Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)

Tet Offensive
Phase 1: 30 January – 28 March, 1968
Phase 2: 5 May – 15 June, 1968
Phase 3: 17 August – 23 September 1968.

Martin Luther King, Jr.
assassinated in Memphis, TN
4 April 1968
Riots broke out in about 100 US cities and towns over many weeks.

Robert F. Kennedy
assassinated in Los Angeles, CA
6 June 1968
RFK had won the CA primary election for DP presidential nominee that day.

Richard M. Nixon
elected US president
5 November 1968

In the fall (October-November) of 1968 during his election campaign as the Republican Party’s nominee for US president, Richard Nixon sabotaged the Paris Peace Talks between the Johnson Administration and the Communist Party of Vietnam (“North Vietnam”), by using Anna Chennault (of the deposed Nationalist Chinese regime) as a secret agent to contact the South Vietnamese regime of Nguyen Van Thieu and have him renege on his commitment to send a delegation to the scheduled Paris peace negotiations (Nixon promised Thieu a better deal, if Nixon became President), so the peace talks failed by not even starting.

This was an act of treason by Nixon during a time of war.

Nixon used the “failure” of the Johnson Administration to either “win the war” (militarily) or bring the four combatants (North Vietnam and the ‘Viet Cong’ versus South Vietnam and the U.S.A.) into serious armistice and peace negotiations, as an electoral issue justifying voting for him. Nixon won (over the DP’s Hubert Humphrey) by less than 1% of the popular vote.

Nixon and Henry Kissinger (National Security Advisor, then Secretary of State) then expanded the war (into Laos and Cambodia), and only in 1973 – 5 years later – were they able to get the Hanoi government (the Communist government of North Vietnam, and their allied popular forces in South Vietnam: the ‘Viet Cong’) back to the negotiating table in Paris, with the Communists finally agreeing once again to the concessions they had originally made in 1968.

During the interim, 22,000 additional Americans had died in the war, and perhaps a million more people of Vietnam (north and south) as well as Laos and Cambodia. This is all described in Episode 7 of Ken Burns’ 10 episode TV series, “The Vietnam War” (2017).

It was 50 years ago this month (during Phase 1 of the Tet Offensive) that I registered for the draft. My college deferment was cancelled at the end of 1968, and I was 1-A all of 1969. Bureaucratic delaying tactics and luck kept me from being inducted, and I drew a very high number in the Draft Lottery of December 1969, and so was passed up.

A tense time, and one that ensured I would forever be some kind of leftist.

The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’


2 thoughts on “Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)

  1. The article above was reposted by Counterpunch:

    Why I Am Leftist (Vietnam War)
    21 March 2018

    A Counterpunch reader responded (below).

    Lee Roskin (via e-mail, 21 March 2018): what is “some kind of leftist”?

    What does that mean? What does that mean to you? There seems to be some kind of understanding that I don’t understand what the term means. I had a similar experience concerning the Draft as I used various delaying and other techniques to run out the clock on the VN War but I was drafted, indicted [sic] but ultimately avoided “service.” But I didn’t become a Leftist as I witness that term in such places as CounterPunch where I see a lot of reference to “we on the left.” I’m serious, not pedantic or ironic; what are you talking about that seems to have some informational, cognitive or psychological value or meaning to some select group of scribblers. BTW, what is a “lazy househusband” – – sounds rather derogatory, a bit insulting. I’ve been a lazy househusband and perhaps still am since I don’t work (for 40 years) and live with my wife and son in a fine old house in Cincinnati OH. I consider it a very high, productive, ethical calling. What does this make me: a pariah, a lazy nonLeftist, the despised, one of the losers. We seemed have gone different ways since the precious 70’s although we both avoided “service.” I don’t recall if you opposed VN war or just wanted to avoid it along with most of our current political leadership. I should point out that there are many “on the left” that favor expanded and new US wars. These are the ProWar Leftist that seeks to protect humanity with “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), that seek further military intervention here-and-there. You wouldn’t be one of those, would you?

    Manuel García (e-mail reply, 21 March 2018):

    Mr. Roskin,

    “Some kind of leftist” is a person who values attending to human (individual and thus societal) needs, equitably and democratically, more highly than being obsessed with the accumulation of extreme amounts of political power (authoritarianism) and wealth, or of being a servant to systems (capitalism, undemocratic communism) that accumulate those kinds of power for a select and unaccountable minority.

    I do not box myself in to a highly specific definition of my personal “kind of leftism” because I have had a very wide spectrum of critics who do that service for me by telling me just what kind of “leftist” I am, usually disapprovingly, either because they see my practice as opposed to theirs (i.e., “rightists,” “conservatives,” “libertarians,” “Republicans,” “patriots,” “liberals,” and so on) or they see me as deviant from the correct orthodoxy (theirs), which correct orthodoxy can be any of a seemingly unlimited number of microscopically defined “correct” ideologies in a “left” spectrum of sectarianism.

    I view myself as humanist and pragmatic, as opposed to ideological. I make an effort, in the things I write, to be clear about what I think and believe, and to say why that is so. I leave it to others, like you, to decide if what I’ve stated is good, bad, indifferent, useful, useless, informative, correct, incorrect, and so on.

    A “lazy househusband” is a humorous (to many) euphemism for a retired man who makes no claims of significance. Again, I leave it to the reader to choose his/her reactive attitude to that description, and to me. I neither make excuses nor apologies.

    I never spent time in Cincinnati OH, but I did visit areas near Cleveland close to Lake Erie during summer. It was nice.

    Like you, I also have children. My main reason for writing is to answer their questions, and help them find their own ways through their own times.


  2. WILLIAM GUDAL (via e-mail, 21 March 2018): “Why I Am A Leftist” Counterpunch 03/21/18

    Hi Mr. Garcia,

    What the U.S. did in Vietnam was pure evil, and will cause the soul of the United States to be stained and in perpetual turmoil for hundreds of years.

    However, please don’t use the term “leftist”. The following words should never be used in a political/societal context as they are meaningless and only distract from a meaningful discussion of the issues: left, right, Democrat, Republican, capitalism, socialism, and all the other isms.

    Further, I am sad you cited Ken Burns in any context, as he is a complete and disgraceful apologist for U.S. actions in Vietnam.

    Bill Gudal

    Mr. Gudal,

    Yes, what the U.S. did in Vietnam was pure bumbling evil, and this country has yet to deal with it in any significant way.

    I don’t deny myself the use of any words; and I do make an effort to be clear about my definitions (whether they are the generally accepted ones, or idiomatically my own) of the words I do use. In my science papers this is made explicit with a leading section called “definition of terms.”

    As to “meaningful discussions,” I find that depends less on vocabulary and more on whether or not you are dealing with thoughtful people capable of reaching agreement on the “definition of terms.”

    As to Ken Burns, I don’t self-censor, I analyze. This is the same technique that Noam Chomsky uses when reading the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.


Comments are closed.