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The Killing of History

By John Pilger | Consortium News | September 21, 2017

One of the most hyped “events” of American television, “The Vietnam War,” has started on the PBS network. The directors are Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. Acclaimed for his documentaries on the Civil War, the Great Depression and the history of jazz, Burns says of his Vietnam films, “They will inspire our country to begin to talk and think about the Vietnam War in an entirely new way.”

An American soldier walks by a burning Vietnamese home
(From the PBS’ series, “The Vietnam War.”)

In a society often bereft of historical memory and in thrall to the propaganda of its “exceptionalism,” Burns’s “entirely new” Vietnam War is presented as an “epic, historic work.” Its lavish advertising campaign promotes its biggest backer, Bank of America, which in 1971 was burned down by students in Santa Barbara, California, as a symbol of the hated war in Vietnam.

Burns says he is grateful to “the entire Bank of America family” which “has long supported our country’s veterans.” Bank of America was a corporate prop to an invasion that killed perhaps as many as four million Vietnamese and ravaged and poisoned a once bountiful land. More than 58,000 American soldiers were killed, and around the same number are estimated to have taken their own lives.

I watched the first episode in New York. It leaves you in no doubt of its intentions right from the start. The narrator says the war “was begun in good faith by decent people out of fateful misunderstandings, American overconfidence and Cold War misunderstandings.”

The dishonesty of this statement is not surprising. The cynical fabrication of “false flags” that led to the invasion of Vietnam is a matter of record – the Gulf of Tonkin “incident” in 1964, which Burns promotes as true, was just one. The lies litter a multitude of official documents, notably the Pentagon Papers, which the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg released in 1971.

There was no good faith. The faith was rotten and cancerous. For me – as it must be for many Americans – it is difficult to watch the film’s jumble of “red peril” maps, unexplained interviewees, ineptly cut archive and maudlin American battlefield sequences. In the series’ press release in Britain — the BBC will show it — there is no mention of Vietnamese dead, only Americans.

“We are all searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy,” Novick is quoted as saying. How very post-modern.

All this will be familiar to those who have observed how the American media and popular culture behemoth has revised and served up the great crime of the second half of the Twentieth Century: from “The Green Berets” and “The Deer Hunter” to “Rambo” and, in so doing, has legitimized subsequent wars of aggression. The revisionism never stops and the blood never dries. The invader is pitied and purged of guilt, while “searching for some meaning in this terrible tragedy.” Cue Bob Dylan: “Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?”

What ‘Decency’ and ‘Good Faith’?

I thought about the “decency” and “good faith” when recalling my own first experiences as a young reporter in Vietnam: watching hypnotically as the skin fell off napalmed peasant children like old parchment, and the ladders of bombs that left trees petrified and festooned with human flesh. General William Westmoreland, the American commander, referred to people as “termites.”

General William C. Westmoreland. (Wikipedia)

In the early 1970s, I went to Quang Ngai province, where in the village of My Lai, between 347 and 500 men, women and infants were murdered by American troops (Burns prefers “killings”). At the time, this was presented as an aberration: an “American tragedy” (Newsweek). In this one province, it was estimated that 50,000 people had been slaughtered during the era of American “free fire zones.” Mass homicide. This was not news.

To the north, in Quang Tri province, more bombs were dropped than in all of Germany during the Second World War. Since 1975, unexploded ordnance has caused more than 40,000 deaths in mostly “South Vietnam,” the country America claimed to “save” and, with France, conceived as a singularly imperial ruse.

The “meaning” of the Vietnam War is no different from the meaning of the genocidal campaign against the Native Americans, the colonial massacres in the Philippines, the atomic bombings of Japan, the leveling of every city in North Korea. The aim was described by Colonel Edward Lansdale, the famous CIA man on whom Graham Greene based his central character in The Quiet American.

Quoting Robert Taber’s The War of the Flea, Lansdale said, “There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.”

Nothing has changed. When Donald Trump addressed the United Nations on Sept. 19 – a body established to spare humanity the “scourge of war” – he declared he was “ready, willing and able” to “totally destroy” North Korea and its 25 million people. His audience gasped, but Trump’s language was not unusual. His rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton, had boasted she was prepared to “totally obliterate” Iran, a nation of more than 80 million people. This is the American Way; only the euphemisms are missing now.

Returning to the U.S., I am struck by the silence and the absence of an opposition – on the streets, in journalism and the arts, as if dissent once tolerated in the “mainstream” has regressed to a dissidence: a metaphoric underground.

Missing What Trump Means

There is plenty of sound and fury at Trump the odious one, the “fascist,” but almost none at Trump as the symptom and caricature of an enduring system of conquest and extremism. Where are the ghosts of the great anti-war demonstrations that took over Washington in the 1970s? Where is the equivalent of the Freeze Movement that filled the streets of Manhattan in the 1980s, demanding that President Reagan withdraw battlefield nuclear weapons from Europe?

The sheer energy and moral persistence of these great movements largely succeeded; by 1987 Reagan had negotiated with Mikhail Gorbachev an Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that effectively ended the Cold War.

Today, according to secret NATO documents obtained by the German newspaper, Suddeutsche Zetung, this vital treaty is likely to be abandoned as “nuclear targeting planning is increased.” The German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned against “repeating the worst mistakes of the Cold War. … All the good treaties on disarmament and arms control from Gorbachev and Reagan are in acute peril. Europe is threatened again with becoming a military training ground for nuclear weapons. We must raise our voice against this.”

But not in America. The thousands who turned out for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s “revolution” in last year’s presidential campaign are collectively mute on these dangers. That most of America’s violence across the world has been perpetrated not by Republicans, or mutants like Trump, but by liberal Democrats, remains a taboo.

Barack Obama provided the apotheosis, with seven simultaneous wars, a presidential record, including the destruction of Libya as a modern state. Obama’s overthrow of Ukraine’s elected government has had the desired effect: the massing of American-led NATO forces on Russia’s western borderland through which the Nazis invaded in 1941.

Obama’s “pivot to Asia” in 2011 signaled the transfer of the majority of America’s naval and air forces to Asia and the Pacific for no purpose other than to confront and provoke China. The Nobel Peace Laureate’s worldwide campaign of assassinations is arguably the most extensive campaign of terrorism since 9/11.

What is known in the U.S. as “the Left” has effectively allied with the darkest recesses of institutional power, notably the Pentagon and the CIA, to prevent a peace deal between Trump and Vladimir Putin and to reinstate Russia as an enemy, on the basis of no evidence of its alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The true scandal is the insidious assumption of power by sinister war-making vested interests for which no American voted. The rapid ascendancy of the Pentagon and the surveillance agencies under Obama represented an historic shift of power in Washington. Daniel Ellsberg rightly called it a coup. The three generals running Trump are its witness.

All of this fails to penetrate those “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne noted memorably. Commodified and market-tested, “diversity” is the new liberal brand, not the class people serve regardless of their gender and skin color: not the responsibility of all to stop a barbaric war to end all wars.

“How did it fucking come to this?” says Michael Moore in his Broadway show, Terms of My Surrender, a vaudeville for the disaffected set against a backdrop of Trump as Big Brother.

I admired Moore’s film, Roger & Me, about the economic and social devastation of his hometown of Flint, Michigan, and Sicko, his investigation into the corruption of healthcare in America.

Filmmaker Michael Moore

The night I saw his show, his happy-clappy audience cheered his reassurance that “we are the majority!” and calls to “impeach Trump, a liar and a fascist!” His message seemed to be that had you held your nose and voted for Hillary Clinton, life would be predictable again.

He may be right. Instead of merely abusing the world, as Trump does, Clinton, the Great Obliterator, might have attacked Iran and lobbed missiles at Putin, whom she likened to Hitler: a particular profanity given the 27 million Russians who died in Hitler’s invasion.

“Listen up,” said Moore, “putting aside what our governments do, Americans are really loved by the world!”

There was a silence.

September 22, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 5 Comments

Hué Back When: Vietnam’s Pivotal Battle Reconsidered

Photo by Raymond Depardon | CC BY 2.0
By Michael Uhl | CounterPunch | September 20, 2017

For Mark Bowden, author of Hué 1968, the pivotal battle of the War in Vietnam did not follow the script most Americans were used to scanning in their newspapers or visualizing on the evening news.  The war Americans followed at home was like a humongous hunting expedition. U.S. forces seemed engaged in an endless chase over a lush boondocks inhabited by peasants and dotted with rice paddies or trailing the rugged forested highlands in search of the Viet Cong, a cunning and elusive enemy whose tactics were hit and run, not stand and fight.

When an atypical fixed battle developed, it was typically well-removed from the population centers that hugged the coastline off the South China Sea. Vietnam was, after all, a guerrilla war, or more broadly understood, a people’s war fought to reunite a nation, artificially divided into North and South by fiat of the United States in the service of geopolitical brinksmanship. Accused of fermenting the southern insurgency, North Vietnam was mercilessly bombed, but spared the carnage of a ground war. Not so the south where, by whatever foul means, the idea was “to isolate the population from the Viet Cong,” notwithstanding that, as Mark Bowden readily concedes, “in most instances they were one in the same.” The resistance was popular and widespread, and its idea was to drive the American invader out, and overthrow a despised ruling clique of Vietnamese compradors which survived only because the invader had committed hundreds of thousands of its own troops and billions of its taxpayers’ dollars to sustain it.

Americans were consistently assured that bit by bit the tumultuous countryside was being pacified, and the guerillas attrited, both politically and as a fighting force.  In late 1967 Americans were told they were winning the war. When Tet – the Luna New Year – dawned on January 31, 1968, that illusion was irreparably shattered.  The vastly superior forces of the United States and its southern catspaw, the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), were caught virtually flat footed when thousands of regular troops of the People’s Army of North Vietnam seemingly materialized from thin air, and in coordination with local units of the southern resistance, launched up and down the length and breath of South Vietnam what was quickly branded the Tet Offensive. The most stunning blow for Americans, war managers and citizens alike, was an assault on the South Vietnamese capital of Saigon taken right to the walls of the American Embassy.

For several weeks thereafter, media attention in the U.S. and throughout the world focused primarily on the shock of Saigon’s vulnerability, overplaying its significance. A thousand kilometers north, at first scarcely noticed, even by the Commander of U.S. forces, General William Westmoreland, a battle had commenced that would become the “longest and bloodiest” of the war, not waged over the – till then – familiar rural topography, but house to house, street by street, culminating in one of the most intense chapters of urban warfare in the annals of American military history. Observers today might liken it to a more recent urban free-for-all entangling American troops in Fallujah, Iraq. Or, better yet, recall a U.S. military fiasco in downtown Mogadishu that Mark Bowden had crafted into an earlier best seller. To the extent comparisons hold, the Battle of Hue was like Black Hawk Down on steroids.

Hue 1968 is a comprehensive account of that battle written in the page-turning style of popular narrative non-fiction. The author has assembled a cast of eyewitnesses who participated in the action, Vietnamese and Americans, and the battle unfolds in recollections mined from their interviews, and, for the departed, from other primary sources at his disposal, such as lengthy wartime correspondences. Bowden has properly set the strategic stage for his action in the context of the war’s two most relevant contemporaneous developments.  There was the very fact of Tet, simultaneous attacks with varying degrees of effectiveness on virtually every population center and military base in the South. The Year of the Monkey came in like Armageddon, catching General Westmoreland, for one, completely off guard even though he later claimed he knew those crafty commies were planning something.

To draw attention away from their true intentions, the North Vietnamese had executed a feint, keeping a remote Marine encampment under heavy bombardment at Khe Sanh near the border with Laos, and just below the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).  Taking the bait, and just two weeks before Tet, Westmoreland weakened his coastal enclaves by detaching troops to reinforce the beleaguered camp. The American general believed he was luring the North Vietnamese into a repeat of the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which in 1954 brought French colonial control of Vietnam to an end but inadvertently opened the door to an American invasion. This time, Westmoreland fantasized, “he was determined to prevent history from repeating itself.” That battle never developed, and several months later, Khe Sanh was abandoned by the Americans.

Westmoreland’s obsession with Khe Sanh apparently prevented him from fully grasping that Hue, South Vietnam’s third largest city, and former Imperial capital, had fallen to the Liberation Front in less than twenty-four hours. This pattern of disbelief was moreover pervasive up and down the American chain of command. At Phu Bai, a Marine base less than fifteen miles south of Hue, the commanding general, with improbable symmetry named Forster LaHue, repeatedly ignored reports on the size of the force his counterattack would face, and insisted that, instead of thousands, their number couldn’t possibly exceed more than a few hundred. Could a force as large as the one being reported enter and occupy the entire city that quickly and virtually undetected? Through some of his most original reporting Bowden reconstructs exactly how that occurred.

Shifting the action in his account from one adversary to the other, Bowden begins with the attack, describing how four regiments totaling roughly four thousand uniformed NVA soldiers managed to infiltrate the border between North and South Vietnam, rendezvous with local guerrillas in a force of equal size, and ultimately bivouac on the outskirts of Hue. “It was the kind of troop movement,” comments Bowden, “that could remain secret only if the citizenry supported it, or didn’t care enough to sound the alarm.”

Certainly in Hue there were many Catholics who, in general, were partisans of the Saigon regime, not to mention a contingent of elite ARVN soldiers stationed there, who would have sounded the alarm if they’d been aware of any imminent threat. On another side was a strong current of anti-Americanism among the Buddhists and the student body at Vietnam’s prestigious Hue University, who two years earlier had combined and rioted against the repressive South Vietnamese government, and burned the library of the United States Information Service. But by early 1968, Hue was being little frequented by the war’s violence, and hopes were stoked that the city’s rich stock of architectural treasures, not least the palace of Vietnam’s last royal dynasty, might avoid destruction. Compared with the rest of the country, life in Hue was reasonably good, and reasonably safe. A degree of political complacency had set into what remained a functional commercial entrepot where trade and traffic on Hue’s iconic Perfume River remained brisk.

Even though a majority of Hue’s population of 140,000 could not be considered pillars of the revolution, an underground resistance network was well-entrenched in the city and highly motivated.  And Bowden, having tracked down a small cast of survivors, gives us affecting  sketches of, among others, the Village Girl who guided the troops through the darkness and pointed them toward their targets; the VC commander who stood up to the hero of Dien Bien Phu, General Vo Nguyen Giap, and revised the battle plan; the college boy who worked with his fisherman landlord to smuggle arms into the city by sampan; the Buddhist poet turned what we would call ‘information officer,’ and Bowden – who holds many conventional opinions– calls “propagandist;” but my favorite was the balsy little guy who was given the task to create a giant new flag for the victors to raise once they’d taken the city.

The flag detail merits a special nod to illustrate the contrast between the high tech m.o. of the Empire’s war machine, and the endless improvisation of those in the Front who used gumption, imagination and stealth to their advantage in the face of overwhelming fire power from air, land and sea. The task to create a flag to be seen, not as “an invasion or occupation, but rather as a liberation,” fell to Sargent Cao Van Sen, an old war horse who’d fought with the Viet Minh against the French, joined the northern Army, and was then ordered back to his native Hue to organize among the Viet Cong. The idea of the flag, Bowden says “was to recognize real political differences between North and South,” with a design that represented, not only the liberation forces, but also “the intelligentsia and the city’s religious factions – Buddhists and Catholics.” Hanoi’s political objective at that stage was transitional, “to establish a neutral, independent South Vietnam,” leaving reunification to future negotiations.” Sgt. Sen’s job was to line up the material, a sewing machine and a seamstress to produce a single flag, which, when completed, required two men to carry it.  After being “run up the 123-foot flagpole… that stood just outside the royal palace before the Citadel’s southern wall… it was visible all over Hue” when the city’s denizens awoke January 31st on the first morning of Tet.

Metropolitan Hue spread over both sides of the Perfume River, and the Front’s objective was to occupy the zone on the south bank called the Triangle, and, on the north, the Citadel, an “enormous fortress that enclosed nearly two square miles… its walls twenty-six feet high and impenetrably thick,” and enclosing the neighborhoods of Hue’s most affluent residents. Primary targets, included the air strip inside the Citadel, the province headquarters, the treasury, the post office, the prison, the radio station and “the sole American base, the [Military Assistance Command, Vietnam] MACV compound.”

The Commander of the Front, General Dang Kinh watched from high ground to the west, anxiously awaiting the assault to begin. Finally, “throughout the city arose the sound of gunfire… scattered at first, and then as if touched off by a fuse, it rose rapidly to a din.” By the time the shooting stopped, the attacking force, having “suffered only a few casualties, had dealt Hue’s defenders a crushing surprise blow.” The only major targets not overrun were a fortified redoubt occupied by the 1st ARVN Division inside the Citadel, and the MACV compound on the opposite side of the river, both heavily under siege.

Notwithstanding the loud cheerleading from Hanoi for Tet to unleash a “popular uprising,” it was General Kinh’s opinion, according to Bowden, that no such uprising would occur, not even in subdued and occupied Hue, given the certainty of an overpowering American counter-attack.  Kinh knew his forces “could take the city, but… not hold it for long. Achievable goals… were to destroy the ARVN division, and… round up… those who represented the Saigon regime… who were marked for arrest and punishment.”

The subsequent executions of many of these Saigon officials is thematic in Bowden’s text, an overly eager retailing of the ex post facto justification among the war’s apologists for the American decision to rescue their allies by destroying their city.  More informed observers might counter that for an American writer of Bowden’s stature to lay charges of mass murder at the Vietnamese resistance– in this instance taking blood retaliation on enemies considered legitimate military targets – demonstrates a highly hometown cast of mind, and a failure to do the math on the infinitely less selective assassination orgy of the U.S. Phoenix Program, not to mention the war’s vastly unbalanced human death toll perpetrated upon the Vietnamese population by the invader.

Kinh’s prediction proved correct. And much of what Bowden encapsulates in Hue 1968 is devoted to a ground level view on just how the city was retaken. Bowden fully examines first January 31st, the day Hue fell, from a variety of vantage points including civilians and combatants on both sides, then moves the battle forward in week long blocks until the Front, faced with annihilation, is forced to withdraw. Had the U.S. command acted more swiftly, the lives of many marines might have been spared, but the city faced devastation in every scenario as long as the occupiers remained. The initial counter-thrust came from the nearby Marine base at Phu Bai when General LaHue, still doubting his adversary’s vast numerical superiority, initially dispatched so few marines that, on one of few occasions during the war, the U.S. was seriously out-gunned. When a marine captain already in Hue called for air and artillery strikes to dislodge the entrenched enemy, General LaHue told him “rather strikingly that he was overreacting.“ LaHue “saw no reason on earth why the more than four hundred men in the [MACV] compound, reinforced with well over three hundred U.S. marines,” assorted tanks and heavy weaponized vehicles, “should not be able to flatten anything between them and the fucking Citadel.”  Bowden aptly titles this episode An Idiotic Mission.

Three hundred men represented one understrength marine battalion, but only a single unit, Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion of the 1st Marine Division was dispatched at first to test the enemy strength. This proved a disaster, and the best account of the action on the ground I’ve found was not Bowden’s, but in Vietnam-Perkasie, a memoir by W.D. (Bill) Ehrhart. When Alpha Company left Phu Bai just as the sun was coming up, Bill Ehrhart was given the option of staying behind. He was short, meaning only a few days remained on what had already been a harrowing thirteen month tour.  But since the unit was just going to check things out, and were told they’d be back by evening, Bill threw caution to the wind.

Alpha Company, moving to relieve the assault on the MACV compound passed a gas station on the city outskirts, and then, Ehrhart writes, “all hell broke loose… The shock of the ambush caught the whole column completely by surprise… We knew the compound lay straight up the road… seven blocks ahead… We fought our way up the [first] block. And the one after that. All day long we inched up the street. Casualties were appalling.  Wounded and dead Marines lay everywhere.”  Ehrhart, wounded in action, was in the thick of it the whole time. His memoir is a compelling, heart wrenching read.

From there Bowden covers the fighting chapter and verse. And if battle action is your genre, it’s a read that’s hair raising enough to fix your attention. The killing went on for 26 days, and by the end, 80% of the city lay in rubble. Bowden devotes a last chapter to Hue’s human toll. “Two-hundred and fifty American marines and soldiers were killed, and 1,554 wounded… The Front’s losses are estimated at between 2,400 and 5000…. A conservative guess at those executed would be two thousand… [which] brings us to a combined civilian death toll of about eight thousand… not an exact figure, but to the degree it’s off, it’s off by being too low.”

That the civilian death toll was enormous, cannot be doubted, and is by most accounts I’ve read over the years attributed to the terrible pounding the city took from naval off-shore guns, and from American and ARVN air power and artillery intent on expelling the Front whatever the human cost. As for “those executed,” it appears as if Bowden may have that figure “off” by a factor of ten. Writing in The New York Times in October 1972, Richard Barnet, a former State Department official and co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies, quotes what the Hué Police Chief told a correspondent of The Times of London in March 1968 just days after the battle. The Chief, “Doan Cong Lap estimated the total number of executions at 200.“ Moreover, “the local Catholic priest reported that none of his clergy or parishioners were harmed by the N.L.F. [National Liberation Front],” who had been given instructions to be on their best behavior.  Even if these two eyewitnesses under-counted the reprisal deaths, it’s still unlikely that Bowden’s figure holds water, given his reliance on official U.S. sources.

Richard Barnet took up this topic at a time when voices in the Nixon administration were claiming that mass executions at Hué were proof there would be a bloodbath if the U.S. withdrew and the communists came to power. When questioned on this in Hanoi, Premier Pham Van Dong retorted, “There is nothing in recent Vietnamese history to suggest that a government bent on killing hundreds of thousands of people in South Vietnam can keep peace.” In any case the bloodbath was us. As Barnet dryly quipped, “In the Orwellian age, the daily saturation bombings of Indochina are defended as missions of mercy.”

Mark Bowden seems to bend over backwards throughout this voluminous and valuable book to provide a two-sided perspective on a particularly tragic moment in the Vietnam War. But there’s something distastefully familiar in his throwaway rhetoric of the Cold War bias that got us into Vietnam in the first place. Bowden demonstrates how truth is betrayed by the words he chooses, for example, that “antiwar activists in the States romanticized Ho Chi Minh, and his cause, emphasizing his nationalist character… [but] Hanoi was Communist, authoritarian to the core… ruthless and doctrinaire.” Yet even this phobic reflex to honor the thought police in the mainstream where he prospers doesn’t cause Bowden to ignore that it was the Stalinists who hoped to come to power though the ballot box and the Americans who made war to prevent that.

By consensus in the school of conventional wisdom the Tet Offensive of 1968 was the turning point of the Vietnam War, after which the American war aim was not to win, but how to get out. Mark Bowden makes an excellent case that the fulcrum of that turning point was the Battle of Hue. But what if there was no turning point?  In Vietnam the protracted war to expel a powerful foreign invader had its roots in millennia past; the American invasion was just another bump in the road.

Michael Uhl is the author of  Vietnam Awakening

September 20, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Grim Lessons from a Faraway War

By Don North | Consortium News | July 4, 2017

The Battle of Hue in 1968 – the climactic clash of the Tet Offensive, which itself was the turning point of the Vietnam War – exploded the official lies from U.S. commanders about progress toward victory but also delivered a warning about the future costs if the conflict were continued indefinitely.

In that sense, the Battle of Hue has resonance to America’s current “endless war” in Afghanistan and other military interventions in the nearly 16 years since 9/11, conflicts marked by bravery of soldiers on opposite sides as well as the arrogance and careerism of the top brass and feckless politicians.

As author Mark Bowden writes in his epilogue to his new book, Hue 1968, “Alternative history enthusiasts promote the preposterous idea that the U.S. might have won the war if it had thrown itself more heartily into the conflict. As some of the nation’s more recent wars have helped illustrate, ‘victory’ in Vietnam would have been neither possible nor desirable. It would have required a massive and sustained military presence, and a state of permanent war. Hue illustrates just how bitter that war would have been.”

Bowden, author of Blackhawk Down and 12 other books, was a 16-year-old high school student in Philadelphia on Jan. 3l, 1968, when the battle of Hue began. The attack was part of the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) assault across South Vietnam at the start of the Tet holiday by an estimated 80,000 fighters. They achieved nearly total surprise in most areas, as they did in Hue, one of the most venerated places in Vietnam.

Hue’s population of 140,000 made it South Vietnam’s third largest city, with two-thirds of the population living within the walls of the old city known as the Citadel, three-square-miles surrounded by walls 20 feet high and 30 feet thick. Within the walls was yet another fortified enclave, the historic Imperial Palace, home of the Vietnamese emperors before the French took control in 1883.

A giant Viet Cong flag was raised over Hue’s Citadel and flew for 25 days while battalions of NVA occupied the Emperors Palace and other positions in the Citadel. Yet, this reality was denied and obscured by the top U.S. commander, General William Westmoreland, whom Bowden describes as inept and dishonest:

“General Westmoreland continually and falsely assured political leaders in Washington and the American public that the city had not fallen into enemy hands. This refusal to face facts had tragic consequences for many of the marines and soldiers who fought there. ‘Westy’ denied that his official casualty estimates [of enemy troops] were inflated and said the enemy’s offensive was a sign of desperation.

“He also wrote that many NVA and VC had fought ‘halfheartedly.’ To a man, American veterans I interviewed told me they had faced a disciplined, highly motivated, skilled and determined enemy. To characterize them otherwise is to diminish the accomplishment of those who drove them out of Hue.”

First-Person Account

As an ABC News correspondent in Vietnam, I was personally aware of General Westmoreland’s fabrications starting with his announcement at a Saigon news conference on Jan. 31, that Hue had been recaptured and NVA soldiers forced out.

Later in February, I joined the U.S. Marines of 1st of the 5th battalion as they fought for ten days to advance the last 1,000 yards along the south wall of the Citadel. Bowden’s clear and vivid descriptions of the desperate daily combat brought back painful memories for me.

“The Battle of Hue is a microcosm of the entire conflict,” writes Bowden. “With nearly half a century of hindsight, Hue deserves to be widely remembered as the single bloodiest battle of the war, one of its defining events, and one of the most intense urban battles in American history.”

Despite Westmoreland’s spin, the Battle of Hue and the broader Tet Offensive had a powerful impact on President Lyndon Johnson and some of his top advisers. The intensity of the fighting exposed Westmoreland as an untrustworthy source of information, not just to the press and public but even in his secret communications with the White House.

Westmoreland’s analysis that the enemy attack on Hue was simply a feint to deflect from the fighting at Khe Sahn destroyed his reputation for accurate foresight. Washington lawyer Clark Clifford, replacing Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, was ready to reject Westmoreland’s unfailingly upbeat view of the war.

After the first two weeks of Hue fighting Clifford told President Johnson, “On one hand the military has said we had quite a victory out there … on the other hand, they now say it was such a big victory that we need one hundred and twenty thousand more men.”

Shortly after Clifford’s assignment to be Secretary of Defense, Westmoreland’s request for over 100,000 more troops was denied and the General was relieved of command.

“Both sides miscalculated,” writes Bowden. “Hanoi counted on a popular uprising that didn’t come, while Washington, blindsided, refused to believe the truth. The armies on both sides played their roles courageously and to terrible effect. The battle’s clearest losers were the citizens of Hue. The systematic executions of Hue citizens suspected of Saigon sympathies are today denied and are an inconvenient memory for the ruling Communist party of Vietnam.”

Bowden quotes civilian casualty estimates of 4,856 by the Saigon government. He cites the American scholar Douglas Pike who studied the mass graves immediately after the fighting, as being likely closest to the truth with a count of 2,800. Total number of Hue civilians killed by U.S. bombing, crossfire between the two forces, and the executions is recognized as 5,800.

An estimated 80 percent of Hue structures were either destroyed or heavily damaged. A total of 250 American soldiers and Marines were killed and 1,554 wounded. South Vietnamese government troop casualties were put at 458 killed and 2,700 wounded. The Vietcong losses were estimated at between 2,400 and 5,000. The final toll of 25 days of fighting numbers well over 10,000 making it the bloodiest battle of the Vietnam War.

Pro-War Propaganda

Another consequence of the Tet Offensive was the growing hostility among pro-war Americans toward on-scene journalists who described the U.S. military setbacks and contradicted the upbeat assessments from Westmoreland and the military brass, leading to a narrative blaming the press corps for losing Vietnam.

But Bowden disagrees with this complaint, writing: “Journalism has long been blamed for losing the war, but the American reporting from Hue was more accurate than official accounts, deeply respectful, and uniformly sympathetic to US fighting men.”

Instead, Bowden is critical of U.S. military leadership in Hue and documents many examples of bad tactics and particularly misjudging the efficiency of the NVA by sending under-strength units to engage large and entrenched enemy forces.

Bowden’s disdain for senior officers in the battle is at odds with his admiration for the “grunts” on both sides.

“I was moved by the heroism and dedication of those who fought on both sides of the battle,” writes Bowden. “In the worst days of this fight, facing the near certainty of death or severe bodily harm, those caught up in the Battle of Hue repeatedly advanced. Many of those who survived are still paying for it. To me the way they were used, particularly the way their idealism and loyalty was exploited by leaders who themselves had lost faith in the effort, is a stunning betrayal. It is a lasting American tragedy and disgrace.”

Many other books and analyses of the battle have celebrated the valor of U.S. troops while showing little interest in how they were used.

“The conspiracy of denial also explains why this terrible battle has remained, for most Americans, so little known,” writes Bowden. “It has been conscientiously remembered by the US Marine Corps, albeit with more emphasis on the glory than on the leadership blunders that cost so many lives.”

Bowden’s book also may have put to rest fears that history must be written by those who experienced it. In five years of diligent in-depth research, thousands of interviews on both sides of the battle and an ability to analyze his research in terms of what each day’s events meant for the entire war, Bowden has produced a book critics say is the best understanding of the Battle of Hue and its effect on the war.

Some historians say the sweet spot for understanding an historical event is about 50 years – enough time for a measure of perspective, yet while there are still living eyewitnesses. Since the now-unified Vietnam is welcoming Americans, it also was possible for Bowden for the first time to report the battle from both sides.

“Most American veterans were pleased to share their experiences with me,” says Bowden. “The sheer number of interviews gave me multiple perspectives on nearly every event described. I am indebted to previous accounts, Battle for Hue by Keith Nolan; Fire in the Streets by Eric Hammel; The Lost Battalion by Charles Krohn; The Siege of Hue by George Smith; and The Cat from Hue by Jack Lawrence.”

Bowden says he learned a great deal from journalist’s reports written at the time and even more from talking to reporters and photographers who produced them, particularly Gene Roberts, John Olson, and Mike Morrow.

Bowden lists several viewpoints shared by the hundreds of American veterans he interviewed: most were proud of having served; nearly all were angry over the betrayal of their youthful idealism, mostly at American leaders who sent them to fight a war that was judged unwinnable from the start; all felt sorrow for the friends they lost and the horror the war inflicted on everyone involved; many described their difficulties in adjusting to normal life after returning home.

There are also lessons for the present and the future. Urban warfare has become more common since the Battle of Hue as more of the world’s population leaves rural areas. Although untrained in urban warfare, the U.S. Marines — dispatched to reclaim Hue — soon adapted from the jungles and paddies they were used to in Vietnam.

Bowden describes in graphic detail the tactics of avoiding booby-trapped doors and instead smashing through the sides of buildings, clearing room to room, staying off the streets and open areas, hard lessons of the fighting in Hue that the U.S. Marines brought to Iraq in 2004 when they assaulted the city of Fallujah twice.

Today, with U.S.-backed forces battling ISIS militants in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqah, Syria, the bloody lessons of Hue — and memories of the severe civilian casualties — are relevant again.

Don North is a veteran war correspondent who covered the Vietnam War and many other conflicts around the world. He is the author of Inappropriate Conduct, the story of a World War II correspondent whose career was crushed by the intrigue he uncovered.

July 4, 2017 Posted by | Book Review, Deception, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Hearts and Minds

Hearts and Minds (Peter davis, 1974) from John on Vimeo.

Hearts and Minds is a 1974 American documentary film about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis.
The film’s title is based on a quote from President Lyndon B. Johnson: “the ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there”.
The movie was chosen as Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature at the 47th Academy Awards presented in 1975.

February 14, 2017 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Lesser Evil Politics: Really, Noam? Hubert Humphrey?

By David McDonald | CounterPunch | July 8, 2016

Is no one else tired of alternate history politics? You know, how you caused the Iraq War because you voted for Nader in 2000? I would rather jump into a pool of sludge than read more on that one. The entire enterprise is suspect because it involves just making stuff up and once you go there the sky’s the limit so you can blame anyone for anything. That’s why this tactic never dies. We are spared Al Gore in the present instance, but the price is steep.

Now Noam Chomsky has brought a cudgel to this fight. Trust me, it’s a blunt instrument.

Back in ’68, Chomsky says, “the ultraleft faction of the peace movement” caused the election of Richard Nixon by “minimizing the comparative danger” of a Nixon presidency, thereby making the huge strategic mistake of foisting Nixon on the world, prolonging the Vietnam War by “six years” and causing senseless deaths and untold suffering because we voted our hearts, not our minds.

Fortunately for those of us who were running around doing stuff in the antiwar movement and not voting Democrat, not a word of this is true.

The first fail is this: Nixon could not have been defeated even if every last member of “the ultraleft faction of the peace movement” had voted for the Democrat Humphrey, along with all their friends and relations. The devil is in those pesky electoral votes. The difference of .7% in popular vote ballooned to an electoral defeat of 301 to 191 to 46 (George Wallace), so Humphrey would have needed to pick up a bunch of states with 79 electoral votes to get to 270.

Let’s look at one of them: California. This state has a lot of data, a lot of 3rd party candidates and is favorable for Chomsky’s argument since Nixon’s victory margin there was only three percentage points. (His margin was closer in only 5 states totaling 84 electoral votes but greater in 26 others.) Nevertheless, Humphrey came up short by 223,346 votes. Now, if all the votes for all 3rd party candidates are thrown in with an equal number for their friends and family, and if this total is doubled again to account for ultraleft abstentions, Humphrey still loses California by over 10,000 votes. Chomsky’s LEV argument fails the test of arithmetic.

Really? How was it that the combined antiwar forces of 1968 could not marshal another couple hundred thousand votes (if they got their heads on straight) and could only muster 52,000 votes for all the third parties in a very contested election? Well, we didn’t have the vote. The voting age was 21. If you graduated high school after 1965 you were too young to vote in 1968. That was almost everybody in the movement. Repeat: the antiwar movement could not have saved Humphrey if it wanted to, because we didn’t have the vote. Fail.

The second fail is the preposterous charge of extending the war by 6 years. The war only lasted 6 more years under Nixon/Ford, so the Democrat, if elected, would have had to declare not just immediate but instant withdrawal. As we shall see, that is an otherworldly conjecture. Why not just claim to shorten the war by several years? This is not the only time this brief reads like a really sloppy first draft and makes an unforced error.

Chomsky himself has noted elsewhere the manner in which the decision to withdraw from Vietnam was actually made by the rulers of America. Sorry, but background. The single most important event of the Vietnam War occurred on January 31, 1968: the Tet Offensive. An armed insurrection broke out in every major town and every provincial capital and in Saigon itself, where the US Embassy was breached and partly overrun. Though this insurrection was short-lived and massively attacked with the full might of the assembled US military; although the insurrectionary forces were at least savagely repressed if not obliterated almost everywhere, and though it took years to rebuild the networks that were sacrificed in those few days; and notwithstanding the fact that the “insurrection” failed to mobilize any segment of the South Vietnamese society in noticeable let alone decisive numbers and relied instead of members of the NLF; nevertheless, the Tet Offensive is widely understood as one of the greatest military victories of history because it destroyed the will of the American people to pursue the war.

Many colonial powers have endured uprisings by subject peoples and continued more or less unfazed, like the British in India and the French in Algeria, at least for a while. But in America we were fed, for years, the lie that the war was being won and pacification of local hamlets and villages was happily proceeding. The end was in sight. So the shock of Tet in America was total. Suddenly a lot of people stopped believing anything the government said about Vietnam.

President Lyndon Johnson also stopped believing what he heard about Vietnam and in the wake of Tet instructed his new Secretary of Defense, an old pal and Democratic Party fixer going back to Truman, to assess the government’s ability to field the 205,000 more troops requested by Gen. Westmoreland as the way to put Tet behind them and go on winning the war. That was the official task but Johnson was tired of hearing totally different stories from different parts of his government and wanted to put the entire security cabinet, as the Israelis would call it, in the same room where they would be forced to arrive at an agreed assessment with no chance of weaseling out later. After three days the new Secretary of Defense concluded there was no way whatsoever to win the war and the US should adopt the strategy called “Vietnamization,” the effort to turn over fighting to the armed forces of the puppet government Washington had been propping up for over a decade. Everyone understood this could not be an overnight affair like evacuating Dunkirk, for dozens of reasons. Everyone also knew Vietnamization would never work and the real point was to disguise defeat. Whole books have been written about this. Allies had to be placated and lies prepared not just for our own but also the people of the unfortunate countries who followed the US down this rabbit hole and provided troops, like Australia and South Korea, the latter providing 50,000. Withdrawal was never going to happen in less than years, on purpose. Total fail #2.

Oddly, Chomsky’s brief never mentions by name the person we should have voted for back when we doomed the Vietnamese to six more years of war in our ultra-left fever. This is at least consistent with Chomsky’s past practice regarding Humphrey. Between when he started writing on social and political issues in February of 1967 with the explosive publication of “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” and the 1968 election Chomsky penned five important essays that established him forever as a leading American intellectual, scourge of the Vietnam War, and a man who names names. A man who would out the head of his own department in writing as no more than an academic war profiteer.

In those essays he mentions Humphrey twice, both times in passing. First:

[T]he Vice President tells us that we are fighting “militant Asian Communism” with “its headquarters in Peking” and adds that a Viet Cong victory would directly threaten the United States[.]

This is so beyond stupid that the old Chomsky, who knew when a thing spoke for itself, made no comment. Walter Lippmann, a right-wing commentator, did point out that this bespoke an unseemly lack of confidence in the US Navy. In the second mention in this blistering political year, discussing moral choices, Chomsky puts Humphrey in some spotty company thinking very bad thoughts, but also in passing, like Dante might mention some subsidiary clod shivering in a corner of some circle of hell:

Suppose that it were in the American “national interest” to pound into rubble a small nation that refuses to submit to our will. Would it then be legitimate and proper for us to act “in this national interest”? The Rusks and the Humphreys and the Citizens Committee say “Yes”. Nothing could show more clearly how we are taking the road of the fascist aggressors of a generation ago.

Is this really everything Chomsky wrote about the Man who Might Have Stopped the War? When an endorsement, in Chomsky’s mind at least, might have mattered ? Yes. That is all.

We have seen that it was mathematically impossible for Humphrey to win California, one of his better states. We have seen that the decision to exit Vietnam was taken at the level of the deep state with not an elected official in the room. Further, that the necessity to mask defeat birthed Vietnamization, which allowed for blaming everything on the hapless South Vietnamese Army as it visibly disintegrated. All this would take time. Nobody cared.

It is clear that for something other than the slow-assed withdrawal outlined above to occur Humphrey would have had to take on the entire establishment. The final fail is that Chomsky does not argue what he must: that there was something known about Humphrey’s character at the time that might make such a head-on challenge to his own administration plausible. Who, then, was Hubert Humphrey?

First, as Chomsky notes above, Humphrey was first and foremost an anti-Communist. And not just in words: He made his bones in Minnesota politics by helping to destroy the Farmer-Labor Party and fold it into the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party. This meant wiping out pockets of radicalism left over from the titanic victory of the Teamsters Strike of 1934, often with the use of thugs. In national politics he sponsored a bill to make membership in the Communist Party illegal, sponsored other outlandish pieces of anti-communist legislation, voted to establish detention camps for people like us, was a founder of the anti-communist Americans for Democratic Action and was at least as full-throated an anti-communist with credentials rivaling Nixon’s.

Second, he was an order-taking schnook, and everybody knew it. It is said he advised LBJ early on that Vietnam was a loser but lost his taste for that truth when LBJ froze him out for a couple of months. Since Humphrey considered Johnson’s favor his only possible road into the White House, in the time-honored way of American politicians he proceeded to say exactly what he was told to say for the next four years, never mind that he didn’t believe it. He thus became the Administration’s foremost spokesperson on the war and gave an astonishing 400 speeches defending the Administration’s Vietnam policy.

Robert Kennedy, smelling blood because Clean Gene McCarthy almost handed Johnson his ass in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, entered the race and chased Johnson out within weeks. Before the public announcement that he would not run Johnson coldly told an ashen-faced Humphrey he would have to run against Kennedy and Humphrey, knowing he was dead meat, obeyed. Only Kennedy’s assassination saved him from utter humiliation. He took not one step to distinguish himself from Johnson’s Vietnam position during the entire campaign.

By the record, no one (except his lawyer) ever considered him a man whose thoughts or actions on the war need be discussed. Everything Chomsky himself said about Humphrey during these tumultuous times is quoted in full above. Gabriel Kolko in Anatomy of a War mentions only “Hubert Humphrey’s faltering campaign for the presidency.” In Fred Halstead’s highly detailed history of the antiwar movement Out Now he is again mentioned only once, in passing, as the evident choice of the Democratic Party machine while Jerry Rubin’s index citations run to half a column.

It is not real to think that such a man might impose his will on the machinery of state and speed up the withdrawal from Vietnam. If Chomsky has reasons to believe this, he has kept them to himself. Nothing in history and nothing in Humphrey’s character bears him out. Third and final fail.

Do you still think I have missed the boat? Let’s finally then let the candidates speak for themselves on Vietnam. Here are their respective positions as delivered from the podium during their acceptance speeches.

Humphrey:

“Let those who believe that our cause in Vietnam has been right — and those who believe it has been wrong — agree here and now: Neither vindication nor repudiation will bring peace or be worthy of our country.

The question is: What do we do now?

No one knows what the situation in Vietnam will be on January 20, 1969.

Every heart in America prays that, by then, we shall have reached a cease-fire in all Vietnam, and be in serious negotiation toward a durable peace.

Meanwhile, as a citizen, a candidate, and Vice President, I pledge to you and to my fellow Americans, that I shall do everything within my power to aid the negotiations and to bring a prompt end to this war.”

Nixon:

“We shall begin with Vietnam.

We all hope in this room that there is a chance that current negotiations may bring an honorable end to that war. And we will say nothing during this campaign that might destroy that chance.

But if the war is not ended when the people choose in November, the choice will be clear. Here it is.

For four years this Administration has had at its disposal the greatest military and economic advantage that one nation has ever had over another in any war in history.

For four years, America’s fighting men have set a record for courage and sacrifice unsurpassed in our history.

For four years, this Administration has had the support of the Loyal Opposition for the objective of seeking an honorable end to the struggle.

Never has so much military and economic and diplomatic power been used so ineffectively.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership — not tied to the mistakes and the policies of the past. That is what we offer to America.

And I pledge to you tonight that the first priority foreign policy objective of our next Administration will be to bring an honorable end to the war in Vietnam. We shall not stop there — we need a policy to prevent more Vietnams.”

Can’t tell the difference? Neither could we.

The paucity of effort Chomsky expends on this surreal exercise in alternate history politics is notable. He isn’t really trying. He never mentions Humphrey by name. He fact-checks nothing. He does not even appear to know what a Hobson’s Choice is. That’s because all the thinking, if you want to call it that, was done long ago when Chomsky joined the Democrat’s team and stopped thinking about how to actually forge political independence.

The genius of the Democrats is that they will cheerfully allow you to say anything at all, as a Democrat, so long as you toe the line on election day. No harm, no foul. Hence the livelihoods of predictable shills like Rachel Maddow, Thom Hartmann, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzales.

It is slightly different with Chomsky because he has maintained the step of organizational independence from the Democrats, does not suggest that the Democrats can be reformed or taken over, and yet still demands we vote for them if a vote against them might actually hurt. He has, by his own admission, voted in this manner for the last 17 presidential elections. In practice he is a Democratic Party dues cheater pretending a political independence he has never demonstrated.

July 9, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Phoenix Came to Thanh Phong: Bob Kerrey and War Crimes as Policy in Vietnam

By Douglas Valentine | CounterPunch | May 2001

By now everybody knows that former Senator Bob Kerrey led a seven-member team of Navy Seals into Thanh Phong village in February 1969, and murdered in cold blood more than a dozen women and children.

What hardly anyone knows, and what no one in the press is talking about (although many of them know), is that Kerrey was on a CIA mission, and its specific purpose was to destroy that village of civilian peasants. It was illegal, premeditated mass murder and it was a war crime.

And it’s time to hold the CIA responsible. It’s time for a war crimes tribunal to examine the CIA’s illegal activities during and since the Vietnam War.

War Crimes As Policy

War crimes were a central part of CIA strategy for fighting the Vietnam War. The strategy was known as Contre Coup, and it was the manifestation of a belief that the war was essentially political, not military, in nature. The CIA theorized that it was being fought by opposing ideological factions, each one amounting to about five percent of the total population, while the remaining ninety percent was uncommitted and wanted the war to go away.

According to the CIA’s mythology, on one side were communist insurgents, supported by comrades in Hanoi, Moscow and Peking. The communists fought for land reform, to rid Vietnam of foreign intervention, and to unite the north and south. The other faction was composed of capitalists, often Catholics relocated from North Vietnam in 1954 by the CIA. This faction was fighting to keep South Vietnam an independent nation, operating under the direction of quiet Americans.

Caught in the crossfire was the silent majority. The object shared by both factions was to win these undecided voters over to its side.

Contre Coup was the CIA’s response to the realization that the Communists were winning the war for the hearts and minds of the people. It also was a response to the belief that they were winning through the use of psychological warfare, specifically, selective terror ? the murder and mutilation of specific government officials.

In December 1963, Peer DeSilva arrived in Saigon as the CIA’s station chief. He claims to have been shocked by what he saw. In his autobiography, SubRosa, DeSilva describes how the VC had “impaled a young boy, a village chief, and his pregnant wife on sharp poles. To make sure this horrible sight would remain with the villagers, one of the terror squad used his machete to disembowel the woman, spilling he fetus onto the ground.”

“The Vietcong,” DeSilva said, “were monstrous in the application of torture and murder to achieve the political and psychological impact they wanted.”

But the methodology was successful and had tremendous intelligence potential, so DeSilva authorized the creation of small “counter-terror teams,” designed “to bring danger and death to the Vietcong functionaries themselves, especially in areas where they felt secure.”

How Counter-Terror Worked In Vietnam

Thanh Phong village was one of those areas where Vietcong functionaries felt secure. It was located in Kien Hoa Province, along the Mekong Delta. One of Vietnam’s most densely populated provinces, Kien Hoa was precariously close to Saigon, and is criss-crossed with waterways and rice paddies. It was an important rice production area for the insurgents as well as the Government of Vietnam, and thus was one of the eight most heavily infiltrated provinces in Vietnam. The estimated 4700 VC functionaries in Kien Hoa accounted for more than five percent of the insurgency’s total leadership. Operation Speedy Express, a Ninth Infantry sweep through Kien Hoa in the first six months of 1969, killed an estimated 11,000 civilians-supposedly VC sympathizers.

These functionaries formed what the CIA called the Vietcong Infrastructure (VCI). The VCI consisted of members of the People’s Revolutionary Party, the National Liberation Front, and other Communist outfits like the Women’s and Student’s Liberation Associations. Its members were politicians and administrators managing committees for business, communications, security, intelligence, and military affairs. Among their main functions were the collection of taxes, the recruitment of young men and women into the insurgency, and the selective assassination of GVN officials.

As the CIA was well aware, Ho Chi Minh boasted that with two cadre in every hamlet, he could win the war, no matter how many soldiers the Americans threw at him.

So the CIA adopted Ho’s strategy-but on a grander and bloodier scale. The object of Contre Coup was to identify and terrorize each and every individual VCI and his/her family, friends and fellow villagers. To this end the CIA in 1964 launched a massive intelligence operation called the Provincial Interrogation Center Program. The CIA (employing the US company Pacific Architects and Engineers) built an interrogation center in each of South Vietnam’s 44 provinces. Staffed by members of the brutal Special Police, who ran extensive informant networks, and advised by CIA officers, the purpose of the PICs was to identify, through the systematic “interrogation” (read torture) of VCI suspects, the membership of the VCI at every level of its organization; from its elusive headquarters somewhere along the Cambodian border, through the region, city, province, district, village and hamlet committees.

The “indispensable link” in the VCI was the District Party Secretary–the same individual Bob Kerrey’s Seal team was out to assassinate in its mission in Thanh Phong.

Frankenstein’s Monster

Initially the CIA had trouble finding people who were willing to murder and mutilate, so the Agency’s original “counter-terror teams” were composed of ex-convicts, VC defectors, Chinese Nungs, Cambodians, Montagnards, and mercenaries. In a February 1970 article written for True Magazine, titled “The CIA’s Hired Killers,” Georgie-Anne Geyer compared “our boys” to “their boys” with the qualification that, “Their boys did it for faith; our boys did it for money.”

The other big problem was security. The VC had infiltrated nearly every facet of the GVN-even the CIA’s unilateral counter-terror program. So in an attempt to bring greater effectiveness to its secret war, the CIA started employing Navy Seals, US Army Special Forces, Force Recon Marines, and other highly trained Americans who, like Bob Kerrey, were “motivationally indoctrinated” by the military and turned into killing machines with all the social inhibitions and moral compunctions of a Timothy McVeigh. Except they were secure in the knowledge that what they were doing was, if not legal or moral, fraught with Old Testament-style justice, rationalizing that the Viet Cong did it first.

Eventually the irrepressible Americans added their own improvements. In his autobiography Soldier, Anthony Herbert describes arriving in Saigon in 1965, reporting to the CIA’s Special Operations Group, and being asked to join a top-secret psywar program. What the CIA wanted Herbert to do, “was to take charge of execution teams that wiped out entire families.”

By 1967, killing entire families had become an integral facet of the CIA’s counter-terror program. Robert Slater was the chief of the CIA’s Province Interrogation Center Program from June 1967 through 1969. In a March 1970 thesis for the Defense Intelligence School, titled “The History, Organization and Modus Operandi of the Viet Cong Infrastructure,” Slater wrote, “the District Party Secretary usually does not sleep in the same house or even hamlet where his family lived, to preclude any injury to his family during assassination attempts.”

But, Slater added, “the Allies have frequently found out where the District Party Secretaries live and raided their homes: in an ensuing fire fight the secretary’s wife and children have been killed and injured.”

This is the intellectual context in which the Kerrey atrocity took place. This CIA strategy of committing war crimes for psychological reasons? to terrorize the enemy’s supporters into submission–also is what differentiates Kerrey’s atrocity, in legal terms, from other popular methods of mass murdering civilians, such as bombs from the sky, or economic boycotts.

Yes, the CIA has a global, illegal strategy of terrorizing people, although in typical CIA lexicon it’s called “anti-terrorism.”

When you’re waging illegal warfare, language is every bit as important as weaponry and the will to kill. As George Orwell or Noam Chomsky might explain, when you’re deliberately killing innocent women and children, half the court-of-public-opinion battle is making it sound legal.

Three Old Vietnam Hands in particular stand out as examples of this incestuous relationship. Neil Sheehan, CIA-nik and author of the aptly titled Bright Shining Lie, recently confessed that in 1966 he saw US soldiers massacre as many as 600 Vietnamese civilians in five fishing villages. He’d been in Vietnam for three years by then, but it didn’t occur to him that he had discovered a war crime. Now he realizes that the war crimes issue was always present, but still no mention of his friends in the CIA.

Former New York Times reporter and author of The Best and The Brightest, David Halberstam, defended Kerrey on behalf of the media establishment at the New School campus the week after the story broke. Halberstam described the region around Thanh Phong as “the purest bandit country,” adding that “by 1969 everyone who lived there would have been third-generation Vietcong.” Which is CIA revisionism at its sickest.

Finally there’s New York Times reporter James Lemoyne. Why did he never write any articles linking the CIA to war crimes in Vietnam–perhaps because his brother Charles, a Navy officer, was in charge of the CIA’s counter-terror teams in the Delta in 1968.

Phoenix Comes To Thanh Phong

The CIA launched its Phoenix Program in June 1967, after 13 years of tinkering with several experimental counter-terror and psywar programs, and building its network of secret interrogation centers. The stated policy was to replace the bludgeon of indiscriminate bombings and military search and destroy operations–which had alienated the people from the Government of Vietnam–with the scalpel of assassinations of selected members of the Viet Cong Infrastructure.

A typical Phoenix operation began in a Province Interrogation Center where a suspected member of the VCI was brought for questioning. After a few days or weeks or months undergoing various forms of torture, the VCI suspect would die or give the name and location of his VCI comrades and superiors. That information would be sent from the Interrogation Center to the local Phoenix office, which was staffed by Special Branch and Vietnamese military officers under the supervision of CIA officers. Depending on the suspected importance of the targeted VCI, the Phoenix people would then dispatch one of the various action arms available to it, including Seal teams like the one Bob Kerrey led into Thanh Phong.

In February 1969, the Phoenix Program was still under CIA control. But because Kien Hoa Province was so important, and because the VCI’s District Party Secretary was supposedly in Thanh Phong, the CIA decided to handle this particular assassination and mass murder mission without involving the local Vietnamese. So instead of dispensing the local counter-terror team, the CIA sent Kerrey’s Raiders.

And that, very simply, is how it happened. Kerrey and crew admittedly went to Thanh Phong to kill the District Party Secretary, and anyone else who got in the way, including his family and all their friends.

Phoenix Comes Home To Roost

By 1969 the CIA, through Phoenix, was targeting individual VCI and their families all across Vietnam. Over 20,000 people were assassinated by the end of the year and hundreds of thousands had been tortured in Province Interrogation Centers.

On 20 June 1969, the Lower House of the Vietnamese Congress held hearings about abuses in the Phoenix VCI elimination program. Eighty-six Deputies signed a petition calling for its immediate termination. Among the charges: Special Police knowingly arrested innocent people for the purpose of extortion; people were detained for as long as eight months before being tried; torture was commonplace. Noting that it was illegal to do so, several deputies protested instances in which American troops detained or murdered suspects without Vietnamese authority. Others complained that village chiefs were not consulted before raids, such as the one on Thanh Phong.

After an investigation in 1970, four Congresspersons concluded that the CIA’s Phoenix Program violated international law. “The people of these United States,” they jointly stated, “have deliberately imposed upon the Vietnamese people a system of justice which admittedly denies due process of law,” and that in doing so, “we appear to have violated the 1949 Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian people.”

During the hearings, U.S. Representative Ogden Reid said, “if the Union had had a Phoenix program during the Civil War, its targets would have been civilians like Jefferson Davis or the mayor of Macon, Georgia.”

But the American establishment and media denied it then, and continue to deny it until today, because Phoenix was a genocidal program — and the CIA officials, members of the media who were complicit through their silence, and the red-blooded American boys who carried it out, are all war criminals. As Michael Ratner a lawyer at the Center for Constitutional Rights told CounterPunch: “Kerrey should be tried as a war criminal. His actions on the night of February 24-25, 1969 when the seven man Navy Seal unit which he headed killed approximately twenty unarmed Vietnamese civilians, eighteen of whom were women and children was a war crime. Like those who murdered at My Lai, he too should be brought into the dock and tried for his crimes.”

Phoenix, alas, also was fiendishly effective and became a template for future CIA operations. Developed in Vietnam and perfected with the death squads and media blackout of Afghanistan and El Salvador, it is now employed by the CIA around the world: in Colombia, in Kosovo, in Ireland with the British MI6, and in Israel with its other kindred spirit, the Mossad.

The paymasters at the Pentagon will keep cranking out billion dollar missile defense shields and other Bush league boondoggles. But when it comes to making the world safe for international capitalism, the political trick is being more of a homicidal maniac, and more cost effective, than the terrorists.

Incredibly, Phoenix has become fashionable, it has acquired a kind of political cachet. Governor Jesse Ventura claims to have been a Navy Seal and to have “hunted man.” Fanatical right-wing US Representative Bob Barr, one of the Republican impeachment clique, has introduced legislation to “re-legalize” assassinations. David Hackworth, representing the military establishment, defended Kerrey by saying “there were thousands of such atrocities,” and that in 1969 his own unit committed “at least a dozen such horrors.” Jack Valenti, representing the business establishment and its financial stake in the issue, defended Kerrey in the LA Times, saying, “all the normalities (sic) of a social contract are abandoned,” in war.

Bullshit.

A famous Phoenix operation, known as the My Lai Massacre, was proceeding along smoothly, with a grand total of 504 Vietnamese women and children killed, when a soldier named Hugh Thompson in a helicopter gunship saw what was happening. Risking his life to preserve that “social contract,” Thomson landed his helicopter between the mass murderers and their victims, turned his machine guns on his fellow Americans, and brought the carnage to a halt.

Same with screenwriter and journalist Bill Broyles, Vietnam veteran, and author of Brothers in Arms, an excellent book about the Vietnam War. Broyles turned in a bunch of his fellow Marines for killing civilians.

If Thompson and Broyles were capable of taking individual responsibility, everyone is. And many did.

Phoenix Reborn

There is no doubt that Bob Kerrey committed a war crime. As he admits, he went to Vietnam with a knife clenched between his teeth and did what he was trained to do ? kidnap, assassinate and mass murder civilians. But there was no point to his atrocity as he soon learned, no controlling legal authority. He became a conflicted individual. He remembers that they killed women and children. But he thinks they came under fire first, before they panicked and started shooting back. The fog of war clouds his memory

But there isn’t that much to forget. Thanh Phong was Kerrey’s first mission, and on his second mission a grenade blew off his foot, abruptly ending his military career.

Plus which there are plenty of other people to remind Kerrey of what happened, if anyone will listen. There’s Gerhard Klann, the Seal who disputes Kerrey’s account, and two Vietnamese survivors of the raid, Pham Tri Lanh and Bui Thi Luam, both of whom corroborate Klann’s account, as does a veteran Viet Cong soldier, Tran Van Rung.

As CBS News was careful to point out, the Vietnamese were former VC and thus hostile witnesses and because there were slight inconsistencies in their stories, they could not be believed. Klann became the target of Kerrey’s pr machine, which dismissed as an alcoholic with a chip on his shoulder.

Then there is John DeCamp. An army captain in Vietnam, DeCamp worked for the organization under CIA executive William Colby that ostensibly managed Phoenix after the CIA let it go in June 1969. DeCamp was elected to the Nebraska State Senate and served until 1990. A Republican, he claims that Kerrey led an anti-war march on the Nebraska state capitol in May 1971. DeCamp claims that Kerrey put a medal, possibly his bronze star, in a mock coffin, and said, “Viet Cong or North Vietnamese troops are angelic compared with the ruthless Americans.”

Kerrey claims he was in Peru visiting his brother that day. But he definitely accepted his Medal of Honor from Richard Nixon on 14 May 1970, a mere ten days after the Ohio National guard killed four student protestors at Kent State. With that badge of honor pinned on his chest, Kerrey began walking the gilded road to success. Elected Governor of Nebraska in November 1982, he started dating Deborah Winger, became a celebrity hero, was elected to the US Senate, became vice-chair of Senate Committee on Intelligence, and in 1990 staged a run for president. One of the most highly regarded politicians in America, he showered self-righteous criticism on draft dodger Bill Clinton’s penchant for lying.

Bob Kerrey is a symbol of what it means to be an American, and the patriots have rallied to his defense. And yet Kerrey accepted a bronze star under false pretenses, and as John DeCamp suggests, he may have been fragged by his fellow Seals. For this, he received the Medal of Honor.

John DeCamp calls Bob Kerrey “emotionally disturbed” as a result of his Vietnam experience.

And Kerrey’s behavior has been pathetic. In order to protect himself and his CIA patrons from being tried as a war criminals, Bob Kerrey has become a pathological liar too. Kerrey says his actions at Than Phong were an atrocity, but not a war crime. He says he feels remorse, but not guilt. In fact, he has continually rehabbed his position on the war itself-moving from an opponent to more recently an enthusiast. In a 1999 column in the Washington Post, for example, Kerrey said he had come to view that Vietnam was a “just war. “Was the war worth the effort and sacrifice, or was it a mistake?” Kerrey wrote. “When I came home in 1969 and for many years afterward, I did not believe it was worth it. Today, with the passage of time and the experience of seeing both the benefits of freedom won by our sacrifice and the human destruction done by dictatorships, I believe the cause was just and the sacrifice not in vain.” Then at the Democratic Party Convention in Los Angeles last summer Kerrey lectured the delegates that they shouldn’t be ashamed of the war and that they should treat Vietnam veterans as war heroes: “I believe I speak for Max Baucus and every person who has ever served when I say I never felt more free than when I wore the uniform of our country. This country – this party – must remember.” Free? Free to murder women and children. Is this a consciousness of guilt or immunity?

CBS News also participated in constructing a curtain of lies. As does every other official government or media outlet that knows about the CIA’s Phoenix Program, which continues to exist and operate worldwide today, but fails to mention it.

Why?

Because if the name of one targeted Viet Cong cadre can be obtained, then all the names can be obtained, and then a war crimes trial becomes imperative. And that’s the last thing the Establishment will allow to happen.

Average Americans, however, consider themselves a nation ruled by laws and an ethic of fair play, and with the Kerry confession comes an opportunity for America to redefine itself in more realistic terms. The discrepancies in his story beg investigation. He says he was never briefed on the rules of engagement. But a “pocket card” with the Laws of Land Warfare was given to each member of the US Armed Forces in Vietnam.

Does it matter that Kerrey would lie about this? Yes. General Bruce Palmer, commander of the same Ninth Division that devastated Kien Koa Province in 1969, objected to the “involuntary assignment” of American soldiers to Phoenix. He did not believe that “people in uniform, who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare.”

It was the CIA that forced soldiers like Kerrey into Phoenix operations, and the hidden hand of the CIA lingers over his war crime. Kerrey even uses the same rationale offered by CIA officer DeSilva. According to Kerrey, “the Viet Cong were a thousand per cent more ruthless than” the Seals or U.S. Army.

But the Geneva Conventions, customary international law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice all prohibit the killing of noncombatant civilians. The alleged brutality of others is no justification. By saying it is, Kerrey implicates the people who generated that rationale: the CIA. That is why there is a moral imperative to scrutinize the Phoenix Program and the CIA officers who created it, the people who participated in it, and the journalists who covered it up ? to expose the dark side of our national psyche, the part that allows us to employ terror to assure our world dominance.

To accomplish this there must be a war crimes tribunal. This won’t be easy. The US government has gone to great lengths to shield itself from such legal scrutiny, at the same it selectively manipulates international institutions, such as the UN, to go after people like Slobodan Milosevic.

According to human rights lawyer Michael Ratner the legal avenues for bringing Kerrey and his cohorts to justice are quite limited. A civil suit could be lodged against Kerrey by the families of the victims brought in the United States under the Alien Tort Claims Act. “These are the kinds of cases I did against Gramajo, Pangaitan (Timor),” Ratner told us. “The main problem here is that it is doubtful the Vietnamese would sue a liberal when they are dying to better relations with the US. I would do this case if could get plaintiffs–so far no luck.” According to Ratner, there is no statute of limitations problem as it is newly discovered evidence and there is a stron argument particularly in the criminal context that there is no statute of limitations for war crimes.

But criminal cases in the US present a difficult, if not impossible, prospect. Now that Kerrey is discharged from the Navy, the military courts, which went after Lt. Calley for the My Lai massacre, has no jurisdiction over him. “As to criminal case in the US–my pretty answer is no,” says Ratner. “The US first passed a war crimes statute (18 USC sec. 2441 War Crimes) in 1996–that statute makes what Kerrey did a war crime punishable by death of life imprisonment–but it was passed after the crime and criminal statutes are not retroactive.” In 1988, Congress enacted a statute against genocide, which was might apply to Kerrey’s actions, but it to can’t be applied retroactively. Generally at the time of Kerrey’s acts in Vietnam, US criminal law did not extend to what US citizens did overseas unless they were military.

[As a senator, Kerrey, it should be noted, voted for the war crimes law, thus opening the opportunity for others to be prosecuted for crimes similar to those he that committed but is shielded from.]

The United Nations is a possibility, but a long shot. They could establish an ad hoc tribunal such as it did with the Rwanda ICTR and Yugoslavia ICTY. “This would require action by UN Security council could do it, but what are the chances?” says Ratner. “There is still the prospect for a US veto What that really points out is how those tribunals are bent toward what the US and West want.”

Prosecution in Vietnam and or another country and extradition is also a possibility. It can be argued that war crimes are crimes over which there is universal jurisdiction–in fact that is obligation of countries-under Geneva Convention of 1948–to seek out and prosecute war criminals. “Universal jurisdiction does not require the presence of the defendant–he can be indicted and tried in some countries in absentia–or his extradition can be requested”, says Ratner. “Some countries may have statutes permitting this. Kerrey should check his travel plans and hire a good lawyer before he gets on a plane. He can use Kissinger’s lawyer.”

phoenixprog

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars

By Gary G. Kohls and S. Brian Willson | Consortium News | May 30, 2016

Introduction by Gary G. Kohls

One of the many heroes of the peace movement who came out of the Vietnam War was Vietnam veteran S. Brian Willson. Just like millions of other draft-age Americans, law student Willson had been drafted into that illegal and genocidal war – against his will – and came back disturbed and angry.

For reasons discussed below, he joined the anti-war movement after witnessing the Reagan/Bush Central American war after he traveled to Nicaragua and saw peasants being murdered by US-backed Contras (aka “freedom fighters”). Willson joined the antiwar movement in 1986 and has protested vigorously against America’s aggressive war policies ever since.

But his real life change came on Sept. 1, 1987, in Concord, California, where Willson was part of a gathering of antiwar protestors that were symbolically trying to stop the transport of weapons from a U.S. Navy munitions base. The weapons were destined for Nicaragua and El Salvador as part of the U.S.-backed war in Central America.

As a Vietnam veteran, Willson understood well the satanic nature of America’s perpetual wars against peasants, campesinos and other poor people in Third World countries who were unjustly accused of being “communists” as they were seeking relief from the tyranny of their ruling classes. He also knew about the poisonous realities of military toxins that are used in war that regularly poison innocent civilians, children, babies, villages, farm fields, water supplies and all the future inhabitants of the warzone.

Willson felt so strongly about the criminality of his country’s foreign policy against militarily inferior countries, that he put himself directly in harm’s way that day by lying down in front of the weapons supply train, expecting the engineer to stop. Instead of stopping, the engineer actually increased its speed above the speed limit and ran over him, severing both legs. The engineer later testified that he had only been obeying orders on how to deal with antiwar protesters.

Willson survived his near-fatal injuries, and he became a universally celebrated near-martyr for peace. He has vowed to spend the rest of his life speaking out against war. The piece below was written on May 27, 2016, and published in CounterPunch.

The Vietnam War radically changed him from a conservative Republican who had been raised in a Christian fundamentalist household. In Willson’s autobiography, titled Blood on the Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson, he wrote about his war experience:

“in April 1969, I witnessed the incredible destruction that had just been inflicted (by aerial bombing and napalm ‘practice’) … on a typically defenseless village about the size of a large baseball stadium. With smoldering ruins throughout, the ground was strewn with bodies of villagers and their farm animals, many of whom were motionless and bloody, murdered from bomb shrapnel and napalm. Several were trying to get up on their feet, and others were moving ever so slightly as they cried and moaned. Most of the victims I witnessed were women and children.

“At one dramatic moment I encountered at close range a young wounded woman lying on the ground clutching three young disfigured children. I stared, aghast, at the woman’s open eyes. Upon closer examination, I discovered that she, and what I presumed were her children, all were dead, but napalm had melted much of the woman’s facial skin, including her eyelids. As the Vietnamese lieutenant and I silently made the one-plus hour return trip to our airbase in my jeep, I knew that my life was never going to be the same again.”

An eyewitness to Willson’s 1987 act of resistance to the US War Machine wrote that Brian questioned “the lessons of ‘patriotism’ with which we so proudly indoctrinate our children, especially our boy children. … Nearly twenty years later, I stood just behind Brian on a California train track in a well-publicized effort to block munitions trains carrying American weapons to kill other poor villagers in El Salvador and Nicaragua, thinking about the words he had spoken that morning, before one of those trains ripped his legs from his body. He said, ‘…each train that gets by us is going to kill people, people like you and me. … And the question that I have to ask on these tracks is: am I any more valuable than those people?’”

Here is the latest, very powerful testimony about what he thinks of Memorial Day from the American antiwar hero, S. Brian Willson:

Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars

Celebration of Memorial Day in the US, originally Decoration Day, commenced shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War. This is a national holiday to remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces. The day traditionally includes decorating graves of the fallen with flowers.

As a Viet Nam veteran, I know the kinds of pain and suffering incurred by over three million US soldiers, marines, sailors, and airmen, 58,313 of whom paid the ultimate price whose names are on The Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC. The Oregon Vietnam Memorial Wall alone, located here in Portland, contains 803 names on its walls.

The function of a memorial is to preserve memory. On this US Memorial Day, May 30, 2016, I want to preserve the memory of all aspects of the US war waged against the Southeast Asian people in Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia – what we call the Viet Nam War – as well as the tragic impacts it had on our own people and culture. My own healing and recovery requires me to honestly describe the war and understand how it has impacted me psychically, spiritually, and politically.

Likewise, the same remembrance needs to be practiced for both our soldiers and the victims in all the other countries affected by US wars and aggression. For example, the US incurred nearly 7,000 soldier deaths while causing as many as one million in Afghanistan and Iraq alone, a ratio of 1:143.

It is important to identify very concretely the pain and suffering we caused the Vietnamese – a people who only wanted to be independent from foreign occupiers, whether Chinese, France, Japan, or the United States of America. As honorably, and in some cases heroically, our military served and fought in Southeast Asia, we were nonetheless serving as cannon fodder, in effect mercenaries for reasons other than what we were told. When I came to understand the true nature of the war, I felt betrayed by my government, by my religion, by my cultural conditioning into “American Exceptionalism,” which did a terrible disservice to my own humanity, my own life’s journey. Thus, telling the truth as I uncover it is necessary for recovering my own dignity.

I am staggered by the amount of firepower the US used, and the incredible death and destruction it caused on an innocent people. Here are some statistics:

–Seventy-five percent of South Viet Nam was considered a free-fire zone (i.e., genocidal zones)

–Over 6 million Southeast Asians killed

–Over 64,000 US and Allied soldiers killed

–Over 1,600 US soldiers, and 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers remain missing

–Thousands of amputees, paraplegics, blind, deaf, and other maimings created

–13,000 of 21,000 of Vietnamese villages, or 62 percent, severely damaged or destroyed, mostly by bombing

–Nearly 950 churches and pagodas destroyed by bombing

–350 hospitals and 1,500 maternity wards destroyed by bombing

–Nearly 3,000 high schools and universities destroyed by bombing

–Over 15,000 bridges destroyed by bombing

–10 million cubic meters of dikes destroyed by bombing

–Over 3,700 US fixed-wing aircraft lost

–36,125,000 US helicopter sorties during the war; over 10,000 helicopters were lost or severely damaged

–26 million bomb craters created, the majority from B-52s (a B-52 bomb crater could be 20 feet deep, and 40 feet across)

–39 million acres of land in Indochina (or 91 percent of the land area of South Viet Nam) were littered with fragments of bombs and shells, equivalent to 244,000 (160 acre) farms, or an area the size of all New England except Connecticut

–21 million gallons (80 million liters) of extremely poisonous chemicals (herbicides) were applied in 20,000 chemical spraying missions between 1961 and 1970 in the most intensive use of chemical warfare in human history, with as many as 4.8 million Vietnamese living in nearly 3,200 villages directly sprayed by the chemicals

–24 percent, or 16,100 square miles, of South Viet Nam was sprayed, an area larger than the states of Connecticut, Vermont, and Rhode Island combined, killing tropical forest, food crops, and inland forests

–Over 500,000 Vietnamese have died from chronic conditions related to chemical spraying with an estimated 650,000 still suffering from such conditions; 500,000 children have been born with Agent Orange-induced birth defects, now including third generation offspring

–Nearly 375,000 tons of fireballing napalm was dropped on villages

–Huge Rome Plows (made in Rome, Georgia), 20-ton earthmoving D7E Caterpillar tractors, fitted with a nearly 2.5-ton curved 11-foot wide attached blade protected by 14 additional tons of armor plate, scraped clean between 700,000 and 750,000 acres (1,200 square miles), an area equivalent to Rhode Island, leaving bare earth, rocks, and smashed trees

–As many as 36,000,000 total tons of ordance expended from aerial and naval bombing, artillery, and ground combat firepower. On an average day US artillery expended 10,000 rounds costing $1 million per day; 150,000-300,000 tons of UXO remain scattered around Southeast Asia: 40,000 have been killed in Viet Nam since the end of the war in 1975, and nearly 70,000 injured; 20,000 Laotians have been killed or injured since the end of the war

–7 billion gallons of fuel were consumed by US forces during the war

–If there was space for all 6,000,000 names of Southeast Asian dead on the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, it would be over 9 sobering miles long, or nearly 100 times its current 493 foot length

I am not able to memorialize our sacrificed US soldiers without also remembering the death and destroyed civilian infrastructure we caused in our illegal invasion and occupation of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. It has been 47 years since I carried out my duties in Viet Nam. My “service” included being an eyewitness to the aftermath of bombings from the air of undefended fishing villages where virtually all the inhabitants were massacred, the vast majority being small children. In that experience, I felt complicit in a diabolical crime against humanity. This experience led me to deeply grasping that I am not worth more than any other human being, and they are not worth less than me.

Recently I spent more than three weeks in Viet Nam, my first trip back since involuntarily being sent there in 1969. I was struck by the multitudes of children suffering from birth defects, most caused presumably by the US chemical spraying some 50 years ago. I experienced deep angst knowing that the US is directly responsible for this genetic damage now being passed on from one generation to the next. I am ashamed that the US government has never acknowledged responsibility or paid reparations. I found myself apologizing to the people for the crimes of my country.

When we only memorialize US soldiers while ignoring the victims of our aggression, we in effect are memorializing war. I cannot do that. War is insane, and our country continues to perpetuate its insanity on others, having been constantly at war since at least 1991. We fail our duties as citizens if we remain silent rather than calling our US wars for what they are – criminal and deceitful aggressions violating international and US law to assure control of geostrategic resources, deemed necessary to further our insatiable American Way Of Life (AWOL).

Memorial Day for me requires remembering all of the deaths and devastation of our wars, and it should remind all of us of the need to end the madness. If we want to end war, we must begin to directly address our out-of-control capitalist political economy that knows no limits to profits for a few at the expense of the many, including our soldiers.

bloodontracksS. Brian Willson, as a 1st lieutenant, served as commander of a US Air Force combat security police unit in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta in 1969. He is a trained lawyer who has been an anti-war, peace and justice activist for more than forty years. His psychohistorical memoir, “Blood On The Tracks: The Life and Times of S. Brian Willson” was published in 2011 by PM Press. A long time member of Veterans For Peace, he currently resides in Portland, Oregon

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 1 Comment

Why does mainstream media keep repeating lies about Lester Pearson?

By Yves Engler | March 15, 2016

While coverage of Justin Trudeau’s recent visit to Washington was embarrassingly banal in its emphasis on “bromance” between Obama and the Canadian PM, at least it was accurate (in the limited sense valued by the dominant media), except for the 60 Minutes feature that comically confused a photo of Sex and the City star Kim Cattrall for Margaret Trudeau. However, one aspect of the reporting did stand out as both a lie and dangerous nationalist mythology.

A number of media outlets discussed Lester Pearson visiting Lyndon Johnson the day after he reportedly gave a “scathing speech on American involvement in Vietnam.” The Canadian Press described the former prime minister’s speech and meeting with the US president this way: “Pearson never visited again, after a famous 1965 dust-up. He’d spoken out against the Vietnam War, and Johnson grabbed him by the lapels and snarled: ‘Don’t you come into my living room and piss on my rug.’”

Pearson’s speech at Temple University in Philadelphia the night before he met Johnson is probably the most cited example of a Canadian leader (supposedly) opposing US militarism. Even generally sensible authors such as Linda McQuaig point to it as having “contributed to ending the U.S. war effort in Vietnam.”

But here’s what Pearson really said in Philadelphia:

The government and great majority of people of my country have supported wholeheartedly the US peacekeeping and peacemaking policies in Vietnam.

In Quiet ComplicityCanadian involvement in the Vietnam War, Victor Levant puts Pearson’s talk in proper context:

In his Temple speech, the Prime Minister did accept all the premises and almost all the conclusions of US policy. The chief cause of the escalation of the war in Vietnam, in Pearson’s view, was North Vietnamese aggression. ‘This situation cannot be expected to improve,’ he said, ‘until North Vietnam becomes convinced that aggression, in whatever guise, for whatever reason, is inadmissible and will not succeed.’ This had wider implications, since ‘no nation… could ever feel secure if capitulation in Vietnam led to the sanctification of aggression through subversion and spurious wars of national liberation.’ If peace was to be achieved, the first condition was a cease-fire, and this could happen only if Hanoi recognizes the error of its ways: ‘aggressive action by North Vietnam to bring about a Communist liberation (which means Communist rule) of the South must end. Only then can there be negotiations.’ Since US military action was aimed at resisting Hanoi’s aggression, the measures taken so far, including the bombing of the North, were entirely justified: ‘the retaliatory strikes against North Vietnamese military targets, for which there has been great provocation, aim at making it clear that the maintenance of aggressive policies toward the south will become increasingly costly to the northern regime. After about two months of airstrikes, the message should now have been received loud and clear.

Levant continues:

On the other hand, Pearson argued that continued bombing, instead of weakening Hanoi’s will to resist, might have the effect of driving it into an even more intransigent position. He therefore suggested, as a tactical move, that the United States consider a carefully timed ‘pause’ in the bombing: ‘there are many factors which I am not in a position to weigh. But there does appear to be at least a possibility that a suspension of such airstrikes against North Vietnam, at the right time, might provide the Hanoi authorities with an opportunity, if they wish to take it, to inject some flexibility into their policy without appearing to do so as the direct result of military pressure. If such a suspension took place for a limited time, then the rate of incidents in South Vietnam would provide a fairly accurate way of measuring its usefulness and the desirability of continuing. I am not, of course, proposing any compromise on points of principle, nor any weakening of resistance to aggression in South Vietnam. Indeed, resistance may require increased military strength to be used against the armed and attacking Communists. I merely suggest that a measured and announced pause in one field of military action at the right time might facilitate the development of diplomatic resources which cannot easily be applied to the problem under the existing circumstances. It could, at the least, expose the intransigence of the North Vietnam government.

Let’s further dissect Pearson’s “anti-war” position. Approximately three million Vietnamese died during the US war in Indochina, with about 100,000 killed during the US bombing of the North. To put Pearson’s Temple speech in the crassest terms possible, opposing the bombing of the North was a call to end 3.3% of the death toll.

When Pearson met Johnson the next day the president was mad because senior US foreign-policy planners were debating a pause in the bombing of North Vietnam (which would take place months later and when Washington restarted their bombing campaign Pearson publicly justified it). By speaking out Pearson effectively sided with Johnson’s opponents in the US administration after he enabled the bombing campaign. According to the leaked internal government documents known as the Pentagon Papers, in May 1964 Pearson agreed to Johnson’s request to have the Canadian Commissioner on the International Control Commission, which was supposed to enforce the implementation of the Geneva Accords and the peaceful reunification of Vietnam, deliver US bombing threats to the North Vietnamese leadership. In so doing Canada’s Nobel peace laureate actually enabled a serious war crime.

The story about Johnson challenging Pearson the next day only came to light a decade later, once US actions in Vietnam were widely discredited. In 1974 former Canadian Ambassador in Washington Charles Ritchie wrote: “The President strode up to him and seized him by the lapel of his coat, at the same time as raising his other arm to the heavens.” Ritchie reported Johnson saying, “you don’t come here and piss on my rug.”

While the ambassador’s description is almost certainly an exaggeration, subsequent commentators have further embellished Richie’s account. In one telling Johnson “grabbed Pearson by the lapels of his coat and violently shook him.”

An entertaining story perhaps, but simply not true, just as saying Lester Pearson opposed the war against Vietnam is a lie.

While logic and facts are irrelevant to nationalist myth-makers, it is critical that we understand the reality of our past if we wish to build a better future.

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Who Counts?

Body Counts, Drones, and “Collateral Damage” (aka “Bug Splat”)

By Tom Engelhardt | TomDispatch | May 3, 2015

In the twenty-first-century world of drone warfare, one question with two aspects reigns supreme: Who counts?

In Washington, the answers are the same: We don’t count and they don’t count.

The Obama administration has adamantly refused to count. Not a body. In fact, for a long time, American officials associated with Washington’s drone assassination campaigns and “signature strikes” in the backlands of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen claimed that there were no bodies to count, that the CIA’s drones were so carefully handled and so “precise” that they never produced an unmeant corpse — not a child, not a parent, not a wedding party. Nada.

When it came to “collateral damage,” there was no need to count because there was nothing to tote up or, at worst, such civilian casualties were “in the single digits.” That this was balderdash, that often when those drones unleashed their Hellfire missiles they were unsure who exactly was being targeted, that civilians were dying in relatively countable numbers — and that others were indeed counting them — mattered little, at least in this country until recently. Drone war was, after all, innovative and, as presented by two administrations, quite miraculous. In 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta called it “the only game in town” when it came to al-Qaeda. And what a game it was. It needed no math, no metrics. As the Vietnam War had proved, counting was for losers — other than the usual media reports that so many “militants” had died in a strike or that some al-Qaeda “lieutenant” or “leader” had gone down for the count.

That era ended on April 23rd when President Obama entered the White House briefing room and apologized for the deaths of American aid worker Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto, two Western hostages of al-Qaeda. They had, the president confessed, been obliterated in a strike against a terrorist compound in Pakistan, though in his comments he managed not to mention the word “drone,” describing what happened vaguely as a “U.S. counterterrorism operation.”  In other words, it turned out that the administration was capable of counting — at least to two.

And that brings us to the other meaning of “Who counts?”  If you are an innocent American or Western civilian and a drone takes you out, you count.  If you are an innocent Pakistani, Afghan, or Yemeni, you don’t.  You didn’t count before the drone killed you and you don’t count as a corpse either.  For you, no one apologizes, no one pays your relatives compensation for your unjust death, no one even acknowledges that you existed. This is modern American drone reality and the question of who counts and whom, if anyone, to count is part of the contested legacy of Washington’s never-ending war on terror.

A Brief History of the Body Count

Once upon a time, of course, enemy deaths were a badge of honor in war, but the American “body count,” which would become infamous in the Vietnam era, had always been a product of frustration, not pride. It originated in the early 1950s, in the “meat-grinder” days of the Korean War, after the fighting had bogged down in a grim stalemate and signs of victory were hard to come by.  It reappeared relatively early in the Vietnam War years as American officials began searching for “metrics” that would somehow express victory in a country where taking territory in the traditional fashion meant little.  As time went on, the brutality of that war increased, and the promised “light at the end of the tunnel” glowed ever more dimly, the metrics of victory only grew, and the pressure to produce that body count, which could be announced daily by U.S. press spokesmen to increasingly dubious journalists in Saigon did, too.  Soon enough, those reporters began referring to the daily announcements of those figures as the “Five O’Clock Follies.”

On the ground, the pressure within the military to produce impressive body counts for those “Follies” resulted in what GIs called the “Mere Gook Rule.” (“If it’s dead and it’s Vietnamese, it’s VC [Viet Cong].”)  And soon enough anything counted as a body. As William Calley, Jr., of My Lai massacre fame, testified, “At that time, everything went into a body count — VC, buffalo, pigs, cows.  Something we did, you put it on your body count, sir… As long as it was high, that was all they wanted.”

When, however, victory proved illusory, that body count came to appear to ever more Americans on the home front like grim slaughter and a metric from hell.  As a sign of success, increasingly detached from reality yet producing reality, it became a death-dealing Catch-22.   As those bodies piled up and in the terminology of the times a “credibility gap” yawned between the metrics and reality, the body count became a symbol not just of a war of frustration, but of defeat itself. It came, especially after the news of the My Lai massacre finally broke in the U.S., to look both false and barbaric. Whose bodies were those anyway?

In the post-Vietnam era, not surprisingly, Washington would treat anything associated with the disaster that had been Vietnam as if it were radioactive. So when, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration’s top officials began planning their twenty-first-century wars in a state of exhilarated anticipation, they had no intention of reliving anything that reeked of Vietnam. There would be no body bags coming home in the glare of media attention, no body counts in the battle zones. They were ready to play an opposites game when it came to Vietnam. General Tommy Franks, who directed the Afghan invasion and then the one in Iraq, caught the mood perfectly in 2003 when he said, “We don’t do body counts.”

There would be no more “Five O’clock Follies,” not in wars in which victory was assured for “the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world” and “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known” (as presidents took to calling the U.S. military).  And that remains official military policy today. Only recently, for instance, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby responded to a journalist’s question about how many Islamic State fighters and civilians U.S. air power had recently killed in Washington’s latest war in Iraq this way: “First of all, we don’t have the ability to — to count every nose that we shwack [sic]. Number two, that’s not the goal. That’s not the goal… And we’re not getting into an issue of body counts. And that’s why I don’t have that number handy. I wouldn’t — I wouldn’t have asked my staff to give me that number before I came out here. It’s simply not a relevant figure.”

From 2003 to 2015, official policy on the body count has not reflected reality.  The U.S. military has, in fact, continued to count bodies.  For one thing, it kept and reported the numbers on America’s war dead, bodies that truly counted, though no one would have called the tallies a body count.  For another, from beginning to end, the military has been secretly counting the dead on the other side as well, perhaps to privately convince themselves, Vietnam-style, that they were indeed winning in wars where a twenty-first-century version of the credibility gap appeared all too quickly and never left the scene.  As David Axe has written, the military “proudly boasts of the totals in official documents that it never intends for public circulation.”  He added, “The disconnect over wartime body counts reflects a yawning gap between the military’s public face and its private culture.”

To Count or Not to Count, That Is the Question

But here was the oddest thing: whatever the military might have been counting, the fact that it stopped counting in public didn’t stop the body count from happening.  It turned out that there were others on this planet no less capable of counting dead bodies.  In the end, the cast of characters producing the public metrics of this era simply changed and with it the purpose of the count.  The newcomers had, you might say, different answers to both parts of the question: Who counts?

Over the last century, as “collateral damage” — the deaths of civilians, rather than combatants — has become ever more the essence of war, the importance of who is dying and in what numbers has only increased.  When the U.S. military began refusing to make its body count part of a public celebration of its successes, civil society stepped in with a very different impulse: to shame, blame, and hold the military’s feet to the fire by revealing the deeper carnage of war itself and what it does to society, not just to the warriors.

While the previous counters had pretended that all bodies belonged to enemies, the new counters tried to make “collateral damage” the central issue of war.  No matter what the researchers who have done such counts may say, most of them are, by their nature, critiques of war, American-style, and included in them were no longer just the bodies, civilian and military, found on the battlefield, but every body that could somehow be linked to a conflict or its fallout, its side effects, its afteraffects.

Think of this as a new numerology of defeat or disaster or slaughter or shame.  In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, distinctly non-military outfits took up this counting or estimating process.  In 2004 and 2006, the Lancet, a British medical journal, published studies based on scientific surveys of “excess Iraqi deaths” since the American invasion of 2003 and, in the first case, came up with an estimated 98,000 of them and in the second with 655,000 (a much-criticized figure); such studies by medical and other researchers have never stopped.  More recent counts of such deaths have ranged from 500,000 in 2013 to one million or 5% of the Iraqi population this year.

The most famous enumeration of civilian casualties in Iraq, however, comes from the constantly upgraded tally — based on published media reports, hospital and morgue records, and the like — of Iraq Body Count, the independent website that bills itself as “the public record of violent deaths following the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”  At this moment, its most up-to-date top estimate for civilian deaths since that invasion is 156,000 (211,000, including the deaths of combatants).  And these figures are considered by the site and others as distinctly conservative, no more than what can be known about a subject of which much is, by necessity, unknown.

In Afghanistan, there has been less tallying, but the U.N. Mission there has kept a count of civilian casualties from the ongoing war and estimates the cumulative figure, since 2001, at 21,000 (though again, that is undoubtedly a conservative figure).  However, when it comes to the American drone campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, in particular, where the Obama administration has adamantly resisted the idea of significant civilian casualties, the civilian counters have been there under the most impressively difficult circumstances, sometimes with representatives on the ground in distant parts of Pakistan and elsewhere.  In a world in which drone operators refer to the victims of their strikes as “bug splat” and top administration officials prefer to obliterate those “bugs” a second time by denying that their deaths even occurred, the attempt to give them back their names, ages, and sexes, to remind the world of what was most human about the dead of our new wars, should be considered a heroic task.

The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in particular, has done careful as well as dogged work tabulating drone casualties in Pakistan and Yemen, including counts and estimates of all those killed by drones, of civilians killed by drones, and of children killed by drones.  It even has a project, “Naming the Dead,” that attempts to reattach names and other basic personal information — sometimes even photos — to the previously nameless dead (721 of them so far).  The Long War Journal (a militarized exception to the rule when it comes to the counters of this era) has also kept a record of what it could dig up about drone deaths in Pakistan and Yemen, as has the New America Foundation on Pakistan.  In 2012 the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic studied the three sources of such counts and issued a report of its own.

Among the more fascinating reports, the human-rights group Reprieve recently considered claims to drone “precision” and surgical accuracy by doing its own analysis of the available data.  It concluded that, in trying to target and assassinate 41 enemy figures in Pakistan and Yemen over the years, Washington’s drones had managed to kill 1,147 people without even killing all the figures actually targeted.  (As Spencer Ackerman of the Guardian wrote, “The drones came for Ayman Zawahiri on 13 January 2006, hovering over a village in Pakistan called Damadola. Ten months later, they came again for the man who would become al-Qaida’s leader, this time in Bajaur. Eight years later, Zawahiri is still alive. Seventy-six children and 29 adults, according to reports after the two strikes, are not.”)

In other words, when it came to counting, civil society rode to the rescue, though the impact of the figures produced has remained limited indeed in this country.  In some ways, the only body count of any sort that has made an impression here in recent years has been sniper Chris Kyle’s 160 confirmed Iraqi “kills” that played such a part in the publicity for the blockbuster movie American Sniper.

Exceptional Killers

In his public apology for deaths that were clearly embarrassing to him, President Obama managed to fall back on a trope that has become ever more politically commonplace in these years.  Even in the context of a situation in which two innocent hostages had been killed, he congratulated himself and all Americans for the exceptional nature of this country. “It is a cruel and bitter truth,” he said, “that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur.  But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”

Whatever our missteps, in other words, we Americans are exceptional killers in a world of ordinary ones.  This attitude has infused Obama’s global assassination program and the White House “kill list” that goes with it and that the president has personally overseen.  Pride in his killing agenda was evident in the decision to leak news of that list to the New York Times back in May 2012.  And this version of American exceptionalism fits well with the exceptionalism of the drone itself — even if it is a weapon guaranteed to become less exceptional as it spreads to more countries (in part through recently green-lighted U.S. drone sales to allies).

On the rarest of occasions, Obama admitted in that White House briefing room, drone strikes even kill exceptional people (like us) who need to be attended to presidentially, whose deaths deserve apologies, whose lives are to be highlighted in special media accounts, and whose value is such that recompense is due to their families.  In most of the places the drone goes, however, those it kills by mistake are, by definition, unexceptional.  They deserve neither notice nor apology nor recompense.  They count for nothing.

One thing makes the drone a unique weapon in the world of the uncounted dead on a planet where killing otherwise seems like a dime-a-dozen activity: its pilot, its “crew,” those who trigger the launch of its missiles are hundreds, even thousands of miles away from danger.  Though we speak loosely about drone “warfare,” the way that machine functions bears little relation to war as it was once defined.  Conceptually, the drone represents a one-way street of destruction.  Because in its version of “warfare” only one side can be hurt, its “signature” is slaughter, not war, no matter how carefully it may be used.  It is an executioner’s weapon.

In part because of that, it’s also a blowback weapon.  Though it may surprise Americans, those to be slaughtered, the hunted, don’t take to the constant buzz of drones in their skies in a kindly fashion.  They reportedly exhibit the symptoms of PTSD; they are resentful; they grasp the unfairness and injustice that lies behind the machine and its form of “warfare” and are unimpressed with the exceptionalism of the Americans using it.  As a result, drones across the Greater Middle East have been the equivalent of recruitment posters for those who want revenge and so for extremist outfits everywhere.

Drones should be weapons of shame and yet, despite the recent round of criticism here in the wake of the hostage killings, their use is still widely supported in Washington and among the public.  The justification for their use, whatever “legal” white papers the Obama administration has produced as cover, is simple enough: power.  We send them across sovereign boundaries as we wish in search of those we want to kill because we can, because we are us.

So all praise to the few in our world who think it worth the bother to count those who count for nothing to us. They do matter.

May 4, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vietnam: My orange pain

September 21, 2014

50 years after the US military intervention in the Vietnam War, the weapons it used continue to harm the local population. Unexploded mines still take lives and the consequences of “Agent Orange” claim new victims. A defoliant used by the US Air Force to destroy forests where Vietcong guerrilla fighters were taking cover, “Agent Orange” is highly toxic to humans. The chemical not only severely harmed the health of those immediately exposed to it, but also led to birth defects in subsequent generations. Its impact is still being felt in Vietnam, where it is estimated that around 5 million people are suffering from its damaging effects. They call it their “orange pain.”

September 21, 2014 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Why the Draft Never Stopped a War

Flag of the National Front for the Liberation ...It was the Vietnamese Who Stopped the US War Machine
By JONATHAN CARP | CounterPunch | October 17, 2013

In 2011 I sat on a panel discussion at King’s Books in Tacoma, Washington, on the subject of the effect of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on soldiers and their families. My prepared remarks were a discussion of the impact of repeated deployments on the families I saw on the labor and delivery floor where I worked, but during the discussion after I was startled to hear a forceful call for the re-reinstatement of the draft from one of my fellow panelists- a call that met with widespread cheers from the audience.

Since then I’ve seen many, many more calls for a draft from ostensibly anti-interventionist voices, most recently in Andrew Bacevich’s latest book. The underlying premise of these calls, sometimes made explicit and sometimes not, is that a draft would stop America’s lust for war and foreign interventions because it would force the burdens of war to be spread more equally. The draft has been damned, and rightly so, for being a form of slavery and at times a particularly murderous one at that, but even those who might get the vapors at the idea of seeing American solders as slaves cannot deny the simple historical fact that the draft has never, ever- not once- stopped or slowed or in any way inhibited the conduct of a war.

The first American war fought with conscription was the first American war, the Revolution, and it was fought all the way to its conclusion. The next war fought with conscripts, the Civil War, claimed more American lives than any other and while the draft helped provoke some riots, most notably a draft protest turned anti-black pogrom in New York City, that war too was fought all the way to the bloody finish. The First and Second World Wars as well were fought largely with draftees and fought to the bitter end, in the latter case with the immolation of two major cities by a hideous new weapon delivered by aircraft in part manned by draftees.

Korea and especially Vietnam form what the pro-draft lobby thinks of as the lynchpin of their case. The conventional narrative of resistance to the war in Vietnam is of Middle America tiring of seeing its sons’ lives destroyed by Westmoreland’s war of attrition and rising up, of LBJ allegedly saying “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.” Supposedly the marches in the streets somehow persuaded the American government to leave Vietnam. What this narrative leaves out is what actually stopped the American war in Vietnam–the Vietnamese.

The American Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars- for the American government, these were all victorious wars. Victory is very popular; victorious wars, however obviously aggressive or absurdly unjust, rarely generate any significant resistance. But in Vietnam, America was not winning. America was losing, and badly. Middle America was in the streets against Vietnam, it is true, but they weren’t there because Johnny was coming home in a box. They were there because Johnny was losing.

The pro-draft narrative of domestic resistance to the Vietnam War is at heart a racist, imperialist narrative, denying the Vietnamese their place as actors in their own history, giving pride of place to white Americans holding signs in the street over Vietnamese peasants giving their lives to drive out yet another imperialist power coming to lord over their country. What stopped the Vietnam War was not a college kid with a sign; it was a rice farmer with an AK-47. Americans only get upset about draftees dying when they are dying in a losing war, and credit for resistance to such wars goes not to Americans at home but to the victims of the American government abroad.

The idea that if only everyone had to share the burden, war would be less popular seems intuitive and appealing, but history reveals it to be deluded. Victory makes wars popular, and defeat makes them unpopular. To try to stop the war machine from inside the imperial center, we must do whatever we can to gum up its works, be it counter-recruiting, supporting GI resistance, spreading awareness about the costs of militarism, tax resistance, or anything else that might help. And while we might debate their ultimate aims as Communists in Vietnam or Islamic radicals in Iraq, we must always remember that the people who do the most to stop the war machine are the people who take up arms against it.

Jonathan Carp is a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and a nurse. He lives in Tacoma, WA.

October 18, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 6 Comments

The CIA, the Press and Black Propaganda

By Douglas Valentine | September 16, 2013

As soon as Kevin Drum at Mother Jones absolved the CIA of spewing poison gas as a provocation, many on the Liberal Left cautiously threw their weight behind Obama and the thrill of waging a punitive war on Syria.

“Perhaps regime change is a good idea,” Tom Hayden speculated in The Nation.

Left paterfamilias Noam Chomsky, who generally shows an appreciation for the subtleties of covert action, claimed that America is not supplying its Al Qaeda mercenary army with arms – even though Eric Schmidt at The New York Times reported over a year ago that CIA officers in Turkey were “helping allies decide which Syrian opposition fighters across the border will receive arm.”

As if Hayden fomenting war and Chomsky covering for the CIA isn’t irony enough, Drum cleared the CIA in response to allegations of a provocation made by Rush Limbaugh. Which raises the question, what are the facts about the CIA’s penchant for “provoked responses” like the one in the Tonkin Gulf that started the Vietnam War?

Simply stated, black propaganda is one of many criminal but legally deniable things the CIA does. It often involves committing a heinous crime and blaming it on an enemy by planting false evidence, and then getting a foreign newspaper to print the CIA’s scripted version of events, which sympathetic journalists in America broadcast to the gullible public.

In the case of Syria, the CIA is using cooked Israeli “intelligence” as a catalyst – which is why, as Johnstone and Bricmont explain, the “intelligence” is so “dubious.”

Black propaganda has other “intelligence” applications as well, and is often used to recruit informants, and create deserters and defectors.

In his autobiography Soldier, Anthony Herbert told how he reported for duty in 1965 in Saigon at the joint CIA-military Specials Operations Group.  The spooks asked him to join a secret psywar program. “What they wanted me to do was to take charge of execution teams that wiped out entire families and tried to make it look as though the VC themselves had done the killing. The rationale was that other Vietnamese would see that the VC had killed another VC and would be frightened away from becoming VC themselves. Of course, the villagers would then be inclined to some sort of allegiance to our side.”

As counter-terror guru David Galula explained, “Pseudo insurgents are a way to get intelligence and sow suspicion at the same time between the real guerrillas and the population.”

In a similar case in 1964, a famous CIA propaganda officer organized three armed “survey teams” which operated in neighboring hamlets simultaneously.  When Vietcong propaganda teams departed from a hamlet, his cut-throat cadre would move in and speak to one person from each household, so the VC “would have to punish everyone after we left.”

In other words the CIA’s mercenaries (like some the CIA’s mercenaries in Syria) were provocateurs, setting people up for recriminations, for intelligence and publicity purposes.

Here’s another example: in 1964, CIA officer Nelson Brickham worked in the Sino-Soviet Relations Branch, where he managed black propaganda operations designed to cause friction between the USSR and China.  At the heart of these black ops were false flag recruitments, in which CIA case officers posed as Soviet intelligence officers and, using actual Soviet cipher systems and methodology, recruited Chinese diplomats, who believed they were working for the Russians. The CIA case officers used the Chinese dupes to create all manner of mischief.

Brickham in 1967 created the Phoenix program in South Vietnam. The Phoenix program’s operations chief in 1970, Colonel Thomas McGrevey, had a “penetration agent” inside COSVN – the Central Office of South Vietnam. COSVN’s deputy finance director was the penetration agent. The deputy alerted McGrevey when the finance director was going on vacation, enabling McGrevey to mount a black propaganda campaign which framed the finance director for running off with embezzled funds.

A circular about the Phoenix program issued by the revolutionary Security Service in 1970, described how the nationalists viewed the CIA. As stated in the circular, “the most wicked maneuvers” of the CIA “have been to seek out every means by which to terrorize revolutionary families and force the people to disclose the location of our agents and join the People’s Self-Defense Force. They also spread false rumors. Their main purpose is to jeopardize the prestige of the revolutionary families, create dissension between them and the people, and destroy the people’s confidence in the revolution. In addition, they also try to bribe poor and miserable revolutionary families into working for them.”

Forged letters are a CIA specialty. Former CIA officer Philip Agee told how he mounted a successful operation using forged letters against Ecuadoran Antonio Flores Benitez, a key member of the Communist revolutionary movement. “By bugging Flores’ phone, we found out a lot of what he was doing. His wife was a blabbermouth. He made a secret trip to Havana and we decided to do a job on him when he landed back in Ecuador. With another officer, I worked all one weekend to compose a “report” from Flores to the Cubans. It was a masterpiece. The report implied that Flores’ group had already received funds from Cuba and was now asking for more money in order to launch guerrilla operations in Ecuador. My Quito station chief loved it so much he just had to get into the act. So he dropped the report on the floor and walked on it awhile to make it look pocket-worn. Then he folded it and stuffed it into a toothpaste tube-from which he had spent three hours carefully squeezing out all the toothpaste. He was like a kid with a new toy. So then I took the tube out to the minister of the treasury, who gave it to his customs inspector. When Flores came through customs, the inspector pretended to go rummaging through one of his suitcases. What he really did, of course, was slip the toothpaste tube into the bag and then pretend to find it there. When he opened the tube, he of course “discovered” the report. Flores was arrested and there was a tremendous scandal. This was one of a series of sensational events that we had a hand in during the first six months of 1963. By late July of that year, the climate of anti-Communist fear was so great that the military seized a pretext and took over the government, jailed all the Communists it could find and outlawed the Communist Party.”

Likewise the catalyst for the 1973 coup in Chile was a forged document-detailing a leftist plot to start a reign of terror – which was discovered by the enemies of President Salvador Allende Gossens.  The result was a violent military coup, which the CIA officers (who had set it in motion through disinformation in the Chilean press) sat back and watched from their hammocks in the shade.

And on and on it goes.

General Ed Lansdale formalized CIA black propaganda practices in the early 1950s in the Philippines. To vilify the Communists and win support of Americans, one of his Filipino commando units would dress as rebels and commit atrocities on civilians, and then another unit would magically arrive with cameras to record the staged scenes and chase the “terrorists” away. Cameras were the key.

The CIA also concocted lurid tales of Vietminh soldiers’ disemboweling pregnant Catholic women, castrating priests, and sticking bamboo slivers in the ears of children so they could not hear the Word of God. Lansdale’s henchman, CIA agent-cum-journalist Joseph Alsop, gleefully reported this black propaganda.

The American “press” is the vital, arrogant, fatal, dominant X in black propaganda. When it comes to the CIA and the American press, one black hand washes the other. To gain access to CIA officials, reporters suppress or distort stories. They sell their black souls for scoops.  In return, CIA officials leak stories to them. At its most incestuous, reporters and CIA officers are blood relatives. At one point, The New York Times correspondent in Vietnam, James Lemoyne, just happened to be the brother of the CIA’s counter-terror team chief in the Delta, Navy Commander Charles Lemoyne.

In a democratic society the media ought to investigate and report objectively on the government, which is under no obligation to inform the public of its activities and which, when it does, puts a “spin” on the news.  As part of the Faustian Pact, when government activities are conducted in secret, illegally, reporters look away rather than jeopardize profitable relationships. The intended result is that the unwitting public is robbed of its freedom of speech – for how can you speak freely if you don’t know what’s going on?

If Lansdale hadn’t had Alsop to print his black propaganda, there probably would have been no Vietnam War. Likewise, Judith Miller, disgraced facilitator of the war on Iraq and rehabilitated Fox KKK-TV correspondent, brought you the Iraq War through false documents provided by CIA analysts.

We rarely know who the Alsops and Millers are in our midst, until after the fact. The CIA has a strict policy of keeping its atrocities to itself. And it is aided, in its eternal quest to deceive the American public, by the fact that black propaganda validates the beliefs of the Kevin Dumbs among us, as it assures their imagined security and sense of being exceptional.

In fact, black propaganda operations, and the CIA itself, are antithetical to democratic institutions.

A big part of the CIA’s current success is its ability to deliver its message through Left publications, and the Left’s unstated policy of self-censorship in regard to CIA operations. Most insidious, perhaps, are the former CIA officers who claim to be anti-war, and seek a veil of immunity by claiming to have been “analysts.” This is akin to saying “I was a bookkeeper for the Mafia. I never killed anyone.”

Of course it’s the bookkeepers who tell the bosses the names and addresses of the delinquents who haven’t paid their extortion money this week. The Phoenix Directorate in Saigon had analysts performing the same assassination, kidnapping and torture function on an industrial scale.

Despite the popular portrayal of the CIA as patriotic guys and girls risking everything to do a dirty job, the typical CIA officer is a sociopath without the guts to go it alone in the underworld.  They gravitate to the CIA because they are protected there by the all-powerful Cult of Death that rules America.

The most dangerous facet of having former CIA officers slithering around is their uniform message that the CIA is necessary. These are not Phil Agees, revealing the ugly truth and calling for the CIA’s abolition. Like all the CIA’s political and psychological warfare experts, they are at the forefront of the war on terror, using psywar to achieve the goals of the Cult of Death that rules America. The result is a theatre of the absurd, a world of illusion.

Now we are told that the CIA Syrian mercenaries may launch a chemical attack on Israel from government-controlled territories as a “major provocation.”  What you can be sure of is that some provocation will be launched and that the press, including most of the Left, will cover it up.

Doug Valentine is the author of five books, including The Phoenix Program.  See www.douglasvalentine.com or write to him at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

Source

September 16, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , | Comments Off on The CIA, the Press and Black Propaganda