50 years of Paris peace accords: Has the west learned anything?
By Amiad Horowitz
January 27th marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, the agreement which ended the American War in Vietnam, or as it is known in the United States, the Vietnam War. From 1955 to 1973, the United States waged one of the harshest wars in modern history against the Vietnamese people, as part of its aggressive Cold War anti-communist foreign policy.
During the war, the U.S. military dropped more bombs than were used in all of World War II (often on civilian targets). It also deployed chemical weapons, napalm, and cluster bombs, and sent hundreds of thousands of draftees to kill or be killed, usually against their will. Millions of Vietnamese people were killed, maimed, and poisoned. The war was illegally spread to Laos and Cambodia, where more death and destruction occurred.
Despite the best efforts of the U.S. government and military, the imperialist attempt to maintain dominance over Vietnam failed. To this day, the U.S. War in Vietnam marks one of the biggest military and foreign policy disasters in the history of the United States.
It also marks one of the great victories of socialism and anti-imperialism. Against all odds, the Vietnamese people were able to defeat the world's mightiest military, from the world's richest country. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam, foreign imperialism was defeated, and national liberation and unification were achieved.
The Paris Peace Accords—signed by the United States, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam), the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam), and the provisional revolutionary government of the Republic of South Vietnam—was the culmination of negotiations that began in 1968.
During the talks on the accords, the United States kept delaying the signing. The U.S. government hoped it could bomb the North Vietnamese and the National Liberation Front (commonly known in the United States as the Viet Cong) so much that they would compromise on their goals. When it became clear that the U.S. effort was futile, Washington finally agreed to sign the accords, ending what was, until Afghanistan, the longest war in U.S. history.
Due to the Tet new year holiday, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Paris Peace Accords was celebrated a week early in Vietnam. I was fortunate enough to be invited to join a delegation of international friends of Vietnam that were coming to Hanoi to celebrate the anniversary of this monumental historical event. Among the delegates were peace activists from over two dozen countries that helped rally international support for the Vietnamese people during the war.
Before the official ceremony took place, the delegation visited the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to pay our respects, followed by a meeting with Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, the then-president of Vietnam. We were also given tours of Ho Chi Minh's house and the B-52 Victory Museum. I had the opportunity to hear the stories of veteran peace activists and how they rallied the peace movements and logistical support in countries from France, the former USSR, Italy, The Philippines, El Salvador, Cuba, and many other countries.
At the formal ceremony marking the occasion, hosted by the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, Nguyễn Thị Bình (affectionately known internationally as Madame Binh,) former lead negotiator of the National Liberation Front at the Paris Peace Conference and former vice president of Vietnam, addressed the assembled audience of war veterans, party leaders, press, and international guests.
Madame Binh recalled her time in Paris fighting for peace and for national liberation. The foreign minister of Vietnam, Bùi Thanh Sơn, also spoke about the importance of diplomacy in the world today.
One major theme throughout the week of commemorations was that victory in the war belonged not just to the Vietnamese people. Rather, it was an international victory—a victory of all peace-loving and progressive people of the world against injustice and imperialism. Speaker after speaker talked about the importance of the international peace movement that stood by Vietnam in nearly every country in the world.
Vietnamese war veterans and survivors of U.S. bombings became extremely emotional when thanking the international group for their support during the war. There was a special thanks offered to U.S. military veterans who returned home to spread the word about the unjust and criminal nature of the war and to rally support for its end.
As the youngest member of the delegation, who did not live through the war, it was an important learning opportunity for me. The victory of the Vietnamese people against U.S. imperialism, with the support of progressive people from around the globe, is irrefutable evidence of the power of internationalism. When the peace-loving people of the world stand together, even the mightiest armies will fall.
I had the opportunity to speak to the gathered delegations and expressed gratitude to those earlier generations of peace activists. Everyone felt it was important that younger activists were present to learn from the history of the war era.
Those of us today who want to fight for peace and to stop imperialism must follow in the footsteps of those that fought through the 1960s and '70s. We must learn the importance of broad, progressive movements. We must learn from their immense dedication to the cause of peace. And we must learn the strength of internationalism.
Today, the international peace movement is weak and fractured. But a mere 50 years ago, it helped to end one of the bloodiest and longest wars of the 20th century. It can be done again today.
Courtesy: People's World