Friday, January 11, 2019

The Shameless Abandonment of the Kurds

How many times will the Kurds be betrayed?  You recently heard that the United States will pull its military out of Syria, leaving their best ally, the Kurds, alone and vulnerable to an attack promised by the Turkish despot Erdogan. It has been the Kurds that have been the main source of the defeat of ISIS.  For all their heroic effort, they’re basically stabbed in the back, again.

The Kurds are spread between four countries, Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.  In history, this area has been conquered by the Persian, the Greeks under Alexander the Great, the Ottoman Turks and after World War I ignored by the British and the French who were both responsible for carving out new countries from the defeated Ottoman Empire.  The 1916 document knows as the Sykes-Picot Agreement was a secret British-French plan to carve out the Middle East after the defeat of the Ottomans.   At the end of the War, the Treaty of Sevres was drafted to deal with the dissolution and partition of the Ottoman Empire. This treaty provided for a referendum on the formation of an independent Kurdish state, Kurdistan. After the new Turkish nation rejected this plan, the Kurdish question was abandoned.  To this day nothing has been done.  For a further discussion of the history of the Kurds click here

The decisions made by the Allies at the end of World War I, led by President Wilson of the United States, and put in place by the British and French Empires were, to say the least, disastrous.  Two examples:  1) The Allies decided to give the job of securing the semi-independent city of Smyrna in modern day Turkey, to the Greeks.  Smyrna was the "Hong Kong" of the Middle East under the Ottomans, populated by Christians, Greeks, Armenians and other Europeans.  Since the Greeks and the Turks hate each other with a passion, this was the equivalent of pouring gasoline into a fire.  The Greeks were then crushed by the Turks and Smyrna was burned to the ground in 1922 by the Turks who raped and murdered most Christians in the City. For an exhaustive documentation of this read the books, “Paradise Lost” by Giles Milton and “The Great Fire” by Lou Ureneck.  2) The carving out of new nations in the Middle East was done with a blind fold, as we now know.  Every decision made failed. The British and the French carved out new Middle East nations, not in a thoughtful methodical way, but in a matter that would suit their own colonial interests.  The Kurds were left hanging.  As a result, they have remained a persecuted minority in all these countries.  In Turkey, the Kurds are considered terrorists for their ambition to be free and frequently attacked by Turkish military forces. 

In the early 1990’s the Kurds won a slim victory in that they were allowed a certain degree of autonomy in Iraq, but this, again was a weak olive branch.  Since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Kurds have been our best friends.  They have carried the load in fighting both Saddam Hussein and later ISIS.  They managed to defeat ISIS and for their effort, they’ve been abandoned by the world, again.  A reasonable person would ask where is the UN on this?  As usual, the UN is useless and a total waste of time. They've never lifted a finger or raised one voice for the Kurds.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Why America is an Exceptional Nation: Reason two of 77

History is replete with examples of multiple times when nations have failed to come to the aid of a neighbor in mortal danger from aggressors who wish to conquer them.  When the Muslim Turks conquered what remained of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 no European country raised a hand to help.  One noble individual from Genoa, Giovanni Giustiniani,  led a small army of 700 private soldiers to help the Byzantines defend Constantinople.  Such small numbers were destined to be ineffective.  Giustiniani himself was severely wounded in the battle and could not continue; his forces and those of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI, were crushed by the superior Turkish forces. The rest of Europe failed to act.

In modern day, the Turks attacked the Island of Cyprus in 1974 and captured half of it, which they still hold.  No one came to the aid of the helpless Cypriots.  In 2014 Russia invades and captures the Crimea from Ukraine.  No one came to their aid.  Russia invades eastern Ukraine and no one comes to their aid.  To this day, the Turks and the Russians hold these territories.  Where are the Europeans? They only care about getting their oil and gas from Russia, naked aggression does not bother them. The Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, expressed his admiration for Vladimir Putin, the Russian despot. Click here to read more.

In 1939 Hitler invaded and took part of Czechoslovakia, the Sudetenland, and no one came to their aid. In the now famous appeasement speech by the British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, he made an agreement with Hitler that if he stopped with the Sudetenland he would accept this naked aggression against a helpless country.  Where were the rest of the Europeans?  Asleep at the wheel. Hitler, proceeded to take the rest of Czechoslovakia, Poland, France, Belgium, Holland and then he went after the UK and Russia. Europe was saved by American intervention, again.

Now lets look at America.  For the past 100 plus years, America has come to the aid of many countries.  In World War I it went to war to help the Europeans against German aggression.  In World War II it repeated the action.  Certainly, without American help Europe would have failed in both wars.  In modern day, we have the American examples of helping Korea from Chinese aggression in 1950-53, Vietnam in 1959-75, the Balkans in the 1990s to stop a genocide in Bosnia-Bosnia-Herzagovina; the Gulf war of 1991 to liberate Kuwait; Afghanistan and Iraq in 2003.  The list goes on and on.  What other nation in the world has a record of helping other nations from aggression like America? America is an exceptional nation. No one can match its record.  In all these cases, not one was done for American gain of territory.  Can you say it again, America is an exceptional nation.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Why America is an Exceptional Nation: Reason One of 77

I remember being glued to the TV in 1973 when they released a series on the history of World War II called "The World at War."  The documentary was narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, the British actor with the fantastic voice.  Here is a clip from this legendary documentary. This documentary is still available on four DVDs, click here. What captured my imagination was the desperate human tragedy that unfolded on the screen.  Men, women and children who were hopelessly condemned to die in Russia, France and all of Europe. The Siege of Stalingrad, for example, was not only poignant for the immense loss of life, but for the sheer brutality.  It was the most heartbreaking scene on earth.  German soldiers dying for a worthless cause.   When the German cause was hopelessly lost in Stalingrad, Hitler refused to let his commanders retreat.  Win or die he told them.  This is the epitome of the mindless, insane case for war, for scenes like this have been repeated throughout history in all wars.

The brutality of war did not end with killing on the battlefield. If you were taken prisoner, chances were you did not survive to return home.  Certainly this was the case in Russia for German prisoners of war (POW). It is estimated that over three million German soldiers were taken captive in Russia.  According the the Wikipedea page of German prisoners of war in the Soviet Union, 381,000 died.  This is according to Soviet estimates which can be very unreliable.  Some German historians estimate that over one million died in captivity.  The Soviets are not known for their kindness to humanity.  All you have to do is read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or about Stalin's Great Purge of his people in the 1930s to see the savagery of the Russians.  After the end of The Siege of Stalingrad, it is estimated that 170,000 German soldiers were taken captive by the Soviets; less than 6,000 survived. The Russians used them as slave labor, maltreated them and failed to properly feed them or treat them for war wounds and other health issues.

In the French Indochina War of 1945-54, it is estimated that over 40,000 French forces were taken prisoner, most did not survive.  Case in point:  After the final battle of the war, the Siege of Dien Bien Phu, when French forces were defeated, 10,000 French prisoner were taken.  After two months of intense battle where men could not even sleep or were so malnourished that they could hardly stand, the Viet Minh marched them on foot for a 500 mile trek to POW camps; most did not make it.  It is estimated that only 3,900 survived.  A very fine piece in The Weekly Standard magazine appeared in 2010, called "Theirs to do and Die," about the Siege of Dien Bien Phu and the hopeless struggle of the men there was captured by this piece.  Click here to read it.

At the end of World War I, between 1919-22, The new nation of Turkey fought another war with the Greece in which they crushed them and drove them back into the Mediterranean.  When the Turks took  the City of Smyrna (modern day Izmir) in 1922, they commenced the most horrific rape, killing and pillaging imaginable.  The Greek Orthodox leader of Smyrna, Metropolitan Chrysostom was taken and handed over to a murderous mob of local Turks.  The Turkish General Noureddin announced to the mob: "If he has done good to you, do good to him.  If he has done harm to you, do harm to him." The mob proceeded to torture him by cutting his body piece by piece while alive. This is detailed in the fine book about the burning of Smyrna in 1922, "Paradise Lost,"  by Giles Milton, 2008, Basic Books. 

 As many as 200,000 Greeks, Armenians and Christians were marched into the interior of the Anatolean desert, on foot, to die.  This was after the Turks slaughtered about 250,000 Christians, Greeks and Armenian in Smyrna and burned the city to the ground. Most deportees died from exhaustion, starvation or were bayoneted or shot on the way.  Here is a short article which appeared in the monthly magazine First Things which describes the horrendous scene.  Click here to read it.  On a positive note, an American Christian pastor by the name of Asa Jennings, on his own, rescued over 250,000 Christians before the murderous Turks could kill them.  Click here to read this story.  Another terrific book on the destruction of Smyrna is "The Great Fire" by Lou Ureneck, 2015, Harper Collins.  Certainly, these stories of brutality against unarmed, non-resisting prisoners show the depravity and moral broken compass of the nations who perpetrated such atrocities.

On the other hand we have the example of the United States.  In World War II, many German and Italian POWs were not only treated well, but they were brought to the United States; many of them chose to stay after release.  German soldiers preferred being captured by the Americans rather than the savage Russians because they knew what would happened to them in Russia vs America.  Click here for more info on this.  Fast forward to the situation today with Al Qaeda, Isis and other terrorists in American POW camps such as Guantanamo, Cuba.  Every prisoner is treated with the greatest respect.  He is allowed to dress, eat and worship as he wants.  He has all the rights of any person except his freedom of course. Compare this to the torture chambers of the Hanoi Hilton, for instance during the American Vietnam War, the treatment of prisoners by Russia in WWII and Turkey as described earlier.

Here is my point:  A country will be known by its fruit.  This is especially true when handling enemy prisoners.  Have you ever heard of any atrocities committed by any Americans against POWs?  Have you ever heard of Americans marching prisoners on foot to POW camps?  This is just one of the many reasons why the United States is not only exceptional but the greatest country in the world.  Can you name one other country that could match its moral compass?  In the First Gulf War of 1991 there is the poignant video of Iraqi soldiers surrendering to American troops. This 40 second clip will bring tears to your eyes.  Iraqi soldiers begging for their life and an American soldier trying to calm them and telling them they will be "well treated, we're Americans."

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Failure to Learn From History is Deadly

The Spanish philosopher, George Santayana said that those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  The consequences are measured in the staggering loss of life.  Here are a few examples:

Napoleon invades Russia, 1812.  Among the many flaws that plagued Napoleon, and he had many, was his irrational belief that he could conquer the world militarily.  He started in his own back yard, Europe.  Not satisfied with his European conquests, he tried conquering Russia.  Of the 500,000 French troops that Napoleon sent to Russia, about 5,000 survived; Napoleon being one of them.  The Russian campaign was lost not only on the battle field but by the notorious Russian winter, which killed many soldiers.  For more details on the Russian campaign click here.  One of the hardest challenges for such an endeavor is the difficulty in supplying a huge army in such a huge territory. This proved to be one of the many fatal flaws in the campaign.  For a schematic dramatization of the French invasion click here for this YouTube video.

Hitler invades Russia, 1941.  Hitler, learned nothing from Napoleon's defeat in Russia for he repeated the same mistakes, with nearly similar results.  By 1944 the Germans were crushed in Russia, not just militarily but by the brutal Russian winters, disease  and starvation. Hitler was not the only one that did not learn from Napoleon's lesson.  Mussolini of Italy committed over 235,000 troops to the German Russian campaign with disastrous results.  Italian troops lacked the proper clothing, equipment and military resources to succeed.  The Hungarians and the Romanians contributed a similar amount of troops with the same disastrous results.  If the military resources did not succeed, the Russian winter did. In short all of the German, Italian, Hungarian and Romanian troops were doomed to death in a place they could not possibly succeed.  A terrific book on this subject is a historical novel called "The Red Horse" by Eugenio Corti, who was a surviving Italian veteran of the Russia campaign.  For a short article on the Italian catastrophe click here. The Germans alone estimate that they lost 4.3 million soldiers in Russia alone.

The Italian participation in Russia was nothing short of condemning innocent men to death for no reason.  First, the Germans never asked them for help.  They knew better.  They knew that the Italian armed forces were basically useless; badly armed, poorly trained and badly led.  The psychotic Mussolini demanded that he participate.  He was salivating at the possible territory gain after the Germans conquered Russia, so he thought; but psychotic people have never been known to think straight. He never learned the lesson of World War I.  Italy entered the war by promises it would gain territory, but even after being on the winning side it got very little territory: A small slice of Austria (the South Tyrol) and a return of the Italian city of Trieste.  All this at the price of 650,000 dead soldiers, not counting civilian deaths.  The allies basically renegaded on any promises they made to the Italians.  The Italians were basically snookered after WWI.  Again, they did not learn from history.  All told, it is estimated that of the 235,000 Italian troops sent to Russia 115,000 were killed.

French Indochina War, 1945-54.  The French ruled what was called French Indochina, which included modern-day Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The French controlled French Indochina from 1860 to 1954.  From 1945 to 1954 the French fought a war with the Viet Minh, the Vietnamese fighting for independence from France.  The Viet Minh were led by the brilliant military commander, General Vo Nguyen Giap, who later fought the Americans. The French fought brilliantly, but they were doomed from the start.  With the help of American arms, the French did all they could do but it was a losing battle. Defeat came on 8 May 1954 at the now legendary Battle of Dien Bien Phu. It is hard to get hard figures but estimates are that 500,000 Vietnamese were killed and 46,800 French troops died in the war.  In 2010 a terrific article appeared in the American weekly magazine, "The Weekly Standard" on the Battle of Dien Bien Phu.  Click here to read it. This article paints a great picture of the dire circumstances of the doomed French fighters.  At Dien Bien Phu, the French fought heroically; they gave their lives for a lost cause that should have been seen long before the war started, but again, learning from history is a lesson rarely learned.

The American War in Vietnam, 1959-1975.  I was a participant in this war from 1968-69 with the U.S. Army.  Over 59,000 Americans were killed and about 304,000 wounded in this war. With 550,000 American troops in Vietnam, the Vietnamese could not be defeated.  The Americans won most military engagements but they were all Pyrrhic victories.  As with the French, the Americans were doomed from the start.  There is a brilliant recently published book by a Canadian historian, Geoffrey Shaw, called "The Lost Mandate of Heaven."  This book details the mindless decisions made by the early U.S. Administrations of Kennedy and Johnson which basically doomed the operation before one combat soldier arrived.  The Americans refused to consider the opinions of the Vietnamese in preparing a war strategy.  The arrogance of the advisers of President Kennedy was stunning.  The biggest villain of Kennedy's advisers was Averill Harriman, the former Governor of New York.  President Kennedy is shown as incompetent and easily led by bad advice.  About half of Kennedy's advisers were correct, such as his military advisers, General Maxwell Taylor, CIA Saigon Station Chief, William Colby and his Vietnam ambassador, Frederick Nolting; Kennedy chose to follow Harriman and his acolytes into the abyss.  The seeds of destruction were planted by Kennedy between 1960 and 1963.  The fatal blow was Kennedy's support of the murder of Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.  Following his murder South Vietnam unravelled, as his good advisers had predicted, never to recover.  As we've seen recently in Muslin countries like Iraq, once the strong leader is removed, chaos follows; this is what happened in South Vietnam after the death of Diem.  Again, if you don't learn from history, you're bound to repeat it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Away From Me, I Never Knew You - A Vietnam Vet Returns Home to no Gratitude

When I returned from Vietnam in May of 1969, only my parents met me as I arrived at LAX.  We walked through a busy airport and no one noticed.  The same thing happened when we first landed at Ft. Lewis Washington.  There was no welcome, no thanks, just an eerie quiet.  I recall thinking about why not even the Army could have organized a welcome party.  No one did.  About eight years ago, I recall going to LAX with a group of church friends who organized a welcome event for a returning Iraq veteran.  I could not help but to recall the complete opposite of what happened to me when I arrived at LAX.

A few weeks later, I called my old employer, a company that serviced Telephone Company vehicles based in Santa Fe Springs, California, for which I had worked on a part-time basis before going into the Army.  They reluctantly hired me again.  They assigned me to a facility that I had never seen before. They gave me no duties and no one talked to me.   At the end of the first week, someone came by to give me my first check. He handed me the envelope without so much as one word.   As I opened it I saw the word "termination."  I left without saying a word to anybody.  I did not complain or ask for an explanation. The writing was on the wall.

I just finished reading Ron Kovic's new book, "Hurricane Street" about his very public protest of the abominable treatment by the Veterans Administration hospital he was confined to, the Long Beach Veterans Hospital in Long Beach, California.  Kovic has been a disabled paraplegic since his 1968 wound in combat in Vietnam.  The book details what a group of disabled, wheel chair bound veterans, did to get attention of the politicians. His story  is a compelling tale of pure betrayal by the political world.  Here are men who were sent on a mission far, far, from home, for a purpose that no one could explain properly or defend.  They were critically wounded to a point where they could not take care of themselves and were abandoned in a veterans hospital like a homeless person.

The book is a tale of the human cost of war.  Young men who could no longer function in society due to their injuries.  But, the tale also shows all the unintended consequences of war.  Kovic mentions that the Washington Post had printed a story about the fact that an average of 22 veterans commit suicide each day in America today.  Hurricane Street tells the other story of what happened to these injured veterans.  How one got into drugs, ended up in prison and died of an overdose;  one took a shotgun and blew his brains out one day.  Another died from an infection due to a bed sore that would not heal.  These are stories the public rarely hears or, for that matter, cares about, but this is one of the  the human toll of war.

In my last post, "How the Vietnam War was hijacked by the Press," I review a book about how the Vietnam War started and all the bone-headed decisions made by politicians in the Kennedy Administration who acted as if they were playing a video game. Elections have consequences, is a familiar saying in politics today, it usually refers to appointing judges.  Elections certainly do have consequences, but most people don't have the slightest idea; they know nothing about a candidate's positions and his world view.  Elections are akin to beauty contests, like the Miss America contest.  It's who talked the best or slickest, not who has experience or fortitude.

The Vietnam War was a war like no other in our history.  It was a war that could not be won.  Imagine, if you will, that Los Angeles County had declared independence from California.  You design a war in which you must only fight  inside Los Angeles County.  You cannot go out of the county to engage your enemy.  The enemy, on the other hand, has all the liberty to attack you from every corner of land and sea.  How likely are you to win such a war?  This was the Vietnam war. A war that was designed by clueless politicians who played it like a game.  The blog post I mentioned earlier details all the events that led to this was and the madness of the war architects.  Check out the cost in deaths for the Vietnam War; click here.

Monday, July 11, 2016

How the Vietnam War was Hijacked by the Press

I recently attended a presentation by Ron Kovic at the Manhattan Beach, California Library for his new book called Hurricane Street.  Kovic is one of the best known Vietnam War critics and activist;  he is also one of the casualties of the Vietnam War.  He has been a paraplegic since 1968 when he was critically wounded in combat. The book is about Kovic's struggle with the VA in the 1970s to get adequate medical treatment for his wounds.   Steve Lopez, columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a nice piece on Kovic recently.

How much does the average American know about the Vietnam war?  I would guess not very much.  A new book I just finished called The Lost Mandate of Heaven, The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam, by Canadian historian Geoffrey Shaw is a powerful testimony of how the United States got involved in Vietnam; it deals with the crucial events leading to war, from 1959 to the murder of Diem, in a 1963 coup orchestrated and sponsored by the Kennedy Administration.

As you can see by this blog, history is one of my interests.  Vietnam history is a special interest to me since I'm a Vietnam War veteran, having served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from May of 1968 to May of 1969.  As I read "The Lost Mandate of Heaven" my anger and disgust grew exponentially.  I would close the book and scream about how incompetent President John Kennedy and his advisers were; to my wife's dismay.  A personal note: I have been an admirer of John Kennedy since 1960, and still have a picture of him in my home.  The day he was killed was one of worst days of my life. Camelot, however, became a big nightmare, as I studied the history.   Here are the main points that pop out from the book:
  • The Kennedy Administration was stacked with one of the most snobbish Ivy League elites ever, headed by the the strong-willed and arrogant Averell Harriman, a former Governor of New York, who turned out to be wrong on everything, and a complete disaster for our history.  There were wise advisers but Kennedy, himself ill informed, dismissed their advice and deferred to Harriman, a man he looked up to with a childlike wonder,
  • The Americans were totally clueless about the culture and people of Vietnam, nor did they care to learn,
  • The American press, led mainly by New York Times reporters, and by David Halberstam in particular, purposely slanted their reporting to fit their agenda and ignore all positive developments. South Vietnamese leaders bitterly complained about the negative reporting,
  • The Americans were bent on making all decisions about the war to the exclusion of the Vietnamese who knew best; to disagree with them would incur their bitter wrath,
  • The Kennedy Administration ignored the best advise from their own military and political advisers such as their ambassador in Vietnam, Frederick Nolting, CIA Saigon Station Chief, William Colby, Secretary of Defense  Robert McNamara, and General Maxwell Taylor, Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as those who were qualified for such advice such as the British, the French and many other nations who had direct experience with the situation in Vietnam,
  • The critical event leading to the coup that killed Diem was the Buddhist uprising in the Spring of 1963, which we learned later, was incited and supported by the North Vietnamese, but promoted by the U.S. press in order to discredit Diem and get him removed from power, for which they pushed for forcefully by their negative reporting,
  • President Kennedy was more worried about his re-election in 1964 and the bad press about the situation in Vietnam than following the right advice - advice that was put to him in no uncertain  terms by top leaders of his administration and others.
The Vietnam war was lost before one American combat soldier arrived in Vietnam.  How so?  The answers are complex but let me summarize.  Strike one was the ineffective and bone-headed advice from his trusted advisers, referred to as the Harriman Group, led by the bull-headed Averell Harriman .  The Harriman Group consisted of Chester Bowles, Michael Forrestal, John Kenneth Galbraith, Roger Hilsman, Paul Kattenburg, Joseph Mendenhall, William Sullivan, and James Thomson.  Strike two was the equally uninformed and senseless Laos Neutrality Agreement signed by Kennedy in 1962, which proved to be a complete farce.  Strike three was the Buddhist uprising of 1963 which led to the military coup that murdered Diem and his brother.  This, without a doubt, was the biggest gift to the North Vietnamese.  They never foresaw being so lucky.  With Diem dead, chaos ensued and defeat was insured.  The facts are that no other South Vietnamese leader had any success as Diem had.  This was foretold by Kennedy's advisers whom he had ignored.  They had explained this very scenario.  Kennedy did not listen.  The Americans, basically shot themselves in both feet.  In the Forward to "The Lost Mandate" the author, Geoffrey Shaw,  puts it this way:  
The character of Diem is consistent, noble, and aware of the slander waged against him.  The members of the State Department - Averell Harriman, Roger Hillsman, Henry Cabot Lodge, and others are seen a vain and vindictive, ideological   and poorly informed.  Laos' neutrality was dealt with in such a way that the North Vietnamese could use the country as a conduit to bypass the northern border of South Vietnam.  This Laotian "neutrality" was the work of Harriman and made defending South Vietnam almost impossible.  North Vietnamese units came into South Vietnam.
Chapter four of the book adds this about the failed policy of the Laos Neutrality Agreement: "Kennedy's leading advocates for a new policy toward Laos had strayed into serious error.  They had believed that neutrality would succeed where arms and the best efforts of the more experienced French had been unsuccessful.  Further proof that Kennedy's men failed at what they set out to do in Laos manifested itself years later when the Americans were heavily engaged with their own forces in South Vietnam.  By then, according to Douglas Pike, the NVA totally controlled the Pathet Lao."

The Laos Neutrality Agreement was the work of Averell Harriman.  He failed to see that a signed piece of paper and reality on the ground was quite another.  Once the agreement was signed by Kennedy, Harriman met with Diem in Saigon and told him, in no uncertain terms that he must sign it.  From this meeting on both men took to a deep hate for the other.  Diem knew that this agreement was pure folly, Harriman believed that a signed piece of paper could solve the communist insurgency in Laos.  This naiveté, basically defined the whole Vietnam American experience.

From the beginning, the Americans went into South Vietnam with a smug, superior attitude, as if only they knew best how to handle the war against the Viet Cong (VC).  Diem, on the other hand, was a very savvy, cultured and revered leader of his people.  He understood his people and his culture.  The Americans, could care less.  Unless you toed their line, you were summarily dismissed and, as was the case, even murdered for not following their orders.

Just about everyone understood the value of Diem; the French, who had ruled Vietnam for centuries, realized this.  The VC certainly knew it.  Many American leaders knew this too such as Ambassador Nolting, top military leaders, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, even Vice President Johnson. One of North Vietnamese main tools in undermining the South Vietnamese was to undermine Diem.  The preface to the book puts it this way: "Ngo Dinh Diem, possessed the Confucian Mandate of Heaven, a moral and political authority that was widely recognized by the South Vietnamese."

The U.S. news media played a huge role in destroying Diem. In Chapter two of the book, it is described like this:  "The role of the American liberal news media played in destroying the relations between Ngo Dinh Diem and the U.S. government should not be underestimated.  According to William Colby, Diem's fatal error was that he did not realize the impact of the news media."

The role of the American press cannot be overstated.  Although there were many successes in the country by the Diem government, the American press chose to give another view. The American press was staffed by young, green ideologues, such as New York Times reporter 27 year-old David Halberstam and Neil Sheehan of United Press International.  These "journalists," instead of focusing on what was going right in Vietnam, took it upon themselves to demonize Ngo Dinh Diem and accused him of corruption and being an authoritarian (seems that theses young punks knew better than the savvy Vietnamese on how to run their county. These clueless young Americans knew nothing about Vietnam).  CIA station chief, William Colby, recognized this right away as being totally wrong.

The press started causing all kinds of havoc, to the point of sabotaging the work of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Frederick Nolting.  Halberstam's daily drip of negative reporting seems to have mirrored the New York Times editorial line.  Halberstam, a gifted writer, began the conditioning of American public opinion which proved too much for a naive new President Kennedy, worried about his re-election in 1964.   In Chapter Eight, the author says it like this,   "Later in August 1963, Nolting's suspicions that Halberstam was catering to New York Times editorial bias were reinforced.  He received reports from a trusted colleague that Halberstam had been at the Caravelle Bar (a popular place for American reporters to congregate) "proudly displaying a telegram from his newspaper in New York, which said in substance: "Good going. Keep it up.  State Department is beginning to see it our way."   In the 1960s, when there were only three TV networks, they followed the lead of the New York Times; whatever the Times said was what they presented in their nightly news.  This still happens today, although to a lesser extent.

The Buddhist Crisis of 1963 was the smoking gun that the American press needed to sabotage the American effort in Vietnam.  They seized this as the final proof that Diem was corrupt and too authoritarian and he must be removed. This crisis, it was later learned, was instigated and supported by the North Vietnamese and VC.  The North Vietnamese were very savvy about what would disturb Americans the most.  They played this crisis like a violin masterpiece.  The U.S. media fell for it, as did the Kennedy administration.  "The communists concluded that the Vietnamese president's weakest point was American reluctance to continue supporting an undemocratic leader.  They were astute enough to realize that the tail wagging the dog of U.S. foreign policy was American public opinion."  The NY Times, basically won.  They snowballed a weak administration and took over the narrative. The author continues in Chapter 10:  "The Buddhist protests therefore would seem to have been masterfully planned acts of political manipulation carefully directed at American public opinion in order to destroy U.S. policy in South Vietnam."  

With allies like the NY Times, who needs enemies?  Chapter 10 of the book continues: "According to journalist John Mechlin, the American press in South Vietnam during the Buddhist crisis had been guilty of inaccurate or even biased reporting.  In a scathing article (September 20, 1963) that led to the protest resignation of Charles Mohr, its chief correspondent for Southeast Asia, Time asserted: "the press corps on the scene is helping to compound the very confusion that it should be untangling for its readers at home...They pool their convictions, information, misinformation and grievances...The have covered a complex situation from only one angle, as if their own conclusions offered all the necessary illumination." 

To this day, the NY Times has not taken responsibility for stabbing America in the back on Vietnam.  I'm sure they think that they did America a favor.  The lives of 60,000 American dead cry out.  The lives of thousands and thousands of American soldiers like Ron Kovic, left maimed cry out.  Shame, Shame: you worked for the enemy not your country.

The price paid for the Vietnam war - American only - not including financial costs:

Dead:  58,193
Wounded: 150,000
Missing: 1,600

Vietnamese Deaths:
Military:  444,000
Civilian:  587,000

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Deja vù All Over Gain: The Loss of the Eastern Roman Empire

Since the death of Mohammad in 632 AD the Muslim Turks have been gobbling up territory like the current ISIS conquest; much like the old video game of Pacman.  Mohammad was ruthless, killing all who opposed him. One of his first atrocities was the murder of the remaining Jews in Medina in 627, a few years before his death.  From there the Muslim Empire expanded throughout the Near East, as it was known then, all the way to Russia, North Africa, the Balkans and parts of Europe, including most of Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy.  In 1453 they conquered Constantinople, the seat of Christianity and capital of The Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire). The Muslim Turk empire was known as the Ottoman Empire.

Where were the Europeans while the Turks conquered half of the world?  They were all sitting on their hands, thinking it did not concern them.  Sounds familiar today too.  The Europeans paid the price for their inaction:  They had to fight the Muslim Turks for the next thousand years.  Recall that Vienna was besieged by the Turks, not once but twice, in 1529 and in 1683.  Recall the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The Muslim Ottoman Empire ruled half of the world until World War I.

The Ottoman Turks were defeated in World War I.  The West had their opportunity to get all the territories they lost to the Turks but they failed to do it.  The decisions made by the victorious allies at the end of World War I was nothing short of disastrous, if not laughable.  Not one decision made any sense.  Let's look at their decision to give the City of Smyrna to the Greeks.  A third grader could have told you that this was a very bad idea.  The Greeks and the Turks hate each other with such a passion that no good was going to come out of it.  Indeed, this was what happened.  The Greeks, trying to regain territories lost to the Turks in the past invaded the interior of Turkey but were defeated by the Turks.  Two fine books recount this story very well in fine detail.  Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922 and The Great Fire.  The Greeks, in turn, were stabbed in the back by their European friends such as Italy who gave the Turks weapons.   France and Britain both refused to help the Greeks.  Had the Europeans cooperated in this matter, the world map would look very different today.

Talking about bad decisions by the victories allies after World War I, consider what they did in redrawing the map of the Middle East.  Can you say, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine, just to name a few.  We are still paying the price of these bone-headed decisions made after World War I. This map looks like it was drawn by elementary school children, without regard for any facts, such as ethnic identities for the Kurds, Shiites or Sunni Muslims.  We're now paying a heavy price for these mistakes.  What is even more worrisome is that we have not learned from our mistakes.  The Europeans are still clueless about their threat.  I suppose that they will not wake up until the hordes are at their doors.