The eerie parallels between Vietnam and Ukraine

Jan 22, 2023
Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lyndon Johnson.

Ukrainians have become cannon fodder for the US geopolitical goals, just as the South Vietnamese were.

In April 1965, U.S. President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) explained why he was escalating US involvement in Vietnam. With an Orwellian touch, he titled the speech “Peace without Conquest” as he announced the beginning of US air attacks on Vietnam. He explained that:

“We must fight if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny and only in such a world will our own freedom be secure… we have made a national pledge to help South Vietnam defend its independence and I intend to keep that promise. To dishonour that pledge, to abandon the small and brave nation to its enemies and the terror must follow would be an unforgivable wrong…We are also there to strengthen world order… To leave Vietnam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America’s words.”

President Biden and administration leaders now sound similar to LBJ in the early stage of the Vietnam War. In his remarks to Congress asking for additional funding for Ukraine, Biden said:

“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom…. The cost of this fight is not cheap, but caving to aggression is going to be more costly if we allow it to happen…Investing in Ukraine’s freedom and security is a small price to pay to punish Russian aggression, to lessen the risk of future conflicts.”

Both Russia and the US now acknowledge that the conflict in Ukraine is between Russia and NATO (led by the US). Ukraine is a proxy for the US which promoted the 2014 coup that overthrew an elected pro-Russian government and has been pumping weapons into Ukraine ever since. US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin has been explicit: “We want to see Russia weakened.” The Ukrainian Defence Chief says they are fighting “to fulfil NATO’s mission.”

These wars are unnecessary

Just as the US could have lived with Vietnam under Ho Chi Minh leadership without the war, the US could live with Ukraine being a neutral country and bridge between east and west, Russia and western Europe.

However – as Martin Luther King Jr. observed in April 1967 in an eloquent and stirring denunciation of the Vietnam war and US militarism titled “Beyond Vietnam”, highly relevant to today’s war in Ukraine – that was not (and still is not) US policy. “The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” He went on to name many other countries which are victims of US intervention and aggression. He said, “And if we ignore this sobering reality we will find ourselves … marching …and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. Such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam…”

Incrementally Increasing Conflict toward Total War

In 1965, when President Johnson announced the beginning of US air attacks on Vietnam, the war had been going on for many years. The US kept incrementally increasing its commitment – from political support to advisors and trainers and special operations. In spring 1965 “only” about 400 US soldiers had died in the conflict. The war was not yet widely unpopular. Americans who protested against the Vietnam War were a small minority.

We may be at a similar or earlier point in the conflict with Russia via Ukraine. While many tens of BILLIONS of dollars have been committed to Ukraine, plus advisors, trainers and other support, the US military has not yet been openly and actively deployed.

The incremental buildup in Vietnam ultimately led to over 58,000 Americans and three million Vietnamese civilians and soldiers being killed. US prestige and influence was severely damaged.

ML King Jr said in his 1967 speech, “We have no honourable intentions in Vietnam …. The world demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people.”

If the incremental buildup toward war with Russia is not stopped, it will be immeasurably worse than Vietnam. Already we are seeing tremendous destruction with Ukrainians and Russians dying by the thousands. As with Vietnam in 1965, this could be just the beginning.

Western Media Distortions

Western media portrayed the US and South Vietnam winning the war in South East Asia until the 1968 Tet offensive exposed the lies and reality. Similarly, western media portrays Ukrainians winning the war amidst overwhelming Ukrainian public support. In reality, Russia and the secessionist areas control large areas and will advance in the near future. Ukrainian losses are already huge.

The idea that all Ukrainians love the West and hate Russia is false. As an indication of the mixed sentiments, the country having received the MOST emigrants from Ukraine is Russia. While a small number continue from Russia to west European countries, the big majority stay in Russia with many awaiting the end of warfare.

Just as South Vietnamese puppet leaders were promoted by the US for political reasons, so is Ukrainian President Zelensky. His speeches are written by Washington insiders. Largely censored from the media, Zelensky has overseen the imprisonment, torture and killing of opponents. The largest opposition party has been banned. Many Ukrainians oppose his policy and continuation of the war.

Ukrainians have become cannon fodder for the US geopolitical goals, just as the South Vietnamese were.

Will the US and allies continue to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, to “double down” on an intervention half way around the world with the goal of hurting Russia? Have we learned nothing from Vietnam and subsequent US/Western foreign policy disasters of the past 40 years?

ML King’s Hopes and Death

In his profound speech, Dr King said “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…When machines and computer, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defence than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death …..The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just… Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out in a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism and militarism.”

Exactly one year after delivering the speech at Riverside Church, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. The Vietnam war continued for another seven years until the Vietnamese finally defeated and expelled the US military and their puppets.

The disaster of the Vietnam War will be small compared to the disaster which may befall us all if the US policy of attacking Russia through Ukraine is not stopped.

 

An edited version of an article first published January 16, 2023 by LA Progressive.

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