Re: [sixties-l] Making the Vietnam-Israeli Link ex

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: 10/16/00

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    Jerry West <> wrote:
    I had written:
    > While I appreciate the sincerity of Jerry West's response, he most
    > assuredly was not everywhere in Vietnam and so is in no position to
    > state with any accuracy that My Lai was a "sole exception" which
    > involved US troops killing children.
    and  JW replied:
    > I did not state that, Jeff.  You are spinning my remarks.  I said:
    > ....but with rare exceptions such as My Lai directly shooting down
    > children was not a common occurance....
    > Rare is not the same as sole, directly shooting down, as in specifically
    > targeting children directly, is not the same as children being caught in
    > the middle of a military action.  If you want to argue that a lot of
    > children were harmed and that the war was wrong or even just the conduct
    > of the war was wrong, then I will agree with you completely.  But, let's
    > not try to spin every trajedy into an atrocity and devalue our criticism
    > of the war.
    > And I wasn't everywhere in Vietnam, just 18 months all over I Corps, but
    > in the last 30 years I have studied quite a bit about the war and Asian
    > history, and I did have routine access to Top Secret material while
    > serving after my time in Vietnam, some of which helped to form my
    > decision to become very active in the anti-war movement.
    My old friend, Ron Kovic, who I met at the Winter Solider testimonies at
    KPFK in 1971, has written about incidents in which his unit was involved
    that involved the torching of Vietnams huts in which women and children
    were hiding and other Vietnam vets from both the Marines and the Army
    testified at that hearing and the first one in Detroit both of the
    atrocities in which they had either participated in or had directly
    witnessed, and they made no attempt to balance such actions by
    attributing similar or equivalent actions to either the North Vietnamese
    or to the NLF. As for your access to Top Secret material after the war,
    given the US attitude towards the Vietnamese, routinely referred to as
    Gooks, it is unlikely that many of the atrocities committed by US
    servicemen were reported therein.
    I wrote:
    > As I mentioned in an earlier post, BEFORE My Lai became public, I was
    > given a two-page list by Vietnamese representatives in London which
    > contained the names of villages in which the inhabitants had been
    > massacred by US soldiers and Vietnam was only one of the villages on
    > that list.
    and JW replied:
    > I assume that you mean that My Lai was only one of the villages.  I
    > don't doubt your sources, although it would be interesting to see
    > exactly what makes it into the category of massacre, particularly the
    > willful, inexcusable kind that happened at My Lai.  I have read of
    > others and that there were more is not the issue.  It is the propensity
    > of some for whatever purpose to spin and distort the reality of the war
    > into one big My Lai that I object to.  There are a lot better reasons to
    > object to this war and US policy than an occasional massacre.
    One did not need even one My Lai to object to the war. The resulting
    dead, somewhere between one and two million Vietnamese and the dropping
    of more bombs on that country than had been dropped in Europe in WW 2
    (and even more were dropped on Laos, which has been generally not
    discussed) made the whole episode a war crime, and had we had trials
    subsequent to that war as we had for the Nazis, a  number of US
    officials, civilian and military. would have ended up on the gallows or
    serving long prison terms.
    And JW wrote:  
    > Also, while they were giving you this data did they give you statistics
    > on the villagers executed (massacred) by the VC?  That also was not
    > unheard of. Perhaps they told you about the VC practice of using
    > children as shields and as walking bombs?  An honest war crimes trial on
    > events in the Vietnam War would scoop up criminals on both sides.
    Your efforts to equate the actions of the NLF with that of the invading
    US forces smacks of similar efforts to equate the actions of
    anti-apartheid forces in South Africa with those of the apartheid
    government. Anti-Nazi partisans also committed what might be described
    as atrocities given that war-time situations do not allow for much of a
    gray zone. What is primary is to determine which forces had any basis
    for legitimate combat in the first place, and then we see clearly that
    nothing justified the US presence in Vietnam in the first place, so that
    one might make the case that every killing of a Vietnamese by an
    American soldier was a criminal act, whatever the motive. They were
    fighting for their land. US soldiers were simply obeying orders, killing
    people in a land thousands of miles away who in no remote way had ever
    threatened them or the US. Some, too few, in the aftermath of that war,
    have tried to make amends, making trips to Vietnam to help rebuild the
    country in whose destruction they participated. 
    I have heard stories of the NLF "using children as shields and as
    walking bombs," and that this was used as a justification for shooting
    children who might be potential assassins. Since I have seen children in
    other areas, such as Lebanon, who have been trained and armed as members
    of resistance groups--which is sad in the extreme but understandable in
    the circumstances, I am not ready to accept your description of such
    usage by the NLF which mirrors the official US line.   
    I wrote:
    > Had a US military photographer not publicized the photos of My Lai, we
    > may never have known about it in the US. I have also spoken with other
    > Vietnam vets who confirmed the killing of children by their units.
    and JW replied:
    > More photos should have gotten out, and note that it was a military
    > photographer who leaked them.  And I would say that almost all combat
    > units killed children indirectly, but most of them not like the scum
    > bags who shot down people in cold blood at My Lai.
    I do not accept your "exceptionalism" for those who  did the killings at
    My Lai, as if they were a fundamentally different lot than the rest of
    the those serving there, and others did not shoot own Vietnamese "in
    cold blood," although the majority probably did got go as far as those
    did in My Lai.
    I wrote:
    > It is only now that we are learning about a massacre of South Korean
    > civilians early in the Korean War, the veracity of which was confirmed
    > to be by a Korean vet who went to So. Korea to investigate the killings
    > by "Defense" Secretary Cohen.
    and JW replied
    > And the more we dig, the more of this stuff is going to come to light
    > and all sides from here to the first recorded battle in history are
    > going to have dirty hands.  It doesn't make it right, but singling out
    > one side or the other to carry the can for this stuff is a political
    > manuever, not a moral one.
    I don't think I am misinterpreting this comment which seems to imply
    that judging the US as the bad guy in the Vietnam War is simply a
    personal political choice, and that the behavior of the US was not
    immoral. I strongly disagree. Moreover, US actions in Vietnam marked
    simply another inglorious chapter in US military interventions that were
    purely in behalf of US global interests, as former Marine General
    Smedley Butler pointed out decades ago.  I trust that you will
    acknowledge that Gen. Butler had more personal experience with this
    subject than either you or I.
    I wrote:
    > It is both illusory and inaccurate to even imply that the North
    > Vietnamese and the NLF were in any equipped in a manner equal to that of
    > the US forces in Vietnam who had both jet fighters and helicopter
    > gunships to support them and soften up "the enemy", not to mention the
    > B29s which dropped more bombs on that country than were dropped in all
    > of Europe in WW 2. It was the US also that exclusively used napalm,
    > cluster bombs and white phosphorus against the Vietnamese, civilians and
    > combatants alike, as well as Agent Orange which also inadvertently
    > caused the subsequent illness and death of US soldiers who came near
    > contaminated areas.
    and JW replied
    > First, it is B-52s not B-29s.  The NVA had jet fighters and SAM
    > missiles. The AK-47 is a better weapon than the M-16.  RPGs are not
    > exactly clubs and spears.  The NVA had bigger mortars and damn good
    > artillery.  Helicopters are great for transport and medevac, but only ok
    > for ground support, and almost useless as such in bad weather and triple
    > canopy jungle.  Some people would like to portray the Vietnamese as
    > primitive warriors with sling shots, it isn't so.
    Right, it was B-52s. As for jet fighters, the NVA had nowhere near the
    number as did the US, and I don't recall ever hearing stories that they
    were called in for air strikes against US soldiers in the field; and
    while the AK-47 was more effective in humid weather than the M-16, that
    doesn't diminish the effectiveness of the latter an the greater
    resources of firepower possessed by US forces. RPGS are a great weapon
    but how do they compare with rockets fired from aircraft. Probably more
    accurate, but more risky to shoot. I am not trying to portray the
    Vietnamese as primitive, simply that the US had far more sources of firepower.
    And JW wrote: 
    > I would check my sources on white phosphorous, it is a common military
    > item.  I think that the Geneva Convention forbade its use against
    > troops, but I could be wrong, and the GC was not strictly adhered to
    > anyway as far as I could see.
    Your response here isn't clear. Are you saying white phosphorous wasn't
    used against Vietnamese troops by the US?  Because, if you are, you are
    dead wrong. I heard about it too many times, and I don't have the time
    to go back and check it out again.
    And JW wrote:
    > Your point on Agent Orange and napalm, although I have no doubt that the
    > NVA and VC would have used napalm too had they had an effective way to
    > deliver it.  Agent Orange under various names was used commonly by the
    > folks at home to kill weeds, so I am not sure how to assign moral blame
    > for that except that I wouldn't have used it, but then I refuse to use
    > it at home too.
    Please. Your apologies for US behavior in Vietnam and your attempts to
    apportion the blame equally to both sides is tiresome, at best, but your
    speculation as to what the North Vietnamese might have done as a way to
    mitigate what the military forces of the US actually did, is in a word,
    disgusting, and you should be ashamed of yourself. And your attempt to
    dismiss the moral implications of the use of Agent Orange, the effect of
    which on humans was already known, sounds like the response of someone
    in the VA to those vets who complained for years about its effects and
    only got a positive response when they needed some more young bodies to
    pursue the next immoral war, the one that continues against Iraq.
    And JW wrote:
    > How does all of this relate to Israel in 2000?  One can always find some
    > similarities, and both Vietnam and Israel are bit parts in a bigger act,
    > but to compare the US role in Vietnam to Israelis shooting down rock
    > throwing children as Tom Nagy did, is a stretch.
    In this, I tend to agree. The Israeli troops know exactly what they are
    doing and to whom they are doing it, and they have been doing the same
    thing with differing amounts of intensity to Palestinians for a half
    century and to Lebanese for more than three decades. They do see the
    Palestinians as a threat and as less then human, the result of years of
    racist schooling in Israeli schools and the racist nature of the culture
    itself. While anti-Asian racism, of which the US has a long and sorry
    history, was indeed a factor in the Vietnam war, the US soldiers who
    went to fight there, had no  previous history of animosity towards its
    people, and probably, 90% couldn't have found Vietnam on a map.
    Jeff Blankfort  

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