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John Simkin

Vietnam and the Domino Theory

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The Domino Theory was first developed under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. It was argued that if the first domino is knocked over then the rest topple in turn. Applying this to South-east Asia Eisenhower argued that if South Vietnam was taken by communists, then the other countries in the region such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, would follow.

Eisenhower’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, was a devout follower of this theory. In a speech made in December, 1953, Nixon argued “If Indochina falls, Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this whole part of South East Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist must inevitably be oriented towards the Communist regime.”

The Domino Theory was accepted by those who followed Eisenhower: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It was the main justification for sending troops to Vietnam. As one Domino Theory supporter (H. W. Baldwin) said in February, 1965: “Vietnam is a nasty place to fight. But there are no neat and tidy battlefields in the struggle for freedom; there is no 'good' place to die. And it is far better to fight in Vietnam - on China's doorstep - than fight some years hence in Hawaii, on our own frontiers.”

As a result of this theory 58,183 American soldiers died in Vietnam. Vietnamese losses were far greater – more than 1.3 million soldiers and a further 4 million civilians killed or wounded. In fact, because of the use of chemical warfare, people are still dying as a result of this war. This death and destruction cost the American taxpayer $165 billion.

It is now 30 years since American troops were forced to retreat from Vietnam. Was the Domino Theory correct? Did those other countries “fall to the communists”? Are the Americans fighting the communists in Hawaii?

What happened to Vietnam after the Americans left? What is Vietnam like 30 years after becoming a united country ruled by communists?

Well, the communists are still in control. The Vietnamese people seem to be very happy with its government. Despite calling itself communist it has pursued a capitalist economy. It has an annual growth-rate of more than 7%. It had doubled gross domestic product per head since 1995. In the years following the end of the war over 85% lived in poverty. Today that figure is down to 15%.

The main way that Vietnam has done this is by encouraging foreign investment. Much of this money has come from the United States. (Ironically, the main economic reason for fighting the war was the fear that a communist Vietnam would prevent foreign investment.) In the first four months of this year foreign investment tripled to $2.1bn from the same period in 2004. Foreign investors want to use Vietnam as an export base because of its cheap, skilled labour.

The Vietnamese people have welcomed the investment of foreign capital. A recent poll in Vietnam’s Youth Magazine showed that Bill Gates was seven times more respected than any member of the Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

I wonder what the American public thinks about this situation. Do they believe their sacrifice was worthwhile? Does anyone still believe in the Domino Theory?

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The Domino Theory was first developed under the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. It was argued that if the first domino is knocked over then the rest topple in turn. Applying this to South-east Asia Eisenhower argued that if South Vietnam was taken by communists, then the other countries in the region such as Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, would follow.

Eisenhower’s vice-president, Richard Nixon, was a devout follower of this theory. In a speech made in December, 1953, Nixon argued “If Indochina falls, Thailand is put in an almost impossible position. The same is true of Malaya with its rubber and tin. The same is true of Indonesia. If this whole part of South East Asia goes under Communist domination or Communist influence, Japan, who trades and must trade with this area in order to exist must inevitably be oriented towards the Communist regime.”

The Domino Theory was accepted by those who followed Eisenhower: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon. It was the main justification for sending troops to Vietnam. As one Domino Theory supporter (H. W. Baldwin) said in February, 1965: “Vietnam is a nasty place to fight. But there are no neat and tidy battlefields in the struggle for freedom; there is no 'good' place to die. And it is far better to fight in Vietnam - on China's doorstep - than fight some years hence in Hawaii, on our own frontiers.”

As a result of this theory 58,183 American soldiers died in Vietnam. Vietnamese losses were far greater – more than 1.3 million soldiers and a further 4 million civilians killed or wounded. In fact, because of the use of chemical warfare, people are still dying as a result of this war. This death and destruction cost the American taxpayer $165 billion.

It is now 30 years since American troops were forced to retreat from Vietnam. Was the Domino Theory correct? Did those other countries “fall to the communists”? Are the Americans fighting the communists in Hawaii? 

What happened to Vietnam after the Americans left?  What is Vietnam like 30 years after becoming a united country ruled by communists?

Well, the communists are still in control. The Vietnamese people seem to be very happy with its government. Despite calling itself communist it has pursued a capitalist economy. It has an annual growth-rate of more than 7%. It had doubled gross domestic product per head since 1995. In the years following the end of the war over 85% lived in poverty. Today that figure is down to 15%.

The main way that Vietnam has done this is by encouraging foreign investment. Much of this money has come from the United States. (Ironically, the main economic reason for fighting the war was  the fear that a communist Vietnam would prevent foreign investment.)  In the first four months of this year foreign investment tripled to $2.1bn from the same period in 2004. Foreign investors want to use Vietnam as an export base because of its cheap, skilled labour.

The Vietnamese people have welcomed the investment of foreign capital. A recent poll in Vietnam’s Youth Magazine showed that Bill Gates was seven times more respected than any member of the Politburo of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

I wonder what the American public thinks about this situation. Do they believe their sacrifice was worthwhile? Does anyone still believe in the Domino Theory?

_______________________________________

I do not believe in this theory and we have seen from history this it has not happened. Richard Nixon was a lying politician who "Commie baited" every person who dared to oppose him in an election, from Jerry Vorhees (sp?) , Helen G. Douglas, all the way up to Senator Geroge McGovern in 1972. Then what does tricky do: goes to Russia and China. He was a xxxx and a political opportunist who would say anything if he felt it to be expedient to his getting elected.

JFK campaiagned as a Cold Warrior, but it has been demonstrated that he changed his thinking while in office. That he was going to end the Viet Nam war and achieve peace with both Russia and Cuba can no longer even be questioned. It has been established as FACT. It lead to his murder by those who did not share his views of peaceful co-existence.

Today's "leadership" does not even put forth any pretext of being desirous of peace. Bush and his neocons have advanced two wars and will no doubt not stop there. It's all about oil. War is never about what the leaders tell the foolish young men who kill for them. It is always to advance the interest of the bankers and power brokers. I have known this since I was a small child. It is why I have always been against war. ("Imagine all the people living life in peace....you may say I'm a dreamer..." )

I do not believe there are many who believe in the Domino theory today, but if W and his band of hoods begin to push it, no doubt a new generation of non-thinkers, who base their views on what Rush Limbaugh tells them to think, will buy into it.

I have grave fears about his nation. I do not believe we can have an un stolen election, the rise of right wing hate radio and tv has brainwashed so many people that those Republicans who used to call themselves "fiscal conservatives" no longer even NOTICE the staggering National debt under all these Republican "leaders".

It is a disgrace and terribly frightening to me.

And all the lives lost in Viet Nam post 11/22/63 are murders committed by the same people who murdered JFK. JFk cared about people, about human life. These killers care only about advancing their own wealth, which is what Viet Nam was really all about. As is Iraq today.

Dawn

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The domino theory and the theory of containment that were the basis of US foreign policies were not wholesale failures.

Vietnam was a bad war, but to wholly read Vietnam's recent turnaround as the proof that trying to fight in the name of the domino theory was wrong is not something to accept without qualification.

The region did become quite destabilized and the oppression of the liberation communist nationalist forces was so horrific that tens of thousands of people chose to jump on boats and take their chances on the open sea than their chances with the Communist government.

The Khmer Rouge and the Pathet Lao caused real damage in the neighboring countries of Laos and Thailand.

I think the United States was guilty of ignorance in applying the containment theory in SE Asia. We misunderstood the local cultures in part because of arrogance and in part because local flavors did not matter if communism was a monolithic transcendent force.

We needed more 14 points and less anti-communism. When the United States stopped the 1956 elections it failed in its essential foreign policy of idealism. We were not making SE asai safe for democracy we were trying to stop the spread of communism.

That Ho Chi Minh was a legitimate national hero did not stop us from financing the French Indochina war for Cold War reasons and it did not stop us from oppsing his political persuasion instead of his legitimacy.

I would argue that in the climate of the time, the United States had to learn the hard way the failings of its Cold War foreign policy. Namely that the enemy of our enemy can be our worst enemy. The Diem government was fatally corrupt and oppressive and the US failed to try to understand that.

But the rise of communist parties in the neighborhood during the conflict seems to give the domino theory some credence in my book.

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Dawn stated:

And all the lives lost in Viet Nam post 11/22/63 are murders committed by the same people who murdered JFK.

Well perhaps Dawn finally agrees with me that the Communists killed JFK since the "murders" committed in Vietnam to which I assume she refers were committed by a Communist war of agression to take over South Vietnam.

Several prominent left-wingers who saw what happened after the Communists took over South Vietnam have admitted they were wrong.

But thirty years later, with Vietnam, as John states, moving toward a capitalist system and an accomodation with the West, it is easy to forget the brutality imposed on South Vietnam after the Communist victory in 1975.

With the great strides toward democracy in Iraq, it absolutely baffles me that anyone can argue, WMD or none, that the defeat of Saddam Hussein was not a great victory for the people of Iraq as well as for freedom and liberalization of the entire Middle East region.

Then again perhaps John Kennedy, who declared that the United States should "bear any burden" to defend freedom and democracy in the world, is not the Kennedy that Dawn most admires. Instead it must be Joe Kennedy, who vigorously opposed the efforts of FDR to join the war against that monster Hitler. Hussein and Hitler were cut from the same cloth. (Many of Joe's arguments against US involvement in the effort against Hitler could easily be applied to our efforts in Iraq.) So, I suggest, are Joe Kennedy and Dawn. We have our freedom here in the United States. Why should we care about tyrants who rape, pillage and murder in foreign countries far from our shore? And why not smear people who have the courage to oppose such tyrants as "war profiteers?" I tell you, Dawn would make Joe Kennedy grin in his Nazi-appeasing isolationism. JFK, however, would hang his head in shame!

History has proved that Joe Kennedy was wrong in his efforts to appease Hitler. I think what is happening in Iraq now is already sufficient to prove that Dawn and her ilk were wrong about the war in Iraq. Perhaps in thirty years she will be able to admit it!

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Another reason why leftists can celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the victory of the Communists in Vietnam:

HO CHI MINH CITY, May 21 [2004] (Compass) -- In spite of monumental efforts by Vietnam to minimize and cover up their brutal repression of demonstration attempts by the Montagnard ethnic minority this past Easter, consistent information is emerging that confirms atrocities.

During Easter weekend, April 10 and 11, Montagnards in Vietnam’s Central Highlands sought to call attention to the harsh injustices they suffer at the hands of communist authorities and ethnic Vietnamese settlers. However, Vietnamese security forces attacked the demonstrators, causing many deaths, injuries, arrests, and the flight of many more to unknown locations.

Montagnards, who are largely Christian, have long been the victims of severe harassment and persecution at the hands of the Kinh majority. This ill-treatment intensified after previous demonstrations held in 2001. One church leader reported to Compass, “They [state officials] have promised to deliver to us great hardship and pain. They specifically promise us fear and revenge. Day by day the animosity between the races grows. It is virtually impossible to see how this can now be resolved.”

Reliable sources from Vietnam have produced a list of names, along with birthdates and village addresses, of 11 Ede people in seven Dak Lak provincial villages who were arrested. Sixty-three others were listed as “killed, badly wounded or known to be in hiding.” The list also covered articles that were confiscated, including small farm tractors, fuel oil, water pumps, gold and cash.

Another document, apparently prepared not long after the Easter events, reported the deaths of 205 people in seven other Dak Lak villages. In four of those villages, usually inhabited by a total of 2,200 people, only 12 people remained. The fate and location of the missing is not known; some may have now returned.

The same document reported that over 500 small farm tractors, used in transporting Montagnards from 30 villages to the demonstrations, were completely destroyed.

On May 17, the Montagnard Foundation Inc. (MFI), which Vietnam blames for the unrest, released a 12-page report giving details of the repression. The MFI report named 37 people killed during the Easter demonstration. Four of the dead were described as Jarai from Gia Lai Province and the remainder as Ede from Dak Lak.

The MFI claims it has information that another 239 people, as yet unidentified, were also killed. Numbers in the report issued by MFI immediately after Easter weekend appear to have been exaggerated. However, MFI spokesmen believe that information still emerging will confirm their earlier claim that at least 400 people were killed that weekend.

“The verifying of deaths is a huge challenge,” a respected Vietnam watcher explained, “but it is looking more and more certain that the number of confirmed dead will exceed 100.

“Vietnam’s admission of only two deaths is ridiculous. However, it will prove very hard to provide forensic or testimonial evidence because Vietnam is engaged in a rapid and thorough cleanup of evidence, and is now firmly rejecting calls for independent investigations. Further, authorities are going to extraordinary lengths to prevent news from getting out, and to prevent official visitors such as diplomats and journalists from talking freely to people.”

Visits to the region by U.S. diplomats, a Vatican delegation, and a team comprised of the Canadian, Norwegian, Swiss and New Zealand ambassadors were completely controlled by Vietnam officials. A handful of Montagnards were selected to speak with the foreign visitors. However, local sources say they were threatened with severe consequences if they so much as hinted at the truth of what happened.

After each diplomatic visit, Vietnamese state journalists published manufactured quotes saying the diplomats had complimented Vietnam for its enlightened minority policies. In each case, the diplomats took strong public exception to the misrepresentation.

Vietnam’s Kinh majority have a long history of racist attitudes towards the Montagnards and other minorities. The minorities are subject to discrimination through the illegal seizure of their lands, along with poor access to education, health care, jobs, government relief and small loans. Those who do have access to public schools are often driven out of the classroom by the ridicule and abuse of fellow students.

There were several accounts of cruelty to Montagnard children during the post-Easter crackdown. One report stated that a number of third grade Montagnard schoolgirls were attacked on the road in Buon Poc. One of the girls was stabbed to death, while another was “humiliated” (a euphemism for rape) and then stoned to death. A similar fate befell a schoolgirl in Buon Dha Prong.

Another source reported that those attacking the Montagnards in a certain location killed a number of children first, saying this was a pre-emptive action to stop future demonstrators.

Some human rights organizations are concerned that democratic governments seem unwilling to address these atrocities, apparently because they lack forensic “proof.” It appears that Vietnamese authorities have worked hard to prevent such proof from surfacing.

A Montagnard pastor told Compass, “If all foreign countries incline their ears toward Vietnam and continue to believe its lies, then it is absolutely certain that, bit by bit, the Montagnard people will be totally exterminated.”

Edited by Tim Gratz

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The domino theory was accurate. The ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand stayed free of Communism because of the U.S. commitment to Vietnam. The Indonesians threw the Soviets out in 1966 because of America's commitment in Vietnam. Without that commitment, Communism would have swept all the way to the Malacca Straits that is south of Singapore and of great strategic importance to the free world. If you ask people who live in these countries that won the war in Vietnam, they have a different opinion from the American news media. The Vietnam War was the turning point for Communism.

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Here is a cite to the Human Rights Watch report on the Vietnamese atrocities against the Montagnards over Easter of 2003:

http://www.hrw.org/english/docs/2004/05/27/vietna8625.htm

Below is a biography of the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch:

Kenneth Roth is the executive director of Human Rights Watch, a post he has held since 1993. The largest U.S.-based international human rights organization, Human Rights Watch investigates, reports on, and seeks to curb human rights abuses in some 70 countries. From 1987 to 1993, Mr. Roth served as deputy director of the organization. Previously, he was a federal prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Iran-Contra investigation in Washington. He also worked in private practice as a litigator.

Mr. Roth has conducted human rights investigations around the globe, devoting special attention to issues of justice and accountability for gross abuses of human rights, standards governing military conduct in time of war, the human rights policies of the United States and the United Nations, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational businesses. He has written over 70 articles and chapters on a range of human rights topics in such publications as the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, the International Herald Tribune, and the New York Review of Books. He also regularly appears in the major media and speaks to audiences around the world.

A graduate of Yale Law School and Brown University, Mr. Roth was drawn to the human rights cause in part by his father's experience fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938. He began working on human rights after the declaration of martial law in Poland in 1981, and soon also became deeply engaged in fighting military repression in Haiti. In his ten years as executive director of Human Rights Watch, the organization has tripled in size, while greatly expanding its geographic reach, and adding special projects devoted to refugees, children's rights, academic freedom, international justice, AIDS, gay and lesbian rights, and the human rights responsibilities of multinational corporations.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Here is another argument (by John Moore) that supports the accuracy of the "domino effect":

Many analysts have claimed that the war in South Vietnam had part of its desired effect – the prevention of the spread of Communism into all of Southeast Asia and the Philippines, but it was still a major defeat for the US, leading many other nations in the world to conclude that the US was an unreliable ally. During the subsequent Carter administration, which itself gave no confidence to anti-communist forces and US allies (especially by betraying the Shah of Iran), many nations in the world experienced communist-led insurgencies (Cambodia, Angola, etc.) or insurgencies (like the one in Nicaragua) where a broad popular movement overthrew the government, after which the Communist members of the movement seized power and disenfranchised or imprisoned their revolutionary partners. Other nations distanced themselves from the US and made accommodations with the Communists, damaging US interests world-wide. It was not until Ronald Reagan changed the terms of the conflict from containment to roll-back of Soviet gains that the situation began to reverse.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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The brutal Vietnamese campaign against the Montagnards continued beyond the atrocities of Easter Week of 2004. This is from a human rights organization called Unrepresented Nations and People Organization:

BACKGROUND: Last Easter on April 10, 2004 tens of thousands of Christian Montagnards conducted peaceful demonstrations inside Vietnam's Central Highlands calling for an end to years of persecution by the communist government. Vietnamese security forces brutally attacked the demonstrators and Human Rights Watch reported on 28 May 2004, that "Hundreds of demonstrators were wounded and many were killed on April 10 and 11 on key bridges and roadways". Now, prior to Christmas the Vietnamese government intensifies repression to prevent Christmas celebrations.

Recently the Vietnamese government has sent more soldiers and security police into the Central Highlands in order to harass and restrict the villagers' movement with the intention to halt upcoming Christmas celebrations.

The Vietnamese government has also offered a bounty of 400,000 (Vietnamese dong) to any Vietnamese or Montagnard paramilitary police who can arrest Degar Christians leaders. Subsequently we have received the following report where three paramilitary district police joined with three military police from the communal village of Ia Ko who voluntarily accepted the mission to arrest Degar Christians in the area. The details of the Vietnamese military police are as follows:

a.. 2 Vietnamese paramilitary police from the district of Cu Se (names and rank unknown). b.. Ksor Lom, 32 years old, from the village of Plei O Grong, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He is a military policeman of the district of Cu Se. c.. Siu Han 24 years old, from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He is a military policeman of the communal village. d.. Siu Thon, 43 years old, from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He is a military policeman of the communal village. e.. Siu Alup, DOB unknown, from the village of Plei Tai, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He is a military policeman of the communal village. These two Vietnamese and four Montagnard paramilitary police cited above conducted the arrest and torture of our Christian brothers listed below:

1 - Siu Tan, 50 years old from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a deacon of a house church at Plei Hra and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility T-20 in Pleiku. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being tortured by beatings and kicking.

2 - Kpuih Plen, 30 years old from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a deacon of a house church in the area of Cu Go and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility T-20 in Pleiku. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being tortured by beatings and kicking.

3 - Kpuih Cur, 31 years old from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a deacon of a house church in the area of Cu Go and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility T-20 in Pleiku. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being tortured by beatings and kicking.

4 - Kpuih Phe, 41 years old from the village of Plei Hra, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a deacon of a house church in the area of Cu Se and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se where they severely tortured him by beating and kicking until he passed out. Blood coming out of his ears, nose and mouth and then they hung him upside down by his feet and used a bundle of grass to burn his body. Kpuih Phe is currently imprisoned at the prison facility of T-20 in Pleiku.

5 - Kpuih Kre, 43 years old from the village of Plei Sur-A, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a layman of a house church Plei Sur-A, and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility T-20 in Pleiku. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being tortured by beating and kicking.

6 - Rmah Anen, 29 years old from the village of Plei Per, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a Christian Youth leader of a house church in the district, and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Cu Se. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being tortured and beaten. His parents and relatives were not allowed to visit him or bring food to him.

7 - Rmah amot, 32 years old from the village of Plei Per, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a layman of a house church at Plei Per and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Cu Se. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being severely tortured by beatings and kicking. His parents and relatives are not allowed to visit him or bring food to him.

8 - Nuai, (DOB unknown) from the village of Plei Sur, commune of Ia Ko, district of Cu Se, province of Gialai. He was arrested on October 14, 2004, because he is a layman of a house church at Plei Sur and he refused to join the "government approved" Evangelical Church of Vietnam (ECVN). He was taken to the police headquarters in the district of Cu Se for torturing and now he is imprisoned at the prison facility in the district of Cu Se. Our contact reported to us that his body was visibly bruised and swollen from being severely tortured.

9 - On October 20, 2004 at around 5:10 PM, the Vietnamese paramilitary police abducted two of our Christian brothers on their way back to their village from work. Hlu and Tam are both age 24 and they are from the village of Plei Dup, commune of Ha Bau, district of Dak Doa, province of Gialai. While they were returning to their village after work on a motorcycle Honda-67, the Vietnamese paramilitary police stopped them between Plei Ia Mut and Plei Dup villages and arrested them. It is unknown what the police have done to them and their parents and relatives are worried about their well being or that they might have been murdered.

Without the presence of the international community, the safety of the Degar people is at stake.

Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Central Highlands have been arrested all over the Central Highlands, not only in the province of Gialai but in the other three provinces. The Vietnamese authorities have however, sealed the region off from journalists and restricted contact with our people and it is thus difficult to get a full account of the repression. This year however, the Degar Christians will not be able to celebrate Christmas.

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Dawn wrote:

These killers care only about advancing their own wealth, which is what Viet Nam was really all about.

Dawn professes to be a Christian and I believe her (probably one of the few statements she has posted with which I do agree).

Query whether Dawn was even aware of the Vietnamese persecution of fellow Christians in Vietname when she posted her inane opinions about why we fought the War in Vietnam?

Had it not been for Watergate, I think the end result may have been different in Vietnam. Had South Vietnam been able to defeat the Communist aggressors from North Vietnam, I suspect South Vietnam would today be as propsperous and free a country as South Korea.

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According to the Montagnard Foundation, over 165,000 Vietnamese died in the concentration camps established after the fall of Saigon in April of 1975.

It is not just Christians that the Vietnamese torture and prosecute. Again according to the Montagnard Foundation, the Vietnamese also continue to imprison numerous Buddhist monks.

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Dawn argued that there was no question that JFK would have pulled out of Vietnam. Again, she was wrong, as she was wrong about why we fought the war in Vietnam in the first place. One of the reasons was due to a Catholic doctor named Tom Dooley who died only days before JFK was inaugurated and JFK awarded him the Medal of Freedom. Dr. Dooley's example also influenced JFK's foundation of the Peace Corp.

The article about Dr. Dooley that I inserted below is instructive. It states that Dooley's influential book "Deliver Us From Evil", which documented Communist atrocities, powerfully influenced American opinion to fight the Communists in Southeast Asia. The article cites people who question whether all of the atrocities cited by Dooley were accurate. I submit that events after the fall of 1975 in fact demonstrated the accuracy of the thesis if not the specifics of Dr. Dooley's book. Regardless of that issue, the article makes clear that Dr/ Dooley greatly influenced America to fight in Vietnam.

Dawn also argued that the war in Vietnam was fought only for economic reasons (war profiteering.) I suspect Dawn had never heard of "Deliver Us from Evil".

I respectfully submit that JFK's admiration for Tom Dooley, a fellow Catholic, is one of the reasons JFK would never have abandoned the anti-Communist fight in Southeast Asia.

The article is from Professor Seth Jacobs, a history professor who teaches courses on the war in Vietnam at Boston College.

When Thomas A. Dooley died of cancer on January 18, 1961—one day after his 34th birthday and two days before the inauguration of America's first Catholic president—a Gallup poll ranked him third among the world's "most esteemed men," right behind Dwight Eisenhower and the Pope. A typically effusive editorial tribute to the famed "jungle doctor of Asia" proclaimed: "Tom Dooley is survived by his mother, two brothers, and three billion members of the human race who are infinitely richer for his example." Monsignor George G. Gottwald, who delivered the eulogy at the Pontifical Requiem Mass for Dooley, compared him to Christ, noting that "the greatest life that was ever lived was 33 years. Dr. Dooley was 34." Congress posthumously awarded Dooley the Medal of Honor, President Kennedy gave him the Medal of Freedom, and a popular groundswell built to have the doctor canonized. In all, the nationwide paroxysm of grief that greeted news of Dooley's demise was a fitting response to the death of the man whom many Americans had come to regard as a modern-day saint.

Within a decade, however, Dooley was all but forgotten. His books, which sold millions of copies during his lifetime, disappeared from stores and gathered dust on library shelves. Hollywood studios had plans to make a film of his life, but nothing came of them. Campaigns to promote the cause of Dooley's sanctity in the Roman Catholic Church fizzled. The maxim about all glory being fleeting is applicable to the whole of modern American culture, but rarely more poignantly than to Tom Dooley.

There are several reasons for Dooley's fall into obscurity. First of all, he left no lasting monument to his life's work. The Medical International Cooperation Organization (MEDICO) that he founded proved dependent on Dooley's charisma for money; it collapsed within a year of his passing. Another determinant was his sexuality—never completely hidden but only a matter of public record after his death. One of Dooley's classmates at Saint Louis University High School recalls a teacher's lesson that "homosexuality is something that only happens in hell," an indication of how gay men and women were viewed by many Americans at mid-century, to say nothing of the conservative Catholic circles from which Dooley drew his staunchest support. Post-obit revelations that the wholesome "Dr. Tom" was not only gay but promiscuously so undoubtedly contributed to his erasure from collective memory.

But probably the most significant reason for Americans' amnesia with regard to Dooley was the Vietnam War. No one played a larger role than Dooley did in moving Vietnam to the forefront of public concern in the United States. For millions of Americans, his 1956 book Deliver Us from Evil was their introduction to Vietnam. Dooley's graphic accounts of communist atrocities against Christians profoundly influenced American attitudes toward a country that few policymakers would have been able to locate on a map at the onset of the 1950s, but which had become the logical testing ground of U.S. credibility in the Cold War as the following decade dawned. Dooley, of course, did not "cause" the Vietnam War, but he did influence the body of information that was available when war began, and he—more than anyone else—managed to make a large segment of the American public care passionately about preserving South Vietnam from communist tyranny.

Dooley first traveled to Southeast Asia in 1954, assigned to the U.S. Navy's program of aid in transporting North Vietnamese refugees. The Geneva Accords sealed by the French and the communist Viet Minh in July of that year had provisionally divided Vietnam at the 17th parallel and specified that all Vietnamese who wished to relocate either north or south would be permitted 300 days to do so. Almost a million Northerners--nearly all of them Catholics from the Hanoi Delta--chose to migrate below the parallel, and the United States organized a task force of some 50 ships to help transport them. Dooley, then a 26-year-old Navy lieutenant, was put in charge of building refugee assembly camps in Hanoi and of providing their medical services. He and his fellow officers waged a furious campaign to stamp out contagious diseases before the hordes of exiles boarded the Navy's vessels.

After returning to the United States, Dooley published an account of his experiences, first in condensed form in Reader's Digest and then as Deliver Us from Evil. It caused a sensation, becoming the great early bestseller on Vietnam. Nothing until The Pentagon Papers in the summer of 1971 received comparable readership. Racist and sketchy in the extreme on the complexities of Vietnamese culture and politics, Deliver Us from Evil nonetheless retains a capacity to affect the reader on a visceral level that gives some hint of how powerful its impact must have been in 1956. Dooley's description of a Vietnamese teenager whose legs were pounded by rifle butts—"the feet and ankles felt like moist bags of marbles"—still provokes a shudder. His purported quotation of a communist radio broadcast can still rankle: "This is an American. His head is a blockhouse. His beard is barbed wire. His eyes are bombs. His forehead is a nest of artillery and his body is an airfield."

It was the atrocity stories in Deliver Us from Evil that attracted the most attention and commentary. Dooley told of how the Viet Minh jammed chopsticks into the ears of children to keep them from hearing the Lord's Prayer, cut off the tongue of a religious instructor whom they accused of preaching "heresy," and pounded nails into the head of a Catholic priest—"a communist version of the crown of thorns, once forced on the Saviour of whom he preached." Catholic priests, Dooley wrote, were by far the most frequent targets of Viet Minh terror. He claimed to have discovered one priest whom the communists had left "a mass of blackened flesh from the shoulders to the knees. The belly was hard and distended and the scrotum swollen to the size of a football."

Critics accused Dooley of manufacturing his Vietnamese Grand Guignol out of whole cloth, but these charges only became public decades after his death. Six U.S. officials who were stationed in the Hanoi-Haiphong area during Dooley's tour of duty submitted a lengthy, albeit secret, exposé to the U.S. Information Agency in 1956 in which they held that Deliver Us from Evil was "not the truth" and that the accounts of Viet Minh atrocities were "nonfactual and exaggerated." The report was declassified in the late 1980s. William J. Lederer, author of the Cold War bestseller The Ugly American and, as Dooley's mentor, the man who prevailed upon Reader's Digest to publish Dooley's story, told the journalist Diana Shaw in 1991 that the atrocities the doctor described "never took place." Even more persuasive were statements by Norman Baker, who served as a corpsman under Dooley's command in Vietnam and who told Shaw that he never saw anything like the gruesome spectacles detailed in Deliver Us from Evil.

Nonetheless, Dooley tapped into powerful emotional currents in 1950s America, which was experiencing a massive religious revival inextricably bound up with the anxieties of the Cold War. It was not difficult for Americans at the time to believe that "godless" communists had committed such fiendish acts, and Dooley's horror stories only confirmed the widespread perception, memorably articulated by evangelist Billy Graham, that communism was "inspired, directed, and motivated by the devil himself, who has declared war on Almighty God."

Young, idealistic, and (conveniently) very handsome, Dooley became a genuine superstar, commanding top-tier lecture fees and receiving thousands of fan letters a day. The Navy doctor's Catholicism, which might have limited his appeal in an earlier era, worked to his advantage during the Eisenhower years, when—as Charles R. Morris, James T. Fisher, Patrick Allitt, and other scholars have demonstrated—Catholicism was synonymous with 100 percent Americanism. Dooley wisecracked during a 1959 fund-raising tour for his clinic in Laos that he was uniquely qualified to match wits with communist guerrillas "because I was educated by the Jesuits," and his largely non-Catholic audience roared its approval. For American Catholics, the 1950s were halcyon days. Catholics' anti-communist credentials looked impeccable in waging Cold War, and there was no more charismatic Cold Warrior than "Dr. Tom."

Dooley's popularity was at its zenith when he died in a New York hospital on the eve of Kennedy's Camelot. JFK capitalized on the torrent of publicity attending the doctor's final days; in proposing the creation of the Peace Corps, Kennedy cited "the selfless example of Tom Dooley." Few would have argued in 1961 that Dooley's career furnished a fitting example for energetic and idealistic Americans to follow.

Years later, with the United States mired in a seemingly unwinnable conflict in Vietnam and the divisions in American society more pronounced than at any time since the Civil War, matters looked different. In a stinging 1969 article for the Catholic magazine The Critic, Nicholas von Hoffman called Dooley "too preposterous a figure for youth to identify with" and blamed the doctor's "ethnocentric fusion of piety and patriotism" for helping to create "a climate of public misunderstanding that made the war in Vietnam possible." Dooley, von Hoffman charged, "contributed to the malformation of our knowledge and moral judgments about Southeast Asia" by depicting the region's conflicts in simple terms of good versus evil. Such "muddled, primitive political thinking" had led to a war that ravaged America's spirit and squandered the immense moral capital the United States had accumulated by defeating the fascists in World War II. Von Hoffman predicted that "eight years hence, Tom Dooley will appear so bizarre, . . . so much a defunct social type, that no one will make the effort to remember him."

This forecast proved accurate. None of the major histories of the Vietnam War published from the mid-1970s through the early 1990s mentions Dooley's name. But interest in Dooley has revived in recent years among scholars seeking a fuller understanding of why the United States expended so much blood and treasure in an area of such apparent strategic and economic insignificance. Traditional balance-of-power and materialist interpretations having failed to render the Vietnam War intelligible, historians are now employing categories of analysis traditionally consigned to "social history"—like race and gender. The meteoric career of Tom Dooley suggests another vital, hitherto unexplored dimension of America's longest and most divisive war: religion.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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It is an over-simplification to attribute US involvement in Vietnam to the Domino Theory. We became involved due to a complex mix of ideology, historical circumstance and realpolitik. A good resource for this is Leslie Gelb's (he has a co-author, whose name I've forgotten) The Irony of Vietnam: The System Worked. Gelb, as you may know, was the person responsible for the assembly of the Pentagon Papers (but not, of course, their release to the public, which was Daniel Ellsberg's province).

I would argue that the Domino Theory was developed primarily for public consumption - as a simple way to describe the reasons for our involvement. I doubt that any politician of consequence really believed it as stated.

I agree with Tim that the role of JFK is ambiguous - not "fact". The facts are that JFK acted as a hard-core "cold warrior". I do not doubt that he had conversations about withdrawing US troops; where those conversations would have led we will never know. Nor do I believe he was assassinated by "the same people responsible for all the deaths in Vietnam", but I don't think it's appropriate to get involved in the morass of the JFK assassination here. The facts are that he escalated our involvement, and his vice president took us all the way.

I disagree with Tim on the war as a whole. It was a monumental waste, which I witnessed first hand. We had absolutely no business in Vietnam. The crucial moment was 1945. If Harry Truman had recognized Ho Chi Minh's government as the legitimate government of Vietnam (as the Asian desk of the State Department urged him), the tragedy of US involvement would have been completely avoided and Vietnam would indeed be an economic powerhouse to rival or exceed South Korea.

The fate of the Montagnards would have been questionable in any case - they have never been accepted into mainstream Vietnamese society. A true democracy would probably have been better for them, but they weren't about to get that from Thieu and his bunch.

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Mike, I have also read that RFK was enamored of guerilla warfare and special ops.

I suspect that had JFK lived, although there would have been no pull out from Vietnam the war would have been waged differently than it was under LBJ. Whether the end result would have been different is of course speculative.

Perhaps Rosselli and crew would have been more successful in whacking Ho Chi Minh (understand that remark was facetious).

Re your comment that the war was a waste, I am not sure. It may very well have slowed the global expansion of communism, and prevented Soviet adventurism in Europe.

Plus to characterize the war as a waste is in part being a Monday morning quarterback, is it not? One can argue that the millions of dollars that Kerry spent and the thousands of hours he expended were a waste, given the electoral result. Had he defeeated Bush, however, the assessment would be far different. What would we say had we been able to defeat the North and had South Vietnam become an economic powerhouse? Then, would we not say the war had been successful?

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Tim -

It is perhaps Monday morning quarterbacking, but much of historical analysis could be so characterized. The war was, in fact, a waste because we did, in fact, lose. I would argue that the war was unwinnable. The South Vietnamese had no interest in what the US was trying to do. The reactions I got from villagers whenever we patrolled through a ville were either "Please don't shoot me, Mr. marine!" or "If I had a gun, you'd be dead meat." And, often enough, we were...

We were regarded as invaders, not the North Vietnamese.

I do not see how one can argue that our efforts in Vietnam somehow "slowed" communist expansion. Logically, they could take our loss there as encouragement for expansion, not discouragement. One could argue that Soviet expansion in Afghanistan was the result of such "encouragement" - much to their sorrow.

Similarly, it is hard to see how our actions in Vietnam did any good whatsoever for our international standing. From the beginning, most of the world regarded our actions there as misguided at best. It was no surprise to the rest of the world that we lost. An ally of the US could potentially conclude that we'd learned a valuable lesson (we didn't) and would be a better ally in the future.

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