"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Sunday, December 02, 2018

On The Vietnam War with Sir Max

Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum: EP6 On The Vietnam War with Sir Max

"The key thing that has changed meanwhile, is that, I very much bought into the idea that not only was this a disastrous war, which indeed it was, but because the United States was tied up with a bad cause, that therefore the other side's must be a good cause. And I've now come to believe, having studied a huge amount of material from North Vietnam and from the communist side and so on that really north and south Vietnam, I've come to believe, were two rival tyrannies.

And the idea that Ho Chi Minh was a good guy, anymore than Mao Zedong was, or Che Guevara, these were absolutely ruthless revolutionaries. And they did terrible stuff. And whereas everybody has seen the pictures of the South Vietnamese police chief executing the Vietcong prisoner in 1968 and the naked kid running away after a South Vietnamese napalm strike.

The Communists made very sure that there were no photographs of many of the dreadful things that their side did, the terrorism that, I mean, for instance, there's an entirely reliably sourced story of one of many village chiefs who was being buried alive in the Mekong Delta in the early 1960s by the local communists in front of all his fellow villagers, to demonstrate that the price of, of rejecting the revolution was much worse than mere death. And he pleaded for a merciful bullet and the communists cadres just said that they saved their bullets, for the, for the imperialists, and in the Tet offensive of 1968, when thousands of perfectly innocent people whose worst crime was to support the South Vietnamese government were executed in cold blood by the communists, again, no pictures, and we didn't see all this stuff...

We saw in 1975, that when the communists gained power, the ruthlessness and the incompetence with which they behaved, starvation descended on the Vietnamese people in the 1980s, and any idea that the other side were the good guys now seems to be out of order. And I have come strongly to believe what is true of most events in history, that neither side had a monopoly of virtue or vice...

‘Walt Boomer said, said to me, he said, nothing, he said, in my lifetime, has changed America more than Vietnam. He said, it created a mistrust and a suspicion of government and of the people in charge that we've never been able to undo.’...

‘The credibility gap… Americans would believe their president most of the time, regardless of which party he even was and that’s never been the same…

‘Kennedy was both courageous and bold at the time of the of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which could have gone horribly wrong. But sometimes when presidents, I mean, Lyndon Johnson terribly wanted to be seen, to be courageous and to be doing the right thing as the leader of the United States by sending in troops to Vietnam. But of course, he got it wrong.

But what I'd like to feel is that through my own narratives, one is all the time trying to realize that governments are trying to do very difficult things. I don't just mean the United States government in the context of Vietnam but most governments most of the time.

And the same way for military commanders. I mean, I've seen enough wars myself as a reporter. One’s seen enough terrible things on the battlefield that it is very difficult to fight wars. It is not as my father and his friends used to say, oh it's all a great wrong. It's very tough out there on the battlefield and, and I find that at the age of 72 I have a huge sympathy for the people that make the decisions that I didn't have when I was a stupid young kid’...

I think that many of the reporters who served in Vietnam did an outstanding job of reporting entirely accurately what they themselves saw and knew but where they failed was because there's so much going on on the other side that they had no access to. That all the incredibly bad stuff that the other side was doing never got any sort of show. And I quite understand, in a very small way I was party to it myself… you were witness to the corruption and the incompetence of the South Vietnamese government but we just didn't pay enough attention to stuff we couldn't see...

On the one hand, a lot of senior Americans did not tell the truth to the world about what was happening. But on the other hand, America did preserve a commitment that was very honorable to let us see for ourselves. So that in a way that's never been repeated in any war since, that if any of us sort of didn't believe what we were being told about some battle going off in the middle of nowhere, we could get access. And me as a British journalist, as much as anybody on fixed wing aircraft and helicopters to go out there and look for ourselves. And the Communists would never let anybody but Jane Fonda go up and see what the hell was going on in their neck of the woods...

The late 60s... all sorts of stuff got tangled up together. It was the worldwide youth movement against the established order and the revolt against the old sexual morality and the enthusiasm of pot and all this stuff got rolled up with Vietnam and you've got to remember kids in those days were putting posters on their college walls of Mao Zedong, who anybody who knows anything knows was one of the great mass murderers of the 20th century up there with Hitler so there was incredible naivety among the kids... one of the things that drove the protest movement was the fact that a lot of them were terrified of being drafted. That they were afraid they were going to have to waste two years of their lives in uniform and maybe lose their lives all together...

‘The supreme irony of the war, if you go to Vietnam today, if you said to an American in about 66, how would you like Saigon to look in 2018? Well, actually, it’ll be pretty much the way it looks now. And although it's still a very unpleasant totalitarian state in Vietnam they do now have license to make money. They all want to be Americans. They're incredibly nice to Americans, because they realize that the American system is worth, countless more valuable and countless more valued than that their own wretched government. But they're all completely hooked on American culture and on making money... while the United States failed in Vietnam, with B-52s and spooky gunships and defoliation, that the United States triumphed with Johnny Depp and YouTube. But what we've learned is that economic forces can be at least as important if not more so than soldiers in deciding how history plays out’

‘My stepfather always said just drop blue jeans, rock and roll and Playboy magazine on them and they'll become Americans’"
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