Thursday, September 20, 2012
Vietnam Conflict Pre-History
In 1941 the Viet Minh common front was funded by the U.S. and the Chinese Nationalist Party in its fight against Japanese occupation. We had to use them because the French in Indochina were helping the Japanese.
Yep, that is right, the French were allies of the Japanese Imperial Army. That, because France was controlled by the Vichy government which was an ally of Nazi Germany.
The French willingly and openly collaborated with the Japanese forces after their invasion of French Indochina during 1940. Technically the French continued to run affairs in the colony, but the ultimate authority was held by the Japanese and their war lords. Provincial level decisions were run normally through the regular administrators who followed long established French policy that benefited France or French interersts.
The Viet Minh was initially founded as a league for independence from France and was not initially a strong fighting entity. The Viet Minh leader was Ho Chi Minh a man with natural leadership ability who was driven to have an independent homeland for his people.
Once it was obvious that the Americans and British were winning the battle for France in late 1944, the French Indochina colonial authorities started holding secret talks with the Free French leadership (who wanted to reconstruct the French colonial empire after the war).
The Japanese army, fearing that they could no longer trust the leading French authorities, took them into custody on 9 March 1945 and set up a new puppet state named the "Empire of Vietnam" with Bảo Đại as the puppet emperor. He was the last king of the central Vietnamese kingdom of Annam. From 1926 to 1945, he was king of Annam under French "protection" so he was seen as having some authority by some of the Vietnamese people.
The Second World War finally ended in August 1945 and the French colonial government took control.
Starting back in 1944 a deep famine struck northern Vietnam due to a combination of bad weather and Japanese and French mismanagement and exploitation. The famine continued well into 1945 after the war was over in Indo China. An estimated 10 percent of the people in the famine area died of starvation and others died of illnesses related to malnutrition. Altogether, well over a million people died even though there was plenty of food in the country.
The Viet Minh in March 1945 urged the population to ransack rice warehouses and refuse to pay for the food. To them, it was senseless that the French provincial leadership let a million people die when there was plenty of food available for distribution. Of course the French and their minions (with Republiscam mentality) were trying to turn a profit on their colony, and charity cuts into profit margin. So the authorities decided that "let them eat cake" did not apply and "Just let them die" was appropriate. After all, it was "all about the money." Approximately 100 warehouses and other rice storage areas were raided in the Viet Minh effort to feed the starving villagers. The Viet Minh also told the people to stop paying taxes to the corrupt and irresponsible government.
This was essentially organized rebellion at a time when the people needed practical leadership. The fact that only the Viet Minh had solutions greatly increased their popularity among the poor Vietnamese. The Viet Minh subsequently recruited many members after the rebellion started. They fought willingly against the Japanese during the last months of the war, though they were limited because of a lack of weapons and ammunition.
Though he did not have wide control over the land, Ho Chi Minh declared the independent Democratic Republic of Vietnam in Hanoi a few days after the Japanese surrender.
In an attempt to appeal to Americans, he began his speech by paraphrasing the United States Declaration of Independence: "All men are created equal. The Creator has given us certain inviolable Rights: the right to Life, the right to be Free, and the right to achieve Happiness....."
The United States, The UK, and the Soviet Union all agreed, regardless of Ho's inspiring speech that the area belonged to the French. The Vietnamese people strongly disagreed. As the French were not in a position to militarily occupy Vietnam, it was decided by the aforementioned Big Three countries that British troops would occupy the south while Nationalist Chinese forces would move in and occupy the north in order to hold it for the French. Nationalist Chinese troops entered the country and disarmed Japanese troops north of the 16th parallel by late September 1945. The British rearmed the French forces as well as a few Japanese forces to aid them in subduing Vietnam south of the 16th parallel. It was all about reestablishing authority over a subjugated and downtrodden people.
Gradually the French started to reestablish their military authority over the whole country. Ho Chi Minh initially attempted to negotiate with the French but was rebuffed.
In January 1946, the Viet Minh won elections across central and northern Vietnam and were obviously the popular choice of the people. On 6 March 1946, Ho signed an agreement allowing French forces to replace Nationalist Chinese forces, in exchange for French recognition of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam as a "free" republic within the French Union. The French "agreed" that the specifics of that recognition were to be determined by "future negotiation."
Just a few months later in November of 1946, the restrengthened colonial French, ignoring the mandate from the elections, ousted the Viet Minh from the city of Hanoi in obvious violation of their agreement. This outrageous affront to the Vietnamese people initiated a civil war within the country, with the poorly armed Viet Minh eventually fighting a guerrilla war against the French Union forces. Thus began the First Indochina War.
The war spread to Laos and Cambodia, where the local native leaders, mostly socialist leaning free thinkers with national leanings organized the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Serei Both organizations were modeled on the Viet Minh. All three organizations lacked the weapons to fight the far better equipped French Army. This condition persisted until the Chinese Communists under Mao Tse Tung had won most of China in 1949. At that time Mao started to pass weapons and ammunition to the three guerrilla armies to aid their efforts to throw off the corrupt yoke of the self serving colonial French.
The Viet Minh were gaining a great deal of territory in the war. In January 1950, the People's Republic of China recognized the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, based in Hanoi, as the government of Vietnam. To counter that, the French created a new capital in Saigon and declared the State of Vietnam which was to be led by the former Stooge of the Japanese, Emperor Bảo Đại, one month later. This almost comes across as a comedy were it not for the fact that people were dying.
In September 1950, the United States created a Military Assistance and Advisory Group (MAAG) to screen French urgent requests for aid as it was obvious that they were losing their colony. We offered to advise on strategy, and train Vietnamese soldiers. By 1954, the United States was shouldering 80 percent of the cost of the "Keep France as a Colonial Power" war.
Great men rise from the ranks of the common people under difficult circumstance. Viet Minh commander Vo Nguyen Giap turned out to be one of them. The United States was to find out more about this man as we foolishly got further and further involved in the Viet Nam War.
The United States was founded by our efforts to throw off a colonial power. It seen idiotic and ironic that the United States would assist a European colonial power in its attempt to suppress an independence movement of people who had been so horribly exploited and oppressed.
U.S. Vice-President Richard Nixon a so-called "hawk" on Vietnam who saw the great potential for fantastic profit for his friends in the War Industry, suggested that the United States might have to "put American 'boys' in to fight the war for the French." There was considerable pressure from American War Industrialists to do so. Of course, there was lots of money to be made of of such a glorious venture.
Luckily, U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower not wanting to foolishly spend all that money and waste countless American boy's lives and knowing that the British were in no position to send troops, did not say no, but made American participation contingent on British support. London, deeply in debt after World War Two and still reeling from the deaths of so many of their young men, was strongly opposed to such a foolish venture. Nixon and his rich industrial friends was rightfully rebuffed. Eisenhower a former excellent general at overall war strategy and execution was wisely wary of getting the United States involved in a land war in Asia where the potential for endless conflict was very obvious to him. Unfortunately, it was not so obvious to the aspiring generals in the American Army who were not as bright or crafty as one rapidly rising general of the Viet Minh.
The strategic Battle of Dien Bien Phu at last marked the end of French colonial involvement in Indochina. Giap's Viet Minh forces handed the French a stunning military defeat, and in early May of 1954, the French Union garrison surrendered.
At the Geneva Conference, the French negotiated a ceasefire agreement with the Viet Minh, and independence was finally granted to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam with several conditions attached. The conference purpose supposedly was to attempt to find a way to unify Vietnam and discuss the possibility of restoring peace in Indochina. Of course there were a lot of meddling countries. The Soviet Union, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and the People’s Republic of China were represented throughout the conference which lasted from April 26 to July 20, 1954
The conference produced a set of documents known as the Geneva Accords. These agreements separated Vietnam into two zones, a northern zone to be governed by the Viet Minh, and a southern zone to be governed by the State of Vietnam, then headed by former emperor Bao Đai. The Final Declaration of the conference provided that a "General Election" be held by July 1956 to create a unified Vietnamese state.
At this point the United States decided to increasingly meddle in Vietnam with the CIA support of Ngo Dinh Diem, a former civil servant in the French Vietnam colony. Diem had risen through the ranks of French colonial Vietnam to be appointed governor of a province and was subsequently promoted to be an interior minister under Bao Đai. Years earlier, in 1933 he had petitioned the French to initiate a Vietnamese legislature, but resigned his position when his suggestion was rejected. For the next 21 years he did not hold a formal job but lived with his extended family or traveled the world. As a practicing Catholic, he went to Rome and the Vatican and had an audience with the Pope. Eventually, he ended up in the United States where he fell under the wing of Francis Cardinal Spellman, who was one of the most politically powerful clerics of his time. Spellman allowed Diem to live at Maryknoll seminary in Lakewood Township, New Jersey for three years where he made many important contacts that eventually led to his being active in the Michigan State University Vietnam Advisory Group. Somewhere during this time the CIA decided to invest in him.
The United States decided that there would be no vote taken in the southern half of Vietnam because we knew that the peasants were overwhelmingly in favor of a united Vietnam, and had no fear of the Viet Minh. We decided to install Diem as Prime Minister of the southern half of Vietnam and use force to keep the Viet Minh at bay. That is right, we decided to violate the Geneva (United Nations) agreement and deny the Vietnamese people their own unified country. We made a silly effort to entice the Roman Catholic population which was mostly located in the north to move to the south, and enrolled the United States Navy in that effort to move over a million voting Catholics and other people to the south.
Former emperor Bao Đai was chief of state in the south and Diem was appointed prime minister in 1954. Diem ousted Bao Đai the following year and became president of the newly renamed Republic of Vietnam all with CIA approval. When the leading general in South Vietnam, Chief of Staff General Nguyen Van Hinh, decided to stage a coup to take over for the new president, the CIA arranged for all of his ranking officers to go on vacation, and then had a long talk with the general who immediately understood that he was never going to do anything like he envisioned without the CIA's permission. It is amazing how that works. Very persuasive guys those CIA men.
From that point forward, Vietnam was an American experiment that cost the lives of a lot of American young and cost us Trillions of Dollars that we still owe. Richard Tricky Dicky Nixon who wanted to send American Boys to Vietnam and spend lots of money when he was vice president under Eisenhower was able to extend the war for over six years when he was President even though he first campaigned with the promise that he had a secret plan to quickly end the Vietnam war. Six years is not quick. I was in the war in 68, 72 and 73, all were bloody years. The Military Industrial Complex made a hell of a lot of money while over a million people died in the war.