Subject: ON THE
ANNIVERSARY OF THE MILITARY VICTORY OVER US IMPERIALISM IN VIETNAM: FROM THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN
INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL MOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
4 May 2005
Dear Colleagues and
Friends of CEIMSA,
April 30 1975 is the historic date of
the official surrender of the Saigon puppet government. After
30 years of struggle, and millions of casualties, the Vietnamese people finally
achieved their heroic victory over Euro-American imperialism. The U.S. launched an evacuation
of Americans and some Vietnamese pro-imperialist collaborators on 29 April.
Media coverage provided thorough documentation of this humiliating moral defeat
of the most powerful nation in the world.
We at CEIMSA have
received much mail concerning this important historic lesson, and below we
share with you some selected items:
Item A is a web site belonging
to Le Monde, Professor Richard Du Boff, celebrating this heroic victory over U.S. imperialist violence in South East Asia.
Item B is an article by another
research associate, Professor Gabriel Kolko, drawing
attention to "lessons from a total defeat for the US" thirty years ago.
Item C is another web site sent
to us by Professor John Gerassi commemorating the Kent State Massacre on May 4,
And finally, item D is a copy Bob Herbert's
recent article "From 'Gook' to 'Raghead' ",
which was first published in The New York Times.
We hope this historical
memory of the noble struggle for peace will inspire our readers to rise to the
challenge that faces them in the totalitarian days which lie ahead.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American
Director of Research
from : Richard Du Boff
le jour de la chute de Saïgon
The end of the of
the longest war of the twentieth century--and the historic defeat of U.S. imperialism: victory for the people
from Gabriel Kolko
3 May 2005
The End of
the Vietnam War, 30 Years Ago : Lesson from a total
defeat for the US
by Gabriel Kolko
Amsterdam – The war in Vietnam that ended 30 years ago with a
complete triumph for the Communists was the longest, most expensive and
divisive American war in its history, involving over a half-million U.S. forces at one point-plus
Australian, South Korean, and other troops.
If we use conventional military
criteria, the Americans should have been victorious. They used 15 million tons
of munitions (as much as they employed in World War Two), had a vast military
superiority over their enemies by any standard one employs, and still they were
The Saigon army commanded by Nguyen van Thieu also was far stronger than their adversaries. At the
beginning of 1975 they had over three times as much artillery, twice as many
tanks and armored cars, 1400 aircraft and a virtual monopoly of the air. They
had a two-to-one superiority of combat troops – roughly 700,000 to 320,000.
The Communist leadership in early 1975 expected the war to last as much as a
decade longer. I was in South Vietnam at the end of 1973 and in Hanoi all of April 1975 until the last
four days of the war, when I was in Hue and Danang
in the south. I am certain the Communists were almost as surprised as the
Americans that victory was to be theirs so quickly and easily; I told them from
late 1973 onward to expect an end to the war by the Saigon regime capsizing
without a serious fight – much as the Kuomintang had in China after 1947.
As a future Politburo member later confessed, they regarded my prediction as
"crazy." They were completely unprepared to run the entire nation,
and their chaotic, inconsistent economic policies since 1975 have shown it.
The Americans and Communists alike
shared a common myopia regarding wars.
What happens in the political, social,
and economic spheres are far more decisive than military equations. That was
true in China in the late 1940s, in Vietnam in 1975, and it is also the case in
South Vietnam was an artificially urbanized
society whose only economic basis was American aid. The value of that aid
declined when the oil price increases that began with the war in the Middle East in 1973 caused a rampant inflation,
at which point the motorized army and society the Americans had created became
an onerous liability.
South Vietnam had always been corrupt since the U.S. arbitrarily created it in 1955
despite the Geneva Accords provision that there should be an election to
reunify what was historically and ethnically one nation. Thieu,
who was a Catholic in a dominantly Buddhist country, retained the loyalty of
his generals and bureaucracy by allowing them to enrich themselves at the expense
of the people. The average Vietnamese, whether they were for or against the
Communists, had no loyalty whatsoever to the Thieu
regime that was robbing them. After 1973, soldiers' salaries declined with
inflation and they began living off the land. The urban middle class was
increasingly alienated, the Thieu
regime's popularity fell with it. It admitted there were 32,000 political
prisoners in its jails, but other estimates were far higher.
By the beginning of 1975 the regime in South Vietnam was beginning to disintegrate by
every relevant criterion: economically and politically, and therefore
militarily. The Saigon army abandoned the battlefield well before the final Communist
offensive in March 1975. Moreover, with the Watergate scandal, the Nixon
Administration was on the defensive after 1973, both with the American public
and Congress, and after Nixon's forced resignation the new American President,
Gerald Ford, was simply in no position to help the economically and politically
bankrupt Thieu regime. The American army, at this
point, was too demoralized to reenter the war. Washington correctly assumed that its
diplomatic strategy had won Moscow and Peking to its side by threatening to swing
its power to the enemy of whatever nation would not support its Vietnam strategy – triangular
But it was irrelevant what Hanoi's former allies did--and
essentially they did what the Americans wanted by cutting military aid to the
Vietnamese Communists. The basic problem was in Saigon: the regime was falling apart for
reasons having nothing to do with military equipment. The Communists were
stunned by their fast, total victory over the nominally superior Saigon army, which refused to fight and
Thus ended the most
significant American foreign effort since 1945. There are so many
obvious parallels with their futile projects in Iraq and Afghanistan today, and the lessons are so
clear, that we have to conclude that successive administrations in Washington have no capacity whatsoever to
learn from past errors. Total defeat in Vietnam 30 years ago should have been a
warning to the U.S.: wars are too complicated for any
nation, even the most powerful, to undertake without grave risk. They are not
simply military exercises in which equipment and firepower is decisive, but
political, ideological, and economic challenges also. The events of South Vietnam 30 years ago should have proven
that. It did not.
is the leading historian of modern warfare. He is the author of the classic
Century of War: Politics, Conflicts and Society Since 1914 and Another Century
of War?. He has also written the best history of the
Vietnam War, Anatomy of a War: Vietnam, the US and the Modern Historical
Experience. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
from John Gerassi
4 May 2005
Let us never,
from Bop Herbert
The New York Times
copyright 2 May
From 'Gook' to 'Raghead'
I spent some time recently with Aidan Delgado, a 23-year-old religion
major at New College of Florida, a small, highly selective school in Sarasota.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, before hearing anything about the
terror attacks that would change the direction of American history, Mr. Delgado
enlisted as a private in the Army Reserve. Suddenly, in ways he had never
anticipated, the military took over his life. He was trained as a mechanic and
assigned to the 320th Military Police Company in St. Petersburg. By the spring of 2003, he was in Iraq. Eventually he would be stationed
at the prison compound in Abu Ghraib.
Mr. Delgado's background is unusual. He is an American citizen, but
because his father was in the diplomatic corps, he grew up overseas. He spent
eight years in Egypt, speaks Arabic and knows a great
deal about the various cultures of the Middle East. He wasn't happy when, even before
his unit left the states, a top officer made wisecracks about the soldiers
heading off to Iraq to kill some ragheads
and burn some turbans.
"He laughed," Mr. Delgado said, "and everybody in the
unit laughed with him."
The officer's comment was a harbinger of the gratuitous violence that,
according to Mr. Delgado, is routinely inflicted by American soldiers on
ordinary Iraqis. He said: "Guys in my unit, particularly the younger guys,
would drive by in their Humvee and shatter bottles
over the heads of Iraqi civilians passing by. They'd keep a bunch of empty Coke
bottles in the Humvee to break over people's
He said he had confronted guys who were his friends about this practice.
"I said to them: 'What the hell are you doing? Like, what does this
accomplish?' And they responded just completely openly. They said: 'Look, I
hate being in Iraq. I hate being stuck here. And I
hate being surrounded by hajis.' "
"Haji" is the troops' term of choice
for an Iraqi. It's used the way "gook" or "Charlie" was
used in Vietnam.
Mr. Delgado said he had witnessed incidents in which an Army sergeant
lashed a group of children with a steel Humvee
antenna, and a Marine corporal planted a vicious kick in the chest of a kid
about 6 years old. There were many occasions, he said, when soldiers or marines
would yell and curse and point their guns at Iraqis who had done nothing wrong.
He said he believes that the absence of any real understanding of Arab
or Muslim culture by most G.I.'s, combined with a
lack of proper training and the unrelieved tension of life in a war zone,
contributes to levels of fear and rage that lead to frequent instances of
Mr. Delgado, an extremely thoughtful and serious young man, balked at
the entire scene. "It drove me into a moral quagmire," he said.
"I walked up to my commander and gave him my weapon. I said: 'I'm not
going to fight. I'm not going to kill anyone. This war is wrong. I'll stay.
I'll finish my job as a mechanic. But I'm not going to hurt anyone. And I want
to be processed as a conscientious objector.' "
He stayed with his unit and endured a fair amount of ostracism.
"People would say I was a traitor or a coward," he said. "The
stuff you would expect."
In November 2003, after several months in Nasiriya
in southern Iraq, the 320th was redeployed to Abu Ghraib. The violence there was sickening, Mr. Delgado said.
Some inmates were beaten nearly to death. The G.I.'s
at Abu Ghraib lived in cells while most of the
detainees were housed in large overcrowded tents set up in outdoor compounds
that were vulnerable to mortars fired by insurgents. The Army acknowledges that
at least 32 Abu Ghraib detainees were killed by
Mr. Delgado, who eventually got conscientious objector status and was
honorably discharged last January, recalled a disturbance that occurred while
he was working in the Abu Ghraib motor pool.
Detainees who had been demonstrating over a variety of grievances began
throwing rocks at the guards. As the disturbance grew, the Army authorized
lethal force. Four detainees were shot to death.
Mr. Delgado confronted a sergeant who, he said, had fired on the
detainees. "I asked him," said Mr. Delgado, "if he was proud
that he had shot unarmed men behind barbed wire for throwing stones. He didn't
get mad at all. He was, like, 'Well, I saw them bloody my buddy's nose, so I
knelt down. I said a prayer. I stood up, and I shot them down.' "
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at