Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam’

Tomgram: Pratap Chatterjee, Destabilizing Pakistan

February 9, 2010
Posted by Pratap Chatterjee ,, February 7, 2010.

Almost every day, reports come back from the CIA’s “secret” battlefield in the Pakistani tribal borderlands.  Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — that is, pilot-less drones — shoot missiles (18 of them in a single attack on a tiny village last week) or drop bombs and then the news comes in:  a certain number of al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders or suspected Arab or Uzbek or Afghan “militants” have died.  The numbers are often remarkably precise.  Sometimes they are attributed to U.S. sources, sometimes to the Pakistanis; sometimes, it’s hard to tell where the information comes from.  In the Pakistani press, on the other hand, the numbers that come back are usually of civilian dead.  They, too, tend to be precise.

Don’t let that precision fool you.  Here’s the reality:  There are no reporters on the ground and none of these figures can be taken as accurate.  Let’s just consider the CIA side of things.  Any information that comes from American sources (i.e. the CIA) has to be looked at with great wariness.  As a start, the CIA’s history is one of deception.  There’s no reason to take anything its sources say at face value.  They will report just what they think it’s in their interest to report — and the ongoing “success” of their drone strikes is distinctly in their interest.

Continues >>


Vietnam calls on Israel to respond to world appeals

November 5, 2009

China View,  November 5, 2009

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 4 (Xinhua) — Vietnam here Wednesday voiced concern over the “absence of Israel’s cooperation,” as well as their failure to take “precautious measures” to prevent further abuses of international and human rights law.

Bui The Giang, Vietnamese deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, made these remarks at his address during the plenary General Assembly session here to consider the Goldstone report, which accused both Israel and Hamas militants of war crimes during the 22-day Gaza conflict that broke out on Dec. 27, 2008.

Continues >>


Uncle Sam in Afghanistan: Good Help Is Hard to Find

October 23, 2009

By Solomon, Norman, ZNet, Oct 23, 2009
Norman Solomon’s ZSpace Page

Almost eight years after choosing Hamid Karzai to head the Afghan government, Uncle Sam would like to give him a pink slip. But it’s not easy. And the grim fiasco of Afghanistan’s last election is shadowing the next.

Another display of electioneering and voting has been ordered up from Washington. But after a chemical mix has blown a hole through the roof — with all the elements for massive fraud still in place — what’s the point of throwing together the same ingredients?

This time, the spinners in Washington hope to be better prepared.

Continues >>

Depleted Uranium Weapons: Dead Babies in Iraq and Afghanistan are No Joke

October 21, 2009

By Dave Lindorff, Couterpunch, Oct 20, 2009

The horrors of the US Agent Orange campaign in Vietnam, about which I wrote on Oct. 15, could ultimately be dwarfed by the horrors of the depleted uranium weapons which the US began using in the 1991 Gulf War (300 tons), and which it used much more extensively, and in more urban,  populated areas, in the Iraq War and the now intensifying Afghanistan War.

Continues >>

Agent Orange in Vietnam. Ignoring the Crimes Before Our Eyes

October 17, 2009

By Dave Lindorff, Counterpunch, Oct 16 – 19, 2009

On Oct. 13, the New York Times ran a news story headlined “Door Opens to Health Claims Tied to Agent Orange,” which was sure to be good news to many American veterans of the Indochina War. It reported that 38 years after the Pentagon ceased spreading the deadly dioxin-laced herbicide/defoliant over much of South Vietnam, it was acknowledging what veterans have long claimed: in addition to 13 ailments already traced to exposure to the chemical, it was also responsible for three more dread diseases—Parkinson’s, ischemic heart disease and hairy-cell leukemia.

Continues >>

Celebrating Slaughter: War and Collective Amnesia

October 7, 2009

by Chris Hedges,, Oct 5, 2009

War memorials and museums are temples to the god of war. The hushed voices, the well-tended grass, the flapping of the flags allow us to ignore how and why our young died. They hide the futility and waste of war. They sanitize the savage instruments of death that turn young soldiers and Marines into killers, and small villages in Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq into hellish bonfires. There are no images in these memorials of men or women with their guts hanging out of their bellies, screaming pathetically for their mothers. We do not see mangled corpses being shoved in body bags. There are no sights of children burned beyond recognition or moaning in horrible pain. There are no blind and deformed wrecks of human beings limping through life. War, by the time it is collectively remembered, is glorified and heavily censored.

Continues >>

Uncle Sam, More War, Please

August 4, 2009

By Philip Giraldi, Campaign For Liberty, Aug 3, 2009

In “Julius Caesar” Shakespeare’s Brutus counsels “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken on the flood, leads on to fortune.” Shakespeare was describing how powerful men seeking yet more power, blinded by hubris, collectively brought about the destruction of the very republic that they claimed to love. Brutus was urging his fellow conspirator Cassius to fight the forces of Anthony and Octavian on the following day at Philippi in the belief that one more battle would end the civil war that had begun with the assassination of Caesar. Brutus concludes his exhortation with a personal note revealing that for all his high mindedness he was not unmindful of the lure of military glory, “omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.” As has become increasingly clear to many, in “Julius Caesar” Shakespeare could have as easily been writing about contemporary America as the Roman Republic.

Who can doubt that Washington has recently had more than its share of would be heroes seeking the flood tide that will lift them up to feast in Valhalla. More often than not, that tide has been provided by war and more often than not the decision to cast the die on the battlefield has proven to be an error, leading to a languishing “in shallows and in miseries” for the entire American people. The latest call to arms is coming from the new American Caesar in Central Asia, General Stanley McChrystal who has a plan. McChrystal believes that Afghanistan can be redeemed after eight years of failure if only the United States provides more soldiers and the Afghans can be induced to dramatically increase the size of their own army and police forces. There are several fundamental problems with the McChrystal vision, starting with the fact that the Afghan government cannot even afford to pay for the army and police forces that it already has. Also, the offensive currently taking place in Afghanistan is demonstrating that it is difficult to make progress in an environment where the local population, having been pounded by US air power for the past seven years, is unrelentingly hostile.

But McChrystal thinks he can fix all that by putting more American boots on the ground, reasoning that mixing with the local population rather than pummeling them from the air will prove beneficial. Of course, the good general might discover that the presence of a lot of occupying troops who do not speak the local language and have no knowledge of indigenous customs might not prove an unmitigated blessing, particularly when they have to call in the helicopter gunships to blast the locals whenever they get in trouble. American ability to deal with local cultures has never been a strong point. I recall the advice of my old sergeant from Alabama back in 1969 when I was a member of the US Army’s Berlin Brigade. “If you don’t understand the local lingo whether it’s a gook or a kraut, just speak slowly and very loudly. They’ll figure it out.” What the locals actually figure out pretty quickly is that you don’t care enough about them to even learn out how to order a cup of tea and they act accordingly.

What is most curious about the McChrystal solution, which threatens to involve the US in Central Asia until 2020, is how the decision was made to add more soldiers. In true Washington fashion, McChrystal convened a sixty day review to look at the problem. Some members of the commission like Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Andrew Exum of the Center for a New American Security are highly respectable independent thinkers, but some of the other choices are the same people who advised George Bush, drawn from places like The American Enterprise Institute. It is important to note that the advisory group was selected to reflect a certain diversity of opinion in tactical terms, but no one was selected to represent an alternative viewpoint, i.e. that the US should leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. It was a group designed to say “yes.” Not a single board member was opposed to the Iraq War before it began, has spoken out publicly against plans to fight Iran, or has recommended that withdrawal from Afghanistan might be in the US national interest. Not one. So what kind of result did McChrystal expect? The result he got, which is to increase troop levels and deepen America’s commitment to a war that is likely being lost.

Two of the commission members are particularly odd choices, the ubiquitous Kagans, husband Fred and wife Kimberly. Fred is a fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute who claims to have been a co-creator of the surge policy that was applied in Iraq. His wife Kimberly is a classic neocon entrepreneur who relied on nepotism to work her way through the system. She studied ancient history at Yale under Donald Kagan and then married his son who later claimed to be the co-author of the “surge.” She is now billed as a “military expert” by the neocon media, and apparently also by General McChrystal, in spite of her lack of any actual military experience. For the neocon “Weekly Standard” she wrote a hagiography of the plodding General Raymond Odierno called “The Patton of Counterinsurgency” which might well be considered a comedy piece but for the fact that it was serious. She writes mostly about the Middle East, but does not appear to have working knowledge of either Farsi or Arabic like many of the other so-called experts, and is president of the curiously named Institute for the Study of War.

Another commission member Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution, has written two articles on Afghanistan entitled “Insurgents are not winning in Afghanistan” and “Optimism in Afghanistan.” The former was written last summer and seems to have been an inaccurate assessment even for that time period. The latter was written last spring. Shapiro might well regret his conclusions but his getting things wrong did not exclude him from McChrystals’s review board. Jeremy speaks French and Spanish and, like the other advisors, could hardly be described as an expert on Afghanistan. In fact, there was no expert on Afghanistan present on the board and no one could speak any of the country’s several commonly used languages. If there was an expertise present it was on fighting wars from behind a desk, something that only occurs in the bizarre quasi-academic Washington beltway think tank culture. As Washington insiders have only rarely seen a war that they didn’t like, the results of McChrystal’s review were more-or-less predictable.

So should Washington follow the example of the British and other Europeans who are seeing no light at the end of the tunnel in Afghanistan and are preparing to get out? McChrystal doesn’t think so and he has assembled a cast of Washington think tank luminaries to support his call for more troops, more engagement, and lots more money to pay for the same, even if it has to be printed up in a basement somewhere and converted into treasury bonds to be sold to the Chinese. In Vietnam (and Cambodia and Laos) there came a tipping point when the military effort was widely seen as going nowhere and just not sustainable any longer. When will the American people and its newly elected president come to that same conclusion about Afghanistan (and Pakistan and …)?

America’s Wars: How Serial War Became the American Way of Life

July 24, 2009

By David Bromwich, July 22, 2209

On July 16, in a speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said that the “central question” for the defense of the United States was how the military should be “organized, equipped — and funded — in the years ahead, to win the wars we are in while being prepared for threats on or beyond the horizon.” The phrase beyond the horizon ought to sound ominous. Was Gates telling his audience of civic-minded business leaders to spend more money on defense in order to counter threats whose very existence no one could answer for? Given the public acceptance of American militarism, he could speak in the knowledge that the awkward challenge would never be posed.

Continued >>

Agent Orange Continues to Poison Vietnam

June 16, 2009

by Marjorie Cohn |, June 14, 2009

From 1961 to 1971, the U.S. military sprayed Vietnam with Agent Orange, which contained large quantities of Dioxin, in order to defoliate the trees for military objectives. Dioxin is one of the most dangerous chemicals known to man. It has been recognized by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen (causes cancer) and by the American Academy of Medicine as a teratogen (causes birth defects).

Between 2.5 and 4.8 million people were exposed to Agent Orange. 1.4 billion hectares of land and forest – approximately 12 percent of the land area of Vietnam – were sprayed.

The Vietnamese who were exposed to the chemical have suffered from cancer, liver damage, pulmonary and heart diseases, defects to reproductive capacity, and skin and nervous disorders. Children and grandchildren of those exposed have severe physical deformities, mental and physical disabilities, diseases, and shortened life spans. The forests and jungles in large parts of southern Vietnam have been devastated and denuded. They may never grow back and if they do, it will take 50 to 200 years to regenerate. Animals that inhabited the forests and jungles have become extinct, disrupting the communities that depended on them. The rivers and underground water in some areas have also been contaminated. Erosion and desertification will change the environment, contributing to the warming of the planet and dislocation of crop and animal life.

The U.S. government and the chemical companies knew that Agent Orange, when produced rapidly at high temperatures, would contain large quantities of Dioxin. Nevertheless, the chemical companies continued to produce it in this manner. The U.S. government and the chemical companies also knew that the Bionetics Study, commissioned by the government in 1963, showed that even low levels of Dioxin produced significant deformities in unborn offspring of laboratory animals. But they suppressed that study and continued to spray Vietnam with Agent Orange. It wasn’t until the study was leaked in 1969 that the spraying of Agent Orange was discontinued.

U.S. soldiers who served in Vietnam have experienced similar illnesses. After they sued the chemical companies, including Dow and Monsanto, that manufactured and sold Agent Orange to the government, the case settled out of court for $180 million which gave few plaintiffs more than a few thousand dollars each. Later the U.S. veterans won a legislative victory for compensation for exposure to Agent Orange. They receive $1.52 billion per year in benefits.

But when the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange sued the chemical companies in federal court, U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Agent Orange did not constitute a poison weapon prohibited by the Hague Convention of 1907. Weinstein had reportedly told the chemical companies when they settled the U.S. veterans’ suit that their liability was over and he was making good on his promise. His dismissal was affirmed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case. The chemical companies admitted in their filing in the Supreme Court that the harm alleged by the victims was foreseeable although not intended. How can something that is foreseeable be unintended?

On May 15 and 16 of this year, the International Peoples’ Tribunal of Conscience in Support of the Vietnamese Victims of Agent Orange convened in Paris and heard testimony from 27 victims, witnesses and scientific experts. Seven people from three continents served as judges of the Tribunal, which was sponsored by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL).

Testimony given by the witnesses showed the following:

Mai Giang Vu, a member of the Army of South Vietnam, carried barrels of the chemicals on his back. His two sons could not walk or function normally, their limbs gradually “curled up” and they could only crawl. They died at the ages of 23 and 25.

Pham The Minh, whose parents also served in the South Vietnamese Army, showed the Tribunal his severely deformed, crooked, skinny legs; he has great difficulty walking, as well as digestive and pulmonary diseases.

To Nga Tran is a French Vietnamese who worked as a journalist during the spraying. Her daughter weighed 6.6 pounds at the age of three months. Her skin began shredding and she could not bear to have skin contact or simple demonstrations of love. She died at 17 months, weighing 6.6 pounds. Ms. To described a woman who gave birth to a “ball” with no human form. Many children are born without brains; others make inhuman sounds.

Rosemarie Hohn Mizo is the widow of George Mizo, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in 1967. He slept on contaminated ground and consumed food and drink that were also contaminated. George refused to serve after he was wounded for the third time; he was court-martialed and sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. George helped found the Friendship Village where Vietnamese victims live in a supportive environment. He died from conditions related to his exposure to Agent Orange.

Georges Doussin, co-founder of the Friendship Village, visited a dormitory where he saw 50 highly deformed “monsters,” who produced inhuman sounds. One man whose parent had been exposed to Agent Orange had four toes on each foot. Doussin said Agent Orange creates “total anarchy in evolution.”

Dr. Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, from Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), sees many children born without arms and/or legs, without heads or faces, and without a brain chamber. According to the World Health Organization, only 1 – 4 parts per trillion (PPT) of Dioxin in breast milk can cause severe deformities in fetuses and even death. But up to 1450 PPT are found in maternal milk in Vietnam.

Dr. Jeanne Stellman, who wrote the seminal article about Agent Orange in the magazine Nature, testified that “this is the largest unstudied environmental disaster in the world (except for natural disasters).”

Dr. Jean Grassman, from Brooklyn College at City University of New York, testified that Dioxin is a potent cellular disregulator which alters a variety of pathways to disrupt many systems. Children, she said, are very sensitive to Dioxin; the intrauterine or post natal exposure to Dioxin may result in altered immune, neurobehavioral, and hormonal functioning. Women pass their exposure to their children both in utero and through the excretion of Dioxin in breast milk.

Many ecosystems have been destroyed and Dioxin continues to poison Vietnam, especially in the several “hot spots.”

Chemist Dr. Pierre Vermeulin testified that it was estimated that $1 billion would be required to restore one hectare of land in Vietnam. The cost of caring for the victims, many of whom need 24-hour care, is enormous.

In 1973, President Richard Nixon promised $3.25 billion in reconstruction aid to Vietnam “without any preconditions.” That aid was never granted.

There are only 11 Friendship Villages in Vietnam; 1000 are needed to care for the child victims of Agent Orange.

Last week, the Bureau of the IADL, meeting in Hanoi, presented President Nguyen Minh Triet of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam with the final decision of the Tribunal. The judges found the U.S. government and the chemical companies guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ecocide during the illegal U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam. We recommended that the Agent Orange Commission be established in Vietnam to assess the damages suffered by the people and destruction of the environment, and that the U.S. government and the chemical companies provide compensation for the damage and destruction.

I told the President that it always struck me that even as U.S. bombs were dropping on the people of Vietnam, they always distinguished between the American government and the American people. The President responded, “We fought the forces of aggression but we always reserved our love for the people of America . . . because we knew they always supported us.”

An estimated 3 million Vietnamese people were killed in the war, which also claimed 58,000 American lives. For many other Vietnamese and U.S. veterans and their families, the war continues to take its toll.

Several treaties the United States has ratified require an effective remedy for violations of human rights. It is time to make good on Nixon’s promise and remedy the terrible wrong the U.S. government perpetrated on the people of Vietnam. Congress must pass legislation to compensate the Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange as it did for the U.S. Vietnam veteran victims.

Our government must know that it cannot continue to use weapons that target and harm civilians. Indeed, the U.S. military is using depleted uranium in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will poison those countries for incalculable decades.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and President of the National Lawyers Guild. She is the author of Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law and co-author of Rules of Disengagement: The Politics and Honor of Military Dissent (with Kathleen Gilberd). Her articles are archived at

Vietnam’s Legendary General Giap

June 10, 2009
The Korean Times, June 11, 2009

By Lee Keun-yeop

HANOI, Vietnam ― Hanoi’s Ba Dinh Square is the same as it was on Sept. 2, 1945 when President Ho Chi Minh delivered to the nation the “Declaration of Independence” before half a million Hanoians here.

The slight difference is that at the western rim of the square stands the massive Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. The same trust and respect can be seen on the face of every pilgrim from all over the land and overseas, waiting for their turn to pay tribute to the man they have cherished in their hearts intimately as Bac (Uncle) Ho in a queue of several hundred meters.

Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap

Under a shady grove at the southern rim nestles a modest two-story house facing a red flag with a golden star hoisted on top of the nearby Army Museum tower. This is the residence of Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, Vietnam’s legendary lord of the battle field.

Here he strolls, meets with visitors, and most of all writes a lot. His major works are “Dien Bien Phu” and “Road to Dien Bien Phu.” The former represents his strategies, the latter being his autobiographical depictions in which readers may peep into his humanitarian views on the war.

The May 9, 1954, front-page headline in The Korea Times in blunt letters reads: “DIEN BIEN PHU FALLS.” The wire service story says, “Dien Bien Phu fell today (May 7) in the Asian debacle that sealed with blood one of the most glorious and disastrous chapters in the annals of French armies … Fate of de Castries, the garrison commander and the defenders is not immediately ascertained …”

Prior to it, Time magazine (May 3, 1954) reported, “To Colonel De Casties in his commanding bunker came an unexpected message from President Eisenhower, `In common with millions of my countrymen, I salute the gallantry and stamina of the commander and soldiers who are defending Dien Bien Phu.”’

“The next day Sir Winston Churchill, the British prime minister, paid tribute to the `heroic resistance’ of the defenders of the Dien Bien Phu garrison.”

The Dien Bien Phu campaign (March 13-May 7, 1954) was a battle between the French colonial army led by Colonel Christian De Castries and the Viet Minh regular army led by Gen. Giap in a densely fortified valley in the northwestern highland of Vietnam.

Colonel De Castries represented “Gallantry.” General Vo Nguyen Giap (Mars the Armour) was called by a French journalist “a snow-covered volcano.”

On the evening of May 7, 1954 after 55 days of bloody fighting, Giap’s spokesman through Peking Radio announced the fall of Den Bien Phu. This marked the end of 96 years of French colonial rule.

Yet President Ho Chi Minh in 1954 said that the victory was just the beginning (hinting another war against the United States). Considering Eisenhower and Churchill’s concerns over Dien Bien Phu, we can easily understand the view that the Vietnam War was a continuation of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Young Vo Nguyen Giap left home in An Xa commune and was admitted to the Lycee Quoc Hoc in the royal city of Hue in central Vietnam.

At the school we find the following names: Nguyen Tat Thanh (Ho Chi Minh’s name when young), Ngo Dinh Diem, Pham Van Dong, Vo Nguyen Giap. Time magazine called the three men “the Iron Triangle of the Vietnam War.”

In 1926, at the school, Giap joined the Revolutionary Party for New Vietnam. He led the students’ anti-French strike, for which he first experienced the bitter taste of six months detention.

After graduating from another Lycee and the University of Indo-China in Hanoi with a bachelor’s degree, he became a professor at Thang Long College in Hanoi and went on to teach history. His history lectures were full of inspiration and revelations.

In 1940 after a pathetic parting with a newlywed wife at Hanoi’s West Lakeside, he crossed the Sino-Vietnamese border with Pham Van Dong and reached Kunming to meet Ho Chi Minh who was returning from the Soviet Union. Shortly after his wife was arrested and died at Vinh Prison two years later.

On Dec. 22, 1944, Giap organized the first Viet Minh unit. His troops grew to be one of the most fearsome armies of the world through countless ordeals.

During a Sino-Vietnamese border campaign between October and November 1947, Giap’s units delivered several powerful blows to the 12,000-men French corps and drove them to surrender.

During the campaign Giap’s father, a village scholar teacher, was arrested and guillotined. No one has seen his tears through the 30 years of war: through the Dien Bien Phu campaign (1954) and Quang Tri-Thua-Thuen-Hue campaign (1972), another landmark victory comparable to the Dien Bien Phu victory of 18 years before.

Professor Dang Bic Ha, wife of Gen. Giap, loved and encouraged the general during times of difficulty as a staff member at headquarters.

Bernard Fall writes, “… the sentimental history professor of the 1930s, the self-taught guerrilla leader of the early 1940s, and the brilliant strategist of the 1950s ― the West may find it difficult to produce a worthy match for him in the foreseeable future.” (“Vo Nguyen Giap,” 1962).

I feel very much rewarded that my somewhat “lonesome” comparative study of Gen. Helmut Bernhardt von Moltke and Gen. Giap was given relevance by Mark Henderson’s work, “Top 100 Greatest Military Leaders,” (Times of London, News International 1997) in which Moltke and Giap rank 39th and 40th respectively.

I think, apart from ranking, the combination of both men is fantastic.

Moltke wrote historical fiction, while Giap was a history professor-turned general. Moltke was the builder of the Prussian army that brought about German unification. Giap is the builder of the Viet Minh army which brought about Vietnamese reunification.

Moltke’s Prussian army defeated Denmark, Austria, and France, while Giap defeated the Japanese garrison in early 1945, France, and the mighty United States. Moltke fought in the imperialistic power conflict.

As defense minister for 34 years and the right arm of President Ho Chi Minh, Giap fought the longest war in the 20th century for his fatherland. Giap will remain in military annals as does Moltke as a classic.

Once again Hanois’s Ba Dinh Square. The green foliage of the happy grove reflects the celestial light. Here, Gen. Giap enjoys good health at the age of 97. Long live, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap!

Dr. Lee Keun-yeop taught education philosophy at Yonsei University in Seoul. He is director of the nonprofit Korea Center for Social Sciences and Humanities on Vietnam and an Eastern Europe and Balkan analyst. He is a regular contributor to The Korea Times. He can be reached at

%d bloggers like this: