Christopher Goscha : Peace matters [book review]

[ndlr] Signalement de la recension de l’ouvrage de Sophie Quinn-Judge (The Third Force in the Vietnam War: The Elusive Search for Peace, 1954-75) par Christopher E. Goscha. En accès libre pendant quelques jours sur Mekong Review. Lecture vivement conseillée.

Sophie Quinn-Judge landed in central Vietnam in 1973 as a member of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC). She served in the AFSC-run Rehabilitation Centre in Quang Ngai province until the end of the war in 1975, providing prosthetics and relief help to war-injured civilians coming from all sides of the conflict ripping Vietnam apart. Quinn-Judge grew up in Quaker country in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Although she was not initially a member of this breakaway Protestant faith, she took part in their youth camps as a youngster and felt at home working in the AFSC in France and Vietnam.

The Quakers established the AFSC upon the United States’ entry into the First World War in 1917. The Quakers refused to take part in war as an article of faith. So instead of sending their sons into the trenches of the Western Front, the AFSC mobilised their young people to help civilians hurt and displaced by the conflagration. The AFSC did more than provide humanitarian aid, however. Drawing on centuries of Quaker pacifism, the organisation actively promoted “lasting peace with justice, as a practical expression of faith in action”. Educational programs, youth camps and exchanges helped nurture “the seeds of change and respect for human life that transform social relations and systems”. In 1947, the AFSC received the Nobel Prize for Peace for its humanitarian relief efforts during and after the Second World War and its promotion of world peace. The Quakers continued their work during the Cold War, dispatching people to work in war-torn areas of the Afro-Asian world, including Vietnam.[1]

Quinn-Judge carried these values with her to Quang Ngai, working tirelessly in the rehabilitation centre. Arriving shortly after the signing of the Paris Peace Accords, she also became an advocate of peace. The Paris Agreement, signed by the Vietnamese and US sides in January 1973, called for the creation of a coalition government in South Vietnam that would eventually replace the embattled Republic of Vietnam. The coalition would include members from this state, a host of non-communist religious, neutralist and democratic leaders, as well as the communist-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) and the People’s Revolutionary Government for the south. This southern coalition would then decide the south’s destiny via negotiations with the north.

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Image « à la une » : With journalists from Van nghe quan doi, Quinn-Judge, far right. Photograph : Claudia Krich © Mekong Review