Peace Congress in Helsinki – Part 3

Part 3 of Ann’s letter from the World Congress for Peace in Helsinki in 1965:

world peace congress

If I may over-simplify the issue, yet hope that you may find some understanding in it, the basic problem seems to be as follows –
Our U.S. government is fighting a war in Vietnam, which has never been officially declared as a war by our Congress and which absolutely breaks the Geneva Agreement (a document which our government said it would uphold, although the U.S. was not a signatory to the Agreement). The Geneva agreement was the treaty that was signed in 1954 by 17 nations after the French were defeated in Vietnam. Ot calls for taking all foreign troops out of Vietnam and absolutely prohibits the introduction of additional military forces into either North or South Vietnam. In addition, the Geneva Agreement called for general elections in 1956 to unify the whole of Vietnam as one country, with an emphasis that the 17th parallel was never to be a political division of the country. It is generally admitted that the U.S. government helped to prevent the holding of any elections because it was almost certain that Ho Chi Minh would win any election by an overwhelming vote. Laying aside all charges about atrocities, the contention of the Vietnamese is that:
a) the U.S. is violating international agreements and must correct this situation immediately and first…i.e., must withdraw its military forces from Vietnamese soil and cease bombing of both North and South Vietnam.
b) there is no basis for calls for negotiations. The negotiating was done in 1954, ending in an agreement, the Geneva agreement, which is yet to be implemented. Therefore the call for negotiations, they say, is a way of stalling for time and military advantage, and a way of confusing the people of the world who want peace.
c) the Vietnamese people are winning the war (and they show maps that indicate the territory that they controlled in 1960 and in 1964, which is impressive, if true and accurate). They point out that where a people is defending their own land in a “just war” (their term), the size and methods of the military are not the determining factor in a war. The people of Vietnam have decided to stand firm in the face of death rather than to submit to what they considered a “living, gradual death” under the rule of foreigners. As they have been fighting for the last 25 years, first against the French, then against the U.S.A. and the “Saigon Puppet Forces”< they believe they are winning now, and will eventually win complete victory even over the huge military establishment of the U.S.
Well, so they argue. In our contingent many people felt that we must negotiate a settlement to the war. In fact, some of the people were very upset by the views presented by the Vietnamese. I heard two of our members declare, “If those views are maintained then this is a WAR CONGRESS, not a Peace Congress!” Some people took the position that negotiation is necessary to “save face” for the U.S. government, to give the U.S. “an honorable way out.” Others felt that the U.S. has the ability to end the war by ordering its troops out, if the administration wants them out, and leaving Vietnam to the Vietnamese.
The final portion of Ann’s letter is coming soon….

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