The US was involved in Vietnam, via the French, from at least 1949
forward. (best short book on Vietnam is Marilyn Young, the Vietnam Wars).
Some, indeed many, Laotians were involved in that war on the side of
the US-CIA , particularly Laotian drug dealers who persist today,
among the most brutal drug dealers in the world. (See McCoy, the
Politics of Heroin). There are, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of
these Laotian fascists in the US today, still plying the trade, led
by Vang Pao. Most people in the Laotian community know a lot about him.
It was US imperialism (need for raw materials like rubber, rice, etc)
and the anti-communist policies of containing the social fascist USSR
and the recently (1949) won peasant nationalism in China that
propelled the US. From around 1950 forward, the US poured billions of
dollars and technicians, spies, advisors, into Vietnam seeking to
defeat Ho Chi Minh and General Giap, legitimate leaders of the
Vietnamese. As both Chalmers Johnson and I argued in the 60s, Ho and
Giap were not reds, but peasant nationalists, which I think is and
was too bad.
The French were driven out of Vietnam in the mid fifties, by the
masses of people, at the battle of Dienbienphu (worth knowing about ,
see Bernard Fall).
The US proceeded to take charge of the war thenceforth and sought to
deny support to what was, at first, a guerrilla army, by drying up
the sea they swam in, killing the people and eradicating the food
supply (as with Agent Orange , a defoliant, which truly stupid US
troops sprayed on Vietnam from helicopters, then came home wondering
why they themselves got sick).
Bombing, done by war criminals and desk murderers like McCain and
Lyndon Johnson, was indiscriminate. Some have argued that more bombs
were dropped on Vietnam than were dropped by both sides in WW2. Many
of those bombs were antipersonnel cluster bombs. And, some people
remember Dow's napalm. Nobody knows for sure how many Vietnamese
died. I guess around 4 million. Since the usual battle field
multiplier, 3-1 wounded to dead, would not apply to a war that sought
to massacre civilians, it is likely 8 to 10 times that many people
were wounded. And more after the US route when the cluster bombs
continued to explode.
The peasant nationalists ran off the US war criminals ( I consider
anyone who went to Vietnam after 1967 a war criminal, nobody HAD to
go) in one of the most ignominious routes in military history. The US
troops and spies ran away, leaving behind not only their allies, but
lists of their allies names, addresses, phone number---which the US
cowards failed to burn. April 29-30, 1975 is a fond memory to me.
The key to grasping the war in Vietnam is recognizing that the masses
of people rose up and defeated the US militarily, politically, and
morally. And the US fled. The war nearly destroyed the US economy and
millions of people around the world suffered for it. As with WW2,
Vietnam demonstrates that technology, and money, and greed, and
hubris, can be defeated. It is a shame that a steeper price was not
paid by the Japanese and German fascists after WW2, though.
The suffering of the war cannot be offset by lessons from it, but
here are some:
*Morale, the high moral ground, combined with political and
military leadership rooted in a grasp of class struggle, is key in
warfare and it can beat back a more well equipped enemy---as we see today.
*Fighting for less than equality and democracy means,
eventually, that even politico-military victories can become defeats.
*The "Vietnam Syndrome" still frightens the US ruling class.
The US military disintegrated. It was drug infested. Troops blew up
and killed their officers (fragging) which is why we see elites doing
all they can to avoid a draft today. The Vietnam syndrome spilled
into campuses and high schools where rebellion ruled the day...and
opened the door for some interesting ideas under attack today. The
blitzkreig tactics the US used in, for example, Gulf War One, were
designed to not repeat Vietnam. And the generals now leading the US
forces, or misleading them to be more precise, still point back to
Vietnam as something to overcome. Their problem? They cannot be
friends of the people since the people know the US is there to rob
and murder them.
* A relatively small group with good methods of analysis and
deep concern about the common good can, with perseverance, win. Ho
Chi Minh started with less than twenty people and ran off the most
powerful military in the world.
There are, of course, many more lessons from Vietnam. The US antiwar
movement today repeats the same mistakes that nearly eradicated the
old antiwar movement, often behind the same people like the failed
Weathermen, once liberals with bombs, now just rich liberals sucking
up foundation grants.
Today, however, the stakes are higher. The US is a superpower in
rapid decline, its ruling classes absolutely desperate, and fascism
emerges around us, fast. How do tyrants typically deal with profound
economic crises at home? By expanding and starting wars elsewhere.
And crackdowns at home. After all, the US war criminal troops are
still volunteering and the population is holding its breath, hoping
it can go shopping again. Problem is, it cannot. How long the US
citizenry will be cheering flyovers at football games and baseball
players in camo outfits remains to be seen.
Since we have all been wrong before, "all", including me, maybe we
should try to lay out our case (s) yet try to be nice to people on
the list as we will all may be in the same roundup and it could be
embarrassing not to want to talk to the person in the next cell.
Down the Banks!
Up the Rebels?
At 06:42 PM 9/30/2008, you wrote:
>About Bourdain's stats--I am exquisitely skeptical. I mean, how in
>the hell would a "squad leader" know 35 years later how many bombs
>were dropped? The number seem wildly exaggerated--as one would
>expect of a "squad leader." And where would "mortar rounds" have
>come from??? Mortars are land weapons. You don't say if Bourdain
>showed any pictures of the wounded. I think you should write him and
>ask for statistics on his "bomb a minute for 10 years." Oh, please.
>We were in Vietnam for 10 years, 1965-1975. Although he is a
>wonderfully acerbic writer about food myths, he is not praised for
>his accuracy (and as a former restaurant critic (Richmond, Denver), I
>would say with good reason).
>Plus, you don't have to go to the north of Laos to be near Vietnam.
>Vietnam ENGULFS the entirety of Laos (and Cambodia as well). Duh.
>Look at a map for godsake.
>I spent several months in Laos in early 1974--as a tourist. In the
>capital, Vientiane, which was pretty depressing, I saw a number of
>people who had lost a leg to land mines, but nothing on cluster bombs
>or mortars (these really make no sense) the order of what one might
>expect from the numbers you present. In the old royal and religious
>capital of Luang Prabang, where I was quasi-adopted by a Lao family,
>I saw nothing. Luang Prabang is in the north.
>As I said, I was quasi-adopted, having met a person from the
>Australian embassy on the flight up from Vientiane who was headed
>back to visit the family who had taught him Lao. The Lao family
>structure is very elastic. The Laos I met were among the most
>gracious people I've encountered--in spite of what we had definitely
>done wrong to them.
>I think you're far too gullible.
>On Sep 30, 2008, at 6:12 PM, ------------- wrote:
> > Last night I was watching Anthony Bourdien's culinary/cultural
> > visit to Laos. It was sobering to say the least - even
> > Bourdien's usual acerbic banter was silenced. He went to the north
> > of the country near the Viet border where he met
> > a squad of people whose job it is to locate and remove US ordnance
> > that was left behind. The head of the squad stated
> > they had removed over 400,000 cluster bombs and other mortar rounds
> > from the soil, but he estimated that over 2,000,000
> > still remain. Bourdien brought up that the US bombing of Laos was
> > a) done in secret; and b) was totally illegal since
> > we were not at war with Laos. Even more sobering was his statistic
> > that we dropped in excess of a bomb a minute every day for 10
> > years.
> > The last segment of the show Bourdien ate at the hut of a simple
> > farmer who had lost both an arm and a leg when his plow
> > hit a cluster bomb that had been left behind. Even so, his family
> > put on a peasant feast for the visitor from the country who had
> > maimed him...it spoke volumes about ethos and ethics.
> > -----------------
> > ...change is inevitable, growth is optional...