Category Archives: Vietnam

Vietnam 40 years on: how a communist victory gave way to capitalist corruption

Nick Davies writes for The Guardian:

US army helicopters provide covering fire for South Vietnamese troops as they attack a Vietcong camp near the Vietnam-Cambodia border in March 1965.[…] The US left Vietnam in a state of physical ruin. Roads, rail lines, bridges and canals were devastated by bombing. Unexploded shells and landmines littered the countryside, often underwater in the paddy fields where peasants waded. Five million hectares of forest had been stripped of life by high explosives and Agent Orange. The new government reckoned that two-thirds of the villages in the south had been destroyed. In Saigon, the American legacy included packs of orphans roaming the streets and a heroin epidemic. Nationally, the new government estimated it was dealing with 10 million refugees; 1 million war widows; 880,000 orphans; 362,000 war invalids; and 3 million unemployed people.

The economy was in chaos. By the time Liberation Day arrived, inflation was running at up to 900%, and Vietnam – a country full of paddy fields – was having to import rice. In peace talks in Paris, the US had agreed to pay $3.5bn in reconstruction aid to mend the shattered infrastructure. It never paid a cent. Adding insult to penury, the US went on to demand that the communist government repay millions of dollars borrowed by its enemy, the old Saigon regime. Vietnam desperately needed the world to provide the trade and aid that could turnits economy around. The US did its best to make sure it got neither.’


Grisly effects of Agent Orange haunt Vietnam

10 Most Censored Countries

Committee to Protect Journalists published a preview of their annual Attacks on the Press report, which released on Monday, 27 April:

Eritrea and North Korea are the first and second most censored countries worldwide, according to a list compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists of the 10 countries where the press is most restricted. The list is based on research into the use of tactics ranging from imprisonment and repressive laws to harassment of journalists and restrictions on Internet access.

In Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki has succeeded in his campaign to crush independent journalism, creating a media climate so oppressive that even reporters for state-run news outlets live in constant fear of arrest. The threat of imprisonment has led many journalists to choose exile rather than risk arrest. Eritrea is Africa’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 23 behind bars-none of whom has been tried in court or even charged with a crime.

Fearing the spread of Arab Spring uprisings, Eritrea scrapped plans in 2011 to provide mobile Internet for its citizens, limiting the possibility of access to independent information. Although Internet is available, it is through slow dial-up connections, and fewer than 1 percent of the population goes online, according to U.N. International Telecommunication Union figures. Eritrea also has the lowest figure globally of cell phone users, with just 5.6 percent of the population owning one.

In North Korea, 9.7 percent of the population has cell phones, a number that excludes access to phones smuggled in from China. In place of the global Internet, to which only a select few powerful individuals have access, some schools and other institutions have access to a tightly controlled intranet. And despite the arrival of an Associated Press bureau in Pyongyang in 2012, the state has such a tight grip on the news agenda that newsreel was re-edited to remove Kim Jong Un’s disgraced uncle from the archives after his execution.

The tactics used by Eritrea and North Korea are mirrored to varying degrees in other heavily censored countries. To keep their grip on power, repressive regimes use a combination of media monopoly, harassment, spying, threats of journalist imprisonment, and restriction of journalists’ entry into or movements within their countries.’


The Legacy of Agent Orange

From Reuters:

‘As April 30 approaches, marking 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, people in Vietnam with severe mental and physical disabilities still feel the lingering effects of Agent Orange.

Respiratory cancer and birth defects amongst both Vietnamese and U.S. veterans have been linked to exposure to the defoliant. The U.S. military sprayed millions of gallons of Agent Orange onto Vietnam’s jungles during the conflict to expose northern communist troops.

Reuters photographer Damir Sagolj travelled through Vietnam to meet the people affected, four decades on.’


One Woman’s Mission to Free Laos From Millions of Unexploded Bombs

Thomas Fuller reports for The New York Times:

‘[…] From 1964 to 1973, American warplanes conducted 580,000 bombing missions over Laos, one of the most intensive air campaigns in the history of warfare. The campaign is often called the Secret War because the United States did not publicly acknowledge waging it.

The targets were North Vietnamese troops — especially along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, a large part of which passed through Laos — as well as North Vietnam’s Laotian Communist allies.

Since the war’s end, more than 8,000 people have been killed and about 12,000 wounded in Laos by cluster bombs and other live, leftover ordnance.

Thanks largely to Ms. Channapha’s lobbying, annual United States spending on the removal of unexploded bombs in Laos increased to $12 million this year from $2.5 million a decade ago.’


My Lai Revisited: 47 Years Later, Seymour Hersh Travels to Vietnam Site of U.S. Massacre He Exposed

Editor’s Note: Below are excerpts from Seymour Hersh’s interview with Democracy Now!. You can listen to the full interview here.

‘Fifty years after the U.S. ground invasion of Vietnam began, we look back at the 1968 My Lai massacre, when American troops killed hundreds of civilians. Journalist Seymour Hersh broke the story of the massacre and cover-up, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his work. But Hersh never actually went there — he interviewed soldiers stateside. Forty-seven years later, he recently traveled to My Lai for the first time, which he documents in a new article for The New Yorker, “The Scene of the Crime: A Reporter’s Journey to My Lai and the Secrets of the Past.” Hersh joins us to discuss how he exposed the massacre nearly five decades ago and what it was like to visit My Lai for the first time.’ (Democracy Now!)

From Laos with love. Vietnam bombs become NY jewelry

VA Braces for a New Front in the Agent Orange Battle

Jordain Carney reports for National Journal:

‘In 2011, Wes Carter was talking to a handful of friends when he realized they had something in common: They all flew on the C-123 planes after the Vietnam War, and they were all sick.

During the Vietnam War, C-123s were used to spray the herbicide Agent Orange. Although the planes were being used for cargo and medical flights by the time Carter served after the war, he and his fellow veterans believe their illnesses—which range from diabetes to cancer—are tied to their time on the planes between 1972 and 1982.

“We were physically scraping goop from nooks and crannies trying to get the thing as clean as possible, because there’s quite an odor to it,” said Carter, 68, who flew on a C-123 plane and believes that his prostate cancer and heart disease are tied to his time in the service.’


Pentagon Revives Vietnam, and War Over Truth

Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes for The New York Times:

‘It has been nearly half a century since a young antiwar protester named Tom Hayden traveled to Hanoi to investigate President Lyndon B. Johnson’s claims that the United States was not bombing civilians in Vietnam. Mr. Hayden saw destroyed villages and came away, he says, “pretty wounded by the pattern of deception.”

Now the Pentagon — run by a Vietnam veteran, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — is planning a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Vietnam War. The effort, which is expected to cost taxpayers nearly $15 million by the end of this fiscal year, is intended to honor veterans and, its website says, “provide the American public with historically accurate materials” suitable for use in schools.

But the extensive website, which has been up for months, largely describes a war of valor and honor that would be unrecognizable to many of the Americans who fought in and against it.

Leading Vietnam historians complain that it focuses on dozens of medal-winning soldiers while giving scant mention to mistakes by generals and the years of violent protests and anguished debate at home.’


Laos becomes latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls

Reuters reports:

‘Communist Laos has issued a decree outlawing online criticism of policies of the ruling party or government, state media reported, the latest Southeast Asian country to enact strict internet controls. According to legislation approved by Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong last week, web users will face criminal action for spreading “false” information aimed at discrediting the government, the official KPL news agency said.

[…] The decree comes as cellphone and internet usage climbs in tandem with economic growth, a reduced poverty rate and greater electricity access in the country of 6.4 million people. The new laws bear similarities to those of its Communist neighbor Vietnam, which commands strong influence over Laos and has a near identical political system… Thailand has [also] closed hundreds of thousands of websites and jailed people who have used the internet to post critical comments about its monarchy under its 2007 Computer Crimes Act.’


Vietnam’s forgotten Cambodian war

Kevin Doyle writes for BBC News:

The author, Nguyen Thanh Nhan, (kneeling second from left) at a Vietnamese military base inside Cambodia, 1985‘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 South China Sea land reclamation ‘justified’

BBC News reports:

BBC Map‘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.’


Gareth Porter and Daniel Ellsberg on why the Gulf of Tonkin incident matters 50 years later

‘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)

The Significance of History: Tonkin and Watergate

Ron Jacobs writes for CounterPunch:

‘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.


50 Years After U.S. Launched Secret War on Laos, Unexploded Bombs Still Killing Civilians

‘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!

Over 3000 Chinese evacuated as Vietnam’s anti-China riots escalate; Taiwan also on “high alert”

Tyler Durden writes for Zero Hedge:

‘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 hereherehere, and here)…


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.’


Dien Bien Phu: Did the U.S. offer France an A-bomb in 1954?

From BBC News:

‘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.’


French rout in Vietnam 60 years ago a watershed in colonial history

From AFP:

‘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.’


Babies in Vietnam born with horrific defects 40 years after Agent Orange used there

Jennifer Newton reports for The Daily Mail:

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.

This young child, Nguyen Thanh Nhan, aged four suffers from hydrocephalus, or water on the brain, a disease associated with Agent Orange


Death Squads Galore: U.S.-Backed Assassinations Wreak Global Havoc

Alex Kane writes for Alternet:

…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…


Iraq and Afghanistan: Unlearned Lessons from Vietnam 41 Years Later

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)

Vietnam’s Solution for Corrupt Bankers: Firing Squads

From the Global Post:

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.


Document points to Nixon in My Lai cover-up attempt

Evie Salomon writes for CBS News:

Credit: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

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.”


Vietnam jails prominent blogger for ‘anti-state activities’

From BBC News:

Dissident blogger Pham Viet Dao, standing at centre, appears at a court in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, 19 March 2014A 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.


Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

‘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

Sophie Jane Evans writes for the Daily Mail:

Agent Orange was designed to destroy vegetation but also resulted in terrible health defects in humans[…] 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.


General Giap and the Myth of American Invincibility

General Vo Nguyen GiapFrom The Daily Beast:

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).


Net Freedoms Worsening in China, Vietnam

china-internet-cafe-nov-2012.jpgFrom Radio Free Asia:

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.


Vietnamese Americans, Exposed to Agent Orange, Suffer in Silence

Vietnamese Americans, Exposed to Agent Orange, Suffer in SilenceFrom New America Media:

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.


Moral Obscenity: Toxic background to US chemical ‘highground’