President Nixon brought the War in Vietnam back on to the front pages during the Christmas holidays by ordering an escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam to the highest level of his administration. Nixon's escalation at this time indicates that despite a decrease in the number of American troops in Vietnam, the United States is still as deeply involved in Indochina as it ever was under Johnson.
The bombing is the ultimate consequence of Nixon's program of Vietnamization, which has turned over all the ground fighting, and thus nearly all the casualties, to the South Vietnamese army. With the decreasing rate of American casualties and periodic reductions in the number of U.S. troops, Nixon has hoped to quiet antiwar sentiment domestically while preventing the collapse of the Saigon government. Because the South Vietnamese army is clearly unable to bear the brunt of the fighting, as the disastrous results of the invasion of Laos showed last February. Nixon must have U.S. troops to do the job for them. And the only way he can use U.S. troops without a politically damaging increase in casualties is extensive bombing of North Vietnam to hamper the flow of supplies to troops in and around South Vietnam.
However, bombing, even when most effective strategically, can only temporarily stave off attacks. As the evidence contained in the Pentagon Papers repeatedly demonstrated, bombing cannot destroy the North Vietnamese potential for fighting and supplying its armies in the South because North Vietnam does not manufacture its own supplies but receives most of them as aid from China and the Soviet Union. To have any long-term effect on the ability of the Saigon government to survive, the bombing must be heavy and continuous as long as there is any threat of a North Vietnamese offensive. Thus, Nixon's Vietnamization strategy and the bombing which it entails spell a continued U.S. presence in Vietnam for years, if not decades, to come.
The bombing also means an enormous and continuous loss of life among the Vietnamese, as well as the Laotians and Cambodians. With these most recent bombings, Nixon has now dropped a greater tonnage of bombs on Indochina than Johnson did during his term of office. All told, more bombs have been dropped in the Indochina war than in any war in history. Nixon has tried to sell the American public the myth that only military and strategic targets are being bombed. He fails to point out, however, that because we are fighting guerillas, U.S. strategy considers virtually all of Indochina a military or strategic target.
The continuous downpour of American bombs has rendered the Indochinese countryside bare of vegetation, and has forced the peasants who survive the attacks to flee to refugee camps and urban slums.
The bombing also shows Nixon's total lack of interest in any effort to negotiate with the Vietnamese, whether the negotiations concern ending the war or merely the release of American prisoners-of-war. Nixon's escalation will only prolong the war and place the future freedom of American POWs in jeopardy.
The Nixon Administration has once again presented a challenge to all Americans who oppose the war and believe in total U.S. withdrawal. We, as students, must not give the policies of the Nixon Administration the assent inherent in silence. We must show our outrage at this latest atrocity through participation in demonstrations, support for militant actions such as those of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the withholding of Federal taxes, and support for political candidates favoring total withdrawal. Nixon's escalation of the bombing is a ruthless political act and the response must be political, not passive silence while the killing goes on.
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