by Richard McAloon
January 9, 1973
While you and I were entertaining ourselves and engaging in pleasurable pursuits during the recent vacation, our President, Richard M. Nixon, was decimating Vietnam, destroying the constitution, undermining our Democratic system and just generally bludgeoning his way into history books with a form of terrorism not usually associated with a leader of the United States.
Nixon unleashed 40,000 tons of bombs on North Vietnam during the period beginning with Dec. 18 and concluding with the beginning of the new year. This is comparable in magnitude to the famous bombing raids of World War II, which devastated Dresden, Hamburg, London and Coventry. It is probable that 1,310 North Vietnamese were killed and a total of 1,261 were casualties of our raids upon “militarily significant targets.” Those statistics are from people defending their homeland from indiscriminate United States Air Force B-52 bombers, so there are probably some American patriots, who would question their validity.
Our defense of the freedoms of the South Vietnamese from their North Vietnamese brethren also caused us to lose 98 more young men, not to mention 28 United States Air Force planes. Although Pentagon spokesmen refuse to divulge many details about the raids for fear of jeopardizing the peace talks (I wonder if the North Vietnamese do not have access to the exact amounts and degree of destruction that will makes them more amenable to our guidelines for territorial settlement in their country.)
Richard Nixon has finally condescended and informed congressional leaders and by inference the American people, that the reason for his majestic decisions to unleash merciless devastation upon the urban areas of North Vietnam was because the “North Vietnamese were stalling at the peace talks. President Nixon certainly did not hesitate to evacuate either his constitutional responsibility to consult Congress before his despicable inhuman activity nor did he fail continuously to ignore his responsibility to our democratic system by informing the American people why suddenly “stalling” has become some unusual phenomenon.
The Vietnamese have been engaging in that activity ever since 1945, when Ho Chi Minh discovered that Vietnamese would not have sole control over Vietnam. The archaic concept of protecting 17 million Vietnamese in South Vietnam from communism and fending off the “Red Menace” from our allies has become not only meaningless but absurd.
Our two closest allies to Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia, have not only elected socialist governments, desiring to establish diplomatic relations with Communist China, but have also withdrawn all military support from our morally bankrupt venture in Vietnam.
The new government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in Australia actually sent a note of censure to the president for his bombing in Vietnam and our ocean vessels servicing Vietnam are not permitted into Australian harbors at the present moment. So much for our allies fearing the communists. Our European allies have been only noticeable for their silence during our recent bombing jaunts but this is not because the governments have not been goaded to protest. The London Times said it was “the most pulverizing saturation bombing” and “not the conduct of a man, who wants peace.”
L’Express, France’s largest weekly said viciously, “Nixon is no longer, and will never again be, a respectable man. That is, if he ever was one.” The outrage was truly universal. Olof Palme, the prime minister of Sweden, compared the bombing raids to the activities of Hitler. Nixon’s response was to inform the Swedish government that they need not bother sending any diplomatic representative to this country in the foreseeable future.
This does not differ from his attitude toward the American people as recently, through a representative, Charles Whitehead, he proposed legislation advocating censorship of television news. This translates into the following: there should be far less criticism of Nixon. This, is in addition to the continuing harassment and jailing of newsmen, scholars and intellectuals, who have the temerity to question the policies and directions of this administration. For a democracy to function, there must be a free press and there must be certain information from the government, even if it only concerns motivations.
Also, there must be some adherence to the constitutional imperative of consulting with Congress prior to jeopardizing the people of this country, even though for the majority it is a psychological and metaphysical jeopardy, with the relentless human destruction of war. George McGovern said of Nixon’s recent bombing “that it was the cruelest and most insane act of a long and foolish war, and that he carried it out without a trace of constitutional authority and without so much as a glance toward Capitol Hill.” The qualities of evil, its arbitrariness, its randomness and its capriciousness afflict and affect us all, not only the dead Vietnamese and Americans. This is memorably depicted in the new film, Deliverance. In Deliverance evil was symbolized by demoniac mountain men; gleaming silver jets are a sleeker version of human indifference, evil, which haunts and stalks us all in the form of crime and our inability to trust and assist one another. So let us entertain ourselves.
Richard McAloon wrote for The Miami Hurricane in 1973.