Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason
NIXON-KISSINGER VIETNAM TREASON – UNFINISHED WAR IN SOUTHERN ASIA
United States fought War in Vietnam to engage and contain the spread of Communist influence in Southern Asia. Due to Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason, this War has never finished. This War is about restoring Balance of Power in Southern Asia. The Power Equilibrium shifted dangerously in favor of Communists when Red China invaded and occupied Tibet, South Asia’s second largest nation. In terms of size, and geographical location, Tibet is of high priority as compared to defending territorial rights of nations like Japan, Philippines, or Vietnam. Red China cannot claim sovereignty over Tibet and her illegal military occupation cannot wipe out the long history of Tibet’s independence. Eviction of Tibet’s illegal military occupier represents Unfinished War in Southern Asia and it cannot be avoided.
I will ask my readers to tell the US Congress and The White House to reverse the course of Nixon-Kissinger Doomed China Policy.
Our war with China another Vietnam War in the making
THE SOUTH CHINA SEA GAMBIT
In this photo released by China’s Xinhua News Agency, a Russian naval ship arrives in port in Zhanjiang in Southern China’s Guangdong Province, Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. The Chinese and Russian navies launched eight days of war games.
By BRUCE FEIN – – FRIDAY, JANUARY 27, 2017
A disastrous, purposeless war with China to defend the global credibility of the United States is imminent. Only vocal citizen opposition to the war communicated to the Congress and the White House can prevent our self-ruination. It happened in 2013 to prevent President Obama from another trillion-dollar fool’s errand against Syria. The system still works, if citizens will use it.
Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testified on Jan. 11, 2017, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the United States would deny China access to islands in the South China Sea over which China claims sovereignty. (The artificial islands are thousands of miles from the continental United States and irrelevant to invincible self-defense). Mr. Tillerson declared that China’s building and militarization of the islands was “akin to Russia’s taking Crimea” from Ukraine.
He bugled: “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and, second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.” (How do you think the United States would respond if China denied us access to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base?)
The White House reiterated on Jan. 24, 2017, that the United States would prevent China from accessing the South China Sea islands China claims, and hinted at an American blockade. A blockade would mean war, according to a nationalist Chinese newspaper. (A blockade assumes a state of war.) Australia, a longstanding United States ally in the Asia Pacific region, balked at participation.
The White House – Tillerson bellicosity aligns with everything the United States has done since Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011 announced a “pivot” to Asia to encircle China. We have sought to deny China a regional sphere of influence that we have exerted for almost two centuries beginning with the Monroe Doctrine. We have established a Marine training base in Darwin, Australia. We are building a THADD missile defense system in South Korea. We have negotiated the use of five military training bases in the Philippines. We have supported Vietnam in its South China Sea maritime dispute with China. We have sent aircraft carriers there. We have declared an obligation to defend Japan’s claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands disputed by China.
The United States has accused China of currency manipulation and threatened to impose prohibitive tariffs on Chinese imports.
These unfriendly acts are the very definition of encirclement.
Chinese resentment against the west and the United States has been building for centuries. The First Opium War (1839-42), fought by Britain, was precipitated by China’s refusal to legalize opium. It ended with the Treaty of Nanking, which indemnified merchants for confiscated opium, granted the British extraterritoriality, opened five treaty ports, and ceded Hong Kong.
The Second Opium War (1856-60) was fought by the British to compel China to open up its ports and interior to Western trade. Other Western powers piggybacked on Chinese concessions to Britain through most-favored-nation clauses in a series of “unequal treaties.”
The 1894-95 Sino-Japanese War concluded in the Treaty of Shimonoseki by which China was obliged to recognize the independence of Korea; to cede Taiwan, the Pescadores Islands, and the Liaodong (south Manchurian) Peninsula to Japan ; to pay an indemnity of 200,000,000 taels to Japan; and to open the ports of Shashi, Chongqing, Suzhou, and Hangzhou to Japanese trade.
These Western and Japanese humiliations sparked the 1900 Boxer Rebellion to expel western spheres of influence. An international force featuring British, Russian, American, Japanese, French and German troops relieved Peking (Beijing) after fighting their way through much of northern China. The victors agreed that China would not be partitioned further. In September 1901, the Peking (Beijing) Protocol was signed. Foreign nations received extremely favorable commercial treaties, foreign troops were permanently stationed in Peking (Beijing), and China was forced to pay $333 million dollars as penalty for its rebellion.
The United States intervened in the Chinese Civil War (1946-49) in favor of Gen. Chiang Kai-shek against Mao Zedong. After Chiang was driven off the mainland to Taiwan in 1949, the United States launched covert actions against the People’s Republic of China seeking the overthrow of Mao.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s adventurism during the Korean War provoked China to intervene with more than 1 million troops.
Depend upon it. What will provoke war against China will be a professed need to defend our credibility everywhere on the planet. It will be said that if we do not fight China over the South and East China Sea islands as we have threatened, Russia will be emboldened to attack the Baltic States or Eastern Europe, Iran will be emboldened to attack Israel and destabilize its Sunni rivals, and North Korea will be emboldened to attack South Korea and Japan.
The Han Chinese is a proud people, and China is a proud nation. China invented gunpowder and paper. It gave the world Confucius and Sun Tzu. It possesses hundreds of nuclear weapons. After suffering humiliation and subjugation by Western imperial powers for centuries, China will fight the United States for its own sphere of influence in the South China and East China Seas.
China will never bow to the double standards of the United States. We have intervened in Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile and Grenada to maintain our sphere of influence in Central and South America and the Caribbean. Our schoolmarm-like rebuke of China over its assertion of regional hegemony takes audacity to a new level.
The Han Chinese is every bit or more nationalist than were the Vietnamese who bested the United States in the Vietnam War. The morale of United States troops in Vietnam suffered terribly because the war was about an abstraction — global American credibility — not about defending the United States from aggression.
The same will be true in our war with China, and the morale of our troops will suffer accordingly. We will be defeated for the same reasons we were defeated in the Vietnam War.
This looming calamity can be forestalled if American citizens immediately flood the White House and Congress with phone calls and emails voicing vehement opposing war with China absent actual unprovoked Chinese aggression against the United States or a Chinese declaration of war. That would represent the high water mark of self-government celebrated in the Declaration of Independence.
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NIXON-KISSINGER VIETNAM TREASON – THE CIA’S CANCELLED WAR
‘TIBET: THE CIA’S CANCELLED WAR’ fails to describe Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam Treason during 1971-72 when Americans were fighting a bloody War in Vietnam against Communists supported by Soviet Union and Red China. As I was part of this CIA Mission in Tibet, I knew that Tibet and India were willing to help the US by fighting against Communists inside Tibet rather than directly engaging Communists in Vietnam. Tibet and India want to choose their Battlefield in full support of the US Policy to engage and contain the spread of Communism. The Central Intelligence Agency or CIA has no vested powers to wage or fight wars. “The Cancelled War” is simply an act of Treason. The 37th President of the United States chose to provide support and comfort to the Enemy during War waged on behalf of the United States.
In 1971-72, CIA Mission in Tibet never ended. The Mission continued without direct participation of American nationals. I can appreciate CIA’s unwillingness to divulge the truth about its Mission which is always sanctioned by the executive powers vested in the US President. In my analysis, this War will be fought to restore Balance of Power in Southern Asia.
TIBET: THE CIA’S CANCELLED WAR
Lhamo Tsering Collection
Resistance fighters on the Tibetan border during the early years of the CIA’s Tibet program
For much of the past century, US relations with Tibet have been characterized by kowtowing to the Chinese and hollow good wishes for the Dalai Lama. As early as 1908, William Rockhill, a US diplomat, advised the Thirteenth Dalai Lama that “close and friendly relations with China are absolutely necessary, for Tibet is and must remain a portion of the Ta Ts’ing [Manchu] Empire for its own good.” Not much has changed with the Fourteenth Dalai Lama one hundred years later. After a meeting in 2011 with President Obama in the White House Map Room—the Oval Office being too official—the Dalai Lama was ushered out the back door, past the garbage cans. All this, of course, is intended to avoid condemnation from Beijing, which regards even the mildest criticism of its Tibet policy as “interference.”
However, there was one dramatic departure from the minimalist approach. For nearly two decades after the 1950 Chinese takeover of Tibet, the CIA ran a covert operation designed to train Tibetan insurgents and gather intelligence about the Chinese, as part of its efforts to contain the spread of communism around the world. Though little known today, the program produced at least one spectacular intelligence coup and provided a source of support for the Dalai Lama. On the eve of Richard Nixon’s historic 1972 meeting with Mao, the program was abruptly cancelled, thus returning the US to its traditional arms-length policy toward Tibet. But this did not end the long legacy of mistrust that continues to color Chinese-American relations. Not only was the Chinese government aware of the CIA program; in 1992, it published a white paper on the subject. The paper included information drawn from reliable Western sources about the agency’s activities, but laid the primary blame for the insurgency on the “Dalai Lama clique,” a phrase Beijing still uses today.
The insurgency began after the People’s Liberation Army invaded Tibet following its defeat of the Nationalists, and after Beijing forced the Dalai Lama’s government to recognize Chinese administration over the region. In 1955, a group of local Tibetan leaders secretly plotted an armed uprising, and rebellion broke out a year later, with the rebels besieging local government institutions and killing hundreds of government staff as well as Han Chinese people. In May 1957, a rebel organization and a rebel fighting force were founded, and began killing communist officials, disrupting communication lines, and attacking institutions and Chinese army troops stationed in the region.
By that point, the rebellion had gained American backing. In the early 1950s, the CIA began to explore ways to aid the Tibetans as part of its growing campaign to contain Communist China. By the second half of the decade, “Project Circus” had been formally launched, Tibetan resistance fighters were being flown abroad for training, and weapons and ammunition were being airdropped at strategic locations inside Tibet. In 1959, the agency opened a secret facility to train Tibetan recruits at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, partly because the location, more than 10,000 feet above sea level, might approximate the terrain of the Himalayas. According to one account, some 170 “Kamba guerrillas” passed through the Colorado program.
While the CIA effort never produced a mass uprising against the Chinese occupiers, it did provide one of the greatest intelligence successes of the Cold War, in the form of a vast trove of Chinese army documents captured by Tibetan fighters and turned over to the CIA in 1961. These revealed the loss of morale among Chinese soldiers, who had learned of the vast famine that was wracking China during The Great Leap Forward. Over the next decade, however, there was growing disagreement in Washington over the CIA’s activities in Tibet, and in 1971, as Henry Kissinger prepared for Nixon’s meeting with Mao, the program was wound down.
“Although Tibet may not have been on the table in the Beijing talks, the era of official US support for the Tibetan cause was over,” recalled John Kenneth Knaus, a forty-year CIA veteran, in his 1999 book Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival. “There was no role for Tibet in Kissinger’s new equation.” By 1975, President Gerald Ford could say to a skeptical Deng Xiaoping, China’s future leader, “Let me assure you, Mr. Vice-Premier, that we oppose and do not support any [United States] governmental action as far as Tibet is concerned.”
Many friends of Tibet and admirers of the Dalai Lama, who has always advocated nonviolence, believe he knew nothing about the CIA program. But Gyalo Thondup, one of the Dalai Lama’s brothers, was closely involved in the operations, and Knaus, who took part in the operation, writes that “Gyalo Thondup kept his brother the Dalai Lama informed of the general terms of the CIA support.” According to Knaus, starting in the late 1950s, the Agency paid the Dalai Lama $15,000 a month. Those payments came to an end in 1974.
In 1999, I asked the Dalai Lama if the CIA operation had been harmful for Tibet. “Yes, that is true,” he replied. The intervention was harmful, he suggested, because it was primarily aimed at serving American interests rather than helping the Tibetans in any lasting way. “Once the American policy toward China changed, they stopped their help,” he told me. “Otherwise our struggle could have gone on. Many Tibetans had great expectations of CIA [air] drops, but then the Chinese army came and destroyed them. The Americans had a different agenda from the Tibetans.”
This was exactly right, and the different goals of the Agency and the Tibetans are explored fully by the Tibetan-speaking anthropologist Carole McGranahan in her Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War (2010). Although sometimes clouded by anthropological jargon, her account fascinatingly explores how differently from their American counterparts the Tibetan veterans remember the CIA operation. A striking example is the matter of the Chinese army documents, whose capture in a Tibetan ambush of a high-ranking Chinese officer is depicted in grisly detail in a huge painting in the CIA’s museum in Washington. In addition to revealing low Chinese morale, the documents disclosed the extent of Chinese violence in Tibet. “This information was the only documentary proof the Tibetan government [in exile] had of the Chinese atrocities and was therefore invaluable,” McGranahan notes. Yet the documents and their capture rarely came up during her long interview sessions with the veterans. “Why is it that this achievement, so valued by the US and Tibetan governments, is not remotely as memorable for [the] soldiers?”
One reason is that the Tibetan fighters were told nothing about the value of the documents, which they couldn’t read. One veteran explains to her:
Our soldiers attacked Chinese trucks and seized some documents of the Chinese government. After that the Americans increased our pay scale. Nobody knew what the contents of those documents were. At that time, questions weren’t asked. If you asked many questions, then others would be suspicious of you.
The leader of the ambush tells her that “as a reward the CIA gave me an Omega chronograph,” but he, too, had little knowledge of the documents’ importance. As McGranahan shows in extensive detail, the veterans were preoccupied above all by their devotion to the Dalai Lama, whom they wanted to resume his position as supreme leader of an independent Tibet.
After the CIA mission was ended, Tibet became increasingly marginal to Washington’s China policy, as Knaus has now made clear in a second book, Beyond Shangri-la: America and Tibet’s Move into the Twenty-First Century. The reality is that American presidents now face a world power in Beijing. In language that sums up the cats-cradle of American justifications for ignoring Tibet, ex-Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Marshall Green recalls to Knaus, “there was nothing we could do to help the Tibetans except by improving our relations with the Chinese Communists so that we might be in a position to exert pressure on them to moderate their policies towards the Tibetans.” Green “admitted that this was ‘perhaps a rationalization.'”
President Obama will soon meet the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping. His advisers will have reminded him of the encounter between his predecessor, Bill Clinton, and then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin on June 27, 1998. In that meeting, Clinton assured Jiang that, “I agree that Tibet is a part of China, an autonomous region of China. And I can understand why the acknowledgement of that would be a precondition of dialog with the Dalai Lama.” Banking on his well-known charm, Mr. Clinton added, “I have spent time with the Dalai Lama. I believe him to be an honest man, and I believe if he had a conversation with President Jiang, they would like each other very much.” Jiang, it is reported, threw back his head and laughed. Clinton’s suggestion was omitted from the official Chinese transcript.
April 9, 2013, 2:29 pm
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SPECIAL FRONTIER FORCE CONDEMNS NIXON-KISSINGER VIETNAM TREASON:
On behalf of Special Frontier Force . Establishment 22, I condemn Nixon-Kissinger Vietnam treason. Vietnam War was fought against the ideology of Communism and to resist its spread in Southeast Asia. United States was fighting against Soviet Union and People’s Republic of China which I often describe as The Evil Red Empire(#TheEvilRedEmpire), The Red Dragon(#TheRedDragon), or Red China. In Vietnam War, United States had acknowledged its adversarial relations with the Communist Powers. Red China was an enemy, adversary, opponent in Vietnam War as China worked in an opposite or contrary direction by encouraging and directly supporting North Vietnam’s hostility. United States utterly failed in Vietnam due to Nixon-Kissinger treason. The word treason means betrayal of trust or faith, treachery. Nixon-Kissinger deliberately and purposefully violated the allegiance owed to United States of America and its soldiers fighting its enemy in Vietnam. The action called betrayal involves giving aid, help, and comfort to the enemy while one’s own country is actively engaged in fighting the enemy. I am sharing with my readers an article titled ‘The Paris Peace Accords Were a Deadly Deception’ published by History News Network. The author is Ken Hughes, a leading researcher, Presidential Recording Program at Miller Center, University of Virginia. The Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975 had decisively ended the Vietnam War leaving people in a state of wretchedness, misfortune, turmoil, trouble, and misery. It was a calamity that was clearly foreseen. Nixon-Kissinger have to shoulder the burden for this adverse outcome. US soldiers paid a very heavy price while Nixon-Kissinger made deals with the enemy without any concern for the Dignity, Honor, and Pride with which the men in uniform serve and defend their country. Ken Hughes has not explored Nixon-Kissinger obsession to befriend the enemy while the country was bleeding on the battlefield.
Rudranarasimham Rebbapragada Ann Arbor, MI 48104-4162, USA
History News Network | The Paris “Peace” Accords Were a Deadly Deception
The Paris “Peace” Accords Were a Deadly Deception
Ken Hughes is a research specialist with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
Richard Nixon addressing troops in South Vietnam. Via The New Nixon.
“The Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam,” signed January 27, 1973, never looked like it would live up to its name. Four decades later it stands exposed as a deliberate fraud.
The president of South Vietnam, in whose defense more than 50,000 Americans gave their lives, wept upon hearing President Richard Nixon’s proposed settlement terms. Hanoi would release American prisoners of war and agree that the South could choose its government by free elections, but the accords threw the voting process to a commission that could act only by unanimity — all but impossible to achieve among Communists and anti-Communists who’d spent years shooting out their differences. Worse, Nixon would leave North Vietnamese troops occupying and controlling much of the South, while withdrawing all remaining American ground forces.
“It is only an agonizing solution,” said President Nguyen Van Thieu, “and sooner or later the government will crumble.” National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger reported Thieu’s response to Nixon on October 6, 1972, adding, “I also think that Thieu is right, that our terms will eventually destroy him.”
Kissinger’s damning admission comes from the single most comprehensive and accurate record of a presidency there’s ever been or likely will be: Nixon’s secret taping system. Voice-activated recorders wired to microphones hidden in the Oval Office and elsewhere clicked on whenever they detected a sound between February 16, 1971, and July 12, 1973, a time when Nixon not only negotiated the Paris “Peace” Accords and withdrew from Vietnam, but became the first American president to visit China and Moscow, signed the first nuclear arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union, and won the biggest Republican presidential landslide ever in an election that realigned American politics for the rest of the Cold War.
Since Nixon’s secret tapes coincide with his most acclaimed accomplishments, loyalists thought that when finally released they would reveal a foreign policy genius at work, offsetting the sordid image of the unindicted co-conspirator that emerged from the excerpts played in court as criminal evidence during the Watergate trials of the 1970s. They should have known there was a Nixon reason fought to keep his tapes from the American people until his death in 1994. Since then, the government has declassified 2,636 hours.
These tapes expose far worse abuses of power than the special prosecutors ever found. After all, as the saying goes, no one died in Watergate. As commander in chief, however, Nixon sacrificed the lives of American soldiers to further his electoral ends.
I’ve spent more than a decade studying the tapes with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, but the contrast between the public image Nixon created and the reality he secretly recorded still loosens my jaw.
As schoolchildren are taught, Nixon promised America “peace with honor” via a strategy of “Vietnamization” and negotiation. Vietnamization, he said, would train and equip the South Vietnamese to defend themselves without American troops. He realized it wouldn’t. “South Vietnam probably can never even survive anyway,” the president said on tape. This was no mere passing doubt. On his first full day in office, he’d asked military, diplomatic and intelligence officials how soon the South would be able to handle the Communists on its own. The answer was unanimous: never. The Joint Chiefs, CIA, Pentagon, State Department, and the U.S. military commander in Vietnam, General Creighton W. Abrams, all agreed that Saigon, “even when fully modernized,” would not survive “without U.S. combat support in the form of air, helicopters, artillery, logistics and major ground forces.” (Emphasis added.)
Nixon faced a stark choice: continue sending Americans to fight and die in South Vietnam’s defense for the foreseeable future, or bring the troops home knowing that without them Saigon would ultimately fall. There was no way he could sell either option — endless war or withdrawal followed by defeat — as the “peace with honor” he’d promised. So he lied. “The day the South Vietnamese can take over their own defense is in sight. Our goal is a total American withdrawal from Vietnam. We can and we will reach that goal through our program of Vietnamization,” he said — despite his advisers’ unanimous consensus (which remained classified) and his own private assessment.
To make Vietnamization look successful, he spaced withdrawal out across four years, gradually reducing the number of American soldiers in Vietnam from over 500,000 in January 1969 to less than 50,000 by Election Day 1972. Throughout those four years, he made many nationally televised speeches to announce partial troop withdrawals, claiming each one proved Vietnamization was working. Always he left enough Americans fighting and dying to conceal the fact that Vietnamization never really would work. In this way, the president made slow retreat look like steady progress.
Liberals like Senator George S. McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat, did try to end the war faster. McGovern’s proposal that Congress force Nixon to bring the troops home by the end of 1971 gained the support of more than 60 percent of Americans. History has confirmed the majority’s judgment. A withdrawal deadline was the only way to stop the president from prolonging the war for political purposes. But Nixon was able to kill McGovern’s bill by a simple expedient. He said it would lead to Communist victory. He didn’t mention that his own approach would do the same. The difference was that Nixon’s way would (1) postpone Saigon’s fall until after Election Day, so voters wouldn’t be able to hold him accountable and (2) add another thirteen months of casualties, including 792 American dead.
To be fair, on one occasion Nixon sounded willing to abandon his political timetable in return for the release of American prisoners of war, who routinely endured torture by their North Vietnamese jailers. “If they’ll make that kind of a deal, we’ll make that any time they’re ready,” Nixon said on March 19, 1971, more than a year before the election. “Well, we’ve got to get enough time to get out,” Kissinger said. “We can’t have it knocked over brutally — to put it brutally, before the election.” “That’s right,” Nixon said. The POWs, like American soldiers in Vietnam, had to wait on Nixon’s political timetable before they could come home — the ones who survived long enough to.
Publicly, Nixon insisted that he needed to keep American troops in Vietnam to pressure Hanoi to free the prisoners. Privately, he acknowledged the opposite was true: The North would only release the POWs when he agreed to withdraw all American ground forces. Prolonging the war meant prolonging the POWs’ captivity. A senator once asked how 50,000 soldiers would be enough to persuade Hanoi to free the POWs when 500,000 did not. “Of course, I couldn’t say to him, ‘Look, when we get down to 50,000, then we’ll make a straight-out trade — 50,000 for the prisoner of wars — and they’ll do it in a minute ’cause they want to get our ass out of there.” “That’s right,” Kissinger said. Nixon laughed. “You know? Jesus!” The president claimed it took great political courage to continue waging an unpopular war, but his tapes and declassified documents reveal the cold political calculation underlying his decision to add for more years to the war.
Negotiations, like Vietnamization, served Nixon’s political ends. “We want a decent interval,” Kissinger scribbled in the margin of the briefing book for his secret trip to China in July 1971. “You have our assurance.” For decades Kissinger has denied making a “decent interval” deal, one that would merely put a year or two between Nixon’s final troop withdrawal and Saigon’s final collapse. Kissinger’s denials have collapsed under the weight of his own words caught on Nixon’s tapes and transcribed in memos by NSC aides to document negotiations with foreign leaders. During this initial encounter with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai, Kissinger outlined Nixon’s requirements for a Vietnam settlement. Peace wasn’t one of them. Nixon did need the POWs, total American withdrawal, and a ceasefire for “say eighteen months.” After that, if the Communists overthrew the South Vietnamese government, “we will not intervene.” In other words, Hanoi didn’t have to abandon its plans to conquer the South, just hold off on them for a year or two.
The Soviet Union received the same assurances. During a closed-door session with Nixon during the 1972 Moscow Summit, Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev said, “Dr. Kissinger told me that if there was a peaceful settlement in Vietnam you would be agreeable to the Vietnamese doing whatever they want, having what they want after a period of time, say eighteen months. If that is indeed true, and if the Vietnamese knew this, and it was true, they would be sympathetic on that basis.” This wasn’t just some clever negotiating ploy on Nixon and Kissinger’s part to trick the Communists into making a deal.
They discussed their strategy in the privacy of the Oval Office. “We’ve got to find some formula that holds the thing together a year or two,” Kissinger said on Aug. 3, 1972. “After a year, Mr. President, Vietnam will be a backwater,” and “no one will give a damn.” The “decent interval” served an all-important political purpose. If Saigon fell immediately after Nixon withdrew the last American troops, his failure would have been too obvious. Americans would have seen that he’d added four years to the war and still managed to lose. “Domestically in the long run it won’t help us all that much because our opponents will say we should’ve done it three years ago,” Kissinger said. He was right about that. Few Americans, liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, would have been willing to send their children to die for a “decent interval.”
Politics dominated the president’s military moves. In his first year in office, the Republican National Committee commissioned a secret poll that identified the most popular way to end the war. Pressing on until victory got just 37 percent support; “agreeing to anything to end the war” was even less popular at 30 percent. But a massive 66 percent favored bombing and blockading the North to make Hanoi agree to a compromise settlement with free elections for the South. Those polled said they would support the bombing and blockade for six months. So on May 8, 1972, exactly six months minus one day before the election, President Nixon went on national television and announced that he would bomb the North and mine its harbors. It’s all in the timing. Nixon claimed the escalation would cut off supplies from the North to its armies in the South. It didn’t. That summer the CIA estimated that Hanoi was still managing to infiltrate 3,000 tons of war material into South Vietnam every day — 300 tons more than was needed. Although the bombing and mining proved to be strategic failures, they were great political successes. Polls showed a large majority approved. No surprise — the strategic failure of the bombing and mining remained classified. When the North accepted Nixon’s settlement terms shortly before Election Day, it looked like Nixon’s military move had brought the enemy to heel. It hadn’t.
Hanoi took Nixon’s deal for the same reason Saigon refused it. Both sides realized it would lead to a Communist takeover of the South — as did Nixon and Kissinger. The president managed to turn losing a war into a winning political issue.
In his last campaign speech, nationally broadcast the night before the election, Nixon urged voters “to have in mind tomorrow one overriding issue, and that is the issue of peace — peace in Vietnam and peace in the world at large for a generation to come.” The president boasted of a negotiating “breakthrough,” which is one thing to call a deal that is a roadmap to victory for the enemy and a death sentence for an ally. “We have agreed that the people of South Vietnam shall have the right to determine their own future without having a Communist government or a coalition government imposed upon them against their will.” He made no mention of the secret assurances he’d given China and the Soviets that the North could impose a Communist government on the South without fear of U.S. intervention as long as it waited a “decent interval” of a year or two. “There are still some details that I am insisting be worked out and nailed down because I want this not to be a temporary peace. I want, and I know you want, it to be a lasting peace.” No matter what anyone wanted, Nixon and Kissinger had been negotiating a temporary peace for more than a year. “By your votes, you can send a message to those with whom we are negotiating, and to the leaders of the world, that you back the president of the United States in his insistence that we in the United States seek peace with honor and never peace with surrender.” That last phrase, “peace with surrender,” was meant as a crack at McGovern, then the Democratic presidential nominee, but it aptly summarizes Nixon’s true strategy.
What is a “decent interval” other than slow, secret surrender? But Americans didn’t know what their president was really doing. On Election Day, Nixon won 60.7 percent of the vote, more than any other Republican president in history. The price of political victory included the lives of more than 20,000 American soldiers who died in the four years it took Nixon to create the illusion of “peace with honor” and conceal the reality of defeat with deceit.
Afterwards, Nixon blamed liberals for the consequences of his actions. While the fall of Saigon was built into his “decent interval” exit strategy, Nixon accused Congress of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. One line of attack was to blast Congress for cutting foreign aid to Saigon. It’s true lawmakers gave South Vietnam less than Nixon and, later, President Gerald R. Ford requested. But lawmakers could have doubled or tripled aid to Saigon, and it still would have collapsed under Nixon’s settlement terms. As the JCS, Pentagon, CIA, State Department and General Abrams had all pointed out to Nixon shortly after he took office, the South Vietnamese couldn’t handle the Communists without the combat support of major U.S. ground forces. Nixon had withdrawn all American troops under the terms of the Paris Accords. That was Hanoi’s price for freeing American POWs, and Nixon paid it (after he was safely re-elected and could afford to let Saigon fall).
Without U.S. ground forces, Saigon was doomed, even if by some miracle it had received unlimited American aid. Complaining about aid cuts allowed Nixon to evade the truth about his exit strategy. Rather than negotiate a safe exodus for the South Vietnamese who had fought on the American side of the war, he left them to either die in “decent interval” combat or live under Communist rule.
Yes, Congress could have thrown more money at the problem, but Nixon knew that wouldn’t solve it. In No More Vietnams, the ex-president’s 1985 work of revisionist personal history, he castigated Congress for voting on June 29, 1973 (three months after American soldiers and POWs had come home) to ban further American combat in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia: “This defeat stripped me of the authority to enforce the peace agreement in Vietnam — and gave Hanoi’s leaders a free hand against South Vietnam.” While Nixon termed the vote a “defeat” for him, Congress approved the combat ban only in direct response to a message from the president through Ford, then the House Minority Leader, promising Nixon would sign it into law. He didn’t have to. Earlier that same week, the House had sustained Nixon’s veto of a less sweeping bill that would have prohibited U.S. military action in Laos and Cambodia only. The bill’s supporters knew they lacked the votes to overturn a veto. They said so on the House floor. Lawmakers were so incredulous when Ford announced Nixon’s agreement to a combat ban for all of Indochina, including Vietnam, that he had to leave the House floor and telephone the president to confirm that he got the story straight. “I just finished talking with the president himself for approximately ten minutes,” Ford told his colleagues, “and he assured me personally that everything I said on the floor of the House is a commitment by him.” Only then did conservative supporters of Nixon and the war join liberals and moderates in voting to prohibit the use of American military power in Laos, Cambodia or Vietnam. This wasn’t a “defeat” for Nixon, but a smooth legislative maneuver.
As memories faded, Nixon would claim that he coulda woulda shoulda intervened with American airpower to save South Vietnam, if only Congress hadn’t tied his hands. The secret assurances he gave China and the Soviets that he would not intervene remained classified until long after he was dead.
Even today, Nixon’s real Vietnam exit strategy remains virtually unknown to the public, although scholars have been writing about it for years. Jeffrey Kimball has published two landmark works on the subject, Nixon’s Vietnam War and The Vietnam War Files, showing how Nixon engineered his “decent interval.” Even Jeremi Suri, whose Henry Kissinger and the American Century garnered praise from Nixon loyalists as well as critics, wrote, “By 1971 he and Nixon would accept a ‘decent interval’ between U.S. disengagement and a North Vietnamese takeover of the [S]outh.”
(I turned my own research on the subject into educational videos used in classrooms and anywhere else people want to hear Nixon and Kissinger in their own words.) The facts are out. Yet Nixon’s stabbed-in-the-back myth lives on.
When politicians and pundits debate how and when to exit Afghanistan (as they earlier did Iraq) they cite the false history of Nixon’s “success” at training the South Vietnamese to defend their government and at negotiating with warring parties to settle their differences through free elections — two things Nixon never really managed to do. If the Nixon tapes are, in Bob Woodward’s witty phrase, the gift that keeps on giving, his backstabbing myth is the gift that keeps on taking — American lives, America’s fortunes, and the honor of politicians overseeing wars they can’t win and are afraid to end (at least until after they’re re-elected). It’s one more reason Iraq and Afghanistan eclipsed Vietnam as America’s longest wars.
The fortieth anniversary of the fraudulent Paris “Peace” Accords came, by coincidence, in the same month as the hundredth anniversary of Nixon’s birth. It’s high time for us to free our minds and politics from his deadly legacy.