Tuesday, February 7, 2017

VIETNAM and the NUCLEAR BAN: Out From Under the Shadow of US Nuclear Terror

Vietnam is one of the co-sponsors of the UN resolution L.41, the passage of which set the stage for negotiations in 2017 on a global ban on nuclear weapons.

When I sat in a session at the UN in 2014, I got an unforgettable reminder that most of the countries in the world are non-nuclear-weapons states, and that they urgently desire the US and other nuclear weapons states to eliminate nuclear weapons. (See 360 Degree Feedback in New York (2014 NPT Prepcom and How the World Views the United States) )

But my reading in recent weeks has given me another reminder: Vietnam is a country that has experienced the direct and very imminent threat of nuclear attack by the US in living memory. It is sickening to think that, on top of the immense killing and devastation that the US wrought in Vietnam (as well as its neighbors), it subjected Vietnam to the even greater threats of nuclear attack.

. . . under the gaze of US Secretary of Defense (1961-8) Robert McNamara

For example . . .

1954 - US Secretary of State Allen Dulles gave his "Massive Retaliation" speech, as the French sought to relieve Bien Dien Phu. There are multiple reports of discussions about using US nuclear weapons to come to the rescue of the French, including a plan developed by US Vice President Richard Nixon.

1961 - US General Lyman Lemnitzer and General Curtis LeMay urged JFK to authorize the use of nuclear weapons in Southeast Asia: "If we are given the right to use nuclear weapons, we can guarantee victory," promised Lemnitzer. (See James W. Douglass, JFK and the Unspeakable, p. 101 and 109.)

By 1968, the antiwar movement was lampooning the
Johnson campaign's upbeat "All the Way with LBJ" slogan
with a mushroom cloud suggesting a nuclear bomb.
1964 - US military commanders met in Hawaii to figure out what to do about Vietnam. As they laid the groundwork for the introduction into Vietnam of massive numbers of US troops in 1965, 1966, and 1967, the planners held out the very clear possibility that China would enter the war on the side of Vietnam, and the US would "have to" use nuclear weapons. (See Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly, p. 315.) A few months later, the famous "Daisy" ads began to run: they suggested candidate Barry Goldwater might use nuclear weapons in Vietnam if he were elected president.

1968 - The Johnson administration considered the use of nuclear weapons for the relief of Khe Sahn, in response to the Tet Offensive. (See Rick Pearlstein, Nixonland, p. 228.) Later that year, General LeMay became the running mate of Governor George Wallace. When asked if he would use nuclear weapons to end the war, he gave a meandering reply that concluded, "I would use anything we could dream up, anything we could dream up -- including nuclear weapons, if it was necessary." (Nixonland, p. 348-9)

1969 - Richard Nixon, once firmly ensconced in the White House, made the threat of using nuclear weapons central to his strategy for bringing North Vietnam to the negotiating table. (See "the Madman Theory.")

 . . . and on it goes.

Is it any wonder that Vietnam and its neighbors entered into the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty in 1995? Is it any wonder that in 2017 Vietnam is a committed proponent of a global ban on nuclear weapons?

The US has opposed the negotiations on a global ban on nuclear weapons. I would invite every person in the US to reflect on the shameful history of US nuclear terror, and (re-)commit themselves to causing the US to cooperate in bringing the global ban to fruition.


Who would possibly vote "NO" to banning nuclear weapons???

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