Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap had many friends and admirers among the people of the world, for whom he is a true communist hero. However, we focus in this editorial on his enemies.
Comrade Giap has been the object of imperialist hatred all his life, and also upon his death, because he was an effective fighter and a political-military leader of Vietnam’s liberation movement. Giap was a developer of the people’s war strategy that the Vietnamese used and which has served as an example to all peoples fighting to liberate themselves from imperialist slavery.
The imperialists hate to lose. Gen. Giap trashed them. He commanded the people’s army that won a smashing victory against French imperialist troops in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu, and guided the efforts of tens of millions of Vietnamese that drove U.S. imperialism — the world’s most powerful oppressive military apparatus — out of Vietnam in 1975.
Since the self-taught Gen. Giap had been an exemplary communist for 82 of his 102 years, the imperialist corporate and state media have been unable to attack him for accumulating privilege or property. With Giap’s history possessing no hint of the kind of scandal that sucks in every capitalist political leader, they had only one line of attack.
One can hear a whine in the explanation Gen. William Westmoreland — the U.S. commander in Vietnam from 1964 to 1968 — gave to explain the U.S. defeat: ”Any [U.S.] American commander who took the same vast losses as Giap would have been sacked overnight.” (New York Times, Oct. 4) The BBC thus attacked Giap for being “willing to accept high casualties.” The Huffington Post called him “ruthless.”
The Vietnamese fought a people’s war. The entire population was politically committed to it and determined to win liberation, whatever the cost. Like anyone in the West, those in this population suffered when loved ones were lost, but they were ready for sacrifices. They chose leaders who were equally determined to win, including Comrade Giap.
Gen. Giap’s enemies — Westmoreland, President Lyndon Johnson, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara — should have understood long before the 1968 Tet Offensive that the Vietnamese would persist and win. They could have left Vietnam earlier, saving the lives of millions of Vietnamese and tens of thousands of U.S. troops. Imperialist arrogance and a racist underrating of their Vietnamese enemy distorted their decisions.
Much later, McNamara confessed this blunder. The ruthless U.S. leaders and generals used the latest weapons to kill 1 million Vietnamese troops and 4 million civilians. They did this without regard for human life.
There were other consequences of expanding U.S. casualties. Already hundreds of thousands of U.S. youth — faced with a war that did nothing to further their interests nor those of their class sisters and brothers — were instead going to Canada, underground or to jail and mobilizing against the war, even reaching out to the troops, who joined the movement. A few combat troops got so angry they blew up their officers in Vietnam with fragmentation grenades.
Westmoreland wanted a million U.S. troops he could sacrifice for “victory.” U.S. political leaders saw this would only arouse more resistance. But had he gotten them, one of those reluctant troops might have rolled a grenade into his tent.
Gen. Giap’s troops would never have thought of doing such a thing.