Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Vol 35 no. 16. 1972
Imperialism Thrives in Vietnam — The Least Happiness for the Greatest Number
Imperialism Thrives in Vietnam
The Least Happiness for the Greatest Number
If the number of participants in the war has declined, yet it is also true that the intensity of the "real" war, that waged by the U.S.A.F., has increased, the tonnage of bombs dropped is steadily rising. It is also true that the area of bombardment has widened again: in the period prior to the renewed fighting south of the D.M.Z. air-raids on the North averaged one and a half per day, and there is ground fighting in Thailand. When one considers the quantity of bombs dropped and ordnance fired, these are in excess of those used by the Americans in either the European or Pacific theatres and nothing but our built-in ethnocentricity prevents us from recognising that this is a "Great War" of the same nature as the other two; wars which are spawned every twenty years by our Economic System.
These facts, it would seem are enough to justify a belief that the War is not petering out and coming to an end. What we do have is a War which expanded, and then intensified as it contracted, - that is how we see it, "contraction" means that the peripheral Allies have ceased to participate. Seen from the point of view of Indo-China, however, the War has not contracted, for what was a South Vietnamese War, has now become an Indo-Chinese War, that is Laos and Cambodia are irrevocably locked into this War. Their destinies will all be decided by this same war. This is not a contraction. What is absolutely certain is that unless the War ends very rapidly, Thailand will also become locked into this War, and her destiny, too, will be decided on the battlefields. This is a very real expansion of the War.
The mechanism is very simple: U.S.A.F. bases in South Vietnam are subject to rocket-attack, the solution to the problem is to turn Thailand into a rocket free air-strip. It can be assumed that the local insurgency movements receive aid and comfort from the other side. As a counter-measure the Thais send troops to South Vietnam. Counter-counter ploy, increased insurgency at home, counter-counter-counterploy the Thais send troops into Cambodia and Laos on the principle of: "fight anywhere, except here!" Now Bangkok has an agreement with Phnom Penh whereby each can sweep, in "hot pursuit", the other's territory, joint operations are already under way on the Thai-Malasian border, by agreement with Kuala-Lumpur, the field of Military Operations is widening.
How do countries become involved? Why does it happen to them? In the case of Great Powers the answer is that "it doesn't". Things do not "happen to" Great Powers, they are active, not passive. They do not act inadvertently, they act with extreme precision.
The United States is "committed to" South Vietnam, but not to President Thieu, as it was not committed to President Diem, whom the U.S. had bumped off in true Chicago style. While on the other hand, the U.S. "has committments" not to the Chinese people, but to President Chiang Kai-Shek note the difference! The U.S. is not committed to Israel, nor was it to Katanga, nor to any Government or People it does not want to be committed to. It signs the treaties and pacts it wants to. If the U.S. wants to become involved in an area it signs treaties with the Government, if the Government is weak enough and pliable enough; or it discovers committments to "the freedom-loving people of the area" if the Government is popular enough to say "no". For example, the member states of SEATO extend their "protection" over South Vietnam even though, having been neutralised by the Accords of 1954, South Vietnam was not - and is not -a member, and never signed anything. A "protection racket"? in the meantime the U.S. is free to recognise Laotian neutrality, and to send in "Air America", to recognise Cambodian neutrality, and to send a bomb to Prince Sihanouk. They can have Diem shot, abandon Chiang, topple Sato, support Kittachorn, commit and un-commit themselves at will... So what did they will in Vietnam? To become involved! The Pentagon Papers reveal: "that the late President Kennedy sent Vice-President Johnson to Saigon in May 1961, with orders to encourage Mr Diem to request U.S. ground troops. Mr Diem originally opposed the request, saying that he did not want foreign troops on Vietnamese soil,..(he) successfully balked the Kennedy-Johnson proposal for five months...He pointed out that U.S. troops would violate the 1954 Geneva Accords". They also reveal: "A Pentagon study concluded that the vast majority of the Vietcong troops were of local origin, and that there was little evidence that they were receiving major supplies from outside. Mr Maechling estimated that the Vietcong were getting only a trickle of supplies from North Vietnam and said that no-one had ever found a Chinese rifle or a Soviet weapon used by the guerrillas. He concluded that the massive aggression theory was phony ... When Mr Forrestal returned from Vietnam early in 1963(!) (still!) he estimated that most of the Vietcong recruits and supplies came from inside South Vietnam itself". This disposes of the Aggression from the North theory. They furthermore reveal: "Mr Diem was in danger of being overthrown because of his repressive policies and the toleration of corruption at the top of his Government. The C.I.A. said Mr Diem was growing progressively weaker and was vulnerable to a coup by non-communist elements". The "C.I.A. advised that the communists in Vietnam would remain in a state of relative quiescence if the then Prome Minister Ngo Dinh Diem, held the elections required by the 1954 Geneva Accord. The President (of the U.S.) did nothing to ensure that they were held".
Quite on the contrary, the Pentagon Papers go on to reveal that: "President Kennedy ordered an extensive programme of secret raids on North Vietnam in March 1961, three years before the Gulf of Tonkin incident," also The Administration engaged in "acts of sabotage and terror warfare against North Vietnam beginning in 1954" also "through 1964...operations ranged from flights over North Vietnam by U.S. spy planes and kidnapping of North Vietnamese citizens for intelligence information, to parachuting sabotage and psychological warfare teams into the North, commando-raids from the sea to blow up rail and highway bridges and the bombardment of North Vietnamese coastal installations by PT boats."
The Papers sum up: "Far from being caught off balance by the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964, The Administration had been secretly [unclear: planning] for major military action against North Vietnam for at least five months" and "The Administration deceived Congress and the public to cover them up".
This adequately disposes of the involuntary involvement theory! It will therefore come to us as no surprise that there are to quote I.F.Stone: "Hidden traps in Nixon's Peace Plan".
Firstly: "The only firm date offered for total withdrawal is six months from the signing of the final agreement. Thus the total time would be x (the time needed to achieve the preliminary agreement on principle) plus y (the time needed to negotiate and sign the final agreement). This might best be described as six months after two mananas...the whole process could easily stretch out for years." During this time both withdrawals and the release of prisoners tick away: "Of course there would have to be troop withdrawals on our part to match the P.O.W. release, but Nixon is committed to withdraw all our remaining troops - except a small [unclear: resudual] force - anyway...if the talks broke down we would have regained some or most of the P.O.W.s in the meantime." The P.O.W.s "are almost all pilots ... Pilots who cost as much as half a million dollars to train" and "Laird himself has revealed that at least one released pilot has already been used to brief other pilots on South East Asia."page 8
In the second place "What Nixon offered was a total withdrawal for a release of prisoners and a ceasefire. The other side has always refused to accept a cease-fire until after a political settlement. Other-wise they ratify their own defeat. They may be willing to release the prisoners for our total withdrawal and then take their chances militarily against the South Vietnamese Regime. But they are not willing to lay down their arms and leave themselves at the mercy of that Regime".
In the third place: the offer of "Free Elections" with Thieu stepping down one month beforehand is not as beautiful as it looks; "The presidential elections in South Vietnam last year offered the U.S. a peaceful and face-saving way to get rid of Thieu and the regime in a really open and fair election" and Big Minh, the opposition candidate, "presented to the U.S. Embassy documents charging widespread intimidation of his supporters, and a concerted plan to rig the election. When Washington declined to act, Minh, on August 20 withdrew declaring the campaign " a dirty farce which would only make the people more desperate and disillusioned with the democratic system." "The dirty farce" resulted in the re-election of Thieu with 91.5% of the vote - it was, to use I.F.stone's words, "a one-man, one vote, one candidate election!"
"Under the new eight-point plan, the enemy would lay down its arms and surface to take part in a six-month campaign, laying itself open to Thieu's police and soldiers, if not to future liquidation by Operation Phoenix. Thieu would step down but only for ONE month before the election. With the police and army solidly in his hands he could again expect to win." This is admitted even by Senator Muskie, who asked on February 3, "How can you expect the election to be fair while the police power is with the Government of South Vietnam" - to which Secretary Rogers answered, "A perfectly fair question."
As James Reston has recently written: "Nixon's policy is not a policy for getting out, but a policy for staying in".
At this point no-one in his right mind can claim that the U.S. is in Vietnam against its will - so why is it there? Because it wants to be there. It is a matter of Policy.
If ever a war was "preventive" this one is - preventive on both sides!
For the Americans, who are the fountain head (or rather vortex!) of the Capitalist system, which embraces the entire globe (except for the Communist sector) in one neo-lmperial complex, any revolt, any successful escape, any successful repulse of their system, can not but have consequences fraught with all kinds of hazards for the working of the system as a whole. If they are to maintain a system which enriches them and impoverished everyone else it must be seen clearly, and at all times, that revolt, escape or refusal are Impossible. The Americans are fighting Latin America in Asia - they are fighting to prevent the disintegration of their Empire.
The Vietnamese are fighting to prevent themselves falling into neo-colonial servitude. Remember what Mao Tse Tung said to Andre Malraux: "We have nothing to teach the Vietnamese, they were Marxist before we were". What the Vietnamese did from 1954 onwards was to look at the world and see the reality of the neo-colonial system.
What is it that they became aware of?
The nature of the present system:Everywhere there is pseudo independence and real dependence. The ex-colonies are the producers of raw materials:-
a) The price of raw materials is falling b) The price of manufactured goods is rising. Therefore the poor are getting poorer and the rich are getting richer. No-one denies that output of industries, wages paid, goods and services rendered are real factors. What my economist said was: these factors are organised "in a form advantageous to the rich", in a form "orientated towards the Metropolis" (which, jincidentally, controls the supply of spare parts) and that the system, considered globally "on a financial basis represents undeniably an out-flow of wealth from the poor countries to the rich countries, and that this case is well documented".
II The poor nations do not have the power to defend themselves. In the Herald, April 14, 1972, the results of this system are recorded: "The target agreed to in 1961 for the developed countries to allocate 1% of their Gross National Product to aid and development projects had still not been reached. The Secretary-General points out that the developing countries had no share in international financial decision-making...United Nations statistics show the facts behind these generalities: life-expectancy is 35 in Asia, 40 in Africa, 70 in Europe, U.S.A. and U.S.S.R.".
a) the raw materials still have no guaranteed price on the world market. For example, the falling price of cocoa wiped out twenty years labour of the Ghanian people, even though in this period they had doubled production. Ghana is a special case, it is not, economist dixit: an a-typical case. b) the richer nations have alternative sources of supply and have been stockpiling - in this situation the producer can not go on strike.
Can any sane person deny, in the face of this evidence, that the Vietnamese are right to fight to prevent their county falling a prey to such a murderous system?
III Everywhere the de-colonised countries inherit a skewed economy, monoculture (one-crop, cash-crop economy); economies that cannot feed the population.
|a)||most aid is not given but is in the form of loans with interest.|
|b)||loans are not for social projects (dams, irrigation systems, setting up co-operatives, founding industries etc.) but for consumer imports and for the salaries of the foreign experts.|
|c)||the result of aid is impoverishment - see Denis Warner's The Last Confucian in which he shows how the massive importation of consumer goods into Vietnam destroyed all local production, thereby casting the unemployed into the ranks of the N.L.F.|
|d)||aid is given only to oountries which permit the penetration of their economies by foreign investments. Iron law: no-one invests except to make money so aid is given to those regimes which permit the foreigner to milk the country. A cynic has defined aid a as: "the gift of the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor countries".|
In these fifteen years (1950-1965) U.S. private corporations invested $3.8 billion in Latin America. Part of the profits were retained in Latin America to increase the total investment of the companies concerned part of the profits were remitted to the U.S. From this investment of $3.8 billion no less than $11.3 billion in profits were remitted home to the U.S. while the profits retained locally increased the investment of $3.8 to $10.3 billion. Thus from the $3.8 billion invested was derived $17.8 billion in the form of remitted profits and increased local investment - a cool 469%!
This is, no doubt, the kind of profit the big oil companies hope to make drilling the sea-bed in the territorial waters of South Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and, abovee all, Indonesia - just think of "the loss" if this wealth should fall into the hands of the "natives" to whom it belongs: with such a prospect, who would contemplate withdrawing!
The South African Government has hit upon the simplest solution: you give your Working Class their own country! You set up Independent Bantustans! (13% of the poorest and most barren land for 65% -70% of the population!) For whom, since they are independent it would be insulting to set up transport-systems, hospitals, schools etc. From the Bantustans people in the working period of their life may come to work - and then they are sent back. An elegant solution - no? Of course it would not do if the Bantustans were really independent, so you give them the poorest territories - well separated from each other, you do not give them access to a port, nor a frontier in common with a foreign country. Furthermore you set them up where they can be bombarded by gunboat, flattened by aircraft. You control them politically. The armed Forces, Customs, Foreign Policy are controlled by Pretoria - for such is Independence) And when the Bantu "immigrant" (in Africa!!!) comes to work in the mines he receives 18 rands per month, whereas the Native-born (the Dutch-speaking and Boer and English Colonist) receive 316 rands per month (figures of 1969). The "invisible tax" of 296 rands is pocketed by the South African Government. This is the system at its crudest - and add a few frills and you have de-colonisation.
An article appeared recently in the local press with the brutally frank title: "The Cook Islands - Free to Go Broke". De-colonisation IS the setting-up of Bantustam I. Nominally independent countries, II. with non-viable, skewed economies. III. dependent for their very existence on imported foods which have to be paid for out of the Metropolis-orientated economy, IV. politically coerciable, through the foreign-educated commercial bourgeoisie whose interests it conceives to be identical to those of the Metropolitan bourgeoisie, with whom it identifies, V. subject to the ever-present threat of Military Intervention on the slightest provocation, and VI. subject to ever present pressures from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund even without the slightest provocation!
The Slave, the Urban Proletariate, the Colonised and the citizen of Bantustan (wherever it may be) are all different faces of the same system, steps in the ever more efficient process of extracting wealth from man, instead of for man. A Colony is a Colony, even if it has its own flag. Imperialism is Imperialism, whether it has the prefix "neo" or not.
"The American businessman moving into the Vietnam market is protected 100% by the Federal Government against expropriation, inconvertibility of currency and war risk. He is protected up to 75% of his debt capital on extended risk, including commercial risk and 50% of his equity investment...If he decides to make a prior survey of his business chances in Vietnam and subsequently finds the market not worth the candle, AID pays half of his expenses. This includes costs of businessmen incurred in sending representatives abroad their hotel, food and incidental expenses. The Rand Corporation has gone into the prospects of getting profits out of Vietnam and says: "Many of the new industrial investment projects launched within the past 5 years experienced rates of return of the order of 20-40%; a capital recovery in 2-3 years has not been unusual." (Nations's Business, Feb, 1968).
By 1961 when the N.L.F. declared war on Diem they had not completed this truly herculean task. So from 1961 onwards President Kennedy authorised his secret war against North Vietnam and increased the U.S. military personnel in violation of the Geneva Accords. He was quite right, given the iron law of capitalism, expand or bust.
What lies behine the simple phrase "when the N.L.F. declared war on Diem"?
1. At one level, like the peasants of Java before them, when they were crushed by the Hindu style caste system and they heard the Voice of the Egalitarian Faith and embraced Islam in their millions, so the Vietnamese, crushed by the political tyranny of Diem (whose substitution of government appointees in the place of freely elected village headmen would be the equivalent of imposing Tzarist rule on the Swiss Confederation), offended by the presence of foreign tropps upon their soil already half liberated, heirs to over a century of Foreign Domination and Colonial Misrule, heard the Voice of the Egalitatian Faith of the 20th Century and aspired to a world where men would be equal.
2. At another level, like the peasants of 18th Century France, they had become aware of more effective, more modern, more scientific ways of organising labour, agriculture, production and running the economy. At that period the economy of the Soviet Union had a growth rate 50% higher than that of any capitalist nation. Not being idiots they knew that in the U.S.S.R. people didn't die of hunger; those who do so, do so in the capitalist countries. Without empire, colonies, or even internal colonies, the Soviet Union was advancing satisfactorily. The two thirds of the worlds population chronically under-nourished and dying of starvation: in which camp were they? They saw a whole new world of possibilities open out before them and the sole force blocking them was the dead hand of the feudal regime of Diem so they exploded into jacqueries - and the Vietnamese revolution had begun. Today, the greatest "National Holiday" in South Vietnam celebrates the murder of Diem - the man we went to help?page 9
"The Thieu-Ky Government is a military Government propped up by American power despised and corrupt. Freedom of speech is suppressed. No-one knows how many Vietnamese political prisoners languish in Vietnam's prisons, but the figure is certainly in the thousands and includes university professors, religious leaders, lawyers students, newspaper editors politicians anyone who has dared to advocate political initiatives to end the war". White Paper on Vietnam, American Society of Friends.
"When we say one man one vote, we mean the vote would be given to Vietnamese citizens who deserve if President Thieu reported in New York Times, August 28th, 1968.
"A broad spectrum of South Vietnamese politicians believe that the present Government of President Thieu is too weak, too narrow, too inept and too corrupt to compete successfully with the National Liberation Front...interviews with the most important political parties, fronts and religious blocs did not turn up a single individual believed that the present Theiu Government could win a reasonably fair and open competition with the communists", Baltimore Sun, June 2nd, 1969.
Even if it does not make any sense, it is still cheaper to demonstrate your strength in Vietnam than to wait until all Latin America explodes. 2. That the Americans still continue the war against the Vietnamese while negotiating with the Russians and Chinese. What is significant is the people they are not negotiating with the Vietnamese, Latin Americans, the poor, the Negroes. One negotiates with one's adversaries, not with one's serfs. 3. That the Americans have Aid programs for the Vietnamese: schools, hospitals, technical help, transport, social services, etc...exactly as did the old Imperial Powers! 4. That the Americans still continue to fight a war they can not win - because they do not have to win: if they can inflict enough destruction on life, property and the ecology, then they will have achieved their real war-aim: to show the "natives", Vietnamese or Latin American, that rebellion does not pay-By mid 66 more than 100,000 houses or huts had been destroyed from the air; by the end of 66 [the number will probably have reached 200,000. In other words about one-fifth of all South Vietnamese housing will have been razed. 70% of the destruction is in the liberated zones of the N.L.F.", Victor Charlie, Knoebl, 1967.
This "scorched earth" technique is the main one being used in the Vietnam war now. Christian Science Monitor, 1967. "We have dropped twelve tons of bombs for every square mile on North and South Vietnam. Whole privinces have been substantially destroyed. More than 2 million Vietnamese are now homeless refugees". Robert Kennedy, Feb. 8, 1968. An entire nation is being destroyed and the tempo of destruction has increased. One third of the rural people of this rural nation have become refugees. Hundreds of thousands of acres have been defoliated, countless villages have been razed...The American Friends Service has rarely encountered such misery as in Vietnam today. American Friends, May 7, 1969. Time, April 17, 1972, "the phosphorus scarred his face, creating a mask of horror..There are anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 children like him in South Vietnam..." If the war ended tomorrow, there would still be 20 years of surgery to do".
Star, March 7, 1972, "The largest destruction caused by the war planes is the estimated Twenty Three Million Craters left by the 5001b bombs they drop. "Most of these craters are now permanently filled with as much as 20ft of water". Dr Pfeiffer said, "this means they can not be used for rice cultivation and also provides a perfect breeding-ground for disease-bearing mosquitoes."
What else can explain the concentrated Inhumanity of the war? Freefire zones, unrestricted, total aerial bombing of the North and South, poisoning of the crop-lands in the South, the rhythm of Two Hiro-Shimas a Week from the air? The de-foliation, the bulldozing, the bombing of forests (of all things)) simply to ruin Any and Every Resource the country possesses - why this mad lust to wage war upon the unborn, with chemicals which deform the foetus, and a lunar, brick-hard landscape as a heritage? What else can explain the quintessential sadism in their use of plastic pellets in their anti-personnel bombs!" I he first bombs contained round metal pellets then it was discovered that pellets with facets shatter ed the body in a more satisfactory manner, the final touch is to use facetted pellets of plastic - so they cannot be located by the X-ray machine. That and the technical improvement of adding graphite to the napalm so that it flows over the ground and into the slit-trenches where the Civilian Population are sheltering. Tiger-cages, unslaked lime thrown upon prisoners Institutionalised torture-massacres untold? What is the explanation of these phenomena - except that as France had Devil's Island as a I Helll on Earth with which to terrorise any who dared to revolt in the 19th Century, so America needs to create her own Devil's Island to inspire Horror, in all her neo-colon-ies who might aspire to Liberty?
I have seen what the Nazis did in Eastern Europe, and for the last seven years have read (and seen photographs) of what the Americans are doing in Vietnam, between Nazi Germany and Capitalist America is, in my personal opinion but the difference between 3rd Reich and 4th Reich - the same system, with the same face. You think that I am hysterical? If so I am not alone: permit me to end by quoting Arnold Toyn-bee: "America is today the leader of a world-wide anti-revolutionary movement in the defence of vested interests. She now stands for what Rome stood for Rome Consistently supported the rich against the poor in all foreign communities that fell under her sway; and, since the poor, so far, have always and everywhere been far more numerous than the rich, Rome's policy made for inequality, for injustice, and for the least happiness of the greatest number."
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