A Christmas Tale, by Richard Nixon


As Donald Trump readies himself to become Commander-in-Chief, he has already signalled that he wants to start another arms race, to expand and outmatch America’s nuclear rivals–presumably China and Russia principally.  The media and liberals are justifiably in arms, but again using this as evidence of Trump’s unique extremism.  That’s the problem.  By refusing to look at Trump and his words and ideas as in any way “normal” the opposition creates a political monster that becomes difficult to slay.  Throughout the primaries, enemies bombarded him daily with insults comparing him to Nazis and Fascists, and he was elected president.  He’s surely despicable on so many levels, but calling him a Nazi is just lazy and doesn’t mean anything, and obviously failed as a political tactic.  Trump was/is a very right-wing Republican–not unlike his immediate GOP predecessors the Bushes and Reagan, or even his rivals this year like Kasich, Rubio, or Cruz.  He’s just more vulgar and outlandish but if you look at what they actually believe, most of them (with Hillary Clinton in the same area code) believe in mostly the same things.

A good example of this is in the excerpt below.  In 1972 Richard Nixon shocked the world with his “Christmas Bombings,” a vicious series of air attacks against northern Vietnam just as it seemed the war was ending.  Nixon sabotaged his own peace plan and unleashed a massive campaign from the air against the enemy.  Taking it forward, it’s not much different than the Hillary-Clinton -inspired destruction of Libya.    Trump is dangerous and reprehensible and poses a threat to stability, absolutely, but in that way he’s following the tradition of every U.S. president in the Cold War era, a rogue’s gallery of war criminals who should have been on the docket in the Hague.

This section on Nixon and the Christmas Bombings comes from my Vietnam and the Transformation of American Life.vntal

In July 1972, then, Kissinger and Le Duc Tho resumed their private talks in Paris. TheUnited States was willing to back off its insistence that northern troops be withdrawn from the south–after all, if the U.S. military could not dislodge them, then they were not going to leave on their own. For its part, the DRVN backed down from its demand that that United State suspend support for the Thieu regime and replace it with a coalition that would include the PRG. On 8 October, Le Duc Tho offered Kissinger a nine-point proposal to end the war. In it, he rescinded calls for Thieu’s removal and the establishment of a coalition government; was willing to accept a cease-fire prior to a political settlement; called for the removal of all “foreign” troops; and wanted to limit all military aid to the replacement of used supplies. Politically, Tho was willing to recognize two “administrative entities” in the south–the Thieu government and the PRG.Kissinger, eager for an agreement before the 7 November presidential elections, assented to the proposal, declaring to the world that “peace is at hand.” If only Nixon and Thieu had agreed!

The southern Vietnamese had been left out of the negotiations between Kissinger and LeDuc Tho, so Thieu immediately began to monkeywrench the process. In late October, the RVN leader listed 69 objections to the nine-point program. Thieu was enraged that northern troops would remain in the south and that the PRG was recognized as an institutional entity. He also issued “Four Nos” regarding any agreement: no recognition of the enemy; no neutralization in the south; no coalition government; and no surrender of territory. Kissinger was furious at Theiu and wanted Nixon to threaten to cut off all aid to the RVN unless its president fell in line with the deal. By that time, however, Nixon was quite sure that he would easily be re-elected, with or without a settlement in Vietnam, so he simply dismissed the agreement between Kissinger and Hanoi. In turn, Kissinger issued a new round of threats to the DRVN, promising more air strikes and breaking off talks, while also demanding to reopen the question of northern troops remainingin the south. In short order, Kissinger had double-crossed Thieu; Thieu had done the same to Nixon; Nixon then did it to Kissinger; and Kissinger to Le Duc Tho. Years earlier Bob Dylan had written that “to live outside the law you must be honest.” Apparently, Nixon and Kissinger had not been listening to Blonde on Blonde in the Fall of 1972.

In both Saigon and Washington, there were immediate and catastrophic repercussions to the breakdown. In the RVN, Thieu began a series of large-scale arrests of so-called dissidents, detaining many without trial, and he began reclassifying political prisoners as “criminals” in order to exclude them from any Prisoner of War exchange or amnesty. In the United States, Nixon won a landslide reelection victory against George McGovern, though he still had not unveiled his “secret plan” to end the war from 1968. Kissinger, citing “nuances” and “technicalities,” was still blaming the DRVN for the failure of the October talks, and he described Hanoi’s representatives as “just a bunch of shits. Tawdry, filthy shits.” And the U.S. media just went along for the ride, creating the impression that the Vietnamese had disrupted the peace process. Nixon, thus politically protected and emboldened, played “madman” once again and commenced Linebacker II, better known as the “Christmas Bombings.”

Beginning on 18 December and lasting eleven days, the saturation bombing campaign “was a final and devastating evidence of Nixon’s willingness to unleash U.S. power.” Fighter jets such as F-105s, F-4s, andF-111s and over 200 B-52 bombers flew round-the-clock missions for a week and a half againstthe DRVN in what Kissinger’s aide Roger Morris called “calculated barbarism.” Air Force tactical aircraft flew over 1000 sorties and B-52s another 750, and they dropped a combined total of over 40,000 tons of bombs, hitting not only military and communications facilities but also docks, shipyards, workplaces, residential areas, and the DRVN’s biggest hospital. In some places, the B-52s left craters with diameters of 50 feet. The northern Vietnamese had prepared for the raids in underground shelters and tunnels, and still lost 1600 civilians, which was not a significant number compared to other civilian deaths during the U.S. air war.

Linebacker II caused serious destruction in the DRVN, but at a great cost. NorthVietnam, utilizing its own considerable antiaircraft capabilities–with over 1000 surface-to-air missiles–downed well over 20 tactical aircraft and 15 B-52s (though Hanoi claimed to have downed 34 and the U.S. Pentagon privately admitted to higher numbers), and also shot down 44 American pilots. Politically, Nixon’s air attacks were condemned across the globe, with the Vatican and European leaders speaking out against the bombings–Swedish Prime Minister Olaf Palme compared them to Nazi atrocities–and both the Soviet Union and China threatening to reconsider detente. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev publicly blasted the “longest and dirtiest” war in U.S. history while Zhou Enlai and Mao’s wife attended a mass rally in Beijing in support of the PRG and its foreign minister, Madame Nguyen Thi Binh.

At home, about two-thirds of U.S. senators polled opposed the Linebacker bombings and were threatening to pull funding forthe war, while the president’s approval rating, barely a month after his overwhelming reelection victory, fell to just 39 percent. Nixon would claim, in 1973 and repeatedly thereafter, that the Christmas bombings had forced Hanoi to accept the treaty that ended the war; in truth, the United States bombed itself into a final settlement. Linebacker II amounted to a terror bombing campaign, had little, if any, military purpose, and backfired politically. By January 1973, even Richard M. Nixon could see that the war in Vietnam had to end.

About buzzanco

Historian, Agitator, Sicilian
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