"We are voting for the cheapest way that we can to prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of Indo-Chinese territory and from Southeast Asia."
President Dwight Eisenhower (Aug 4,1953)
"It is rich in many raw materials such as tin, oil, rubber and iron ore....This area has great strategic value....It has major naval and air bases."
Secretary of State Dulles (Mar 29,1954)
"George, you're crazier than hell."
-John F. Kennedy (President of the U.S.) ridiculing Undersecretary of State George ball's warning that a decision to follow Taylor's advice and send more American troops to Vietnam "could lead in five years' time to an involvement of 300,000 men." Nov 1961
"American intervention was not a progress sucked step by step into an unsuspected quagmire. At no time were policy-makers unaware of the hazards, obstacles and negative developments. American intelligence was adequate, informed observation flowed steadily from the field to the capital, special investigative missions were repeatedly sent out, independent reportage to balance professional optimism-when that prevailed-was never lacking. The folly consisted not in pursuit of a goal in ignorance of the obstacles but in persistence in the pursuit despite accumulating evidence that the goal was unattainable."
"Logistically, the Vietnam War was absurd. For the Americans, it wove inanity with mortality. Nothing was discrete; everything was interconnected. There were no definite zones, and there was no defensible position. (the DMZ was an idea, a superimposed and unsuccessful Cartesian fantasy.) There was only the technology of war and the technology of telecommunication.
In Vietnam, the human organism, vulnerable and savage, was in a jungle on all levels: an amoral ideological jungle, a visual jungle, and a microbial jungle where the margins between predator and parasite blurred, where leeches in rice paddies drew as much blood as did enemy sniper fire. It was a war of sappers, of individual initiative, a phantasmagoria of cultural colonialism and pain. And all of this fed the ghost empire of Western media, so apparently solid, so ever-present, and yet so discorporate. The immediacy of the conflict made it seem to the television viewer back in America as if Vietnam were a geographic extension of Hawaii, or perhaps a part of California that was held by hostile forces.
Vietnam was also a confrontation between the twentieth century and primitive culture, between American soldiers newly tribalized by electronic media, and indigenous jungle peoples operating under the imperative of a nineteenth-century political ideology. (The American campaign in Vietnam was a casualty of a technological Maginot Syndrome-namely, that a new technology is sometimes vulnerable to primitive technologies. A later example of this was an incident that occurred during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, just before the crisis, sensitive intelligence documents in the American embassy were shredded. Iranian rug weavers, however, painstakingly reconstructed the shredded CIA documents. Exacting and plentiful hand labor-a medieval technology-overcame high-tech CIA shredders, much to the eventual embarrassment of the CIA) Vietnam was infrared night scopes and jellied gasoline versus bamboo spikes poisoned with feces, carpet-bombing versus underground tunnels. It was the interface of bodies with machines, and the disastrous intersection of flesh with metal moving at high velocities. It was about the vulnerability of flesh, the adaptability of flesh versus the irreducible inflexibility of metal.
Vietnam was also the second contained war, the second major war, after the Korean War, that didn’t escalate into a world conflict. It was a demonstration of limited-theatre warfare, where modern superpower status didn’t ensure victory. It was also the beginning of the end of superpowers, not by direct defeat, but because any conflict subjected to the exaggerative power of the media becomes, by default , a global spectacle that we all participate in, if only as media bystanders.
"What makes the Vietnam veterans so somehow spooky? We could almost describe them as being "Unwholesomely mature." They have never had illusions about war. They are the first soldiers in history who knew even in childhood, from having herd and seen so many pictures of actual and restaged battles, that war is meaningless butchery of ordinary people like themselves."
Kurt Vonnegut (from a speech delivered in St. Johns Cathedral)
A rumour of War
"Looking back now on the Vietnam war, I feel nothing but sorrow for my own naiveté in believing that the Communists were revolutionaries worthy of my support. In fact, they betrayed the Vietnamese People and deceived progressives throughout the world. The responsibility for the tragedies that have engulfed my compatriots is mine. And now I can only bear witness to this truth so that all former supporters of the Vietcong may share their responsibility with me."
Doan Van Toai
A Lament for Vietnam
(NYT mag, Mar 29,1981)
"In the early years of the American involvement, the administration misled Washington correspondents to such an extent that many an editor, unable to reconcile what his man in Saigon was reporting with what his man in Washington told him, preferred to use the official version. John Shaw, a Time correspondent in Vietnam….says, "for years the press corps in Vietnam was undermined by the White House and the Pentagon…yet the Pentagon Papers proved to the hilt that what the correspondents in Saigon had been sending was true."
The First Casualty
Nixon: "I want to use the nuclear bomb!"
Kissinger: "That would be too much!"
Nixon: "A nuclear bomb-would that bother you? For Chrisakes! Can't you think big?"
(from the Nixon White House tapes)
"By their own lights and measurements, Americans won the war. Certainly they met their quotas of munitions exploded and ears collected. If, in the end, the world of even stubbornly refused to conform to the world seen in their somnambulist’s dream, it was, as usual, not their fault. Even after taking casualties of 58,000 dead and 300,000 wounded after laying waste three countries and killing probably as many as 2 million Laotians, Cambodians and Vietnamese, the American techno-bureaucracy insisted on the perfection of its technique and the innocence of its motive.
Retreating under cover of euphemism, all the best authorities agreed that the war had been a well-intentioned mistake-"a quagmire," "a morass" , an accumulation of small but unavoidable errors of judgment, "a swamp," a nightmare." It fell to the lot of Arthur M. Schlesinger to pronounce the pious benediction. "The story of Vietnam," he said, "is a tragedy without villains."
By the end of the Vietnam war, 7 million tons of bombs had been dropped on Vietnam, more than twice the total bombs dropped on Europe and Asia in World War II-almost one 500-pound for every human being in Vietnam. It was estimated that there were 20 million bomb craters in the country. 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.
A Peoples History of the United States
"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 700,000 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 in 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."
"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."
"The generation gap is now a moral chasm, across which the young stare at their elders with distrust, convinced that the values that make for success are fakes. Evidently the first field in which young people are struck by this suspicion is public life, and there the undeclared war in Vietnam has had a disastrous impact. Who indeed could have believed that, twenty-five years after Pearl Harbor, national policy would be carried on like this?
Young people....were shocked to find that they could not be proud of the policy of America and her allies in Asia. This was coupled with a second shock, when they found they could not be proud of the weapons and methods with which the war was waged. But the greatest shock of all to the idealism of the young is the way in which official spokesmen manipulate and even hoodwink the public opinion that they are supposed to lead. A whole apparatus of evasion has been developed in which nothing is an outright lie, and yet nothing quite means what it seems to say. The very words are unreal: de-escalation, ultimate deterrent, agonizing reappraisal-a tasteless vocabulary of plastic which George Orwell prophetically called Newspeak."
"We're on our way up....the pendulum is beginning to swing."
General Westmoreland Washington Star, April 16,1972
"A year ago none of us could see victory. There wasn't a prayer. Now we can see it clearly-like light at the end of a tunnel."
-Lieutenant General Henri-Eugene Navarre (Commander-in-Chief of the French Union Forces in Indo-China) Time Sept 29, 1953
"At last there is light at the end of the tunnel."
-Joseph Alsop September 13,1965
"I believe there is a light at the end of what has been a long and lonely tunnel."
-Lyndon B. Johnson Sept 21,1966
"Their casualties are going up at a rate they cannot sustain....I see light at the end of the tunnel."
-Walt Whitman Rostow Dec 12,1967
"Come see the light at the end of the tunnel."
-Official invitation to New Year's Eve party at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Dec 1967
"A very special challenge was that of Vietnam. We have met that challenge successfully......Militarily and politically, Hanoi is losing."
-Richard M. Nixon U.S. News & World Report, June 26,1972
"Although publicly I continued to ignore the raging antiwar controversy...I knew, however, that after all the protests and the Moratorium, American public opinion would be seriously divided by any military escalation of the war."
Richard M. Nixon
"If the United States gives up (in Vietnam)....the Pacific Ocean will become a Red Sea."
-Richard M. Nixon Chicago Daily News,Oct15,1965
Book: "The war Managers" ,by Douglas Kinnard
Book: "The Decision Against War: Eisenhower and Bien Phu,1954" by Melanie Billings-Yun
"Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, Ed by Spencer C. Tucker et al.
"A Grand Delusion" by Robert Mann
Book: "A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam" by Neil Sheehan
Book: "We Were Soldiers Once....and Young: Ia Drang Valley-The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam" by Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore (REt)
Book: "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts" by David H. Hackworth & E. England
Book: "The First Battle: Operation Starlite and the Beginning of the Blood Debt in Vietnam" by Otto J. Hehrack
Book: "Vietname, Now: A Reporter Returns" by David Lamb
Book: "Vietnam: A Complete Chronicle of the War" text by Michael MacLear
Book: "Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers" by Daniel Ellsberg
Book: "Spies and Commandos: How America Lost the Secret War in North Vietnam" by K. Conboy & D. Andrade
Book: "Memphis, Nam, Sweden: The Story of a Black Deserter" by Terry Whitmore
Book: "Dirty Little Secrets of the Vietnam War" by J.F. Dunnigan & AA Nofi
Book: "Long Binh Jail: An Oral History of Vietnam's Notorious U.S. Military Prison" by Cecil Barr Currey
Book: "The Blood Road: The Ho Chi Minh Trail and the Vietnam War" by John Prados
Book: "At Hell;'s Gate: A Soldier's Journey from War to Peace" by Claude Anshin Thomas
Book: "The Co-Vans: U.S. Marine Advisors in Vietnam" by John Grider Miller
Book: "Counterpart: A South Vietnamese Naval Officer's War" by K. Do & J. Kane
Book: "VIETNAM AIR WARFARE" The Story of the Aircraft, the Battles, and the Pilots Who Fought" Ed. by R.F. Dorr & C. Bishop
Book: VIETNAM WAR DIARY: The Month-by Month Experiences of the U.S. Forces ,1964-1975
Book: "Without Honor: Defeat in Vietnam and Cambodia" by Arnold R. Issaacs
Book: "No Peace, No Honor: Nixon, Kissinger, and Betrayal in Vietnam" by Larry Berman
Book: "Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns" by David Lamb
Book: "Hard Men Humble: Vietnam Veterans Who Wouldn't Come Home" by Jonathan Stevenson
Book: "Vietnam: A Complete Photographic History" by Michael maclear
Book: "The Last Battle: The Mayaguez Incident and the End of the Vietnam War" by Ralph Wetterhahn
Book: Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered from All sides" by Christian G. Appy