speech before the Constituent Assembly. Two days later, on July 8th, 1956, President Diem announced that the South Vietnamese government would take precautions against a possible communist invasion of the country on July 20, the day set under the 1954 Geneva agreements for national elections to unite the two Vietnams. South Vietnam, which had not signed the Geneva agreements, had refused to participate in the elections on the ground that fair balloting was impossible. It is no longer disputed what the reason was that our government supported Diem in refusing to go through with the general elections of 1956; it was perfectly clear that the communist Ho Chi Minh would have been overwhelmingly elected president of Vietnam. As Senator Fulbright points out in his book: This one fact may very well explain Hanoi’s stubborn and puzzling refusal to negotiate. THE RISE AND fall of Diem is familiar to most of us. At first, he seemed to be succeeding and bent his efforts toward taking care of the approximately 600,000 Catholic refugees from North Vietnam. The Catholics were a by-product of the French rule, members of a minority religion who had been brought by Portuguese and French missionaries into a predominantly Buddhist population. The Catholic communities in the north had enjoyed a protected status under the French against the Viet Minh. With the collapse of the French, these communities feared reprisals, or at least grave restrictions on their activities, under the new Viet Minh rule. Tom Dooley, the young Catholic navy doctor turned writer, tells us in his book Deliver Us From Evil that many of these refugees fled with the physical symbols of that religion in hand. “They hoisted, on a broken spar, their own drenched flag; a flag they had hidden for years . . . their symbol, their emblem, their heraldry .. . a yellow and gold flag displaying the Pope’s tiara and the keys of Saint Peter.” Diem placed these refugees on land abandoned by absentee land owners; much of this land had been taken over by the Viet Minh and worked for years without payment of rent. This made the Diem land reform program seem like a measure that took from the peasants rather than gave to them. Diem gave out $89 and free seed to each refugee and required the absentee land owner to reduce the rent to not more than 25% of the crops for a five-year period, but he recognized the title of the absentee landlords and paid them all back rent. The money for this program, of course, was supplied by the United States. In October, 1961, an omnibus task force the Maxwell Taylor missionwent to Vietnam and directed the earlier segments of the program into two main channels. US military equipment and expertise would be used in a counter-insurgency program that would be made more 6 The Texas Observer efficient than before by by-passing the Diem bureaucracy by employing thousands of American advisers working with combat units. The second part of the program was a recognition that the Viet Cong was fighting a guerrilla war that depended upon peasant sympathy. The peasants therefore had to be separated from the guerrillas through “clear and hold” operations. This involved clearing out the guerrillas and moving the peasants into fortified hamlets, surrounded by barbed wire or bamboo spears, and guarded by local troops. This program assumed the indifference or hostility of the peasants, but attributed it to Viet Cong terror or Diem’s policies. It was reasoned that if the peasants were given the security of the strategic hamlets, though initially it might be against their will, they would eventually come to support the Diem government. In order to implement this program, Diem used his security police to force the peasants out of their fields and away from their crops to build the “strategic hamlets.” This created resentment among the very people the program sought to protect. Instead of winning their allegiance, the program tended to create more Viet Cong, which the Viet Minh were then called. What led to Diem’s ultimate downfall and his assassination on November 1, 1963, were his police tactics in persecution of all political enemies and minority groups, including the Buddhist majority. Ninety per cent of the South Vietnamese are Buddhists and they resorted to selfimmolation in public places and protests which Diem’s military and police were not able to cope with. Twenty-one days after Diem was assassinated, President Kennedy was shot in Dallas. The US aid to the successive puppet governments continued until early 1965, when, again, the United States was faced with the prospect of a communist takeover and President Johnson ordered the massive intervention of American troops. Although Vietnam, according to Senator Fulbright, is the only country in the world which won freedom from colonial rule under communist leadership, the United States again set about to deny them their victory without ever having stopped to consider the alternate policy of accommodation with a Vietnam government more nationalist than communist. This alternative was not even considered, because at the time it appeared “unthinkable.” Arnold Toynbee, the noted English historian, in an interview published in the Houston Chronicle on April 23, 1967, says: America sees her war in Vietnam as part and parcel of her crusade against communism. This view of the war in Vietnam as a defensive war against communism explains how American isolationists of yesterday have become the American interventionists of today. As the ex-isolationists see it, -communism is not a foreign affair, it is a home affair because, wherever communism raises its head, it is a threat to the American way of life. So, in self-defense, America has the right to sally out against communism everywhere and to suppress it. But nationalism, not communism, is the ideology animating the resistance movement to America in Vietnam. The Vietnamese are fighting America to resist being subjected once again to Western domination. The war is a holy war for them, too, but it is a holy war for national independence. The war cannot be brought to an end till America recognizes that it is being fought by the Vietnamese, not as a war of communist aggression, but a war of national self-defensethe same kind of war that America believes herself to be fighting. Rabbi Levi Olan of Temple Emanu-El Brotherhood in Dallas, and a regent at the University of Texas, has said, regarding the Vietnam war: We have declared a holy war against communism and justify the death and terror of this hour by the devotion to our God. We equate our battle now with the struggle against Hitler and the Nazis, forgetting that there is a vital difference. Hitler used force to give the Aryan race dominion over all. The communists are not racists. They have a social and economic theory which they propagate by a subtle mixture of open and hidden propaganda and even subversion. They are a people with an idea appealing to those living in grinding poverty with no hope but a revolution. Instead of matching our own ideas against that of the communist world as an answer to poverty and frustration, we have resorted to force. Will we never learn that you do not destroy an idea with bombs? Almost half the world is caught up with this idea and we cannot police the world against it. \\AI HEN THE Gospel tells us that Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” He did not intend that it should be .done by force of arms. When his disciples asked Him, “Is it lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not? He said: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that In order to get at the problem facing America in Vietnam, you have to ask yourselves the question of whether or not you and your country have the divine right to force your culture and your ideology on other peoples and areas of the -world. In a very real sense, the administration is launching our government on a program of world foreign missions. The Protestant churches have tried foreign missions for many years now, but they have never asked our government to take over their mission. Our Constitution and the Protestant churches were founded on the principle of separation of church and state. Only the Catholic Church embraces the philosophy of a working partnership betWeen the Pope and the head of state. The church-state issue has never been presented in this country before in this context, but it is the same old ideology and it can bring nothing but disaster to our constitutional principle and probably the end of Protestantism in America. Of course, many benefits would follow from Americanizing the world by force. There would be profitable trade and investments in a country -whet e English is spoken, due process of law would be enforced, and the dollar would be king. But, have we a “right” to transform other nations in this manner and do we have the men and resources to do it? While we are spending our nation’s substance on this gargantuan crusade, what will happen to our own society in this country? The alternative to this madness is co
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