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Student Question: Just War

Louis E. Grivetti

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When we first sent volunteers (Special Forces and MACV Advisory teams) into South Vietnam to assist the South Vietnmese in their counter-insurgency - we were doing right and proper. Subsequent to JFK being assassinated, we turned the war into a war of US takeover, not assistence to a friend. Huge regular units went into South Vietnam, displacing complete cities/villages and taking command of all aspects of the war. CIA influence on drug running systems seemed to me to be to continue and promote so long as their agents controlled the traffic. When President Johnson personally approved the sanctuaries inside Cambodia for the enemy to use and to attack us and our allies from without fear of retribution and when he approved the use of the Mekong River for the enemy's main supply route and ordered our people to protect that route for the enemy, and when he ordered the total removal of Special Forces from South Vietnam and preluded our military commanders from winning the war, it was no longer a just war. It was as if we wanted the Communists to win and they did. Please read my book "Expendable Elite - One Soldier's Jounrey Into Covert Warfare" and you will get a good picture in your mind of how the war could have been fought and won - if they had done as we did in An Phu. When I was forced to close my camp as a CIDG Camp on 2 August 1966 and turn it over to MACV and convert the irregulars to RF troops. it was the most secure area, with its 64,000 Buddhist Hoa Haos (the bravest and most honest people I have ever met), in all of South Vietnam.

We abandoned them, betrayed them and let the Communists have victory. I don't know how any nation could ever trust us after that.

LTC Daniel Marvin

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There are two main reasons why a country can claim they are fighting a Just War. The United States can justify taking part in the Second World War because she was a victim of Japanese air attack in December, 1941. Only committed pacifists would argue against this decision.

France and the UK were in a slightly different position. They declared war on Germany in 1939 because it had invaded Poland. As Poland was a member of an alliance with the UK and France I believe that this decision can be justified.

However, the concept of a Just War also refers to the way a war is fought. A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. It is not justified to use all available force against the enemy. Especially when this violence is used against civilians. Using this criteria, both the UK and the USA were guilty of using tactics that were incompatible with the concept of a “Just War”.

It is difficult to see how United States involvement in Vietnam can be seen as a Just War. United States territory was not attacked by the Vietnamese. Before the arrival of the Americans the conflict in Vietnam had been at first a colonial war and then a civil war. It bears no resemblance at all to the situation that the UK and France found themselves in when Germany invaded Poland in 1939.

Of course, when the Americans entered Vietnam they never used methods of warfare that was appropriate under the terms of a Just War. “The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.”

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