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The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration?

A devastating follow-up to William L. Griffen and Marciano’s 1979 classic Teaching the Vietnam War, The American War in Vietnam seeks not to commemorate the Vietnam War, but to stop the ongoing U.S. war on actual history. Marciano reveals the grandiose flag-waving that stems from the “Noble Cause principle,” the notion that America is “chosen by God” to bring democracy to the world. The result is critical writing and teaching at its best. This book will find a home in classrooms where teachers seek to do more than repeat the trite glorifications of U.S. Empire. It will provide students everywhere with insights that can prepare them to change the world.… | more…

Vietnamese Vietnam War Poster.

Vietnam and the Soldiers’ Revolt

The Politics of a Forgotten History

This article will be published on June 20th.

It has been nearly fifty years since the height of the Vietnam War—or, as it is known in Vietnam, the American War—and yet its memory continues to loom large over U.S. politics, culture, and foreign policy. The battle to define the war’s lessons and legacies has been a proxy for larger clashes over domestic politics, national identity, and U.S. global power. One of its most debated areas has been the mass antiwar movement that achieved its greatest heights in the United States but also operated globally. Within this, and for the antiwar left especially, a major point of interest has been the history of soldier protest during the war.… Activists looked back to this history for good reason.… Soldiers, such potent symbols of U.S. patriotism, turned their guns around—metaphorically, but also, at times, literally—during a time of war.… | more…

December 2015 (Volume 67, Number 7)

December 2015 (Volume 67, Number 7)

In this issue we feature two articles on the 1965–1966 mass killings and imprisonments in Indonesia. The army-led bloodbath was aimed at the near-total extermination of members of the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), then a highly successful electoral party with a membership in the millions.… In all, an estimated 500,000 to a million (or more) people were murdered. Another 750,000 to a million-and-a-half people were imprisoned, many of whom were tortured. Untold thousands died in prison. Only around 800 people were given a trial—most brought before military tribunals that summarily condemned them to death.… The United States…was involved clandestinely in nearly every part of this mass extermination: compiling lists of individuals to be killed; dispatching military equipment specifically designated to aid the known perpetrators of the bloodletting; offering organizational and logistical help; sending covert operatives to aid in the “cleansing”; and providing political backing to the killers.… [T]he mass killings…[were carried out with the active] complicity of the U.S. media.… | more…

No Reconciliation without Truth

An Interview with Tan Swie Ling on the 1965 Mass Killings in Indonesia

In the early morning of October 1, 1965, self-proclaimed left-wing troops raided the houses of seven top army generals in Jakarta. In the process, six of the generals were killed—three were shot during the kidnapping attempt, while the others were taken to Lubang Buaya, an air force base located in the south of Jakarta, and then killed. The seventh general, Nasution, managed to escape. The perpetrators announced on national radio that they were troops loyal to President Sukarno, and they aimed to protect the president from the danger posed by the right-wing “Council of Generals”—who, they said, were planning to launch a military coup d’état.… This movement was very short-lived. Within one day, it collapsed. Major General Suharto…took control of the army during the morning of October 1 and quickly crushed the movement.… [W]hat happened on October 1, 1965 marked the fall of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto, who was soon to rule Indonesia under his military dictatorship for more than three decades. The brutality of Suharto’s New Order is probably not news for people familiar with Indonesia. But there is “an episode the West would prefer to forget,” as journalist John Pilger put it, that accompanied Suharto’s rise to power: the destruction of Communism and the mass killings that followed—a phenomenon claimed by Time magazine in 1966 as “The West’s best news for years in Asia.”… | more…

The United States and the 1965–1966 Mass Murders in Indonesia

On October 1, 1965, the teletype in the White House relayed the account of a supposed “coup” by a group of Indonesian army officers calling themselves the September 30th Movement. In Jakarta the movement, which had begun the night before under the alleged leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Untung with the kidnapping and killing of six generals of the Indonesian Army High Command, was already unraveling. The September 30th Movement was a relatively small-scale affair. It was poorly planned and so clumsily executed that it seemed almost preordained to fail. Major General Suharto…took control of the army, and blamed what he labeled a “coup attempt” entirely on the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). Within two weeks, a much more momentous army-led and U.S.-backed movement to exterminate the PKI and its supporters was under way. Working with Muslim organizations, student groups, and other anti-Communist organizations, the army proceeded over the next five months to murder hundreds of thousands of unarmed, alleged PKI members. The slaughter paved the way for the army’s ouster of Sukarno in March 1966, its ascension to power, and the reconfiguration of Indonesian politics and foreign policy.… The liquidation of the PKI in Indonesia was “perhaps the greatest setback for Communism in the Third World in the 1960s” and an event with enormous implications for each of the Great Powers.… | more…

Volume 67, Number 6 (November 2015)

November 2015 (Volume 67, Number 6)

To understand why the Middle East is now in shambles, with the United States currently involved simultaneously in wars against both the Assad government in Syria and the Islamic State in Iraq, generating the greatest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, it is necessary to go back almost a quarter-century to the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Gulf War, unleashed by the United States in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, was made possible by the growing disorder in the USSR followed by its demise later that same year. The USSR’s disappearance from the world stage allowed the United States to shift to a naked imperialist stance—though justified in the manner of the colonial empires of old as “anti-terrorism” and “humanitarian intervention”—not only in the Middle East, but also along the entire great arc that had constituted the perimeter of the former Soviet Union.… | more…

Whither Japan? Seven Decades After Defeat

The hard-won lessons of Japan’s wartime defeat are enshrined in its National Constitution and Article 9 in particular.… For the past seventy years, Article 9 remained a fundamental principle of Japanese diplomacy, undergirded by memories of the Asia-Pacific War and the U.S. occupation, buttressed by important revisionist histories of Japanese imperialism. A politically recovered, economically restored Japanese populace still appreciates the Constitution and the relevance of Article 9. But conservative politicians who never believed in the Constitution’s ideals repeatedly challenged and worked around Article 9 despite the majority’s support for it.… Today, once again, Article 9 stands in danger of abandonment by interpretation rather than revision by constitutional processes.… | more…

Wars Past and Wars to Come

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, elements within the U.S. ruling class came to believe that their country was militarily invincible. Indeed, they believed this newfound military superiority over any potential rival was something new in human history. So great was its technological advantage, the United States could destroy its enemies with complete impunity. A long-heralded Revolution in Military Affairs was taking place, enabling the United States to reshape the world. New smart technologies would disperse the “fog of war,” making it possible for the United States to kill its enemies without their being able to strike back, and the “Vietnam syndrome” could be overcome once and for all.… Even so, at this point in time, the U.S. government proceeded with considerable caution. The then-secretary of defense, Dick Cheney no less, made clear that the United States did not invade and occupy Iraq at this time because of the danger of finding itself in a “quagmire” where it would be taking casualties while the Kurds, the Shia, and the Sunnis fought it out. The administration decided not to involve itself in “that civil war.” Such a commitment would have had to involve the use of “overwhelming force” for an extended period if it was to have any chance of success. This was in 1991. Ten years later such caution had been replaced by an overweening self-confidence, by a belief that the United States could completely reshape the Middle East, starting with Iraq, and then moving on to Syria and Iran. And, moreover, this could all be achieved with a comparatively small invading and occupying army.… | more…

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

July-August 2015 (Volume 67, Number 3)

Notes from the Editors

May’s Review of the Month, “Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them” by MR Associate Editor Michael D. Yates, has elicited many responses. One writer said that Yates had written the best, but perhaps the first, Marxist analysis of the war. Another praised Monthly Review for having the courage to publish this article. Still a third predicted that in the more distant future, humanity would embrace the essay’s judgment and honor the Vietnamese people for their heroic struggle against the overwhelming might of the U.S. military.… In light of these comments, as well as the subject matter of this double issue of Monthly Review on imperialism, we thought it might be worthwhile to say something more about what the Vietnamese themselves naturally enough call the American War, with an eye toward drawing important lessons useful for contemporary radicals.… | more…

The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War

The Hidden Structure of Violence: Who Benefits from Global Violence and War

The Hidden Structure of Violence marshals vast amounts of evidence to examine the costs of direct violence, including military preparedness and the social reverberations of war, alongside the costs of structural violence, expressed as poverty and chronic illness. It also documents the relatively small number of people and corporations responsible for facilitating the violent status quo, whether by setting the range of permissible discussion or benefiting directly as financiers and manufacturers. The result is a stunning indictment of our violent world and a powerful critique of the ways through which violence is reproduced on a daily basis, whether at the highest levels of the state or in the deepest recesses of the mind. … | more…

Vietnamese Vietnam War Poster.

Honor the Vietnamese, Not Those Who Killed Them

In a letter to Vietnam War veteran Charles McDuff, Major General Franklin Davis, Jr. said, “The United States Army has never condoned wanton killing or disregard for human life.” McDuff had written a letter to President Richard Nixon in January 1971, telling him that he had witnessed U.S. soldiers abusing and killing Vietnamese civilians and informing him that many My Lais had taken place during the war. He pleaded with Nixon to bring the killing to an end. The White House sent the letter to the general, and this was his reply.… McDuff’s letter and Davis’s response are quoted in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, the most recent book to demonstrate beyond doubt that the general’s words were a lie.… In what follows, I use Turse’s work, along with several other books, articles, and films, as scaffolds from which to construct an analysis of how the war was conducted, what its consequences have been for the Vietnamese, how the nature of the war generated ferocious opposition to it (not least by a brave core of U.S. soldiers), how the war’s history has been whitewashed, and why it is important to both know what happened in Vietnam and why we should not forget it.… | more…

Vietnam War Era Journeys

Recovering Histories of Internationalism

Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013), 346 pages, $26.95, paperback.

The cover of Judy Tzu-Chun Wu’s Radicals on the Road features a sepia-toned photograph of Eldridge Cleaver raising his fist in a Black Power salute behind three Vietnamese women in combat helmets, one of whom is kneeling behind an anti-aircraft gun. While you have probably seen a similar photograph of Jane Fonda from her North Vietnam trip in 1972, images like that of Cleaver are less common, if circulated at all. In this second book by Wu, she documents three sets of journeys, like Cleaver’s, that have remained at the margins of both the scholarship and the popular memory of the antiwar movement.… | more…

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