FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Vietnam Tells Us About Iraq’s Future

 

I know these things take time and all that, but it might be instructive to take a look at events in Iraq since its supposed transition to supposed sovereignty last week. According to an Associated Press story dated July 6, 2004, the United States is not withdrawing into the background as promised but is “keeping a high profile,” with Paul Bremer barnstorming the US media circuit despite his promise to leave the scene and take a quiet vacation. His replacement, John Negroponte, meanwhile, is working hard to establish the world’s largest US Embassy (and CIA station) since the one that existed in Saigon, Vietnam during the US war on that country in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, US military forces continue to conduct military operations, run patrols, and bomb Iraqi houses.

In addition, it is the US that is providing the cash and prosecution for the trial of deposed leader Saddam Hussein. Despite the desire of many Iraqis to see the man on trial and in prison (or dead), the US does not seem to trust the recently installed Iraqi government to even take care of this matter. In short, nothing has changed in Iraq except for the names of the various Iraqis serving on the US-created government.

That government, meanwhile, parrots the US line regarding the insurgency-calling the resistance fighters foreigners and terrorists-and gives its blessing to each and every attack on supposed insurgents that the US military conducts. Of course, many of those attacks turn out to be on ordinary Iraqi civilians, a fact which only provides the resistance with more recruits.

Despite the quite obvious differences between the US war on Vietnam and its war on Iraq, there are some aspects to the US operation in both countries that bear consideration, if for no other reason than that our history might provide us with some clues as to where this Iraqi war is going. To begin, the US-installed regime in Saigon was never very popular with the Vietnamese people, even in the southern part of that country. It was able to exist for as long as it did because of the massive US support it received-militarily and financially. In addition, many of those Vietnamese who opposed the regime were removed from their home villages and forced into what the US termed “strategic hamlets.” These so-called hamlets were little more than military camps designed to isolate the resistance forces from their popular base.

This isn’t to say that the Vietnamese resistance was popular among all sectors of southern Vietnamese society, because it wasn’t. The US client regime in Saigon had many supporters, especially among the upper classes, certain criminal and merchant circles, and a considerable portion of the South Vietnamese Army (ARVN). In general, however, the Vietnamese people did not want the Americans or their war and, as later events proved, just wanted to live in peace as an independent nation without foreign intervention.

What about the ARVN? Was it a popular army? Did the Vietnamese people join it for ideological reasons or for a paycheck? Was it effective? All of these questions and their potential answers are quite instructive vis-à-vis the current plans to build an army in the “new” Iraq. Perhaps the easiest question to answer regards the ARVN’s effectiveness. US Vietnam veterans who ran patrols with the ARVN will usually be quick to tell you that, for the most part, the lower-ranking members of the ARVN wanted to be fighting even less than most of the Americans. Furthermore, US veterans will tell you that many members of the ARVN could not be trusted, either because they had divided allegiances, were actually members of the resistance, or just didn’t give a shit, considering the war to be a US phenomenon that had little to do with them and was not worth risking their life for. The most obvious example of the ARVN’s ineffectiveness lies in what happened on the battlefield once US ground troops were withdrawn-they lost the war. As for the reasons the Vietnamese joined the military: just like in Iraq, most joined for a paycheck. Or, unlike Iraq, because they were drafted. Those who joined for ideological reasons were few, especially among the lower ranks. Although Iraq has yet to begin conscription, one wonders if that could occur should the resistance maintain its ability to fight.

There never was a real election in southern Vietnam. Sure, governments came and went, but the choices presented to the Vietnamese were always choices between candidates selected by the United States and subservient to its interests. If an elected official did go against Washington’s wishes, he was disposed of. This has already happened at least once in Iraq-even before any elected government has actually been installed. It will probably happen many more times given the Iraqi penchant for going their own way. When President Diem refused to listen to the US demands that he do something about his country’s “Buddhist problem,” he was killed in a US-sponsored coup. When other Vietnamese leaders expressed a desire to negotiate with certain non-communist elements of the resistance, they were told to forget about it or lose their positions (and perhaps their lives). One has to wonder how many times Iraqi “leaders” have been told something similar.

In short, if the Iraqi client governments (the current one and those sure to come in the future) ever ask the US to end its aggression and leave before the US wants to, they will most likely be replaced by individuals even more beholden to Washington. The experience of southern Vietnam proved that nationalist sentiments of any kind are not appreciated in Washington unless they are subservient to US plans. Sure, Washington will attempt to incorporate the more moderate nationalist elements into its designs, but, if it cannot co-opt even these elements, they too will become Washington’s enemies. This is one reason why Mr. Allawi and his regime are only too willing to go along with whatever the US does in Iraq. This, and the dollars they all hope they will share.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. It can be purchased by calling 1 800 233 4830.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

 

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
May 25, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Melvin Goodman
A Major Win for Trump’s War Cabinet
Andrew Levine
Could Anything Cause the GOP to Dump Trump?
Pete Tucker
Is the Washington Post Soft on Amazon?
Conn Hallinan
Iran: Sanctions & War
Jeffrey St. Clair
Out of Space: John McCain, Telescopes and the Desecration of Mount Graham
John Laforge
Senate Puts CIA Back on Torture Track
David Rosen
Santa Fe High School Shooting: an Incel Killing?
Gary Leupp
Pompeo’s Iran Speech and the 21 Demands
Jonathan Power
Bang, Bang to Trump
Robert Fisk
You Can’t Commit Genocide Without the Help of Local People
Brian Cloughley
Washington’s Provocations in the South China Sea
Louis Proyect
Requiem for a Mountain Lion
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Israel: a Match Made in Hell
Kevin Martin
The Libya Model: It’s Not Always All About Trump
Susie Day
Trump, the NYPD and the People We Call “Animals”
Pepe Escobar
How Iran Will Respond to Trump
Sarah Anderson
When CEO’s Earn 5,000 Times as Much as a Company’s Workers
Ralph Nader
Audit the Outlaw Military Budget Draining America’s Necessities
Chris Wright
The Significance of Karl Marx
David Schultz
Indict or Not: the Choice Mueller May Have to Make and Which is Worse for Trump
George Payne
The NFL Moves to Silence Voices of Dissent
Razan Azzarkani
America’s Treatment of Palestinians Has Grown Horrendously Cruel
Katalina Khoury
The Need to Evaluate the Human Constructs Enabling Palestinian Genocide
George Ochenski
Tillerson, the Truth and Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department
Jill Richardson
Our Immigration Debate Needs a Lot More Humanity
Martha Rosenberg
Once Again a Slaughterhouse Raid Turns Up Abuses
Judith Deutsch
Pension Systems and the Deadly Hand of the Market
Shamus Cooke
Oregon’s Poor People’s Campaign and DSA Partner Against State Democrats
Thomas Barker
Only a Mass Struggle From Below Can End the Bloodshed in Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
Australia’s China Syndrome
Missy Comley Beattie
Say “I Love You”
Ron Jacobs
A Photographic Revenge
Saurav Sarkar
War and Moral Injury
Clark T. Scott
The Shell Game and “The Bank Dick”
Seth Sandronsky
The State of Worker Safety in America
Thomas Knapp
Making Gridlock Great Again
Manuel E. Yepe
The US Will Have to Ask for Forgiveness
Laura Finley
Stop Blaming Women and Girls for Men’s Violence Against Them
Rob Okun
Raising Boys to Love and Care, Not to Kill
Christopher Brauchli
What Conflicts of Interest?
Winslow Myers
Real Security
George Wuerthner
Happy Talk About Weeds
Abel Cohen
Give the People What They Want: Shame
David Yearsley
King Arthur in Berlin
Douglas Valentine
Memorial Day
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail