Let us remember how it shows the character of America...,
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the impending doom of coherent discourse...,
some sort of nutty prank:
[to continue from downblog]
In an April, 1975 Appropriations Committee hearing - General Weyand is uneasily predicting the ARVN might hold out
until May, so they're still talking about it - on funding the 300 million supplemental in military aid to South Vietnam,
Erick von Marbod describes how he'd spend it, pp. 5:
MR. VON MARBOD: For the record, Mr. Chairman, I would like to indicate the distribution of $300 million supplemental appropriation as we see it today, assuming these funds, in fact, would be spent. I must emphasize this point, because at this juncture I do not know exactly what expenditures I would make from that supplemental appropriation.
But again, for the record, I have indicated $219 million of that amount would be for ground and air communication; $16.5 million would supply the minimum essential weapons and equipage of South Vietnamese units that are being reconstituted; $10.4 million is for fuels, gasoline, aviation fueled that sort of thing; $8.5 million is for medical supplies; $43.1 million for overhead of transportation, packing, crating, and handling of the ammunition and supplies to be delivered; and $2.5 million for increased administrative costs of our Defense Attache Office, which is caused by the reduction of employees there, payment of their severance pay and their return travel to the United States.
In case it's unclear, von Marbod is the DoD official in charge of spending it.
Over two-thirds of the supplemental was going to go to new radios? Some fraction of
$16.5 million left then for this critical ammunition shortage. This would have been peanuts
for the CIA to cough up, if they cared, or for that matter the Thieu regime's
in heroin smuggling, if they cared themselves.
But I guess if I'm going to go on and on about this I should at least offer some explanation:
I must have been very young, the lower half of elementary probably. Tour of Duty hadn't yet become my television replacement for not being old enough to see Platoon in the theatres - my oldest brother gave it two thumbs up and offered me a detailed, fully re-enacted accounting of how awesome Vietnam was. I don't think we'd even sat around the TV yet, with our shows trumped by the Mondale-Reagan debates, making fun of Walter's ears with our father making some sort of joke in the background about taking out the trash at Mondale's expense. But I remember asking sometime around then, of all people, my music instructor something like, "Is it true we lost in Vietnam?" I must have read a book about it, I probably turned to military history after Callaway Elementary's small library ran out of books on dinosaurs. Mr. Peterson, if I remember correctly, said something to the effect of "I'm afraid so."
As far as I could tell some sort of rule of history had been broken, and it's always interesting when fundamentals are broken, like when I learned (this I remember distinctly: at my grandfather's christmas in Paynesville, in a small, sacreligious book with cheap blue illustrations, that briefly discussed the then unfolding debate) that many dinosaur fossils had porous bones and curious discrepancies in the carbon isotope ratios of their extremities.
So the matter remains of some interest, you see, stemming from my days as a freckled grade school nerd with a tendency to pose questions to the wrong people.
Anyway, literally the last magazine subscription I ever had was to the National Review in the early 90s. They and my trusty AM radio seemed to debate this Fundamental Violation of American Awesomeness at least once a week. It was of course no secret that the libruls wanted us to lose, the important matters remained the same: some figured it was a hopeless cause to begin with, if nothing else because democracy stinks; others figured we could win and in some way were betrayed. The betrayal camp had a lot of internal contentions: we Didn't Let The Generals Finish the Job and so on - which seemed to focus on the Johnson era, thus Nixon inherited a lost war; or alternatively Congress, run by a bunch of traitorous libruls under the command of Moscow via their notorious MIT proxy agent, were out backstabbing the troops and had gone out of their way to betray America's great victory by ending US support to the South Vietnamese.
I was probably more sympathetic to the hopeless case, but always figured it was nonetheless true that Congress had simply ended US support. Sometime in 2003 or so I borrowed a girlfriend's copy of one of her history textbooks from college on the war, and, that having a decent section on the matter that argued otherwise, and, considering the necessity of
jumping down Melvin Laird's throat
for whatever reason considered it re-opened topic that merited attention. So there you are.
One crux of right wing rhetoric regarding the treasonous nature of liberalism weighs heavily on this particular narrative about the "liberal, anti-war" congress of 1974-75 being responsible for the "defeat" in Vietnam, which then explains the Fundamental Violation of American Awesomeness that is the bedrock of a particular, immature strain of emotive conservative belief. The Left did it. And whether or not one believed that - most conservatives of course don't, or at least didn't - the 94th Congress still made America look bad.
The more congressional testimony I read out of the Virutal Vietnam Archive the less those arguments sound like they aren't just some sort of nutty political prank pulled off by the Ford Administration.
Which, coincidentally, is more or less also what T. Christopher Jespersen seems to argue [pdf] in the Pacific Historical Review four years ago. Having only just recently found free access to JSTOR, on the other hand, I'm only just reading it now.
update: TCJ says that when Ford made the request in January 1975 that the South Vietnamese still hadn't spent "over $540 million" (p.9) left unspent from the original $700M appropriation, "but no one from the administration mentioned that either". Nice punchline.
Be sure to check out p. 28 for this late cable exchange:
(Ambassador to South Vietnam Graham) MARTIN: You have given me a directive which is almost impossible to fulfill without destroying the fragile fabric which exists. The only one whose ass isn't covered is me. That has been true all along.
KISSINGER: My ass isn't covered. I can assure you I will be hanging several yards higher than you when this is all over.
Graham died 17 years ago. Henry now hangs, if only figuratively, from the wreckage of Iraq. It must really be something to have the honor of shaping two of the most amazing catastrophes in the history of the republic. How many yards is that?