The Vietnam War An Untold Story
Santa Monica College
James M. - JM
Mariam K. - MK
Tania Z. - TZ
Terry G. - TG
James Moran -Okay so the first question is when I say Vietnam War, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?
Terry Green - An absolute mistake, it was a total mistake didn't have to happen and it was just because we didn't have an understanding of the area and if we had understood South East Asia better we would have realized that Vietnam was a separate entity from China. We thought that China was controlling Vietnam, but they were completely separate. We were worried that China was going to come and then take over the whole South East area and would have what was called the, talked about the umm what was the effect, the Domino Effect that one country was going to fall, then the next was going to fall, then the next was going to fall and pretty soon China would control the whole South East Asia. So we were trying to contain Communism, so we thought that we had to make a stand in Vietnam, but we didn't understand that Vietnam was a separate country that was never going to be controlled by China. And because we didn't have the knowledge of the area that we should have we went in and we made a big mistake in sending in troops and in fact and it's not prude but Kennedy was talking about before he was assassinated about pulling out of Vietnam altogether. He realized that something he realized was that it was an error that you could see after the rest continued, and he had some experience, he had been to Vietnam so he was one of our presidents who had traveled and had some knowledge about the world and hopefully you know, you know he was on the right track that that we would have gotten out. That's but he was assassinated and history changed with the assassination.
JM - Yeah, so you are completely against the Vietnam War?
TG- Absolutely, I am totally against it. It was a big mistake one of the big mistakes in the American history and it affected us because it then affect us going into Iraq and if we hadn't gone to Vietnam we would have never gone into Iraq. And so it was one of the it was the major foreign policy blunder in the 20 th Century. Major foreign policy blunder of the 21 st Century has been the Iraq War and that was largely because the president, George Bush Jr., had never he didn't go over there, he didn't realize, if he had gone over there it would have been entirely different but he had no experience and he was gone home military thinking that we could solve our problems from military means and it is just not the case. I mean in Syria today we are talking people want us to go into Syria; it would be an incredible big mistake for us to go into Syria. And because right now we don't know either side we are not particularly happy. We are not happy with the Iraqi government and we are not happy I don't think with the people with the people trying to overthrow him. Because they are now some of the people are connected to Al Que. But I am getting away from the main event.
JM - It's okay. So how did you feel about the anti war protests?
TG - Uhh I was very much in favor of the anti war protests and the way that I protested the war in Vietnam was I went into the Peace Corps instead. So in 1969 at the height of the war, I just, I had been in a couple of fights in my lifetime and I always lost fights and I realized that I was a lover not a fighter. So I decided that and I had met some of the earliest peace core volunteers because my father had been a diplomat and so I had gone to High School in South America in Bogota Columbia and so I had met some of the first peace core people so I wanted to be a peace core volunteer. So instead of going to Vietnam my protest against the war was I spent two years. I served my country as a peace core volunteer and that is where I started my teaching career and taught on a little island called Nevis in the Caribbean for two years and that is where I started teaching math and I have done it for 44 years. [Unclear].
JM - Um did your feeling about the anti war protests at any point during the war ever change?
TG - No, I was always against the war and I participated in some anti war protests. I participated in one outside the century city hotel against President Nixon at the time and we had thousands of people outside the hotel so I was always against the war. When I was in the Peace Core I wrote a letter to all the peace core volunteers saying telling them that we should all be against the war and when my mom and dad were planning to go to Vietnam I begged them not to go to Vietnam because I really didn't, and I wanted them to be safe first but because I was always against the war. It was a major, major blunder a big mistake in fact if you listen to any documentaries you will hear that the people who were making these decisions didn't know why we were there. We used to sit in our dormitory rooms trying to figure out what in the hell we were doing there and we were thinking well maybe there is oil there or there is gold or silver. There must be some reason because we could figure out why we were over there and it turns out the people running the country, the president and his secretary of defense McNamara, they didn't know either, they didn't know why we were there and there is a I am not sure what the name of the movie is but there is a documentary about McNamara that really is incredible about trying to understand the Vietnam War. It is a tremendously honest film and I am not sure what the name it.
JM - Okay, uhm
TG - Maybe the Fog of War, but I am not sure. But I have seen it on cable.
JM - How do you think your family or friends around you felt about the Vietnam War?
TG - Uhmm. Mostly my family was really against the Vietnam War so, my friends at the time we were all against it because [Unclear] my best friend was a conscientious objector and served two years at a hospital rather than go to Vietnam. Most of my friends got out by phony baloney illnesses or you know problems that they were Four F and didn't go. So they nevertheless, they were all against the war. And so of course in the peace sore I was around people who believed in peace and war and so they were all against the war. So at that point, but we had a lot of family, not a lot of family, friends in Santa Monica who were for the war and we just didn't talk about it that much.
JM - Okay, were there any immediate changes in your life when the war happened?
TG - Well the war started in when I was about 17 so I really didn't, it didn't really impact me until I got near the end of my college because at that point then, I could potentially be drafted and go off to Vietnam. I watched people in my dormitory who if you didn't get Cs or better they had to they were they could no longer stay in college and they had to go and go to Vietnam ... So um they ended up in Vietnam...But it really did impacted me the most [unclear] in the Peace Corps. But you still after the two years were up or three year if I stayed an extra year, I was still going to have to go to Vietnam even after that because I would have been draft eligible and what happen during the Vietnam war was they develop what was called the Lottery system and they had where everybody's birthday was put into a big [hopper] and they pulled out the birthdays and I believe this is in the year 1970s and the first 100 birthdays that were pulled out you were eligible drafted that year. But I was at the peace core at the time. But my number was 303 so from that point on I was no longer draft eligible. And I could have gone home and left the peace core early but I loved being in the peace corps., so I finished my 2 years. They actually asked me to stay a third year but I was home sick so I came home.
JM Did you ever feel that the United States might have not won the war or wasn't going to win the war?
TG I don't think we were ever going to win the war I don't... I mean I thought we thought we might be able to in retrospect we just didn't understand Vietnam, we didn't understand that people would fight for their territory, the way the North Vietnamese did and so there was discussions about how we could win the war but in retrospect, if we look back, maybe we could have won the war, if we would have dropped a nuclear bomb on them but we dropped so many bombs on them and they still hung in there. We just literally ... we used Agent Orange and decimated the forests their country with Agent Orange this horrible chemical by [Unclear] chemical company. So we thought we could do all this and win, but there were was no winning the war. It was a mistake that we could have won the war. And that's looking at it backwarrds now, and I don't think we ever back then we ever thought about winning the war. All we thought about was we wanted to get our kids home out of the war. So they wouldn't keep dying. They kept dying. The big issue was in 1968... In 1968 the anti-war movement was really, really strong. And at that point then the democrats had a fellow name Eugene McCarthy was running for President and looked like he was on his way begin the candidate, but then Bobby Kennedy stepped in. And Bobby Kennedy then went on to beat Eugene McCarthy in a famous primary here in California. And then with that win it looked like Bobby was going to go on to win the democrat nomination. But that's the night he was assassinated, my wife was there that night. When he was assassinated, it was a till this day that's one of the really true tragedies in American history because if Bobby goes on to win the nomination, he would have been the Presidential candidate against Richer Nixon and I think he would have beaten him. And we would have then, he was promising that he was going to get out of the war and we would have gotten out of the war. What was the question again I forget, the question? (haha)
JM (haha) Um... did you ever fell that the United State might not have won the war?
TG okay but that was the same questions? okay...
JM - Ya
TG - . Okay, so the whole idea, was that we were trying to get out, it wasn't an issue of winning it was an issue of how do we get ourselves out with the term became peace with honor that Richer Nixon was using. But we just wanted OUT before more of our young American kids; people my age were killed. If you see the people, now my age vs. those who went to Vietnam vs. those who didn't. There is a shadow of the people that we are, they didn't get to live normal lives. And it was a tragedy that that's the case.
JM - Ya umm ... but did you ever
TG . but going back though this is something, again this is supposition, I really strongly feel that if Kennedy had gone on to win the democratic nomination ha was a much stronger candidate, then Hubery Humphrey was. We wouldn't have seen that mess in Chicago, where we had at the turmoil at the convention. He goes on to beat Richer Nixon, and he ends the war in 1968 and thousands of lives were saved. But Nixon winning that election was really a horrible, horrible event. And Nixon actually and this is a story that a lot of people don't know, Nixon was dealing with the North Vietnamese and having conversations with them to try to prevent them from for signing the peace treaty right before the election this is a little know fact. But he did that and then President Johnson at the time called in a republican democrat senators to tell them that this guy is committed treason. But they decide not to bring it out, it was like a day or two of election, but it could have change the election, but even if it had been known after words, we would have had some who would have just won as president who committed treason. He was talking to the enemy trying to disrupt the peace negotiations; it's almost unimaginable that this happened. But this was the craziness of this time period. It was a very crazy time period.
JM Wow ... did you umm ever in personally know any people that were killed or wounded during war?
TG umm . I did not. I now have had student that were wounded in the war. But I didn't know anybody who was killed, I often was worried about my friends that went to High School in South America as I mention earlier. I knew that some gone into the military and I worried that they had been killed but as it turns out we have had reunions and they all made it through the Vietnam War ok. I had some friends that were in Vietnam that made it through okay. And umm .. so I didn't know anyone that was killed there.
JM okay umm For people who
TG oh wait a minute I take it back I do my umm My wife's best friend, her husband had his brother was killed in the Vietnam. And it really affected him and so he was when we talked, we can't even talk because he can't even talk about this stuff because he is so diametrically opposed to what I think. His brother was killed accidentally; he accidentally shot himself in Vietnam. But it really affected my wife's best friend's husband. And the last couple of years we haven't been able to talk we can't communicate.
JM for ... troupes coming back...
JM Do you feel like there was any resentment, form anyone towards them?
TG They were treated horribly, I mean it was embarrassment, and I think we have tried to do better in the last few wars, where we really consciously tried to be more understanding but they were treated horribly and it I didn't personally do it myself but I know that they weren't well received when they came back and they weren't, it was hip then to be a hippy and have long hair and you know 'peace and love and so forth' and so they were looked on and frowned on, but they were doing their duty, they were going off and serving off their country, and they shouldn't have been disrespected the way they were, but they were seriously disrespected. And a lot of us now look back and feel really badly about it. My wife thinks it was horrible how they were treated. And um it's an embarrassment we just ... Again everyone was so Polarize, it was a Polarize time. People were very upset. And there were people for the war and people were against the war and it was a very difficult time period.
JM Did you ever visit any memorials or participate in any memorial services?
TG I have gone to the wall in Washington D.C. And it's a really moving event if you ever get to go there and see the wall. With all the 55 approximately 55,000 names it's really a quite a memorial ... It's such a tragedy just didn't have to happen. And it was just through lack of knowledge. And that is why it is so important that we have people out in the world that understated our rest of the world. We can't think that everybody does things exactly like we do them in the United Sates because it's just not true. We need people out who are understanding other countries. And that's why people like the peace core and our diplomat are so important in going out And it's really important when we bring in people. In Santa Monica College is amazing because we have people from all over the world, so we are spreading, and teaching, hopefully some good things so that people will bring back to their countries. But Americans need to understand the rest of the world and it's just incredibly important and when we do we do better ... In terms of the Iraq war our leadership didn't understand that they looked on all Muslim as there was just one billion Muslims. Well it's not true, there is shite and there are Sunnis and the alahwie now in Syria, there's these different groups and they don't love each other. They have hated each other for thousands of years. If we had know just that simple fact we would have thought twice about going into Iraq Iraq is a mess, and because we didn't understand that. And it goes back to again Vietnam, not understanding other cultures; because we didn't understand it in Iraq. Then what we did is we created a situation where now the Shites are in control of Iraq when it was the Sunnis before. And Iraq was a buffer against Iran and now Iran is telling Iraq what to do; so Iran has become more powerful in the region. It's all because we didn't understand that area and the culture there. And it goes back to Vietnam because we didn't understand the culture in Vietnam and we got ourselves into a mess there.
JM So your against the war how did you feel about the North Vietnamese?
TG Well I didn't the North Vietnamese. I just wanted us out, I mean they were not good they people. they were killing my fellow Americans. They were not good folks but we weren't getting involved in a civil war that we shouldn't have been involved in so I didn't have any bad feelings toward them, in the case of the South Vietnamese . my mom and dad then did go and work there. My dad developed a close relationship with the South Vietnamese. And so we have many friends who are from South Vietnam. So I did develop some close relationships, people from the South. Do I have any bad, did I have any bad feelings towards the North well not particularly, I wanted us out. We were in the wrong place at the wrong time; wrong war. I don't think most historians would disagree with that.
JM Would you ever tune to the war broadcasts to see how it was going?
TG It was a, not that much... I was living in college at the time and living in a dormitory. We just didn't watch Television. I man it's hard to imagine because I watch so much television now, but we just didn't watch T.V. I mean occasionally we something special like a tiny Tim being on the Johnny Carson Show. Everybody would get out of their dorm rooms and go to a central area to watch that. But in a terms of following events and I have always been one to follow events. But no I didn't really follow that closely, other than you know we could see the proliferation escalation the amount of troops was increasing, increasing and more and more people were going over there. It came closer and closer to me because as I was finishing College then I became more and more potentially draft eligible you could find myself over there. So....Anyway.
JM What is your most memorable experience concerning the Vietnam War?
TG Well I think that most memorable experience is that .my mom and dad went there. I mean here it is. I'm the one that is supposed to be there. Okay and my dad is a diplomat, he is working in Peru and he actually had been helping out in an earthquake that was there, and helping getting supplies to this remote area. He was doing good work. As a diplomat for what is called the Agency for International Development which makes it called the (A.I.D.) for short AID. But they wanted my dad to go to Vietnam to help improve the Universities there and the educational system in South Vietnam. So we, my sister and I then we begged them not to go but my dad he wanted to go, my dad would only go if my MOM would go. So generals were not allow to bring there wives and most of the time in the military they all had Vietnamese girlfriends. They might have had wives back home but they had Vietnamese girlfriends there. But my dad then brought my mom That is the connection. My connection with Vietnam is because my mom and dad went there and very few parents . like in my situation it was a rarity where both went. And all this was because my dad was a diplomat. My dad did a lot of good things and made a lot of wonderful friends. He worked very hard with the universities. Especially with the university up in a town called [Wai] and also worked in Saigon. And they lived their lives and played tennis on the ambassador's tennis court. They just went about their business right in the middle of war. Which to me seems even this day just unimaginable. I'm on this little tiny island in the Caribbean but it's has now become a little bit more famous because Diana, Princess Diana, used to love to go there. The name of the Island is Nevis and it's also become it's been in the news because one of the Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer has a home there and he was robber last year. So it made it in the news. But it's a tiny island most people haven't heard of. Near Saint Kitts and Antico which most people haven't heard of either. So I'm living the life of luxury, I'm in this tiny beautiful island. I have got a job teaching in High School. I'm looking good, but my mom and dad are off in Vietnam. So I really have a real connection, having your parents there and worrying about them being there. It's not where I was worried about my friends or brothers and sisters there, but I have one sister. I was worried about my mom and dad. But my dad you know he did he said this is something I'm going to do. So, he went there and he served our country. And I served my country in my two years and lot my people, a lot of my friends, they cheated their way out of it by getting phony baloney deferments for what was called the 4F or for illnesses that they didn't have. But I did my two years and served and I think honorably in doing what I feel is right. I think that we have to focus on peace; my whole career has been trying to teach people to love one another and care about one another. And that's it goes back to my peace corps. days. And also goes to my strong feeling that wars don't solve anything and the Vietnam War didn't have to happen. Just like the Iraq War didn't have to happen. And if we had been smart we would have gotten our butts out of Afghanistan right away. But we have been there [Unclear] and we are supposed to get our next year. We have been in Iraq for more than a decade, unheard of and we were in Vietnam from 65 to you late middle 70s. We were there a long time, too. It didn't have to be.
JM While your parents were in Vietnam did you ever get phone calls about experiences or things they saw in Vietnam?
TG Well it was a different time period. In the respect that...we didn't have the incredible communication you have now. So, if you made a phone call it was a lot of money, so and you didn't call unless something seriously was wrong. So we didn't communicate by phone. One thing that happened while I was in the Peace Corps. is there was a ferry between the two islands; between Saint Kitts and Nieva's that I rode back and forth on regularly on weekends to see my friends on Saint Kitts and my friends on Saint Kitts would come see me. So I was supposed be on this ferry one day, and the ferry sank. And it made the national news, international news because 100 people died, and it sank in between the two islands. And nobody could swim; which was most unfortunate. So I ten telegrammed my parents to let them know that at that point they were on an Island called the Dominican Republic, to let them know, that they hadn't gotten to Vietnam yet. So we communicate, so you wrote letters. Letters were big and then later in the '70s we did communicate with cassettes and sending cassettes, but it was by letter. So no phone calls.
JM - ...okay....
TG And know it's unimaginable. Everybody picks up their phone. I'll get mad a student in class and I'll say to him get off your phone and he says well I am talking to my mom in Sweden. And I said oh go ahead talk to your mom. It's a different world
JM, Tania Z, Mariam K [laugh]
JM Do you remember the Tet Offensive?
TG I remember the Tet Offensive mostly from reading about it but I don't remember about it that much then. Again we were in our dorms, I was totally focused on my studies because if you didn't do well you could potentially be drafted and go off to Vietnam. So, now I'm a news junky. Looking back I can't even imagine that I wasn't totally involved; because I listen to the news some maybe two or three hours a day. So I am just a junky. And I could tell you all sorts of stuff about what's going on with the folks in Cleveland. With that whole story and I am pretty up to date on it But the answer is no.
TG So ... just a little background in terms of the history of Vietnam in terms of our presidents. Okay so, you know the French were involved going in, in the 1950s and .we then sort of took over for the French ... and then when the French departed, and Kennedy initially sent in advisers in terms of helping help the South Vietnamese with their military. So he had sent in and were talking about thousands of people maybe I think up to ten thousand. So he was you know the first to get us into Vietnam, so we are in Vietnam and then the issue came up whether, and I am talking about earlier, whether we might of potentially gotten out of Vietnam. But we didn't, and he was assassinated, so Johnson, President Johnson comes in and hes president, so he is in a difficult situation. He's taking over for a president who became more popular after he was assassinated, actually when Kennedy was President, he was somewhat popular but I think he became more popular after words and people looked back fondly at him, even if they didn't like him. Many of us who absolutely loved John Kennedy and it was an incredible tragedy the day that he was assassinated. So Johnson then becomes president so Johnson had always wanted to be President and Kennedy and Johnson weren't close at all. Not like for example Obama and Biden are very close, they talk to each other and work together. Kennedy and Johnson were not. So Johnson then becomes President and he has got to take over. Johnson was terrific at getting civil rights legislation passed because he understood the house and senate and how they worked. So he was able to twist people arms and get things done and we got civil rights legislation passed; which was good. So his domestic agenda was terrific. And then the idea of ... the war on poverty and trying to do something with the folks in the low end of the spectrum and poor spectrum. So he had some great things he was trying to do. And then Medicare came into being in1965. I just got my Medicare card a couple of months ago. So Medicare helps senior citizens and we see and extension of it now with the Obama Care in 2014 where more people get healthcare; health care for more people. So a lot of good things are credited to Lyndon Johnson. And then Lyndon Johnson also got involved in Vietnam. And during his time period it escalated where he had more and more people being sent there. The amount of troops kept increasing and increasing and increasing, so as that happened and we were watching the news on television and I didn't see as I said I was in a college dorm and we didn't watch television. People were watching television and seeing people in body bags coming back and saying what are we doing there. So many people across the country were questioning, but he kept on escalating and escalating thousands to a point where we got half a million people there. A half a million people that's a lot of people over there, so things weren't going well and the people the anti-war movement started gaining ground. More and more people were getting against the war. And you know people's lives were affected because young people said, Why do I want to go off and fight in that crazy war for? So we were saying not only were we fearful for our friends and our brothers and sisters but we were fearful for our own lives; because we didn't to go over there again as I said earlier I am into Peace not War; 'Make love not war'. Which was a slogan back then, so you hit 1968, and the critical thing that happened is that Johnson decides that he because the war is going badly he is no longer going to be president. He announces that he's not going to be run again. This is a major event because it changes the whole dynamic. Because if he runs again odds are that he will probably win another a second term. He already just had a small term because he finished up Kennedy's term and then he would have another term, so he could have had one more term. But he decides because the Vietnam War is going badly, he's out. And he makes this announcement and it startles that nation because this has never happened before. And it has never really happened since other than Nixon's resignation, but that was really different. But he's just saying I'm going to finish my term but I am not going to be your president. I won't run for it. So it opens things up, it opens up then on both sides it opens up a situation where Nixon can come in and say that he's this new person it was incredible. It was the greatest public relations stunt of all time. They had the term The new Nixon. Like he was this new guy. But only a few years earlier he had lost the governorship in California. We had voted him so that he was not elected to be governor, and he went in front of news media and said Well you won't have me to ever kick around again because I am never going to run again. But then he tries to, he went around in 64 and helped candidates to compete he re energizes himself to be in a position in 1968 where he can be the candidate. So without, with Johnson out of the picture it allows Nixon to be a stronger candidate. And then also then you have the war within the Democratic Party, where you end up with two antiwar candidates, you have both McCarthy and Kennedy who are both against the War. So like them, in my personal history I was for McCarthy because McCarthy was the first guy against the War. So I was like we are going with Gene, we are not going with Kennedy, but then Kennedy comes in and he looks like what was called the carpet bagger. He looks like he's just deciding he'll get in because it is a chance to win rather than you know just to be a leader against the war, it was McCarthy who was the leader against the war. But then McCarthy looses to Kennedy in Oregon and looks like McCarthy is doing better but when California comes you see that Kennedy is on a role in California and it looks like he's on his way. But then you have his assassination too. That throws a monkey wrench into the whole thing. And then he ends where, then the democratic convention was a mess. Where then Hubert Humphrey becomes the presidential candidate and he is in a horrible position. He is in a horrible position. He's the vice president to Johnson and he can't be against the war because that would be looking bad against his boss. So he can't, he is the vice president he can't go against the president yet he is running so he can't be the anti-war candidate that McCarthy or Kennedy could have been. So it hurt Humphrey so Humphrey is a weaken candidate because Johnson and this is all because of the Vietnam War Johnson then decided not to run for president. And then so you have this whole dynamic where they make Nixon look like this really nice guy he goes out laughing. He is in a popular T.V. show at the time, he writes articles in a magazine about him. He has got a plan to get us out of the Vietnam. He has a secret plan that is gonna get us out of Vietnam. That's what he tells people, wins the nomination to become the republican nominee. And then Hubert Humphrey wins but then the Democratic Convention is an absolute mess; where there is all the turmoil outside. There is all the protesters. They make the protesters look bad, and they make the Democratic Party look bad. It was just a horrible public relations event for the Democratic Party. So it hurt them. And so Nixon then goes on to become our president and its back to Vietnam again. He has got a secret plan to get us out of Vietnam, but he doesn't have a secret plan. He has no plan at all. It's all made up. And in fact as I said before he was negotiating with the North Vietnamese, a couple of days before the election. And President Johnson knew this because he was wire tapping him and that was against the law, too. Private Citizen. Nixon was a private citizen communicating with the North Vietnamese government. Johnson was wire tapping and so if Johnson then said Hey, this is what's happening. He would have looked bad too because he was wire tapping this private citizen. Nowadays with the situation we have now the government is like checking all sorts of stuff because we are so concerned about terrorist activity. It was different back then. So the Vietnam War then really allowed Nixon then to come back and make this incredible come back and be the president of the United States. In 1962 after he lost it, then governor Brown, it was unheard of that he was going to do that. He was able to series of events become the president and he's got a secret plan to get us out of Vietnam, but he has got the same problem that Johnson had. They thought they can win the war and they were worried about being the first president who would lose a war, we had never lost a war before. So they were worried about their legacy, about how they would look in the future. And so it affected Johnson, Johnson left because he realized that he was on the wrong track and he didn't want to stay to continue to be president. But Nixon also like Johnson was concerned about his legacy and thought Hey we can't lose this war. And so they continue, I mean he does all sorts of things in Vietnam. They bomb Cambodia at one point. They also did more bombings. They do everything with the idea that we are going to potentially win this war, but it was an unwinnable war. And so they start to realize it's unwinnable and that's when we get into a situation where we started pulling out troops back. Slowly and bring out, and then the term, because we could no longer win the war, it's now about peace with honor. Because we wanted to get out and make it look like we didn't lose because neither Nixon nor Johnson wanted to be the first President to lose a war. Their egos were more important, than the folks, the young men that were begin killed and the Vietnamese were begin killed. It was all about them. What a tragedy, that the leaders would see things in terms of themselves versus about what was doing the right thing. That they were so concerned about their place in history, I mean Nixon taped every conversation that was held in the White House because he was so in tune and worried about his legacy and wanted to have a history and be able to present what happened. He wanted everything recorded and it goes back to I think Johnson had also done the same thing, where he had been tape recording folks too. Or maybe it was Kennedy I believe, But the bottom line is that it was about his legacy and so rather than being concerned about getting us out, you know pulling out and finding a way to end things quicker we ended up staying in Vietnam because of Nixon. If Kennedy wins in 68 we are out by 69. But because Nixon was so concerned about winning the war but not at least not losing the war having this peace with honor we stayed an additional 5 years. And all these thousands of people were killed. All this money was wasted on supplies and it was a tragedy. So we have to look at Presidential history, presidential history is really important in terms of Vietnam. And Nixon and Johnson in my opinion I don't hold them in highest esteem because they were more concerned about themselves than about doing the right thing. And you have to as president you have to make decision you have to be concerned about doing the right thing. And I mean for example Ronald Reagan in the 80s we were bombed I think it was in Saudi Arabia, yeah a Marine base with two hundred marines, two hundred and thirty something like that. He just pulled everybody out. No one has ever said Oh Ronald wasn't a good guy because he got us out of there. He did the right thing. Let's get the hell out of there, and that is what we should have done in Vietnam. We should have gotten the hell out of there. But we didn't, we stayed, and we stayed, and we stayed and it was a big mistake that we did. It has affected our history. And still in this century it's affecting our history. But now the folks we are dying out, the Vietnam generation. Hopefully the next generations will not make the same mistake. But again because Bush, younger Bush, was the presidential history what happens with him. He is in the military but he has really got a great cushy job because his dad got him this cushy job where he is flying planes and for a few months we don't know where he went. But he is not off in Vietnam. Gore was in Vietnam who ran against him had knowledge of Vietnam, he had some feeling for the world that President Bush never had because Bush had never ever left the country except to go to Mexico. So he didn't have any international feeling at all. I love Mexico. He didn't have any international feeling whatsoever, where Gore had some, and Gore had traveled because he had been Vice President so in terms of Presidential History you know that tragedy was that election in 2000 which you guys know about because Bush beats Gore and they should have gone back and counted the votes but they don't do that. Bush beats Gore, Bush doesn't have the international experience and if he had just gone to Vietnam, just gone to Vietnam back during his time period, then we don't go into Iraq and we don't have thousands I think four thousand people have died in Iraq. Hundreds and thousands of Iraqis have died. And Iraq is still a mess, the Middle East is still a mess and this all goes back to Vietnam. Everything connects back to Vietnam. And so it is a really central part of our American history and it is worthy of your report.
JM Okay, is there any final comments that you would like to say about the war or anything?
TG Well in summery I really strongly think that the Vietnam War was a tragedy. It was the biggest mistake in America's history in the 20th century. In terms of our foreign policy. We didn't understand the critical point; China's relationship to Vietnam was not one that China dictating what Vietnam was going to do. Vietnam was an entity to itself and so they didn't, we thought that the Chinese would tell the Vietnamese and they would control Vietnam and then the domino theory was that all these countries would then become controlled by China and we were extraordinarily fearful of this world becoming communist. That was our big fear. Today were afraid of Islamic Jihad's. Now and back then it was the spread of communism. So if we had understood that Vietnam that the North Vietnamese were not controlled by the Chinese then maybe we would have rethought our policy. But we were so concerned that all these countries were going to fall in the hands of the Communists that we then made a major stand and fought in the middle of the Civil War and fought on the side of the South Vietnamese. But you can't fight other people's wars for them so it's really a big mistake to ever get involved in trying to take one side of a civil war. That's why we are very much trying to stay out of Syria.
TG - Okay.
JM - Thank You.
Download the transcription here.
©2013 by Khorenyan Projects