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The Vietnam War Quotes

They Said It

"Come you masters of war / You that build all the guns / You that build the death planes / You that build all the bombs / You that hide behind walls / You that hide behind desks / I just want you to know / I can see through your masks."85

- Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, lyrics from "Masters of War," 1963
"Before closing my eyes to Buddha, I respectfully plead to President Ngo Dinh Diem, asking him to be kind and tolerant toward his people and to enforce a policy of religious equality."

- The last written words of Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death to protest the regime in South Vietnam, 196386
"I was too shocked to cry, too confused to take notes or ask questions, too bewildered to even think."

- New York Times correspondent David Halberstam, a witness to the self-immolation of a Buddhist monk in Saigon, 196387
"If I left [the war in Vietnam] and let the Communists take over South Vietnam, then I would be seen as a coward and my nation would be seen as an appeaser, and we would both find it impossible to accomplish anything for anybody anywhere on the entire globe."88

- President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964
"The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."

- Time magazine editorial about Roger Allen LaPorte, an American pacifist who set himself on fire in protest of American policies in Vietnam, 196589
"Everything depends on the Americans. If they want to make war for 20 years then we shall make war for 20 years. If they want to make peace, we shall make peace and invite them to tea afterwards."

- North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh, December 196690
"I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw me and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such."

- Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights, antipoverty, and antiwar activist, 196791
"The picture of the world's greatest superpower killing or seriously injuring 1,000 noncombatants a week while trying to pound a tiny backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one."

- Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in a private letter to President Lyndon B. Johnson, May 196792
"Who is the enemy? How can you distinguish between the civilians and the noncivilians? The same people who come and work in the bases at daytime, they just want to shoot and kill you at nighttime. So how can you distinguish between the two? The good or the bad? All of them look the same."

- Private Varnado Simpson, a U.S. soldier from Charlie Company of the 23rd Infantry Division, 196993
"I had prayed to God that this thing was fiction."

- Colonel William Wilson, a combat veteran who conducted an investigation into the massacre at My Lai94
"I was ordered to go in there and destroy the enemy...That was my job on that day. That was the mission I was given. I did not sit down and think in terms of men, women and children."

- Lieutenant William Calley, testifying at Court-Martial in defense of his actions in My Lai, 197095
"[Nixon] has ended the war, because you don't see the war on the tube any more. So the war has ended, though we are bombing the hell out of those poor people, more than ever."

- An American news executive, 197296
"The Oriental doesn't put the same high price on life as the Westerner. Life is plentiful, life is cheap in the Orient, and as the philosophy of the Orient expresses it, life is not important."

- General William Westmoreland, interviewed for the documentary Hearts and Minds, 197497

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