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Endless War

The article below was originally published in the February 6, 1975 issue of the underground newspaper Free Flowing.  Thanks to R S for transcribing it.


Ames Teach-In

  Phoenix Party held a teach-in Sunday, January 26, at the Collegiate Methodist Church.  The teach-in was held in conjuction with a national demonstration against the United States’ imperialistic Indo-China policies. The purpose of the each-in was to inform the people of the corruption and fascism of the Thieu regime.

Moderator, Nancy Baumgardner, welcomed an estimated crowd of fifty people and introduced the first speaker, Jim Newcomer, a member of the political science faculty.

Newcomer outlined the Vietnamese people’s century of struggle for freedom.  He emphasized the similarities between the war against the French and the war against the United States.  Newcomer also related how America exploited the Vietnamese struggle by using them to fight the Japanese in World War II and selling them down the river to the French after the war.  The Geneva accords followed the withdrawal of the French.  The accords called for free elections which the Communists would have easily won.

The United States government ascertained that it and not the Vietnamese people should decide how the country should be run. The U.S. helped Diem take over South Vietnam.  Diem cancelled the election and began to arrest former members of the Viet Mihn.  Diem also replaced the local village chiefs with Saigon appointers.

Along with the new village chiefs, Diem sent soldiers to help collect taxes for the years the villages were under Communist control.  In many cases the villages were under Communist control for eight years.  As Jim Newcomer said, “Eight years of taxes is a hell of a lot of money.”  The presence of the Saigon “village chiefs” and the attempt to collect back taxes resulted in the assassination of many village chiefs.  The U.S. used this response to repression as a justification for the entering the war.

Newcomer’s talk was followed by a slide presentation and a taped speech by Clark Kissenger, former national Secretary of Students for Democratic Society (SDS).  The Kissenger speech dealt with the student movement in the U.S., its strong points and mistakes.  Kissenger emphasized the lack of strong leadership and an avoidance of Communism as two important reasons for the movement’s dissipation.

The slide show consisted of pictures of Vietnam (its beauty and the destruction the war brought).  The shots of the tier cages and grief stricken faces served to remind us of the reasons for the movement that was the basis of Kissenger’s speech.

Following a 10 minute break, Alex McIntosh gave a speech on the impact of the war on the culture of Indo-China.  McIntosh spent 35 months as a volunteer in Laos.  McIntosh spoke of the changes in family stability, economics, politics, and class structure caused by American imperialism.

In the area of politics McIntosh said that many of the ruling governments in Indo-China depend totally on US support and have no popular support among the people.  Laos has had a number of coups, all of which were supported by the U.S.  None of these governments were responsive to the people’s needs.

Neutral villages are bribed with offers of U.S. aid.  When they accept these gifts the villagers gradually begin to depend on aid for all their needs.  The villages stop developing because the people no longer have to deal with their problems, they can simply have them done for them.

Western influence has further widened the gap between the leaders and the common people.  The ruling class has been raised and educated in the West.  They have lost their identity with their country.

Following McIntosh’s speech, the film “A Question of Torture” was shown.  The film investigated the number of political prisoners held by the Thieu government and included footage showing the horrible consequences of imprisonment in the tiger cages.

The film also included interviews with people who had been tortured by the government.  People reported being beaten, burned, electrically shocked and hung by their arms from the ceiling for hours.  The census taken by the film makers revealed that there are 70,000 to 118,000 political prisoners in South Vietnam – nearly all of them have experienced torture of some sort.

Following the presentation the group Split up into smaller units for discussion.  The purpose of the discussion groups was to determine what could be done here in Ames to end the US support of the Thieu government.

Iowa City Vigil

In Iowa City the silent vigil for peace at the Pentacrest was temporarily renewed.  More than 50 people stood in silence in a reappearance of the protest.  During the height of the Vietnam war it was a constant vigil for six years.  Their message was the same – no U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

Postscript

A Los Angeles judge has dissolved a temporary restraining order which had prevented the showing of the anti-Vietnam War movie “Hearts and Minds.”

The order originally had been obtained by Walter Rostow, a former advisor to President Johnson.  Rostow complained that a two-minute interview of him appearing in the movie holds him up to public ridicule.

In “Hearts and Minds,” Rostow is asked why the U.S. was involved in Vietnam.  He becomes visibly upset and answers, “That’s a goddamn silly question.”

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