Monday, October 17, 2005

Sunni Delight pt1

Back in 1975 I was ten years old. That makes me just old enough to remember watching the coverage of the last days of the Vietnam War. I didn’t really comprehend what was going on at the time but I still retain jumbled memories of ARVN troops and civilians retreating down Highway One, the fall of Saigon and scared people clutching onto the last few helicopters out. Being ten years old, my mind was largely preoccupied with other things but even then I realised that some people were very unhappy somewhere in a place called Vietnam and also in a place called Cambodia.

Later on I became a bit of a connoisseur of the whole thing and developed a more sophisticated understanding of the true significance of the Vietnam War…

It was a really, really big fuck up.

I learned that. America learned that. The Vietnam War was an object lesson is how not to fight a war, or even get involved in one in the first place. I also learned that the American government had applied enormous pressure on the British government to get us involved in the War. To his eternal credit, the then Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson told Lyndon Johnson to fuck off.

Nice one Harold.

And since 1975 every single conflict America has been involved in draws the inevitable facile question from the media ‘Is this going to be another Vietnam?’

To be honest I’m not sure that many people know what they mean when they ask this question. The correct response to it should be ‘In what way do you mean?’

Back in 2003 when the ‘Coalition Forces’ rolled into Iraq out came the question, regular as clockwork ‘Is this going to be another Vietnam?’. And the response usually was ‘Of course not, there is no jungle in Iraq’

No jungle in Iraq… Great, full steam ahead then.

As if the wretched failure of America in Vietnam was entirely due to leaf cover. Actually, a lot of people genuinely believe that. That, or the canard that US soldiers were actually winning the war but were let down by the collapse of popular support back at home. Fucking hippies. The Nazi party encouraged a similar myth, for similar reasons, about the causes for Germany’s defeat in the First World War.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, parallels. Actually, genuinely significant parallels between Iraq and Vietnam are beginning to come into focus. A couple seem particularly pertinent at the moment…

The first is the notion that we can’t pull our forces out of Iraq right now as chaos would ensue and we have a debt of honour to prevent that from happening.

Something very similar plagued the Americans in 1968. They knew there were going to have to pull out sooner or later, the only question was when. Perversely, they stayed in Vietnam for another four years and actually escalated the conflicted. Hundreds of thousands of people died so that America could negotiate a face-saving settlement with North Vietnam. They finally pulled out in 1972 and three years later the North occupied the South. Game over. There are a couple of morals to this tale

  • Once unified, Vietnam most emphatically did NOT become a hotbed of revolutionary communism. Neighbouring countries did not fall like dominos. The Vietnamese always maintained they were only interested in removing foreign occupiers and uniting their country and that’s exactly what they did. The entire basis for undertaking the war in the first place was a lie. Sixty thousand Americans and maybe as many as two million Vietnamese died for nothing

  • America continued fighting and supporting its puppet Vietnamese government for seven years after it knew defeat was inevitable. America didn’t save any ‘face’ by doing so, but hundreds of thousands of people lost theirs.

  • If you’re losing a morally ambiguous conflict bail. What will happen will happen, either this year or in five years. You’re just delaying the inevitable. Better to get it over and done with.

to be, as they say, continued…

(category: political stuff)


Cadigan said...

You were ten years old in 1975?

Migod, I'm old enough to be your mother.

Apprentice said...

Yeah, but I'm not. Which always makes a nice change.