Friday, May 02, 2008

Democrats and the Killing Fields of Mesopotamia

Whenever I point out that liberal Democrats in Congress threw away the gains we made in Vietnam, at great cost in blood and treasure, just as we had defeated the enemy, and are indirectly responsible for the slaughter of millions of innocent people in Southeast Asia, I get comments from liberals denying that any such thing ever took place. As Democrats in Congress and Obama and Clinton line up to repeat the greatest treachery in American history, comes the following historical remembrance. The consequences of a similar surrender in Iraq will be even more dire than that which took place in Vietnam, and attempts to rewrite history should be countered and exposed.

Democrats and the Killing Fields
May 1, 2008 Wall St Journal

Most people have never heard of Operation Frequent Wind, which ended on April 30, 1975, 33 years ago. But every American has seen pictures of it: the Marine helicopters evacuating the last U.S. personnel from the embassy in Saigon, hours before communist tanks rolled into the city. Thousands of desperate Vietnamese gathered at the embassy gate and begged to be taken with them. Others committed suicide.

Those scenes are a chilling reminder of what happens when a great power decides to cut and run. Two of the three presidential candidates are proposing to do just that in Iraq. We need to remember what happened the last time we gave up on an unpopular foreign policy, not only in humanitarian terms but in terms of American power and prestige.

Actually, the U.S. had won the war in Vietnam on the battlefield, just as the surge has done today in Iraq. Over Easter 1972, South Vietnamese forces, backed by U.S. airpower, crushed the last communist offensive, killing nearly 100,000 North Vietnamese troops.

The North was forced to sign peace accords in Paris recognizing the Republic of South Vietnam. The last 2,500 U.S. support troops went home. What they left was a fragile but sustainable peace, and an elected government in Saigon that was growing stronger every month

But with 160,000 North Vietnamese soldiers still in South Vietnam, keeping the South free was going to require continued U.S. help, especially air support and military equipment if the North ever attacked again.

Democrats and American public opinion, however, had had enough. Much like Iraq today, the vast majority of South Vietnam had been pacified. Its government was taking on difficult but essential political changes, including land reform. The Democratic-controlled Congress, however, did not want to hear about success. They assumed failure in Vietnam would complete their rout of the hated Richard Nixon, who was already out of office thanks to Watergate, and position them for victory in the 1976 presidential election.

Meanwhile, the American public had been conditioned by the media to see Vietnam as a failed policy, and taught that America had gotten itself in the middle of a "civil war" which the Vietnamese had to sort out themselves. Once the last American troops left Vietnam, public opinion would never tolerate re-entry into a war widely seen as a blunder and endless quagmire.

In early 1975 the communists launched a massive attack. President Gerald Ford asked for $1 billion in supplemental funds to help the South Vietnamese, and Congress refused. They had already pulled the plug on the U.S.-supported government of Lon Nol in Cambodia. Ford had no choice but to order the evacuation of remaining U.S. personnel.

After nearly two decades of devastating war and 58,000 American combat deaths, the U.S. left Southeast Asia. As the last helicopter lifted off from Saigon, the New York Times's Sydney Schanberg wrote an article with the title, "Indochina Without Americans: For Most, a Better Life." And the Times's columnist Anthony Lewis asked, "what future could possibly be more terrible than the reality" of a war that had cost so much in lives and treasure?

With the North Vietnamese Communists and the Khmer Rouge taking over, the world was about to find out

At least 65,000 Vietnamese were murdered or shot after "liberation" – the equivalent in terms of Vietnam's population at the time, of killing three-quarters of a million people in today's U.S. The new communist regime ordered somewhere between one- third to one-half of South Vietnam's population to pass through its "re-education" camps, where perhaps as many as 250,000 died of disease, starvation, or were worked to death (the last inmates were not released until 1986).

That number does not include the thousands of "boat people" who tried to flee the totalitarian nightmare of communist Vietnam, and perished at sea.

Cambodia's fate was even worse. At least one and a half million innocent Cambodians were butchered or starved to death in the Khmer Rouge's killing fields and re-education camps, put to death by a fanatical regime that believed that anyone who wore eyeglasses must have "bourgeois intellectual tendencies" and be shot.

The scale of moral collapse and suffering went beyond Indochina. The pullout had a ripple effect on U.S. power and prestige, just as the proponents of the so-called "domino theory" had warned. American foreign policy, crippled by remorse and self-doubt, stood helplessly as others rushed into the power vacuum.

Marxist-Leninist regimes emerged not only in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, but in Ethiopia and Guinea Bissau (1974), Madagascar, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Angola (1975), Afghanistan (1978), and Grenada and Nicaragua (1979). Soviet troops were welcomed in Fidel Castro's Cuba for the first time since the 1962 missile crisis. Cuban troops traveled freely to Africa to prop up Marxist regimes there.

In 1979 the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to establish his brutal theocratic rule over Iran, confident that America, having learned "the lessons of Vietnam," would never intervene.

The judgment of history, as Raymond Aron once remarked, is without pity. History will judge how America and its leaders handle global responsibility in Iraq and the Middle East in the next decade.

As Winston Churchill said of the appeasement of Hitler at Munich, in 1975 Americans were "weighed in the balance and found wanting." We have a responsibility to the Iraqis – and to the memory of those we left behind – not to let that happen again.

Mr. Herman is the author, most recently, of "Gandhi and Churchill: The Epic Rivalry That Destroyed An Empire and Forged Our Age," just published by Bantam.

Those who don’t have the stomach to defend the freedoms and the standard of living we enjoy should be recognized as the cowards and ostriches they are; the rest of us must continue to remind America that our freedoms were won with blood, and that military service in defense of those freedoms is the highest calling of all. The left will cry “conspiracies”, “blunders” and “war profiteering” to hide their pacifism and their ignorance of history; unfortunately there will be just enough examples of some of these situations to divert attention from the real issues, as is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan and in other places around the world. Perhaps WMD had been removed from Iraq, but Baghdad was the capital of the new caliphate the Jihadists wanted to establish (we know this from their own words and writings), and Baghdad was the center providing support and training for many, anti-West terrorist groups. Iraq also sits in the center of a sea of oil to which the Jihadists want to deny us access, and when the eventual showdown with Iran comes, our military force in Iraq will give us a strategic advantage. Thank you, President Bush for your foresight and your courage in the face of such ignorant vituperation.

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At 10:05 AM, Anonymous Joe said...

To this day day we still have those same yellow Democratic cowards in Congress such as Kennedy and Kerry, and we've even picked up a few more of their ilk along the way. If they haven't learned anything by now they never will, for only the fools such as these are doomed to repeat their blunders. The blood on their hands will never wash off.

At 6:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a veteran of the Vietnam War from August of 1969 to January of 1971, serving as an infantry squad leader in a mechanized infantry company, and with another unit as a tank commander on an M48A3 tank; I am keenly interested in the distortions, lies, and half truths perpetuated about the Vietnam war by many of those who helped to undermine the US effort there. Much of the conventional understanding of the US involvement in the South East Asian conflict indicates a general disapproval of the United States war effort, and an acceptance of the oft regurgitated leftist conventional wisdom as to it’s historical course and outcome. That is painting the American war effort in Vietnam as misguided at best and an imperialistic effort to establish SE Asian capitalistic hegemony at worst. The antiwar left is portrayed as being noble and idealistic rather than populated by a hard core that actively hoped and worked for a US defeat, the US government as destructive of basic civil liberties in its attempt to monitor their activities, and the North Vietnamese and Vietcong as nationalists who wished to preserve their unique culture against an imperialistic onslaught. The South Vietnamese government’s struggle to survive a ruthless Communist assault while engaging in an unwarranted assault on human rights .while ignoring the numerous genocidal atrocities of the Vietcong (VC) and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) is also part of this narrative. The deceptive reporting of the Tet Offensive, the Communist’s worse defeat among numberless hundreds of others was probably the most grievous deceit perpetuated by the Press .
The reason that the United States opposed nationwide elections that were to be held in accordance with the 1954 Geneva accords was due to the murder and intimidation campaigns carried out by Ho Chi Minh. This fact is in Professor R. J. Runnel’s book Death by Government, in which he cites a low estimate of 15,000 and a high figure of 500,000 people in the “murder by quota” campaign directed by the North Vietnamese Communist Party Politburo that would have made the election a corrupt mockery. This campaign stipulated that 5% of the people living in each village and hamlet had to be liquidated, preferably those identified as members of the “ruling class.” All told says Runnel, between 1953 and 1956 it is likely that the Communists killed 195,000 to 865,000 North Vietnamese. These were non combatant men, women, and children, and hardly represent evidence of the moral high ground claimed by many in the antiwar movement. In 1956, high Communist official Nguyen Manh Tuong admitted that “while destroying the landowning class, we condemned numberless old people and children to a horrible death.” The same genocidal pattern became the Communists’ standard operating procedure in the South too. This was unequivocally demonstrated by the Hue Massacre, which the press did a great deal to downplay in its reporting of the Tet Offensive of 1968.
The National Liberation Front was the creation of the North Vietnamese Third Party Congress of September 1960, completely directed from North Vietnam. The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a disastrous military defeat for the North Vietnamese and that the VC were almost wiped out by the fighting, and that it took the NVA until 1971 to reestablish a presence using North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. The North Vietnam military senior commanders repeatedly said that they counted on the U.S. antiwar movement to give them the confidence to persevere in the face of their staggering battlefield personnel losses and defeats. The antiwar movement prevented the feckless President Lyndon Johnson from granting General Westmoreland’s request to enter Laos and cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail or end his policies of publicly announced gradualist escalation. The North Vietnamese knew cutting this trail would severely damage their ability to prosecute the war. Since the North Vietnamese could continue to use the Ho Chi Minh Trail lifeline, the war was needlessly prolonged for the U.S. and contributed significantly to the collapse of South Vietnam. The casualties sustained by the NVA and VC were horrendous, (1.5 million dead) and accorded well with Gen. Ngyuen Giap’s publicly professed disdain for the lives of individuals sacrificed for the greater cause of Communist victory. They were as thoroughly beaten as a military force can be given the absence of an invasion and occupation of their nation. The Soviets and Chinese recognized this, and they put pressure on their North Vietnamese allies to accept this reality and settle up at the Paris peace talks. Hanoi’s party newspaper Nhan Dan angrily denounced the Chinese and Soviets for “throwing a life bouy to a drowning pirate” and for being “mired on the dark and muddy road of unprincipled compromise.” The North Viets intransigent attitude toward negotiation was reversed after their air defenses were badly shattered in the wake of the devastating B-52 Linebacker II assault on North Vietnam, after which they were totally defenseless against American air attack.
To this day the anti-war movement as a whole refuses to acknowledge its part in the deaths of millions in Laos and Cambodia and in the subsequent exodus from South East Asia as people fled Communism, nor the imprisonment of thousands in Communist re-education camps and gulags.
South Vietnam was NOT defeated by a local popular insurgency. The final victorious North Vietnamese offensive was a multidivisional, combined arms effort lavishly equipped with Soviet and Chinese supplied tanks, self-propelled artillery, and aircraft. It was the type of blitzkrieg that Panzer General Heinz Guederian would have easily recognized. I didn’t recall seeing any barefoot, pajama-clad guerrillas jumping out of those tanks in the newsreel footage that showed them crashing through the gates of the presidential palace in Saigon. This spectacle was prompted by the pusillanimous withdrawal of Congressional support for the South Vietnamese government in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which particularly undermined this aspect of President Nixon’s foreign policy. It should be noted that a similar Communist offensive in the spring of 1972 was smashed, largely by US air power; with relatively few US ground troops in place. At the Paris Accords in 1973, the Soviet Union had agreed to reduce aid in offensive arms to North Vietnam in exchange for trade concessions from the US, effectively ending North Vietnams hopes for a military victory in the south. With the return of cold war hostilities in the wake of the Yom Kippur war after Congress revoked the Soviet’s MFN trading status, the Reds poured money and offensive military equipment into North Vietnam. South Vietnam would still be a viable nation today were it not for this nation’s refusal to live up to it’s treaty obligations to the South Vietnamese, most important to reintervene should they invade South Vietnam.
There is one primary similarity to Vietnam. A seditious near traitorous core of anti-war protesters is trying to undermine U.S. efforts there with half-truths, lies, and distortions. In that respect, the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam are very similar. A significant difference is that thus far the current anti-war movement has not succeeded in manifesting contempt for the American military on the part of the general U.S. public as it did in the Vietnam era.
When I was in Vietnam, I recall many discussions with my fellow soldiers about the course of the war in Vietnam and their feelings about it. Many, if not most felt that “We Gotta Get Outta this Place,” to cite a popular song of the time by Eric Burden and the Animals, but for the most part they felt we should do it by fighting the war in a manner calculated to win it. I do not recall anyone ever saying that they felt the North Vietnamese could possibly defeat us on the battlefield, but to a man they were mystified by the U.S. Government’s refusal to fight in a manner that would assure military victory. Even though there was much resentment for the antiwar movement, and some (resentment) toward career professional soldiers, I never saw anyone who did not do his basic duty and many did FAR MORE THAN THAT as a soldier. Nineteen of my friends have their names on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington DC. They deserve to have the full truth told about the effort for which they gave their young lives. The U.S. public is not well served by half-truths and lies by omission about such a significant period in our history, particularly with their relevance toward our present fight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At 6:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

” Actually, the U.S. had won the war in Vietnam on the battlefield, just as the surge has done today in Iraq. Over Easter 1972, South Vietnamese forces, backed by U.S. airpower, crushed the last communist offensive, killing nearly 100,000 North Vietnamese troops.
The North was forced to sign peace accords in Paris recognizing the Republic of South Vietnam. The last 2,500 U.S. support troops went home. What they left was a fragile but sustainable peace, and an elected government in Saigon that was growing stronger every month.”
My brother died in Nam. This means more to me than anything I have heard in the last 37 years. I will e-mail it to the rest of my family. Thank you.


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