HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

VIETNAM REDUX- final terrible act 30 years ago


Well, the 30 year anniversary of the final terrible act of the Vietnam War is here. I still remember that sick deep feeling of loss as the helicopters fled Saigon- that it was all for naught, all wasted- the shattered lives, the dead, the wounded, the poisoned destroyed country... and on a selfish professional level, that I had never seen this shaping force of a generation and a half and experienced the most unlimited power reporters have ever had in a war. Missed the PBS special on it, but a 28 page excerpt of Fall of Saigon book by a liberal American reporter who stayed is at http://www.coldtype.net/Assets.05/Essays/04.Saigon.pdf. The wild guestimate of Vietnamese dead is now 3 million, rather than equally unverified 2 million. In my recent Brown U. lecture (GETTING GOOD NEWS: The Government vs. the Press in Times of War (realaudio) (windowsmedia) on how Vietnam totally changed the relationship in subsequent wars, I speculated whether the media did lose Vietnam, whether it was in fact winable in '68-69, but the strategic and tactical devastation the Viet Cong suffered in Tet was converted in the media into a moral and propaganda win. NY Times has an interesting commentary on The War We Could Have Won http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/01/opinion/01morris.html . A million boat people risked a 50% fatality rate to escape the North's brave new world.

Had an opportunity to talk to Quyen Troung and her father, who spent 7 years in the Communists concentration "reeducation camps", along with 600,000 others while America turned away and danced to disco, at a Watson Inst. Conference on Vietnam. The feared Bloodbath didn't happen there (though 200,000 dead? in camps wasn't insignificant), but it DID happen in Cambodia, and it had nothing to do with Kissinger's bombing, perhaps the most absurd and specious liberal truism ever accepted. The Cambodian genocide of 1-2 million of 8 total ranks as one of the worst proportional genocides in modern times, and we not only ignored it, we left the Khmer Rouge rep stay in the UN for years to protest the Vietnamese invasion (liberation).

I did a TV commentary comparing and contrasting the simultaneous anniversaries of the end of WW2 and Vietnam in a 1985 Mpls veterans cemetery, that decried the miserable treatment of veterans and that the multifarious lessons of Vietnam hadn't been accepted. It's one of best things I've done. 25:30 min into TV Resume Tape realvideo ANNIVERSARIES COMMENTARY (3:08 total,2:14 text May 85).

It was a war that should never have happened, but for Truman turning Vietnam back to brutal French colonial masters in '45 when he was being begged for help by Ho Chi Minh, who read a word for word copy of the American Declaration of Independence to a half-million crowd in Hanoi (below)! My feelings on Vietnam are mixed- I thought then and now, that the war was mostly justified, but the conduct of it was madness. I would have gone if called, but think possible I would have deserted when I saw what was happening. In the end, I suspect Bill Marr may be correct: that it was an essential war that may have helped forestall a nuclear conflict by proving to the Russians that we were willing to pay any price to resist Communist expansionism, even if our notion that it was externally directed was wrong. And that we all owe Vietnam vets a tremendous debt of gratitude and a huge apology.

Danny Schecter draws the parellels of lies and actions between Vietnam and Iraq in his blog.


The sudden Japanese collapse took many in French Indochina by surprise, but the Vietminh were ready for what they called the "August Revolution." Declaring Vietnam independent, they marched in to take Hanoi peacefully. Ho Chi Minh formed a government in Hanoi, carefully mixing in members of other nationalist groups. But in the South, away from Ho's moderating influence, his followers started purging rival nationalists. Still with the Vietminh, and perhaps reinforcing the idea of American support, was the OSS.

ARCHIMEDES PATTI: Two or three days after I met Ho, he asked me to come in and stop and see him at which time he wanted to show me something, and what he wanted to show me was a draft of the Declaration of Independence that he was going to declare several days later. Of course, it was in Vietnamese and I couldn't read it and when it was interpreted to me, I was quite taken aback to hear the words of the American Declaration of Independence. Words about liberty, life and the pursuit of happiness, etcetera. I just couldn't believe my own ears.

NARRATOR: On September 2, 1945, on board the U.S.S. Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Japan formally surrendered. On the same day throughout Vietnam, the Vietnamese celebrated their self-proclaimed Independence Day and the formation of a new country, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. In Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh read a speech that began, "All men are created equal. They are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..."

DR. TRAN DUY HUNG: I can say that the most moving moment was when President Ho Chi Minh climbed the steps and the national anthem was sung. It was the first time that the national anthem of Vietnam was sung in an official ceremony. Uncle Ho then read the Declaration of Independence, which was a short document. As he was reading, Uncle Ho stopped and asked, "Compatriots, can you hear me?" This simple question went into the hearts of everyone there. After a moment of silence, they all shouted, "Yes, we hear you!" And I can say that we did not just shout with our mouths but with all our hearts, the hearts of over 400,000 people standing in the square then. After Uncle Ho finished reading the Declaration of Independence, an airplane, a small plane, circled over us. We did not know whose plane it was. We thought that it was a Vietnamese plane. But when it swooped down over us, we recognized the American flag. The crowd cheered enthusiastically.

NARRATOR: Ho appealed to President Harry Truman but he would probably have accepted anyone's support. Truman did not respond to Ho's letters. He had been in office only four months in August 1945 and had not had time to formulate a policy on Indochina.

ABBOT LOW MOFFAT: There was quite a division in the State Department over Indochina. Both the Far Eastern office and the European office were in complete agreement that we wanted a strong France recovered in Europe from the trauma of Vichy and the defeat in the war, but the European division felt that to help get the French back on their feet we should go along with practically anything that the French wanted.

TERRORIST CAPTURED: Libyan Al Qadda leader Abu al (Scooter) Libbi was caught in Pakistani .

REPUBLICAN COUP AT PBS?? - Alarming report of the Republican progress to hobble and gut any fearless news/documentary criticism at PBS by taking over the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which provides some 10% of PBS funding.


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