Robert Jensen vibrantly illustrated the mindset of America’s fifth column Left when he wrote, “The United States has lost the war in Iraq, and that's a good thing.” Jensen and his fellow ideologues do not wish for “peace” but the triumph of America’s enemies. Yesterday, L.A. Times columnist Robert Scheer extended this animus 30 years into the past, exulting over America’s lone military defeat in South Vietnam. “Sometimes it is better to lose,” Scheer wrote in his latest broadside against reality and human decency, entitled, “Out Loss was Our Gain in Vietnam.”
Reflecting that April 30 marked the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, Scheer claimed America has profited from normalized trade with Vietnam, benefiting from that nation’s cheap labor as we became Vietnam’s chief export market. He claims the modern Vietnamese economy, which he describes as “a mix of Karl Marx and Adam Smith,” provides “renewed proof of the viability of Marx's labor theory of value.” But not even sophisticated Marxists believe in the labor theory of value anymore. Our present peaceful coexistence with the regime that tortured John McCain, executed 100,000 Vietnamese without trial after the war, and submerged its economy in a Marxist depression for the next 30 years, in Scheer’s mind, proves that anti-communists were wrong to have opposed handing the country over to the Communists in the first place.
For Scheer, the Vietnam War had nothing to do with actual Communist aggression but was entirely created by American Cold War paranoia, obsessed by “the specter of a Communist movement with a timetable for the takeover of the world.” This is what Scheer was claiming 30 years ago, when he was a member of the Red Sun Rising commune and a follower of Kim Il Sung. Unfortunately for this thesis, many Vietnamese leaders have been unburdening themselves of facts that refute these New Left fantasies.
When Lyndon Johnson issued a White Paper in 1964 saying the North Vietnamese Communists were infiltrating troops into South Vietnam with the intention of conquering it, Scheer earned himself a little notoriety on the Left by publishing a pamphlet snickering at the claims and calling the president a liar. Now, we know from the mouths of North Vietnamese leaders themselves that Johnson was telling the truth – and greatly understating it. The Ho Chi Minh Trail was built so that the Communist military could move into South Vietnam and subvert it, and by 1964 Hanoi had infiltrated a small army into South Vietnam and created a phony “indigenous” guerilla movement called the “National Liberation Front of South Vietnam” in order to fool credulous leftists like Scheer and advance the Communist world revolution. But Scheer – who has apparently been asleep for 30 years and missed these facts – still clings to the myths he was spinning back in Berkeley.
According to Scheer, Ho Chi Minh – who spent 20 years in Paris as an agent of Stalin’s International – was just a “nationalist” and “pragmatist.” Apparently taking on the world’s superpower and sacrificing millions of his own people to realize the dreams of a German exile rummaging in the British Museum a hundred years before is just practical politics. So if we had just let the nationalists and pragmatists do their thing, we would have gotten the same result. As fellow L.A. Times reporter David Lamb, put it, “if you took away the still-ruling Communist Party and discounted the perilous decade after the war, the Vietnam of today is not much different from the country U.S. policymakers wanted to create in the 1960s.”
Ah, yes, the “perilous decade.” What Lamb means (and Scheer omits) is the decade when the Communist Party killed 100,000 Vietnamese and drove a million boat people into exile (something that had not occurred in a thousand years of Vietnamese history under many less brutal conquerors). The antiwar movement that Scheer and his comrades launched successfully forced America to abandon the people of South Vietnam and neighboring Cambodia, which the Communist had used as an invasion route. This abandonment resulted in the postwar slaughter of 2.5 million Indo-Chinese. (The Khmer Rouge who cleaned up Cambodia were protégés of Hanoi and were also advancing the “world revolution” and not, obviously, Cambodian nationalism and pragmatism.) The Communists also liquidated 1.5 million Laotians while they were at it.
Noticing the fact that Vietnam now trades with us, Scheer concludes that they would have done so earlier if only we had stepped back and allowed them to conquer South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos without opposition. In fact, he claims, “Ike himself resisted committing significant forces to the conflict.” In part, that’s because there was no full-scale North-South Vietnamese conflict until March 1960, and the Communist Party of North Vietnam did not call for deposing pro-American South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem until the following September, as lame duck Ike was nearly free to golf full-time. However, Eisenhower did have a solution for Ho Chi Minh: in 1954, he approached the French and British about conducting an air strike to save the French military stationed at Dien Bien Phu. However, Churchill would not support military action on behalf of the French empire as the sun was setting on his own; and just a few months later, the French elected Radical-Socialist Pierre Mendés-France both president and foreign minister. In true French fashion, he fled the battlefield and left half the nation in the hands of a dictator. (Ike also threatened to nuke China if Mao invaded the seemingly inconsequential islands of Quemoy and Matsu; that’s some peacenik.)
What made Vietnam’s relationship with the United States possible is the fact that, in the interim, the Soviet Union – the chief subsidizer of Communist Vietnam – mercifully collapsed. The Soviet Union provided Vietnam with a $1 billion annual subsidy and the vision of a future dominated by Marxism-Leninism. If these pillars of Vietnam’s Communist faith were still present, Vietnam’s economic wooing of the West would not be taking place.
Notwithstanding the good news, North Vietnam even now has that little problem of the “still ruling Communist Party” and consequently has shown no concurrent improvement in its human rights record. According to the State Department, this record has “remained poor” as the nation “continued to commit serious abuses,” including police beatings, detentions, and disappearances. The knock-in-the-dead-of-night persists in the land that Scheer’s buddies Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda once referred to as a “rice-roots democracy.”
How can a man so innocent of the history of his own era and so complicit in its crimes be a powerful columnist at one of America’s most important newspapers, not to mention a professor at USC’s Annenberg School of Communications? (And what does that tell you about the times we live in?)
Scheer began his career with a 1961 book defending Fidel Castro and was the Cuban dictator’s chosen publisher of Ché Guevara’s diaries. Scheer’s history of support for Communist revolutionaries (not nationalists or pragmatists) stretches back 40 years and began with his Cuban romance. Cuba, of course, is the exemplar of Communism’s imperial ambitions – the very ambitions that Scheer pretends don’t exist. In 1963, Castro sent 22 tanks and more than 100 Cuban troops to the Algerian National Liberation Front led by Ahmed ben Bella, ultimately giving two billion francs to the Arab Marxists. Ché Guevara famously called for radicals to “create two, three…many Vietnams” – the title also of a book by Ché wannabe Tom Hayden – and died trying to launch one in Bolivia. This martyrdom inspired Ho Chi Minh's followers to host Raul Castro shortly after the Fall of Saigon.
Castro reached his imperial apex when he sent 50,000 troops to aid the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola in its efforts to foist Leninism in the former colonial nation. Cuban troops fought in the Congo well into the Reagan administration and Fidel sent aid to the brutal “Red Rule” of Ethiopia’s Communists, architects of one of the worst politically devised famines in world history. Castro’s efforts to build an airport for Soviet bombers in Grenada provoked Ronald Reagan to take defensive military action. The Sandinista dictators were his personal protégés, trained in Havana to spread Marxist police states throughout Central America. The trainers of Nicaragua’s secret police were Cubans loaned by Castro for that very purpose.
So Scheer is well aware that Communism was a messianic creed and an imperialist enterprise and one that the North Vietnamese Communists shared. But acknowledging this would prevent him from writing yet another column (he has written them before) on how it would be good thing for America to lose its wars with totalitarian enemies. But this is the very column that Scheer has been writing for the last three years about America’s war against the Islamic totalitarians in Iraq – another nation in which French self-interest left the United States to take care of a murderous autocrat they kept in power. Plus ça change….