Learn more about the Sixties Project.Recent additions to the Sixties Project site.Visit the Sixties Project Bookstore.Information about the SIXTIES-L discussion list.Information about the Sixties Generations conference.Explore the resources on the Sixties Project site.Reviews of books from and about the Sixties.Add your own story about the Sixties to our archive!Poetry from and about the Sixties.Our archive of primary documents from the Sixties.Special exhibitions on the Sixties Project site.A full map of the Sixties Project Web Site.Search the Sixties Project Site by keyword.
Texts made available by the Sixties Project, are generally copyrighted by the Author or by Viet Nam Generation, Inc., all rights reserved. These texts may be used, printed, and archived in accordance with the Fair Use provisions of U.S. Copyright law. These texts may not be archived, printed, or redistributed in any form for a fee, without the consent of the copyright holder. This notice must accompany any redistribution of the text. A few of the texts we publish are in the public domain. For information on a specific text, contact Kalí Tal. The Sixties Project, sponsored by Viet Nam Generation Inc. and the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, is dedicated to using electronic resources to provide routes of collaboration and make available primary and secondary sources for researchers, students, teachers, writers and librarians interested in the 1960s.

Winter Soldier

Testimony given in Detroit, Michigan, on January 31, 1971, February 1 and 2, 1971

Sponsored by Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.

Part IV

MODERATOR. I'd just like to add a brief statement, to corroborate the kind of information we've been given. From my experiences as a Civil Affairs Officer in Vietnam, I can only testify that all of my civil affairs experiences were either very frustrating or very disastrous. No program ever recommended to me by any of my training or any of the manuals available to me worked. The techniques that I felt were so pertinent to the saving of these people were useless. And I had many months of experience in this frustration. Of all the experiences I had while I was in Vietnam, which include several war crimes, I consider this to be probably the greatest war crime that I committed. If it's not defined as a war crime, then I'll accept whatever kind of definition someone would like to put on it. I will entertain questions from the floor.

QUESTION. I want to address this to the second speaker up there. About two weeks ago in the New York Times it was announced that the United States and Saigon governments were going to evacuate about three million peasants to the southern part of South Vietnam. I want to hear if you have any predictions about how these people are going to react to this plan?

CLARK. I read the same thing that you did. The provinces of the northern half of South Vietnam were traditionally controlled by the Viet Minh. And the population in that area has traditionally been more sympathetic to the NLF than they've ever been to the central government. In my discussions with people I had up there when I was in Quang Tri, they openly stated that they saw the refugees as what they called Viet Cong sympathizers, or VCSs. While the operations near the DMZ were going on, there was 31,000 refugees generated at one point in a short period of time. I think 12,000 were suspected to have gone north, and a great many others of them went back into the area, even though they realized their lives would be threatened in a free fire zone. Basically, the situation is that most of these people cannot be allowed to return to their fields, in the terms of the South Vietnamese government, because if they did, they would go back with very hostile attitudes toward the central government. And if they did grow food, it would be for support, probably, of the NLF. Therefore, by relocating them to the south, there would be greater chance of control by the South Vietnamese government over them. I think that that's what predicated the decision to send them south. Obviously, I think it's a bad idea.

MODERATOR. Jim, do you think there's anything involving the numbers which would change the situation?

CLARK. There's going to be a tremendous tactical problem in trying to move that many people. I just can't imagine their attempting to do it, unless they do it over a very long period of time. I really don't think that it's the solution to the problem that they're facing. I don't think you can win the hearts and minds of people by forcibly transporting them to other areas.

MODERATOR. Jay, do you have a comment?

CRAVEN. I think that that announcement about Melvin Laird is one of the most significant events that has happened in the last several months. And I think there's no question the Vietnamese are not going to want to move to the southernmost provinces of South Vietnam. It's a fact that that kind of dislocation is a very severe war crime. I think what this may indicate is that that entire area is being cleared for an absolute saturation bombing or possible nuclear strike zone. And in fact, by moving all those people out, the only people left can be said to be NLF sympathizers, and thereby a justification could be presented by the administration for just total annihilation of all of central Vietnam.

QUESTION. This may be an unfair question, but I'd like to ask you if you could speculate what would have happened if a Gandhi had arisen in Vietnam, in let's say 1954 or 1955. Would he have had any following, and if so what would be the result?

EMENY. There is a long tradition of nonviolent struggle in Vietnam. This is the tradition that is most active in the cities today, for example. It's totally blacked out here. There is not a central leader. There hasn't arisen a Gandhi, but there have arisen a series of people--in the student leaders, in the Buddhist leaders, in women--a series of people who have led this kind of a nonviolent struggle. There hasn't been anything like the salt marches of Gandhi, but the current situation in South Vietnam is something really extraordinary. About nine months ago the Saigon government started a more intensive campaign of repression than had been before. It was first directed against the students, when they tried to close down and take over the universities. They arrested some of the student leaders. The student leaders went to jail and their prisons are impossible. Everyone knew they were being tortured, as they routinely are, so some students starting fasting in sympathy. Then their mothers started fasting in sympathy. And more joined every day, until the students were released. There have been marches. There are nonviolent forms of struggle going on daily in Vietnam and it is escalated to the point now where on November 7th--again, something that's gone unspoken of in the United States press--there was a meeting in a small pagoda outside Saigon. At this meeting all kinds of organizations were represented in South Vietnam: shoe-shine boys, student groups, women's groups, Buddhists, Catholics, lawyers, doctors, government officials, all levels, ages, everything. And this group formed what they called the People's Front for the Defense of Peace. Now the first demand of the People's Front for the Defense of Peace is that U.S. withdrawal is a precondition to peace in Vietnam, a precondition to any kinds of negotiations for peace in Vietnam. Now this is not the NLF. This is the non-NLF side of the Vietnamese struggle to remain Vietnamese, and much of this is based as a nonviolent struggle.

SPELLMAN. I think the question is a very difficult one. It's not an easy one to answer because you first have to ask whether or not a Gandhi could have arisen in that type of a cultural milieu. Gandhi, as a man, was an extraordinarily rare moral being. I'm not so sure that Buddhism has as strong a tendency toward "ahimsa" which is not, simply not, killing. Gandhi was not so interested in winning. He was not really interested in nonviolence as a tactic, as it has unfortunately become as it has moved into the American political scene. He was interested in nonviolence as an extraordinary kind of moral stamina, and when he had the British, as it were, over a barrel, at the beginning of the Second World War, and could have done many things to obtain independence in India, he said no. Our adversary is in a weak position. It is not proper that we take advantage of that situation. Therefore, he supported the British in the Second World War. Now, he was severely criticized about that. We remember the ultimate triumph of Gandhi, but that triumph was preceded by many very great failures, and those failures of Gandhi were themselves preceded by a great wave of terrorism in India, particularly during the First World War with a large number of terrorist movements. So Gandhi really had that kind of thing on which to base his campaign.

It's unfortunate that nonviolence is so often understood in this society as being a very useful political tactic that you use when you are weaker than your adversary. Gandhi understood it as a form of strength that was much stronger than your adversary. It did not depend on numbers, as demonstrations frequently depend today, using the cultural values of this society. It depended on moral strength, not a righteous bigotry, and on a perspective of truth that men like Gandhi, Tagore and a few others have had, that overrode political concerns. The politics was religion. It wasn't politics under the guise of religion. So I think that to the extent that nonviolence becomes a political tactic, in which the techniques are useful for winning, that that is a mockery and a sham of nonviolence. Nonviolence is an outgoing form of love with certain humor and quipe mixed into it, in which it is the love of your adversary that finally conquered him, not the hatred, not the techniques, and not the tactics. And so I am not sure whether the degree of Christianizing that has taken place in Vietnam would certainly not have supported this kind of thing. Then you have the other problem, and that is the British were on the other side and not the Americans. And I dare say that the British have a far higher sense of moral decency than the American government does, at least if one considers the kinds of things that you find in the British press. Moral indignation is I think a much stronger basis in England than it is in this country.

EMENY. On the other hand, I do have a children's song that I'd really like to read you the translation of again. I guess that's one of the main things I brought away from Vietnam. "The enemy is not people. If we kill people, what brothers will we have left? The enemy's name is cruelty. The enemy's name is no conscience. It's hatred. It's bitterness. A group of phantoms. The enemy is not people; if we kill people, what brothers will we have left? The enemy wears a coat of doctrine, the enemy wears the false front of freedom. It has a deceiving appearance. It sifts our words. It's a germ to separate us. People, people have compassion for the weak, have compassion for the innocent, have compassion for those who pity us. The enemy is not a stranger. It lies inside each one of us. The enemy carries the name of unjust accusation. The enemy is the name of ignorance. It's ambition. It's jealousy. It's jealous hatred. The enemy is in desiring eyes. It's in an arrogant head. In a lonely heart. In a narrow mind. In the dream of conquering. The enemy is no stranger. The enemy lies inside each one of us."

QUESTION. Dr. Spellman, I'd like to ask you a question concerning what you feel to be the root of the problem in Vietnam and a lot of the imperialistic expansion of the Western countries of this world, in particular the United States. I know that you've touched a little bit on the values system, the structure of the values in the United States with reference to technology, industrialization, competition. I know I have my definite views about what is causing many of the Third World revolts, as well as U.S. expansion. I would say that's capitalism. But I wish that you would give us your opinions as to this.

SPELLMAN. That, too, is a difficult question. I do not think that I would feel that it was capitalism. I think that maybe the root lies certainly not solely with the United States. I think that we are dealing with values that extend far beyond the national boundaries. They are cultural values that have a very long heritage. I suppose at the root of this lies concepts such as the idea of truth. Now, we understand things in our society largely from a lineal perspective, and we have the idea that a thing is either right or wrong, good or evil. It is a kind of dualism. And so in order to include something, we must exclude all else. And I think that it is this idea of exclusion, that is one. I think that the idea of evangelism, the crusading, the idea of universalism, which is common both to Christianity and to Islam, is also involved here. I think that our concept of time is also relevant.

Our concept of time is again a lineal concept, and it is only a lineal concept which can give you an idea as progress, which I find a very curious concept. But progress, which is basically a 17th or 18th century development, says that on this line--this beginning and end spectrum--that things continuously improve. So there is a beginning and end, a birth and death, this kind of thing. Now if you contrast that with the Asian concept of time which is cyclical, which deals with the way the seasons operate, so that February 1971 is not much different than February 871 or 1871 B.C., time continues. This gives us the concept of reincarnation and transmigration, that nothing is created or destroyed, not only physically, but also in terms of the spirit of the divine which manifests itself in many ways. We don't accept the multi-dimensionality of life. We don't accept our relationship to all that is living. This again makes a difference in our relationship to nature where we feel that we have the idea of conquest.

Conquest is not simply a political idea. We have the idea of control. You look in telephone directories and see how frequently the word "control" comes. You look at our present orientation in terms of the concept of problems, and you will find very few people who are nowadays able to go through one day without using the word "problem." In other words, the emphasis is on disharmony rather than harmony, and I think that it is the inter-relationship of these kinds of values which lead us to believe that our ideas are good for everyone and even in a discussion (and I don't care how right or left the group is) if someone disagrees, we feel that we have to convince them. So we say, "Well, why do you disagree?" instead of saying, "Very well, you disagree, that's fine." We can't do this.

We feel that we have this tremendous adulation of the scientific values, of objectivity, of impartiality, of nonemotionalism. So we dismiss their arguments by saying, "You are being emotional. You are being subjective. You are being prejudiced about this," instead of saying, "Of course a human being is not a machine. It is inconsistent and illogical and so am I." Much has been made sometimes that Asian society is not individual. It is not; that is true. But it is extremely personal, as you heard from the last statement here. And it is this different value system, which itself forms a kind of unity, but I believe a bankrupt one, that is involved. It is like language. We have this opposition to age. The newest, the most recent, is the best. No matter what my argument is, I can prevail over you by saying, "Recent research shows" and, immediately, whatever you say is finished. This is very useful for a consumer-oriented society, where you don't have to do your own creative work. So youth becomes a tremendous value in the society and newness. Damn the old. All you have to do is examine our vocabulary on age and you will see that words implying great age, "old-fashioned," "out of date," "obsolete," "archaic," are pejorative words toward age. Again, this is not a value that is sympathetically received in most Asian cultures. It is a large, large question that you pose.

EMENY. Let me just add a couple of things about the Vietnamese language. The word "I" does not exist in Vietnamese language, technically. Everything is termed in terms of a relationship. That goes back to what Dr. Spellman was saying about the sense of individuality. It ties in very much with the way the Vietnamese are themselves, because the survival of Vietnam as a nation is much more important than my own individual survival. It all ties in. It is ecological, thinking in terms of the balance of nature.

QUESTION. I'd like to address this to Dr. Spellman. He referred to Southeast Asia's traditional legal system as free, flexible, and merciful. Would you elaborate on what makes it free, merciful, and flexible?

SPELLMAN. Well, again, I tried to put a kind of a disclaimer at the beginning by indicating that I was not a specialist on Southeast Asia or particularly of Vietnam. I've spent the last fifteen years doing some studies of Asia. I am Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Windsor in Canada. I am in this sense making projections from the traditional legal system as I understand it, of India, and taking this through Burma as Indian influence moved, all the way to Cambodia, and to Indonesia. Now that system was largely based on customary law, rather than traditional law. There is no point in having written legislation where people don't read, for example. The first point about that law is that it is extremely decentralized and much of it is village-operated. Now I have done some work on the ancient political theory in this, and if you're really interested you can look at my book on Political Theory of Ancient India, which was published by the Oxford University Press in 1964.

What I've tried to indicate is that because of the very heavy decentralization of law, first of all, there is no police. The enforcement of law is up to the people. If the law is not reasonable, then through their social behavior, through ostracism, through buying at shops, this kind of thing, people will not enforce the law. Therefore, laws fall, without any legislative process. It has only been very recently that it has been understood that the people make law. In the law books of Manu, the ancient Indian code, it says, "A thousand fools cannot declare what righteousness is, what law should be. One wise man can." There was no concept at this time that the majority makes right, although unfortunately that idea is in our own society. But that, of course, is the very basis of a lynch mob, in which everybody except one man is pretty agreeable as to what is going to be done. Here, you can't afford to enforce the laws which are very rigid. An example is a man in a caste situation who was accused of eating meat in a Hindu situation. When he came up before the Punjaid, before the village elders, he said, "I am accused of eating meat, but so does so-and-so, so does so-and-so, so does so-and-so," all of whom were very reputable people in the village. The decision of the Punjaid was to say, well, the man by accusing all these other people of eating meat is obviously very disturbed about this and we can't accept his testimony so we'll have to dismiss the case.

The Buddhist texts, that is the Indian Buddhist texts in the 3rd century B.C., have a text called the Questions of Melinda in which a question is put to the king about a man who is no

Continue Reading Testimony

Updated Thursday, January 28, 1999

This site designed by New Word Order.