1966 : Ramparts Blows MSU’s Cover Regarding Vietnam

April 1, 2018 all-day

How badly will the Larry Nassar wholesale sexual abuse scandal impact Michigan State University’s reputation?  Perhaps not that much in the long run according to a recent article by Politico.

Eric Scigliano points out that” little over 50 years ago, another national scandal overtook Michigan State University, an academic and political cause célèbre that seemed to leave the school indelibly associated with—even, in some quarters, blamed for—nothing less than America’s war in Vietnam. Today the fateful exercise in nation-building and government-and-gown cooperation known as the Michigan State University Advisory Group rates but a footnote in popular histories of the war, if that. Ken Burns’ and Lynn Novick’s recent 18-hour documentary series The Vietnam War does not mention it at all.

MSU’s role in supporting and propping up Vietnam was revealed in the April 1966 issue of Ramparts.   The main article recounted … how an overambitious university had sold its soul, become a shameless CIA front, and helped launch a ruthless dictatorship and wasteful war by miring itself in a self-serving “Vietnam Adventure,” complete with the servants, spacious villas, free-flowing booze and other perks of the neocolonial elite.

This indictment has been taken up lately by Jeremy Kuzmarov, a history professor at the University of Tulsa, who denounced MSU’s role in “the making of a police state in South Vietnam” in his 2012 book Modernizing Repression and in a critique of the Burns/Novick documentary for HuffPost. It’s an appealing narrative, especially in light of the blunders and tragedies that ensued in Vietnam.”

For the entire story see Eric Scigliano, “The University That Launched a CIA Front Operation in Vietnam“, Politico, March 25,2018.  How the friendship between a Vietnamese politician and an American academic led Michigan State University into a vast experiment in nation-building and pulled America deeper into war.

“In retrospect, backlash against MSU’s Vietnam involvement made it an early hotbed of organizing by the Students for a Democratic Society (which was founded nearby at the University of Michigan), and the school became home to what may have been the nation’s first campus-based underground newspaper.  Many of the MSU faculty who provided help and advice faced considerable flak including President John Hannah, who abruptly resigned from MSU in 1969 and became director of the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Since then, Michigan State has undergone a collective process of self-examination over its role in Vietnam. In 1998, its university press released Ernst’s Forging a Fateful Alliance, the most complete history published of the MSU Group. Formerly assailed for packing its Vietnam records away uncatalogued, the university has since digitized more than 80,000 documents and posted them online. Any academic or intellectual tempted to enlist in future U.S. efforts to remake other nations would do well to consult both.”


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