22 August 2007

Some boring history, but some people never seem to learn it.

Bush has some chutzpah, doesn't he? I mean here's the lamest of lame ducks presiding over a tanking economy and an ill-advised, unpopular war that we're only in because of his and his neocon buddies' hubristic visions of spreading democracy via puppet governments and destruction of civil society.

So here he is, in the waning days of his dim-witted Presidency, trying to argue against withdraw from Iraq by invoking the lessons of Vietnam. Say what? Is he a moron? Oh, yeah, I forgot.

If you care to follow Bush's illogic for a moment, you realize that he's arguing that our withdrawal from Vietnam (begrudgingly initiated by Nixon after failure upon failure to defeat the Viet Cong and support a corrupt South Vietnamese regime) was a mistake. Apparently Bush would be happier if we were still in Vietnam right now in 2007, 32 years after the fall of Saigon.

Well, at least we probably wouldn't be in Iraq right now.

For the newbies out there who never studied history, US involvement in Vietnam began roughly in 1955, after the colonial power, France, got defeated at Dien Bien Phu (to be technical, the US had been providing France foreign aid to fight the Viet Minh since 1950). So when the US entered, we just looked like another colonial power and the war of national liberation carried on. US involvement began in earnest with Kennedy, then Johnson, and finally Nixon -- so three Presidents, right -- who begins the "Vietnamization" of the war in theory in 1969, but really we don't see US withdrawal until 1973, after ongoing peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese.

So Bush is trying to use this history of a more or less 20 year war that ended in failure and the famous images of the final helicopter leaving the US embassy in Saigon in 1975 to argue that we need to continue our involvement in a civil war in a country that only exists because of British colonial administrative necessities.

Che Guevera called for "two, three, many Vietnams" as a way to illustrate that lengthy military actions against even technologically inferior enemies are costly to imperialist powers. Unlike in the wet dreams of the neocons, wars don't unfold like Risk games, where you just line up one country's forces against another's and roll the dice. We are now embroiled in an Iraq war that's over four years old and shows no signs of significant change. Nearly 4000 US servicemen and women have been killed in Iraq, and countless more Iraqi civilians have died as a result of Bush's illegitimate invasion.

Bush is now arguing that after twenty years and 58209 US personnel killed in Vietnam that we should have "stayed the course" there as well. Does he really expect the US to sacrifice another 54000 men and women to cover up his entirely avoidable mistake until he can pass it off to another President?


Reya Mellicker said...

Yes he's a moron. That people are reporting what he said as if it has any validity is what amazes me.

Lonnie Bruner said...

The thing that really got me about Bush's speech was how he brought up the Khmer Rouge as a reason that we should not have left Vietnam. This was something that was used back in the 70s (I suppose. I was born in '73!) to justify our actions there. "See, look what happened after we left." Never mind the fact that Cambodia is a different country from Vietnam, and support for the KR before the "secret" Nixon bombings was very small. The bombings themselves increased the KR's popularity among the rural population so there's even doubt whether they could have come to power without Nixon!

I think what the Neocons all believe about Vietnam is that the US should have invaded the north across the DMZ on a full scale ground war supported by air. I even have a very leftist friend who now lives in Laos who agrees that that could have ended it all back in the early years of LBJ. But that war of attrition idea is what dragged out the nightmare so long, in many ways. This is not something that you can ignore, Cuff. It might have worked, even without "destroying the village in order to save it."

One of my friends in Saigon has a father who was put in a prison for 15 years following the fall of Saigon. This was due to his support of the south's government. Many people like him were also put in prison for varying lengths of time (I've talked to several of them) but there really was not a bloodbath in Vietnam like the US media and military so dearly wanted to justify their involvement. The bloodbath was in Cambodia, in large part because of our involvement, but that's trotted out every time to justify what we did over there. Oh, wait, it's another country. Nevermind that ....

I've been trying to track down reliable figures for the number of people in southeast Asia that were killed during that war. There's a new figure floating around from the Hanoi government saying that in VN 5.1 million could have been killed; they had previously concealed that number because they didn't want to demoralize the population. I doubt anything put out by Hanoi, but I bet that number is not too far off. If you add in the 1.5-2 million people killed by the KR in Cambodia, then add the people killed by Nixon's bombing and also in Laos, the number is starting to reach staggering levels like near 8, 9 million dead.

So compare 9 million dead to 58,000 Americans killed and your head starts to spin.

cuff said...

Reya: NO doubt.

LB: wonderful comment. I suppose we didn't invade the north full scale because we worried about Chinese or Russian involvement, but that's always an if. Hitchens is still after Kissinger about Vietnam anyway, right?

Lonnie Bruner said...


Don't think Hitchens has backed of Kissinger, no. Actually, my friend in Laos vows to literally piss on Kissinger's grave when he dies; he's going to take a sojourn to the US to do so, and I believe he will follow through. Wanna join us?

I'm not much of a leftist anymore, but despite my anti-communist stance, I do sympathize a bit with Ho Chi Minh and the NLF's struggle, while recognizing they were also very brutal. It's amazing that Vietnam is as rich as it is (and it is) considering that they were basically in continuous war with some outside force from the Japanese invasion in the 1930s until the late 1980s when they pulled out of Cambodia!

Imagine 50 years of war.