Friday, 8 July 2011

The 58,000 American soldiers who may not have died in vain after all

In case you’ve never seen it, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC is a curving black structure made from a basalt-like substance, bearing the names of the 58,175 Americans who died trying to prevent communist North Vietnam from invading its neighbour to the south. 

I knew nothing about the memorial when I visited it for the first time in 1992. Several weeping people were leaving as I arrived: relatives, I assumed. Shortly afterwards, I was sobbing as well: I’m not sure it’s possible for anyone who doesn’t actively hate America to survive the experience without shedding tears. The endless list of the names of dead men and boys was poignant enough, but the mementoes and messages left by comrades and relatives at the base of the memorial’s sunken walls were heart-rending. I was holding my breath and biting the inside of my cheek to maintain decorum, but the the photographs of serious, proud-looking kids in their shiny new uniforms unmanned me.

I was remanned afterwards by the merchandise on sale at a nearby Vets stall. Somewhere, I still have the bumper sticker reading “Jane Fonda – Commie Traitor Bitch”. Amen to that.
I was a bemused teenager when the protests against Vietnam got into full swing over here, but even back then I’d managed to figure out that Communism – to quote Gary Cooper before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee – wasn’t “on the level”. Did the demonstrators seriously believe that it was right for the Russian or Chinese-backed Communist North to invade and enslave the South? Did they honestly believe Ho Chi Minh was a sort of gun-toting version of the Dalai Lama? Why were the protestors so certain that the Domino Theory was risible? Did they believe that because South Vietnam was hardly the model of an enlightened democracy, it deserved to be thrown to the wolves? Or that because not everything the Americans did there was admirable or competent or effective, that meant they shouldn’t be there at all? And that if Uncle Sam pulled out, Vietnam would enter the Age of Aquarius, with the peoples of both countries spontaneously embracing each other in the streets because the Yankee oppressor had upped sticks?

Seems they did.

Unfortunately, public opinion in the West, fuelled by our crypto-communist liberal media, made it impossible for the Americans to even consider doing what they should have done sometime around 1965 – namely, bomb Hanoi. That would have brought the North Vietnamese to the negotiating table, and, given that LBJ was still enjoying the support of the American people (who were gagging for decisive action), it’s unlikely that Russia or China would have done much about it.

How the war might have been won was finally demonstrated by Richard Nixon in 1972 when the North Vietnamese were deliberately derailing peace talks by reneging on everything they’d already agreed, including the release of American POWs. Nixon finally lost his cool and ordered air attacks on military targets in Hanoi, rather than the peripheral targets that had been bombed up to that point. As Nixon delicately put it to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “I don’t want any more of this crap about the fact that you couldn’t hit this target or that one. This is your chance to use military power effectively to win the war, and if you don’t, I’ll consider you responsible.” 

During the next 10 days, over 1700 bomber sorties were flown against military targets. The New York Times called the action “terrorism on an unprecedented scale”. Here, the Guardian said “Mr Nixon wants to go down in history as one of the most murderous and bloodthirsty of American Presidents.” Senator McGovern, whom Nixon had just massacred in the Presidential election, called it “a policy of mass murder… the most murderous bombardment in the history of the world.” 

After their release, American POWs in jail in Hanoi reported that, once the bombing had started, they could see the realisation dawning in the eyes of their frightened captors that the game was up. 

The total number of North Vietnamese killed during the “most murderous bombardment in the history of the world” was 1,623 - one of the lowest death tolls for any bombing campaign in history.

North Vietnam signed a peace accord a month later, in January 1973.

The treaty was not a particularly honourable one, but the subsequent takeover of South Vietnam by the North was the direct result of the damage done to Nixon by Watergate, and by the pantywaist liberals in Congress refusing to grant any further military aid to South Vietnam (liberals - loyal to the core). 

As for that ridiculous Domino Theory – evidently a mere pretext for American bloodlust – Cambodia was taken over by the Khmer Rouge and at least a million Cambodians were butchered by revolutionary communists led by middle class men who had been to French universities and who admired Robespierre. (Senator McGovern, by the way, called for American troops to be sent in to halt the bloodshed – liberals, you’ve got to love ‘em!)

In his marvellous book, The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964-1980, Stephen F. Hayward paraphrases Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister, telling the US Congress in 1985 that “America’s long effort in Vietnam bought precious time for the rest of the region to solidify itself, turning a row of fragile dominoes into pillars of economic and political strength… and formidable bastions against the further expansion of Communism in any form.”

The world owes a debt of gratitude to the 58,175 Americans whose names are to be found on that wall in Washington. God Bless Them!


  1. An excellent piece. No comment necessary, really, save a statement of the obvious.

    Yes, if you want to halt the spread of communism you sometimes have to get into bed with some murderous bastards - Chiang Kai Shek of China, Syngman Rhee of S.Korea, Ngo Dinh Diem of South Vietnam and our old friends The Taleban during the 1979-89 Russian Occupation of Afghanistan. It's called Realpolitik and was an art practised to perfection by J. Stalin
    Friday, July 8, 2011 - 12:11 PM

  2. As Jeane Kirkpatrick pointed out during Carter’s baleful reign, American leftists of that era seemed far happier doing business with totalitarian regimes rather than the authoritarian regimes America had traditionally supported in order to stem the spread of communism. It’s odd how leftists – who imagine they’re morally superior to everyone else – so often end up with morally insane policies.
    Friday, July 22, 2011 - 03:39 PM