Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why Viet Nam Truth Really Matters

By Bruce McPhie

US President Obama has officially launched “The Vietnam War Commemoration Project”, a 13-year campaign, costing US$65 million. From 2012 - 2025, the US government plans to create, then sustain, a positive legacy for the Vietnam War.  

Rewriting Vietnam War history has been going on for awhile, of course, but expect much more.  For example, Phillip Jennings wrote an article "Why Vietnam Truth Matters".  Later, we will look at some historical facts and alternative opinions, so you can decide which interpretation stands up best to closer investigation.   

First, note this extract from his article, and see if you agree:

"....Okay, for the record one more time—There was South Vietnam (a struggling democracy) and North Vietnam (a brutal communist government). We were allies with the South as they fought off the North trying to take them over. We beat the North in 1973. They signed a Peace Treaty. America came home. The communists launched a new attack and the U.S. Democrat controlled Congress abrogated the treaty and our obligations. North Vietnam overran South Vietnam so it became ONE communist, brutally ruled country to the death and miserable detriment of hundreds of thousands of our former allies…

 .... the role of the U.S. military in Afghanistan is to prepare the U.S. for a negotiated settlement by putting us in the best possible position vis a vis our enemies there. We should remember that is exactly what the U.S. military gave us in Vietnam when we forced the North Vietnamese to the peace table. The military and Nixon had beaten the communists thoroughly on the battlefield and psychologically by bombing around Hanoi at will. The U.S. media and liberal congress then did their best to obviate completely that advantage gained with so much blood and tears by constantly undermining Nixon and Kissinger, passing resolutions cutting off military alternatives, and demanding settlement at any cost…

Phil Jennings is the author of the Politically Incorrect Guide to the Vietnam War.  Phillip Jennings served in Vietnam with the United States Marine Corps, flying helicopters, and in Laos as a pilot for Air America...
From ‘Human Events’ (July 27, 2010):

With devastating wars continuing out of control today, understanding the 'Vietnam War' and its lessons for the world is now more important than ever.  The US government’s project to ‘clean up’ the image of the war in people’s minds, must not distort historical truths to turn a war crime into a ‘noble cause’.

What Phillip Jennings writes could misinform others and become part of the popular myth-making by militarists, so this important history really needs to be properly understood.  

Rewriting the Vietnam War with a false history is not how to make amends for past crimes.  Instead, he should follow the example of other military people who now work passionately for peace and overcoming the tragic consequences of past wars.  I respect those anti-war soldiers immensely, but not the war mongers!

When did the American War against Viet Nam really begin?
Not in 1965 when 3,200 US Marines landed at Danang – about 20,000 US military personnel were already in south Viet Nam by then, engaged in combat without Congressional approval, and facing imminent defeat.  US military ‘advisers’ served and died there from the early 1950s. 
Not in 1962 the date President Obama has now called the “50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War”, when US Army helicopter pilots carried Saigon troops on “a single raid against an enemy stronghold. . . one of America’s first major operations in that faraway land.”   (President Obama, Memorial Day speech, May 28, 2012)

Not in 1954 when the French War officially ended with their surrender to the Viet Minh at Dien Bien Phu – the US had already been there for years, funding the French war up to 80%, and preventing peace talks.  

Not even in 1950 when the US officially began large-scale shipments of military equipment (tanks, transport planes, etc.) to the French colonialists and their puppet government in Viet Nam.  

Actually, it began in 1945 – as a double act of betrayal!

During World War 2, the US and Ho Chi Minh were close allies in the war against Japan.  However, in August 1945 the US government secretly agreed to assist the French to reclaim their colonial power in Indochina, instead of supporting the popular Viet Minh cause for independence, thus betraying their Vietnamese World War 2 allies.

In September-October 1945, the Pentagon (and the British government) commandeered ships and planes to transport 13,000 French troops into Saigon to retake their colony, thus even betraying their own World War 2 soldiers by delaying their return home to their families.

The enlisted crews on these US troopships were outraged, and signed a petition to the US Congress and the President denouncing these “imperialist policies” and the use of American ships “to subjugate the native population” of Viet Nam. 

So began the American War against Viet Nam, and the public opposition to it, in 1945!

The basic truth is that from the very start it was an imperialist enterprise to control resources, which started with the US government supporting the return of the hated French colonialists in 1945, and continued with supporting various corrupt Vietnamese military dictators in the south. It was never a legally-declared or legitimate war.

Official US government statements were more honest about this back in 1953:

“Suppose we lost Indochina.  If that happened, tin and tungsten, to which we attach such a high price, would cease coming.  That is why when the US decides to give an aid of 400 million dollars to this (French) war, it does not make a gratuitous offer. In reality, we have chosen the least costly means to prevent one of the most terrible things for the US, for its security, its strength and its possibility to obtain what it needs among the riches in Indochina and South East Asia.”
- US President Eisenhower, at the Conference of State Governors, Seattle, August 4, 1953. 

The ‘Vietnam War’ had nothing to do with "freedom and democracy" for the Vietnamese!  It was not a “noble cause” to resist “Aggression from the North”.

It didn’t matter that ‘South Vietnam’ was not a democracy, and engaged in US-sponsored systematic torture and human rights abuses - just as long as they were “anti-communist”. Tyrants are fine, just as long as they remain ‘our’ tyrants!  This holds true today.

Imperialist wars are never about the rights or interests of the ordinary people anywhere. They are always only about controlling strategic resources and making profits for the super-rich ruling class. Therefore, they are always sold to the public by lies and myths, hyping up false fears and cultural misunderstandings. The corporate-owned mass media plays a vital role in the selling of such improper wars, during the Vietnam war, as well as today.

All that was true in the case of Indochina, just as it is true today - with Iraq (lies for oil, the petro-dollar, military bases, etc.) and Afghanistan (lies about 9/11 and "terrorists" for oil & gas pipelines, military bases, minerals, etc.), Libya & Syria (false “humanitarian interventions” to weaken independent states and control resources), etc.

The attacks on Iran, including economic sanctions which are effectively an act of war against innocent Iranians, are all about regime change to create a weak puppet state, to protect Israeli hegemony, US dollar dominance and big banking interests, and to control oil, minerals, resources, corporate profits, etc. - nothing to do with an alleged nuclear weapons programme, for which no evidence exists, or the interests and welfare of the people of Iran. 

Have we forgotten already the deliberate lies about "Weapons of Mass Destruction" in Iraq?
Or, the fabricated “Tonkin Gulf attacks” and other ‘false flags’ and propaganda in the case of Viet Nam?

The Phillip Jennings writings can be challenged by historical facts, easily found in many scholarly history books.  The truth of the anti-war argument was also confirmed by the famous leaking of the official ‘Pentagon Papers’ – the “Top Secret” US government study of the war.  Highly-decorated US military hero, Major-General Smedley Butler,  turned anti-war whistle-blower and famously wrote all about why "War is a Racket" way back in 1935.

Contrary to popular myth, the international agreement signed at Geneva in 1954, did not create two countries - 'North Vietnam' and 'South Vietnam'.  

It recognized only one country, temporarily divided in 1954 at the end of the French war, with two governments each claiming legitimacy over the whole country, from the Chinese border in the north to the southern tip of the Mekong Delta. 

The Geneva Agreement specifically stated that the division into two zones was "a temporary military demarcation line, not a territorial boundary", and it would dissolve after nationwide democratic elections in 1956, supervised by Canada, Poland and India.

The Democratic Republic of Viet Nam government headed by president Ho Chi Minh (northern zone) gained political legitimacy by massive popular support of the people, who claimed power throughout the whole country in the largely-peaceful August Revolution, after the occupying Japanese were defeated in World War 2.  Ho Chi Minh proudly declared the national independence of the new republic of Viet Nam in Hanoi on September 2, 1945.   

At the time, Ho Chi Minh seriously wanted the wartime friendship with the USA to continue, and wrote 8 cables to the US President discussing that - but got no replies.  The ‘Cold War’ had replaced  the anti-fascist World War 2.

Ho Chi Minh's government also had political legitimacy bestowed on it by Viet Nam’s last king.  

On August 30, 1945, king Bao Dai formally abdicated power, handing the royal sword and gold seal to the new republican government.  Declaring he was now happier to be a private citizen in a free country instead of the king of an enslaved one, he ended the feudal monarchy.  President Ho Chi Minh invited him to serve as an advisor.

The other government (southern zone) was the State of Vietnam, established in 1949 by the French to oppose Ho Chi Minh, and headed by the ex-king Bao Dai who allowed himself to be used once again by the French as their puppet Head of State.  State of Vietnam later had a name change to the Republic of Vietnam (commonly known as ‘South Vietnam’, with its capital in Saigon), and was then headed by President Diem, an unpopular Vietnamese catholic from the US, who replaced Bao Dai.  Understandably, the minority of Vietnamese who had previously supported and benefited from the now-defeated French colonialists then supported this US-backed government.
So, who was expected to win the 1956 national democratic election?!  

Even US President Eisenhower later wrote in his memoirs that if the democratic election had been held in 1956, at least 80% of the national population would have voted for Ho Chi Minh.  

Therefore the ‘southern’ side, with US government backing, refused to hold the elections. They even refused to begin the consultative process to set-up the internationally-supervised elections, so their claim that the other side would not allow a free election is invalid.  The most important provision of the 1954 Geneva Agreement was therefore sabotaged, although the US government had publicly promised to honour it.  This made another war inevitable.
For the majority of the Vietnamese people, the victory that they should have won peacefully in the ballot box now had to be won on the bloody battlefield instead, at a terrible cost in lives and property, the destruction of much of the natural environment, and the social and family infrastructure. 

Present and future generations still suffer from the horrible consequences of that criminal war, including from Agent Orange and other US chemical warfare toxins, an estimated 800,000 tonnes of unexploded bombs and mines still killing and maiming people today, and the “wandering spirits” of about 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers still Missing-in-Action and their shattered families who mourn them still.

But, as Ho Chi Minh famously said: "Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom."  
Remarkably, the Vietnamese won the war that was forced upon them.  This Vietnamese victory can be demonstrated by simply looking at the terms of the 1973 Paris Peace Agreement.

The Paris Agreement was essentially exactly the same as an agreement proposed by the Vietnamese on October 8, 1972, and agreed to by US President Nixon and Kissinger, without even consulting their government in Saigon.

When Saigon found out they were furious, because the agreement involved the withdrawal of all foreign troops (i.e. the US and their allies), but northern People's Army forces supporting the southern Provisional Revolutionary Government would remain where they were in the south.  After all, the Geneva Agreement had acknowledged the territorial integrity of one Viet Nam, so they could hardly be "foreign troops" invading their own country!

During 12 days and nights of Christmas 1972, the US Air Force therefore launched the massive, brutal bombing of Hanoi and other populated cities in the north to try to force concessions, including withdrawing northern soldiers from the south.  It failed. 

The US Air Force was shocked when 81 planes were shot down, including 34 of their high-flying B52 bombers which they believed were invincible!

Public protest, and the loss of so many US planes and top pilots, forced an end to the bombing. In nearly 10 years of aerial bombing, the Vietnamese destroyed over 4000 US planes.  The Pentagon still does not want to publicly admit to this devastating defeat for the US Air Force!

On January 27, 1973, the US signed the Paris Peace Agreement, which allowed northern troops to remain in the south!  There were no more concessions.  Vietnamese proudly celebrate this great victory every year as their “Dien Bien Phu of the Air".

This name reminds us of the historic Vietnamese military victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in northern Viet Nam in 1954.  Ironically, by 1954 the US taxpayers were paying 80% of the French colonialist war costs! 

The Paris Peace Agreement was a turning point, but not the end of the war.  US military and economic support for Saigon continued, with many US troops ‘rebranded’ and remaining as “advisors”, and there were immediate violations from the desperate Saigon side.  However, the historic ‘Ho Chi Minh Campaign’ was ultimately successful, and Saigon unconditionally surrendered to the revolutionaries on April 30, 1975.

National reunification was finally won, but it could have been won peacefully at the ballot box in 1956, and if the US had not made the wrong choice in 1945!

Instead of writers like Philip Jennings writing a distortion of history to justify the unjustifiable, they should use their experience and talents to write against the criminal folly of war.  The military people to respect are those who follow in the tradition of military heroes like US Major-General Smedley Butler, who finally understood that he was nothing more than "a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism....a muscle-man for Wall Street". 
Today’s real military heroes are those who stand up, become whistleblowers against illegal wars and the lies used to sell them, go AWOL from criminal wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, publish the truth and sabotage the imperialist war machine from within – as Vietnam veterans did so powerfully and effectively during that unjust war. 

There are many reasons ‘Why Vietnam Truth Really Matters’, one of them being to correctly learn from that history in order to prevent future tragedies.  Yes indeed, "War is a Racket", and falsely promoting it as something noble does not serve humanity or the planet well.

During the Vietnam War, thousands of US soldiers, who at first believed they were “serving their country”, soon realized it was a lie and a war crime.   
In many and various ways, they opposed the war, testified against war crimes, refused to obey orders, sought conscientious objector status, etc., and built a very active resistance within the US military.  By 1968, there were dozens of anti-war newspapers and organizations founded by veterans. The disintegration of military discipline due to the increasingly anti-war combat troops was a major factor in the eventual defeat of the US military in Viet Nam.   

The anti-war Vietnam soldiers are true heroes, but will they be remembered and honoured in the official Vietnam War Commemoration Project?  The insatiable war machine wants only compliant recruits, lured by false patriotism.

I welcome your constructive feedback, and hope the facts, history and opinions here will assist you to separate truth from myth about the Vietnam War during the US government’s Vietnam War Commemoration Project, 2012-2025.

Bruce McPhie
September 15, 2012     

Rewriting History: US War On Vietnam                                                                                               
By Michael Uhl  (Vietnam Veteran, now anti-war activist)  

The Vietnam War and the Struggle For Truth
By John Grant (Vietnam Veteran, now anti-war activist)
“Sir! No Sir! – The Suppressed Story of the GI Movement to End the War in Vietnam”          
A timely film produced, directed and written by David Zeigler.

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