Forever Tricky

The Nixon renaissance is over before it could really take hold…recent renovations at the Nixon library were designed to renew interest in the 37th President’s foreign policy achievements – and to potentially redeem his reputation.  The new scrutiny has allowed researchers to bring forward evidence that Nixon’s 1968 Presidential campaign actively disrupted Lyndon Johnson’s attempts at peace talks to end the Vietnam War.

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HR Haldeman’s hand-written notes detailing instructions from Nixon… to utilize powerful Republican donors with ties to China and Taiwan– ties that would thwart attempts by Johnson to bring North Vietnam to the negotiating table.  News of the potential for peace allowed Hubert Humphrey to close the gap with Nixon as the Summer of 1968 drew to a close.  Preventing the talks became essential campaign strategy for Nixon- his intermediaries worked tirelessly through October to build suspicion in China and in the South Vietnamese government.  The talks failed to materialize…. Nixon edged Humphrey by .07%  of the popular vote.

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AP/anonymous

Nixon publicly denied his involvement until his dying day… and his defenders are responding to the Haldeman notes by portraying the chances for peace as “slim.”  The impact of Nixon’s interference is for historians to now decide.  The consistent deceit is evidence itself of the historical magnitude of Nixon’s actions.

Vietnam- Policy and Intelligence Failure

America’s blind obedience to the dogmas of… monolithic communism and the Domino Theory led to tragedy of the Vietnam war.  In 1945, American intelligence officers established clear and firm links with the Viet Minh and its leader, Ho Chi Minh.  The Vietnamese nationalists of the Viet Minh were resisting Japanese rule and providing our OSS officers with valuable intelligence.  Ho Chi Minh sought the national self-determination Franklin Roosevelt seemed to be promising the world.  The OSS agents believed Ho to be the best alternative to govern Vietnam.  FDR let them both down.

America’s point man in Indochina was… Lt. Col. Archimedes Patti.  Dubbed “The Deer Team,”  Patti’s men contacted the Viet Minh and began to equip and train a select number of their best troops.  In return, the Viet Minh assisted in the recovery of downed American flyers, provided invaluable intelligence, and battled the Japanese.  With the surrender of Japan, Ho Chi Minh was prepared to move forward with Vietnamese independence- a dream thousands of years in the making.

Ho with US military intelligence, 1945
(Rene Defourneaux-Photo)

Ho Chi Minh dined with Lt. Col. Patti in late August 1945… to discuss the transfer of power and disarming Japanese troops.  Near the end of the meeting, Ho presented Patti a document- a draft of the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence he planned to release on September 2.  Patti was taken aback to read the words of Thomas Jefferson quoted reverently in the brief document.  Both men toasted the future of an independent Vietnam… Patti remembers,   “We had him, we had Ho Chi Minh on a silver platter…the Soviets were in no position to help him-only we could…I did prepare a large number, and I mean about, oh, well over fifteen position papers on our position in Vietnam. But I never knew what happened to them. Those things just disappeared, they just went down the dry well.”

Patti with General Giap

Roosevelt had already decided to give Indochina… back to the French.  Churchill insisted the French empire not be broken up, lest the British empire would follow.  Rather than disarm Japanese troops, British forces rearmed them and turned them against supporters of Ho Chi Minh’s government.  A temporary division of the country was allowed to solidify.  The OSS agents were marginalized, accused of fomenting revolution, and finally forced out of Saigon by the British commanders.  The expulsion led to the murder of Colonel Peter Dewey, America’s first casualty in Vietnam.  America had followed the wrong course, in spite of all the masterful intelligence work done by Archimedes Patti and his OSS team.  The Vietnam war was our fate

Kennedy and Cuba- A Lingering Trouble

JFK addressed the National Security Council following the Cuban Missile Crisis

Kennedy appears less than optimistic about the future of the Caribbean

Notes on Remarks by President Kennedy before the National Security Council Tuesday, January 22, 1963

I will start by reviewing areas of policy which will be before us in the coming months and indicate the general attitude which I have toward them and to emphasize where we might put our emphasis in the next few months.

The responsibilities of the United States are worldwide and the U.S. is the only country which is recognizing its wide responsibilities. We are part of NATO, SEATO, etc. and support other pacts even though we are not a part of them. Other nations are not doing their share.

Would like to say a word first about Cuba.

The indications are that the importance of timing is of paramount importance in reaching judgments–both by the USSR and the US. Our big problem is to protect our interests and prevent a nuclear war. It was a very close thing whether we would engage in a quarantine or an air strike. In looking back, it was really that it presented us with an immediate crisis and the USSR had to make their judgment and come to a decision to act in twelve hours. In looking back over that four or five day period, we all changed our views somewhat, or at least appreciated the advantages and disadvantages of alternate courses of action. That is what we should do in any other struggle with the Soviet Union–and I believe we will be in one in the future. We should have sufficient time to consider the alternatives. You could see that the Russians had a good deal of debate in a 48 hour period. If they had only to act in an hour or two, their actions would have been spasmodic and might have resulted in nuclear war. It is important that we have time to study their reaction. We should continue our policy even though we do not get Europe to go along with us.

The time will probably come when we will have to act again on Cuba. Cuba might be our response in some future situation–the same way the Russians have used Berlin. We may decide that Cuba might be a more satisfactory response than a nuclear response. We must be ready–although this might not come. We should be prepared to move on Cuba if it should be in our national interest. The planning by the US, by the Military, in the direction of our effort should be advanced always keeping Cuba in mind in the coming months and to be ready to move with all possible speed. We can use Cuba to limit their actions just as they have had Berlin to limit our actions.

[Here follows discussion of other subjects.]

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, NSC Meetings, 1963, No. 508, 1/22/63. No classification marking. A note at the top of the memorandum indicated it was drafted by a “CIA Reporter.” McGeorge Bundy prepared a briefing memorandum, January 21, for the President for this meeting. (Ibid.) The portion of Bundy’s memorandum on Cuba is in the Supplement.

Kennedy and Vietnam

Cold Warriors

Kennedy wanted to end the Vietnam war.   Conspiracy theorists on both sides point to National Security Memo #263 as the smoking gun in Kennedy’s secret plan to get our troops out of Vietnam; and, also Memo #273 as proof the warmonger Johnson wanted to escalate the war.  Both accounts are demonstrably false.  Memo #263 simply states that Kennedy wanted to follow the recommendations of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor following their visit to South Vietnam(withdrawal was not one of them.)   The second memo was drafted November 21, 1963 and is clearly a Kennedy document approved by Johnson.  In an interview given on the Huntley-Brinkley Report Kennedy reaffirmed our commitment to South Vietnam and his belief in the “domino theory.”  Kennedy did not want to end the war in South Vietnam and Johnson did not personally choose to escalate it. 

September 9, 1963: “I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”

Far too many amateurs historians have duped… suspicious  Americans for academic credibility and financial gain.  Oliver Stone lends his tarnished credibility to the misreading of a complicated series of policy decisions.  Stone does not deal in complexities- as a film maker, he prefers stories with heroes, villains, and tidy plots.  For reasons unknown, Stone and his acolytes refuse to accept Jack Kennedy for what he was- a Conservative Democrat committed to the policy of containment as laid down by his Democratic predecessor, Harry Truman.  Vietnam was a national tragedy and a painful scar on our history- trying to make John Kennedy the martyr of it is a fraudulent endeavor.

The Iron Curtain

Sir Winston Churchill told the truth… to the audience at Westminster College on March 5, 1946.  The Truman administration was trying to balance occupation with nation building- the Berlin airlift was still a year away.  The Soviet Union was still seen as “our Russian allies” despite their heavy-handed occupation of Eastern Europe.  Churchill warned Truman at the Potsdam Conference that Stalin was not to be trusted- Truman listened where Roosevelt had resisted at Yalta.  Stalin accused him of warmongering, but the United States instituted the policy of containment.

“From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an “Iron Curtain” has descended across the continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia; all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject, in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and in some cases increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

Hiss was the Wrong Martyr

This is an older post, as previously published, it was quite controversial. Students frequently ask me of this during our discussions of the Second Red Scare. Alger Hiss was not a victim of McCarthyism and he was definitely not a martyr. The American Communist Party of the 1930’s was not simply a social club our citizens could freely associate with; they were avowed Stalinists sworn to ending liberal democracy. Please click on the links provided for historical sources and evidence. Like this link to the most incriminating evidence–

Alger Hiss was ‘Ales’

AP Photo-public record

Alger Hiss was a Soviet agent… a spy, spook, traitor- all the same.  Hiss’s story was never frustrating, but the academics who defended him provided more than enough consternation over the decades.  Academia saw a victim, a noble man wronged by the excesses of McCarthyism and the ambition of Richard Nixon.  In many ways, it was the perfect script for Hiss- people never stopped talking about him.  He could have gone down as just another middling diplomat who briefly served at the UN– get in line, professor; but no, Hiss wanted it both ways.  He wanted the recognition, but on his terms- history be damned.

Even as the evidence mounted against him… Alger Hiss refused to surrender to the facts.  He was a hero in the minds of many, the case against him  had to be an elaborate plot.  Poor Whitaker Chambers first warned the State Dept. of Hiss in 1938, ten years before the infamous HUAC encounter.  Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko confirmed the bulk of Chambers’ accusations, but still the Hiss charade soldiered on.  Hiss’s popularity carried over the generations as Hollywood made certain the public couldn’t forget the poor American communists victimized by the Red Scare.  Even the appearance of Hiss in decrypted Soviet messages weren’t enough- he may have been ALES, but to the American left, he was a martyr.

Liberal historian, Allen Weinstein… wanted to write the definitive work vindicating Hiss in 1977.  His exhaustive research provided just the opposite- the evidence, even in 1977, definitively proved Hiss had lied. Alger Hiss died in 1996 as thousands of left-leaning academics continued to proclaim his innocence.  And another crime emerges- Hiss let it happen, he lived a lie and allowed his followers to ruin their reputations- all for his vanity.