j VIETNAM STUDY GROUPS VolAum.I Number 3
Father Bien, North Vietnamese Pri
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Vietnam Study Groups
The ten years experience of the Vietnam war has caused many to question the
basic structures of American society. There is a serious gap between American
society and the American people, the society is one of static institutions unres-
ponsive to the needs of the people within it. The power to change that lies within
each of us if we can begin to come together, struggle together. But a social move-
ment, if.it is to affect some basic change must not reflect or inherently contain the
same qualities that are wrong in the system itself. We must develop a new conscious-
ness about our social and personal relationships, the dynamics of leadership and the
development and expression of its constituents on an individual and collective level.
The Vietnam Study Groups began several months ago exploring an alternative
structure of small, autonomous yet inter-related, inter-communicating groups or
units to build a network, a strong base within the communities of Minneapolis and
St. Paul, We felt within such a structure we could begin to develop a concept of
collective leadership, raising the level of consciousness of the people and building
a foundation for communication and action. We felt it important to deal with the
war issue both because of the immediacy and urgency of halting the war machine here
for the survival of the people of Indochina, and because beginning to understand the
nature, causes and escalation of the Vietnam war leads to a greater understanding of
the relation of international and domestic issues and the nature of our society. We
believe that political education is important at present so that we can begin to deal
with oppression as it affects each of us in our daily Lives and as it affects our sisters
and brothers in other parts of the world.
Our failure to achieve many of these goals this spring, grew primarily out of our
inability to translate them into practical structures and methods that people could
relate to. In attempting to avoid the authoritarian nature of past leadership and
teacher roles, the responsibility of those with more experience to teach and offer
some leadership was neglected.
In study this attitude manifested itself in expecting people who knew little or nothing
about a given subject (in this case the Vietnam war) to plot their own course of study.
No study group was able to achieve a sound background covering all of Vietnamese
culture and history, the roots and nature of the war, American foreign policy and the
roles of the corporations and universities in the war.
Again in communication the attitude was manifest in waiting for the study groups
to take the initiative. But since they were isolated and struggling very hard.with the
many problems of just their studies, they did not look beyond, towards co-ordinating
their activities with other groups. (Continued on page 17)
AMERICAN AND VIETNAMESE CATHOLICS JOIN IN CALLING FOR
RAPID TOTAL WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. FORCES FROM VIETNAM
A group of American Catholics have made contact with the Vietnamese Catholic
peace movement in order to increase mutual understanding and solidarity. This is
an important development in light of the peculiar historical circumstances that have
made of the Catholic minority in South Vietnam the only important element support-
ing the anti-communist war waged by the U. S. and its kept Saigon regime. The
depth and breadth of current South Vietnamese anti-war, anti-U.S. and anti-Thieu
regime sentiment is shown by the fact that it has cracked the most anti-communist
bastion of all, the Catholic community of South Vietnam, and that a new Catholic
opposition is on the rise, still small, but young, vigorous and determined.
The Catholic Commission of Inquiry into a Just Solution to the War in Indochina,
forty-five clergy and lay people brought together by Mrs. Marianne Hamilton of
Minneapolis, attended an International Assembly of Christians in Solidarity with
the Indochinese Peoples in Paris May 21 to 23. In the days following the group met
further with Vietnamese Catholics, as well as with Buddhists, Cambodians and
Laotians, French experts, and the four Delegations to the Paris Conference on
Vietnam, spending a particularly long time with the delegation of the Provisional
Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam (PRG) headed by Madame Nguyen Thi
Binh, and the delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam)
headed by Mr. Xuan Thuy.
On May 27, the American and Vietnamese Christians who had attended the
International Assembly issued a joint declaration, which stated:
"We are convinced that peace can be established if the United States decide a
near and precise date for the total withdrawal of armed forces and stop imposing
on the South Vietnamese a government which does not have the support of the people. "
Most of the Vietnamese Catholics met by the Americans belong to the large
population of Vietnamese resident in France, a community which is said to reflect
closely the various political currents in Saigon. Thus while the Saigon regime
refused exit visas to South Vietnamese who wished to attend the Paris assembly,
including the prominent Catholic Deputy and newspaper publisher Ngo Cong Due, the
Americans met a number of Vietnamese residents of Paris who maintain close contact
with the Catholic opposition in South Vietnam and serve as spokesmen for them.
Thus Miss Pham thi Thieu Tu, an engineer, expressed the position of the Vietnamese
Opposition Forces' Information Committee, pointing out that Ngo Cong Duc and other
Catholic leaders have been refused permission to go to the United States by the Saigon
regime, which is held in power only by American military force and American dollars.
Her statement made it clear that the Catholic opposition is aligning with the two major
demands of all the Vietnamese people:
"1. In the name of the Vietnamese people's right to live, we ask you, the American
people, to pressure the Nixon government into withdrawing its support from the actual
Saigon government, a regime which is fundamentally undemocratic, and which prevents
the people from expressing themselves freely.
"2. In the name of the Vietnamese people's right to self-determination, we ask you
to demand the cessation of American air attacks on South Vietnamese territory, and
the total withdrawal of American troops."
NORTH VIETNAMESE AND AMERICAN PRIESTS CELEBRATE
Two North Vietnamese Catholic priests, Father Ho Thanh Bie-nnd Father Nguyen
The Vinh, came from Hanoi to Paris to attend the International Assembly. To close
the Assembly, a mass was celebrated jointly by Father Bien, the Reverend Richard
Griffin, Catholic Chaplain at Harvard University, and Father Nguyen Dinh Thi, of
Paris, the organizer of the Assembly. This unique communion ended with everyone
singing "We Shall Overcome".
THE SITUATION OF CATHOLICS IN INDOCHINA
The Catholic Commission of Inquiry was naturally particularly interested in gathering
information about the situation of Catholics in Indochina, especially in Vietnam, all the
more in that many false allegations and almost no solid information have been current
in the U. S. for many years.
Catholics in North Vietnam
President Nixon himself has told the American people that Catholics in North
Vietnam were "massacred" after 1954. This charge is without any foundation what-
After the Geneva Accords of 1954, an intensive propaganda campaign persuaded
up to 700, 000 of the 1, 500, 000 Catholics living in North Vietnam to move to the South,
where they enjoyed favored treatment under the Catholic regime of Ngo Dinh Diem,
installed by the United States in Saigon, Most of these Catholics lived in all-Catholic
villages, isolated from their non-Catholic compatriots, awl faithfully followed their
local clergy to the South, believing, as they were told, tit "God had deserted North
Vietnam" and that terrible things would happen to them if they remained.
However, some 800, 000 Catholics did remain in the North. Contrary to the
propaganda, not only were they not "massacred", their right to freely practice their
religion, guaranteed by the constitution of tlhe Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North
Vietnam), has been consistently respected. Christmas is a national holiday in North
Vietnam, as is the anniversary of the birth of Buddha. The only serious interference
with religious observance by Catholics in North Vietnam has come from destruction
of churches by U.S. bombing. The Catholic seminary at Vinh was totally destroyed
by U. S. bombing. Many Catholics have been killed by U. S. bombing, including
the Bishop of Vinh. Recently, a new bishop was consecrated, bringing the
number of bishops in the North to twelve.
In recent national elections, two Catholic priests were elected to the Nat-
ional Assembly of the D. R. V. Father Bien pointed out that in North Vietnam,
475 churches have been either destroyed completely or seriously damaged by
U.S. bombing; the entire region including Father Vinh's parish church was
razed. He named five Catholic priests who died as a result of bombing raids,
in addition to Bishop Tran Dinh Nhien of Vinh. But the material destruction has
only strengthened the spirit of North Vietnamese Catholics.
"From 1965 to 1969, faced with the demented bombardments by American
aviation, the Catholics of North Vietnam, along with the entire people, have
consented to immense sacrifices for the salvation of the homeland and for
the safeguard of their spiritual and temporal existence. Numerous foreign
friends who have had occasion to visit our Catholic regions have been able
to confirm the serenity with which we face up to adversity. We continue to
plough the fields ravaged by bombs. Our churches not having been spared, we
continue to celebrate mass in underground shelters. We also take arms
because we have no other choice... "
The extraordinary determination to resist U.S. aggression against their
country seems remarkably free of bitterness or vengefulness against Americans.
Father Bien's manner was gentle and loving toward the Americans. The
Vietnamese never cease to make the distinction between the U.S. Government,
responsible for the war, and the American people, led into i t by deception, and
whose conscience is increasingly aroused in opposition. Father Bien said that
if the Catholic Church in North Vietnam is persecuted, it is indeed the U.S.
Government that is persecuting it.
"We Vietnamese Catholics have always hoped for the guns to be silenced for a more
humane life in the love of one's neighbor and in the love of God. Especially as far as we
are concerned, we citizens of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam are well placed to
confirm that in North Vietnam material and spiritual life of everybody is cared for, human
dignity highly valued, the national virtues and traditions developed, and not only the lib-
erty of religion is respected, but also the religious virtues and morals are encouraged.
These are all the more reasons for us to want peace. "
These words of Father Bien were in harmony with the presentation made to us by
Xuan Thuy, chief of the Delegation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam at the Paris
Conference on Vietnam. Xuan Thuy attempted to situate the religious question within
the historical and cultural context of North Vietnam, and it is certain nly within this context
that the attitude of the Government of the DRV toward Catholics is to be understood.
This attitude is evidently conditioned, rather than by the alleged implacable hostility
of "atheistic communism" toward all religion, by the historic role of the Catholic Church
in Vietnam, which back in the 19th century called in the French colonialists to conquer
Vietnam and later was used by the U. S., to detach from the main body of Vietnamese
society a small minority through which to rule the country in line with U. S. policy. The
Church, and especially the Church hierarchy, benefited materially from a privileged
position under the French, and some Catholic clergy, while claiming to be nationalists,
sided with the French in denouncing the Viet Minh as "atheistic communists". Thus,
at the close of the war of liberation from France, the Catholic Church in North Vietnam
appeared to be not only a religious institution but a political institution as well, and the
strongest center of political opposition to the new regime.
The policy of the Government of the DRV, as described by Xuan Thuy, has evidently
been one of insisting on the distinction between religious and political activity on the part
of the Church. Thus they are able to respect and protect the religious role of the Church,
while insisting that it be precisely a religious and not a political institution, that it not
stand in the way of the socialist evolution of the country. (Opposition of the Church to
socialism is doubtless related to the large land-holdings of the Church; the DRV re-
distributed large holdings among the poorest peasants. )
Furthermore, far from proclaiming hostility to Catholicism or to any other religion,
the attitude of the leaders of the DRV has been rather to insist upon areas of fundamental
compatibility between religion and socialism. Both Xuan Thuy and Madame Nguyen Thi
Binh of the P. R. G. in different ways, expressed the view that religious believers, of
whatever faith, are first of all persons concerned with morality and social justice.
Thus, said Xuan Thuy, while many Catholics in North Vietnam were initially opposed
to the socialist regime, they have come to recognize over the years that socialism has
raised the moral standards of the country, by removing the root causes of such social
ills as theft and prostitution, and by improving the position of women in the home and
In summary, the leaders of the DRV, far from carrying out some anti-religious
crusade, not only permit freedom of religion, but prefer to encourage national recon-
ciliation by emphasizing the compatibility between the moral objectives of Christianity,
Buddhism and socialism.
Catholics in South Vietnam
At the time of the Geneva Accords of 1954, the Catholic population of the South was
considerably smaller than that of the North -- only about 400, 000, or less than 5% of
the population. At this time, the U. S. succeeded in installing the Catholic Ngo Dinh
Diem in power in Saigon. The influx of 700, 000 Catholic refugees from the North was
intended to provide a larger political base for his regime. In the years that followed,
the Catholic minority has enjoyed considerable political and material advantages in South
Vietnam, occupying the majority of high government positions and engaging in the
most profitable businesses. The Church itself has acquired considerable material
Nevertheless, in spite of, and even because of, this privileged position, an
ever-growing number of Catholics in South Vietnam are voicing their opposition to
the war policy of the Thieu-Ky-Khiem regime and above all to the presence of U. S.
forces in South Vietnam. This opposition is expressed not only in terms of the
material destruction visited upon South Vietnam by U.S. bombing, defoliation, etc.
but also and even especially, in terms of the moral destruction of Vietnamese
society subjected to the "civilization of the dollar". Corruption is rampant and
notorious. The destruction of the traditional rice economy, the presence of a
large army of occupation force countless Vietnamese into prostitution or other
disreputable professions. Human dignity is daily violated in a thousand ways,
whether by foreign troops who show no regard for the lives, let alone the sensi-
bilities, of the Vietnamese, or by the police and torturers of the Saigon regime,
In calling for total U. S. withdrawal, for a representative government in Saigon
and for peace and national reconciliation, Catholics are risking the same repres-
sion that falls on anyone who speaks out for peace in South Vietnam. Priests and
laymen have been jailed; on May 31, Ngo Cong Due, the noted Catholic member
of the National Assembly and editor of Saigon's largest newspaper, Tin Sang, was
arrested, following the arrest a few days earlier of more than eighty leaders of
the Saigon peace movement.
It should be noted that the courageous struggle for peace being undertaken by
Catholics in South Vietnam, while in the short run exposing then to great dangers,
is in the long run the best guarantee that the Catholic minority will find its just
place in the South Vietnamese society that will emerge after the war is over. The
sacrifices b Catholics for. the .salvationof their country:represerit an:rniiportantrxstep
toward.thlr reoarciabiation of all Vietnamese in mutual respect once their terrible ordeal
is ended.iLQoklng toward this reconciliati6n, Provisional Revolutionary Government
of South Vietnam has consistently proclaimed a policy of complete freedom of
religious belief, and calls for a coalition government including representatives
of all political tendencies and religious groups that favor peace, independence
Catholics in Cambodia massacred by pro-U. S. regime
Perhaps the most devastating refutation of the U.S. Government's claim to be
in Indochina in order to "protect" Catholics from a supposed "bloodbath" is to
be found in the story of what happened in Cambodia Last spring. There, a pro-
U.S. regime, upon taking power in a coup d'etat, immediately carried out a
bloodbath in which a high percentage, perhaps the majority of victims were in
At the time of Lon Not's coup d'etat that overthrew the neutralist government
of Prince Sihanouk, on March 18, 1970, there were 62, 000 Catholics in Cambodia,
of which only 3000 were Khmer (ethnic Cambodians), the vast majority being
ethnic Vietnamese long resident in Cambodia. The Lon Not regime sought to gain
support by appealing to the worst anti-Vietnamese racism, and a systematic ;
slaughter of the Vietnamese population in Cambodia ensued. On the assumption
that to be Catholic is to be Vietnamese and to be Vietnamese is to be "Vietcong",
Catholic areas were singled out for attack and some Catholics who were not
Vietnamese were massacred as well, including two French priests. The survivors
of these horrible massacres were either repatriated to South Vietnam or fled to
the liberated areas.
LEADING ANTI-COMMUNIST PRIEST HAS SECOND THOUGHTS
The dramatic re-evaluation going on in the minds of many once fanatically
anti-communist Vietnamese is perhaps best illustrated by an article that appeared
in the March 1971 issue of the Saigon magazine Doi Dien. The author is Father
Nguyen Viet Khai, who played a vigorous role in organizing Catholics against
the Viet Minh in North Vietnam before 1954, then went South where he played an
equally vigorous role getting Catholics to back the anti-communist crusade led by
Diem and subsequent Saigon regimes. Excerpts from his article reveal a great
deal about the nature of Vietnamese Catholic anti-communism.
Father Khai first explains that he belonged to a large Catholic parish in the
far North where anti-communism was violent.
We fought against the communists in a blind way. As a result I was
sentenced, by the communists of course, to 23 months and 7 days of prison...
How then did we understand communism? To tell the truth, in a very
simplistic way. We very naively summed it up in the slogan of the "three
without and the two everybodys. "Three without" meant that the commun-
ists were "without God, without family, without homeland". "Two everybody"
meant that everybody had to work according to his strength and had a right
to goods according to his needs. We were obliged to take courses where we were
taught the encyclical of Pope Pius published in 1934 on communism and the
position of the Catholic Church in regard to communism.
We regarded communists as veritable "red devils", extremely dangerous,
that we must hate and condemn with all our force as we would mortal sins.
Furthermore, in 1951, the Assembly of Bishops of Indochina, called together
and presided by the Apostolic Delegate Monseigneur Dooley, for one thing
solemnly condemned communism and all those who adhered to it and for another
re-enforced the Catholic ghetto by detaching even more the Catholic community
from the national community.
After describing his anti-communist activities in South Vietnam, Father Khai
admits his action was "senseless". The "three without" and "two everybody" are
not confirmed by Vietnamese reality. The communists may be "without God", but
the other two withoutt" are not true. As to "without family!', there are huge num-
bers of broken homes in South Vietnam, whereas in the North fidelity is the rule. In
A young man and woman who love each other become man and wife once their
parents and friends have given their assent. Even if the wedding is celebrated
only with a few cups of ordinary tea and some home-made cakes, the two hearts
are bound faithfully, to each other and unite harmoniously for the rest of their
lives. But never have we felt such shame as today confronted with the irrem-
ediable degradation of families in our South Vietnam. Since more than 500, 000
foreigners invaded our country, not only peoplelof the poorer classes but even
high ranking officers have lost their wives and daughters. Innumerable painful
dramas have occurred, so much so that some husbands, pushed to despair, have
taken their own Lives...
"I feel still more embarrassed when I.come to the matter of "without home-
Land". Who is without homeland? It must be admitted that it is we ourselves,
citizens of South Vietnam, who are the real "without homeland", Who then has
sold to the Americans for 99 years the bases of Chu Lai, Cam Ranh, Da Nang,
Bien Hoa, Vung Tau? Those sales were more or less secret between the two
governments, passing over the head of the population. And one can well ask
if there exists in South Vietnam even a minimum of freedom in the management
of the affairs of the country. From the central government down to the modest
hamlet administration, South Vietnamese are unable to deal with a single one of
of their problems without foreign interference! ... One has every right to ask if
the district or provincial governor is appointed to administer the affairs of the
people "without homeland", for we have Lost it to the Americans. On the other
hand, things are very different in North Vietnam...
Father Khai then recounts that in 1965, when the Americans escalated the war
with massive air bombardments of North Vietnam, the Soviet Union offered to send
an army of 250, 000 men to block American aggression.
President Ho Chi Minh replied very calmly, "I thank, you warmly. 1 North
Vietnam is strong enough to stand up to American imperialism. Keep your
soldiers at home. We don't yet need them. Moreover, they would get in our
way. In case we ever run short of men or material, then we would call on you."
And in 1967, when there were 500, 000 U.S. troops in South Vietnam, China
offered to send immediately 300, 000 Chinese troops.
And President Ho Chi Minh stopped them short, saying, "No, leave your
soldiers in China. We have sufficient forces to fight our own battles. In
guerrilla technique, we are the world champions. The presence of 500, 000
foreign soldiers in South Vietnam does not amount to much for us. Don't
...We must, in all conscience, recognize frankly that the North Vietnamese
are truly fighting for the homeland, whereas we South Vietnamese are fighting
for the dollar, for our personal interests...
HONEYWELL ATTACKED IN FRANCE
Honeywell, manufacturer of anti-personnel fragmentation bombs used to tear the
flesh of Vietnamese men, women and children, was the object of two recent attacks
by young French anti-imperialists.
On April 30, 1971, the Paris headquarters of Honeywell-France was attacked by
about 150 young people described by the newspapers as "leftists" who broke windows
and threw Molotov cocktails. On May 11, the Lille branch of Honeywell-France was
attacked by a smaller group of masked youth who threw paving stones and a Molotov
cocktail. There were no.injuries in either incident.
The attacks were evidently intended to dramatize French opposition to U. S.
imperialism, especially in Vietnam, but also computer industry from General
Electric, whose purchase and subsequent cutback of the native French computer
industry four years ago has been widely resented in France.
FATHER BURY IN ROME AND SAIGON
Father Harry Bury, Chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minn-
esota, held a protest mass on the steps of the Vatican May 29 to protest the refusal
of the Pope to receive .priests from North Vietnam or representatives of the Pro-
visional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam.
Father Bury had attempted in vain to obtain an audience with the Pope for a
mixed delegation of Vietnamese and American Catholics, who wished to acquaint
Pope Paul with the resolutions adopted unanimously by the International Assembly
of Christians in Solidarity with the Indochinese Peoples and ask him to endorse
them. Father Bury expressed regret that Pope Paul had failed to take advantage
of the unique opportunity to meet with North Vietnamese priests, who had come to
Europe for the Assembly, and also pointed out that while Henry Cabot Lodge, former
U.S. Ambassador to Saigon, is permanently at the Vatican presenting the U.S. point
of view, neither Madame Nguyen Thi Binh nor any other representative of the Pro-
visional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam has been granted an audience
with the Pope.
Father Bury later spent a few days in Saigon, where he was warmly received
by leaders of the peace movement there. He also took a short side trip to My Lai
in Quang Ngai province where the masses of refugees on the barren, bull-dozed
land along the road expressed their sentiments by shaking their fists at the pass-
ing Americans and shouting "Americans go home" etc.
FRENCH SCHOOLTEACHERS IMPRISONED IN SAIGON
(From Le Monde)
Saigon. The court of appeals rejected on May 14 an appeal by two French lycee
professors, Jean-Pierre Debris and Andre-Marcel Menras, condemned last Dec-
ember to three and four years of prison for "subversive activities". On July 25,
1970, the two young Frenchmen had climbed onto the monument to the dead situated
in the middle of Saigon and waved an N. L. F. flag. They explained their gesture
in a letter denouncing "the corruption of the Saigon Leadership" and the activities
of the French cultural mission in South Vietnam.
In a letter to his family, Monsieur Debris wrote, in regard to the baccalaureat
exams held in 1970 at Da Nang, where he was professor: "Those examinations
were a real scandal: the official French instructions specified to go easy, espec-
ially on the male students, as their failure would amount to sending them to
military service... Day after day there came to see me, begging on their knees,
one after the other, a cabinet minister, a vice president of the Senate, a dean
of faculty, a police chief... and important members of the French mission came
to recommend such and such a candidate linked to the cabinet ministers or to the
President of the Republic. Every day I received baskets of fruit, propositions
from charming young girls of easy virtue, and offers of bribes from half a million
to a million piastres ($3000). "
Professors Debris and Menras have been badly treated in the prison of Chi,
Hoa, in Saigon, where they are held. In April they were attacked by prisoners
held for criminal offenses, and were left for several days without medical care.
Afterwards they undertook a hunger strike. On May 11, their Lawyer was refused
authorization to visit them. (May 20, 1971)
The Significance of the Pentagon Papers
The evolution of the American political economic system has resulted in the
concentration of the economic power of the country in the hands of a few large
multinational corporations, and the concentration of the political and military
power in the hands of a few individuals who decline to justify, or even explain,
most of their actions to the people, and.who, when they act, take cognizance of
the wilt of the people only to the extent that that will threatens the pursuit of
their private collective interests.
What has come to Light in the recent Times, Washington Post, and Boston
Globe articles dealing with the 7000 page Vietnam archive is proof of the extent
to which power has been concentrated in the hands of a few men, but more important,
the study shows a complete disregard,, on their part, for the effects of the use
of this power on the people of Indochina and the United States.
In his Wednesday interview with Walter Cronkite, Daniel Ellsberg, an author
of one of the volumes in the study, and one who has read the study several
times, made the following points concerning it:
1. That throughout the study there is no mention whatsoever of the Vietnamese
people, no concern for casualties or the agony they were to endure as a result
of the barbaric policies outlined in the study.
2. That the rulers of this country bear virtually total responsibility for every
war death incured in Indochina since 1945.
3. That the rulers viewed the South Vietnamese leadership as an instrument
of U.S. foreign policy, i. e. that the rulers view the leadership in South
Vietnam for what they are: puppets.
4. That the rulers view the American people as contemptuously as they do the
Vietnamese. (We note in passing that this major point in Ellsbergs remarks
failed to make it into the Thursday Minneapolis Tribune for some reason. )
The documentation of Ellsbergs first point is written on the face of the
Vietnamese countryside, where the people live underground most of their lives,
flee from the U. S. terror bombing into the slums of Siagon, or die under the
onslaught of tons of anti-personell bombs, and where crops and forests wither
in the deadly herbicidal rain, or are plowed under by the huge Rome plows,
named, appropriately enough, after the people who plowed under and salted the
earth of Carthage many years ago. Nevertheless, the full extent of contempt for
humanity expressed in the actions of our rulers is revealed in their thought.
On hasty reading, the most explicit example occurs in the March 24, 1965
Memorandum to McNamara written by John McNoughton, (then, assistant secretary
of defense). The first paragraph specifies U.S. goals in Vietnam and runs as
follows: (This has been widely quoted: NY Times 6/L5/71, p. 20)
1. U.S. Aims:
70% To avoid a humiliating U. S. defeat. (To our reputation as a guarantor).
20% To keep SVN (and the adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.
10% To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better freer way of life.
ALSO To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used
NOT To'help a friend'although it would be hard to stay in if asked out.11
Later on in the same memorandum, we find the goals of the public relations
job to be done on us to avoid the'unacceptable taint!'
kEvaluation: It is essential, however badly SEA may go over the next 1-3
years, that U.S. emerge as a'good doctor'. We must have kept promises,
been tough, taken risks, gotten bloodied, and hurt the enemy very badly.
We must avoid harmful appearances which will affect judgements by, and
provide pretexts to, other nations regarding how the U.S. will behave in future
cases of particular interest to those nations regarding U. S. policy, power
resolve and competence to deal with their problems. In this connection, the
relevant audiences are the Communists (who must feel strong pressures), the
South Vietnamese (whose morale must bebuoye1, our allies, (who must trust
us as underwriters) and the U.S. public(which must support our risk taking with
U.S. lives and prestige). (emphasis added)
In an earlier memo McNoughton specifies U.S. goals as follows: (Sept. 3, 1964
NY Times p. 27, 28 Monday 6/14/71)
"lThe objective of the United States is to reverse the present downtrend.
Failing that, the alternative objective is to emerge from the situation with as
good an image as possible in U. S. allied and enemy eyes.,
and later on in the same; memo:
8If worst comes and South Vietnam disintegrates or their behavior becomes
abomnidable, to disown South Vietnam, hopefully leaving an image of a
Patient who died despite the extraordinary efforts of a good doctor1
The picture to be presented to the world of all this is no less cynical:
SDuring the next two months, because of the lack of rebuttal timetbefore election
to justify particular actions which may be distorted the U, S, public, we must
act with special care signalling to the DRV that initiatives are being take,
to the GVN that we are behaving energetically despite the restraints of our
political season, and to the U. S. public that we are behaving with good purpose
Distortions? ? We need not recall that the central goal presented by the government
to us has always been the right of self-determination of the Vietnamese, hardly what
Lest one worry that it is only McNoughton who is off the deep end, we
recommend that people, as soon as possible, read the Times articles which are
available in the study group office or the Wilson Library newspaper room. In the
meantime, consider the actions of the Johnson administration at the time of the
1964 election campaign:
OIThe administration consensus on bombing came at the height of the
presidential election contest between President Johnson and Senator Barry
Goldwater, whose advocacy of fullscale air attacks on North Vietnam had
become a major issue!/
The study claims:
IIThe last round of detailed planning of various political and military strategies
for a bombing campaign began in ernest, ... on Nov. 3, 1964, the day that
Mr. Johnson was elected in his own right./
(NY Times Monday 6/14/71 p. 1)
The above documents, in a rather hasty and superficial way, were the first and
fourth points made by Ellsberg. We should mention some of the evidenceof the
contempt for humanity itself held by these men. The evidence is of two kinds.
First they hold the view that, in any event, world opinion is to be manipulated
into a favorable position vis a vis Washington policy, (see the Bundy draft
on Handling World and Public Opinions. Monday Times 6/14/71). Second,
and more important, these men do not flinch at the thought of nuclear
confrontation even at the level of confrontation with the USSR. (In this regard
see section of the March,2, 1965 memo, Tuesday Times p. 20, quoted above where
the major risks to the policy of increased bombing are outlined). Instead one obtains
throughout, the picture of men playing games not unlike poker except the stakes
are the lives of the people. If the risks are"sufficiently small' the game will be played
out. In fact, game theory and behavioristic models abound in thier thinking. For
example, we find on p. 39 of the Monday Times the cynical and quite crude use of the
idea of the carrot and the stick: offering supplies of rice to the Democratic Republic
of Vietnam to buy them off, and at the same tim bombing and planning the escalation
of bombing against the north. At the same time, Johnson's proposal for a billion
dollar Asian development project was reviewed as a carrot. Needless to say, they
have little understanding of the motivation of the Vietnamese people, in fact, their
understanding does not extend as far as that of the CIA which warned that the bombing
"would not cause Hanoi to cease its support of the Vietcong insurgency in the South.
(NYT Sunday p. 1) Furthermore, their view of the short bombing pauses they
initiated was to relax pressure in order to increase it later on, and had nothing much
to do with peace initiatives, They have claimed fothany years that the endwas just
around the corner, but the study reveals -that planning as early as 1964 took note of the
experience of the British in Malaysia, and the men involved knew quite clearly at that
point that they were embarking on a war of at least 10 years duration (;964 memo of
Joint Chiefs NYT Monday, p. 35). Finally, it was revealed in the Boston Globe that the
use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam was seriously considered at the Honolulu conference.
We should note that since the present administration continues directly the policies
of the Johnson administration, and since, if anything, dissent in and the failure of
the will of the U. S. army has increased, the desperation of these men must be
correspondingly greater and this possible"escape"from their troubles must be very
tempting. In fact, in his policy statements on this, Nixon has been very careful
to not close out this possibility.
It is difficult to avoid the concussion, when reading the study, that these men regard
the people of the United States as well as the people of Vietnam as their enemies, and it is
interesting, for the sake of comparison, to consider their treatment of their major allies
in this undertaking the South Vietnamese government. Here it becomes clear that the
assertation by the National Liberation Front that the GVN is a puppet government
is accurate. It is substantiated vividly, for example, if we consider the scenario for the
bombing escalation (p. 39 Monday Times). We quote several passages; (Khanhis
the commander of II Corps, under Diem, and the general who rose to power at
one point in the aftermath of the Diem Corp. See p. 199 and chapter 8 of the
Lost Revolution by Robert S for more details. )
116. (D-15) GetKharbsagreement to start overt South Vietnamese air attacks
againsttargets in the North--------,-
"10. (D-10) Khanh makes speech-demanding that North Vietnam stop aggression,
threatening unspecified military action if he does not (he would refer to
"13 (D-1) Khanh announces that all efforts have failed and attacks are imminent.
(Again he refers to limited goal and possibly 'carrot')"
Thus not only is Khanh not an equal partner, :the U. S. controls his mouth
as well as his government. Note also that is obvious that, from the start all "efforts"
were designed to fail.
We recommend a reading of the account of Taylor's meeting with Thieu, Ky,
Thi, and Lang on 12/24/64as another illustration of the puppet nature of the Saigon
government. In this conversation, Taylor does act with the courtesy one might
expect when one is representing one's government to the "heads of state" of a
second government, but instead the conversation runs much like what might go on
between an angry father and his naughty children. Thieu, and Ky have spoiled the plans
for the U.S. and he is angry about it.
What about Ellsberg's second point in which he places primary responsibility
on the U.S. for all war deaths incurred since 1945? Unfortunately, due to
the frantic court activity, the portions of the study dealing with the actions of the
Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations have not been published yet:
However the first article in the Sunday New York Times makes the following
points which support the contention that the Vietnam war is part of the conscious
and continuing policy of the U.S. (Times 6/13/71 p. 1 and p. 38)
"That the Truman administration's decision to give military aid to France
in her colonial war against the Communist-led Vietminh 'directly involved'
the United States in Vietnam and 'set' the course of American foreign policy. "
"That the Eisenhower administration's decision to rescue a fledgling South
Vietnam from a Communist takeover and attempt to undermine the new
Communist regime of North Vietnam gave the administration a 'direct role
in the ultimate breakdown of the Geneva settlement' for Indochina in 1954. "
"That the Kennedy administration, though ultimately spared from
major escalation decisions by the death of its' leader, transformed a policy
of 'limited-risk gamble', (note the game playing mentally again, auth. ),
which it inherited, into a 'broad commitment' that left President Johnson
with a choice between more war and withdrawal. "
and later on (p. 38)
"That these four suceeding administrations built up the American political,
military, and psychological stakes in Indochina, often more deeply then they
realized at the time, with large-scale military equipment to the French
in 1950; with acts of sabotage and terror warfare against North Vietnam
beginning in 1954; with moves that encouraged and abetted the overthrow of
President Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam in 1963; with plans, pledges, and
threats of further action which sprang to life in the Tonkin Gulf clashes in
August, 1964; with the careful preparation of public opinion for the years of
open warfare that were to follow; and with the calculation in 1965, as the planes
and troops were openly committed to sustained combat, that neither accomadation
inside South Vietnam nor early negotiations with North Vietnam would achieve
the desired result. (emphasis added)
We await the publication of the complete study for confirmation of these points,
but such documentation is, afterall, only the frosting on the cake since the emerging
pattern has been clear for some years now.
Many people may jump to the conclusion that since three of the four administrations
involved were Democratic, the R:epublicans have relatively unbloodied hands.
We note in this regard that Nixon was a participant in the Eisenhower administration
which sabotaged the Geneva accords. In any event, we can surly judge by his
actions in office, the most blatant of which have been: the invasion of Cambodia
and Laos which escalated the conflict to open warfare in all of Indochina, and
the fact that, the bombing tonnage dropped by the Nixon administration since
taking office) amounts to half the total tonnage dropped (and for. the sake of comparison
equals about 500, 000 tons more than the trtal tonnage dropped by the U. S. in
World War II in all theatres of the war). See Noam Chomsky's article in the
NY Review of Books pp. 19-28, the relevant figures appear in footnote 6 p. 19. They are;
From Feb. 1965: 5,795, 160 tons dropped
Nixon Admin. : 2, 593, 743 tons dropped
WWII : 2, 000, 000 tons dropped in all theatres
In conclusion, we believe the study indeed confirms Ellsberg's major points,
shows deliberate intent to commit the crimes against humanity that are currently
executed against the peasants in Vietnam, and provides a major case study in the
use of illegitimate power on the part of the United States Government. Further,
since the study shows the continuing nature of this war, the only way in which the war
will end short of the anhillation of the Vietnamese people and the senseless loss
of more American lives is if the people, through their protest and resistance,
end it themselves.
While dealingwith deceptions, we must all become aware of the most serious and
criminal deception of all, that the Vietnam war is winding down. It is an illusion that
troop withdrawals means less American participation in Southeast Asia's affairs.
Like all mechanization processes, machines can take over the work that it once took
many people to do. There are two very dangerous aspects of this policy that grow
out of the advancing technological nature of the war.
First is the increasingly destructive and indiscriminate nature of the warfare.
Some of our new and sophisticated weaponry causes more death and suffering like the
bigger bombs, the more efficient antipersonnel devices. But other weapons are
attacking future generations and even the very ecological system on which life depends.
Widespread use of crowd control gasses and chemical defoliants are causing birth
defects and the latter is upsetting the ecological balance of the countryside.
And with each technological advancement, there is less discrimination in its use.
The new sensors and people sniffers are made to detect movement or body heat and
odor and are unable to distinguish between animals, children, adults, and soldiers.
And the computers to which this information is sent and which help carry out respon-
sive action have neither conscience nor moral and political understandings pro-
grammed into their systems. We can expect that through.the increased use of
machines the war will become even more inhuman in the technical and moral sense.
The second and equally grave danger is the growing potential to hide the war
from the public. This can clearly be seen through the example of Laos where the
air war has been carried on outside the public.eye for seven years, at an extremely
high level of intensity for three years. Here (with some co-operation by the press)
they have achieved a degree of;.secrecy without the:grand exposures or detailed re-
porting in Vietnam. .The American policy makers may well conclude that secrecy,
mercenary troops, CIA subversion and massive bombing from impregnable sanctu-
aries constitutes a successful technique of counterinsurgency intervention.
If by equipping the South Vietnamese forces with highly technical weapons the ad-
ministration succeeds in "changing the color of the corpses", then for Americans
that will mean smaller draft calls, fewer casualties and less "personal" involvement.
It will then have to be our desire to see peace, justice, and freedom throughout
Indochina that will move us to maintain the struggle for total U. S. withdrawal from
(In the next newsletter there will be more in depth discussion of the mechanized war
and the electronic battlefield. )
Vietnam Study Groups.(Continued from page 2)
And finally with action the same, pattern occurred. To avoid a leadership, role we
did not share our perspective that study was for more than personal growth and should
be a foundation to go into the community to raise the-level of understanding about
the war and begin new study action programs. Lacking the confidence to "go it on
their own", no one put their studies to practical use out in the community and hence
became frustrated remaining at the-level.
We now feel that more experienced study groups people taking an active (rather
than the earlier passive) role facilitating studies, initiating programs, and helping
individuals and new study groups to grow will make the Vietnam Study Groups a more
productive and valuable activity. It is important to teach and lead people to teach and
lead themselves. This education and activism makes it a liberating rather than an
Towards this end, we have developed a summer program of education and outreach
into the community. We will be studying several aspects of the war together, each
Monday night at 7:30p.m. at the Wesley Foundation (1209 4th St. S. E. ) see the
schedule of the first four workshops on the back of the newsletter. One purpose of the
workshops is to prepare people to lead discussions in our fall Welcome week program.
Another is to enable people to go back to their neighborhoods, schools or places of
work and start study groups there. Therefore, later Monday night workshops could
deal with designing curriculum, uses of resources, how to start a study action project,
etc. The program will also be for people who just want to increase their own under-
standing of the war and its related issues.
There will be a variety of opportunities for activity out in the community through-
out the summer. Some VSG members will be starting new study groups, leafletting
and selling Vietnam newsletters, holding neighborhood teach-ins, using our films
and other resources, and many other things. The Monday night workshops also present
the opportunity to decide on actions collectively.
If you- have time, energy, money, projectors, film equipment, films, books, any
kind of useful material, tapes, etc. etc. etc. etc. to donate, please contact us!!!
Monday evening workshop. series (7;30p. m, )
Vietnam Study Groups
July 12 Report on the Catholic Commission of Inquiry's Paris trip
(slides and discussion) -Diana Johnstone and Glen Boatman
Report on research into the air war and the automated battlefield
Discussion about its implications for the antiwar movement
and a film ("Time is Running Out") -Doug Marvy
July 26 Film ("Chemical Warfare") and discussion on ecocide in
Aug 2 Discussion on U.S. Foreign Policy and Cold War Ideology and
film ("Who Invited US?", ty National Educational Television)
All workshops will be held at 7:30p. m. at Wesley Foundation (also called
United Ministries. in Higher Education) 1209 4th St. S. E, on the main
Background reading, future seminars or workshops, and future collective
action will be discussed at these meetings.
VIfTNAM STUDY GROUPS
2109 4th St;, S. E.
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
.IS: MN !Y I
Dept. of Political Science,
Bronx, New York 10h58
. ... . .. r j