Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Did we 'win' in Vietnam?"

I am in love with Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States, and his article in The Boston Globe tells you why. I hope he's not too old for me. Yes, I have a crush on. And I'll say once again that I knew (and told my students) in 2001 that a War On Terror(ists) was only a war that would enable higher military preparedness (gigantic budget increases), necessitated by increasing animosity towards the U.S. throughout the world. I also wrote on the blackboard that when considering why we would drop bombs on innocents in Afghanistan to get a few guilty parties (who either may or may not be there) that they should remember that Bush/Cheney = O I L. And then began a prolonged discussion about the rationale for the stolen election of 2000. (Emphasis marks are mine.)
Memo to Obama, McCain: No one wins in a war Howard Zinn July 17, 2008 Barack Obama and John McCain continue to argue about war. McCain says to keep the troops in Iraq until we "win" and supports sending more troops to Afghanistan. Obama says to withdraw some (not all) troops from Iraq and send them to fight and "win" in Afghanistan. For someone like myself, who fought in World War II, and since then has protested against war, I must ask: Have our political leaders gone mad? Have they learned nothing from recent history? Have they not learned that no one "wins" in a war, but that hundreds of thousands of humans die, most of them civilians, many of them children? Did we "win" by going to war in Korea? The result was a stalemate, leaving things as they were before with a dictatorship in South Korea and a dictatorship in North Korea. Still, more than 2 million people - mostly civilians - died, the United States dropped napalm on children, and 50,000 American soldiers lost their lives. Did we "win" in Vietnam? We were forced to withdraw, but only after 2 million Vietnamese died, again mostly civilians, again leaving children burned or armless or legless, and 58,000 American soldiers dead. Did we win in the first Gulf War? Not really. Yes, we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, with only a few hundred US casualties, but perhaps 100,000 Iraqis died. And the consequences were deadly for the United States: Saddam was still in power, which led the United States to enforce economic sanctions. That move led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, according to UN officials, and set the stage for another war. In Afghanistan, the United States declared "victory" over the Taliban. Now the Taliban is back, and attacks are increasing. The recent US military death count in Afghanistan exceeds that in Iraq. What makes Obama think that sending more troops to Afghanistan will produce "victory"? And if it did, in an immediate military sense, how long would that last, and at what cost to human life on both sides? The resurgence of fighting in Afghanistan is a good moment to reflect on the beginning of US involvement there. There should be sobering thoughts to those who say that attacking Iraq was wrong, but attacking Afghanistan was right. Go back to Sept. 11, 2001. Hijackers direct jets into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing close to 3,000 A terrorist act, inexcusable by any moral code. The nation is aroused. President Bush orders the invasion and bombing of Afghanistan, and the American public is swept into approval by a wave of fear and anger. Bush announces a "war on terror." Except for terrorists, we are all against terror. So a war on terror sounded right. But there was a problem, which most Americans did not consider in the heat of the moment: President Bush, despite his confident bravado, had no idea how to make war against terror. Yes, Al Qaeda - a relatively small but ruthless group of fanatics - was apparently responsible for the attacks. And, yes, there was evidence that Osama bin Laden and others were based in Afghanistan. But the United States did not know exactly where they were, so it invaded and bombed the whole country. That made many people feel righteous. "We had to do something," you heard people say. Yes, we had to do something. But not thoughtlessly, not recklessly. Would we approve of a police chief, knowing there was a vicious criminal somewhere in a neighborhood, ordering that the entire neighborhood be bombed? There was soon a civilian death toll in Afghanistan of more than 3,000 - exceeding the number of deaths in the Sept. 11 attacks. Hundreds of Afghans were driven from their homes and turned into wandering refugees. Two months after the invasion of Afghanistan, a Boston Globe story described a 10-year-old in a hospital bed: "He lost his eyes and hands to the bomb that hit his house after Sunday dinner." The doctor attending him said: "The United States must be thinking he is Osama. If he is not Osama, then why would they do this?" We should be asking the presidential candidates: Is our war in Afghanistan ending terrorism, or provoking it? And is not war itself terrorism?
Ted Rall, author of the book Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?, is also one of my favorite spot-on reporters. His article War Zero published in UExpress properly dissects the McCain MSM lovefest. (Emphasis marks are mine.)
WAR ZERO Ted Rall 07/17/2008 Nothing Honorable About the Vietnam War NEW YORK--Every presidential candidacy relies on a myth. Reagan was a great communicator; Clinton felt your pain. Both storylines were ridiculous. But rarely are the constructs used to market a party nominee as transparent or as fictional as those we're being asked to swallow in 2008. Still more laughable than the notion of Obama as the second coming of JFK is the founding myth of the McCain campaign: (a) he is a war hero, and (b) said heroism increases his credibility on national security issues. "A Vietnam hero and national security pro," The New York Times calls him in a typical media blandishment. John McCain fought in Vietnam. There was nothing noble, much less heroic, about fighting in that war. Some Americans may be suffering another of the periodic attacks of national amnesia that prevent us from honestly assessing our place in the world and its history, but others recall the truth about Vietnam: it was a disastrous, unjustifiable mess that anyone with an ounce of sense was against at the time. Between one and two million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans were sent to their deaths by a succession of presidents and Congresses--fed to the flames of greed, hubris, and stupidity. The event used to justify starting the war - the Tonkin Gulf "incident" - never happened. The Vietnam War's ideological foundation, the mantra cited to keep it going, was disproved after we lost. No Southeast Asian "dominos" fell to communism. To the contrary, the effect of the U.S. withdrawal was increased stability. When genocide broke out in neighboring Cambodia in the late 1970s, it was not the U.S., but a unified Vietnamese army - the evil communists - who stopped it. Not even General Wesley Clark, shot four times in Vietnam, is allowed to question the McCain-as-war-hero narrative. "Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president," he argued. The Obama campaign, which sells its surrogates down the river with alarming regularity, promptly hung the former NATO commander out to dry: "Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark." Even in an article criticizing the media for repeatedly framing McCain as a war hero, the liberal website Media Matters concedes: "McCain is, after all, a war hero; everybody agrees about that." Not everyone. I was 12 when the last U.S. occupation troops fled Saigon. I remember how I - and most Americans - felt at the time. We were relieved. By the end of Nixon's first term most people had turned against the war. Gallup polls taken in 1971 found that about 70 percent of Americans thought sending troops to Vietnam had been a mistake. Some believed it was immoral; others considered it unwinnable. Since then, the political center has shifted right. We've seen the Reagan Revolution, Clinton's Democratic centrism, and Bush's post-9/11 flirtation with neo-McCarthyite fascism. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Americans--including Republicans--still think we should never have fought the Vietnam War. "After the war's 1975 conclusion," Michael Tomasky wrote in The American Prospect in 2004, "Gallup has asked the question ("Did the U.S. make a mistake in sending troops to fight in Vietnam?") five times, in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1995, and 2000. All five times...respondents were consistent in calling the war a mistake by a margin of more than 2 to 1: by 74 percent to 22 percent in 1990, for example, and by 69 percent to 24 percent in 2000." Moreover, Tomasky continued, "vast majorities continue to call the war 'unjust.'" Even in 2004, after 9/11, 62 percent considered the war unjust. Only 33 percent still thought it was morally justified. Vietnam was an illegal, undeclared war of aggression. Can those who fought in that immoral war really be heroes? This question appeared settled after Reagan visited a cemetery for Nazi soldiers, including members of the SS, at Bitburg, West Germany in 1985. "Those young men," claimed Reagan, "are victims of Nazism also, even though they were fighting in the German uniform, drafted into service to carry out the hateful wishes of the Nazis. They were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps." Americans didn't buy it. Reagan's poll numbers, typically between 60 and 65 percent at the time, plunged to 41 percent after the visit. Those who fight for an evil cause receive no praise. So why is the McCain-as-war-hero myth so hard to unravel? By most accounts, John McCain demonstrated courage as a P.O.W., most notably by refusing his captors' offer of early release. But that doesn't make him a hero. Hell, McCain isn't even a victim. At a time when more than a fourth of all combat troops in Vietnam were forcibly drafted (the actual victims), McCain volunteered to drop napalm on "gooks" (his term, not mine). He could have waited to see if his number came up in the draft lottery. Like Bush, he could have used family connections to weasel out of it. Finally, he could have joined the 100,000 draft-eligible males - true heroes, to a man - who went to Canada rather than kill people in a war that was plainly wrong. When McCain was shot down during his 23rd bombing sortie, he was happily shooting up a civilian neighborhood in the middle of a major city. Vietnamese locals beat him when they pulled him out of a local lake; yeah, that must have sucked. But I can't help think of what would have happened to Mohammed Atta had he somehow wound up alive on a lower Manhattan street on 9/11. How long would he have lasted? Maybe he would have made it. I don't know. But I do know this: no one would ever have considered him a war hero.
Suzan _________________________________


Juan Moment said...

Bingo. Both articles hit the nail on the head.

Zinn's arguments re Afghanistan are most compelling. His question,

"Would we approve of a police chief, knowing there was a vicious criminal somewhere in a neighborhood, ordering that the entire neighborhood be bombed?"

goes right to the core of the issue. I used a similar example on another blog a few years ago when trying to explain to a fellow commenter that terrorism is not state aggression but a crime, and needs therefore to be fought like a crime, meaning with robust law enforcement and intelligence services, rather than with bombers and tanks.

Imagine the public outcry, if in a hostage situation, say a bank robbery gone wrong, the SWAT team simply blows up the entire bank, killing 2 of 3 gangsters, the last one escaped out the back door, but also 4 out of 13 hostages and wounding 2? In essence that is exactly whats happening in Afghanistan. AQ and its enablers took the Afghani people hostage in their own country, and the US went in and bombed the whole joint, killing thousands of innocent civilians.

Zinn quotes "a civilian death toll in Afghanistan of more than 3,000", I believe it to be easily in excess of double that. Simple equation:

3000 civilians killed by AQ Forces = terrorists
6000 civilians killed by US Forces = double the terrorists

Ted Rall's piece is a great read, and a timely reminder that McCain is at the end of the day nothing but an aged terrorist himself who without hesitation fire bombed scores of women and children in his hey days.

What really sucks tho is that Obama, the so called alternative to McShame, is just another dipshit in the long line of knuckleheads making decisions on war & peace:

The starting point for seizing this golden opportunity, according to Obama, was to "have deployed the full force of American power to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, the Taliban and all of the terrorists responsible for 9/11, while supporting real security in Afghanistan."

Instead, he charged, the Bush administration diverted these military resources into the war against Iraq, "a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks." He continued: "By any measure, our single-minded and open-ended focus on Iraq is not a sound strategy for keeping America safe."

This presentation is a gross and deliberate distortion of the motives underlying both the war in Afghanistan and the one in Iraq. Neither of them was launched with the aim of "keeping America safe," but rather to advance definite strategic interests of American imperialism.

The central aim of the war in Afghanistan—planned well before the attacks of 9/11—was to take advantage of the power vacuum in Central Asia created by the Soviet Union’s dissolution to assert US domination over a region containing the second largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas in the world.

As for the supposed targets of this operation—Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda and the Taliban—all of them are, in the final analysis, the products of US imperialism’s own bloody history of intervention in the region, particularly in the 1980s, when Washington poured billions of dollars into funding the Mujahedin forces fighting the Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan and the Soviet army when it intervened there. Among these forces were bin Laden and those who went on to set up both Al Qaeda and the Taliban....


But then again, as they say, if elections could change anything, they'd be illegal.

Suzan said...

Thanks, Juan,

Your blog is a breath of fresh air!

And amen, brother!

trying to explain to a fellow commenter that terrorism is not state aggression but a crime, and needs therefore to be fought like a crime, meaning with robust law enforcement and intelligence services, rather than with bombers and tanks.

I love you, Juan! Exactly! Wish there were more like you (and I).

McCain is at the end of the day nothing but an aged terrorist himself who without hesitation fire bombed scores of women and children in his hey days.

You are so D R O L L !!!!!

But then again, as they say, if elections could change anything, they'd be illegal.