So Many People Died



This post originally appeared at TomDispatch.

Pham To looked great for 78 years old. (At least, that’s about how old he thought he was.) His hair was thin, gray, and receding at the temples, but his eyes were lively and his physique robust -- all the more remarkable given what he had lived through. I listened intently, as I had so many times before to so many similar stories, but it was still beyond my ability to comprehend. It’s probably beyond yours, too.

Pham To told me that the planes began their bombing runs in 1965 and that periodic artillery shelling started about the same time. Nobody will ever know just how many civilians were killed in the years after that. “The number is uncountable,” he said one spring day a few years ago in a village in the mountains of rural central Vietnam. “So many people died.”

And it only got worse. Chemical defoliants came next, ravaging the land. Helicopter machine gunners began firing on locals. By 1969, bombing and shelling were day-and-night occurrences. Many villagers fled. Some headed further into the mountains, trading the terror of imminent death for a daily struggle of hardscrabble privation; others were forced into squalid refugee resettlement areas. Those who remained in the village suffered more when the troops came through. Homes were burned as a matter of course. People were kicked and beaten. Men were shot when they ran in fear. Women were raped. One morning, a massacre by American soldiers wiped out 21 fellow villagers. This was the Vietnam War for Pham To, as for so many rural Vietnamese.

One, Two… Many Vietnams? 

At the beginning of the Iraq War, and for years after, reporters, pundits, veterans, politicians, and ordinary Americans asked whether the American debacle in Southeast Asia was being repeated. Would it be “another Vietnam”? Would it become a “quagmire”?

1/9/2013 6:23:46 PM

Along the same lines, putting Afghanistan in to perspective:

Bryan Comeaux
1/9/2013 5:59:17 PM

money is the difference between the value of my labor vs the value of your labor. all things being equal. amassing this difference is the definition of wealth. the difference in value is assigned based on national membership. nations are land masses of defensible borders. these borders are often expanded through military means. when goods and services are trade across borders there is a change in their monetary value.the differential equation described is artificially created through military actions. these actions are for the purpose of maintaining influence over regional resource acquisition so when china wants to expand across asia that would mean china would get resources at a discount and we would not so we have vietnam the result is we maintain an economic advantage in resource acquisition. the same happens in iraq while we have no base there its because we don't need one iraq is a democracy that means we maintain an advantage if Hussein had his way there would be an iraq dominated opec and he would have sop much market share he could set prices and sanction anyones economy so we have Iraq none of the other talk matters the civilly casualties are part of the deterrent the reason americans dont care well what if they did that means no war and we have a communist asia and Hussein can shut down the oil to anyone so no cheap stuff and no cheap oil. the us would no longer be a superpower and even the most liberal democrat or leftist would live a radically different life most defiantly theses other nations would combine forces and our resources would be mined for cheap And would be the slaves so if thats the way it is then let em have irt. and thats how the average american thinks no consideration of reusing the resources we have or of even an alternative energy like solar towers s pose for a minuet that we relied totally on those things how long would the world leave us alone how do we maintain our military if were not gaining wealth from the world through our advantageous corporate enterprises and the taxes they yield what keeps Hussein china and Russian out of the us a bomb a military a peace treaty what exactly balances that power its the fact that we keep the world poor and off kilter that we still exist if we are to truly create peace in this world its is fact like thees not just the attitudes that reveal them but the actual fact behind them that we as a new generation must create we must find not only alternative energy and sustainable resources for ourselves s but also we must install them allover the world possible before we can even rely on them ourselves after all what reason dose anyone bother to travel around the world to haul tons of crap around if they already have plenty at home ? except they don’t so here the come to get ya and yer stuff. sad facts but the good news is that while previous generations saw no way around it and perhaps there wasn't one we might hopefully before falling into another dark period in which peace is only possible through mass slaughter. so what would that be. Abraham lincoln said that the greatest service that could be done for mankind was to find away to create a living from a small parcel of land. clean food and water, and a secure estate for every individual. birth control not population reduction global direct democracy not sham corporate backed not exactly representative democracy. we vote the issues no money in politics and lastly and most importantly civilian armies for peace. armies in which all civilians are members have rank based on participation and vote to elect the generals. they create the infrastructures of societies and maintain internal and external safety. they create peace and help neighboring countries. there is no need to acquire resources from abroad we use and grow what we need. trade is not to create wealth but to increase variety. a value even if made a t a loss.  ideally botch sides should experience a certain loss in any transaction thats just physics. so a true citizens military in order to create peace we must create the way we earn a living make energy produce goods and defend ourselves and it must be something anyone in the world can do. the start is to create political unions not to keep trying for a stupid third party that is increasing division when we need to increase unity. the two party system is a good cop bad cop routine designed to alternate a federal subsidy between regions of the nation. it cannot be won. it causes recessions and debt. a political union has members of all political persuasions. they all enter thair issues the group subdivides reserches and issue and votes on it then the grop vortes on the issies as summarise. it break up into small groups pick your favorite policy issues join a commitee . read or add atricles vote a resolution post a winning result.. then you vcan vote on the issues note the result of the commitee revier their synopsis

Robert Myres
1/9/2013 2:56:00 PM

Wow, really. Another narrative about how ineffectual the behemoth aid organizations are. And yet another account of a 20-year old showing up naive enough to think they have something to offer the suffering of the world. As if their presence is somehow magical and can eliminate the myriad of issues surrounding the suffering of poverty. It would be enlightening if someone would quit re-iterating the obvious and report on the organizations that are beneficial. The very small, community-based organizations that rely on volunteers and do exceptional work with scare resources. These organizations rarely get attention because they are overshadowed by reporting on the large organizations who yes, actually do little good for the amount of resources they absorb, and sometimes do harm. But there are good organizations out there. Go find them and help us figure out how to scale them while maintaining the efficiency and effectiveness that are the underpinnings of our success. Robert Myres - Founder - Mondesa Youth Opportunities

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