50 years ago, on January 27, 1973, the war in Vietnam formally ended.
Signed by Nguyen Duy Trinh, Secretary of State of North Vietnam, Nguyễn Thị Bình, leader of the National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam (Vietcong), Charles Tran Van Lam, Secretary of State of South Vietnam, and William P Nixon’s Secretary of State Rogers sealed the immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of US troops from the Asian country within a maximum of 60 days.
The document stipulated that the reunification of Vietnam would be carried out “step by step through peaceful methods and on the basis of talks and agreements between North Vietnam and South Vietnam, without coercion or annexation by any party and without foreign intervention”.
The war, which lasted more than two decades, was a military conflict fueled by the quest for self-determination by the Vietnamese people against the colonial and imperialist powers (France and the United States) to stop the global conflict they were promoting and expanding the socialist blocs led by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.
The false name of the “Cold War” is debunked by the evidence of the conflict’s millions of casualties, mostly native Vietnamese but also Cambodians, Laotians and Americans.
Since 1964, the US Air Force has dropped more than 14 million tons of bombs on Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, ten times the total bombs dropped on Europe during World War II.
Despite the abundance of weapons, direct invasion, bombing of civilians, and use of chemical weapons, the North Americans were unable to militarily defeat Viet Cong guerrilla tactics along with the massive popular support they enjoyed, and had to accept their defeat and retreat.
There were thousands of activists in both the United States and Vietnam who opposed the war, which was also crucial to its end.
While in the Americas a key generational faction spoke out in demonstrations, concerts and street protests against US military interference in Indochina, there were also some in Vietnam who advocated nonviolence to confront imperial abuses.
Among those who advocated for peace was the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, who met Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966 and urged him to publicly denounce the Vietnam War. A few months later, on April 4, 1967, the leader of the anti-racism movement delivered a famous speech at Riverside Church in New York, in which he openly questioned American involvement in Vietnam.
As early as 1965, the Buddhist teacher King had written a letter entitled “In Search of the Enemy of Man” in which he stated: “Now, in the confrontation of the great powers that is taking place in our country, hundreds and maybe thousands of Vietnamese peasants and children are losing their lives every day, and our country is being ruthlessly and tragically torn apart by a twenty-year war. I am sure that, having been involved in one of the toughest struggles for equality and human rights, you are among those who fully understand and wholeheartedly share the unspeakable suffering of the Vietnamese people. The world’s greatest humanists would not remain silent. You yourself cannot remain silent.
The United States is said to have a strong religious foundation, and spiritual leaders would not allow American political and economic doctrines to be deprived of the spiritual element. You cannot be silent because you have already been active and you are active because God is also active in you, to use Karl Barth’s expression. And Albert Schweitzer with his emphasis on reverence for life and Paul Tillich with his courage to be and thus to love. And Niebuhr. And Mackay. And Fletcher. And Donald Harrington. All these religious humanists and many more will not condone the existence of the disgrace that humanity is enduring in Vietnam.
Recently, a young Buddhist monk named Thich Giac Thanh burned himself to the ground. [20 de abril de 1965, en Saigón] to draw the world’s attention to the suffering of the Vietnamese, the suffering caused by this unnecessary war – and you know that war is never necessary. Another young Buddhist woman, a nun named Hue Thien, wanted to sacrifice herself in the same way and with the same intention, but her will was not carried out because she did not have time to light a match before people saw her and got involved . Nobody here wants war. So why war? And whose war is this?” Nhat Hanh asked himself in the letter.
Due to his questions and certainly suspected of being too close to the enemy, Thich Nhat Hanh was later expelled from Vietnam and lived in French and American exile for the following decades, where he preached and expanded the teaching of “Mindfulness.” ), which garnered the support of many “rich and famous” in the United States. Shortly before leaving, he returned to Vietnam, where he ended his life as a simple monk in a monastery.
As for the peace accords of the war in Vietnam, these would only represent a pause in the confrontations on the peninsula. The war would continue in Laos and Cambodia until 1975 when the People’s Republic of Laos was established, Vietnam achieved its reunification in 1976 and only in 1991, after the irrational dictatorship of the Khmer Rouge (1975-1979) and more than ten years after the ensuing and prolonged armed conflict in Cambodia, agreements on a comprehensive political solution would eventually also be signed in Paris.
From there peace would return to revitalize the future of these punished peoples.