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Vietnam The War Goes On...

Vietnam The War Goes On... image Vietnam The War Goes On... image
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"We as a people have a choice ofletting the Vietnamese work out their problems politically - which means a total withdrawal of the U.S. military apparatus - or we allow the military to remain in Vietnam with the knowledge that eventually , that will mean a tremendous bloodbath. " On February 25, American journalist Don Luce, who has spent most of the last 1 5 vears in Vietnam, came to Ann Arbor to address a gatherk ing at the First Methodist Church. X His message was that the war is not over in Vietnam, and that ' Premier Thieu's military dic tatorship has failed to honor the accords of the 1973 Pa ris Peace Agreement - most notably in the continuing imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese people for "political" crimes. Contrary to the U.S. government's methodical and ongoing propaganda campaign to the effect that "peace with honor" has been reached in Vietnam, Luce asserted that the North is being bombed daily by the Thieu f egime with American supplied Honeywell anti-personnel bombs. Thieu's military pólice have forcefully prevented thousands of South Vietnamese refugees, now crowded into the slums of Saigon, from returning to their farms and native provinces, Luce stated, for fear that the refugees will join forces with the Provisional Revolutionary Government. Thieu has also refused the diplomatic immunity provided for in the Paris treaty to representatives of the North who have been sent south to supervise the cease-fire. And the U.S. government continúes to maintain large air strike forces in the countries bordering Vietnam, while the Seventh Fleet permanently cruises the coastline. "A return to large-scale fighting will come," Luce predicted, "if the Saigon government goes on violating the peace coras, ana 11 wui mean another quarter of a million Vietnamese killed by Americanmade weapons." Luce quoled the Swedish ambassador in Vietnam as having stated that if the present bombing rate of the North goes on, 200,000 Vietnamese will die in the next two years, and, Luce noted, this genocidal policy is "creating far more Vietcong than it is killing." The problem that Luce spokeat most lengtn about was tne plight ot political prisoners in South Vietnam These are civilians, numbering altogethér bet ween 1 5 0 ,000 and 200,000, taken pïisoner by U.S. and South Vietnamese military personnel prior to the ceasefire. The Paris agreement called for the unconditional and immediate release of all prisoners of war and, indeed, as the U.S. government with much patting of its own back let us all know, the Americans and Vietnamese held prisoner in the North have been sent home. Nonetheless, Thieu refuses to free the prisoners his government holds, and the U.S., which gave Thieu $2.7 billion or 80% of South Vietnam's national budget in 1973, goes on paying for and thus sanctioning Thieu's illegal actions. Luce visited several prisons in South Vietnam, and was one of the Americans who first discovered and saw the "tiger cage" jail cells at Con Son prison in 1970. In describing the cells, Luce said, "the tiger cages are small stone compartments, five feet by seven feet large. They are equipped with only one wooden bucket, and three to five prisoners are confined in one such cage, each shackled by the legs to steel bars. When we saw the 140 tiger cages at Con Son, they were all full, including about 300 women prisoners, ranging in age from fifteen years to one old blind lady who must have been nearly seventy. Above each cell was a bucket of caustic lime, which guards would pour on the inmates when they got out of line. All the prisoners were hungry, thirsty and showed obvious signs of having been beaten many times." In 1970, Luce went on to say, the U.S. government promised that all the tiger cages would be destroyed. In 1971 , the U.S. Navy awarded a $400,000 contract to an American fïrm (Raymond, Morrison, Knudsen, Brown, Root and Jones, owned in part by John Connally and Ms. Lyndon B. Johnson), for the construction of 384 new tiger cages for Vietnam. "We go to the movies and we see Papillon, " Luce told the audience, "and we get very upset when we see Steve McQueen in a tiger cage. Yet we are building them with our taxes for South Vietnam." People are still being arrested daily, Luce said, for "political" crimes, and, although the number of arrests is not as great as prior to the ceasefire (in 1972, Time magazine quoted a figure of 14,000 arrests per month), Thieu's government has passed new and incredibly repressive laws that serve to make anything short of blind allegiance illegal. For example, neutralism, under Thieu's rule, is defined by law as "pro-communist," and is punishable by up to five years in prison, in spite of the fact that the ceasefire agreement guarantees "personal freedom including freedom of speech and political activities." Luce also cited ArticleNo. 19 of Thieu's criminal code which authorizes the imprisonment without trial of persons "considered dangerous to the national defense" for a period of two years, which sentence can be renewed at the discretion of the government any number of times. "South Vietnam's political prisoners," Luce stated, "are detained by a pólice forcé which we finance, confined in prisons which we built, and interrogated and beaten by individuals we advise. If legal political activity continúes to be defined solely by Thieu's regime," Luce warned, then the war is bound to go on." In concluding his address, Don Luce asked that Americans take responsibility for what is being done in their name and with their dollars by protesting the immoral actions of Thieu. In particular, he requested that people write to the Congresspeople demanding help for the following political prisoners in South Vietnam: CAO TH1 QUE HUONG, a teacher, first arrested with her husband in 1970. Huong and her husband were tortured in front of each other, and her husband died in prison. She was released in 1972, after having been beaten to the point where she could no longer walk. In 1973 ' while working for the Committee to Reform the Prison System, she was rearrested, and there has been no further news of her. NGUYEN LONG, a 65 year old lawyer, imprisoned since 1965 for "destroying the morale of the people and the army" when he represented accused communists in a trial. Long is held in Chi Hoa prison, with near-blindness in one eye and is said to be in very poor health. HUYNH TAN MAM, a medical student and one of the best-known student spokespeople in South Vietnam. He has been in and out of jail constantly because of voiced opposition to the Saigon government, and was recently transferred fromNationalpolice headquarters in Saigon to Chi Hoa prison, in a state of partial paralysis as a result of torture. "Solzhenitsyn (the Soviet author) is in exile, not imprisoned in Russia," Luce said, "because of international concern. The Vietnamese political prisoners are in jail because of the lack of American concern." Luce said that writing to Congress about specific individuals, such as those listed above, would be more effective than a general protest over the fate of all. The last words Don Luce had for his audience were those of a young Vietnamese woman who had been a friend of his, but who died, burned to death, as a result of self-immolation. She had written"I wish to use my body as a torch to dissipate the darkness, to waken love among men, and to bring peace to Vietnam. Do not extermínate my people."