam villages was not producing the desired result, suggested a different strategy. The air strikes on villages, he said, would "create a counterproductive wave of revulsion abroad and at home." He suggested instead:
Destruction of locks and dams, however-if handled right-might... offer promise. It should be studied. Such destruction doesn't kill or drown people. By shallow-flooding the rice, it leads after a time to widespread starvation (more than a million?) unless food is provided-which we could offer to do "at the conference table."...
The heavy bombings were intended to destroy the will of ordinary Vietnamese to resist, as in the bombings of German and Japanese population centers in World War II-despite President Johnson's public insistence that only "military targets" were being bombed. The government was using language like "one more turn of the screw" to describe bombing. The CIA at one point in 1966 recommended a "bombing program of greater intensity," according to the Pentagon Papers, directed against, in the ClA's words, "the will of the regime as a target system."
Meanwhile, just across the border of Vietnam, in a neighboring country, Laos, where a right-wing government installed by the CIA faced a rebellion, one of the most beautiful areas in the world, the Plain of Jars, was being destroyed by bombing. This was not reported by the government or the press, but an American who lived in Laos, Fred Branfman, told the story in his book Voices from the Plain of Jars:
Over 25,000 attack sorties were flown against the Plain of Jars from May, 1964, through September, 1969; over 75,000 tons of bombs were dropped on it; on the ground, thousands were killed and wounded, tens of thousands driven underground, and the entire aboveground society leveled.
In September 1973, a former government official in Laos, Jerome Doolittle, wrote in the New York Times:
"The Pentagon's most recent lies about bombing Cambodia bring back a question that often occurred to me when I was press attachi at the American Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.
Why did we bother to lie?
When I first arrived in Laos, I was instructed to answer all press questions about our massive and merciless bombing campaign in that tiny country with: "At the request of the Royal Laotian Government, the United States is conducting unarmed reconnaissance flights accompanied by armed escorts who have the right to return if fired upon."
This was a lie. Every reporter to whom I told it knew it was a lie. Hanoi knew it was a lie. The International Control Commission knew it was a lie. Every interested Congressman and newspaper reader knew it was a lie....
After all, the lies did serve to keep something from somebody, and the somebody was us."
By early 1968, the cruelty of the war began touching the conscience of many Americans. For many others, the problem was that the United States was unable to win the war, while 40,000 American soldiers were dead by this time, 250,000 wounded, with no end in sight. (The Vietnam casualties were many times this number.)
Lyndon Johnson had escalated a brutal war and failed to win it. His popularity was at an all-time low; he could not appear publicly without a demonstration against him and the war. The chant "LBJ, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" was heard in demonstrations throughout the country. In the spring of 1968 Johnson announced he would not run again for President, and that negotiations for peace would begin with the Vietnamese in Paris.
In the fall of 1968, Richard Nixon, pledging that he would get the United States out of Vietnam, was elected President. He began to withdraw troops; by February 1972, less than 150,000 were left. But the bombing continued. Nixon's policy was "Vietnamization"-the Saigon government, with Vietnamese ground troops, using American money and air power, would carry on the war. Nixon was not ending the war; he was ending the most unpopular aspect of it, the involvement of American soldiers on the soil of a faraway country.
In the spring of 1970, Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger launched an invasion of Cambodia, after a long bombardment that the government never disclosed to the public. The invasion not only led to an outcry of protest in the United States, it was a military failure, and Congress resolved that Nixon could not use American troops in extending the war without congressional approval. The following year, without American troops, the United States supported a South Vietnamese invasion of Laos. This too failed. In 1971, 800,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the United States on Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.
In August of 1965, 61 percent of the population thought the American involvement in Vietnam was not wrong. By May 1971 it was exactly reversed; 61 percent thought our involvement was wrong. Bruce Andrews, a Harvard student of public opinion, found that the people most opposed to the war were people over fifty, blacks, and women. He also noted that a study in the spring of 1964, when Vietnam was a minor issue in the newspapers, showed that 53 percent of college educated people were willing to send troops to Vietnam, but only 33 percent of grade school-educated people were so willing.
It seems that the media, themselves controlled by higher-education, higher-income people who were more aggressive in foreign policy, tended to give the erroneous impression that working-class people were superpatriots for the war. Lewis Lipsitz, in a mid-1968 survey of poor blacks and whites in the South, paraphrased an attitude he found typical: "The only way to help the poor man is to get out of that war in Vietnam... These taxes-high taxes-it's going over yonder to kill people with and I don't see no cause in it."
The capacity for independent judgment among ordinary Americans is probably best shown by the swift development of antiwar feeling among American GIs-volunteers and draftees who came mostly from lower-income groups. There had been, earlier in American history, in stances of soldiers' disaffection from the war: isolated mutinies in the Revolutionary War, refusal of reenlistment in the midst of hostilities in the Mexican war, desertion and conscientious objection in World War I and World War II. But Vietnam produced opposition by soldiers and veterans on a scale, and with a fervor, never seen before.
It began with isolated protests. As early as June 1965, Richard Steinke, a West Point graduate in Vietnam, refused to board an aircraft taking him to a remote Vietnamese village. "The Vietnamese war," he said, "is not worth a single American life." Steinke was court-martialed and dismissed from the service. The following year, three army privates, one black, one Puerto Rican, one Lithuanian-Italian-all poor-refused to embark for Vietnam, denouncing the war as "immoral, illegal, and unjust." They were court-martialed and imprisoned.
In early 1967, Captain Howard Levy, an army doctor at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, refused to teach Green Berets, a Special Forces elite in the military. He said they were "murderers of women and children" and "killers of peasants." He was court-martialed on the ground that he was trying to promote disaffection among enlisted men by his statements. The colonel who presided at the trial said: "The truth of the statements is not an issue in this case." Levy was convicted and sentenced to prison.
The individual acts multiplied: A black private in Oakland refused to board a troop plane to Vietnam, although he faced eleven years at hard labor. A navy nurse, Lieutenant Susan Schnall, was court-martialed for marching in a peace demonstration while in uniform, and for drop ping antiwar leaflets from a plane on navy installations. In Norfolk, Virginia, a sailor refused to train fighter pilots because he said the war was immoral. An army lieutenant was arrested in Washington, D.C., in early 1968 for picketing the White House with a sign that said: " 120,000 American Casualties-Why?" Two black marines, George Daniels and William Harvey, were given long prison sentences (Daniels, six years, Harvey, ten years, both later reduced) for talking to other black marines against the war.
As the war went on, desertions from the armed forces mounted. Thousands went to Western Europe-France, Sweden, Holland. Most deserters crossed into Canada; some estimates were 50,000, others 100,000. Some stayed in the United States. A few openly defied the military authorities by taking "sanctuary" in churches, where, surrounded by antiwar friends and sympathizers, they waited for capture and court-martial. At Boston University, a thousand students kept vigil for five days and nights in the chapel, supporting an eighteen-year old deserter, Ray Kroll.
Kroll's story was a common one. He had been inveigled into joining the army; he came from a poor family, was brought into court, charged with drunkenness, and given the choice of prison or enlistment. He enlisted. And then he began to think about the nature of the war.
On a Sunday morning, federal agents showed up at the Boston University chapel, stomped their way through aisles clogged with students, smashed down doors, and took Kroll away. From the stockade, he wrote back to friends: "I ain't gonna kill; it's against my will...." A friend he had made at the chapel brought him books, and he noted a saying he had found in one of them: "What we have done will not be lost to all Eternity. Everything ripens at its time and becomes fruit at its hour."
The GI antiwar movement became more organized. Near Fort Jackson, South Carolina, the first "GI coffeehouse" was set up, a place where soldiers could get coffee and doughnuts, find antiwar literature, and talk freely with others. It was called the UFO, and lasted for several years before it was declared a "public nuisance" and closed by court action. But other GI coffeehouses sprang up in half a dozen other places across the country. An antiwar "bookstore" was opened near Fort Devens, Massachusetts, and another one at the Newport, Rhode Island, naval base.
Underground newspapers sprang up at military bases across the country; by 1970 more than fifty were circulating. Among them: About Face in Los Angeles; Fed Up! in Tacoma, Washington; Short Times at Fort Jackson; Vietnam Gl in Chicago; Graffiti in Heidelberg, Germany; Bragg Briefs in North Carolina; Last Harass at Fort Gordon, Georgia; Helping Hand at Mountain Home Air Base, Idaho. These newspapers printed antiwar articles, gave news about the harassment of GIs and practical advice on the legal rights of servicemen, told how to resist military domination.
Mixed with feeling against the war was resentment at the cruelty, the dehumanization, of military life. In the army prisons, the stockades, this was especially true. In 1968, at the Presidio stockade in California, a guard shot to death an emotionally disturbed prisoner for walking away from a work detail. Twenty-seven prisoners then sat down and refused to work, singing "We Shall Overcome." They were court-martialed, found guilty of mutiny, and sentenced to terms of up to fourteen years, later reduced after much public attention and protest.
The dissidence spread to the war front itself. When the great Moratorium Day demonstrations were taking place in October 1969 in the United States, some GIs in Vietnam wore black armbands to show their support. A news photographer reported that in a platoon on patrol near Da Nang, about half of the men were wearing black armbands. One soldier stationed at Cu Chi wrote to a friend on October 26, 1970, that separate companies had been set up for men refusing to go into the field to fight. "It's no big thing here anymore to refuse to go." The French newspaper Le Monde reported that in four months, 109 soldiers of the first air cavalry division were charged with refusal to fight. "A common sight," the correspondent for Le Monde wrote, "is the black soldier, with his left fist clenched in defiance of a war he has never considered his own."
Wallace Terry, a black American reporter for Time magazine, taped conversations with hundreds of black soldiers; he found bitterness against army racism, disgust with the war, generally low morale. More and more cases of "fragging" were reported in Vietnam-incidents where servicemen rolled fragmentation bombs under the tents of officers who were ordering them into combat, or against whom they had other grievances. The Pentagon reported 209 fraggings in Vietnam in 1970 alone.
Veterans back from Vietnam formed a group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War. In December 1970, hundreds of them went to Detroit to what was called the "Winter Soldier" investigations, to testify publicly about atrocities they had participated in or seen in Vietnam, committed by Americans against Vietnamese. In April 1971 more than a thousand of them went to Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against the war. One by one, they went up to a wire fence around the Capitol, threw over the fence the medals they had won in Vietnam, and made brief statements about the war, sometimes emotionally, sometimes in icy, bitter calm.
In the summer of 1970, twenty-eight commissioned officers of the military, including some veterans of Vietnam, saying they represented about 250 other officers, announced formation of the Concerned Officers Movement against the war. During the fierce bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong, around Christmas 1972, came the first defiance of B-52 pilots who refused to fly those missions.
On June 3, 1973, the New York Times reported dropouts among West Point cadets. Officials there, the reporter wrote, "linked the rate to an affluent, less disciplined, skeptical, and questioning generation and to the anti-military mood that a small radical minority and the Vietnam war had created."
But most of the antiwar action came from ordinary GIs, and most of these came from lower-income groups-white, black, Native American, Chinese.
A twenty-year-old New York City Chinese-American named Sam Choy enlisted at seventeen in the army, was sent to Vietnam, was made a cook, and found himself the target of abuse by fellow GIs, who called him "Chink" and "gook" (the term for the Vietnamese) and said he looked like the enemy. One day he took a rifle and fired warning shots at his tormentors. "By this time I was near the perimeter of the base and was thinking of joining the Viet Cong; at least they would trust me. " Choy was taken by military police, beaten, court-martialed, sentenced to eighteen months of hard labor at Fort Leavenworth. "They beat me up every day, like a time clock." He ended his interview with a New York Chinatown newspaper saying: "One thing: I want to tell all the Chinese kids that the army made me sick. They made me so sick that I can't stand it."
A dispatch from Phu Bai in April 1972 said that fifty GIs out of 142 men in the company refused to go on patrol, crying: "This isn't our war!" The New York Times on July 14,1973, reported that American prisoners of war in Vietnam, ordered by officers in the POW camp to stop cooperating with the enemy, shouted back: "Who's the enemy?" They formed a peace committee in the camp, and a sergeant on the committee later recalled his march from capture to the POW camp:
Until we got to the first camp, we didn't see a village intact; they were all destroyed. I sat down and put myself in the middle and asked myself: Is this right or wrong? Is it right to destroy villages? Is it right to kill people en masse? After a while it just got to me.
Pentagon officials in Washington and navy spokesmen in San Diego announced, after the United States withdrew its troops from Vietnam in 1973, that the navy was going to purge itself of "undesirables"- and that these included as many as six thousand men in the Pacific fleet, "a substantial proportion of them black." All together, about 563,000 GIs had received less than honorable discharges. In the year 1973, one of every five discharges was "less than honorable." indicating something less than dutiful obedience to the military. By 1971, 177 of every 1,000 American soldiers were listed as "absent without leave," some of them three or four times. Deserters doubled from 47,000 in 1967 to 89,000 in 1971.
One of those who stayed, fought, but then turned against the war was Ron Kovic. His father worked in a supermarket on Long Island. In 1963, at the age of seventeen, he enlisted in the marines. Two years later, in Vietnam, at the age of nineteen, his spine was shattered by shellfire. Paralyzed from the waist down, he was put in a wheelchair. Back in the States, he observed the brutal treatment of wounded veterans in the veterans' hospitals, thought more and more about the war, and joined the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. He went to demonstrations to speak against the war. One evening he heard actor Donald Sutherland read from the post-World War I novel by Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun, about a soldier whose limbs and face were shot away by gunfire, a thinking torso who invented a way of communicating with the outside world and then beat out a message so powerful it could not be heard without trembling.
Sutherland began to read the passage and something I will never forget swept over me. It was as if someone was speaking for everything I ever went through in the hospital.... I began to shake and I remember there were tears in my eyes.
Kovic demonstrated against the war, and was arrested. He tells his story in Born on the Fourth of July:
They help me back into the chair and take me to another part of the prison building to be booked. "What's your name?" the officer behind the desk says.
"Ron Kovic," I say. "Occupation, Vietnam veteran against the war."
"What?" he says sarcastically, looking down at me.
"I'm a Vietnam veteran against the war," I almost shout back.
"You should have died over there," he says. He turns to his assistant "I'd like to take this guy and throw him off the roof."
They fingerprint me and take my picture and put me in a cell. I have begun to wet my pants like a little baby. The tube has slipped out during my examination by the doctor. I try to fall asleep but even though I am exhausted, the anger is alive in me like a huge hot stone in my chest. I lean my head up against the wall and listen to the toilets flush again and again. Kovic and the other veterans drove to Miami to the Republican National Convention in 1972, went into the Convention Hall, wheeled themselves down the aisles, and as Nixon began his acceptance speech shouted, "Stop the bombing! Stop the war!" Delegates cursed them: "Traitor!" and Secret Service men hustled them out of the hall.
In the fall of 1973, with no victory in sight and North Vietnamese troops entrenched in various parts of the South, the United States agreed to accept a settlement that would withdraw American troops and leave the revolutionary troops where they were, until a new elected government would be set up including Communist and non-Communist elements. But the Saigon government refused to agree, and the United States decided to make one final attempt to bludgeon the North Vietnamese into submission. It sent waves of B-52s over Hanoi and Haiphong, destroying homes and hospitals, killing unknown numbers of civilians. The attack did not work. Many of the B-52s were shot down, there was angry protest all over the world-and Kissinger went back to Paris and signed very much the same peace agreement that had been agreed on before. The United States withdrew its forces, continuing to give aid to the Saigon government, but when the North Vietnamese launched at tacks in early 1975 against the major cities in South Vietnam, the government collapsed. In late April 1975, North Vietnamese troops entered Saigon. The American embassy staff fled, along with many Vietnamese who feared Communist rule, and the long war in Vietnam was over. Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, and both parts of Vietnam were unified as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
Traditional history portrays the end of wars as coming from the initiatives of leaders-negotiations in Paris or Brussels or Geneva or Versailles-just as it often finds the coming of war a response to the demand of "the people." The Vietnam war gave clear evidence that at least for that war (making one wonder about the others) the political leaders were the last to take steps to end the war-"the people" were far ahead. The President was always far behind. The Supreme Court silently turned away from cases challenging the Constitutionality of the war. Congress was years behind public opinion.
In the spring of 1971, syndicated columnists Rowland Evans and Robert Novak, two firm supporters of the war, wrote regretfully of a "sudden outbreak of anti-war emotionalism" in the House of Representatives, and said: "The anti-war animosities now suddenly so pervasive among House Democrats are viewed by Administration backers as less anti-Nixon than as a response to constituent pressures."
It was only after the intervention in Cambodia ended, and only after the nationwide campus uproar over that invasion, that Congress passed a resolution declaring that American troops should not be sent into Cambodia without its approval. And it was not until late 1973, when American troops had finally been removed from Vietnam, that Congress passed a bill limiting the power of the President to make war without congressional consent; even there, in that "War Powers Resolution," the President could make war for sixty days on his own without a congressional declaration.
The administration tried to persuade the American people that the war was ending because of its decision to negotiate a peace-not because it was losing the war, not because of the powerful antiwar movement in the United States. But the government's own secret memoranda all through the war testify to its sensitivity at each stage about "public opinion" in the United States and abroad. The data is in the Pentagon Papers.
In June of 1964, top American military and State Department officials, including Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, met in Honolulu. "Rusk stated that public opinion on our SEA policy was badly divided and that, therefore, the President needed an affirmation of support."
Diem had been replaced by a general named Khanh. The Pentagon historians write: "Upon his return to Saigon on June 5 Ambassador Lodge went straight from the airport to call on General Khanh... the main thrust of his talk with Khanh was to hint that the United States Government would in the immediate future be preparing U.S. public opinion for actions against North Vietnam." Two months later came the Gulf of Tonkin affair.
On April 2, 1965, a memo from CIA director John McCone suggested that the bombing of North Vietnam be increased because it was "not sufficiently severe" to change North Vietnam's policy. "On the other hand... we can expect increasing pressure to stop the bombing... from various elements of the American public, from the press, the United Nations and world opinion." The U.S. should try for a fast knockout before this opinion could build up, McCone said.
Assistant Secretary of Defense John McNaughton's memo of early 1966 suggested destruction of locks and dams to create mass starvation, because "strikes at population targets" would "create a counterproductive wave of revulsion abroad and at home." In May 1967, the Pentagon historians write: "McNaughton was also very deeply concerned about the breadth and intensity of public unrest and dissatisfaction with the war... especially with young people, the underprivileged, the intelligentsia and the women." McNaughton worried: "Will the move to call up 20,000 Reserves... polarize opinion to the extent that the 'doves' in the United States will get out of hand-massive refusals to serve, or to fight, or to cooperate, or worse?" He warned:
There may be a limit beyond which many Americans and much of the world will not permit the United States to go. The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1000 non-combatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission, on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one. It could conceivably produce a costly distortion in the American national consciousness.
One sign that the ideas of the antiwar movement had taken hold in the American public was that juries became more reluctant to convict antiwar protesters, and local judges too were treating them differently. In Washington, by 1971, judges were dismissing charges against demonstrators in cases where two years before they almost certainly would have been sent to jail. The antiwar groups who had raided draft boards- the Baltimore Four, the Catonsville Nine, the Milwaukee Fourteen, the Boston Five, and more-were receiving lighter sentences for the same crimes.
The last group of draft board raiders, the "Camden 28," were priests, nuns, and laypeople who raided a draft board in Camden, New Jersey, in August 1971. It was essentially what the Baltimore Four had done four years earlier, when all were convicted and Phil Berrigan got six years in prison. But in this instance, the Camden defendants were acquitted by the jury on all counts. When the verdict was in, one of the jurors, a fifty-three-year-old black taxi driver from Atlantic City named Samuel Braithwaite, who had spent eleven years in the army, left a letter for the defendants:
To you, the clerical physicians with your God-given talents, I say, well done. Well done for trying to heal the sick irresponsible men, men who were chosen by the people to govern and lead them. These men, who failed the people, by raining death and destruction on a hapless country.... You went out to do your part while your brothers remained in their ivory towers watching... and hopefully some day in the near future, peace and harmony may reign to people of all nations. - The Freedom Archives
Bill Clinton has always been keen on apologizing, for himself and on behalf of the nation. He has apologized not only for a sex scandal, but for U.S. support of repression in Guatemala and for slavery.
One might contest the motivation for, or the phrasing of, the apologies -- Were they offered for the right reason? Did they go far enough? -- but at least they were offered.
There is one act of contrition, however, that Clinton -- or any American leader-- has not been able to make.
On his way to Hanoi last week, when asked if he thought the United States owed the people of Vietnam an apology, 25 years after the end of the war, Clinton said, simply, "No, I don't."
Some have offered a personalized explanation: As a man who avoided the draft during that war, Clinton has to stand tough today. But another possibility deserves consideration: To apologize for crimes against the people of Vietnam would be to admit that the stories we tell ourselves about our conduct in the world -- then and now -- are a lie.
To apologize would be to acknowledge that while we claimed to be defending democracy, we were derailing democracy. While we claimed to be defending South Vietnam, we were attacking the people of South Vietnam.
To apologize now would be to admit that the rationalizations for post-World War II U.S. foreign policy have been, and are still today, rhetorical cover for the power politics of an empire.
The standard story in the United States about that war is that in our quest to guarantee peace and freedom for Vietnam, we misunderstood its history, politics and culture, leading to mistakes that doomed our effort. Some argue we should have gotten out sooner than we did; others suggest we should have fought harder. But the common ground in mainstream opinion is that our motives were noble.
But we never fought in Vietnam for democracy. After World War II, the United States supported and financed France's attempt to retake its former colony. After the Vietnamese defeated the French in 1954, the Geneva Conference called for free elections in 1956, which the United States and its South Vietnamese client regime blocked. In his memoirs, President Eisenhower explained why: In free elections, the communists would have won by an overwhelming margin. The United States is all for elections, so long as they turn out the way we want.
The central goal of U.S. policy-makers in Vietnam had nothing to do with freedom for the Vietnamese people, but instead was to make sure that an independent socialist course of development did not succeed. U.S. leaders invoked Cold War rhetoric about the threat of the communist monolith but really feared that a "virus" of independent development might infect the rest of Asia, perhaps even becoming a model for all the Third World.
To prevent the spread of the virus, we dropped 6.5 million tons of bombs and 400,000 tons of napalm on the people of Southeast Asia. Saturation bombing of civilian areas, counterterrorism programs and political assassination, routine killings of civilians and 11.2 million gallons of Agent Orange to destroy crops and ground cover -- all were part of the U.S. terror war in Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia.
This interpretation is taken as obvious in much of the world, yet it is virtually unspeakable in polite and respectable circles in this country, which says much about the moral quality of polite and respectable people here.
Why is the truth about our attack on Vietnam so difficult to acknowledge? I think it is not just about Vietnam, but about a larger truth concerning our role in the world. We are the empire. Especially in the past half-century, we have supported repressive regimes around the world so long as they served elite interests. We have violated international law in countless invasions and interventions. While talking about the inviolate nature of human rights, we have trampled those rights and the legitimate aspirations of liberation movements.
In many ways, the Vietnam War was the defining act of the United States as empire, an aggression that was condemned around the world and at home, but pursued nonetheless, as the body count went into the millions. It is the linchpin of our mythology about ourselves.
In his last years on Earth, Martin Luther King Jr. understood this, as he began to speak out forcefully against the war: "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read `Vietnam,' " King said in 1967.
If he were alive today, I don't know whether King would give up on the soul of America and write a final autopsy report. But I am confident he would argue forcefully that the future is lost so long as we let stand the poisonous distortions of history.
Jensen teaches journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Guardian (London) Thursday April 25, 2002
If Slobodan Milosevic can be put on trial for war crimes, why can't Henry
asks human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell
Thursday April 25, 2002
I lost my bid to have the former US secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, prosecuted on charges of war crimes in Indochina, but there is good reason to hope that a future, better prepared attempt might succeed.
Refusing my application for an arrest warrant at Bow Street magistrates' court, Judge Nicholas Evans said he was not "presently" able to draft a "suitably precise charge" based on the evidence "of generalised allegations" that I had submitted.
Judge Evans doubted whether I could produce more specific, admissible evidence. But his comments leave open the possibility that he might issue a warrant in the future - if I can produce stronger evidence of Kissinger's culpability in the killing, maiming, torture and forced relocation of civilian populations in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the late 60s and early 70s.
It is now my intention to liaise with human rights lawyers and organisations in the United States, in order to obtain further evidence and witnesses. If I can get these, I hope to come back to court in a few months time and make a new application for Kissinger's arrest.
I brought this case because the director of public prosecutions, David Calvert-Smith, has refused to prosecute Kissinger.
If I went out and murdered my neighbour, the DPP would use all his resources to bring me to trial. Yet Henry Kissinger organised indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids that killed hundreds of thousands of people and Mr Calvert-Smith does nothing. I believe that these are comparable crimes.
As national security advisor to President Nixon from 1969-73, and later as US secretary of state from 1973-77, Henry Kissinger was the chief architect of US war policy in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
In his own memoirs, White House Years, he boasts of his huge power and influence over the President, claiming that nothing happened in Indochina that he did not know about and authorise.
According to the US Senate sub-committee on refugees, from March 1968 to March 1972, in excess of three million civilians were killed, wounded or made homeless.
During this same period, most of which coincides with Kissinger's role as NSA to the President, the US dropped nearly 4.5m tonnes of high explosive on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia - more than double the tonnage dropped during the whole of the second world war.
What the US did in Indochina involved the mass killing of civilians and the premeditated, wholesale destruction of the environment using chemical defoliants such as Agent Orange. These are war crimes under the 1957 Geneva Conventions Act.
I am merely seeking to have the law enforced, without fear or favour. No one should be above the law, not even Henry Kissinger. He may have escaped arrest this time, but my bid to have him prosecuted continues. Three million civilians are crying out for justice.
Even Judge Evans, in his verdict, acknowledged the seriousness of my case:
"Mr Tatchell has made his application courteously and with obvious sincerity. I do not doubt the strength of feeling in him and many others that justice requires that Mr Kissinger should face the allegations made against him in a court of law", he concluded.
Much of the damning evidence against Kissinger is set out in the book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, by Christopher Hitchens (Verso, London, 2001).
Hitchens demonstrates that Kissinger proposed, authorised, supervised and monitored the key elements of US war policy in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, and was involved in day to day war management, including planning and approving major military operations.
He also cites sources indicating that Kissinger approved bombing runs that were not limited to military targets and were likely to result in widespread civilian casualties.
Kissinger was a senior party - second only to the president - to the secret, illegal invasion and bombing of two neutral countries, Laos and Cambodia, without a declaration war or any warning to the civilian population.
In his biographical account, White House Years, Kissinger admits that on Air Force One on February 24 1969, together with HR Halerman, Alexander Haig and Colonel Ray Smitton, he conspired to work out "the guidelines for the [secret and illegal] bombing of the enemy's sanctuaries" in Cambodia and Laos.
US General Telford Taylor, the former chief prosecuting counsel at the Nuremberg trials, condemned the Kissinger-Nixon policy of air strikes against hamlets suspected of harbouring Vietnamese guerrillas as "flagrant violations of the Geneva convention on civilian protection".
The following examples, documented by Christopher Hitchens, are evidence of indiscriminate US attacks overseen by Kissinger which caused mass civilian casualties:
Writing in Newsweek on June 19 1972, Kevin Buckley revealed that one US official admitted that "as many as 5,000" civilians were killed by US firepower in the military operation Speedy Express in Kien Hoa province in 1969: "The enormous discrepancy between the body count (11,000) and the number of captured weapons (748) is hard to explain - except by the conclusion that many victims were unarmed innocent civilians."
In one village alone, an elder recalled: "The Americans destroyed every house with artillery, air strikes or by burning them down with cigarette lighters.
"About 100 people were killed by bombing, others were wounded and others became refugees."
US raids were mostly conducted by B-52 bombers. They flew at such a high altitude that they could not be seen from the ground, and gave no warning to civilians of their approach.
Moreover, they were incapable of accuracy or discrimination in their targeting - on account of both their extreme altitude and the sheer volume of their bomb load. Between March 1969 and May 1970, there were 3,630 such US bombing raids on Cambodia alone.
A memorandum by the joint chiefs of staff concerning these raids, forwarded to the defence department and the White House, and almost certainly seen by Kissinger, warned that "some Cambodian casualties would be sustained in the operation" and "the surprise effect of the attack could tend to increase casualties".
The memo stated that the target areas were populated, albeit sparsely. Mr Kissinger later told the US Senate foreign relations committee that the targeted areas were "unpopulated".
From July to November 1973, there was a 21% increase in the bombing of Cambodia. Air Force maps of the targeted areas list them as being, or having been, densely populated by civilians. In other words, it was known there was a serious risk that non-combatants would be killed.
Freelance investigator Fred Branfman secretly taped US pilots on bombing missions over Cambodia in the early 70s. At no point did any pilots check before or during the raids that they were not bombing civilians. His exposi that no precautions were taken to protect civilians was later written up in the New York Times by Sydney Schanberg; offering compelling evidence of the indiscriminate nature of US aerial attacks.
US bombing is calculated to have killed 350,000 civilians in Laos and 600,000 in Cambodia. Several times more civilians were wounded and made refugees.
During the first 30 months of the Nixon-Kissinger administration, the US counter-insurgency "Phoenix Programme" was responsible for the murder or abduction of 35,708 Vietnamese civilians.
Kissinger's role in formulating and implementing US war policy coincided with the systematic use of chemical defoliants and pesticides, including Agent Orange.
These caused birth defects and rendered significant areas of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia too toxic for people to live in or farm - creating an environmental disaster that will continue to affect many generations to come.
Intimately involved in military decision making, Kissinger chaired a number of hands-on posts, including the Vietnam special studies group, which supervised the daily conduct of the war. Colonel Ray Smitton, the joint chiefs of staff expert on air tactics, noted that by late 1969 Kissinger was overruling his office on target selection: "Not only was Henry carefully screening the raids, he was reading the raw intelligence".
Later, he began to intervene to dictate mission patterns and bombing runs.
It is implausible to suggest that Kissinger was unaware of US violations of the Geneva conventions. He planned, sanctioned and monitored many of the operations which resulted in these violations.
For all these reasons, and many more, I believe a prosecution is justified and necessary. If Slobodan Milosevic can stand trial for war crimes, why not Henry Kissinger?
The 'official' or commonly accepted version of how and why the U.S. was involved in Vietnam sort of goes along the following lines:
Yet, it turns out that this is untrue, and it required massive propaganda to create this standard and accepted image.
A lot of the info on the webpage Media, Propaganda and Vietnam is a summary of part of journalist John Pilger's book, Heroes, (Jonathan Cape 1986, Vintage 2001), mainly chapters 15 and 20, mostly written in the 1980s (and reprinted in 2001, from which the citations are taken. Where page numbers are cited in parenthesis, it is from this book unless indicated otherwise). He was in Vietnam many times, during the war, and returned on various occassions as well. He received a number of awards for his Vietnam reporting.
Media, Propaganda and Vietnam
Media, Propaganda and Vietnam
"Essentially the CIA stopped all accurate info on Vietnam while conducting a propaganda campaign to keep us in this war that was unwinnable. We were there to impose a US-controlled regime over Vietnam....We refused to admit the real strength of the South Vietnamese Communists. Had we ever done it, then we would have to come up with totally new justifications for being there or just pulled out."
"The CIA is not now nor has it ever been a central intelligence agency. It is the covert action arm of the President's foreign policy advisers. In that capacity it overthrows or supports foreign governments while reporting "intelligence" justifying those activities. ) It shapes its intelligence, even in such critical areas as Soviet nuclear weapon capability, to support presidential policy. Disinformation is a large part of its covert action responsibility, and the American people are the primary target of its lies." - Retired CIA Official Ralph McGehee
PHOTO: Ralph McGehee receiving awards from the Vietnamese Special Police. Awards include a medal, a Viet Cong pistol, and the Viet Cong flag that flew over Saigon on Tet 1968.
Ralph McGehee receiving medal
from Chinese Nationalist general
My 25 years in the CIA
Ralph W. McGehee
From the cover: Deadly Deceits is a classic account of the deeds and deceptions of the CIA by one of the Agency's most prized recruits. Ralph McGehee spent 25 years in the CIA, from 1952-77. He entered a super-patriot at the height of the Cold War; he left disillusioned and shattered by what he had seen and learned, especially in Vietnam where he saw a tragic and senseless war develop.
"One of the most outstanding books written by former CIA agents." - - Alexander Cockburn & Jeffery St. Clair
"Deadly Deceits is essential reading for everyone who cares about freedom and dares to know what our CIA agents do in their name." - - Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General
From Ralph McGehee, The CIA and
by Wade Frazier:
Here is a talk by ex-CIA agent Ralph McGehee. It's about 85 minutes
"Deadly Deceits became a college textbook in some classes. After a moving introduction, it starts slowly, climaxing with a series of haunting revelations. During McGehee's twenty-five year CIA career, he heartily believed in its stated mission of 'fighting communism.' McGehee wrote that CIA fieldworker candidates are psychologically screened before being hired, and their most treasured quality is the willingness to blindly follow orders, thinking little about whom their work may harm."
"One pivotal evening in his quarters near Saigon in December of 1968, McGehee finally figured it out:
"I sat there in agony thinking about all that had led me to this private hell. My idealism, my patriotism, my ambition, my plans to be a good intelligence officer to help my country fight the communist scourge — what in the hell had happened? Why did we have to bomb the people we were trying to save? Why were we napalming young children? Why did the CIA, my employer for 16 years, report lies instead of the truth?
"I hated my part in the charade of murder and horror. My efforts were contributing to the deaths, to the burning alive of children — especially the children. The photographs of young Vietnamese children burned by napalm destroyed me."
I just received an e-mail from a former U.S. Army Green Beret in Vietnam. He was a CIA operative there.
Here are 2 e-mails, one he wrote to G. Gordon Liddy, the other to
the Denver Post:
Anthony J. Russo Jr.
Tony was an analyst and field ops person on the top strategic intelligence project of the U.S. war in Vietnam: The Rand Corporation's Viet Cong Motivation and Morale Project. With the project during the 1965-68 period, he spent 24 months in-country traveling to all parts of the southern region to interview prisoners and refugees.
In 1968, he briefed Dan Ellsberg almost daily for the entire year on the Rand Intelligence project explaining the legitimacy of the so-called enemy (The "Viet Cong" and the "North" Vietnamese; i.e., the Vietnamese independance movement) and the unlawfulness of U.S. presence; in the context of these briefings Tony repeatedly and urgently exhorted Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers.
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