Two and One Half Hiroshimas Every Week
An Interview with Rennie Davis
photo caption: South Vietnamese students take to the streets to protect the treatment of political prisoners by the Siagon government.
Sun/Dance: As someone who has had fairly regular communication with the Vietnamese, what is their view of this period? Are things slowing down in Vietnam and staying at the same level, as they seem to be here?
Rennie: No Vietnam is not slowing down. It's more like preparing for a flashpoint. Pentagon reports would have us believe that the Vietcong are running out of breath, and that "pacification" of the rural hamlets is a great success. But recent events indicate that the Vietnamese resistance is sweeping from the countryside into the highest levels of the Siagon administration and the puppet army -- to the point where the CIA itself leaked a secret report several months ago which claimed that there were 30,000 Viet Cong agent in the government. There is a new reality in South Vietnam today, one that has the potential of overthrowing the Puppet Regime that Nixon was banking on to carry out his Vietnamization program.
SD: You've been speaking a lot recently about a Mr. Ngo Cong Duc. Would you run that down?
Rennie: Duc is a member of the National Assembly in South Vietnam. He edits Siagon's largest daily, Tin Sang. He's president of the Federation of South Vietnamese Journalists, a rich landlord from the Delta elected in 1967 as a respected Catholic. This was a man who was considered neutral, or safe, to the Saigon Administration. Yet four days after Madame Nguyen Thi Binh (chief negotiator for the NLF at the Paris Peace Talks) issued her eight point proposal for ending the war, Duc was in Paris preparing for a bombshell press conference.
On September 21, at the press conference, Duc said a people's uprising against the Thieu-Ky regime had already begun. He said all Vietnamese now demanded immediate, total U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam, the overthrow of the Thieu administration, and the establishment of a provisional Government of independent and peace forces, that could then negotiate directly with the Provisional Revolutionary Government in order to establish a new government rid of US influence. A statement like this results in execution or a long prison sentence in Saigon. Duc was expected to go immediately into exile somewhere in Europe. Instead, he got on a plane and flew back to Saigon. And as he returned, Vietnam flashed its support for his position, thunderous support which suggested a new force emerging out of years of quiet, skillful organizing. The deputy bishop of the Catholic Church, the Vice-President of the National Assembly declared their support for the Duc statement. So-called "government controlled" newspaper plastered it all over Vietnam, with the message that virtually every women's, student, worker and war-veteran organization in Vietnam was aligning itself with this open call to rebellion.
Duc's like is in great jeopardy. By Saigon's fraudulent constitution, he is supposed to have immunity to any statement he makes, in as much as he is a member of the national Assembly. But Law and Order in Saigon is even more obscene than in the United States. The criminals decided what the law and order will be for the rest of the population. But those in power haven't moved yet because they know that an assassination attempt on Duc's life at this time could very well trigger the uprising he called for in Paris.
SD: What was Madame Binh's 8 point peace proposal?
Rennie: Madame Binh's proposal, made on September 17 in Paris, is the concrete expression of the new forces emerging to overthrow the Thieu regime. The Vietnamese believe Nixon should be given a face saving device to avoid the embarrassment and humiliation of defeat. The 8 point program is made from a position of enormous strength, not weakness as some of the Vietnam analysis fools have tried to suggest in the press. It is put forward as a proposal that answers the American propaganda and embraces American public opinion. American minds have been stirred crazy by the prisoner of war issue. Madame Binh offers a concrete way to release all POWs. Americans want a cease fire, so withdrawing US troops can get out safely and the bloodshed can stop. Madame Binh offers a proposal for a cease fire. Americans want a process established so that free and democratic elections can decide South Vietnam's future. Madame Binh details such a proposal. These and other points are possible if Nixon will set a deadline for total troop withdrawal. Madame Binh suggests the date of June 30, 1971, a date that had majority support in the US, but she has recently made it clear that any reasonable date is acceptable, if Nixon would only put a date on the conference table in Paris. Nixon's 5 point program for "peace," of course, is a clever ploy calling for a cease fire and an end to the fighting but refusing to recognize the basic right of Vietnamese to self determination. The fact is that Nixon seeks a military victory in Vietnam and that he has no intention of getting out. Otherwise, he would set a date for withdrawal and allow the war to end and elections to be established.
SD: Madame Binh's proposal was totally ignored by the Western press.
Rennie: Well, that imbecile diplomat that the Vietnamese have to meet with every week, David Bruce, simply reduced the Vietnamese proposal to a wine and bottle joke. "Nothing new" was what he said and that was trumpeted into the US newspapers.
SD: Could you talk about the prisoner situation in South Vietnam?
Rennie: The prisoner situation is very important, not only because it is one of the clearest examples of the fascist regime that the United States established in South Vietnam. An ordinary meeting in a University, where people would get together to discuss the question of peace, could result in a third of the meeting being picked up afterward. Key speakers and organizers of the event would be taken to police headquarters, held with no charges leveled against them, tortured, interrogated and beaten for three months, and then finally charged with violating some law of "national security." For attending this meeting they might be sentenced to three years at ConSon, which is an island off Vietnam's major harbor that holds ten thousand political prisoners.
At ConSon they'd be taken to a cage -- a 10x5 closed room with no windows where the walls are one-yard thick of solid stone. In the Vietnamese climate this is like being put in an oven. Five people would be placed in here, one beside the other, leaving two feet of room for each body. These people's feet would then be raised by iron clamps, approximately fourteen inches off the ground. A prisoner would remain in this condition for this three-year prison sentence, except for the few times he is brought down for a beating outside of his cell. The condition is so invariable that after several months one literally looks forward with pleasure to the beatings, because they help relieve the endless unbearable repetition of the confinement. The nightmare continues with the question of diet. The prisoner receives a small cup of rice that has been doused in a rotten, decayed, fermented fish-sauce, a foul smelling substance that Vietnamese peasants sometimes use on animal composts. This and 1/3 of a cup of water a day. When a prisoner is taken out for a beating, he usually tries to fall down on the ground and pick up a few blades of green grass, so as to have something fresh to eat. Their digestion system, their nervous system, their internal being suffers permanent damage. Saigon newsmen who follow conditions at these prisons estimate that there are now 200,000 political prisoners in South Vietnam undergoing these conditions every day. This is what you're up against if you raise even the slightest questions about the Saigon regime. Nevertheless, young people, even as I speak, are in the streets of South Vietnam, battling with the police, fortifying the Universities, and preparing for the upcoming break-out.
SD: What about the bombing of IndoChina?
Rennie: The main function of the Vietnamization plan has been to deflate anti-war sentiment at home with token troop withdrawals, while replacing the foot-soldier with the machine as the instrument of mass murder in Vietnam. The GI search and destroy mission is being replaced by an electronic "sensor" which can detect human movement and relay information to a central computer capable of delivering sophisticated bombing instructions to the 7th Fleet and to the F-150's parked in Thailand. Most people simply aren't aware of the increase in saturation bombing raids in Laos and Cambodia and South Vietnam that represent the reality of Nixon's peace efforts. In Laos, for example, the bombing has increased seven times under Nixon from what it was under Johnson. It's now twenty-seven thousand flying missions every month! Approximately one-half of Cambodia has been turned into a free-fire zone, where American planes can drop bombs indiscriminately on anything that moves. And the bombing of Vietnam, which used to be spread over North and South, is now confined only to the South. Nixon's Vietnamization program has come to represent the equivalent of two and a half Hiroshima's in explosive power ignited on the villages and hamlets of IndoChina, every single week! It's a totally staggering and unimaginable nightmare.
SD: The Vietnamese have called for negotiations directly with the American people. Could you talk about this?
Rennie: The other night, a Harris public opinion poll flashed out that 61% of everyone wanted out of Vietnam. The Vietnamese, of course, know these sentiments and have decided to recognize them by negotiating a peace treaty directly with the American people. In December, a delegation of student body presidents and college editors organized by the US National Student Association, traveled to Saigon and Hanoi to explore the feasibility of a separate people's peace treaty. The students were enthusiastically received. A document was put together by the Vietnamese that represents the thinking of virtually every organization in Vietnam, a treat of peace that most Americans could readily accept.
The peace treaty is being brought to a mass conference of students and youth in Ann Arbor on the weekend of Feb. 5-7, to begin designing ways of bringing it to the attention of every American who wants peace.
This treaty is perhaps unprecedented in history. What we're saying is that conditions exist for ending the war now, conditions that have been made possibly by the Vietnamese, not by Nixon, and that we should simply by-pass the illegitimate government in Washington, and establish our own peace with the Vietnamese people, who will be fighting for their lives and nation this spring.
photo caption: Rennie Davis
photo credit: Ken Light
JOINT TREATY OF PEACE BETWEEN THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES AND THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH VIETNAM AND NORTH VIETNAM
Be it known that the American and Vietnamese people are not enemies. The war is carried out in the names of the people of the United States and South Vietnam but without our consent. It destroys the land and people of Vietnam. It drains America of its resources, its youth and its honor.
We hereby agree to end the war on the following terms, so that both peoples can live under the joy of independence and can devote themselves to building a society based on human equality and respect for the earth.
1. The Americans agree to immediate and total withdrawal from Vietnam and publicly to set the date by which all American forces will be removed.
The Vietnamese pledge that as soon as the U.S. Government publicly sets a date for total withdrawal:
2. They will enter discussions to secure the release of all American prisoners, including pilots captured while bombing North Vietnam.
3. There will be an immediate cease-fire between U.S. forces and those led by the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam.
4. They will enter discussions of the procedure to guarantee the safety of all withdrawing troops.
5. The Americans pledge to end the imposition of Thieu-Ky-Khiem on the people of South Vietnam in order to insure their right to self-determination and so that all political prisoners can be released.
6. The Vietnamese pledge to form a provisional coalition government to organize democratic elections. All parties agree to respect the results of elections in which all South Vietnamese can participate freely without the presence of any foreign troops.
7. The South Vietnamese pledge to enter discussion of procedures to guarantee the safety and political freedom of those South Vietnamese who have collaborated with the U.S. or with the U.S. supported regime.
8.The Americans and Vietnamese agree to respect the independence, peace and neutrality of Laos and Cambodia in accord with the 1954 and 1962 Geneva conventions and not to interfere in the internal affairs of these two countries.
9. Upon these points of agreement, we pledge to end the war and resolve all other questions in the spirit of self-determination and mutual respect for the independence and political freedom of the people of Vietnam and the United States.
By ratifying this agreement, we pledge to take whatever actions are appropriate to implement the terms of this Joint Treaty of Peace, and to insure its acceptance by the government of the United States.
People's Peace Treaty
P.O. Box 203
Old Chelsea Station
New York, New York 10011