United states history


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In August, 1964, following a purported attack on U.S. military forces off the coast of Southeast Asia, President Lyndon Johnson sought and received overwhelming Congressional authorization to send combat troops to defend South Vietnam. This "escalation" initiated the longest war in the history of the United States. What follows are both the President's message to Congress concerning the incident and its response, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

President Johnson's Message to Congress August 5, 1964

Last night I announced to the American people that the North Vietnamese regime had conducted...deliberate attacks against U.S. naval vessels operating in international waters, and I had therefore directed air action against gunboats and supporting facilities used in these hostile operations. This air action has now been carried out with substantial damage to the boats and facilities. Two U.S. aircraft were lost in the action.

After consultation with the leaders of both parties in the Congress, I further announced a decision to ask the Congress for a resolution expressing the unity and determination of the United States in supporting freedom and in protecting peace in southeast Asia.

These latest actions of the North Vietnamese regime has given a new and grave turn to the already serious situation in southeast Asia. Our commitments in that area are well known to the Congress. They were first made in 1954 by President Eisenhower. They were further defined in the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty approved by the Senate in February 1955.

This treaty with its accompanying protocol obligates the United States and other members to... meet Communist aggression against any of the parties or protocol states.

Our policy in southeast Asia has been consistent and unchanged since 1954. I summarized it on June 2 in four simple propositions:
America keeps her word. Here as elsewhere, we must and shall honor our commitments.
The issue is the future of southeast Asia as a whole. A threat to any nation in that region is a threat to all, and a threat to us.
Our purpose is peace. We have no military, political, or territorial ambitions in the area.
This is not just a jungle war, but a struggle for freedom on every front of human activity.

Our military and economic assistance to South Vietnam and Laos in particular has the purpose of helping these countries to repel aggression and strengthen their independence... In recent months, the actions of the North Vietnamese regime have become steadily more threatening... As President of the United States I have concluded that I should now ask the Congress, on its part, to join in affirming the national determination that all such attacks will be met, and that the United States will continue in its basic policy of assisting the free nations of the area to defend their freedom.

As I have repeatedly made clear, the United States intends no rashness, and seeks no wider war. We must make it clear to all that the United States is united in its determination to bring about the end of Communist subversion and aggression in the area. We seek the full and effective restoration of the international agreements signed in Geneva in 1954, with respect to South Vietnam and Laos...


2. Joint Resolution of Congress H.J. RES 1145 August 7, 1964
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
That the Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression.
Section 2. The United States regards as vital to its national interest and to world peace the maintenance of international peace and security in southeast Asia. Consonant with the Constitution of the United States and the Charter of the United Nations and in accordance with its obligations under the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty, the United States is, therefore, prepared, as the President determines, to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force, to assist any member or protocol state of the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty requesting assistance in defense of its freedom.
Section 3. This resolution shall expire when the President shall determine that the peace and security of the area is reasonably assured by international conditions created by action of the United Nations or otherwise, except that it may be terminated earlier by concurrent resolution of the Congress.
Source: Department of State Bulletin, August 24, 1964 © 1996 The Avalon Project. The Avalon Project : The Tonkin Gulf Incident; 1964 was last modified on: 12/13/2002 14:40:05. www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/tonkin-g.htm.

The number of American servicemen and women stationed in South Vietnam peaked at 538,000 by the end of 1968. Virtually all of them were aware of the growing unpopularity of the war in the United States and were both angered and bewildered at the lack of support. One Oregon serviceman wrote a letter home in 1966 expressing his dismay at the anti war protest. Part of the letter is reprinted below.
How are the people taking to the war in Portland? I've read too much ...about the way some of those cowardly students are acting on campuses. They sure don't show me much as far as being American citizens. They have the idea that they are our future leaders. Well, I won't follow nobody if he isn't going to help fight for my freedom.

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to talk with some Marines who had come to Okinawa for four (lousy) days of leave. They were more than happy because they had been fighting for six months with no let up. We sat in a restaurant all the time, and I wish I could have taped it on my recorder. What they had to say would have had an impact on the people back home. One showed me where he had been shot. I asked if it hurt, and he didn't feel it. Not until after he got the that shot him. He was more angry than hurt. They told me of some of their patrols and how they would be talking to a buddy one minute and watch him die the next. Or wake up in the morning and see a friend hung from a tree by hooks in his armpits with parts of his body cut and shoved into his mouth. From what they said, the Vietcong aren't the only ruthless ones. We have to be, too. Have to. You'd be surprised to know that a guy you went to school with is right now shooting a nine year old girl and her mother. He did it because if they got the chance they would kill him. Or throwing a Vietcong out of a helicopter because he wouldn't talk.

One guy (who had broke down and cried) said that his one desire is to get enough leave to go home and kick three of those demonstrators in a well suited place and bring him back. I tell you, it's horrible to read a paper and see your own people aren't backing you up.
Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David Kennedy, ed., The American Spirit, Vol. II, (Lexington, Mass.: D. C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 890 891.

In 1966, David Harris, a former Boy of the Year from Fresno, California, and student body president at Stanford University, chose to protest the war in Vietnam by resisting the draft. Harris was arrested and spent two years in a federal penitentiary for his actions. In his 1982 autobiography, Dreams Die Hard, he explains his decision.
The more we learned about the war, the worse it seemed. Late in July, I attended a lecture by a Canadian journalist who had just returned from North Vietnam. Dennis [Sweeney] and the Channing Street Group were at the lecture as well.

With what amounted to only a fledgling air defense system, explained the journalist, North Vietnam had no hope of turning the American Air Force back. Theoretically, strategic air power destroys the enemy's industrial, logistic, and transportation systems, but North Vietnam possessed little centralized industry and only a rudimentary transportation system. Consequently, the target increasingly became the population itself. The American strategy's starting point was a calculation by Defense Department planners that it took only two Vietnamese to deal with one of their dead countrymen, but one wounded required five. Mass woundings, it was assumed, would tie the enemy's hands, and the American arsenal had developed wounding devices in great variety... The CBU was a small explosive package stuffed with hundreds of one inch steel darts, each shaped with fins, designed to "peel off" the outer flesh, make "enlarged wounds," and "shred body organs" before "lodging in the blood vessels." The BLU 52 was 270 pounds of "riot control" chemical that induced vomiting, nausea, and muscle spasms, occasionally fatal to old people and children. The M 36 was an 800 pound casing containing 182 separate "incendiary bomblets," the most horrendous of which were manufactured from phosphorus, commonly lodging in the flesh and continuing to burn for as long as fifteen days, causing its victims' wounds to glow with an eerie green light.

Without looking at Dennis, I spoke up.

"You know," I said, "those bastards have got to be stopped."

Three weeks later I sat at my typewriter and wrote local Draft Board 71 in Fresno, California, a letter "To whom it may concern." I enclosed a Selective Service classification card indicating that the bearer, David Victor Harris, possessed a student deferment. The letter informed my draft board that I could no longer in good conscience carry the enclosed document or accept the deferment it signified. It was a privilege I found unwarranted for any student. It also signified tacit assent on my part for both the task the Selective Service System was performing and the power it had assumed over my life. Being even implicitly a party to the destruction of Indochina was not part of my plans. If they ordered me for induction, I warned them, I would refuse to comply.

I was prepared to abandon what seemed a promising future and pit myself against the war one on one, believing I would redeem my country and realize myself in the process. It seemed that to do anything else would have dishonored both.

Source: Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, The American Spirit (Lexington, Mass: D.C. Heath and Company, 1984), pp. 894 896.

By the 1970s some Soviet youth, like their Western counterparts, were increasingly rebellious against the political system. In this account written in 1979, a visiting American university student describes "Volodya," who although disenchanted with the Soviet political system eventually succumbed to it.
As a teenager, Volodya was an idealistic Komsomol member who worked in a construction brigade. "I helped to build the Moscow State [University] tower where you live....To me, it was like building a shrine─every stone laid with sweat and strong beliefs." After that, he attended a forestry institute, and was finally assigned to patrol a game preserve several hundred miles north of Moscow. This solitary job was a turning point in Volodya's life. "Until then I was a child─loyal to the State, unquestioning. But up there, I spent my days walking or skiing alone through the woods. I slept alone in a hut. My job was just silliness─it didn't exist....I wasn't building Communism as I had been taught to believe. What I was doing wasn't any use, and nobody cared whether I lived or died in that forest. So I began to read, which turned me into a rebel."

For Volodya, rebellion meant abandoning his job, moving illegally back to Moscow, and buying a motorcycle... Volodya, with his cycle and his leather jacket and his anti-establishment stance, seems to have been a bit like a Soviet James Dean. He went to dances and created a scandal by dancing the boogie-voogie...he lived like an outlaw in friends' apartments, spending entire days immersed in Russian literature. This changed him, he says, from a simple discontented worker to an intelligent, or proletarian intellectual, a thinker schooled in Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and the bitter political satire of Saltykov-Shchedrin. His anger became more specific, directed at the government, which he saw as corrupt, as having failed to set a moral and spiritual example for its citizens. Eventually he went back to work, this time in a forest outside of Moscow, but his awakening had been permanent. A few years later he formed a circle of young men like himself, who pledged themselves to revolution. "We planned to take on the State with arms... I was slowly providing us with rifles stolen from my forestry job."

The group met for a year, until they were all suddenly arrested. "One of us, damn him, was a planted informer... They locked us up in Lubyanka [a Moscow prison and the KGB headquarters] for a week, beat us up and interrogated us. They wanted me to denounce my comrades and recant my own beliefs." One day he was brought before a high KGB official, who unexpectedly granted him his freedom. "They struck a bargain with me. I was to give up my former friends and my politics and they would let me alone. `Lead a simple life,' they told me, `and if you ever touch politics again, we'll throw you so far into the camps you'll never see the light of day.' And I agreed. They had beaten me on the head in prison, and that did something to me. I didn't even care any more. They let me out, and just as I had promised, I got rid of my old friends and my big ideas. I met Anna [his wife] and settled down. When you get older, you want different things; you realize you have to survive. I hardly even read any more. Books are dangerous─they disturb you."
Source:  Andrea Lee, Russian Journal, (New York, 1981), pp. 60-61.

The Cold War had prompted such fear and suspicion between the peoples on either side of the Iron Curtain that we often forgot that all of us shared common aspirations, hopes, and concerns for a better world. In 1986 the letter reprinted below was sent to one of my Cal Poly students from her friend in Yugoslavia. She granted me permission to share it with you. Ironically, her country, Yugoslavia, no longer exists.
Dear ________:

Thank you for your letter. Have you visited your sister yet? Have you seen New York, how do you find it?

I understand that you don't have much free time. I'm in the same situation. Before two months I started instructing math a 13 year girl. I was very lucky to get that job because there were many students who wanted to do it but not so many people who had troubles in a school and were willing to pay instruction.

I passed two exams in the beginning of March. After that I went to France to ski for one week. The trip was organized by Skiing Club. Conditions for downhill skiing were very good, the weather was sunny almost all the time. The week was over too soon! Now I'm back in [her hometown] and all work and worries are coming to me again.

Last week our Labrador Retriever has brought back 8 young dogs. We hoped that the last one of them will be gold yellow as their mother, but they are all completely black! Now they are one week old and still cannot hear and see anything. They are only sleeping and drinking milk.

I don't think that communism helped Yugoslavia to become a stronger nation. But the fact is, that communists organized one of the strongest guerilla against German nazism in Europe. When the 2nd World War started Yugoslavia was a poor monarchy with a small group of rich and crowds of poor people. When Hitler attacked Yugoslavia, the king with family and government escaped to England and left their nation alone, without army, without help in occupied Yugoslavia. Then illegal communist party organized a strong guerilla movement against Germans. A lot of civilists helped guerilla called partisans. That was the reason why they were so successful. Partisans became very popular among Yugoslav people and after the 2nd World War the partisans (communists) won elections and Tito became president. The Soviet Union had a big influence on Yugoslav communists. They made a state very similar to Soviet Union. But Tito soon recognized that Stalin wanted to create our political, economical and social circumstances. Tito refused Stalin in 1948 and started independent, nonaligned polity. Many things have changed after 1948. The country became more democratic, the government is less totalitarian, workers have more chances to take part in managing factories. If Yugoslav communists were not successful in 2nd WW, if they didn't make Yugoslavia free of Germans, the Soviet Union would do it and after war the least eastern parts of Yugoslavia would be in a pact with Soviet Union. Now Yugoslavia is independent and nonaligned country and we must admit that communists have made it.

Well, I think that Yugoslav foreign polity is good, but our economy! We have about 80% inflation (it will increase this year), Yugoslavia has many debts in west countries, many unemployed young people etc., etc. One of the reasons is that communist government does not have an opposition. Opposite organizations are forbidden and this is very bad, because government can make mistakes and here is no organization or party to change them on their position, we can only be critical, but it does not help much. Things are changing, it's true, but very slow.

I don't think that communism had much influence in our family life. I lived one month with a British family in Great Britain and I was for a month in Soviet Union before 2 years. So when I compare our life with life of families in the two countries I'd say, that our life is more similar to British one.

Let it be enough about polity, I really didn't mean to bore you too much. But let me ask you one question: What do you (and other Americans) think about war between USA and Libya? I think this war is too dangerous to continue. USA and UN have to find a better solution, a better way to suppress international terrorism. Violence always causes new terrorism.

Bye for now my friend, take care of yourself and please, keep in touch.

Your Friend,

The Cold War has hovered over the lives of three generations of the world's people since 1945. In the lyrics of his 1987 song "Leningrad," Billy Joel captures the essence of the Cold War dilemma. Part of the song is reprinted below.
Victor was born the Spring of '44

and never saw his father anymore.

A child of sacrifice, a child of war.

A child who never had a father

after Leningrad.

Went off to school, to learn to serve

the state.

Followed the rules and drank his

vodka straight.

A Russian life was very sad,

and such was life in Leningrad.
I was born in '49

A Cold War kid in the coffee time.

Stop them at the 38th parallel,

blast those yellow Reds to hell.

The Cold War kids were hard to kill,

under their desks in an air raid drill.

Haven't they heard we won the war

What do they keep on fighting for?

Children lived in Lenintown,

hid in the shelters underground,

'till the Soviets turned their ships around,

and tore all the Cuban missiles down.

And in that bright October sun,

we knew our childhood days were done.

And now I watched my friends go off to war.

What do we keep on fighting for?

Source:  Billy Joel, "Leningrad" Copyright (1987) by Columbia Records, New York, N.Y. Reprinted with permission.

In July 1979, Washington Senator Henry 'Scoop' Jackson addressed a Conference on International Terrorism in Jerusalem, Israel. Although his speech cast the Soviet Union as the major sponsor of terrorism at the time, his words resonate even in this post-Cold War era when superpower rivalry is history but international terrorism is not.
I believe that international terrorism is a modern form of warfare against liberal democracies. I believe that the ultimate but seldom stated goal of these terrorists is to destroy the very fabric of democracy. I believe that it is both wrong and foolhardy for any democratic state to consider international terrorism to be "someone else's" problem.

If you believe as I do, then you must join me in wondering why the community of liberal democracies had not bended together more effectively to opposed those international murderers and to loudly and vigorously expose those states which cynically provide terrorists with comfort and support...

I am not talking about individual acts of madmen. I'm talking about highly organized groups with international connections and support who systematically rely on major acts of violence as a political instrument...

International terrorism is a special problem for democracies... A democratic government...rests on the consent of the governed. It is responsible for assuring the democratic freedoms of speech, assembly, travel, press and privacy. These conditions, obviously facilitate terrorist operations directed against a particular government... Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. What is new is the international nature of terrorism. Today's terrorists have modern technology to help them, permitting rapid international communications, travel, and the transfer of monies; they can work with others of like mind across the international borders of the world's free nations. Modern terrorism is a form of "warfare by remote control," waged against free nations or against nondemocratic but moderate states which...sympathize with freedom...

What can be done?

First, and foremost, liberal democracies must acknowledge that international terrorism is a "collective problem." Everything else follow from this. When one free nation is under attack, the rest must understand that democracy itself is under attack, and behave accordingly. We must be allied in our defense against terrorists...

Secondly...the idea that one person's "terrorist" is another's "freedom fighter" cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up buses containing noncombatants; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don't set out to capture and slaughter schoolchildren; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don't assassinate innocent businessmen or hijack and hold hostage innocent men, women and children; terrorists do. It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word "freedom" to be associated with the acts of the terrorists.

We can do more. For instance, is it moral to trade openly and freely with states who use the profits from such trade to finance the murder of innocents? Why should those who conduct remote control warfare against us rest easy that we will contribute to financing our own destruction?

[Finally] within each of our own countries, we must organize to combat terrorism in ways consistent with our democratic principles and with the strong support of our citizens... In my country, we are making some progress in organizing federal, state, and local agencies to deal more realistically with terrorists threats...
Source: William Safire: Lend Me Your Ears: Great Speeches in History (New York, 1992) pp. 582-585.


The Soviet Union The United States
Political Leader: Mikhail Gorbachev George H. W. Bush

General Secretary, President

Communist Party
Population 277,930,000 238,848,000

Land Area in sq. mi. 8.6 million 3.5 million

Density per sq. mi. 31.2 65.9

Gross National Product $1.8 trillion $3.6 trillion

Per Capita Income $ 4,550 $ 12,700
Railroad Mileage 141,800 286,000

Road Mileage 1.3 million 6.2 million

Passenger Cars 17 million 170 million
Doctors 896,000 361,000

Infant Mortality per

1,000 live births 26 11

Life Expectancy at birth

Males 62 72

Females 73 76

Births per 1,000 inhabitants 20 16

Deaths per 1,000 inhabitants 11 9

Largest Cities: Moscow 8.8 million New York 7.1 million

Leningrad 4.7 million Los Angeles 3.1 million

Kiev 2.4 million Chicago 2.9 million

Work Force:

Industrial Workers 45% 32%

Agricultural Workers 20% 3%

Average Monthly Industrial Wage $ 320 $ 1,486

Annual Movie Attendance 4.1 billion 1.0 billion

Annual Movies seen per capita 15.7 4.7

Movie Theaters 144,000 13,331

1980 Film Production 184 248

TV Sets 85 million 134 million

Radio Sets 164 million 484 million

Daily Newspapers 639 1,800

1980 Books Published 80,000 titles 85,000 titles

1980 Periodicals 4,700 59,000

Museums 1,465 4,609

Public Libraries 1.6 million 387,000

Literacy Rate 99.8% 99.5%

Nobel laureates 14 175

Men & Women in the Military 3.6 million 3.2 million

Nuclear Missiles: Land Based 1,398 1,026

Sea Based 982 592

Bombers 1,170 5,070

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