The Vietnam War: Still Opposing the New Left at Home

I disagreed with President Lyndon Baines Johnson on many issues, but I respected him for his efforts to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. What would LBJ or Walt Rostow, the former LBJ national security advisor who was Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs for many years, have thought of a program on Vietnam so skewed to the Left? And, featuring a New Left leader whose followers infamously chanted: “Hey Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today.”

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By Tom Pauken | April 26, 2016

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The LBJ Presidential Library is hosting a Vietnam War “Summit” from April 26-28. I put the word Summit in quotes because normally one would expect a true summit to reflect the major viewpoints associated with the event. That is not the case with this program about to unfold at the University of Texas.

The keynote speaker for the “Summit” is John Kerry who trashed his fellow American soldiers on national TV once he came home from Vietnam as a spokesman for the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Also prominently featured is Tom Hayden, a leader of the New Left who supported the North Vietnamese in that war and served as a useful tool for the Communists by making a trip to North Vietnam with his then wife actress Jane Fonda where propaganda film footage featuring Hayden and Fonda was made by the Communists. Hayden is featured in the session entitled the “War at Home.” There is no one represented on that panel from our Vietnam generation who opposed the New Left at home – even though our opposition to the student radicals from many of us as college students and our fellow soldiers was very strong at the time. I would have been open to discussing the other side of the war at home, but neither I nor others capable of representing our point of view were invited.

The Communist Ambassador from Vietnam to the U.S. is a speaker, but there appears to be no representation on the program from South Vietnamese refugees who are critics of the regime.

For “balance,” the Vietnam “Summit” features former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who was the architect of what became known as the Kissinger Accords, which paved the way for the North Vietnamese takeover of South Vietnam. Richard Armitage, former Deputy Secretary of State and a Naval Academy graduate who served three tours in Vietnam, resigned his military commission over Kissinger’s deal making. Armitage was not invited to be a speaker at the LBJ Library “Summit.” Nor was John O’Neill, another Naval Academy graduate and swift boat veteran of Vietnam (who graduated first in his class from the University of Texas Law School). O’Neill debated John Kerry on the war on the Dick Cavett TV show after both men returned from Vietnam. There are many other knowledgeable Vietnam Veterans, historians, and journalists who would have made themselves available to speak at a true summit, but who were not invited.

I disagreed with President Lyndon Baines Johnson on many issues, but I respected him for his efforts to prevent a Communist takeover of South Vietnam. What would LBJ or Walt Rostow, the former LBJ national security advisor who was Dean of the LBJ School of Public Affairs for many years, have thought of a program on Vietnam so skewed to the Left? And, featuring a New Left leader whose followers infamously chanted: “Hey Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today.”

It is sad to see a prestigious institution like the LBJ Library miss an opportunity to have a real exchange of views about what went wrong in Vietnam and what lessons of history are to be learned from that war.


Tom Pauken was the founder of the National Student Committee for the Defense of Vietnam and served as a Military Intelligence officer in South Vietnam. He is a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

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