Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Dien Bien Phu plus sixty years

Perhaps the most important date in many a male boomer's life happened 60 years ago today.  In an act of incredible determination, the revolutionary army of Vietnam was able to defeat the French colonial army in obscure town called Dien Bien Phu.  This victory was so astonishing that most of the "Western" geopolitical thinkers simply could not believe or accept that such a thing was possible.  So it became the result of Chinese troublemaking (in spite of the fact that the Chinese and Vietnamese have been enemies for centuries.)  Or it was merely a symptom of French decline (partly true but way less important than General Vo Nguyen Giap's military genius.)

Unfortunately for USA, there were crazy folks who thought that the old world order of colonial exploitation could be restored with a bigger dose of militarism from the mighty nation that had "saved the world" during World War II.  What is especially ironic is that USA became a nation as the result of an anti-colonial revolt and yet was now taking upon itself the organized theft that made colonialism so attractive to those who insist on living off the work of others.  The Dulles brothers, a couple of Wall Street thugs, had become Eisenhower's Secretary of State and CIA Director.  There were others who wanted USA to avenge the white man's embarrassment of Dien Bien Phu, of course, but the Dulles brothers were able to organize this historically insane war from the very top.

The USA was still fighting Giap in 1975 when the last of the USA's puppet governments collapsed in chaos.  And for most of those 21 years, the possibility one could be coerced into participate in this madness hung over the male population of the nation.  But our existential dread was insignificant compared to the pain inflicted on those Vietnamese who still believed colonialism was an evil worth resisting. The USA had butchered millions and literally poisoned the earth doing so.  But in the end, nothing could trump the reality that USA had somewhere else to go and the Vietnamese did not.  As Gandhi told the Brits, "In the end you will have to go home."

The USA never really recovered from this insane attempt to assault our own history.  The overwhelming majority wanted nothing to do with colonialism so those who did were forced to become expensive liars.  Democracy only works with an informed citizenry.  A country run by liars simply cannot have a functioning democracy.  And in the sixty years since USA's Predator Classes refused to believe some little "gooks" had soundly defeated the French, we have have been lied to so often that we will believe almost anything.  People with expensive educations are as pathetically ignorant as the people of the Dark Ages.  Senators from Oklahoma maintain that climate change is a hoax as their state bakes in 97°F heat on a May 6.  The downward spiral is almost out of control.  Turns out massive lying has consequences.

Vietnam marks historic victory against French colonialism

Text by Stéphanie TROUILLARD , Joseph BAMAT  2014-05-06

Amid numerous ceremonies in France this year marking the centenary of WWI and the 70th anniversary of D-day, another war milestone is being conveniently overlooked: the Viet Minh's defeat of French troops in Dien Bien Phu 60 years ago.

In Vietnam, however, memorial ceremonies and a full array of festive events were being held on Wednesday. To Vietnamese, the Dien Bien Phu battle that ended on May 7, 1954 was not just a heroic blow to its former colonial master, but a founding moment in the country’s history.

Commemorations were concentrated in Dien Bien Phu itself, near Vietnam’s northwest border with Laos. A full military parade was set to include members from the different branches of Vietnam’s military, as well as enlisted men and women marching in period garb. Wreaths were being laid and incense burned in honour of the battle’s fallen soldiers.

The rest of the country was also getting in on the excitement. “The victory belongs to all Vietnamese, so the festivities are being organised across the country,” Hao Tran, a presenter and reporter for Vietnam’s state television network, told FRANCE 24.

“Congratulatory billboards have been unfurled everywhere and each province is hosting its own music concert,” Tran added.

Special anniversary shows were also slated to take over Vietnamese television and radio airwaves nationwide.

“Television channels are going overboard with tons of documentaries,” said another TV journalist in Ho Chi Minh City who was not authorised to speak on the record. “Many shows have been pulled from the normal schedules to make room for special anniversary programming.”

He said that besides the fact that it was the 60th anniversary of the battle, commemorations this year had another particular significance: Vo Nguyen Giap – the general credited with crafting the triumph over the French – died in October, and Wednesday’s anniversary will be the first one without the venerated hero.

Historic miscalculation

The tactical genius and folly that were displayed in Dien Bien Phu have been carefully studied and frequently commented on over the past half century, but the battle is perhaps most significant as a milestone in the history of liberation movements worldwide.

When French colonial forces in Indochina began setting up a base in the strategic Dien Bien Phu valley in November 1953, they miscalculated General Giap’s ability to surround their position and move tons of artillery by hand and over rough jungle terrain.

The French surrendered after a two-month siege that has been likened to the gruesome trench warfare of World War I, and in which the Viet Minh sacrificed some 10,000 lives. The First Indochina War ended shortly after the battle, effectively finishing France’s colonial presence in East Asia.

As the Vietnamese drew a curtain over the conflict with French forces, new hostilities against the United States of America were just beginning. For its own part, France would soon be drawn into another war in Algeria (1954-62), which would signal its death as a colonial power.

No resentment

While the Dien Bien Phu victory seems to be an unremitting source of pride for Vietnamese, the TV presenter Tran says Wednesday’s commemorations cannot be summed up as jingoistic revelry.

“It’s a moment that marked the history of Vietnam, so we always want to celebrate it, but not to show any arrogance,” Tran said.

“In Vietnam we want peace, we are done with war. We say that our unity allowed us to win at Dien Bien Phu, and unity will allow us to develop our country. That’s what the victory should inspire in people today,” he noted.

As for lingering resentment toward the French, Tram says to look elsewhere. “There is no [anger] left, even among most veterans, and less so when it comes to young people.” more

1 comment:

  1. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.