Saturday, April 15, 2023

Reflections on Vietnam

About a month ago, I went shopping for pants in Kohl's department store. While looking through the racks in the men’s department, I noticed that at least half of the merchandise was made in Vietnam. I'm an old-timer with a long memory, and I can't forget the terrible loss of U.S. life during the Vietnam conflict. I mean, damn it, 55,000 soldiers gave their lives fighting to contain communism in Southeast Asia, and we didn't let them finish the job. And now we're buying merchandise manufactured in Vietnam?

 Another reason Vietnam has been on my mind is that almost every movie or documentary about the terrible, tumultuous sixties, whenever scenes of protesters are shown, they are implied to have the moral high ground. After all, according to them, our government was killing "innocent" villagers and peasants in that God forsaken country. Many of the young protesters, some of whom were high as a kite, shouted "LBJ, LBJ, how many kids have you killed today"? I would also have loved to hear an alternate chant of "Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh," how many peasants have you done in"? To accuse LBJ of being a war criminal while ignoring the atrocities committed by "Uncle Ho" as his followers called the protege of Stalin and Mao, was beyond dishonest and hypocritical. First, Ho Chi Minh decided that North and South Vietnam should be united, so he went about terrorizing peasant farmers into forming "collectives" and with the help of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) overpowered the peasants and villagers, occupying South Vietnam. And Uncle Ho had an interesting way of dealing with those that didn't comply, "enemies of the State." He buried them alive. So why was this any of our business, and why did we send troops to help the South Vietnamese? Did you ever hear of the Cold War?

 Having lived in the shadow of nuclear annihilation, after seeing the  movie "Fail Safe," which scared the bejesus out of me, and living through the Cuban Missile Crisis (see "The Missiles of October”) when the nuns asked us to pray that the this was not the end of the world, I became obsessed with knowing all I could about the Cold War (see "The Cold War: a New History," by John Lewis Gaddis). While I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, I think I know a lot more than the average bear.

 After WWII, Harry Truman, fearing the Russians would try to expand their empire beyond Eastern Europe into the West, instituted a policy of "containment," to stop the spread of communism. Every president, including Lyndon Johnson, followed this policy. Many of Johnson's critics derided the theory of the "domino effect," that proposed that once Vietnam fell, the neighboring countries would soon follow suit. Well, shortly after we pulled our troops out, because of public pressure by people who didn't know shit from Shinola about foreign policy, Cambodia was taken over by Pol Pot, a brutal communist murderer (see "The Killing Fields") and Laos soon followed.

 In conclusion, I suggest that you read Michael Lind's brilliant analysis of the Vietnam conflict in his book "Vietnam: The Necessary War."



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