Here’s the last part of Ann’s letter to her friends and family after attending the Peace Congress in Helsinki in 1965:
The final resolution drawn up by the Commission on Vietnam stated that the U.S. is mainly responsible for the present war in Vietnam, that the U.S. must withdraw all troops and equipment and cease all bombing immediately and without condition, and that this is the only solution to this war. This resolution used strong language, language that was hard on the ears of our contingent but had been widely used during the week of speeches: “U.S. imperialism” was responsible for the war; the Vietnamese are in a “just struggle” against “U.S. aggression”, etc. Nevertheless, by the end of a week of much talking and arguing, the final vote of our contingent was reported, 55 in favor of the resolution, an absolute majority of our 94! 22 of our women issued a statement indicating their inability to vote officially as they were only observers, but stating in their own words their support for the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Vietnam. There were seven abstentions and six votes against the resolution. (4 apparently were not present or recorded as voting.)
I think it is fair to say that those who voted against the resolution, and those who abstained, were mainly concerned about the reality of such a position. They believed that the U.S. government will not simply get out of Vietnam. They believed that the people of the U.S.A. would not accept the terms used in the Congress resolution. They, nay…most of us, fear that the U.S. government will use nuclear bombs, if the Vietnamese insist upon their present position. Actually many in our group and at home are calling for negotiations because they fear the criminal acts that they believe our government would use against humanity in order to have its way in Southeast Asia. That is a rather startling fact, is it not? Are we of the U.S. going to support our government even though it threatens to use nuclear mass death weapons? To me it is shocking to hear people, people of good hearts and minds, saying that they fear the government will use such weapons and that we in the U.S.A. would not be able to stop them, nor would the government change its policy under any circumstances. Can this be true?
The next question we must face is that, even if we believe that our present government would commit such hideous acts as extending the war to China and using nuclear bombs (again!), can we as individuals be silent about our government policy while these things are going on? Can I, at whatever personal risk, fail to object to our sending more troops to Vietnam? to the very fact that we have not honored the conditions of the Geneva Agreement?
In view of my horror at the Hitler war machine, based as it was on a campaign of anti-Communism as the reason for every invasion and the excuse for every atrocity, I fear conformity and timidity of our citizens on these questions more than I fear the consequences to myself as an individual. There may be a high price to pay for individual protest, as there was in Hitler Germany, and for this reason it is happy to note that there has been a rising voice of protest in the U.S.A., recently. But, from what I have seen here at the Helsinki World Peace Congress, and also in travels in the U.S.S.R. and in the German Democratic Republic following the Helsinki week, it seems to me it is high time that we in the U.S. take a very critical look at what our government is doing in our name. While it is true that there have been larger demonstrations against the Vietnam war, and the teach-ins were created as a big new open forum for opinions, it is also true that these efforts have not reached the numbers to match the size of the problem they protest. We do not see the results of the protests in changed policies in Washington, D.C. Friends, I’m worried about our country in the eyes of the world, in its place in history, and I’m worried about the destruction we are doing in Vietnam, doing illegally and immorally, in my opinion.
Well, this has been a long but sketchy coverage of my experience in Helsinki. And I have nottold you of our visits with the Chinese, nor of the story of the Congress as a whole with its unity between even the Chinese and the Russians. Neither have I had time and space to tell you of the travels that many of us have made in the Soviet Union and in the German Democratic Republic. Each of these is a long tale in itself.
If you are interested, I’ll be happy to do the work of typing and telling these tales.
However, this far from home one longs for news and impressions by those who have stayed behind. Please take time to give me your reactions to my tale of Helsinki, not gorgetting to be frank in your opinions, whatever they may be.
If other dreams come true, I will yet go to West Germany to gain comparison with the GDR, then on to England, France, and perhaps others.
Do write soon. And work for the withdrawal of our troops!
Warmest regards, Ann