Give Peace Another Chance: The Presidency of Eugene McCarthy

Nice cabinet. Hmm, wasn't Fulbright JFK's first choice for Secretary of State? Glad Hoover's out, but, the new man has his work cut out for him.
That's right, Fulbright was one of Kennedy's top choices, but he was rejected for being a segregationist. With all the major civil rights legislation already passed, mixed with his close relationship with Fulbright and his completely tone deaf relationship with black voters, McCarthy decided to go through with tapping him for the job.
 
Oops, I forgot to include the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare when posting this chapter from the file I had it in! It has now been added, and the cabinet image has been corrected.
 
Great Cabinet! Maybe I'm a little surprise that there is not a black in the group (instead a bunch of dovish but racist guys) but I suppose one will be nominate later, when the war issues will fade in favor of more social ones.
 
Great Cabinet! Maybe I'm a little surprise that there is not a black in the group (instead a bunch of dovish but racist guys) but I suppose one will be nominate later, when the war issues will fade in favor of more social ones.
To paraphrase McCarthy, 'if you think I'm racist for doing this racist looking thing, then check my civil rights record.'
 
Chapter Six - Fortunate Son New
Chapter Six - Fortunate Son

For perhaps the first time in American history, a presidential inauguration doubled as a counterculture celebration.

Between the night of the election and the inauguration, the anti-war movement reached the nadir of its influence. With public support having dramatically shifted from direct action to electoral politics with McCarthy’s nomination and election, the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (the Mobe) was facing the possibility of dissolving completely, while its student branch had been completely taken over by the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Plans by the Mobe for a proposed counter-inaugural rally were abandoned, as the vast majority of the membership were not interested in protesting against a president who very clearly aligned with their views [1]. While the thousands of anti-war protestors who attended the inauguration still brought their picket signs and slogans, most of their messaging was positive for a change, and while the protestors grated on President Johnson, President-elect McCarthy took it in stride [2]. While McCarthy’s inauguration did not reach the record-breaking attendance of Johnson’s, there was still sizable turnout. Besides the anti-war protestors, many of those who came were from McCarthy’s most devout followings in suburbia and the college campuses, centred around a small nucleus of the For McCarthy Before New Hampshire (more commonly known as the FMBNW) volunteers. The FMBNWites were identified by a simple custom campaign button, and enjoyed a minor celebrity status as they milled around with the crowd. Among the FMBNWites were the volunteer Ben Stavis, who was already writing a memoir about the campaign, and Sam Brown, McCarthy’s youth coordinator, who once remarked that he believed McCarthy was capable of winning, “sometimes for up to thirty minutes at a stretch.”

After a call to order and welcoming remarks by Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, an invocation was performed by Reinhold Niebuhr, one of the President-elect's favourite theologians. Following some more prayers and a few musical performances, John Bowden Connally Jr., age fifty-one, was given the vice presidential oath by House Majority Leader Carl Albert. Following another interlude that included a poetry reading by Robert Lowell, Eugene Joseph McCarthy, age fifty-two, was sworn in as the thirty-seventh President of the United States by Chief Justice Earl Warren. With McCarthy as President, Warren was content in the knowledge that following his pending retirement, his successor as Chief Justice would be similarly liberal.

Former President Johnson, sporting a scowl for most of the event, was at least consoled by the fact that his protégé was vice president. Other prominent attendees were Hubert Humphrey, with a bittersweet smile on his face, and an expressionless Richard Nixon.

In his inaugural address, McCarthy stuck to his now-expected dry style, emphasizing the reconciliatory power of the democratic process, the necessity of participatory democracy, the importance of de-personalizing political office, the need for a moral revitalization of American society, the obligation to promote social and economic equality, and the necessity of international cooperation, all laden with the historical references and poetic verses his supporters had come to expect. Reaching his key policy points, McCarthy proposed the Four New Civil Rights: a minimum income, healthcare coverage for every American, expanded education and workforce training, and the right to a decent house. Turning to his core issue of Vietnam, McCarthy declared that continued American involvement was not in the national interest. He announced that he would press the South Vietnamese to negotiate whatever terms were necessary for a ceasefire, and if they were unwilling or unable, America would proceed without them.

Following the inaugural address, the new President and Vice President attended the traditional congressional luncheon. Representing the Senate were Mansfield in his capacity as Majority Leader, as well as Majority Whip Russell Long. After significant vacillation, Ted Kennedy was also invited by McCarthy, but Long’s better seating at the luncheon implied the President was going to either stay neutral or openly back Long in Kennedy’s upcoming challenge for his position as Majority Whip. With both Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and Senate Minority Whip Thomas Kuchel having lost re-election, the Republicans were represented by Republican Conference Chairman Margeret Chase Smith, and Republican Conference Secretary Milton Young. McCarthy’s relationship was much more frigid with the Democrat’s House leadership; the President was openly backing Representative Mo Udall’s leadership challenge against Speaker of the House John William McCormack, and he had not forgiven House Majority Leader Carl Albert for trying to sway the convention results against him in his role as chairman in Chicago. Neither had House Majority Whip Hale Boggs been fully forgiven for championing the pro-administration plank at the convention, but Boggs and McCarthy’s interests were aligned in trying to reign in the FBI. McCarthy’s gaggle of twenty and thirty-something veteran organizers and volunteers, along with Connally’s relatively young clique loyalists he had invited, made it, on average, the youngest inaugural congressional luncheon in American history.

After the congressional luncheon, the inaugural parade was held. Having decided to not go down and join the protests at the Democratic convention, McCarthy finally granted himself some delayed gratification by – to the delight of the assembled crowd – making the mile and a half trek from his inaugural site at Congress to the White House on foot, along with the new First Lady, Abigail, and the presidential children, Ellen, Mary, Michael, and Margaret, all of whom were teenagers or in their early twenties [3]. Having spent months engrossed in campaigning or with his retinue, McCarthy finally enjoyed some quality time with his kids, as well as with ‘his kids’ in the crowd.


McCarthy and Humphrey at seating 1968.jpg

A fine line between love and hate: outgoing Vice President Hubert Humphrey congratulates President-elect Eugene McCarthy at his inauguration. Humphrey would serve as McCarthy's Secretary of Labor in the first two years of his administration.
After the inaugural festivities, President McCarthy began to assemble his cabinet. With the Vietnam War being his top priority, his closest advisors in the early days of the administration were those related to foreign policy: despite protests regarding his support for segregation, the dovish Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, was chosen as Secretary of State; the new Secretary of Defense was former general James M. Gavin, whose eponymous Gavin Plan was the cornerstone of McCarthy’s Vietnam policy; George Kennan, the mastermind behind America’s Cold War policy of Containment, and more recently a realist critic of American foreign policy and the Vietnam War, was made National Security Advisor; former general David M. Shoup, serving as Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, provided advice more directly related to military matters; former general Lauris Norstad and McCarthy advisor and former CIA agent Thomas McCoy handled the gradual withdrawal of military intelligence from Vietnam in their new roles as Director of the National Security Agency and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency respectively; while W. Averell Harriman and Cyrus Vance continued to serve as America’s chief representatives at the peace negotiations with the various Vietnamese factions, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Chester Bowles tried to resuscitate the nation’s flagging popularity with the international community. Holding this web of delegated authority together was Chief of Staff Tom Finney, who proved himself an indispensable organizer [4].

Preparing for a new war footing, the McCarthy Administration began the implementation of the Gavin Plan. Search and destroy missions, as well as pacification missions were abandoned completely, effectively ceding the South Vietnamese countryside to the communist National Liberation Front (NLF), and its political arm, the People’s Revolutionary Party (PRP). American forces were consolidated in urban centres and army bases near urban centres, which would force any future attacks to be fought conventionally, where it was hoped that American air superiority and troop concentrations would provide an overwhelming advantage. In the meantime, a ceasefire would be negotiated with the North Vietnamese and the NLF, which would ideally lead to a transitional coalition government, free elections, and a unification referendum.

While the Gavin Plan was considered overly-optimistic by its critics, and risked giving up vast tracts of territory to the enemy, it turned out to be well suited for the military situation in 1969.


Averell Harriman, Cyrus Vance, and Nguyen Cao Ky 1968.jpg

The negotiators: W. Averell Harriman (left) is seen here with his deputy, Cyrus Vance, and South Vietnamese Vice President
Nguyễn Cao Kỳ at the Paris peace negotiations.

The North Vietnamese and the NLF had nearly completely expended their military strength in the Tet Offensive. For years, the North Vietnamese strategy had been to only negotiate with the Americans after winning a clear major victory, under the belief they would not receive a deal sufficiently lopsided in their favour for their goals any other way. Suspicious of any treaty with foreign powers after the United States ignored many of the agreements of the 1954 Geneva Accords, the communists aimed to only sign a treaty that would essentially force their enemies to concede defeat upfront. Alternatively, they would abide by a more even treaty only as long as it would be required for the United States to withdraw, then ignore any restraints stipulated, and go forward with whatever political or military operations that would be necessary to reunify the country. The Tet Offensive had been designed to be the kind of clear victory that would result in the former option, but their plans went awry; while the initial offensive crippled Lyndon Johnson’s popularity and indirectly gave a significant boost to McCarthy’s challenge in the New Hampshire primary, it had not succeeded in its actual goal to overrun the South and win outright. Increasingly doubtful of their chances but unwilling to accept defeat, the North Vietnamese Politburo, led de jure by the ailing Hồ Chí Minh but de facto by the more hawkish Lê Duẩn, authorized two more phases to the Tet Offensive, stretching it from its original two month offensive to nearly eight months. Despite this, the Tet Offensive still ultimately failed, and, by some estimates, the communists had made casualties of up to two thirds of their entire armed forces. With their projections indicating their military capabilities would only recover by 1970 at the earliest, Lê Duẩn decided to begin negotiating, but only while intentionally dragging his feet by making excessive and impractical demands in order to delay the process and rebuild the communists' military strength. For his own reasons, Nguyễn Văn Thiệu, the dictatorial president of South Vietnam, also intentionally delayed the proceedings, believing that any negotiated settlement would lead to a communist victory once the Americans left. Another matter of contention was who would be represented at the negotiations, as the Americans had wanted it to be between them and North Vietnam, while the North Vietnamese had wanted it to be between them, the Americans, the South Vietnamese, and the NLF. Because of the intransigence of all parties, most of the negotiations in late 1968 were taken up by the shape of the table they would sit at would be.

McCarthy’s election was both a blessing and a curse for the North Vietnamese. On the one hand, they were now negotiating with a President who actually agreed with most of their intentionally excessive demands, but on the other hand, because of that, they would have to genuinely start negotiating, or risk losing international support, as well as the support of the Soviet Union, their chief military supplier, who also favoured a negotiated settlement.

Following the failure of the Tet Offensive and McCarthy’s election, a schism began to emerge within the Worker’s Party of Vietnam (WPV), and the North Vietnamese Politburo as a whole. The ‘left’ faction, also known as the ‘fight-and-negotiate’ faction or the ‘pro-Soviet’ faction, was headed by Lê Duẩn and, to a lesser extent, Lê Đức Thọ, North Vietnam’s chief negotiator in Paris for secret talks. The left adhered to the ongoing strategy of launching massive conventional offensives in order to put pressure on their enemies in order to win outright, or at least negotiate the best possible terms of a ceasefire or treaty. Lê Duẩn wanted to rally their remaining armed forces to launch another series of attacks throughout 1969, and only genuinely begin negotiating once their military had been fully restored. Lê Duẩn’s position was also supported by the majority of the communist military leadership in South Vietnam.

Opposing Lê Duẩn’s position was the ‘centre’ faction, more commonly known as the ‘protracted struggle’ faction or the ‘pro-Chinese’ faction. Led by the Chairman of the National Assembly of Vietnam and Politburo member Trường Chinh, the centre believed that the massive offensives were ineffective, and that they should prioritize guerrilla action and political takeovers in order to secure the vast amount of territory the Gavin Plan was practically handing to them. They could then use their vast political control in the South to eventually take over a South Vietnamese coalition government and ultimately absorb South Vietnam with minimal loses. Other members of the centre were Vice Chairman of the National Assembly Hoàng Văn Hoan, the famous general Võ Nguyên Giáp, and Xuân Thủy, North Vietnam’s chief negotiator in Paris for public talks [5]. Describing his opponents as having, “an erroneous conception of the transitional nature of the General Offensive and Uprising,” Lê Duẩn’s position was upheld, and the centre faction was sidelined.

The first offensive of the year began in late February and went until late March in the Mekong Delta region. Early in the year, North Vietnam’s efforts were primarily focused on redistributing troops from the North into offensive positions in the South. Logistics were also improved through the expansion of the Hồ Chí Minh trail, and other routes from North Vietnam into the South through Laos and Cambodia. As for their neighbouring countries, the North Vietnamese continued to support the Panthet Lao communists and their leader, Souphanouvong, in the Laotian Civil War. Nicknamed the Red Prince, Souphanouvong was a cousin of Laos’ King, Sisavang Vatthana, and was the half-brother of the Prime Minister of the enemy Royal Lao Government, Prince Souvanna Phouma. Compared to Laos, the situation in Cambodia was both similar in its factions but strikingly different in its allegiances. In Vietnam’s southwestern neighbour, the dominant political force was the neutralist regime of the former King, Norodom Sihanouk. Following the death of his grandfather in 1941, King Sisowath Monivong, Sihanouk had succeeded him as king, but had abdicated in 1955 so that he could actively participate in politics, leaving his parents as figurehead monarchs. Sihanouk’s political organization, Sangkum Reastr Niyum (commonly known as Sangkum, literally translated as the Community of the Common People, but more commonly translated as the Popular Socialist Community), was a bizarre mix of socialist rhetoric, corporatist-nationalist policies, and a conservative royalist outlook. Acknowledging the fact that Sihanouk was ignoring the Hồ Chí Minh trail and NLF incursions into his eastern borderlands, the international communist community decided that he was ‘socialist enough,’ encouraging Cambodia’s communists to work from within Sangkum. Those radical Khmer Rouge communists who continued to oppose the government, led by Saloth Sâr, were shunned as uncooperative. Despite this, Sihanouk began to put election restrictions on communist representatives in 1966, and used the start of the Samlaut Uprising in 1967 – a peasants’ revolt encouraged by local communists in the northwest and spreading to the northeast in protest of repressive government policies – as an excuse to widen the crackdown. By the time the uprising was crushed in April of 1968, Sihanouk’s authoritarian, militaristic, right wing prime minister, Lon Nol, had gained significant political power, while various prominent Sangkum communists such as Hu Nim, Hou Yuon, and Khieu Samphan, went into hiding and joined up with the Khmer Rouge [6].

Back in Paris, the North Vietnamese had run out of excuses. With McCarthy’s unilateral and total bombing halt of North Vietnam shortly after his inauguration, he had fulfilled the North Vietnamese’s first and most pressing demand. In return, they had fulfilled their reciprocal promise to halt their shelling of the demilitarized zone, but North Vietnamese and NLF attacks continued within South Vietnam. The North’s many demands of the South – namely that it halt all attacks on the NLF and that its government resign in favour of a coalition government – had delayed the negotiations, until McCarthy decided to ignore the South entirely by promising to support a South Vietnamese coalition government, and assuring the North that he would compel Nguyễn Văn Thiệu to resign or he would cut off American support. McCarthy had also met their demands to begin unilateral withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam. A second communist offensive starting on May 11th and targeting the cities of Kon Tum and Long Khánh ended in complete disaster when the concentrated American troop presence kept the attackers on the outer limits of the cities, allowing American fighters and bombers to blow them away without concern for friendly fire [7]. Believing that a ceasefire would soon be signed, Mao Zedong and the People’s Republic of China began quickly withdrawing its support troops and redirecting them to northern border skirmishes with the Soviet Union [8]. Losing the international public relations battle for the first time and desperate for a strong showing, Lê Duẩn sent orders to a military conference being held in the Fifth Military Region (on the South Vietnamese side of the demilitarized zone) for extra resources to be allocated for an upcoming dual offensive in late September, to be held in U Minh, the southernmost district of South Vietnam, and in Tây Nguyên, the central highlands region.


Three Princes.jpg

Three princes of Southeast Asia. Souphanouvong (left), also known as the Red Prince, led the communist Panthet Lao in Laos. He was locked in a civil war with his half-brother, Souvanna Phouma (right), the Prime Minister of the Royal Lao Government. Norodom Sihanouk (centre) was the prime minister and former king of Cambodia, ruling a big tent authoritarian neutralist regime which ultimately purged its communist members. Despite this, Sihanouk was accepted by the international communist community for his tolerance of the Hồ Chí Minh trail running through his country.
Meanwhile, across the Pacific Ocean, President McCarthy had been handling continued unrest related to the war, while also implementing his domestic agenda.

Early in the year, President McCarthy had personally met with the assembled leadership of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam (CALCAV) to discuss their concerns. The group was warmly received, as CALCAV had been one of the organizations who had most influenced McCarthy’s thinking against the war [9]. Protests continued to be held across the country, but typically by reform or religiously-inclined organizations who supported generally supported President McCarthy, such as Quaker groups, and Women Strike for Peace (WSP). McCarthy, along with Sam Brown, who had been promoted from being his youth coordinator to President of Young Democrat of America, also met with a group of student leaders in the White House to discuss the future of the draft; McCarthy’s winddown of troops in Vietnam effectively ended the draft, but it was still legally in place. McCarthy did not support an end to conscription, and instead had been proposing a system where draftees could apply for selective conscientious objector status to specific wars, and would instead be sent on Peace Corps-esque international development missions (or, hypothetically, to a different war they did not object to) [10].

However, despite this reconciliatory attitude to moderate anti-war groups, college campus protests and student activism escalated, as did political violence.

One example of things being resolved peacefully was at the University of Notre Dame. The President of Notre Dame, Theodore Hesburgh, was described as, “the most influential cleric in America, and the only possible rival to Dr. Billy Graham as preacher to the nation.” He had also been appointed by McCarthy as the Chair of the Civil Rights Commission [11]. Hesburgh believed that student militants threatened the very existence of post-secondary education, and was paranoid that a student protest would force him to resign the presidency, much like what had happened to nearly every other prominent university president in the nation. Issuing an open letter to Notre Dame’s students and staff in February of 1969, Hesburgh remarked that he had, “studied at some length the new politics of confrontation” and that anyone who, “substitutes force for rational persuasion, be it violent or non-violent, will be given fifteen minutes of meditation to cease and desist” or else they would be expelled from the school or arrested. While Hesburgh was universally praised by the press, his open letter rankled students, as there had not been any significant protests at Notre Dame, and his popularity plummeted. As a man who put great pride in his popularity with the student body, Hesburgh became increasingly sour, working eighteen-hour days, and often starting conversations by reading his fan mail aloud. Deciding to take a break, Hesburgh went on vacation during the summer, where he pondered his unpopularity and the course of the Vietnam War, in what one close acquaintance described as an existential crisis. Upon his return, he came out stridently against the war, praised President McCarthy for his peace efforts, and began to participate in (sanctioned and organized) student anti-war activities. In a tumultuous sea of student unrest, Notre Dame University and its newly re-popular President remained calm [12].

The same could not be said of the University of California, Berkeley. Berkeley had been the site of the first major student protests of the 1960s with the Free Speech Movement of 1964-65, the original goal of which was to lift the ban on advocacy of political causes. The university’s administration eventually backed down, leading to the prominence of civil rights and anti-war protests on college campuses. However, the Berkeley student protestors were widely unpopular with the public, and in his first gubernatorial run, Ronald Reagan campaigned in large part on taking a stricter line against students. Berkeley’s unrest hit its fever pitch in 1969 with the People’s Park protests. The People’s Park had originated in 1967, when the university had forced the sale of local housing through imminent domain, and had it bulldozed to make way for future student housing. In the meantime, the land remained empty. It also served a secret double-purpose that the university administrators were clearing out the left wing non-student activists who lived in most of the local housing, and who they believed were inciting the protests on campus. After two years of no development, a handful of student activists began to beautify the empty land to turn it into a public park and ‘free speech zone’ with an implied leftist inclination. Grass was laid, swing sets were put in, and a garden, brick paths, and an amphitheater were all built and maintained by volunteers in less than a month. While the university’s chancellor, Roger W. Hyens, claimed the park was a futile effort considering land development would be starting soon, he also promised not to do anything to the park without prior warning to the students. Seeing an opportunity to fulfill a campaign promise, and believing that Berkeley was, “a haven for communist sympathizers, protesters, and sex deviants,” Governor Reagan went over Heyns’ head, and got the permission of the city’s mayor to deploy the California Highway Patrol and Berkeley police to clear out the park, ostensibly to protect the university’s property rights. As the authorities began tearing up the park in the early morning of May 15th of 1969, an unrelated student rally being the same day quickly became a protest at the park. The police quickly deployed tear gas to disperse the protestors, but there were disagreements on if the police used the tear gas before or after the protestors began throwing trash and debris at them. Under the direction of Reagan’s Chief of Staff, Edwin Meese III, law enforcement was given permission to use whatever methods they chose to disperse the crowd. Covering their badges to avoid being identified, riot police forcibly dispersed the crowd, which by that point had definitely turned violent, using tear gas, nightsticks, and shotguns with lethal rounds, killing one bystander, and hospitalizing one hundred and twenty eight protestors [13]. Reagan declared a state of emergency in Berkeley without the input of the city council, with the national guard being deployed to the city for the next two weeks, with any and all protests being broken up by tear gas. Despite his excessive use of tear gas being criticized by the press and President McCarthy himself, Californians sided with the governor by an overwhelming margin [14]. Reagan stood by his decisions, and later remarked, “It if takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with, no more appeasement.”

Despite the ever-so-slightly more sympathetic take in the press toward protestors after the events in Berkeley, student protestors easily remained the single most hated group in the country, and the dying Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) played a large part in the perception.

Starting as an enthusiastic centre-left student advocacy group, SDS had grown increasingly radical since its founding in 1960. By the late 1960s, it had become riddled with internal strife and factional conflict, with the main cause being an attempted takeover by the Worker Student Alliance (WSA), a front group for the anti-revisionist communist Progressive Labor Party (PLP) [15]. Trying to repel a WSA-PLP coup, the SDS leadership turned to increasingly radical visions of Marxism to try and discredit the PLP as, “phony communists.” This new variation of the SDS, based out of their National Office (NO), began to refer to itself as the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM), and was fully known as the NO-RYM. The SDS’ collapse came to a head at its annual convention the Chicago Coliseum in June of 1969. An intensive pat down was mandatory at the door to search for weapons, tools of government agencies, and the devices of the “capitalist press.” Members of the Women’s Liberation Caucus complained that the security team was using the pat down as an excuse to grope female members. Within the Coliseum, the NO-RYM’s political manifesto was circulated, titled “You Don’t Need a Weatherman to Tell Which Way the Wind Blows,” which described the world as being embroiled in a conflict between national liberation movements and American imperialism, with the Black Power movement being at the vanguard of American national liberation. The Weatherman manifesto was especially critical of the WSA and their claim that, “all nationalism is reactionary.” Things continued to escalate when Rufus Walls, a Black Panther Party (BPP) leader, came on stage and declared that the only role for women in the revolutionary struggle was as a sexual reward for male revolutionaries, causing chants of, “Fight male chauvinism!” to break out, before the convention descended into chaos. The next day, another BPP member there, Jewel Cook, announced that the WSA-PLP was deviationist and racist, and that the BPP would only continue to work with the SDS if they were expelled. Taking the stage, NO-RYM leader Bernadine Dohrn declared the WSA-PLP irredeemably racist, and declared that all those truly loyal to the SDS would follow her out of the room. As the NO-RYM faction gathered in the next room over to expel the WSA-PLP, the WSA-PLP claimed they were still in the official convention hall and were still the official meeting, and appointed their loyalists to all the leadership positions of the SDS. By the next day, there were effectively two SDSs, SDS-RYM, and SDS-WSA. The day after the convention ended, SDS-RYM member Michael Klonsky held a press conference to announce that he had personally sent a telegram to Mao Zedong to inform him of the great victory of the SDS-RYM over the WSA-PLP, presumably unaware of the fact that the WSA-PLP had been a Maoist organization. The SDS-RYM dissolved soon after, and a new group, mostly composed of the leadership of the National Office, was reborn as the Weather Underground Organization (WUO, or the Weathermen). Making plans for a riot in Chicago titled the Days of Rage and planning a series of terrorist bombings, the Weathermen entered into a self-perpetuating downward spiral of increasing radicalism, believing that President McCarthy had maliciously co-opted the anti-war movement from its Marxist revolutionary origins, and defanged it by indoctrinating it into America’s inherently racist, authoritarian, and imperialist system. His alliance with John Connally was considered further proof of his true motives as a segregationist reactionary. Planning their lonely battle of national liberation, the Weathermen plotted their coming victory while the rest of the anti-war movement left them behind [16].


Weathermen Leaders Jim Mellen, Peter Clapp, John Jacobs, Bill Ayers, and Terry Robbins, left ...jpeg

"You Don't Need A Weatherman to Tell Which Way the Wind Blows." The Weathermen were a radical New Left splinter faction of Students for a Democratic Society, that engaged in a series of riots and bombings beginning in 1969. They were most famous for their 'Days of Rage' riot in Chicago.

September of 1969 represented an end of an era for Vietnam. After years of declining health and decades as a symbol of Vietnamese independence, Hồ Chí Minh died on September 2nd of heart failure, at the approximate age of seventy-nine. Starting with People's Republic of China, condolences poured in from around the world, from communist and capitalist nations alike, including from Vietnam's former colonial master, France. While outside observers had expected a power struggle after Hồ's death, it was common knowledge to political insiders that Lê Duẩn had already long established his primacy in North Vietnamese politics. An editorial in the North Vietnamese state-controlled media remarked that Hồ had left behind a, “collective leadership body... of his closest comrades-in-arms and most outstanding disciples, around whom the Vietnamese promised to close their ranks.” Taking advantage of Hồ's death, Lê Duẩn declared that unity was paramount in order to fight the war, and was made the head of the official committee organizing Hồ's funeral, which was held on September 6th. The funeral also presented itself as an excellent excuse for Soviet and Chinese dignitaries to meet in order to de-escalate tensions after their various border skirmishes and nuclear sabre rattling. Publicly reading Hồ's will on September 9th, Lê Duẩn conveyed that their old leader encouraged the Vietnamese to fight to the bitter end for national liberation, and expressed his hope that recent disagreements in the international communist movement could be resolved, and that a collective leadership would continue to govern the communist effort in Vietnam.

Unfortunately for Lê Duẩn, the unity of the collective leadership did not last long. The planned Dual Offensive began on September 26th with an attack on the town of U Minh, in the district of U Minh, as a lead-up to an attack on the city of Cà Mau. The initial communist thrust was led by Commander Lê Đức Anh, with support from political commissar Võ Văn Kiệt, as they led the 1st and 2nd Regiments, along with various local guerrilla cells. Lê Đức Anh forced the 21st and 9th Infantry Divisions of the IV Corps of the South's Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) into a fighting retreat. Invoking his power as the head of American advisors in the IV Corps jurisdiction, and with the approval of both ARVN Major General and Corps IV Commander Nguyễn Viết Thanh and the American Senior Advisor to the ARVN IV Corps, Deputy for Civil Operations and Rural Development Support CORDS IV John Paul Vann sallied forth with a detachment of the American concentrated troops of Cà Mau. The second phase of the Dual Offensive began on October 20th of 1969 with an offensive into Tây Nguyên, the central highlands. Unlike in U Minh, where its isolated location prevented broad conventional attacks, Tây Nguyên bordered Cambodia, and was directly accessible from the Hồ Chí Minh trail, which had been left untouched, as President McCarthy refused to expand bombing further into Cambodia [17]. Bu Prang and Duc Lap, American camps that had been left to the ARVN following the implementation of the Gavin Plan, were quickly overrun by communist forces led by Major General Chu Huy Mân. Chu then prepared his forces for an attack on the city of Buôn Ma Thuột, where ARVN II Corps Commander Lữ Mộng Lan was leading, along with his American advisor and commander of I Field Force, Vietnam, Lieutenant General William R. Peers. The Dual Offensive continued until late November, with both fronts ending in joint ARVN-American victories; in U Minh, John Paul Vann fought Lê Đức Anh to a stalemate, with the communists' conventional forces being forced to withdraw before even mounting an attack on Cà Mau. At Tây Nguyên, the communists had managed to attack Buôn Ma Thuột, but the conventional nature of their attack also left them vulnerable to American aerial bombardment and I Field Force, Vietnam's penchant for rapid combined arms attacks. Unable to pierce the defenses due to the sheer concentration of American forces, Chu Huy Mân was forced to retreat back to Bu Prang and Duc Lap [18].

In the aftermath, Lê Duẩn and his insistence on the advantages of large conventional attacks were completely discredited [19]. Having been growing in power as de facto leader of North Vietnam since 1960, the Politburo and National Assembly turned against him, leaving his ambitions to wither on the vine. After an emergency plenary session of the WPV in early December of 1969, Lê Duẩn was chastised for reckless behaviour damaging to the revolutionary struggle, leaving Trường Chinh and his supporters as the new dominant faction within the party. While Lê Duẩn remained part of the collective leadership, he had been clearly demoted in all but name.

After his ascendancy, Trường Chinh had the hardline Lê Đức Thọ recalled as the chief Paris negotiator of the secret talks, and replaced him with his ally, the more accommodating Hoàng Văn Hoan, with orders to fast-track the negotiations by confirming the American's concessions, and quickly deciding on the leaders of the coalition government to replace the government in South Vietnam.

Trường Chinh's takeover and decision to finish the negotiations had come none too soon, as American opposition to the war had reached a fever pitch following a duo of damning disclosures.


Pham Van Dong, Troung Chinh, and Le Duan left to right.jpg

Competing personalities in the collective leadership: after a string of military defeats under his watch, Lê Duẩn (right) was replaced as North Vietnam's de facto leader by Trường Chinh (centre), who was a proponent of guerrilla warfare and political takeovers over Lê Duẩn's preference for conventional assaults.

A man not prone to showy activism, the military analyst Daniel Ellsberg had nonetheless become increasingly disillusioned with the Vietnam War, and increasingly interested in concepts of Gandhian nonviolent resistance. Working at the RAND Corporation think tank, Ellsberg had had a small role in crafting defense policy since the early Johnson Administration, and in 1967, had helped assemble a top-secret study for then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara that analysed the entirety of the Vietnam War. Officially titled Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force, the report was more commonly known as the Pentagon Papers. The Pentagon Papers revealed that rather than being a humanitarian mission to secure an independent South Vietnam from communist tyranny, the war had been escalated under the Johnson Administration as a policy of containment against the People's Republic of China. The papers also revealed that American military involvement stretched back for decades, usually in confrontational or aggressive actions, and had propped up South Vietnam long after it would have collapsed if left on its own. It also included covered-up details of bombings in Cambodia and Laos, coastal raids on North Vietnam, and other operations that had gone unreported. Furthermore, it revealed that the United States had played a role in the coup that assassinated South Vietnamese President Ngô Đình Diệm. This was contrary to the common belief that American military involvement had begun in 1964 following the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution as a reaction to what was considered an unprovoked attack by the North Vietnamese. Trusting the McCarthy Administration to withdraw from the war, Ellsberg did not feel any great sense of urgency to act, but still believed in releasing the information in cooperation with the government, or at least reminding them that it existed so they could release it. Along with five other RAND war analysts, Ellsberg composed a letter to be published by the New York Times, encouraging unilateral American withdrawal by the end of the year. Ellsberg was further encouraged that the McCarthy Administration was making the right decisions went it went forward with a prosecution in the Green Beret Affair. Under the auspices of Project GAMMA, a CIA-operated intelligence-gathering detachment of the 5th Special Forces Group, Colonel Robert Rheault had approved of the extrajudicial execution of a suspected double-agent, followed by a cover-up with CIA encouragement. Despite the likelihood that evidence would be withheld by MACV and the CIA, the McCarthy Administration decided to press forward with charges of violating the Geneva Conventions [20]. Looking to officially testify on the contents of the Pentagon Papers, Ellsberg planned an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Shortly after, the Weathermen began the first strike in their revolution with their Days of Rage in Chicago. Beginning on October 6th, the Weathermen blew up a statue commemorating the police officers who died in the Haymarket affair of 1886, in which a peaceful rally in support of an eight-hour work day turned violent when a suspected anarchist threw a bomb at the police officers dispersing the protest. Later gathering in Lincoln Park with a paltry attendance of three hundred, the Weathermen rioted through the streets, mostly flipping cars, and pillaging small businesses and lower-middle class housing. Breaking off and reappearing to riot over the course of several days, most of the Weathermen were beaten and arrested, and over half left the organization soon after. Those who escaped who remained loyal to the cause became fixated on the idea of building an underground network of secret revolutionary cabals, and went into hiding.

The Days of Rage achieved very little, though the Weathermen claimed it was a moral victory as it proved their mettle. The riots were incredibly damaging to the reputation of the anti-war movement, and while President McCarthy denounced the Weathermen, his close association with the anti-war movement as a whole began to damage his popularity. The Days of Rage were also incredibly damaging to the trial of the Chicago Eight: with a trial presided over by Judge William Joseph Campbell, eight police officers had been put before the court for police brutality and civil liberties violations during the protests and riots of the previous years' Democratic National Convention. Already a cause célèbre, the huge public support for the Chicago Eight grew even larger following the Days of Rage, and they were acquitted soon after due to a lack of evidence [21].

Later, as the Dual Offensive continued in Vietnam, Ellsberg gave his bombshell testimony of the Pentagon Papers on November 15th of 1969, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its new Chair, Senator John Sparkman of Alabama. Ellsberg's testimony was widely reported on as a matter of public record, and curated sections of the Pentagon Papers became available to the public, sparking massive outcry against the fact that the Johnson Administration (as well as the Kennedy, and, to a lesser extent, Eisenhower and Truman Administrations) had been feeding bald-faced lies for years about the true reasons for the war, and the means of its prosecution. By 'owning' the accusations, President McCarthy was able to minimize the damage to the Democratic Party, directing most of the blow-back to Johnson and the Kennedys, with no small degree of smug satisfaction [22].

The very same week as the Ellsberg testimony and the release of the Pentagon Papers, a massacre of Vietnamese civilians by American troops was revealed, with the killings taking place in Sơn Tịnh District, although the area was more commonly known to the Americans in Vietnam as Mỹ Lai. The man who uncovered the story was none other than President McCarthy's former press secretary Seymour Hersh, who had left the campaign during the Wisconsin primary in protest of McCarthy's unwillingness to publicly associate with black voters. Hersh, who had since been working out of a cheap office in the National Press Building in Washington D.C. as an investigative reporter, recieved a tip-off from Geoffrey Cowan on October 22nd. Cowan was a young lawyer who had also worked for the McCarthy campaign, and he told Hersh that a source had told him that a soldier was being held for court-martial in Fort Benning, Georgia, for the killing of seventy-five civilians. Believing that no one else would be willing to investigate the lead considering similar stories had been left as late-page footnotes in America's newspapers, Hersh renewed his Pentagon press credentials and began to follow the paper trail. Learning the name “Calley” when the man in question had been mentioned offhandedly in a conversation in the Pentagon, Hersh poured over the microfilm records of the New York Times to discover that on a page thirty-eight story, infantry officer William L. Calley Jr. Had been charged with the murder, “in the deaths of an unspecified number of civilians in Vietnam,” in an incident that took place in March of 1968. The incident had also been briefly mentioned on the Huntley-Brinkley Report. Hersh learned further details from a contact on the staff of the hawkish Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, L. Mendel Rivers. With any further records sealed, Hersh contacted Cowan once again, who was able to discover that the name of Calley's lawyer was, “Latimer,” who he eventually identified as George Latimer, a retired judge on the Military Court of Appeals who had returned to practising law in Salt Lake City. Meeting with Latimer, Hersh learned that Calley was being used as a scapegoat for a much far-reaching massacre. Driving down to Georgia, Hersh got into Fort Benning without incident, as it was an open facility. Scouring the base and its various satellite camps, Hersh eventually found Calley's home address. However, as it turned out, Calley had moved, but one of his roommates told Hersh where he had relocated to. Finally meeting up with Calley, the soldier discussed his tales of heroism from the front, but as the interview went on, his stories grew more confused and contradictory, before he finally tried to get Hersh into contact with his commanding officer at Mỹ Lai, Ernest Medina. In an incredibly brief conversation, Medina said he knew nothing of any massacre. Eventually returning back to his office, Hersh phoned Latimer, and confirmed all the relevant details of the story. After initially being rejected by Look and Life magazines, Hersh eventually sold the story through the Dispatch News Service, with coverage beginning on November 12th, quickly spreading from there to become the nation's top news story along with the Pentagon Papers by early December. As the story became public, Hersh was able to hold interviews with other soldiers who participated in Mỹ Lai, with several independent stories corroborating a massacre that Calley and various battalions, regiments, and companies of the 23rd Infantry Division (also known as the Americal Division) participated in, with some claiming that the killings came close to six hundred civilian deaths. As more details came forward, so did the gruesome means of the massacre, including executions, rapes, and mutilations, with hamlets set on fire and grenades thrown into houses, with many of the victims being women and children. With the media coverage expanding, a dam of media self-censorship broke, with unpublished stories of similar massacres being released across the country. As the extent of the massacres became clear, a Pentagon task force titled the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group (VWCWG) was formed. Going further than that, President McCarthy had Secretary Gavin become directly involved in the investigations, and encouraged Congress to form their own independent inquiry, as public opposition to the war reached its highest point yet. With the initial publication of the Mỹ Lai Massacre being on November 12th, and Ellsberg testimony being held on the 15th, the week of November 9-15 of 1969 would come to be known as one of the most newsworthy weeks in American history.


Seymour Hersh 1969.jpg

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story of the Mỹ Lai Massacre the same week that Daniel Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers in a testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Hersh had worked as McCarthy's press secretary during the early days of his presidential campaign.


Not long after the release of the Mỹ Lai story and the Pentagon Papers, the negotiations finally reached their conclusion in Paris. A ceasefire was agreed upon, with a mutual phased withdrawal of American and North Vietnamese troops, with democratic elections and a unification referendum to be held in September of 1970. In the meantime, South Vietnamese President Nguyễn Văn Thiệu and his regime would resign, or face the stark reality of an immediate and unilateral American withdrawal. In the meantime, a coalition government would form to lead South Vietnam until the elections were to be held. Dương Văn Minh, the general who led the coup that assassinated Ngô Đình Diệm and a proponent of a neutralist Vietnam would be made acting president. The acting vice president would be the communist Nguyễn Hữu Thọ, the President of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam (PRGSVN), a political affiliate of the NLF. The acting prime minister would be former prime minister Trần Văn Hữu, a neutralist who had cooperated with both the French colonial regime and the NLF in the past. Huỳnh Tấn Phát, the Chairman of the PRGSVN, would represent the NLF in the National Assembly; the NLF would be allowed to participate in the 1970 elections, but would have only a marginal caucus in the assembly until then [23]. International observers would monitor South Vietnam's first truly democratic elections, and regardless of the results, American forces would completely withdraw by the end of 1970.

In North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the United States alike, celebrations were held.

The peace had finally been won.

They would all be home by Christmas.


[1] IOTL, Rennie Davis and Dave Dellinger organized a counter-inaugural protest on January 19th that had a paltry attendance of ten thousand, with the speakers arguing over access to the microphone, and plainclothes policemen unsuccessfully trying to incite a riot.

[2] The anti-war protestors’ reception for OTL’s President-elect Nixon was not nearly as positive as it is ITTL. Stones and smoke bombs were thrown at the presidential limo, and Nixon was reportedly furious that he and his wife, Pat Nixon, were, “captives inside the car” who were unable to wave to the spectators. Holding a grudge over it, Nixon mulled over the idea of a blanket ban of protest permits, and complained about it for months.

[3] IOTL, Jimmy Carter was the first president to walk in the inaugural parade in 1977.

[4] IOTL, Nixon had a much smaller foreign policy advisory group, which essentially consisted of himself and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, with other foreign policy-related cabinet members, such as Secretary of State William Rogers and Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, trying to make their presences known. Nixon’s negotiator in Paris was his former vice presidential running mate, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., but Lodge was constantly upstaged by Kissinger in his own secret negotiations with the North Vietnamese.

[5] There was also a marginally relevant ‘right’ faction informally headed by Hoàng Minh Chính, who held various prominent positions throughout the early-to-mid 1960s in North Vietnam. Hoàng Minh Chính was entirely opposed to any military action against the South, and promoted democratization within the WPV. By the collective agreement of the other factions, Hoàng Minh Chính was arrested, and his supporters were purged from the party. He was later a leading member of the more moderate Democratic Party of Vietnam, which served as a controlled opposition party in communist Vietnam until it was banned completely in 1988.

[6] Technically speaking, the Sangkum communists were already members of the Khmer Rouge, as ‘Khmer Rouge’ was another name for those who were members of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. In this context, Khmer Rouge is used to denote the more radical communists led by Saloth Sâr (later and more commonly known as Pol Pot), while those who initially worked with Sihanouk are described as Sangkum communists.

[7] The second offensive of 1969 on Kon Tum and Long Khánh was an inconclusive American victory that lasted for over a month IOTL.

[8] Both IOTL and ITTL China began withdrawing its troops from North Vietnam in November of 1968, starting with their anti-air units. IOTL, they had withdrawn completely by July 1970. ITTL, they are leaving at an even faster pace.

[9] IOTL, Nixon blew off the meeting with CALCAV and sent Kissinger, who got in a fight with Rabbi Abraham Herschel. CALCAV shortly after ended their moratorium on criticizing the new President.

[10] This was another meeting that Nixon avoided IOTL and left to Kissinger to handle. Nixon’s White House Domestic Advisor John Ehrlichman was also there, and between himself and Kissinger practically guaranteed a hostile reaction from student groups by claiming, “If you guys think that you can break laws just because you don’t like them, you’re going to force us to up the ante to the point where we have to give out death sentences for traffic violations.”

[11] Same as IOTL.

[12] Hesburgh’s ‘fifteen minute rule’ was only invoked once in Notre Dame history, when ten students peacefully blocked entry to on-campus job interviews with the CIA, and Dow Chemical, which produced napalm during the Vietnam War. All ten were suspended, and seven of them returned to finish their degrees.

[13] The number of protestors who needed medical attention was almost definitely higher than the one hundred and twenty-eight who were hospitalized, as some did not seek treatment in order to avoid arrest. There are varying accounts of how many police officers were injured, with the initial news reports putting it at five, hospital records logging it at nineteen, and with the University of California Police Department claiming it was one hundred and eleven.

[14] IOTL, Reagan’s handling of the People’s Park protests was at an approval rate of thirty-three to one among Californians.

[15] The Progressive Labor Party was a splinter group of the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA). The PLP was critical of the CPUSA’s decision to follow the ‘revisionist’ party line of Nikita Khrushchev and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), and represented the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinist faction of the CPUSA. The PLP eventually became adherents of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and for most of the 1960s were a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization.

[16] Despite the greater legitimacy of more moderate anti-war groups ITTL, the biggest anti-war protest, the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam, has been butterflied away. The Moratorium, held on October 15th and November 15th of 1969, was the biggest protest in American history until 1982's anti-nuclear weapon protests. The Moratorium was organized by former McCarthy staffers, and with a McCarthy Administration, any possible protests organized by them would be self-defeating and redundant. 1963's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was still the largest protest in American history by the end of TTL's 1969.

[17] IOTL, President Nixon secretly and illegally expanding bombing into Cambodia was a critical factor in that country's destabilization, and never fully succeeded in stopping up the Hồ Chí Minh Trail.

[18] Circumstances were quite different surrounding the combat in U Minh and Tây Nguyên IOTL. In U Minh, the fighting was spread out all over the district, with the city of Cà Mau never being a target, and with the battle essentially being a draw, with the ARVN-American forces retaining conventional control but the communists retaining guerrilla and grassroots control. At Tây Nguyên, nearly all of the fighting was done at the Bu Prang and Duc Lap camps, which were still under American control rather than being foisted on to the ARVN IOTL. While the communist forces did not take the camps, they held them under siege for months, causing over four thousand enemy casualties and destroying over two hundred planes and vehicles, which was considered a great victory from the North Vietnamese perspective. ITTL, after being drawn into conventional warfare against large numbers of American forces, the North Vietnamese considered U Minh a draw at best, and Buôn Ma Thuột a clear defeat.

[19] The irony of the Gavin Plan was that it was perfectly suited to defeat the kind of large scale offensives that Lê Duẩn was doggedly committed to, and which ultimately won the Vietnam War IOTL. However, if Trường Chinh's 1969 strategy of protracted struggle and broad rural takeovers had been adopted from the start, the Gavin Plan likely would have been a total disaster for the Americans from a military perspective. Simultaneously, Trường Chinh's protracted struggle strategy would have spread communist forces ludicrously thin in the face of the continued search and destroy and pacification missions that the Nixon Administration pursued IOTL.

[20] IOTL, Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor dropped the charges against Project GAMMA as the CIA and Commander, U.S. Military Assiatnce Command, Vietnam Creighton Abrams refused to testify. Resor was also likely encouraged by the Nixon Administration to drop the charges. The unsatisfying conclusion of the Green Beret Affair was one of the main motivators of Ellsberg's to illegally photocopy the Pentagon Papers and to reveal them to the public. ITTL, with more confidence in the government, he is taking a somewhat more legalistic approach.

[21] Eight Chicago police officers actually were charged with police brutality and violation of civil liberties in 1969, but the Nixon Administration had the charges quietly dropped before they went to trial, and retaliated by charging the much more well known Chicago Eight.

[22] IOTL, Ellsberg was going to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on November 15th of 1969, but his hearing was cancelled. The Nixon Administration launched an extensive media offensive against the anti-war movement, beginning with his November 3rd “Silent Majority” address, followed by several weeks of astroturfed positive response, with Nixon secretly organizing pro-Nixon, pro-government, and pro-war rallies while publicly claiming to have no involvement in planning them, while also taking advantage of the genuine overwhlemingly positive reaction of the speech by the American public. Swept away in a tide of positive opinion for the President, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee cancelled all of the anti-war hearings, and Ellsberg never got the chance to testify. The Pentagon Papers would not be released until 1971, when Ellsberg eventually illegally leaked them to the New York Times, after vainly looking for a more official way to release them for over a year after his cancelled hearing.

[23] TTL's transitional coalition government of South Vietnam were all figures proposed by the North Vietnamese for a coalition government IOTL.
 
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Another great update! Very happy that ITTL the Vietnam War has ended much sooner under Mccarthy then Nixon. Also liked the Vietnam Moratorium protests were butterflied away. Does that also mean the Kent State Massacre also didn't happen in TTL?
 
Another great update! Very happy that ITTL the Vietnam War has ended much sooner under Mccarthy then Nixon. Also liked the Vietnam Moratorium protests were butterflied away. Does that also mean the Kent State Massacre also didn't happen in TTL?
That's correct, Kent State has also been butterflied away, though, in a way, its absence will be more keenly felt than its happening.
 
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