Israel Leads U.S. Back To Vietnam

by Greg Felton - Media Monitors Network

On September 11, 2001, the psychological heart of the American republic was attacked without warning. The World Trade Center and some neighboring buildings were reduced to rubble, and the Pentagon was turned into a tetragon. (The intended target is now thought to be the White House. Another plane that crashed in Pennsylvania was destined for Air Force One.) 

Like all victims, the survivors are trying to understand how it could happen. Why was there no warning? How could four domestic aircraft be hijacked with military precision and turned into flying bombs?

In a rush to make sense out of what appears to be a senseless act of terrorism, commenter and analysts have drawn allusions to the 1941 Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, both because of the heavy losses of life and because it was the last time American soil was bombed by a foreign power. (Hawaii was a territory at the time; it became a state in 1959.)

There are two problems with this comparison. First, there is reason to suspect that President Franklin Roosevelt had foreknowledge of the Japanese attack and allowed it to happen to create a pretext to defeat domestic isolationist sentiment and openly join the Allied war effort. In the New York/Washington DC attacks, U.S. Intelligence agencies were caught utterly clueless.

Second, the U.S. was a non-combatant before the Pearl Harbor attack and had no hostile relations with the Empire of Japan. In the New York/Washington DC attacks, the U.S. is deeply involved in the Middle East, politically and militarily, and it is because of this involvement that the terrorists attacked. Informed speculation has it that the mastermind is Saudi Arabian dissident-in-exile Osama bin Laden, though no concrete proof linking him or his organization to the attack has been turned up.

For a more useful analogy we have to go back to January 31, 1968. We have to revisit to Vietnam. "The enemy offensive during Tet, the Lunar New Year, began on Jan. 31 with an attack on the United States Embassy in Saigon; for a day enemy guerillas held the embassy compound," wrote New York Times reporter E.W. Kenworthy wrote in The Pentagon Papers. "The attacks spread rapidly to almost all the cities and major towns of South Vietnam....

"The Pentagon study [of the attack]...says that the offensive took the White House and the Joint Chiefs by surprise, 'and its strength length and intensity prolonged the shock.'"

For North Vietnam, the Tet Offensive was a military failure that cost thousands of lives, but it was a complete psychological victory. Even though U.S. and South Vietnamese forces recaptured all lost ground and repulsed the attack, the North Vietnamese proved that they could get to the most sensitive part of the United States--the embassy.

In March 1968, the U.S. government was forced to concede that the massive carpet bombing of North Vietnam (Operation Rolling Thunder) had done nothing to degrade the north's ability to stage operations in the south. The U.S. then began to scale back its involvement because it could not see an end to the war. On March 31, two months to the day after Tet started, President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election. America, to all intents and purposes, admitted defeat.

The NYC/DC bombings also claimed thousands of lives and exposed America's vulnerability in places thought to be inviolable. Here, too, America is a major belligerent; it props up Israel; tacitly condones the Zionist entity's decades-long terror campaign against Palestinian civilians; and is engaged in a sadistic, illegal beggaring of Iraq.

To radical opponents of U.S.-backed oppression of Arab peoples, the U.S. is a legitimate target. They are right. In saying this, I do not excuse the attack or condone it in any way, but the U.S. has a penchant for inviting attack from those whom it wrongs in the name of U.S. self-interest, and then reacts with stupefaction and belligerence when the expected happens.

Senator John McCain was correct to call the NYC/DC bombings an act of war, rather than an act of terrorism. What he did not say, though, was that the U.S., through its support of Israel, has been in a de facto state of war with the Palestinians for decades, and that an attack of some sort was to be expected.

Of course, the immediate aftermath of a horrendous attack is no time for candor. The minds of everyone are with the dead, missing and bereaved. World governments, including those of Arab nations, rightly condemned the bombings unequivocally. It would make no sense to countenance such a wanton act of domestic murder because it plays into the hands of anti-Arab Zionists more than it champions the cause of Palestinian liberation.

Then again, there is never a good time for candor about the Middle East. The Jewish lobby has the U.S. government by the balls and pro-Israeli interests and strong-arm groups virtually dictate the tone of media coverage. Small wonder former Secretary of State James Baker III called Congress "the Little Knesset."

Now the U.S. is living through another Tet-like attack, but one immeasurably more serious. It also faces the prospect of another indefinite war against an enemy it cannot see, much less understand.

The U.S. labors under the conceit that it can do no wrong and that whatever it does is by definition moral. The U.S. recognizes no limits to its power, not even international law, which it chooses to ignore at will. Small wonder that it is is incapable of understanding why many nations and people dislike it.

In the absence of understanding, the U.S. nurtures illusions--"The NYC/DC bombings were the acts of madmen." "They want only to destroy the Western way of life." If the bombings can be stripped of political context and recast as acts of negative moral absolutes, then understanding is unnecessary.

This is why the Pearl Harbor analogy fails: it allows Americans to take refuge in the illusion of unqualified victimhood, but it's an illusion the media and government are only too willing to foster. Once accomplished, the public can be mobilized for revenge. All eyes will be on "the enemy," whoever or wherever they may be. Nobody will have the time, or courage, to ask if the enemy is us.

So long as AIPAC and other Zionist pressure groups are allowed to pervert the American government to serve Israel, more terror attacks on American soil are a virtual certainty. No missile shield can stop a dedicated bomber armed with a razor knife.

What options does the U.S. have? Live in a state of permanent paranoia? Intern Arabs the way the Japanese were interned in the 1940s? No.

American citizens can retain their freedom if they do one thing -- get rid of the cause of antagonism between the Arab world and the U.S. It must disengage completely from Israel -- no more aid, no more arms, no more vetoes in the UN Security Council.

It's time the American people knew that tens of billions of their tax dollars annually go toward the brutalization of Arabs, the theft of Arab land, the destruction of Arab homes and the arming of "settler" thugs who terrorize Arabs the way Ku Klux Klansmen terrorized the Blacks.

Israel is a parasite that gives nothing and takes everything. Those who still believe in the fiction of a "Jewish homeland, should see my previous essay, Israel: A Monument to anti-Semitism, in which I prove, using almost exclusively Jewish sources, that Zionism is racist and based on Nazi-like racial superiority.

No state should give in to terror attacks, but that doesn't mean it can't learn from one. Think of the NYC/DC bombings as a lightning strikes and Israel as a lightening rod. You figure it out.

"All the conditions and reasons precluding a successful outcome [to the Vietnam War] were recognized or foreseen at one time or another during the thirty years of our involvement. American intervention was not a progress sucked step by step into an unsuspected quagmire. At no time were policy-makers unaware of the hazards, obstacles and negative developments. American intelligence was adequate; informed observation flowed steadily from the field to the capital; special investigative missions were repeatedly sent out; independent reportage to balance professional optimism--when that prevailed--was never lacking. The folly consisted not in pursuit of a goal in ignorance to the obstacles but in persistence in the pursuit despite accumulating evidence that the goal was unattainable, and the effect disproportionate to the American interest and eventually damaging to American society, reputation and disposable power in the world."-- (Barbara Tuchman, "America Betrays Herself in Vietnam," The March of Folly from Troy to Vietnam, p. 234.)

The Vietnam War wasn't really about Vietnam, and it wasn't really a war. It was a violent exercise in hubris and self-delusion done in the name of American honor. 

The U.S. did not fight an army; it fought a people. The Vietcong, did not wear uniforms, march in formation or fight on a battlefield. They waged a popular insurgency, supported by the North Vietnamese Army, to rid South Vietnam of American colonial overlordship and corrupt U.S. puppet governments like that of Ngo Dinh Diem.

At no time did the U.S. follow a coherent political or military strategy to deal with the Vietcong. It didn't need to, because South Vietnam, per se, did not matter. The U.S. treated a threat to South Vietnam as an attack on its own reputation as guarantor of South Vietnam's security. Thus, the Vietnam conflict was an exercise in public relations damage control.

On November 6, 1961, Assistant Secretary of Defense John T. McNaughton summarized U.S. aims for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in this sobering report: 

"(A) 70 Percent -- To avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat (to our reputation as a counter-subversion guarantor).

(B) 20 Percent -- To keep SVN (and then adjacent territory) from Chinese hands.

(C) 10 Percent -- To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life. Also--to emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used. NOT to 'help a friend,' although it would be hard to stay out if asked."
(The Pentagon Papers, pp. 255, 365.)

Without a defensible strategy, the conflict generated its own perverse self-defeating dynamic. The longer the conflict went on, the greater the insult to America's ego; the greater the insult, the deeper the military commitment; the deeper the commitment, the greater the insult; and so on.

This brings me to President George W. Bush and his insane lust to commit the U.S. to another Vietnam-style fiasco. The prosecutors of that conflict were said to be "the best and the brightest"--brilliant technocrats and crisis managers who nevertheless persisted in a policy contrary to the national interest.

In contrast, the irresponsibly belligerent pronouncements by Bush and other administration officials regarding "the war on terrorism" are so devoid of reason and intelligence that one could rightly dub this government "the worst and the dimmest."

In fact, the much vaunted "war on terrorism" qualifies as a folly according to the three criteria set out by Barbara Tuchman in her great work The March of Folly from Troy to Vietnam.

1. "[a policy] must be perceived to be counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight";

2. "a feasible alternative course of action must have been available"; and

3. "it should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime." (P. 5).

Bush is in serious danger of repeating the ego-maniacal folly of Vietnam. The evidence is all around, for those who care to look.

The Rhetorical Bogeyman

In Vietnam, the U.S. declared that the "enemy" was communism and its potential spread throughout Indochina and beyond--at least, that was the official version for public consumption. Of course, it conveniently hid the fact that the "war on communism" served the higher purpose of propping up America's reputation. However, so long as the American public bought into the Grand Crusade of "good versus evil" the government could justify the deaths of tens of thousands of servicemen in a wasteful public relations exercise.

Now, "terrorism" has become the rhetorical bogeyman to justify yet another ego-driven military misadventure. For it to be effective, the public must believe that terrorism presents a general danger, not just a one-time threat. Once this is achieved, the public will willingly accept infringements on civil liberties and personal freedoms. Already, Congress has given the CIA wider latitude to conduct covert operations, and California Senator Dianne Feinstein, a major recipient of Pro-Israeli PAC money, wants a six-month moratorium imposed on student visas for those coming from "terrorist" [read: Muslim] countries.

In an act of gratuitous scaremongering, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld raised the specter that America's enemies might now help terrorist groups obtain chemical, biological and possibly even nuclear weapons.

The official mythology of the NYC/DC attacks deems them to be vicious, evil assaults on the American way of life. This claim, propagated by the Bush administration and its media sycophants, is so baseless and transparently manipulative, that no reasonable person could take it seriously. How many of us guffawed, or cringed, when Marshall "Tex" Bush uttered his ridiculous exhortation for Saudi dissident-in-exile Osama bin Laden to be captured "dead or alive"?

The conscious attempt to foment unease among the American public is designed to keep the country in a state of agitated ignorance to ensure support for the crusade. In other words, the Bush administration merely expects the public to hate, not understand.

Any dispassionate observer knows that the attack was not directed against the U.S., but rather against its foreign policy, but that point of view is officially anathematized and anyone who champions it is slandered and shouted down.

What qualifies as international criminal conduct is not up for debate. "War crimes" are associated with events in places peripheral to U.S. interests, such as Rwanda, Somalia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Perversely, "war crime" is not generally associated with the Vietnam War, U.S.-Israeli terrorism against the Palestinians, or the U.S.-led destruction of Iraq. That's because applying a common standard of conduct upsets comfortable delusions of own superior morality: "The U.S. is the lynch-pin of the democratic world. It could never commit a war crime! Only the 'enemies of democracy' commit war crimes."

Yet, in 1984, the World Court declared the U.S. government to be a war criminal for mining Nicaragua's harbors and causing the deaths of 30,000 civilians. The same could be said of U.S. responsibility for the deaths of 1,000,000 Iraqis, including more than 500,000 children; 120,000 Guatemalan peasants since 1954; and the 1975 slaughter of more than 250,000 East Timorese by Indonesia.

In the grand ledger of atrocities, the NYC/DC attack amounts to little more than a bloody nose, yet we are made to feel that an attack on America is automatically an attack on civilization itself--UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said as much. How valuable one American life must be if the deaths of a few thousand from this one terror attack merit so much concern, while the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-Americans from chronic terror merit so little.

The great bogeyman of "terrorism against America" is a lie, but so long as it is propagated loudly and constantly, few will challenge jingoistic claptrap like "The U.S. is a beacon of freedom" and its attackers are "evil doers."

The "war on terrorism" seems like an ideal strategy for Bush because bin Laden, the Taliban and radical Islam are already demonized in the minds of revenge-minded Americans. With one stroke, Bush not only addresses Americans' need for bloodlust, but co-opts the credulous and unchallenging media, and targets Israel's enemies. (The demographically doomed Zionist entity would love to watch the U.S. lead a prolonged, futile war against the Arab world. After all, the U.S. is Israel's protector just as it was South Vietnam's.)

From all appearances, the Bush administration is only too willing to comply, and in so doing it will validate the famous paraphrase of Karl Marx: "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce."

Casus Belli

During the Vietnam War, and throughout the Cold War generally, the official bogeyman threatening to destroy "the American way of life" was communism. The containment of communism was integral to U.S. foreign policy, even if those condemned as communists were more often than not nationalists who wanted a better deal for their own people--at the expense of U.S. corporate self-interest, of course.

Though these bogeymen were fictions, they played a real role in the pursuit of folly. In election year 1964, Johnson faced a dilemma: he had to ensure financial and political support for his Great Society social reforms, yet not appear to be "soft on communism" in Vietnam. Even though he knew the war was going badly, he could risk pulling out, so instead he went in deeper.

American involvement reached the point of no return on August 4 when Congress passed a dirty bit of chicanery called the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, giving Johnson a fraudulent casus belli to expand the war to North Vietnam.

The official government line was that the destroyer USS Maddox was "deliberately attacked" in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 2, 1964, thus creating an act of war that needed to be avenged. Of course, no such attacked happened. Ironically, the government's deceit was well known, even among journalists; nevertheless, the press dutifully parroted the party line:

The Los Angeles Times urged Americans to "face the fact that the Communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have themselves escalated the hostilities." The Gulf of Tonkin Deception.

With the conspicuous exceptions of the likes of Pat Buchanan, Robert Novak, Jude Wanniski, Joe Sobran, Robert Fisk in Britain, and Rick Salutin and Neil MacDonald in Canada, the media have shamelessly hopped aboard the "Texecutioner's Middle East Tour" like so many besotted rock groupies.

Some "journalists," like Ann Coulter, have even sunk to the level of passing off unadulterated anti-Arab bigotry as informed commentary. Future widows of America: write your Congressman.

In contrast to the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the NYC/DC casus belli did happen, but Congress has behaved just as stupidly. On September 15, it passed a joint resolution giving Bush unprecedented executive authority: "The President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001."

The Lessons of Blowback

At no time has Bush articulated a risk/benefit analysis, or definable military objectives, or shown any respect for international law. Warmongers, including former administration officials William Bennett and Jeane Kirkpatrick, are openly calling for attacks on Hezbollah, Syria, Sudan, Libya and Algeria, and perhaps even parts of Egypt. Whose war is it? Even neutron bomb inventor Sam Cohen advocates the use of thermonuclear devices on Afghanistan to kill bin Laden and wipe out the Taliban. What was a war crime in Vietnam is now being actively promoted as official U.S. policy. Bush is clearly committing the same delusional arrogance that led Johnson to disgrace in Vietnam.

Regional Destabilization 

The Vietnam conflict spilled over into neighboring Cambodia, a direct result of which was the rise of the sadistic Pol Pot and the Killing Fields. Christopher Hitchens makes a persuasive case in his book Regarding Henry (excerpted in Harper's) that former Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger should be tried as a war criminal for the way he sabotaged the 1968 Paris Peace negotiations and later consciously expanded the war into Cambodia.

Hitchens said the war could have ended in 1968 instead of 1975, had Kissinger, then a functionary in the Johnson government, not leaked the government's negotiating position to Nixon's election team.

Now Bush is prepared to risk another regional conflagration to defend America's image. In Afghanistan, 1 million refugees are already heading to Pakistan. On September 27, the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $875 million worth of aid. For this upheaval Bush is 100 percent to blame. Instead of threatening Afghanistan with massive reprisals, he should have offered food, shelter and medical aid as incentives to turn over bin Laden, who is no more than a suspect. But then, who wants to be seen to be kind to the Taliban?

Pakistan, Afghanistan's neighbor, is a nuclear power, and the effect of a prolonged conflict and having to tend to millions of refugees is unknown. If Pakistan undergoes upheaval, what would its arch-enemy India do? In the 1980s, the U.S.-supported Saddam Hussein began the long, bloody and inconclusive Iran-Iraq War by attacking Iran, which he thought to be exhausted and distracted by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution. Could a peripheral war between two nuclear-capable states break out?

Egypt, with 60 million people, has a restive militant Islamic community that would assuredly launch uprisings if the pro-Western government of Hosni Mubarak sided with the U.S. Does Bush really want to destabilize Egypt and give rise to yet another anti-Western Arab government?

The assault on Afghanistan is as arrogant, self-defeating and counter-productive as was the carpet-bombing of North Vietnam. Like Johnson, Bush is committing his folly in full knowledge of the possibly disastrous consequences. Waging War in Afghanistan Could Rattle Region.

However, Bush may have an ulterior motive for wanting to destroy the Afghan government. Until December 4, 1998, Unocal of El Segundo, California, was involved in the multinational Central Asia Gas Consortium to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and possibly India. On that date it announced that it was officially pulling out, citing deteriorating political conditions and the conduct of the Taliban government, especially toward women. However, Unocal is not entirely out of the picture:

"[We] consistently emphasized that the project could not and would not proceed until there was an internationally recognized government in place in Afghanistan that fairly represented all its people. Our hope was that the project could help bring peace, stability and economic development to the Afghans, as well as develop important energy resources for the region." Unocal's withdrawal from CentGas Consortium.

Bush might well want to destabilize Afghanistan chiefly to put in place a government more amenable to Unocal. Maybe yes, maybe no, but all the world hears is the endless mantra of "return bin Laden," as if it were consciously designed to distract the world from Bush's real motive.

Columnist Robert Fisk eloquently captured the absurdity of Bush's "war on terrorism":

"We are witnessing...one of the most epic events since the Second World War, certainly since Vietnam. I am not talking about the ruins of the World Trade Centre in New York and the grotesque physical scenes which we watched on 11 September... No, I am referring to the extraordinary, almost unbelievable preparations now under way for the most powerful nation ever to have existed on God's Earth to bomb the most devastated, ravaged, starvation-haunted and tragic country in the world. Afghanistan, raped and eviscerated by the Russian army for 10 years, abandoned by its friends--us, of course--once the Russians had fled, is about to be attacked by the surviving superpower."--("How can the U.S. bomb this tragic people?"--(The Independent, September 23, 2001).

The Slide into Genocide

However satisfying it may be, "terrorism" cannot be the enemy, at least not in a military sense. To wage war against an "ism," any "ism," means waging war against a whole population. Millions of people throughout history have been slaughtered because they believed in the wrong "ism" at the wrong time. That's why war against believers of an "ism" -- Judaism, Christism, Muhammadism, etc. -- is known as persecution. Such a war is unwinnable unless you're prepared to commit wholesale murder, including the indiscriminate killing of civilians. Look at the "war on drugism"--a never-ending waste of time, money and lives in pursuit of the impossible.

In Vietnam, the U.S. was prepared to commit wholesale murder. The most infamous massacre took place on March 16, 1968, at My Lai. Approximately 80 men of First Battalion, 20th Infantry, 11th Light Infantry Brigade entered the village on a "search and destroy" mission to kill Vietcong. By the time the Americans were finished, 300 apparently unarmed Vietnamese civilians, including women and children, had been massacred. No Vietcong were found.

(Incidentally, as Hitchens reports, General Colin Powell, when he was a staff army major in Vietnam, helped suppress the inquiry into the My Lai massacre and other America-committed civilian atrocities. Powell is now Bush's Secretary of State, and one of the saner influences.)

The My Lai massacre, and others like it, is partly why Americans are justifiably ashamed of the Vietnam era, and why soldiers who served honorably were shunned when they came home. 

Yet, despite the profusion of books, articles, movies and documentaries on the Vietnam era, Americans and their leaders still cannot, or will not, face up to what their country did. The temptation to compartmentalize and rationalize one's own immoral conduct is psychologically irresistible. Unfortunately, the greater the misdeed, the greater the need to dissemble, and hence the greater the propensity to commit the same immorality. So it is that Bush could utter this inanity with a straight face:

"This will be a different kind of conflict against a different kind of enemy. This is a conflict without battlefields or beachheads. A conflict with opponents who believe they are invisible. Yet, they are mistaken. They will be exposed and they will discover what others in the past have learned: those who make war against the United States have chosen their own destruction."--(We'll Win War Against Terrorism, September 17, 2001, AP.)

The Road to Ruin

On November 1, 1961, General Maxwell Taylor sent two cablegrams to President John Kennedy outlining the dangers of military overeagerness in a war that was already lost. The first cablegram reads in part: 

"a. ...we can ill afford any detachment of forces to a peripheral area of the Communist bloc where they will be pinned down for an uncertain duration.
b. Although U.S. prestige is already engaged in SVN, it will become more so by the sending of troops.
c. If the first contingent is not enough to accomplish the necessary results, it will be difficult to resist the pressure to reinforce. If the ultimate aim of the insurgents within SVN there is no limit to our possible commitment (unless we attack the source in Hanoi);
d. The introduction of U.S. forces may increase tensions and risk escalation into a major war in Asia. On the other side of the argument, there can be no action so convincing of U.S. seriousness of purpose and hence so reassuring to the people and Government of SVN and to our other friends and allies in SEA as the introduction of U.S. ground troops into SVN."
--(The Pentagon Papers, p. 141).

The second cablegram reads in part:

"2. It is concluded that:
a. Communist strategy aims to gain control of Southeast Asia by methods of subversion and guerrilla war which by-pass conventional U.S. and indigenous strength on the ground. The interim Communist goal-- en route to total takeover--appears to be a neutral Southeast [sic] Asia, detached from U.S. protection. This strategy is well on its way to success in Vietnam."
--(The Pentagon Papers, p. 144).

With a few substitutions--"Afghanistan" for "South Vietnam," "terrorism" for "subversion and guerrilla war" etc.--the memo could be rewritten for Bush. It should be rewritten for Bush, because the scenarios are almost identical, especially the bit about the benefits to America's image as a protector.

What the architects of Vietnam sought to avoid, anti-Arab zealots inside and outside the Bush government actively advocate. So far, Bush has resisted these voices of unreason because he knows he needs the support of Arab nations, but for how long can he resist? Bush's dangerously irresponsible pronouncements could force him to overplay his hand, because once the U.S. reputation is at stake, all reason goes out the window.

Bush is pursuing a policy contrary to self-interest for reasons of ego. It will almost assuredly engender more attacks on the U.S. and feed Arab hatred for America for years, even decades, to come. What's worse, the whole world knows what Bush could do to end the threat, but he hasn't the guts. For obvious domestic reasons he doesn't want to appear "soft on Israel."

America couldn't murder its way to victory over the Vietcong in Vietnam. Bush will find that the U.S. cannot murder its way to victory over terrorists in the Middle East. The only question is how many will have to die for the sake of Bush's folly. 

Mr. Greg Felton is a Canadian editorialist on international politics, especially the Middle East.  2001 Greg Felton.

 

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