slothropia.com

News, politics, progressive culture, music, acoustic music

Archive for the ‘Vietnam’ Category

What Time Does the Mutiny Start?

with 2 comments

The News Blog pointed me to Sir, No Sir, a site which documents the various ways in civilians and military personnel resisted the war in Vietnam. Consider the page about riots and rebellions, which includes the following:

1967

May 13
Fort Carson – On-base riot .

July 15
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

October 3
Fort Hood – On-base riot.

1968

March 6
Fort Benning – On-base riot.

April 11 – 12
Fort Campbell – On-base riot.

June 14
Fort Jackson – Stockade rebellion.

July
Long Kanh Province, South Vietnam – Reported fragging.

July 4
The Presidio – Stockade rebellion.

July 23
Fort Bragg – Stockade rebellion.

August 16
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 18 – 19
DaNang Brig, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

August 29 – 30
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.

September
Vietnam GI reports that someone cut safety wires and backed off several nuts on one of the hot dog General’s choppers. “Fortunately” , the crew chief discovered “the problem” before the General took off.

October
Fort Dix – Stockade rebellion.

November
Long Binh Jail, South Vietnam – Stockade rebellion.
Fort Ord – Stockade rebellion.
Camp Crockett – On-base riot.

November 7
Camp Pendelton Brig – Stockade rebellion

There’s much more of course.

As I have stated before, the war in Iraq is an imperial war, as was the war in Vietnam. Someday,  historains can compare and contrast the two wars and note the similarities and differences.

Here is one critical similarity: soldiers, marines, etc.  in Iraq are serving under extremely stressful conditions. I’m not there. I don’t know what it’s like for them, but I have begun to wonder how long it will be before military discipline becomes a serous issue.

Written by slothropia

January 28th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Civil War in Iraq? Quel Sirpreez

with 2 comments

NBC says it out loud: Iraq is suffering a civil war. It isn’t just the government versus the rebels, like the Spanish Civil War, but rather more like the Lebanese troubles of the 80’s and 90’s.

Poor Tony Snow had to artfully bob and weave to avoid agreeing that something that quacks and waddles isn’t really a duck. I’ll bet he misses the good ole Fox “News” days when he could just make shit up and get a nice pat on the back for it. Now, he has all those Davids and Helens yelling at him every time he opens his mouth.

The MSNBC military expert was asked by Olbermann this eveniong if the Iraqi civil war was anything like what happened in Vietnam. The good general said no, because the bad guys in Vietnam were the North Vietnamese.

“Ahem!” I cried, “Ever hear of the Viet Cong?” For those who are guilty of not being old enought to remember, the Vietnam war started in the 1950’s when Eisenhower refused to allow the elections that would have unified the country to occur as scheduled and agreed to. The United States in effect forced a partition of Vietnam because Ho Chi Minh was a Communist. In response, a left nationalist group, the Viet Cong fought a guerilla war (a civil war) until the late 60’s. The North Vietnamese (Democratic Republic of Vietnam actually) involvement really escalated with the Tet offensive in 1968.

And by the way, many Vietnamese considered the war between the DRV and the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam) to be a civil war.

Don’t believe me? Look it up in Wikipedia or read something by Chomsky.

Sorry to be so picky, but those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. Which we are.

The reason why the White House is afraid of the term civil war as it applies to Iraq is because, if a civil war is occurring there, American forces have no reason to be there. They can accomplish nothing under such circumstances so the rational thing to do is… bomb Iran of course.

I find it difficult to believe and accept that the American people can be swindled again so soon after Iraq. I mean, how many times do you have to lose at 3 card Monte to know that the game is rigged. But I am often mistaken and the newspapers (and cable news and talk radio) might just go along for the ride as usual.

Written by slothropia

November 28th, 2006 at 12:27 am

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Open Email to Cohen

without comments

Many bloggers, it seems,  have reacted to Richard Cohen’s latest steaming pile of self justification. I sent him an email,  and here it is:

Subject: the Lingo of Vietnam

Sir, you are morally and intellectually messed up. Seriously, you are pathetically confused.

You say they pay you to write this lunacy? I can write stupid stuff. When can I get a column in the Washington Post?

Aaaaaand…scene!

No more blogging until after TG.

Written by slothropia

November 21st, 2006 at 9:39 pm

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Iraq and Vietnam: Compare and Contrast

without comments

On Wednesday, Billmon posted some devastating and candid thoughts about the war in Iraq. He regrets not doing more to stop the war before and after the invasion three years ago. I feel the same regret.

I sense a heightening of the debate in this country about what to do about Iraq from here on. The only figure who seems to know how he would like to proceed is W (and his posse of course). Stay the course is their mantra, but no one else is buying.

Bush has accepted a comparison between this month’s violence in Iraq and the Tet offensive in 1968. Bush wants to believe and wants the rest of us to believe too that just as the Tet offensive weakened the support of the American people for the war in Vietnam, so the recent spike in violence in Iraq and in U.S. casualties is meant to influence the elections next month and eventually persuade the U.S. to pull out of Iraq.

The few remaining supporters of the war argue that to pull out of Iraq before the war is won would repeat the mistakes of Vietnam, a war which ended after U.S. public opinion turned against it. Some conservatives and neoconservatives are fond of saying the Tet offensive was a military defeat for the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong. There is some truth to that assertion because all of the objectives taken by the DRVN and the VC were quickly retaken by the U.S. (with the Army of the Republic of Vietnam holding the Americans’ coats). They also took enormous casualties during Tet, but the victory for DRVN and VC was in demonstrating that they could mount large operations deep in U.S. controlled territory. More importantly, it showed that they were able and willing to take heavy losses and continue fighting.

Vietnam was a classic war of attrition, in which the body count was the measure of success or failure. The U.S. killed a lot of Vietnamese, military, irregular and civilian, but sustained substantial losses itself. Here are the numbers for the main participants:

North Vietnamese Army, National Front for the Liberation of Vietnam

  • ~ 5,000,000.

South Vietnamese Army

  • ~230,000 KIA/MIA

Vietnamese Civilians

  • ~2,000,000 to 4,000,000 Killed (The Vietnam’s Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs released figures on April 3, 1995 claimed that nearly 2 million civilians in the north and 2 million in the south were killed between 1954 and 1975.
  • ~3,000,000 affected by Agent Orange

United States Armed Forces

South Korea

  • 5,000 KIA

The casualty figures for Iraq are not close to those of the Vietnam War, but we have made a good start: 2700 U.S. deaths, some 20,000 American wounded, and, according to some estimates, 650,000 Iraqis.

The war in Iraq is like, Vietnam, an imperial war of attrition. Unlike Vietnam, there are more than two sides. There is an insurgency directed against the American occupation and a multi-sided civil war among various Iraqi factions. The complexity of the civil war was demonstrated today when the Sadr militia briefly took the southern city of Amarah.

The Tet offensive demonstrated that the Americans could not win a military victory. LBJ recognized this and effectively resigned shortly thereafter. Nixon and Kissinger, I can speculate, also saw this reality but continued the American role in the war for another five years. Two more years of decent interval and the American defeat was completed.

If the President has his way, we will be in Iraq for the foreseeable future, inflicting and sustaining casualties toward no discernible end.

In my mind the question is whether or not the United States continues fighting in Iraq or withdraws completely, either immediately or over a period of time. To remain in Iraq is to continue the war. The insurgency will not end until the United States withdraws its forces.

I would choose immediate withdrawal. There is no interval that would be decent. The result will be the same, no matter how long the Americans stay.

And what will happen after American withdrawal? The civil war that is already occurring will continue until some political accommodation is possible. I predict that the Iraqis themselves would dispose of Al Qaeda and other jihadists as soon as they could.

In other words, we will only make things worse if we stay. The sooner we leave, the better.

Written by slothropia

October 20th, 2006 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Al Qaeda,Iraq,Vietnam

The End of the American Empire

without comments

Today I found a terrific article by Rob Burnett in the Huffington Post. It begins, “The failure of the occupation of Iraq, coupled with the Bush Administration’s unleashing of Israel, makes one thing clear: conservative foreign policy has failed. Conservatism hasn’t strengthened America’s position in the world, produced the Pax Americana that conservatives expected. It’s done the exact opposite; weakened the United States across the board. As a result, we’re witnessing the death of the conservative dream of American empire.”

This is a terrific article and I agree with Rob Burnett about everything in it except for his basic premise. I don’t think the creation and approaching death of the American Empire can be entirely blamed on conservatives. Consider, by way of example, this list of U.S. interventions in Latin America. Note that imperial action occurred during both Republican and Democratic administrations. True, Woodrow Wilson was a reactionary bigot, but FDR, JFK and Bill Clinton were not.

U.S. imperial policy and action have always been conducted for the benefit of American commercial interests, whatever party the President of the day belonged to. It now appears to both Rob Burnett and me that the ability of the United States to impose its will on other countries is declining. The incompetence of the Bush/Cheney administrations has merely accelerated the process.

Burnett concludes, “The critical question is: what do liberals propose as an alternative foreign policy?” Agreed. I would suggest that the answer should include a requirement that American foreign policy should be conducted for the benefit of all Americans and not just large corporations. For starters, such a policy would forbid the initiation of “wars of choice” (i.e. imperial wars), such as Vietnam and the one we are now losing in Iraq.

Written by slothropia

August 10th, 2006 at 5:12 pm

Posted in Iraq,Vietnam

Peace and Democracy

without comments

My blog hero Billmon wrote something the other day that got me thinking about the place of warfare in the contemporary world. He described an Israeli “almost obsessive reluctance to take casualties, which translates into extreme cautiousness, at both the strategic and tactical levels.

“The Israelis prefer to stay away from (some enemy) bunkers, the soldiers said, instead calling in coordinates so forces massed behind the border can hit them with guided missiles.”

He went on to say, “This is the kind of behavior that Max Hastings criticized in his books about the British and American armies in World War II — particularly when compared with the tactical speed, aggressiveness and resilience of the Wehrmacht and, in the later stages of the war, the Red Army. As Hastings points out, Nazi and the Soviet generals not only had more experience at maneuver warfare than their British and American counterparts, they could be infinitely more ruthless about spending the lives of their soldiers. They were, after all, totalitarian dictatorships, not middle-class democracies.”

The implication is that relatively democratic societies are less supportive of the ruthless tactics that have historically won wars. Not necessarily because the tactics are ruthless and kill too many enemy soldiers and civilians, but because they create too many casualties for the ‘home team’.

Even Rush has heard the news, and he’s not happy about it:

“But we’re fighting under different rules … Well, the media’s on scene every day showing the civilian casualties and showing the results of the military action, and that’s going to temper people because the world is going to say, “Stop it! Stop it! Stop this killing! Enough violence, enough is enough!” It was easier in the old days when nobody saw this stuff. Nobody saw 92,000 battle fatalities in the Pacific theater in World War II, and nobody saw the million and a half Japanese deaths so it was easier to do…You get caught up and worried about what other people think of you and world opinion and so forth and you’re going to get hamstrung, and we’re hamstrung, precisely where we are.”

Of course, what Limbaugh doesn’t like is the brake public opinion applies to the ability of military forces to kill enemy soldiers and do collateral damage (translation: kill civilians).

It’s agreed then; open societies where informed public opinion matters have a harder time waging war than authoritarian or totalitarian societies do. It turns out that most people do not want to see their sons and daughters killed or maimed and that those sons and daughters would similarly like to avoid that misfortune. It seems as well that most people do not like to see even enemy civilians blown up or burned. That is why the American right blames the loss in Vietnam on the media.

The public in this country and around the world saw several kinds of images in the television reports from Vietnam. On the one hand there were almost conventional battle pictures including explosions, bombs being dropped from aircraft, helicopters, soldiers firing weapons, wounded being evacuated from combat and so on.

Then there were the images of non-combatants caught and usually suffering in the conflict. Recall the naked Vietnamese girl, burned by napalm, running down a road toward the camera; American soldiers burning a village, and more, so much more.

Then too there were the images peculiar to the unique character of the war in Vietnam, like the Viet Cong guerilla, shot in the head by an Army of South Vietnam officer.

The Vietnamese people of course were for the most part shielded from the media presentation of the war in their country. Then again, they only had to go outside to see the reality of the war.

Eventually, the incremental effect of these images along with the cost in lives and treasure turned American opinion against U.S. involvement in the war; though not before the U.S. dropped more tons of explosives on Vietnam than it did in all of World War II.

Still, the military resented the ‘interference’ of the news media in the conduct of the war. The lesson the military chose to learn was that the public will not support a war if it knows what is going on. Hence the new secrecy rules in the two Iraq wars and all other U.S. military engagements since 1975.

Again, the question is whether an open and informed society is less likely to support war making on its behalf. The American right and the military say yes, and that is one of the reasons for the current drive to conceal military and other governmental information. I would argue that history also agrees.

In the twentieth century, two world wars consumed nearly all of Europe (save for the Swedes and the Swiss). With first hand knowledge of the reality of war, and at least in the West blessed with free flows of information and democratic government, Europe avoided war and its atrocities until the breakup of Yugoslavia (except for the odd rebellion in the Soviet bloc).

There is pushback of the kind described by Billmon above. Armies now look for ways to fight that do not involve taking heavy casualties. Furthermore, consider this observation by Tom Engelhardt from a post well worth reading in its entirety:

On our we/they planet, most groups don’t consider themselves barbarians. Nonetheless, we have largely achieved non-barbaric status in an interesting way — by removing the most essential aspect of the American (and, right now, Israeli) way of war from the category of the barbaric. I’m talking, of course, about air power, about raining destruction down on the earth from the skies, and about the belief — so common, so long-lasting, so deep-seated — that bombing others, including civilian populations, is a “strategic” thing to do; that air power can, in relatively swift measure, break the “will” not just of the enemy, but of that enemy’s society; and that such a way of war is the royal path to victory.

And later:

It may be that the human capacity for brutality, for barbarism, hasn’t changed much since the eighth century, but the industrial revolution — and in particular the rise of the airplane — opened up new landscapes to brutality; while the view from behind the gun-sight, then the bomb-sight, and finally the missile-sight slowly widened until all of humanity was taken in. From the lofty, godlike vantage point of the strategic as well as the literal heavens, the military and the civilian began to blur on the ground. Soldiers and citizens, conscripts and refugees alike, became nothing but tiny, indistinguishable hordes of ants, or nothing at all but the structures that housed them, or even just concepts, indistinguishable one from the other.

For many reasons, it should be a goal of all thinking humans to put an end to the institution of war. War is, after all, a relatively new human behavior, having only been invented along with civilization following the agricultural revolution (tribal level rock throwing disputes do not count as war). The question is how. It is a good thing that media exposure of war makes it more difficult to prosecute. Clearly, however, it is not enough.

Gore Vidal has some good news though, as is found in this excerpt from a recent interview

Q: Today the United States is fighting two wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq, and is now threatening to launch a third one on Iran. What is it going to take to stop the Bush onslaught?

Vidal: Economic collapse. We are too deeply in debt. We can’t service the debt, or so my financial friends tell me, that’s paying the interest on the Treasury bonds, particularly to the foreign countries that have been financing us. I think the Chinese will say the hell with you and pull their money out of the United States. That’s the end of our wars.”

Sounds great! Can’t wait!

Written by slothropia

July 30th, 2006 at 9:03 am

Posted in Vietnam,World War II