The Truth About Viet Nam
- We defended democracy, we opposed Communist aggression.
- Surely if there is such a thing as evil, what we did in Viet Nam was evil.
1. The Facts.
(Condensed from my much more detailed account available at [link coming], which
includes footnotes and citations.)
Under the blazing blue sky of the tropics, in their uncomfortable uniforms, the French
came and conquered. Subjugation of their corner of southeast Asia was a forty year
process, from the occupation of Saigon in 1859, which became the center of their colony of
Cochinchina, to the unification of Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia into French Indochina in
But in a sense the French conquests in southeast Asia were never completed. The
Vietnamese in particular had a long history of resistance to outside conquerors. The Trung
sisters had fought against the Chinese in 40 AD, and in the 13th Century General Tran Hung
Dao defeated the great Kublai Khan s Mongols. These people were revered as national
No sooner had the French created their protectorates than they were confronted with a
rebellion by the boy-emperor Ham Nghi. The rebellion rapidly assumed extensive
proportions, with support from both peasants and Confucian scholars (including Nguyen Sinh
Huy, the father of Ho Chi Minh). In the 1890s, resistance was led by De Tham, the Tiger of
Yen Tre. Not until 1913 was he captured.
The forces that fought him may have included some assimilated Vietnamese, for the
French Officer Corps was admitting some carefully screened pro-French natives into the
army. The French colonists, the colons, opposed this move, one prophesying: Either they
will be worthy of becoming French officers, in which case their highest ideal will be to
liberate their fatherland and throw us into the sea, or they will content themselves with
wearing a beautiful uniform while preserving a servant s soul, in which case I don t want
them as officers. (Indeed, in 1930 the native army at Yen Bay mutinied.)
Inspired by US President Woodrow Wilson s idealistic talk of self-determination after
WWI, Ho Chi Minh tried to get into the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 to plead his
case for moderate reforms. Rebuffed, he turned to the French Left, which was critical of
colonialism, with its oppression and inhumane practices. For example, in Viet Nam the
notorious practice of corvee, forced labor, put 45,000 to work on the Michelin
plantations, of whom 12,000 were worked to death.
In 1930-31 in Viet Nam the French secret police decimated the Viet Nam Quoc Dan Dang,
the leading noncommunist nationalist organization, killing 10,000 people. Survivors of the
Year of the White Terror took refuge in the ICP, the Indochinese Communist Party, more
skilled at surviving underground. The Communists became the only remaining liberation
movement of any significance, thanks to the French secret police s elimination of their
During WWII, agents of the American OSS, forerunner of the CIA, worked with Ho Chi Minh
against the Japanese. The OSS acknowledged Ho s leadership of the nationalist movement,
the Viet Minh. OSS agents worked with the Viet Minh as they rescued American flyers shot
down by the Japanese, organized guerillas under Vo Nguyen Giap (who would eventually
defeat both the French and the Americans), and formulated a concrete program of postwar
When WWII ended in 1945, next door to Indochina the Indonesians established their own
government, independent of their colonial masters, the Dutch, while in Indochina the
Vietnamese established their own government, independent of their colonial masters, the
French. In both cases they met with armed attacks from their former colonial masters who
even released Japanese prisoners of war to help them, prompting General Douglas MacAthur
to say: If there is anything that makes my blood boil, it is to see our allies in
Indochina and Java deploying Japanese troops to reconquer the little people we promised to
liberate. It is the most ignoble kind of betrayal.
In the summer of 1945 a National Congress convened in Hanoi, and the Vietnamese puppet
emperor abdicated his position, saying he d rather be a simple citizen in a free country
than emperor of a slave nation. Quoting Thomas Jefferson, and with OSS agents by his side,
Ho Chi Minh declared Viet Nam s independence on September 2, 1945, and wrote President
Truman for help. The DRVN (Democratic Republic of Viet Nam) was born, with widespread
support --estimated at 98% of the population by an American observer.
Meanwhile in the South, on October 11, 1945, French General Jean Leclerc s forces
rolled out of Saigon. He predicted that the mopping up would be over in a month. High
Commissioner Thierry d Argenlieu told the Vietnamese that they were there to liberate
them, but to the troops he admitted they were fighting for the re-establishment of French
Beyond their reach in the North the new Vietnamese government banned opium and
prostitution, ended French monopolies, began mass adult-education and literacy drives,
reformed the tax structure, and redistributed land to the peasants. Outside observers were
astonished at their courage. Edgar Snow, an editor of the Saturday Evening Post, America s
most mainstream magazine (the one with the Norman Rockwell covers), interviewed a tiny
woman, Pham Nguoc Than, Viet Nam s first female lawyer. She told him that the French could
easily have won the admiration and respect of the Vietnamese but instead had ruled with
greed, cruelty and arrogance. France may come back with all the force of Allied arms
behind her, but our people will never again voluntarily submit to French rule. Saturday
Evening Post editor Snow added that on previous visits he had received the impression of a
nation of mice from the way the Vietnamese had taken abuse and humiliation from their
colonial masters. Now, to his surprise, he saw a nation of mice revolting against the
A western correspondent went to see his Vietnamese dentist and found a sign on the
door: Gone to join the Maquis (name taken from the French resistance against the Nazis
during WWII). He wondered what would make a man give up a good living to go risk his life
in the jungle.
High Commissioner d Argenlieu set up some assimilated Vietnamese with French
citizenship as a rival Independent Republic of Cochinchina, centered in occupied Saigon.
The first president of this puppet regime, Dr. Van Thinh, said: I am being asked to play a
farce, and hanged himself, just as the French were spreading the war into the north by
bombarding the suburbs of Haiphong from the cruiser Suffren, killing perhaps 20,000
civilian men, women and children.
The French saw that they needed a more convincing puppet government in order to convert
the war of conquest into a civil war. D Argenlieu s advisor Leon Pignon said, Our
objective is clear: To transpose to the field of domestic politics the quarrel we have
with [the Vietnamese nationalist movement,] the Viet Minh.
The French installed the discredited Riviera playboy Bao Dai in Saigon, and his regime
was called the Republic of Viet Nam (RVN) and was recognized by the United States as the
government of all of Viet Nam on 2/7/50. Why? Partly in response to the atmosphere of
Rightist hysteria in America following the fall of China and the rise of McCarthyism,
which proved to be a powerful tool for the Republicans, pushing Democrats to compete on
the basis of who could be more pro-Cold War and more anti-communist, with endlessly
By 1952 the US was supplying France with 40% of the cost of their war against the
Vietnamese. Sec. of State Dean Acheson was warned by an underling, John Ohly, that our
responsibilities tend to supplant rather than complement those of the French, and added,
these situations have a way of snowballing. And so it did for the next 20 years of death
and destruction on a vast scale.
Atrocities. Who started them, the cowboys or the Indians, the Arabs or the Jews? Does
it matter? If it does: Correspondent Andrew Roth interviewed the French Foreign Legion in
Viet Nam. Over half of the Legionnaires were German (many former Hitler Youth Nazis who d
never known anything but war), and others were former Vichy fascists. They exhibited the
mixture of fanatical anti-communism and racism typical of Fascism. It s not hard to
imagine the kind of savage war that would result from that hate-filled worldview. When
Roth asked about atrocities and war crimes, his inquiries were shrugged off with they
killed my buddy, didn t they?
Democracy? Democracy was a problem. The only way to convince the Vietnamese that
playboy Bao Dai was a patriot and not a puppet would be to grant him independence. But
this would destroy the whole value of the plan. If he wanted to be taken seriously as a
nationalist, then Bao Dai must be anti-French. But if he were anti-French, he should side
with the Viet Minh who were fighting them. The Viet Minh were heroes. (Later labeling the
resistance Viet Cong or Communists, as the US did, changed nothing.) Neither the French
nor their successors the Americans, and neither Bao Dai nor his US-backed successors Diem,
Thieu & Ky ever really resolved this dilemma.
When General Giap s army delivered the coup de grace at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954,
French rule was over. The French were forced to acknowledge what the Americans would never
learn: No amount of killing Vietnamese peasants would ever persuade the survivors to
support their murderers. Even using nuclear weapons on the Vietnamese, as Nixon and Dulles
secretly urged, could not have saved French rule; their day was done. Why did the peace
not endure? How did a second Viet Nam War, with the Americans in Saigon in place of the
French, come to be? By deliberate American sabotage of the 1954 Geneva Agreements.
The first part of the June 21 Agreements was the cease-fire between the High Commands
of the French and the Viet Minh. Because there was no clear-cut front it was necessary to
define an arbitrary one in order to untangle the two sides, and the 17th parallel was
designated as a military demarcation line (and not a political or territorial boundary).
The French and Saigon s French-led troops would withdraw south of the line, the Viet Minh
to the north. Thus Viet Nam was never partitioned into two governments, one of which could
invade the other. In fact the very name Viet Nam stood for the national goal of unity, in
contrast to the French tactic of divide and conquer. For this reason, the RVN in Saigon
had to claim to be the government of ALL of Viet Nam, just as did the DRVN in Hanoi. The
South Vietnamese government never called itself that, only the Americans did. It would
have been unpatriotic, it would have been political suicide for Saigon to claim to be the
government of a South Vietnam. Yet all Americans are taught that we went to war to defend
South Viet Nam, revealing just how little we know of the historical realities.
The second agreement was the Final Declaration, which repeated the military demarcation
line is provisional and should not in any way be interpreted as constituting a political
or territorial boundary. The US immediately violated this.
To prevent reinforcement of the defeated Saigon regime, which could only provoke
conflict, the Declaration stated no military base under the control of a foreign State may
be established in the regrouping zones of the two parties, the latter having the
obligation to see that the zones shall not constitute part of any military alliances. The
US immediately violated this with the South East Asia Treaty.
Finally, the Declaration provided for free, general elections by secret ballot, which
were to be held in July 1956. (The French premier had insisted on the face-saving two year
delay.) President Eisenhower s memoirs admitted what all knew: The communists, the Viet
Minh, would win the election hands down.
Eisenhower s Secretary of State Dulles was a zealous anti-communist. On August 20,
1954, National Security Directive 5429/2 authorized covert sabotage of the 1954
Agreements. President Truman s worst fears about what the National Security Council might
become in an unlimited Cold War were well on their way to coming true, thirty years before
the trend culminated in what amounts to a coup, by Ollie North and Admiral Poindexter,
during Reagan s Iran-Contra scandal.
Ngo Dinh Diem soon took power in Saigon. Instead of their independence, the Vietnamese
got dictatorship. Diem s Constitution, promulgated in October of 1956, permitted in
Article 98 the suspension of free press and free speech, and other dictatorial powers.
By maintaining that Diem s Saigon regime was a separate sovereign nation, by
establishing SEATO and arming Saigon, and by backing Saigon s refusal to hold the
elections, the US obviously violated the Geneva Agreements. The result? Resumption of war
was inevitable. As correspondent David Schoenbrun put it: The Vietnamese who had been
waiting north of the 17th parallel for elections began to go back home. The Geneva Accords
had been violated, the contract on the basis of which they had left the South had been
torn up, so they returned to their villages and homes to take up again the fight for
independence and unity. Having been denied the ballot box, they went back to the
battleground. It is this Washington calls aggression.
That was written in 1968. Scholarship in the decades since has confirmed his
conclusion, revealing that the Viet Minh favored political struggle over military, but
would fight if forced to, would defend themselves if attacked. Twelve recent books on the
history of Vietnam were reviewed by Jonathan Mirsky (NYR 5/25/00), who summed up the
situation after Geneva: The exhausted Communist army withdrew to the North and the
Southerners were given instructions to oppose Diem by political means and in a united
front with non-Communists. It was this front that Diem began destroying with American
encouragement. What the historical record shows is that, through our clients in Saigon, it
was the US that committed aggression against Viet Nam.
To me, it is astonishing that there are still people who parrot phrases about defending
democracy in Viet Nam. The historical facts clearly contradict this, as we can see by
taking a close look at 1967 s lesson in democracy, as President Johnson referred to the
elections that year.
Buddhist monks setting fire to themselves in protest, students rioting in the streets,
ARVN desertion rates soaring; these were the signs of the collapse of the Saigon regime in
1963. Diem held on by having his forces fire on the people in the streets, and Madame Nhu,
the Dragon Lady, said she welcomed the Buddhist barbecues. President Kennedy was then
forced to denounce repression, and having lost the perceived support of the US, Diem was
quickly assassinated by his own military. Not because he was a dictator but because he was
an unsuccessful one.
General Nguyen Van Thieu emerged as the leading contender for the role. His reaction to
peace proposals by rivals was the armed forces will cut off their heads. Our duty is to
beat such dogs to death.
In September 1967 elections were staged to provide the new junta with an air of
legitimacy. Dangerously popular rivals were either exiled (General Minh), barred from
running (Economics Minister A. Thanh), or simply jailed (Buddhist Thich Tri Quang). Areas
beyond Saigon s control ( Viet Cong areas) were of course not polled. Newspapers were
censored, and despite penalties for not voting, only 56% of the narrow electorate voted.
Thieu received 35% of this 56%, with an estimated 1.4 million fraudulent ballots. His
hand-picked Assembly barely approved the election, even with General Loan s secret police
watching them from the galleries.
The runner-up, peace candidate Truong Dinh Dzu, was arrested, and none of the
opposition was represented in the Cabinet which Thieu formed, mostly from members of the
infamous Ngo Dinh Nhu s repressive Can Lao party. President Johnson said the election gave
us a lasting lesson in democracy, and perhaps he was sincere. People believed what they
wanted to about this war.
To keep such a regime in power in the face of massive corruption and desertion,
ruthless American intervention was needed, and the bombing rate soon surpassed that of all
WWII theaters combined, inflicting enormous casualties in free-fire zones, and creating
four million refugees on whose relief was spent, in a year, the equivalent of one half of
one day s military expenditures. Many starved. Corruption in the Saigon regime soon
siphoned off an estimated 40% of US aid. Torture was widespread. A Congressman made a
minor stir when he discovered Saigon s tiger cages, where women and men suspected of
disloyalty were kept in tiny cages and had caustic lime sprinkled on them, eating into
their flesh and eyes and blinding them.
American military force substituted for popular support. The inevitable result of such
a situation is savagery (see the US Army in Samar, Philippines, 1902). Entire provinces
were devastated when designated as free-fire zones (Quang Ngai, Quang Tin). Prisoners were
interrogated in helicopters in flight by throwing some of them out to make the others
talk. The Saigon-CIA Phoenix program neutralized 18,393 opponents in 1968, mostly by
assassination. And so on. Telford Taylor, US prosecutor of Nazi war criminals at
Nuremberg, carefully examined the evidence and in his book, Nuremberg and Vietnam,
reluctantly concluded that the US was guilty of war crimes.
Many remained ignorant of these developments, accepting official propaganda (to the
present day), but millions of others learned of the horrors of our intervention, and
dissent arose from all sectors of society, including respected leaders like George Kennan
(The father of the Cold War ), Averell Harriman, and Hans Morgenthau, and Army Generals
Ridgway, Shoup and Gavin. By October 1969, Gallup reported the American people favored
withdrawal from Viet Nam by 2 to 1, but it took longer for Nixon to get out than it took
FDR to fight all of WWII. (The majority of American casualties happened after Nixon took
office with his secret plan to end the war. )
In desperation, Nixon even widened the war by invading Cambodia. Cambodia disintegrated
into a holocaust. Get out now, [French Pres.] De Gaulle advised Nixon, and he might have
been able to advise the US against risking [Cambodia s] neutrality for the sake of a
temporary disruption of a North Vietnamese supply route. (Tony Judt, NYR 8/13/98.) But
Americans don t take advice from others.
Only recently has it come out that, on 4/25/72, Nixon again urged the use of atomic
bombs on the Vietnamese, as he had done almost 20 years before to save the French.
Kissinger, no dove, talked him out of it.
A World Herald editorial at the time wondered aloud whether machine guns might be
needed to defend the Pentagon from protestors. But it was this very dissent that truly
saved America s honor and was the real lesson in democracy.
Ultimately the US spent $141 billion (in direct military expenses alone) on the
destruction of resistance in Viet Nam, to no avail. When history repeated itself and a
Peace Treaty was finally forced on the US in January of 1973, Article 21 of the Treaty
called for reparations payments. The Nixon Administration estimated $7 billion was needed
for reconstruction, $1 billion for immediate relief of the intense human suffering in the
crisis of 1973. Needless to say, not a cent has ever been paid. Let em eat cake. Let em
rot. So ended what the World Herald called a war of moral integrity.
2. The Myths.
An AP story, dateline Hanoi (7/17/99) about a 95 yr old cyclo pedaller Pham Quang
Giang, said: He moved to communist North Viet Nam in 1955, a year after the Geneva
Agreements that divided his country. Even the AP gets it wrong, buys the myth. Apparently
only a handful of people on the planet knows what actually happened in Geneva in 1954-55,
described above in Part 1.
Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel on Viet Nam: We can debate why, how, but the fact is we
committed ourselves to a better world.... Every time a stand is made for freedom around
the globe, it s a statement that tyranny will not reign. But which is which? Weren t the
Vietnamese who resisted the tyranny of Saigon the ones who were making a stand for
freedom? Hagel s quote comes from the WH of 5/27/97, the night before the excellent
PBS/Karnow program on Vietnam, Roots of a War, from which the Senator obviously felt no
need to learn. [But see Addendum on Hagel in the Global Warming essay for the Senator s
How can a regime comparable to Hans Frank s in Poland be referred to by pundit Jeff
Jacoby with if our allies were far from perfect ... ? Far from perfect? Does he think
Buddhist monks burned themselves alive to protest a regime that was merely far from
perfect ? A quarter century after the fall of Saigon, we still find commentators
expressing the White Paper version of history. To proclaim otherwise is to live in an
alternative universe. Modern Maturity ran a collection of essays on Viet Nam. Colonel
David Hackworth s, the only critical one, was outnumbered by the ones expressing the
official propaganda version.
The lesson of Kosovo was said to be the same as Viet Nam, namely, we have to have clear
goals when we go to war. Senator John McCain echoed the common complaint that a nation
should never send its sons to war without supporting them (see NYR 10/21/99). But the US
as a democracy was never given the chance to decide whether or not to send its sons to
Viet Nam. Congress never declared war. Instead Congress passed the ambiguous 1964 Tonkin
Gulf Resolution in response to a suspicious alleged attack on the USS Maddox. The Navy
brass put pressure on the ship s commander, Capt John Herrick, to confirm that he had been
attacked, but he would not. (Karnow p 366.)
It s also a modern myth that returning soldiers were spat on. Although it can t be
settled for sure, no film or photos of any such incidents exist, and there are no
contemporary news accounts about any such incident. Viet Nam veteran and sociologist Jerry
Lembcke s book on it, The Spitting Image, equates it with the Nazi s stab in the back
myth, that The War (WWI for the Nazis, Viet Nam for US hawks) was lost because of civilian
perfidy and treachery (Jews for the Nazis, peaceniks and liberal media for us). Actually,
the only documented case of spitting was BY pro-war advocates, spitting ON protesting
Twenty years after the fall of Saigon, former Sec. of Defense Bob MacNamara admitted
that our leaders didn t know that Ho was another Tito. We could treat Marshall Tito of
Yugoslavia decently even though he was a Communist because he was also a nationalist, a
bulwark against the Soviet Union. If we could tolerate Tito, why not Ho, since he was also
a nationalist and would make Viet Nam a bulwark against Red China? The answer is, as
MacNamara said, that we didn t know anything about Viet Nam. In fact, during my research I
found transcripts of government hearings that didn t even know the correct name of the
country, recording it as Yetnow and Mentnom.
The White House and State Dept scorned journalists like Bernard Fall and Jean Lacouture
... or academic specialists like George Kahin [or] its own experts, like Col. David
Hackworth or John Vann . Well, I didn t ignore them, I read them and did my own research
to boot. If I could do it, so could the State Dept, if they hadn t been so mired in what
sociologists call Groupthink. The quote is from Asian expert Jonathan Mirsky, in his
review of recent books by Vietnamese authors (NYR 9/21/99). He writes that these novels
deepen the mystery of the battlefield tenacity of these undersized rice farmers, showing
us only the desperation and comradeship [common] among combat soldiers and the hypocrisy
among their commanders, that are equally familiar around the world. Bao Ninh writes of his
27th battalion, wiped out in what is now called The Jungle of Screaming Souls (ghosts).
Simple, gentle, ethical peasants returned from the war to bitterness and indifference
The peace movement s position on Viet Nam was: Get out. Even if Hanoi should turn out
to be as bad as Saigon (it didn t), still their mistakes and corruption were theirs to
make, not ours. Luckily I wasn t in the State Dept. so I felt no need to sneer at scholars
and experts. Instead I studied and soon realized to my surprise that I knew more about
Viet Nam than the President of the USA, whose pronouncements on the subject began to make
my stomach churn. As a trained historian I m aware of the two goals of the professional,
to see the past objectively and to search out multi-causality. Reality is always more
complex than any narrative can show --including this brief summary of The Truth About
Vietnam. (See the link above for a more detailed, nuanced analysis.). But what s sad is
that the simplistic official White Paper version is still the accepted party line,
especially among newspaper editors, GOP hawks, and other opinion shapers.
McNamara s later admission that if only we d known more Vietnamese history we wouldn t
have gotten into that war is really, when you think about it, an astonishing admission.
Mountains of corpses are just a Whoopsy-daisy, my bad ? If I and thousands of others knew
the facts anyone could have, if only they d been modest enough to seek to question their
own assumptions, but that s not something people do easily. Hell, even thirty years later,
so-called leaders still pontificate mindlessly, ignoring the mountains of evidence,
rewriting history, and clinging to their flat-earth view of the war and of the 1960s.
Ah, the 1960s, yes. The 1960s view of the antiwar movement was of course boundlessly
optimistic. Bliss was it to be alive in that dawn ... Surely facts and reason would win
out over ignorance and tribal militarism; there would be no more settling disputes by
killing; these are other men just like us. No longer would we snarl at other races, just
like us. Paul Goodman s utopian anarchism, psychedelics, Erich Fromm s obscure book on
Zen, all this was heady stuff. (See Storming Heaven, by Jay Stevens.) At last the
primitive core reptilian brain was going to come under the control of the outer, newer
layer, the cerebral cortex, the seat of judgment and enlightenment. America was on the
fast track to a beautiful future. Poverty was under attack, the middle class was swelling.
New movements, environmental and civil rights, were working for a better world. But we
underestimated the resilience of reactionary forces, and resistance stiffened. Indeed, in
the Reagan years, the Right counterattacked. Was the 1960s America s peak? Maybe it s
still too soon to tell. But it gets harder to be optimistic. Certainly Viet Nam was a
The GIs had it backward. When they left Viet Nam they said they were returning to the
world. I ve spent many years in the Third World. That s the way all of us lived throughout
most of history (see Among the Earthlings). No, the GIs were leaving the realm of some
brave Earthlings trying to cope with life and death issues, to return to an artificial
unrealistic nonrepresentative fantasy world full of commercialism and addiction to the
virtual worlds of entertainment, continuously mutating to hold the interest of jaded
In Apocalypse Now, Brando admires the purity of an enemy who would cut off the arms of
vaccinated children. I don t know if such a thing ever happened. Certainly guerilla wars
become vicious and nothing can justify atrocities. But it s interesting to see how our
view of the Vietnamese resistance changed, from the admiration of the Sat Eve Post editor
(and many others) in the late 1940s, to black propaganda. The Vietnamese resistance ended
up being portrayed in the American media exactly the same way the Maquis, the French
resistance during WWII, was portrayed in the Nazi media, as nothing but brutal terrorists.
See the play & movie The Kiss of the Spider Woman, in which the politically naive John
Hurt character, imprisoned by South American fascists, is in love with a stylish movie
portrayal of the Nazis, identifying with them against the terrorists, the resistance. In a
more scholarly vein, see Manufacturing Consent, by Chomsky and Herman.
An AP story (10/2/99) reporting on American massacres of Korean civilians at No Gun Ri
quoted Howard Levie, a top Army war-crimes prosecutor in 1950 (investigating North Korea s
war crimes), who said that, for most of US history, we ve done very badly in not trying
cases [of US war crimes] ...What bothers me most is the fact that the American public
seems to take the side of the war criminal if he s American. No duh! Just like Germans,
French, Vietnamese, or Japanese? We re human? Instead of special angelic superbeings? The
suggestion is sure to enrage some.
I ll close with another news story (11/1/02). In lieu of the billions of dollars we
owed in reconstruction aid under the 1973 Peace Accords, an occasional act of philanthropy
is headlined, a kind of token penance, as when a young woman deformed by Agent Orange,
Nguyen Thi Thoa, was brought from impoverished Viet Nam to the US for facial
reconstruction surgery. She was then returned to crumbling Hanoi. Screw em.
-- Jim Bechtel, Omaha, 12/24/02 (updated later)
Plague: Lappe notes, VIETNAM 1, 2 and 3.
Entomophagy (for the book) p 46 green
1980 Kwangju So Korea (where we won), the town rose up against military rule, crushed
by tanks & paratroops: hundreds killed, thousands wounded.
Cambodia: All 10 million people would have to spend their entire incomes ($280/yr) for
3 1/2 yrs to clear their land of mines. Amputee rate 1 per 236 people. VIETNAM only 1 per
1,250, Mozambique 1,862 (96 data). Can t afford prostheses, even crutches are a drain. 100
mil mines worldwide, 500 casualties/week.
Hue p 334 Vann. Hanoi p X of OPL 959.704sh35b
For example, by the 1990s the world they would have returned to had mutated into a
world of Seinfeld clones. The WH (11/1/95) reported there were eighteen prime time sitcoms
set in Jewish ambience New York and ten more in LA, puzzling since only 3% of the
population is Jewish. Maybe not so puzzling: It s great entertainment. Since I was a kid
in the days of Harvey Kurtzman and Sid Caesar, I ve found that particular genre of urban
wit to be wonderfully funny, and I welcomed its diffusion throughout the culture. IMHO,
the early Mad comics (before the magazine incarnation), in the Kurtzman era, with their
great Wally Wood and Bill Elder satires, have never been surpassed. At least not until
Monty Python. Maybe I m just showing my age.
But as for the Dark Side of consumerism, the cultural damage done by the most massive
and pervasive propaganda campaign in the history of mankind ($350 billion in 1995), see
Sut Jhally s analysis; XXX LINK Commercialism and Doom. Incidentally, I think one reason
people watch TV is to see a world where people aren t watching TV. Except for the
Simpsons, America s only realistic TV family: They watch TV.