Letter to the Editor, 1975

(to the editors at the New York Times)

Dear Sir:

An editorial in the Times, April 5, observes that “a decade of fierce polemics has failed to resolve this ongoing quarrel” between two contending views: that “the war to preserve a non-Communist, independent South Vietnam could have been waged differently,” and that “a viable, non-Communist South Vietnam was always a myth.” There has also been a third position: That apart from its prospects for success, the United States has neither the authority nor competence to intervene in the internal affairs of Vietnam. This was the position of much of the authentic peace movement, that is, those who opposed the war because it was wrong, not merely because it was unsuccessful. It is regrettable that this position is not even a contender in the debate, as The Times sees it.

On a facing page, Donald Kirk observes that “since the term ‘bloodbath’ first came into vogue in the Indochinese conflict, no one seems to have applied it to the war itself — only to the possible consequences of ending the war.” He is quite wrong. Many Americans involved in the authentic peace movement have insisted for years on the elementary point that he believes has been noticed by “no one,” and it is a commonplace in literature on the war. To mention just one example, we have written a small book on the subject (Counterrevolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda, 1973), though in this case the corporation (Warner Brothers) that owned the publisher refused to permit distribution after publication. But quite apart from this, the observation has been made repeatedly in discussion and literature on the war, by just that segment of opinion that The Times editorial excludes from the debate.

Sincerely yours,
Noam Chomsky
Professor, MIT


Edward S. Herman
Professor, University of Pennsylvania