What We Still haven’t Learned from the Vietnam War

Hits: 1282

Fifty years ago today, in 1967, nearly 100,000 Americans marched on Washington, DC, to protest the Vietnam War. In those days there was a mandatory draft in place, and the risk was very real that a young man just out of high school could quickly wind up 13,000 miles away, fighting an unseen enemy in jungles that didn’t need tanks or B-52 bombers to inflict fear. Worse yet was the possibility of going MIA or coming home in a body bag — just another expendable statistic in the great fight against communism. But even many of those who made it back left part of their souls in that war zone.

Today there is no longer a mandatory draft. And neither is there any anti-war movement to speak of.

If you ask young people today why the United States joined the fight in WWII, many could probably tell you that we were bombed by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Or perhaps they would say we had to fight Hitler and the Nazis. But what about Vietnam? Why did we go to war there? What were we fighting for? How did we become involved in that conflict? My guess is that most couldn’t tell you — just as it became unclear to that generation in 1967, who were fighting and dying.

This contrast between clarity and ambiguity is reflected in popular cinema — take WWII films like Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Pearl Harbor, and Sands of Iwo Jima that reflect the essential righteousness of the American cause. Yet classic Vietnam War films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, and Hamburger Hill reflect the uncertainty, misery, barbarity, and psychosis of the GI experience.

But this split perception took time. The truth is that the US had been in Vietnam since the mid-1950s. Since the turn of the century, America had been slowly developing into an imperial power to rival the British and the French. WWII had solidified it as the inheritor of the British Empire — the only imperial power left standing.

The whole of Vietnam had been a colony of the French since the 1890s, but after WWII an uprising occurred, led by Ho Chi Minh — inspired by Marxist-Leninism and a nationalist fervor to regain control of their own country. By 1954 the French were out, and two Vietnams, north and south, formed in an uneasy proximity.

The US inherited the imperial project from the French — gradually sending in military “advisers” to the south. President John F. Kennedy had continued that project by backing the south Vietnamese government with military assistance and equipment. The stated reason for this intervention was to prevent the spread of communism throughout southeast Asia — the infamous “domino theory.”

But by 1963, Kennedy had come to see the futility of this endeavor. He gave orders to begin withdrawing troops, and planned to have all military personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965.

But on November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated, and President Lyndon B. Johnson took the helm. He immediately reversed Kennedy’s orders. The Gulf of Tonkin incident in August 1964, in which a group of North Vietnamese torpedo boats allegedly fired on a US Navy ship (it turned out to be false — and the administration knew it), gave Congress the incentive to give Johnson the authority he needed to dramatically escalate troop deployment and to begin a new bombing campaign.

By 1968, over 500,000 American soldiers were stationed in Vietnam.

In the mid-60s, young people began questioning why their friends and family members were being sent thousands of miles away to fight in another country they’d never heard of before. The rock n’ roll revolution was in full swing, and the hippie movement, dope, and acid were fueling a counterculture movement that questioned the establishment and their rules of conformity — instead pushing the mantra “make love, not war.”

Not only was Johnson feeling the heat from student protesters, but even Wall Street and Big Finance were beginning to express doubts about the feasibility of winning the war. The debt was piling up and America was at that point still under the Bretton-Woods gold standard.

In March of 1968, less than a year after the protest march on D.C., Johnson announced he would not seek reelection.

Senator Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK, had thrown his hat in the race, running as a peace candidate who would bring the troops home from Vietnam. He was assassinated several months after Martin Luther King, Jr. The Republican candidate Richard Nixon won the election, and the war continued another seven years, taking us off the gold standard in the process. It ended in US defeat in 1975, shortly after Nixon resigned from office in shame after the Watergate scandal.

By the war’s end the US had lost 58,000 troops — the Vietnamese somewhere between one and three million.

So why was America in the Vietnam War for so long? What was it really about?

We might as well ask why we have been in Afghanistan for 16 years with no end in sight. Or why did we invade Iraq? Why did we overthrow Libya? Why are we involved in a civil war in Syria? Why are we backing a genocidal war in Yemen? Why did we invade Grenada? Why did we conduct covert warfare in a dozen different Central and South American countries over the past 60 years? Why are we still in Korea 70 years after the fact, now on the verge of a renewed conflict? Why have we come to the very threshold of nuclear annihilation more than once?

What happened to the citizens, community leaders, institutions, and politicians that we would allow this endless warfare to continue? And where is the anti-war movement? Why are they MIA?

These questions are all related. Perhaps if we were to solve the riddle of Vietnam, we would solve these other questions as well. Perhaps those 100,000 students and protesters 50 years ago solved it — and decided to do something about it. Maybe we can too.


Originally published on 2017-10-21

Source: Who.What.Why

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

READ MORE!
Towards the Creation of a “Greater Albania”: Historical Roots & Imperial Ambitions
IntroductionToday it is quite obvious that the Western-backed process of creation of a Greater Albania is not any propaganda myth but rather visible reality. South Serbia’s province of Kosovo-Metochia is already, de facto, part of “united” Albania from June 1999 and current political situation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is surely going to the direction of the separation of North-West Macedonia mainly populated by Albanians who succeeded with the crucial Western support to promulgate a new language law in Macedonia’s Parliament according to which, the Albanian language is going to be a second state language (i. e., together ...
READ MORE
The Ambiguity: The Case of Democracy
The Great Financial Crisis, the Occupy Wall Street rising, Wikileaks and Snowden exposure, imperialist interventions in Iraq-Libya-Syria, the economic-political developments in Greece, and the on-going string of revelations in the US politics take away all ambiguities related to democracy, development and state. With broad and fundamental connections and character the incidents and processes – parts of democracy and development – being witnessed by the contemporary world are significant with far-reaching implications, and helpful to comprehend issues of democracy, development and state.No ambiguity: Ambiguous and confusing narratives of democracy and development are vigorously sold in markets despite the reality of repeated ...
READ MORE
Donald Trump and the Jewish Question
As news of appointments to the Trump administration flow in, the hard Right is riding high, and anti-Semitism and Zionism are in the news in ways that purveyors of conventional wisdom have to struggle to make sense of.  The Trump phenomenon has undone conventional understandings of both. Trump’s thirty-something son-in-law, Jared Kushner, Ivanka’s husband, embodies a lot of what has put those conventional understandings in doubt. A (modern) orthodox Jew and rabid Zionist, Kushner is not exactly éminence grise material; his is too young and insubstantial to be what Dick Cheney was for George Bush.  Nevertheless, he does seem to be stepping ...
READ MORE
Incompetent Espionage and Wikileaks
The entire sand-castle (a product of Obama CIA Director John Brennan’s imagination) the “Russians hacked the election” is finally washing away with an incoming tide. How this plays out is anyone’s guess. The open question is, how the new information will be leveraged, if it were to actually break into the open widely, with the bad boy Trump essentially captured by the surreal evil that surrounds him. Other than pure evil (e.g. Mike Pence), only a narcissist or a fool would ever desire to be president of this particular USA republic. In ‘The Donald’, we have both. 1 August 2017 an audio ...
READ MORE
Warning! Neocons are Close to Starting a Nuclear War with Russia
We, the undersigned, are Russians living and working in the USA. We have been watching with increasing anxiety as the current US and NATO policies have set us on an extremely dangerous collision course with the Russian Federation, as well as with China. Many respected, patriotic Americans, such as Paul Craig Roberts, Stephen Cohen, Philip Giraldi, Ray McGovern and many others have been issuing warnings of a looming a Third World War. But their voices have been all but lost among the din of a mass media that is full of deceptive and inaccurate stories that characterize the Russian economy ...
READ MORE
Forgeries and the Truth about Srebrenica
The focal political aims of current anti-Serb propagandaThe current Serbophobic propaganda to abolish Republika Srpska (RS) and to create a unitary Bosnia-Herzegovina (a neo-Ottoman Muslim Bosnian province) is coming from the ranks of the Bosnian Muslim Party of Democratic Action (Stranka Demokratske Akcije - SDA) and its Western sponsors. The propaganda, however, coincides with the final phase of The Hague war crimes trial, following so-called "arrests"[1] and express deportations for the Netherlands by at that time pro-Western Serbian Government of former wartime commander of the Army of the Republika Srpska (Vojska Republike Srpske - VRS), General Ratko Mladic, and the ...
READ MORE
Albanian Jihadist’s Easy Passage to Syria’s Brutal War
A former Islamist fighter in Syria recalls why he went to Syria, how easy it was to get there – and why he would go again, if he could.On his first trip abroad, he left with 400 euros in his pocket, a printed map from the internet and the belief that he was fulfilling his destiny in eyes of Allah. The destination was the frontline of the war in Syria, but his jihad ended faster than it started.Two years later, in a bar full of people in his hometown in northern Albania, Ebu Merjem stands out with his long beard ...
READ MORE
Jonas Noreika: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania
For the tiny village of Sukioniai in western Lithuania, the exploits of General Storm, a local anti-Communist hero executed by the Soviet secret police in 1947, have long been a source of pride. The village school is named after him, and his struggles against the Soviet Union are also honored with a memorial carved from stone next to the farm where he was born. All along, though, there have been persistent whispers that General Storm, whose real name was Jonas Noreika, also helped the Nazis kill Jews. But these were largely discounted as the work of ill-willed outsiders serving a well-orchestrated ...
READ MORE
Real or Rigged “International Conference on Fascism and Antisemitism” in Vilnius on 9 November?
Yet again, a conference here in the Lithuanian capital dedicated to combating fascism and antisemitism is announced, without there having been a public call for papers, without a single speaker from among those who actually combat fascism and antisemitism in the country, with nobody from the democratically elected Vilnius Jewish community (not even the long-time editor of Jerusalem of Lithuania who has exposed and combated antisemitism for decades). No Holocaust survivors. None of the nationally relevant questions of the day can be found on the conference program. As ever, outstanding academic personalities from abroad are recruited to lend the gravitas and provide serious papers ...
READ MORE
Clinton’s Defeat and the “Fake News” Conspiracy
There is an astounding double standard being applied to the US presidential election result. A few weeks ago the corporate media were appalled that Donald Trump demurred on whether he would accept the vote if it went against him. It was proof of his anti-democratic, authoritarian instincts. But now he has won, the same media outlets are cheerleading the establishment’s full-frontal assault on the legitimacy of a Trump presidency. That campaign is being headed by the failed candidate, Hillary Clinton, after a lengthy softening-up operation by US intelligence agencies, led by the CIA. According to the prevailing claim, Russian president Vladimir Putin stole the election on ...
READ MORE
Trump’s Win wasn’t Ideological?
CNN explained well “5 surprising lessons from Trump’s astonishing win”, and the historic crushing failure of traditional Presidential-year American politics, but it really boils down to one simple fact: In the battleground states, where most of the advertising dollars and get-out-the-vote money was being spent, the Trump organization made use of the Republican-Party organization in those portions of the campaign-operation that benefited from those established contacts and its tried-and-tested methods and techniques, but not in the portions of the campaign-operation that needed to be improved and to function better than in all prior U.S. Presidential elections.The simple fact is that ...
READ MORE
Mother Teresa India Charity ‘Sold Babies’
A woman working at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand has been arrested for allegedly selling a 14-day-old baby.Two other women employees from the centre have been detained and are being questioned about other possible cases.Police took action after the state’s Child Welfare Committee (CWC) registered a complaint.The charity has not responded to BBC requests for comment.“We have found out that some other babies have also been illegally sold from the centre,” a police official told BBC Hindi’s Niraj Sinha. “We have obtained the names of the mothers of these babies and are further ...
READ MORE
Death and Destruction in Iraq, Extensive US War Crimes: Apocalypse in Mosul in the Guise of Bombing ISIS
“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants” (Albert Camus 1913-1960) On 1st May 2003, George W. Bush stood in a dinky little flying suit on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln and in a super stage managed appearance told the lie of the century: “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the Battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country.” (1) The illegal occupation and decimation of Iraq continued until December 2011. In June 2014 they returned to bomb again ...
READ MORE
Trump Buys Lithuania, EU cannot Stop It
The US President Donald Trump is no doubt a successful businessman who rules his country as if it is a huge enterprise. And this kind of management, to his mind, should lead to success. And very often it really works. As a wise leader he uses different tools to reach his goals. Thus, the most cunning one, which the US exploits in Europe – is indirect influence on the EU countries to gain the desired aim. The EU just becomes a tool in “capable hands” of the US.Let us give the simple example. Last week the Ministry of National Defence ...
READ MORE
Phantom Tanks and the Desperation of Kiev
How many times have we seen this before?The President of the United States is on TV telling us horror stories. Some innocent people in some corner of the world are being crushed, he tells us. They face some monstrously evil oppressor, he says. While the United States doesn’t like war, what choice is there? Sacrifices must be made, cruise missiles must be unleashed, to protect the poor and innocent. The world is the set of an action movie, and the US is the tragic hero, forced to rescue the innocent.This is the script we heard in former Yugoslavia. Bill Clinton ...
READ MORE
Israel Amps Up Ethnic Cleansing in Order to Further Judaize Jerusalem: The Nakba Continues
Israel will soon bar all access to a Palestinian village whose farmers have continued a tradition stretching back thousands of years of tending stone terraces to grow crops in the fertile uplands outside Jerusalem.  These farmers are among the latest victims of Israeli efforts to put in place the final pieces of a Greater Jewish Jerusalem that will require “ethnically cleansing” tens of thousands of Palestinians from a city their families have lived and worked in for generations, human rights groups have warned.  The villagers of Walaja, many of them holding Israeli papers as “residents” of Jerusalem, were warned in November that they ...
READ MORE
New World Order: Muslims to be Majority in Europe within Two Generations
Within 40 years, given current demographic trends, the white population in France and the rest of old Europe will recede, creating a Muslim majority, a French researcher says.Charles Gave, an economist, fund manager and political commentator, published his conclusions this month on the webpage of his think tank, Institute des Libertes. He writes of the “disappearance of the European populations” as native populations shrink and Muslims continue to exhibit a robust fertility rate.Mr. Gave, president of Gavekal Research, acknowledges that his decidedly unpolitically correct view may bring him scorn and possibly censorship. The political left generally protects Islam from criticism. ...
READ MORE
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
Early in 1989, China was stirring. A decade of groundbreaking reforms inspired by Deng Xiaoping had brought the moribund economy to life and freed the nation from the ideological shackles imposed by radical Maoists during the cataclysmic Cultural Revolution. Almost everything seemed possible, as Deng proteges Hu Yaobang and then Zhao Ziyang led policymaking on a day-to-day basis.But the changes sweeping China had its dark undersides. Large-scale economic reforms also meant expanded corruption opportunities, which many officials exploited. And Chinese who “got rich first,” under the Dengist dispensation, opened a rapidly expanding wealth gap with fellow citizens. Discontent simmered dangerously.The ...
READ MORE
How to Combat Croatian Revisionists’ Culture of Lies
In early 1944, Mirjana Babunovic-Dimitrijevic, a 22-year-old middle-class woman living in Sarajevo, was arrested by the Ustasa police. After she was arrested along with her mother and aunt, they were all deported to the Jasenovac concentration camp, for refusing to convert to Catholicism. All three women died there in late 1944.These women were among more than 80,000 victims who perished at Jasenovac between 1941 and 1945. While we don’t know precisely how they died nor what happened during their short lives in the camp, two things are certain.First, their deaths were the direct result of deliberate political decisions. Second, they ...
READ MORE
Thanksgiving for a Grateful Empire
“Rooted in a story of generosity and partnership, Thanksgiving offers an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for the gifts we have and to show our appreciation for all we hold dear….”So begins the official Presidential Proclamation of Thanksgiving Day, 2015, signed and issued by Barack Obama.While it hearkens back to earlier Thanksgivings in St. Augustine in 1565 and Plymouth in 1621, this is an essentially imperial document that gives only vague lip service to giving “thanks for the many blessings bestowed upon us.” When his proclamation gets specific, in the third sentence, the President gives the highest place of ...
READ MORE
Towards the Creation of a “Greater Albania”: Historical Roots & Imperial Ambitions
The Ambiguity: The Case of Democracy
Donald Trump and the Jewish Question
Incompetent Espionage and Wikileaks
Warning! Neocons are Close to Starting a Nuclear War with Russia
Forgeries and the Truth about Srebrenica
Albanian Jihadist’s Easy Passage to Syria’s Brutal War
Jonas Noreika: Nazi Collaborator or National Hero? A Test for Lithuania
Real or Rigged “International Conference on Fascism and Antisemitism” in Vilnius on 9 November?
Clinton’s Defeat and the “Fake News” Conspiracy
Trump’s Win wasn’t Ideological?
Mother Teresa India Charity ‘Sold Babies’
Death and Destruction in Iraq, Extensive US War Crimes: Apocalypse in Mosul in the Guise of Bombing ISIS
Trump Buys Lithuania, EU cannot Stop It
Phantom Tanks and the Desperation of Kiev
Israel Amps Up Ethnic Cleansing in Order to Further Judaize Jerusalem: The Nakba Continues
New World Order: Muslims to be Majority in Europe within Two Generations
Tiananmen: The Empire’s Big Lie
How to Combat Croatian Revisionists’ Culture of Lies
Thanksgiving for a Grateful Empire
FOLLOW US ON OUR SOCIAL PLATFORMS
Share