Waging a war has both social and economic consequences. As a result, some people support the war, while others oppose it based on their understanding of its merits and demerits. The Vietnam War divided the population’s opinion, especially because it took a long time to end. As a result of economic and social strain on the American people, various groups wanted the war to end. The people included citizens, whose friends and family members had died in the war, and veterans that survived. The anti-war proponents shared similar beliefs about the war not being justified and reasons for its end. Moreover, they used different media to communicate their displeasure.
The first common belief that people had about the illegitimacy of the Vietnam War was that it led to war crimes. The theme of war crimes as a reason for American withdrawal from Vietnam is evident in the three texts. In the congressional testimony by Kerry, the US troops performed illegal acts on ordinary people in Vietnam that amounted to war crimes. The American soldiers acted indiscriminately against people in Vietnam, regardless of who they were. Some of the actions that Kerry (1971) mentions include razing down villages, blowing up bodies, cutting limbs, rape and poisoning of food stocks. Such crimes threatened the foundation, upon which the American society was built and thus the war should end. The Vietnamese people were not treated as humans. The American military had designated areas of free firing zones. In such zones, the soldiers were permitted to shoot anything that was moving, which led to the killing of non-combatant civilians. While the United States had not signed the Geneva Convention agreements on human rights, it supported their preservation. However, the actions of the soldiers went against human rights expectations and thus were defined as war crimes. Ngo Dinh Diem tortured and killed his opponents at will. Despite such atrocities, the American government supported his regime and provided him with financial and military support. Such an act by the American government was unacceptable because the taxpayers’ money was used to finance a dictator who did not respect democracy. Therefore, the war had to end because the American intervention contravened its stand on democracy. One reason given to justify the American involvement was that the North Vietnamese people wanted to force communism on the entire country. America wanted to ensure that people had the right to choose democratically their government. The opponents of the Vietnam War argued that democracy should enable everybody to seek elective positions, including the communists. Consequently, the war had to end because the American presence in Vietnam denied people their freedom to exercise democratic rights by barring the communists from participating in the electoral process.
The second belief that supported the withdrawal of the American soldiers from Vietnam was that the war was racially biased. The government was perpetuating the vices it was fighting at home in Vietnam. He mentions that African-Americans made up the largest number of casualties, despite being a minority group. The black Americans were given more dangerous tasks compared to other racial groups in the military. Kerry’s views indicated that as long as people had sacrificed to serve their country, they did not deserve discrimination and should be treated with honor. As such, the military that did not respect its soldiers, who made tremendous sacrifices, did not deserve to be in Vietnam purporting to promote freedom. Racism is evident when the Indian American testified that other soldiers despised him because of his ethnicity. The soldier said that he perceived himself as an American warrior. The discrimination, therefore, incapacitated the American abilities to promote liberties and freedoms abroad, while it had not been achieved for its people. As such, the United States did not have a moral authority to provide democratic assistance to Vietnam and thus they needed to withdraw from there. The theme of racism as a reason to end the war in Vietnam is further elaborated in Bond’s ‘anti-war comic’. Bond (1974) raises questions on why the Negro should fight for America, yet the country has never fought for him. Bond claims that the Negro is first on the battlefield but a second class citizen in America. Such views were likely to fuel discontent among Black Americans about their involvement in the Vietnam War.
The third common belief across the three texts is that the Vietnamese people did not require American help to win their war. Before the American involvement, the Vietnamese people were fighting for their independence from the French. Vietnam had managed to compel the French to surrender and signed an agreement witnessed by countries such as England, China, and Russia. The country was to hold an election, which would lead to the unification of Vietnam. As such, America did not have to intervene because the Vietnamese had already won its war for independence. The soldiers learned certain truths when they fought in Vietnam. One of those truths was that the Vietnamese people had the power to fight the war without assistance. Additionally, the fight did not involve the North against South Vietnam, but a common war for independence. Thus, the American support of the South was unjustifiable and had to end. Some of the Vietnamese interviewed in the ‘Hearts and Minds’ said that they could fight on their own because they had done so against invaders throughout their history. They viewed America as a tyrant that wanted to perpetuate imperialism in Vietnam. The opinions attempted to invalidate the presence of the Americans in Vietnam and appealed for public support to end the war.
The fourth similar belief is that the government lied to the country about various aspects of the war, and thus people could not trust it. According to Kerry (1971), Vietnamese citizens did not know the difference between democracy and communism. Claiming that the North was forcing communism on the South was a lie because they could not spread something they did not even understand. Additionally, the people in Vietnam did not care about all individuals involved in the fight and supported whichever side they thought would ensure their survival. Consequently, there was no way the Vietnamese from both the North and the South could be having ideological differences yet all they wanted was peace. The submission also attested to the view that there was no threat in South Vietnam warranting the continuation of the war. The same lie about America fighting for its interests in Vietnam was evident in Bond’s ‘antiwar comic’, as the government claimed it was fighting the Chinese aggression against South Vietnam. There was no need for America to send soldiers in Vietnam because the Chinese had no soldiers there. Consequently, the government lied about its war intentions. The influence of China on South Vietnam did not require a military campaign because Chinese have not done military confrontation. The government lies should make people question America’s intentions and actually demand the end to the war. One lie was that the war was ending because the enemy almost gave up. In ‘Hearts and Minds’, Vietnamese were ready to continue resisting the presence of foreigners as long as they had food to eat. They said that even if the food was over, they would grow some more and continue resisting. Since the people’s will was not relenting, the government’s claim that the enemy had capitulated was a lie. Additionally, the National Liberation Front could recruit any number of people even after a decade of war. Such willingness of the people to join the fight contrasted sharply with the government’s claim that the enemy was giving up the fight. The lies indicated sinister motives and dishonesty of the government and necessitated the withdrawal from Vietnam.
In conclusion, the similar beliefs about the reasons the war should end include war crime allegations, racism, Vietnam’s ability to fight its wars, and government lies about the war. In all the three texts, there is evidence that American soldiers committed war crimes, which is a ground for terminating the war. The racism within the military denied America the moral authority to support the freedom of the Vietnamese people since it was unable to guarantee protection from discrimination to its people. The Vietnamese citizens had fought and won their independence war, which negated the need for American involvement. Finally, the government lied about its intentions in Vietnam and the war coming to an end.
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