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Salient. Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Volume 32, No. 19. August 6, 1969

From The Outside

From The Outside

Since the Paris peace talks began the tempo of destruction in Vietnam has increased, not decreased. The human situation is worse than it has ever been before. On March 15 there were more U.S. troops in Vietnam than at any other time since the beginning of the war.

These facts are staled in a White Paper on Ending the War issued by the American Friends Committee in May. The Friends Service Committee has had 15 years of relationship with Vietnam, the last 4 with staff stationed variously in Saigon. Vung Tau. My The, Danang. An Khe. Pleiku. Hupe and for the last two years. Quang Ngai Since the US escalation began in 1965 their field stair have sent in regular field reports on the developing situation. The While paper records some of what they have reported.

Saigon is now the worlds most crowded city with a population density (on March 22) of 148 persons per acre, compared with Tokyo (the second most densely populated city in the world) with a population per acre of 63. The population is largely made up of refugees driven out of the countryside by the American war-action.

The intensity of the bombing in the countryside has increased since the peace-talks began. B-52 bomber raids have torn 2½ million holes 45 feet in diameter and 30 feet deep in the ground-holes that are now filled with water and serve as breeding grounds for malarial mosquitoes and other insects. In December 1968 the US from the first time began dropping 10.000 1b bombs which have been stored in military depots for 15 years and which are so heavy that they cannot be carried in ordinary bombers and they must be dropped by cargo planes or crane helicopters. The Match bombing level of 130.000 tons was the highest since the war began.

The number of troops in Vietnam was on March 15. (but still at present despite the withdrawal of 25,000) larger than at any time since the war began—540.000 plus 45,000 in Thailand and 35,000 in the navy offshore. Further, the number of battalion-size operations (figures on smaller operations are secret) has been steadily increasing, rising from 800 in November last year to 1037 in January 1969. Nlf activity has remained constant at a level of about 100 a month involving the deaths of 350-450 civilians monthly, compared by the US total of over 1.500.

By the end of January the US was sending 300-400 planes over neutral Laos daily-higher than at any other time in the war.

US battle deaths—always an inexorable barometer on the level of military action further emphasise the nature of the escalation. 600 US soldiers died in October; 703 in November; 749 in December; 795 in January; 1073 in February; 1316 in March. Renewed military offensives by the NLF and North Vietnamese forces did not begin until the last week in February.

The White paper goes on to point out that this increased activity is not leading to any progress, even on American terms. It claims that pacification attempts have failed. The US figures for the country show 75% of the countryside secure, but, the paper says, any person who knows the Vietnamese countryside would reject these figures out of hand Supposedly "secure" Quang Ngai has over the past year been regularly infiltrated at night and every house has its sand hag shelter to protect the occupants. The city has at times since February 23 been 25% occupied yet these occupations have not been reported to the military briefers. Quaker workers and Vietnamese sources have reported that anti-American feeling has never been so strong as it is now.

The Saigon Government is in no stronger a position as a result of American aid than it has ever been in the past. Many of its members fought against their own people with the French. They are not trusted and respected by the people, and are sure to go immediately the American prop is withdrawn.

The paper concludes from the facts that talk of an early end to the Vietnam war and the possibility of an imminent peace are mere illusions. The US is not in any way restraining its war effort. The Thieu-Ky government is not becoming any more acceptable to the Vietnamese and the members of the Quaker teams in South Vietnam can see no evidence of increasing security, resoluteness in carrying on the war, or a desire to institute reforms in the government.

"There is something the US can do .... As the only foreigners in Vietnam, the US and its allies have nothing to negotiate but the manner and rale of withdrawal. If our leaders were to acknowledge this and move to act on it, it would at once open up a whole new range of possibilities for the good offices of other nations to be used in mediation and in arranging for sanctuary or amnesty for those open to reprisal."

"There will be suffering and turmoil if the US leaves. There may be a government in Saigon led by Ho Chi Minh; there may not be Wihdrawal does not mean that justice will be done. It does not ensure fair elections or well protected freedoms. But whatever happens, or fails to happen, will, in our judgment, be preferable to going on with the present agony of death and destruction that is presently destroying Vietnam, undermining our own domestic social fabric, and damaging our country's name in the world community."