by Peter Bohmer
Today is the 40th anniversary of the Vietnamese victory and the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. This was a victory not only for Vietnam but also for people all over the world who believe in self-determination and opposition to U.S. economic and political domination. To me, April 30, 1975 was a day of celebration. On that day, the Vietnamese people under the leadership of what was then North Vietnam and the National Liberation Front (NLF) liberated Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh city, as the U.S. fled. It was the culmination by the Vietnamese people of a heroic struggle against a murderous and immoral U.S. war that caused 2-3 million Vietnamese deaths and a larger number with severe injuries and horrific environmental destruction. The U.S. has never paid the reparations it agreed to nor has it apologized for its murderous aggression and destruction.
There were movements all over the world including the United States who opposed this U.S. war and supported the just struggle of the Vietnamese. They deserve a lot of credit for ending the war and have a lot to be proud of. It is very positive that so many people in the United States were willing to oppose their own government. My own active opposition for many years to the U.S. war in Vietnam is probably what I am proudest of in my life. There was also growing opposition to the war within the U.S. military although this has been hidden in the “official” versions of this war. They demonstrated courage and took serious risks for their just actions as did those who refused to fight in this horrific war. Our government lied and lied and lied about the war. The cost of the Vietnam war was huge not only to the Vietnamese but also to the 58,000 U.S. soldiers who died and the many more who suffered. The U.S. also extended the war into Laos and Cambodia whose population also paid and are still paying a horrible price.
The so-called Vietnam syndrome meant the growing opposition by people in the U.S. to follow our government into war and to be suspicious of our government beating the drums of war. Our militaristic, imperialist leaders have tried to overcome this “healthy disease” by relying on bombs and drones and less on troops on the ground to reduce U.S. casualties and by their ridiculous claim that we should support the troops by supporting the many wars the U.S. continues to wage. The lives of Vietnamese, Iraqis, and Afghanis are equally as important as people from the U.S. So it is important in our opposition to U.S. wars of aggression that we focus on all lives not just U.S. lives.
Vietnam today is not as economically and socially just as I thought it would be in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, if the U.S. was defeated. Many U.S. corporations are today profiting directly by their investments in Vietnam or indirectly through the low wages paid to the Vietnamese workers producing goods the Walmarts and other U.S. corporations are selling. Nevertheless, Vietnam today is an independent country, it is not a colony or neocolony of the U.S.. Their struggle also inspired many other oppressed people around the world.
So on April 30, 2015, let us reflect on the meaning of the U.S. War against Vietnam including the significance of the Vietnamese victory and the necessary defeat of the U.S.
Peter Bohmer teaches political economy at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA. He is an activist and organizer and has been involved with countless social justice and liberation movements over the years. His website is http://blogs.evergreen.edu/bohmerp/