Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't Know Much About History

Isaac Smith admits that does not know much about history, see here and his vapid response to me. Before I get into the crux of Isaac’s history lesson, let me address his comment “And for the record: No one who favors withdrawal thinks the violence will stop once we leave.”

As I’ve said before, both Smith and his contemporaries on Iraq, and their predecessors from the Vietnam era a take no responsibility for the disastrous consequences of an American military withdrawal. Oh, he acknowledges that there will be more violence in Iraq after a withdrawal, but that is not my point. My point is that they will celebrate US withdrawal, the defeat of the evil George W. Bush, then wash their hands of the nightmare to follow. They brought down the man or the machine or whatever, that is all that matters to them.

Now I will address his assertion that conservatives are somehow deluded because some of us think that Vietnam could have turned out differently.

Smith shows us that he lacks a fundamental understanding that the work of history is constant revision, which includes revising the so-called lefty “revisionists” like Howard Zinn, Victor Navasky, and Ellen Shrecker. If he did understand this, then he would know that when new documents and evidence become available our understanding of historical events and eras change, unless that change refutes your own destructive ideology, see here.

An example: For the last 50 years the received historical knowledge was that folks like Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs ,and Harry Dexter White were innocent of the charges of spying for Stalin, and the CPUSA was just a homegrown “communism is 20th Century Americanism” organization of social activists. Any scholar who thought otherwise was a McCarthyite witch-hunter harassing innocent liberal New Dealers. However, in the last decade, Soviet archives have opened, and the NSA declassified the Venona project. From this new evidence, we now know that Hiss, White, and the Rosenbergs were indeed Soviet spies, espionage on behalf of Soviet intelligence services was a major function of the CPUSA, which took its marching orders from Stalin, and that many New Dealers were either fellow traveling dupes or outright Soviet agents.

As for Vietnam, yes, it could have turned out differently, and yes anti-war activists and duplicitous reporters played a major role in pursuing the North’s strategy of sowing domestic divisions about the war in America. Smith would know this if he ever bothered to read any history of the war not written by David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan or Stanley Karnow.

In a new and persuasively argued history Triumph Forsaken, historian Mark Moyar reveals that the war could have been won in 1965, without introduction of US ground troops. Moyar states that the 1963 coup and US-backed assassination of South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem was a disastrous mistake. Contrary to the traditional school of thought, Diem was not the monster most historians and contemporary reporters portrayed him to be. In fact, Diem was a skillful, if authoritarian leader, who actually saw success against the Viet Cong in 1962, and eliminated the communist agents who remained in the South after the 1952 partition. Diem cultivated a successful officer corps, which led to the 1962 successes against the Viet Cong. Most Vietnamese shared Diem’s traditional ideology it was not as harsh and radical as Ho Chi Minh’s land redistribution that murdered tens of thousands. Diem’s crackdown of the Buddhists was necessary because they were a small politically minded group with close ties to the North or communists or communists themselves. Reporters like Halberstam believed that Diem had to go. Halberstam and his colleagues, Sheehan and Karnow, passed damaging information on Diem to his opponents, which made its way to his opponents in the American government. We now know that the information gathered by Halberstam was in fact false data passed to them by Reuters stringer Pham Xuan An, who was in fact a secret communist agent. After Diem’s assassination, the new regime purges the capable Diem loyalists from the government and military, consequently negating South Vietnam’s advantage over the VC and PAVN.

North Vietnamese documents prove that LBJ and McNamara’s policy of limited incremental response did not induce the North to in turn limit itself, rather is showed to Hanoi that the US would not mount a major defense of South Vietnam. Couple this with the disintegration of the South Vietnam’s military capacity in the wake of the coup against Diem, the North began a full scale invasion.

About those dirty hippies! Apparently, Smith hasn’t heard of people like Jane Fonda’s husband Tom Hayden, a founding member of SDS and New Left radical. Hayden played a crucial role in executing Hanoi’s plan to sow dissent at home. Hayden traveled many times to North Vietnam, Czechoslovakia, and Paris to meet Communist North Vietnamese and Viet Cong leaders and collaborate with them in defeating America's anti-Communist efforts. Hayden returned from a trip to Hanoi proclaiming he had seen "rice roots democracy at work." He even offered advice on conducting psychological warfare against the US. Hayden and Fonda labeled the torture of American POWs “propaganda” and called returning POWs like John McCain “liars.” Hayden cultivated a radical anti anti-Communist caucus in Congress, where he lectured and agitated for an end to anti-Communist efforts in South Vietnam and advocated support for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Cambodia. When anti-war activists like Joan Baez spoke out about the North Vietnamese genocide and re-education camps, Hayden and Fonda called her a tool of the CIA. Yes, we have moved on from the 1960’s, unfortunately, we are still stuck with the disastrous ideas and consequences of that destructive generation.

1 comment:

G. A. Harrison said...

Great Post! It reminds me of all the liberals calling themselves "Progressives" now. I guess they think that we all forgot our history and the fact that Henry Wallace's "Progressives" were nothing more than "fellow travelers".

Keep up the great work!