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January 23, 1972 - Image 4

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Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1972-01-23

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special
feature

the

Sundoy

doily

by
zachary
schiller

Number 55 Night Editor: Sara Fitzgerald

Sunday, January 23, 1972

'Winding
p W THINGS seem to anger the Amer-
ican people as much as deception by
the officials they elect to govern them.
The national furor which followed revela-
tion of the Pentagon Papers last sumimer
furnished adequate evidence of that. Even
people who supported our commitment in
Southeast Asia through the turmoil of the
late sixties were repulsed by the thought
that the war had been planned by their
government in 1964 and '65 when the Pres-.
ident and his associates publicly denied
any such actions.
Unfortunately, when the history of the
Nixon administration is reviewed, his.
promise to "end the war and win the
peace in the Pacific" may prove just as
dishonest and inaccurate as Johnson's op- s
timistic pronouncements of 1964. For the
facts indicate that despite the Nixon Ad-
ministration's purported policy of "wind-
ing down" the war, all the violence, suf-
fering and destruction indigenous to the
war pervade Southeast Asia as much today
as ever..
True, Nixon has withdrawn the major-d
ity of our troops from Indochina. And he
is always anxious to impress us with this
fact as evidence of his move toward
peace.South Vi
But underneath this facade of American flown in
disengagement lies the grim reality of the
war to the Indochinese peoples today, three n
years after the onset of the NixonAdmin- to which
istratin.
The refugee situation in Southeast Asia The sit
is a case in point. where th
Official American statistics list a less- tween the
ering number of refugees in South Viet- in 1970,a
nam, but this is largely a question of sta- of less th
tistical manipulation. A'report to Senator veys take
Edward Kennedy's subcommittee on refu- ice, Cong
gees cites the reclassification of the many merous p
hundreds of thousands of . refugees who American
had received any government payments greatestc
as "settled in place," regardless of whether In Cam
their physical surroundings or economic most a fc
capabilities had changed at all. -were g
"Under the banner of 'Vietnamization,' American
a plethora of new terms and slogans have The popu
been created in Saigon to describe, and tal city,s
hide, old problems and unchanged pro- a million
grams," says the 1970 report. But ref
the sad s
THUS, WE SEE a proliferation of new
jargon which serves to mislead and be- WHILE
fuddle the American public as to the true minis
situation in Southeast Asia. We have added ties, othe
to our vocabulary such terms as "interdic- are exper
tion," "protective reaction," and "residual ties today
force" all of which are made to seem jus- Compai
tifiable as they become harder and harder and 1971,
to connect with reality. deaths fel
But despite these changes in name, there in action
have been no changes in fact. A recent Opposing
General Accounting Office report saw refu- Estimal
gees in "overcrowded, congested living con- to come
ditions . . . much of the land provided is gether a
inaccessible swampland." ' they rem;
An estimated three million South Viet- through1

down'

the

war,

winding

up deception

.

which without our support
the ground.

would fall to

ietnamese troops prepare to board U.S. helicopters at the Nguyen Hue base near Khen Sanh, South Vietnam. The men were
to Laos for action against Communist forces.

remain in camps or urban slums
they moved in recent years.
uation is much th esame in Laos,
e number of refugees doubled be-
e end of 1968 and the same period
approaching 300,000 in a country
an three million inhabitants. Sur-
n by the U. S. Information Serv-
ressman Paul McCloskey and nu-
private individuals indicate that
a bombing is fay and away the
cause of refugees in that country.
nbodia, 1.5 million refugees - al-
ourth of that country's population
enerated in the year after the
i-sponsored invasion of May, 1970.
lation of Phnom Penh, the capi-
skyrocketed from 400,000 to over
in the same time period.
fugees are only a small part of
story.
OUR President dwells on the di-
hing American combat casual-
r forces involved in the conflict
riencing nearly the same casual-
y as several years ago.
ring the first quarters of 1970
, respectively, although American
11 by half, South Vietnamese killed
increased by almost 50 per cent.
forces also lost thousands more.
tes on civilian casualties are hard
by. but information pieced to-
t Congressional hearings shows
vain at a high level. At least
March, 1970, the number of ci-

vilians admitted to hospitals for war-
related injuries continued at about the
level of the Johnson years - over 5,000 a
month.
Another aspect of the American disrup-
tion of Indochinese civilian life glossed
over by the Administration is the mass re-
locations of thousands of people, most re-
cently in Laos. Four out of five Montagn-
ards had been relocated as of March, al-
most all unwillingly. The rationale for
these evacuations is that if you can't move
security to the people, you must move the
people to security. As a result of these re-
locations, the formerly neutral Montagn-
ards are becoming increasingly prone to
joining the Communist forces.
The conditions of life for the people of
Southeast Asia have been largely hidden
from the American public since the onset
of the Nixon Administration. However, it
has been more difficult to camouflage the
activities of American war planes in Indo-
china.
Thus, we are gradually becoming aware
of the undiminished scope of the air war
and its role in the war as a whole.
AS MORE American troops withdraw, it
becomes necessary for the Administra-
tion to call on our air power to bolster the
sagging South Vietnamese forces. Tonnage
of bombs dropped on Indochina in both
1970 and 1971 hovered near the million
mark, and the air war has escalated over
Laos and Cambodia according to a Cornell
University study.
Five times last year, the President or-
dered what are officially called "reinforced
protective reaction strikes" against North
Vietnam, while over 100 smaller raids oc-
curred in the same period.
But there is a danger in treating the air
war statistically - It tends to ignore the
disastrous effects of the bombing on the
people that inhabit the targets. An Air
Force reconnaissance pilot, speaking to
Representative Paul McCloskey about the
3500 supposedly existing villages In north-
ern Laos, said, "Mr. Congressman, I've
been flying over northern Laos for four
months and I haven't seen a village."
Many observers have seen in the in-
tensive bombing of Laos an overt attempt
to literally destroy areas controlled by
Communist forces. Robert Shaplen, a form-
er CIA agent working in Laos, for instance,
commented that U.S. air attacks aim to
"destroy the social and economic fabric
in the Pathet Lao areas."
In almost every facet of the war, there-
fore, the President's policy of Vietnami-
zation and elimination of American ground
troops has had a negligible effect. The suf-
fering and the agony of the people in
Southeast Asia continues.
Yet the war has faded from the minds
of the American people, and one can only
conclude that the Nixon Administration
has succeeded in lowering the profile of
the war to such a level that it goes on
almost unnoticed.
HOW HAS the administration brought
the war to the status of a non-issue?
Clearly the reasons for which it carries
on the war have not changed - they are
not even different than the justifications
Johnson used. "There has been one guid-
ing principle, one irreducible objective. for
both our negotiations and Vietnamization,"
the President has said. "We seek the op-

every kind. This is no self-determination.
It is self-determination in accordance with
an American plan."
Clearly the American policy makes no
more sense now than it ever did, nor is
the Saigon government we are supporting
any more like our professed ideal for it
than it ever was.
In fact. vhile the President was declar-
ing stolidly that our real objective in
Southeast Asia -is to permit the South
Vietnamese to choose the type of govern-
ment that suits them, President Nguyen
Van Thieu ran unopposed in his campaign
for re-election. Demonstrations protesting
these "free elections" were brutally sup-
pressed, and election irregularities were so
rampant that no one even bothered to
hide them.
QO ESSENTIALLY, we are just continu-
ing the old commitment which a few
years before provoked so much protest. Ad-
ministration officials stated in the first
week of this year that the U.S. is still un-
willing to "pull the rug out from beneath
the South Vietnamese Government." In
essence, this means we will continue to
prop up the South Vietnamese economy,

A report prepared for Senator Edward
Kennedy's subcommittee on refugees states
that, ". . . for ,Vietnam, maintenance of
the current level of military outlay would
be totally debilitating unless we or some
other country poured massive and contin-
uing economic aid, not only to pay for the
army, but to aid the civilian economy since
it would continue to be deprived of the
bulk of its able-bodied manpower and
other valuable productive resources."
As the United States provides for over
half of the expenditures of the South Viet-
namese government, it is obvious to any
observer that only U.S. aid keeps the Thieu
regime alive.
And yet, Nixon still trumpets about
"self-determination" in South Vietnam.
H OW THEN has Nixon managed to con-
tinue American support for the Thieu
regime and prolong the suffering of the
people of Southeast Asia? He has done it
by changing the public image of the war.
Now the fighting is done mostly by
Asians, and the bulk of the American ef-
fort is confined to the less visible air war.
American casualties have subsequently
dropped, ard troop levels have fallen.
The whole thrust, many observers be-
lieve, has been to silence the opposition
to the war by preventing military set-
backs until election time. Like Johnson,
therefore, Nixon has used deception to help
keep- the public from interfering in his
prosecution of the war.
But whereas Johnson deceived by not
revealing activities he wished to keep se-
cret, Nixon manipulates by actively em-
phasizing only those aspects of the war
which reflect positively on his administra-
tion. He stresses anything that portrays
the war as winding down, while ignoring
the fact that the devastation of war con-
tinues unabated.
But Nixon may not be able to keep the
lid on indefinitely, as his "low profile"
military tactics may not be sufficient to
stave off major military set-backs much
longer.
For example, the air war, in which Nixon
is placing so much faith, has not proven
effective in the past.
QECRETARY OF DEFENSE Robert Mc-
Namara said in 1967 that, "enemy op-
erations in the south cannot, on the basis
of any reports I have seen, be stopped by
air bombardment - short, that is, of the
virtual annihilation of North Vietnam and
its people."

This conclusion was shared by the C.I.A.
International, Security Agency of the De-
partment of Defense and many other
agencies. Presidential Assistant McGeorge
Bundy wrote in 1967, "on the ineffective-
ness of the bombing as a means to end
the war, I think the evidence is plain . ..
Furthermore, the Vietnamization pro-
gram is failing miserably in the field,
where Communist forces are pressing for-
ward on all fronts. Earlier this month, the
New York Times called the 'Cambodian
front "a shambles;" in Laos, the Plain of
Jars has been retaken by the Communists
and the key military base of Long Tieng
is expected to fall aniy day. Meanwhile,
Communist forces are massing in South
Vietnam's cntral highlands for what the
U. S. Command predicts will be a major
offensive.
This precarious military s i t u a t i o n
throuahout Indochina has now led the
President to sate that a force of Ameri-
can troops will remain in Southeast Asia
until the prisoner of war issue has been
resolved.
This insures an American presence in
Southeast Asia for an almost indefinite
time into the future, as the negotiators
for North Vietnam and the Provisional
Revolutionary Government (PRG) have
roneatedly stated American POW's will
not be returned until after the U. S has
left Indochina.
Senators Vance Hartke and George Mc-
Govern have both concluded that Ameri-
can prisoners will rapidly be ,returned
when the U.S. ceases all support for the
Saigon regime. Thus, leaving a residual
force for sunosed bargaining leverage is
a piece of circular reasoning constructed
hv P -P-Orl-nt Nxon. for there will be no
subtantive ngotiations on the P.O.W. is-
sue until our involvement in the war ends.
A D IN.TSTR ATTON officials have re-
neptedly snoken of "inhuman" behavior
on the part of the North Vietnamese to
Ameriepnn urisoners of war. an examnle be-
ing that Hanoi refused to accept 900 gift
packages ovei- Christmas. All this while
U. S. bombers were carrying out 1,000
sorties over North Vietnam.
But the prisoner of war issue has been
created by the Administration deliberately,
as an added reason to remain in force in
Indochina. For years; it has been hinted
that a residual force would remain if the
question were not resolved, and now, this
hps become stated policy.
The outcry over the POW's is symptom-
atic of the whole Nixon policy on the war
in Southeast Asia - creating false con-
cern over "inhumanity" while our enor-
mous crimes against the peoples of Indo-
china go unannounced and unpublicized.
To keep people's minds off the war -
that has been the Nixon strategy. Now
the war is practically a non-issue because
of the withdrawal of most American
ground troops. And when there is a sud-
den interruption, as during the invasion
of Laos .a year ago, it is impossible to get
any information at all about what is going
on.
But as far as we can tell the real reason
for the prolongation of the war was clear-
ly stated by President Nixon last spring:
"But the issue, gentlemen, the issue is
Communism and the question is whether
or not we will leave that country to the
Communists or whether or not we will try
to give it hope to be a free people."
The same justification was given for the
war's original escalatidn. One wonders
what Nixon has learned since then

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