Sunday, November 10, 2013

JFK was getting us out of Vietnam


In today's New York Times:


To the Editor:

In her essay on John F. Kennedy, Jill Abramson states: “The belief that he would have limited the American presence in Vietnam is rooted as much in the romance of ‘what might have been’ as in the documented record.”

The record shows that on Oct. 2 and 5, 1963, President Kennedy issued a formal decision to withdraw American forces from Vietnam. I documented this 10 years ago in Boston Review and Salon, and in 2007 in The New York Review of Books.

The relevant documents include records of the Secretary of Defense conference in Honolulu in May 1963; tapes and transcripts of the decision meetings in the White House; and a memorandum from Gen. Maxwell Taylor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Oct. 4, 1963, which states: “All planning will be directed towards preparing RVN forces for the withdrawal of all U.S. special assistance units and personnel by the end of calendar year 1965.”

JAMES K. GALBRAITH
AUSTIN, TEX.

The writer is a professor of government at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.

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1 Comments:

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous sfthen said...

The Maxwell Taylor memo that J.K. Galbraith quotes as revelatory is in the Pentagon Papers (published 1971), it is not new news. The proposal was for withdrawal of all US personnel two full years from the memo date and thus left a lot of room for contingencies. It also has a lot of optimism about success of the current military involvement.

Events moved forward in history in way that the McNamera-Taylor Report to the Prsident never considered.

Nothing is mentioned in that report about how the captain of PT-109 should respond is say a North Vietnamese (a John Wayne in 'They Were Expendable') PT boat attacked a US destroyer. Given that LBJ inherited JFK's advisors intact it's quite possible that if November 22, 1963 never happened the response to Tonkin would still have been the same.

Instead of a promulgation of war the politicians and military used ``the gradual approach. If officials had a master plan that would say for example that 'we will send half a million US troops into South Vietnam over the next few years' they would utterly fail in the next election. It would be too drastic.''

The italicized part above is not from Pentagon Papers, it's a paraphrase from a Jan Gehl interview on how they put bike lanes in Copenhagen, the Vietnam technique, ``the city made it gradually more difficult for people to drive and park,'' same type of people, same techniques that got America into Vietnam, they're just near the bottom of the political hierarchy (sfgov) instead of the top.

(that Metroplis Magazine 2002 interview is still linked in the Jan Gehl Wikipedia entry but is no longer available on the metropolismag.com web site; no idea why)

 

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