Iraq - Vietnam – same history now and then?
Talk with Daniel Ellsberg - Right Livelyhood-award winner.
ABF-house Stockholm December 7, 2006.
I am not a professor.
I am an activist – and that will be my perspective.
In February 2003 we were 100 000 whistleblowers on the streets of Stockholm.
Worldwide there were millions.
Telling the world that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction.
That Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda.
That Iraq had no connection to the atrocities on 9/11.
That the Iraqi people would resist an American invasion of their country.
Everything we said about Iraq turned out to be right, and everything our opponents said turned out to be wrong, and 650,000 people has paid with their lives— between 3000 and 30 0000 American soldiers are buried 6 feet under as a result of that they were not welcomed with roses but roadside bombs.
We now this.
But I consider this utterly important. Not to forget. Cause usually in a discussion the truth lies somewhere in-between. But not this time: we were totally right and they were totally wrong.
Compare this with the lies about the Tonkin: Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara told the world the attack on Vietnam was as “retaliation” for the “unprovoked” attack by North Vietnamese torpedo boats on U.S. destroyers “on routine patrol” in “international waters.”
Each of the assurances was false.
And they were revealed to the public seven years later with the publication of the Pentagon Papers by Mr.Ellsberg.
They lied then. They lie now, And they keep on lying,
But they can’t base their own decisions on lies.
For this they need facts.
Facts and reports of the kind that whistleblowers can reveal.
But you don’t need to work within the Pentagon to reveal documents that states what their real policies are. It’s enough to read the US Department of State Dispatch (USDSD), the Magazine of the US State department. In this you could read that the “strategically principle for the US involvement in the Persian gulf is to protect vital American interests, the security for our friends and the free flow of oil to reasonable prices”
Another group that need facts is the players on the stock markets. In 2003 when the Swedish magazines was full of “Alice in wonderland”–stories about the reasons for war you could in one of the biggest Swedish business magazines “Veckans Affärer” read that “They are fighting for oil” – “The worlds most energy dependent country is preparing for a crisis within 10-15 years”.
Politicians need facts – not lies – for decision-making. So do the stockbrokers. We, the public, are served with the lies. Here and in Iraq:
“We did not come to your country, your cities and villages as conquerors, but as your liberators” said General Franks in 2003, “O people of Baghdad remember that you for 26 generations has suffered under strange tyrants that has made an effort to put arabs against each other to gain from your internal conflicts” said General lieutenant Sir Stanley Maude in 1917.
They lied then. They lie now. And they keep on lying.
/fontfamily>When the top US military Peter Pace recently got the question how is it going in Iraq he answered: ” I would not put a great big smiley face on it, but I’d say that it is are going very very well.”
2,5 percent of the population is dead. They are no longer among us. The average life expectance has dropped from 74 to 59 years. Unemployment is over 70 percent and the country has 1,5 million internal refugees and another 1,5 millions who fled the country since the war – all this in a country with 23 million inhabitants.
Over 80% supports the attacks on the occupation forces.
Only 2 % of the population sees the Americans as liberators.
If Iraq today is a success – a smiley face – I don’t know what a failure would look like.
/fontfamily>All this is said.
On national television.
But nothing happens.
So my question is do we need more arguments?
Do we need more whistleblowers?
Of course? But we also need to develop the anti-war movement.
We know that they are lying but there is a difference between having right and winning.
We know that they are lying but there is a difference between having right and stopping a war
And this is where Vietnam once again comes into the picture.
I can see that the average age in this meeting is rather high. For many of you B52 bombers and Vietnam represents something: Victory. For my generation B52 is generally known as a drink with equal parts of Kahlúa, Dooleys och Cointreau: served in small glasses.
And Vietnam did they win? The last Vietnam film I saw the American won all the battles.
”Vietnam” is today not the picture of the last marines leaving the roof of the US embassy in Saigon with a helicopter… – And why? Simply because it is at not the picture the Americans want us to see when they are stuck in Iraq.
But the story of the defeat of imperialism in Vietnam is precisely the picture we need: it is possible to beat the US. Military.
And: A worldwide opinion against the war can force the states that started it and support it to retreat.
The lords of war have not forgotten about these lessons but sometimes I feel that we in the antiwar movement has done so.
/fontfamily>Why did not Abu Graib turn into a song my?
Why did we not turn Abu Graib turn into a song my?
I mean General de Gaulle had to put the countries armed forces on highest alert as a result of the protests during the Vietnam War. Mass demonstrations followed each other.
But now? Abu Graib? Have many demonstrations was arranged following that event? I know of none. It seems to have been more fun 1968.
I might be wrong,
I think that making comparisons between Vietnam and Iraq should not only be about political conclusions? No, we also need to make organizational and practical conclusions.
Why was the movement against the Vietnam war in Sweden bigger than any other country in Western Europe? It was no secret recipe of Maoist inspired students occupying their own students union.
No, the explanation lies in hard work. In classical organizational work, handing out leaflets, producing, distributing and selling newspapers in schools, factories and universities by people without getting any payment for their work. This was something new then. But now it seems like as if we forgot all of this.
And the groups did not only demand peace. They also separated the attacker from the country being attacked. Or in the word of the Norwegian author Nordahl Greig: some choose to give weapons instead of coffins to the once fighting for their freedom.
/fontfamily>The slogan that mobilized was “US out of Vietnam”. Not “Peace in Vietnam”. We must remember this.
Of course Vietnam was easier. In Vietnam there was no doubt on who to support. The US had a politically well aver opponent. In Iraq the situation is totally different but the principle is the same.
/fontfamily>Who would say today that the Vietnamese had no right to shoot down B52 bombers? No one.
But why do the public opinion react to the Iraqi resistance as the media want them to react. They dam the cruel inhabitants. Or if they are more democratically leftist they dam both the occupants and the resistance.
We must ask ourselves who is the criminals in Iraq?
The occupants or the resistance that kills them.
Ask your self who in this world as actually contributing to make it safer. Is it we? Is it the Swedish government that says nothing about the atrocities committed by the US in Iraq?
Or is it in fact the resistance that puts sand in the US war machinery forcing in to halt and preventing it from continuing its newer ending world tour towards Iran, Syria and Venezuela. The resistance are peacekeepers. /fontfamily>Performing attacks 120 times a day. Every day, seven days a week. /fontfamily>
A well-organized opinion managed to force the state to take another stand during the Vietnam War. If we mean anything with the right to self determination and freedom than, the enemy and most of all our solidarity with the ones fighting against that enemy unites and should unite Vietnam and Iraq.
/fontfamily>/center>If you read the editorials in the big Swedish newspapers the message is “US must stay in Iraq” Otherwise civil war. One way to answer this is by quoting the Swedish senior diplomat Sverker Åström: “So what!”. So what” if there is a civil war. It can’t get worse. Another way is to say that this is a colonial racist perspective with a name: “The white mans burden”. The ideology behind it says that the Iraqis wouldn’t manage without us. The same was said about India when the British were about to leave.
But I think that there is not much to worry about for the newspapers. The US army will stay – until they are kicked out.
There is a bit of fuzz in these days about the Baker report from the Iraq study group in which it is said that they suggest a withdrawal.
And it seems that so many people want to believe that this is what is happening so they start to see it. But if you look at Iraq. Are there any signs of a US withdrawal? Is this what the Baker report is really about?
I mean. If some thing looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, you have reason to believe that it is a duck.
So. If the US is building huge military bases, inviting American companies, (today about 100 000 contactors) dividing Iraq like cake, stealing the Iraqi money and writes a paragraph in the Iraqi constitution that they will have “permanent access” to Iraq. Are they then preparing to leave? What I see is a country getting ready for a long, very long occupation.
I am not making this up. /fontfamily>You can read in the /fontfamily>Quadrinual Defence Review Report/fontfamily> from Feb. 6. And read. This is Stated US Policy.
”Maintain a stated ability to fight multiple overlapping wars and to ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system.”
From what I can read the signs are not that they will pull out. On the contrary an escalation of the war is more likely: a last push. The situation reminds of the situation in Vietnam 1968-1970. They will dig in and start to bomb the cities from the air.
But ok. You should not judge them only from what they say. But also from what they do.
I mean look at the permanent bases.
The US embassy in Baghdad when its finished it will have rooms for 8000 employees, 8000. 21 buildings, gym, the biggest pool in the country, yoga studios, several cinemas, schools, ok they will bring their children, supermarkets, garages. It is a city big as the Vatican. All to a cost of 500 millions US dollars to Kuwaiti(!) subcontractors.
Look at the 6 permanent bases. For example Camp Anaconda or Camp Victoria at Baghdad Airport.
20 000 soldiers.
15 TV’s are sold each day in the supermarkets. IT. Telephone shops. It’s a KBR-country (kellog brown and root), hospitals that perform 400 surgeries’ each month, swimming pool, theatre. Car-rental, 24 hour Burger king, Starbucks coffer shops.
This is how the bases look. You don’t poor down millions of dollars into these bases and then say: Bye, bye enjoy!
At last: This brings us to the question of Iran.
The case for war this time is democracy and nuclear weapons.
According to Hearch and others the US president will attempt to bring about regime change in Iran by air attack; and that his secretary of defence is as madly optimistic about the prospects for fast, cheap military success there as he was in Iraq.
Haven’t we heard this before?
70 million people are threatened by a military aggression and occupation.
It is important to see that the allegations that are pointed towards Iran has the same purpose as the allegations pointed towards Iraq –false arguments used to get control of the oil resources.
/fontfamily>And something seems to be happening. The second fleet, the Eisenhower strike group has been given the order to get ready to sail to The Persian Gulf.
/fontfamily>One the other hand.
/fontfamily>The threat to invade Iran has been there for a long time. In the beginning it was probably more of a political signal or warning to Iran not to take advantage of a weak Iraq after the war. In a divided Iraq, the shia dominated parts could end up under Iranian influence something which the US is against.
/fontfamily>At the same time it is a message to Iran to stay away from Afghanistan. (Despite the fact that Iran and the US supported the same northern alliance.)
There is also another factor, slowing down the plans for war that has to be mentioned.
You can hear on every football stadium when Israel plays games.
The supporters from the other team shouting: Hezbollah, Hezbollah, Hezbollah!
After the 34-day long war the US and Israeli argument that a regime change or a military victory can be achieved with only tomahawk and cruise missiles has lost in credibility.
To sum up.
In Vietnam The US was forced to pullback cause they lost the war on the battlefield and they lost the war on the public opinion.
Iraq is going to be the second major setback.
It is not a matter of if.
Lets contribute to this.
Imperialism means war. But it does not mean that a special war cannot be prevented. Large mobilization of the peace forces can stop the war plans. And to these peace forces I also include the Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian national resistance.
Martin Schibbye 2006-12-07