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Tags: tom hayden | vietnam war | protests | jane fonda | Bui Tin | anniversary

Tom Hayden to Newsmax: Communist Vietnam 'Is a Free Country'

Tom Hayden to Newsmax: Communist Vietnam 'Is a Free Country'
(Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 04 May 2015 06:35 AM EDT

At a reunion of protesters against the Vietnam War on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the first antiwar march, Tom Hayden, one of the founding fathers of that movement, vowed to continue his crusade for a monument to Americans who marched against the U.S. military efforts to help South Vietnam in its war against communist North Vietnam in the 1960s.

"It’s stunning there’s no recognition of us," Hayden told the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Conference, held in Washington, D.C.’s New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. Recalling how "every social movement gets a monument," Hayden, 75, spoke of his recent talks with Pentagon officials to get some sort of recognition of Vietnam War opponents and to "get them [sic] near the Vietnam War Memorial," honoring American servicemen killed in that war, in which U.S. involvement ended in 1973.

Following his remarks and before commencing a march with fellow protest alumni to the Martin Luther King Memorial, Hayden voiced to Newsmax his view that Vietnam — united under Communist rule since South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam on April 30, 1975 — is "a free country."

Referring to Bui Tin, the North Vietnamese colonel who received the surrender from acting South Vietnamese President Duong van Minh that day, this reporter quoted him to Hayden as later saying: "Every day, our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the anti-war movement. Visits to Hanoi by people like Jane Fonda [Hayden’s former wife] and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and ministers gave us confidence we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses."

"I don’t agree with him, but he’s entitled to his opinion," Hayden said of Bui Tin’s remarks, "It’s a free country."

"Vietnam under communism is a free country?" Newsmax asked Hayden.

"Vietnam, the U.S — he can say whatever he wants," replied one of the founders of the antiwar Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) movement and a onetime California state senator.

In its 2014 "World Report," the respected Human Rights Watch organization concluded on Vietnam: "The human rights situation in Vietnam deteriorated significantly in 2013, worsening a trend evident for several years. The year was marked by a severe and intensifying crackdown on critics, including long prison terms for many peaceful activists whose 'crime' was calling for political change."

Noting that "the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) continued its one-party rule, in place since 1975," it reported Vietnam "has an estimated 150-200 political prisoners."

"Government repression targets many independent writers, bloggers, and rights activists. They face police intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention without access to legal counsel or family visits, court convictions, and often severe prison sentences.

"Enhancing already extensive government powers to punish and otherwise deter digital freedom, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung on September 1, 2013, put into force Decree 72, which contains provisions legalizing content-filtering and censorship, and outlawing vaguely defined 'prohibited acts.'"

Bui Tin, once the interrogator of U.S. senator-to-be John McCain, left Vietnam in 1990 and now lives in Paris. At 87, he has been disillusioned with the regime he once served and is a vigorous opponent of the dictatorship in his former country.

Asked by Newsmax if he felt South Vietnam would be better off if it had remained the separate country it was before its fall in 1975, Hayden told us: "You’re talking about something that never had a chance of happening. South Vietnam was losing to the North in 1964, it was losing in 1973. That’s why South Vietnam signed an agreement [the Paris Peace Accord in 1973] that permitted North Vietnamese troops to say in the South."

In 1973, when Hayden said South Vietnam was "losing," all U.S. ground troops had been withdrawn and its Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) was more than holding its own, thanks to training and military aid from the U.S.

"[T]hanks to your help," then-South Vietnamese President Nguyen van Thieu told then-President Richard Nixon in California on April 2, 1973, "the Vietnamese defense force was able to repel an all-out communist invasion last year, at a time when American ground troops had been withdrawn."

Just over two years later, after U.S. assistance to the South Vietnamese had been cut off by the 94th Congress, North Vietnam overran Saigon. In his memoirs, North Vietnam’s Gen. Van Tien Dung wrote that because of the termination of U.S. aid, President Thieu had been forced to fight "a poor man’s war."

When Newsmax began to cite some of this history to Hayden, he simply pointed to the other former protesters outside the church and said: "Hey, I’ve got to go march."

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2023 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

At a reunion of protesters against the Vietnam War on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the first antiwar march, Tom Hayden - one of the founders of the antiwar Students for a Democratic Society movement - told Newsmax columnist John Gizzi that Vietnam "is a free country."
tom hayden, vietnam war, protests, jane fonda, Bui Tin, anniversary
Monday, 04 May 2015 06:35 AM
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