Category Archives: USA

Real Americans Question 9/11

Real Americans Question 9/11

These days it’s difficult to remember what values the American people share. That’s because the U.S. government does so many things that seem to contradict basic human values. Wars of aggression, torture, kidnapping and indefinite detention, warrantless wiretapping, and so many other oppressions have become standard operational procedure for the U.S. government. Those who recognize and seek to correct this system of abuse soon realize that the key to doing so is to reveal the truth behind the primary driver for all of them—the crimes of 9/11.

It’s important to know what makes someone an American and what does not. Here are some examples of what does not make someone an American.

  • Loyalty to the flag
  • Respect for the national anthem
  • Serving in the military or honoring military veterans
  • Paying taxes

A person can do these things to any extent possible and it will not make them any more American than they were before they began. Popular culture and corporate media make every effort to present American patriotism as a sum of these kinds of activities but it is easy to see through that false front.

Only one thing makes someone an American and that is support and defense of the U.S. Constitution. The founding fathers of the United States defined Americans as those who are committed to the ideals of the Constitution. To this day, anyone claiming to represent the nation must swear an oath to uphold those ideals.

Each president, when taking office, affirms that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” All congress members must swear or affirm that they will “support and defend the Constitution.”

All new citizens of the United States and every member of the U.S. military must swear to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;” and that they “will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”

The U.S. Constitution is comprised of articles that spell out the government’s powers and the process of making amendments. It also includes the 27 amendments that exist today. The first ten amendments, ratified four years after the original text, are known as the Bill of Rights. These include the freedoms of speech, religion, and the press. Also, there are the rights to bear arms, to privacy, and to a speedy and public trial. The rejection of cruel and unusual punishment is another basic tenet of the U.S. Constitution.

Unfortunately, virtually every Article and Amendment of the Constitution has been under attack since September 11, 2001. Yet very few people have risen to support or defend it. In fact, many so-called Americans have encouraged assaults on the core American values.

That abuse began with the violation of Article 1 of the Constitution that rejects starting wars of aggression without having been “actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.” Instead of working to determine what actually happened on 9/11 and thereby defend the nation, the Bush Administration immediately invaded Afghanistan, a country that it had planned to invade long before the 9/11 attacks. Sixteen months later, the government invaded Iraq based on what everyone now knows was a pack of lies.

Americans who questioned that anti-American approach were silenced with claims that they were not “supporting the troops” if they did not consent to the growing greed-fueled militarism. The Afghanistan invasion was coupled with the passing of the Patriot Act—an attack on basic Constitutional rights and a failure to preserve those rights as described in Article 2.

In 2006, national polls showed that over one third of Americans believed that federal officials assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so that the United States could go to war in the Middle East. At the same time, Americans witnessed a growing list of abuses of their Constitutional rights. These abuses violated the Bill of Rights in nearly every way and were driven by unproven claims about what happened on September 11, 2001.

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Center for Constitutional Rights described how the Constitution had been shredded based on assumptions about the 9/11 attacks. By then, it had also become clear that the government was actually giving aid and comfort to the enemy (violating Article 3) through arming and training terrorists. One might think it obvious that stopping such actions would be the goal of all Americans but to do so one Congress member has had to spell it out in legislation.

Failing to protect Americans against domestic violence (a violation of Article 4), the FBI was found to actually be manufacturing terrorism. It was further learned that some FBI leaders had been facilitating or sponsoring terrorism since long before 9/11. This practice continues today and the manufactured plots have become so obvious that officials are finding it difficult to explain why Americans should take them seriously.

Attorney and author John W. Whitehead has detailed the continuing attacks on the Bill of Rights by writing that,

“What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in October 2001 has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse. Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance. The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time—Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and now ISIS—but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.”

The attacks on American values have been so extensive that people often no longer notice how bad it has become. For example, the government has named those captured and tortured in the name of 9/11 as “forever prisoners”—a term that exemplifies the hatred of freedom represented by the new phony Americanism. The fact that one of these men was a central character in building the official account of 9/11 and has since been exonerated for any involvement in those crimes makes no difference.

How can real Americans respond to this ongoing assault against the Constitution by flag-waving, militaristic, greed-driven fools? How can we “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” by “bearing true faith and allegiance to the same?”

To end the wave of anti-Americanism that began with the crimes of 9/11, Americans have two options. The first is to stand up publicly and fight the attacks on our Constitution by helping everyone understand that the crimes of 9/11 have not been solved. In fact, there are still so many unanswered questions about those crimes that everything done in “response” is almost certainly a crime in itself.

The second option is to end the tyranny through revolution. This was how America began, of course, and that great beginning is enshrined in the precursor to the Constitution—the Declaration of Independence. At the time, the founders stated that, “When a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

As Americans it is our duty to throw off the tyrannical abuses of power that are threatening to end America. That duty starts with questioning 9/11—the driver behind all of it.

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

U.S. and EU Sanctions Are Punishing Ordinary Syrians and Crippling Aid Work, U.N. Report Reveals

Dania Khalek,  The Intercept,  28 September 2016

Internal United Nations assessments obtained by The Intercept reveal that U.S. and European sanctions are punishing ordinary Syrians and crippling aid work during the largest humanitarian emergency since World War II.

The sanctions and war have destabilized every sector of Syria’s economy, transforming a once self-sufficient country into an aid-dependent nation. But aid is hard to come by, with sanctions blocking access to blood safety equipment, medicines, medical devices, food, fuel, water pumps, spare parts for power plants, and more.

In a 40-page internal assessment commissioned to analyze the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, the U.N. describes the U.S. and EU measures as “some of the most complicated and far-reaching sanctions regimes ever imposed.” Detailing a complex system of “unpredictable and time-consuming” financial restrictions and licensing requirements, the report finds that U.S. sanctions are exceptionally harsh “regarding provision of humanitarian aid.”

U.S. sanctions on Syrian banks have made the transfer of funds into the country nearly impossible. Even when a transaction is legal, banks are reluctant to process funds related to Syria for risk of incurring violation fees. This has given rise to an unofficial and unregulated network of money exchanges that lacks transparency, making it easier for extremist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda to divert funds undetected. The difficulty of transferring money is also preventing aid groups from paying local staff and suppliers, which has “delayed or prevented the delivery of development assistance in both government and besieged areas,” according to the report.

Trade restrictions on Syria are even more convoluted. Items that contain 10 percent or more of U.S. content, including medical devices, are banned from export to Syria. Aid groups wishing to bypass this rule have to apply for a special license, but the licensing bureaucracy is a nightmare to navigate, often requiring expensive lawyers that cost far more than the items being exported.

Syria was first subjected to sanctions in 1979, after the U.S. designated the Syrian government as a state sponsor of terrorism. More sanctions were added in subsequent years, though none more extreme than the restrictions imposed in 2011 in response to the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown on protesters.

In 2013 the sanctions were eased but only in opposition areas. Around the same time, the CIA began directly shipping weapons to armed insurgents at a colossal cost of nearly $1 billion a year, effectively adding fuel to the conflict while U.S. sanctions obstructed emergency assistance to civilians caught in the crossfire.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SAMMY KETZA banker stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on August 25, 2011. US sanctions have forced Syria to stop all transactions in US dollars, with the country turning completely to euro deals, the governor of the Central Bank Adib Mayaleh told the AFP during an interview. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

A man stacks packed Syrian lira bills at the Central Bank in Damascus on Aug. 25, 2011.

Photo: Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images

An internal U.N. email obtained by The Intercept also faults U.S. and EU sanctions for contributing to food shortages and deteriorations in health care. The August email from a key U.N. official warned that sanctions had contributed to a doubling in fuel prices in 18 months and a 40 percent drop in wheat production since 2010, causing the price of wheat flour to soar by 300 percent and rice by 650 percent. The email went on to cite sanctions as a “principal factor” in the erosion of Syria’s health care system. Medicine-producing factories that haven’t been completely destroyed by the fighting have been forced to close because of sanctions-related restrictions on raw materials and foreign currency, the email said.As one NGO worker in Damascus told The Intercept, there are cars, buses, water systems, and power stations that are in serious need of repair all across the country, but it takes months to procure spare parts and there’s no time to wait. So aid groups opt for cheap Chinese options or big suppliers that have the proper licensing, but the big suppliers can charge as much as they want. If the price is unaffordable, systems break down and more and more people die from dirty water, preventable diseases, and a reduced quality of life.

Such conditions would be devastating for any country. In war-torn Syria, where an estimated 13 million people are dependent on humanitarian assistance, the sanctions are compounding the chaos.

In an emailed statement to The Intercept, the State Department denied that the sanctions are hurting civilians.

“U.S. sanctions against [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad], his backers, and the regime deprive these actors of resources that could be used to further the bloody campaign Assad continues to wage against his own people,” said the statement, which recycled talking points that justified sanctions against Iraq in 1990s. The U.S. continued to rationalize the Iraq sanctions even after a report was released by UNICEF in 1999 that showed a doubling in mortality rates for children under the age of 5 after sanctions were imposed in the wake of the Gulf War, and the death of 500,000 children.

“The true responsibility for the dire humanitarian situation lies squarely with Assad, who has repeatedly denied access and attacked aid workers,” the U.S. statement on Syria continued. “He has the ability to relieve this suffering at any time, should he meet his commitment to provide full, sustained access for delivery of humanitarian assistance in areas that the U.N. has determined need it.”

Meanwhile, in cities controlled by ISIS, the U.S. has employed some of the same tactics it condemns. For example, U.S.-backed ground forces laid siege to Manbij, a city in northern Syria not far from Aleppo that is home to tens of thousands of civilians. U.S. airstrikes pounded the city over the summer, killing up to 125 civilians in a single attack. The U.S. also used airstrikes to drive ISIS out of KobaneRamadi, and Fallujah, leaving behind flattened neighborhoods. In Fallujah, residents resorted to eating soup made from grass and 140 people reportedly died from lack of food and medicine during the siege.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

A Syrian man walks past an empty vegetable market in Aleppo on July 10, 2016, after the regime closed the only remaining supply route into the city.

Photo: Karam Al-Masri/AFP/Getty Images

Humanitarian concerns aside, the sanctions are not achieving their objectives. Five years of devastating civil war and strict economic sanctions have plunged over 80 percent of Syrians into poverty, up from 28 percent in 2010. Ferdinand Arslanian, a scholar at the Center for Syrian Studies at the University of St. Andrews, says that reduction in living standards and aid dependency is empowering the regime.“Aid is now an essential part of the Syrian economy and sanctions give regime cronies in Syria the ability to monopolize access to goods. It makes everyone reliant on the government. This was the case in Iraq, with the food-for-oil system,” explained Arslanian.

“Sanctions have a terrible effect on the people more than the regime and Washington knows this from Iraq,” argues Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. “But there’s pressure in Washington to do something and sanctions look like you’re doing something,” he added.

Despite the failure of sanctions, opposition advocates are agitating for even harsher measures that would extend sanctions to anyone who does business with the Syrian government. This, of course, would translate into sanctions against Russia.

“The opposition likes sanctions,” says Landis. “They were the people who advocated them in the beginning because they want to put any pressure they can on the regime. But it’s very clear that the regime is not going to fall, that the sanctions are not working. They’re only immiserating a population that’s already suffered terrible declines in their per capita GDP,” he added.

Read the report:

Hum Impact of Syria Related Res Eco Measures 26 May 2016, 40 pages

Top photo: A Syrian Red Crescent truck, part of a convoy carrying humanitarian aid, is seen in Kafr Batna on the outskirts of Damascus on Feb. 23, 2016, during an operation in cooperation with the U.N. to deliver aid to thousands of besieged Syrians.

Update: September 30, 2016

The wording of a paragraph about U.S. tactics in Syria and Iraq has been altered to clarify that the U.S. used a strategy of airstrikes against Kobane, Ramadi, and Fallujah when they were controlled by ISIS forces

Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them


    Michael D. Yates is Associate Editor of Monthly Review and Editorial Director of Monthly Review Press. He thanks John Bellamy Foster, John Marciano, Henry Giroux, and Elly Leary for helpful comments.

    Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them

    by Michael D. Yates, May 2015

    In a letter to Vietnam War veteran Charles McDuff, Major General Franklin Davis, Jr. said, “The United States Army has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” McDuff had written a letter to President Richard Nixon in January 1971, telling him that he had witnessed U.S. soldiers abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians and informing him that many My Lais had taken place during the war.[1] He pleaded with Nixon to bring the killing to an end. The White House sent the letter to the general, and this was his reply.

    McDuff’s letter and Davis’s response are quoted in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, the most recent book to demonstrate beyond doubt that the general’s words were a lie.[2] Not only did the United States ravage Vietnam with unprecedented and murderous ferocity, committing war crimes in nearly every village, but this criminal conduct was official government policy. The United States prosecuted the war with a Frederick Taylor-like efficiency and an engineer’s impersonal input-output calculation, with maximum Vietnamese deaths as standard operating procedure.[3]

    In what follows, I use Turse’s work, along with several other books, articles, and films, as scaffolds from which to construct an analysis of how the war was conducted, what its consequences have been for the Vietnamese, how the nature of the war generated ferocious opposition to it (not least by a brave core of U.S. soldiers), how the war’s history has been whitewashed, and why it is important to both know what happened in Vietnam and why we should not forget it.

    McNamara’s Business Model of War

    Robert McNamara, President Lyndon Johnson’s secretary of defense, was the chief architect of the U.S. war strategy.[4] A logistics expert who streamlined Allied bombing runs during the Second World War, and later president of Ford Motor Company, McNamara believed that winning a war was simply a matter of setting a goal that would result in victory and then using the managerial techniques he had mastered to get the job done. The goal was to get the “kill ratio,” the proportion between enemy and U.S. dead, as high as possible, so that a “crossover point” was reached—that is, more enemy soldiers killed than could be replaced. Then, inevitably, the Vietnamese would no longer be able to resist the U.S. war machine, surrender, and sue for peace.

    A way to envision what McNamara did is to imagine the war in Vietnam in terms of a capitalist production process. Instead of the accumulation of money capital as the motor force of the system, substitute the accumulation of dead enemy bodies. The U.S. government, through its military, sought to maximize these. However, as McNamara and his superiors and generals knew, their enemy employed guerilla warfare, refusing to fight set battles, attacking and then disappearing into the rural landscape. U.S. troops could not easily distinguish soldiers from civilians. Every Vietnamese might be a soldier, even women and children. While no one would admit it, continuously increasing the kill ratio necessarily meant killing as many civilians as possible. And even if it were assumed that any given group of Vietnamese were civilians, the more of them murdered, the more enemy troops would be exposed, and the fewer replacements for those killed would be available.

    As former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld put it in the context of the current “War on Terror,” the best way that the United States could combat the terrorists was “to drain the swamp they live in.”[5] Kill the noncombatants, and only the enemy soldiers will be left. They would no longer have a swamp in which to hide. From the beginning of the war, therefore, killing civilians was a U.S. policy that flowed directly from the goal of maximizing the kill ratio. Killing civilians violates the rules of engagement and is a war crime, so great pains were taken to disguise these as lives taken in battle, and Turse offers numerous examples of this. One common practice was to stage a dead civilian as a soldier by placing an enemy weapon nearby. However, this often was not necessary as commanding officers were almost always willing to simply take the word of a lieutenant or captain at the scene.

    Enemy dead minus U.S. dead (the kill ratio defined as a difference) is not the same as revenue minus cost (profits); it has to be monetized to keep the accumulation juggernaut rolling along. Monetization occurred through the auspices of the U.S. government, which we can think of as a gigantic firm with huge cash reserves and an unlimited line of credit, not just at home but around the world. Taxes could be increased, bonds could be sold, money could be printed, and—given the world’s use of the dollar as the primary reserve currency—payments deficits could be run indefinitely with just about any nation. Money would be provided until the war ended in victory.

    As any employer knows, the essence of management is control. Given the aim of a maximum kill ratio, every aspect of the production process had to be coordinated as finely as possible. Several kinds of control were important. First, there had to be enough workers (soldiers and support personnel). A virtually unlimited supply of soldiers was guaranteed through the draft. Young men whose families were well-situated and politically influential could avoid the draft through various means, so they would not likely be vocal opponents of the war, an assumption that later proved incorrect. Poor whites, blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians were considered economically expendable and sending them off to war was a way to contain any discontent and agitation they might have exhibited at home.

    Once drafted, soldiers had to be taught to kill. It is not normal for one person to murder another, and there are powerful social taboos against doing so. Researchers had discovered that in nineteenth and twentieth-century wars, soldiers regularly failed to fire their rifles, or intentionally aimed to miss their targets. Military leaders responded to this by dramatically altering the methods used to train troops.[6] They sought to forge extreme group solidarity in two ways. First, drill instructors subjected new recruits to constant torment bordering on torture. If you deprive trainees of food and sleep, force them to make long marches under adverse conditions, punish them severely for any failure to obey orders no matter how ridiculous and demeaning, you break down their defenses and make them willing to do whatever you say, in other words forging them into a homogeneous mass, a unit that will act as one.[7] Not adhering to what any rational person would consider an insane regimen becomes unthinkable. Failure to do so marks you as a “sissy,” “fag,” “cunt,” or “girl,” and subjects you to physical and emotional torment from both superiors and comrades. Second, instructors then tied their charges’ misery to the evil intentions of subhuman foreigners, in the case of Vietnam, to the “gooks,” “slopes,” “slant eyes,” “yellow bastards,” and “the Cong.” Exhausted, angry, afraid, they gradually embrace the chants of “kill the gooks, kill the gooks.” By the time they got to the war zones, they were ready to kill, not for a noble cause but for their buddies and because those they were going to murder were no different than the animals they might have hunted back home. Is it any wonder that more than a few U.S. troops were willing to kill civilians? In a hostile country, hot, dirty, diseased from constant marches and firefights in jungle terrain, seeing their buddies blown to pieces, beginning to wonder why they were there, constantly pressured to keep their kills high and rewarded for doing so, they were not always averse to shooting people, torturing them, raping women, and generating as much violent mayhem as possible.[8]

    And lest we think that the rank-and-file soldiers were primarily to blame for the slaughter, their officers were too often bloodthirsty racist killers, seeing the war as the ticket to career advancement—Colin Powell, who helped cover up My Lai, is a case in point—and no doubt frequently believing that what they taught the grunts about the Vietnamese was true. As chief commanding officer William Westmoreland infamously said, “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner…. We value life and human dignity. They don’t care about life and human dignity.”[9] It was the officers who directed the soldiers; it was they who covered up the war crimes; it was they who devised the methods of torture employed in the field; and it was they who devised the evermore sadistic tactics that resulted in the orders to “kill anything that moves.”

    In addition to its own soldiers, the United States also employed troops (mercenaries, in effect) from South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries, as well as civilian and quasi-military support personnel. It also paid for much of the military of South Vietnam, which while ostensibly independent, was in reality subject to U.S. control. All of these were onboard with the McNamara program, and some of them added their own unique talents to the killing. Psyops (psychological operations), the establishment of “strategic hamlets” to house those forced from their homes and farms, assassination campaigns, and torture techniques were employed by these personnel throughout the war.[10]

    A production process requires nonhuman inputs, what Marx calls constant capital. In Vietnam this mainly comprised weapons of mass destruction, from Claymore mines, tanks, helicopter gunships, battleships, and B-52 bombers to napalm, Agent Orange, white phosphorus, and other ingredients from the enormous U.S chemical arsenal. The United States had a virtually unlimited supply of these means of death, and it had a limitless willingness to employ them. Soldiers of all ranks were trained to utilize mass destruction machinery in every situation, even those where “collateral damage” to civilians was inevitable.

    So now, we have money capital (from the enormous funds of the U.S. government) transformed into capital in the form of labor power and constant capital. These were then combined on the battlefields as efficiently as possible, with a labor process controlled through the rigorous training of the soldiers and support personnel, who would do what they were told or would act automatically to make certain that the kill ratio was high and rising.

    Finally, the kill ratio had to be “sold” so that the accumulation of dead bodies could be expanded. This was not done, of course, in the traditional way of selling. Rather, it was sold through diligent and relentless propaganda, fed to the press, the general public, and the politicians who ultimately had to agree on continual funding. There was always “light at the end of the tunnel.” The United States was slowly but surely winning the “hearts and minds” of the Vietnamese. The puppet governments the United States put in power in South Vietnam were committed to democracy and the people were flocking to their banners.

    To make these absurd claims plausible, all manner of lies had to be repeated to keep ugly truths from the light of day. The military and the state were adept at this. Few enlisted soldiers and almost no officers were prosecuted for the thousands of war crimes they committed. Those that were received minimal sentences. And no matter how dramatic the horrors that did get investigated and published, such as the mass murder at My Lai, the government was able to contain the damage by waiting for the certain waning of public interest and outrage, while trotting out the argument that such horrendous events were rare and the work of “a few bad apples.”

    Thus, the capital expended in the production of corpses was repeatedly monetized and the accumulation of capital proceeded apace.

    Judged by the carnage, McNamara’s war by “scientific management” was a great success. Turse sums up what U.S. forces did: “Murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process—such occurrences were virtually a daily fact of life throughout the years of the American presence in Vietnam.”[11] He gives hundreds of examples, enough to convince us that these barbarous acts were official policy. Turse also made tours of the Vietnamese countryside and found that in every village, no matter how small and isolated, peasants had constructed memorials with the names of dead villagers, many victims of unreported, routine atrocities.

    Turse also gives several accounts of colonels and generals who monomaniacally pursued high kill ratios by whatever means possible. In February 1968, General Julian Ewell gained command of the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, a densely populated area of more than 5 million people. Ewell and his subordinate, Colonel Ira Hunt, proceeded to go “berserk,” directing the killing of so many civilians that he won the nickname “Butcher of the Delta.” The 9th Infantry Division he commanded had been averaging a kill ratio of about nine, that is, nine dead enemy for every U.S. soldier killed. Spurred on by the government’s Operation Speedy Express—set in motion because President Johnson and his war planners wanted the Delta under the control of the South Vietnamese government pending upcoming peace talks with North Vietnam—as well as his own psychosis, Ewell initiated a reign of terror. Fourteen months later, the kill ratio was an astonishing 134. Given the way the Vietnamese liberation forces fought, refusing to engage in large-scale battles, nearly all of the dead had to be civilians.

    The Toll of the War on the Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians

    While it is important to provide verifiable evidence of the war crimes the United States committed in Vietnam, it is also useful to supply data on the overall tolls of death, injury, and social and ecological ruin heaped upon the Vietnamese and their country. The following summary data, which include damage done to Cambodia and Laos, countries to which the war spread as a result of secret U.S. bombing campaigns, still have the power to shock:[12]

  • As many as 1.7 million revolutionary forces were killed.
  • About a quarter-million South Vietnamese soldiers were killed.
  • More than 65,000 North Vietnamese civilians died, mainly victims of U.S. bombing raids, which targeted factories, hospitals, schools, and dikes, more or less indiscriminately killing people.
  • At least 4 million Vietnamese died as a direct result of the war, which means that at least 2 million civilians perished at the hands of U.S. forces and their mercenary brethren. When the war commenced in earnest in the 1960s, Vietnam’s population was 19 million. An incredible 21 percent of this population therefore perished. In 1960 the U.S. population was about 180 million. Imagine a war that killed nearly 38 million Americans.
  • Turse’s sources estimate the extent of civilian wounded as follows: “A brief accounting shows 8,000 to 16,000 South Vietnamese paraplegics; 30,000 to 60,000 South Vietnamese left blind; and some 83,000 to 166,000 South Vietnamese amputees.” Total civilian wounded were at least 5.3 million.[13]
  • More bombs were dropped on Vietnam than by all sides in all previous wars throughout history, and three times more than by all sides in the Second World War.
  • 19 million gallons of herbicide poisoned the land.
  • 9,000 of 15,000 hamlets were destroyed in South Vietnam.
  • In the North, all six industrial cities were devastated; twenty-eight of thirty provincial towns, and 96 of 116 district towns, were leveled by bombing.
  • The United States threatened to use nuclear weapons thirteen times. Nixon chided his national security advisor and soon-to-be secretary of state Henry Kissinger for being too squeamish about this and the massive bombing of the North Nixon ordered in 1972. Nixon said he, himself, just did not give a damn.[14]
  • After the war, unexploded bombs and mines permeated the landscape and took an additional 42,000 lives. Millions of acres have still not been cleared of live ordnance.
  • Agent Orange and other defoliants have caused severe health problems for millions of Vietnamese.
  • Nearly all of Vietnam’s triple canopy forests were destroyed.
  • 3 million tons of ordnance struck 100,000 sites during the “secret” war in Cambodia, causing widespread social dislocation, destruction of crops, and starvation. The U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia was directly responsible for the rise of the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot and the genocide that took place afterward (The United States actually sided with Pol Pot when Vietnamese troops finally ended his reign of terror).
  • 2,756,941 tons of ordnance were dropped in Laos on 113,716 sites. Much of the Laotian landscape was blown to bits.
  • The Fatal Flaws in McNamara’s Business of War Model

    Yet, despite the carnage, the revolutionaries continued their fight for freedom, year after year, ultimately defeating the United States as they had done the French in the years following the Second World War. What went wrong with McNamara’s invincible plan? The most important flaw in it was the failure to conceptualize his grand production scheme in terms of social relationships, not just in the “workplace” but in the larger societies of Vietnam and the United States. The Vietnamese had a thousand-year history of resisting oppression by other nations and empires; they took a long view of life and were willing to sacrifice themselves in larger numbers than the United States imagined possible to secure their independence. As Francis Fitzgerald noted in Fire in the Lake, those who prosecuted the war knew precious little about Vietnamese history, culture, and language.[15]

    No folly could have been greater than believing that kill ratios were all that mattered. The war occurred during a period of a worldwide anti-imperialist struggle, providing the revolutionaries with needed moral support, even from millions of protesters in most of the rich capitalist countries. In the United States, a majority supported the war until the late 1960s, but a vibrant antiwar movement developed, often spearheaded by the middle-class youth who had avoided the draft. The Soviet Union and some other countries gave material aid to the Vietnamese revolutionaries. The United States could not risk the possible consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, given that its Cold War foe was well-armed with them.

    Inside the war “workplace,” contradictions abounded. Just as workers bear grievances against their bosses, grievances that sometimes led to collective action, rank-and-file soldiers came into conflict with their commanding officers. Black conscripts, influenced by the civil rights movement at home, including the rise of the anti-imperialist Black Panther Party—which specifically tied the imperialism underlying the war to the racism perpetrated by white America—began to question why they were fighting against non-white men and women waging a war of national liberation when they needed to free themselves from racist repression.[16] Some soldiers recoiled at the wanton violence they saw perpetrated by a military claiming to be fighting so that the Vietnamese were free to establish democracy.[17] GIs were not unaware of the protests at home or the hypocrisy of U.S. politicians and the corruption of the South Vietnamese military and government. The culture of the 1960s found fertile ground as well, and drug use became commonplace, if for no other reason than to escape the boredom and horror that was daily life in the field.

    As the war dragged on, morale plunged, and few wanted to risk their lives for nothing, especially as they got close to the end of their one-year tour of duty. Soldiers began to refuse orders to fight, and it was not altogether uncommon for soldiers to murder (“frag”) their officers. The astounding 1971 report of Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. is instructive. He said:

    The morale, discipline and battle worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are, with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this century and possibly in the history of the United States.

    By every conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in Vietnam is in a state approaching collapse, with individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers, drug-ridden, and dispirited where not near mutinous.[18]

    And he goes on to provide a remarkably large number of examples: fragging (in one division such incidents were occurring at a rate of one per week in 1971), bounties for the killing of officers, mass refusals to obey orders or even report for combat, refusal to wear uniforms, open agitation on military bases against the war, lawsuits against officers, widespread addiction to heroin, and desertion (sometimes involving joining the enemy forces). The absolute control necessary for McNamara’s strategy had become a shambles. Wars can only be won by troops on the ground fighting; if the troops will not fight, a war is lost.

    The Soldiers’ Revolt

    Unlike workers fired in a strike and barred from the employer’s property, dissident soldiers eventually were discharged and came back to the United States as citizens with the same formal rights as everyone else. While most veterans simply wanted to forget the war and return to normal lives, a sizeable number had become so disenchanted with it and traumatized by what they had seen and done that they felt the need to make amends. They began to seek each other out, and from there, sometimes in alliance with the burgeoning antiwar movement but mostly on their own, formed organizations aimed at making the public aware of the horrors of the war. These dealt with specific issues like the treatment of veterans in Veterans Affairs hospitals, something later made famous by the movie Born on the Fourth of July, as well as the larger matter of ending the war. The organizations established by veterans also served cathartic purposes; by talking with one another, former combatants could begin to come to grips with their often ghastly experiences. The most well-known and enduring group was the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). Founded in 1967, it was over the next decade, “a vanguard group for Maoists; a campaign headquarters for Democrats; a vehicle for activists to plan large-scale demonstrations; a meeting place for rap groups; an information center for war crimes hearings; a gathering spot for poets; a rehabilitation home for drug addicts.”[19]

    VVAW consistently agitated to increase opposition to the war, and it employed a wide array of tactics to do so: participation in antiwar demonstrations; publicly throwing away Purple Hearts and other medals of valor; circulating petitions; conducting long marches, complete with guerilla theater that mimicked war atrocities; protests at national political conventions; occupations of public buildings and monuments, including the Statue of Liberty; publishing newsletters; and the famous Winter Soldier Investigation held in Detroit in 1971 in which veterans bore witness to the war crimes and atrocities committed by U.S. troops and the U.S. government in Vietnam. Membership peaked at about 25,000, but the VVAW’s influence was much greater. It reinvigorated the antiwar movement; won adherents to the antiwar banner simply because veterans had instant credibility with much of the public, and could not be accused of elitism as most of them were solidly working class; and brought home to normally complacent Americans, including some of the veterans’ parents, exactly what their sons had done in the war. It was the first time in U.S. history that large numbers of soldiers spoke openly, honestly, and publicly about the folly of war and the costs to human beings and societies of allowing young men (and today young women) to engage in senseless murder.

    Andrew E. Hunt ends The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War by stating that the VVAW “contributed significantly to ending the war in Vietnam.”[20] Much the same can be said about all of the activities of the antiwar veterans. They participated in teach-ins, taught classes, produced vibrant art and literature, organized antiwar coffee houses near military bases, published an abundance of newspapers, pamphlets, and posters, helped on-duty soldiers form unions and fight legal battles, aided those seeking asylum in Canada and other countries, and much more. They were in the forefront of those who visited Vietnam after the war to make common cause with the Vietnamese and do what they could to aid in the rebuilding of the nation. They have been tireless reminders of what was done in the name of the United States.[21]

    Michael Uhl, a longtime veteran activist and author of Vietnam Awakening, rightly criticizes Nick Turse for both ignoring and downplaying the significance of what thousands of antiwar veterans did. First, Turse’s discoveries were not new. Much of what he tells us was made public by veterans more than forty years ago. In a recent essay, Uhl wrote:

    In his [Turse’s] account antiwar veterans appear, not as a movement making history, but as a handful of individual “whistle-blowers within the ranks or recently out of the army…” whose denunciations were “marginalized and ignored.” For the rest, Turse buries our unprecedented story in a thicket of footnotes, devoid of their original contexts, and where only a disciplined scholar might be able to reassemble them into anything approximating what actually occurred. A reader may judge for herself, if the public testimonies[22] on U.S. war crimes policies in Vietnam delivered by antiwar veterans during the final years of the conflict were, as Turse suggests, “marginalized and ignored.” She might discover that the veterans were being heard at the time, if not listened to, much more than Turse is today…. He characterizes as pitiful Movement efforts to reveal the true nature of the war through “pamphlets, small press books and underground newspapers,” that, if even glancingly noticed by empowered insiders, were dismissed as “leftist kookery.”[23]
    Uhl also chastises Turse for focusing more attention on atrocities committed by individual soldiers and not enough on the more deadly consequences of decisions made by those with power. Again, there is truth in this. While most soldiers must have observed or known about atrocities, only a small minority committed them. The major war criminals were presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, their advisors like McNamara and Kissinger, and the top military commanders, almost none of whom showed remorse—much less fought to end the war, as many veterans did. These men should all have been marched off to prison. People were executed for less during the Nuremburg trials after the Second World War. In any event, the principled response of the antiwar veterans did as much as anything to end the war, surely as much as what the rest of the movement accomplished. It is no accident that, as Hunt points out, Nixon and his warmongering staff were obsessed with the VVAW. One of the reasons why the Watergate burglary took place was to connect Nixon’s presidential election opponent George McGovern to the antiwar veterans.[24] Those “empowered insiders” Turse references might have seen the veterans and the complete breakdown of military command as proof positive that the war was a lost cause.

    Whitewashing the War from Jimmy Carter to Obama’s Vietnam War Commemoration

    In his article, Uhl asks whether we will ever come to grips with Vietnam. He informs us that today a majority of young Americans, age eighteen to twenty-nine, think that sending troops to Vietnam was not a mistake. This is sad, though my long experience as a teacher, who lectured often about the war, tells me that it is not a surprise. Our political rulers, much of the mainstream media, along with some scholars, filmmakers, right-wing think tanks, and the military establishment, have continued ever since 1975, when the North Vietnamese Army and the National Liberation Front achieved final victory and liberated their country, to both extinguish the truth of the war from public memory and construct a false history in its place. First, President Jimmy Carter declared, without an ounce of shame, that the United States had nothing for which to apologize because the destruction had been “mutual.”[25] Then, President Ronald Reagan called the war “a noble cause.”

    Now President Barack Obama has proclaimed a “Vietnam War Commemoration.”[26] The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act empowered the Secretary of Defense to organize events to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the War in Vietnam. The act envisions a thirteen-year commemoration, from Memorial Day 2012 until November 11, 2025. Obama issued a proclamation on the first day of this celebration, containing these remarkable words:

    As we observe the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, we reflect with solemn reverence upon the valor of a generation that served with honor. We pay tribute to the more than 3 million servicemen and women who left their families to serve bravely, a world away from everything they knew and everyone they loved. From Ia Drang to Khe Sanh, from Hue to Saigon and countless villages in between, they pushed through jungles and rice paddies, heat and monsoon, fighting heroically to protect the ideals we hold dear as Americans. Through more than a decade of combat, over air, land, and sea, these proud Americans upheld the highest traditions of our Armed Forces.[27]

    This is a lie from beginning to end. We would never know from this that, in addition to the carnage enumerated above,

  • The CIA in its Phoenix Program assassinated tens of thousands of Vietnamese suspected of being insurgents or sympathizers. U.S. social scientists, engineers, and scientists participated in this.[28]
  • More than 5 million Vietnamese were forcibly removed from their villages and compelled to live in squalid “Strategic Hamlets.”
  • Thousands of Vietnamese political prisoners were jailed and tortured in “tiger cages,” left either to die or to suffer debilitating physical and mental illnesses.

    What kind of valorous efforts were these? What kind of grand ideals did these embody?

    The Commemoration website tells us that the secretary of defense is to organize all of the Commemoration’s programs to satisfy these objectives:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • To pay tribute to the contributions made on the home front by the people of the United States during the Vietnam War.
  • To highlight the advances in technology, science, and medicine related to military research conducted during the Vietnam War.
    To recognize the contributions and sacrifices made by the allies of the United States during the Vietnam War.
  • These are all awful, but the fourth one would make the Nazis proud. Someday, no doubt, there will be a commemoration of the War on Terror (if it ever ends), and we will learn how this war gave us the marvel of drones.

    Protests against this celebration of the war have been mounted, especially as we approach the beginning of events on Memorial Day this year (2015) when, according to Lieutenant General Claude M. Kicklighter, “we will begin to recruit the nation to get behind this effort in a very big way.”[29] Famed antiwar protester Tom Hayden has spearheaded a petition drive to compel the government to give an accurate account of what happened during the war and to provide room in the remembrance for those who opposed it and to correct the egregious errors and omissions on the website’s timeline of the war. The My Lai massacre was initially called an “incident”; as a result of protest, this has been changed but the word “massacre” was not added. Historians have been critical as well, especially of the turmoil the war caused in the United States. Some antiwar veterans have called for an “alternative commemoration.”

    Other than the plans for separate oppositional events, these protests seem tepid, especially in light of the efforts to end the war noted in this essay. Hayden, for example, is not opposed to honoring the valor of U.S. soldiers, and he worries mainly that the military that got the country into the war is now in charge of memorializing it. But why should the valor of veterans be honored? Only the courage of those who opposed it, including the soldiers who did so at great risk, should be respected. And it is not true that the military got the United States into the war. Our political, economic, and intellectual elites did that. The qualms of the academics mirror those of Hayden; they seem nitpicky. The timeline, indeed the entire celebration, are exercises in imperial propaganda. What did anyone expect? Do not forget that President Carter quipped that “the destruction was mutual.” Why worry overmuch that these materials are, as the web site suggests, suitable for schools? Our kids are fed daily doses of falsehoods by their teachers, including those who teach in colleges. I will be heartened when as school districts accept materials prepared by those in charge of the commemoration, teachers and their unions refuse, en masse, to use them. I may have a long wait.

    It would be wonderful if the war were critically studied and its glorification subjected to massive public opposition combined with teach-ins, multimedia presentations, marches, and demonstrations. These could be directly tied to the interminable and deadly war on terror and the ongoing conversion of the United States into a police state.[30] They would serve as an estimable example of critical education, a counter to the hegemony, the pervasive influence of our political economy on all aspects of our lives. As Henry Giroux reminds us, one of the major functions of critical education is to keep historical memory alive, to give witness to the truth of the past so that the politics of today is vibrantly democratic. We must always be suspicious of what the powerful tell us and supportive of all that is egalitarian and liberating. Historical memory in this instance functions as a form of public pedagogy that challenges not only the dominant narratives of “America’s disimagination machine” and its glorification of war but also attempts to change the way in which the American public thinks about the horrors committed in Vietnam and the scourge of state violence and militarism.[31] However, as we take Giroux’s arguments to heart, we should stress foremost what the United States did to the Vietnamese and how these valiant people resisted and defeated the most powerful military on earth. Great damage was done to U.S. soldiers, and those who survived still suffer the agony of that long ago war. However, these pale by comparison to the brutality suffered by the Vietnamese, a violence still very much alive in the daily lives of the people in that much tried nation. It is they we should honor, commemorate, remember. They fought more valiantly and suffered more for their liberation from foreign rule than we ever did for our own. What they suffered and what they did should inspire us to redouble our efforts to combat U.S. war-making and imperialism and to educate, agitate, and build new organizations aimed at the construction of an egalitarian society worthy of human beings.


    ↩On March 16, 1968, U.S. Army soldiers slaughtered perhaps as many as 500 unarmed civilians in two Vietnamese hamlets, one of which the Army had on its maps as My Lai. Hence the name “My Lai massacre.”
    ↩Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013).
    ↩Turse’s book took shape by accident. While researching post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Vietnam veterans, Turse was asked by an archivist at the National Archives if PTSD could be triggered by witnessing war crimes. He led Turse to a trove of old files describing investigations into such transgressions by a secret Pentagon task force, charged with investigating them so that the military would be prepared for the next My Lai massacre. With this as the foundation for what would become his book, the author began a search for war crimes in Vietnam. This led him to other public archives, private archives and letters, scores of interviews with public officials, more than one hundred interviews with U.S. war veterans, trips to Vietnam where he interviewed Vietnamese who suffered grave personal mistreatment and family losses and where he visited many village war memorials, and all of the relevant secondary literature. The result is a searing indictment of the U.S. government and its top military officers, and descriptions of torture, murder, and the ruination of the Vietnamese landscape that are difficult to read.
    ↩McNamara was also President Kennedy’s secretary of defense. While there are those who believe that Kennedy would never have sent in the troops that Johnson did, Kennedy was a committed Cold Warrior. The fact that McNamara did what he did under Johnson suggests that Kennedy, by choosing him, was hardly a dove on Vietnam.
    ↩Kathleen T. Rhem, “Rumsfeld on Terrorists: Drain the Swamp They Live In,” September 18, 2001,
    ↩See Vicki Haddock, “The Science of Creating Killers,” August 13, 2006,
    ↩The training of soldiers has much in common with the training of torturers, that is, the conversion of ordinary human beings into people willing to commit horrendous acts of violence. See Janice T. Gibson and Mika Haritos-Fatouros, “The Education of a Torturer,” Psychology Today 20, no. 6 (November 1986): 246–51.
    ↩According to Turse, incentives for producing dead bodies “ranged from ‘R& R’ (rest and recreation) passes, which might allow a soldier several days of fun in the sun at a beach resort, to medals, badges, extra food, extra beer, permission to wear nonregulation gear, and light duty at base camp.” Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 44.
    ↩Westmoreland made this statement in the film Hearts and Minds (1974).
    ↩As Graham Greene’s novel, The Quiet American, makes clear, “support personnel” had been in Vietnam for many years before the major troop buildup in the mid-1960s. Graham Greene, The Quiet American (London: Penguin Classics, 2004), originally published in 1955.
    ↩Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 6.
    ↩Ibid, 11–13; Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012), chapter 10.
    ↩Turse, Kill Anything That Moves, Kindle Edition, 13.
    ↩Stone and Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States, Kindle Edition, Location 8714-8729.
    ↩Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972).
    ↩Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, Black Against Empire: the History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013). As Muhammad Ali said in explaining his refusal to be inducted into the army in 1967: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” “Muhammad Ali Explains His Refusal to Fight in Vietnam (1967),”
    ↩A few brave soldiers reported atrocities to superiors. This was dangerous to do; the person who did it risked retribution from superiors and fellow soldiers, including violence, even death. The film Casualties of War (1989), based on actual events, gives a frightening depiction of this.
    ↩Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “The Collapse of the Armed Forces,” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971,
    ↩Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York: NYU Press, 1999), Kindle Locations 4005-4007.
    ↩Ibid, Kindle Locations 4160-4161.
    ↩Good accounts of the work of the antiwar veterans can be found in the films, Sir! No Sir! (2005) and Winter Soldier Investigation (1972), as well as the Hunt book cited above, and James Simon Kunen, Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-age American (New York: Avon, 1971). The two films were generously sent to me by David Sladky. The documentary film Same, Same but Different tells the moving story of veterans who have returned to Vietnam to aid in the rebuilding of the country.
    ↩Uhl provides a link here to Michael Uhl, “A Clipping File of Veteran War Crimes Testimony Circa 1969–1971,” April 5, 2013,
    ↩Michael Uhl, “An Enfant Terrible Stumbles Upon the Vietnam War,” April 9, 2013, See also Michael Uhl, Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2007).
    ↩Hunt, The Turning, Kindle Location 4136-4144.
    ↩Jimmy Carter, “The President’s News Conference,” March 24, 1977, The American Presidency Project,
    ↩The information in the next three paragraphs, unless otherwise noted, is taken from the Commemoration’s web site: I first reported on this in 2013; see Michael D. Yates, “Oliver Stone, Obama, and the War in Vietnam,” January 11, 2013,
    ↩President of the United States of America, “Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War,” May 25, 2012,
    ↩ This is the opening paragraph. It gets worse: “As a grateful Nation, we honor more than 58,000 patriots–their names etched in black granite–who sacrificed all they had and all they would ever know. We draw inspiration from the heroes who suffered unspeakably as prisoners of war, yet who returned home with their heads held high. We pledge to keep faith with those who were wounded and still carry the scars of war, seen and unseen. With more than 1,600 of our service members still among the missing, we pledge as a Nation to do everything in our power to bring these patriots home. In the reflection of The Wall, we see the military family members and veterans who carry a pain that may never fade. May they find peace in knowing their loved ones endure, not only in medals and memories, but in the hearts of all Americans, who are forever grateful for their service, valor, and sacrifice.”
    ↩Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (Bloomington, IN: iUnivererse: 2000).
    ↩Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth,” New York Times, October 9, 2014,
    ↩The film The Kill Team shows that the same kind of training and the same killing of civilians as in Vietnam is still standard operating procedure in Iraq and Afghanistan. For more on the war on terror and the incipient U.S. police state, see Henry A. Giroux, Zombie Politics in the Age of Casino Capitalism, 2nd edition (New York: Peter Lang, 2014).
    ↩Current government expenditures, excluding interest on government debt, are less than tax revenues. There can be a primary surplus but an overall deficit if total government spending, including interest payments, is more than tax revenues.

    In preparing this essay, I was aided by the following works:


    Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, Black Against Empire: the History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013).
    Philip Caputo, A Rumor of War (New York: Macmillan, 1977).
    Frances Fitzgerald, Fire in the Lake: The Americans and Vietnamese in Vietnam (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1972).
    Võ Nguyên Giáp, The Military Art of People’s War (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
    Graham Greene, The Quiet American (London: Penguin Classics, 2004 Reprint Edition; originally published in 1955).
    David Halberstam, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random House, 1972).
    Michael Herr, Dispatches (New York: Knopf, 1977).
    Andrew E. Hunt, The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (New York: NYU Press, 1999).
    James Simon Kunen, Standard Operating Procedure: Notes of a Draft-age American (New York: Avon, 1971).
    Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1990).
    Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick, The Untold History of the United States (New York: Gallery Books, 2012)
    Nick Turse, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2013).
    Michael Uhl, Vietnam Awakening: My Journey from Combat to the Citizens’ Commission of Inquiry on U.S. War Crimes in Vietnam (Jefferson, NC: McFarland Publishing, 2007).
    Douglas Valentine, The Phoenix Program (Bloomington, IN: iUnivererse: 2000).

    Leo Cawley, “An Ex-Marine Sees Platoon,” Monthly Review 39, no. 2 (June 1987): 6–18.
    Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr., “The Collapse of the Armed Forces,” Armed Forces Journal, June 7, 1971,
    Neil Sheehan, “Should We Have War Crimes Trials?,” New York Times Book Review, March 28, 1971,
    Sheryl Gay Stolberg, “Paying Respects, Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth,” New York Times, October 9, 2014,

    Anderson Platoon, The (1967)
    Apocalypse Now (1979)
    Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
    Born on the Fourth of July (1989)
    Casualties of War (1989)
    Deer Hunter, The (1978)
    Fog of War, The (2003)
    Full Metal Jacket (1987)
    Hearts and Minds (1974)
    Kill Team, The (2013)
    Most Dangerous Man in America, The (2009)
    Platoon (1986)
    Quiet American, The (1958 and 2002)
    Same, Same But Different (2012)
    Sir! No Sir! (2005)
    Untold History of the United States, The, Showtime Television series (2012)
    Vietnam: American Holocaust (2008)
    Winter Soldier Investigation (1972)

PFLP salutes the Black struggle in the US: The empire will fall from within

PFLP salutes the Black struggle in the US: The empire will fall from within

August 2014

In light of the police murder of the martyr Michael Brown and the ongoing struggle in Ferguson, Missouri, in the United States, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine salutes and stands firmly with the ongoing struggle of Black people and all oppressed communities in the United States.

Comrade Khaled Barakat said in an interview with the PFLP media outlets that “Police brutality, oppression and murder against Black people in the U.S., and against Latinos, Arabs and Muslims, people of color and poor people, has never been merely ‘mistakes’ or ‘violations of individual rights’ but rather are part and parcel of an integral and systematic racism that reflects the nature of the political system in the U.S.”

“Every time a crime is committed against Black people, it is explained away as an ‘isolated incident’ but when you see the massive number of ‘isolated incidents’ the reality cannot be hidden – this is an ongoing policy that remains virulently racist and oppressive. The U.S. empire was built on the backs of Black slavery and the genocide of Black people – and upon settler colonialism and the genocide of indigenous people,” said Barakat. “The people of Ferguson are resisting, in a long tradition of Black resistance, and we support their legitimate resistance to racist oppression.”

“As people in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Arab World see the brutality of the United States outside its borders, these communities confront its racist and colonial oppression within the borders of the U.S. The two are inextricably linked,” said Barakat. “We also see U.S. exploitation and plunder of people’s resources around the world. And inside the United States, Africans, Latinos, Filipinos, Afghans, Arabs who have suffered war and imperialism at the hands of the United States outside its borders are the same communities who face criminalization, brutality, exploitation, isolation and killings and murder at the hands of the state. We see the targeting of migrants and refugees inside the U.S. after their countries have been ravaged by imperialism, war and exploitation by the same ruling forces.”

Barakat noted that “Mass imprisonment and incarceration has been a central tool of racist control in the United States. One out of every three Black men in the U.S. will be imprisoned; every 28 hours a Black person is killed by the state or someone protected by the state. Palestinians know well the use of mass imprisonment to maintain racist domination and oppression and breaking the racist structures of imprisonment is critical to our liberation movement. We salute Mumia Abu-Jamal and all of the political prisoners of the Black liberation movement in U.S. jails and call for their immediate freedom.”

Furthermore, he said, “since the earliest days of the Black movement in the U.S., from slaves revolting for freedom to the civil rights movement and beyond, Black people, organizations and movements have faced severe state repression, targeting, incarceration and killings at the hands of the state. U.S. domestic intelligence agencies such as the FBI, who target Palestinian and Arab communities for state repression, have for years focused on attacking Black movements, leaders and communities as a central project.”

“Racism, poverty and oppression are the predominant scene faced by oppressed nations and communities in the United States. Black people in the United States are in fact under siege. And just as we demand the end of the siege on our Palestinian people, in Gaza and everywhere, we demand an end to the siege of institutionalized racism and oppression in education, jobs, social services and all areas of life, and support the Black movements struggling to end that siege.”

“When we see the images today in Ferguson, we see another emerging Intifada in the long line of Intifada and struggle that has been carried out by Black people in the U.S. and internationally. The Palestinian national liberation movement salutes the Black liberation movement, and has learned so much from the experiences of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Frederick Douglass, the Black Panthers, Sojourner Truth, and generations of Black revolutionaries who have led the way in struggling for liberation and self-determination,” said Barakat.

“The struggle inside the United States is an integral part of the struggle against imperialism – in fact it is central, as it is taking place ‘in the belly of the beast.’ This is also the case for the struggle of Indigenous peoples and nations throughout North America, where settler colonial powers have been built through land theft and genocide, yet where indigenous people have always resisted and continue to resist today,” he said.

“Every victory inside the United States and political achievement by popular movements and liberation struggles is a victory for Palestine and a victory for a world of human liberation. Those who think that the fate of people in the United States lies with the ruling class parties, the Republicans and Democrats, until the end of time, are living in an illusion. So too are those who believe Palestine can find freedom by seeking alliances or guarantees by those who oppress Black people,” said Barakat.

“The Black struggle is leading the world in the struggle for an alternative political system that will bring U.S. empire to defeat. We know that this will happen only through struggle, through organization of people, emerging from uprisings and communities rising in anger against injustice,” said Barakat.

“The anti-racist movement and anti-Zionist movement are not and cannot be separated. Fighting against racism means fighting capitalism; fighting against capitalism means fighting for socialism,” Barakat said.

The Front encourages all Palestinians, and especially our Palestinian community in the United States, to continue and intensify their efforts in support of the Black liberation movement, from joining actions in support of Ferguson and in honor of Michael Brown, to long-term and sustained joint struggle and mutual solidarity with the Black movement. There are long histories of this work, and it is critical for all of our communities to expand and deepen our links of struggle and solidarity.

The PFLP sends its revolutionary greetings, its solidarity message and its salutes to the struggling people of Ferguson on the front lines confronting U.S. empire, and to the generations upon generations of Black struggle. Our Palestinian liberation movement is part of one struggle with the Black liberation movement. This has been a position of principle for the Front since its founding; we reaffirm this stand today and will always do so until both of our peoples – and our world – are liberated.

Anti-Empire Report #130

William Blum

Official website of the author, historian, and U.S. foreign policy critic.

US – UK Aggression against Iraq

US – UK Aggression against Iraq

An immoral, shameful, counter-productive, illegal and criminal act

Statement by Elias Davidsson, Reykjavik, Iceland For immediate release. 17. Dec. 1998

Immoral: To attack an impoverished nation, unable to defend itself, knowing that such an attack will cause the death of thousands of innocent people.

Shameful: To use the most sophisticated modern weaponry against a a third-world country in the middle of night, while the people of Iraq prepare for Ramadan and Christmas (yes, there are many Christians in Iraq).

Counter-productive: By throwing bombs on cities and civilians one does not bring about well-being, democracy, justice and international tolerance, which is the aim of the United Nations. Such acts of terror will only feed resentment, revenge and hate among the survivors of the act of aggression. Our children may have to pay a heavy price for such short-sighted policies.

Illegal: To commit a premeditated attack on a UN member state without explicit mandate by the Security Council and not in self-defense’ is an illegal act under international law. The Security Council has not endorsed the aggression by the US/UK on Iraq! This illegal act is a breach of the Charter of the United Nations.

Criminal: Acts of premeditated aggression by UN member states such as the aggression by the US/UK on Iraq, are defined as an international crime by the Nuremberg Charter of 1945 and by the UN International Law Commission. Individual leaders who order such acts are regarded as enemies of mankind and must be prosecuted.

Peace-loving and law-abiding people all over the world denounce the vicious breaches of the peace committed by such terrorist governments as Iraq, the United States and the United Kingdom, who show utter disregard for the rule of law, for justice and for peace.

Send the State Department to War

Send the State Department to War!

by Max Boot, The New York Times, November 14, 2007

(Max Boot is a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “War Made New: Weapons, Warriors and the Making of the Modern World”)

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

THE State Department has announced that it will force 50 foreign service officers to go to Iraq, whether they want to or not. This is the biggest use of “directed assignments” since the Vietnam War, and it represents a long-overdue response to complaints that diplomats aren’t pulling their weight in Iraq and Afghanistan.

However welcome, this is only a baby step toward a larger objective: to reorient the department and the government as a whole for the global war on Islamic terrorism. Yes, this is a war, but it’s a very different war from conventional conflicts like World War II or the Civil War. It is, in essence, a global counterinsurgency, and few counterinsurgencies have ever been won by force alone.

While maintaining military power remains important, even more crucial goals are aiding moderate Muslims, countering enemy propaganda, promoting economic growth, flexing our political and diplomatic muscles to achieve vital objectives peacefully, gathering intelligence, promoting international cooperation, and building the rule of law in ungoverned lands.

The government developed expertise in many of these areas during the cold war, but those skills were lost as budgets were slashed and jobs eliminated during the “peace dividend” decade of the 1990s. Because civilian capacity has been so anemic, an undue burden has fallen on the military — something that soldiers understandably resent.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recognizes the problem and has tried to reorient the State Department. She has, among other steps, moved diplomats out of Western Europe and into the developing world, set up a “war room” where Arabic-speaking diplomats can address the Middle Eastern press, and fostered a clumsily named Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to plan for nation-building assignments.

Such efforts, however, are unlikely to succeed because they run counter to centuries of State Department tradition that emphasizes liaison work with established governments rather than creating governments from scratch or communicating with foreign citizens over the heads of their leaders.

Modern management theory holds that small, tightly focused organizations are likely to be more effective than large conglomerates that try to do a million different things. If we apply that insight to the State Department, it would make sense to undo some ruinous consolidations that occurred after the cold war, when the United States Agency for International Development was placed within the State Department’s sphere of influence and the United States Information Agency was folded into the department outright. No wonder our capacities in nation-building and strategic communications have withered — their practitioners are second-class citizens behind traditional foreign service officers.

The information and development agencies should be made independent again, and their resources expanded. The Agency for International Development, in particular, has seen a precipitous decline in personnel. In the 1960s, it had 1,900 officers in South Vietnam alone. Today it has only 1,200 to cover the entire world, forcing it to rely mainly on contractors. If we expand its ranks, it could become our lead nation-building agency, sort of a global FEMA, marshaling the kind of resources that have been lacking in Iraq and Afghanistan.

To buttress the growing corps of government reconstruction experts, we should have civilian reservists on call who could be summoned by the Agency for International Development in an emergency like military reservists. They could bring expertise in municipal administration, sewage treatment, banking, electricity generation, and countless other disciplines needed to rebuild a war-torn country. President Bush endorsed this notion in his last State of the Union address, but too little has been done to turn it into reality.

One of the most important shortages we have faced in Iraq and Afghanistan is in experienced police officers who can train local counterparts. Much of the job has fallen on the military police, whose troops are too few in number, and on civilian contractors, who are of uneven quality. We need to fill the vacuum by creating a federal constabulary force — a uniformed counterpart to the F.B.I. that, like the Italian carabinieri, could be deployed abroad.

Its efforts could be supplemented by municipal policemen if we pass a law allowing the federal government to call up local police officers without loss of pay or seniority and to compensate hometown police departments for their absence. Along with these police officers, we need a deployable corps of lawyers, judges and prison guards who could set up functioning legal and penal systems abroad.

Even with increased participation from civilian branches of government, the armed forces will still have a major role to play in what President Bush calls the “Long War.” But not necessarily a kinetic role. If we can train and advise foreign militaries, they can fight our battles for us. This model was demonstrated as long ago as the 1950s when Edward Lansdale and other advisers helped the Philippines put down a Marxist uprising, and has been repeated more recently in Somalia and the Phillipines.

Yet, important as it is, the United States military has not put enough emphasis on training and promoting experts in foreign military assistance. Such duty has traditionally been seen as a hindrance to promotion, which has made it tough to attract the best officers.

Lt. Col. John Nagl, a counterinsurgency expert, has suggested setting up an “adviser corps” of 20,000 soldiers. His idea would make advisory service not a career detour but a career in itself, equal, at least in theory, to infantry, armor and other traditional specialties. Some advisers, in turn, could be deployed as part of the “country team” at American embassies — something that happened routinely in the 1950s and ’60s but has since fallen into disuse.

Along with pushing advisory expertise, the armed forces also need to promote linguistic and cultural knowledge. Such skills are to be found primarily in Foreign Area Officers, but that is another career field whose practitioners are traditionally expected to commit career suicide. The military needs to increase the ranks of Foreign Area Officers and to provide more rewards for their much-needed service. We will have a hard time prevailing in today’s war as long as fewer than one-half of 1 percent of all service members have any grasp of Arabic.

Even while expanding governmental capacity, we also need to improve coordination among various branches of government, and between the government and nongovernmental and international organizations. That type of unified action has been in short supply in Iraq and Afghanistan, leading to nonstop complaints about how broken the “interagency” process has become.

James R. Locher, a former Congressional aide who helped draft the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act that brought greater coordination among the different branches of the military, is now leading a nonpartisan consortium of Washington policy and research groups that is trying to devise legislation to enhance the “unity of effort” among different branches of the government. Ideas under consideration include forcing civilian bureaucrats to serve a “joint tour” in a different agency and creating regional diplomatic coordinators who would marshal civilian agencies in the same way that the Pentagon’s Central Command and Pacific Command coordinate military units abroad. A partial prototype of this concept may be tested with the Defense Department’s new Africa Command, which is going to have a larger civilian component than the other combat commands.

Mr. Locher’s goal is to write a bill that would update the legendary National Security Act of 1947, which created the bureaucratic instruments (the C.I.A., Defense Department, National Security Council and the like) used to win the cold war. He hopes to have legislation ready in time for a new president in 2009. That’s an ambitious objective, but it’s one worth striving for if we’re going to adjust to the post-9/11 era of American foreign policy.

Some will no doubt object that to build up these capacities will encourage reckless “imperialism” or “militarism.” But improving our abilities in nation-building, strategic communications, security advising and related disciplines will actually lessen the chances that we will need to mount a major military intervention such as the one in Iraq. Our goal should be not just to deal with the aftermath of wars (Phase IV, in military parlance) but to solve problems before they grow into full-blown wars. In other words, to win Phase Zero.

Statement by James P. Warburg on a “world government”

We shall have world government, whether or not we like it. The question is only whether world government will be achieved by consent or by conquest. (Jewish Banker Paul Warburg, February 17, 1950, testifying before the U.S. Senate).


I am James P. Warburg, of Greenwich, Conn., and am appearing as an individual.

I am aware, Mr. Chairman, of the exigencies of your crowded schedule and of the need to be brief, so as not to transgress upon your courtesy in granting me a hearing.

The past 15 years of my life have been devoted almost exclusively to studying the problem of world peace and, especially, the relation of the United States to these problems. These studies led me, 10 years ago, to the conclusion that the great question of our time is not whether or not one world can be achieved, but whether or not one world can be achieved by peaceful means.

We shall have world government, whether or not we like it. The question is only whether world government will be achieved by consent or by conquest.

Today we are faced with a divided world—its two halves glowering at each other across the iron curtain. The world’s two superpowers—Russia and the United States—are entangled in the vicious circle of an arms race, which more and more preempts energies and resources sorely needed to lay the foundations of enduring peace. We are now on the road to eventual war—a war in which the conqueror will emerge well nigh indistinguishable from the vanquished.

The United States does not want this war, and most authorities agree that Russia does not want it. Indeed, why should Russia prefer the unpredictable hazards of war to a continuation of here present profitable fishing in the troubled waters of an uneasy armistice? Yet both the United States and Russia are drifting—and, with them, the entire world—toward the abyss of atomic conflict.


Mr. Chairman, I am here to testify in favor of Senate Resolution 56, which, if concurrently enacted with the House, would make the peaceful transformation of the United Nations into a world federation the avowed aim of United States policy. The passage of this resolution seems to me the first prerequisite toward the development of an affirmative American policy which would lead us out of the valley of death and despair.

I am fully aware that the mere passage of this resolution will not solve the complex problems with which we are confronted. Our recognition of the inadequacy of the present United Nations structure, and our declared determination to strengthen that structure by Charter amendment, will not alone overcome the Russian obstacle. But it will, at long last, chart our own goal and enable us to steer a straight course toward a clearly seen objective. Moreover, it will unite us in purpose with the vast majority of the peoples of the non-Soviet world.

Until we have established this goal, we shall continue to befog and befuddle our own vision by clinging to the illusion that the present structure of the United Nations would work, if only the Russians would let it work. That has been our position to date.

Until we establish this goal, we shall continue to ask other peoples to unite with us only in the negative purpose of stopping Russia. Fear-inspired negative action makes poor cement for unity.

Once we shall have declared a positive purpose—once we shall have cemented the united will of the free peoples in a common aspiration— we shall be in a far stronger position to deal with the obstacles presented to the realization of that purpose.

American Job Loss Is Permanent

American Job Loss Is Permanent

By Paul Craig Roberts

October 28, 2010 “Information Clearing House” — — Now that a few Democrats and the remnants of the AFL-CIO are waking up to the destructive impact of jobs offshoring on the US economy and millions of American lives, globalism’s advocates have resurrected Dartmouth economist Matthew Slaughter’s discredited finding of several years ago that jobs offshoring by US corporations increases employment and wages in the US. 

At the time I exposed Slaughter’s mistakes, but economists dependent on corporate largess understood that it was more profitable to drink Slaughter’s kool-aid than to tell the truth. Recently the US Chamber of Commerce rolled out Slaughter’s false argument as a weapon against House Democrats Sandy Levin and Tim Ryan, and the Wall Street Journal had Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary, William S. Cohen, regurgitate Slaughter’s claim on its op-ed page on October 12.

I sent a letter to the Wall Street Journal, but the editors were not interested in what a former associate editor and columnist for the paper and President Reagan’s Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy had to say. The facade of lies has to be maintained at all costs. There can be no questioning that globalism is good for us.

Cohen told the Journal’s readers that “the fact is that for every job outsourced to Bangalore, nearly two jobs are created in Buffalo and other American cities.” I bet Buffalo “and other American cities” would like to know where these jobs are. Maybe Slaughter, Cohen, and the Chamber of Commerce can tell them.

Last May I was in St. Louis and was struck by block after block of deserted and boarded up homes, deserted factories and office buildings, even vacant downtown storefronts. 
Detroit is trying to shrink itself by 40 square miles. On October 25, 60 Minutes had a program on unemployment in Silicon Valley, where formerly high-earning professionals have been out of work for two years and today cannot even find part-time $9 an hour jobs at Target.

The claim that jobs offshoring by US corporations increases domestic employment in the US is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated. As I demonstrated in my syndicated column at the time and again in my book, How The Economy Was Lost (2010), Slaughter reached his erroneous conclusion by counting the growth in multinational jobs in the U.S. without adjusting the data to reflect the acquisition of existing firms by multinationals and for existing firms turning themselves into multinationals by establishing foreign operations for the first time. There was no new multinational employment in the U.S. Existing employment simply moved into the multinational category from a change in the status of firms to multinational.

If Slaughter (or Cohen) had consulted the Bureau of Labor Statistics nonfarm payroll jobs data, he would have been unable to locate the 5.5 million jobs that were allegedly created. In my columns I have reported for about a decade the details of new jobs creation in the U.S. as revealed by the BLS data, as has Washington economist Charles McMillion. Over the last decade, the net new jobs created in the U.S. have nothing to do with multinational corporations. The jobs consist of waitresses and bartenders, health care and social services (largely ambulatory health care), retail clerks, and while the bubble lasted, construction.

These are not the high-tech, high-paying jobs that the “New Economy” promised, and they are not jobs that can be associated with global corporations. Moreover, these domestic service jobs are themselves scarce.

But facts have nothing to do with it. Did Slaughter, Cohen, the Chamber, and the Wall Street Journal ever wonder how it was possible to have simultaneously millions of new good-paying middle class jobs and virtually the worst income inequality in the developed world with all income gains accruing to the mega-rich?

In mid-October Treasury Secretary and Goldman Sachs puppet Tim Geithner gave a speech in California in the backyard, or former backyard, of 60 Minutes’ Silicon Valley dispossessed upper middle class interviewees in which Geithner said that the solution is to “educate more engineers.”

We already have more engineers than we have jobs for them. In a recent poll a Philadelphia marketing and research firm, Twentysomething, found that 85% of recent college graduates planned to move back home with parents. Even if members of the “boomeranger generation” find jobs, the jobs don’t pay enough to support an independent existence. 

The financial media is useless. Reporters repeat the lie that the unemployment rate is 9.6%. This is a specially concocted unemployment rate that does not count most of the unemployed. The government’s own more inclusive rate stands at 17%. Statistician John Williams, who counts unemployment the way it is supposed to be counted, finds the unemployment rate to be 22%.

The financial press turns bad news into good news. Recently a monthly gain of 64,000 new private sector jobs was hyped, jobs that were more than offset by the loss in government jobs. Moreover, it takes around 150,000 new jobs each month to keep pace with labor force growth. In other words, 100,000 new jobs each month would be a 50,000 jobs deficit.

The idiocy of the financial press is demonstrated by the following two headlines which appeared on October 19 on the same Bloomberg page:

“Dollar Index Appreciates as Geithner Supports Currency Strength”

“Geithner Weak Dollar Seen as U.S. Recovery Route”

To keep eyes off of the loss of jobs to offshoring, policymakers and their minions in the financial press blame US unemployment on alleged currency manipulation by China and on the financial crisis. The financial crisis itself is blamed by Republicans on low income Americans who took out mortgages that they could not afford. 

In other words, the problem is China and the greedy American poor who tried to live above their means. With this being the American mindset, you can see why nothing can be done to save the economy.

No government will admit its mistakes, especially when it can blame foreigners. China is being made the scapegoat for American failure. An entire industry has grown up that points its finger at China and away from 20 years of corporate offshoring of US jobs and 9 years of expensive and pointless US wars.

“Currency manipulation” is the charge. However, the purpose of the Chinese peg to the US dollar is not currency manipulation. When the Chinese government decided to take its broken communist economy into a market economy, the government understood that it needed foreign confidence in its currency. It achieved that by pegging its currency to the dollar, signaling that China’s money was as sound as the US dollar. At that time, China, of course, could not credibly give its currency a higher dollar value. 

As time has passed, the irresponsible and foolish policies of the US have eroded the
dollar’s value, and as the Chinese currency is pegged to the dollar, its value has moved down with the dollar. The Chinese have not manipulated the peg in order to make their currency less valuable. 

To the contrary, when I was in China in 2006, the exchange rate was a little more than 8 yuan to the dollar. Today it is 6.6 yuan to the dollar–a 17.5% revaluation of the yuan.

The US government blames the US trade deficit with China on an undervalued Chinese currency. However, the Chinese currency has risen 17.5% against the dollar since 2006, but the US trade deficit with China has not declined. 

The major cause of the US trade deficit with China is “globalism” or the practice, enforced by Wall Street and Wal-Mart, of US corporations offshoring their production for US markets to China in order to improve the bottom line by lowering labor costs. Most of the tariffs that the congressional idiots want to put on “Chinese” imports would, therefore, fall on the offshored production of US corporations. When these American brand goods, such as Apple computers, are brought to US markets, they enter the US as imports. Thus, the tariffs will be applied to US corporate offshored output as well as to the exports of Chinese companies to the US. 

The correct conclusion is that the US trade deficit with China is the result of “globalism” or jobs offshoring, not Chinese currency manipulation.

An important point always overlooked is that the US is dependent on China for many manufactured products including high technology products that are no longer
produced in the US. Revaluation of the Chinese currency would raise the dollar price of these products in the US. The greater the revaluation, the greater the price rise. The impact on already declining US living standards would be dramatic. 

When US policymakers argue that the solution to America’s problems is a stronger Chinese currency, they are yet again putting the burden of adjustment on the out-of-work, indebted, and foreclosed American population.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

US faces dilemma as Soviet Union crumbles

September 1, 1991

SOVIET TURMOIL; Farewell, Red Menace: U.S. Starts Altering Its Perspective on the World

KENNEBUNKPORT, Me., Aug. 31— Just when the United States had adjusted to the idea that the Kremlin had turned from implacable enemy to benign adversary, the breathtaking events in the Soviet Union have forced the country to confront the possibility that soon there may be no adversary there at all.

The sudden prospect that the Soviet Union will cease to exist in its current form has implications that go far beyond Soviet-American relations, and the Soviet upheaval has already forced the Bush Administration to begin re-examining its fundamental policy goals.

So far, Bush Administration officials, as stunned as everyone by the events in Moscow, are focusing on short-term problems and making only modest changes in policy. Direct Aid to Republics

The White House made clear this week, for example, that it was prepared to send humanitarian aid directly to the republics, bypassing the collapsing central Government in Moscow. It also was encouraging the Soviet Union to maintain at least an economic union, and taking advantage of the upheaval to press Moscow to reduce military spending.

For 45 years, the Soviet Union has been the lens through which American foreign policy around the world and American military thinking, especially nuclear strategy, have been focused.

The threat of Communism has been at the heart of virtually every crisis the United States has faced since World War II, crystallizing national resolve in such seminal events as the Berlin airlift of 1948 and the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, or convulsing American society in darker passages, like the Vietnam War. Pervaded American Life

Fear of Communism and the Kremlin has touched almost every aspect of American life — literature, theater, the movies, television, the universities, main street.

Always painted in menacing shadows, the Kremlin has been a powerful and at times distorting influence on domestic politics since the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, from the anti-Communist raids led by Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer in 1919 to the witch hunts and blacklists of the McCarthy period in the 1950’s to the Reagan Administration’s politically divisive efforts to roll back Soviet influence in Nicaragua in the 1980’s.

The effort to repel Communism was the binding force of the modern conservative coalition, helping to keep Republicans in the White House, and the specter of the Soviet enemy has helped define the nation’s image of itself as the defender of threatened freedoms. The Soviet Union was the yardstick by which Americans measured their successes and their place in the world: the fear of losing the space race and falling behind in science when Sputnik soared into orbit in 1957, for example, or the national jubilation when sledgehammers tore into the Berlin Wall in 1989, and now for many a sense that the American-led stand against Communism and the Soviet Union has succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations. The ‘New World Order’ Ages

When President Bush offered his “new world order” a year ago to explain why the nation had to face war with Iraq during another tumultuous August, he grounded his vision on the assumption that there would continue to be a Soviet Union — much like the one that had existed since 1917, just friendlier and less of a military threat.

Last week, the President seemed to acknowledge the passing of that epoch. “Out of this change in the Soviet Union, if we handle it properly and if things keep going forward instead of slipping back, there’s an opportunity for a vastly restructured national security posture,” he said.

Cautious as ever, he added, “It’s way too early — way too early — to get into that.”

But even as he spoke, his Government was in the early stages of what eventually may be a fundamental rewriting of American policy, and a new debate was quickly developing in Washington about whether to make deeper cuts in the Pentagon budget.

The short-term questions the Administration is studying are perplexing enough: Who are the new people taking over the Soviet Union? Will Mikhail S. Gorbachev or Boris N. Yeltsin emerge the nation’s leader? Who is in control of the Soviet nuclear arsenal? How much food will the Soviet Union need this winter?

“All we can do now is to try to do everything we can think of to position ourselves to be able to move rapidly when the situation clarifies,” a senior official said. More Fundamental Questions

But beyond these questions are more fundamental ones, each of which may require sweeping changes in American policy. Will the central Soviet Government survive, and if not, what will emerge? How will the United States do business with four or five or more Governments where there is now one? What are the responsibilities of the United States as the only superpower in what used to be a two-superpower world? Against whom is the United States now arming itself militarily and ideologically?

“We’ve got to begin to lay an intellectual base for U.S. involvement in the world, a rationale that people understand and support and around which you can build a consensus, as was done with containment,” said Representative Lee Hamilton, Democrat of Indiana. Mr. Hamilton was referring to the goal of “containing” the Soviet bloc, which was set soon after World War II and has been the driving force behind American policy on the Soviet Union since then.

Already, the upheaval in Moscow has complicated a central aim of American foreign policy over the last two years: maintaining influence in Western Europe. Justification for NATO

“We’ve been talking for some time now about how to manage the breakdown of the cold war institutions, like NATO, without boxing us out of Europe,” an Administration official said. “That was hard enough with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact and it’s much harder now.”

The United States will be “looking to the European Community to pick up a major share of the financial burden” as Soviet republics emerge as countries, an American official said.

The Bush Administration was confident before the coup that it had forestalled the demise of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but that debate is now rejoined. What will justify NATO’s existence if there is no Soviet military from which to protect Western Europe?

Caspar W. Weinberger, the former Secretary of Defense, argued that the military threat was not gone as long as whatever form of country emerged retained an enormous nuclear arsenal and a large conventional military.

But Senator Richard Lugar, Republican of Indiana, said the United States should consider a security system that might include Poland, Hungary and even some former Soviet republics, like the Baltics, after they are free. “We ought to take a careful look at people who share our same ethos for democracy and market economics and right now are in a netherworld with regard to security,” Mr. Lugar said. Questions About Asia

The Bush Administration also faces important questions about its dealings with Asia, where the Soviet Union is less important and Japan is increasingly powerful.

Domestically, the Administration will argue that there is a need for a strong American military, citing the threat posed by Iraq last summer as a clear example. That may buy some time. But it is increasingly apparent that with the potential breakup of the Soviet Union, the current basis for American nuclear policy may not be enough to hold a consensus for military spending.

Despite all the changes of the last two years, that policy is still based on the principle of “strategic deterrence” — the amassing of nuclear weapons, initially to deter a Soviet attack on Western Europe and more recently to deter a Soviet nuclear attack.

The American intelligence community, as well, is being challenged to change from an organization devoted to spying on the Soviet Union and thwarting its foreign policy to one that deals with a more diverse world.

As perceptions and attitudes change, longstanding principles are already colliding with pragmatic goals. In the Soviet Union, the United States is torn between its support for self-determination and the Administration’s belief that central control over the military, trade and foreign aid and some aspects of foreign policy is desirable to maintain stability. Political Considerations

Politically, Republicans have held on to the White House in large measure because of the perception that their party has been better equipped to safeguard the national security, even if opinion polls say that they do not handle the economy as well as Democrats.

But the disappearance of a Soviet enemy stands that notion on its head. It may no longer be enough simply to argue, as Mr. Bush does, that the United States has a responsibility to keep the peace and, in fact, is the only country that can do so.

“People are very proud of the fact that the United States is the superpower and the leader in the world,” Mr. Hamilton said. “At the same time, they think we can better solve our problems at home if we scale down our efforts overseas. They’ve got a real doubt in their minds about whether they want to pay the taxes and send the young men and women abroad in support of that role.”

As the Soviet Union undergoes its metamorphosis, even vocabularies will haveto change. American officials now grope for a word to describe the Soviet Union. Certainly, the word “Kremlin” is losing its symbolism as the monolith of Soviet power. Hard-line, conservative, liberal, Communist, all have new meanings — or no meaning at all.

There is little in the modern American experience to prepare Washington for this upheaval.

“The challenge now is the transformation of a vast empire and that was never part of our agenda,” said Richard Perle, former Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Mr. Perle added: “Our international agenda for 40 years was much more modest, to cope with the Soviet Union, which we saw as a military threat, not to transform the Soviet Union itself. Even the rollback policy, which was considered adventurist in the cold war, never contemplated involving the United States in the transformation of Soviet society or the Soviet republics.”

Photo: President Bush returning to the club house after a downpour cancelled his golf game yesterday in Kennebunkport, Me. (Associated Press)

People’s War in Vietnam


People’s War in Vietnam


Perhaps because I thought Timothy J. Lomperis had made some of the same errors I had found in the work of Colonel Harry Summers, I reacted rather strongly to Lomperis’ 1988 article in Parameters.1 Unfortunately, the editor of that journal did not look as favorably upon my submission as his predecessor had upon my response to Summers. Seeing what I believed to be an erroneous analysis of the Vietnam War becoming so widely accepted was too disturbing for me to give up in my attempt to present what I believed to be a more accurate alternative interpretation. Although he rejected my manuscript, the editor at Parameters made a number of helpful suggestions, and a revised version of my paper appeared in The Journal of Military History in 1990.

The argument below elaborates upon a number of points treated in a cursory manner in the previous chapter. I believe that the two chapters taken together undermine the widely held view, evident in the quotations below, that the conflict in Vietnam was a war of aggression rather than a revolutionary civil war.



* * * * * *


. . . the war in Vietnam was not a true insurgency but a thinly disguised aggression –Norman B. Hannah, 1975.


However the conflict began decades earlier, it has not ended as a bonafide civil war –Colonel Robert D. Heinl, 1975.


It was not . . . a victory for people’s revolutionary war but a straight forward conventional invasion and conquest –Sir Robert Thompson, 1975.


There is great irony in the fact that the North Vietnamese finally won by purely conventional means, using precisely the kind of warfare at which the American army was best equipped to fight –W. Scott Thompson & Colonel Donaldson D. Frizzell, 1977.


There are still those who would attempt to fit it into the revolutionary war mold and who blame our defeat on our failure to implement counterinsurgency doctrine. This point of view requires an acceptance of the North Vietnamese contention that the war was a civil war, and that the North Vietnamese regular forces were an extension of the guerrilla effort, a point of view not borne out by the facts –Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., 1982.


In Vietnam, the guerrillas largely disappeared after they rose to mount a conventional attack, and the war then had to be won by the communists in conventional, almost American, terms –Timothy J. Lomperis, 1988.


The argument that in Vietnam the communists, often seen as "North" Vietnamese, triumphed in 1975 using "a conventional-war strategy" rather than engaging in a successful people’s or revolutionary war is obviously not a new one, and it may even represent the predominant view of the war among senior American military officers and government officials. At first glance the argument appears to be quite reasonable, buttressed by the credentials of the people making it, and it has great appeal to readers who may want to avoid interpretations implying that the United States lost the war in Vietnam because of its inability to combat a communist insurgency.2

In 1975 American TV viewers saw the tanks of communist regular forces moving through the streets of Saigon and into the grounds of the Presidential Palace, a scene that has been rerun numerous times since its original filming. The powerful image of that particular footage, more reminiscent of World War II than the combat in Vietnam during the 1960s, lends support to the argument that people’s war failed and that the war ended in a purely conventional attack. Also supporting such a view is the evidence, not widely recognized in the United States at the time, that local communist forces in South Vietnam were devastated during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Data gathered in the last years of the war indicated that many Vietnamese, particularly in the South, were tired of war, and even the communists noticed that enthusiasm for their cause was waning. It is thus no surprise that with the passage of time the proposition that people’s war failed in Vietnam and was replaced by a more successful conventional-war strategy has gained widespread acceptance.

One should be wary, however, of any argument that fits so well with the long-standing conventional war bias of the American military or the individual desires of people who served in Vietnam or supported the American involvement to believe that the United States was not defeated there. As persuasive and comforting as arguments about the failure of people’s war, the conquest of South Vietnam by the North Vietnamese, or the communist adoption of a conventional-war strategy may seem, they should be viewed with great skepticism, for they are often rooted in serious conceptual errors.

The war in Vietnam was not a war of aggression by the North against the South, nor was it ever a purely conventional war. From start to finish, the Vietnam War was a people’s war, and the communists won because they had, as one American general who served in Vietnam observed, "a coherent, long-term, and brilliant grand strategy–the strategy of revolutionary war."3

In arguing the case that the war in Vietnam was primarily a conventional conflict, a number of authors have equated people’s war with guerrilla warfare. They maintain that the inability of the communists to overthrow the Saigon government using guerrillas alone and the use of large numbers of regular troops in the final offensive of 1975 proves either the speciousness of the communist claim to have been fighting a people’s war or the complete failure of people’s war with the 1968 Tet Offensive. To understand people’s war, however, one must view the phenomenon through the eyes of its practitioners, and the writings of well known Vietnamese revolutionaries indicate clearly that the use of guerrillas was never the principal feature of the communist approach.

In Vietnamese communist writing, people’s war is defined in terms of its participants and its goals, as well as its strategies and tactics. General Vo Nguyen Giap described it as "essentially a peasant’s war under the leadership of the working class," a view present also in the writing of Truong Chinh, another important leader of the Vietnamese communist movement.4 Leadership resided in the communist party organization, as the representative of the working class, but the goal of mobilization was to create "a firm and wide national united front based on the worker-peasant alliance."5

For the Vietnamese communists, the political dimensions of people’s war were particularly significant. Giap claimed that in fighting against the French, "the agrarian policy of the Party played a determining role," and he referred to the importance of building "political forces" again in a 1967 discussion of the war in the South.6 Truong Chinh maintained that "military action can only succeed when politics are correct," adding that "conversely, politics cannot be fulfilled without the success of military action."7 In their theoretical and historical writings, the Vietnamese communists placed such importance on the coordination of the military and political dimensions of people’s war that Giap called it "a law of the revolutionary struggle in our country."8

As described by the communists, the process of people’s war was always far more comprehensive than interpretations emphasizing guerrilla warfare acknowledge. Truong Chinh wrote of resistance that "must be carried out in every field: military, economic, political and cultural," and Giap observed that "the fight against the enemy on all fronts–military, political, cultural, diplomatic, and so forth–is waged at the same time."9 In his description of the people’s war against the French, Giap noted that "parallel with the fight against the enemy, . . . our Party implemented positive lines of action in every aspect, did its utmost to mobilise, educate and organize the masses, to increase production, practice economy, and build local armed and semi-armed forces."10 To focus solely on the military elements of people’s war is to miss the essential comprehensiveness of the approach.

Even when writing about the strictly military aspects of people’s war the communists presented a picture of the phenomenon that is totally at odds with a fixation on guerrilla warfare. If any single strategic element predominated in the Vietnamese conception of people’s war, it was protraction rather than the use of guerrillas. Ho Chi Minh observed in 1950 that "in military affairs time is of prime importance," and he ranked it "first among the three factors for victory, before the terrain conditions and the people’s support."11strategy of a long-term war " first on his list, and earlier, during the war against the French, Truong Chinh observed that "the guiding principle of the strategy of our whole resistance must be to prolong the war."12 As the latter told his compatriots, "only by wearing the enemy down, can we fulfill the strategic tasks of launching the general counter-offensive, annihilating the enemy and winning final victory."13 Giap presented a similar view two decades later when he noted that "protracted resistance is an essential strategy of a people . . . determined to defeat an enemy and aggressor having large and well-armed forces."14 Writing of "the imperatives of the people’s war in Viet Nam" in 1961, General Giap placed "the

Militarily, guerrilla warfare was only one element in a comprehensive approach, and the Vietnamese practitioners of people’s war never viewed it as decisive. Giap noted that the war against the French had "several phases." Guerrilla warfare was important, "especially at the outset," but with time "guerrilla warfare changed into mobile warfare." The communist military effort "passed from the stage of combats involving a section or company, to fairly large-scale campaigns bringing into action several divisions."15 Giap saw the move from guerrilla war to mobile warfare as necessary "to annihilate big enemy manpower and liberate land," and he claimed that "to keep itself in life and develop, guerrilla warfare has necessarily to develop into mobile warfare." For him that progression was nothing less than "a general law."16 Truong Chinh portrayed people’s war in a similar way, calling it a "war of interlocking," in which "regular army, militia, and guerrilla forces combine and fight together." He too noted the need for guerrilla warfare to be "transformed into mobile warfare."17

In commenting on the war against the Republic of Vietnam and its American ally, Giap wrote of the coordination of "guerrilla, regional, and main-force units."18 Similarly, in describing "the combined strength of people’s war" in the final offensive of 1975, Generals Giap and Van Tien Dung noted a variety of techniques: "military attacks by mobile strategic army columns as main striking forces, combining military struggle with political struggle and agitation among enemy troops, wiping out and disbanding large enemy units, completely liberating large strategic regions in the mountains, rural and urban areas, and winning total victory by means of a general offensive and uprising right in the ‘capital city’ of the puppet administration."19

For the Vietnamese practitioners of people’s war, guerrilla warfare was only one aspect of their military approach, with the military area itself being only one dimension of a much more comprehensive system of revolutionary warfare. In theory, the war moved through stages, from subversive activities that avoided direct confrontation with government military forces, to guerrilla war, and finally to mobile warfare in which regular forces predominated. In reality, however, Vietnam’s communist revolutionaries were more pragmatic. They moved their strategic emphasis back and forth from stage to stage as events and circumstances warranted. At times all three stages of activity existed simultaneously. In both theory and practice, people’s war in Vietnam always encompassed much more than guerrilla warfare.

The role of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV or North Vietnam) in the people’s war after 1954 is also frequently misunderstood by Americans. In part the problem is a function of the tendency of many Americans to see North Vietnam as a separate country bent on the conquest of its southern neighbor. Those same Americans have also tended to describe the 1975 offensive as an attack by "North" Vietnamese, implying that the leadership of the Vietnamese communist movement had regional rather than national roots.

In the eyes of Vietnam’s communist leaders, however, the DRV was never a complete state, and their conception of Vietnam always included the territory governed by Saigon as well as that administered by Hanoi. General Giap characterized the North as "the liberated half of our country," seeing the DRV as "a firm base of action for the reunification of the country."20 In 1956 Ho Chi Minh told the southern cadres regrouped above the demilitarized zone that the North was "the foundation, the root of the struggle for complete national liberation and reunification of the country." It was to become, he told them, "a strong base for our entire people’s struggle."21 Later, General Giap would refer to the North as "the vast rear of our army" and "the revolutionary base for the whole country."22

During the war against the French, Truong Chinh had noted Lenin’s remark that "to wage a real war, we must have a strong and well organized rear," deeming it "very precious counsel for us in this long-term resistance war."23 In the people’s war for unification that followed the French withdrawal, the communists would not forget that "precious counsel." At the 1963 meeting of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Worker’s Party in Hanoi, the Third Party Congress recognized the special role of the DRV, saying the time had arrived "for the North to increase aid to the South" and "bring into play its role as the revolutionary base for the nation."24 Communist leaders did their best to maintain the fiction that the war in the South was being waged only "by the people and liberation forces of South Viet-Nam under the leadership of the National Front for Liberation," as Ho Chi Minh told a Western correspondent in 1965. Pham Van Dong had been equally disingenuous when he told Bernard Fall in 1962 that "the heroic South Vietnamese people will have to continue the struggle by their own means."25 In the United States many opponents of the American war in Vietnam, including more than a few scholars, appear to have been deceived into accepting what George Kahin and John Lewis claimed was "the inescapable conclusion that the Liberation Front is not ‘Hanoi’s creation.’" They argued instead that the Front "has manifested independence and it is Southern."26

The fiction could not be maintained, however, and by 1967 General Giap would openly portray the war as a "revolutionary struggle" waged by "people throughout the country," both North and South. As he wrote at the time, "to protect the north, liberate the south, and proceed toward reunifying the country, the northern armed forces and people have stepped up and are stepping up the violent people’s fight."27 The United States government was correct in its claim that the communist guerrillas and cadres in the South, as well as the National Liberation Front, were operational elements of the DRV. Clearly people in the American anti-war movement often had difficulty distinguising between reality and communist propaganda, but they did not have a monopoly on self-deception. Americans supporting the war also failed to distinguish between reality and their own propaganda, refusing to see that a sovereign and independent Republic of Vietnam (RVN) could only exist if the Saigon government and its American ally won the war. The RVN was not a state to be defended but a state to be created. For Vietnam’s communist leaders, a divided Vietnam was a Vietnam in agony, and as noted in the previous chapter, they were firmly committed to the goal of unification.

Authors who write of "the partitioning of Vietnam at the 17th parallel as a result of the Geneva Accords of 1954" and "North Vietnamese bent on reunifying the country," as one scholar has recently, need to give more careful attention to the available evidence.28 The Geneva Accords created a situation in which two governments existed within Vietnam, but the Geneva documents did not "partition" the country. In 1954, neither communist nor anticommunist Vietnamese accepted the idea that their nation had been partitioned. As a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate noted in November 1954, "Partition at the 17th parallel is abhorred by all Vietnamese, who regard unity of the three regions of Vietnam as a prerequisite of nationhood."2930 Leaders of the rival governments in Hanoi and Saigon both viewed the 17th parallel dividing line as it was defined in the Geneva declaration: a "military demarcation line" that was "provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political or territorial boundary."

Communist leaders repeatedly claimed that only one, not two Vietnams existed, and initially non-communist leaders in the South took the same position. Communist strength in the North precluded unification of Vietnam on terms acceptable to the United States and its Vietnamese allies in the South. In explaining the war, American leaders created a grossly oversimplified and inaccurate picture of the war as the result of aggression by the sovereign state of "North" Vietnam against an independent and sovereign South. American leaders denied the civil nature of the conflict and worked for a solution to the Vietnam conflict similar to that achieved earlier in Korea. That outcome could only be achieved, however, if the United States succeeded in forcing the communists to abandon their goal of creating a revolutionary state in all Vietnam, a difficult task to say the least.

Significantly, the war in Vietnam was never a war of northerners against southerners. Before World War II, members of the Vietnamese communist party could be found throughout all of Vietnam. According to William Duiker, the Vietnamese Revolutionary Youth League, formed in 1925, "had sunk its roots in all three regions of Vietnam,"31 and Ho Chi Minh’s August 1945 revolution was a nation-wide movement.32 Not only was communist leadership in Vietnam national rather than regional from an early date, but it remained very stable throughout more than two decades of conflict. Except for a few readjustments after the death of Ho in 1969, it changed little from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.33 Although the war in the South was directed by communists in Hanoi, that did not mean that the war was directed by "North Vietnamese." In fact, the group "bent on reunifying the country" was never composed solely of "North Vietnamese" or even led by them.

Although biographical information on Vietnam’s communist leaders is incomplete, the data that do exist support the conclusion that the people who controlled the DRV and the war to overthrow the government in South Vietnam came from all regions of the country. Both before and after Ho’s death four of the eleven members of the politburo came from south of the 17th parallel (36.4%), as did six of fourteen members of the politburo at the time of the communist triumph in 1975 (42.9%). In 1973, a majority of the nine member Secretariat of the Vietnamese Workers Party (VWP) came from the South, as did half of the members whose place of birth can be determined (20 of 38) elected to the Council of Ministers following the communist triumph.34

As a 1973 analysis of VWP leadership by the U.S. mission in Vietnam observed, one fact "that leaps out of the data about VWP Central Committee members is the large number of them, including Ho Chi Minh himself, who were born or were first active politically in Central Viet-Nam." The study noted that "a disproportionate number of the leaders of Vietnamese communism," including "leaders of the Party and government in the DRV, and of the People’s Liberation Armed Forces and the People’s Revolutionary Party in South Viet-Nam," were drawn from the "central provinces in both North and South Viet-Nam."35 Individuals from central Vietnam constituted a majority in the Politburo and the VWP Secretariat during the war and in the Council of Ministers elected after it. Although the seat of the communist government that conquered the South resided in North Vietnam, its leadership was national, not regional.

The names of some of the individuals from south of the 17th parallel who held high positions in the communist leadership during the war are well known. One was Pham Van Dong, "probably Ho’s closest associate since 1955," according to Bernard Fall.36 Another was Le Duan, who became the Party’s leader following Ho’s death in 1969, while the southerner Ton Duc Tang assumed Ho’s title as president. Other southerners among the communist leadership, less well known to most Americans, included two central committee members (Hoang Anh and Tran Quoc Hoan) and six leaders of the National Liberation Front and/or the People’s Revolutionary Government in the South who also joined the government of the unified communist Vietnam after the war (Nguyen Thi Binh, Nguyen Van Hieu, Vo Van Kiet, Tran Luong, Huynh Tan Phat, and Tran Dai Nghia).37

Other communist southerners also gained widespread recognition. Colonel Bui Tin, a journalist who found himself the ranking regular officer at the Presidential Palace in Saigon, became prominent when he accepted the surrender there in April 1975, and General Tran Van Tra’s history of the final offensive has become an important source for American scholars researching the war. Countless southerners also served in the ranks, not only as political cadres and guerrillas, but also as regulars. No knowledgeable author disputes the fact that southerners provided the vast majority of the combatants in the Viet Cong units that carried the major burden of the war before 1969, just as widespread agreement exists that the communist leadership in Hanoi initiated and directed the war in the South from its inception.

The regular forces that moved down the Ho Chi Minh trail to participate in the large unit war against the Americans contained soldiers returning to the South as well as combatants from the North. Xuan Vu, for example, described the high morale of southerners in late 1965, "dying to go back . . . motivated by the idea of the great General Uprising."38 Even the White Paper issued by the Department of State in 1965 provided evidence that the communists infiltrating the South were not northerners, although that was not the document’s intention. Although the White Paper claimed that "as many as 75 percent" of the Viet Cong entering the South from January through August 1964 "were natives of North Viet-Nam," the eighteen cases given as specific examples consisted overwhelmingly of individuals born south of the 17th parallel. Southerners made up eight of the document’s nine "individual case histories" and seven of an additional nine "brief case histories of typical Viet Cong" presented in an appendix.39

The conclusion from the available evidence seems clear: the communist movement in Vietnam was not directed by northerners, although the communist seat of power and government was in Hanoi, and the war that ended in 1975 was not a conquest of the South Vietnamese by the North Vietnamese. The war ended in a communist victory, but the leaders of Vietnam’s communist movement came from both sides of the 17th parallel, with the central region of the nation predominating. As historian Warren I. Cohen has observed, "if analysts persist in the notion that two separate nations existed in Vietnam in 1954, they will never understand the United States defeat there." The war between communist and anti-communist Vietnamese "was not a war of aggression by one nation against another. Separateness was something to be won on the battlefield by the secessionists, not proclaimed by others or imposed from outside."40

Although the communist goal of unification under a revolutionary government was remarkably consistent, flexibility, rather than rigid commitment to guerrilla warfare or any other particular approach, was the hallmark of the people’s war in Vietnam. Thomas K. Latimer highlighted that flexibility in his survey of the ongoing debate within the leadership of the Vietnamese Workers Party over the proper strategy in the struggle for unification. From 1954 to 1958, the communists undertook political organization and mobilization in the South while building socialism in the base area of the North and awaiting the collapse of the Ngo Dinh Diem government in Saigon. When that collapse did not take place, the communists adopted a more forceful approach, beginning with guerrilla warfare in 1959 and attempting to shift to mobile warfare in 1964. That move was thwarted by the United States, as was an attempt to gain a decisive victory early in 1968. The 1968 failure led to the recognition by leaders of the Party that negotiation and not general uprising might be the key to "push the Americans out of South Vietnam by coordinating the political struggle with diplomacy."41 Latimer viewed the strategic shift following the 1968 Tet offensive, outlined in a May 1968 report authored by Truong Chinh, as "a half-step retreat."42 At the time, the communist leadership reaffirmed the value of the protracted war model and focused their attention on the United States as the primary enemy to be negotiated or manipulated out of Vietnam. Political events within the United States made the achievement of that goal possible, but not before another communist move to mobile warfare was thwarted in 1972.

Given the flexibility inherent in the communist approach, none of the defeats proved decisive. Instead, the communists regrouped to make a successful bid for victory in 1975. As Latimer observed, "it was this ability to remain flexible, to fall back to a protracted war strategy, to beef up the political struggle aspect, as well as plunge ahead from time to time in an all-out military effort, which enabled the Vietnamese communists to sustain their ‘revolution’ in the south."43 Another American scholar, Patrick J. McGarvey, had reached a similar conclusion even earlier. He concluded after the Tet offensive of 1968 that "Communist strategy will remain a dynamic one," in which "decisions will continue to be based on the realities of the battlefield." At about the same time Douglas Pike observed that "none of these three means–diplomacy, proxy struggle, or direct military–is mutually exclusive."44 Pike noted that the communist leadership in Vietnam "has no hesitation about abandoning one method or policy when another appears more promising."45

Just as people’s war appeared to be nothing more than guerrilla warfare to some Americans, and the communist leadership appeared to be "North" Vietnamese, the communists seemed to have triumphed in 1975 by using a highly conventional approach. One author has even described the winning communist strategy as "an American one."46 The Vietnamese communists’ own descriptions of the final offensive, however, support a very different conclusion.

The local communist apparatus in the South was hurt badly during the 1968 offensive, with high casualties and resulting demoralization, and the damage had not been completely repaired by the time of the 1973 cease fire agreement. In his study of the war in Long An province, Jeffrey Race noted that "the revolution movement in late 1970 was in a difficult position,"47 a view confirmed by captured communist documents.48 In his memoir, General Tran Van Tra, commanding communist forces in the region surrounding Saigon, observed that as late as 1973 "all units were in disarray, there was a lack of manpower, . . . shortages." According to Tra, mid and lower level cadres, seeing the enemy "winning many new victories," concluded "that the revolution was in danger."49 That did not mean, however, that the Viet Cong had been totally destroyed.

The estimate of relative strength that appears in Colonel William Le Gro’s study Vietnam from Cease-Fire to Capitulation indicates that local forces of one kind or another still made up a substantial portion of communist strength in South Vietnam, particularly outside of Military Region I. Although the Viet Cong constituted only 16.9% of total communist combat troops in January 1973, local forces provided more than 50% of the administrative and service personnel. In Military Region III, local forces supplied 20% of the combat troops and 68.8% of the administrative and service personnel. In Military Region IV the percentages were 40.7 and 92.3 respectively.50 The ARVN Chief of Staff for II Corps estimated that in 1975 communist regular units constituted no more than 46% of the forces he faced in his area.51

Such estimates indicate that Viet Cong strength after Tet had recovered far more than advocates of the conventional war thesis would have one believe, particularly in the heavily populated region of the Mekong Delta and the area surrounding Saigon. Furthermore, estimates such as Le Gro’s are of military strength, and they do not appear to include the communist political infrastructure. Although the Viet Cong had been devastated at Tet and hard pressed afterward, they had not been destroyed.

The strength and value of local irregular forces would become apparent in 1975 when the communists began their final offensive. Although the American military has used irregular forces in mounting a conventional attack, it does not rely upon aid from guerrilla forces, popular militia, and political cadres in the enemy’s homeland to facilitate and sustain the offensive movement of its regular forces. In Vietnam in 1975, however, communist regulars were not only dependent upon the aid received from irregulars, but their success was the result of years of unconventional warfare that had severely erroded the will and fighting ability of their anticommunist opponents. To call the communists’ 1975 offensive "conventional" completely ignores both the events that had made the offensive possible and the role of irregular forces in supporting the final attack.

In assessing the successful campaign in the South, Generals Giap and Dung claimed that "everywhere regional forces, militia, guerrillas and self-defense units seized the opportunity to hit the enemy." They gave local forces credit for having "seized control in many places, wiped out or forced the withdrawal or surrender of thousands of garrisons, shattered the coercive machine of the enemy at the grassroots level, and smashed their ‘popular defense’ organizations." The result of that activity was "better conditions for our regular units to concentrate their attacks on the main targets of the general offensive."52 General Tran Van Tra described the 1975 offensive in a similar way, noting the use "of combined forces–both armed forces and the political forces of the people–in a widespread general offensive and uprising." Tra claimed that the communists "prepositioned" regular forces "in each area, in coordination with extensive local [forces] and militia" to create "an extremely potent revolutionary people’s war."53

Communist descriptions of specific battles during the 1975 campaign also noted the involvement of irregular forces. According to General Tra, the successful attack on Phuoc Long province that preceded the 1975 offensive was the work of two "understrength" divisions, "in combination with the local forces," and he noted similar cooperation between local and regular forces in the Mekong Delta at the time of the general offensive.54 Further north, according to General Dung, the liberation of Tam Ky and Tuan Duong, and the defeat of the 4th and 5th regiments of the ARVN 2nd division on March 24 and 25 was the result of attacks by the 2nd division of Zone 5 "in coordination with regional forces." He also gave credit for the liberation of the northern part of Quang Ngai province to "regional forces, in coordination with the masses."55 Dung and an official history published in Hanoi both noted the coordination of regular units with attacks by local forces in other battles in Zone 5, including the attack on Danang.56 Interviews with RVN officials and military officers confirmed the important role played by communist irregulars, sustaining the conclusion that ARVN forces in III and IV Corps were so "hard pressed and tied down by local Communist forces" that they "could not be disengaged to form reserves to meet the fresh enemy divisions moving down from the north."57

Irregulars were particularly active as the communist attack converged on Saigon. In 1972 communist forces in the Mekong Delta had not supported the offensive elsewhere, and RVN units from IV Corps had been used to reinforce III Corps. According to the ARVN Commander of the Capital Military District, in 1975 the communists "tied up those troops by the activities of the local Communist forces." Later those same local forces moved in captured vehicles into Long An province to threaten Route 4 and support the offensive against Saigon.58

General Dung also noted that in the provinces surrounding the city local forces at all levels increased in size and engaged in "continuous activities" that "tied down and drew off a number of enemy main-force units in IV Corps" and elsewhere, while "special action and sapper units" worked within the city.59 Another communist history noted the way in which local forces helped to create "a staging area for our main-force units" by their attacks on "outposts, subsectors, and district capitals."60 A specific example of such an attack, in which guerrillas surrounded an enemy post at Bo Keo, appeared in the diary of Tran Ham Ninh, aide to General Vo Van Thanh, commander of the column attacking Saigon from the south.61

According to General Dung, following the fall of Saigon, in the Mekong Delta and throughout the southern region the communists "mounted a series of attacks under the direct leadership of the local party branches." He claimed that by "coordinating these attacks with uprising by tens of thousands of the masses, they liberated all cities and towns, captured all big military bases, all district towns and subsectors, and all enemy outposts."62 Although General Tra’s claim that "the spirit of the masses were seething" and the statement in an official communist history that "in addition to the military attacks, millions of people arose" in the final days of the campaign may well be exaggerations,63 the important work of communist cadres and irregulars in the 1975 offensive should not be underestimated.

In addition to the role that irregulars played in intelligence gathering, logistical support, and combat, communists at the local level engaged in significant political activity directly supporting the 1975 offensive. Giap and Dung observed that local political forces "carried out a campaign of agitation among enemy ranks to bring about their disintegration," helping to destroy the agencies of enemy political power and helping "set up revolutionary power in various locations."64 General Tra claimed that during the offensive "many villages set up revolutionary administrations," and General Dung noted that by the time of the attack on Saigon "our political infrastructure existed in every section of town." Inside the city, he wrote, "there were dozens of members of the municipal party committee and cadres of equivalent rank, members of special war committees, hundreds of party members, thousands of members of various mass organizations, and tens of thousands of people who could be mobilized to take to the streets."65

The cadres and their followers not only took political power as the offensive proceeded and the Saigon government collapsed, but they acted in advance to undermine the morale of the enemy’s armed forces. Tran Ham Ninh referred in his diary to "coordinating combat and the proselyting of enemy trooops," and according to General Dung, during the attack on Saigon people within the city "used megaphones to call on Saigon soldiers to take off their uniforms and lay down their guns." Such popular action, wrote Dung, "created a revolutionary atmosphere of vast strength on all the city’s streets."66

To call the communist offensive in 1975 a conventional attack one must ignore the numerous references in communist sources regarding the important contribution made by local forces and political cadres. One must also ignore statements in which Vietnamese communists specifically characterize the attack as one falling outside the traditional category of conventional war. General Tra, for example, maintained that the 1975 offensive was "not a plan to launch a general counteroffensive . . . as in a regular war." Instead, it embodied "parallel military and political efforts."67 General Dung described the campaign as one in which "our forms and methods of fighting and style of attack bore the spirit of the rules of revolutionary warfare in the South," and the March 1975 description of the attack provided by the Politburo in the midst of the campaign described it as a "general offensive and general uprising." By "coordinating offensives and uprisings" the communists saw themselves "striking from the outside in and from the inside out."68

In describing their defeat in interviews after the war, officials and officers of the RVN stressed their own failures in ways that also emphasized the unconventional aspects of the war. Their stories of panic, disorder, demoralization, defeatism, paralysis, and incompetence seemed to confirm the communist view that the war was won as much by political and diplomatic maneuvers as by military ones. According to the RVN respondents, the collapse of the South was caused more by internal problems that had developed over many years than by the weight of the final communist offensive. General Tran Van Don lamented the "incompetence on our military side," while another anonymous respondent spoke of "lazy, corrupted and unqualified generals." The Speaker of the House, Nguyen Ba Can, believed that by 1975 there existed a "psychological collapse that struck every South Vietnamese," seen, among other things, in the "widespread" draft dodging noted by Buu Vien and other officials. Despite strong communist pressure, leaders were "unwilling or afraid to take any initiative."69 The problems described by the ARVN officers and government officials, including the abandonment of South Vietnam by the United States, were the results of years of protracted war and not a function of the final communist offensive. The 1975 attack was the coup de gracecoup de main depicted in many recent American accounts. of a successful people’s war rather than the

Although the 1975 communist offensive relied upon regular units attacking in very conventional ways, the descriptions of the offensive by the men who directed it and by those who tried to counter it indicate that the communists were definitely not engaging in conventional war as that term is understood in the United States. American conventional war doctrine does not anticipate reliance upon population within the enemy’s territory for logistical and combat support. It does not rely upon guerrilla units to fix the enemy, clear lines of communication, and maintain security in the rear. And it certainly does not expect enemy morale to be undermined by political cadres within the very heart of the enemy’s territory, cadres that will assume positions of political power as the offensive progresses. Yet all of these things happened in South Vietnam in 1975, and to call the offensive that orchestrated them a conventional attack, as that term is normally understood in the United States, is to misunderstand the reasons for communist success. As William Duiker has observed, "the fact that the 1975 campaign was primarily a military offensive should not obscure the fundamental reality that the Party’s success over a generation was attributable, above all, to nonmilitary factors."70

Despite the evidence contradicting their views, some people will no doubt continue to believe that North Vietnamese communists conquered South Vietnam with a conventional strategy. That interpretation of the war, carrying with it the implication that the United States might have won in Vietnam had it recognized at the onset that the conflict would be a conventional one, explains the American failure in a way that does not mandate significant change in the future. If the United States military was fighting the wrong kind of war, rather than fighting the wrong way, then future problems of a similar kind can be solved without retooling and retraining. By ignoring facts that do not fit their interpretation, leaders and followers alike can thus avoid the reassessment of doctrine and policy that a significant defeat ought to stimulate.

To learn from the American experience in Vietnam one must understand the nature of the war that was fought there. At no time was it a conventional war; from beginning to end it was a people’s or revolutionary war in which both irregular and conventional forces played important roles. It was also not a war between North and South; it was always a conflict between Vietnamese communists from all parts of Vietnam and anti-communists, also from all parts of Vietnam but located geographically in the nation’s southern half. Although the communist war effort was directed from Hanoi and depended on northern as well as southern resources, the war was fought and won in the South by the application of a strategy incorporating political and diplomatic as well as military struggle over a prolonged period of time. In short, it fit the model of people’s war articulated by both Asian theorists and their Western interpreters. The conflict ended in 1975 after a communist offensive by regular units and local irregulars quickly demolished a dispirited opposition worn down by more than a decade of protracted war.

Long after the war, in 1988, General Phillip B. Davidson concluded that "our defeat in Vietnam has taught us nothing."71 If that pessimistic conclusion is true, then certainly some of the blame must rest with those who refuse to recognize the true nature of the war. No matter how much people might wish to believe that the communist strategy of people’s war failed in Vietnam or that communists from the North conquered the South in a conventional invasion, those views are not well supported by the evidence. To understand the war, one must first abandon the view that the conflict was a war of aggression, North against South, and recognize that the communist triumph was the result of the successful implementation of a strategy of people’s war.

Unfortunately, to learn from the past one must have more than an accurate historical assessment. For accurate histories to be of value, people must be willing to accept them, and that will often require the rejection of more comfortable interpretations which buttress existing preconceptions or allow institutions to avoid rigorous reassessment and reform. To date, the agony of Vietnam remains too vivid for many people to make the conceptual readjustment needed to understand America’s longest and least successful war. Until that readjustment is made, one can only hope that an ignorance of the past does not condemn the American nation or its people to repeat the agonies of Vietnam in some other place at some future date.


1 Timothy J. Lomperis, "Giap’s Dream, Westmoreland’s Nightmare," Parameters, 18 (June 1988), 18-32.

2 For examples see Anthony T. Bouscaren, ed., All Quiet on the Eastern Front: The Death of South VietnamThe Lessons of Vietnam (New York, 1977), p. 279; and Harry G. Summers, Jr., On Strategy: A Critical Analysis of the Vietnam War (Dell Pub. Co., 1984), pp. 121-122; and Timothy J. Lomperis, "Giap’s Dream," 30. (Old Greenwich, CT, 1977), particularly Robert D. Heinl, Sir Robert Thompson, & Norman B. Hannah, pp. 64, 119, & 148-149; W. Scott Thompson & Donaldson D. Frizzell, eds.,

3 Phillip B. Davidson, Vietnam at War: The History: 1946-1975 (Novato, CA, 1988), p. 796.

4 Vo Nguyen Giap, People’s War, People’s Army (New York, 1962), p. 27 (italics in original) and Truong Chinh, Primer for Revolt (New York, 1963), p. 109.

5 Giap, People’s War, p. 33.

6 Ibid., p. 31 and Vo Nguyen Giap, "Big Victory, Great Task" (New York, 1968), p. 73.

7 Chinh, Primer, p. 179.

8 Giap, "Big Victory," p. 52.

9 Chinh, Primer, p. 11 and Giap, ibid. See also, Giap, People’s War, p. 97.

10 Giap, People’s War, p. 145.

11 "Instructions Given at the Conference Reviewing the Second Le Hong Phong Military Campaign," in Bernard B. Fall, ed., Ho Chi Minh on Revolution: Selected Writings, 1920-1966 (New York, 1968), p. 188.

12 Giap, People’s War, pp. 5-46 and Chinh, Primer, p. 111 (italics in originals).

13 Ibid., p. 180

14 Giap, "Big Victory," p. 55.

15 Giap, People’s War, pp. 29-30.

16 Ibid., pp. 106-107.

17 Chinh, Primer, pp. 139 & 153.

18 Giap, "Big Victory," p. 74.

19 Vo Nguyen Giap & Van Tien Dung, How We Won the War (Ypsilanti, 1976), p. 41 (italics in original).

20 Giap, People’s War, pp. 49 & 34.

21 "Letter to the Cadres from South Vietnam Regrouped in the North" (June 19, 1956), in Fall, Ho, pp. 272-273 & 274.

22 Giap, People’s War, p. 146. Although it denied the legitimacy of such views, the United States government recognized them, quoting passages from Giap and others in a section entitled "North Viet-Nam: Base for Conquest of the South" in Department of State Publication 7839, Aggression from the North: The Record of North Viet-Nam’s Campaign To Conquer South Viet-Nam (Washington, D.C., 1965), pp. 20-21.

23 Chinh, Primer, p. 211.

24 Thomas K. Latimer, "Hanoi’s Leaders and Their South Vietnam Policies: 1954-1968" (unpublished doctoral thesis, Georgetown University, 1972), p. 154.

25 Fall, Ho, p. 322.

26 George McTuran Kahin & John W. Lewis, The United States in Vietnam, rev. ed. (New York, 1969), p. 120.

27 Giap, "Big Victory," pp. 47 & 28.

28 Lomperis, "Giap’s Dream," 25.

29 "National Intelligence Estimate, 23 November 1954, Probable Developments in South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia Through July 1956," in United States State Department, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1952-1954, Volume XIII, Indochina (Washington, D.C., 19822), Part 2, p. 2289. For early RVN statements on Vietnam as a single nation see Gareth Porter, ed. Vietnam: The Definitive Documentation of Human Decisions, vol. 1 (New York, 1979), pp. 581 & 656.

30 "Final Declaration of the Geneva Conference on the Problem of Restoring Peace in Indochina, July 1954," in Gareth Porter, ed., Vietnam: A History in Documents (New York, 1981), p. 160.

31 William J. Duiker, The Communist Road to Power in Vietnam (Boulder, 1981), p. 25.

32 The early years of Vietnamese communism are described fully in Huynh Kim Khanh, Vietnamese Communism, 1925-1945 (Ithaca, 1982). See also Duiker, Communist Road to Power, chs. 1-5.

33 "VWP-DRV Leadership, 1960-1973," Document No. 114,Viet-Nam Documents and Research Notes (Saigon, July 1973), 8.

34 Data compiled from ibid.; Central Intelligence Agency, Reference Aid: Council of Ministers of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Washington, 1977); Borys Lewytzkyj & Juliusz Stroynowski, eds., Who’s Who in the Socialist Countries (New York, 1978); and P. J. Honey, Communism in North Vietnam: Its Role in the Sino-Soviet Dispute (Cambridge, MA, 1963), ch. 2.

35 "VWP-DRV Leadership," 3-4.

36 Fall, Ho, p. 319.

37 See Central Intelligence Agency, Reference Guide for confirmation.

38 David Chanoff & Doan Van Toai, Portrait of the Enemy (New York, 1986), p. 179.

39 Aggression From the North, pp. 6-11 & 33-37.

40 Warren I. Cohen, "Vietnam: New Light on the Nature of the War?" The International History Review, IX (1987), 116.

41 Latimer, "Hanoi’s Leaders," p. 235.

42 Ibid., p. 343.

43 Ibid., p. 195.

44 Patrick J. McGarvey, Visions of Victory: Selected Vietnamese Communist Military Writings, 1964-1968 (Stanford, 1969), p. 57.

45 Douglas Pike, War, Peace, and the Viet Cong (Cambridge, MA, 1969), pp. 34-35.

46 Lomperis, "Giap’s Dream," 19.

47 Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An: Revolutionary Conflict in a Vietnamese Province (Berkeley, 1972), 276.

48 See, for example, "Directive 10/CT-71" and "Recapitulative Report on the Reorientation Courses Concerning the New Situation and Missions Conducted" in Viet Nam Documents and Notes, Number 102, Part III (Saigon, 1973).

49 Tran Van Tra, Vietnam: History of the Bulwark B2 Theatre, Vol. 5: Concluding the 30-Years War (Ho Chi Minh City, 1982 in JPRS No. 82783–2 February 1983), p. 33.

50 William E. Le Gro, Vietnam from Cease-Fire to Capitulation (Washington, D.C., 1985), p. 28.

51 Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen, & Brian M. Jenkins, The Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military and Civilian Leaders (New York, 1980), p. 168.

52 Giap & Dung, How We Won, p. 41 (italics in original).

53 Tra, Vietnam, p. 151.

54 Ibid., pp. 132 & 147.

55 Van Tien Dung, Our Great Spring Victory (New York, 1977), p. 105.

56 Ibid., p. 109 and War Experiences Recapitulation Committee of the High-Level Military Institute, Vietnam: The Anti-U.S. Resistance War for National Salvation 1954-1975: Military Events (Hanoi, 1980 in JPRS 80968–3 June 1982), pp. 173 & 176-177.

57 Hosmer, Kellen, & Jenkins, Fall of South Vietnam, p. 231.

58 Ibid., p. 232.

59 Dung, Great Spring Victory, p. 249.

60 War Experiences Recapitulation Committee, Vietnam, p. 180.

61 Ninh’s diary entries are in Tra, Vietnam, pp. 178-185. The guerrillas surrounding Bo Keo are noted on p. 178.

62 Dung, Great Spring Victory, p. 249.

63 Tra, Vietnam, p. 162 and War Experiences Recapitulation Committee, Vietnam, p. 182.

64 Giap & Dung, How We Won, p. 42.

65 Tra, Vietnam, p. 196 and Dung, Great Spring Victory, p. 172.

66 Ninh in Tra, Vietnam, p. 182 and Dung, Great Spring Victory, p. 244.

67 Tra, Vietnam, p. 94.

68 Dung, Great Spring Victory, pp. 186 & 133.

69 Hosmer, Kellen, & Jenkins, Fall of South Vietnam, pp. 100, 75, 56, 119, & 71.

70 Duiker, Communist Road to Power, p. 319.

71 Davidson, Vietnam at War, p. 811.


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Last updated: Nov. 2002
John M. Gates

The pacification of the Philippines


The pacification of the Philippines


Of the U. S. Army’s early encounters with irregulars, none is more relevant to contemporary concerns than the army’s campaign in the Philippines at the end of the nineteenth century, and my study of the Philippine-American War provided the foundation for much of my thinking on irregular warfare. I began research on the topic in 1964 when I embarked upon a Ph.D. program at Duke University. At the time the army’s successful campaign in the Philippines stood in marked contrast to its then stalemated efforts in Vietnam. I finished my thesis in 1967, and over the next two years I revised the manuscript for publication in the Greenwood Press military history series. Although I sent the completed book manuscript to the publisher in 1970, publication was delayed until 1973.1 I have no idea why publication took so long, but I have always suspected that someone at the press did not want to bring out the book until American participation in the Vietnam War had ended. Praising the U. S. Army, even for work done more than a half century before, was bound to prove controversial, as it has.

Since 1973 I have revised my views on the Philippine campaign to incorporate the work of other scholars and new research of my own. The first formal opportunity to present an updated analysis came in 1980 when I was invited to participate in the United States Air Force Academy’s Ninth Military History Symposium. I revised the symposium paper, "The Pacification of the Philippines, 1898-1902,"2 in 1985 for presentation as one of five lectures given at Obirin College in Japan, and it has been revised further for inclusion here. Even with revision, however, my interpretation of the army’s work in the Philippines remains incompatible with the popular view of the campaign as one characterized by brutality.



* * * * * *



The war between the United States and the forces of the Philippine revolution began in 1899 and lasted over three years. Almost every unit of the U. S. Army served in the Philippines during the conflict, as well as a number of state and federal volunteers. Of some 125,000 Americans who fought in the Islands at one time or another, almost 4,000 died there. Of the non-Muslim Filipino population, which numbered approximately 6,700,000, at least 34,000 lost their lives as a direct result of the war, and as many as 200,000 may have died as a result of the cholera epidemic at the war’s end. The U. S. Army’s death rate in the Philippine-American War (32/1000) was the equivalent of the nation having lost over 86,000 (of roughly 2,700,000 engaged) during the Vietnam war instead of approximately 58,000 who were lost in that conflict. For the Filipinos, the loss of 34,000 lives was equivalent to the United States losing over a million people from a population of roughly 250 million, and if the cholera deaths are also attributed to the war, the equivalent death toll for the United States would be over 8,000,000. This war about which one hears so little was not a minor skirmish.

Even if the number of dead had been lower, however, the war would still rank as an important conflict for it provides an example of a significant phenomenon taking place at the dawn of the twentieth century. On the Filipino side one sees a struggling anti-imperialist movement seeking Philippine independence, as well as peasants reacting to the stress of economic change. Pitted against the Philippine revolution in the beginning was the waning power of imperial Spain, a nation that some 300 years earlier had been the strongest in Western Europe but by the end of the nineteenth century had been in a period of decline for over a century. When the United States went to war with Spain in 1898, although the issues leading to war concerned Cuba, the United States soon found itself also embroiled in the quickly moving events of the Filipino revolution. The Philippine-American War thus represents an important event in the confrontation between Western imperialism and Asian nationalism, a phenomenon that would become increasingly significant in the twentieth century. The war was also an important milestone in American overseas expansion and an example of that expansion in one of its most militant phases.

As important as the conflict was, however, it has long remained one of the least understood wars in American history. In most history texts, the war is given only a few brief paragraphs, commonly treated as an appendage of the Spanish-American War rather than an event with its own significance. Thus the one volume military history published by the historical branch of the U. S. Army in the 1950s contained fewer than three pages on the war. Much earlier, in 1906 and in 1908, William Howard Taft had quashed John R. M. Taylor’s attempt to publish an officially sponsored history of the war, along with translations of a number of documents captured from the Filipino revolutionaries, because he thought that Taylor’s work might alienate people in both the Philippines and the United States.

Although the government found the Philippine-American War too controversial for an official history, the war’s anti-imperialist opponents were eager to write about it. In the decades following the war, the anti-imperialists crafted their version of the war’s history. In it the U. S. Army engaged in a brutal subjugation of the Philippine people using a scorched earth policy to pacify them, and that anti-imperialist interpretation has dominated the history of the war ever since.

Overshadowed by the First World War and affected by a lingering American embarrassment over colonialism, the Philippine-American War soon faded from view. Interest in the conflict did not revive until the United States became involved in a seemingly similar conflict in Vietnam in the 1960s. At that point, a number of scholars, myself included, began to study the conflict anew. Although a number of authors accepted the prevailing anti-imperialist view of the war, my own research indicated that the traditional interpretation needed significant revision. In general, however, the war has continued to be overlooked, with only a few lines devoted to it at the end of sections devoted to the Spanish-American War, even in relatively recent works purportedly dealing with "The American Experience at War."3

The conflict between Filipinos and Americans came as a result of hostilities between the United States and Spain. Many Americans were disturbed by the disastrous war for independence in Cuba and what they perceived to be the inhumane actions undertaken by the Spaniards to end it. In an attempt to solve the problem in Cuba, some 100 miles off the Florida coast, the United States Congress gave President William McKinley the authority he requested to use military force. That happened on 19 April 1898, and war with Spain was the immediate outcome. One result of that action was a successful attack on the decaying Spanish fleet in Manila by the Asiatic Squadron of Commodore George Dewey on 1 May.

Dewey’s victory provided President William McKinley with both a problem and an opportunity. The problem was the need to support Dewey’s victorious fleet, which controlled the waters of Manila Bay but very little of the land surrounding it. The solution to the problem was the dispatch of an American expeditionary force of some 20,000 troops to lay siege to Manila.

The opportunity was the chance to establish a permanent American base in the Far East. The opportunity came at a time when many influential individuals in the United States had been stressing the importance of overseas expansion for economic, strategic, and ideological reasons. At the time of the Spanish-American war, European nations were expanding throughout the world in a wave of imperial competition, and for some Americans the only alternative to expansion overseas appeared to be stagnation, followed by national decline. Expand or die seemed to be the only choices.

McKinley, however, was reluctant to move too quickly, for he knew that many other Americans rejected the colonial ambitions of their compatriots. Thus, although he dispatched troops to the Philippines, the President did not have a firm policy regarding the disposition of the islands. He might take a naval base and leave the Philippines in Spanish hands; he might become the champion of Philippine independence; or he might take the entire group of islands as an American colony. Much depended on the response he received from the American electorate regarding the various options.

Unfortunately for McKinley, he did not have the luxury of time in which to make a decision on the Philippines unhindered by events in the islands themselves. The War with Spain had revitalized a Filipino revolution that had only recently been thwarted by Spanish military action. In the last half of the 19th century, as a developing export economy spread through the Philippines, members of the local Filipino elite, particularly individuals educated in Europe or Manila (frequently referred to as ilustrados) had begun to agitate for reform, stimulated by the resurgence of liberalism in Spain as well as a budding Filipino nationalism.

The growing assertiveness of the ilustrado elite directly threatened Spaniards in the Philippines who benefited from their favored position as the dominant group in the colony. Particularly threatened were the members of the Catholic religious orders who had held land and exerted power in the countryside for over three centuries. As the cries for reform grew, so did Spanish attempts to suppress them.

One can only guess at the effect of social and economic change on the Philippine peasantry. The Hispanization of the Filipino elite probably increased the gulf between social classes, and the stress created by the change from a subsistence, rice-growing economy to one based on the cultivation of crops for export must have been tremendous.

Convinced that the Spanish government was not willing to undertake widespread reform, Filipinos in the Manila area began organizing themselves in a secret society, the Katipunan, hoping to achieve independence and reform through revolution. Revolutionary war began in August 1896, and when a Spanish offensive nullified early Filipino success in the area surrounding Manila, the Filipinos embarked upon a guerrilla war. Within a year, however, both Spaniards and Filipino revolutionaries were ready to negotiate a peace. As a result, Aguinaldo, who had risen to the leadership of the revolutionary movement, left for Hong Kong at the end of 1897 with a number of his associates.

As tensions between the United States and Spain mounted, revolutionary activity resurfaced in the Philippines. Dewey’s victory stimulated it further, as did his transportation of Aguinaldo back to the islands. By the time the American expeditionary forces arrived, Aguinaldo had already established a revolutionary government, with himself at its head, and had an army of some 30,000 men surrounding Manila. Filipino revolutionaries had also seized control elsewhere in the islands.

The Americans, having entered into an uneasy informal alliance with the Filipino revolutionaries, landed on June 30 and joined with Aguinaldo in the siege of Manila. Acting without Aguinaldo’s knowledge, they attacked the city on August 13, and, with the cooperation of the Spaniards who surrendered the city, the Americans occupied it, leaving Aguinaldo and his men in their trenches surrounding the city. The American action worked to further the growing suspicion and tension between the United States and Filipino forces, as did the mounting evidence that President McKinley intended to keep the Philippines.

Aguinaldo had hoped that the United States would champion Philippine independence. When Spain ceded the islands to the Americans, however, he knew that his hopes were misplaced. At the same time, however, the forces of the Filipino revolutionaries had gained control over most of the islands while the Americans held only Manila.

Although many Filipinos had already demonstrated in their fight against the Spaniards that they were willing to risk their lives for independence, the United States government was determined to establish its sovereignty over the Philippines. When neither side would compromise, tensions mounted, and on February 4, 1899, an armed clash took place between Aguinaldo’s revolutionary army and the American force occupying Manila.

A bloody battle followed in which the Filipinos suffered high casualties (perhaps as many as 3,000 killed) and were forced to withdraw. The Americans, hampered by a shortage of troops and the coming of the rainy season, could do little more than improve their defensive position around Manila and establish a toehold on several islands to the south. Although Malolos, the seat of Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government, fell to the Americans in March, major offensive operations could not begin until the end of the rainy season in November. Then, in a well coordinated attack across the central Luzon plain, American units dispersed the revolutionary army and barely missed capturing Aguinaldo.

Seeing no obstacles remaining to their occupation of the rest of the Philippines once further reinforcement arrived from the United States, the Americans concluded that the war was at an end, but when they attempted to organize and administer the territory coming under their control, they soon realized that the Filipino army had not been defeated. It had only changed its strategy. A period of extremely difficult guerrilla warfare followed in which the American hope of using the good works of an enlightened colonial government to complete the process of pacification was shattered when revolutionary terror and propaganda persuaded potential collaborators to withhold their support. Although some Filipinos cast their lot with the American invaders despite the dangers, most did not, and as the frustrations of the guerrilla war mounted, some Americans resorted to torture and brutal retaliatory measures in an unsuccessful attempt to bring a swift end to the conflict.

The guerrillas were fighting hard to influence the forthcoming presidential election in the United States, and the army could make little progress against them as long as the future of McKinley’s Philippine policy remained in doubt. Focusing on the anti-imperialist rhetoric of McKinley’s opponents, the revolutionaries concluded that William Jennings Bryan and the Democrats stood a good chance of defeating the imperialistic Republican incumbent if the war in the Philippines continued. Aguinaldo urged his followers on in the hope that an all out effort by the revolutionaries might help achieve a victory for Bryan in November.4

President McKinley’s reelection victory dealt a severe blow to the morale of the revolutionaries and provided a perfect opportunity for the implementation of a new approach to pacification. Although the army would continue to use the carrot of a reform oriented military government to persuade Filipinos to accept American rule, more emphasis would also be given to the stick. From December 1900 onward, revolutionaries captured by the Americans could expect to face deportation, internment, imprisonment, or execution. Where necessary, population would be reconcentrated around American garrisons to separate the guerrillas from the civilians aiding them. An increase in the number of American garrisons throughout the islands would improve the army’s ability to protect townspeople from guerrilla terror and intimidation, creating a climate in which Filipinos inclined to show support for the Americans could do so with greater confidence, and active patrolling by American units in the field would keep the guerrillas on the run. Swift action by military courts against the supporters, agents, and terrorists of the revolution would force Filipinos to choose between the Americans and their guerrilla opponents.

The success of the American pacification campaign was apparent almost immediately. Kept off balance, short of supplies, and in continuous flight from the army, many guerrilla bands, suffering from sickness, hunger, and decreasing popular support, lost their will to fight. By the end of February 1901, as revolutionary morale sagged, a number of important leaders surrendered voluntarily, signalling that the tide had finally turned in favor of the Americans. In March a group of Filipino scouts commanded by Frederick Funston captured Aguinaldo by a wily stratagem considered unsportsmanlike by the army’s anti-imperialist critics at home.

Funston’s triumph added momentum to the Filipino collapse and brigadier general’s stars to Funston’s shoulders. As in the past, however, American optimism was premature. Although a civilian commission headed by William Howard Taft took control of the colonial government from the military in July 1901, the army’s pacification operations continued. The massacre of forty-eight American soldiers on the island of Samar precipitated a harsh campaign there at the end of the year, and guerrillas in Batangas Province were not brought to heel until much of the area’s population had been reconcentrated and its hinterland scorched. Even after the Secretary of War declared an official end to the conflict in July 1902, Filipino guerrillas remained in the field.

The actions of guerrillas, bandits, and agrarian rebels in the years after 1902, however, never presented the colonial government with a challenge comparable to that of Aguinaldo. While units of the army worked to bring the warlike Muslims of the southern Philippines under American control, the civil government’s security force, the 5,000 man Philippine Constabulary, maintained a fitful peace throughout the islands, with only occasional aid from the army’s Philippine Scout units (totaling 5,000 men) and even less frequent help from the army’s American units (some 15,000 men). The campaign to defeat the Filipino revolutionaries and secure the Philippine colony for the United States had clearly succeeded.

How is the success to be explained? For years, most commentaries on the war focused on the atrocities committed by American soldiers. During the war, anti-imperialists accused the army of having embarked upon "a perfect orgy of looting and wanton destruction of property"5 and spoke of the "devastation of provinces, the shooting of captives, the torture of prisoners and of unarmed peaceful citizens."6 Long after the war, even highly abbreviated textbook accounts of the Philippine campaign invariably included a reference to the army’s "brutalities," and a popular history published in 1989 made the exaggerated claim that "the U. S. conquest of the Philippines had been as cruel as any conflict in the annals of imperialism."7 Descriptions of the water cure, in which the victim is held down and forced to swallow suffocating quantities of water until the desired confession or information is forthcoming, or until the victim dies or becomes too weak for the torture to continue, can be amazingly vivid, and few authors could resist the temptation to include at least a general description of the atrocity if they had the space.

During the Vietnam War a number of articles appeared which reiterated earlier anti-imperialist criticism, with references to the army’s "policy of terror" or its "standard extermination policies."8 One author even claimed that "in some applications" the American approach to pacification was "genocidal."9 While such statements highlighted the unscholarly and polemical nature of much that has been written about the Philippine war, they also gained considerable acceptance. As a result, to the extent that the educated public has any view of the war at all, it is undoubtedly that of racist American soldiers subjecting innocent Filipinos to the water cure or marching along singing, "Damn, Damn, Damn the Filipinos."10

Considerable evidence exists, however, to support the argument that atrocious acts of war, for all their widespread publicity, were neither the major nor the most important feature of the army’s approach to pacification, as the leaders of the Philippine revolution recognized at the time. They feared what they called the army’s "policy of attraction," the term used to describe such army activities as the establishment of schools, municipal governments, and public works projects. The leaders of the revolution feared that the Americans would succeed in winning Filipino acceptance of American rule through such an enlightened policy, and many guerrilla leaders ordered acts of terrorism against their own people in an attempt to counter it. Terror, however, did not prevent all Filipinos from collaborating with the Americans as the army created a positive image of the benefits of colonial rule by the reforms implemented in the occupied towns.

The reform orientation of the army’s leaders, not brutality, was the most significant element in the American approach to pacification. Literally from the moment they occupied Manila, American officers had begun efforts to reform the city’s government and improve the lives of the people in their charge, initiating their work at a time when many of them assumed that the United States would not be retaining the islands. Later, as tension between the Americans and the Filipino revolutionaries mounted, General E. S. Otis, the second commander of the expeditionary force, hoped that many of the reforms implemented by his military government would obtain Filipino acceptance of American rule and avoid war by demonstrating the sincerity of McKinley’s pronouncements stressing America’s benevolent intentions in the islands. After hostilities began, Otis continued in his belief that enlightened government was a more important tool of pacification than forceful military operations. Even when condemned by some of his own men for being too cautious, Otis persisted in a policy of pacification emphasizing good works instead of more draconian measures, leading one correspondent to remark that the Americans were "humane to the point of military weakness."11

A number of officers shared the General’s views, and as units of the army occupied territory outside of Manila, commanders organized public schools, municipal governments, public health measures, and many other projects with a reform orientation. General Arthur MacArthur, who succeeded Otis in May 1900, continued the commitment to a pacification policy relying upon the good works of the military government to bring an end to the war by convincing Filipinos that an American colonial government would have a sincere interest in their welfare and could be trusted. MacArthur consistently rejected the recommendations of those subordinates who urged him to adopt a highly repressive policy, even after he concluded that some harsher measures would be needed to break the link between the guerrillas and their noncombatant supporters. Fortunately for MacArthur, a number of officers in the field took a similar view, and during even the most frustrating period of the guerrilla war, at a time when some Americans were engaging in deplorable acts of brutality, others continued the reform-oriented work of the military government.12

Many accounts of the Philippine campaign have erred in giving the civil government of William Howard Taft credit for winning Filipino acceptance of American rule.13 In reality, although MacArthur relinquished control over the insular government to Taft in July 1901, the policies followed by the Taft government after that date were in most cases little more than a continuation of efforts initiated by the army in the previous two and a half years. The work of the civil authorities did help bring about conciliation between Americans and Filipinos, and the lure of civil government was a powerful incentive to Filipinos who wanted to be free of the restrictions of martial rule, but stories of Taft saving his "little brown brothers" from the harshness of military rule are mythical. In fact, Taft advocated a more repressive policy of pacification than that conceived by MacArthur.

Taft, not the military, pushed for the deportation of captured revolutionary leaders to Guam, and Taft, not MacArthur, wanted Filipinos refusing to lay down their arms to be "treated as outlaws and subject to the severest penalties."14 Taft even criticized MacArthur for being "much too merciful in commuting death sentences" of convicted terrorists,15 and in his private correspondence Taft showed little respect or liking for the Philippine people.16 To the extent that Filipinos were won over to the American side by the work of enlightened or shrewd colonial government, in the period before 1902 the officers of the U. S. Army deserve far more credit for the accomplishment than William Howard Taft.

Although the author of a 1980 study of American Social Engineering in the Philippines stated emphatically that "there was little relationship between the progressive movement in the United States and the policies introduced in the Philippines,"17 the work of the military government would seem to offer numerous examples of the political and humanitarian reforms that were the essence of progressivism in America. The basic assumption underlying the military government’s emphasis on education, for example, was that Filipinos must be prepared to participate in the democratic political structure that officers assumed would be established in the islands. Furthermore, the reform orientation of the army’s officers was evident before McKinley’s decision to take the Philippines and before the outbreak of war. The reform activity of the military also began too early to represent either an insincere or pragmatic response to the demands of pacification or colonial government. Instead the urge to engage in progressive reform, covered in greater detail in the following chapter, was something that the officers had brought with them from home.

That the army’s pacification efforts in the Philippines succeeded seems beyond doubt, although there remains considerable disagreement among historians regarding how those efforts should be characterized. As the war proceeded, Filipinos in all parts of the islands changed their minds and their allegiance, until finally, as one historian has observed, "virtually every member of the resistance cooperated with the Americans."18 Unfortunately, the Filipino side of the process that eventually led to such widespread collaboration is not yet fully understood, although it seems clear that the Filipino response varied considerably depending on time, place, and circumstance.

Many of the conservative Filipino elite, fearing that an independent government might be dominated by military opportunists or radical representatives of the masses, supported the Americans, in some cases beginning their collaboration even before the outbreak of hostilities. Stability and order seemed more important to them than independence. Other Filipinos, believing that successful resistance was impossible, resigned themselves unenthusiastically to an American victory. In places, members of the elite tried to maintain a posture of watchful neutrality, choosing sides only when the threat of revolutionary terror or, particularly after December 1900, of American retaliation forced them to commit themselves. Elsewhere, the desire for independence and an embryonic sense of Philippine nationalism motivated elite leaders to continue fighting against the Americans long after most Filipinos had accepted defeat.19 In general, however, members of the elite recognized that the gulf between them and their less educated, impoverished countrymen was much more difficult to bridge than that between them and their American conquerors. One by one they concluded that acceptance of an American colonial government would do more to help them retain or enhance their power and position within Philippine society than the continuation of a resistance that seemed increasingly futile.20 For dedicated revolutionaries the task of collaboration was made easier by the extremely high correlation between the reforms implemented by the Americans and those demanded of Spain by the intellectual spokesmen of the revolution. Only the Filipino desire for complete independence and the immediate expropriation of the estates of the Catholic religious orders had been ignored.21

An undeniable element of opportunism existed in the positive response of many Filipinos to the Americans. People who had sought political power or increased status in the struggle for independence and the development of Philippine nationalism found that such self-serving goals could also be achieved by cooperating with the American colonial government. Filipinos who had joined the revolution for economic reasons soon saw that collaboration with the Americans could also bring material benefits or upward mobility. As the army’s military success and the pressure of the pacification campaign increased, so did the number of opportunistic Filipinos willing to cast their lot with the Americans. Other Filipinos undoubtedly abandoned the revolution because they had grown weary of war or feared the consequences of further resistance.

The considerable friction apparent within the ranks of the revolution proved to be an important ally of the Americans in their campaign of pacification. The fragmentation within the revolution began as early as 1897, when Aguinaldo seized control of the movement from its founder, Andres Bonifacio, whose death at the hands of Aguinaldo’s supporters created the first serious division among the revolutionaries. The death of General Antonio Luna under similar circumstances in 1899 added to the tensions, as did ethnic and socioeconomic divisions within Philippine society. The arbitrary rule of Filipino military commanders in areas under their control demonstrated that a Philippine republic under Aguinaldo and his lieutenants, many of whom were from the Tagalog speaking region of Luzon, might prove no more democratic than an American colonial government. Peasants or other Filipinos expecting a social revolution were alienated by the tendency of Aguinaldo’s government to support local elites, many of whom had joined the revolution only after its success over the colonial regime of the Spaniards had been assured.22

Although tensions within the revolution were heightened by the American presence, one important division in Philippine society was masked by it, that between liberal revolutionaries seeking to enhance their political and economic power in a modernizing Philippine state and peasants longing for the stability and continuity of traditional village life. While many leaders of the revolution and their elite supporters saw themselves engaged in a forward-looking movement having as its goals such "modern" objectives as economic development, increased world commerce, and the creation of a unified Philippine state, the peasant guerrillas who followed them often sought a far different world, one rooted in a seemingly utopian but probably mythical past where life was less complex and free from the pressures and insecurities of an expanding commercial agriculture and money economy. At times the goals of the Filipino peasant, whether social revolutionary or reactionary, had little in common with the revolution of the elite, the Western educated intellectual, or the opportunist.23

As the pressures of the modern world and expanding metropolis intruded on their lives, peasants fought back, not only enlisting in the revolution against Spain and then against the Americans, but also participating in highly spiritual millenial movements or engaging in social banditry, two very common forms of resistance where peasants under stress are finally pushed to action. In the Philippines such responses had begun long before the revolt against Spain, and they continued long after the revolutionary leaders of 1896 and 1898 had joined with the Americans in the administration of the colonial government. During the Philippine-American War, the clash between tradition and modernizing tendencies, as well as that between elite and mass, formed strong undercurrents that were little understood but of great significance in undermining the strength of the Philippine revolution. The Americans, with their emphasis on progressive reform and their tendency to support the interests of the Filipino elite in its clash with the more traditional or radical peasantry, represented a haven from the vagaries of revolutionary fortune for many Filipinos.

American goals for the world in 1900 were not totally incompatible with many of the desires of the liberal revolutionaries in the Philippines, although the United States was clearly a threat to their nationalist aspirations. The intellectual roots of the Philippine revolution were in Europe, and the liberal vision of many Filipinos was shared by a number of the Americans who would eventually fight against them. That made the American task of conquest easier and the Filipino task of resistance much more difficult. The Americans could co-opt the Filipino revolutionaries because in so many areas, such as education and municipal government, American and Filipino goals were compatible.

In the 20th century, when Marxism and, later, Islamic fundamentalism replaced liberalism as the dominant ideologies of revolution throughout the world, the possibilities for cooptation decreased significantly, making successful campaigns of the kind undertaken by the Americans in the Philippines much more difficult, if not impossible. By the time of the war in Vietnam nations such as the United States would have far less in common than they once did with the revolutionaries of the world.

A second important point concerns the nature of the U. S. Army’s campaign of pacification. It was not based upon a policy of terror or brutality; it was not "genocidal." Instead, it stands as an example of an approach to counter-revolutionary warfare that seemed to have been all but completely rejected less than a century later.

Many American commanders in the Philippines never lost sight of two things. First, their goal was to obtain Filipino acceptance of American rule in a way that would gain the cooperation of the Filipino people and prevent the need to hold the Philippines through the continued use of military force. Second, to accomplish that goal the army and the colonial government had to provide acceptable political, economic, and social alternatives to those put forth by the revolutionaries. Both the compatibility of American and Filipino liberalism and the progressive orientation of the army’s officers helped the Americans accomplish their goal of gaining Filipino acceptance of American sovereignty.

Unfortunately, these two conclusions point to an interesting contradiction. If countries such as the United States have nothing in common with Marxist revolutionaries or Islamic fundamentalists, then policies such as those followed in the Philippines would appear to have little value. But the alternative–brutal repression and the attempt to solve what are really political, economic, and social problems by the exclusive use of military force–raises a serious moral problem for anyone committed to the traditional liberal vision. Can the end justify the means if the means are so violent that the end itself is destroyed in the process? The question highlights the primary dilemma facing people who would attempt to thwart revolution by any means necessary.

The Americans in the Philippines were lucky; they did not have to make the difficult choice. What they stood for, although it had its sordid racist and imperialist elements, was in sufficient harmony with the desires of many Filipinos to make their conquest and pacification possible, if not easy. Great powers seeking such ends are seldom so fortunate.

1 John M. Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags: The U.S. Army in the Philippines, 1898-1902 (Westport, 1973).

2 John M. Gates, "The Pacification of the Philippines, 1898-1902," in Joe E. Dixon, ed., The American Military in the Far East: Proceedings of the 9th Military History Symposium, U.S. Air Force Academy (Washington D.C.,1982), 79-91 & 261-264.

3 See, for example, p. 368 of Dennis M. Drew & Donald M. Snow, The Eagle’s Talons: The American Experience at War (Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 1988).

4 For a more detailed overview of the revolutionary strategy and its failure see John M. Gates, "Philippine Guerrillas, American Anti-Imperialists, and the Election of 1900," Pacific Historical Review, 66 (1977), 51-64.

5 Moorefield Storey and Julian Codman, Secretary Root’s Record: "Marked Severities" in Philippine Warfare (Boston, 1902), 11.

6 Statement of Senator George Frisbie Hoar, quoted in Richard E. Welch, Jr., "American Atrocities in the Philippines: The Indictment and the Response," Pacific Historical Review, 43 (1974), 233.

7 Stanley Karnow, In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines (New York, 1989), 196.

8 Stuart C. Miller, "Our My Lai of 1900: Americans in the Philippine Insurrection," Transaction, 7, (1970), 19, and Luzviminda Francisco, "The First Vietnam: The U.S.-Philippine War of 1899," Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 5 (1973), 12.

9 Daniel B. Schirmer, Republic or Empire: American Resistance to the Philippine War (Cambridge, Mass, 1972), 256.

10 The text this author read as an undergraduate contained such a view. See Thomas A. Bailey, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic (Boston, 1956), 629.

11 Frederick Palmer, "White Man and Brown Man in the Philippines," Scribner’s Magazine, 27 (1900), 85.

12 For both evidence of the reform activities of army officers in the provinces and the supreme importance of the individuals concerned see Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (Chapel Hill, 1989). See also Gates, Schoolbooks and Krags, esp. 54-155. Attempts to demonstrate that the Army’s work was unsuccessful or not oriented toward reform are sometimes undermined by their own data. See, for example, Virginia Frances Mulrooney, "No Victoy, No Vanquished: United States Military Government in the Philippine Islands, 1898-1901" (Ph.D. Diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1975), chap. 5.

13 See, for example, William J. Pomeroy, "’Pacification’ in the Philippines, 1898-1913," France-Asie, 21 (1967), 444, and David Joel Steinberg, "An Ambiguous Legacy: Years at War in the Philippines," Pacific Affairs, 45 (1972), 170.

14 Taft to Root, 21 Sept. 1900, Elihu Root Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

15 Taft to Root, 31 Oct. 1900, Root Papers.

16 Peter W. Stanley, A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899-1921 (Cambridge, Mass., 1974), 64-67.

17 Glenn Anthony May, Social Engineering in the Philippines: The Aims, Execution and Impact of American Colonial Policy, 1900-1913 (Westport, 1980), xvii.

18 Glenn A. May, "Filipino Resistance to American Occupation: Batangas, 1899-1902," Pacific Historical Review, 48 (1979), 554.

19 For a detailed analysis of the role of the local elite in the war see Glenn Anthony May, Battle for Batangas: A Philippine Province at War (New Haven, 1991).

20 The variation in the elite response may be seen in a comparison of Teodoro A. Agoncillo, Malolos: The Crisis of the Republic (Quezon City, 1960), 636-653; John A. Larkin, The Pampangans: Colonial Society in a Philippine Province (Berkeley, 1972), 126-127; May, "Filipino Resistance," 554-556; and Norman G. Owen, "Winding Down the War in Albay, 1900-1903," Pacific Historical Review, 48 (1979), 564-569 and 581-589. Jane Slichter Ragsdale, "Coping with the Yankees: The Filipino Elite, 1898-1902" (Ph.D. Diss., University of Wisconsin, 1974) stresses the diversity of elite participation in the Philippine revolution. For an insightful look at the long-term effects of elite collaboration with the Americans see Steinberg, "Ambiguous Legacy," 165-190.

21 A summary of the demands of the opponents of Spanish colonial rule appears in Teodoro A. Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses: The Story of Bonifacio and the Katipunan (Quezon City, 1956), 18-31 and James A. LeRoy, The Americans in the Philipines, I, 63-73.

22 On the death of Bonifacio see Agoncillo, The Revolt of the Masses, chaps. 14 and 15. On that of Luna see Agoncillo, Malolos, 498-539. The split between peasant social revolutionaries and the more conservative revolutionary movements headed by Aguinaldo is covered in detail in Milagros Camayon Guerrero, "Luzon at War: Contradictions in Philippine Society, 1989-1902" (Ph.D. Diss., The University of Michigan, 1977).

23 David R. Sturtevant, Popular Uprisings in the Philippines, 1840-1940 (Ithaca, 1975), focuses on the millennial aspects of the peasant response to the revolution. See esp. chaps. 5 and 6. Guerrero, "Luzon at War," 164-168, specifically rejects Sturtevant’s interpretations and argues that the peasants were social revolutionaries.


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Last updated: Nov. 2002
John M. Gates

U.S. Role in Africa in the last 40 years

Should U.S. intervention in Sudan be supported? A Closer Look
by Ken Morgan
Baltimore Times
Originally posted 3/30/2007

Part II

U.S. Role in Africa
The U.S. involvement in Africa over the last 40 or so years is quite revealing. The year 1961 saw the U.S. and its imperialists friends interfere in the Belgian Congo. The fingerprints of the U.S. remain all over the assassination of Patrice Lumumba. In 1965, CIA backed military coup overthrew President Joseph Kasavubu and ushered in Joseph Mobutu to power. In 1966, the U.S. backed overthrow of Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana. Between 1976 and 1992 US CIA support for Angolan South -African backed rebels in their attempt to overthrow the legitimate government of Angola. In 1978, the U.S. helped to foment war between Ethiopia and Somalia. The U.S. continued to support apartheid South Africa almost up to the very end of the apartheid system and the triumph of the Nelson Mandela led ANC. The U.S. provided support for Rhodesia in its battle to maintain minority rule in what is now Zimbabwe. The Clinton administration bombed Khartoum and destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in the name of fighting terrorism in 1993. The U.S. most recently in January 2007 facilitated the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia under the guise of fighting terrorism.

The lure of oil, protecting oil and the supposed war against terrorism has drawn a growing U.S. military presence in Africa. The Gulf of Guinea is one such example. Reasoned speculation exists that U.S. interest in Sudan is increased dramatically because Sudan is the third largest African oil producing nation.

The U.S. Army recently set up an African Command and over the years stepped up its military presence in Africa. The U.S. trained Djibouti, Ethiopian and Keya military forces according to the October 21 issue of USA Today. This past January, U.S. helicopter gun ships bombed southern Somalia, to defeat the retreating Somalian forces.

Current bases in Africa are located in Entebbe Uganda, Djibouti, and Dakar, Senegal as well as smaller operations in Liberia and Mauritania. S

Competing interests divide U.S. China policy

Events this spring, however, revealed the rivalry within the Bush administration between a "business wing" that favors increased trade and investment ties with China, and a "defense wing" that is very concerned that the capital and technology flowing to China is creating a dangerous rival with global ambitions.

The Jamestown Foundation (China Brief, Volume 6, Issue 13,

The attacks of 9/11 provided unique opportunities to the U.S. government

The 9/11 attacks provided unique opportunities to the U.S. government

 Elias Davidsson
(based partly on David Ray Griffin’s analysis of motives, in The New Pearl Harbor, p.130)

The attacks of 9/11 were described as “opportunities” by U.S. leaders.  Bob Woodward (Bush at War, p. 32) reports that at the meeting of the National Security Council on the night of 9/11, President Bush said that the attacks provided “a great opportunity”.  Donald Rumsfeld used this term in an interview with the New York Times of 12 October 2001 saying that these attacks created “the kind of opportunities that World War II offered, to refashion the world” According to an interview with The New Yorker Magazine, published on April 1, 2002, Condolezza Rice told senior members of the National Security Council to “think about ‘how to capitalize on these opportunities'” to fundamentally change American doctrine, and the shape of the world, in the wake of September 11th.  And in The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, issued by the U.S. government in September 2002, one discovers that “the events of September 11, 2001, opened vast, new opportunities” for the U.S.The designation of 9/11 as an “opportunity” was not limited to U.S. leaders. In a story published by the right-wing US News and World Report, we read: “Then came 9/11. Worldwide revulsion and the shared sense of threat handed Washington a once-in-a generation chance to shake up international politics. Ten days after the attacks, State Department experts catalogued for [Colin] Powell a dozen ‘silver linings'”
Senator Richard G. Lugar addressed on March 4, 2002 the Council for Foreign Relations (CFR) with a lecture entitled “NATO After 9/11: Crisis or Opportunity.” [Link]. He said:
If there is a single message I would like to leave with you this evening, it is the following: amidst all the current signs of crisis, we must not lose sight of the enormous opportunity that we have to build a new trans-Atlantic relationship (…)
The fact that leading members of the U.S. administration designated 9/11 as a unique “opportunity” in terms of foreign policies, demonstrates that such policies had been just waiting for the right opportunity to be put in practice. This, by itself, does not prove that this “opportunity” was created by the U.S. administration. However, it demonstrates that U.S. leaders had a motive to commit the crime.

A Century of U.S. Military Interventions

From Wounded Knee to Afghanistan
Compiled by Zoltan Grossman
(revised 09/20/01)

U.S. military spending ($343 billion in the year 2000) is 69 percent greater than that of the next five highest nations combined. Russia, which has the second largest military budget, spends less than one-sixth what the United States does. Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Iran, and Syria spend $14.4 billion combined; Iran accounts for 52 percent of this total.

The following is a partial list of U.S. military interventions from 1890 to 1999. This guide does NOT include demonstration duty by military police, mobilizations of the National Guard, offshore shows of naval strength, reinforcements of embassy personnel, the use of non-Defense Department personnel (such as the Drug Enforcement Agency), military exercises, non-combat mobilizations (such as replacing postal strikers), the permanent stationing of armed forces, covert actions where the U.S. did not play a command and control role, the use of small hostage rescue units, most uses of proxy troops, U.S. piloting of foreign warplanes, foreign disaster assistance, military training and advisory programs not involving direct combat, civic action programs, and many other military activities. <

Among sources used, besides news reports, are the Congressional Record (23 June 1969), 180 Landings by the U.S. Marine Corps History Division, Ege & Makhijani in Counterspy (July-Aug. 1982), and Daniel Ellsberg in Protest & Survive. “Instances of Use of United States Forces Abroad, 1798-1993” by Ellen C. Collier of the Library of Congress Congressional Research Service.


1890 (-?)
300 Lakota Indians massacred at Wounded
Buenos Aires interests protected.
Marines clash with nationalist rebels.

Black workers revolt on U.S.-claimed Navassa Island defeated.

Army suppresses silver miners’ strike.

1893 (-?)
Naval, troops
Independent kingdom overthrown, annexed.

Breaking of rail strike, 34 killed.

Month-long occupation of Bluefields.

Naval, troops
Marines land in Sino-Japanese War.

Marines kept in Seoul during war.

Troops, naval
Marines land in Colombian province.

Marines land in port of Corinto.

Boxer Rebellion fought by foreign armies.

Naval, troops
Seized from Spain, killed
600,000 Filipinos.

Naval, troops
Seized from Spain, still hold Navy

Naval, troops
Seized from Spain, occupation

Naval, troops
Seized from Spain, still use as base.

Army battles Chippewa at Leech Lake.

Marines land at port of San Juan del Sur.

Battle over succession to throne.

Marines land at port of Bluefields.

Army occupies Coeur d’Alene mining region.

Army battles Creek Indian revolt.

Naval, troops
Broke off from Colombia 1903, annexed Canal Zone 1914-99.

Marines intervene in revolution.

U.S. interests protected in Revolution.

Marines land in Russo-Japanese War.

Marines land in democratic election.

“Dollar Diplomacy” protectorate set up.

Marines land during war with Nicaragua.

Marines intervene in election contest.

Marines land in Bluefields and Corinto.

U.S. interests protected in civil war.

Naval, troops
Continuous occupation with flare-ups.

U.S. interests protected in Havana.

Marines land during heated election.

Marines protect U.S. economic interests.

Troops, bombing
20-year occupation, fought guerrillas.

Americans evacuated during revolution.

Fight with rebels over Santo Domingo.

Breaking of miners’ strike by Army.

Naval, troops
Series of interventions against

Troops, bombing
19-year occupation after revolts.

8-year Marine occupation.

Military occupation, economic protectorate.

Naval, troops
Ships sunk, fought Germany

Naval, troops
Five landings to fight Bolsheviks.


“Police duty” during unrest after elections.
Marines intervene for Italy against Serbs in Dalmatia.


Marines land during election campaign.

2-week intervention against unionists.

Troops, bombing
Army intervenes against

Fought nationalists in Smyrna (Izmir).

Naval, troops
Deployment during nationalist revolt.

Landed twice during election strife.

Marines suppress general strike.

Marines stationed throughout the country.

Warships sent during Faribundo Marti revolt.

Army stops WWI vet bonus protest.

Naval,troops, bombing, nuclear
Fought Axis for 3
years; 1st nuclear war.

Army puts down Black rebellion.

Nuclear threat
Soviet troops told to leave north (Iranian

Response to shooting-down of U.S. plane.

Nuclear threat
Bombers deployed as show of strength.

Command operation
U.S. directs extreme-right in civil

Marines evacuate Americans before Communist victory.


Nuclear threat
Atomic-capable bombers guard Berlin Airlift.

Command operation
CIA directs war against Huk

Command operation
Independence rebellion crushed in

Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats
South Korea fight China & North Korea to stalemate; A-bomb threat in 1950, & vs. China in 1953. Still have bases.

Command operation
CIA overthrows democracy, installs Shah.

Nuclear threat
Bombs offered to French to use against

Command operation, bombing, nuclear threat CIA directs exile invasion after new gov’t nationalizes U.S. company lands; bombers based in Nicaragua.

Nuclear threat, troops
Soviets told to keep out of Suez crisis; MArines evacuate foreigners

Troops, naval
Marine occupation against rebels.

Nuclear threat
Iraq warned against invading Kuwait.

Nuclear threat
China told not to move on Taiwan isles.

Flag protests erupt into confrontation.

Troops, naval, bombing, nuclear threats Fought South Vietnam revolt & North Vietnam; 1-2 million killed in longest U.S. war; atomic bomb threats in 1968 and 1969.

Command operation CIA-directed exile invasion fails.

Nuclear threat Alert during Berlin Wall crisis.

Nuclear threat
Blockade during missile crisis; near-war with USSR.

Command operation
Military buildup during guerrilla war.

Panamanians shot for urging canal’s return.

Command operation Million killed in CIA-assisted army coup.

Troops, bombing Marines land during election campaign.

Command operation Green Berets intervene against rebels.

Army battles Blacks, 43 killed.

After King is shot; over 21,000 soldiers in cities.

Bombing, troops, naval Up to 2 million killed in decade of bombing, starvation, and political chaos.

Command operation U.S. directs Iranian marine invasion.



Command operation, bombing U.S. directs South Vietnamese invasion; “carpet-bombs” countryside.
Command operation Army directs Wounded Knee siege of Lakotas.

Nuclear threat World-wide alert during Mideast War.

Command operation CIA-backed coup ousts elected marxist president.

Troops, bombing Gas captured ship, 28 die in copter crash.

Command operation CIA assists South African-backed rebels.

Troops, nuclear threat, aborted bombing Raid to rescue Embassy hostages; 8 troops die in copter-plane crash. Soviets warned not to get involved in revolution.

Naval jets Two Libyan jets shot down in maneuvers.

Command operation, troops Advisors, overflights aid anti-rebel war, soldiers briefly involved in hostage clash.

Command operation, naval CIA directs exile (Contra) invasions, plants harbor mines against revolution.

Naval, bombing, troops Marines expel PLO and back Phalangists, Navy bombs and shells Muslim and Syrian positions.

Maneuvers help build bases near borders.

Troops, bombing Invasion four years after revolution.

Two Iranian jets shot down over Persian Gulf.


Bombing, naval Air strikes to topple nationalist gov’t.

Troops Army assists raids on cocaine region.

Naval, bombing US intervenes on side of Iraq in war.

Naval jets Two Libyan jets shot down.

St. Croix Black unrest after storm.

Air cover provided for government against coup.

Troops, bombing
Nationalist government ousted by 27,000 soldiers, leaders arrested, 2000+ killed.

Foreigners evacuated during civil war.

Troops, jets Iraq countered after invading Kuwait; 540,000 troops also stationed in Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Israel.

Bombing, troops, naval Blockade of Iraqi and Jordanian ports, air strikes; 200,000+ killed in invasion of Iraq and Kuwait; no-fly zone over Kurdish north, Shiite south, large-scale destruction of Iraqi military.

Naval, bombing, troops Kuwait royal family returned to throne.

Army, Marines deployed against anti-police uprising.

Troops, naval, bombing U.S.-led United Nations occupation during civil war; raids against one Mogadishu faction.

Nato blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.

Jets, bombing No-fly zone patrolled in civil war; downed jets, bombed Serbs.

Troops, naval
Blockade against military government; troops restore President Aristide to office three years after coup.

Krajina Serb airfields attacked
 before Croatian offensive.


Marines at Rwandan Hutu refuge camps, in area where Congo revolution begins.

Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

Soldiers under fire during evacuation of foreigners.

Attack on pharmaceutical plant alleged to be “terrorist” nerve gas plant.

Attack on former CIA training camps used by Islamic fundamentalist groups alleged to have attacked embassies.

Bombing, Missiles
Four days of intensive air strikes after weapons inspectors allege Iraqi obstructions.

Bombing, Missiles
Heavy NATO air strikes after Serbia declines to withdraw from Kosovo.

Suicide bomb attack on USS Cole.

NATO troops shift and
partially disarm Albanian rebels.

Jets, naval
Response to hijacking attacks.

Massive U.S. mobilization to attack Taliban, Bin Laden. War could expand to Iraq, Sudan, and beyond.

For more information or with comments and additions please contact:
Zoltan Grossman, 1705 Rutledge, Madison, WI 53704 Phone Fax
Permission to reproduce this list in its entirety
is granted by the author, please send any published copy to the above

Truth – Justice – Peace