The Texas Observer JULY 8, 1966 A Journal of Free Voices A Window to The South 25c An Editorial Will Johnson Bomb Civilians Next? Does He Want War With China? At what point will Lyndon Johnson stop escalating the Vietnam war? He has now tested for more than a year what he has said is his theory, that bombings and more and more American troops will shorten the war and bring the other side to the conference table and peace. The net result is a larger and larger war. Late last month he authorized the bombing of fuel dumps in the outskirts or suburbs of Hanoi and Haiphong. McNamara and Humphrey aver that no civilians were killed. But the hawks in the Pentagon, obviously led by Johnson’s steady escalation of the war to suspect that he is tricking the country step-by-step into war with China, now begin to believe he will authorize the bombing of Hanoi. On June 30 The New York Times reported that “some key Pentagon planners feel chances are immeasurably improved that, in time, they will be permitted to go after other major military targets within the formerly off-limits areas. Specifically, they are urging: Closing of the harbor at Haiphong . . . Destruction of the three largest jet airfields in the Hanoi-Haiphong area . . . possibly using giant B52 bombers .. . Bomb power plants and industrial facilities deemed important to the war effort . . . Some military men take the position that innocent bystanders are always harmed in war . . . ” The most pertinent reaction to the new bombings came from the Japanese foreign minister, who, while-saying they were “unavoidable,” added that there is a “certain limit” to Japan’s support of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam. “We hope,” he said, that “the United States would refrain from bombing at random such as they did on Tokyo during World War II.” Our defense against the charge that we are bombing cities now depends on definitions and words. We have not bombed the people of cities since Nagasaki; are we to do it again? The Observer is told that behind the scenes in Washington this is now a seething question: Shall Hanoi itself be bombed heavily?–Namely, shall the men, women, and children in Hanoi be made victims of our determination to force our will onto Vietnam? In God’s name, this is the limit. President Johnson has had a claim, however strained, to the patience of American liberals over his policy in Vietnam because of the irrelevant but affecting arguments that his war on poverty and his commit ment to integration are good things. Democrats have detested breaking with him on the central act of his own full term of office, his bombings in Vietnam. The fact that the war on poverty has” been crippled by the costs of the war on Vietnam, and the fact that the integration laws have been crippled by Johnson’s unwillingness to insist on their enforcement in the South, have weakened, but had not really severed the liberal Democrats’ ties to the Democratic President. But Johnson has now strained to the break his claims to the benefits of the doubt. His theory that bombing would bring the Viet Cong and North Vietnam to their knees to date has proved out 180 degrees wrong: each escalation has been met with escalation. His lip-service to unconditional negotiations has debased the language and radically corroded public and international confidence in his sincerity and candor. His deeds belie his words. He bombs and bombs and bombs. On June 30 Senator Fulbright was quoted about the new bombings, “I am fearful that this is one more step toward the ultimate war.” He found it difficult “to reconcile” administration words that it was not attempting to expand the war with its actions. “It seems to me the only solution we contemplate is the surrender of Vietnam,” he said. James Reston wrote in the New York Times on July 1 that the Johnson Administration “will probably never regain the confidence it has lost in its judgment and veracity. “With the bombing of targets on the outskirts of Hanoi and Haiphong, it has now done almost everything it said or indicated it would not do except bomb China, and the end of this melancholy chapter in American history_ is not yet. “The Johnson Administration said it was not seeking a military solution to the war, and it is now obviously seeking precisely that. It said it was there merely to help a legitimate government defend itself, and it has ended up by supporting a military clique that is not a government, is not legitimate, and is not really defending itself. “Even when allowances are made for the uncertainties and moral ambiguities of warfare, the guile of this administration, exercised in the name of high and even noble principle, is hard to match. It was not
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