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A 50-Year Vietnam “Anniversary” Forgetting Eisenhower

Commitments by Eisenhower of military supplies, financial aid, and some six hundred military advisers had made the United States an interested party in Vietnam’s six-year-old civil war. To deal with the mounting danger, Kennedy authorized funding for an increase of twenty thousand additional South Vietnamese troops and the creation of a task force to help avert a South Vietnamese collapse. The Laotian crisis added to worries about Vietnam.” – Robert Dallek in “An Unfinished Life” [page 354]

EISENHOWER, THEN KENNEDY, began our involvement in Southeast Asia.

U.S. commitments, involvement and escalation in Vietnam did not begin in 1962, with the Obama administration erroneously dating the “start” of U.S. involvement in 1962, untrue.

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden commemorated a concocted “anniversary” of 50 years since the Vietnam war began today, adding to the tortured legacy of a war that makes those of us who remember the carnage, even as teens, wonder if this insanity will ever end. Pres. Obama made it worse today.

I realize the Administration is also sincerely honoring heroes, but it’s historical malpractice to write Pres. Eisenhower out of Vietnam history. Having the Defense Department join in makes it worse.

John F. Kennedy is responsible for escalation, which was further expanded by Lyndon Johnson, but Pres. Obama’s focus on a 50-year “anniversary” of Vietnam wholly ignores the advisory, and economic angle of Pres. Eisenhower’s involvement, which glosses over how these decisions lead to what happened under Kennedy, then Johnson. See Bush getting distracted by Iraq, which left Afghanistan to simmer, then Obama’s escalation in Afghanistan that commits us to 2024, as another example; see the Iraq Liberation Act during Clinton and how Bush used it after 9/11, with Democrats falling in line out of fear.

Political escalation leads to war and it comes in all forms.

President Obama writes in “Stars and Stripes” today, with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery as well.

This Memorial Day also holds special significance because it marks the beginning of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. It was 50 years ago – January 1962 – when U.S. Army pilots on dozens of helicopters transported South Vietnamese troops into the jungles outside Saigon for a raid against enemy forces. It was one of America’s first major operations in Vietnam and another turning point in what would become one of our longest wars.

Today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., I’ll join Vietnam veterans and their families for a ceremony to begin this 50th anniversary. It will be an occasion to honor the 58,282 names on The Wall–men and women who gave their lives in that war. We’ll stand with their families, who have borne that loss ever since. And we’ll reaffirm our commitment to never stop searching for the 1,666 service members who are still missing from that war.

Keeping faith with our Vietnam veterans is important, because some of us remember what they came home to face, but ignoring the actual history of how it began is not. It’s just Pres. Obama wasn’t in office when the 50th year came, George W. Bush was, that is, if you include Eisenhower’s Vietnam commitments.

I’m sure Gallup’s snapshot poll on Mitt Romney’s reported lead with veterans had nothing to do with any of this.

Obama and Romney are tied overall at 46% apiece among all registered voters in this sample. Men give Romney an eight-point edge, while women opt for Obama over Romney by seven points. It turns out that the male skew for Romney is driven almost entirely by veterans. Romney leads by one point among nonveteran men, contrasted with the 28-point edge Romney receives among male veterans.GALLUP

As we saw with Pres. George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” stunt, politicians of both political parties use the military all the time for their own purposes. It helps keep the conversation away from what we should be discussing.

In a dangerous world, terrorists will continue to target U.S. interests and our allies overseas, with lone wolves and terrorists dreaming of destroying our country. However, it’s a political tactic of fear and manipulation that ignores a simple reality. The U.S. is safe, with there no threat on earth that can vanquish our country without the retaliation decimating that enemy, with the threat of any terrorist organization being wiped off the face of the planet after an attack.

So what now?

On Memorial Day, we remember warriors and their families, including fallen heroes, who gave their lives for our freedom. Osama bin Laden is dead and 9/11 avenged, al Qaeda is decimated, with cyberterrorism, port security, food safety all larger threats than forces that once brought our nation into wars, including those undeclared.

We are safe, so it’s a gross manipulation of American nationalism, pride and patriotism of our brave soldiers serving today, as well as their families, to say the U.S. military is protecting our freedom. Nothing in Afghanistan threatens our freedom, or in Iraq, or Germany, Japan, or anywhere else our forces are stationed, including South Korea, and Iran.

How we get politicians and partisans off the military complex teat remains unknown, because politicians use propaganda to exploit and market military expansion every election.

President Obama has put us on course toward a “hollow” force. – Mitt Romney

Underneath this ugly truth is the reality we can’t employ our soldiers if we did turn our country from militarization abroad and toward economic development and American corporation partnerships. The only way to world peace is economic prosperity, which doesn’t require a single bomb to drop.

If America was an enlightened nation this would be possible. But the citizenry is asleep and our leaders are small.

American wars are fought by soldiers and their families, no one sacrifices more.

There is another type of hero, one that rarely gets mentioned on Memorial Day. It’s impolitic to do so, but when I think of Vietnam and how I cut my teeth on politics, these patriots loom large.

They are the best of our intrepid reporters and war correspondents, on the field of battle, and investigating war strategy from home and through our politics, who refuse to surrender liberty for a vague notion of “safety,” standing against the politicians, partisans and establishment parties who strip away our personal freedoms in the name of “protection” by lying to the public and manipulating the patriotism that acts like a hook in the American mouth.

As a teen watching what the Vietnam war did to this country, including the community in which I lived and the boys impacted by the draft, the concoction of a 50-year Vietnam “anniversary” by a Democratic administration putting the start of Vietnam in 1962 was a punch to the gut to me. I’m fully aware of the beginning of the U.S. Army helicopter missions to which President Obama refers in “Stars and Stripes.” However, the way politicians begin, commit and escalate wars is not represented in the “anniversary” cited by the Administration. I resent it, because it keeps the citizenry in slumber about how our politicians ramp up our military misadventures that in the modern era will rarely end well, if our involvement ever really ends at all.

No one man starts any war. No one political party begins the carnage. This is an American mindset that is lapped up by our big two political parties and the elite individuals who are allowed to rise through them, the stories then fed to an ignorant populace too lazy to consider facts.

Telling the truth about war and why we now fight, which is a different battle than my Uncle Dick’s WWII generation, is how we honor our veterans, the fallen, and their families.

The ultimate honor of the U.S. military will come when America decides how to adjust our force structure to deal with a dangerous world in which we are safe by admitting no power on earth can destroy the United States, which will come from within, because only a lazy citizenry can do that.

“…Kennedy’s irritation with a press corps that he believed demonstrated an excessively “zealous spirit of criticism and complaint.” On October 21, during a lunch with Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger, the new publisher of the New York Times, Kennedy urged him to get Halberstam out of Vietnam. Sulzberger refused, and Kennedy was left to worry all the more.”  
- Robert Dallek in “An Unfinished Life” [page 679]

DEDICATED TO DAVID HALBERSTAM, one of the vigilant truth tellers of the Vietnam War, who inspired a generation of war correspondents, including Pulitizer winner David Wood, some of whom have died on the field of battle so that we could know the truth, but also includes people like Dana Priest and William Arkin, who endeavor to investigate the growing homeland security threat posed to the privacy and individual liberty of a sleeping American public.

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13 Responses to A 50-Year Vietnam “Anniversary” Forgetting Eisenhower

  1. secularhumanizinevoluter May 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    Since the end of WW2 the only justifiable military actions I can think of would be our Bosnian intervention and the initial war against the Taliban and final killing of OBL.

    • spincitysd May 28, 2012 at 9:49 pm #

      Actually Sec, the US did not big-foot into the Balkans until the Kosovo crisis. By the time Dayton rolled around Serbia had gotten its clocked cleaned by Croatia. Unfortunately by then Bosnia-Herzegovina was a graveyard for the Serbs, for the Croats and far and away for the Bosniaks. Even today Bosnia-Herzegovina is a deeply scarred land. The government is still a shotgun wedding with NATO still holding the weapon at the ready.

  2. jjamele May 28, 2012 at 12:31 pm #

    It’s been 77 years since we’ve been in a war to protect our freedoms. Since then, combat has been all about sending poor young men and women off to kill and die for the benefit of the wealthy, the “defense” industry (ought to be more accurately called the “Offense” Industry) and artificially cheap gasoline.

    Support the Troops by giving them the care they need, deploying them only when all possible diplomatic options have been exhausted, and ending the occupation of half the planet.

  3. ladywalker68 May 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

    Great analysis, Taylor. Best quote:

    Underneath this ugly truth is the reality we can’t employ our soldiers if we did turn our country from militarization abroad and toward economic development and American corporation partnerships. The only way to world peace is economic prosperity, which doesn’t require a single bomb to drop.

    If America was an enlightened nation this would be possible. But the citizenry is asleep and our leaders are small.

    American wars are fought by soldiers and their families, no one sacrifices more.

    The draft and the lottery were huge motivators in getting us out of Vietnam. The problem is, we now have an all volunteer army, and unless a terrorist organization brings the war to our soil, as in 9-11, there is no concept of shared sacrifice any longer. As long as the wars are fought “over there” by “somebody else” the citizens largely not touched go back to sleep and don’t seem to care. So the politicians continue to play them like puppets, over-exaggerate danger (a.k.a, “weapons of mass destruction), the citizens who want to be able to stuff their faces, drink beer and watch the Super Bowl on their wide-screen TV, don’t really give a crap. They aren’t the ones who go and do the fighting. “Right on! Ship those soldiers over there…I can’t miss an episode of American Idol..the are going to pick the winner tonight!”

  4. fangio May 28, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

    For what possible reason would veterans support Romney over Obama? Romney has five sons and not one of them has served, nor has he. He is a republican and it is the republicans who are constantly trying to stick it to veterans by attempting to cut their benefits and cut their medical care. They are always the ones at the head of the parade waving the flag and bruising for a fight; as long as someone else does the fighting.Veterans should pay more attention, otherwise they deserve what they get.

    • secularhumanizinevoluter May 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

      OM-FRACKIN GAWD what ain’t even there?!!!! Me and fangio are in 1000% agreement!!

      • newdealdem1 May 29, 2012 at 11:14 am #


    • Cujo359 May 28, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

      To answer that question, you probably first need to be able to explain how the original swift boating succeeded on behalf of George W. Bush. To me, what that entire campaign highlighted was the contrast between how the two spent the Vietnam era. One served there, the other got a cushy job that he eventually shirked. Yet this argument seemed lost on many veterans I discussed this issue with at the time.

      • newdealdem1 May 29, 2012 at 11:13 am #


  5. Cujo359 May 28, 2012 at 10:03 pm #

    They are the best of our intrepid reporters and war correspondents, on the field of battle, and investigating war strategy from home and through our politics, who refuse to surrender liberty for a vague notion of “safety,” standing against the politicians, partisans and establishment parties

    I think the highest duty of every free citizen is to question the decisions and actions of his government. To not do so is to allow their errors to destroy us.It’s a lot harder to do that questioning well without a free press.

  6. spincitysd May 28, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

    Sigh Ms. Marsh,

    Politicians and others will always distort history to further their short-term goals and needs.

    For most of us the only history we vaguely know is one part trivia married to one part hagiography. We get this crap shoved down our throats during our school years and it’s deadly dull stuff. For far too many History is Shakespeare’s tale told by an idiot; all sound and fury signifying nothing.

    We are an a-historical nation Taylor. We pay lip service, if at all, to learning from the past. We don’t really care about our history; just our myths. Is it any wonder that Obama grabbed the Myth of Vietnam for political gain?

    You have to be over forty to even remember the fall of South Vietnam Taylor. You had to be in kindergarten when Gerald Ford stepped into the White House. A gray-head like myself will remember Tet. will remember the nation tearing itself apart in 1968; but for many the Tet Offensive is just a You Tube video they stumble on when looking up “Woodstock.” Vietnam is a place Gen X, Gen Y and the Millennials get their sneakers.

    Chalk it up to “laziness” or just our engrained notion that the past does not matter; only the future matters. One more time; we, the US, do not Do history– we do myth.

  7. newdealdem1 May 29, 2012 at 11:12 am #

    Once again (as with the “Hillary No” analysis), a first-rate, finely woven and beautifully written analysis of the true origin of modern American wars beginning with Vietnam. I’m passing this around to as many people as I know. Thank you, Taylor, for saying what many of us feel! I remember having this conversation with my dad who refused to believe that Ike was the one who started our misadventure into Vietnam but blamed Kennedy whom he did not like. It all comes down to that for so many people, you blame whichever politician you dislike and refuse to believe the truth of the one you favor truth be damned which is one of our major problems with our citizenry now.

  8. spincitysd May 29, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Oh, how I hate the political season. Oh, how I really hate the present election of 2012. We are plumbing new depths of idiocy, foolishness, and outright lies. We are even reinventing history to suite the needs of a politician’s reelection bid. History is not what it used to be.

    How to untangle the web spun by candidate Obama? How to deal rightly with one of the most contentious conflicts in US history? How to get that history right again? How to do this without getting once again rhetorically stuck in the impenetrable jungles of Southeast Asia? God, what a mess.

    Vietnam, A False Half Century Remembrance

.... a writer is someone who takes the universal whore of language
and turns her into a virgin again.  ~ erica jong