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received more than $1.7 billion in economic and military aid compared to our $1.15 billion for South Vietnam.
4. U.S. credibility.-Should the U.S. abandon Southeast Asia to Communist domination, our credibility and commitment to our allies will have seriously eroded. No longer will a country have faith in our commitment to maintain world peace and freedom. The willful abandonment of an ally will not abate but only encourage aggression in other parts of the world-South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand could easily become the next targets of Communist aggression.
The ability of Secretary Kissinger to negotiate a peaceful settlement in the Middle-East will be seriously jeopardized. What faith could Israel have of our commitment to its survival if the U.S. does not fulfill its obligations agreed to in the Paris Peace Accords? What Israeli leader could possibly convince his people that the country which abandoned its ally in Southeast Asia would defend Israel in a moment of crisis?
5. Nuclear proliferation.—If the U.S. allows Southeast Asia to fall to Communism our allies will know they can no longer count on protection under the U.S. nuclear umbrella. Realizing they must go it alone, it is possible Taiwan, South Korea, Israel and others will develop nuclear weapons to help insure their own survival. Taiwan, at present, has the capability of producing a Hiroshima size atomic bomb at the rate of one a week. The abandonment of Southeast Asia to Communism will only encourage nuclear proliferation which would subsequently increase the prospects for nuclear war.
6. Increased defense spending.-The loss of Southeast Asia to Communism and other strategic spots in the world will mean the U.S. will have to augment this loss with increased spending on military weapons to maintain the balance of power between the Communist and Free World. Billions of extra dollars will be requested by the Defense Department to build more aircraft carriers, long range bombers, and other military weapons needed to maintain a durable "protective barrier." The money needed to sustain Cambodia and South Vietnam will seem miniscule in comparison to the billions of extra dollars that will be needed to maintain the United States strategic position in defending ourselves and the Free World.
Perhaps the most important point to be made is whether we allow the Cambodians and Vietnamese the right to fight for their freedom or allow them to be lined up and slaughtered like cattle. More people will die if the fighting continues but certainly this is a more moral alternative than to allow thousands of innocent people to become the victims of massive Communist executions. The Cambodians and Vietnamese have demonstrated their determination to fight for freedom. Certainly we have a moral obligation not to abandon them in their crucial hour of need.
Unfortunately, space does not allow for me to do justice to the important factors outlined in this letter. I hope that we can further discuss these points at a time of your convenience.
Thanking you for your kind consideration to read this letter, I remain,
"Despite the Paris Agreement, Saigon still presses for a military rather than a political settlement of the war. This on-the-spot observer sees no end to the fighting until U.S. arms and dollar support for Thieu ceases."
"For the first time in seven years I'm harvesting a crop of rice," Ong Lam, a farmer in Quang Tri province of Vietnam, told me in November, 1973. "It was hard work. There was a mine in the field which killed my only buffalo. And even though the land has been plowed, I am still afraid of more mines. In a few months, the bananas and papaya will be producing again. It has been difficult for us, but we are farming and so we are happy again."
Lam is typical of the farm people that I met in the Provisional Revolutionary Government (P.R.G.) area of South Vietnam. He does not want the military conflict to intensify because he would lose the progress that he has made on his farm. At the same time, many of his former neighbors of Cam My are still in a refugee camp near Danang. Once, Lam told me, they tried to escape back to the liberated area. They were arrested and returned to the refugee camp. Lam is angry about this and he quoted article 11 from the Paris Agreement guaranteeing freedom of movement (most of the villagers had their own personal copy of the Agreement and it has been used as a textbook in some of the adult education classes). Lam also gave me the names of farm people from his village who are still in prison.
Neither Lam, his neighbors nor officials of the P.R.G. want to see the war in Vietnam stepped up again. They have built a great deal and do not want to see it destroyed.
For years their hospitals were hidden in the jungles. Now a 150-bed hospital is in the center of Dong Ha city and serves as a center for information and supplies to the mobile medical teams and village infirmaries. However, their supplies are still inadequate they desperately need materials to equip a chemical laboratory, and electrocardiograph machine, an aspirator, and all kinds of operating equipment.
Most of the hospital is woven bamboo construction. But it does provide care for the victims of mine and bomb explosions (the unexploded bombs become more dangerous as they corrode and the timing devices weaken). Medical attention is free to all. The concern that the doctors and nurses show the poor is a definite asset in the political struggle for the allegiance of Vietnam's farm people.
The schools in the P.R.G. area are simple thatch buildings with little equipment, but morale is high. When I visited Dong Ha high school, I was presented with a copy of the school's yearbook. It was carefully done, with poems, short stories and news items meticulously written out by hand. There is no printing press, no mimeograph machine. But I have never seen students prouder of their school paper.
BOMBS STILL FALL
Ong Lam does not want to lose these things by an intensification of the war or through a takeover by the Saigon government. "If the Saigon government were to take over this land, I would be put in jail, and so would the doctors at the hospital," he said. "Then the Americans would come back.”
* Don Luce is cordinator of the Indochina Mobile Education Project. An agricultural economist, he has spent most of the past 14 years in Vietnam.
Every villager with whom I talked was aware that villages are still being bombed. Over and over they described the bombing of the marketplace in Loc Ninh at nine o'clock in the morning of November 7. "Thirty-two people were killed," Lam said, repeating what he had heard on the Liberation Radio news program. "We must punish the tyrants who kill women and children in the marketplace. Otherwise they will bomb us soon."
Mme. Nguyen Thi Binh, minister of foreign affairs for the P.R.G. stated several times in a taped interview that the P.R.G. will not start a new war. They have built hospitals and schools and repaired roads, she explained. The P.R.G. can now prove its capability to govern and provide services to its people. Renewed war endangers this progress. Over and over Mme. Binh stressed the importance of the Paris Agreements which, she said, "provide the means for a political settlement of the war."
Mme. Binh charged that the Saigon government has seriously violated the agreement by taking land held by the P.R.G. at the time of the ceasefire, by refusing to release civilian personnel it is holding in prison (including her own brother), and by forcefully preventing refugees from returning to their land when it is under P.R.G. control. The U.S. is a party to these violations, she said. It provides the airplanes, bombs, munitions, tanks, jeeps and artillery pieces as well as the money used to keep the political prisoners in jail and refugees in camps.
"We cannot sit with folded hands and watch the Saigon troops encroach upon the liberated areas and violate the lives and property of the people," Mme. Binh said. "We are determined to punish these violations in order to protect and preserve the Paris Agreement."
Using a detailed map, Mme. Binh and a P.R.G. military officer outlined the territory they held at the time of the ceasefire and the territory held by Saigon. She then pointed out areas that had been taken by the Saigon troops in "landgrabbing" operations since the ceasefire. She said the P.R.G. has lost territory in Quang Nam, Binh Dinh, Kontum, Tay Ninh, Dinh Tuong and Chuong Thien provinces.
On November 4, the Liberation Armed Forces issued its second strong warning: "Strike back against the enemy, defeat the land-grabbing operations of the Saigon army, firmly safeguard the liberated zone and retake the areas illegally taken by the enemy."
The officials of the P.R.G. that I met are dedicated and live directly with the farm people. In fact, most of them are farmers themselves. Mrs. Tran Thi Hoang, for example, is a 65-year old farm woman and deputy province chief for Quang Tri province. I had dinner at her home and meet her a second time as I was leaving the province during the fourteenth typhoon of the year. She had spent the day giving simple instructions in health care to families in the area. As we drove on I looked back to see her thin silhouette disappear in the rain, one hand carrying her rubber-tire sandals and the other holding up her black trousers. No chauffeur-driven limousine for her!
The withdrawal of U.S. troops has created an economic problem for President Nguyen Van Thieu. During the height of U.S. involvement, some ten million people were moved from their farms into the city slums and refugee camps. The idea was to prevent the Viet Cong from getting food, recruits and intelligence from the local population. And, as an additional benefit, the refugees were a cheap source of labor to build the airports, roads and ports necessary to fight an American-type war. With the troops gone, there are no jobs in the cities.
Thieu's dilemma is that if he allows the farm people to go home, most will return to the P.R.G. zone. By forcing them to remain in the cities, the government generates growing urban unrest and creates a perpetual need for foreign economic assistance.
The most vocal opposition has been jailed. At least 200,000 people are still imprisoned because of their opposition to Thieu. On December 28, 1973, Thieu announced that the general elections called for in the Paris Agreement will not be held. The National Police and million-man army continue to dominate life in the Saigon area.
President Thieu, on January 4, 1974, in Can Tho, called on his troops to attack the P.R.G. zone. He said: "We should not allow the Communists a situation in which their security is guaranteed now in their zone so that they can launch harassing attacks against us and destroy our infrastructure, schools and bridges.
We should carry out these activities not only in our own zone but also in the areas where their army is now stationed. As far as the armed forces are concerned, I can tell you the war has restarted."
The U.S. Response
An amendment to the Foreign Aid Appropriations Bill reads:
None of the funds appropriated or made available pursuant to this Act, and no local currencies generated as a result of assistance furnished under this Act, may be used for the support of police, or prison, or prison construction and administration within South Vietnam, for training, including computer training, of South Vietnamese with respect to police, criminal, or prison matters, or for computers, or computer parts for use for South Vietnam with respect to police, criminal or prison matters.
The FY 1974 Foreign Aid Authorization bill makes a stronger point:
Sec. 32. It is the sense of Congress that the President should deny any economic or military assistance to the government of any foreign country which practices the internment or imprisonment of that country's citizens for political reasons.
The report from Congress, which accompanies the Foreign Aid Appropriations bill, states:
The existence of political prisoners in South Vietnam is beyond reasonable dispute. Only the numbers are in question. . . . Further, substantiated accounts of cases of mistreatment and torture of such prisoners have been authoritatively reported.
Ironically, the Foreign Aid Appropriations bill, in contradiction to its own "sense of Congress," appropriated $450 million in economic aid for Indochina (most of it for South Vietnam) and $900 million of military aid for South Vietnam and Laos ($833 million of this for Vietnam).
In addition, there are at least $1.1 billion in pipeline monies (unliquidated funds) left over from previous years; $300 million worth of Food for Peace for South Vietnam (virtually 100 per cent of the Vietnam Food for Peace money is spent for military purposes); an estimated $63 million for purchase of local currency for U.S. government programs; $45 million worth of military commodities declared excess (and valued at one-third of acquisition cost) by the Department of Defense; and a $50 million loan to South Vietnam. It costs another $1 billion annually to keep the U.S. Navy and Air Force involved in the "Southeast Asian situation" (e.g., the Air Force in Thailand and the Seventh Fleet in the South China Sea).
On January 8, 1974, the Washington Star-News said the U.S. would provide Saigon with 60 advanced F5E fighters, "judged to be far superior to the older and less maneuverable F5A Tiger I that it is scheduled to replace." The new planes, which cost $1.6 million each, are part of a package which "informed sources" told the Star-News "may require President Nixon to request $600 million more in supplemental military appropriations for Vietnam."
All this, despite the agreement which requires that the U.S. "not continue its military involvement in the internal affairs of South Vietnam" (article 4) and "not impose any political tendency or personality on the South Vietnamese people" (article 9).
What Will Happen?
It is clear that the Thieu regime is attempting to provoke the P.R.G. into a military response. By eliminating the possibilities of political struggle and elections between the two groups and refusing to move toward a National Council of Reconciliation and Concord as called for in the Paris Agreement, Thieu is attempting to leave open only one possibility: more war.
My trip to the P.R.G. area convinced me that, despite the desire for a political rather than military struggle, the P.R.G. will not accept the continued bombing of P.R.G. villages, the refusal to let the refugees go home, and the continued imprisonment of thousands of political prisoners.
Time is on the side of the P.R.G. They have used the last few months to rebuild, Saigon has had to deal with increasing economic and political problems. Thieu is becoming increasingly nervous about his base of support, the United States. Congress is questioning use of American funds in Vietnam and has prohibited the use of U.S. money for Saigon's police and prisons. A worsening of the U.S. economy could cause further cutbacks.
The U.S. government has recognized the P.R.G.'s desire to work toward a political rather than a military settlement. For example, Vietnam Documents and Research Notes, No. 113, stated: "As the prospect for a ceasefire became imminent again in January, 1973, Hanoi and COSVN (Central Office, South Vietnam) opted for a long term political struggle rather than any last minute spectacular power grabs . . . reliance had in fact been shifted to the 'political struggle'."
The P.R.G. does not intend to carry on a military offensive, but it will protect its own territory. It will attempt to destroy air and other military bases from which the attacks originate. As each side escalates its "responses," the level of fighting will increase.
The important question is whether the United States Congress is willing to finance a continued war. If the U.S. keeps sending bombs, they will be dropped. The war still goes on for the people of Indochina, with the possibility of a major increase in intensity. And the U.S. continues to support and encourage that war. Camus once said, "If you are not one of the victims, then you become one of the executioners."