Tag Archives: Vietnam

THE ANGRY ARAB: The Lessons of the Taliban, by As`ad AbuKhalil

The US government and its military learned nothing from Vietnam. From As`ad AbuKhalil at consortiumnews.com:

The U.S. humiliation in Afghanistan shows that the empire can’t impose its will, no matter how much violence it inflicts, writes As`ad AbuKhalil.

Zalmay Khalilzad, left, the U.S. chief envoy, signs off on peace deal with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, a Taliban leader, in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 29, 2020. (State Department)

It was quite a spectacle for this century.  If Western media were not all tied to the war establishment, they would have commented on the symbolism: a U.S. envoy signing a peace agreement with an official representatives of the Taliban movement.

Had Osama bin Laden been alive, he may have been invited to the signing ceremony.  Younger readers did not live through the massive propaganda campaign by all Western governments against the Taliban back in 2001.  The U.S. war on Afghanistan was very popular then: at least 90 percent of Americans supported it in 2001.

Conservatives and liberals united to convince public opinion that the removal of the Taliban from power was an American national priority.  The liberal organization, the Feminist Majority, aided the White House in its propaganda effort by releasing information on the Taliban’s war on women.

But when U.S. bombs started to kill women and children on a regular basis, the Feminist Majority and other liberals were silent. (Among women’s rights activists — including some in Afghanistan — the Feminist Majority’s pro-military position on Afghanistan was controversial at the time.)

George W. Bush and his wife briefly posed as feminist in an effort to persuade the public that the American invasion of Afghanistan is a humanitarian effort.

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From Vietnam to Afghanistan, all US governments lie, by Gordon Adams

Anybody who’s surprised by the headline should probably find another website. From Gordon Adams at theconversation.com:

The Washington Post has, after more than two years of investigation, revealed that senior foreign policy officials in the White House, State and Defense departments have known for some time that the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan was failing.

Interview transcripts from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, obtained by the Post after many lawsuits, show that for 18 years these same officials have told the public the intervention was succeeding.

In other words, government officials have been lying.

Few people are shocked. That’s a stark contrast to 1971, when the Pentagon Papers, a classified study of decision-making about Vietnam, were leaked and published. The explosive Pentagon Papers showed that the U.S. government had systematically lied about the reality that the U.S. was losing the Vietnam War.

The failure of the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan has been known for years. Virtually none of the U.S. goals have been met. These goals included a strong, democratic, uncorrupt central government; the defeat of the Taliban; eliminating the poppy fields that contribute to the world’s heroin problem; an effective military and police and creating a healthy, diversified economy.

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The US Military Is Winning… No, Really, It Is! by Nick Turse

The US can “win” every war in which it engages, simply by having the military stay put wherever it’s inserted, and calling that winning. From Nick Turse at tomdispatch.com:

A Simple Equation Proves That the U.S. Armed Forces Have Triumphed in the War on Terror

4,000,000,029,057. Remember that number. It’s going to come up again later.

But let’s begin with another number entirely: 145,000 — as in, 145,000 uniformed soldiers striding down Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s the number of troops who marched down that very street in May 1865 after the United States defeated the Confederate States of America. Similar legions of rifle-toting troops did the same after World War I ended with the defeat of Germany and its allies in 1918. And Sherman tanks rolling through the urban canyons of midtown Manhattan? That followed the triumph over the Axis in 1945. That’s what winning used to look like in America — star-spangled, soldier-clogged streets and victory parades.

Enthralled by a martial Bastille Day celebration while visiting French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris in July 2017, President Trump called for just such a parade in Washington.  After its estimated cost reportedly ballooned from $10 million to as much as $92 million, the American Legion weighed in. That veterans association, which boasts 2.4 million members, issued an August statement suggesting that the planned parade should be put on hold “until such time as we can celebrate victory in the War on Terrorism and bring our military home.” Soon after, the president announced that he had canceled the parade and blamed local Washington officials for driving up the costs (even though he was evidently never briefed by the Pentagon on what its price tag might be).

The American Legion focused on the fiscal irresponsibility of Trump’s proposed march, but its postponement should have raised an even more significant question: What would “victory” in the war on terror even look like? What, in fact, constitutes an American military victory in the world today? Would it in any way resemble the end of the Civil War, or of the war to end all wars, or of the war that made that moniker obsolete? And here’s another question: Is victory a necessary prerequisite for a military parade.

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On Veterans’ Day, Remember the Lies That Filled Military Cemeteries, by James Bovard

Watch what politicians do to veterans, not what they say to “honor” their service. From James Bovard at mises.org:

Politicians will be heartily applauded for saluting American’s soldiers today. But if citizens had better memories, elected officials would instead be fleeing tar and feathers. Politicians have a long record of betraying the veterans they valorize.

Veterans Day 2018 has been dominated by the confab of political leaders in Paris to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One. American media coverage fixated on President Trump’s cancellation of one of his two visits to U.S. military cemeteries. In his speech yesterday at a U.S. military cemetery in France, Trump declared that it is “our duty … to protect the peace they so nobly gave their lives to secure one century ago.” But that peace was sabotaged long before the soldiers’ corpses had turned to dust. Though the American media exalted French President Emmanuel Macron’s denunciation of nationalism at the armistice anniversary, it was conniving by French leader George Clemenceau at the Versailles Peace Treaty that helped assure that U.S. sacrifices in 1917 and 1918 were for naught.

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John McCain: When “Tokyo Rose” Ran for President, by Ron Unz

In a few days we’ll let John McCain rest in torment, but first we’ll do our best to counter the mainstream media’s hagiography onslaught. From Ron Unz at unz.com:

Although the memory has faded in recent years, during much of the second half of the twentieth century the name “Tokyo Rose” ranked very high in our popular consciousness, probably second only to “Benedict Arnold” as a byword for American treachery during wartime. The story of Iva Ikuko Toguri, the young Japanese-American woman who spent her wartime years broadcasting popular music laced with enemy propaganda to our suffering troops in the Pacific Theater was well known to everyone, and her trial for treason after the war, which stripped her of her citizenship and sentenced her to a long prison term, made the national headlines.

The actual historical facts seem to have been somewhat different than the popular myth. Instead of a single “Tokyo Rose” there were actually several such female broadcasters, with Ms. Toguri not even being the earliest, and their identities merged in the minds of the embattled American GIs. But she was the only one ever brought to trial and punished, although her own radio commentary turned out to have been almost totally innocuous. The plight of a young American-born woman alone on a family visit who became trapped behind enemy lines by the sudden outbreak of war was obviously a difficult one, and desperately taking a job as an English-language music announcer hardly fits the usual notion of treason. Indeed, after her release from federal prison, she avoided deportation and spent the rest of her life quietly running a grocery shop in Chicago. Postwar Japan soon became our closest ally in Asia and once wartime passions had sufficiently cooled she was eventually pardoned by President Gerald Ford and had her U.S. citizenship restored.

Despite these extremely mitigating circumstances in Ms. Toguri’s particular case, we should not be too surprised at America’s harsh treatment of the poor woman upon her return home from Japan. All normal countries ruthlessly punish treason and traitors, and these terms are often expansively defined in the aftermath of a bitter war. Perhaps in a topsy-turvy Monty Python world, wartime traitors would be given medals, feted at the White House, and become national heroes, but any real-life country that allowed such insanity would surely be set on the road to oblivion. If Tokyo Rose’s wartime record had launched her on a successful American political career and nearly gave her the presidency, we would know for a fact that some cruel enemy had spiked our national water supply with LSD.

To continue reading: John McCain: When “Tokyo Rose” Ran for President

Lyndon Johnson’s Terrible Legacy, by Patrick Barron

LBJ easily gets a spot in the 5 worst US presidents. From Patrick Barron at mises.org:

Recently my wife and I spent a morning at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas. The damage done by this big bully is incalculable. His library reminds us of the start of the blizzard of government expansion during Johnson’s presidential term, which lasted from the Kennedy assassination in October 1963 to his decision not to run for a full second term in 1968, which usually is attributed to his failure to end the war in Vietnam.

Johnson was an admirer of FDR and was determined to revive and complete what he believed should have been integral parts to FDR’s New Deal. Johnson called his program The Great Society. As if ignorance of the consequences of this socialist expansion of domestic control by government was not enough, LBJ expanded the war in Vietnam, promising America both Guns and Butter. Even today we live with this expansion of government domestic programs and seemingly never-ending wars as the modern Welfare/Warfare state.

The Johnson Treatment

I called Johnson a big bully in the paragraph above. I believe my assessment is justified by what actually is celebrated at his presidential library. The displays proudly explain and document “the Johnson touch” in print, photograph, and actual recorded telephone interviews. Johnson was a big man who towered over most people. He had a habit of getting very close to someone, leaning over at the waist, and forcing his partner in conversation to bend over backwards to avoid an uncomfortable encounter with LBJ’s face. There is a large picture of Johnson giving Supreme Court Associate Justice Abe Fortas this “Johnson Treatment”, literally face-to-face. Fortas, who was a long time LBJ supporter, appears to be taking the “Treatment” in good humor, but it is easy to see how it would be almost impossible to keep one’s dignity with the president of the United States performing this obviously uncomfortable act.

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To continue reading: Lyndon Johnson’s Terrible Legacy

Vietnam Déjà Vu, by Eric Margolis

PBS’s Vietnam series doesn’t look very closely or critically at the US government’s motives there, according to Vietnam veteran Eric Margolis. From Margolis at lewrockwell.com:

Much of America, including yours truly, has been watching the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) series, ‘Vietnam.’  Instead of clarifying that confusing conflict, the series has ignited fiery controversy and a lot of long-repressed anger by soft-soaping Washington’s motives.

This march to folly in Vietnam is particularly painful for me since I enlisted in the US army at the height of the war.  Gripped by youthful patriotism, I strongly supported the war.  In fact, the TV series even showed a pro-war march down New York’s Fifth Avenue that I had joined.  Talk about déjà vu.

At the time, 1967, the Cold War was at full force.  We really believed that if the US did not make a stand in Vietnam the Soviets and Chinese would overrun all of South Asia.

No one in Washington seemed to know that China and the Soviet Union had split and become bitter enemies.  As ever, our foreign human intelligence was lousy. We didn’t understand that Vietnam deserved independence after a century of French colonialism.  Or that what happened in Vietnam was of little importance to the rest of the world.

Three American presidents blundered into this war or prolonged it, then could not back out lest they lose face and risk humiliation.  I don’t for a moment believe that the ‘saintly’ President John Kennedy planned to end the war but was assassinated by dark, rightwing forces, as is claimed.  This is a charming legend.  Richard Nixon, Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson all feared that a withdrawal from Vietnam would lose them the next election.   Republicans were still snarling over ‘who lost China’.

The current 17-year old US war in Afghanistan has uncanny resemblances to the Vietnam War.  In Kabul and Saigon, the US installed puppet governments that command no loyalty except from minority groups. They were steeped in drugs and corruption, and kept in power by intensive use of American air power.   As in Vietnam, the US military and civilian effort in Afghanistan is led by a toxic mixture of deep ignorance and imperial arrogance.

To continue reading: Vietnam Déjà Vu

Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam, by Andrew J. Bacevich

Fortunately, there are a lot fewer dead in Afghanistan, among both the US military and the native population, than in Vietnam. That is the only positive thing you can say about the US’s engagement in Afghanistan. From Andrew J. Bacevich at theamericanconservative.com:

Does any member have the courage and vision to take responsibility?

20th Century “Angel of Mercy.” D. R. Howe (Glencoe, MN) treats the wounds of Private First Class D. A. Crum (New Brighton, PA), “H” Company, 2nd Battalion, Fifth Marine Regiment, during Operation Hue City, Vietnam, 1968. (Public Domain/USMC)

Just shy of fifty years ago on November 7, 1967, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by J. William Fulbright, Democrat of Arkansas, met in executive session to assess the progress of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of State Dean Rusk was the sole witness invited to testify. Even today, the transcript of Rusk’s remarks and the subsequent exchange with committee members make for depressing reading.

Responding to questions that ranged from plaintive to hostile, Rusk gave no ground.  The Johnson administration was more than willing to end the war, he insisted; the North Vietnamese government was refusing to do so. The blame lay with Hanoi. Therefore the United States had no alternative but to persist. American credibility was on the line.

By extension, so too was the entire strategy of deterring Communist aggression. The stakes in South Vietnam extended well beyond the fate of that one country, as senators well knew. In that regard, Rusk reminded members of the committee, the Congress had “performed its function…when the key decisions were made”—an allusion to the Tonkin Gulf Resolution,  a de facto declaration of war passed with near unanimous congressional support. None too subtly, Rusk was letting members of the committee know that the war was theirs as much as it was the administration’s.

Yet Fulbright and his colleagues showed little inclination to accept ownership. As a result, the back-and-forth between Rusk and his interrogators produced little of value. Rather than illuminating the problem of a war gone badly awry and identifying potential solutions, the event became an exercise in venting frustration. This exchange initiated by Senator Frank Lausche, Democrat from Ohio, captures the overall tone of the proceedings.

Senator Lausche:  “The debate about what our course in Vietnam should be has now been in progress since the Tonkin Bay resolution. When was that, August 1964?

Senator Wayne Morse (D-Ore.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (D-Tenn.):  “Long before that.”

Senator Fulbright:  “Oh, yes, but that was the Tonkin Bay.”

Senator Lausche:  “For three years we have been arguing it, arguing for what purpose? Has it been to repeal the Tonkin Bay resolution? Has it been to establish justification for pulling out? In the three years, how many times has the Secretary appeared before us?

To continue reading: Yes Congress, Afghanistan is Your Vietnam 

Anticipating the Forthcoming PBS Documentary, ‘The Vietnam War’, by Camillo Mac Bica

Famed documentarian Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have created a 10-part documentary on Vietnam. Camillo Mac Bica is hoping it document the reality of Vietnam, not simply regurgitate the propaganda, but early indications are not good. From Bica at antiwar.com:

Much has been written and many documentaries made about the American War in Vietnam including the highly acclaimed 1983 effort by PBS, Vietnam: A Television History. Though not without its shortcomings, this 13-part documentary series was well crafted, meticulously researched, carefully balanced and thought-provoking.

In September 2017, PBS will air the highly anticipated – seemingly touted as the definitive documentary – about the Vietnam War, directed by respected documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The goal of this 10-episode, 18-hour project is, according to the directors, to “create a film everyone could embrace” and to provide the viewer with information and insights that are “new and revelatory.” Just as importantly, they intend the film to provide the impetus and parameters for a much needed national conversation about this controversial and divisive period in American history.

The film will be accompanied by an unprecedented outreach and public engagement program, providing opportunities for communities to participate in a national conversation about what happened during the Vietnam War, what went wrong and what lessons are to be learned. In addition, there will be a robust interactive website and an educational initiative designed to engage teachers and students in multiple platforms.

In an interview and discussion of the documentary on Detroit Public TV,Burns describes what he hopes to accomplish as a filmmaker, “Our job is to tell a good story.” In response and in praise of Burns’ work, the interviewer offers his view of documentary. “The story that filmmakers like yourself, the story that storytellers create, are the framework that allows us to understand the truth because the truth is too unfathomable to take in all at once.” To which Burns quickly adds, “And there are many truths.”

My hope is that Burns and Novick, in “creating their story” of the Vietnam War, will demonstrate the same commitment to truth and objectivity as did their PBS predecessor. That they will resist the urge and the more than subtle pressure from what many historians and veterans see as a Government sponsored effort to sanitize and mythologize the US involvement in this tragic war, as illustrated in President Barack Obama’s proclamationestablishing March 29 as Vietnam Veterans Day.

To continue reading: Anticipating the Forthcoming PBS Documentary, ‘The Vietnam War’

 

The Phoenix Template, Part One, by Robert Gore

The American police state has been a work in progress for seventy years.

Part One of two parts.

Click for Part Two

Most Americans don’t pay much attention to what the government does in foreign nations, and even less attention to what it has done in the past. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this focus on the here-and-now, but contemplation beyond the usual horizons is well-advised. Not for the usual high-minded reasons offered by multiculturalist do-gooders, but because what the government—and those who pull its strings—have done in foreign lands for the past seventy years is their template for what they plan here at home.

The group that led the US through World War II was determined to preserve, perpetuate, and extend its global dominance. With the establishment of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), centralized, coordinated intelligence had come into its own. After the war President Truman dissolved the OSS, but signed the National Security Act of 1947, which established the CIA. With a secret executive order in 1952, he also established the NSA. Although the agencies were sold to Truman as necessary instruments for gathering and analyzing foreign intelligence, rather than operational assignments, they soon were engaging in both domestic and foreign operations. In 1963, a month after President Kennedy’s assassination, former president Truman’s letter to the Washington Post deplored what the CIA had become.

For some time I have been disturbed by the way CIA has been diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the Government. This has led to trouble and may have compounded our difficulties in several explosive areas.

Later, Truman told biographer Merle Miller that setting up the CIA was “a mistake.”

Truman did not mention what the CIA’s disturbing operational and policy-making roles had been, or in what “explosive areas.” The CIA had sponsored coups in Syria (1949), Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Congo (1960), the Dominican Republic (1960), and attempted coups in Indonesia (1958) and Cuba (1961, the Bay of Pigs). While the phrase “regime change” didn’t seep into the popular consciousness until the US’s second Iraq invasion in 2003, it had been standard CIA policy for over five decades. To the limited extent its involvements were acknowledged in the 1950s and 1960s, they were generally characterized as necessary efforts in the struggle against global communism.

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What has never been acknowledged is what would have been—if the CIA was involved—a domestic coup, President Kennedy’s assassination. The assassination and its aftermath illustrate the psychological obstacles among the public for those attempting to uncover and expose the intelligence community’s misdeeds. Notwithstanding gaping holes in the official story, and obvious questions about the motives of Lyndon Johnson and Alan Dulles, the former director of the CIA who had been fired by Kennedy and stage-managed the Warren Commission investigation, most Americans bought the story and asked no questions. For the few that did, the CIA coined the pejorative, “conspiracy theorist.”

The CIA has a chilling catalogue of countermeasures against the US government’s enemies, most developed during the Vietnam War. The heart of the CIA effort was Operation Phoenix, begun in 1965. Phoenix was designed, coordinated, and executed by the agency jointly with the US military and its intelligence units, the South Vietnamese military and its secret police, and Australian special operations forces. Its mission was to neutralize the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong) through infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination.

Identification of NLF cadres was problematic. Anyone with a score to settle could misidentify enemies as Viet Cong, who would then be captured or killed by US and South Vietnamese troops. Prisoners were taken to interrogation centers, indefinitely detained, tortured, and sometimes murdered. The interrogations were supposedly done by the South Vietnamese under the supervision of the military or CIA, but the torture was an open secret and often performed by US personnel. Prisoners were converted to the South Vietnamese cause and reinserted into the local population or turned into double agents. They had to produce intelligence about the NLF: their families, friends, and hamlets were essentially hostages securing their performance. Prisoners who produced no information or false information under torture were murdered. Undoubtedly some had no “worthwhile” information to give because they weren’t NLF, but innocence was not a recognized defense.

Phoenix terrorized both the North and South Vietnamese. It was essentially a CIA and US military-imposed police state (with the South Vietnamese government as a junior partner) employing standard police-state tactics: surveillance, informants, propaganda, repression, rubber-stamp judicial supervision, indefinite detention, interrogation, torture, and murder. Like all police states, Phoenix was rife with corruption. South Vietnamese officials, CIA agents and contractors, and US military officials made fortunes from blackmail, extortion, bribery, theft, murder-for-hire, black market arms sales, money laundering, drug running, and other illicit endeavors.

During the war the CIA maintained its usual shroud of plausible deniability, helped by the captive US media, which in many cases had been infiltrated by CIA operatives under the auspices of Operation Mockingbird. Many of Phoenix’s more sordid aspects were not revealed until after the US left Vietnam, and while nobody claims Phoenix wasn’t dirty (even an anodyne Wikipedia article acknowledges the misdeeds), the extent of the dirtiness remains—as so much of what the CIA does—murky. However, a string of CIA engagements after Vietnam retroactively confirmed the nefarious nature of Phoenix—the program was the template for that later criminality.

It should have raised eyebrows when Ronald Reagan nominated a former director of the CIA, George H.W. Bush, as his vice president, but it didn’t. The evolving Deep State saw Bush, and other “vetted” members of Reagan’s administration, as checks on some of Reagan’s more “radical” impulses and initiatives. CIA operatives had been involved in Watergate. Congressional committees had revealed CIA skullduggery in Vietnam, involvement in political assassination, and illegal domestic surveillance of the war’s critics by many of the intelligence agencies and the FBI. Yet most Americans still held a generally benign view of the intelligence complex.

The Iran-Contra affair should have been a wake-up call. The scandal’s many disturbing skeins and offshoots—the CIA’s subversion of governments and sponsorship of political assassination in Latin America, involvement in the drug trade and money laundering through a shadowy network of financial institutions, and covert weapons transactions—cried out for further investigation, which would have revealed a Phoenix program gone global. Instead, Reagan’s popularity and his begrudging acceptance of responsibility, the administration’s stonewalling of investigations and refusal to release documents on national security grounds, and George W. Bush’s pardons in the final days of his presidency for Reagan administration officials still under indictment managed to shove Iran-Contra down the American memory hole. Reagan and Bush served the Deep State well.

Next: Phoenix in the United States

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