Reinventing Vietnam War History

Stephen Lendman

Survivors won't ever forget. Nor should they. Including Vietnamese sufferers. Permanently disabled US war veterans. Many on both sides enduring chronic illnesses. They want truth and full disclosure maintained. Nothing erased from history. Or reinvented to ignore what happened. One of history's greatest crimes. Nameless, faceless victims suffering to this day out of sight and mind understand best.

Pentagon commanders initiated it. A duplicitous 2015 50th anniversary commemoration. Honoring one of history's greatest crimes. Turning truth on its head. Orwell explained saying "(h)e who controls the past control the future. He who controls the present controls the past."

A Pentagon web site headlines "The United State of America Vietnam War Commemoration." Pentagon commanders glorify what demands condemnation. Providing "the American public with (so-called) historically accurate materials and interactive experiences that will help Americans better understand and appreciate the service of our Vietnam War veterans and the history of US involvement in the Vietnam War."

A Commemorative Partners Program "is designed for federal, state and local communities, veterans' organizations and other nongovernmental organizations to assist a grateful nation in thanking and honoring our Vietnam Veterans and their families." Thanking them for mass murder. Involvement in genocidal high crimes against peace. Making the world safe for monied interests. More on this below.

In 1971, David Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers. Officially titled "United States - Vietnam Relations, 1945 - 1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense." Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara commissioned it. Convinced America's war was unwinnable. Wanting an "encyclopedic history of the Vietnam War." Preparing it was important for future scholars, he believed. In 1969, it was completed. Examining Indochina policy from 1940 - 1968. Forty-seven volumes. Around 7,000 pages. Classified "Top Secret." Ellsberg believed winning was unlikely. Waging it was bad policy. Lawless. Immoral. Costing thousands of American lives. Millions of Southeast Asian ones. More on this below.

Convinced releasing the Pentagon Papers would make a difference, Ellsbergs did so at personal risk. Explaining what everyone deserves to know. What Washington systematically suppressed. About secretly expanding Southeast Asia's war. Lying publicly. Deceiving Congress. Initially charged with conspiracy, espionage and theft of government property, charges against Ellsberg were later dropped. After information surfaced about White House Plumbers using lawless tactics to discredit him.

On May 11, 1973, an Oval Office recording caught Nixon saying:

"(T)he sonofabitching thief is made a national hero and is going to get off on a mistrial, and the New York Times gets a Pulitzer Prize for stealing documents...What in the name of God have we come to?"

In 1996, The Times said The Pentagon Papers

"demonstrated, among other things, that the Johnson Administration had systematically lied, not only to the public, but also to Congress, about a subject of transcendent national interest and significance."

The same Times later featuring Judith Miller's Big Lies. About nonexistent Iraq WMDs. Publicizing them in regular Pentagon press release handouts. Substituting for credible journalism. Daily front page propaganda rubbish. A Noah's Ark of scam artists promoting war. Capped by a Pulitzer Prize.

Responsible journalists want it rescinded. With full defrocking. Times editors don't apologize. They're in lockstep with all US wars. Ongoing or planned. Legal or illegal. WW II was Washington's last legitimate one. Current ones rage with no end. More are planned. Permanent war is official US policy. Obama has lots of death and destruction in mind. Media scoundrels support his worst crimes. Ravaging, destroying and plundering one country after another. Millions of corpses attest to America's barbarity.

No nation in world history did more harm to more people over a longer duration. None matched its savagery. Homicidal viciousness. Ongoing without end. Risking the unthinkable. Possible global war. Mushroom cloud denouement. Armageddon. Terror bombing is longstanding US practice. Targeting civilians and combatants alike.

Geneva and other international laws prohibit attacking non-combatants. Article 25 of the Laws of War: Laws and Customs of War on Land (1907 Hague IV Convention) states:

"The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages, dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited."

Article 26 states

"(t)he officer in command of an attacking force must, before commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power to warn the authorities."

Article 27 says

"(i)n sieges and bombardments, all necessary steps must be taken to spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science, or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the time for military purposes."

The besieged should visibly indicate these buildings or places and notify an adversary beforehand. Fourth Geneva protects civilians in time of war. Prohibiting violence in any form against them. Requiring treatment for sick and wounded. In September 1938, a League of Nations unanimous resolution prohibited

"bombard(ing) cities, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings not in the immediate neighborhood of the operations of land forces…" "In cases where (legitimate targets) are so situated, (aircraft) must abstain from bombardment" [if doing so indiscriminately harms civilians].

The 1945 Nuremberg Principles prohibit "crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity." Including "inhumane acts committed against any civilian populations, before or during the war." Indiscriminate killing. "(W)anton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."

The 1968 General Assembly Resolution on Human Rights prohibits attacks against civilian populations. America and Israel do it repeatedly. By land, sea and air.

Gabriel Kolko wrote the definitive Vietnam War history. His "Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the United States, and the Modern Historical Experience" explains what everyone needs to know. Imperial America's objectives, strengths, weaknesses, quest for world dominance and miscalculations.

Vietnamese tired of colonial rule. Northern communists gained control. They won peasant support. They did so promising more equal land distribution. Their top leaders were intellectuals. Good planning and patience defined them.

Southern policy was polar opposite. Washington installed the authoritarian Ngo Dinh Diem regime. It did so to build military strength, crush opposition, and gain a reliable ally. In the 1950s, military advisors arrived. Escalation followed. Lyndon Johnson wanted war on Vietnam. He got it.

The August 1964 false flag Gulf of Tonkin incident initiated full-scale conflict. It raged after Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Authorizing war without declaring it. It's longstanding US tradition. Big lies launch them. Manufactured pretexts initiate them. Mass killing and destruction follow. It bears repeating. Vietnam remains one of history's greatest crimes.

In February 1965, Operation Thunder began. War without mercy. Raging through October 1968. For 44 months. Targeting and indiscriminate bombings. Using over one million tons of ordnance. At issue was destroying Vietnam's economy. Its will to resist. Curtailing help reaching southern-based National Liberation Front (Viet Cong) fighters.

Over the course of war from 1965 - 1973, eight million tons of bombs were dropped. Threefold WW II's tonnage. Around 300 tons for every Vietnamese man, woman, child, infant, the elderly and infirm. Napalm was used. Other incendiary devices. Terror weapons. Anti-personnel cluster bombs. Spewing thousands of metal pellets. Hitting everything in their path. Indiscriminate land mines claiming victims to this day.

War targeted Cambodia and Laos. From March 1969 through May 1970. Nixon ordered secret bombings. Without consulting Congress. Allegedly to destroy North Vietnamese and Viet Cong sanctuaries. Around 3,500 sorties were flown.

About 600,000 deaths followed. Mostly civilians. Helping Khmer Rouge elements gain power in 1975. Cambodia was bombed with over 500,000 tons of ordnance. Until August 1973. Over 25,000 US ground forces invaded. Dozens of towns, villages and hamlets were destroyed. Many thousands more were killed. Mostly peasants. In harm's way. In the line of fire. In the wrong country at the wrong time.

A 1962 Geneva Accord recognized Laos as a neutral state. Banning foreign military personnel from its territory. Reality was much different. From 1965 - 1973, America flew around 580,000 sorties. Dropping over two million tons of ordinance. The equivalent of a planeload of bombs every eight minutes. Round-the-clock for nine years.

At issue was destroying North Vietnamese so-called Ho Chi Minh Trail supply lines. Targeting the Pathet Lao government. North Vietnam's army controlling eastern provinces. Secret bombings again were used. So were terror weapons. Including napalm, white phosphorous and cluster bombs.

Millions of unexploded bomblets remained. Buried in fields, roads, forests, villages and rivers. Around one-third of Laos's 6.5 million people were killed, injured or displaced. Southeast Asia's wars were devastating. Killing three to four million. Causing mass destruction. Incalculable human suffering to this day.

On August 10, 1961, America began spraying Agent Orange in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Operation Ranch Hand waged herbicidal warfare for 10 years. Around 20,000 sorties were flown. Other spraying was done from boats, trucks, or soldiers mounted with backpacks. Over five million acres were contaminated. About 20% of South Vietnam was sprayed at least once.

Millions of gallons of dioxin-containing defoliant were used across vast areas. Concentrations were 50 times greater than for other defoliation purposes.

Horrific consequences followed. Dioxin is one of nature's most deadly substances. It's both natural and man-made. It's a potent carcinogenic human immune system suppressant. Minute amounts cause serious health problems and death. Agent Orange kills! It accumulates in adipose tissue and the liver. It alters living cell genetic structures. Exposure results in congenital disorders and birth defects. It causes cancer, type two diabetes, and numerous other diseases.

In 2009, the US Institute of Medicine reported evidence linking Agent Orange to soft-tissue sarcoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (including hairy-cell leukemia), Hodgkin’s disease, and chloracne. It's associated with prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, amyloidosis (abnormal protein deposits), Parkinson’s disease, porphyria cutanea tarda (a blood and skin disorder), ischemic heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, cancer of the larynx, lung, bronchea and trachea, as well as spina bifida in offspring of exposed parents. Vietnam's Red Cross links it to liver cancer; lipid metabolism disorder; reproductive abnormalities; development disabilities; paralysis; and congenital deformities like cleft lip, cleft palate, club foot, hydrocephalus, neural tube defects, fused digits, and muscle malformations.

Dioxin remains toxic for decades. It's not water soluble. Nor easily degradable. It contaminates soil, foliage, air and water. It can be inhaled, absorbed through skin, or gain bodily entry through eyes, ears, or other cavity passages. It enters the food chain. Crops, plants, animals, and sea life are poisoned. Its effects killed millions of Southeast Asians. Many others were disabled and/or suffer from chronic illnesses. Future generations are affected like earlier ones.

Around three million US servicemen and women were harmed. So were many American civilians. Many died. Living victims suffer from diseases, birth defects, and other ill effects.

Agent Orange use was always controversial. Studies confirmed its enormous harm. Ecocide and genocide best describe it. Human studies provided damning evidence. In the early 1970s, Vietnam veterans reported skin rashes, cancer, psychological symptoms, birth defects, and other health problems. Victims perish to this day.

Depleted uranium (DU) contamination began in the 1970s. US forces used DU freely since America's Gulf war. Including dirty bombs, shells, missiles, and other munitions. DU and other toxic weapons are illegal under international law. The 1925 Geneva Protocol and subsequent Geneva Weapons Conventions prohibit use of chemical and biological agents in any form.

The 1925 Geneva Convention Gas Protocol prohibits poison gas. The 1907 Hague Convention bans use of any "poison or poisoned weapons."

Dioxin kills. DU is radioactive and chemically toxic. The US code, Title 50, Chapter 40, Section 2302 prohibits use of "weapons of mass destruction," saying:

"The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity."

America's use is lawless. Doing so constitutes war crimes. Millions of combatants and civilians were irreparably harmed or killed. In current US direct and proxy wars, others are affected daily.

Washington wants its toxic legacy buried. Its high crimes against peace forgotten. Whitewashed from history. Reinvented to make America's ugly past look respectable.

Survivors won't ever forget. Nor should they. Including Vietnamese sufferers. Permanently disabled US war veterans. Many on both sides enduring chronic illnesses. They want truth and full disclosure maintained. Nothing erased from history. Or reinvented to ignore what happened. One of history's greatest crimes. Nameless, faceless victims suffering to this day out of sight and mind understand best.

Daniel Denvir, The Secret History of the Vietnam War [04/22/13]
Bill Van Auken, Obama uses Memorial Day speech to rehabilitate Vietnam War [05/31/12]

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He has devoted his time and efforts to progressive causes and organizations, all involved in working for a more humane and just world for all people everywhere, but especially for the most needy, disadvantaged and oppressed. His efforts since summer 2005 have included writing on a broad range of vital topics ranging from war and peace; social, economic and political equity for all; and justice for all the oppressed peoples of the world like the long-suffering people of Haiti and the Palestinians. He also co-hosts The Global Research News Hour, gives occasional public talks, and appears frequently on radio and at times television. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. Also visit his blog and listen to The Lendman News Hour on Monday - Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening. His new book "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War" can be ordered here. He can be reached at

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