Last Days in Vietnam

It should be no surprise in all of my reading focusing on The Vietnam War that I would of course take full advantage of PBS’s offer to watch a free stream of the broadcast of Last Days in Vietnam. This was a 2015 Emmy nominated documentary that did not win last night.
Last Days in VietnamAmerica made a generational investment in both Vietnam and Southeast Asia. We today reflect and measure that commitment in blood and money. It is still difficult to watch two democracies struggled to fight a dedicated communist enemy.

I hope anyone can appreciate the difficult position American soldiers and staff at the US Embassy faced in the days of the war. Their interviews about the experience they faced in light of our Ambassador’s delusion that the south could establish an outcome similar to a South Korean truce two years after US troops departed.
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Nixon’s final act of treason revealed

The Atlantic has picked up an article from the BBC who released audio tapes of President Johnson regarding GOP candidate Richard Nixon’s sabotage of the October 1968 Peace talks in Paris regarding Johnson’s bid to end the US involvement in the Vietnam war.

Nixon Johnson
Johnson ordered FBI wiretaps on the GOP’s candidate that actually caught Nixon manipulating the South Vietnamese Government to boost his own Presidential aspirations in coming the November Presidential election.  Those wiretaps caught Nixon dispatching a GOP supporter Anna Chennault to meet with South Vietnamese President Thieu to promise Nixon would offer the South a better deal if he rejected Johnson’s invite to Paris.

The LBJ tapes were initially released in November 2008. History shows us (again) that Nixon was committing treason against the United States.  This release was even picked up by Slate’s Political Gabfest, but gained no real traction in the media.  Simply put – Nixon is dead.
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Robert Bork’s Saturday Night Massacre

Robert Bork died this week. While many recall his failed US Supreme Court nomination I will always remember his actions as Nixon’s hatchman during the infamous Saturday Night MassacrePlease jump to the 4:43 mark of this video:

At the time Nixon’s Watergate affair was spinning out of control. Archibald Cox, appointed as the Watergate Special Prosecutor demanded access to newly revealed White House tapes after Alexander Butterfield, the President’s Deputy Assistant acknowledged a taping system was installed by Nixon.

Nixon refused to comply with a court ruling that indeed he turn over his tapes and then ordered Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire Cox. Richardson refused and was fired. Nixon then ordered Richardson’s Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox but he also refused and was also fired by Nixon. Next in line was Robert Bork, then Solicitor General. He did comply with Nixon’s order and fired Cox.  Within hours Nixon ordered the FBI to seal off the offices of the Special Prosecutor, The Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General.

It was a clear and last act the Imperial President and it was a watershed moment in our constitutional.  The next day tens of thousands of Western Union telegrams flooded Congress by the American public insisting on impeaching Nixon.

Bork’s role in the Massacre, firing Cox sealed his fate fourteen years later when President Reagan nominated him for the Supreme Court.

Watergate’s Chuck Colson

Chuck Colson died Saturday. I think he will be remember more for his post Watergate actions than the Un-American acts he managed in Nixon’s White House. Regrettably today’s short attention span media will focus on the last years of his life rather than painfully share again with America the lessons of those in control of power in the beltway.

Chuck was a member of the Watergate Seven and will be forever tied to the illegal actions of breaking into the private offices of psychiatrist Dr. Lewis Fielding and stealing files relating to patient Dan Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers. We should not look past his role of authoring Nixon’s Enemies List and his role in the Vietnamization of the war in SouthEast Asia.

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Pentagon Papers Marine combat units to Da Nang

Reaching page 1,758 of the Pentagon Papers (Part IV-C4 Evolution of the War Marine Combat Units Go to Da Nang, March 1965) provides a growing stream of reports and studies that the war in South Vietnam was “lost” as early as 1960.  Yet both Kennedy and Johnson decided to ignore those studies and marched America into Vietnam.

Pentagon PapersAs Part IV-C.4. reveals research, studies & politics all concluded that South Vietnamese armed forces were on the brink of collapse against the Viet Cong.  The document provides the data that should have not only questioned the decision to deploy US forces but the questioned the role of the US in Vietnam vs Laos.

It was just one terrible decision by the White House after 20 years of continued support for the South Vietnamese.  The “no surprise at the time of deployment” was an existing 20,000 American force of military and policy advisers supporting the South Vietnamese air force and government.
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Pentagon Papers update

This is taking a bit longer than originally planned.  I’m almost at the half way point of the Pentagon Papers’ 7,000+ pages.  My somewhat stale blog is always due to life getting in the way …. but I became stalled around page 1,009 (volume 4: B-3) which addressed the Gulf of Tonkin shortly after the assassination of Presidents Ngo Dihn Diem and John Kennedy.

Pentagon PapersAs I approach page 3,500 and reading about actions 40 years ago, I cannot convey how sad this is for America.  The loss of life in a war against communism (today we can realize) was doomed from the beginning. Consistently ignored by Washington and every President from FDR to Nixon lied through their teeth to protect US interests during the Cold War.

Interesting to look at the title “US – Vietnam relations 1945 – 1967” clearly the early volumes indicate before the end of World War II the US sent money and arms to the Viet Minh — yes the Viet Minh.

In 1960 the Viet Minh changed their name to the National Liberation Front (NLF) aka Viet Cong.   So FDR and the US gave money and arms to Ho Chí Minh for one year…however we reversed course, backed the South Vietnamese and welcomed the quagmire that cost 53,000 American lives.  I hope to be done in January 2012.

Most Dangerous Man in America ?

mdmiaWatching this documentary about Daniel Ellsberg reminded me of his rather extraordinary life that has not yet stopped. With the recent WikiLeaks sensation its worth reminding America how powerful documents can change people and governments.

I read Ellsberg’s book Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers back in 2006 (review here) and realize its better than the movie.

However for today’s Gen Y its more than enough to get them visually interested in events as old as Vietnam, Watergate and Nixon.

Movie Website

Latest read: On the Brink

A financial crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson faced the largest crisis in our country’s modern history with a great opportunity.  His first hand account of the near collapse of our financial economy is detailed in On the Brink: Inside the Race to Stop the Collapse of the Global Financial System.
on the brinkHis strongest writing are the 20 pages in the book’s Afterward, written one year after his departure from Treasury with the opportunity to look back and reflect upon the events and the solutions including TARP and the role of the G20.

Paulson was certainly the right type of person for the job having served as the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Goldman Sachs.  He previously served in the Nixon administration as an assistant to John Ehrlichman during the Watergate scandal.

Although reluctant to accept the job as United States Treasury Secretary under George W. Bush, Paulson acknowledged upon his arrival in Washington a credit crisis was on the horizon.  Clearly Paulson notes he was naive of regulatory powers in Washington and any suggestions of financial reform in an election year were all dead on arrival.

It’s worth repeating that between March and September 2008, eight major US financial institutions failed — Bear Stearns, IndyMac, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Washington Mutual and Wachovia.  Six of them in September alone.
Paulson jumps right out of the gate on page 1 as all Americans would have wanted:

Do they know it’s coming Hank? President Bush asked me.  “Mr. President we’re going to move quickly and take them by surprise.  The first sound they’ll hear is their heads hitting the floor….For the good of the country I proposed we seize control of the companies, fire their bosses and prepare to provide $100 billion of capital support for each.”

Regrettably its not Wall Street but rather Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government backed lending institutions (GSEs) that Paulson is addressing.  Paulson should could have done the same for Lehman, Bear Stearns.and ALL the other institutions since they received taxpayer money to keep them afloat….on their yachts.
–When you learn that someone at a financial company made a 1 Billion bonus (yes a billion for one person) you can see where the ship was heading…right into the rocks.

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Latest read: In Nixon’s Web

Of all the books written about Watergate and the domino effect those crimes left upon the federal government comes a rather late entry:  In Nixon’s Web: A Year in the Crosshairs of Watergate.

This was is a rather interesting read since L. Patrick Gray wrote his first hand account leading the FBI as Watergate unfolded.

Gray was a political appointment to the FBI by Nixon following the death of J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI’s only Director who served over 48 years as the top federal law enforcement officer to appointed by President Calvin Coolidge.

To many inside the FBI his appointment was considered a shock since he was not a career FBI agent, but rather a former Navy officer who left the armed services to campaign for Nixon.

Gray’s son Edward has authored a website regarding the book.  There are interesting segments not only about Gray’s life before the FBI but also his management style that came from his Navy background as a skipper of subs during WWII and the Korean War.  Nixon appointed Gray Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division in the Department of Justice.

Gray’s biggest lesson from Watergate was, as a life long Republican he was ultimately sacrificed by Nixon’s WhiteHouse over his confirmation hearings with the Senate.  He was lead astray by John Ehrlichman and John Dean.  As Director of the FBI he reported to Ehrlichman and not Nixon.  Nixon’s men controlled access to the President.

Terrorist Attack at Chicago O’Hare
One of the surprises is Gray’s revelation of the terrorist attack planned for Chicago’s O’Hare following the 1972 Olympic tragedy.  It was a rather unique peak into history, to understand how the FBI managed the threat and to learn about Gray’s actions to lead the FBI’s response.

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Latest read: Integrity

What can you learn from a Nixon staff lawyer who pleaded guilty to approving the break-in of Dr. Lewis Fielding’s office in 1971?  Plenty to my surprise.  Egil Krogh‘s Integrity: Good People, Bad Choices, and Life Lessons from the White House is a story of how ‘national security’ and political zeal triggered Watergate.  Krogh even closes the book with an open letter to W. Bush’s illegal wiretapping to demonstrate that our nation’s politicians and their staff have forgotten Watergate‘s 40th anniversary is just a couple years away….clearly the lesson has been forgotten as well.

Krogh joined Nixon’s White House team after working in a Seattle law firm with John Ehrlichman.  Ehrlichman served Nixon as a senior consultant in the 1968 Presidential campaign and was rewarded with the role as Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs. Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman dominated the Nixon White House like no other executive staff.

Krogh was responsible for approving the break-in at Fielding’s office in order to dig up damaging evidence against Daniel Ellsberg who had leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.  Ellsberg served on Kissinger’s staff.  This event was the first of many illegal break-ins designed by G. Gordon Liddy‘s Operation Gemstone.

Ellsberg wrote the introduction to Integrity.

Shortly thereafter Nixon’s men would invent a Special Investigative Unit, a Nixon/GOP “police force” known as “The Plumbers” to fix the leaking of government documents to the media.

It was not a total surprise to learn Liddy was willing to kill during the Fielding break-in.  Thankfully that did not happen but proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the zealots who were working for Nixon. Even Howard Hunt‘s team from Miami did not ask to be paid to break into Fielding’s office — they saw it as a patriotic act.

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My latest read – American Spy

As most of the President’s men who served Nixon have released their own accounts of their roles in Wategate, Howard Hunt’s book American Spy: My Secret History in the CIA, Watergate and Beyond is no different.  Hunt spent his career in the CIA from the end of WWII to Watergate. I must admit Hunt lived quite a life.  He was also a respected writer having published over 45 books.

He will always be known for his role in the Bay of Pigs and his reported involvement in the assassination of President Kennedy however his book’s focus is Watergate.

I cannot honestly believe how stupid the Republicans were in dealing with Hunt’s team from Miami.  G. Gordon Liddy was the mastermind of Operation Gemstone and directed the overall planning with the White House while Hunt ran the team.   Its amusing to see the amount of detail Hunt provided regarding the planning to break into DNC offices in the Watergate building.

Many believe the break-in was a one time event.  In the last twenty years it has become accepted that Liddy directed four break-ins at the Watergate.

Why?  A member of Hunt’s Miami team, Virgilio Gonzàlez the lock picker actually forgot to bring the correct tools to break into the DNC office.  Hunt’s team had to cancel the operation while Gonzàlez actually fly back to Miami over a weekend to located a correct set of tools to successfully pick the lock.

This just proves how stupid Hunt and Liddy were regarding this group of clowns….the guy who is in charge of picking the lock to get you inside the DNC forgets to bring his lock picking tools?

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