By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Oct 6, 2007 11:27 AM
George W. Bush, in a recent address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, bemoaned the fact that the U.S. “gave in” and “cut and ran” out of Vietnam. He made it clear that he thought that war should have continued.
“Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields,’” said Bush.
Like most of the words that come out of Bush’s mouth, this is a big mischaracterization—basically, a lie.
Since the U.S. left Vietnam, the life of the Vietnamese people has steadily gotten better, mainly due to the removal of foreign domination and the introduction of socialist planning.
It is the first freedom and peace the Vietnamese people have known in over a century.
The French conquered Vietnam in the 1860s and made it their colony. In 1940, during World War II, Japan invaded Vietnam but kept the French administrators on as part of their colonial regime. By 1941, a national liberation front led by Ho Chi Minh, a communist, began fighting both the French and Japanese imperialists.
When the world war ended with the defeat of Japan, the Vietnamese liberators declared an independent government but French and British troops rushed in to try to crush them. The French didn’t leave until 1954, after they suffered a huge defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
But the big corporations and banks in the U.S. had their eyes on Vietnam, too. Washington took the place of France as colonial overlord. Troops were sent to prop up a puppet government in the south of Vietnam. This soon escalated into the huge invasion of that country known as the Vietnam War.
In that war, the U.S. dropped 6.7 million tons of explosives on the Vietnamese people. Some estimate that as many as 4 million Vietnamese were killed in the brutal bombing that Gen. Curtis LeMay of the Air Force cheered on with the cry, “Bomb them back to the Stone Age!”
Millions of gallons of the deadly chemical Agent Orange were sprayed from planes; much of the land in Vietnam is still poisoned. Vietnam estimates that even today, a million people suffer health problems because of this chemical that Bush says was to “defend freedom and democracy” in Southeast Asia.
A movement of popular resistance, in Vietnam and then the United States, forced the U.S. to withdraw from Vietnam in 1975.
The Vietnamese finally had their own country back, and they set out to build it in a way that served them, not U.S. corporations and Wall Street bankers. Child care programs, schools and hospitals were set up all across the Vietnamese countryside.
The old rulers of Vietnam who aided the United States in brutalizing the Vietnamese people were punished. Most were not executed, but rather given a chance to reform themselves after doing productive labor for society. Some fled Vietnam to the United States, were they were given automatic citizenship.
So were the Vietnamese government’s policies truly “agony” for the millions of Vietnamese people? Hardly.
According to the United Nations, since 1980 the life expectancy of the average Vietnamese has risen by 14.7 years. The U.N. also reports that infant mortality rates have been reduced to well below half what they were before 1980. Vietnamese children are now guaranteed education at community-run schools. Healthcare is now available to all Vietnamese citizens. Literacy rates have gone up.
In 1980, the new Socialist Vietnam had the honor of seeing Pham Tuan, a hero of the resistance to the U.S., become the first Asian to be launched into outer space, by a Soviet rocket. It was trying to build a socialist society based on social ownership of the land and all production.
But in 1986, the government of Vietnam, faced with weakened support from the larger socialist countries, stepped back from its planned socialist economy and allowed private ownership of land and businesses. However, the Communist Party remains in charge.
Since the thousands of U.S. troops, the B-52 bombers, and the Agent Orange dispensers were driven from Vietnam, along with the U.S. corporations and wealthy capitalists who these forces were defending, life has greatly improved for the Vietnamese people.
If the U.S. had remained in Vietnam, continuing to bomb, pillage and repress the people, it would have meant more and more death and destruction. The heroism and might of the Vietnamese in both north and south, combined with the strength of the U.S. anti-war movement, which spread to the military itself, enabled the Vietnamese to win back their country.
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