Obama re-writes the history of the Vietnam War
In re-writing the history of the Vietnam War, Obama has betrayed the Kennedy family who did so much to ensure that he reached the White House
For many years I have asked my students to pinpoint the start of the Vietnam War. It is, of course, a trick question, deliberately designed to get them to think and to question preconceived ideas. For a start, which Vietnam War am I asking them to consider? There have been many. Secondly, if they narrow it down to the one involving the United States, which particular phase am I asking them to consider? Dates are eventually thrown about like confetti; everything from the mid 1950s through to 1968.
One date that is never suggested is 1962 and yet President Obama this week announced that this is, apparently, the official start date of the Vietnam War and that accordingly, the United States will be holding a 13-year period of observation, commencing May 28, 2012 and ending on November 11, 2025 to mark the dates of the Vietnam War.
So that’s official, the Vietnam War began on May 28th, 1962.
There is no doubt that, as the President observed, the treatment that Vietnam veterans received was little short of a national disgrace in many, though not all, cases. But there is something chilling about this 13-year nation observation, its timing and the identification of a ‘start date’ for the war.
The American experience in Vietnam began earlier than many realise. In 1941, President Roosevelt believed that a possible occupation of Vietnam would give Japan a base in South East Asia, which would threaten rubber supplies, required by the US defence industry. This led to the freezing of Japanese assets in the U.S that helped provoke the attack on Pearl Harbour.
On September 2nd, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed the Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Having established rulers in Cambodia and Laos, the French reinstated Bao Dai as Head of State in Vietnam in an attempt to reassert colonial rule. By the end of 1953, the United States was spending $1 billion a year to keep the French forces in Vietnam.
On May 7th, 1954 massive attacks finally overwhelmed the French troops at Dien Bien Phu. Before their beleaguered retreat, the French had pleaded with the United States for direct military assistance. The Joint Chiefs proposed an air strike, the Vice President Richard Nixon suggested, “putting our boys in.” When the Congress expressed reservations, President Eisenhower sought British support. Prime Minister Churchill refused.
Failing to achieve foreign support, Eisenhower retreated from unilateral intervention in Vietnam. He soon wrote Vietnamese Prime Minister Diem promising American support “in developing a viable state, capable of resisting subversion through military means.” In return Eisenhower expected reform in Vietnam. Reform would mean improvement for the nation and therefore the people. If the people could see that their lives were improved due to American aid, why would the country want to become communist? President Eisenhower justified American involvement in Vietnam by invoking the now infamous 'Domino Theory'. This premise was based on the notion that if Vietnam were to become communist, the whole of South East Asia would follow. This was accepted even though China had fallen five years previously and had failed to produce such a chain reaction.
In January 1961, the responsibilities of Vietnam passed to President John F. Kennedy. As a Congressman, Kennedy had visited Vietnam in 1951, reporting that America was “allied to the desperate effort of a French regime to hang on to the remnants of Empire. Without the support of the natives there is no hope of success in South East Asia.”
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