Archive | Vietnam

50 Years Of Unhinged, Televised Presidential Warmongering

by Jim Bovard 


Fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon popped up on national television on a Thursday night to proudly announce that he invaded Cambodia. At that time, Nixon was selling himself as a peacemaker, promising to withdraw U.S. troops from the Vietnam War. But after the sixth time that Nixon watched the movie “Patton,” he was overwhelmed by martial fervor and could not resist sending U.S. troops crashing into another nation.

Presidents had announced military action prior to Nixon’s Cambodia surprise but there was a surreal element to Nixon’s declaration that helped launch a new era of presidential grandstanding. Ever since then, presidents have routinely gone on television to announce foreign attacks that almost always provoke widespread applause—at least initially.

Back in 1970, congressional Democrats were outraged and denounced Nixon for launching an illegal war. In his televised speech, Nixon also warned that “the forces of totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.” Four days after Nixon’s speech, Ohio National Guard troops suppressed the anarchist threat by gunning down thirteen antiwar protestors and bystanders on the campus of Kent State University, leaving four students dead.

Three years after Nixon’s surprise invasion, Congress passed the War Powers Act which required the president to get authorization from Congress after committing U.S. troops to any combat situation that lasted more than 60 days. Congress was seeking to check out-of-control presidential war-making. But the law has failed to deter U.S. attacks abroad in the subsequent decades.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton launched a missile strike against Sudan after U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed by terrorists. The U.S. government never produced any evidence linking the targets in Sudan to the terrorist attacks. The owners of the El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries plant—the largest pharmaceutical factory in East Africa—sued for compensation after Clinton’s attack demolished their facility. Eleven years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit effectively dismissed the case: “President Clinton, in his capacity as commander in chief, fired missiles at a target of his choosing to pursue a military objective he had determined was in the national interest. Under the Constitution, this decision is immune from judicial review.” Presidential determinations based on secret (and often false) information were sufficient to legally absolve any killings or calamities abroad.

In 1999, Clinton unilaterally attacked Serbia, killing up to 1,500 Serb civilians in a 78 day bombing campaign justified to force the Serb government to embrace human rights and ethnic tolerance. Serbia had taken no aggression against the United States, but that did not deter Clinton from bombing Serb marketplaces, hospitals, factories, bridges, and the nation’s largest television station (which was supposedly guilty of broadcasting anti-NATO propaganda). The House of Representatives took a vote and failed to support Clinton’s war effort, and 31 congressmen sued Clinton for violating the War Powers Act. A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit after deciding that the congressmen did not have legal standing to sue. Most of the U.S. media ignored dead Serb women and children and instead portrayed the bombing as a triumph of American benevolence.

After the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush acted entitled to attack anywhere to “rid the world of evil.” Congress speedily passed an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) which the Bush administration and subsequent presidents have asserted authorizes U.S. attacks on bad guys on any square mile on earth. Congressional and judicial restraints on Bush administration killing and torturing were practically nonexistent.

Bush’s excesses spurred a brief resurgence of antiwar protests which largely vanished after the election of President Barack Obama, who quickly received a Nobel Peace Prize after taking office. That honorific did not dissuade Obama from bombing seven nations, often based on secret evidence accompanied by false denials of the civilian casualties inflicted by American bombings of weddings and other bad photo ops.

In 2011, Obama decided to bomb Libya because the U.S. disapproved of its ruler, Muammar Gaddafi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton notified Congress that the White House “would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission.” Plagiarizing the Bush administration, the Obama administration indicated that congressional restraints would be “an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.” Obama “had the constitutional authority” to attack Libya “because he could reasonably determine that such use of force was in the national interest,” according to the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. Yale professor Bruce Ackerman lamented that “history will say that the War Powers Act was condemned to a quiet death by a president who had solemnly pledged, on the campaign trail, to put an end to indiscriminate warmaking.”

On the campaign trail in 2016, Donald Trump denounced his opponent as “Trigger Happy Hillary” for her enthusiasm for foreign warring. But shortly after taking office, Trump reaped his greatest inside-the-Beltway applause for launching cruise missile strikes against the Syrian government after allegations the Assad regime had used chemical weapons.

The following year, the Trump administration joined France and Britain in bombing Syria after another alleged chemical weapons attack. Several officials with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons leaked information showing that the chemical weapons accusations against the Syria government were false or contrived but that was irrelevant to the legality of the U.S. attack.

Why? Because the Justice Department ruled that President Trump could “lawfully” attack Syria “because he had reasonably determined that the use of force would be in the national interest.” That legal vindication for attacking Syria cited a Justice Department analysis on Cambodia from 1970 that stated that presidents could engage U.S. forces in hostilities abroad based on a “long continued practice on the part of the Executive, acquiesced in by the Congress.” The Justice Department stressed that “no U.S. airplanes crossed into Syrian air-space” and that “the actual attack lasted only a few minutes.” So the bombs didn’t count? If a foreign government used the same argument to shrug off a few missiles launched at Washington D.C., no one in America would be swayed that the foreign regime had not committed an act of war. But it’s different when the U.S. president orders killings.

In the decades since Nixon’s Cambodia speech, presidents have avoided repeating his reference to America being perceived as “a pitiful, helpless giant.” But too many presidents have repeated his refrain that failing to bomb abroad would mean that “our will and character” were tested and failed. Unfortunately, the anniversary of Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia passed with little or no recognition that the unchecked power of American presidents remains a grave threat to world peace.

Posted in USA, C.I.A, VietnamComments Off on 50 Years Of Unhinged, Televised Presidential Warmongering

A Letter From Viet Nam on the Occasion of the 45th Anniversary of the End of the War


Photograph Source: Abbie Rowe, National Park Service – John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum – Public Domain

Dear Fellow Citizens,

I am reaching out to you as current official friends and former enemies of Vietnam because I want you to know the truth about what could have been, an alternative and viable path of history that both countries could have trod together for mutual benefit and a more peaceful world.

One milestone that inspired me to write to you at this auspicious moment is the 45th anniversary of the end of what you call the “Vietnam War” and what the Vietnamese logically know as the American War because it was a war that the US fought on Vietnamese soil.

Tragically, but not surprisingly, based on your history and foreign policy since the late 19th century, you chose the road to war – not once but thrice – the first time with money and materiel, the second time through a client state and, finally, via direct involvement until a quick withdrawal that was coined “peace with honor,” a Nixon/Kissinger turn of phrase that did George Orwell proud.

For you, there was no honor, only national disgrace, international ignominy, and a dark period of history that the US has yet to overcome, nearly half a century after the fact, in the sense of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, a wonderfully descriptive German word that refers to coming to terms with and overcoming the past.

For the Vietnamese, there was untold suffering and wholesale death but also martyrdom and triumph. They emerged victorious and the US, the mortal enemy of the day, hastily returned home to nurse its wounds and attempt to justify the unjustifiable, a futile process that continues to this day and will only end with a national truth and reconciliation commission either on- or offline.

The Vietnamese had no choice but to defend themselves and do everything in their power to force the US and its surrogates to pack up and go home, and its client state to surrender. A history of invasion, occupation, and war taught them many survival lessons. Vietnam was left to pick up the pieces but at least it was unified and at peace, a lofty goal achieved and a longstanding dream fulfilled.

In addition to the 45th anniversary, another reason for missive is the upcoming celebration of Vietnam’s National Day on September 2, 2020, the day Ho Chi Minh (HCM) declared independence from the French 75 years ago in 1945, after five years of economic exploitation by the Japanese and over 80 years of brutal French control of all three regions of the country.

Vietnam’s Declaration of Independence

In an historic speech at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, HCM began with words that will resonate with those of you who know your own history:  All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Uncle Ho, as he is respectfully and affectionately known by the Vietnamese, quoted from your 1776 Declaration of Independence because he embraced that universal message of the Enlightenment and knew that it was not reserved solely for the country in which it originated. (Now you know why Vietnam’s national motto, IndependenceFreedom, and Happiness, sounds familiar.) This could have been a turning point in history, the emergence of a peaceful, prosperous, and unified Vietnam. The US government once again chose to stand on the wrong side of history and refused to allow that to happen.

After quoting from one of your country’s founding documents, HCM went on to say that the French, whose national motto is Liberté, égalité, fraternité (liberty, equality, fraternity), which finds its origins in the French Revolution, have “acted contrary to the ideals of humanity and justice.”

In the field of politics, they have deprived our people of every democratic liberty.

They have enforced inhuman laws; they have set up three distinct political regimes in the North, the Center and the South of Vietnam in order to wreck our national unity and prevent our people from being united.

They have built more prisons than schools. They have mercilessly slain our patriots; they have drowned our uprisings in rivers of blood.

They have fettered public opinion; they have practiced obscurantism against our people.

To weaken our race, they have forced us to use opium and alcohol.

In the field of economics, they have fleeced us to the backbone, impoverished our people, and devastated our land.

They have robbed us of our rice fields, our mines, our forests, and our raw materials. They have monopolized the issuing of bank-notes and the export trade.

They have invented numerous unjustifiable taxes and reduced our people, especially our peasantry, to a state of extreme poverty.

They have hampered the prospering of our national bourgeoisie; they have mercilessly exploited our workers.

HCM pointed out the obvious by acknowledging that the Vietnamese “wrested our independence from the Japanese and not from the French. The French have fled, the Japanese have capitulated, Emperor Bao Dai has abdicated. Our people have broken the chains which for nearly a century have fettered them and have won independence for the Fatherland. Our people at the same time have overthrown the monarchic regime that has reigned supreme for dozens of centuries. In its place has been established the present Democratic Republic.”

The First Indochina War

Sadly, the French were not yet finished with Vietnam in the immediate post-World War II era, in spite of the fact that the Vietnamese tried mightily to avoid war. Ho Chi Minh sent President Harry Truman a letter on October 17, 1945 in which he expressed the desire of Vietnam “to cooperate with the other democracies in the establishment and consolidation of world peace and prosperity,” asking why Vietnam was not part of the (Far East) Advisor commission “while France, which ignominiously sold Indo China to Japan and betrayed the allies,” was.  How is it that Vietnam was excluded from an international discussion about its own future?

Unfortunately, his pleas fell on deaf ears. The 1st Indochina War with the French, bankrolled by your government, became an inevitability. Their crushing defeat in May 1954 at Dien Bien Phu in the hills of northwestern Vietnam marked the end of the eight-year war and the French government’s attempts to continue its exploitation of Vietnam, which rid its country of yet another foreign invader and occupier.

The Geneva Accords of 1954, which your government chose to ignore, stipulated that Vietnam would temporarily be divided at the 17th parallel – later to become the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)  until a national election was held in 1956. According to President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s memoirs and other US sources, HCM would have received 80% of the vote, thus unifying his country.

Your government’s contempt for this international peace treaty and a democratic election made the 2nd Indochina War inevitable, yet another missed opportunity. Imagine what Vietnam, the US, and the world would have looked like if this election had been permitted to take place? Imagine how many people would have the survived the 1960s and early 1970s and how many others would have remained intact in body, mind, and spirit?

The Second Indochina War

Once again, it could have been otherwise. When they met in May 1961, the French president Charles de Gaulle spoke these prophetic words to President John F. Kennedy:  “You will find that intervention in this area will be an endless entanglement. Once a nation has been aroused, no foreign power, however strong, can impose its will upon it. You will discover this for yourselves. For even if you find local leaders who in their own interests are prepared to obey you, the people will not agree to it, and indeed do not want you. The ideology which you invoke will make no difference. Indeed, in the eyes of the masses it will become identified with your will to power. That is why the more you become involved out there against Communism, the more the Communists will appear as the champions of national independence, and the more support they will receive, if only from despair.”

De Gaulle later said that “Kennedy listened to me but events were to prove that I had failed to convince.”  As the war was heating up in the summer of 1966, President Ho Chi Minh emphasized the historic nature of the war against the US and echoed De Gaulle’s advice, stating that “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom.”  Surely, that is a sentiment that most of you would agree with. It is the very foundation of your country’s creation. The reality is that your government is much better at paying lip service to certain ideals that actually translating them into practice.

Again, with the initial support of the majority, you chose the wrong fork in the road. You came to the southern half of a divided Vietnam, first as “advisers,” then as soldiers, hundreds of thousands of you, wave after wave. Many of you were initially true believers who, like your government, saw the world in black and white terms, good vs. evil, democracy vs. Communism. You came without speaking Vietnamese or knowing anything about the country’s culture or history. Your ignorance, arrogance, and ideological tunnel vision resulted in wholesale death and destruction in a country just slightly larger than New Mexico. About three million of you “served” in that travesty of a war, nearly 10% of that generation.

The US Legacy in Vietnam

You dropped nearly 8 million tons of explosives on Vietnam’s cities and countryside, nearly four times as much as was used in World War II, 10% of which did not detonate upon impact. According to the Vietnamese government, unexploded ordnance (UXO) has been responsible for more than 100,000 injuries and fatalities since 1975, leaving many of the survivors permanently disabled.

You sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of Agent Orange, an herbicide and defoliant chemical, on 12% of Vietnam’s countryside targeting food crops, mangrove wetlands, and forests. This poison, which has seeped into soil, ponds, lakes, rivers, and rice paddies, enabling toxic chemicals to enter the food chain, has caused horrific birth defects and a long list of disabilities and illnesses in an estimated four to five million Vietnamese and counting.

Your military and that of your client state, the Republic of Vietnam, and other countries that joined you in this immoral, unjust, and unjustified war, killed nearly 4 million Vietnamese, over half of whom were civilians. Most of this slaughter occurred in a span of seven or so years – from 1965-1972. (In case you’re wondering how this is inhumanly possible, read Kill Anything That Moves – The Real American War in Vietnam by Nick Turse.)

This reign of terror among the civilian population, Vietnamese families just trying to make a living and survive a war not of their making, included all manner of abuse and torture, the rape of women and girls, the poisoning of wells, indiscriminate beatings of people, young and old, and the killing of farm animals. What did you accomplish? Was it worth it?

Even after the war ended in April 1975, the US extended a trade embargo it had imposed on the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (“North Vietnam”) in 1964 that caused considerable damage to the nation’s economy and the well-being of its people until it was lifted in 1994 by President Clinton, a year before the normalization of diplomatic relations.Your government is still searching for the remains of US MIAs, who number just over a thousand, nearly half of whom are classified as “no further pursuit.” Did you know that there are 300,000 Vietnamese MIAs, several hundred thousand “lost wandering souls” who have yet to find peace, according to Vietnamese culture, because they have not yet been laid to rest?

Many of your veterans never overcame that war, the defining event of their lives. They are the homeless, the addicted, the lost ones afflicted with PTSD who continue to take their lives on a daily basis even as they approach the natural end of their lives. Some have come back to do penance or have been doing the same in various ways in the US with trips to Vietnam. They are driven by a compelling need to make amends in their own modest way, to try to piece together what they and their comrades systematically destroyed, if only in their own minds.

Others still inhabit a red, white, and blue fantasy world of patriotic (read nationalistic) service in which the war was a noble undertaking. They throw out terms like honor, duty, and sacrifice that are akin to Orwellian phrases like “war is peace” and “freedom is slavery.”

Many continue to live with the trauma of what they witnessed, heard about, or participated in. Regardless of whether or not they accept the cold, hard truth about their generation’s war, most lost their innocence at a tender age and many struggle to retain their sanity even into their twilight years.

What the Vietnamese Were Fighting For

Over four years ago, one of your citizens who is a professor, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Vietnamese-American refugee, said in a televised interview that “the US won this conflict” – in reference to the US War – because Vietnam made the fateful decision in 1986 to shift from a centrally-planned to a free market economy, known in official parlance as a socialist-oriented market economy.

This is a fairy tale, a lie that somehow makes many of you feel good that the “commies” finally came around and saw the light.  As one US citizen who has lived here for almost 15 years wrote, “It’s a psychological and emotional salve that reassures the gullible, the uninformed, and the nationalists that the sacrifices on their side were not in vain.  The problem is it’s dead wrong.”

Nearly 4 million Vietnamese and over 58,000 of your fellow citizens did not die in a war of economic systems or ideologies. The fighting was not about a free market vs. a centrally-planned economy. It was about Vietnamese governing Vietnam without continued foreign interference. Vietnam won the war because it forced the US to exit from that bloodstained debacle.

The US was not ultimately victorious because there are now Starbucks, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Popeyes dotting Vietnam’s retail landscape.  It did not win because Pepsi and Coca-Cola are battling for the palates and wallets of thirsty, sugar-deprived Vietnamese.

Vietnam won because its cause was just, its sacrifice supreme, and its military strategy brilliant. This will come as a shock to many of you but 30 April 1975, the day Saigon fell for the US and those Vietnamese who hitched their collective cart to the South Vietnamese client state and its benefactor, was a day of national liberation and joyous celebration for most Vietnamese. It was the day Vietnam became a unified, independent, and sovereign nation.

Perhaps the more incisive summary of what the Vietnamese were fighting for and against and where the US figured in all of this is contained in a description of a battle in which Steve Banko, a US Army combat veteran, participated:  One of our victims was searched when the shooting stopped and the bleeding continued and was found to be in possession of a medal. Our interpreter told us it was for heroism at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu fourteen years previous. While we were sent to war to fight communism, he had fought his whole life for his country’s right to self-determination. We traveled 12,000 miles to kill him for that.

The Vietnam of 2020

This may surprise you but Vietnam, which was among the poorest in the world just 25 years ago with a per capita income of $277 per year, is considered one of the great success stories of the developing world, a bona fide Asian economic miracle.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, a temporary bump in the development road, Vietnam had one of the fastest growing economies in the world and was a land of serendipity and opportunity for millions of people. Last year, the GDP growth rate was over 6.8%, according to the World Bank, the second highest in Southeast Asia and 13th in the world. While this impressive growth, the result of strong exports and record foreign direct investment (FDI), has not benefitted everyone, it has lifted the economic boats of most Vietnamese.

Vietnam is benefitting from a demographic dividend with a young population (median age: 32.5) that is hard-working, open-minded, and forward-looking. Most Vietnamese possess love for and devotion to their country, the dictionary definition of patriotism, but do not have a cultural superiority complex, the essence of nationalism.  Miraculously, Vietnam has become a start-up nation and the country du jour for investors in a variety of fields.

Among young Vietnamese who have the desire and means to study overseas at both the secondary and postsecondary level, nearly 30,000 are in the US, making Vietnam the 6th leading place of origin with an annual economic contribution of well over $1 billion to its national economy.

COVID-19 Postscript

It is said that nothing reveals character, or a lack thereof, like a crisis. Viet Nam’s performance during the coronavirus pandemic and the results so far speak for themselves. Unlike your inward-looking country, in which too many people, including your political leaders, hold the nationalistic belief that it’s the “greatest nation on earth,” despite reams of statistical and quality of life evidence to the contrary, outward-looking Vietnam has proven itself time and again to be adept at learning from other countries’ mistakes and successes, i.e., countries as both cautionary tales and role models, in the grand tradition of comparative thinking and culturally appropriate action.

As a recent analysis How Vietnam Learned From China’s Coronavirus Mistakes pointed out, “In the case of Vietnam, the conclusions that may be drawn are that to effectively combat the pandemic, governments in developing countries need to be transparent and open to gain people’s confidence in government messaging against the epidemic and in order to win public acceptance of the need to limit privacy for the common good. …perhaps the most important factors should be the openness and urgency of the government to place the well-being and protection of life above all political endeavors.”

Those who live in Vietnam, both Vietnamese and expats, can be grateful they live in a country whose leadership took action that showed concern for the health and welfare of the people and that acted swiftly in the spirit of collective consent and action.  Vietnam country has rightfully been showered with international praise for the way in which it has handled the coronavirus pandemic. The contrast with the US president and his administration couldn’t be starker or grimmer.

With 51 active cases and 0 deaths vs. over 835,000 active cases and nearly 60,000 deaths in the US, as of April 29th,Vietnam offers myriad instructive lessons for other countries, starting with the dos and don’ts of how to cope with a global pandemic.  Vu Duc Dam, deputy prime minister, said last month that the total number of confirmed cases will not reach 1,000, if prevention measures are strictly adhered to (my italics). While no one can predict the future, he may very well be right, based on recent results. It is an extraordinary and potentially historic achievement worth aspiring to.

One of the traits of the Vietnamese people that inspires me is their optimism through thick and thin. Based on the results of a recent international survey, Viet Nam ranked number one in the world with 80% believing that the economy will recover quickly in the post-COVID-19 era. (The lockdown was lifted last week and the economy is reopening.) This confidence shared by eight in 10 Vietnamese will help ensure that their belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

China and India ranked second and third with 68% and 63% who share this belief. At the other end of the spectrum, those figures for the US, the UK, Italy, France, and Spain were not as rosy:  43%, 25%, 24%, 19%, and 17%, respectively.

One aspect of Vietnamese character revealed by this pandemic that could be viewed as a silver lining is that the war against a common viral enemy was waged with a mostly unified front. Could it be that this collectivist approach can be applied to other urgent and even existential problems such as environmental pollution? A tantalizing possibility to consider in the post-COVID-19 period.

Past is Prologue, Vietnamese-Style

Since past is often prologue, it should come as no surprise that Viet Nam has experience doing a lot with little. As the saying goes, the hardest steel is forged in the hottest fires, a reference to the fact that great strength comes from great adversity. Viet Nam’s history, including the past 75 years, is a graphic illustration of this saying.  In line with the idiom “necessity is the mother of invention,” the Vietnamese are both resourceful and tenacious, as enemy soldiers can attest to.

In his 1966 book Vietnam North: A First-Hand Report, Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett wrote about the ingenuity of Vietnamese medical professionals in successfully confronting difficult medical and surgical issues created by another war that included bombs and resulting injuries for those lucky enough to survive.

While 1966 was a time of war, embargo, deprivation, and suffering caused by the US, 2020 is one of unprecedented economic well-being, continued optimism, and access to knowledge, experience, and resources.

Just imagine what Vietnam can accomplish in the post-Covid-19 era. Once the war against the coronavirus has been won, a crowning feat whose finish line is in sight, the Vietnamese will be well-positioned to harness this can-do spirit to overcome a wide range of daunting challenges to the lasting benefit of their country and the world.

Travel to Vietnam, if you can, to learn first-hand about the dynamic and inspirational path it is on.  You will be welcomed as a friend in a place where the past has not been forgotten but where former adversaries have been forgiven.  If not, move and notice your chains by striving to learn the truth about the Vietnam of 2020 from afar, a country that has solidified its status as a geopolitical outlier and prevailed against all odds.

Peacefully yours,

A Mutual Friend

Posted in VietnamComments Off on A Letter From Viet Nam on the Occasion of the 45th Anniversary of the End of the War

Why has no one in Vietnam died from Coronavirus?

By Tina Ngo

Why has no one in Vietnam died from Coronavirus?

Vietnamese flag. Photo: Ecow / CC0

As the U.S. government’s incompetence is put on full display by the COVID-19 crisis, many are rightfully looking to other countries around the world for an alternative to the disastrous profit-first approach of the Trump administration. The Socialist Republic of Vietnam has stood out as one such example of how to effectively respond to the pandemic. Vietnam, which shares a border with China and is about 1,200 miles from where the outbreak was first reported in Wuhan, has overcome steep odds in the global fight against COVID-19. As of April 6, the Vietnamese government has reported 245 confirmed cases with 95 recoveries and no fatalities.

The country’s response to the outbreak has received international recognition, including from the World Health Organization and World Economic Forum, for its comprehensive, low-cost model of disease prevention. WHO representative in Vietnam, Dr. Ki Dong Park, attests the government “has always been proactive and prepared for necessary actions.”

From the era of the Vietnamese Resistance War against colonialism, to SARS and COVID-19, Vietnam has a history of success fighting against deadly diseases.

The Communist Party of Vietnam has strengthened its anti-pandemic measures by implementing nationwide social distancing rules, such as banning outside gatherings of more than two people while keeping a distance of 6.5 feet, and temporary shutdowns of “non-essential” businesses, including restaurants, entertainment centers and tourist sites.

Supermarkets and other essential services remain open, but are instructed to safeguard customers’ health by checking their temperatures before entering the building and providing them with hand sanitizers. In addition, the government has warned against panic buying and has taken action against businesses engaged in price gouging. To ensure social security for affected workers, Vietnam has approved a 111.55 million dollar financial support package that includes covering all costs for workers in quarantine or are recovering from the disease.

Unlike the U.S. capitalist class and the Trump administration, the Vietnamese government took early measures to combat the current coronavirus epidemic. Officials began preparing strategies to combat the outbreak immediately after the first cases emerged in China.

On February 1, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc signed Decision No.173.QD-TTG, categorizing the virus as a Class A contagious disease “that can transmit very rapidly and spread widely with high mortality rates.” This declaration of a national emergency came after the sixth case of coronavirus in the country was reported. In contrast, the Trump administration only declared a national emergency over the global pandemic on March 13, when there were at least 1,920 confirmed cases across 46 states.

And while the Trump administration has yet to replace the U.S. Pandemic Response Team after its top officials were withdrawn in 2018, the Vietnamese government has organized a Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control to accelerate responses to the pandemic. Official guidelines for COVID19 treatment have been circulated throughout the country. The Vietnamese Ministry of Information and Communications and Ministry of Health has gone as far as creating an app for users to report their personal health status and disseminate further information. The Prime Minister has also met with the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, urging millions of young people to do their part and help their country.

To save the nation

Vietnam is densely populated and its people face high risks of exposure to deadly pathogens. This requires a competent public health system that can rapidly respond to emerging challenges and quickly disseminate information. Updates on zoonotic diseases are reported on a regular basis — defined as urgent, daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly. Because Vietnam’s health system centers the safety and health of its people — not the profits of insurance companies — Vietnam has seen impressive success in disease prevention and management. For instance, in 2003 the WHO declared Vietnam as the first country to successfully contain SARS.

From the era of the Vietnamese Resistance War against colonialism, to SARS and COVID-19, Vietnam has a history of success fighting against deadly diseases. This cooperative spirit among its people arises from a social system that emphasizes collective effort and unity of purpose. When it comes to fighting COVID-19, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc urged “every business, every citizen, every residential area must be a fortress to prevent the epidemic.” This rhetoric has stoked a sense of cooperation among the Vietnamese people, who are no strangers to what unity means during times of hardship.

Contrary to popular rhetoric by western media, Vietnam’s success so far is not simply a miracle. It is the result of a heavily planned economy with a socialist government that puts people over profits. The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped open the weak seams of capitalism and laid bare its callousness in the face of human suffering. In a world where capitalism is a morbid plague, Vietnam proves that there is another way.

In this unprecedented time, we must embrace international cooperation and solidarity more than ever and stand together with the Vietnamese people and the rest of the world. We should learn from the successes of the Vietnamese people and battle against all forms of anti-Asian racism. We must continue to demand a health care system that puts people’s needs over corporate interests. We must demand a People’s Program to fight the virus and capitalism!

Posted in Health, VietnamComments Off on Why has no one in Vietnam died from Coronavirus?




On this day in 1968, the My Lai Massacre Took place.

The original official report which appeared on the front page of the New York Times said it was a combat engagement that left 120 Vietcong dead.

In reality over 500 civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in cold blood.

18 months later Seymour Hersh received an anonymous tip and the public finally learned the truth.

The mainstream news media had zero interest in his research. Only a small, independent publication was willing to cover the story.

A little know part of the story is that it was an America helicopter commander who after stumbling on the massacre stopped it by ordering his men to train their weapons on the troops who were committing the atrocities.


Vietnam War Started 55 Years Ago: Neoliberalism and “The Vietnam Model”. Who Won the Vietnam War?

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Fifty five years ago, March 8 1965 marks the commencement of the Vietnam war.

April 1975 marks the official end of the Vietnam War. 

Yet today, almost 44 year later Vietnam is an impoverished country.  The Hanoi government is a US proxy regime. Vietnam has become a new cheap labor frontier of the global economy. Neoliberalism prevails.

In a bitter irony, Vietnam which was a victim of US war crimes has become a staunch military ally of the US under Washington’s  “Pivot to Asia” which threatens China. 

And now The Trump administration has been pressuring North Korea to adopt the “Vietnam Model” as a prerequisite to “normalization” and the lifting of economic sanctions.

The Vietnam Model is not a Solution for North Korea.

In 2019, the minimum hourly wage in Vietnam’s export manufacturing sector is of the order 20 cents an hour.

Health services have in large part been privatized. Education is grossly underfunded. Poverty is rampant.

Al Jazeera, April 17, 2013 

In 1994 following the lifting of US sanctions, I undertook field research in Vietnam with the support of Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture, which enabled me to visit and conduct interviews in rural areas in both the North and the South. 

This article was written twenty five years ago, initially published on April 30th 1995 in the context of the 20th anniversary of the Liberation of Saigon. A more in-depth analysis focusing on Hanoi’s neoliberal reforms was subsequently published as a chapter in my book, The Globalization of Poverty, first edition 1997, second edition, 2003.

Michel Chossudovsky, March 21, 2020


Who Won the Vietnam War

by Michel Chossudovsky

Peace Magazine, July 15,  1994

On April 30, 1975, the Vietnam War ended with the capture of Saigon by Communist forces and the surrender of General Duong Vanh Minh and his cabinet in the Presidential palace. As troops of the People’s Army of Vietnam marched into Saigon, U.S. personnel and the last American marines were hastily evacuated from the roof of the U.S. embassy. Twenty years later a fundamental question still remains unanswered: Who won the Vietnam War?

Vietnam never received war reparations payments from the U.S. for the massive loss of life and destruction, yet an agreement reached in Paris in 1993 required Hanoi to recognize the debts of the defunct Saigon regime of General Thieu. This agreement is in many regards tantamount to obliging Vietnam to compensate Washington for the costs of war.

Moreover, the adoption of sweeping macro-economic reforms under the supervision of the Bretton Woods institutions was also a condition for the lifting of the U.S. embargo. These free market reforms now constitute the Communist Party’s official doctrine. With the normalization of diplomatic relations with Washington in 1994, reference to America’s brutal role in the war is increasingly considered untimely and improper. Not surprisingly, Hanoi had decided to tone down the commemoration of the Saigon surrender so as not to offend its former wartime enemy. The Communist Party leadership has recently underscored the “historic role” of the United States in “liberating” Vietnam from Vichy regime and Japanese occupation during World War II.Why Does Trump Like Communist Vietnam? Because It’s Capitalist.

On September 2, 1945 at the Declaration of Independence of Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi proclaiming the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, American agents of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS, the predecessor of today’s CIA) were present at the side of Ho Chi Minh. While Washington had provided the Viet Minh resistance with weapons and token financial support, this strategy had largely been designed to weaken Japan in the final stages of World War II without committing large numbers of U.S. ground troops.

In contrast to the subdued and restrained atmosphere of the commemoration marking the end of the Vietnam War, the 50th anniversary of independence is to be amply celebrated in a series of official ceremonies and activities commencing in September and extending to the Chinese NewYear.

Vietnam Pays War Reparations

Prior to the “normalization” of relations with Washington, Hanoi was compelled to foot the bill of the bad debts incurred by the U.S.-backed Saigon regime. At the donor conference held in Paris in November 1993, a total of nearly $2 billion of loans and aid money was generously pledged in support of Vietnam’s free market reforms.

Yet immediately after the conference, a secret meeting was held under the auspices of the Paris Club. Present at this meeting were representatives of Western governments. On the Vietnamese side, Dr. Nguyen Xian Oanh, economic advisor to the prime minister, played a key role in the negotiations. Dr. Oanh, a former IMF official, had been Minister of Finance and later Acting Prime Minister in the military government of General Duong Van Minh, which the U.S. installed 1963 after the assassination of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother(f.2). Dr. Oanh, while formally mediating on behalf of the Communist government, was nonetheless responsive to the demands of Western creditors.

The deal signed with the IMF (which was made public) was largely symbolic. The amount was not substantial: Hanoi was obliged to pay the IMF $140 million (owned by the defunct Saigon regime) as a condition for the resumption of new loans. Japan and France, Vietnam’s former colonial masters of the Vichy period, formed a so-called “Friends of Vietnam” committee to lend to Hanoi” the money needed to reimburse the IMF.

The substantive arrangement on the rescheduling of bilateral debts (with the Saigon regime), however, was never revealed. Yet it was ultimately this secret agreement (reached under the auspices of the Paris Club) which was instrumental in Washington’s decision to lift the embargo and normalize diplomatic relations. This arrangement was also decisive in the release of the loans pledged at the 1993 donor conference, thereby bringing Vietnam under the trusteeship of Japanese and Western creditors. Thus twenty years after the war, Vietnam had surrendered its economic sovereignty.

By fully recognizing the legitimacy of these debts, Hanoi had agreed to repay loans that had supported the U.S. war effort. Moreover, the government of Mr. Vo Van Kiet had also accepted to comply fully with the usual conditions (devaluation, trade liberalization, privatization, etc.) of an IMF-sponsored structural adjustment program.

These economic reforms, launched in the mid-1980s with the Bretton Woods institutions, had initiated, in the war’s brutal aftermath, a new phase of economic and social devastation: Inflation had resulted from the repeated devaluations that began in 1973 under the Saigon regime the year after the withdrawal of American combat troops(f.3). Today Vietnam is once again inundated with U.S. dollar notes, which have largely replaced the Vietnamese dong. With soaring prices, real earnings have dropped to abysmally low levels.

In turn, the reforms have massively reduced productive capacity. More than 5,000 out of 12,300 state-owned enterprises were closed or steered into bankruptcy. The credit cooperatives were eliminated, all medium and long term credit to industry and agriculture was frozen. Only short-term credit was available at an interest rate of 35 percent per annum (1994). Moreover, the IMF agreement prohibited the state from providing budget support either to the state-owned economy or to an incipient private sector.

The reforms’ hidden agenda consisted in destabilizing Vietnam’s industrial base. Heavy industry, oil and gas, natural resources and mining, cement and steel production are to be reorganized and taken over by foreign capital. The most valuable state assets will be transferred to reinforce and preserve its industrial base, or to develop a capitalist economy owned and controlled by Nationals.

In the process of economic restructuring, more than a million workers and over 20,000 public employees (of whom the majority were health workers and teachers) have been laid off(f.5). In turn, local famines have erupted, affecting at least a quarter of the country’s population(f.6). These famines are not limited to the food deficit areas. In the Mekong delta, Vietnam’s rice basket, 25% of the adult population consumes less than 1800 calories per day(f.7). In the cities, the devaluation of the dong together with the elimination of subsidies and price controls has led to soaring prices of rice and other food staples.

The reforms have led to drastic cuts in social programs. With the imposition of school fees, three quarters of a million children dropped out from the school system in a matter of a few years (1987-90)(f.8). Health clinics and hospitals collapsed, the resurgence of a number of infectious diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and diarrhea is acknowledged by the Ministry of Health and the donors. A World Health Organization study confirmed that the number of malaria deaths increased three-fold in the first four years of the reforms alongside the collapse of health care and soaring prices of antimalarial drugs(f.9). The government (under the guidance of the international donor community) has also discontinued budget support to the provision of medical equipment and maintenance leading to the virtual paralysis of the entire public health system. Real salaries of medical personnel and working conditions have declined dramatically: the monthly wage of medical doctors in a district hospital is as low as $15 a month(f.10).

Although the U.S. was defeated on the battlefield, two decades later Vietnam appears to have surrendered its economic sovereignty to its former Wartime enemy.

No orange or steel pellet bombs, no napalm, no toxic chemicals: a new phase of economic and social destruction has unfolded. The achievements of past struggles and the aspirations of an entire nation are undone and erased almost with a stroke of the pen.

Debt conditionality and structural adjustment under the trusteeship of international creditors constitute in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, an equally effective and formally nonviolent instrument of recolonization and impoverishment affecting the livelihood of millions of people.

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Why the Afghanistan Papers Are an Eerie Reminder of Vietnam


Photograph Source: Jayel Aheram – CC BY 2.0

Noam Chomsky recently celebrated his 91st birthday. As an homage to Noam, I spent the day with one of his lesser-known books—The Backroom Boys (1973). The book is made up of two spectacular essays, the first a close reading of the Pentagon Papers. To read this book alongside the trove of documents released by the U.S. government as part of its own internal study on the ongoing U.S. war on Afghanistan is telling. Both the Pentagon Papers on Vietnam and the recent Washington Post disclosures on Afghanistan show that the U.S. government lied to its citizenry about a war that could never be won. If you substitute the word “Afghanistan” for the word “Vietnam,” you could read Noam’s essays from 1973 and imagine that they were written today.

Body Counts

There was one quote in the Afghanistan papers that stopped me. It was almost as if I had read this before in the Pentagon Papers. In 2015, an unnamed National Security Council official said, “It was impossible to create good metrics. We tried using troop numbers trained, violence levels, control of territory and none of it painted an accurate picture.” With regard to Vietnam, the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) constantly inflated “body counts”—the number of dead Vietnamese—as a metric of impending victory. This is clear in both the Pentagon Papers and in the papers at the Johnson Library (Austin, Texas).

One soldier who worked in MACV would often go along with the generals to observe the battlefield. His words, collected by Toshio Whelchel, are worth reading: “once we flew over an area after a B-52 raid and the devastation was incredible. There were all these plastic bags out there with our guys supposedly counting bodies of enemy killed. But they were merely picking up body fragments—anything to put in the bag—and counting each one as a single kill.” These numbers pleased Washington; they were what was sold to the public as a metric to gauge how well the war was going.


Noam’s essay on the Pentagon Papers begins with the words of a U.S. air force pilot who explains the “finer selling points” of napalm. A certain generation knows exactly what “napalm” is, but younger readers might not be aware of it. Napalm is one of the most hideous weapons ever made—petroleum based, with gel that makes the fuel stick to the human skin. It was used with great gusto against the Korean and Vietnamese people.

The pilot who drops napalm on the civilians says, “We sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow [Chemical]. The original product wasn’t so hot—if the gooks were quick enough they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene—now it sticks like shit to a blanket. It’ll even burn under water now.”

These sentences require patience. The airman is talking about the Vietnamese. He uses the term “gooks,” which seems to have had its origins in the U.S. invasion of the Philippines in 1898, and then was used to refer to Haitians and Nicaraguans, Costa Ricans and Arabs—anyone that the U.S. military and air force seemed to be killing. The term was used to describe the “natives,” the people whose bodies were worth only what work they could do for the “masters.” This is the vocabulary that does not go away. It reappears in Afghanistan.

Chillingly, the airman says that he would like the weapon to be more lethal, the chances of civilians being able to save themselves nullified.

Wars of National Liberation

In the backrooms, the scientists make the weapons and the analysts debate the war. What was so stunning about the Pentagon Papers was that the entire establishment knew that the United States would not be able to defeat the Vietnamese people, and that even with the use of such barbaric weapons as napalm and Agent Orange, the Vietnamese would not lose their morale.

In 1967, eight years before the U.S. quit Vietnam, the director of Systems Analysis at the Pentagon wrote, “I think we’re up against an enemy who just may have found a dangerously clever strategy for licking the United States. Unless we recognize and counter it now, that strategy may become all too popular in the future.” He referred to wars of national liberation. They—not guerrilla tactics—had to be vanquished. National liberation was out of the question. That was the basic premise of why the U.S. government lied to its public. It was fighting a war that it could not win because its adversary—the Vietnamese people—believed in their fight and would not stop until they had triumphed.

Afghanistan does not have an army of national liberation anywhere near the caliber of the Viet Minh. It has the Taliban, whose brutality was born out of the crucible of the war of the warlords from the 1990s. From the ground upward, however, the Taliban—however brutal it has been—appears at least as a force against an alien invader whose asymmetrical warfare does nothing to lift the confidence of the population. The Taliban do not promise land reform or social liberation, but they live and die alongside the rest of the civilian population. That is what makes them more popular than the drones and the Special Forces, and even the Afghan National Army. The “dangerously clever strategy” of the Taliban is that they are rooted amongst their brethren. No bombing raid can break that link.

No Surprises

Ever since the United States government set up the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in 2008, I have read all its reports and engaged many of its staff members. It was clear to them—often very decent people—that this war against Afghanistan was an abomination. It was clear to those of us who covered this war that the United States was going to devastate further this poor country, and then leave because it could not attain ends that it had so poorly defined.

Nothing in the recently released SIGAR documents surprised me, or many of my colleagues. We had heard these things from Afghan officials and from Western intelligence and military officials over the years; such comments have littered the reports that we have filed on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Nonetheless, these documents are welcome, since they—like the WikiLeaks revelations—shine a light on the mendacity of the U.S. governments regarding these wars against Afghanistan and then Iraq.

Colonel Bob Crowley, who was a senior counterinsurgency adviser to the U.S. military commanders in 2013-14, told the SIGAR researchers, “Every data point was altered to present the best picture possible. Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right and we became a self-licking ice cream cone.” “Truth,” Crowley said, “was rarely welcome” at the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul; it was rarely welcomed in Washington, D.C., either. The U.S. government was lying to justify its war in Afghanistan. Data is not to be trusted; the words of officials are not to be taken seriously.

As early as 2003, a CIA analyst told me that there were no territorial gains being made in Afghanistan; after bombing runs, and after troops went in to “capture and hold” the land, they found themselves retreating to their bases, leaving the devastation, and watching as the Taliban came back to take power. No gains were made in the 18 years since the war began.

Silence of the Afghans

The reporting on these documents has nothing from the Afghan side. The outrage is merely this: U.S. citizens have been lied to for a war that was a waste from the very start. The New York Times—using estimates from the Brown University Cost of War Project—ran a full page of graphics to dispel the metrics, and to talk about the waste of this war. These are all undeniable facts.

But what about the Afghans, whose lives have been destroyed further, whose aspirations are reduced to ashes?

The U.S. press coverage says that the administrations of Bush, Obama, and Trump lied to the U.S. public; but this is not all. What about the war crimes committed against the people of Afghanistan, and what about the fact that this entire operation—without any clear war aim—is a disastrous crime against the Afghan people?

The U.S. government continues to put pressure on the International Criminal Court, refusing to allow any development in the investigation of war crimes in Afghanistan. At the very least, and on behalf of the millions of Afghans whose lives have been eroded, someone needs to stand in the dock, someone needs to take responsibility. They did not for the illegal war in Vietnam and Cambodia; they will not for this war, and therefore—because they have impunity—there will be another war.

Chomsky’s book from 1973 was a warning. He wrote judiciously that the U.S. war on Vietnam and the lies used to justify the war were not a “mad aberration.” That warning was not taken seriously. It is not being taken seriously now.

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Vietnam is sentencing corrupt bankers to death, by firing squad

By: Patrick Winn

Duong Chi Dung (C-front), 56, former chairman of Vinalines, and his accomplices listen to the verdict at a local People’s Court in Hanoi on December 16, 2013. Two top executives were sentenced to death for embezzlement as authorities try to allay rising public anger over corruption. Three corrupt bankers have also recently the death sentence.

BANGKOK — For the most part, American bankers whose rash pursuit of profit brought on the 2008 global financial collapse didn’t get indicted. They got bonuses.

Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation struggling with misbehaving bankers.

The authoritarian Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it sends them to death row.

Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months.

One duo now on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.

In March, a 57-year-old former regional boss from Vietnam Development Bank, another government-run bank, was sentenced to death over a $93-million swindling job.

According to Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news outlet, several of his colluders were sentenced to life imprisonment after they confessed to securing bogus loans with a diamond ring and a BMW coupe. And last week, in an unrelated case, charges against senior employees from the same bank allege $47 million in losses from dubious loans.

None of this would impress Bernie Madoff, mastermind of America’s largest ever financial fraud scheme. The combined amount from all three Vietnamese cases adds up to less than 1 percent of his purported $18-billion haul.

But these death sentences nevertheless are high profile scandals in Vietnam.

That’s the point. Human rights watchdogs contend that splashy trials in Vietnam are acts of political theater with predetermined conclusions. The audience: a Vietnamese public weary of state corruption. But these sentences also sound loud alarm bells to dodgy bankers who are currently running scams.

“It’s a message to those in this game to be less greedy and that business as usual is getting out of hand,” said Adam McCarty, chief economist with the Hanoi-based consulting firm Mekong Economics.

“The message to people in the system is this: Your chances of getting caught are increasing,” McCarty said. “Don’t just rely on big people above you. Because some of these [perpetrators] would’ve had big people above them. And it didn’t help them.”

Like most nations that crush dissent and operate with little transparency, Vietnam is highly corrupt.

According to a World Bank study, half of all businesses operating within the communist state expect that gift giving toward officials is required “to get things done.” Transparency International, which publishes the world’s leading corruption gauge, contends Vietnam is more corrupt than Mexico but not quite as bad as Russia.

Unlike in America, where judges can’t sentence white-collar criminals to death, Vietnam can execute its citizens for a range of corporate crimes.

Amnesty International reports that death sentences in Vietnam have been handed down to criminals for running shady investment schemes, counterfeiting cash and even defaulting on loans. This is unusual: United Nations officials have condemned death for “economic crimes” yet Vietnam persists with these sentences — as does neighboring China.

Though statistics on Vietnam’s opaque justice system are scarce, a state official conceded that more than 675 people sit on death row for a range of crimes, according to the Associated Press.

It’s still unclear how the bankers will be killed. Vietnam’s traditional means of execution involves binding perpetrators to a wooden post, stuffing their mouths with lemons and calling in a firing squad. The nation wants to transition to lethal injections. But European nations refuse to export chemicals used in executions (namely sodium thiopental) to governments practicing capital punishment.

Fraudulent bankers are receiving heavy sentences at a moment when Vietnam is enacting major financial reforms.

For decades, Vietnam has been slowly transforming its communist-style, state-run market into a more open and competitive arena. In the post-reunification era, the government owned every bank in Vietnam. Today, state-run banks control only 40 percent of all assets.

This push to bank in a more Western style has ushered in improvements as well as temptations to swindle. According to the UN economist Vu Quang Viet, Vietnamese credit laws passed in 2010 “simply copied the lax US law now widely believed to be at least partially responsible for the financial debacle in 2008.”

Campaigns to root out corruption are promoted as a way to entice foreign investment, which could help prop up Vietnamese banks whose growth has slowed from a sprint to a jog.

But the recent death sentences aren’t really intended to prove the reformers’ sincerity to the outside world, according to McCarty.

“They don’t care about foreigners. It’s all internal politics,” McCarty said. Foreign banking honchos wouldn’t be impressed by a few executions anyway. “If you really want to want to resolve the problem, you can’t just arrest people,” he said. “You’ve got to improve accountability and transparency in the entire system.”

A leading Vietnamese newspaper, Thanh Nien, is also pushing for system-wide cleanup in lieu of showcase trials against a few corporate criminals.

An op-ed in the paper recently compared death sentences for corruption to fighting fire with fire. The preferred approach would be dousing corruption before it burns through public funds. “It is better to prevent corruption,” the paper opined, “than deal with it after the fact.”

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Robert McNamara’s Infamous “Project 100,000” and the Vietnam War. A Premeditated Crime against Humanity

By Larry Romanoff

Global Research,

In the very long list of shocking and abominable atrocities committed by the US, there is one that stands out as especially obscene for the appalling and hypocritical inhumanity of US Government leaders. This was “Project 100,000”, a US military program enacted by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to recruit 100,000 new soldiers per year during a time of great public opposition to the Vietnam war, and which was promoted as part of President Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty’. In McNamara’s own words, it was “a program to salvage the poverty-scarred youth of our society”, to give them two years of military service, then insert them into “a lifetime of productive activity in American civilian society”.He further stated,.“Poverty in America pockmarks its victims inwardly. If unchecked and unreversed, that inner ghetto of the poverty-scarred personality of these men can fester into explosive frustrations of bitterness and violence. Chronic failures in school throughout their childhood, they are destined to a downward spiral of defeat and decay … If nothing were done to give them a strong sense of their own worth and potential, they, their wives and their children would almost inevitably be the unproductive recipients of some form of the dole ten years from now. Hundreds of thousands of men can be salvaged from the blight of poverty, and the Defense Department – with no detriment whatever to its primary role – is particularly well equipped to salvage them.” (1) (2)

That sounds good, except that this program was initiated during a time when the US was realising extremely high casualties in Vietnam, had already admitted the war was “unwinnable”, with most suitable recruits either taking student deferments or evading the draft by fleeing to Canada. McNamara’s solution was to run a sieve through the ghettos of America, an ingenious and diabolical solution to “rid the nation” of its surplus black and poor, in a program he may have hatched with the advice of Margaret Sanger, she of Planned Parenthood. In executing this program, McNamara lowered the standards to the point where these recruits were in the bottom quartile of intelligence and ability, a great many of them with an IQ of 60 or 65, and none above 80.

These new “soldiers” were functionally illiterate, able to read only at a Grade 3 level or lower. They were so severely (educationally) deficient that the military had to create little comic books to replace the training manuals, and many had to be taught even how to tie the laces on their boots. As other authors have noted, these men often failed their much-simplified basic training several times, with most being repeatedly “recycled” until they finally reached a deplorable minimum standard of readiness. None had the mental ability to appreciate what was happening to them.

The program ran for five years and recruited in total about 500,000 mentally retarded young men and gave them a one-way ticket to Vietnam, these helpless young men dying at many times the rate of regular soldiers. Many researchers have claimed that an overwhelming majority of these men, especially blacks, received combat assignments, and “comprised an overwhelming majority of … battle deaths”, and were also generally posted to “what were considered dangerous military occupations”. These men were provided with special ‘dog tags’ that began with “US67…” so they could be quickly identified by other soldiers. By all accounts, the regular troops did not want to be associated with these men, certainly not in a battle situation, believing their lack of intelligence and training simply jeopardised the lives of all around them. Many have reported that when battlefield decisions were being made, given that these men were unable to learn anything much more complicated than pulling a trigger, they were just sent to their deaths, “ending up on the Vietnam Memorial Wall at an alarming rate much higher than the average”. One young Vietnam veteran reported that a common order issued to these young men ‘salvaged from the blight of poverty’ was to “Go over there and see if there’s a sniper in that tree”.

US casualty figures mushroomed after the introduction of this program, the victims of which were simply cannon-fodder and, for this and other reasons, I remain convinced there is a high probability American deaths in Vietnam were grossly under-reported and that a great many of these nearly 500,000 simply never returned and whose records no longer exist. It is not only possible, but probable, that American deaths in Vietnam were in fact ten times the stated 50,000. Several organisations in the US have attempted to produce accurate Vietnam casualty statistics, but with little apparent success.

As one such organisation states,

“The Vietnam War presents multiple challenges to historians due to official discrepancies with draft numbers, contention over official number of soldiers deployed, and a general lack of transparency from the US government during the war leading to possible misinformation in historical records.”

In other words, the official sources of basic statistics as to the actual number of men recruited, the number sent to Vietnam and the number who died there, are often missing, sometimes contradictory, and sometimes wildly inaccurate, and the US military exercises only obstruction to those interested in remedying the situation. Moreover, without an Internet or mobile phones, and no social networking capability, the parents of these men would have no way of knowing the huge number of casualties from within their group.

On May 30, 2002, Salon Magazine published an article by Myra MacPherson on the HBO movie “Path to War” in which she discusses Hollywood’s attempt to “humanise” McNamara “while entirely overlooking … one of his most heinous acts” and ignoring his “arrogance and duplicity”. She notes that the HBO movie omits “some of the most shameful brainstorms of the Vietnam War’s masterminds – including a little-known recruitment program that turned the mentally and physically deficient into cannon fodder.”

She details how military recruiters “swept through urban ghettos and Southern rural back roads”, offering hundreds of thousands of the retarded poor – with IQs as low as the 60s – “a one-way ticket to Vietnam”, and that “McNamara’s Moron Corps, as they were pathetically nicknamed by other soldiers, entered combat in disproportionate numbers”, noting that they received combat assignments at 250% of the rate of general servicemen. MacPherson tells us that few today are aware of what she calls “this particularly shameful chapter” of American history, and that her stories of this episode were “generally met with disbelief”. This entire project had been so well buried by the government that almost no one was aware of its existence and few could believe it would be possible for the American government to perpetrate such an obvious genocidal travesty against its own population, especially after the military had already admitted the war “could not be won”.

In a 2006 article in the New York Times (3), this Project was dismissed as “a failed experiment” that was “of little benefit to the men it was created to help”, but my research leads me to conclude that, contrary to being a failed experiment, this program was a “success”, a truly ingenious and criminal method of applying eugenics to eliminate poverty (especially black poverty) and idiocy in America by using the mentally-deficient as cannon fodder in a trumped-up war, far from the first time a nation’s surplus poor discovered themselves in similar conditions. In recognition of his success, McNamara was rewarded by being given the post of President of the World Bank.

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Message to the American People, December 23, 1966- Ho Chi Min

On the occasion of the New Year, I would like to convey to the American people cordial wishes for peace and happiness.

The Vietnamese and American peoples should have lived in peace and friendship.

But the U.S. Government has brazenly sent over 400,000 troops along with thousands of aircraft and hundreds of Warships to wage aggression on Vietnam.

Night and day it has used napalm bombs, toxic gas, fragmentation bombs and other modern weapons to massacre our people, not sparing even old persons, women and children, it has burnt down or destroyed villages and towns and perpetrated extremely savage crimes.

Of late, U.S. aircraft have repeatedly bombed Hanoi, our beloved capital.

It is because of the criminal war unleashed by the U.S. Government that hundreds of thousands of young Americans have been drafted and sent to a useless death for from then homeland, on the Vietnamese battlefield.

In hundreds of thousands of American families, parents have lost their sons, and wives their husbands.

Nevertheless, the U.S. Government has continually clamoured about “peace negotiations’ in an attempt to deceive the American and world peoples. In fact, it is daily expanding the war.

The U.S. Government wrongy believes that with brutal force it could compel our people to surrender. But the Vietnamese people will never submit. We love peace, but it must be genuine peace in independence and freedom.

For independence and freedom, the Vietnamese people are determined to fight the U.S. aggressors through to complete victory, whatever the hardships and sacrifices may be.

Who has caused these sufferings and mournings to the Vietnamese and American people? It is the U.S. rulers.

The American people have realized this truth. More and more Americans are valiantly standing up in a vigorous struggle, demanding that the American Government respect the Constitution and the honour of the United States, stop the war of aggression in Vietnam and bring home all U.S. troops.

I warmly welcome your just struggle and thank you for your support to the Vietnamese people’s patriotic fight. I sincerely wish the American people many big successes in their struggle for peace, democracy and happiness.


Exchange of Letters with U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson

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Why Does Trump Like Communist Vietnam? Because It’s Capitalist


Before Donald Trump’s February summit with Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, The Washington Post ran an article headlined, “The US wants North Korea to follow the ‘miracle’ of Vietnam’s path.”

“In light of the once-unimaginable prosperity and partnership we have with Vietnam today, I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong Un: President Trump believes your country can replicate this path,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, as quoted in The Post article.

In 2019, the evolution of Vietnam toward capitalism, praised by the Trump administration, is not without irony. A ruinous and brutal U.S. war against North Vietnam and its Viet Cong supporters in the south ended with the U.S. withdrawal of military troops in 1973, followed by a complete end to the conflict in 1975.

Indeed, it was a little under 45 years ago that the U.S. military departed Vietnam with more than 58,000 soldiers dead and its tail between its legs. In the end, the North Vietnamese forces had won a decisive victory against the United States and the South Vietnamese army (the Army of the Republic of Vietnam). The North and South Vietnamese combatants lost nearly 1.5 million soldiers and at least 2 million civilians. According to The Balance, “Vietnam was the most heavily bombed country in history.”

Nearly three times more bombs were dropped on Vietnam than the U.S. used in World War II. In addition, 20 million gallons of herbicides were used to clear plants and trees in an effort to try and expose the Viet Cong. There was also the widespread use of the toxic Agent Orange, napalm and other deadly chemicals. The legacy that the U.S. left behind in Vietnam was gruesome and full of atrocities.

Image on the right: Until his death in 1969 Ho Chi Minh, the communist leader of Vietnam, led a war against the French and then the US. His nation became a victor against both powers despite having almost no advanced weaponry at his military’s disposal.

A statue of Ho Chi Minh

The bloody combat could have been avoided. Following World War II, Ho Chi Minh had written to President Harry Truman,seeking his support to prevent the French from returning to govern Vietnam as a colony. Truman ignored Minh’s appeal and even began supporting the French military struggle for control in 1950. When the French were routed in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, the country was divided into North and South Vietnam by an international agreement. It did not take long for the U.S. to begin supporting a puppet “democratic” government in the South, leading to a full-fledged conflict with North Vietnam in the ’60s.

After the war with the U.S. and South Vietnam was over, North and South Vietnam became one unified communist state.

The United States justified the conflict as a means to stop the spread of communism during the Cold War. Vietnam historically had an often antagonistic relationship with China, however, so, U.S. leaders’ fear of the Chinese Communist Party controlling Vietnam along with the Soviet Union was a toothless Cold War fear. Indeed, that fear became a moot point when in the late 1980s, the Vietnam Communist Party began to turn from socialism and government-owned industries to betting its economic future on neoliberal capitalism.

Vietnam’s shift to capitalism, which now is in full swing, came partly as a result of several factors. Firstly, the nation was economically devastated by the war with the U.S. — particularly the bombing of infrastructure and agricultural fields. Compounding this obstacle, the nation had traditionally been reliant on subsistence agricultural production, which hampered industrialization of the nation. Furthermore, the U.S. embargo against Vietnam was not officially lifted until 1994. In addition, with the fall of the Soviet Union and the movement of China toward state capitalism, Vietnam followed suit.

John Battelle wrote about Vietnam’s neighbor in a recent commentary, “The End of Democratic Capitalism,” in Medium: “It’s now inarguable that the most muscular version of capitalism worldwide is the brand currently practiced by the Chinese state. Let’s call it autocratic capitalism  — for it is a market-driven economic system where the market is controlled by an autocratic state.”

Battelle adds “Growth is capitalism’s most sacred goal, and the Chinese know it.” So, apparently, do the single-party rulers of Vietnam.

A Pizza Hut stands in a mall

From Adidas and North Face to Pizza Hut and McDonald’s, Vietnam has become a rapidly expanding consumer market for global corporation branded products.

As USA Today states in a 2015 article, “Vietnam … may actually be one of the most pro-capitalist countries on Earth. Almost all Vietnamese people — 95% of them — now support capitalism, according to the Pew Research Center, which polled nearly 45 nations late last year on economic issues.” In the United States, by contrast, Pew found that only 70 percent thought a “free market” system was ideal.

As early as 1993, U.S. multinational corporations began seeking out investments in Vietnam. A February 3, 1993, New York Times article noted, “Almost 18 years after United States diplomats fled Saigon before the advancing communist troops, American capitalists are trickling back, hoping to employ their former enemies and ready the country for a corporate invasion.”

Although the U.S. lags behind Asian nations, such as South Korea, China and Japan, in investment in Vietnam, its presence is visible throughout the country, whether it be in Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald outletsCoca-Cola or other Western and Asian name brands and corporations. At the center of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) stands the opulent Park Hyatt Hotel, a sprawling symbol of gilded capitalism. Room rates there begin at $350 a night. Indeed, Vietnam is so eager to seek U.S. capital investment that it has downplayed the catastrophic war by only sparingly reminding citizens and tourists that it ever occurred.

For example, in Ho Chi Minh City the former Exhibition House for U.S. and Puppet Crimes first had its name changed to the Exhibition House for Crimes and War Aggression and then in 1995 to the euphemistic War Remnants Museum. There one can see the destruction and massive death caused by the U.S. and French when they failed to recolonize Vietnam after WWII, but the tone is muted. Smaller museums (including the “Hanoi Hilton,” where John McCain was imprisoned) and war sites are scattered around the country. They often appear to be relics from a long time ago.

There are occasional outdoor displays in Vietnam of U.S. military equipment left behind in the rush to end the war. They are few in number and some have the appearance of junkyards. There is little signage that even identifies the hardware with the destructive conflict with the U.S. The majority of Vietnamese people were born after the war, and the state has its eyes on becoming a “developed nation,” not on looking backward.

The move to an energized capitalism is now overseen by Nguyen Phu Trong, who last autumn assumed the dual roles of Communist Party secretary and president of Vietnam. If any animosity remains toward the U.S., it was hard to find it, as I traveled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City this past December, in a nation that now values individual economic competition and gain over socialist principles. A Pew 2017 poll found that 84 percent of Vietnamese citizens had a positive view of the U.S.

The state still controls many areas of the economy, such as much of the land use and investment in a variety of ventures, including the lucrative area of tourism. Indeed, up to one-third of the Vietnamese economy is still state owned. The country, however, joined the World Trade Organization in 2007, in return for capital and trading opportunities, and all but surrendered its economic adherence to communism.

Primarily due to the influx of foreign capital, Vietnam has been experiencing a 6 percent to 7 percent gross domestic growth in the past few years. Many of the more than 90 million Vietnamese citizens are rising to the middle class, but, as in the U.S., only a few are rising to the top income tier – and many are left eking out a barely livable existence.

Those who work for well-paying foreign companies and enjoy larger salaries – and those in the booming tourist industry – have created a market for global products. The “haves” have become ardent consumers. Vietnam Briefing found “a survey conducted by Nielsen concluded that Vietnam ranks third in the world in terms of fondness for branded goods.”

Many expensive brands have a presence in Vietnam. They include, according to Vietnam BriefingLouis VuittonDiorBurberryErmenegildo ZegnaBulgari and Hermes. The Briefing notes that “the Hermes boutique in Hanoi, opened in 2008, increased its profits gradually by 20 to 30 percent each year.”

Although the primary means of transportation in Vietnam is motorbikes, dealers for luxury cars have also opened. The ownership of automobiles is rising, particularly in Ho Chi Minh City.

Most financial analysts who specialize in Vietnam put the poverty rate in 2018 at about 10 percent(down from about 85 percent in 1993), but that is a relative figure in a nation where the average worker’s salary is somewhere just below $2200.

Vietnam’s recent financial growth is not solving the country’s economic disparities. In fact, it is increasing them. In Vietnam what is evident is the inevitable result of soaring capitalism: income inequality. What is happening there is one more example of how economic injustice is built into capitalism even in a nation whose government is nominally communist.

Indeed, a 2017 analysis by Oxfam warns of signs that Vietnam is moving toward an increasingly inequitable society. It does not help, the report finds, that the tax system in Vietnam is generally regressive. This means that Vietnamese citizens are subject to many flat taxes and fees, regardless of income. Since 2009, corporate taxes have been reduced from 28 to 20 percent. And, the report notes, “tax avoidance and evasion are also letting the richest multinationals off the hook and sucking money out of the budget.” Therefore, the tax burden disproportionately relies on lower income earners, many of them rural farmers and members of Indigenous populations.

A person carries produce in a market

As the number of wealthy rise in Vietnam on the back of capitalism, inequality also is increasing. The rural poor still come to cities and towns to sell produce, for example, often by carrying baskets suspended from a wooden strip on their shoulders.

The Oxfam study flatly states, “Economic inequality in Vietnam is growing by any measure. World Bank data shows that income inequality in Vietnam has increased in the last two decades, and more importantly, the richest are taking a disproportionate share of income.”

Oxfam notes that advancement opportunities for those in the lower economic strata are hampered by barriers such as tuition for secondary education and charges for essential supplies for primary school, such as textbooks. As another example of disparity, Oxfam explains that Vietnam’s health system is more accessible to the wealthy. Many of the costs normally absorbed by a socialist state are being offloaded to individuals, many of them of limited means.

As the UN confirmed as early as 2008, the glaring injustice of Vietnam’s rush to capitalism is the economic division it is creating among the nation’s citizens: “According to statistics … 29.9 percent of the gross national income is held by rich people, who account for just 10 percent of the population.” The concentration of money among the wealthy and upper middle class has only increased since that time, as the Oxfam report concluded.

Meanwhile, the nominally communist government severely limits free speech. As Foreign Policy notes,Vietnam wants to curry the favor of Western politicians and global corporations, but not to open up the nation into a forum for democracy. That is just fine with the U.S., especially with Donald Trump.

What is important to the U.S. government is nations directing their economies to global capitalism. That they evolve into democratic societies, despite bipartisan platitudinous claims to the contrary, is of secondary and minimal priority to D.C. policy makers.

In fact, single-party governments that adopt capitalistic economic systems are more stable as far as corporations and investors are concerned. Therefore, multinational corporations may prefer a “communist” Vietnam or China to nations that allow an unpredictable democratic process.

Conveniently overlooked by the U.S. government’s glee at the explosion of global capitalism in Vietnam is the alleged corruption of the Vietnamese government. A 2015 Guardian article stated, “Transparency International last year reported that Vietnam is perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, doing worse than 118 others and scoring only 31 out of a possible 100 good points on its index.”

It is hardly a new development that the U.S. government downplays economic inequity and corruption in governments that it supports. Why would the U.S. government be concerned about economic injustice in Vietnam when it fosters it at home? As for the tolerance of corruption, look no further than the Trump White House.

Ho Chi Minh died in 1969, six years before the North Vietnamese army took control of South Vietnam. By the late 1980s, five-year collectivization plans — and the other factors cited earlier in this article — had failed to improve the economy. As a result, Vietnam has embarked on a path that makes it a member of the global neoliberal community, which ensures that inequity and corruption will continue to persist there.

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