vietnam today

Dreamers Like Us

We watched two Kennedys and a King
assassinated right where they stood
oh what changes they would bring    
I guess the dream was just too good 

Still remembering the summer of love
I believe it was somewhere ‘round 68
Vietnam and two dreamers shot down
we all fell back asleep until Watergate

I’m afraid we break all that we touch
on the sanctuary leaving bloody stains
for dreamers like us it’s already too late
yet for you I hope enough time remains

4

March 16th 1968: My Lai Massacre

On this day in 1968, during the Vietnam War, between 350 and 500 Vietnamese villagers were massacred by American troops. The soldiers of the ‘Charlie’ Company killed and mutilated hundreds of unarmed civilians, many of whom were women and children. The massacre took place in the hamlets of My Lai and My Khe of Son My village, and was supposedly due to the belief that enemy soldiers were hiding in the area. The incident was initially downplayed by the army, with General Westmoreland congratulating the unit on their “outstanding job”. However, once the true nature of the horrific masacre was revealed, it sparked outrage both in the United States and around the world. The brutality of My Lai was a major factor in increasing domestic opposition to the Vietnam War, with mounting protests putting pressure on the government to end what many saw as a futile war. 26 US soldiers were charged for their involvement in the incident, but only one - William Calley - was convicted and found guilty. Calley was given a life sentence for killing 22 villagers, but only served 3 and a half years under house arrest; he made his first public apology in August 2009.

2

November 2nd 1963: Diem assassinated

On this day in 1963, South Vietnamese President Ngô Ðình Diệm was assassinated. Diem was the first President of South Vietnam following Vietnamese independence from France. He was anti-communist and therefore had the support of the United States, who feared the fall of the region to Communism would lead to a ‘domino effect’ in the region. Diem was a Catholic, and pursued an aggressive policy towards Buddhists in his country, which led to high level of protests in Vietnam. These protests included self-immolation by Buddhist monks, and one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century was Malcolm Browne’s Pulitzer prize winning photograph of the self-immolation of Thich Quang Duc. The United States withdrew their support for South Vietnam amidst the protests, and soon after Diem was assassinated in a military coup. The United States had been steadily increasing its military presence in the country, trying to stem the tide of communist influence. In 1964, after the Tonkin Gulf Incident, the United States became fully engaged in the war effort against Ho Chi Minh’s Viet Cong, thus beginning America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The Americans began withdrawing troops in the early 1970s, and in 1975 Saigon ultimately fell to the Communists.

23 years ago this afternoon, 33-year-old Gary Gordon (left) and 35-year-old Randy Shughart (right), both members of the Army’s 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, were providing air cover for Rangers in Operation Gothic Serpent in Mogadishu when a fellow Blackhawk helicopter was shot down. Gordon requested to be landed at the crash site to provide cover for the crew, but was denied permission. Seeing the hostile Somali crowds converging on the downed Blackhawk, he pressed his request until finally granted permission. Gordon and Shughart, armed each with only his own rifle and pistol, were dropped off at the crash site, and found pilot Michael Durant alive. There they formed a perimeter around him hoping for rescue that never came. Both men exhausted their ammunition and were killed saving Durant, who was taken alive as prisoner. Both men were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the first ones awarded for action since Vietnam. Remember them today.

3

March 25th 1969: ‘Bed-In for Peace’ begins

On this day in 1969, the newly married John Lennon and Yoko Oko began their first ‘bed-in’ to promote world peace during the Vietnam War at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel. Lennon was one of the founding members of possibly the most successful band in history: the Beatles. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr achieved worldwide fame and critical acclaim for their music. Lennon was the man behind Beatles hits such as ‘All You Need is Love’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, and ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’. After the band broke up in 1970, Lennon had a successful solo career, releasing iconic songs like ‘Imagine’ and ‘Instant Karma!’. In his later years Lennon, along with his second wife Yoko Ono, became peace activists, especially in their opposition to America’s involvement with the Vietnam War. The most famous expression of their activism came with the Amsterdam ‘bed-in’, and the couple remained in the bed until March 31st, allowing press into their presidential suite in order to publicise their efforts. John and Yoko’s second ‘bed-in’ took place in May in Montreal, where they and others recorded the song ‘Give Peace a Chance’. The ‘bed-in’ has since become an iconic moment in both Lennon’s life and the increasing opposition to America’s involvement in Vietnam, and has been commemorated and copied by later advocates of world peace.

2

Shandong cave, Vietnam.

Shandong is a cave located in Central Vietnam. Today it bears the title of the largest cave in the world. It’s located in the heart of the national park Fongnya-Kebang, Kuangbin province, near the Vietnamese-Lao border. The entrance to the cave lies deep in the jungle. It was first discovered in 1991 by a local resident named Ho Han.

Secretary Clinton supported virtually every one of these disastrous trade agreements, written by corporate America. NAFTA, supported by the Secretary, cost us 800,000 jobs nation-wide, tens of thousands of jobs in the Midwest. […] I was on a picket-line in the early 1990s against NAFTA because you didn’t need a PhD in economics to understand that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Mexico, making 25 cents an hour. And the reason that I was one of the first, not one of the last, to be in opposition to the TPP is that American workers should not be forced to compete against people in Vietnam today making a minimum wage of 65 cents an hour. Look, what we have gotta do is tell corporate America that they cannot continue to shut down. We’ve lost 60,000 factories since 2001. They’re going to start having to, if I’m President, invest in this country, not in China, not in Mexico.
—  Bernie Sanders
3

August 2nd 1964: Gulf of Tonkin incident

On this day in 1964, North Vietnamese gunboats allegedly fired on American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident was used by the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson to demonstrate the aggression of the North Vietnamese communists, and to justify an escalated US military presence in the country. In the wake of the incident, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Joint Resolution which authorised the President to intervene in Vietnam to counter “communist aggression”. Thus, Johnson was authorised - in what was essentially a blank cheque from Congress - to send troops into Vietnam to fight the communist North and aid the South; there was no formal declaration of war by Congress. It was later confirmed that the USS Maddox in fact fired first on the North Vietnamese, and that the incident was twisted for the purposes of the Johnson administration.

3

January 9th 1913: Richard Nixon born

On this day in 1913, the future 37th President of the United States Richard Milhous Nixon was born. Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California and later represented his state in the House of Representatives and the Senate as a member of the Republican Party. He made a name for himself in Congress for his role in the anti-communist House Un-American Activities Committee, especially in the infamous Alger Hiss case, and this led to his becoming Vice-President from 1953 to 1961 under President Eisenhower. After a closely fought campaign, he lost the 1960 election to Democrat John F. Kennedy, but later won the presidency in 1968. As President, Nixon initially increased US involvement in the ongoing Vietnam war and extended the military operations into neighboring Cambodia, but he eventually ended American involvement in the war in 1973. Nixon also made history by visiting the communist nations of China and the Soviet Union, thus easing tensions between the Cold War camps. In domestic affairs Nixon is notable for his support of affirmative action policies for African-Americans and his establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. However, Nixon’s previous record in office has been overshadowed by the fact that in 1974 he became the first and only US President to resign from office. This occurred after revelations about the Watergate scandal, which refers to the illegal activities carried out his administration, including the wiretapping of political rivals, and a subsequent cover-up. He was formally pardoned by his successor Gerald Ford, and tried to rehabilitate his image until he died from a stroke in 1994 aged 81.