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In 1969, heading out to Vietnam for duty in the Army, we were all herded together in a big hanger for a pep talk. The colonial told us we were being sent to “Freedom’s Frontier.” Yesterday, George Bush roused the troops with his call to “stay the course” in his fight against “terrorists.” In our day the boogey-man word was communism — today it’s terrorism.
Fortunately (or unfortunately for me) I had read the history of Vietnam. I knew that Ho Chi Minh had been an ally of the U.S. during WWII in his fight to rid Vietnam of the Japanese imperialists. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese nationalists under Ho died in that successful struggle. After the war the French government tried to regain colonial control of Vietnam, and to our shame, we were accomplices in that effort. That is how we got into Vietnam in the first place.
When the French were eventually defeated by the forces of Ho Chi Minh, who then held thousands of their troops as prisoners of war, a peace conference in Geneva was held in which it was agreed that there would be a temporary demarcation line between North and South Vietnam until an internationally supervised election was held to determine the next Vietnamese leader and government. In exchange for this guarantee the Vietnamese repatriated their prisoners to France.
Our CIA, recognizing that Uncle Ho would win hands down in such a democratic election in Vietnam then conspired with a French educated Vietnamese Catholic to “establish” a “South” Vietnam; this in a country of 98% Buddhists. After declaring recognition of legitimacy (unilaterally) to “South” Vietnam, the United States then began pouring monies, arms and advisors into the new South Vietnam. That’s how we got directly involved.
Later, after JFK’s assassination, LBJ lied to the U.S. about the “unprovoked” attack of our spy ship that had unloaded commandos in North Vietnamese waters. This has only recently been known with the declassification of CIA documents, and led to an “open checkbook” for LBJ’s expansion of the war, to which I was party.
Now we see Mr. Bush portraying all combatants in Iraq as “terrorists.” It is, of course, a ploy to give justification to the continued occupation of Iraq by our military forces and Mr. Bush’s ill-advised decision to go to war there.
With less than a few thousand outsiders of the more than thirty thousand home grown insurgents in Iraq, portraying them all as “terrorists” seems a cowardly ploy to try and mislead the American people, again. It is unworthy of a true commander and chief.
John R. Bomar can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org