53 percent have a post-graduate degree; and 47 percent are professionals. That’s a good enough start \(an activist the Observer has a responsibility, a need, and a potential to talk to many more people than that, and it is this potential that excites me most about the Observer. realize that there are far more Texas progressives than meet the eye particularly among family farmers, small business people, local union leaders, old people, and just ordinary rank-and-filers. Hightower . That’s what we’re talking about. Who are we talking to? Everybody, of course, since this is a statewide magazine of Texas government, politics, and economics. But, more to the point, we’ve been talking mainly to people who call themselves liberals \(57.7 percent of our readers responding to a 1976 survey so than that-48 percent of readers responding make $20,000 or more a year; Inevitable end to a sad affair One of the more shameful episodes in American history may be nearing its inevitable end. Seldom has there been such cynical manipulation of public sentiment as that engaged in by the U.S. government in its handling of the issue of Americans held prisoner or missing in action in Vietnam. The imprisonment of large numbers of American soldiers and airmen in Vietnam was long used as a justification for continued hostilities. When the American POWs were repatriated after the Paris accords of 1973, full attention was turned to the MIAs. Only two months ago the U.S. cited the MIA issue when vetoing Vietnam’s application for United Nations” membership and when refusing to establish diplomatic relations with the Communist government. Long after public support for the war had faded, the Nixon administration made use of the POW/MIA matter as its pricipal argument for a continued American military presence in Vietnam. Beginning with the 1970 Son Tay raid \(when a U.S. commando team staged a daring helicopter assault on a North Vietnamese camp where Americans former President worked the POW/MIA issue hard. As Defense Secretary Laird said, the administration decided to “go public” on the matter. Families and friends were mobilized into an extremely potent pressure group, with help from the well-intentioned and sympathetic. There was particularly fervent activity in Texas, where interest in the plight of the POW/MIA families was widespread. Indeed, the families seemed to receive more attention than did the relatives of the 56,000 Americans killed in the war. POW/MIA organizations frequently vented frustrated rage on anti-war members of Congress. But despite harassment by some militant POW/MIA support groups, anti-war senators did obtain some information about POWs from Hanoi. After the Paris accords, Hanoi and the Provisional Revolutionary Government returned some 600 prisoners in the spring of 1973. Eventually, information was obtained about a few other servicemen who had been listed as missing. But the Pen 26 The Texas Observer Comment tagon rolls included as many as 1,500 in the MIA category. The administration encouraged their friends and families to hold out hope. In his 1974 State of the Union address, Nixon promised “the fullest possible accounting” for the MIAs. However, some Pentagon hands were already conceding that there was almost no hope of obtaining much information about the MIAs and certainly little chance of seeing any of them return alive. There were tentative moves to reclassify some of the men as dead. Reclassification would have meant the reduction of benefits to MIA wives and the resulting furor over this prospect led to a moratorium on status changes. The government had encouraged, indeed exploited the hopes of MIA friends and families. Now, it wanted to begin to back away from the monster it had created. Of course Hanoi had consistently exploited the issue as well, taking the position that the U.S. and the Thieu reconditions before the MIA question could be considered. Washington kept insisting, with no success at the Paris peace talks and little credibility at home, that it was strictly a humanitarian issue which should not be discussed in a political/military context. Disillusioned by their dealings with the Executive Branch, the families turned increasingly to Congress. Nearly every member of Congress had an MIA family in his or her constituency. As a culmination to a long series of congressional resolutions on the subject, in late 1974 the House overwhelmingly voted to form a Select Committee on Missing Persons in Southeast Asia. It was that House committee which, in the end, had to face facts and quit playing games with this highly emotional issue. In December the committee, championed the cause of the MIA families, reported there was no evidence that any of the missing Americans were still held in Vietnamese prisons and conceded that only a partial accounting could ever be made. The Defense Department still listed 774 as missing. Clearly there was never much likelihood of establishing the fate of all casualties of that chaotic jungle war. There was predictable criticism of the report from the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia and from groups in Texas and elsewhere. Sen. introduce still another congressional resolution in favor of still another probe, or committee, or whatever. Certainly the U.S. government should continue to do all that it can to learn what happened to the lost men. But the House committee’s report should bring an end to the cynical treatment of the families and the American public. H.P.
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