Evidence mounts daily that the Vietnam War fought under an anti-Communist banner was at least a political crime that should be recorded as such in history books.
The guilt is shared by an array of leaders in the White House, cabinet and military. They knew the conflict was a fool’s errant from the outset. They systematically deceived the American people and Congress in a childish quest to be adorned with a No. 1 world ranking.
The war ended in 1975 with the United States defeated and Vietnam unified under a Communist regime.
By 1994, the United States had normalized trade relations with Communist Vietnam despite its contemptible human rights record. The United States established diplomatic relations one year later. More recently, the United States has authorized the provision of lethal weapons and civilian nuclear energy technology to Communist Vietnam. It also has taken sides with Vietnam over a South China Sea maritime dispute with Communist China. In sum, we have a de facto alliance with Communist Vietnam.
So what was the point of the Vietnam War? For what did more than 58,000 American soldiers die? For what did countless more suffer injuries and trauma in an ugly war featuring napalm, an infamous torture and assassination program (aka Phoenix Program), and Communist prisoners detained in tiger cages?
Preventing Vietnam from falling into an imaginary monolithic worldwide Communist movement and creating a “domino” effect was the professed American war objective. The “domino” theory was to Vietnam what the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” was to the Civil War. It postulated that if Vietnam succumbed to communism, other nations would fall like dominoes into a unified Communist camp and U.S. sovereignty would be menaced by communism at our borders. (One Fidel Casto was one too many.)
Trumpeted by the White House, the domino theory was facially absurd. The Communist movement was never monolithic. China and the Soviet Union never sang from the same libretto. They were congenital rivals which Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger exploited. In 1969, the Soviet Union flirted with destroying Communist China’s nuclear test facilities at Lop Nor. The two Communist giants are still disputing over the Ussuri River boundary.
World War I put the quietus to the hopes of Karl Marx and Vladmir Lenin that the working men of the world would unite. Communism does nothing to cure the epidemic of megalomania and egomania that infects all ruling classes in all nations.
Moreover, the Soviet Union and Communist China collectively were the locomotives of the worldwide Communist train. Adding Vietnam as the caboose would have done nothing to upset the global balance of forces in a way detrimental to the United States. Indeed, Communist China attacked Communist Vietnam in 1969.
The Vietnam War was born in White House deceit.
As related by the late Benjamin Bradlee of The Washington Post in an essay from the Press-Enterprise Lecture delivered at the University of California-Riverside on Jan. 7, 1997, President Lyndon B. Johnson tasked Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to visit Vietnam in December or early January of 1964 to assess the war situation. Battlefields were toured. Briefings by generals were attended. The secretary twice publicly voiced optimism about the progress of South Vietnam’s war effort. But in the White House, McNamara told an opposite story as Mr. Bradlee recounts based on the Pentagon Papers: “[E]verything was going to hell in a handbasket in Vietnam. Gen. William Westmoreland was going to ask for a couple of hundred thousand more GIs, and he, McNamara, would probably support that request.”
In November 1967, Westmoreland absurdly insisted that there was “light at the end of the tunnel” to describe the Vietnam War outlook, echoing the delusional words of French Gen. Henri Navarre as the Dien Bien Phu disaster approached.
Political or military leaders should be stigmatized at a minimum for risking the lives and limbs of American soldiers in objectless, unwinable wars like Vietnam. If there is no deterrent to them, morally obscene conflicts will be endlessly repeated.
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