Songs of protest have played a part in American life for many years. These have been songs about the concerns of farmers, miners, cowboys, union members. All have had a common purpose-to express and to relieve people’s feelings on subjects that are important to them. Their writers and performers have sometimes hoped that the songs might even help to change people’s attitudes.
In the 1960s a young writer and singer named Bob Dylan used protest songs to support the anti-war movement of the time. By the 1970s Dylan had become a very popular-and very rich-international entertainer. But in the 1960s he was more than this. For many young people he was the voice of the conscience of their generation. His lyrics, often set to old tunes, were ironic comments on what he saw as the deceit and hypocrisy ot those who held power. These verses from his song With God on Our Side are typical:
Oh, the history books tell it.
They tell it so well,
The cavalries charged,
The Indians fell.
The cavalries charged.
The Indians died,
Oh the country was young With God on its side.
N ixon worked out a plan to achieve this. He called it the “Victnamization” of the war. He set out to strengthen the South Vietnamese army to make it seem strong enough to defend South Vietnam without help. This gave him an excuse to start withdrawing American fighting men from Vietnam.
Nixon then sent Henry Kissinger, his adviser on foreign affairs, to secret talks with North Vietnamese and Russian leaders in Moscow. In return for a ceasefire he offered to withdraw all American troops from Vietnam within six months. When the North Vietnamese were slow to agree he started bombing their cities again in order to “persuade” them. A sort of agreement was finally put together in January
1973. By March 1973, the last American soldiers had left Vietnam.
But the real end of the Vietnam War came in May 1975. As frightened Vietnamese supporters of the Americans scrambled for the last places on rescue helicopters, victorious communist tanks rolled into Saigon, the capital city of South Vietnam. The communists marked their victory by given Saigon a new name. They called it Ho Chi Minh City.
In Korea, twenty years earlier, the Americans had claimed that they had made containment work. In Vietnam they knew, and so did everyone else, that they had failed.