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Rabbi Brickner Reports There is a Growing and Active Peace Movement in Vietnam

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Rabbi Balfour Brickner, director of the Commission on Interfaith Activities of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations who recently returned from a trip to Vietnam under the sponsorship of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, reported today that a “burgeoning peace movement” is “alive everywhere” in Vietnam and is supported by all ranks of the citizenry. A longtime critic of American involvement in the Vietnamese war, Rabbi Brickner said President Nguyen Van Thieu and Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky are well aware of the growing peace movement. “Hence.” he said, “they declare that anyone calling for an immediate peace will be considered a friend of the communists and all powers of the government and the law would be arraigned against such persons.” Rabbi Brickner declared that those involved in the peace movement are “as militantly anti-communist as they are anti-Thieu-Ky.” and that their desire is not so much a quick withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam as it is a withdrawal of U.S. support of the Thieu government. Withdrawal of American support from the present Saigon government, he said, would give the “repressed forces for peace” in South Vietnam the opportunity to “surface and form the kind of political force which will make a viable peace possible.”

Rabbi Brickner also reported that his group, joined by Australians, New Zealanders and Dutchmen who also visited Saigon to investigate the Vietnamese peace movement, had visited Con Son Island with its infamous “tiger cages” and had participated in a student peace protest which was tear-gassed by the Saigon Security Police. “The incongruity of America providing tear gas to the Saigon police for use by that force to repress such basic civil rights and freedom to assemble and the right of free speech, was not lost on the Saigon students.” Rabbi Brickner stated. “They wonder how a government that invades another country, in order to impose freedom and democracy, permits the repression of the very freedoms and democracies it is there to protect.” Rabbi Brickner said that all efforts to meet with Saigon officials were futile, and that appointments were set and later cancelled for one reason or another. The group did meet briefly, he said, with Assistant U.S. Ambassador Samuel Berger and that his response “to our question about U.S. complicity on the matter of prisons in Vietnam was a closed and typically guarded reply.”

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