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Archive for the ‘Pentagon’ Category

September 26, 2017, written by Howard Lisnoff, published first at CounterPunch Magazine http://bit.ly/2xDitdF

Bettman/Getty Images; Stephanie Berger

Burns and Novick want viewers to believe that the Vietnam War was a mistake undertaken by those with noble intentions in the U.S. government. We had good intentions going into Vietnam, but The Vietnam War, which aired on PBS, would like viewers to believe that the grotesque consequences of that war… millions dead and wounded… were never really intended. They were in the vernacular, unintended consequences of men with good intentions.

It’s the same kind of justification and rationalization that then secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, made in The Fog of War and it’s all bullshit plain and simple. These opinion molders want people to believe that we occasionally stumble on the way to the nirvana that is American Exceptionalism and national purity.

But they didn’t stumble and we are most certainly not exceptional. If readers want to gauge how unexceptional our “leaders” are, then look to Trump and Congress and their neoliberal facilitators. The duopoly planned the anti-communist crusade from the beginning of the Cold War until there were so many dead bodies and so much protest that the government had to walk away. It wasn’t a matter of dollars and cents, as some would like readers to believe, as this predatory system leaves lots of spare pocket change to throw away on immoral wars.

Here’s student/civil rights leader Mario Savio, of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement, only a few short months before the passage of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution that gave Lyndon Johnson carte blanche in waging his genocidal, anti-communist crusade in Southeast Asia.

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop!

Those in power and their talking heads have to sanitize their past wars to make new wars palatable. Mass murder is not the natural or normal state of humankind. George Orwell grasped this concept in 1984 when his character Winston is tortured because of his individualism and humanism, and at the end of the novel he’ll say anything that the government wants him to and that includes rewriting history to agree to whichever foreign enemy the government targets. It’s the same hogwash that the neofascists and neo-Nazis are pumping out from the Trump administration in support of the trillions of dollars being stolen by the military-industrial complex. Trillions of dollars that otherwise could go to unmet human needs.

In relation to how the Vietnam War is portrayed, the left has not been asleep at the wheel. On the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, people like the late protester, politician, and writer, Tom Hayden, spearheaded an attempt to correctly document the Vietnam War in the face of the Pentagon’s propaganda.

The group Veterans for Peace has produced the resource Vietnam: Full Disclosure to tell the truth about what the U.S. carnage was all about in Vietnam. Full Disclosure takes its rightful place in a long line of history like that disseminated by Daniel Ellsberg in the The Pentagon Papers.

This from VFP’s Vietnam Full Disclosure:

Despite the counter-cultural veneer, however, and admirable efforts to provide a Vietnamese perspective, Burns and Novick’s film in its first episode provides conventional analysis about the war’s outbreak and can be understood as a sophisticated exercise in empire denial. (“Ken Burns’s Vietnam Documentary Promotes Misleading History,” Veterans For Peace, September 18, 2017).

Full Disclosure continues: “A voice-over by Peter Coyote subsequently claims that the Vietnam War was ‘started in good faith by decent men.’”

Go to the primary and secondary sources about the war: there are enough volumes to fill a medium-size library on the war. View the 1971 Winter Soldier testimonials of Vietnam veterans in Chicago and their testimony before the U.S. Congress. Read Born on The Fourth Of July by Ron Kovic, A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan, A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, Dispatches by Michael Kerr, Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow, and Four Hours in My Lai by Michael Bilton, among the many illuminating volumes of writing about the carefully planned catastrophe that was the Vietnam War.

These books will illuminate how colonialism by France and anti-communism on the part of the U.S. and its allies led to the thwarting of the Geneva Accords that called for free elections in Vietnam. They will tell how the U.S. backed murderous and unpopular regimes that tore Vietnam apart for 30 years until North Vietnam drove the forces of the South to defeat. The U.S. knew that Ho Chi Minh, leader of the North, would have won the election mandated by the Accords.

Read about the atrocities that took place in My Lai and by the rogue Tiger Force and numerous other examples of war crimes in which the military took part. The latter does not mean that a majority of soldiers took part in atrocities, but enough did to make atrocities the hallmark of the Vietnam War. Military training was fine-tuned to cast the Vietnamese people as “gooks” and “Charlie,” thus dehumanizing them and facilitating their slaughter.

Read to learn how untold numbers of veterans were thrown into the apparatus of the Veterans Administration and how the care many of those veterans received was shameful.

Learn about how tens of thousands of men and women sought refuge and sanctuary from the war in places like Canada and Sweden, where thousands remain today. Learn how the American Veterans of Foreign Wars led a campaign in 2004 to deny the people of Canada the right to erect a monument to the heroic acts of war resistance in their country by war resisters.

Dig into the history of the defoliant Agent Orange to learn how both the Vietnamese people and U.S. veterans were made to suffer the dreadful and deadly consequences of its use during the war.

Pay attention to how the Trump administration’s militarists have expanded contemporary warfare (“‘Blank Check to Kill With Impunity’: Trump to Quietly Slap Drone Restrictions,” Common Dreams, September 22, 2017). Then pay close attention when documentary makers try to sell the public a bill of goods and pass off mass atrocities and immorality as simply being careless mistakes that were carried out by well-intentioned leaders. Those “good” intentions took place during the Vietnam War and they’re taking place today. They threaten the life of every living being on Earth.

The antiwar movement has been largely inactive in the first months of the Trump administration despite the fact that this is the most bellicose administration, with the exception of the administration of George W. Bush, since the Vietnam War. Although Senator Bernie Sanders gave a speech that addressed war and the military-industrial complex at Westminster College on September 21, 2017, it wandered into assertions about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, an issue that only serves to further deteriorate relations between Russia and the U.S., and in fact feeds the very military-industrial complex that Sanders criticized in his speech.

The antiwar movement suffered self-inflicted wounds when it caught the faux hope and change rhetoric of the Obama administration and largely left the expansion of drone warfare, including targeting U.S. citizens for death without due process of the law, while expanding war in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Perhaps it was narrow self-interest, ignorance, and the effects of the September 11, 2001 attacks that were at play here, but society-wide malaise may be another factor for this inaction. Perhaps war is so prevalent and unreported that it became an excepted part of life in the U.S. Only a small segment of the population fight U.S. wars and it is almost never the man or woman next door or in a community as it was during the Vietnam War.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Black Panther Party leader Jamil Abdullah Al- Amin (a.k.a. H. Rap Brown) said “violence is as American as cherry pie.” It is also as American as apple pie. Now, we face the prospect of the very real threat of Armageddon because the far right has placed a bellicose moron in the White House.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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October 10, 2016 by Tim Martin, originally published here http://bit.ly/2d3Bbmn

Women and children crouch in a muddy canal as they take cover from intense Viet Cong fire at Bao Trai, about 20 miles west of Saigon, Jan. 1, 1966. Paratroopers, background, of the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade escorted the South Vietnamese civilians through a series of firefights during the U.S. assault on a Viet Cong stronghold. (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

1966 Vietnam (AP Photo/Horst Faas)

When I was young and as malleable as liquid mercury, I was taught that “the only good commie is a dead commie.” I was told that America was a righteous nation and that “God was on our side.” I grew up on a steady diet of cold-war dogma. By the time I entered high school, the government had sharpened its anti-communist rhetoric to a point where it could have been used to cut drywall. At age 17 I joined the U.S. Navy in order to fight the “creeping red menace” in a far-away place called Vietnam.

The Vietnam War came to be known as my generation’s signature catastrophe.

Many American veterans are still fighting the war in their heads. They have yet to deal with the body counts, the burned villages, the napalmed children, and the carpet-bombed countryside they left behind. I am one of them. I recently returned to Vietnam to exorcise some of my own demons. I went there afraid of what I might find and came home with a deeper understanding of the people I once considered “the enemy.”

Vietnam is not the image of a war-torn country. We didn’t “bomb them back into the Stone Age” as General Curtis LeMay once suggested. It is prospering farming communities and bustling cities and free-flowing commerce. The Vietnamese are an extraordinary people. Their simple kindness humbles me. They hold no resentment toward America. They have forgiven us for the destruction and the ghastly aftermath of Agent Orange. They’ve shrugged it off as an inevitable consequence of war.

There are no throwaway people in Vietnam, no unemployed or homeless. The Vietnamese are gracious, sincere, and hard-working. Everyone has a job and a purpose. Education is highly valued and age is highly revered. Insulting an elder or an ancestor is considered a serious offense. Vietnamese people are polite and dignified. There are no loudmouths, no pushy types and (oddly enough) no road rage, despite the nation’s estimated 39 million motorbikes.

Vietnam is a place of traditions. Meals are typically shared. A bride at her wedding changes dresses seven times. Funerals are held in the street and the deceased are entombed on property belonging to their families. The beauty of the country pulls at your emotions. There are Buddhist temples high on mountaintops, water buffalo grazing alongside the Mekong River, and rice fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. Vietnam is an endless ballet of traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a monsoon rain in Danang, a Dragon Boat on the Perfume River, and the laughter of children in Hanoi that brings warmth to the heart of a lonely traveler.

There is an infinitesimal police presence in Vietnam. No armored vehicles roam the streets. No military solders or government officials study your every move. The Vietnamese government trusts its citizens, and its tourists. Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam normalized in 1995. Diplomatic ties are strong. The first KFC opened in 1997. Starbucks made an appearance in 2013, and McDonald’s opened one year later.

Vietnam is a purging of the soul for the returning veteran. It is also an aching heart. A large number of Vietnamese people have lost friends and relatives to war. Others have lost entire families. They are the maimed, the orphaned and the widowed — a nation building lives out of fragments of the past. Meanwhile, our government struggles to obliterate any important lessons we might have learned from Vietnam as it maintains a nationalistic echo chamber that will give them a freer hand in conducting future interventions around the world.

It shames me that my country has become the biggest warmongering nation on the planet. This has got to change.

America put the Vietnamese people through an unspeakable hell. Despite this, they are gracious and sincere, and happy we are now friends. I would like to blame the Vietnam War solely on our leaders, but the shameful truth is that we were all responsible. We can no longer absolve ourselves by claiming that we were lied to, because the lies continue. The notion that we are pushing democracy with our present murderous wars is preposterous — we are pushing Empire.

I am sorry for the atrocities the Vietnamese people had to live through, every stray bullet and every misplaced explosive that was written off as collateral damage. Vietnam was never a threat to our country. They only wanted independence. America tried to bomb a nation back into the Stone Age. Instead, we should have been bombing them with love.

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