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MurphTheSurf3 On June - 23 - 2014

Fall of Saigon


April 30, 1975. In my 4th year of teaching in the inner city. Saigon Falls. Four of my friends from high school died in the rice paddies there. Why?

The near-collapse of the U.S.-trained Iraqi Army, the falling of one town after another in the North and the possibility of an ISIS takeover of Baghdad is a deja vu moment.

In both Vietnam and Iraq

– The United States fought a long and costly counterinsurgency campaigns. The loss of lives, and the lives broken by two wars are enormous. This includes the military on all sides, and huge civilian populations. Hundreds of billions of dollars were expended in the war effort with a commitment to the care of veterans making the real price tag trillions.- The Army of the Republic of South Vietnam (ARVN) was defeated by a well-coordinated conventional invasion from the North after the United States had cut off support, but here the similarities begin to fall apart. The decision of the government of Nuri al-Maliki not to accept the common conditions in a Status of Forces Agreement cut him off from direct U.S. support.

– North Vietnam continued to be support by the USSR and seized U.S. equipment as its army swept across the DMZ. For the Sunni forces now threatening Baghdad it is the wealth of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia AND the capture of U.S. arms that provides.

– In the aftermath of the Paris Peace agreements that Nixon and Kissinger said provided the U.S. with honor, the political situation in South Vietnam fell apart as coalitions quickly collapsed and corrupt, ineffective and ideologically isolated leader proved incapable of standing against the North. Sounds familiar.

– In the last days of the Fall of South Vietnam, the U.S. used its embassy as an escape route for thousands who we “owed something to” and left behind 10’s of thousands whose alliance with the U.S. would cost them dearly in the years to come. Well, at least this time we have an embassy that could be the exit point for 10’s of thousands….yeah, it is that big.

troops are abandoning their posts but there are signs that the Shiites are regrouping, large amounts of donated U.S. equipment are being destroyed or captured but there is more where that came from, and the invading “army” is a lightly armed although deeply motivated religious extremists who may face a similarly motivated force, the Shiite Militia Units.

There is a lot at stake for the Shiites and they know it. A small minority in the Islamic World only the Iranians are “natural allies”- and that is disturbing in its own way. Still just based on what we have seen in the last two weeks, if ISIS succeeds, there will be many executions, imprisonments and so forth – that will take place largely out of the public eye, and while Americans tune into their favorite reality shows, bodies will be filling ditches in Iraq and Shia faith in Iraq will be crushed (as Christian and Jewish groups already have been).

There are lessons from the Fall of Saigon that have been applied since then at times and ignored at times. There will be lessons from the crisis in Iraq

1) While it can be well argued that the War in Iraq was a trumped up neo-con conspiracy to create a Islamic Client State in Mideast sitting on an ocean of oil, the fact is that this hardly matters in the face of current events. Just as it hardly mattered that Vietnam was based on the flawed domino theory and the concept of the client state.If Iraq falls it will be seen worldwide as a U.S. defeat, despite the absence of American forces and despite the diplomatic logjams that caused the United States to withdraw fully by 2011.

The impact of that defeat on Afghanistan and U.S. influence in other conflict zones will be significant.  As we learned after Vietnam, losing a war is no small matter; the Cambodian genocide, and state of nearly constant South East Asia civil war and interstate hostility followed the fall of Saigon, and an emboldened Soviet Union, sensing American weakness, sent Warsaw Pact troops into the Western Hemisphere and ultimately invaded Afghanistan.

Second, there’s not much the United States can do at this point. If the Iraqis themselves won’t defend their country, then no one else can. The same is true anywhere the United States has tried to stand up local armies. Political will has to start with the locals.

Despite the common narrative there have been some successes in building foreign armies with politically effective governments: in Colombia, in El Salvador and in the counterbalancing forces in the former Yugoslavia, in Germany after WWII and the South Korean armed forces. No others come to mind.

Finally, in both Vietnam and Iraq the advise-and-assist mission was given only lip service at critical times. Generally American defense policies do not give priority to retraining and standing up local security forces. One major reason for this is that time and again WE do not speak THEIR language. This does not just refer to linguistics, but to cultural understanding and context. Without truly embedded U.S. personnel and a real alliance with local peoples any aftermath is likely to be tragic.

The political side that accompanies the rebuilding of a nation’s armed forces is even more complex. The U.S. and it allies “installed” governments in Germany, Japan, and S. Korea that took root. No other example comes to mind. In much of the world it is ethnic, religious and tribal roots that drive governance and we do not understand this.

Written by MurphTheSurf3

Proud to be an Independent Progressive. I am a progressive- a one time Eisenhower Republican who is now a Democrat. I live in a very RED STATE and am a community activist with a very BLUE AGENDA. Historian, and "Gentleman Farmer."

115 Responses so far.

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  1. Nirek says:

    Think about the money we could have put into alternative energy, our infrastructure, border security, and other domestic programs, if we had not blown all those trillions of dollars on wars. Why not invest in something productive instead of destructive?

  2. choicelady says:

    Breaking news -- Syria just relinquished ALL of its chemical weapons, and Putin just relinquished ALL his war powers with respect to the Ukraine.

    I have great trust in this president. He says we aren’t going back to Iraq. We are NOT going back.

    In that iconic photo from 1975 was a man I came to call a friend. Vinh Ngo was a Captain in the South Vietnamese Army who just wanted independence for his country. He did not want imperialist presence of anyone -- not China, Russia, the USA but allied with us as the lesser of three evils. On that fateful day Vinh helped hundreds escape. What happened after that no one knows. He was found, unconscious, in the Embassy and captured. He did five years in a North Vietnamese re-education camp, beaten often, abused always. He managed to escape and get to Australia where his family had located. Then most of them got to the US where he became a leader of the CA South Asian populations, helping them discover their political voice, their rights, their activism. There is much more to his story I cannot reveal, but he was one of the most amazing people I ever knew. On May 10, 2001, he was in a meeting of an organization for which we both worked when he had a massive seizure. That was not unknown since he had them as a result of brain injuries from the beatings, but this time was fatal. He died. He was only 51.

    He had commanded the troops that saved what was left of our forces pinned down 100 days at Khe Sahn, one of the most horrific battles of Vietnam. He saved hundreds, and we all owe him a debt of gratitude even though he did not want this horrific war, did not want the aftermath, did not bear ill will to Ho Chi Minh, did not want us in his country. He did honorable and brave things, and he continued that in civilian life.

    I am touched and honored to have been his friend. I miss him to this day.

    Because of Vinh and because of the men and women I’ve known from those years into the present, there is no excuse for wars that can be avoided. Iraq was a complete fiction, motivated by both religious zealotry and a quest for control of that nation’s oil. It was pure fabrication destroying much of an ancient civilization and not replacing it with a single thing that was better than the tyrant we supposedly deposed.

    Not one more person. Not one more drop of blood. Not one more lie. not one more day of imperial power. We have a president who understands that civilization cannot any longer move on militarism but most advance via diplomacy and negotiations. He probably, somewhere, has the bumper sticker a friend of mine has with the Stars and Stripes and the words: “These colors don’t run…the world.”

    New day. New vision. New hope. Never again.

    • Nirek says:

      CL, I love your post ! Especially,”Not one more person. Not one more drop of blood. Not one more lie. not one more day of imperial power. We have a president who understands that civilization cannot any longer move on militarism but most advance via diplomacy and negotiations. He probably, somewhere, has the bumper sticker a friend of mine has with the Stars and Stripes and the words: “These colors don’t run…the world.”

      New day. New vision. New hope. Never again.”

      That is exactly how I feel, too.
      Thank you for expressing my feelings better than I do myself.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Just reading through the replies here I am stuck again by how much your experience and your ability to capture that experience in powerful narrative touches others.

      so honored to know you….

      you live a life of powerful commitment.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      boy….do you ever pack a punch.

      Has anyone ever published a biography, or even an in-depth article about Vinh Ngo? Is this the same person as Ngo Vinh Long? I am very interested in this story. Have you more?

      Your passion and compassion come through quite clearly.

      Thank you for sharing this.

      P.S. How overlooked were the two stories you started with- Putin and Asad backed off by our President and his allies.

    • NoManIsAnIsland says:

      Choicelady, I thought from the outset the mission creep of
      American involvement in Vietnam would lead to disaster,
      opposed it, spoke out against it, and then became a state
      staff member in George McGovern’s valiant, but failed, 1972
      presidential campaign.

      I met Don Luce and was inspired by his fervor and dedication
      to ending our participation in the mushrooming catastrophe
      in Vietnam.

      I didn’t know of Captain Vinh Ngo by name before now; but
      he will have an honored place in my memory along with the
      many other true Vietnamese patriots, most of whose names I’ll
      never be privileged to know, who fought alongside him for
      real independence for Vietnam.

      All this said, I want you to know I’ve never read a more
      eloquently expressed tribute to a hero or a more passionate
      cry against avoidable wars. Were it in my power, I would
      have it printed on the front page of every newspaper in the

      You were blessed to have known Captain Vinh Ngo. He must
      have felt the same about you, and you honor his memory by
      keeping his story alive. I salute you!

      • MurphTheSurf3 says:

        I agree. I also worked on the McGovern campaign.

      • choicelady says:

        Thank you, NoManIsAnIsland. How interesting -- I was a CA staffer for McGovern in the Long Beach area. His was a good cause, I don’t think we were idiots to try, and his long-term legacy endures. Two years later as I was bemoaning his loss during Watergate, a friend noted that we’d never have brought Nixon to heel had McGovern been elected; the Watergate investigation would have been perceived as an act of vengeance, not justice, and it would have lost the support of the nation. I guess it was a critical example of something good emerging from something really awful. I think my friend was correct.

        Vinh was amazing. There is a lot more to his story, but the powerful point is that he rose above petty politics and even fury at what happened to him after his capture to see things very clearly and humanely. He had a delicious sense of humor, and how he accomplished that after all he’d been through remains a bit of a minor miracle I quite admire.

        Thank you for ‘adopting’ him as part of your memory of that time. I’m sorry you never knew him. He was a special man who personified courage and humanity. He is sorely missed.

        • NoManIsAnIsland says:

          You’re most welcome, choicelady.

          I had a debate with myself whether
          or not to give a thumbnail account
          of my opposition to the Vietnam
          War. I carried the day by convincing
          myself it would tell a little of where
          I was coming from and add some
          weight to my assessment of the
          profound value of your post — and
          now I’m really glad I won the debate.

          Something I didn’t mention was that
          I also helped the Vietnam Veterans
          Against the War and met and spent
          some time talking with John Kerry
          and seeing him in action in the
          early fall of 1972 when he came to
          a national VVAW board meeting in
          my city and spoke at a church —
          against the war and for McGovern,
          of course.

          As soon as I came home after the
          meeting and before Kerry’s speech
          that evening, I said this to my wife:
          “I’ve just met a young man, who —
          whether he know it or not yet — will
          run for president one day, and I hope
          he’ll win.”

          I take your friend’s point about the
          Watergate investigation during the
          McGovern presidency that wasn’t
          to be. She may well have been right,
          but we can never know for sure now.

          I’m touched beyond words that you
          thanked me for “adopting” Vinh in
          tribute to his astonishing life and
          deeds — and beyond that are sorry
          I never knew him!

          There is little I wouldn’t have given
          to have had that chance; but I’m
          grateful to you for telling us about
          him, for it would have been worse
          not to know about him at all.

          If a book hasn’t been written about
          him yet, I hope you might consider
          writing it!

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        Murph, I feel deeply humbled and honored
        to receive this great praise from such
        an insightful and incisive thinker and writer
        as you.

        And if my paragraph is wonderful, so too
        is your ringing summation of the vital point
        I tried to drive home.

        Somehow even our “thank you very much”
        seems most inadequate to its task. But
        the Japanese “domo arigatou gozaimasu,”
        (its closest equivalent) has more elegance
        and gravitas, and I offer it to you here.

    • Nirek says:

      CL, I am so impressed by the people you help and know. The USA has never been attacked by Vietnam here in our country. I was lied to by the Army when they told me, “we have to fight them over there so they don’t fight us here”!
      That was pure bull$hit! All the Vietnamese wanted was to be one country. Even the South Vietnamese didn’t want us there. They helped the Vietcong by covering for them.

      I for one, hold no ill will towards the Vietnamese people. We killed so many of them and they killed over 50,000 of us. For what?

      • choicelady says:

        Oh, Nirek -- that IS the burning question, isn’t it? How much death and destruction, and for WHAT?

        So horrid. Such waste. I hope we have turned such a firm corner that we will never have to send another generation of our people to kill a generation of others.

  3. jjgravitas says:

    Good one, Murf.
    The lesson we should be taking from this is that nation-building, particularly when it’s being done mostly by us, largely doesn’t work, and is not our responsibility. We left Iraq as well prepared to take care of itself as we could, and left, which is what they and we both wanted. It’s their responsibility now. The duty of the U.S. military is to protect the U.S.A., not its interests overseas, which could be defined as anything one cares to. Our jobs should be focused on our own country, our own security, and our own economy.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Perhaps Hussein’s cobbled together dictatorship would have fallen anyway but it is clear to be that our invasion hollowed out that government making it a shell…that did not change in the decade of U.S. efforts to stand up the military and the government. National building barely worked in the period of New Imperialsm from the middle of the 19th through the middle of the 20th centuries. Today it is a quagmire no matter who tries it.

      • I think that Saddam’s two sons might have kept power once he went by the wayside. I think one them was too insane to take the reigns of power (Uday), but the other one would have been, surely, the next in line. Saddam actually did not even like Uday. He saw Uday as a spoiled brat and realized that Uday was even more psychotic than himself.

        As far as nation building in the region, what a truly futile effort. We were supposed to turn an Islamic nation (a long standing, dictatorial theocracy) into some sort of quasi American democracy? What moron thought up that idea? Plus, we’re talking about a nation that contained, and still does contain three warring religious factions, or sects. What the fuck were we thinking? We weren’t really thinking about democracy. As I’ve said, probably tiresomely by now, it was never about democratic ideals.

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          I saw a professor on Al Jazeera America showing a map of modern day Iraq, and then an overlay of the likely breakup of the country and then another overlay with a map of the area in 1887. Guess what? Where that “country” is going is where it has been.

          As to what WE wanted….again, as I see it the neocon plan was to impose a government of our making creating a secular state aligned to U.S. interests giving the U.S an Islamic base in the heart of the Middle East.

          The nature of the Islamic sects remained a mystery to them and thus their barely tamped down antagonism under Hussein remained an unknown as well.

          When the crowds pulled down the statue of Hussein the neocons cheered without realizing that it was one sect pulling down the statue of the other sects leader and the civil war was on.

        • NoManIsAnIsland says:

          Well said, KT, and there’s nothing
          “tiresome” about you or anyone
          else saying the Iraq War was never
          about democratic ideals.

          It MUST be repeated by everyone
          who knows it until it gets through
          the thick skulls of all who would
          repeat the disastrous mistake in
          other countries — not to mention
          the lunatics who want us to re-
          engage all out in Iraq again!

  4. Nirek says:

    KT, you say we should have a draft. We already have a facsimile of a draft with the reserves and the National Guard. They were taken from their one weekend a month and two weeks a year and made regular army. That means that the family members of the rich and powerful are exempt because you wont see any of them in the Guard or reserves. Guys and gals who join the NG or reserves are trying to make some extra money, for the most part.

    • jjgravitas says:

      One thing about the idea of a draft. The public will never accept it under our current national conditions, those conditions being:
      -- We cannot trust that our military will not send us out to fight in a war that has nothing to do with protecting our country, the best examples being Iraq, Vietnam and Korea.
      -- We cannot trust that when we return from fighting in a war that our politicians will treat us with respect, will treat our wounds and will help us get back on our feet however long that takes. Currently our politicians are slapping the veterans around for the sake of expediency. It’s revolting.
      If our country were to initiate a draft before these problems are resolved, there would be thousands if not millions of draft dodgers and not just the rich kids with connections that always get out of the draft. It would be everyone but the poor, the same poor who join up voluntarily because they need the job.
      If it’s about loyalty to the country, how can you be loyal to a country that you know is going to screw you over at the first opportunity?

    • Nirek, I said we should have a draft?

      • Nirek says:

        KT, not in so many words but I got the impression that you thought we need to re institute the draft.

        Again my apologies if I take what you say the wrong way.

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          Interesting discussion about “the draft”. This would make a good major post.

        • Nirek, no biggie. I don’t know what I wrote to make you think I want a draft.

          I have said in the past, that it is a lack of the draft that leads to so much complacency about war among our young men and women. If their asses were on the line when they turned 18, they sure as hell would be more involved in helping to prevent and/or stop wars. Especially wars for profit.

          But no, I really don’t want to see young men and women conscripted into military service, for these wars of profit and imperialism.

          It’s a sad fact, one that you mentioned, that many young people enlist because they need the money. If we had a healthy economy, that wouldn’t be happening. Young people now, because of a lack of civilian jobs join the military and become “hired guns,” for people like Bush/Cheney and the rest of those immoral pricks who have no real concern for them at all.

  5. TaurusRose says:

    Murph, thanks for a great read, and thanks to all of you for a great
    discussion. Very valuable.

  6. Kalima says:

    Murph, at the bottom of your post you talk about success with Japan and Germany and “rebuilding a nation’s armed forces”.

    Neither Germany nor Japan have had or now have a fighting army since the end of WW2, it was a condition implemented after their surrender and included in their Constitution, although Germany did deploy 4,000 troops to Bosnia in 1995. The first time in 55 years.

    Japan and Germany were forbidden from having any kind of standing army, though they were permitted to have forces for their own self defense, which now includes peacekeeping and non-combat support.

    The Conservative government here wants to change that since the dispute started with China about the Senkakus islands, but a vast majority of the people are against changing the Constitution.

    Thought I’d just mention it because I have often read here about “lazy Europe” and us not doing our share, and I’m not sure where the fingers are pointing, so at least I thought I would clear that up for those who might not know it.

    I’m also not very fond of the words “nation building” because eventually what made both countries survive from the ashes and become strong economies, was the hard work of the people and a strong desire to rebuild.

    Other European countries whose Constitution forbids them to fight in conflicts are, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, and Ireland.

    If I misread your sentence, forgive me. Had a long and tiring day out, then must have come back not knowing my arse from my elbow. 😉

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Actually the error is mine. Here is the paragraph:

      “The political side that accompanies the rebuilding of a nation’s armed forces is even more complex. The U.S. and it allies “installed” governments in Germany, Japan, and S. Korea that took root. No other example comes to mind. In much of the world it is ethnic, religious and tribal roots that drive governance and we do not understand this.”

      It should have been.

      “The political side that accompanies the rebuilding of a nation’s armed forces is even more complex.

      The U.S. and its allies “installed” governments in Germany, Japan, and S. Korea that took root. No other example comes to mind. In much of the world it is ethnic, religious and tribal roots that drive governance and we do not understand this.”

      Two distinctive points. Your understanding of the nature of the armed forces in both Japan and Germany is right on the mark.

      Good catch! Tired and all.

  7. NoManIsAnIsland says:

    KT, we’ve run out of boxes, so I’m replying here and hope you see it.

    As I take your point, I’m also staggered by your awesome honesty in
    explaining why you were “…never a patriotic Marine”!

    I know dozens of Vietnam vets whom I consider patriotic although they
    were as opposed to that war as much as you but served in it anyway.

    To my mind, true patriotism as opposed to the cant of the mindless jingoist — the sunshine patriot and summer soldier, the immoral belief in “My country, right or wrong, but nevertheless, MY country!” — lies in insisting we uphold our highest principles at all times and not blindly agreeing with those who too lightly let loose the dogs of war.

    And in full knowledge now of the circumstances of your not entirely voluntary enlistment, as duty to one’s country’s highest ideals
    comes before blindly supporting and fighting in an illegal war, I
    repeat: In my eyes and heart you remain a patriotic Marine, and I’m
    proud to ask you once again to join me — and help recruit others —
    in boarding the ships of right-wing traitors to democracy, striking their false flag of “conservatives,” and calling them out for all to hear and know as the REACTIONARIES they really are!

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Just re-read this and I want to once more say- you are one terrific writer- poetic, powerful, prophetic!

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Extraordinarily well said.

      “To my mind, true patriotism as opposed to the cant of the mindless jingoist — the sunshine patriot and summer soldier, the immoral belief in “My country, right or wrong, but nevertheless, MY country!” — lies in insisting we uphold our highest principles at all times and not blindly agreeing with those who too lightly let loose the dogs of war.”

      What a wonderful paragraph.

      Jingoism vs. Patriotism

      It makes patriots of the soldier and of the protestor and all of those in between….and that is in keeping with the spirit of true devotion to your homeland.


      • Hey Murph, imagine being strongly anti-war and then being faced with prison if you didn’t “oblige,” the powers that be?

        This was a circumstance I faced personally. I had very little choice in “serving my country.” I could have opted for prison, or Canada, but I had a fiance and a grandmother who put her house up for my bail.

        Most people don’t acknowledge the sacrifices of drug offenders. Not in these politically correct times. I actually offended nobody.

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          KT- I have now read your story in three or four parts. How about putting it all together into a single post so it is in our archive as a complete narrative. I think it speaks many truths.

  8. During my viewing of this wonderful and somewhat chilling documentary, I wasn’t sure if I should post it here, or on TO/OT.

    After watching this to the end, it could fit in no better place than here, on this thread.

    For those of you who are interested and can spare an hour and a half of your time, this is well worth the viewing time. Hundreds of hours of work have gone into it, not to mention, many, many more lives around the world.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Thanks for this.

      The film is a documentary based on the book- The Trial of Henry
      Kissinger (2001) by Christopher Hitchens. It is an examination of the alleged war crimes of Henry Kissinger, the National Security Advisor and later United States Secretary of State for Presidents Richard Nixon and President Gerald Ford. Acting in the role of the prosecution, Hitchens presents evidence of Kissinger’s complicity in a series of alleged war crimes in Indochina, Bangladesh, Chile, Cyprus and East Timor.

      It’s worth the time.

      • My pleasure Murph. Yes, I just finished watching and have seen Hitchens speak out about Kissinger. It’s not only an indictment of Kissinger himself, but the administration he served. Even beyond Nixon into Ford’s brief “administration.”

        It surely is well worth the time. Beats Dancing With the Stars all to hell and back!

        What galls me is that some of these old fucks and their minions still haunt the halls of power, even to this day.

        A brief Post Script, these were more than “alleged,” war crimes. They happened and were documented. There is little question as to who was responsible, or at least had a bloody hand in it all.

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          Well….until you get a verdict they remain, in a technical sense, alleged….now how do we get things like this to trial…?

          Yes the Cold War Warrior Mantle was laid down and a NeoCon one picked up -- same people, different language, same goals.

  9. NoManIsAnIsland says:

    Excellent and penetrating analysis, Murph, and I write this from
    the bluest part of our miserable, now-red state!

    As you point out so cogently, today’s Iraq is not yesterday’s
    Vietnam — yet the dangers to us of trying to prop up and rescue
    a rigidly autocratic government that doesn’t have the support of
    a significant portion of its population and will not fight (at least so
    far) to save itself are as real today in Iraq as they were in the
    Vietnam War.

    President Obama rightly doesn’t want to see Islamist militants
    establish a new nexus of terror in the region, but the risk of
    the U.S. blundering into a renewed quagmire in Iraq is just as

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      The proverbial….



      The Hard Place


      And Obama is taking the heat for the actions of the neocon Bush Administration…….

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        …And what a surprise it is, Murph, that paranoid, reactionary Republicans would blame Obama for the
        horrific blunders of the Bush MIS-administration.

        Shades of the Republicans who — when the Communists ousted the equally tyrannical Nationalists from the Chinese mainland just after the end of World War Two — held President Truman and the Democratic Party responsible for “losing” China!

        News flash for those willfully ignorant postwar
        Republicans and their equally dense and reactionary
        spiritual descendants of today’s ultra-right: China
        was never OURS to lose, and neither is Iraq!

  10. AdLib says:

    Maybe there is a deeper, more philosophical flaw in the mentality of Americanism.

    It is natural for Americans in general to believe that there is always a way to right a wrong, stop bad guys and impress the values of “good” on those who just aren’t enlightened to being “good” like Americans.

    I wonder if it’s not a natural expression of the religious undercurrent in the nation, a kind of spiritual Manifest Destiny that makes many Americans believe that when they see people doing “wrong” in the world, that it is our duty, as the morally superior, to step in and fight against the bad guys.

    So with the fear and propaganda of the Domino Effect in Vietnam, America dives into a war in a small, distant, mostly irrelevant nation to defeat the evil communists.

    With the fear and propaganda of “Saddam is evil and thus he could nuke us!”, the nation is stampeded into war in another sovereign nation to do away with the evil one (and need I go into the “Axis of Evil” imagery?).

    Religion has a binary aspect to it. Good and evil, heaven and hell, right and wrong. Religion has far more complexity than that to the thoughtful person but to the small minded, it justifies the mimicry of the “vengeful God” mentality…and one of the many problems with trying to replicate that is of course that the US is not omnipotent or all powerful. So when we “righteously” invade other nations, we do not have the control over destiny and the view of righteousness is quite subjective (as horrible as Saddam was, consider the hundreds of thousands if not millions of destroyed lives that resulted from the US invading Iraq). Isn’t that a true moral quandary? If intervening in a nation with an “evil” leader leads to the deaths of far more innocents than that evil leader would have killed, is it better to do so?

    The US is in bed with plenty of evil leaders of nations around the world, consider that Saudi Arabia is the home of the main financiers of the most rabid terrorism (including ISIS and Al Qaeda) and yet because they buy our nation off with oil, you don’t see the US calling for regime change in Saudi Arabia (just the opposite, we would protect THOSE “evil” people with the full might of the US military).

    One of the most difficult things in life is having to witness the results of terrible people harming others and recognizing that stepping in could make things worse.

    That simplistic dualism that was so dominant in the Bush Admin of good vs. evil simplified the perception of war and conflict which is far more complex and reverberating. And the Neocons were hand in hand with the RW religious extremists in the GOP that espoused fighting evil wherever they saw it in the world (just as communists were evil and we “needed” to fight them when we went into Vietnam).

    War isn’t fiction, it’s not comic books or movies where Superman flies in to defeat the bad guys and rescue the good people. It is much more complex and in real life, while a nation is trying to fight the bad guys, innocents always get killed and displaced simply because a conflict is taking place. It’s sometimes like the old saying, the operation was a success but the patient died.

    I am generally against the US taking any military action unless there is a direct threat to the US, an attack on allies we have treaties with or in pursuit of enemies who have and will continue to directly attack us (so I did support the SEALS going in to Pakistan to get Bin Laden). Being very appreciative of history, I do think that before any military action is taken, great consideration has to be taken to consider the ultimate outcome and blowback of taking that action.

    In the short term, the US stepping back from acting in Iraq could lead to some of the bad guys out there being empowered and encouraged. But in the long run, those same bad guys may actually be sewing the seeds of their own destruction, as seems to happen to the most murderous and tyrannical throughout history.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Very thoughtful, Ad Lib. You expand the playing field in your essay. Let me widen it a bit more with this oft quoted elegy to 19th century imperialism….

      The White Man’s Burden:
      The United States and The Philippine Islands”

      Take up the White Man’s burden, Send forth the best ye breed
      Go bind your sons to exile, to serve your captives’ need;
      To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild--
      Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child.

      Take up the White Man’s burden, In patience to abide,
      To veil the threat of terror And check the show of pride;
      By open speech and simple, An hundred times made plain
      To seek another’s profit, And work another’s gain.

      Take up the White Man’s burden, The savage wars of peace--
      Fill full the mouth of Famine And bid the sickness cease;
      And when your goal is nearest The end for others sought,
      Watch sloth and heathen Folly Bring all your hopes to nought.

      Take up the White Man’s burden, No tawdry rule of kings,
      But toil of serf and sweeper, The tale of common things.
      The ports ye shall not enter, The roads ye shall not tread,
      Go mark them with your living, And mark them with your dead.

      Take up the White Man’s burden And reap his old reward:
      The blame of those ye better, The hate of those ye guard--
      The cry of hosts ye humor (Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
      “Why brought he us from bondage, Our loved Egyptian night?”

      Take up the White Man’s burden, Ye dare not stoop to less--
      Nor call too loud on Freedom To cloak your weariness;
      By all ye cry or whisper, By all ye leave or do,
      The silent, sullen peoples Shall weigh your gods and you.

      Take up the White Man’s burden, Have done with childish days--
      The lightly proferred laurel, The easy, ungrudged praise.
      Comes now, to search your manhood, through all the thankless years
      Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom, The judgment of your peers!

      The poem was originally written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, but exchanged for “Recessional”.

      Kipling, who has been characterized as a pro-colonial apologist who may have, in fact, been a staunch critic, changed the text of “Burden” to reflect the subject of American colonization of the Philippines, recently won from Spain in the Spanish-American War. At face value “White Man’s Burden” appears to be a rhetorical command to white men to colonize and rule other nations for the benefit of those people, it has come to be seen as Kipling’s somber warning of the costs of such efforts for a cause of dubious value.

      • AdLib says:

        Very good addition to my Manifest Destiny charge, Murph, and as NoMan mentioned, big fan of Kipling so appreciated the quote.

        It is very human to feel that one’s own religious, political or nationalistic community is the “right” one and unfortunately for some, it is very human to believe in self-righteousness instead of empathy…that those in different communities of these types have just as much reason to feel theirs are “right” (after all, if by chance one was born in a different country instead of the US and into a different religion, might we not feel just as “right” about the country and religion one was connected to?).

        What gets me is the willingness to act upon self-righteousness…which usually contradicts the principles one’s nation and religion are based on.

        We’ll see what happens in Iraq but sad to say, with this being an election year and Obama constantly being portrayed as weak, the sending over of consultants could signal a return to US air strikes an drones in Iraq…on behalf of protecting the oppressive and religiously self-righteous leader of Iraq.

        It’s almost like our supporting Saddam as long as he fought Iran, having such flexible definitions of “bad guys”, influenced by who helps us with our selective goals the most, destroys the credibility of claims of moral authority.

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        OMG, Murph, I almost felt a frisson just now when
        you quoted Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden!”

        As a little kid even before I saw the film versions of “Gunga Din” and “Kim” I was enthralled by Kipling’s stories of the British Raj in India, and this led to an intense and enduring interest in him as a man and political thinker.

        I’m glad to see you, too, see him as more than a
        wild-eyed apologist for imperialist Britain — and
        “The White Man’s Burden” so impressed me as a clear
        expression of his grave misgivings about the benefits
        of imperialism that I memorized the entire poem more than 60 years ago (and with occasional refreshings can still recite it).

        • MurphTheSurf3 says:

          There are a series of letters between Mark Twain and Kipling and Twain and Kipling even participated in a mutual interview of each other. Reading through it is clear that each although labeled as either the imperialist or anti-imperialist has rather nuanced views on the matter.

    • Nirek says:

      Ad, Saudi Arabia is not our friend. Most of the people who flew the planes into the towers in NYC and the Pentagon and the field in Penn. were Saudis, and we attacked Afghanistan?

      • AdLib says:

        Exactly Nirek, if Bush really had wanted to force regime change on tyrants who oppress most of their citizens, finance and support ISIS, Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attack and are arguably the most destabilizing power in the region, he would have invaded Saudi Arabia.

        But then, that’s not what the Iraq war was really about.

      • MurphTheSurf3 says:

        The Saudis play a nasty game- firing in all directions to keep everyone off balance.

    • GreenChica says:

      Well said, Adlib. You really encapsulated a very complex and distressing issue, particularly in your description of the depraved Saddam and how we managed to be even worse for Iraq than him in the end.

      I would add that when we do take military action, it should be of a completely different nature than what we used in the past, particularly with groups like ISIS and whatever those nutbags call themselves in Nigeria. We can’t throw aircraft carriers and bombers at such enemies. We can’t invade other nations. But, as you said, operations like the one that nailed Bin Laden are much smarter. Just think, they pulled it off without invading Pakistan!

      • AdLib says:

        GreenChica, so true that the military failures that we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan destroy any reasonable support for trying to fight conventional wars in regions that are in conflict because of sectarian conflict.

        Like McCain and the other moronic Repubs calling for air strikes against ISIS…they’re not marching in a column like the British Army in the American Revolution, they mingle into the resident population of the towns they control…so we should kill as many or more innocent Iraqis as long as we kill members of ISIS…to stop them from killing more innocent Iraqis?

        Complex conflicts as in Iraq need a more complex approach than just bombing people who look like the bad guys. Any solution would be years long require chess playing, not dodgeball.

        Under Obama, that is possible. Have to say though, under a Hillary Presidency, who shows a more hawkish view towards the world, maybe so but maybe not so much. And since this would take many years to work out, whichever President follows Obama will be responsible to for following the smarter course…or not. .

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        You’re absolutely correct, GreenChica!

      • MurphTheSurf3 says:

        Look at our operations in Afghanistan in the first 18 month there. Textbook use of special forces and logistical support. But that kind of warfare does not “take” the land per neocon objectives. They cannot occupy and Americanize. Of course, as we found out, Big Force movement doesn’t do that ether.

    • NoManIsAnIsland says:

      AdLib, your analysis and the inevitable conclusions
      you draw from it highlight the catastrophic results
      which follow inevitably when fanatical religious
      beliefs drive political leaders into starting wars
      of ideology.

      And to my mind, the neo-con nincompoops who
      started the Iraq War — and, for a brilliant
      encore, destroyed our economy — are brothers
      under the skin to the lunatic Islamists of the Mid-East.

      At the very least, they are opposite sides of the
      same coin of ignorance, intolerance, and paranoia.

      • AdLib says:

        NoMan, I think you put your finger on it. Though we look at our leaders differently because they are ours, how was murdering US soldiers and innocent Iraqis through their campaign of greed through war, any less horrible than terrorists or tyrants killing less innocent people in pursuit of power and wealth?

        To an innocent Iraqi whose family members were killed by the US waging the Iraq war, Bush and Cheney are terrorists and the US is a terrorist state.

        And objectively, that is hard to debate.

    • Ad, wow, you certainly can cause a fellow to think!

      With regards to the last administration and their lead up to our “surgical, yet AWEsome,” attacks on Baghdad and surrounding areas, the ensuing invasion, and the (not announced, but planned) occupation of Iraq, these planners, the real evil doers, didn’t give a squat about philosophic or religious or even moral questions.

      Sure, that’s what they tried to sell, and successfully sold to the American people, with a heavy dose of fear. Fear mongering, as these pricks well knew in advance of our military actions, trumped any philosophical or moral concerns that gullible Americans may have had, pre 9/11. It still goes on today.

      How many “Christians,” have I seen through the last decade and beyond, shout “kill them all,” “nuke the mother fuckers, every last one of them?” That is the unfortunate fact about American religiosity, mainly Christian, in name only of course. I’m sure there are plenty of Jewish people shouting the same thing.

      But as far as the planners and prosecutors of our action in Iraq, they couldn’t care less about ideology, except for their own twisted version of conservatism.

      To them, especially in regards to American Exceptionalism, our actions were strictly Dawinian, survival of the fittest, which means, those who control the world’s oil supplies and distribution. That was and still is their ultimate goal. And if they can make obscene profits from war itself, well then, all the better….in their greedy hearts and minds.

      Their “survival of the fittest,” mentality, as you well know, applies to domestic policy as well.

      How soon people shed their moral and ethical standards when they have been scared shitless about their own survival, and well being.

      • AdLib says:

        KT, I agree that there was little more than greed filling the heads of the neocons and Bush Admin as they pushed a phony threat on the world to justify war in Iraq. What I was addressing though was the Repub constituency and many other Americans who are prone to being manipulated by the war mongers. Those Americans have been conditioned to think in simplistic binary terms so telling them to get behind us “Good Guys” needing to invade a country to to take out an “Evil Guy” is all you need to say to get them on board. Of course, whipping up their fear of “a mushroom cloud” is the closer. The Old Testament Fundamentalists believe in evil needing to be destroyed wherever they see it which is such an easy button for cynical neocons to press.

        To those in the American public who supported it, the Iraq War was about attacking an ally of Al Qaeda (a lie) who was also responsible for 9/11 (a lie) and killing an evil tyrant (true) who was in the process of creating weapons of mass destruction including nuclear bombs which he would use to attack the US (lie).

        To those who promoted and conducted it, the Iraq War was about oil, money and power in the region (just thought of the soldiers killed by electrocution in their showers by the faulty wiring KBR did through their Cheney-aided war profiteering…they murdered our soldiers through their greed, a stark example of what direction the true evil was coming from).

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        Great points, KT!

        As for those who started the Iraq War, their version of conservatism is so “twisted,” it bears
        no relation to the now dead-and-buried American conservatism, which at least had a veneer of moral and philosophical rectitude.

        We should no longer let these political extremists continue to sail under their false flag of

        If we’re to stop their rape and murder of our
        endangered democratic processes, the very
        least we can do is to call them by their real
        name: they are right-wing reactionaries of
        the most dangerous kind, as they make
        wolves in sheep’s clothing look like Mother Teresa in comparison.

        And not to belabor my point, when liberals
        and progressives make the mistake of giving these reactionaries political cover they don’t deserve, they’re only making it easier for them
        to keep their pernicious grip on the easily deluded and led low information voters, without whose support they would long ago have lost their ability to lead us astray.

        Words have the power to change history;
        and if enough political moderates, liberals,
        and progressives wise up and stop letting
        these right-wing reactionaries get away
        with masquerading as “conservatives,” we
        may still restore social, political, and
        economic balance in the U.S.

        If we can’t do this simple thing, our cause
        may ultimately be lost. I may well be wrong,
        but I think it easily can come down to that.

        • NoMan, you certainly are NOT wrong. One of the weapons in our progressive arsenal, so to speak, is public opinion.

          With facts and unvarnished history, and solid moral perspectives (I don’t mean religiousity) contained within our public writings, we do have a chance to realize a better country and a better world.

          This process is a slow one and of course requires political activism as well, even if it is the simple signing of petitions and writings letters to our representatives. Silence is the downfall of great republics.

          • NoManIsAnIsland says:

            I’m glad you agree with me, KT.

            The point I’ve made here is one
            I’ve hammered at for years on
            comment sites from the New
            York Times to the Washington
            Post to my last efforts on the
            the HuffingtonPost, before I left
            it in protest at their hypocrisy
            and lies.

            But I invited all who agreed
            with the importance of
            calling out the right-wing
            reactionaries for what they
            are to join my band of
            brothers and sisters in this

            I was surprised at the
            positive reactions I got,
            and one former legitimate
            conservative actually
            apologized to me for having
            inadvertently helped the false

            Silence truly is “the downfall
            of great republics,” and this is
            another way of saying “All it
            takes for evil to triumph in the
            world is for good men and
            women to say nothing.”

            I doubt a petition drive would
            help, but I ask you as a patriotic
            Marine — and everyone else
            these words have reached —
            to join me in calling out the
            right-wing foes of democracy
            as the violent REACTIONARIES
            they really are!

            • Thanks for your reply NoMan. I must say, I was never a patriotic Marine. Yes, I was a Marine and carried out my duties honorably. But I was never really a patriotic soldier, believing the Vietnam war was right. I had a choice of going to prison for 5 years or enlisting in the Marines. I thought the Marines to be a better choice. Was there hypocrisy in my choice? You bet there was, but it was MY ass on the line. Many guys who held the same ideals went to Canada, and maybe they had stronger convictions than I did.

              When I got arrested for drug possession, I was told my grandmother put her house up for my bail, UPON the condition that I serve. What was I going to do? Let the state take my grandma’s home? Hell no!

              My patriotism leaned more towards those who were trying to stop the madness in Vietnam, and not those who were recruiting for it.


    It’s like fighting the Balkan wars over and over….How I wish to have Seering Truth soul and optimism….
    This particular war beginning before the Christian Era.Mankind will never acknowledge wars is for the profiteers only….Nothing will be accomplished by it but misery, torture,insane pain, madness and the utmost loss of it all: a chance to learn from the past…….

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      In the Balkans wars, deeply felt hurts that were as alive today as the day they were inflicted went back 500 years and resulted in extreme contemporary violence. In this case, the case of the artificial state of Iraq, they go back 1000 years. These are tribal, sectarian and ethnic all in one package.

      • EXFANOFARIANA says:

        It’s a melting pot.Sorry for the delay.I was away on business.They can wait to have a new caliphate spread over the area and why not a new Ottoman Empire? After all, when people don’t learn from the past…….

      • EXFANOFARIANA says:

        It’s a melting pot.Sorry for the delay.I was away on business.

    • RSGmusic says:

      HI friend,
      Yes i like your post it is so appropriate.

      Sending songs tomorrow to listen. I hope you enjoy them.
      numbering them. please listen form 1 to the last!

      DeL is much better now. starting to look forward now!!

      • EXFANOFARIANA says:

        I am so glad for Del.I’ve felt the same pain.Hopefully they are in a better place now.Indeed, my dear, do send me your precious songs.Hugs.PROSPERITY ALWAYS.:)

        • RSGmusic says:

          HI fine friend,

          DeL says hi and is doing fine and planning some vacation for later this yr.

          OK on songs will start very soon.

          Hugs back prosper always :-)

    • Hey EX. The architects of the Iraq war did NOT want to learn from the past. They wanted a strong, permanent military presence in the region and Iraq was the perfect place in their eyes. Noble ideology had nothing to do with their evil plans. It was always about oil. It still is, but at least president Obama DOES consider the loss of life, of Americans AND innocent Iraqis who are simply trying to get through life, as we are.

      Gramps McCain said publicly, that he thought we should stay there for “a hundred years.”

      • EXFANOFARIANA says:

        MacInsane is only interested in the DOUGH…..Yet Afghanistan has even more precious raw materials than Iraq….but somehow they are aware they will never be able to fight them.

      • Nirek says:

        KT, “Gramps McCain” is a sick minded man who never learned a thing from his experiences. IMHO

    • Nirek says:

      Ex, the problem is we (USA) don’t learn from our follies. We could have avoided both of our last two wars if we had learned from Vietnam.

      • NoManIsAnIsland says:

        Hi, Nirek,

        How I wish I could tell you otherwise, but our record
        would belie it.

        If Americans are good at anything (ugh!), it’s our
        vaingloriously flaunted failure to learn from our

      • MilesLong says:

        It’s not a matter of not learning, it’s that we just don’t care.

        A generation of media complicity in the crimes perpetrated by our government has ensured that NO ONE cares.

        And before you all raise your voices in protest to ME, here and now, pay attention: unless you can greatly bolster your numbers, raise your voices above the crowd and effectively shame those who kill in our name (if that’s at all possible), nothing is going to change.

        Miles “Bottom Line” Long


    Another winner, Murph…Another one to be shared all over!

  13. While I think Islamic extremism IS the new communism, as an American enemy, I think there are differences, between the Vietnam war and what and our war in Iraq was and Afghanistan is.

    The war in Vietnam was more of a conventional war, as was the Korean war. Trying to keep communism from swallowing up an entire country. In Iraq, we tried to unify a country that had/has three different religious sects that have been warring for centuries. Why did we do that, is the big question. In Iraq, it is an ongoing war that is religious in nature and NOT political ideology.

    As for our involvement, which most people here would agree, was a huge mistake. The people that led us into the Iraq war only used political ideology as a cover for far less noble reasons. For the architects of that war to still be going on about the spread of democracy and American safety here at home is not only shameless, but more unbelievable now than it ever was, even among republicans.

    Our true interests in the region are all about getting more control of oil production and distribution. It’s a fight for survival between us and all other nations that need the same lifeblood/oil to continue thriving as nations, societies and peoples. Alternative energy research needs to continue and expand, but for now and the forseeable future, we need oil, and lots of it.

    There IS a selfishness to our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Lets just admit that to ourselves, as Americans. Let’s not continue to pretend that any of this is noble in nature. Let’s not pretend that our actions and sacrifices have anything to do with helping oppressed people abroad.

    Murph, I’m not saying that’s what you are trying to do in your article. I guess I’m just bloviating here a bit. But this is what I truly believe. Of course, my words lack quite a bit of diplomacy, as far as the other nations in the world are concerned.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      my key paragraph from the post in regard to your points:

      “1) While it can be well argued that the War in Iraq was a trumped up neo-con conspiracy to create a Islamic Client State in Mideast sitting on an ocean of oil, the fact is that this hardly matters in the face of current events. Just as it hardly mattered that Vietnam was based on the flawed domino theory and the concept of the client state.If Iraq falls it will be seen worldwide as a U.S. defeat, despite the absence of American forces and despite the diplomatic logjams that caused the United States to withdraw fully by 2011.”

      I think we are generally in agreement

    • Nirek says:

      KT, I don’t mean to be argumentative but the war in Vietnam was not conventional. WWII and Korea had front lines. Vietnam , on the other hand had no front lines no safe place to retreat to. The Vietnamese had tunnels that were extensive. They had built them while fighting the French. They had all kinds of stuff underground. Hospitals, quarters, ammo storage, and many other ways to get in and out. They could pop up and shoot at us and disappear underground.

      Nothing conventional about the way they fought.

      • Nirek, I wasn’t referring to military tactics, but the reasons for our involvement in the first place.

        Actually, the Japanese in the Pacific campaign used tunnels extensively. They had huge networks of tunnels all through those islands. Ammo supplies, hospital supplies, pop up artillery….etc.

        I’ve read about the intricate tunnel systems in Vietnam. The use of those tunnels helped them greatly, especially during the TET offensive. That’s not really what I’m talking about in my comment above, though.

        • Nirek says:

          KT, my apologies for misunderstanding your post.
          Peace my friend.
          I didn’t mean to jump down your throat.

          • Oh hey my friend, I didn’t take it that way. You made a very good point about not being able to distinguish the enemy from the civilians. You didn’t actually use those words, but that’s what I understood by popping up and shooting at you, anytime. That was definitely not “conventional.”

            I do know from talking with many Vietnam vets, that at times, they would walk right by Viet Cong and not even know it. They looked just like the civilians.

            • Nirek says:

              KT, that is correct. We could not tell the VC from South Vietnamese (I felt that they all were VC).

              Remember we invaded their country. If they had invaded our country I would have fought any way possible. So why do we think the invaded will “give us their hearts and minds”? Or greet us with “flowers”? Such lies told by the former VP and the “crime family”.

  14. sillylittleme says:

    Well done Murph, I second what Miles said.

    I’ll only add this: Since the Romans started conquering, there have always been those that have crushed a group, a tribe, a gathering, a people that want to live as they live. The Romans destroyed their culture rather than preserve it. It is likewise the same when we foist our understanding (confusion) of democracy on those that we destroy their way of life.

    • MurphTheSurf3 says:

      Imperalism, whether Roman or our own efforts, tends to be self defeating since it tends to over extend the resources of the core empire in search of more resources and thus weakens the empire. Self defeating by its nature.

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