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.


Somber advice from a retired Special Forces sergeant on joining the military

Bob Goff is a retired US Army special forces sergeant who served in eight different overseas combat operations – alphabetically, they were Colombia, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Peru, Somalia, and Vietnam. Five different times he raised his right hand to take an oath to defend the US Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

However, in none of those countries did he meet a single person who was opposed to the US Constitution, or even to its principles.

Instead, he found himself fighting to defend the interests of American transnational corporations and to maintain American military and political supremacy around the world.

He has a short YouTube interview, which you can see here:


I thought his talk was of enough use to be transcribed, so I’ve done that. I had never heard of him before, but apparently after serving in Vietnam, he became quite disillusioned with the goals and purposes of American military adventures overseas and became and continued to be quite an activist, even as he continued to serve, off and on, mostly in the Special Forces branch of the army. He has even written several books and is apparently now some sort of a Christian socialist.

Here are some of his books, which you can look up:

  1. Full Spectrum Disorder: The Military in the New American Century 
  2. Borderline: Reflections on War, Sex, and Church
  3.  Hideous Dream: A Soldier’s Memoir of the U.S. Invasion of Haiti
  4. Sex & War
  5. Energy War: Exterminism for the 21st Century

I transcribed his interview here:


Advice from Stan Goff, US Army Special Forces veteran, for those considering joining the military

My transcription of what he said (with most of the ‘um’s and ‘you know’s edited out, and a phrase or two inserted in brackets for clarity)

I say this to my own kids. I’ve got one in the Army and I’ve got another one thinking about it. I know it’s a tough economic choice today. I know the jobs such and I know school is too expensive for a lot of people. I know they make it [military service] attractive but you have to  continue to remember what it is that they are doing. That organization [US military] does not exist to give you money for school. That organization exists to assert the political will of the United Sates government against other people by force of arms, and what they do is not like it’s portrayed in the movies. They’re not sending you out there to be a hero. They’re sending you out there to be a bully. They’re not sending you out there to be a hero. That’s not what it’s really about. It’s never been about that.. It’s never been about that, you know. The fact that some people fight back and put you in danger is also part of the equation, but it’s not [inaudible] …

The Iraqis never presented any threat to this country and if we leave, those Iraqis don’t present any threat to this country after we leave. Why put yourself into the position to go over there and be forced by circumstances not of your choosing to take the life of another human being who’s a total stranger? Because they’re not some evil caricature like you’ve seen on film and all that stuff. They are people. They have mothers, they have fathers, they have sisters, they have brothers, they have children. You know, there’s people who live them just like there are people that love you.

And those people grieve when they lose them, just like people grieve if they lose you.

That’s maybe not as dramatic and as exciting and clear cut and easy to understand as a sort of simple binary world of good and evil that you get painted for. But that’s not the way the real world is. And in the real world, again, you have to live with the consequences of your decisions for the rest of your life.

Think hard.

You know, I served in eight conflict areas, and I raised my right arm eight times, no, I raised my hand five times in the course of my career, and took an oath, and that oath was to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. I went to eight conflict areas and I never met a single person who was an enemy of the United States Constitution. Not one. No enemies of the Constitution.

I did spend a lot of time going out there again and becoming a political instrument for trans-national corporations and to preserve American military and political supremacy around the world, but that’s not in the oath! That’s not in the oath!

There wasn’t anybody threatening the Constitution in Vietnam, there was nobody threatening the Constitution in Grenada, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Somalia, [or] Haiti. I went to all of those places, and I never met anybody that was a threat to the Constitution, or the principles of the Constitution for tha matter. I just met people, you know. I met people and they put me in circumstances where I had to do a lot of things that I wish I didn’t have in my head right now.



Published in: on May 17, 2015 at 12:25 pm  Comments (1)  
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It’s not just me thinking that the US has lost most of its recent wars

Article in Atlantic magazine points out what I’ve been thinking: the American military has lost almost all of its recent wars, even though the USA spends more money on its military than all other nations combined, and has the highest-tech, best-trained, most highly-armed military the world has ever seen, and has won most of the pitched battles as well.

But you cannot defeat a people who are determined to eject an invader, come what may. It’s also the case that you can only rent friends, you can’t buy them – as famous celebrities find out when they run out of money, and as the US found out when the shrink-wrapped pallet-loads of hundred-dollar bills, that they used to dole out to the Sunni tribes in northern Iraq, ran out. Those same tribesmen who were rented as allies for the US turned to ISIS.

It also doesn’t help if you support utterly corrupt and brutal regimes, the way the US has been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A personal note: I know someone who was raised in Iraq, got medical training, and left during one of the times when the US was supporting Saddam Hussein against the Iranian regime. She hated Saddam. However, in comparison to the current regime of murderous, corrupt, Shiite extremist thugs (pretty much her words), she feels that Saddam was a saint.

Let’s count the losses by the US:

1. Vietnam

2. Laos

3. Cambodia

4. Lebanon

5. Somalia

6. Afghanistan

7. Iraq


1. Gulf War 1 (mostly)

2. Grenada (remember that one?)

3. Does Panama count?

Got any others?

Here is a quote from the article, by one James Fallows:

“At this point, it is incontrovertibly evident that the U.S. military failed to achieve any of its strategic goals in Iraq,” a former military intelligence officer named Jim Gourley wrote recently for Thomas E. Ricks’s blog, Best Defense. [July 11, 2014; note that this is a presitigious, semi-official blog of Foreign Policy magazine – gfb] “Evaluated according to the goals set forth by our military leadership, the war ended in utter defeat for our forces.” In 13 years of continuous combat under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the longest stretch of warfare in American history, U.S. forces have achieved one clear strategic success: the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Their many other tactical victories, from overthrowing Saddam Hussein to allying with Sunni tribal leaders to mounting a “surge” in Iraq, demonstrated great bravery and skill. But they brought no lasting stability to, nor advance of U.S. interests in, that part of the world. When ISIS troops overran much of Iraq last year, the forces that laid down their weapons and fled before them were members of the same Iraqi national army that U.S. advisers had so expensively yet ineffectively trained for more than five years.


Published in: on January 5, 2015 at 10:37 pm  Leave a Comment  
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