Nixon & The Vietnam War Vietnamization of the Conflict Détente With China Watergate Nixon’s Downfall
Nixon has plans for the Cold War on a global scale and does not want to be tied to the Vietnam War. In January of 1969 Nixon invites all parties, including the Viet Cong to Paris for peace talks. On March 18, Nixon begins the secret bombing of communist bases in neighboring Cambodia.
The Nixon Doctrine is announced and the withdrawal of American troops begins. As anti-war protests increase in 1970, Nixon continues to draw down the American military presence in Vietnam. By year’s end only 280,000 troops remain. Nixon makes public the fact that American and ARVN forces have attacked communist bases in Cambodia.
My Lai Massacre ď Ź
The My Lai Massacre, which took place a year earlier (March 16, 1968) during the Johnson Administration and was covered up, is made known to the American people on November 16, 1969. An American platoon under the command of Lt. William Calley entered the village of My Lai and murdered and raped 307 Vietnamese villagers, most of whom were elderly men, women and children.
My Lai Masscre ď Ź
The atrocity was covered up and it was not until Michael Bernhardt, an enlisted man in the unit who did not participate in the atrocities came forward and exposed the atrocity. In 1970 Bernhardt was awarded the Ethical Humanist Award. Journalist Ron Ridenhour also worked to expose the massacre.
How did it happen?
The American military has a long history of trying to avoid atrocities like My Lai. While the U.S. Military is not perfect, it does have a good reputation for following the ethical codes of warfare. Part of the problem that caused the My Lai incident was the policy of “body counts” established by General Westmoreland under the Johnson Administration as a means by which to determine the success of the war.
The attitude of American soldiers became cynical. A common saying was “if its dead and it ain’t white or black, it’s Charlie. Count it.” Frustrated by their inability to make the communists stand and fight as well as the complicity of many local villagers to aid the communists, American troops came to often vent their frustration on the villagers.
Frustration ď Ź
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Usually this meant burning the village, killing the villagers animals and confiscating their rice and then moving on. At My Lai, this was not the case. Lt. Calley specifically ordered his men to kill the civilian villagers. Calley turned his head while several of his soldiers raped young and elderly women in the village.
An American Helicopter Gunship actually put a halt to the slaughter. 24 year old Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson, Jr. ordered a halt to the slaughter, informing the men of Calley’s unit that he would open fire on them from his gunship if they did not obey his order. Thompson and his crew evacuated the survivors from the village. Thompson was viewed by the high ranking officers in the division as a traitor.
The Scapegoat – Lt. William Calley
The diminutive (Calley was only 5’3” tall) Lt. who gave the order to his troops to carryout the massacre. Calley was poorly trained to lead and his soldiers had little respect for him. Many believe, that while Calley was guilty of the charges of murder he was convicted for, that we was the scapegoat for the Army so other, higher ranking officers could be protected.
The man who gave the order: Captain Ernest Medina
Captain Ernest Medina was the officer who gave Lt. Calley the order to “eliminate” the villagers of My Lai. Medina was acquitted at his court martial.
The Aftermath of My Lai
The anti-war protesters felt vindicated. My Lai was the proof they needed to support their claim that the war was immoral. The massacre embarrassed the American public and turned mainstream Americans against the war. While Lt. Calley was convicted, he only served 3.5 years under house arrest at Fort Benning, Georgia, before being released by a Federal judge.
From 1970 to 1973 Nixon worked to end the war, or at least American involvement in the war. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger conducted both public and secret negotiations. Nixon often used heavy bombing raids and the mining of Haiphong Harbor to force the communists to the negotiation table. The last American troops leave Vietnam on March 29, 1973. April 30, 1975, Saigon falls. January 21, 1977, the day after his inauguration, Jimmy Carter pardons the draft dodgers.
The scandal that brought down the Nixon Presidency. On September 9, 1971, the White House “Plumbers” unit burglarize the office of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office to obtain damaging evidence against the man who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the media.
The Slippery Slope
On June 17, 1972, five men are arrested after breaking into the DNC Headquarters in the Watergate Hotel. The cover-up begins. On August 1, 1972, a check for $25,000 earmarked for the Nixon campaign for re-election winds up in the bank account of one of the burglars. November 11, 1972, Nixon is re-elected in one of the largest landslides in American history.
1973 – Cracks Appear
Former Nixon aides G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord along with the Watergate burglars and convicted of a variety of crimes related to the Watergate incident. April 30 of that year, Nixon aides Haldeman, Ehrlichman, A.G. Kleindienst all resign over the scandal. White House counsel John Dean is fired. Dean would later turn traitor to save himself and gave the Democrats in Congress the information they needed to bring Nixon down.
May 18, 1973
Due to the many stories by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Congress begins hearings. The hearings are nationally televised. The existence of secret taping equipment in the Oval Office is revealed. The tapes are subpoenaed.
The 18.5 Minute Silence
October 20, 1973 The Saturday Night Massacre ď Ź
As White House Special Council Archibald Cox grows closer to uncovering the truth, Nixon orders him fired. A.G. Richardson and Deputy A.G. Ruckelshaus both resign in refusal to carry out Nixonâ€™s order. Robert Bork finally carries out the order.
Deep Throat (FBI #2 Mark Felt) left and Washington Post Reporter Bob Woodward on the right
August 8, 1974
To avoid impeachment, Richard Nixon, the brilliant foreign affairs president who opened relations with Communist China, creating a rift between the two Communist powers of China and the Soviet Union, resigned to avoid impeachment. He would later be pardoned of any “possible wrongdoings” by President Gerald Ford.
History Changes ď Ź
Nixon was vilified when he left office. Retreating from public life, Nixon spent the rest of his life working to restore his image and to record the successes of his Presidency. When Nixon died, historians had moderated their views of Nixon.
No Escaping Watergate
There is no escaping the humiliation of Watergate for Nixon. But, historians are now willing to report Nixon’s achievements in a positive light. Nixon caused a major rift between the Chicoms and Soviets – a major Cold War achievement. Nixon was able to withdraw the U.S. from the Vietnam War.
The List Goes On
Nixon established relations with Communist China – an incredible feat of international diplomacy during the Vietnam War. Nixon, a Republican, went against his own party and established the EEOC and Affirmative Action programs in the United States, something the Democrats have claimed credit for.
The Comeback Kid
Nixon was considered a consummate political warrior. Time and time again Nixon rebounded from political or personal defeat. Upon his death, many realized that Nixon had once again bounced back. The Nation honored the troubled president upon his death, seemingly forgiving its flawed leader. Nixon’s Funeral was the last time all the living Presidents (Reagan has since passed away) were together as a single group.
The Irony Of It All
The Watergate Hotel, site of the break-in, was where Monica Lewinski, the mistress of President Clinton, was “kept.” The Watergate was involved in the downfall of yet another American President.