Nasir Khan, October 6, 2013
Neither high, nor very far
Neither emperor, nor king,
You are only a little milestone,
Which stands at the edge of the highway.
To people passing by
You point the right direction,
And stop them from getting lost.
You tell them of the distance
For which they still must journey.
Your service is not a small one.
And people will always remember you.
—–Ho Chi Minh – Prison Diary
Vietnam’s great revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh aptly points to the services of a milestone. Sometimes some human beings become such milestones and people remember them in gratitude. One such man was General Vo Nguyen Giap, who died on 4 October 2013. He was a titan of military science and a far-sighted revolutionary who played a decisive part in the liberation of Vietnam. The people of Vietnam under their great revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh (1890-1969), his comrades and able lieutenants, carried a heroic struggle for the liberation of their country. No doubt, among his military commanders General Giap was the most outstanding military strategist. He was also a scholar who chose military vocation to serve his nation.
Under his command, the Vietnam People’s Army fought two major wars: The First Indo-China War (1946-1954) and the Vietnam War (1960-1975). During the First Indo-China War, he led many battles. Among them was the famous Battle of Dien Bien Phu (1954) that sealed the fate of the French colonial masters in Indo-China. Before the brilliant and innovative war plans and tactics of Giap, the French were helpless. Then came the US imperialists to impose their rule, by bolstering their stooges in South Vietnam. Despite their enormous losses fighting when against a superpower and its brutal war-machine, the Vietnam People’s Army continued their heroic struggle against a vicious invader. Americans used their destructive military and air power to destroy Vietnam as much as they could; the devastation they caused was horrifying.
When in 1972, Nixon and his War Mafia started their relentless bombing of Hanoi and mined Haiphong to crush the Vietnamese patriotic people once for all, many students and political activists in various parts of the world had sympathy and solidarity with the the people of Vietnam; they opposed US war of aggression. They saw a genocidal American war becoming more and more like Hitler’s war on the Eastern front. The question was: Will Vietnam be able to survive such barbarous bombings? It was a deeply troubling period for many and in the life of this writer.
During this intensive bombing by B-52 bombers, came the news that General Giap had been killed in an aerial attack. That was the last thing any friend of the Vietnamese people wanted to hear. What will happen if the general was nor more? That was the question and there was no easy answer to it. The situation was fraught with great danger for the revolutionary forces. And we who stood for the national liberation of Vietnam were tormented. However, soon it became clear that the rumours of his death were part of the Nixon administration’s disinformation. Tricky Dicky and his Secretary Kissinger were past masters in such methods! But for this writer the news of the general being alive was a great relief; it also meant the master strategist will carry on as before, which he did.
President Ho Chi Minh who had died in 1969 was not able to able to see the unification of his country. But the patriotic people of the the Democratic Republic of Vietnam were sure to defeat American imperialists who had made Vietnam their killing fields. The divided country was united and the heroic Viet Cong prevailed. The United States imperialism had for the first time been defeated by the people of Vietnam. The role of General Giap in laying the strategy and winning the war was pivotal.
The name and work of this military genius and scholar will always live in the hearts and minds of all freedom-loving people, everywhere. Eternal Glory to General Giap!