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America and Dictators: Diem to Karzai

Sunday, 18 April 2010 20:00
Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai reviews troops at a full honors Pentagon arrival ceremony, 09/25/06. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai reviews troops at a full honors Pentagon arrival ceremony, 09/25/06. (photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

he crisis has come suddenly, almost without warning. At the far edge of American power in Asia, things are going from bad to much worse than anyone could have imagined. The insurgents are spreading fast across the countryside. Corruption is rampant. Local military forces, recipients of countless millions of dollars in United States aid, shirk combat and are despised by local villagers. American casualties are rising. Our soldiers seem to move in a fog through a hostile, unfamiliar terrain, with no idea of who is friend and who is foe.

After years of lavishing American aid on him, the leader of this country, our close ally, has isolated himself inside the presidential palace, becoming an inadequate partner for a failing war effort. His brother is reportedly a genuine prince of darkness, dealing in drugs, covert intrigues, and electoral manipulation. The US embassy demands reform, the ouster of his brother, the appointment of honest local officials, something, anything that will demonstrate even a scintilla of progress.

After all, nine years earlier, US envoys had taken a huge gamble: rescuing this president from exile and political obscurity, installing him in the palace, and ousting a legitimate monarch whose family had ruled the country for centuries. Now, he repays this political debt by taunting America. He insists on untrammeled sovereignty and threatens to ally with our enemies if we continue to demand reforms of him. Yet Washington is so deeply identified with the counterinsurgency campaign in his country that walking away no longer seems like an option.

This scenario is obviously a description of the Barack Obama administration's devolving relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul this April. It is also an eerie summary of relations between the John F Kennedy administration and South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon nearly half a century earlier, in August 1963. If these parallels are troubling, they reveal the central paradox of American power over the past half-century in its dealings with embattled autocrats like Karzai and Diem across that vast, impoverished swath of the globe once known as the Third World.

Our Man in Kabul

With his volatile mix of dependence and independence, Hamid Karzai seems the archetype of all the autocrats Washington has backed in Asia, Africa, and Latin America since European empires began disintegrating after World War II. When the Central Intelligence Agency mobilized Afghan warlords to topple the Taliban in October 2001, the country's capital, Kabul, was ours for the taking - and the giving. In the midst of this chaos, Hamid Karzai, an obscure exile living in Pakistan, gathered a handful of followers and plunged into Afghanistan on a doomed CIA-supported mission to rally the tribes for revolt. It proved a quixotic effort that required rescue by Navy SEALs, who snatched him back to safety in Pakistan.

Desperate for a reliable post-invasion ally, the George W Bush administration engaged in what one expert has called "bribes, secret deals, and arm twisting" to install Karzai in power. This process took place not through a democratic election in Kabul but by lobbying foreign diplomats at a donors' conference in Bonn, Germany, to appoint him interim president. When King Zahir Shah, a respected figure whose family had ruled Afghanistan for more than 200 years, returned to offer his services as acting head of state, the US ambassador had a "showdown" with the monarch, forcing him back into exile. In this way, Karzai's "authority", which came directly and almost solely from the Bush administration, remained unchecked. For his first months in office, the president had so little trust in his nominal Afghan allies that he was guarded by American security.

In the years that followed, the Karzai regime slid into an ever-deepening state of corruption and incompetence, while North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies rushed to fill the void with their manpower and material, a de facto endorsement of the president's low road to power. As billions in international development aid poured into Kabul, a mere trickle escaped the capital's bottomless bureaucracy to reach impoverished villages in the countryside. In 2009, Transparency International ranked Afghanistan as the world's second-most corrupt nation, just a notch below Somalia.

As opium production soared from 185 tonnes in 2001 to 8,200 tonnes just six years later - a remarkable 53% of the country's entire economy - drug corruption metastasized, reaching provincial governors, the police, cabinet ministers, and the president's own brother, also his close adviser. Indeed, as a senior US anti-narcotics official assigned to Afghanistan described the situation in 2006, "Narco corruption went to the very top of the Afghan government." Earlier this year, the United Nations estimated that ordinary Afghans spend US$2.5 billion annually, a quarter of the country's gross domestic product, simply to bribe the police and government officials.

Last August's presidential elections were an apt index of the country's progress. Karzai's campaign team, the so-called warlord ticket, included Abdul Dostum, an Uzbek warlord who slaughtered countless prisoners in 2001; vice presidential candidate Muhammed Fahim, a former defense minister linked to drugs and human-rights abuses; Sher Muhammed Akhundzada, the former governor of Helmand province, who was caught with nine tonnes of drugs in his compound back in 2005; and the president's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, reputedly the reigning drug lord and family fixer in Kandahar. "The Karzai family has opium and blood on their hands," one Western intelligence official told the New York Times during the campaign.

Desperate to capture an outright 50% majority in the first round of balloting, Karzai's warlord coalition made use of an extraordinary array of electoral chicanery. After two months of counting and checking, the UN's Electoral Complaints Commission announced in October 2009 that more than a million of his votes, 28% of his total, were fraudulent, pushing the president's tally well below the winning margin. Calling the election a "foreseeable train wreck," the deputy UN envoy Peter Galbraith said, "The fraud has handed the Taliban its greatest strategic victory in eight years of fighting the United States and its Afghan partners."

Galbraith, however, was sacked and silenced as US pressure extinguished the simmering flames of electoral protest. The runner-up soon withdrew from the run-off election that Washington had favored as a face-saving, post-fraud compromise, and Karzai was declared the outright winner by default.

In the wake of the farcical election, Karzai not surprisingly tried to stack the five-man Electoral Complaints Commission, an independent body meant to vet electoral complaints, replacing the three foreign experts with his own Afghan appointees. When the parliament rejected his proposal, Karzai lashed out with bizarre charges, accusing the UN of wanting a "puppet government" and blaming all the electoral fraud on "massive interference from foreigners". In a meeting with members of parliament, he reportedly told them: "If you and the international community pressure me more, I swear that I am going to join the Taliban."

Amid this tempest in an electoral teapot, as American reinforcements poured into Afghanistan, Washington's escalating pressure for "reform" only served to inflame Karzai. As Air Force One headed for Kabul on March 28, National Security Adviser James Jones bluntly told reporters aboard that, in his meeting with Karzai, President Obama would insist that he prioritize "battling corruption, taking the fight to the narco-traffickers". It was time for the new administration in Washington, ever more deeply committed to its escalating counterinsurgency war in Afghanistan, to bring our man in Kabul back into line.

A week filled with inflammatory, angry outbursts from Karzai followed before the White House changed tack, concluding that it had no alternative to Karzai, and began to retreat. Jones now began telling reporters soothingly that, during his visit to Kabul, President Obama had been "generally impressed with the quality of the [Afghan] ministers and the seriousness with which they're approaching their job".

All of this might have seemed so new and bewildering in the American experience, if it weren't actually so old.

Our Man in Saigon

The sorry history of the autocratic regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon (1954-1963) offers an earlier cautionary roadmap that helps explain why Washington has so often found itself in such an impossibly contradictory position with its authoritarian allies.

Landing in Saigon in mid-1954 after years of exile in the United States and Europe, Diem had no real political base. He could, however, count on powerful patrons in Washington, notably Democratic senators Mike Mansfield and John F Kennedy. One of the few people to greet Diem at the airport that day was the legendary CIA operative Edward Lansdale, Washington's master of political manipulation in Southeast Asia. Amid the chaos accompanying France's defeat in its long, bloody Indochina War, Lansdale maneuvered brilliantly to secure Diem's tenuous hold on power in the southern part of Vietnam. In the meantime, US diplomats sent his rival, the emperor Bao Dai, packing for Paris. Within months, thanks to Washington's backing, Diem won an absurd 98.2% of a rigged vote for the presidency and promptly promulgated a new constitution that ended the Vietnamese monarchy after a millennium.

Channeling all aid payments through Diem, Washington managed to destroy the last vestiges of French colonial support for any of his potential rivals in the south, while winning the president a narrow political base within the army, among civil servants, and in the minority Catholic community. Backed by a seeming cornucopia of American support, Diem proceeded to deal harshly with South Vietnam's Buddhist sects, harassed the Viet Minh veterans of the war against the French, and resisted the implementation of rural reforms that might have won him broader support among the country's peasant population.

When the US embassy pressed for reforms, he simply stalled, convinced that Washington, having already invested so much of its prestige in his regime, would be unable to withhold support. Like Karzai in Kabul, Diem's ultimate weapon was his weakness - the threat that his government, shaky as it was, might simply collapse if pushed too hard.

In the end, the Americans invariably backed down, sacrificing any hope of real change in order to maintain the ongoing war effort against the local Vietcong rebels and their North Vietnamese backers. As rebellion and dissent rose in the south, Washington ratcheted up its military aid to battle the communists, inadvertently giving Diem more weapons to wield against his own people, communist and non-communist alike.

Working through his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu - and this should have an eerie resonance today - the Diems took control of Saigon's drug racket, pocketing significant profits as they built up a nexus of secret police, prisons, and concentration camps to deal with suspected dissidents. At the time of Diem's downfall in 1963, there were some 50,000 prisoners in his gulags.

Nonetheless, from 1960 to 1963, the regime only weakened as resistance sparked repression and repression redoubled resistance. Soon South Vietnam was wracked by Buddhist riots in the cities and a spreading communist revolution in the countryside. Moving after dark, Vietcong guerrillas slowly began to encircle Saigon, assassinating Diem's unpopular village headmen by the thousands.

In this three-year period, the US military mission in Saigon tried every conceivable counterinsurgency strategy. They brought in helicopters and armored vehicles to improve conventional mobility, deployed the Green Berets for unconventional combat, built up regional militias for localized security, constructed "strategic hamlets" in order to isolate eight million peasants inside supposedly secure fortified compounds, and ratcheted up CIA assassinations of suspected Vietcong leaders. Nothing worked. Even the best military strategy could not fix the underlying political problem. By 1963, the Vietcong had grown from a handful of fighters into a guerrilla army that controlled more than half the countryside.

When protesting Buddhist monk Quang Duc assumed the lotus position on a Saigon street in June 1963 and held the posture while followers lit his gasoline-soaked robes which erupted in fatal flames, the Kennedy administration could no longer ignore the crisis. As Diem's batons cracked the heads of Buddhist demonstrators and Nhu's wife applauded what she called "monk barbecues", Washington began to officially protest the ruthless repression. Instead of responding, Diem (shades of Karzai) began working through his brother Nhu to open negotiations with the communists in Hanoi, signaling Washington that he was perfectly willing to betray the US war effort and possibly form a coalition with North Vietnam.

In the midst of this crisis, a newly appointed American ambassador, Henry Cabot Lodge, arrived in Saigon and within days approved a plan for a CIA-backed coup to overthrow Diem. For the next few months, Lansdale's CIA understudy, Lucien Conein, met regularly with Saigon's generals to hatch an elaborate plot that was unleashed with devastating effect on November 1, 1963.

As rebel troops stormed the palace, Diem and his brother Nhu fled to a safe house in Saigon's Chinatown. Flushed from hiding by promises of safe conduct into exile, Diem climbed aboard a military convoy for what he thought was a ride to the airport. But CIA operative Conein had vetoed the flight plans. A military assassin intercepted the convoy, spraying Diem's body with bullets and stabbing his bleeding corpse in a coup de grace.

Although ambassador Lodge hosted an embassy celebration for the rebel officers and cabled president Kennedy that Diem's death would mean a "shorter war", the country soon collapsed into a series of military coups and counter-coups that crippled army operations. Over the next 32 months, Saigon had nine governments and a change of cabinet every 15 weeks - all incompetent, corrupt, and ineffective.

After spending a decade building up Diem's regime and a day destroying it, the US had seemingly irrevocably linked its own power and prestige to the Saigon government - any government. The "best and brightest" in Washington were convinced that they could not just withdraw from South Vietnam without striking a devastating blow against American "credibility". As South Vietnam slid toward defeat in the two years following Diem's death, the first of 540,000 US combat troops began arriving, ensuring that Vietnam would be transformed from an American-backed war into an American war.

Under the circumstances, Washington searched desperately for anyone who could provide sufficient stability to prosecute the war against the communists and eventually, with palpable relief, embraced a military junta headed by General Nguyen Van Thieu. Installed and sustained in power by American aid, Thieu had no popular following and ruled through military repression, repeating the same mistakes that led to Diem's downfall. But chastened by its experience after the assassination of Diem, the US embassy decided to ignore Thieu's unpopularity and continue to build his army. Once Washington began to reduce its aid after 1973, Thieu found that his troops simply would not fight to defend his unpopular government. In April 1975, he carried a hoard of stolen gold into exile while his army collapsed with stunning speed, suffering one of the most devastating collapses in military history.

In pursuit of its Vietnam War effort, Washington required a Saigon government responsive to its demands, yet popular with its own peasantry, strong enough to wage a war in the villages, yet sensitive to the needs of the country's poor villagers. These were hopelessly contradictory political requisites. Finding that civilian regimes engaged in impossible-to-control intrigues, the US ultimately settled for authoritarian military rule, which, acceptable as it proved in Washington, was disdained by the Vietnamese peasantry.

Death or Exile?

So is Karzai, like Diem, doomed to die on the streets of Kabul or will he, one day, find himself like Thieu boarding a midnight flight into exile?

History, or at least our awareness of its lessons, does change things, albeit in complex, unpredictable ways. Today, senior US envoys have Diem's cautionary tale encoded in their diplomatic DNA, which undoubtedly precludes any literal replay of his fate. After sanctioning Diem's assassination, Washington watched in dismay as South Vietnam plunged into chaos. So chastened was the US embassy by this dismal outcome that it backed the subsequent military regime to a fault.

A decade later, the senate's Church Committee uncovered other US attempts at assassination-cum-regime-change in the Congo, Chile, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic that further stigmatized this option. In effect, antibodies from the disastrous CIA coup against Diem, still in Washington's political bloodstream, reduce the possibility of any similar move against Karzai today.

Ironically, those who seek to avoid the past may be doomed to repeat it. By accepting Karzai's massive electoral fraud and refusing to consider alternatives last August, Washington has, like it or not, put its stamp of approval on his spreading corruption and the political instability that accompanies it. In this way, the Obama administration in its early days invited a sad denouement to its Afghan adventure, one potentially akin to Vietnam after Diem's death. America's representatives in Kabul are once again hurtling down history's highway, eyes fixed on the rear-view mirror, not the precipice that lies dead ahead.

In the experiences of both Ngo Dinh Diem and Hamid Karzai lurks a self-defeating pattern common to Washington's alliances with dictators throughout the Third World, then and now. Selected and often installed in office by Washington, or at least backed by massive American military aid, these client figures become desperately dependent, even as they fail to implement the sorts of reforms that might enable them to build an independent political base. Torn between pleasing their foreign patrons or their own people, they wind up pleasing neither. As opposition to their rule grows, a downward spiral of repression and corruption often ends in collapse; while, for all its power, Washington descends into frustration and despair, unable to force its allies to adopt reforms which might allow them to survive. Such a collapse is a major crisis for the White House, but often - Diem's case is obviously an exception - little more than an airplane ride into exile for the local autocrat or dictator.

There was - and is - a fundamental structural flaw in any American alliance with these autocrats. Inherent in these unequal alliances is a peculiar dynamic that makes the eventual collapse of such American-anointed leaders almost inevitable. At the outset, Washington selects a client who seems pliant enough to do its bidding. Such a client, in turn, opts for Washington's support not because he is strong, but precisely because he needs foreign patronage to gain and hold office.

Once installed, the client, no matter how reluctant, has little choice but to make Washington's demands his top priority, investing his slender political resources in placating foreign envoys. Responding to an American political agenda on civil and military matters, these autocrats often fail to devote sufficient energy, attention, and resources to cultivating a following; Diem found himself isolated in his Saigon palace, while Karzai has become a "president" justly, if derisively, nicknamed "the mayor of Kabul". Caught between the demands of a powerful foreign patron and countervailing local needs and desires, both leaders let guerrillas capture the countryside, while struggling uncomfortably, and in the end angrily, as well as resentfully, in the foreign embrace.

Nor are such parallels limited to Afghanistan today or Vietnam almost half a century ago. Since the end of World War II, many of the sharpest crises in US foreign policy have arisen from just such problematic relationships with authoritarian client regimes. As a start, it was a similarly close relationship with General Fulgencio Batista of Cuba in the 1950s which inspired the Cuban revolution. That culminated, of course, in Fidel Castro's rebels capturing the Cuban capital, Havana, in 1959, which in turn led the Kennedy administration into the catastrophic Bay of Pigs invasion and then the Cuban missile crisis.

For a full quarter-century, the US played international patron to the shah of Iran, intervening to save his regime from the threat of democracy in the early 1950s and later massively arming his police and military while making him Washington's proxy power in the Persian Gulf. His fall in the Islamic revolution of 1979 not only removed the cornerstone of American power in this strategic region, but plunged Washington into a succession of foreign policy confrontations with Iran that have yet to end.

After a half-century as a similarly loyal client in Central America, the regime of Nicaragua's Anastasio Somoza fell in the "Sandinista" revolution of 1979, creating a foreign policy problem marked by the CIA's contra operation against the new Sandinista government and the seamy Iran-Contra scandal that roiled Ronald Reagan's second presidential term.

Just last week, Washington's anointed autocrat in Kyrgyzstan, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, fled the presidential palace when his riot police, despite firing live ammunition and killing more than 80 of his citizens, failed to stop opposition protesters from taking control of the capital, Bishkek. Although Bakiyev's rule was brutal and corrupt, last year the Obama administration courted him sedulously and successfully to preserve US use of the old Soviet air base at Manas, critical for supply flights into Afghanistan. Even as riot police were beating the opposition into submission to prepare for Bakiyev's "landslide victory" in last July's elections, Obama sent him a personal letter praising his support for the Afghan war. With Washington's imprimatur, there was nothing to stop Bakiyev's political slide into murderous repression and his ultimate fall from power.

Why have so many American alliances with Third World dictators collapsed in such a spectacular fashion, producing divisive recriminations at home and policy disasters abroad?

During Britain's century of dominion, its self-confident servants of empire, from viceroys in plumed hats to district officers in khaki shorts, ruled much of Africa and Asia through an imperial system of protectorates, indirect rule, and direct colonial rule. In the succeeding American "half century" of hegemony, Washington carried the burden of global power without a formal colonial system, substituting its military advisers for imperial viceroys.

In this new landscape of sovereign states that emerged after World War II, Washington has had to pursue a contradictory policy as it dealt with the leaders of nominally independent nations that were also deeply dependent on foreign economic and military aid. After identifying its own prestige with these fragile regimes, Washington usually tries to coax, chide, or threaten its allies into embracing what it considers needed reforms. Even when this counsel fails and prudence might dictate the start of a staged withdrawal, as in Saigon in 1963 and Kabul today, American envoys simply cannot let go of their unrepentant, resentful allies, as the long slide into disaster gains momentum.

With few choices between diplomatic niceties and a destabilizing coup, Washington invariably ends up defaulting to an inflexible foreign policy at the edge of paralysis that often ends with the collapse of our authoritarian allies, whether Diem in Saigon, the shah in Tehran, or on some dismal day yet to come, Hamid Karzai in Kabul. To avoid this impending debacle, our only realistic option in Afghanistan today may well be the one we wish we had taken in Saigon back in August 1963 - a staged withdrawal of US forces.

Open Article On Originating Site

Alfred W. McCoy is the JRW Smail Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of "The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade," which probes the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over the past 50 years. His latest book, "Policing America's Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State," explores the influence of overseas counter-insurgency operations on the spread of internal security measures here at home. your social media marketing partner


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+5 # Guest 2010-04-19 00:53
+5 # Guest 2010-04-19 00:59
Thank you very much for this great overview.
As a Disabled Viet Nam Vet DRAFTED i'm always on the lookout for what really happened.
i remember the Assassination of Diem - i was a Junior in High School... the Social Studies or was it the Geography teacher told us there'd be a war and many in his classroom would end up going to Viet Nam.
Then toss in the Tonkin Gulf Resolution and the lying US Navy and false attacks and you have a genuine Global Corporate Profiteering plan on the blood of US Citizens.
Then there's the USS Liberty....

What gd waste of humanity...all for CIA face and MIC plunder.
+4 # Guest 2010-04-19 01:30
This is a terrific article, which should be read with care by the White House officials responsible for the (frequently predicated) coming debacle in Afghanistan. European officials such as UK foreign secretary Milliband should read it too -his long piece in the current NYRB on Afghanistan reminded me of the intellectual justifications of the Vietnam war from Washington we used to read in the 1960s when, to any of us journalists in Saigon, it was obvious that the US game was up.
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 04:39
But who, professor, controls US foreign policy?
+3 # Merschrod 2010-04-19 05:34
Oh, there is a lot more to the parralel - the Diem Brothers wanted to negotiate with the Viet Cong and the US was 100% against that - also Kennedy's confidential advisors (not his Ambassador who was a back stabber)also told hom that it was a French lost cause.

So here we are, Karzai has been wanting to negotiate for over two years (Jirga, King of Saudi Arabia, etc.) and two US administrations have been against that. Ex-Amabassadors and advisors have said it is a lost cause (Read Petreaus'assess ment again) and, finally, it was a Russian lost cause. Of coruse the US has to be better than the Russians and French put together....... Unfortunately we do not have clarity of thought!
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 06:51
Q: Why do we still have drug prohibition, when everyone knows it doesn't work?
A: It helps in the violent maintenance of the American Empire.

The world's toughest security problem trace back to America's failure to heed Eisenhower's final warnings about the military-indust rial complex. We are more in the business of war than in the business of peace. Given the choice between (a) something that might work, and (b) something we know won't work, but will put money into the hands of our war industries, we reliably choose (b). Obama follows this pattern, as have most American presidents since Eisenhower. Most American leaders do not believe in government by, for, and of the people; they have much more faith in violence and intimidation (aka "terrorism"). Today's American drone attacks are emblematic of its moral leprosy.
+2 # Guest 2010-04-19 06:58
What a stooge. An advisor to UNICAL an ESSO spin off and a close friend of Condi and Khalalizad and Chalibi. When the Taliban balked negotiating the Afghan pipeline from Khazakstan Bin Laden was told to attack the US on 9/11. Then 40 million pounds of bombs cascaded over the "bad guys" in the mountain tunnels slipping back into Waziristan even though they were paid by the Saudi government through Massad intermediaries to do the job. Cheney knew about and Bush was the Monkey. Osama lived to see another day and this idiot got into power. Simple.
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 07:37
We are all responible in our accountability to what this naiton does abroad. Our actions too often contradict our words as we say we believe in, with our hypocrisy and double standards in our justification that the ends justifies the means and our 'national interests' supercede laws,morality,a nd our creed is an abomination to all that we hold dear. We have met the Nazis and we have become them. Resist not evil? Love thy enemy? Those who live by the sword will perish by it? Pride goeth before a fall? Our tracks are bloody with the violence committed onmillions of innocent victims. From the interactions with the native indigenous people we robbed and genocided here in america with 'manifest destiny' to our hubris and narcissism that we enforce in Iraq and Afghanistan with the same ugly punishment of our evil violence is no different whatsover. What a m/o....
+5 # Guest 2010-04-19 07:47
It was a time when the CIA and fear ruled the country. No questions were asked, no questions answered. Americans were scared to death to say anything about it.

That is what brought us to today's choatic, unstable and fear of the future times. In desparation, America selected a black man and a Party Ticket to remedy what was lost, but it seem he is also scared to death even though the majority of the American people and world is behind him and supports him.

It seem that past American leadership learn more from dictators than dictators learned from them. In fact, it was the dictators, especially those in Latin America, that US politicians (especially the ones on the GOP) tried to emulate the most. Latin American dictators were among the worst of the worst and history attests to that.

What resulted is, The USA is no longer viewed as a Democracy, but rather as the neighborhood's bully throughout the Western Hemisphere.
+4 # Guest 2010-04-19 08:48
When the Vietnamese defeated the French in 1954 the resulting Geneva Accords stipulated that country-wide elections be held to determine who would govern Vietnam. It was well known that the Vietminh were very likely to win. The US and its puppet regime refused to agree to hold election. Thus began the US phase of the effort to recolonize Vietnam. It failed at a cost of millions of lives.
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 12:51
As Professor McCoy discovered when he did the research for his PhD, our failures in Viet Nam had links to the failures of the French to re-impose colonial rule after World War Two. His thesis was later published over the objections of the CIA, thanks to fellow Yalie Sy Hersch.

As this essay shows, we still haven't learned much from our mistakes in Viet Nam, Afghanistan, or the war on drugs...
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 13:37
It wasn't all a waste-remember how much money was made by KBR, dredging Camron Bay and of course Bell Helicopter-all those helicopters we had to buy, maintain and replace-and I do believe the same profitable arrangements are still going on in Afghanistan today! If you want to support the troops-work to bring them home! Or just continue to support the corporations in their grinding blood into money!
+3 # Guest 2010-04-19 17:28
only investors with large sums of monies could have built this economic empire; mutual funds could not do it; "Say It Plain"...ok the few wealthy own the American wealth; we are an empire owned by investment bankers; we are not the nation state that entered WW 11; as President Dwight David Eisenhower all Americans forewarned in his Farewell Address. not democratic or republic nation state. we are a corporate-state .
+2 # Guest 2010-04-19 17:31
Tiz simple! Declare victory ! Appoint Donald Rumsfeld to the position of King of Afghanistan and send him over with a consort of 100 Blackwater guards and a Billion dollars in currency. All hail the King Donald! I am sure that he will have the good sense to give some delicious contracts to the right people.
+2 # Guest 2010-04-19 21:57
As a USMC VN vet ('67-'68) I totally agree with this article, except to add that Ho Chi Minh begged the US-at least twice-to help him get a democracy for his people. One thing that ALWAYS drives these "wars" is not only the $ but also the career ambitions of people like Ollie North, McChrystal, and like scum. I remember a very fat Army major in Chu Lai who waddled around the hdqtrs area for 6 months and was awarded a Bronze Star.
The more important points have probably been made in the article and comments, EXCEPT to say that murdering people for no reason twists, burns, and...kills the hearts of EVERYONE.
Read "Dispatches"-He rr "A Bright Shining Lie"-Sheehan, and "Rule By Secrecy"-Marrs
+1 # Guest 2010-04-20 00:03
Alfred McCoy clearly lays down the foundation for why we should withdraw from Afghanistan and the reader can easily extend his writing to bring into question any puppet government we set up, such as in Iraq. Given the historical precedence of Vietnam and all of our failed diplomacy and foreign policy there, no reasonable human being could conclude that our having repeated this mistake in Iraq and Afghanistan can ultimately have any different an outcome. The difference of outcome that may come to be is that if we do not withdraw soon, the damage to the world, our relationship to it and our standing in it may never recover. We may become labeled a global pariah that the world community could actually punish profoundly. (We tend to insist on believing in our invincability, a form a denial with possible lethal consequences.)

Is there any intellectual out there in the electronic ether than can give a compelling argument for why we should continue this insanity? Why we should not stop it?

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