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Vietnam, Revisionist History


Tim Gratz
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John asked:

Why do you always relate events to whether they were Republicans or Democrats? Cannot you judge events as a human being rather than as a party hack.

John, there certainly have been bad Republicans (RN comes immediately to mind) but at least from the time I started following politics as a young person I have found that, at least with respect to foreign policy, the ideas of the Republican Party have proven to be effective. I became a Republican because I liked Dwight David Eisenhower. Although it was before my time, it was a Democraty president who got us involved in a no-win war in Korea. It was under first Kennedy and then Johnson (both largely through Robert Strange McNamara) that we got involved in the morass in Vietnam. And Jimmy Carter created a disaster in Iran.

BG had advocated "Why not victory" over the Communists rather than merely containment. RR essentially followed the policies advocated by BG in the early 1960s, and they worked.

The Democrats on the other hand followed policies that usually led our country into nightmares.

That has been my assessment of politics from the late 1950s on. That does not make me a "party hack" it makes me sane. What is that funny definition of insanity? Something to the effect that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.

It is at this point too early to see what will happen in Iraq. History will no doubt judge the presidency of GB based on the end result in Iraq. But I do know that after 9-11, there has been neither wholesale or retail terrorist acts within this country. Now that happy result can only be the result of one of the following: (a) the policies and leaders of the GB administration are working; or (B) Robert Charles-Dunne has been praying to his pet rock. I think I'll go with "a".

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BG had advocated "Why not victory" over the Communists rather than merely containment. RR essentially followed the policies advocated by BG in the early 1960s, and they worked.

It is still unclear how BG would have won the Vietnam War in two years. What has RR got to do with US policy in Vietnam?

You still ignore my point about China and the Cold War.

Nor have you admitted about BG statement about the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

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John, if we had fought WWII the way LBJ fought in Vietnam, the children of GB would be wearing brown shirts and you assuredly would not be allowed to administer a forum with any kind of political dissent. I think you know that. Just consider the restraints imposed by LBJ and McNamara on the military in Vietnam and imagine if those restraints had been imposed upon the military during WWII.

McNamara once said that if the allies had lost WWII, he thought he could have been prosecuted as a war criminal. Whether or not that is true, his statement certainly illustrates the intensity with which the allies fought the Nazis.

If the military in Viertnam had had the handcuffs removed from their wrists, and had we taken the fight straight to Hanoi, there is no question in my mind that the war would have been over in a few years. The problem is we just reacted and we let it become a guerilla war in the South.

Just think of the logic. How could the US defeat the Nazis and the Japanese in WWII but not the Vietcong in Vietnam? The only rational explanation is that our tactics and strategy differed between those two wars.

I have not forgotten your other two points and will try to respond tonight. (I have to go to the lkibrary to reviewe BG's autobiography.)

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Tim, I understand what you're saying, but think you would be better off putting your statements in a more solid context. It is true that BG's take it to 'em attitude might have prevailed, where LBJ's "wait for the generals" attitude failed, but it's also true that this might have provoked open hostility with China, and possibly a Soviet move in Berlin. There is NO reason to assume they would have just sat back and let Westmoreland, as a neo-Patton, just get in his tanks and drive to Hanoi. If you really believe winning the war in Vietnam was as easy as bomb 'em and invade, then I'm awfully glad you went to Wisconsin instead of West Point. I mean, what makes you think Ho's forces wouldn't have taken to the jungle and continued as guerrilla fighters for the next couple of decades? FWIW, I have read BG's autobios--both of them--and have also read Conscience of a Conservative. I respect BG above most every conservative to follow in his path. I dislike LBJ. But I am still glad BG wasn't elected in 64.

In your heart of hearts I would guess you feel the same. After all, BG was pro-women's rights, pro-abortion rights and pro-gay rights. If he'd made that part of the Republican agenda in 64 and years after, the Repubs would have lost the religious right to the Dems, much as LBJ lost the Southern bigots to the Repubs with his pro-civil rights agenda. Imagine that--a world upside down--with Bible belters having to choose between which they hated more--baby-killers and fairies or ordinary common colored folk.

As far as St. Reagan, you realize of course that, while his get-tough policies may have helped end our "I'll throw away the future of my country by spending money on wasteful weapon's systems" competition with the Soviets, he himself was mocked by the Bushies and the MIC when he wanted to actually reduce our military arsenal, and cut military spending. Since then, purportedly as a tribute to him, but really as a massive con on the American people, over a Trillion dollars-enough money to feed and educate every child in the world-has been spent on a weapons system that will almost certainly never need to be used. One can only hope that this "star wars" technology can one day be used to fight asteroids and meteors, so that we can justify its cost to mankind.

Edited by Pat Speer
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Daniel, yes, indeed, your reading comprehension skills did escape you.

JS wrote we could have "never won" in Vietnam.

I pointed out that we could have "won" if we had "bombed North Vietnam into the Stone Age".

I fail to see how you draw the conclusion that by simply pointing out that was ONE method by which we could have "prevailed" in Vietnam I was advocating it. I even pointed out, I believe, that I have grave reservations about the morality of Truman's decision to use nuclear weapons to spped the end of the war in the Pacific theatre.

Could we have defeated Communism in the Soviet Union earlier than we did had we launched a nuclear first strike and hit it with every nuclear weapon in our arsenal? Perhaps. But saying that was an OPTION does not mean the option was reasonable or moral.

My point was simply to illustrate why what John wrote was incorrect.

Now I hope you "get it".

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John asked:

Why do you always relate events to whether they were Republicans or Democrats? Cannot you judge events as a human being rather than as a party hack.

John, there certainly have been bad Republicans (RN comes immediately to mind) but at least from the time I started following politics as a young person I have found that, at least with respect to foreign policy, the ideas of the Republican Party have proven to be effective. I became a Republican because I liked Dwight David Eisenhower. Although it was before my time, it was a Democraty president who got us involved in a no-win war in Korea. It was under first Kennedy and then Johnson (both largely through Robert Strange McNamara) that we got involved in the morass in Vietnam. And Jimmy Carter created a disaster in Iran.

BG had advocated "Why not victory" over the Communists rather than merely containment. RR essentially followed the policies advocated by BG in the early 1960s, and they worked.

The Democrats on the other hand followed policies that usually led our country into nightmares.

That has been my assessment of politics from the late 1950s on. That does not make me a "party hack" it makes me sane. What is that funny definition of insanity? Something to the effect that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get a different result.

It is at this point too early to see what will happen in Iraq. History will no doubt judge the presidency of GB based on the end result in Iraq. But I do know that after 9-11, there has been neither wholesale or retail terrorist acts within this country. Now that happy result can only be the result of one of the following: (a) the policies and leaders of the GB administration are working; or ( B) Robert Charles-Dunne has been praying to his pet rock. I think I'll go with "a".

Thanks for answering John's question Tim.

You make it quite clear that you can't think outside of the Republican-Democrat spectrum, so your reality is understood.

BK

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Bill wrote:

You make it quite clear that you can't think outside of the Republican-Democrat spectrum, so your reality is understood.

Bill, I find that a strange comment comming from someone who persists in claiming that Dallas was a "black op" by the CIA to blame Castro for the assassination even after you have now seen the evidence that the CIA was debunking "Castro did it" stories about as fast as they surfaced.

IMO, you are stuck in your "CIA did it" paradigm despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.

When very major foreign policy disaster in my life time came during Democrat administrations, why would I even CONSIDER voting for a member of that failed party?

So you are welcome to your "reality", a "reality" in which facts and evidence apparently have little importance.

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BG on Gulf of Tonkin incidents:

The Vietnam War truly began for us on August 7, 1964, when the U.S. Congress passed the Tonkin Gulf Resolution after reported attacks on two U.S. destroyers, the U.S.S. Maddox and C. Turner Joy, by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The so-called attack on the Maddox took place on August 2nd and the one on the Turner Joy two days later. A week after the incidents . . .Johnson and McNamara were still so confused as to what had actually happened that the Defense Department had to send a special Navy team to the Far East in an attempt to reconstruct the events. . .Those were the hazy circumstances under which the American Congress approved American involvement in Vietnam. [The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution] became the equivalent of a declaration of war.. . In fact the attack on the Turner Joy never took place. Our ship sonar operators made a mistake. And based on the numerous contradictions in McNamara's testimony in Congress and the accounts by others, I still question whether the Maddox was shot at by the North Vietbamese. There is no doubt about one thing, though: McNamara misled Congress and the American people, particularly by not revealing the critical fact that the Maddox was on a secret mission. I later learned that the operation involved U-2 spy flights over North Vietnam, kidnapping North Vietnamese for intelligence interrogation, commando raids from the sea, and parachuting psychological warfare teams into North Vietnam. This was an example of Johnson-McNamara duplicity--to act and then hide it. In this case, the facts were not revealed to Congress. We voted on the Tonkin Resolution with critical aspects of the situation withheld from us.

. . .

That was their first and perhaps worst mistake--misleading the Congress and the public. It was to take various forms on different occasions over the next several years, but the result was the same. Many members of Congress and more of the public became convinced that Johnson and McNamara were lying. This weakened their political and moral authority to conduct the war.

From "Goldwater" by Barry M. Goldwater, pages 232-233.

Pat, are you still glad LBJ won in 1964?

Edited by Tim Gratz
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Pat, are you still glad LBJ won in 1964?[/i]

Yes. It is my feeling that if BG was elected in 64, with his racist suck-up "states rights" agenda, the radical explosion in the late 60's would have been that much greater, and the silent majority would have turned around and voted for Wallace and LeMay in 68, which would only have exacerbated the situation. In short, I fear Barry would have led us into civil war.

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As much as I supported BG in 1964, I give great credit to LBJ for his strong advocacy (andthe passage) of the civil rights legislation of 1964 and 1965. That legislation did not just help blacks it was of great importance to our society. Clearly huge progress has been made since 1964 but the struggle for equality is not yet over, as I am sure we all know.

LBJ's legacy is certainly mixed since one has to consider his mistakes re the War in Vietnam in addition to his accomplishments in the area of civil rights.

But Pat BG was no racist and he sincerely (but I have concluded wrongfully) believed that the civil rights legislation was unconstitutional.

So why if BG was POTUS in 1968 would Wallace have run against him?

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I never discussed nor advocated the use of nuclear weapons with Johnson or anyone else in authority. I supported a total conventional air, ground and sea war.

Goldwater, by Barry M. Goldwater, page 222.

Goldwater is clearly trying to rewrite history with this passage from his autobiography:

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/special/index.htm

10. "Toward the Ultimate Elimination of Ultimate Destruction"

"Remarks in Seattle on the Control of Nuclear Weapons," 16 September 1964

Source: Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States Lyndon B. Johnson Containing the Public Messages, Speeches, and Statements of the President 1963-1964, Book II (Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office, 1965), 1078-1081

During the 1964 president campaign, Barry Goldwater versus Lyndon B. Johnson, the problem of nuclear weapons became central to the debate, after Goldwater asserted 1) that he would use low-yield nuclear weapons for defoliation purposes in South Vietnam, and 2) that senior NATO commanders should have predelegated authority to use tactical nuclear weapons in an emergency. Johnson was in an awkward spot on "predelegation" (see document 11 below), but Goldwater's statement on Vietnam provided an easy target, enabling Johnson to present himself as the responsible alternative. In a major speech on nuclear weapons policy, he emphasized the danger of their use, the disaster of nuclear war, the necessity for presidential control, and the need to check proliferation. This speech, and an earlier one at Detroit, was on a straight line from the concern that John Foster Dulles showed about nuclear weapons use; as Johnson argued at Detroit. In this instance, however, Johnson showed far broader concern-it was not just all-out war that terrified him, it was any use of nuclear weapons. Showing that he shared the developing post-war consensus against nuclear weapons use-the "nuclear taboo," Johnson stated: "Make no mistake. There is no such thing as a conventional nuclear weapon … For 19 peril-filled years, no nation has loosed the atom against another. To do so now is a political decision of the highest order. And it would lead us down an uncertain path of blows and counterblows whose outcome none may know. No President of the United States can divest himself of the responsibility for such a decision." (Note 14)

Like his predecessor, John F. Kennedy, Johnson treated the eventual abolition of nuclear weapons as a worthy national goal. He observed that a various U.S. policies, including more reliance on conventional arms ("flexible response"), steps to counter proliferation, cutbacks of fissile materials production, and other arms control measures, all pointed in the direction of a nuclear-free world: "These are only first steps. But they point toward the elimination of ultimate destruction."

11. McGeorge Bundy for the President, "Summary of the Existing Plans for Emergency Use of Nuclear Weapons," 23 September 1964, Top Secret, Mandatory Review release

Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Library, National Security File, Intelligence File, box 9, Meetings, Records Memoranda on Use of Nuclear Weapons

The controversy over nuclear use authority during the 1964 campaign led President Johnson (and his speechmakers) to take a strong position on the importance of presidential control. In his Seattle speech, he declared that the "responsibility for the control of U.S. nuclear weapons rests solely with the President, who exercises the control of their use in all foreseeable circumstances. This has been the case since 1945 … and will continue to be the case as long as I am President." Johnson's national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy recognized that that this sweeping statement was "open to the charge of deception," and could easily be attacked by former President Eisenhower," who had approved instructions to top military commanders delegating the use of nuclear weapons in circumstances when the President and the civilian chain of command were incapacitated (e.g., if Washington had been destroyed by nuclear attack). President Kennedy had let the orders stand and President Johnson had already approved their modification.

On September 23, Goldwater tacitly criticized Johnson's statement by flatly declaring that "standby arrangements," approved by the President were already in effect. That same day, Bundy, no doubt still worried about Eisenhower, gave the President a brief summary of the instructions, tacitly showing that Goldwater was factually correct. Yet, Johnson did not have to worry because soon Eisenhower publicly insisted that nuclear weapons should not be an issue in the campaign. (Note 15)

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nukevault/special/doc10.pdf

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Goldwater's statement needs to be divided in two. "I never discussed nor advocated the use of nuclear weapons with Johnson or anyone else in authority." That is probably correct. Historians have not accused Goldwater of discussing the use of nuclear weapons with Johnson.

The second part of the statement "I supported a total conventional air, ground and sea war" is clearly false. You will find more information on Goldwater's views on the use of nuclear weapons in his Washington Post obituary:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/polit...goldwater30.htm

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