‘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.
by Nick Turse
Forty-five years ago today, March 16, roughly 100 U.S. troops were flown by helicopter to the outskirts of a small Vietnamese hamlet called My Lai in Quang Ngai Province, South Vietnam. Over a period of four hours, the Americans methodically slaughtered more than 500 Vietnamese civilians. Along the way, they also raped women and young girls, mutilated the dead, systematically burned homes, and fouled the area’s drinking water.
On this day, I think back to an interview I conducted several years ago with a tiny, wizened woman named Tran Thi Nhut. She told me about hiding in an underground bunker as the Americans stormed her hamlet and how she emerged to find a scene of utter horror: a mass of corpses in a caved-in trench and, especially, the sight of a woman’s leg sticking out at an unnatural angle which haunted her for decades. She lost her mother and a son in the massacre. But Tran Thi Nhut never set foot in My Lai. She lived two provinces north, in a little hamlet named Phi Phu which—she and other villagers told me—lost more than 30 civilians to a 1967 massacre by U.S. troops.
I remember Pham Thi Luyen who lived several provinces north in Trieu Ai village, Quang Tri Province. Decades old Marine Corps court martial records—which told a story of scared and angry Americans under command of an officer bent on revenge for recent casualties—led me to her hamlet. There, she and other survivors told me what it was like to live through a night of sheer terror, in October 1967, when Americans threw grenades into bomb shelters with women and children inside and gunned down men and women in cold blood. It was the night that Pham Thi Luyen became an orphan and 12 fellow villagers died.
I think of Bui Thi Huong who was, according to court-martial records, gang-raped in Xuan Ngoc hamlet by five Marines while her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, husband, and 3-year-old son were shot dead. Her 5-year-old niece was slain too, but by another method. The Marine who killed her did so by “mashing up and down with his rifle,” according to a fellow unit member. Another recalled, “I said one… two… three… And he was hitting the baby with the [rifle] butt!”
I recall too my conversations with Pham Thi Cuc, Le Thi Chung, and Le Thi Xuan who told me about a 1966 massacre by Americans in My Luoc hamlet that claimed the lives of 16 civilians. I think of Vi Thi Ngoi, an elderly woman who told me about the day American and South Korean troops opened fire on more than 100 of her fellow villagers and of the bodies that fell on her tiny frame, shielding her from the bullets. I remember how she explained what it felt like to lie there, for what seemed like an eternity, feigning death, amid the blood and viscera of friends and neighbors.
I remember my time spent talking with Jamie Henry, decades after he had been a young draftee and then a decorated medic. Just over a month before the My Lai massacre, Henry’s unit entered a small hamlet, rounded up the civilians—about 19 women and children—and gathered them together. A lieutenant asked his superior, a West Point-trained captain, what he should do with them. As Henry later told an Army criminal investigator in a sworn statement: “The captain asked him if he remembered the op order [operation order] that had come down from higher [headquarters] that morning which was to kill anything that moves. The captain repeated the order. He said that higher said to kill anything that moves.” Henry tried to intervene, but instead could only watch as fellow unit members opened fire on the civilians. An Army investigation determined the massacre occurred just as Henry said it did, but no action was taken against any of the troops involved, while the files were kept secret and buried away for decades.
In short, on this anniversary, I think of all the My Lais that most Americans never knew existed and few are aware of today. I think about young American men who shot down innocents in cold blood and then kept silent for decades. I think about horrified witnesses who lived with the memories. I think of the small number of brave whistleblowers who stood up for innocent, voiceless victims. But most of all, I think of the dead Vietnamese of all the massacres that few Americans knew about and fewer still cared about.
I think of the victims in Phi Phu and Trieu Ai and My Luoc and so many other tiny hamlets I visited in Vietnam’s countryside. And then I think of all the villages I never visited; the massacres unknown to all but the dwindling number of survivors and their families; the stories we Americans will likely never know.
I wonder if, 45 years hence, someone might be writing a similar op-ed about civilian lives lost these past years in Iraq or Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen; about killings kept under wraps and buried in classified files or simply locked away in the hearts and minds of the perpetrators and witnesses and survivors. Four and half decades from now, will we still reserve only this day to focus on these hard truths and hidden histories? Or will we finally have learned the lessons of the My Lai massacre and the many other massacres that so many wish to forget and so many others refuse to remember.
by MATTHEW PENNINGTON
Forty years after the secret U.S. bombing that devastated Laos, heirs to the war’s deadly legacy of undetonated explosives are touring America to prod the conscience of the world’s most powerful nation for more help to clear up the mess.
Two young Laotians — one a bomb disposal technician, the other the victim of an accidental explosion — arrived Friday on the anniversary of the end of U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and its far-less publicized bombing of neighboring Laos. The U.S. dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos over a nine-year period up to 1973 — more than on Germany and Japan during World War II.
Manixia Thor, 25, works on an all-female team that clears bombs and other explosives from villages and farm land in her native province of Xieng Khouang, one of the worst-hit areas of the country. Joining her on the speaking tour is Thoummy Silamphan, 26, who lost his left hand to a cluster bombat age 8 as he dug for bamboo shoots to put in soup. He’s from a poor farming family in the same province and counsels victims of ordnance accidents that still maim dozens of Lao each year.
Experts estimate that about 30 percent of the cluster bombs failed to explode after they were dropped from high-flying aircraft, as the U.S. attempted to crush communist forces in Laos and interdict the Vietcong supply line known as the Ho Chi Minh trail. Large swaths of northern Laos and its eastern border with Vietnam remain contaminated.
China has said one of its patrol boats acted reasonably in a confrontation with a Vietnamese fishing boat last week in disputed waters in the South China Sea.
The foreign ministry said it was “legitimate” for China to take action.
Vietnam accuses the Chinese vessel of firing on the fishing boat near the Paracel islands, setting it alight.
Both countries claim the islands, which have been controlled by China since a short war with South Vietnam in 1974.
by David Taylor
[...] The idea that Johnson might have been the candidate, and not Hubert Humphrey, is just one of the many secrets contained on the White House tapes.
They also shed light on a scandal that, if it had been known at the time, would have sunk the candidacy of Republican presidential nominee, Richard Nixon.
By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks – or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had “blood on his hands”.
The BBC’s former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.
But by the time the tapes were declassified in 2008 all the main protagonists had died, including Wheeler.
Now, for the first time, the whole story can be told.
It begins in the summer of 1968. Nixon feared a breakthrough at the Paris Peace talks designed to find a negotiated settlement to the Vietnam war, and he knew this would derail his campaign.
He therefore set up a clandestine back-channel involving Anna Chennault, a senior campaign adviser.
At a July meeting in Nixon’s New York apartment, the South Vietnamese ambassador was told Chennault represented Nixon and spoke for the campaign. If any message needed to be passed to the South Vietnamese president, Nguyen Van Thieu, it would come via Chennault.
In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris – concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.
Chennault was despatched to the South Vietnamese embassy with a clear message: the South Vietnamese government should withdraw from the talks, refuse to deal with Johnson, and if Nixon was elected, they would get a much better deal.
So on the eve of his planned announcement of a halt to the bombing, Johnson learned the South Vietnamese were pulling out.
He was also told why. The FBI had bugged the ambassador’s phone and a transcripts of Anna Chennault’s calls were sent to the White House. In one conversation she tells the ambassador to “just hang on through election”.
Johnson was told by Defence Secretary Clifford that the interference was illegal and threatened the chance for peace.
In a series of remarkable White House recordings we can hear Johnson’s reaction to the news.
In one call to Senator Richard Russell he says: “We have found that our friend, the Republican nominee, our California friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends both, he has been doing it through rather subterranean sources. Mrs Chennault is warning the South Vietnamese not to get pulled into this Johnson move.”
He orders the Nixon campaign to be placed under FBI surveillance and demands to know if Nixon is personally involved.
When he became convinced it was being orchestrated by the Republican candidate, the president called Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader in the Senate to get a message to Nixon.
The president knew what was going on, Nixon should back off and the subterfuge amounted to treason.
Publicly Nixon was suggesting he had no idea why the South Vietnamese withdrew from the talks. He even offered to travel to Saigon to get them back to the negotiating table.
Johnson felt it was the ultimate expression of political hypocrisy but in calls recorded with Clifford they express the fear that going public would require revealing the FBI were bugging the ambassador’s phone and the National Security Agency (NSA) was intercepting his communications with Saigon.
So they decided to say nothing.
The president did let Humphrey know and gave him enough information to sink his opponent. But by then, a few days from the election, Humphrey had been told he had closed the gap with Nixon and would win the presidency. So Humphrey decided it would be too disruptive to the country to accuse the Republicans of treason, if the Democrats were going to win anyway.
Nixon ended his campaign by suggesting the administration war policy was in shambles. They couldn’t even get the South Vietnamese to the negotiating table.
He won by less than 1% of the popular vote.
Once in office he escalated the war into Laos and Cambodia, with the loss of an additional 22,000 American lives, before finally settling for a peace agreement in 1973 that was within grasp in 1968.
The White House tapes, combined with Wheeler’s interviews with key White House personnel, provide an unprecedented insight into how Johnson handled a series of crises that rocked his presidency. Sadly, we will never have that sort of insight again.
Listen to the Archive On 4 programme: Wheeler: The Final Word, on BBC Radio 4 at 20.00 GMT on Saturday or for seven days afterwards on the BBC iPlayer.