Letter to the editor: Gen. Giap and Vietnam War history

On the occasion of the death of the world historic military genius, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, architect of the victorious People’s War in Vietnam — which defeated not one but two imperialist military forces in less than 30 years, the New York Times predictably seized the opportunity to present the official Pentagon version of the war. Readers who may be unfamiliar with that war’s history might think the U.S. would have “won” if only Gen. Giap had cared more for his own people. How ironic, since the Times writer fails to mention the famous official Pentagon justification for endless carpet bombing and other genocidal massacres: “We had to destroy it in order to save it.”

The Times writer acknowledges that Gen. William Westmoreland, the notorious and completely discredited commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam, “measured success by the number of enemy dead.” But for Westmoreland and the Times, the failure of the Vietnamese to surrender was a sign of the “ruthlessness” and “blood-thirstiness” of their leaders. To this day they fail to acknowledge the key factor in Vietnam’s successful People’s War strategy: unbreakable unity between the revolutionary forces and the masses of the people.

The sad truth for U.S. soldiers forced to serve in Vietnam was that they had no clue what they were fighting for or against. And they faced an “enemy” prepared for any sacrifice to defend their homeland and their revolution. The Times writer, and Westmoreland, might have asked, if they could be honest, what the damages were to their own soldiers and their loved ones, not just from death and dismemberment, but from the endless anguish of knowing they had been cynically used in a criminal enterprise.

The Times review is harsh about the difficulty of getting “reliable figures” about Vietnamese casualties, while blithely citing the official U.S. casualty figure of 58,000 combat deaths. It is well documented that the Pentagon command commonly airlifted out those U.S. soldiers injured in combat, and consistently failed to include those who died off the field of battle as combat casualties. Nor were the hundreds of thousands of Vietnam combat veterans who died of wounds years later counted as casualties. There is no question that Vietnamese sacrifices were an order of magnitude greater, but the official U.S. habit of minimizing its own casualties can be seen as just another aspect of its imperialist war propaganda.

The first and last casualty of the U.S. war against Vietnam was the truth. As the loyal and official “newspaper of record,” it is only natural that the Times would add yet another casualty of this type. Fortunately, the truth of Vietnam has long been easy to see: it was the greatest defeat suffered by U.S. imperialism in its centuries-long thrust for global dominance. This historic defeat was also a gigantic, world-historic victory for the architect of People’s War in Vietnam, Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap. That is the reason he is mourned and revered by all the millions of Vietnamese people, and honored with deep respect by revolutionaries and peace lovers worldwide.

— Dee Knight