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First Pullout, Then Bloodbath

Rightwing Nuts Say It Happened in Vietnam

by WILLIAM BLUM

As the call for withdrawal of American forces from Iraq grows louder, those who support the war are rewriting history to paint a scary picture of what happened in Vietnam after the United States military left in March 1973.

They speak of invasions by the North Vietnamese communists, but fail to point out that a two-decades-long civil war had simply continued after the Americans left, minus a good deal of the horror which US bombs and chemical weapons had been causing.

They speak of the "bloodbath" that followed the American withdrawal, a term that implies killing of large numbers of civilians who didn’t support the communists. But this never happened. If it had taken place the anti-communists in the United States who supported the war in Vietnam would have been more than happy to publicize a "commie bloodbath". It would have made big headlines all over the world. The fact that you can’t find anything of the sort is indicative of the fact that nothing like a bloodbath took place. It would be difficult to otherwise disprove this negative.

"Some 600,000 Vietnamese drowned in the South China Sea attempting to escape."[1] Has anyone not confined to a right-wing happy farm ever heard of this before?

They mix Vietnam and Cambodia together in the same thought, leaving the impression that the horrors of Pol Pot included Vietnam. This is the conservative National Review Online: "Six weeks later, the last Americans lifted off in helicopters from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, leaving hundreds of panicked South Vietnamese immediately behind and an entire region to the mercy of the communists. The scene was similar in Phnom Penh [Cambodia]. The torture and murder spree that followed left millions of corpses."[2]

And here’s dear old Fox News, July 26, reporters Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, with their guest, actor Jon Voight. Voight says "Right now, we’re having a lot of people who don’t know a whole lot of things crying for us pulling out of Iraq. This — there was a bloodbath when we pulled out of Vietnam, 2.5 million people in Cambodia and Vietnam — South Vietnam were slaughtered."

Alan Colmes’ response, in its entirety: "Yes, sir." Hannity said nothing. The many devoted listeners of Fox News could only nod their heads sagely.
In actuality, instead of a bloodbath of those who had collaborated with the enemy, the Vietnamese sent them to "re-education" camps, a more civilized treatment than in post-World War Two Europe where many of those who had collaborated with the Germans were publicly paraded, shaven bald, humiliated in other ways, and/or hung from the nearest tree. But some conservatives today would have you believe that the Vietnamese camps were virtually little Auschwitzes.[3]

Has the conservative view of Vietnam post-US withdrawal already hardened into historical concrete? "The agreed-upon historical record", to use Gore Vidal’s term?

 

The way of all flesh, the way of all wars

In 1967 and ’68 I was writing a column of a type very similar to this report, only it wasn’t online of course; it was for the Washington Free Press, part of the so-called "underground press". In looking over those old columns recently I found three items whose relevance has not been dimmed by time at all:

(1) [From the Washington Post, 1968]: "It has never been clearer that the Marines are fighting for their own pride, from their own fear and for their buddies who have already died. No American in Hue is fighting for Vietnam, for the Vietnamese, or against Communism."[4]_ [Make the obvious substitutions and we have: No American in Baghdad is fighting for Iraq, for the Iraqi people, or against terrorism. And how many of today's warriors can look around at what is happening in Iraq and convince themselves that they're fighting for something called freedom and democracy?]

(2) Arthur Sylvester, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, was the man most responsible for "giving, controlling and managing the war news from Vietnam". One day in July 1965, Sylvester told American journalists that they had a patriotic duty to disseminate only information that made the United States look good. When one of the newsmen exclaimed: "Surely, Arthur, you don’t expect the American press to be handmaidens of government," Sylvester replied, "That’s exactly what I expect," adding: "Look, if you think any American official is going to tell you the truth, then you’re stupid. Did you hear that? — stupid." And when a correspondent for a New York paper began a question, he was interrupted by Sylvester who said: "Aw, come on. What does someone in New York care about the war in Vietnam?"[5]

(3) The US recently completed an operation in the III Corps area of South Vietnam called "Resolved to Win". Now, a new operation is being planned for the same area. This one is called "Complete Victory", which should give you an idea of how successful "Resolved to Win" was. I expect that the only operation standing a chance of success will be the one called "Total Withdrawal."

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com

NOTES

[1] Joseph Farah, editor of the conservative WorldNetDaily, August 6, 2007

[2] Mona Charen, National Review Online, July 20, 2007

[3] Search Google News: <bloodbath iraq vietnam> for more examples

[4] Washington Post, February 20, 1968, article by Lee Lescaze

[5] Congressional Record (House of Representatives), May 12, 1966, pp. 9977-78, reprint of an article by Morley Safer of CBS News