Finding Vietnam War Positives
EEditor’s Note: In a normal world, American foreign policy experts would express shame for what the United States did in Vietnam and Indochina, allowing big-power hubris to cause or contribute to the deaths of several million human beings.
But modern-day Washington is not a normal place, so it shouldn’t be surprising to see a clever Washington Post article, entitled “Afghanistan could turn into another Vietnam. Let’s hope so,” saying how cool it would be if Afghanistan followed a course like Vietnam, as historian William Blum notes in this guest essay which first appeared at killinghope.org:
Not the crazy, hateful right wing, not racist or disrupting public meetings, not demanding birth certificates ... but the respectable right, holding high positions in academia and in every administration, Republican or Democrat, members of the highly esteemed Council on Foreign Relations.
Here's Joshua Kurlantzick, a "Fellow for Southeast Asia" at CFR, writing in the equally esteemed and respectable Washington Post about how — despite all the scare talk — it wouldn't be so bad if Afghanistan actually turned into another Vietnam because:
"Vietnam and the United States have become close partners in Southeast Asia, exchanging official visits, building an important trading and strategic relationship and fostering goodwill between governments, businesses and people on both sides. ...
“America did not win the war there, but over time it has won the peace. ... American war veterans publicly made peace with their old adversaries ... A program [to exchange graduate students and professors] could ensure that the next generation of Afghan leaders sees an image of the United States beyond that of the war." [Washington Post, October 25, 2009]
And so on.
On second thought, this is not so much right-wing jingoism as it is ... uh ... y'know ... What's the word? ... Ah yes, "pointless." Just what is the point? Germany and Israel are on excellent terms ... therefore, what point can we make about the Holocaust?
As to America not winning the war in Vietnam, that's worse than pointless. It's wrong. Most people believe that the United States lost the war.
But by destroying Vietnam to its core, by poisoning the earth, the water, the air, and the gene pool for generations, the U.S. in fact achieved its primary purpose: it left Vietnam a basket case, preventing the rise of what might have been a good development option for Asia, an alternative to the capitalist model; for the same reason the United States has been at war with Cuba for 50 years, making sure that the Cuban alternative model doesn't look as good as it would if left in peace.
And in all the years since the Vietnam War ended, the millions of Vietnamese suffering from diseases and deformities caused by U.S. sprayings of the deadly chemical "Agent Orange" have received from the United States no medical care, no environmental remediation, no compensation, and no official apology.
That's exactly what the Afghans — their land and/or their bodies permeated with depleted uranium, unexploded cluster bombs, and a witch's brew of other charming chemicals — have to look forward to in Kurlantzick's Brave New World.
"If the U.S. relationship with Afghanistan eventually resembles the one we now have with Vietnam, we should be overjoyed," he writes. God Bless America.
One further thought about Afghanistan: The suggestion that the United States could, and should, solve its (self-created) dilemma by simply getting out of that god-forsaken place is dismissed out of hand by the American government and media; even some leftist critics of U.S. policy are reluctant to embrace so bold a step — Who knows what horror may result?
But when the Soviet Union was in the process of quitting Afghanistan (during the period of May 1988-February 1989) who in the West insisted that they remain? For any reason. No matter what the consequences of their withdrawal.
The reason the Russians could easier leave than the Americans can now is that the Russians were not there for imperialist reasons, such as oil and gas pipelines. Similar to why the US can't leave Iraq.
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.
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