Obama re-writes the history of the Vietnam War

In re-writing the history of the Vietnam War, Obama has betrayed the Kennedy family who did so much to ensure that he reached the White House

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Obama visits the Vietnam War Memorial
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Dr. James Boys
On 30 May 2012 10:59

As President, Kennedy continued Eisenhower's policy of sending military advisers to South Vietnam, increasing the aid during 1961 and 1962. After the Bay of Pigs disaster of March 1961, Kennedy remarked “We have a problem making our power credible, the place to do so is Vietnam.” Despite assuring the world that “America would pay any price to ensure the survival and the success of liberty,” the President steadfastly refused to commit combat units to Vietnam, despite the overwhelming pressure to do so from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “The troops will march in, crowds will cheer, and four days later everyone will have forgotten.” Kennedy quipped. “Then we'll be told we have to send in more troops.”

The President realised that if the war became a white man’s affair, America would lose as surely as the French had. Kennedy was aware that America had drawn a line in Vietnam, and that he could not abandon it lightly. The President was in the position of being apparently unable to withdraw from the conflict, whilst refusing to adopt a policy of total war. Having convinced the Soviets of American credibility in the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, Kennedy began to reassess the American position in Asia. Defence Secretary Robert S. McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor reported back from Vietnam that one thousand troops could be withdrawn by the end of 1963, and that the United States would be able to withdraw all military personnel by the end of 1965.”

This plan was outlined in the Top Secret national Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 263, dated October 11th, 1963. This was the order to start the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. “It's their war,” President Kennedy stated “they're the ones who have to win it or lose it.” This stance was a serious deviation from the cold war policies of the past, and many speculated that it would be indicative of Kennedy's second term. The President realised that he would be labelled as being “soft on communism''. He described his policy thus: “If the American people do not want to use troops in Cuba how can I ask them to remove a Communist regime 9,000 miles away?” His sentiment was strengthened by the murder of Diem on November 1st,1963. “A high level meeting in Honolulu on November 20th, 1963 apparently adopted an 'accelerated plan' for reducing troop commitments.”

This new policy was to be short lived. Within weeks President Kennedy was assassinated and the American responsibility in Vietnam fell to Lyndon Johnson. John F. Kennedy had never been an advocate of fighting a land war in Asia, agreeing with General Douglas McArthur that to do so would be futile.” Lyndon Johnson however saw the situation in a different light. As Vice President he had visited Vietnam and had given Diem his word that America would fight to defend his country, referring to the corrupt leader as “the Winston S. Churchill of South East Asia.” This was contrary to American policy at the time, but Johnson saw that he had given his word, and he intended to keep it. To Kennedy, Vietnam had been a distant war, and one to be avoided. To Lyndon Johnson, it was almost personal.

One of Johnson's first acts as President was to sign National Security Action Memorandum 273, reversing Kennedy's withdrawal policy. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, so long in favour of strong military intervention in Vietnam, finally had a President who would fight in Asia. Having been elected in his own right in 1964, President Johnson began the build up of troops in Vietnam with military landings at Danang in March 1965. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution granted President Johnson the capacity to wage undeclared war in Vietnam though few in Congress could have predicted Johnson's escalation.

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