5. PHILIPPINE INVOLVEMENT IN THE VIETNAM WAR4 More and more Filipino students are becoming committed to national democracy. A new collective image of the Filipino student is fast rising. It is an image that is militantly patriotic and anti-imperialist, of one who is no longer isolated and apathetic in his narrow self-seeking careerism or of one who is no longer carried away by the trifles, frivolities and diversions that U.S. imperialist culture provides to subvert our national purposes and objectives.
As the national chairman of the Kabataang Makabayan, I have had the good fortune of observing closely the objective development of the national-democratic movement among the youth in general. I have also observed that, among the various sectors of the Filipino youth, the students have had the signal achievement of being the first to speak out boldly on the Vietnam crisis in a manner different from our so-called high statesmen who have long sold their souls in compromises with the large vested interests, chief and most strategic of which are those of U.S. imperialism.
In a historic manifesto entitled, “Peace Manifesto on South Vietnam,” signed on August 11, 1964, student leaders—all of whom are members and high-ranking officials of the Student Councils Association of the Philippines (SCAP) documented their basic views and commitments on the Vietnam crisis in the following terms:
“We, students of various colleges and schools in the Philippines, condemn the clear attempt of the United States to provoke an international war in Asia, involve the Filipino youth in another futile war of U.S. imperialist expansion as in South Korea, contravene our fundamental law which renounces war, and moreover, endanger the lives and homes of our people who themselves have more than enough problems of their own due to colonialism and imperialism. “We know for a fact that the United States, in taking over what the French left in South Vietnam after Dien Bien Phu, has been in direct violation of the Geneva Agreements which prohibit foreign intervention. The bogey of Communism has been raised only to justify the suppression of the South Vietnamese peasantry and strengthen U.S. imperialism through the successive “free world” dictatorships of Ngo Dinh Diem and Nguyen Khanh and the brutal use of strategic hamlets (barbed wire enclosures), noxious chemicals and other forms of ‘special warfare.’ We know for a fact that the South Vietnamese movement now bravely opposing the full power of the United States is neutralist and nationalistic in policy and would have none of imperialism. “Now, as if it were not satisfied with the senseless killing and oppression of the South Vietnamese peasants, the United States is trying to provoke a northward war against the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam. “We condemn both the basic act of U.S. intervention in Indochina and the heightened provocation against a people wanting to live peacefully within their own territories. We hereby affirm the principles of national freedom and peace to which we are deeply committed in the Manila and Bandung Declarations and the UN Charter. The U.S. has always been flagrantly too far out from its own national territory. “We see clearly that our military treaties and commitments with the United States negate our constitutional process and would be the very cause of our doom if a general nuclear conflagration breaks out in Asia. And, death shall not be our only share but also shame—shame for allowing the military bases of the United States in the Philippines to be the staging grounds for attacks against our Asian brothers.” As militant student leaders, the signers of this document were not satisfied only with signing it but they acted together to picket in protest before the fortress-like U.S. Embassy, symbol of alien exploitation in our country.
This patriotic action of the students in 1964, no matter how small and modest, was demonstrative of a great spirit that has since materialized into bigger and broader mass actions as those of January 25 and June 18 of this year. The students have proven once more to be capable of initiating movements that bring away their people from the spell of imperialist domination.
On the basis of that student manifesto, there is adequate reason to believe that a good number of us know well the facts and implications of the Vietnam crisis, especially as they affect us today.
But in order to set the record straight and remove the confusion that U.S. imperialist propaganda is constantly making, let us once more review certain basic facts about Vietnam and the U.S. imperialist intervention there.
The Vietnamese people immediately accomplished their August Revolution, founded the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on September 2, 1945, and asserted their sovereignty in both North and South Vietnam. Nevertheless, only a few months after the proclamation of independence, in line with the secret agreements at the Potsdam Conference, Jiang Gaishek’s troops—supported and encouraged by the United States—entered North Vietnam while British troops advanced into South Vietnam. These two invasions paved the way for the return of the French colonialists. The direct arm of U.S. imperialist intervention—the Guomindang troops—was driven out in 1946, but the French colonialists were able to encroach upon the territory of Vietnam, North and South. They subsequently provoked the outbreak of the French-Vietnamese war on December 19, 1946.
The United States promptly took a direct part in the anti-Vietnamese aggression by sanctioning the French military plans, shouldering a great part of the war expenditures, and setting up in Saigon a military mission, the Military Aid Advisory Group (MAAG - the Vietnam version of our JUSMAG).
Even when the French were already facing defeat at Dien Bien Phu, the U.S. interventionists took massive efforts to protract the war and assume the initiative. Together with the French advocates of attritive war, they mapped out the “Vautour Plan” for massive bombing of the northern part of Vietnam in order to extricate the French from certain defeat at Dien Bien Phu. Despite such joint U.S.-French efforts and despite U.S. military support amounting to $2.6 billion, hundreds of thousands of tons of armaments and 200 military advisers to help destroy Vietnamese aspirations for independence and national democracy, the vigorous struggle of the Vietnamese people had already sealed the fate of the elite 200,000 troops of French colonialism at Dien Bien Phu on May 7, 1954, and thereby shifted decisively the balance of war in favor of the Vietnamese people. On May 8, 1954, the Geneva Conference on Indochina held its opening session.
Despite the attempts of the United States to sabotage and frustrate it, the Conference was successful and was determined in the main by the Dien Bien Phu victory. At the closing session on July 21, 1954, the U.S. government representative was compelled to issue a declaration respecting the Geneva Agreements.
Let us refer to two important provisions of the Geneva Agreements:
First, on the Partition of Vietnam. The state of Vietnam would be partitioned into two approximately equal areas by a demarcation line near the 17th parallel, the northern part (including the ports of Hanoi and Haiphong) passing under the control of the Vietnamese government and the southern part remaining under the control of the Bao Dai government.
Second, on Vietnam Elections. Elections would be held simultaneously in both parts of Vietnam by July 20, 1956, with the aim of establishing a unified government. They would be organized after consultation between the Vietminh and Bao Dai governments, and carried out under the supervision of an International Supervisory Commission consisting of India, Canada and Poland.
According to the Geneva Agreements, Vietnam was temporarily to be divided into two zones for purposes of eliminating the state of war, mainly for the French Expeditionary Corps withdrawing into South Vietnam, and withdrawing thereafter to France as it did. And on July 20, 1956, elections were to be held to elect a single government unifying the temporary governments in the North and the South under the one state that had been proclaimed and had come into being on September 2, 1946.
Before the ink had dried on the Geneva Agreements, the U.S. government engineered the Manila Pact, organized the SEATO and brazenly, in violation of the Geneva Agreements, placed South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the so-called “protocol area” of the bloc, which was equivalent to placing South Vietnam under the command of the United States.
True enough, Ngo Dinh Diem, who had been brought back into Saigon by the U.S. government from New York, and who acted beyond doubt in his capacity as Prime Minister to Emperor Bao Dai as a puppet of U.S. imperialism, consolidated his position with the U.S. Military Aid Advisory Group and the CIA (particularly the Michigan State University group led by Wesley Fischel), giving the necessary fire power and money to back him up. Soon enough he deposed the French-backed Emperor Bao Dai by coup d’etat.
In violation of the Geneva Agreements, particularly its provision requiring elections on July 20, 1956, to elect a single government for the entire Vietnam, the United States—through its puppet Ngo Dinh Diem who could not rule for a single day without military support from the MAAG and the CIA—decided to establish South Vietnam as an “independent” state and put up the Ngo Dinh Diem government as the government of the state.
On July 16, 1955, the bogus state of South Vietnam—militarily supported by the U.S. government—announced its opposition to the holding of a plebiscite on July 20, 1956.
The installment of Ngo Dinh Diem and his corrupt family did not mean the ascendancy of democracy in South Vietnam, but it only meant the replacement of the effective power of French colonialism with that of U.S. imperialism. It meant the suppression of national democracy in one-half of Vietnam by U.S. imperialist global power.
As the student manifesto we have just reviewed would reveal, I presume that you know much of the barbarism that has been conducted by U.S. imperialism by misusing such slogans as “defense of democracy,” “free world,” and so on and so forth. The non-communist Bertrand Russell can always provide us with an authentic picture of the series of U.S. imperialist atrocities in Vietnam, such as those committed under the Staley-Taylor Plan, the McNamara Plan and the W.W. Rostow Plan Six, if you care to read the Progressive Review.
To provide you with relief from the overdose of slanted reports made through the USIS, UPI, AP, VOA, Time and Newsweek, I wish to refer you to the Philippine Committee for Freedom in South Vietnam for more facts.
At this juncture, let us round out two basic facts. First, U.S. intervention in Vietnam dates back as early as that time it tried to help the French colonialists suppress the Vietnamese government under Ho Chi Minh. Second, the United States government broke the Geneva Agreements by encouraging and militarily supporting the unlamented Ngo Dinh Diem to seize power in complete disregard of the provisions governing the nationwide free general elections of July 20, 1956 to reunify the entire Vietnam.
It is necessary to keep these facts in mind to fortify our just position that the Philippines cannot involve itself in the Vietnam crisis simply because the United States has embroiled itself there on its own account. The United States embroiled itself there in order not only to cheat the Vietnamese people but also to cheat its fellow capitalist nation, France, and gain South Vietnam for its own imperialist interests. What is extremely lamentable is that U.S. imperialism, in the wake of its selfish expansion in Asia after World War II, has deprived the Vietnamese people in South Vietnam of the basic right to national self- determination.
The U.S. government, in flaunting this basic right, has illogically described the North Vietnamese as the aggressors in South Vietnam despite the fact that the South Vietnam National Liberation Front, which came into being only in 1960 in the heart of South Vietnam, has always maintained its own patriotic and neutralist policies independent of North Vietnam. If one were simply to recall that there was once only one Vietnam undivided by U.S. imperialism, how can one say that the North Vietnamese are aggressors even if we were to assume that they actually give moral and material support to their brothers in the South? Who are the U.S. interventionists, who come from more than 7,000 miles away, to tell the North Vietnamese that they are aggressors within that single state of Vietnam recognized by the Geneva Agreements? Who are these U.S. interventionists to say that they are for Vietnamese freedom when they impose one puppet-dictator after another on the South Vietnamese and move in hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops and drop hundreds of thousands of tons of bombs and deadly chemicals on the Vietnamese people of both South and North? Despite the ever-increasing military expenditures that the U.S. government is now shouldering in the Vietnam War, all the huge American manpower, all the modern weapons used against the South Vietnam National Liberation Front and all the 600,000 U.S.-paid South Vietnamese mercenaries, the South Vietnamese people ceaselessly fight U.S. imperialism without any fear and they increase their number as well as their territory, which is now more than four-fifths of South Vietnam.
The South Vietnamese men, women and even children are resisting the intensified conscription, and the reserves of the reactionary government are already admittedly exhausted. Thus, the American youth themselves are now being marched to their death in Vietnam by the hundreds of thousands. If the U.S. imperialists cannot even motivate their mercenaries to fight and their conscription efforts are resisted by the South Vietnamese themselves, why should they expect other countries, such as the Philippines, to intervene with them? The United States cannot even maneuver the SEATO wholly to “protect” South Vietnam, as its supposed protocol area. Certainly, within the SEATO, there is no communist to blame. The bankruptcy and isolation of the U.S. position is becoming evident even among its fellow capitalist nations.
Within the United States itself, students like you are now becoming a force to be considered seriously by the military-industrial complex and the government policy- makers. More and more American students are resisting the government policy of aggression and escalation in Vietnam. They burn their draft cards, they hold teach-ins, they demonstrate and engage in many kinds of mass actions in protest against U.S. intervention in South Vietnam.
The American students are now patriotically and heroically opposing the Hitlerite policies of the ruling monopoly-capitalist class which are bound to waste their lives and energies in wars of imperialist aggression.