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February 26, 1971 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1971-02-26

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Last of a five-part series
COMPLEX questions about the ultimate solution of
the prisoner issue were generally shoved out of
sight throughout 1970 by the ever-present publicity
By the end of the year, however, the question of how
to get the prisoners out of North Vietnam had become
dominant. Some wives and mothers of captured men
began arguing that the publicity campaign would not
force the release of the pilots but only increase their
bargaining value to Hanoi in future negotiations.
Typical of the publicity approaches was a macabre
exhibit alleged to depict the conditions of Amenican
prisoners of war that was installed June 4, in the
main Rotunda of the Capitol. Sponsored by H. Ross
Perot, who had financed two previous round-the-world
trips in support of the prisoners, the exhibit depicted
half-starved men living in bamboo cages, earthen
holes, and dark cement cells.
One prisoner was sitting in the corner of his bare
cell, staring dolefully at an empty bowl. A large
cockroach was crawling on a nearby pair of chop-
sticks, with other cockroaches and a rat nearby. An-
other prisoner was lying on his back in a tiny cage
with his feet shackled. Placards urged viewers to
express their indignation about such treatment to
A photograph of a badly burned pilot, his arm in a
sling, also was on display. Nowhere was it explained
that the pilot's burns resulted from his crash; nor was
it explained that no bamboo cages are used in North
Vietnam prisons, although some escaped Americans
claim such conditions exist in prison camps run by
the National Liberation Front in South Vietnam.
THE PUBLICITY drive seemed to be paying off
from the Administration's point of view: more and
more infqrmation was being supplied-albeit via an
anti-war group-about prisoners. The men were writ-
ing more frequently and seemed to be getting more
Others, such as Mrs. Cora Weiss of the Copimittee
of Liaison, could argue that the improvement in condi-
tions stemmed less from the Administration's efforts
than from the simple fact that the steady bombing of
North Vietnam had ended in Nov. 1968, and since then
the standard of living for all of the people there-
including the prisoners-has gone up.
Largely unnoticed in the public concern over prison-
er lists and treatment were signs that the Nixon Ad-
ministration's approach on the prisoner issue could
be counter-productive.
In mid-September, 1970, North Vietnam and the Viet
Cong offered a new eight-point peace proposal that
elevated the questions of prisoners from the bottom
of its list to the top. If the United States declares it
would withdraw from South Vietnam, the proposal
said, Hanoi and the Viet Cong would immediately
begin discussing the question of releasing captured
military men.
The new peace proposal still demanded that the
parties settle all of the political questions concerning

the new government in Saigon and the schedule for
U.S. withdrawals before a cease-fire could take effect
-points on which the negotiations had been stalled for
18 months.
But there was great concern in Washington when
Ambassador Bruce rejected the proposals out of hand,
'saying it was "new wine in old bottles (quickly cor-
rected by a press spokesman to be "old wine in new
ALTHOUGH THE Nixon Administration later indi-
cated that it considered the Communsts' talk about
prisoners to be only "lure" and "bait," it was con-
ceivable to the Administration that many wives would
be more than willing to accept the release of prisoners
as a key to settling the war.
President Nixon had spoken often about how much
he valued the safety and well-being of the men, and
Hanoi and the Viet Cong seemed to be taking advan-
tage of the American hretoric. "The prisoners are the
single weakest point in our negotiating position," one
American diplomat subsequently said. "We want those
men back and Hanoi knows it."
President Nixon responded to the eight-point pro-
posal with a new five-point peace package in early
October, asking for a cease fire while the political and
military questions were negotiated. The President also
made a new and seemingly generous offer for a full

ropagan dized
exchange of all prisoners of war on both sides; at the not used a
time, the South Vietnamese were holding 36,000 enemy of any ofa
troops while the number of captured Americans and
South Vietnamese being held by the Viet Cong and BY E
North Vietnamese was put at 2,000 or 3,000. the Admi
But an important condition went unnoticed: the war issue
President had in fact coupled his new exchange pro- tests over1
posal with an escalation of American demands. renewed be
Nixon's new offer called for the "release of all prise- officials e
ners of war, without exception, with conditions . . . plus" for
to return to the place of their choice (emphasis aroused en
added)." soners-to
The question of final repatriation of prisoners had the bombi
peen one of the main stumbling blocks during the North
Korean War, when many Korean prisoners held in negotiating
allied camps decided, after re-education programs, of Son Tay
that they did not want to return to, North Korea. Sig- year at Pc
nificantly, American officials in Saigon tolds a news- Aftert
man after the Nixon talk, that more than 90 percent the usual
of the North Vietnamese prisoners held there were chief negc
opposed to going home. suggest a
troops fron
ANOTHER GLARING Administration inconsistency "we can in
escaped public attention late in the year. Mrs. Weiss tion." tTh
of the Committee of Liaison announced on November 30, 1971 de
13 that Hanoi had reported the death of six more Little
prisoners, raising to 11 the number of men known to conditions.
have died in captivity. Nine days later, she reported ested. Pres
11 more deaths. ing to wit
Her information was subsequently used by Secre- thing in r
tary Laird as one of the key reasons he ordered the By thi
military to go ahead with the commando raid of the familie
November 20 on the Son Tay prison camp in North Rando
Vietnam in the face of evidence that the men weren't across the



as a basis for officially changing the status
our men."
ARLY DECEMBER, it was apparent that
nistration's handling of the prisoner of
had effectively cut off any concerted pro-
the commando raid and the accompanying
ombing of North Vietnam. Some American
ven said as much. They claimed a "net
the raid that failed because it had still
nough sympathy for its goal-freeing pri-
offset much of the world criticism over
Vietnam, clearly aware of the even greater
g value of the prisoners in the aftermath
y, made a significant concession late in the
the talks on December 17, which produced
stalemate, Xuan Thuy, North Vietnam's
otiator, proposed that the U.S. should
"reasonable date" for withdrawal of its
m South Vietnam. "In that case," he said,
mmediately consider the American sugges-
e U.S. had already rejected Hanoi's June
public attention was paid to the new
but the wives and mothers were inter-
ident Nixon had already said he was go-
hdraw, they argued, why not get some-
eturn - the prisoners - for doing so?
is time, the military's tight control over
s and wives was beginning to unravel.
m interviews with wives and mothers
nation produced increasing signs of scorn

"It just seems to me that they do not m e a n to withdraw all the troops
ever," said Mrs. Gerry Cartley of Dunedin, Florida, the mother of a cap-
tured Navy pilot. "I've gone full circle on it-the war and the situation in
Southeast Asia. It seems to me that Nixon's making a big todo a b o u t the
prisoners, but he feels that if he hollers enough and makes a big stink, he
can get the blame off of him-and blame it on Hanoi. If it boils down to a
choice of getting out of Southeast Asia or g e t t i n g the prisoners out of
Hanoi, I'd hesitate to say which choice he'd make."
..:t ...,....C... .... ...h"..^.'tJ J::^". ::'VJ^.::t Y:: .... ... .. ..... . ::: .",... ...... .......... .. .......«.......... ... , «.

there. "Americans are dying in captivity," he told
a hostile Senate Foreign Committee hearing the day
after the failure at Son Tay was announced.
There was irony in the Pentagon's use of the Com-
mittee of Liaison's information. Although the list of
dead men was publicly used to justify endangering
the lives of the commandos in a high-risk mission, the
list was not considered official enough to change the
status of men reported to be dead from missing to
A spokesman told newsmen in the Pentagon that
none of the 22 names supplied by the Committee was
reported in the weekly casualty summary and ex-
plained why: "Unofficial, uncorroborated reports are

and doubt over the ultimate goal of the admin-
istration's policy, Many wanted Nixon to agree to
withdraw from South Vietnam by a fixed date and
thus see is Hanoi would live up to its promise and
begin negotiating the release of the prisoners.
"It just seems to me that they do not mean to
withdraw all the troops ever," said Mrs. Gerry Cart-
ley of Dunedin, Florida, the mother of a captured
Navy pilot. "I've gone full circle on it -- the war
and the situation in Southeast Asia. It seems to me
that Nixon's making a big todo about the prisoners,
but he feels that if he hollers enough and makes a
big stink, he can get the blame off of him - and
blame it on Hanoi. If it boils down to a choice of get-

ting out of Southeast Asia or getting the prisoners
out of Hanoi, I'd hesitate to say which choice he'd
There were other complaints made privately.
Some persons close to the POW issue were becoming
increasingly upset at the Administration's emphasis
on torture and prisoner abuses inside North Viet-
nam, instead of sticking to the known facts about
the low state of morale and psychological difficulties
faced by the captives.
FOR MANY WIVES, it was becoming increas-
ingly clear at the end of 1970 that Hanoi w o u-1 d
never negotiate the release of the prisoners without
an overall settlement. Prisoner negotiations h a v e
never taken place - in recent years - while a war
was still raging.
Some women even began wondering why they
-- or the Administration - were not more con-
cerned about the treatment of Hanoi's prisoners in
the South.
This year could see the beginning o. a growing
demand by the women that President Nixon, who
had done so much to encourage POW concern, de-
monstrate that he is willing to agree to a withdrawal
1 Reporters News Service



Eighty years of editorial freedom
Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan

The Left:

Focus on education




420 Maynard St., Ann Arbor, Mich

News Phone' /764-j0552

Editorials printed in The Michigon Daily express the individual ooinions'of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.



Nixon doses the Same policies

PRESIDENT NIXON'S S t a t e of the
World message yesterday reflects the
President's misguided view of the role of
America in conducting its foreign policy.
Although he claims to foresee a world of
peace, his proposals indicate that the
U.S. will increase its militarist and im-
perialist role in foreign endeavors.
In his message, Nixon claimed that
"Hanoi has stepped up the war in Laos
and Cambodia." But he seems to discount
the fact that it was South Vietnamese
troops which actually invaded Laos and
Cambodia. In fact President Thieu has
said recently that a march into North
Vietnam is immanent. Nixon himself ad-
mits this much: "North Vietnamese ac-
tions could require high levels of Ameri-
can assistance and air operations in order
to further Vietnamization and our with-
drawals," he said.
OCE AGAIN Nixon has justified mili-
taristic actions under the guise of
speeding up his Vietnamization program.
But such blatant disrespect for the rights
of another people cannot be tolerated, no
matter what excuse is provided.
And in fact, the Vietnamization pro-
gram is not working. The South Vietna-
mese army is being hopelessly destroyed,
especially in incidents reported recently
in Laos and Cambodia. In addition, the
ability of the South Vietnamese army
must be questioned. For the Cambodian
incursion last spring was billed as dis-
playing the skill of South Vietnamese
troops; yet the South Vietnamese are
still embroiled in Cambodia, have not cap-
tured the "enemy headquarters," and all
indications are that nothing was accom-

c l a i m s, reaching a new high then it
should not be necessary for American
troops to continue their fighting role.
But e v i d e n c e is that there were U.S.
ground troops in Laos, and according to
Nixon U.S. support is still needed: "as
long as North Vietnam continues to hold
a single prisoner, we shall remain," he
MOREOVER, THE President did little to
clarify the "Nixon doctrine"-which
calls for reducing the policeman role of
the United States in favor of giving arms
and equipment to allies: He spoke of the
dangers of over-involvement, but immedi-
ately added that "the other danger-a
grave risk we are equally determined to
avoid-is underinvolvement."
What this seems to mean is that Nixon
plans to avoid another Indochina fiasco
only if the "ally" involved has enough
arms, men and equipment to assure itself
of military victory, and then the U.S. will
share the spoils.
THROUGHOUT HIS speech Nixon es-
sentially reiterated his old fear of los-
ing to the Communists, offering nothing
new whatsoever. This comes in the face
of increased opposition from the Ameri-
can public. It is questionable how long
Americans will tolerate Nixon's piecemeal
withdrawal of American troops when they
do not see any significant halt in the
In fact, the frustration is increasing
among Americans. As an article on this
page by Seymour Hersh indicates, many
wives of prisoners in North Vietnam are
growing suspicious of the sincerity of the

"THE NEW LEFT is dead" has b e e n
heard frequently during the p a s t
several months. "The New Left is under-
going a rebirth," says an opposing atti-
To a certain extent both sides are cor-
rect. The New Left as it was known in
the late 60s no longer exists. But what
some mistakenly call death is in fact
a rechanneling of energy and change
in emphasis.
Frustrated with the failure of confronta-
tion politics and sensing a shrink in stu-
dent support, radicals are now focusing
their efforts primarily on "educational"
activities - designed to introduce radical
philosophy to students and the non-stu-
dent sector of society, especially the work-
ing class. The emphasis is on rational
"We're socialist revolutionaries," says
Ellen Feeney, a member of the Young
Workers Liberation League, "but now isn't
the time to pick up the gun,"
Steve Nissen, a member of the Radical
Independent party (RIP) says "people
realize that change won't be as fast or as
easy as we once thought. We're more real-
istic now."
RADICALS IN Ann Arbor, for the most
part, are involved in either the People's
Peace Treaty or the Independent Party.
The theme common to both activities is
the need to extend the, base of the stu-
dent movements to include other sectors of
The people working on the peace treaty
are attempting to obtain signatures on a
treaty which was ratified by the Student-
Youth Conference on a People's Peace,
held here at the beginning of this month,
The treaty was negotiated by members of
the National Students Association and re-
presentatives from several Vietnamese stu-
dent organizations. It basically calls for
the immediate withdrawal of U n i t e d
States troops from Indochina and demo-
cratic elections in South Vietnam.
The treaty is designed as a direct agree-
ment between the people of Vietnam and
the United States to end the war and live
in peace. Since the U.S. government ob-
viously has enormous control over the
ending of the war, the effort is primarily
And while -some dispute the treaty's
focus ("regressing back to the petition


says Ellen Feeney. "When people realize
that issues like unemployment, racisn
and poverty are directly related to the
war, you have more people supporting you
in their own self-interest."
Bill Bachman, an editor of the radical
newspaper, Up Against the Wall Street
Journal, agrees with Feeney that anti-war
or radical movements will have to include
working class people in addition to stu-
"The student peace movement has gone
as far as it can go," he declares. "Now it
is important that we involve labor un-
ions, especially ones that are somewhat
friendly like the United Electrical Work-
ers and the meatcutters."
To further carry on the theme of edu-
cation, Bachman and other members of
the Journal, together with members of
Brian Mistrust. are planning a series of
forums on national actions this spring. "I
get a real sense that people want to do
something, but they don't know what to
do," says Bachman. "With these forums
we can hopefully educate people on various

plains, "Vote-getting is of secondary im-
portance. The important thing is educa-
"We want to make people aware of the
difference between liberal and radical
philosophy," he says.
The RIP education campaign now con-
sists of a voter registration drive, concen-
trated in the first and second precincts
of the second ward.
"We talk to people, try to convince them
of the merits of our party," says Jerry
De Grieck, RIP candidate for second ward
council seat.
After March fifth when voter registra-
tion ends, the RIP candidates will begin
campaigning door-to-door.
Looking beyond the April election. De-
Grieck says he hopes the party will "con-
tinue to take stands on various University
and city issues, and run candidates in
the school board election in June,"
By the city election a year from now,
the RIP plans to be on the ballot with a
chance of picking up a council seat. It
also hopes to continually expand its base

iishing a student-run bookstore - these
tactics will now more often be used as
publicity and education devices.
This was an admitted purpose of the re-
cent takeover of the LSA Bldg., and the
Administration Bldg., according to many
participants. Because of its educational
nature, people were reluctant to limit the
scope of the demands - which included
everything from war research to child care
and student control over the Course Mart.
By limiting the demands, the group would
have limited the range of issues around
which they could educate outsiders.
The same educational philosophy holds
for the mass demonstrations, associated
with implementing the peace treaty, in
May. Few see them as having any effect
other than raising the issue strongly and
venting frustration. "Unless you have a
general strike, or something that will stop
the country from functioning, mass ac-
tions don't mean anything," says J i m
Forrester, who believes the movement
should attract more working people to its


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