A radical look at the Vietnam War

I am of the generation that resisted the unjust American war in Vietnam, and am quite proud of the little that we did. I agree with the author quoted below that the Vietnam War, which killed two or three MILLION Asians in  order to prop up the Western world-wide colonial empire, was a crime, rather than a mistake. The heroism of the Vietnamese (and others) in fighting imperialism for over 30 years should never be forgotten.

I felt sorry for my friends, classmates and neighbors who got drafted to fight over there against their wishes – some of those who finished their two-year stint in Vietnam or elsewhere during that era were eager to join and help lead our anti-war chapter of Students for a Democratic Society at my college (Dartmouth).

If the military had in fact been able to draft me, I am not sure whether I would have fled to Canada, or else gone in and simply have been a most unwilling, uncooperative soldier (like so many others), or else been involved in a big protest of some sort, or else have either ended up in the stockade for my pains (along with many others). Maybe all of the above?

Here is part of an essay by Bruce Dixon in today’s Black Agenda Report‘:

Convinced that Uncle Ho — as the Vietnamese called him — and his party would win the 1956 elections, the US created a brutal puppet government in the southern half of Vietnam to cancel the election and “request” US military aid against so-called invaders from so-called North Vietnam. In the final decade of the long Vietnamese war more than half a million US troops were deployed, more bombs were dropped than in all of World War 2, and millions of civilians mostly Vietnamese perished. It’s the final decade of the 30 year bloodbath that most now think of as the American war in Vietnam, Vietnam the mistake, Vietnam the tragic misunderstanding.

Only it wasn’t a mistake, and certainly not a misunderstanding. The Vietnamese and other colonial subjects had been insisting on their independence for decades. Ho Chi Minh showed up at Versailles back in 1919 when the terms of the treaty ending World War 1 were being drafted. Ho demanded independence for the African and Asian colonies of France, Britain and other European powers. The Vietnamese knew from the very beginning what they wanted to do with their lives and resources in their country. The so-called misunderstanding was that the US political and military establishment, and 5 US presidents over 30 years imagined they could torture, bomb, invade and slaughter their way to some other outcome.

Ultimately they could not. 58 thousand Americans and 3 million Asians perished. 3 million dead is not a mere mistake. It’s a gigantic crime, after the world wars, one of the 20th century’s greatest. Crimes ought at least to be acknowledged and owned up to, if not punished. Pretty sure Ken Burns is not at all about that. At best Burns seems to be about a species of healing and reconciliation that limits itself to Americans agreeing with and forgiving their trespasses against each other, and dutiful acknowledgements of the valor of fighters on both sides.

The series has not yet concluded, so we’ll have to wait and see whether Ken Burns ignores or buys into the discredited lie propagated by our country’s war propaganda industry that unaccounted for Americans prisoners were somehow left behind and missing at the end of the Vietnam war. They were not. But the little black flag and ceremonies for the imagined “missing” in Vietnam are standard now four decades after the war’s end.

I didn’t go to Vietnam. Vietnam came to me, or tried to. I was lucky enough to live in a big city, Chicago, and to connect with the antiwar movement, which included black soldiers and marines returning from Vietnam. Some of them frankly confessed to taking part in all sorts of atrocities and war crimes and we took them from high school to high school in the fall and early winter of 1967 to repeat those confessions, and to tell other young black people like us it was an unjust war we had a duty to resist.

I thought I was risking prison when I sold Black Panther newspapers at the armed forces induction center on Van Buren Street and refusing to be drafted like Muhammad Ali. But by then so many young people were resisting the war that Uncle Sam’s draftee army became useless. In that era there were not enough cells to lock us all up, and many white Americans were declaring themselves ready for revolution, or something like it. US policymakers learned that part of their lesson well. They ended the draft and most white antiwar protesters went home.

Noam Chomsky has it exactly right when he declares that Vietnam was not a mistake or tragic error. It was an example that said to the world – THIS is what you get when you defy the wishes of the US ruling elite. You get bombs, you get rivers of blood and you get your country’s economic potential set back half a century. Seen that way, Vietnam wasn’t some tragedy the US blundered into by mistake. It was an example. And a crime.

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A rant concerning education

There is fraud in many, many realms of work and human enterprise. Including lawyers, doctors, businessmen, accountants, engineers, policemen, nurses, painters, taxi drivers, politicians, ‘reformers’, housewives, babies, children, students, the retired, stockholders, hunter-gatherers, soldiers, officers, spies, writers like me… (Sorry if I left out your favorite group; I got tired of typing this list) We are all sometimes crooked, no? Including some teachers.

But I think the problem is deeper. Yes, there is an awful lot of corruption and outright graft in education (as it is in many other areas). But I think that education and upbringing of the next generation is one of the most important things we can do. The last thing we really want is to have gangs of unemployed, disengaged kids hanging on street-corners, engaging in thuggish and criminal behavior, getting locked up for various offenses, engaging in violence and so on … regardless of whether their freaking math and reading test scores were ‘proficient’, ‘advanced’, ‘basic’, or ‘below basic’ – that’s not really important. What’s important is, are they becoming good human beings, or otherwise? And is it the sole job of the classroom teacher to fix all that? I don’t think he or she could if they tried. And, lord knows, they have been trying. And in the past 10 years they have been forced to work harder and harder, to no real human avail nor real improvement.

One could easily make the argument that we don’t spend nearly enough money on education. Heck, every single student should begin learning a foreign language soon after they learn to write their own. Plus, they should get really good coaching in some sort of physical endeavor (not necessarily a sport). Plus, they should all learn to play a musical instrument and to cook good food. And to appreciate good literature, music, and other cultures. And learn how to use various tools (metal, wood, software, and much, much more).

And to learn how society actually does function, and how it SHOULD work, why it works the way it does instead of the way it should, and to try to figure out ways from get from the actual present situation to an improved situation.

We are doing very little of any of this with our most underprivileged young society members. The kids who are raised in our ghettoes very seldom get to learn any of that stuff. Instead, society waits until they do something really, really wrong, and then locks them up. But it’s really, really expensive to keep someone locked up for 30 or 40 years – at about $20,000 per prisoner per year, that’s six hundred thousand to eight hundred thousand dollars ($600,000 to $800,000) per prisoner. It would have been a lot cheaper in the long run to invest in after-school programs to seriously engage students in sports, music, and much, much more, including lots of field trips to museums, zoos, mountains, beaches, factories, farms, and much, much more.

Instead, we are narrowing our educational goals more and more onto things that really don’t matter very much at all. (Have you actually LOOKED at the inane questions they ask on these dinky standardized NCLB tests? They were written by people who have absolutely no experience in the real world, or chose to ignore everything they ever learned about it.)

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