May 19, 2020
Congressman L. Rivers wanted to nuke North Vietnam and launch a full-scale invasion of Hanoi. He’s considered a hero for those views and an elementary school in Oklahoma (L. Mendel Rivers Elementary School in Altus) and a library at Charleston Southern University is named after him.
Lucius Mendel Rivers, Democrat was born on September 28, 1905, in Gumville, South Carolina. He died December 28, 1970, in Birmingham, Alabama at the age of 65. He was a Democratic U.S. Representative from South Carolina for nearly 30 years. He was also the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee during the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Like most South Carolinian Democrats of his era, Rivers was a staunch segregationist. He voted against every civil rights bill and even attempted to impeach a Charleston federal judge for ruling that African-Americans had to be allowed to vote in Democratic primaries and segregated schools were unconstitutional.
His racial views carried over to his handling of the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up. The My Lai Massacre occurred on March 16, 1968, the United States Army murdered around 400 Vietnamese civilians over a 4 hour period and sexually-assaulted an unknown amount of women and mutilated the bodies of women, seniors, and children. Official Vietnamese government records put the death toll at 504 people.
Rumors of the massacre spread around U.S. armed forces in the area and some concerned soldiers even wrote letters about the incident to President Nixon. Through the brave and heroic actions of an American reporter Seymour Hersh, the attempted cover-up of My Lai fell apart. Rivers, being the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee was forced to launch an investigation of the massacre.
During the investigation, Rivers criticized Army helicopter pilot CW2 Hugh Thompson, Jr. for ordering his men to fire on American soldiers if they continued to shoot unarmed Vietnamese civilians. Rivers viewed firing on American soldiers regardless of their actions as traitorous and wanted Thompson prosecuted for giving such an order.
After his investigation, Rivers still refused to believe the massacre happened and even publicly stated the massacre rumor was a hoax. Rivers even tried protecting 2nd Lt. William Calley, the man in charge of the My Lai mission from prosecution. Rivers quickly held hearings of his subcommittee on My Lai and called every major witness to the event and then refused to release the transcripts of the testimony, in doing so, prevented military prosecutors from calling those same witnesses during Calley’s court-martial, according to Congressional Investigations and Their Effect on Subsequent Military Prosecutions.
Many now believe the Vietnam War may have been a war to contain communism in Southeast Asia, but to the Vietnamese, it was a war from colonial tyranny. France is a Constitutional Republic, yet they ruled Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam as a dictatorship. France murdered millions of Southeast Asians during their occupation. The United Kingdom is a Constitutional Monarchy, yet they controlled India with an iron fist. Murdering over 35 million Indians through heavy taxation and redistribution of food to England during famines and not allowing Indian citizens to vote. Not to mention the British atrocities committed in Tibet in 1903 and also not allowing Chinese citizens in Shanghai or Hong Kong to vote as well. These examples of democracies ruling Asia did not win any hearts to many Communist Vietnamese.
Feature Images via Wikipedia