‘On 30 April 1975, the last American helicopters beat an ignominious retreat from Saigon as the tanks of the North Vietnamese Army rumbled into the capital of defeated South Vietnam. Victory over the US military is remembered each year in Vietnam as a triumph over foreign aggression in a war of national liberation.
Less celebrated is Vietnam’s quiet retreat from its own deeply unpopular foreign war that ended 25 years ago this month. A war where Vietnamese troops, sent as saviours but soon seen as invaders, paid a steep price in lives and limbs during a gruelling decade-long guerilla conflict.’
‘China says its land reclamation work in the South China Sea is “totally justifiable” as it has “sovereignty” over the area. Its foreign affairs ministry spokesman Hua Chunying was responding to a BBC report which documented China’s construction work in disputed waters. The Philippines has accused China of illegal building in the area.
China is locked in a dispute with several countries over maritime claims in the South China Sea. The BBC report by Rupert Wingfield-Hayes said China was building new islands on five different reefs. He and his team documented Chinese work to dredge tonnes of rock and sand from the sea floor to pump into Johnson South reef in the Spratly islands, which are also claimed by Manila.’
- China’s Island Factory
- Philippines displays ancient maps to debunk China’s sea claims
- Singapore and the Sea of Discontent
- Remote, gas-rich islands on Indonesia’s South China Sea frontline
- Philippines Renews Arbitration Push in South China Seas Dispute
- U.S. to monitor South China Sea for de-escalation after China rebuff
- U.S. to press South China Sea freeze despite China rejection
- Manila urges unity for South East Asian nations in China sea dispute
- New Chinese map gives greater play to South China Sea claims
- China to build school in contested Paracel Islands
- China Building Dubai-Style Fake Islands in South China Sea
- China says Vietnam, Philippines’ mingling on disputed isle a ‘farce’
- China says Philippines stirring tensions after Aquino supports Japan
- Japan and the South China Sea Conflict
- 103 words that tie the U.S. military to barren rocks in the East China Sea
- China blames U.S. for stoking tensions in South China Sea
- Pepe Escobar: Obama makes South China waves
‘On the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and historian Gareth Porter discuss the powers which wanted
President Johnson to pursue a ground operation in South Vietnam’ (The Real News)
‘As the US remembers (or forgets to remember) these two moments, it seems appropriate to examine what lessons it may have learned. Tragically, the lessons learned are the wrong ones. Instead of making the process of entering military and waging military conflict more open and accountable, the US way of making war has become more secretive and even less accountable than before. Armed drones, black ops, illegal funding and mercenary forces beholden to no law; these are Washington’s answers to the experience of the Vietnam War and the protests against it. From the drug smuggling and sales that funded the contras in Washington’s illegal war in Nicaragua to the use of advisors and mercenaries in Ukraine, Afghanistan and a number of African nations, not to mention murder by drone in Pakistan and Yemen, the US presence around the globe has only grown in magnitude and deceit. This is the lesson learned then—to deceive and deny until nobody asks anymore; until the press is so compliant it serves as a public relations wing of the Pentagon, putting the propaganda of more authoritarian governments to shame.‘
‘Fifty years ago this month, the United States began raining down bombs on Laos, in what would become the largest bombing campaign in history. From June 1964 to March 1973, the United States dropped at least two million tons of bombs on the small, landlocked southeast Asian country. That is the equivalent of one planeload every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine years — more than was dropped on Germany and Japan during World War II. The deadly legacy of the Vietnam War lives on today in the form of unexploded cluster bombs, which had about a 30 percent failure rate when they fell from American planes over large swaths of Laos. Experts estimate that Laos is littered with as many as 80 million “bombies,” or bomblets — baseball-sized bombs found inside cluster bombs. Since the bombing stopped four decades ago, tens of thousands of people have been injured or killed as a result. We are joined by Karen Coates and Jerry Redfern, co-authors of “Eternal Harvest: The Legacy of American Bombs in Laos.”‘ ~ Watch the full segment at Democracy Now!
- LBJ’s dark Laotian legacy
- Laos Is Still Under Attack from Its Secret War
- Deadly legacy of secret US bombing of Laos lingers
- Vietnam War Continues in Laos: 75 Million Bombs Remain
- Forty years on, Laos reaps bitter harvest of the secret war
- 40 Years After Secret U.S. War in Laos Ended, Millions of Unexploded Bomblets Keep Killing Laotians
- Laos: ‘Most-heavily bombed place’
‘China began evacuating hundreds of its nationals from Vietnam (via at least 2 planes and 5 ships) as the anti-China protests have become increasingly deadly following Beijing’s attempt to deploy an oil drill in Vietnamese dispuited waters (detailed here, here, here, and here)…
- *CHINA SENDING 5 SHIPS TO VIETNAM TO EVACUATE CHINESE: XINHUA
- *HUNDREDS OF VIETNAMESE SECURITY IN CENTRAL HO CHI MINH CITY
- *VIETNAM PRIME MINISTER ISSUES DIRECTIVE TO PREVENT PROTESTS
- *VIETNAM GOVT TAKES ACTION TO PREVENT RIOTS: BINH
Hundreds of police and security forces are in central Ho Chi Minh city and the Chinese consulate is under heavy guard. Tensions across the ASEAN region are growung as Taiwan is on “high alert” but the bloc’s inability to craft a united response to Chinese aggression signals a further decline in its regional clout.’
- Vietnam riots: China ships to evacuate workers
- Vietnam clamps down on anti-China protests
- China, Vietnam hold talks on recent anti-China violence
- Violence abates in Vietnam as U.S. warns China for ‘provocation’
- On high seas, Vietnam and China play tense game
- China blames Vietnam, says will not cede inch of disputed territory
- 21 Dead in Anti-Chinese Riots in Central Vietnam
- China enacts “emergency mechanisms” after Vietnam protests
- Vietnam mobs set fire to foreign factories in anti-China riots
- Anti-China riots turn deadly in Vietnam (Video)
- Vietnam Fails to Rally Partners in China Dispute
- Vietnamese protests against China gather pace, fuelling regional tension
- Vietnam, China Trade Warnings After Naval Collision in Disputed Waters
- Battle of the Paracel Islands
‘Sixty years ago this week, French troops were defeated by Vietnamese forces at Dien Bien Phu. As historian Julian Jackson explains, it was a turning point in the history of both nations, and in the Cold War – and a battle where some in the US appear to have contemplated the use of nuclear weapons. “Would you like two atomic bombs?” These are the words that a senior French diplomat remembered US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles asking the French Foreign Minister, Georges Bidault, in April 1954. The context of this extraordinary offer was the critical plight of the French army fighting the nationalist forces of Ho Chi Minh at Dien Bien Phu in the highlands of north-west Vietnam.
The battle of Dien Bien Phu is today overshadowed by the later involvement of the Americans in Vietnam in the 1960s. But for eight years between 1946 and 1954 the French had fought their own bloody war to hold on to their Empire in the Far East. After the seizure of power by the Communists in China in 1949, this colonial conflict had become a key battleground of the Cold War. The Chinese provided the Vietnamese with arms and supplies while most of the costs of the French war effort were borne by America. But it was French soldiers who were fighting and dying. By 1954, French forces in Indochina totalled over 55,000.’
‘Sixty years ago, French troops were crushed by Vietnamese fighters in a landmark battle that led to the country’s independence, dented Paris’s prestige and fuelled independence movements in other colonies. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu, which ended on May 7, 1954 after nearly two months of relentless fighting in a valley where French soldiers were encircled and roundly defeated was also a milestone in the history of liberation movements worldwide.
Dien Bien Phu “was the first time that a non-European colonial independence movement had evolved through all the stages from guerrilla bands to a conventionally organised and equipped army able to defeat a modern Western occupier in a pitched battle”, wrote British historian Martin Windrow, the author of a critically acclaimed book on the subject. The humiliating fall of the French troops in the Dien Bien Phu valley that ended Paris’s dominance in Indochina was followed by another test of will in Algeria which almost precipitated a civil war back home in France.’
A new series of heartbreaking pictures has revealed even babies 40 years on are suffering the horrific effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Canterbury born Francis Wade captured the distressing images at the Thi Nghe and Thien Phuoc orphanages in Saigon, which are home to children born decades after the war. Yet despite the conflict ending in 1971, the orphanages are caring for children suffering disabilities thought to be caused by a chemical used by U.S forces, which was sprayed on crops, plants and trees.
…The U.S. has denied that it has anything to do with the death squads, claiming it has trained Kenyan security to operate in line with human rights. But those claims are dubious. America’s involvement with Kenya’s anti-terror forces is deep. Since 2003, the U.S. has given Kenya $50 million to fight terrorism; the country is one of the five recipients of U.S. anti-terror financing. And the U.S. and the U.K. provide training for Kenya’s fight against al-Shabaab.
The claims of no U.S. involvement are all the more dubious since the U.S. has partnered with Somali militias to hunt down al-Shabaab members, and because of the extensive record of U.S. support for death squads in other countries. Whether in the context of the Cold War or the war on terror, America’s support for death squads has allowed the U.S. to stand back while proxy forces achieve its goals by engaging in the most unsavory of activities: extrajudicial assassinations.
Here are five other countries where the U.S. has supported death squads…
‘Abby Martin goes over the anniversary of the US withdrawal from Vietnam, highlighting the unlearned lessons from the war and draws a parallel to America’s recent conflicts, namely Iraq and Afghanistan.’ (Breaking the Set)
- Statistical Information about Fatal Casualties of the Vietnam War
- Chris Hedges Book Review: Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse
- Role of U.S. Contractors Grows as Iraq Fights Insurgents
- 108,000 Private Contractors Are in Afghanistan and We Have No Idea What They’re Doing
- Iraq and Afghanistan: The physical and mental toll, by the numbers
- Zero U.S. Troops Died In Combat In March, The First Time In More Than A Decade
For the most part, American bankers whose rash pursuit of profit brought on the 2008 global financial collapse didn’t get indicted. They got bonuses. Odds are that scandal would have played out differently in Vietnam, another nation struggling with misbehaving bankers.
The authoritarian Southeast Asian state doesn’t just send unscrupulous financiers to jail. Sometimes, it sends them to death row. Amid a sweeping cleanup of its financial sector, Vietnam has sentenced three bankers to death in the past six months. One duo now on death row embezzled roughly $25 million from the state-owned Vietnam Agribank. Their co-conspirators caught decade-plus prison sentences.
This past week marked the 46th anniversary of the My Lai massacre, in which 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians were massacred by U.S. troops in 1968. It’s one of the most shameful chapters in American military history, and now documents held at the Nixon Presidential Library paint a disturbing picture of what happened inside the Nixon administration after news of the massacre was leaked.
The documents, mostly hand-written notes from Nixon’s meetings with his chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, lead some historians to conclude that President Richard Nixon was behind the attempt to sabotage the My Lai court-martial trials and cover up what was becoming a public-relations disaster for his administration.
One document, scribbled by Haldeman during his Dec. 1, 1969, meeting with Nixon, reads like a threatening to-do list under the headline “Task force – My Lai.” Haldeman wrote “dirty tricks” (with the clarification that those tricks be “not too high a level”) and “discredit one witness,” in order to “keep working on the problem.”
A court in Vietnam has jailed a prominent blogger for 15 months for anti-state activities, the second sentencing of a blogger in recent days. Pham Viet Dao, 62, was found guilty of “abusing democratic freedoms to infringe the interests of the state”. Mr Dao apologised in court for some “erroneous” information, but said his posts did not impact badly on society.
His blog ran posts critical of the government and sensitive issues like the territorial row with China. Mr Dao was arrested last year. He previously worked for the culture ministry and is a member of the Vietnam Writers Association. His sentencing came after another popular blogger, Truong Duy Nhat, was also jailed for two years on the same charges a few days ago.
‘World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MITProfessor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. “[It's] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss,” Chomsky says. “And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time.”‘ (Democracy Now!)
The orphans of Agent Orange: Fifty years on, children suffer from the horrific effects of America’s use of chemical weapons during the Vietnam War
[...] During the Vietnam War, between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed nearly 20 million gallons of material containing chemical herbicides and defoliants mixed with jet fuel over parts of Vietnam, eastern Laos and Cambodia.
Agent Orange is the combination of the code names for Herbicide Orange and Agent LNX – one of the herbicides and defoliants used as part of its chemical warfare program, Operation Ranch Hand.
The program’s goal was to destroy forested and rural land – depriving guerrilla fighters of cover while cutting off their food supply. But its devastating effects continue to this day – with many deformed children forced to live a life of destitution on the streets or in low-funded orphanages.
Just before the American ground war in Vietnam began in March 1965 with the landing of a brigade of US Marines at Danang, General Vo Nguyen Giap, who had been commander in chief of Communist armed forces in Vietnam since 1944, told a television interviewer that “Things are going badly for the enemy, because the South Vietnamese soldiers do not want to fight for the Americans. But we are in no hurry. The longer we wait, the greater will be the Americans’ defeat.”
It was not the first time Communist Vietnam’s senior military strategist spoke with such insouciant prescience about an adversary who possessed the most powerful military force in the world. Nor would it be the last. Giap, a self-trained soldier from a small village in Quang Binh Province, central Vietnam, had already trounced Vietnam’s colonial masters, the French, after eight years of war (1946-1954).
Amid a global decline in Internet freedom, activists are increasingly pushing back against repressive Web controls, according to a new study released Thursday that highlighted deteriorating trends in China and Vietnam, Asia’s worst online oppressors.
Citizen activism online has seen a “significant uptick” worldwide over the past year as activists became more effective at raising awareness of emerging threats and forestalling repressive measures, U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House said in its annual “Freedom on the Net” survey.
In nearly a dozen countries, “negative” laws were deterred as a result of civic mobilization and pressure by activists, lawyers, the business sector, reform-minded politicians, and the international community, the study showed.
In a few countries, it said, civic activists were able to form coalitions and proactively lobby governments to pass laws that protect internet freedom or amend previously restrictive legislation.
But at the same time, broad surveillance measures, new laws controlling web content, and more arrests of social media users have driven a worldwide decline in Internet freedom, it warned.
After his eighth round of chemo, Trai Nguyen is exhausted, his body ravaged. The 60-year-old has a rare and aggressive form of cancer that he believes resulted from his contact with the defoliant Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
His doctors believe his cancer may now be in remission, but that is little comfort. “My hands shake violently. I can’t do anything,” he says, sitting on a mattress in the two-bedroom apartment he shares with relatives.
The aftermath of war brought Trai to the United States where he rebuilt his life, but now he’s destitute. His fortunes could have taken a better turn had one thing been different in his past: The uniform he wore during the conflict.
As a soldier in the South Vietnamese army, Trai gathered intelligence that helped American soldiers. He fought alongside the Americans and was exposed to the defoliants that are known to have injured them. But he’s excluded from the compensation and health care afforded to U.S. veterans for the same service-connected disabilities.
With John Kerry currently in full Henry Kissinger regalia, parading around the Middle East, brow-beating the Palestinians and their allies in the region and Europe into signing onto a deeply flawed peace accord that primarily serves Israeli and American interests, it may prove a useful exercise to inspect the curriculum vitae of this putative peace-maker, especially during those formative years when the Secretary of State first carved out his name in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Though Kerry has a reputation as an anti-war activist, his brief tenure in Vietnam and Cambodia was notable both for acts of casual savagery and his striking lack of contrition for his own participation in atrocities that in a rational society might easily be classified as war crimes. (Jeffrey St. Clair)
[...] Agent Orange was produced primarily by the Monsanto Corp. and Dow Chemical. Both companies say the defoliant was made according to strict military specifications. “The government specified the chemical composition of Agent Orange and when, where and how the material was to be used in the field, including application rates,” Monsanto says.
But a 1990 report compiled by Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. for the Department of Veterans Affairs that recommended compensation for ailing veterans who’d been exposed to Agent Orange also detailed evidence that Dow Chemical knew as early as 1964 that dioxin was a “byproduct of the manufacturing process” and that the dangers of exposure were clear.
That report cited an internal company memo warning that exposure could result in “general organ toxicity,” in addition to “psychopathological” and “other systemic” problems.
In 1965, according to another memo that’s became public in federal court documents, Dow warned Monsanto and other Agent Orange makers that industry “had to resolve the (dioxin) problem before the government found out.”
Monsanto and other companies ignored this warning and continued to make Agent Orange with high levels of dioxin. Dow changed its manufacturing process so that its product contained much lower levels of the contaminant.
Dow officials later admitted in federal court and in congressional testimony in the 1980s that they didn’t inform the U.S. government about dioxin contamination in Agent Orange until 1969 at the earliest.
Despite these revelations, the federal courts have consistently shielded Dow, Monsanto and other manufacturers from liability because they produced Agent Orange under government contract.
More than 400,000 people have been forcibly evicted from their lands since 2003, often without compensation, as the nation sells off its territory to sugar and rubber barons and property developers. Villagers who protest have been beaten, imprisoned and murdered – such as the environmental campaigner Chut Wutty, who was killed last year – as more than one-tenth of land has been transferred in the past few years from small-scale farmers to agribusiness, rights groups claim. A recent Global Witness report – and investigation by the Guardian – found that Deutsche Bank and the International Finance Corporation were bankrolling massive government-sponsored land grabs in both Cambodia and Laos through two Vietnamese companies, HAGL and VRG, which had been granted recent economic land concessions. Villagers claimed they had little food to eat and no chance of jobs, as hardly any positions were offered by the companies.
The state can take land away from citizens for economic development, national security or defence reasons, or in the public interest. But in recent years the government has grabbed land to make way for eco-parks, resorts and golf courses, much to the anger of the public. Last year, around 3,000 security forces were deployed in the northern Hung Yen province after villagers protested against a 70-hectare land grab to make way for an “eco-urban township”. Around the same time, a family of four fish farmers protested against a state eviction squad armed with homemade shotguns and land mines – a bold move in this one-party nation. While the prime minister declared the fish farmers’ eviction illegal,a court recently handed down a five-year jail sentence to those involved in the protest for making a “bad impact on the social order … [of] the country as a whole”.
The sea gypsies in the southern resort island of Phuket are facing eviction after living on and around the beaches of Rawai for the past 200 years. Thai landowners claim they want the land back to build houses and a “sea gypsy village” in which tourists can buy fish and see how this once nomadic seafaring tribe now lives on land. The sea gypsy communities have so far refused to move, but could be forcibly evicted if no resolution is reached. Sea gypsies in neighbouring areas, such as Khao Lak, have also been forced off their land by resorts and hotels over past decades, while Burmese sea gypsies around the Mergui islands are reportedly being moved out by authorities keen to develop the area for tourism.
SOUTH Korea’s highest court has upheld a ruling ordering two US Agent Orange makers to compensate 39 Vietnam War veterans in one of the country’s most prominent lawsuits.
The Supreme Court recognised the epidemiological correlation between the toxic defoliant and skin diseases for the first time, saying the 39 victims should receive a total of 466 million won ($A454,445) from Dow Chemical and Monsanto.
The veterans had complained that Agent Orange was responsible for skin diseases such as “chemical acne”, which is caused by exposure to dioxin contained in Agent Orange, the court said.
Payment is now up to the US firms, but Dow Chemical said in a statement quoted by Yonhap news agency that it disagrees with the Supreme Court’s decision as Friday’s verdict was not backed by clear evidence, citing US court rulings.
by Jason Ditz
Obama Administration officials have hyped their planned “Asian pivot” for awhile, an effort to get more US combat troops deployed in nations across the Pacific Rim in spite of the US not actually being in any wars there. Today Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Jim Amos revealed his branch’s plans.
The US Marines currently have two battalions “permanently” deployed across the Pacific Rim, mostly Okinawa and Guam. This will be increased to add a third battalion, with an increase in troops in Okinawa, as well as Vietnam and Cambodia.
Camouflaging the Vietnam War: How Textbooks Continue to Keep the Pentagon Papers a Secret ~ Common Dreams
by Bill Bigelow
[...] Like today’s whistle-blowers Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, Daniel Ellsberg knew the consequences for his act of defiance. Ultimately, he was indicted on 11 counts of theft and violation of the Espionage Act. If convicted on all counts, the penalty added up to 130 years in prison. This story is chronicled dramatically in the film The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and in Ellsberg’s own gripping autobiography, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers.
In June of 1971, Ellsberg surrendered to federal authorities at Post Office Square in Boston. Forty-two years later, few of the historical secrets that Ellsberg revealed— especially those that focus on the immediate post-World War II origins of U.S. involvement in Vietnam—appear in the school curriculum.
Corporate textbook writers seem to work from the same list of must-include events and individuals. Thus, all the new U.S. history textbooks on my shelf mention the Pentagon Papers. But none grapples with the actual import of the Pentagon Papers. None quotes Ellsberg or the historical documents themselves, and none captures Ellsberg’s central conclusion about the United States in Vietnam: “It wasn’t that we were on the wrong side; wewere the wrong side.”
Textbooks resist telling students that the U.S. government consistently lied about the war, preferring more genteel language. Prentice Hall’s America: History of Our Nation includes only one line describing the content of the Pentagon Papers: “They traced the steps by which the United States had committed itself to the Vietnam War and showed that government officials had concealed actions and often misled Americans about their motives.” The textbook offers no examples.
Teaching students a deeper, more complete history of the American War—as it is known in Vietnam—is not just a matter of accuracy, it’s about life and death.
by John Pilger
In the wake of Thatcher’s departure, I remember her victims. Patrick Warby’s daughter, Marie, was one of them. Marie, aged five, suffered from a bowel deformity and needed a special diet. Without it, the pain was excruciating. Her father was a Durham miner and had used all his savings. It was winter 1985, the Great Strike was almost a year old and the family was destitute. Although her eligibility was not disputed, Marie was denied help by the Department of Social Security. Later, I obtained records of the case that showed Marie had been turned down because her father was “affected by a Trade dispute”.
The corruption and inhumanity under Thatcher knew no borders. When she came to power in 1979, Thatcher demanded a total ban on exports of milk to Vietnam. The American invasion had left a third of Vietnamese children malnourished. I witnessed many distressing sights, including infants going blind from a lack of vitamins. “I cannot tolerate this,” said an anguished doctor in a Saigon paediatric hospital, as we looked at a dying boy. Oxfam and Save the Children had made clear to the British government the gravity of the emergency. An embargo led by the US had forced up the local price of a kilo of milk up to ten times that of a kilo of meat. Many children could have been restored with milk. Thatcher’s ban held.
In neighbouring Cambodia, Thatcher left a trail of blood, secretly. In 1980, she demanded that the defunct Pol Pot regime – the killers of 1.7 million people – retain its “right” to represent their victims at the UN. Her policy was vengeance on Cambodia’s liberator, Vietnam. The British representative was instructed to vote with Pol Pot at the World Health Organisation, thereby preventing it from providing help to where it was needed more than anywhere on earth.
To conceal this outrage, the US, Britain and China, Pol Pot’s main backer, invented a “resistance coalition” dominated by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge forces and supplied by the CIA at bases along the Thai border. There was a hitch. In the wake of the Irangate arms-for-hostages debacle, the US Congress had banned clandestine foreign adventures. “In one of those deals the two of them liked to make,” a senior Whitehall official told the Sunday Telegraph, “President Reagan put it to Thatcher that the SAS should take over the Cambodia show. She readily agreed.”
In 1983, Thatcher sent the SAS to train the “coalition” in its own distinctive brand of terrorism. Seven-man SAS teams arrived from Hong Kong, and British soldiers set about training “resistance fighters” in laying minefields in a country devastated by genocide and the world’s highest rate of death and injury as a result of landmines.
I reported this at the time, and more than 16,000 people wrote to Thatcher in protest. “I confirm,” she replied to opposition leader Neil Kinnock, “that there is no British government involvement of any kind in training, equipping or co-operating with the Khmer Rouge or those allied to them.” The lie was breathtaking. In 1991, the government of John Major admitted to parliament that the SAS had indeed trained the “coalition”. “We liked the British,” a Khmer Rouge fighter later told me. “They were very good at teaching us to set booby traps. Unsuspecting people, like children in paddy fields, were the main victims.”
When the journalists and producers of ITV’s landmark documentary, Death on the Rock, exposed how the SAS had run Thatcher’s other death squads in Ireland and Gibraltar, they were hounded by Rupert Murdoch’s “journalists”, then cowering behind the razor wire at Wapping. Although exonerated, Thames TV lost its ITV franchise.
In 1982, the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, was steaming outside the Falklands exclusion zone. The ship offered no threat, yet Thatcher gave orders for it to be sunk. Her victims were 323 sailors, including conscripted teenagers. The crime had a certain logic. Among Thatcher’s closest allies were mass murderers – Pinochet in Chile, Suharto in Indonesia, responsible for “many more than one million deaths” (Amnesty International). Although the British state had long armed the world’s leading tyrannies, it was Thatcher who brought a crusading zeal to the deals, talking up the finer points of fighter aircraft engines, hard-bargaining with bribe-demanding Saudi princes. I filmed her at an arms fair, stroking a gleaming missile. “I’ll have one of those!” she said.
In his arms-to-Iraq enquiry, Lord Richard Scott heard evidence that an entire tier of the Thatcher government, from senior civil servants to ministers, had lied and broken the law in selling weapons to Saddam Hussein. These were her “boys”. Thumb through old copies of the Baghdad Observer, and there are pictures of her boys, mostly cabinet ministers, on the front page sitting with Saddam on his famous white couch. There is Douglas Hurd and there is a grinning David Mellor, also of the Foreign Office, around the time his host was ordering the gassing of 5,000 Kurds. Following this atrocity, the Thatcher government doubled trade credits to Saddam.
Perhaps it is too easy to dance on her grave. Her funeral was a propaganda stunt, fit for a dictator: an absurd show of militarism, as if a coup had taken place. And it has. “Her real triumph”, said another of her boys, Geoffrey Howe, a Thatcher minister, “was to have transformed not just one party but two, so that when Labour did eventually return, the great bulk of Thatcherism was accepted as irreversible.”
In 1997, Thatcher was the first former prime minister to visit Tony Blair after he entered Downing Street. There is a photo of them, joined in rictus: the budding war criminal with his mentor. When Ed Milliband, in his unctuous “tribute”, caricatured Thatcher as a “brave” feminist hero whose achievements he personally “honoured”, you knew the old killer had not died at all.
Amid the daily cut and thrust surrounding the disputed South China Sea – a dangerous arena clouded by diplomatic bluster and military posturing – some events are more telling than others.
The PLA Navy’s recent deployment of a fully equipped amphibious task force to stage a neatly choreographed show of sovereignty at an isolated shoal in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia is one move that will not be easily forgotten.
James Shoal is also claimed by Malaysia – it is just 80 kilometres off its coast and also close to Brunei – and is well south of the Spratlys archipelago, which can be seen as the epicentre of the broader dispute that involves Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei as well as Malaysia and China (and Taiwan). It is a territorial tangle that now resonates internationally.
For several years, Philippine and Vietnamese officials have expressed quiet frustration that they must constantly take the lead in confronting China over the “nine-dash line” that is the basis for its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, while Malaysia and Brunei remain in the shadows, according to regional security scholar Ian Storey.
However, the James Shoal mission – unprecedented in scale and led by the 200-metre-long, state-of-the-art landing ship Jinggangshan – draws Malaysia back into the fray, whether it likes it or not. It is a less-than-subtle reminder from Beijing that perceived diplomatic reticence is no defence against being drawn into its enforcement of sovereign claims.
A fish farmer who became a cult hero in Vietnam after fighting off an illegal eviction with homemade guns and mines was jailed on Friday for five years for attempted murder in a case that has stirred public anger over state-backed land grabs.
Doan Van Vuon, plus two of his brothers and one nephew, were given jail terms of between two and five years for injuring seven police and soldiers in northern Haiphong last January, state media reported. Two of their wives received suspended sentences of 15-18 months for resisting officials.
Land grabs, both legal and illegal, are a major source of public discontent with the state in Communist Vietnam, which owns all the country’s land. The case has been a major talking point in social media and blogs, with critics calling for changes in land laws.
The government offered land leases of 20 years to farmers as part of pro-peasant policies in the 1990s, but critics say corrupt state officials have allowed illegal seizures in return for kickbacks from businesses.
State television showed footage this week of the courtroom displaying the cooking gas cylinders, electrical cables and steel pipes Vuon and his relatives used for bombs and hand guns.
The authorities in Haiphong have admitted their eviction was unlawful and several officials face trial next week.