U.S. Militarism: Talking Peace, Making War

By Doug Dowd


The U.S. is by no means unique in aggressing while “talking peace.” In the histories of western countries in the past several centuries, it is difficult to find even one instance of any nation going to war that did not, in one way or another, spin its actions while talking peace before, during, and after.

Because we as a people are almost entirely ignorant of that part of our own history, what follows includes lengthy summaries of it — not least in order to provide perspective on our war against Iraq.

The U.S. has been unique in one respect; namely, it has lacked any rationale for attacking others. We have been more than self-sufficient in natural resources: in our agricultural and mineral resources of all kinds; plus our great rivers, lakes, and seashores providing us with abundant water (and fish), cheap transportation and many trading ports.

So it was that once our “Manifest Destiny” led us to complete our “Westward Expansion” not only were we easily able to move toward becoming the strongest economy in the world, but the vast seas surrounding us — 7,000 miles wide to the West, 3,000 to the East — protected us from all enemies.

We barely broke sweat to kick or buy out the French, British, Dutch, Spanish, Mexicans, and Russians — who had deigned to occupy “American” soil and who had just as much and just as little right to “America” as we. But, just as we achieved our independence in large part because the British were too far from their own shores to fight a prolonged war against us, so it was for the other Europeans. And the Mexicans never had a chance.

That total security has been intruded upon only twice: during World War II when the Japanese bombed our Hawaiian colony (2,000 miles distant from the continent) and, of course, the 9/11 attack.

Nevertheless, the U.S. was involved in dozens of declared and undeclared wars in North, Central, and South America and in North Africa, Asia and the Pacific Islands in the 150 years of our nationhood before those two attacks. [1]

In sum, whether for purposes of resources or safety, the U.S. has never had any supportable reason for going to war. Despite that, our citizenry has always been enthusiastically in support of, or indifferent to, our many wars — with one exception: Vietnam. And, as will be discussed further, that resistance took hold only after many years of our unsuccessful military involvement there.

One of the songs of the Vietnam antiwar movement was “When will they ever learn?” What it was thought had been learned from that war was called “the Vietnam syndrome” — as though being against war were a social disease.

The “power elite’s” cure for that disease took hold in the 1970s and was effectively achieved during the Reagan years. It was accompanied by what Du Boff called the “corporate counter-attack.” whose now accomplished aim was to undo the modest but important socioeconomic reforms from the 1930s into the 1960s.

Those who led and supported Reaganism were not only against peaceniks, unions, civil rights, high taxes on the rich, governmental social security and health care, and all regulations; they were also for, most especially, high and rising military expenditures (hereafter: milex).

The main corporations involved in the “counter-attack” were among the top beneficiaries of the “military-industrial complex” (Eisenhower’s designation, as he left the presidency).

They (and many of their workers) wanted the U.S. public to unlearn about war, so that the dollars could continue to flow — surely did and do: over $12 trillion in military expenditures and their cost-plus contracts, 1946-1999. [2] And this is how some of that milex was put to use.

World War II had barely ended when the U.S. resumed the military interventions that began with our birth and have never ceased. Here, some of the best-known since 1945 (others before that will be noted later):

the financing and arming of the French in Vietnam, 1945-1954, followed soon after by our secret military interventions in Vietnam made “legal” by the spurious Tonkin Gulf Resolution of August, 1964. [3]

the financing and arming of Israel from 1948 onwards. [4]

the Korean War, 1950-53. [5]

the CIA overthrow of democratically elected leaders such as Mossadegh in Iran, 1953; [6] of Arbenz in Guatemala, 1954; [7] of Lumumba in the Congo, 1961; [8] of Sukarno in Indonesia, 1965; [9] of Allende in Chile, 1973; [10] the attempts to overthrow Castro before and after the Bay of Pigs, 1961; [11]

the payment for and delivery of weapons to right-wing armies to undo or prevent democratic governments in Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador; [12]

the arming and financing of the Taliban in Afghanistan to provoke the Soviet Union, late 1970s; [13] plus a substantial number of known, suspected, and likely events on every continent. [14]

All wars have their special qualities, but they also have much in common. What follows will focus upon the meaning of both the differences and the similarities between U.S. and other nations’ wars, especially as regards the fear and morale of our troops — keeping in mind the twisted nature of the war in Iraq, and what are likely to be its unintended and disastrous consequences for all concerned.

Among wars’ many common features most relevant for today are:

1) their generally dubious rationales, 2) the influence of the involved nations’ previous wars, 3) the distortions by the adversaries of each other’s character and their misguided beliefs concerning each other’s weaknesses; and, especially for the U.S. since 1950, 4) the unrealistic expectations for advanced military technologies. Their interaction largely determines wars’ domestic support and, of course, the morale of the frontline soldiers, as they undergo the swirling mix of boredom, confusion, fear, and demoralization of combat duty.

All that will be discussed as we go on; I begin with a brief analysis of the striking divergence between the “costs and benefits” of 20th century wars, set against those of others.

The Arithmetic of Slaughter

An examination of our wars since 1917 will show that the Iraqi War will be unique in our military history; not because (as with Korea and Vietnam) we have “bitten off more than we can chew,” but because this time it will be both more difficult to remain, as we have done in Korea or to leave, as with Vietnam. And there is much more at stake both at home and abroad no matter which we do.

Of the many elements relevant to that judgment, the most important is perhaps the least obvious; namely, our very limited experience with war’s suffering compared with almost all other nations. The only exception to that was the Civil War. Then more than six percent of our white male population were killed (600,000+) and at least twice that number were wounded.

The dead and wounded from our 20th century wars as measured in absolute terms were of course substantial; but unlike other countries’ experiences, as a percentage of our population, combatant casualties have always been minimal with virtually no civilian casualties. Compare:

First, U.S. losses; then others’:

World War I: 110,000 (half from combat) + 200,000 wounded, of a population of over 100 million. World War II, 400,000 dead + 670,000 wounded, of a population over 145 million. Korea and Vietnam, with under 100,000 dead altogether, and many more wounded (U.S. population, respectively, about 150 million and 200 million for those wars).

Those were terrible numbers for the killed and wounded and their families, but they were slight when compared with those of Europe in the two world wars. The aggregated relevant European populations were three to four times that of the U.S. but their dead were at least fifteen times ours in World War I and over one hundred times ours in World War II:

In World War I, eight million European soldiers were killed and more than fifteen million were wounded, plus the first large numbers of civilian dead (ca. two million); in World War II, sixty million were killed in Europe (almost half of them in the Soviet Union alone, mostly civilians). Countless more were wounded and geographically uprooted; all that was worsened by the substantial destruction of cities, farms, factories and all transportation. Then note that the Pacific War had its beginnings in the early 1930s, so that for the Chinese and Japanese and, later, the peoples of Southeast Asia, death and destruction were also great. [15]

The tens of thousands of U.S. dead and wounded in the Korean and Vietnam Wars were also relatively mild.

The combined populations of all of Korea, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were well under half of ours, but at least three million Koreans and one million Chinese died in that war, and at least another three million died in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia — plus many millions of civilians wounded or seriously injured (or killed) by napalm and Agent Orange. And, as in Europe, there was the destruction of agriculture, cities, and forests, and the continuing existence of millions of lethal land-mines in their countries.

None of that has occurred in the United States. Apart from all else, then, the relevance of those numbers is that in the affected countries of Europe and of Asia, almost every family has suffered deep pain and losses from war; whereas, except for our Civil War, well under one percent of U.S. families has ever had reason to know that “war is hell.”

Those numbers alone go a long way to explaining why, as has been said, “The people of the United States have not learned to hate war enough”. an attitude strengthened by our long-standing view that we are invulnerable.

As indeed we were, until modern technology narrowed those oceans and allowed both Pearl Harbor and 9/11 to happen. Both were tragedies, but with a total death toll of less than 6,000. While the rest of the world rightly sympathized in both cases, those do not seem like large numbers to them.

Now, and even though we have found ourselves to be vulnerable, we continue to lack a realistic view of war. Fear of possible terrorist attacks here is of course high, but instead of increasing our opposition to war it has not only made it even more acceptable than earlier, but going to war “preemptively” has been all too easily accepted — with, as usual, the enduring belief that, somehow, our extraordinary weaponry will prevail and renew our invulnerability. We continue — accurately — to expect relatively low casualties for “our own”; while, at the same time, we continue to show little concern for the very high casualties of others from our “weapons of mass destruction.”

We have learned to euphemize that destruction as “collateral damage.” The U.S. provides little or no information on Iraqi civilian casualties. But a British medical agency has determined that Iraqi civilian deaths had reached over 100,000 by 2005′s end — as compared with the 7,000 maximum one finds in U.S. reports (see below).

In sum, our war history has “spoiled us rotten” (or worse). Vital to our perverse learning process were the numerous and almost effortless “little wars” we fought before 1917. Other than making heroes out of “Indian remover” Andrew Jackson and others like him, the customary admiration and misinformation as to just what those heroes did, and how and why and to whom, would be seen as war crimes today. Or should be, as what follows here suggests.

The Ugly Truth

The late and esteemed U.S. historian W.A. Williams described the 150+ mostly “little” and mostly undeclared wars noted above, from our beginnings as a nation. Until Pearl Harbor none could be seen as defensive. We tracked down, pushed aside, rounded up, and/or killed all the “natives” and the soldiers of nations that stood in our way on this continent; that done, we began to flex our muscles abroad. [16]

Until the end of the 19th century, our population was widely-scattered, largely illiterate and uninformed, and only rarely involved in national politics; before our 1898-99 aggressions in Cuba and the Philippines there was no need to provide the public with “a reason why” for military exploits: We were simply “moving west” into what was “ours.”

But the construction of such a rationale for Cuba was seen as necessary by William Randolph Hearst — and, for him, profitable. So it was that, clumsily but effectively, he put forth his razzle-dazzle “yellow press” deceptions about “the sinking of the Maine.” (See the surprisingly critical novel of Elmore Leonard, Cuba Libre.)

For both patriotic and economic reasons, support came easily — especially from the then politically important farmers, who hoped that our geographic expansion would give health to their then sagging markets. [17]

From Cuba to the Philippines was geographically but not politically a giant step. We invaded and then “annexed” the islands in 1899 — “in order to liberate the Filipinos from colonial rule” — and occupied them until after World War II.

Having taken over almost all the islands between San Francisco and China, we then marched southward, slicing Panama out of Colombia, and making Nicaragua and Guatemala safe for U.S. companies. Those were major wars for the many thousands killed in the process – 200,000-300,000 Filipinos, alone; for the folks at home it was, if anything, a juicy item in the news.

Those were the last of our small and easy wars. To get us into our first big one, World War I, it was necessary somehow to develop and refine the media art now called “spin.” The first invention mothered by that necessity was public relations. We have become so accustomed to being PR’d that it now seems it has always existed. It has not; it was born in its present form in 1916, as our pacifist internationalist President Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election.

World War One: The End of Innocence Begins

That war had been going for two years in Europe when Wilson sought re-election. With his left hand he campaigned to keep us out of the war — “It is a war with which we have nothing to do,” he said; with his right hand he quietly hired Edward L. Bernays, the grandfather of PR and modern advertising (and, oddly, the nephew of Sigmund Freud) to sell the war. That was made easier by what had been a lagging economy since 1912, but which was boosted by rising exports to the British and the French from the war’s onset.

In November of 1916, Wilson was duly re-elected. Months before the election Bernays had begun his first campaign. He sent paid speakers around the country to civic clubs (Elks, Rotary, etc.), and provided the press with ample incentive and opportunity to learn its lines. [18]

Home radio didn’t begin until the mid-1920s; TV awaited the 1950s. The PR campaign meant providing the speakers and newspapers with endless news stories: about German soldiers’ sexual abuse of Belgian nuns, their machine-gunning of innocent civilians in French villages, and their forcing of children to serve as decoys on the front lines.

So when German subs did begin to sink U.S. ships carrying military provisions to the British, Uncle Sam easily slid into war.

“All in good cause”: When the U.S. declared war against Germany in April of 1917, Wilson proclaimed that sheer decency required the United States to do so (in his words) “In order to make the world safe for democracy.”

Well, we “won the war” but, somehow, between that victory for democracy and World War II half a dozen nations became totalitarian; none had been before. And, in case you have forgotten, World War Two was again the “war to end all wars.”

Millions were drafted in the States in 1917, but the war was sold well enough so that many eagerly lined up to enlist. Ultimately two million of our five million new soldiers went to France — to prance through Paree shouting “Lafayette, we are here!” and other fun and games. Then, in the spring of 1918 war became serious for them and the fun stopped

World War One was the nastiest ever — up to then. It was marked by the widespread use of mass killers: murderous trench warfare, machine guns, tanks, poison gas, and (by today’s standards, quaint) aerial bombing. Its most haunting memory for those who survived was having been trapped for weeks at a time in stinking corpse- and mud-filled trenches — as battle lines staggered back and forth a few yards every day, month after month, year after year. [19]

Numbing fear, utter demoralization and insanity, searing wounds and death, soon became the war’s trademarks for those in the trenches.

The war’s horrors were portrayed in fiction for the Germans in All Quiet on the Western Front, for the British in the poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegried Sassoon, for the front-line Yanks in the trilogy U.S.A. of Dos Passos and, most recently, by the brilliant trilogy of Pat Barker, of Britain. Read ‘em and weep.

All of that hit the European soldiers exponentially harder than those from the U.S. Although passionate nationalism may once have let the Europeans believe in the war, by the time the Yanks landed they had been killing each other for almost three years, and both sides were worn to a frazzle. Our troops, fresh and well-armed, were engaged in combat for a total of only eight months, beginning April of 1918 and ending in November, mostly in the relatively less lethal rolling offensives (as compared with those earlier that went “back-and-forth”). With few exceptions, the U.S. divisions plunged ahead, and the war ended.

The immediate postwar years in the United States were very different from those in Europe: The Twenties were called “the prosperity decade” and “the jazz age” in the States. Although such terms were applicable to much less than a majority of the population, they were much more favorable than what was happening in the social and political upheaval throughout Europe: revolution in Russia (during the war), counter-revolution in Italy; then, to one degree or another, jolting politics in virtually all of Europe and, as well, in China and Japan — and economic desperation almost everywhere.

The world economy had been precariously situated before 1914, so much so that its crises may be seen as fueling the war. But the war pushed Europe over the precipice and into the depths of a depression as unprecedented as the war itself. The gates opened for an even worse war. [20]

World War I officially ended with the “armistice” of 1918; essentially a cease-fire. Only it turned out to be that it was followed by intermittent wars in Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia and, in Spain in 1936, a civil war.

It was more than a “civil” war; to one serious degree or another, it involved all of the major powers and was effectively the first set of battles of World War II.

The Good War

The focus here is on the United States, so little attention will be given to the other nations involved; but keep in mind their massive war casualties, infra- structural destruction, and socio-political collapse.

The relatively limited casualties of the U.S. have been noted. In all other respects, the economic, political and social consequences of the war were as positive for us as they were devastating for the Europeans.

World War II was more strengthening for our economy and health-giving for our society than any other period in our history. [21] Now a recounting of the earlier-noted “relevant factors” of war itself.

Except for World War II, my knowledge of the wars discussed here has been second-hand. I was in the army for four years, in New Guinea and the Philippines (air-sea rescue, with the 309th Bomb Group) and, as well, with the infantry (“on loan”) for several months for an invasion in New Britain. I was with the Regimental Combat Team of the 112th Cavalry (!) — of which Norman Mailer was a rifleman (!!) — whose Commanding General was a Texan brigadier who had Colt revolvers on both hips (each with a photo of a naked woman on the handle). We were “cavalry,” but had no horses (or even tanks).

I note the foregoing in connection with the generalizations that follow; namely, although combat conditions in the Pacific War were notably different from those in Europe, what I observed directly and learned indirectly persuaded me that the fear and morale of the troops in both Europe and the Pacific were similar, in the specific sense that there was relatively very little demoralization in Pacific War.

The U.S. was attacked by the Japanese, so the public needed no “rationale” when we declared war against them. (We did not declare war against the Germans; they did so against us.) Although many volunteered, most who served in the war were drafted. Whether in the Pacific or in Europe, it was virtually unnecessary to discuss “the character” of the enemy; with some accuracy, our enemies were seen by us as villainous and brutal. In my experience, with some accuracy we could also be seen as brutal by them, with or without Hiroshima/Nagasaki.

For at least two years after Pearl Harbor we were very much on the defensive; not only had we been attacked but, for the first time ever, our military strength was noticeably inferior: the Japanese ruled on land and sea and in the air. For those in combat, until early 1944 it seemed clear that we were losing the war. Rather than demoralization, that tended to stiffen spines and to counter at least some fears.

The infantry fighting almost always began with a landing and continued in a jungle. It was carried out in an atmosphere of high uncertainty and fear — but, and unlike Vietnam and, even more, Iraq, those of us doing the fighting could identify the source and reasonably predict the timing of assaults. In three years under those conditions I observed no significant demoralization, let alone, as became common in Vietnam, desertion or the killing of officers.

Understandably, there were indeed some who suffered mental breakdown (and were “Section 8-ed”); I came close to it myself. But that was occasioned not by anger or indignation of having been betrayed by a deceptive government but by the sheer horror of combat: in the Pacific, heightened until late 1944, especially among ground troops, by the belief that most of us would not survive that war.

This is not to overlook that, as always in the military, there was constant wry and inconsequential grumbling. Already before the war began, GIs characterized military life as SNAFU: situation normal, all fucked up. By 1943, that had become TARFU: things are really fucked up. By 1945 it was FUBAR: fucked up beyond all recognition. As indeed it was; to be so is a virtual trademark of the military, even, perhaps especially in wartime.

By late 1944, our military strength in both the Pacific and Europe had become quantitatively and qualitatively a distinct cut above anything the enemy might use — even without the atomic bomb.

Attitudes then changed: despair tended to disappear and hope began to rise, sensibly. But, because of the war’s clear rationale, morale was only rarely an issue: then it became just a matter of time and a little luck and we’d be home. We have had no such war since then.

The Cold War Gets Hot: Korea and Indochina

The rationale of “weapons of mass destruction” for our invasion of Iraq had its functional precedents in Korea and Vietnam. Our pretense for landing in Korea was that the North Koreans, said to be inspired by the Soviet Union, had invaded South Korea.

Similarly, in Vietnam, the Viet Minh of the North and, subsequently, the NLF (National Liberation Front) of the South were described — absurdly as will be seen — as pawns of Communist China: the United States had to stop the Communists then and there, or Korea would be followed by Japan; Vietnam — where our secret involvement had begun even before Korea — would be but the first of many “dominoes” extending to the Mediterranean which, one after another, would be toppled by… the Soviet Union, or China, or both, or….something. [22]

(Before going on, it is worth pointing out that the Vietnamese defeated us and yet, mysteriously, not only did not a single “domino” to the West fall, but by 1979 the Chinese had invaded Vietnam — thus resuming an enmity going back a thousand years. Details, details.)


On the long list of peoples whose societies have been devastated by invaders over the centuries, Korea stands very close to the top. Since their ancient beginnings the Koreans have had the misfortune to be bounded by China on the mainland and to be a stone’s throw from Japan. Both have viewed Korea’s human and natural resources as worth a war.

When the Pacific War ended in 1945 the Koreans were once more seen as exploitable objects, if for different reasons; the looming tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union engineered the division of Korea into North and South:

Japanese armies, according to the Soviet-American agreement, were disarmed north of the 38th parallel by Russia and south of the line by the United States. Lengthy conferences failed to unify the nation, for neither the Soviets nor the Americans wanted to chance the possibility that a unified Korea would move into the opposing camp. [23]

As would happen later in Vietnam with the 17th parallel, the dividing line cut across and separated natural areas of geography, culture, and climate. The foreseeable result was considerable confusion and conflict and, by the late 1940s, military incursions by Koreans from both sides, building up to civil war. Each side repeatedly crossed the border to the other, with military intent. [24]

The rationale for U.S. armed intervention was the stated need to respond to an invasion from the north; however, the facts for preceding months had provided equal justification for both sides. The Soviet Union and the United States, each in its own way, took steps to expand geographically, the former in Czechoslovakia, the U.S. in Korea; Czechoslovakia had been occupied by the Germans, Korea by the Japanese. The respected Asian scholar Chalmers Johnson tells what happened:

Both countries now underwent transformations into colonies of the victors of World War II. At about the time of the Communist coup d’etat in Prague [1948], right-wing forces in the southern half of divided Korea, then under control of the United States, were slaughtering at least 30,000 dissident peasants…, part of a process by which [Syngman Rhee's] puppet regime in South Korea… consolidated its power; a government every bit as unpopular as Gotwald’s Stalinist government in Czechoslovakia. Gotwald and Rhee were prototypes of the faceless bureaucrats the Soviets and the Americans would use for the next forty years to govern their “captive nations….” [25]

A de facto civil war had begun already by 1948-49. Had that civil war been fought out by the Koreans without foreign intervention, doubtless there would have been bloodshed and damage, but nothing approaching the great human physical, and social damage of the Korean War, or the grave distortions of the lives of the peoples of both sides during the war and for the half-century following it. Left to themselves, not least because their available weaponry was minimal, it is quite simply inconceivable that their civil war would have killed the many millions it did, let alone have destroyed the cities of the North, as we did in our eliminative bombing of them. And this says nothing of the prolonged fascist dictatorship of “our Rhee,” the harsh dictatorship of the North, or the continuing and insanely armed border, with its 37,000 U.S. troops.

Ah! But wouldn’t China and/or the Soviet Union have intervened militarily had the U.S. stayed out of the civil war? No. It is extremely unlikely that the Soviet Union could have intervened militarily, given its postwar weakness and the distances involved. And the Chinese did intervene, but well after the war had begun, and after General MacArthur had issued statements about the desirability not only of bombing China, but of “nuking” it — behavior which, it is pertinent to add, led not only to his being recalled by Truman but, in consequence of that, a significantly supported presidential campaign by MacArthur.

Now we’ll never know; but we do know what did happen, and it is unlikely that anything worse than that catastrophe would have occurred, had the Koreans been left to themselves.

What was the reaction to this war from those who did the fighting and those at home? The U.S. soldiers in Korea were almost entirely draftees and called-back (from World War II) reservists. They suffered through it as though in a prolonged nightmare; nor was there noticeable domestic opposition from the war’s beginning to its end. The political momentum of World War II’s patriotism, taken together with the Cold War and McCarthyism, assured that what little resistance there was would be easily vilified. The jubilation at the end of “the war to end all wars” was easily displaced by amorphous fear.

It is significant that the now ample literature showing the deceptive nature of the war’s rationale and conduct did not even begin to appear — except for one book — until a quarter century after its end. That one book was I.F. Stone’s Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-1951. Because no U.S. publisher would handle it, it saw the light of day only when a new publishing house (Monthly Review Press) was expressly created for its publication.

What was more surprising was that — belatedly, but slowly and surely — a substantial opposition to Vietnam did arise even as the Cold War’s virulence was still ascending; how and why that occurred (see below) is distinctly relevant to the war in Iraq.

As remarked earlier, the Korean and Vietnam Wars are the only wars the U.S. has ever lost — nor is it unimportant that the U.S. having lost them does not generally admit it. Of great interest, therefore, are the sharp contrasts not only in domestic support but, as well, in the morale and behavior of U.S. troops in Korea with those in Vietnam — despite the fact that both wars were terrifying for the troops and that tens of thousands were killed in both.

Many who read this will be familiar with the whimsical film/TV show placed in the Korean War: “Mash.” There has not been, nor will there ever be such a comic portrayal of the Vietnam War or of the war in Iraq. The troops in Korea were, to a significant degree, veterans of World War II. That might well have led many of them to be bitter, but if so they were serving in a context where such feelings remained private: the media in the early 50s, by comparison even with Vietnam (to say nothing of now) were effectively non-existent, as was any noticeable opposition at home.

During Korea, few indeed, either in combat or at home, would dare think, let alone act, against the U.S. war. World War II had led the people of the United States to believe that it was WE — not the enduring resistance of the British and the Soviets and the maquis and the partigiani — who had won that “good war”; now WE had to stand fast against two unutterably sinister nations. Then, only then, could we, or anyone, live in a peaceful and democratic world: the whole world was watching. First Korea, then Vietnam.

Indochina: Our Reason(s) Why

U.S. involvements in Indochina started with Vietnam in 1945; as time went on, their devastating effects took hold in Laos and Cambodia; they constitute one of the most sordid and deadly episodes of our history, a string of deceptions that became a thick rope.

The deceptions began almost immediately after FDR died in April, 1945. In the years 1944-45, the Viet Minh cooperated with U.S. air-sea rescue operations (of which I was a part), through the OSS (predecessor of the CIA) in North Vietnam. In connection with that relationship, FDR made an agreement with Ho Chi Minh that the U.S. would see to it that Vietnam would become independent after the war. [26]

When FDR died and was replaced by Truman that agreement was immediately cancelled and its opposite was born. How and why? Even before World War II’s end, the U.S. had begun its attempts to influence postwar developments in Europe. In order to lessen the resistance from France, a bargain was driven: the French would cooperate with us in Europe in return for our cooperating with them in Vietnam. This is some of what our cooperation entailed:

In December 1945, Dutch and Britisn soldiers recently freed from Japanese prisons, uniformed and armed by the U.S., were transported from Manila harbor to Haiphong in U.S. merchant ships to “hold the fort” until the French could arrive. When the ships landed — the Vietnamese not having been informed of their betrayal by the U.S. — on the walls near the port were joyous signs saying “WELCOME ABE LINCOLN!” (I was in Manila waiting to go home, and observed the ships’ departure at the docks.)

Shortly after, 13 U.S. merchant ships loaded with French soldiers departed from Le Havre for Haiphong.

The U.S. effectively financed the French war and supplied France with much of its weaponry. [27]

From 1946 into 1954, the French conducted all-out war against the Viet Minh, shelling from the sea, bombing from the air, fighting on the land, killing thousands of civilians. Nonetheless, the French were defeated by the Viet Minh and surrendered in 1954, at Dienbienphu. And left Vietnam.

But this did not mean that Vietnam had won its independence. Taking advantage of an international conference at Geneva that same year (whose purposes had nothing to do with Vietnam), the U.S. arranged a division of the country in two (as in Korea) with promised national elections. However, Ngo Dinh Diem — “our man in Saigon” — knowing Ho Chi Minh would certainly and easily win, derailed the elections with, of course, our consent.

Thus it was that step by step, by hook and by crook, the U.S. lurched away from FDR’s agreement toward what had by the mid-1960s become our infamous “quagmire.” All those involvements in Vietnam, from Manila in 1945 until our hasty departure in 1975 were “bipartisan,” supported grudgingly or enthusiastically in the administrations of Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon and by all but a very few in Congress — until much, much, too late. [28]

By 1960 it had become impossible to deny our involvement, so it became essential to find a rationale for it; as each rationale lost its credibility it became necessary to find another. The reason given for allowing Diem to thwart the national election was that Ho Chi Minh’s victory would place Vietnam under a Communist, Soviet-controlled, totalitarian government: with Diem, on the other hand, we said, Vietnam could and ultimately would become a democracy.

However, Diem was assassinated in a military coup under circumstances generally accepted as having been permitted, if not arranged, by the Kennedy administration. From then on each of the many successive regimes, led by one general or another, became always more totalitarian, most obviously that of an open admirer of Adolf Hitler, General Ngyuen Cao Ky. [29]

As our raison d’etre, “democracy” had thus become ludicrous; so, change the rationale. We had to intervene with “advisors” to prevent Vietnam from being handed over by Ho Chi Minh not to the USSR but to the Chinese Communists, with whom, it was argued, the North was allied. The people of the United States did not know that rationale was also ludicrous, but the people of Vietnam surely did: as noted above, China had been invading the northern regions of Vietnam for over a thousand years; the enmity between the Vietnamese and the Chinese was bottomless. [30]

Something much closer to the truth — and wisely kept from the public — was provided by these quotes from a Defense Department document of 1965 revealed in the Pentagon Papers (published first in 1971 by the New York Times):

U.S. aims: 70% — To avoid humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor). 20% — To keep SVN [South Vietnam] and [then] adjacent territory from Chinese hands. 10% — To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life.

Fighting a Filthy War: the Troops and the Tactics

When Kennedy was elected in 1960, there were already more than a thousand admitted U.S. military personnel in Vietnam; by the time of his murder in 1963 we had admitted to 16,000 (with some in Laos and Cambodia); from 1965 on, the yearly average was in excess of 500,000 U.S. troops. They first took the form of Green Berets, CIA agents (and their agents), and the U.S. Military Assistance Advisory Group. It had begun its work there in 1950; in the early 1960s it removed “advisory” from its name: from U.S. MAAG to U.S. MAG. Big deal.

We have had a penchant for using “little wars” as testing grounds for our endless stream of new weaponry — which when possessed by other nations, we term “weapons of mass destruction.” Indochina served that purpose all too well, especially with chemical weapons — best-known of which were napalm (now outlawed but, since nobody’s counting, being used in Iraq), and Agents Green and Orange. Both of the latter contain dioxin, a cancer-causing chemical. “Weapons of mass destruction?”: From 1961 on, all were done from the air, as was true of the massive bombing and strafing:

Item: Planes sprayed the herbicides directly over at least 3,181 villages. At least 2.1 million inhabitants — and perhaps as many as 4.8 million — would have been in the villages during the spraying operations in South Vietnam, whose total population was less than 17 million. Almost eighty disorders have been associated with exposure, including cancers of the lung and prostate…. (my emphasis) [31]

Agent Orange was neither the first nor the last of such weapons used against civilians, mostly in the South. It is at least irritating to be “spun” in our daily news about non-lethal matters; it is vile to see how the U.S. spun the dropping of herbicides on over four million acres of South Vietnam. Its stated intent was to “intimidate” peasants from cooperating with the Viet Cong in the South. That operation was pursued for eight years, the first five of which were before our official entry. As has become our habit, that was given an obscene name: Operation RANCH HAND. [32]

In the same years, our “strategic hamlet” program began: the bulldozing of innumerable villages suspected of being National Liberation Front (NLF) strongholds, the placing of the refugees into “houses” surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. If someone else had done that, the “houses” would have been called “concentration camps.”

All that is horrifying and, quite apart from its horrors, an instance of the strategic stupidity that informed — and still informs — U.S. treatment of civilians in our wars. In a recent story in the New York Times we learn that:

In 1967, an elite unit, a reconnaissance platoon in the 101st Airborne Division, went on a rampage described as “the longest series of atrocities in the Vietnam War.” — seven months [of] killing scores of unarmed civilians — in some cases torturing and mutilating them — in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public…. Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers. (my emphasis) [33]

The NYT story goes on to quote retired Col. David Hackworth, the man who created and led the groups involved:

Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go. It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. It was out of hand very early. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the number of bodies you counted.

The article concludes with a statement from Lt. Col. Kevin Curry, spokesman for the Army. He said he had read all the information in the articles and compared it with the written record and did not intend to reopen the case: “Absent any new or compelling evidence, there are no plans to reopen the case. The case is more than 30 years old.” Oh.

Seek to do what is almost impossible: Put yourself in the position of a U.S. soldier, drafted into a war you do not understand in a distant and mystifying society, having been raised to see your country as standing for all that is good, etc. Then you find yourself with a one-year stretch in a “war” where you are observing or yourself killing not just soldiers, but children, women, and old people in their fields and villages — with rifles, machine guns, napalm, grenades, torches — and you know all too well of the torture and maiming that was common to that war. In which you may well have participated.

No amount of imagining by those who did not serve in Vietnam could provide anything like a full understanding of the agony of those millions who did; but seeking seriously to think through the conditions just noted helps one to comprehend why so many of the troops in Vietnam became drug addicts, became demoralized and rebellious, turned to “fragging” (i.e., killing) their officers as the war went on. And it explains why so many of them, after they came home, organized their “Vietnam Veterans against the War,” and why, in their demonstrations at military bases, would often throw their medals over the fence in contemptuous rage.

It has already become appropriate to see Iraq as another “quagmire,” in which our armed forces are mired down, as in Vietnam, in “a frontless war of great frustration.” In such circumstances the key elements determining the war’s outcome become the interaction of the troops in combat with domestic support or opposition to the war.

The U.S. troops in Vietnam were mostly draftees, drawn disproportionately from the worst-off quarters of the population: poor and black. Better-off young men, predominantly white college students, managed in one way or another — including leaving the country in great numbers — to avoid the draft; they and their families were the main support for the politically crucial draft resistance movement.

By the time we left Vietnam, about 3.5 million GIs had served one-year “hitches” there. Almost from the moment of their arrival, most were caught up in endless and “nameless fear.” Now, in Iraq, under quite different but potentially even worse conditions, those on the ground are again possessed by those fears. Vietnam was the first such war for us; setting aside Afghanistan, Iraq is the second.

As in all our post-World War II wars, in Vietnam we possessed what seemed to be unquestionable supremacy in every category of weaponry: guns and grenades, artillery, tanks, and in all the craft and weaponry in the air and on the sea — including the most delusory of all, nuclear weapons.

But for those doing the fighting in Vietnam, all that weaponry paled when set against the knowledge that they were never safe. That nightmare is being played out once again, in Iraq. As will be seen later, it is but one of several other obstacles frustrating the will of the United States — all of them arising from our persistent inability to comprehend why the peoples of such countries cannot see the United State as we see ourselves: a benign liberator, interested only in the welfare and freedom of the occupied peoples’ societies.

What our troops did not possess was the secret weapon of the Vietnamese; our strategists never come close to comprehending the sources or the nature of the strengths of our created enemy. Something under 60,000 U.S. soldiers died in Vietnam; millions of Vietnamese died. Most of them were civilians, “just in the way,” or just being taught a lesson. We were simply unable to see what we would have done in similar circumstances, if we were occupied by a foreign power. Let us hope we would behave as the Vietnamese did.

That was the source of our defeat in Vietnam. We never saw the Vietnamese as human beings, never understood or even tried to understand that almost all Vietnamese would hate, and many would fight against, our occupation. As the war went on and on, we came to fear, despise, and speak of all Vietnamese as “gooks.” In Iraq, after less than one year, our soldiers had already found their derisive — and much-resented — term for the occupied Iraqis: “haijis“. [34]

Understandably, our troops in Vietnam were demoralized by the ability of the Vietnamese to supply themselves by numberless carriers — including even old women — transporting supplies from North to South, through numberless deep tunnels. Could we ever do such things? Our troops were not trained to combat an enemy that might strike at any hour of the day or night, with antiquated — or with no — weapons, nor to be on guard for deep pits with poisonous stakes as they marched.

Our mounting thousands of casualties after 1965 took on a nightmare quality; it did not help — quite the opposite — that Vietnamese casualties were always a great multiple of ours. And they just kept coming. Vietnam became the first U.S. war in which alcohol and heroin were tacitly accepted as part of the GI’s “survival kit.” The heroin found its way to them through the ingenuity of the CIA; which, in the process also created a new geographic drug system: “The Golden Triangle”. The end justifies the means. [35]

And it’s 1, 2, 3, 4, We Don’t Want Your Fugn War

The antiwar movement that had become prominent in the States by 1965 could not be kept secret from the troops in Vietnam; they knew of it before going to ‘Nam and it was hard not to know of it once there.

Item: the film “Good morning Vietnam!” Both as regards the strong opposition at home and the troops’ knowledge of it, there had never been a war anything like it.

Until the early 1960s, the domestic opposition to the Vietnam War was slight and obscured, as with Korea. Once our involvement became both substantial and known, that began to change at an always accelerating rate for mutually reinforcing reasons: the stalemated war in Korea and the continuing occupation a decade after “peace” had made a serious dent in the government’s credibility; the media, most especially TV, had become a part of everybody’s lives; and, most importantly, the rising numbers of our troops, and that they were not enlisting, but being drafted.

Already by 1963 there were increasingly widespread activities focusing attention on Vietnam, coinciding with the rising number of draftees. That gave birth in 1964 to the “teach-in movement” on college campuses: with a representative from the government vs. an antiwar prof, plus a moderator. At first attendance was slight and pro-government; within a year the meetings were packed, and by 1965 the government had ceased to send a representative, for they always lost. Those who had organized the teach-ins then began the organization of what became mass demonstrations against the war.

And now the White House and Congress and almost all of the media are at it again.


However fraudulent the reasons given for previous wars, not even that for Vietnam could match the dizzying justifications for invading Iraq: Weapons of mass destruction, Osama bin Laden, democracy, freedom — anything and everything except regional strategy and oil. [36]

As each of those became casualties of truth, much of the U.S. public and most of the world moved toward skepticism and disgust. Because, like Vietnam, this war is much-reported on the field of battle as well as at home, it also undermines troop morale and feeds fears in ways and to degrees that are new; because there is something new about this war.

Understandably. For the GIs in Iraq, endless confusion as to why they are there and for how long mixes with ongoing and daily horrors. For them, these are not matters of politics, but of life and death — and of betrayal. The betrayal of Iraq differs greatly from that felt in Korea and Vietnam.

It seems years now since the disgracefully costumed Bush strode across that carrier’s deck, in front of the infamous sign: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Tell it to the marines, and the other GIs in Iraq. There they are, surrounded 24/7 by people with whom they cannot communicate at all, whose strange clothing might conceal various lethal weapons; trying to work with and live beside people many of whom may well have feared and despised Hussein but now despise the U.S. occupation at least as much; themselves well-fed, but facing people suffering greatly from U.S. errors of omission and commission. There they are, heavily-armed, and grotesquely attired GIs, walking with weapons at the ready — all that for aims which might include realization of a western definition of freedom and democracy, but which surely includes oil and regional power — and arrogance.

It makes one shudder to even think of having to be one of those GIs or one of those newly-freed Iraqis. The status of the troops in Iraq is of great importance in terms of their morale. There are no draftees in Iraq, only volunteers of three types: career soldiers, those who enlisted for long enough to get an education and training for a civilian job, and now increasing numbers of reluctantly called-up reservists. The reservists never expected to be “in harm’s way” at all; the others expected a quick and easy win, with 3-6 months in Iraq.

In Vietnam it was a one-year ordeal for most; in Iraq all face being in Iraq for a year, then back home, then back to Iraq in a process that has no predictable end (Although the British Foreign Office in January, 2004 predicted five to seven years of “peaceful occupation”). And this says nothing about the disgraceful and systematic lying regarding our treatment of Iraqi prisoners — many of whom have committed only petty crimes, if any; some of whom may, or may not, be “insurgents.”

Who wouldn’t be demoralized? Combat always produces emotional as well as physical damage, and governments always stretch to conceal rather than tell the truth about casualties; but this war is breaking new ground in every way.

Our military strength is incomparably superior to that of any in the world, in everything; the United States can prevail over any other power in a conventional and non-nuclear war (from which none would prevail). But this war, like that in Vietnam is not the kind of war for which the United States is, or, given our history, ever would be prepared.

Few indeed of our armed forces expected to become casualties in Iraq; our easy victory was assumed from the start. Even fewer, it may be assumed, expected anything like the always changing mix of deadly forces and tactics against the U.S. now common: the 500 + U.S. dead in the first nine months in Iraq already exceeded our first three years in Vietnam. As you read this, the number exceeds 2,500.

This war was expected to be easier and shorter than its regional predecessor, the Gulf War: Our troops would invade, be greeted, mop-up, and leave — or, the thinking may well have gone, in the White House, stay, but on our own terms. Not quite.

Fear is intrinsic to all combat; but the fear in Iraq is very different from that of the European and Pacific Wars, even including Vietnam: We have usually known the who and the where, and often the when. Now our troops in Iraq (among others) never know what to expect, or from whom or when or where. That kind of fear, “from out of nowhere,” can easily become unbearable as, day after day, the attackers recede back into their “nowhere.” Here’s how one platoon leader saw it, after 10 months, as reported in NYT:

In the urban terrain, the enemy is everywhere, across the street, in that window, up that alley; it’s a fishbowl. You never feel safe. You never relax. [37]

And, the same article reports,

an army study shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, a proportion some experts believe could climb to one in three…. I have a very strong sense that the mental health consequences are going to be the medical story of this war, said Stephen Joseph (assistant secretary for health affairs, 1994-97).

In contrast with the broad and, after Pearl Harbor, unquestioned support for World War II, the justification for the war in Iraq was doubted by a sizeable minority in the States and a substantial majority among our normal allies abroad before the invasion. After it, as usual, almost all “rallied round the flag” — for a while. As doubts inexorably spread and deepen, most perilously among the U.S. troops in or likely to be sent to Iraq, a growing number of politicians might, just might, begin to look for ways to be courageous — as they did after many years of Vietnam.

Put all that and more together and the appropriate question is not why demoralization and suicides rise among U.S. troops, but how much more of the same — or worse — is to be expected? And what could plausibly reverse such processes?

They will not be reversed by ongoing spin, let alone shameful efforts such as the Pentagon’s provision of hundreds of identical letters from GIs (October, 2003) supporting the war — written by that same Pentagon.

Nor can one ignore what the conduct of this war is doing to the morale and behavior of the Iraqis. From the very beginning, the U.S. has treated the war as a media spectacle — the phony pulling down of Saddam’s statue, to the cheering non-multitudes, to the creation of this or that version of a “free and democratic government” and Iraqi army. Perhaps a good portion of the U.S. public has been taken in by all that; it is unlikely that any but a small percentage of Iraqis have.

If the media for Vietnam finally became more of a burden than a tool for the White House, that may be multiplied for today’s media — neither only nor least because hard at work are also the media of the Middle East; especially al-Jazeera on radio and TV, attended by the region. The U.S media fail even to note Iraqi casualties, let alone to give an accurate accounting; but the Iraqis do, for they pay little or no attention to our announcements and a great deal to those of their own country — and neighboring Iran, Syria, Jordan, and Egypt.

Item: Our media may note a total of 2-7,000 civilian deaths in Iraq (if any); The Daily Star (of Beirut), in an article headed “Iraq’s civilian dead get no hearing in the United States,” (by the U.S. economist Jeffrey Sachs, a one-time enthusiast of globalization, and once a regular contributor to the NYT), cites an article from Lancet (the leading British medical journal) noting at least 100,000 civilian deaths.

Item: The White House congratulated itself on its victory in Falluja — wherein, meanwhile, burst water mains have caused flooding above hip-levels, and a variety of difficult to deadly illnesses because of poisoned water and so on. And as, meanwhile, uprisings spread throughout the rest of Iraq, as unemployment passes 60 percent, as life becomes a combination of difficulty, danger, and terror for the majority.

As I write in May, 2006, Iraqi elections have been held. A great sense of relief showed itself in the White House (and not only there), when the election proceeded without the diverse disasters that were reasonably feared and, indeed, a respectably large turnout (except for the Sunnis).

Now the struggle between Shia and Sunni and Kurd has taken hold and, along with that, the struggle between those who wish a secular and those who wish a religious government (as in Shiite Iran). There are many dimensions to these struggles — including what may or may not be the most difficult, the conflicting desires of the Kurds to maintain or, evidently, to increase their present degree of independence and take control of the Kirkuk oil fields.

The differences between the war in Vietnam and that in Iraq are, of course, numerous and important. But, as is argued both above and below, so are the similarities. In addition to those noted earlier, and specifically as regards the Iraqi election, the following quote from the British newspaper the Guardian seems eerily relevant:

On September 4, 1967, the New York Times published an upbeat story on presidential elections held by the South Vietnamese puppet regime at the height of the Vietnam War. Under the heading “US encouraged by Vietnam vote: Officials cite 83% turnout despite Vietcong terror” the paper reported that the Americans had been surprised and heartened” by the size of the turnout “despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.” A successful election, it went on, “has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam”. [38]

Given that the war and its tragedies up to this point can not be undone, one can see the election as having a positive side to it. But that is so IF and only IF the U.S. will cease its occupation IF and WHEN we are asked to leave. Will we be asked to do so? Just before the election, the leader of the Shiite majority (60%) made it clear that his group wants the occupation to end. But we surely will not leave unless “free Iraq” grants us the right to gain and retain control over Iraq’s major oil resources. We may or, more likely, may not be granted that control in any degree; if not, then…?

What all this portends for the future cannot be known. “Quagmire” has ceased to be a four-letter word, and references to Vietnam are becoming always more numerous. But Vietnam — or more accurately, Indochina — was a very different war. It is to be hoped that the U.S. will not sustain the 60,000 deaths of Vietnam and that Iraqis will not match the millions lost in Indochina before we find some way to leave.

But who can say? Current strategic thinking in the White House threatens to become even more puerile than it was for Vietnam. But the outcomes of our latest criminal lunacy could well be worse, and in more ways than one. We were able to get out of Vietnam with “nothing lost save honor” — plus tens of thousands dead, more than twice that wounded, and all those numbers multiplied many times over for the peoples of Indochina, with who knows how many lives turned into a chamber of horrors. Nor is it unimportant that to this day there has never been as much as a whisper of apology or repentance from any administration since that war.

The White House has to confront what seems to be emerging as a fact: We can neither leave nor stay in Iraq without calamitous consequences both at home and abroad, stretching over a time period whose end cannot be known.

But this must be added: as noted much earlier, the U.S. originally became tangled up in Vietnam in 1945, almost by accident; as a way of bribing the French into reducing their objections to our plans for Europe. Until then (or since) Vietnam possessed little or no importance for either resources or strategic location.

But Iraq is heavy with both: Oil is more important now than ever in history (as global reserves lessen and global demand rises), and Iraq not only possesses major resources but is a close neighbor to all of the hotspots of the Middle East: Israel/Palestine, Iran, Central Asia (and its promising oil reserves) — with both China and Russia playing close attention. [39]

Chris Hedges, an experienced foreign correspondent (who has reported on our several recent wars for the NYT and the New Yorker), seems now to have had enough, given his review of two books on the U.S. and Iraq. Among many other sentient observations concerning the political and human distortions of our wars as presented in the media, already in late 2004, Hedges had this to say:

We are losing the war. There has been a steady increase in the assaults carried out by the insurgents against coalition forces, from 20 to 120 a day in the past year. We are an isolated and reviled nation… If we do not confront our hubris and the lies told to justify the killing and the mass destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to our form of communication, we will not so much destroy dictators like Saddam Hussein as become them. [40]

At the same time, also “early,” CBS’s “Sixty Minutes” reported that a growing number of GIs in or ordered to go to Iraq have also had enough: “Since the war in Iraq began, more than 5,500 U.S. troops have deserted.”

As that war goes on, those who have to fight it — more than 40 percent of whom are now National Guard reservists — are increasingly beginning to resemble the draftees of Vietnam.

No matter what, it’s clear that our leaders will never learn. Will we?


1. W A Williams, Empire as a Way of Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980).

2. Economic Reports of the President (Washington, D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office, various years).

3. G Kahin, Intervention: How America Became Involved in Vietnam (New York: Knopf, 1986); M Young, The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1990 (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).

4. A Oz, Israel, Palestine and Peace (New York: Harcourt, 1995).

5. B Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War, Two Vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981); J I Matray, ed., Historical Dictionary of the Korean War (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991).

6. T Draper, A Very Thin Line: The Iran-Contra Affair (New York: Hill & Wang, 1991); S Kinzer, All the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003).

7. S Jonas, The Battle for Guatemala: Rebels, Death Squads, and U.S. Power (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991).

8. A Hochschild, King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998).

9. W Blum, Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).

10. T Powers, Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda (New York: New York Review of Books, 2002); A Uribe, The Black Book of American Intervention in Chile (Boston: Beacon Press, 1975).

11. L Chang and P Kornbuhl, eds., The Cuban Missile Crisis (New York: New Press, 1992).

12. R Bonner, Weakness and Deceit: U.S. Policy and El Salvador (New York: New York Times Books, 1994).

13. Z Brzezinski, Power and Principle: Memoirs of the National Security Advisor, 1977-1981 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1985); ‘Brzezinski, Afghanistan, and the Taliban’, Le Nouvel Observateur, 1-15-98.

14. Blum, Killing Hope.

15. G Frumkin, Population Changes in Europe Since 1939 (New York: United Nations, 1951).

16. Williams, Empire as a Way of Life.

17. W A Williams, The Roots of the Modern American Empire (New York: Random House, 1969).

18. See L Tye, The Father of Spin: Edward L. Bernays and the Birth of Public Relations (New York: Crown, 1998).

19. P Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (London: Oxford University Press, 1985).

20. W A Lewis, Economic Survey, 1920-1939 (London: Allen & Unwin, 1949).

21. R Du Boff, Accumulation & Power: An Economic History of the United States (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1989).

22. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

23. W La Feber, America, Russia and the Cold War (New York: Wiley, 1976).

24. Cumings, The Origins of the Korean War; Matray, Historical Dictionary of the Korean War; I F Stone, Hidden History of the Korean War, 1950-51 (Monthly Review Press).

25. C Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt & Co, 2000).

26. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

27. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

28. Kahin, Intervention.

29. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

30. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

31. ‘Seeing Red over Agent Orange: US Understated Use of Dioxin during Vietnam’, San Francisco Chronicle, 4-21-03.

32. Young, The Vietnam Wars.

33. ‘Ex-GIs Tell of Vietnam Brutality’, New York Times, 12-29-03.

34. ‘For GIs, Pride in War Efforts but Doubts about Iraq’s Future’, NYT, 1-4-04.

35. A W McCoy, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia (New York: Harper. 1972).

36. See L Everest, Oil, Power and Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda (Monroe: ME: Common Courage Press, 2004).

37. ‘US Military Doctors Brace for the Aftershocks of War; Army Expects a Flood of Troubled Soldiers’, NYT, 12-16-04.

38. The Guardian, 2-1-05.

39. See Everest, Oil, Power and Empire.

40. C Hedges, ‘On War’, New York Review of Books, 16-12-04.

Doug Dowd was born in San Francisco (1919). He began to teach at Berkeley in 1950; and then at Cornell until 1971. He returned to San Francisco for university teaching until 1992, while, at the same time, teaching "free community classes" (which continue). For about 15 years, he has taught every other semester in Italy (presently at the University of Modena). Among his books, most recent are Blues for America: A Critique, a Lament and some Stories, Capitalism and its Economics: A Critical History and The Broken Promises of America at Home and Abroad, Past and Present: an Encyclopaedia for our Times.

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