Monday, 1 June 2009

Let's not distort history of the Vietnam War

Anthony H. Cordesman engages in some revisionist history in his May 14 commentary, "Complete War, Peace in Iraq," when he declares that we "won" in Vietnam, and that we left having "forced North Vietnam to halt its offenses."The cease-fire signed in January 1973 was in no way a military victory for either side. The Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese knew that the inconclusive fighting had gone on for too long and that the people of the United States wanted it to end. They also understood that U.S. leaders would not want to leave having it appear they were beaten.

Cordesman states that we left "something approaching a functioning democracy." More revisionism. The cease-fire left South Vietnam still governed by military leaders, many of whom had governed without respect for their own citizens and a religion that the generals did not share.

As far back as 1963, the leaders of South Vietnam with U.S. support raided the Buddhist holy sites.

After the overthrow of the Diem regime and the assassination of the Diem brothers, the generals fought for the honor of directing American aid. The 12 years of battle resulted in the deaths of more than 58,0000 American military personnel and caused the death of more than 2.5 million people overall, not to mention untold disfigurement and crippling injuries many of which were caused by indiscriminate bombings.

And perhaps Cordesman does not remember the surrender South Vietnam President Duong van Minh, a former general, to the Viet Cong on April 30, 1975, and the pictures of American and South Vietnamese being evacuated off the roof of the American Embassy.

One wonders at mankind's inability to learn from history, but history distorted by the highly honored Anthony Cordesman does a great disservice to those too young to remember.

William P. McMillen, a Delmar resident, refused induction into the armed services in March 1965. He served 26 months of a six-year prison sentence.

Times Union

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