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Joseph A. Buttinger, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, (New York: Praeger, 1967), Vol. 2, pp. 976-77. Buttinger was born in Bavaria and became a leader in the anti-Nazi movement in Austria. He fled to Paris in 1938, then immigrated to the United States, where he helped found the International Rescue Committee and the Friends of Vietnam. He became a friend and supporter of Ngo Dinh Diem, but became disillusioned with Diem’s repressive policies and denounced him. A self-taught expert on Southeast Asia, Buttinger’s writings were sought out as the U.S. became more involved in Vietnam. His two-volume study, Vietnam: A Dragon Embattled, was hailed by the New York Times as “the most thorough, informative and, over all, the most impressive book on Vietnam yet published in America.”
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Having spoken from his conscience, King was labeled an enemy of the state by his government, and derided as a dupe of the communists by the press. He was not alone in this. Both the Johnson and Nixon administrations besmirched antiwar activism as support for the communist cause, if not actually being controlled by communists. Using an expansive definition of “subversion,” they employed the FBI and CIA to conduct surveillance and sabotage of antiwar groups, including King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). As for the mainstream media, its denunciations of antiwar activism decreased over time as more Americans joined the antiwar movement and the costs of the war increased.
Suppressing a rebellion in America also posed other problems. Since the colonies covered a large area and had not been united before the war, there was no central area of strategic importance. In Europe, the capture of a capital often meant the end of a war; in America, when the British seized cities such as New York and Philadelphia, the war continued unabated. Furthermore, the large size of the colonies meant that the British lacked the manpower to control them by force. Once any area had been occupied, troops had to be kept there or the Revolutionaries would regain control, and these troops were thus unavailable for further offensive operations. The British had sufficient troops to defeat the Americans on the battlefield but not enough to simultaneously occupy the colonies. This manpower shortage became critical after French and Spanish entry into the war, because British troops had to be dispersed in several theaters, where previously they had been concentrated in America.
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One such GI, Tom Glen, who served with an American mortar platoon, expressed his moral concerns in a letter to General Creighton Abrams, the commander of all U.S. forces in Vietnam, in the fall of 1968. “The average GI’s attitude toward and treatment of the Vietnamese people all too often is a complete denial of all our country is attempting to accomplish in the realm of human relations,” he wrote.
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Americans at home caught a glimpse of such operations on August 5, 1965, when CBS war correspondent Morley Safer reported on a search and destroy mission in the village of Cam Ne. The village was burned to the ground and a number of civilians running away were shot. Safer commented that, at most, there had been one sniper, while two or three Marines were hit by “friendly fire” (shooting each other):
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Regardless of the actual circumstances of the civilian deaths in Hue, U.S. and South Vietnamese authorities trumpeted the killings as an object lesson in Communist immorality and a foretaste of the atrocities ahead – should the Communists triumph in South Vietnam. We may never know what really happened at Hue, but it is clear that mass executions did occur and that reports of the massacre there had a significant impact on South Vietnamese and American attitudes for many years after the Tet Offensive.
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that the South Vietnamese people had asked us to help them win the war. This request had not come from the South Vietnamese people, it had come from the South Vietnamese government, whose existence was due solely to American support and interests. The ARVNs, many under the age of 17, had no choice in fighting and were often sympathetic to the cause of the Viet Cong. Knowing the truth, I now feel little resentment towards the ARVNs I saw who were unwilling to fight, only sympathy. We, Americans and ARVNs, were all unwitting cogs in the same terrible war machine.