Saturday, September 17, 2005

We broke our promise to the Vietnamese

John T. Kuehn's seizing of Bruce Kesler's point is
here very much appreciated. It is often hard for
Americans to realize what their nation has meant to
peoples all over East Europe-- particulalry for those
who had been educated in the hard sciences. It is to
all making a real Mecca of freedom. It is hard to
realize that, except for the scientists working on the
Soviet atomic bomb, under Stalinism, physicists had to
explain the universe in terms of "dialectic
materialism," to satisfy "activist" imbecils and Party
hacks. For someone who devotes his/her youth to
learning and getting good grades, to have this demand
be all there is at the end of the rainbow, is quite a
blow. Thus, people who could barely lift a heavy book,
took their lives into their hands-- often family and
all-- fleeing with only the clothes on their backs to
treck through the whole of Europe (where thet were
very much unwelcome) in order to get to America where
their education can be put to mutual advantage. When
they got here they discivered how behind they all
were. And so, working at menial jobs, they study all
over again until they qualify and could start life
again the American Way.

As one who was dragged accross Europe, never knowing a
settled life until I reached America, I can say that I
was one of those too. However, I never really
appreciated what this freedom in the West was all
about because I was too preoccupied with the
Communists, also moving West, nipping at our heels.

With Khrushchev's new communism, many of us decided to
abandon both our fear of its Stalinist genre and our
battle against it, focusing on our private lives in
America. It seemed quite appropriate for us to become
self-seeking since, afterall, that's what most
Americans seemed to be doing. This was my attitude,
submerging myself into neurosciences, until I went to
UC Berkeley to work on locust flight mechanism. There
I confronted all the New York Communist (like Aptheker
and Atkins) whom I had known in New York, now leading
the Californians, not into totalitarian Communism but
in a demand for "meaningful dialogue." It is no wonder
that in 1964 they got 25,000 out of UC Berkeley's
27,000 students to join in the shutting down of the
university in the name of freedom of speech-- THE FREE
SPEECH MOVEMENT.

Once again I found myself in conflict with Communists,
but this time it was in exercize of the very
meaningful dialog they advocated, using it to oppose
their phase 2: the creation of a typical Communist
group control tool, the mandatory and controlled from
above, Student Union. By 1966 we had them beat,
excercizing the very freedom America is all about and
these New York Communist led the Sunny Californians
into demanding: "meaningful dialogue." It turns out
that had been only a "mobilization vehicle" for the
New Left, but for the rest of the students it was what
America is all about.

Then came the Vietnam War. That was, in 1965, a far
more polarizing issue, for the debate was: is the
bloodshed and destruction a worthwhile price in order
to promote democracy or is it not. Granted, LBJ was
really responding to Khrushchev's imprudent claim that
"we will bury you" and to Mao's insistance that the
"countryside" (Third World) would encircle the cities
(US and West) and strangle them into defeat, so it
really was a matter of global conflict. After speaking
to many Communists in many nations, I can assure you
that they meant what they said, and did so proudly.
But it was hard to get Asians and South Americans to
let us use their homelands as battlefields only so
that we need not face them from Florida or Califirnia.
And so, the American promise was made-- TO THE
PEOPLES, NOT THE REGIMES-- of American aid and
guidance to democracy and well being. So cognizant was
LBJ of that promise, that he assigned "Blowtorch" the
task of dualizing our military to both destruction and
construction (CORDS).

I recall an American obsession against which, as I
recall, only one American rebelled, John Paul Vann. It
is the concept that Star Treck always scripted into
Captain Kirk's mouth: never interfere with local
customs. Unfortunately, Americans did not realize how
very much they interfered with local customs in Asia
since 1950. US put in Diem, US took him out; and then
US invented a number of "generals" for ARVN that it
rotated through head of state musical chairs until it
found one who would not turn "neutralist" on us and
collaborate with deGaulle's mad scheme for a France
supervised "neutral" Southeast Asia. For example, Gen.
Lansdale played terminator on many a Vietnamese--Diem
included-- before he ended life dying of cancer in
deep regret of his earlier hubris. Even Nixon felt
shame over abandoning Vietnam after we so indirectly
screwed it up so much; but he felt that Vietnam was
paralyzing us in dealing with the Soviets in the rest
of the globe. By playing China and the USSR against
eachother, he made it possible to leave Vietnam
without all the dreaded concequences that kept
Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson stuck there.

Pres. Ford insisted, privately: "We payed our dues,
f--k them." I certainly can understand his frustration
and that of most Americans. The many VC I met did
indeed seem a lot more pallatable that the GVN guys I
knew. But then again, the GVN guys were put there by
the USA; and then-- here's our big mistake-- we let
loose our own Frankensteins without controlling them.
It wasn't long before it became clear that in Vietnam
we were, as JFK used to say, "pushing spaggetti." But,
these spaggettis we were trying to push into the
front, were OUR creations, impeding the very democracy
we promised. Here, I believe, the neocons have a
point: you don't promise someone democracy if he joins
you and then inflict on him cleptocracy instead,
claiming you can't do anything about it because you
don't want to interfere with "sovereignty" because
that would indeed make you the "imperialist" that the
Communists charged you to be.

But in fact, the Red Bloc called the US
"neo-imperialist," not "imperialist," specifically
because it imposes garbage as governemnt and sais it
can't interfere with its sovereignty. This was clear
when in 1963 Diem was the first in a long line of
overhtrown Saigon leaders seeking a neutral deal with
Hanoi after kicking out the Americans.

As much as I despise our Iraq involvement and its
reasons as well as the utter incompetence of most of
our civilians there, I must say that if the US had
percevered in democratizing South Vietnam as it is--
for now, until the 2006 election-- in democratizing
Iraq, things might have turned out quite differently.

The real issue, I believe, is were we then as
"democracy" determined as we are now? I think not. I
think we thought of South Vietnam as only a battle
field in our Southeast Asian struggle with Communism.
Thus, as soon as we paralyzed the Communists in
Southeast Asia by splitting them against each other so
they could no longer be a threat to us, we pulled out
and let Indochina go. Our "democracy" pledge seemed
illusory as did our responsibility towards the ARVN we
created as a high-caloie tail-heavy force used to
brrrrrrr on "automatic" of endless supply of amo and
transport.

There can be no quarell, in my view, over why LBJ--
full of trepadation-- told Westmoreland to preapare
for Americanization of the war. Nor is there any
question that Gen. Abrams did indee fight a "better
war." But, when, according to Hanoi's own official
history, the Red Bloc arms-supply to Hanoi became in
1974 seven times what it had been in all the previous
years of war and ARVN's was drying up (especially
fuel) one cannot wonder what fate awaited the South.

The insult on injury, I must insist, was Ford's when
he abrogated Nixon's promise of air power support
directed at the North's lifeline if it attacks in full
force, pejorativeldy declaring, "Our long Vietnam
nightmare is over." Well, it's not over. It haunts us
all every day and night. We promised democracy, we
didn't have the patience or the courage to do what we
had to do to keep our promise. We promised to defend
the Paris Accord from the air; again, we didn't have
the will and so we just declared the Republic of
Vietnam: OUT OF SIGHT OUT OF MIND. Indeed, for the
American media, as of April 30th, 1975, only published
Hanoi-cleared articles.

Perhaps now, the least we could do, is listen to the
refugees about what it was like that caused them to
brave ocean, sharks, anninition and pirates in the
same search for freedom so many of us embarked upon in
1947-48.

Daniel E. Teodoru

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