A Sidelong Glance at the Vietnam War
A reflection on the period of the Vietnam War in America
- The Opening Volley
- Trying To Figure it Out
- The Split in America
- The Late '60s
- In the 1970s
- What we Learn From History...
The Opening Volley
Vietnam was a place no one had heard of. For Americans to be drafted to fight a war there didn't make sense.
Firstly, the Draft.
This was in no way a volunteer army. These were kids who couldn't even vote, (voting age was twenty one) being drafted to fight a war in a place most people didn't know existed.
Having graduated High School, in their first job, young men suddenly found themselves the recipient of draft notices.
Those who were in college or doing essential jobs gained a deferment.
Bright kids, rich kids, and those willing to leave the United States, could escape the draft.
The intelligent could get into college and stay there until they were twenty six, over the draft age. This wasn't that difficult, especially if one went on to take a Masters in Education to teach.
Rich kids could go into the 'Reserves' and stay in America, completing their 'service' in the National Guard, as well as living in college.(This was George W.s method).
Others could leave America, whether by their parents moving to Australia (Like Mel Gibson's family) or Canada, or by slipping out of America on their own. The more political decided to go to jail,.
Trying To Figure it Out
One of the interesting factors, was that there was nothing to win.
The war in Viet Nam was neither a war to gain territory or combat clear and present danger. It was simply part of the Great Game played between America and 'The Communists'.
That the majority of Vietnamese wanted Ho Chi Minh to be the leader after World War II meant nothing to democratic America as Ho Chi Minh was a communist.
The Chinese had tried to conquer Vietnam and failed. The Japanese failed. The French tried to colonise and rule but realising the pointlessness, left to be replaced by Americans.
At first called a 'police action' most information about what was going on was kept from the American public. This did not last long. Americans learned that the United States had virtually invaded another country.
There was a great deal of protest.
The Split in America
In the 1960s Conservatives who were for the War. Most of them were uneducated and likely to become cannon fodder. Those who were Anti-War, often were highly educated and likely to be on a deferment.
The Anti-War protest was on moral and political grounds.
There were many anti-war demonstrations throughout the United States. Most were non-violent civil disobedience where protestors would be arrested as they blocked the streets.
The Late '60s
Lyndon Johnson, who had taken office on the assassination of John Kennedy, was beset at every turn by war protestors. He declined to run in 1968.
The field was open with Eugene McCarthy being the most Anti-War, Robert Kennedy who was adopting that position was assassinated shortly after Martin Luther King who spoke against the War.
The Republicans were behind Richard Nixon, who actually believed the war could be won.
The Democratic Convention was overshadowed by the overreaction of the Chicago Police where hundreds of protestors were beaten and arrested.
Hubert Humphrey was nominated and lost to Nixon. As Nixon took office, protests heated up, and college campuses became the headquarters of Anti-War movements. Many groups were quite radical, losing confidence in non-violent civil disobedience.
In the 1970s
In 1970 there were the murder on Jackson State Campus where eight students died, followed by Kent State where the National Guard killed four students.
Universities across America were locked down, occupied by students and there were daily anti-war protests.
The American Government tried to suppress the number of Americans killed in Vietnam. Many of the bodies would be moved by train at night.
Those who had been 'pro-war' began to realise they had been and were being lied to by the American Government.
In 1972 America pulled out of Vietnam which was unified under one leader, a communist leader.
It was considered the first war that America lost.
What we Learn From History...
Even this cursory glance at the Vietnam War exposes the arrogant chauvinism and cavalier dismissal of human life which pervaded the mentalities of the powerful in America.
Vietnam had absolutely no security, humanitarian, or economic benefit to the United States. It was just a piece on a chessboard in the Game America played with the Soviet Union and China.
The lives of the Vietnamese were less important that those of the American soliders which valued nothing.
All the lies and obfuscation fell away by the 80s and one assumed that the United States would never again enter this kind of war.
Of course, what we learn from history is that we learn nothing from History, hence America entered Afghanistan and Iraq.
One could understand the dropping of a small nuclear device on Afghanistan in retribution for 9/11. One can not conceive why boots had to be on the ground.
Entering Iraq as a personal vendetta against Sadam Hussein made no sense. It was simply a brutal show of American military force, a way to enrich Halliburton (Bush's V.P.'s company) and other war merchants.
As Afghanistan continually erupts, as a puppet president imposed by America turns against his benefactors, the only suprise is that so few Americans protest this war.
Vietnam was a waste of life, a waste of resources, and like the theatres of Iraq and Afghanistan should never have been entered.