> Published on Wednesday, August 9, 2000 in the Manchester Guardian (UK)
> New Study:
> Nixon 'Wrecked Early Peace In Vietnam'
> by Martin Kettle in Washington
> On the eve of his election in 1968, Richard Nixon secretly conspired with
> the South Vietnamese government to wreck all-party Vietnam peace talks as
> part of a deliberate effort to prolong a conflict in which more than 20,000
> Americans were still to die, along with tens of thousands of Vietnamese and
> The devastating new charge against Nixon, which mirrors long-held
> suspicions among members of President Lyndon Johnson's administration about
> the Republican leader's actions in the autumn of 1968, is made by the
> authors of a new study of Nixon's secret world in the latest issue of
> Vanity Fair magazine.
> "The greatest honour history can bestow," reads the inscription on Nixon's
> black granite tombstone in California, "is the title of peacemaker." But if
> the charges by authors Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan are correct, Nixon
> better deserves to be called a peacewrecker than peacemaker.
> At the heart of the new account was Nixon's fear that Vietnam peace efforts
> by President Johnson in the run-up to the November 1968 US presidential
> election could wreck Nixon's bid to oust Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic
> candidate, and capture the White House.
> Nixon's response to Johnson's efforts was to use a go-between, Anna
> Chennault, to urge the South Vietnam's president, Nguyen van Thieu, to
> resist efforts to force them to the peace table.
> Nixon's efforts paid off spectacularly. On October 31, Johnson ordered a
> total halt to the bombing of North Vietnam, the precondition for getting
> the North and their Vietcong allies to join the talks. Two days later,
> under intense secret urgings from Nixon and his lieutenants, Thieu
> announced his government would not take part. Less than a week later, Nixon
> was elected president with less than a one-point margin in the popular vote
> over Humphrey.
> Playing with US lives
> The Vanity Fair article charges that Johnson knew what was going on.
> Intelligence reports to the president told him that Nixon and his running
> mate, Spiro Agnew, were playing politics with the lives of US soldiers.
> "Had it been made public at the time, it would surely have destroyed
> Nixon's presidential hopes at one stroke, and forever," the authors write.
> Johnson offered Humphrey the chance to go public about Nixon, but Humphrey
> was afraid that the charges would be seen as election dirty tricks. Once
> Nixon had won, Johnson again contemplated revealing what he knew, but
> decided the national interest precluded it.
> In the weeks running up to the election, Nixon's public stance was that, if
> elected, he would bring the war to an end more effectively than Humphrey.
> He promised not to interfere with pre-election peace efforts, pledging that
> neither he nor Agnew "will destroy the chance of peace".
> In reality, however, Nixon used his campaign manager, John Mitchell, later
> his disgraced attorney general, to use go-betweens to encourage Thieu to
> believe he would get a better deal under a Nixon administration and to
> boycott the putative talks. Nixon constantly denied that he was conspiring
> with Thieu against the US government, but the release of previously
> classified FBI files used by the authors show this was exactly what he was
> Chennault, Nixon's main go-between with the South Vietnamese, was a
> right-wing Republican society hostess who was Chinese born and lived in a
> newly constructed Washington apartment complex - named the Watergate. She
> was vice-chairman of the Republican election finance committee and an
> inveterate lobbyist on behalf of right-wing and pro-American Asian
> Chennault regularly passed messages to Mitchell and Nixon during 1968 and
> they urged her to put pressure on the South Vietnamese leader to create
> delays and to refuse to take part in the peace talks.
> US embassy spy operations, including wiretaps of Thieu's offices, revealed
> the Thieu-Nixon connection in October and Johnson was briefed about them.
> One message from Thieu's ambassador in Washington, Bui Diem, told Thieu:
> "Johnson and Humphrey will be replaced and then Nixon could change the US
> When Thieu pulled out of the talks, Johnson exploded. He told his advisers
> that he would go public on a development that could "rock the world". That
> development, he said, was Nixon's "conniving" with the Thieu regime. An
> adviser had told Johnson that Nixon was "trying to frustrate the president
> by inciting Saigon to step up its demands". "It all adds up," Johnson told
> his advisers.
> On October 31, with the bombing halt announced, Mitchell rang Chennault and
> told her: "Anna, I'm speaking on behalf of Mr Nixon. It's very important
> our Vietnamese friends understand our Republican position and I hope you
> have made that clear to them. Do you think they have decided not to go to
> Chennault made contact with Thieu once again. An FBI report said that she
> "contacted the Vietnamese ambassador and advised him that she had received
> a message from her boss (not further identified) which her boss wanted her
> to give personally to the ambassador. She said the message was that the
> ambassador is to 'Hold on, we are gonna win' and that her boss also said
> 'Hold on, he understands all of it'."
> On November 2, three days before the election, Thieu announced that South
> Vietnam would not attend the talks.
> Johnson's bad relations with J Edgar Hoover at the FBI meant that Hoover, a
> Nixon ally, did not tell the president everything that his agents had
> unearthed. Even so, Johnson had learned enough to speak to Nixon by phone
> the weekend before the election. Nixon denied Chennault was working for
> him. When the phone was put down, it was later reported, "Nixon and his
> friends collapsed with laughter".
> Johnson was certain Nixon was lying, and told Humphrey what was going on.
> Humphrey learned about the Nixon-Thieu contacts while he was travelling by
> plane to a campaign. "By God, when we land I'm going to denounce Thieu.
> I'll denounce Nixon. I'll tell about the whole thing," he shouted to aides.
> But he never did.
> In the five weeks leading up to the election of 1968, 960 Americans were
> killed in Vietnam. In the years to come, under Nixon, 20,763 more US
> soldiers would die.
> "What the Nixon people did," the US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, then
> attached to the advance US guard to the Paris talks, tells Vanity Fair,
> "was perhaps even a violation of the law.
> "They massively, directly and covertly interfered in a major diplomatic
> negotiation, probably one of the most important negotiations in American
> diplomatic history."
> 1957 Beginning of communist insurgency in South Vietnam
> 1959 Weapons and men from North Vietnam begin infiltrating the South
> 1960 US aid to the South Vietnamese president, Ngo Dinh Diem, increased
> 1962 President John F Kennedy provides US military advisers to South
> Vietnam (12,000 by end of year)
> 1963 Viet Cong, the communist guerrillas operating in South Vietnam, defeat
> units of ARVN, the South Vietnamese army. President Diem overthrown
> 1964 North Vietnamese patrol boats fire on the US destroyer Maddox in the
> Gulf of Tonkin, triggering start of US bombing raids on North Vietnam
> [Moderator's note: I believe there is some evidence to suggest that this
> incident may have been fabricated or at least exaggerated to provide the
> Johnson administration with a pretext for escalating US military
> involvement in Vietnam]
> 1965 US troops in Vietnam number 23,000 at start of year
> 1966 400,000 US troops in Vietnam, rising to 500,000 in 1967
> 1968 Tet Offensive - a combined assault by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese
> army on US positions - begins. More than 500 civilians die in My Lai
> March 31 1968 President Lyndon Johnson announces on television that bombing
> north of the 20th parallel will stop and that he will not seek re-election
> in the fall. Hanoi responds by de-escalating its insurgency efforts, and in
> October Johnson orders total halt to bombing. US and Hanoi agree to
> preliminary peace talks in Paris
> 1969 President Nixon draws back US ground troops from Vietnam
> 1970 Nixon's national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, and Le Duc Tho of
> the Vietnamese politburo start talks in Paris
> 1973 Ceasefire agreement. Withdrawal of US troops completed by March
> 1975 North Vietnamese troops invade South Vietnam and take control of the
> whole country after South Vietnam surrenders
> April 1975 Last members of US embassy staff evacuated by helicopter from
> roof of embassy
> Human toll 3m military and civilian Vietnamese. 58,000 Americans
> Research: Jason Rodrigues
From: Michael Hoover <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [fla-left] New Study: Nixon "Wrecked Early Peace In Vietnam" (fwd)
Robert Scheer reported on above stuff 30 years ago in Ramparts magazine.
More recently, portion of historian Robert Dallek's Johnson biography
_Flawed Giant_ covers same ground.
According to D, among 7500 LBJ wiretaps were Humphrey conversations
suggesting that he might withdraw troops under terms unfavorable to
Johnson (who wanted more than anything to escape blame). Dallek
indicates that LBJ covertly supported Nixon for a time after Billy
Graham conveyed to him that RMN would give Johnson due credit for
bringing war to "honorable end." D states that LBJ only shifted to
Humphrey upon learning of Nixon's pre-election efforts to sabotage
Dallek also notes that Johnson knew of Nixon $500,000 campaign
contribution from Greek military leaders who had overthrown Greek
government in 1967 (I think Scheer pointed this out as well).
He suggests that neither Johnson nor Humphrey went public about
these matters because they wished to avoid "constitutional crisis"
in event of Nixon victory. Perhaps, but wish to avoid creating
their own "constitutional crisis" (LBJ wiretaps, for example)
certainly was factor.
As for Humphrey, his vacuous pledge to bring war to quick end could
be construed as vaguely dovish even as he promised that he would not
sell-out Vietnam. He was less ambiguous in playing down his reputation
as civil rights liberal. Of course, this is guy who earlier (with his
protege Walter Mondale) initiated purge of left from Minnesota
Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, proposed outlawing Communist Party,
and suggested that "anti-patriotic" Americans should be placed in
detention camps during 'political crises." Michael Hoover
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