6

In 1967, Muhammad Ali was convicted of draft evasion for refusing to be inducted into the U.S. Army. His anti-war convictions stemming from his Muslim faith, and his status as a minister, he argued, exempted him from the draft; the courts disagreed. Ali was thereafter banned from boxing in the United States and stripped of his world heavyweight title by the World Boxing Association. Here, Ali is confronted by students who berate him for refusing the draft, and he responds. 

Yet despite public outrage and criticism, Ali’s objections found famous support. As Dr. Martin Luther King began to voice public opposition to the war in early 1967, he - in spite of his strained relationship with the Nation of Islam - explicitly echoed Ali: “Like Muhammad Ali puts it, we are all—black and brown and poor—victims of the same system of oppression.” 

Famed sportscaster Howard Cosell argued that “They took away his livelihood because he failed the test of political and social conformity… Nobody says a damn word about the professional football players who dodged the draft, but Muhammad was different. He was black, and he was boastful.”

One of the principal demands of the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), an organization that included Tommie Smith and John Carlos - whose Black Power salutes at the 1968 Olympic Games similarly shattered the illusory separation of politics, race, and sport - was the restoration of Ali’s heavyweight title. Harry Edwards, a key architect of the OPHR, proclaimed Alithe warrior saint in the revolt of the black athlete in America.

In 1971, the Supreme Court overturned Ali’s conviction and his denial by the lower courts of conscientious objector status. 

english.hani.co.kr
Vietnamese war victims speak of sexual violence by S. Korean troops for the first time
One victim says “If I’d known you were Koreans, I wouldn’t have met with you”

The old women reached into their memories. Slowly, haltingly, they began to speak. Some had been hiding it all their lives and were only talking about it now. Just as South Korea’s comfort women survivors waited until their old age before coming forward about their experiences as sexual slaves to the Japanese military - the first of them, Kim Hak-soon (1924-97), related hers on Aug. 14, 1991 - so these survivors of sexual assault during the Vietnam War were giving their first, difficult account of their experiences only now, as elderly women.

“Four people took turns doing it to me one at a time.”

“They’d put one person at a time in the trench, keep me there all day and night and just rape me again and again.”

These were the stories shared by survivors of sexual assault by South Korean troops in the province of Binh Dinh in central Vietnam.

“It was terrifying. It was so brutal. I’m still scared of you Koreans today.”

“Dai Han [Korean]? My goodness, I didn’t know. You? If I’d known you were Koreans, I wouldn’t have met with you.”

The visitors from the Korean Council for the Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan had gone to Vietnam specifically to meet women who had been sexually assaulted by South Korean troops during the Vietnam War. Yet even they were seen as “Dai Han” (Koreans) to be feared and shunned - the same “Dai Han” remembered as symbols of terror and brutality.

2

The Burning Monk

On June 11th, 1963 a Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc entered a busy square in Saigon accompanied 350 of his fellow monks and nuns. The monks and nuns formed a circle around Duc as he was saturated with gasoline, and to the shock of foreign corresponds and journalists, was lit on fire.  As the flames consumed Duc, he sat serenely in lotus position, completely oblivious to pain as he was consumed by fire.  When the flames died down, what remained was a blackened, charred corpse.

The self immolation of Thich Quang Duc resulted in one of the most iconic photographs of Vietnam in the 1960′s. As news of the self immolation traveled around the world, the question arose, why did he do it?

At the time South Vietnam was primarily governed by a Vietnamese politician named Ngo Dinh Diem. Diem had been made President of South Vietnam in 1955 after winning a heavily rigged election.  Although he was officially the president of a representative government, in reality he had the powers of a dictator. Diem was a Catholic, and throughout his rule he enacted pro Catholic policies that heavily discriminated against non-Catholics. Around 70-90% of South Vietnamese citizens were Buddhist, but despite being the overwhelming majority Buddhists found themselves second class citizens in their own country. Catholics were favored for high ranking military and civil positions, while Buddhists were likewise barred from such positions while Buddhists serving in the military were turned down for promotions. Catholics also were granted several privileges such as special tax breaks and exemption from corvee labor (labor performed in lieu of taxes).  The government distributed firearms to local defense militias, but only to those in Catholic villages. The Catholic Church was the largest land owner in the country, and was granted special exemptions in land acquisitions. Catholic priests and bishops often had private armies, which would loot or demolish Buddhist temples, or conduct forced conversion of villages. The Vatican Flag was flown at official government and public events, yet the Buddhist flag was often banned during Buddhist holidays. In order to publicly celebrate Buddhists holidays, special government permission was needed.  In 1959, Diem officially dedicated South Vietnam to the Virgin Mary. Yeah Diem was a man of incredible chutzpah as well as excessive stupidity. 

 Diem’s Pro-Catholic policies led to severe distrust between the South Vietnamese people and the Diem regime. In May, the Diem government decreed that the Buddhist flag could not be flown in Hue during the Buddhist holiday called Vesak, which celebrates the Buddha’s birthday. In response, people protested by taking to the streets and marching with Buddhist flags. Government forces responded by firing on the crowd, killing nine. Protests erupted across the country.  In one incident, when monks occupied a square in protest, soldiers and police poured liquid tear gas chemicals on the monk’s heads, severely wounding 69.  Martial law was also declared, and the military undertook a campaign or raiding Buddhist temples, shrines, and pagodas. As the protests grew, the Diem regime responded with increasingly heavy handed tactics. When students in Saigon protested, Diem order 1,000 of them arrested and sent to re-education camps, some of them being as young as 5.

After Duc’s self immolation many other monks would repeat the act in protest. It is often erroneously stated that Duc burned himself to protest the Vietnam War, however this is not true.  It should be noted though that throughout the Vietnam War, 5 American anti-war protesters repeated the act between 1965 and 1970. Many people in Eastern Europe would do the same in the late 1960′s and 1970′s in protest against Communism and the Soviet Union. 

Under pressure from the American Government, South Vietnam’s prime backer, Diem agreed to a list of demands by the Buddhists.  However, Diem never followed through with the agreement. In October of 1963, a US backed coup erupted and toppled Diem’s regime.  Diem was captured while trying to escape on November 1st, and was executed by bayonet.