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Whitewashing Militarism, Vietnam-War Edition

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This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Vietnamese victory over the United States, in the war that ravaged Vietnam, and caused untold suffering and division in the U.S. It was said, after the people of Vietnam were able to resist the most powerful military machine in the world, that the U.S. needed to rethink its war-mongering and military aggression, and, perhaps, turn to diplomacy before resorting to bombs. The lessons of Vietnam, it was proclaimed, must be remembered.

It doesn’t take a historian to see that any lessons from that disastrous war were all quickly forgotten. Not only has this been manifested by the U.S.’s almost constant war-making since its defeat in Vietnam, but now the government is also ‘commemorating’ that deadly, imperial disaster. To this end, it has launched a 13-year Commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. This farce began in 2012, and the country will be subjected to it, in one form or another, until 2025.

Looking at the commemoration’s website, there are five (5) stated objectives. Each is more puzzling than the last. We will look at each one in some detail.

“To thank and honor veterans of the Vietnam War, including personnel who were held as prisoners of war (POW), or listed as missing in action (MIA), for their service and sacrifice on behalf of the United States and to thank and honor the families of these veterans.”

The U.S. has an odd way of thanking veterans, if it believes that an occasional parade will do the trick. Veterans, including large numbers of those who ‘served’ (more on that ridiculous term later) in Vietnam, have an above-average rate of depression, suicide, homelessness, drug-addiction and domestic violence. Victims of Agent Orange, the chemical defoliant used widely in Vietnam, which cause untold physical problems for veterans and their children, fought for years to have their illnesses recognized by the government as having been caused by those chemicals. Veterans’ hospitals have been shown to have long waiting lists, and deplorable conditions.

“To highlight the service of the Armed Forces during the Vietnam War and the contributions of Federal agencies and governmental and non-governmental organizations that served with, or in support of, the Armed Forces.”

One wonders why anyone wants to highlight the activities of organizations that made the killing of innocent men, women and children easier and more effective.

“To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would seem to anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of life in the U.S. during the Vietnam-War era that the nation should pay tribute to the contributions made by those who opposed the war. Tens of thousands of young men fled the country, rather than be victimized by the U.S. slave trade known as conscription. Countless others who went to Vietnam returned home and actively opposed the war. Numerous others were jailed when their conscientious-objector applications were denied, or when they publically burned their draft cards. Eventually, even the corporate-owned media, and many politicians, saw the validity and honor of their actions. But during this endless commemoration, all this will be ignored.

“To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.”

Now, perhaps, we are getting to the heart of the matter. Such ‘advances’ mainly serve to advance the bottom line of the fat-cats who profit from war. And any golden calf is always worth worshipping in the United States. And if so many advances in technology, science and medicine resulted from the Vietnam War, well then, why not have another war, and see what additional advances can be made?

“To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.”

It would not be unreasonable to think that these allies would just as soon forget the whole thing. All any reminders of their involvement in the U.S.’s Vietnam folly can do is bring to mind any repeat of those mistakes when the U.S., with equal justification (read: none) invaded Iraq. So this commemorative frolic may not be something the allies will embrace.

And now let us take a moment to consider the term ‘military service’, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Militarism, as has been amply demonstrated by the U.S. for over two centuries, brings death, poverty, oppression, denial of human rights, and the untold and unspeakable suffering of innocent men, women and children. This has been true from the War of 1812 right up through today, as the U.S. and its allies bomb Syria, and spread suffering there, while causing increased hatred towards the United States. The killing of the innocent might be called ‘collateral damage’, but more of the innocent suffer and die than any of the U.S.’s self-identified ‘enemies’.

What does any of this have to do with service? That word, except when perverted by being affixed to the word ‘military’, implies selfless assistance, the acts of helping people who are suffering, or are somehow less fortunate than those performing the service. Volunteers in homeless shelters, at food banks, school programs and other facilities where people are assisted can be said to serve. Educators who devote their lives to teaching, despite low salaries, serve. But soldiers who invade independent countries and kill their citizens are not serving; there is a word for killing people, and it is not ‘service’.

But today, and for the next several years, apparently, the president and various other politicians will proclaim the greatness of the cause that led to the Vietnam War, looking at it through the 40-year-old tint of rose-colored glasses, and praise it as an example of U.S. greatness. There will be no mention of the anger on university campuses that often resulted in extreme police violence against students. The young men who left the country in order to avoid forced participation in the immorality of war will be ignored. And the citizen-lemmings will forget the scenes of U.S. personnel desperately fleeing Saigon as the Vietcong entered victoriously, and will place hand on heart, pledge allegiance to the flag, and sit back as the U.S. continues to operate the most effective killing machine on the planet.

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Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

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