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Galbraith vs Pearlstein on JFK and Vietnam

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I guess we all missed this.

In the pages of the Nation no less.


Galbraith is the son of John K. Galbraith, a chief Kennedy advisor and later ambassador to India. HIs background on this and his interest stem from what his Dad told him about Kennedy.

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James D,

Thanks for that The Nation article by James K. Galbraith. I've seen a lot by the younger Galbraith, but this one is great for its brevity AND its countering the garden-variety "liberal" consensus about JFK and Vietnam, here as put forth by Rick Perlstein. (RP's Nixonland is very decent, though wordy, can be used as a doorstop.)

Nam is the thing that drives me craziest about JFKA. Vietnam before and after 1964 is like day and night. I was only in fourth grade 11-22-63, but I had big ears. Listened to adults' conversation, read the newspapers. The word Vietnam was never mentioned. 1965, first mention of Da Nang, where our first combat troops were sent. Summer '64, Gulf of Tonkin Resolution abortion. Then, end of 1965, VN was all over the place. That execrable song "Ballad of the Green Beret(s)" was shoved down our throat, even in my sixth grade classroom. It was mass hysteria-hypnosis-psychosis. An Apocalypse that ushered in The New Dark Age.

Just a few facts:

-- We dropped 2-3 times more bombs on SE Asia than the entire world did in WW2, something like 8 million tons, including

Geneva Convention-illegal anti-personnel devices out the wazoo. JFK didn't drop a one.

-- We murdered around 2 million SE Asians, mostly farmers, women and children. When we napalmed/white phosphorused

villages, usually 3/4 of the burn victims were women and children. USA! USA!

-- Of the nearly 60,000 GIs killed, 61% were not yet 20 years old, not old enough to buy a beer today. Not one combat

death under Kennedy; there were only about 100 adviser/adventurers who mostly killed each other treating military

ordnance and equipment like toys, vision of things to come. Average combat KIA in WW2 was something like 27 years old.

-- There were a hundred My Lais, it was the rule, not the exception. Not one like it under Kennedy.

-- The war resulted in fragging - the most desperate measure of all desperate measures. The underground paper

GI Says offered a $10K cash ($50K today) bounty for Weldon Honeycutt, commander at Hamburger Hill. Officers

walked around on base with bodyguards. Truth about the thousands of frags and frag threats is suppressed to this day.

-- Bombs are still going off in Laos and Cambodia. None of them were put there by Kennedy.

John Kennedy refused to be bum-rushed into military conflict EVERY TIME. Historians who contend that "Oh well, we'll never know what he would have done in Vietnam" are perfect proof of what has happened to America. Day is night, and up is down. By that kind of thinking, we'll never know if Gandhi would have turned to animal mutilation in his 80th year, and Jesus Christ and the Apostles would have turned to robbing old ladies had He lived. We'll never know according to America's coprocephalic historians.

(Edited 9/12/16 for error in 2nd P -- year of Tonkin was wrong. Boy ol' LBJ got the war machine going fast!)

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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Thanks for that thoughtful and honest reply.

The comment that reverberates with me the most is this one:

-- There were a hundred My Lais, it was the rule, not the exception. Not one like it under Kennedy.

​This is absolutely true. It was first exposed by the Winter Soldier hearings in Michigan and Mark Lane's book Conversations with Americans.

It was then documented by Nick Turse in his book Kill Anything that Moves. ​The Pentagon deliberately hid these instances in order to conceal them from the public since My Lai had dealt such a body blow to support for the war.

The war simply could not be won. As France found out in 1954. Kennedy knew that since he was there back then.

Edited by James DiEugenio
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I've read Perlstein's Nixonland and The Invisible Bridge. One of his tactics as a historian is to characterize strategies and motivations in quick, shoot-from-the-hip descriptions and epithets ("bugout plan," "closet peacenik"). When his judgments are accurate, this audacious style works. In the opposite, the style is a methodological liability, and can lead to big-picture misrepresentations, as with JFK's Vietnam strategy

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By the way, let me add something about this.

Among his many achievements, Mark Lane did a lot to counter the escalation of the VIetnam War. As far as ferrying Vietnamese who were training in America to fight across the Canadian border. (Click here for some of those achievements http://ctka.net/2016/book-review-citizen-lane/mark-lane-part-ii-citizen-lane.html)

Lane was also involved with the Winter Soldier hearings. Which was really the first full-scale exposure of the horrendous atrocities America was executing in Vietnam, since the Army did not know how to fight an enemy who, as JFK said, was everywhere and nowhere and had the support of the populace. Lane interviewed people who testified and did not testify in Detroit. Some of these former soldiers did not want to use their real names in the book since they thought the government would retaliate against them. So in the preface to his book, Conversations with Americans, he notes this, and he writes that he turned over a directory of the real and assumed names to a former Justice Department lawyer.

Well, Neil Sheehan of the NY Times, pulled a rabbit punch, as the Times usually does. He wrote that he took some of the names out of the book and gave them to the Pentagon, and guess what, they could not find them! Now does that show you how bad the Times was or what?

Well, on his completely agenda driven web site, John McAdams uses this to go after Lane. Without ever mentioning what Lane wrote in his preface! He then tries to protect Sheehan by implicating that he was as anti war as Lane. When most people know that as a young reporter in Vietnam both Sheehan and David Halberstam supported the war effort; but under the influence of Jean Paul Vann, they wanted a larger American commitment and more varied tactics and training. It was not until years later that Sheehan (and Halberstam) began to understand that their hero Vann might have been wrong. (BTW, Kennedy did not want Vann talking to the Pentagon guys at home, because he understood what he was up to. And he was against it.)

Lane was right in this regard. And Turse's book bears him out.

And Kennedy was correct in his prognosis-- bolstered by his talks with MacArthur-- that the American army should not be committed to fight a hopeless war in the jungles of Indochina.

Edited by James DiEugenio
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  • 3 weeks later...

Vis a vis Southeast Asia now:

President Obama, during his 9-day tour of Asia, visited LAOS, the only U.S. president to do so. While there he promised $90 Million toward cleaning up the unexploded ordnance (UXO) that litters the landscape and lurks just barely beneath the surface. Over 40 years ago we dropped 2 million tons of bombs on Laos, about a quarter of the SE Asia total. We had the Plain of Jars, the world's most fertile farmland, looking like the surface of the moon for a while there.

In the time between Election 1960 and Inauguration, Ike pushed hardest for troops into Laos. Jack said, "What the ___? He had eight years to invade Laos and he didn't do it. Why now? Why me?" If only he'd seen it the same way about the bum's rush to the Bay of Pigs...

Estimates put those killed by these bombs going off by a farmer's plow or by a brush-clearing fire at at least 20,000 and as many as 50,000. The number of those permanently injured were at least 3 times the killed.

What yaks me is that there has been practically nothing about this in electronic or print media. If you blinked you missed it. And I can find practically nothing on the web about it, the particulars that is.

Obama is the political twin of Kennedy. It's no coincidence that Caroline Kennedy is Ambassador to Japan right now, when BHO was over there. Thank goodness for BHO AND JFK. Grousers who point out the specks in their eyes (BHO - Libya, drones; JFK - Bay of Pigs, MIC extravagance) should remember --1) You have to play with the hand you're dealt; 2) Only God is perfect. With species homo sapiens, you have to judge a leader's success COMPARED to others in similar situations, and especially the Trends before and after.

(Edited 9-20-16 for amount promised by BHO -- $90 Million -- first full sentence)

Edited by Roy Wieselquist
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