|11-20-09 - DREAM - I was in a city like
the south side of Milwaukee. I had parked out front of a house I
lived in. A female friend came over and I wanted her to park there,
but in order to do that, I had to move my car to the back. I didn't
have my car keys with me so I had to climb up the front of the house like
it was a ladder. A young woman next door was doing the same thing and she
fell off her house and fell over on top on me. She said the
ambulance would take both of us.
I went into the back yard to look at
where I had to park so I would know what the spot looked like, and would
recognize it. Across the alley from my yard was a beautiful double doored
screen door. So I knew I could recognize my parking spot from that.
Next door. there were two older men like
a man and his father. They looked like old soldiers to me (two
generations of warriors) and I told
them that I was going to park back there, so they wouldn't worry when they
saw my blue car pull up into my yard.
As I started to wake up, I saw the date
OLD SOLDIERS - MAY, 1954
Later, as I
was sitting on the couch watching the television show FRINGE
it came to me that that woman climbing the house next to mine while I was
climbing my house, represented Dien Bien Phu falling.
It also came to me that Dien Bien Phu
falling could be a symbol for something that is going to be falling in our
Women at Dien Bien Phu
Many of the flights operated by the French Air
force to evacuate casualties had female flight nurses on board. A total of
15 women served on flights to Dien Bien Phu. One of them,
Geneviève de Galard, was stranded at Dien Bien Phu when her plane was
destroyed by shellfire while being repaired on the airfield. She remained
on the ground providing medical services in the field hospital until the
surrender. She was later referred to as the "Angel of Dien Bien Phu".
However historians disagree regarding this moniker, with
Martin Windrow maintaining that Galard was referred to by this name by
the garrison itself, but
Michael Kenney maintaining that it was added by outside press
The French forces came to Dien Bien Phu
accompanied by two "Bordels
Mobiles de Campagne," (mobile field brothels), served by Algerian and
All apparently subsequently volunteered and served as nurse's aides during
the siege. When the siege ended, the Vietminh sent the surviving
Vietnamese women for "re-education."
DIEN = FINE BIEN =
FARM/FARMING - PHU = MOUNTAIN
So, Dien Bien Phi, means Fine farm of
The battle occurred between March and
and culminated in a comprehensive French ..... The French
Bien Phu, as of March
Vietnam War question: What happened at
Bein Phu on
The French were defeated by the Viet Minh in conventional
battle; the French surrendered ...
Dien Bien Phu. The Battle of
Bien Phu (French: Bataille de
... The battle occurred between March and
and culminated in a ...
6 Jul 2007 ... Source(s): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dien_Bien_P…
2 years ago ...
Bien Phu fell on
and the defeated French left ...
Arts & Humanities ›
The French military base here fell to Vietminh troops on
after a. ... It uses material from the
Bien Phu". Read more ...
Negotiations leading to the
Geneva accords began on
the day after the surrender of the ...
11 Aug 2009 ...
... The following other
use this file: Usage of
bien phu castor or siege deinterlaced.png on arwiki ...
The Battle of
Bien Phu (Chiến dịch Điện Biên Phủ) was the final battle in ...
It occurred between March and
and ended in a massive French ...
... The battle occurred between March and
and culminated in a comprehensive ...
www.asiafinest.com › ... ›
Asian Culture ›
|I was reminded while watching "One Life to Live" TV show that I had
done a similar page awhile back. This is how it starts:
WEAPONS OF WAR
THE 6TH TRUMPET OF REVELATION!
|The 6th Trumpet Judgment (Revelation 9:13-21) is
the destruction of 1/3 of mankind by 200 million demonic horsemen.
Although the tendency is to interpret these horsemen with a modern
parallel of military hardware, it will probably be as
straightforward as the text seems to demand.
The sixth trumpet, the second Woe!
Rev 9:13 The sixth angel sounded his
trumpet, and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden
altar that is before God.
14 It said to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, "Release the
four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates."
15 And the four angels who had been kept ready for this very hour
and day and month and year were released to kill a third of
16 The number of the mounted troops was two hundred million. I
heard their number.
17 The horses and riders I saw in my vision looked like this:
Their breastplates were fiery red, dark blue, and yellow as
sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the heads of lions, and
out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur.
18 A third of mankind was killed by the three plagues of fire,
smoke and sulphur that came out of their mouths.
19 The power of the horses was in their mouths and in their tails;
for their tails were like snakes, having heads with which they
20 The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still
did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop
worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and
wood--idols that cannot see or hear or walk.
21 Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their
sexual immorality or their thefts.
v13 - The sixth angel sounded his trumpet,
and I heard a voice coming from the horns of the golden altar that
is before God. - The golden altar is connected to the prayers of
the saints (Rev 8:3). The sixth trumpet is in response to the
prayers of the saints. For horn, see Lev 8:15, when Moses
slaughtered the bull he took some of the blood with his finger and
touched the horns of the altar to purify the altar.
v14 - It said to the sixth angel who had
the trumpet, "Release the four angels who are bound at the great
river Euphrates" - The four angels are bound so they must evil,
they are released at God's command, whose purpose is to get men to
repent, see verses 20-21. The four angels cover each direction of
the compass, the idea being that they are released to affect the
whole earth. Compare these angels with the first four angels
standing at the four corners of the earth, 7:1. The Euphrates marks
the boundary between Israel and her enemies (Gen 15:18, Deu 1:7, Jos
1:4), Babylon which is on the Euphrates would be to the North of
Israel and it is from the North that her enemies came (Jer 25:9,
Ezek 26:7, 39:2). Compare this with the sixth bowl (Rev 16:12) in
which the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to
prepare the way for the kings of the East. Compare also with the
four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
v15 - And the four angels who had been kept
ready for this very hour and day and month and year were released to
kill a third of mankind. - The precise timing of their
release indicates that they are under the divine control of God.
Their purpose is to kill a third of mankind, no more no less, that
is a limited number, because this is a warning to mankind. From the
precise timing of their release this seems to be a specific event in
history, and is therefore probably eschatological, in the light of
the discussion in the next verse this event corresponds to the
second coming (compare with Mat 24:36, Acts 1:7, Gen 7:11) or at
least the final battle associated with it. Compare the sixth seal,
sixth trumpet and sixth bowl, they all seem to refer to either the
last battle or the second coming.
v16 - The number of the mounted troops was
hundred million. I heard their number.
- The troops are mounted, meaning that they are prepared for war.
Two hundred million is a large number which he could not count, but
he heard their number. Compare the description here with the
chariots of God in Psa 68:17, the horses like a swarm of locusts in
Jer 51:27 and the horses that fly like a vulture swooping to devour
of Hab 1:8. In Joel the army invades mankind on the day of the Lord
(Joel 2:11-11) as this is the sixth trumpet and the seventh trumpet
depicts the handing over of the world to Christ, his eternal reign
and the judgement, this vision corresponds to the last great battle
(see Joel 3:1-2, 9-16). The last great battle is also found in Rev
16:14, 17:14, 19:17, 20:7. Note that the sixth seal also corresponds
to the second coming (Rev 6:12). The sixth bowl refers to the battle
on the great day of God Almighty (Rev 16:14) and the second coming
is mentioned in the next verse (16:15). This is another example of
the parallelism of the book.
v17 - The horses and riders I saw in my
vision looked like this: Their breastplates were fiery red, dark
blue, and yellow as sulphur. The heads of the horses resembled the
heads of lions, and out of their mouths came fire, smoke and sulphur.
- Here is the only place in which John indicates that what he
saw was in a vision. The breastplates had the same colours as the
fire, smoke and sulphur which came out of the horses' mouths, see
v18, this indicates the unified purpose of both horse and rider.
Compare the lions' heads here with the lions' teeth of the locusts,
this indicates strength.
v18 - A third of mankind was killed by the
three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur that came out of their
mouths.- This imagery seems to refers to war. The imagery like
the locusts is similar to Joel 2:4-5, 'They have the appearance of
horses; they gallop along like cavalry. With a noise like that of
chariots they leap over the mountain tops, like a crackling fire
consuming stubble, like a mighty army drawn up for battle.' Once
again it is a limited number that is killed, a third of mankind is
killed. Fire and sulphur remind us of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:24,
Luke 17:29), this was God's judgement on wickedness, a foretaste of
hell (Jude 1:7 cf. Rev 14:10-11).
v19 - The power of the horses was in their
mouths and in their tails; for their tails were like snakes, having
heads with which they inflict injury. - The snakes indicate
their demonic origin, Luke 10:19. The three plagues of fire, smoke
and sulphur came out of their mouths, v17, 18. Their tails also
inflict injury. The word for snake (ophis) is the same word
used to describe Satan in 12:9 (see also 12:14, 15, 20:2 cf. John
3:14, 2 Cor 11:3)
v20 - The rest of mankind that were not
killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their
hands they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold,
silver, bronze, stone and wood--idols that cannot see or hear or
walk. - Mankind is here accused of worshipping demons and in the
fifth trumpet they are plagued by demons and possibly also in the
sixth trumpet, the warning fits the sin. Later we find mankind
worshipping the dragon and the beast (13:4) and his image (13:15)
that is idolatry. The plagues are directed at unrepentant mankind,
not at God's people, those who survive these plagues still did not
repent. Some are killed by these plagues but to the rest they are
warnings to man to repent. Consider Jesus reaction to the
persecution of the Jews by Pilate or to those who died when the
tower fell on those in Siloam (Luke 13:1-5) his reaction was to say
to the people 'do you think they were more guilty than all the
others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent,
you too will all perish.' Despite the warning plagues from God, some
natural some not, man refuses to worship God and give him the glory
as Creator, Amos 4:10.
First man is guilty of idolatry, worshipping
created things not the Creator, Rom 1:23. He breaks the first tablet
of the law (Ex 20:3-11, Deu 5:7, 2 King 17:35-39) rather than
worship the creator (Rev 14:7). The stupidity of idolatry is
emphasised by the phase 'idols that cannot see or hear or walk' in
contrast to the living creator God, Dan 5:23, Psa 115:4-5, Jer 10:5.
This hammers home the point that despite these plagues mankind
prefers to worship created things rather than God, the message of
Revelation is that mankind is to worship God and Him alone. Consider
the worship of the living creatures and the elders of the Creator
God, 4:8-11; the worship of the Lamb, 5:8 ff.; all the inhabitants
of the earth worship the beast, 13:8 (compare the worship of demons
and idols here with the worship of the beast and his image in 13:8,
Consider also the message of the first angel
flying in mid-air proclaiming the eternal gospel which is to fear
God and give him glory and to worship him as Creator, 14:6-7;
consider the dire warning to those who worship the beast and his
image in 14:9-11. Twice John is rebuked because he worshipped an
angel (19:10, 22:8) and is told to worship God. In the case of the
church at Pergamum and Thyatira eating food offered to idols is
condemned (2:14, 20). Note that in 21:8 the place of idolaters is in
the fiery lake of burning sulphur, we should therefore see the
trumpets as agents of God's mercy rather than wrath, despite the
fact that people do not repent. Notice the response of those at
Ephesus who practised sorcery, they publicly burned their books on
sorcery; it is better to burn ones books on the occult than to burn
in the lake of fire. God's decree in Deu 7:5, 12:3 is to break down
the altars, smash the sacred stones and burn the idols in the fire,
see Josiah's response in 2 Kings 23 who did as described in
v21 - Nor did they repent of their murders,
their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts - This
is the first indictment against mankind, they did not repent, see
also: Rev 11:18, Rev 14:7, Rev 14:9-11, Rev 16:5-6, Rev 16:8-11.
Having rejected God as creator mankind now inevitably breaks the
second tablet of the law (Deu 5:17 and Rom 1:24, 28). The punishment
is indicated in Rev 21:8, their (murderers, the sexually immoral,
those who practise magic arts) lot will be in the lake of burning
Trumpet 6: Deadly Attack
The voice instructs the angel with the sixth
trumpet to release the “four angels which are bound in the great
river Euphrates” (verse 14). Since they are bound, they must be
fallen angels or demons. Their release is by divine permission only
and is intended to allow them to function as agents of God’s wrath.
While some prefer to view this invading horde as
demons, I believe they are an actual army. The battles that follow
involve killing men, and the attackers are described as men (verses
16-18). The weapons with “breastplates of fire” could well be modern
weapons. The “breastplates of fire” and the “fire and smoke” that
shoot out of both ends of these vehicles certainly sound like tanks,
airplanes or some modern weaponry.
If John really saw the future, including the
great end-time wars, he would have witnessed things he could hardly
understand, let alone describe. Tanks, guns, flamethrowers and laser
beams all fit these possible designations. While the horde of demons
is unleashed to torture and afflict men, the horde of soldiers is
unleashed to attack them as well.
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Part of the
First Indochina War
paratroopers dropping from a
Christian de Castries #
Pierre Langlais #
Võ Nguyên Giáp
As of March 13:
As of March 13:
48,000 combat personnel
15,000 logistical support personnel
Casualties and losses
[8,290 POW dead after battle
The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (French:
Bataille de Diên Biên Phu;
Vietnamese: Chiến dịch Điện Biên
Phủ) was the climactic confrontation of the
First Indochina War between the
French Far East Expeditionary Corps and
revolutionaries. The battle occurred between March and May
1954 and culminated in a comprehensive French defeat that
influenced negotiations over the future of Indochina at Geneva.
Martin Windrow wrote that Điện Biên Phủ was "the first time
that a non-European
colonial independence movement had evolved through all the
guerrilla bands to a conventionally organized and equipped
army able to defeat a modern
Western occupier in
As a result of blunders by the French ,
the French began an operation to cut off the soldiers at
Điện Biên Phủ, deep in the hills of northwestern
Vietnam. Its purpose was to cut off Viet Minh supply lines
into the neighboring
Kingdom of Laos, a French ally, and tactically draw the Viet
Minh into a major confrontation that would cripple them. Instead,
the Viet Minh, under
Võ Nguyên Giáp, surrounded and
besieged the French, who were unaware of the Viet Minh's
possession of heavy artillery (including
anti-aircraft guns) and, more importantly, their ability to
move such weapons through extremely difficult terrain to the
mountain crests overlooking the French encampment. The Viet Minh
occupied the highlands around Điện Biên Phủ and were able to
accurately bombard French positions at will. Tenacious fighting on
the ground ensued, reminiscent of the
trench warfare of
World War I. The French repeatedly repulsed Viet Minh assaults
on their positions. Supplies and reinforcements were delivered by
air, though as the French positions were overrun and the
anti-aircraft fire took its toll, fewer and fewer of those
supplies reached them. After a two-month siege, the garrison was
overrun and most French forces surrendered, only a few
successfully escaping to Laos.
Shortly after the battle, the war ended
1954 Geneva Accords, under which France agreed to withdraw
from its former
Indochinese colonies. The accords partitioned Vietnam in two;
fighting later broke out among rival Vietnamese forces in 1959
Vietnam (Second Indochina) War.
Background and preparations
By 1953, the
First Indochina War was not going well for France. A
succession of commanders—Philippe
Leclerc de Hauteclocque,
Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, and
Raoul Salan—had proven incapable of suppressing the Viet Minh
insurrection. During their 1952–53 campaign, the Viet Minh had
overrun vast swaths of
Laos, a French ally and Vietnam's western neighbor, advancing
as far as
Luang Prabang and the
Plain of Jars. The French were unable to slow the Viet Minh
advance, and the Viet Minh fell back only after outrunning their
always-tenuous supply lines. In 1953, the French had begun to
strengthen their defenses in the
delta region to prepare for a series of offensives against Viet
staging areas in northwest Vietnam. They had set up fortified
towns and outposts in the area, including
Lai Chau near the Chinese border to the north,
Na San to the west of Hanoi,
and the Plain of Jars in northern Laos.
In May 1953, French Premier
Rene Mayer appointed
Henri Navarre, a trusted colleague, to take command of French
Union Forces in Indochina. Mayer had given Navarre a single
order—to create military conditions that would lead to an
"honorable political solution."
On arrival, Navarre was shocked by what he found. There had been
no long-range plan since de Lattre's departure. Everything was
conducted on a day-to-day, reactive basis. Combat operations were
undertaken only in response to enemy moves or threats. There was
no comprehensive plan to develop the organization and build up the
equipment of the Expeditionary force. Finally, Navarre, the
intellectual, the cold and professional soldier, was shocked by
the 'school's out' attitude of Salan and his senior commanders and
staff officers. They were going home, not as victors or heroes,
but then, not as clear losers either. To them the important thing
was that they were getting out of Indochina with their reputations
frayed, but intact. They gave little thought to, or concern for,
the problems of their successors."
Defense of Laos
Điện Biên Phủ was far from
Hanoi, the seat of French military power, making it
difficult for French air transport to supply the base.
The most controversial issue surrounding
the battle is whether Navarre was also obligated to defend Laos,
which was far from the French seat of military power in
Although Navarre assumed it was his responsibility, defending it
would require his army to operate far from its home base. During
France's National Defense Committee on July 17 and July 24,
Navarre asked if he was responsible for defending northern Laos.
These meetings produced a misunderstanding that became the most
disputed fact of the controversy surrounding the battle. For years
afterwards, Navarre insisted the committee had reached no
consensus; French Premier
Joseph Laniel insisted that, at that meeting, the Committee
had instructed Navarre to abandon Laos if necessary. "On this key
issue, the evidence supports Navarre's claim that on July 24, he
was given no clear-cut decision regarding his responsibility for
Laos. Over the years, when challenged by Navarre, Laniel has never
been able to present any written evidence to support his
contention that Navarre was instructed to abandon Laos if
The committee was reluctant to give Navarre a definitive answer
because its proceedings were constantly leaked to the press, and
the politicians on the committee did not want to take a
politically damaging position on the issue.
San and the hedgehog concept
Simultaneously, Navarre had been
searching for a way to stop the Viet Minh threat to Laos. Colonel
Louis Berteil, commander of Mobile Group 7 and Navarre's main
formulated the "hérisson" (hedgehog)
concept. The French army would establish a fortified
airhead by air-lifting soldiers adjacent to a key Viet Minh
supply line to Laos.
This would effectively cut off Viet Minh soldiers fighting in Laos
and force them to withdraw. "It was an attempt to interdict the
enemy's rear area, to stop the flow of supplies and
reinforcements, to establish a redoubt in the enemy's rear and
disrupt his lines"
The hedgehog concept was based on French
experiences at the
Battle of Na San. In late November and early December 1952,
Giap attacked the French outpost at Na San. Na San was essentially
an "air-land base", a fortified camp supplied only by air.
Giap's forces were beaten back repeatedly with very heavy losses.
The French hoped that by repeating the strategy on a much larger
scale, they would be able to lure Giap into committing the bulk of
his forces in a massed assault. This would enable superior French
artillery, armor, and air support to decimate the exposed Viet
Minh forces. The experience at Na San convinced Navarre of the
viability of the fortified airhead concept.
French staff officers disastrously failed
to treat seriously several crucial differences between Điện Biên
Phủ and Na San. First, at Na San, the French commanded most of the
high ground with overwhelming artillery support.
At Điện Biên Phủ, however, the Viet Minh controlled much of the
high ground around the valley, their artillery far exceeded French
expectations and they outnumbered the French four-to-one.
Giap compared Điện Biên Phủ to a "rice bowl", where his troops
occupied the edge and the French the bottom. Second, Giap made a
mistake in Na San by committing his forces into reckless frontal
attacks before being fully prepared. At Điện Biên Phủ, Giap would
spend months meticulously stockpiling ammunition and emplacing
heavy artillery and anti-aircraft guns before making his move.
Teams of Viet Minh volunteers were sent into the French camp to
scout the disposition of the French artillery. Wooden artillery
pieces were built as decoys and the real guns were rotated every
few salvos to confuse French counterbattery fire. As a result,
when the battle finally began, the Viet Minh knew exactly where
the French artillery were, while the French were not even aware of
how many guns Giap possessed. Third, the aerial resupply lines at
Na San were never severed despite Viet Minh anti-aircraft fire. At
Điện Biên Phủ, Giap amassed anti-aircraft batteries that quickly
shut down the runway and made it extremely difficult and costly
for the French to bring in reinforcements.
up to Castor
In June ,
René Cogny, commander of the
Tonkin Delta, proposed Điện Biên Phủ, which had an old
airstrip built by the Japanese during
World War II, as a "mooring point".
In another misunderstanding, Cogny had envisioned a lightly
defended point from which to launch raids; however, to Navarre,
this meant a heavily fortified base capable of withstanding a
siege. Navarre selected Điện Biên Phủ for the location of
Berteil's "hedgehog". When presented with the plan, every major
subordinate officer protested—Colonel
Jean-Louis Nicot, (commander of the French Air transport
fleet), Cogny, and generals Jean Gilles and Jean Dechaux (the
ground and air commanders for Operation Castor, the initial
airborne assault on Dien Bien Phu). Cogny pointed out,
presciently, that "we are running the risk of a new
Na San under worse conditions"
Navarre rejected the criticisms of his proposal, and concluded a
November 17 conference by declaring the operation would commence
three days later, on November 20, 1953.
Navarre decided to go ahead with the
operation, despite operational difficulties which would later
become painfully obvious (but at the time may have been less
because he had been repeatedly assured by his intelligence
officers that the operation had very little risk of involvement by
a strong enemy force.
Navarre had previously considered three other ways to defend Laos:
mobile warfare, which was impossible given the terrain in
static defense line stretching to Laos, which was not
executable given the number of troops at Navarre's disposal; or
placing troops in the Laotian capitals and supplying them by air,
which was unworkable due to the distance from
Luang Prabang and
Thus, the only option left to Navarre was the hedgehog option,
which he characterized as "a mediocre solution."
In a twist of fate, the French National
Defense Committee ultimately did agree that Navarre's
responsibility did not include defending Laos. However, their
decision (which was drawn up on November 13) was not delivered to
him until December 4, two weeks after the Điện Biên Phủ operation
of the airhead
Operations at Điện Biên Phủ began at
10:35 on the morning of November 20, 1953. In Operation Castor,
the French dropped or flew 9,000 troops into the area over three
days. They were landed at three drop zones: Natasha, northwest of
Điện Biên Phủ; Octavie, southwest of Điện Biên Phủ; and Simone,
southeast of Điện Biên Phủ.
The Viet Minh elite 148th Independent
Infantry Regiment, headquartered at Điện Biên Phủ, reacted
"instantly and effectively"; three of their four battalions,
however, were absent that day.
Initial operations proceeded well for the French. By the end of
November, six parachute battalions had been landed and the French
were consolidating their positions.
It was at this time that Giap began his
counter-moves. Giap had expected an attack, but could not foresee
when or where it would occur. Giap realized that, if pressed, the
French would abandon
Lai Chau Province and fight a
pitched battle at Điện Biên Phủ.
On November 24, Giap ordered the 148th Infantry Regiment and the
316th division to attack Lai Chau, while the
308th, 312th, and 351st divisions assault Điện Biên Phủ from
Viet Bac .
Starting in December, the French, under
the command of Colonel
Christian de Castries, began transforming their anchoring
point into a fortress by setting up seven positions, each
allegedly named after a former mistress of de Castries, although
the allegation is probably unfounded, as the names simply begin
with the first eight letters of the alphabet. The fortified
headquarters was centrally located, with positions "Huguette" to
the west, "Claudine" to the south, and "Dominique" to the
northeast. Other positions were "Anne-Marie" to the northwest,
"Beatrice" to the northeast, "Gabrielle" to the north and
"Isabelle" four miles (6 km) to the south, covering the reserve
airstrip. The choice of de Castries as the on-scene commander at
Dien Bien Phu was, in retrospect, a bad one. Navarre had picked de
cavalryman in the 18th century tradition,
because Navarre envisioned Điện Biên Phủ as a mobile battle. In
reality, Điện Biên Phủ required someone adept at
World War I-style
trench warfare, something for which de Castries was not
The arrival of the 316th Viet Minh
division prompted Cogny to order the evacuation of the Lai Chau
garrison to Điện Biên Phủ, exactly as Giap had anticipated. En
route, they were virtually annihilated by the Viet Minh. "Of the
2,100 men who left Lai Chau on December 9, only 185 made it to
Điện Biên Phủ on December 22. The rest had been killed or captured
The Viet Minh troops now converged on Điện Biên Phủ.
The French had committed 10,800 troops,
with more reinforcements totaling nearly 16,000 men, to the
defense of a monsoon-affected valley surrounded by heavily wooded
hills that had not been secured. Artillery as well as ten
M24 Chaffee light tanks and numerous aircraft were committed
to the garrison. The garrison comprised French regular troops
(notably elite paratroop units plus artillery),
Foreign Legionnaires, Algerian and Moroccan
tirailleurs, and locally recruited Indochinese infantry.
All told, the Viet Minh had moved 50,000
regular troops into the hills surrounding the valley, totaling
five divisions including the 351st Heavy Division which was made
up entirely of heavy artillery.
Artillery and AA guns, which outnumbered the French artillery by
about four to one,
were moved into camouflaged positions overlooking the valley. The
French came under sporadic Viet Minh artillery fire for the first
time on January 31, 1954, and patrols encountered the Viet Minh in
all directions. The battle had been joined, and the French were
The French disposition at Dien Bien
Phu, as of March 1954. The French took up positions on a
series of fortified hills. The southernmost, Isabelle, was
dangerously isolated. The
Viet Minh positioned their 5 divisions (the 304th,
308th, 312th, 316th, and 351st) in the surrounding areas to
the north and east. From these areas, the Viet Minh had a
clear line of sight on the French fortifications and were
able to accurately rain down artillery on the French
The fighting began at 5:00 PM on March 13
when the Viet Minh launched a massive surprise artillery barrage.
The time and date were carefully chosen—the hour allowed the
artillery to fire in daylight, and the date was chosen because it
new moon, allowing a nighttime infantry attack.
The attack concentrated on position Beatrice, defended by the 3rd
battalion of the
13th Foreign Legion Demi-Brigade.
Unknown to the French, the Viet Minh had
made a minutely detailed study of Beatrice, and had rehearsed
assaulting it using scaled models. According to one Viet Minh
major: "Every evening, we came up and took the opportunity to cut
barbed wire and remove mines. Our jumping-off point was moved up
to only two hundred yards from the peaks of Beatrice, and to our
surprise [French] artillery didn't know where we were".
The French command on Beatrice was
decimated at 6:15 PM when a shell hit the French command post,
killing Legionnaire commander Major
Paul Pegot and his entire staff. A few minutes later, Colonel
Jules Gaucher, commander of the entire northern sector, was
also killed by Viet Minh artillery.
French resistance on Beatrice collapsed
shortly after midnight following a fierce battle. Roughly 500
legionnaires were killed, along with 600 Viet Minh killed and
1,200 wounded from the 312th division.
The French launched a counter-attack against Beatrice the
following morning, but it was quickly beaten back by Viet Minh
artillery. Despite their losses, the victory at Beatrice
"galvanized the morale" of the Viet Minh troops.
Much to French disbelief, the Viet Minh
had employed direct artillery fire, in which each gun crew does
artillery spotting (as opposed to indirect fire, in which guns
are massed farther away from the target, out of direct line of
sight, and rely on a forward artillery spotter). Indirect
artillery, generally held as being far superior to direct fire,
requires experienced, well-trained crews and good communications
which the Viet Minh lacked.
Navarre wrote that "Under the influence of Chinese advisers, the
Viet Minh commanders had used processes quite different from the
classic methods. The artillery had been dug in by single pieces...
They were installed in shell-proof dugouts, and fire point-blank
from portholes... This way of using artillery and AA guns was
possible only with the expansive ant holes at the disposal of the
Vietminh and was to make shambles of all the estimates of our own
The French artillery commander, Colonel
Charles Piroth, distraught at his inability to bring
counterfire on the well-camouflaged Viet Minh batteries, went into
his dugout and killed himself with a
He was buried there in great secrecy to prevent loss of morale
among the French troops.
Following a four hour cease fire on the
morning of March 14, Viet Minh artillery resumed pounding French
positions. The air strip was put out of commission, forcing the
French to deliver all supplies by parachute.
That night, the Viet Minh launched an attack on Gabrielle, held by
an elite Algerian battalion. The attack began with a concentrated
artillery barrage at 5:00 PM. Two
regiments from the crack 308th division attacked starting at
8:00 PM. At 4:00 AM the following morning, a Viet Minh artillery
shell hit the battalion headquarters, severely wounding the
battalion commander and most of his staff.
De Castries ordered a counterattack to
relieve Gabrielle. However, Colonel
Pierre Langlais, in forming the counterattack, chose to rely
on the 5th Vietnamese Parachute battalion, which had jumped in the
day before and was exhausted.
Although some elements of the counterattack reached Gabrielle,
most were paralyzed by the Viet Minh artillery and took heavy
losses. At 8:00 AM the next day, the Algerian battalion fell back,
abandoning Gabrielle to the Viet Minh. The French lost around
1,000 men defending Gabrielle, and the Viet Minh between 1,000 and
Anne-Marie was defended by
T'ai troops, members of a Vietnamese ethnic minority loyal to
the French. For weeks, Giap had distributed subversive
propaganda leaflets, telling the T'ais that this was not their
fight. The fall of Beatrice and Gabrielle had severely demoralized
them. On the morning of March 17, under the cover of a fog, the
bulk of the T'ais left or defected. The French and the few
remaining T'ais on Anne-Marie were then forced to withdraw.
March 17 through March 30 saw a lull in
fighting. The Viet Minh further tightened the noose around the
French central area (formed by the strongpoints Huguette,
Dominique, Claudine, and Eliane), effectively cutting off Isabelle
and its 1,809 personnel.
During this lull, the French suffered from a serious crisis of
command. "It had become painfully evident to the senior officers
within the encircled garrison—and even to Cogny at Hanoi—that de
Castries was incompetent to conduct the defense of Dien Bien Phu.
Even more critical, after the fall of the northern outposts, he
isolated himself in his bunker so that he had, in effect,
relinquished his command authority."
On March 17, Cogny attempted to fly into Dien Bien Phu and take
command, but his plane was driven off by anti-aircraft fire. Cogny
considered parachuting into the encircled garrison, but his staff
talked him out of it.
De Castries' seclusion in his bunker,
combined with his superiors' inability to replace him, created a
leadership vacuum within the French command. On March 24, Colonel
Langlais and his fellow paratroop commanders, all fully armed,
confronted de Castries. They told de Castries that he would retain
the appearance of command, but that Langlais would exercise it.
De Castries accepted the arrangement without protest, although he
did exercise some command functions thereafter.
The French aerial resupply was taking
heavy losses from Viet Minh machine guns near the landing strip.
On March 27, Hanoi air transport commander Nicot ordered that all
supply deliveries be made from 6,500 feet (2,000 m) or higher;
losses were expected to remain heavy.
De Castries ordered an attack against the Viet Minh machine guns
two miles (3 km) west of Dien Bien Phu. Remarkably, the attack was
a complete success, with 350 Viet Minh soldiers killed and
seventeen AA machine guns destroyed. French losses were only
30 – April 5 assaults
The central French positions at Dien
Bien Phu as of late March 1954. The positions in Eliane saw
some of the most intense combat of the entire battle
The next phase of the battle saw more
massed Viet Minh assaults against French positions in the central
Dien Bien Phu area – at Eliane and Dominique in particular. Those
two areas were held by five understrength battalions, composed of
a mixture of Frenchmen, Legionnaires, Vietnamese, Africans, and
Giap planned to use the tactics from the Beatrice and Gabrielle
At 7:00 PM on March 30, the Viet Minh
312th division captured Dominique 1 and 2, making Dominique 3 the
final outpost between the Viet Minh and the French general
headquarters, as well as outflanking all positions east of the
At this point, the French 4th colonial artillery regiment entered
the fight, setting its 105 mm howitzers to zero elevation and
firing directly on the Viet Minh attackers, blasting huge holes in
their ranks. Another group of French, near the airfield, opened
fire on the Viet Minh with anti-aircraft machine guns, forcing the
Viet Minh to retreat.
The Viet Minh were more successful in
their simultaneous attacks elsewhere. The 316th division captured
Eliane 1 from its Moroccan defenders, and half of Eliane 2 by
On the other side of Dien Bien Phu, the 308th attacked Huguette 7,
and nearly succeeded in breaking through, but a French sergeant
took charge of the defenders and sealed the breach.
Just after midnight on the 31st, the
French launched a fierce counterattack against Eliane 2, and
recaptured half of it. Langlais ordered another counterattack the
following afternoon against Dominique 2 and Eliane 1, using
virtually "everybody left in the garrison who could be trusted to
The counterattacks allowed the French to retake Dominique 2 and
Eliane 1, but the Viet Minh launched their own renewed assault.
The French, who were exhausted and without reserves, fell back
from both positions late in the afternoon.
Reinforcements were sent north from Isabelle, but were attacked en
route and fell back to Isabelle.
Shortly after dark on the 31st, Langlais
Marcel Bigeard, who was leading the defense at Eliane, to fall
back across the river. Bigeard refused, saying "As long as I have
one man alive I won't let go of Eliane 4. Otherwise, Dien Bien Phu
is done for."
The night of the 31st, the 316th division attacked Eliane 2. Just
as it appeared the French were about to be overrun, a few French
tanks arrived, and helped push the Viet Minh back. Smaller attacks
on Eliane 4 were also pushed back. The Viet Minh briefly captured
Huguette 7, only to be pushed back by a French counterattack at
dawn on the 1st.
Fighting continued in this manner over
the next several nights. The Viet Minh repeatedly attacked Eliane
2, only to be beaten back. Repeated attempts to reinforce the
French garrison by parachute drops were made, but had to be
carried out by lone planes at irregular times to avoid excessive
casualties from Viet Minh anti-aircraft fire.
Some reinforcements did arrive, but not nearly enough to replace
On April 5, after a long night of battle,
French fighter-bombers and artillery inflicted particularly
devastating losses on one Viet Minh regiment which was caught on
open ground. At that point, Giap decided to change tactics.
Although Giap still had the same objective – to overrun French
defenses east of the river – he decided to employ
entrenchment and sapping to try to achieve it.
April 10 saw the French attempt to retake
Eliane 1. The loss of Eliane 1 eleven days earlier had posed a
significant threat to Eliane 4, and the French wanted to eliminate
that threat. The dawn attack, which Bigeard devised, was preceded
by a short, massive artillery barrage, followed by small unit
infiltration attacks, followed by mopping-up operations. Without
realizing it, Bigeard had re-invented the
infiltration tactics used with great success by
Oskar von Hutier in World War I. Eliane 1 changed hands
several times that day, but by the next morning the French had
control of the strongpoint. The Viet Minh attempted to retake it
on the evening of April 12, but were pushed back.
"At this point, the morale of the Viet
Minh soldiers broke. The French intercepted radio messages which
told of units refusing orders, and Communist prisoners said that
they were told to advance or be shot by the officers and
noncommissioned officers behind them."
The extreme casualties they had suffered (6,000 killed, 8,000 to
10,000 wounded, and 2,500 captured) had taken a toll; worse, the
Viet Minh lacked any effective medical service. "Nothing strikes
at combat morale like the knowledge that if wounded, the soldier
will go uncared for."
To avert the crisis, Giap called in fresh reinforcements from
During the fighting at Eliane 1, on the
other side of camp, the Viet Minh entrenchments had almost
entirely surrounded Huguette 1 and 6. On April 11, the garrison of
Huguette 1 attacked, and was joined by artillery from the garrison
of Claudine. The goal was to resupply Huguette 6 with water and
ammunition. The attacks were repeated on the night of the 14–15th
and 16–17th. While they did succeed in getting some supplies
through, the heavy casualties convinced Langlais to abandon
Huguette 6. Following a failed attempt to link up, on April 18,
the defenders at Huguette 6 made a daring break out, but only a
few made it back to French lines.
The Viet Minh repeated the isolation and probing attacks against
Huguette 1, and overran it on the morning of April 22. With the
fall of Huguette 1, the Viet Minh took control of more than 90% of
the airfield, making accurate parachute drops impossible.
This caused the landing zone to become perilously small, and
effectively choked off much needed supplies.
A French attack against Huguette 1 later that day was repulsed.
Isabelle saw only desultory action until
March 30, when the Viet Minh succeeded in isolating it and beating
back the attempt to send reinforcements north. Following a massive
artillery barrage against Isabelle on March 30, the Viet Minh
began employing the same trench warfare tactics against Isabelle
that they were using against the central camp. By the end of
April, Isabelle had exhausted its water supply and was nearly out
The Viet Minh launched a massed assault
against the exhausted defenders on the night of May 1, overrunning
Eliane 1, Dominique 3, and Huguette 5, although the French managed
to beat back attacks on Eliane 2. On May 6, the Viet Minh launched
another massed attack against Eliane 2. The attack included, for
the first time,
The French also used an innovation. The French artillery fired
with a "TOT" (Time
On Target) attack, so that artillery rounds fired from
different positions would strike on target at the same time.
The barrage wiped out the assault wave. A few hours later that
night, the Viet Minh detonated a mine shaft, blowing Eliane 2 up.
The Viet Minh attacked again, and within a few hours had overrun
On May 7, Giap ordered an all out attack
against the remaining French units. At 5:00 PM, de Castries
radioed French headquarters in Hanoi and talked with Cogny.
De Castries: "The Viets are everywhere.
The situation is very grave. The combat is confused and goes
on all about. I feel the end is approaching, but we will fight
to the finish."
Cogny: "Well understood. You will
fight to the end. It is out of the question to run up the
white flag after your heroic resistance."
By nightfall, all French central
positions had been captured. That night, the garrison at Isabelle
made a breakout attempt. While the main body did not even escape
the valley, about 70 troops out of 1,700 men in the garrison did
escape to Laos.
On May 8, the Viet Minh counted 11,721
prisoners, of whom 4,436 were wounded.
This was the greatest number the Viet Minh had ever captured:
one-third of the total captured during the entire war. The
prisoners were divided into groups. Able bodied soldiers were
force-marched over 250 miles (400 km) to prison camps to the north
where they were intermingled with Viet Minh soldiers to discourage
French bombing runs.
Hundreds died of disease on the way. The wounded were given basic
first aid until the
Red Cross arrived, removed 858, and provided better aid to the
remainder. Those wounded who were not evacuated by the Red Cross
were sent into detention.
The prisoners, French survivors of the
battle at Dien Bien Phu, were starved, beaten, and heaped with
abuse, and many died.
Of 10,863 survivors held as prisoners, only 3,290 were officially
repatriated four months later.
However, the losses figure may include the 3,013 prisoners of
Indochinese origin whose eventual fate is unknown.
The garrison constituted roughly a tenth
of the total French Union manpower in Indochina,.
The defeat seriously weakened the position and prestige of the
French as previously planned negotiations over the future of
Geneva Conference (1954) opened on May 8, the day after the
surrender of the garrison.
Ho Chi Minh entered the conference on the opening day with the
news of his troops' victory in the headlines. The resulting
agreement temporarily partitioned Vietnam into two zones: the
North was administered by the
Democratic Republic of Vietnam while the South was
administered by the French-supported
State of Vietnam. The last units of the French Union forces
withdrew from Indo-China in 1956. This partition was supposed to
be temporary, and the two zones were meant to be reunited through
national elections in 1956. After the French withdrawal, the
United States supported the southern government, under Emperor
Bao Dai and Prime Minister
Ngo Dinh Diem, which opposed the Geneva agreement, and which
Ho Chi Minh's forces from the North had been killing Northern
patriots and terrorizing people both in the North and the South.
The North was supported by both communist China and the Soviet
Union. This dispute would eventually escalate into the
Vietnam War (Second Indochina War).
France's defeat in Indochina seriously
damaged its prestige elsewhere in their colonial empire, notably
the North African territories from which many of the troops who
fought at Dien Bien Phu had been recruited. In 1954, six months
after the battle at Dien Bien Phu ended, the
Algerian War started, and by 1956 both Moroccan and Tunisian
protectorates had gained independence. A French board of inquiry,
Catroux Commission, would later investigated the defeat.
The battle was depicted in
Dien Bien Phu, a 1992 docudrama film – with several
autobiographical parts – in conjunction with the Vietnamese army
by Dien Bien Phu veteran French director
According to the
Mutual Defense Assistance Act the United States provided the
French with material aid during the battle – aircraft (supplied by
USS Saipan), weapons, mechanics, twenty-four
U.S. Air Force maintenance crews.
The United States, however, intentionally avoided overt direct
intervention. In February 1954, following French occupation of
Dien Bien Phu but prior to the battle, Democratic senator
Mike Mansfield asked
United States Defense Secretary
Charles Erwin Wilson whether the United States would send
naval or air units if the French were subjected to greater
pressure there, but Wilson replied that "for the moment there is
no justification for raising United States aid above its present
Dwight D. Eisenhower also stated, "Nobody is more opposed to
intervention than I am".
On March 31, following the fall of Beatrice, Gabrielle, and
Anne-Marie, a panel of U.S. Senators and House Representatives
questioned the American
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral
Arthur W. Radford, about the possibility of American
involvement. Radford concluded that it was too late for the U.S.
Air Force to save the French garrison. A proposal for direct
intervention was unanimously voted down by the panel, which
"concluded that intervention was a positive
act of war".
The United States did covertly
participate in the battle. Following a request for help from Henri
Navarre, Radford provided two squadrons of
B-26 Invader bomber aircraft to support the French.
Subsequently, 37 American pilots flew 682 sorties over the course
of the battle. Earlier, in order to succeed the pre-Dien Bien Phu
Operation Castor of November 1953, General Chester McCarty
made available 12 additional
C-119 Flying Boxcars flown by French crews.
Two of the American pilots, Wallace Buford and
James McGovern, Jr., were killed in action during the siege of
Dien Bien Phu.
In February 25, 2005, the seven still living American pilots were
awarded the French
Legion of Honor by
Jean-David Levitte, the French ambassador to the United
The role that the American pilots played in this battle had
remained little known until 2004. The "American historian Erik
Kirsinger researched the case for more than a year to establish
The French author
Jules Roy also suggests that Admiral Radford discussed with
the French the possibility of using
nuclear weapons in support of the French garrison.
John Foster Dulles was reported to have mentioned the
possibility of lending atomic bombs to the French for use at Dien
and a similar source claims that British Foreign Secretary
Sir Anthony Eden was aware of the possibility of the use of
nuclear weapons in that region.
In January 1968, during the
Vietnam War, the
North Vietnamese Army (still under Giap's command) made an
apparent attempt to repeat their success at Dien Bien Phu, by a
bombardment on the
U.S. Marine Corps infantry and artillery base at
South Vietnam. Historians are divided on whether this was a
genuine attempt to force the surrender of that Marine base, or
else a diversion from the rest of the
Tet Offensive, or an example of the North Vietnamese Army
keeping its options open.
At Khe Sanh, a number of factors were
significantly different from the siege of Dien Bien Phu. Khe Sanh
was much closer to its supply base (45 km/28 mi versus
200 km/120 mi at Dien Bien Phu);
At Khe Sanh, the U.S. Marines held the
high ground, and their artillery forced the North Vietnamese to
use their own artillery from a much greater distance. On the other
hand, at Dien Bien Phu, the French artillery (six 105 mm batteries
and one battery of four 155 mm howitzers and mortars)
were only sporadically effective;
Khe Sanh received 18,000 tons in aerial resupplies during the
30-day battle, whereas during 167 days that the French forces at
Dien Bien Phu held out, they received only 4,000 tons.
By the end of the battle of Khe Sanh,
U.S. Air Force warplanes had flown 9,691 tactical sorties and
dropped 14,223 tons of munitions on targets within the Khe Sanh
U.S. Marine Corps warplanes had flown 7,098 missions and
dropped 17,015 tons of munitions.
U.S. Navy warplanes, many of which had been redirected from
Operation Rolling Thunder bombing campaign against
North Vietnam, flew 5,337 sorties and dropped 7,941 tons of
ordnance on the enemy.
Xiaobing Li (2007). A history of the modern Chinese Army.
University Press of Kentucky. p. 212.
^ Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the
Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, trang 62, Indiana
French Defense Ministry's archives, ECPAD]
tổng kết-biên soạn lịch sử, BTTM (1991). Lịch sử Bộ Tổng tham
mưu trong kháng chiến chống Pháp 1945-1954.
Ha Noi: Nhà xuất bản Quân Đội Nhân Dân. p. 799.
Study Board of The General Staff (1991) (in Vietnamese),
History of the General Staff in the Resistance War against the
Ha Noi: People's Army Publishing House, p. 799 ).
^ Stone, 109
^ Quotation from Martin Windrow.
Kenney, Michael. "British Historian Takes a Brilliant Look at
French Fall in
Boston Globe, January 4, 2005.
^ Fall, 23
^ Fall, 9
^ Fall, 48
^ Fall, 44
^ Davidson, 173
^ Bruce Kennedy.
CNN Cold War Special: 1954 battle changed Vietnam's history
^ Fall, 24
^ Davidson, 147
^ Davidson, 182
^ Roy, 21
^ Roy, 33
^ Davidson, 184
^ Windrow, p211, 212, 228, 275
^ Davidson, 189
^ Davidson, 186
^ Davidson, 187
^ Davidson, 194
^ Davidson, 193
Fall of Dienbienphu".
Time Magazine. 1954-05-17.
^ Davidson, 199
^ Davidson, 203
^ Davidson, 234
^ Roy, 167
^ Davidson, 227
^ Navarre, 225
Bien Phu". Spartacus Educational.
Retrieved August 24 2006.
^ Davidson, 239
^ Fall, 279
^ Fall, 177
^ "The truth would seem to be that
Langlais did take over effective command of Dien Bien Phu, and
that Castries became "commander emeritus" who transmitted
messages to Hanoi and offered advise about matters in Dien
Bien Phu." - Davidson, 243
^ Davidson, 244
^ Davidson, 244–245
^ Davidson, 245
^ Davidson, 248
^ Roy, 210
^ Davidson, 254–255
^ Davidson, 265
^ Davidson, 256
^ Davidson, 257
^ Davidson, 258
^ Fall, 260
^ Fall, 270
^ Davidson, 259
^ Davidson, 260
^ Davidson, 261
^ Davidson, 262
^ Davidson, 269
of losses suffered at Dien Bien Phu". dienbienphu.org.
Retrieved August 24 2006.
Long March". dienbienphu.org.
Retrieved August 24 2006.
^ Fall, 429
The Long March. Dienbienphu.org, Retrieved on January 12,
camp #1". dienbienphu.org.
Retrieved August 24 2006.
^ Jean-Jacques Arzalier, Les Pertes
Humaines, 1954–2004: La Bataille de Dien Bien Phu, entre
Histoire et Mémoire, Société française d’histoire d’outre-mer,
French Far East Expeditionary Corps numbered 175,000
soldiers" – Davidson, 163
^ Roy, 211
Embassy of France in the USA, Feb. 25, 2005
Check-Six.com - The Shootdown of “Earthquake McGoon”
^ "France honors U.S. pilots for
Dien Bien Phu role". Agence France Presse. February 25, 2005.
^ Burns, Robert. "Covert U.S.
aviators will get French award for heroism in epic Asian
battle". Associated Press Worldstream. February 16, 2005
^ Roy, 198
^ Fall, 306
^ Fall, 307
^ Rottman, 8
^ Fall, 480
^ Fall, 190
^ Windrow P673, Note 53
^ Pringle, James: “Au revoir, Dien
Bien Phu”. International Herald Tribune. 1 April 2004.
on 23Feb 2008.
Davidson, Phillip (1988). Vietnam at War. New York: Oxford
Bien Phu". Spartacus Educational.
Biên Phú – The "official and historical site" of the battle".
Fall, Bernard B. (1985). Hell in a Very Small Place. The
Siege of Dien Bien Phu. New York: Da Capo Press.
Fall of Dienbienphu".
Time Magazine. 1954-05-17.
Navarre, Henri (1958) (in French). Agonie de l'Indochine.
Gordon L. (2005). Khe Sanh (1967–1968) – Marines battle for
Vietnam's vital hilltop base. Oxford: Osprey Publishing (UK).
Roy, Jules; Baldick, Robert. The Battle of Dienbienphu. New
York: Harper & Row.
Roy, Jules (2002). The Battle of Dienbienphu. New York:
Carroll & Graf Publishers.
David (2004). Dien Bien Phu. London: Brassey's UK.
Windrow, Martin (2004). The Last Valley. New York: Da Capo
- Newsreels (video)
- Retrospectives (video)
- War reports (Picture galleries and
Will US military suffer a "Dien Bien Phu"
type of defeat in Iraq?
In May 1954, Vietnamese Communist
Forces overran the French military garrison at Dien Bien Phu,
capturing 14,000 French troops, and forcing the French to
end their presence in Indochina. Is this the possible fate
of US troops in the "Green Zone" and the remainder of Iraq?
The question doesn't
work becaues the scale (and terrain) does not
come close to matching.
1. 'Dien Bien Phu (DBP)' was an isolated
french base in a remote part of the country,
limiting their chance of reinforcement from
The Green Zone is in the heart of Baghdad, in
the center of Iraq, there are a number of HUGE
military bases within 20 miles of the Green
Zone, a few minutes' flying time. Heck,if
things got bad, they could get help from the
Tigris River Which flows right next to it!!
2. DBP was situated in a valley, and the Viet
Minh got on the high ground (Ho Chi Minh
described it as 'a rice bowl' with the French
at the bottom) pounding the base to pieces.
Most of Iraq, to include Baghdad, is flat as a
pan. No high ground to speak of.
3. DBP was an interim base, an airstrip and
The GZ was buit by Saddam, designed from the
ground up to be defended in case of
revolution, protected by reinforced walls and
4. The fact is, the reason the the insurgency
started using IED's was every time they came
in the open to attack, they got hammered.
In the end the GZ only too small a target for
that kind of exposure, and to lay seige to one
of the other bases in the area, they would be
in the open, unlike the jungle cover used by
the Viet Minh.
Dien Bien Phu, Symbol For All Time
History of Empire )
The Fall of the French Empire
By Alain Ruscio*
marks the 50th anniversary of the Geneva Accords that
ended the war in Indochina, six weeks after the French
army was defeated at Dien Bien Phu. This was a signal to
other colonies yearning for independence: the next to
rise up was Algeria, three months later.
Vietnamese negotiators signed a ceasefire agreement,
backed by the international community in Geneva, on 20
July 1954. The reluctant United States, Britain, the
Soviet Union and especially the People's Republic of
China, for which this was a first international
conference, all took note. On 7 May the last troops
defending the garrison of Dien Bien Phu, exhausted by an
endless 55-day battle, had been finally forced to admit
the enemy's superiority. The war had ended. The
Vietnamese had defeated one of the largest western
armies, supported by its powerful US ally.
It is hard to
imagine the impact of that event 50 years ago on the
colonial world, particularly France's overseas colonies.
A colonial power had been defeated. A regular army had
been beaten. In the late 1980s Ben Youssef Ben Khedda,
head of the provisional government of the Algerian
Republic, wrote: "Ho Chi Minh's army inflicted a
humiliating defeat on the French Expeditionary Corps at
Dien Bien Phu. The defeat of France was a powerful
incentive to all who thought immediate insurrection the
only possible strategy . . . All other considerations
were set aside, and direct action became the overriding
priority" (1). Only three months after the Geneva
conference, the Algerian uprising broke out on November
1. From the outset the political and military struggle
of Ho Chi Minh's Vietminh (League for the Independence
of Vietnam) influenced nationalist thinkers in colonies
well beyond Algeria. The French representative, Jean
Sainteny, and the Vietnamese delegate, Ho Chi Minh, had
signed an agreement in Hanoi on 6 March 1946 by which
France recognised the Republic of Vietnam as a "free
state, with its own government, parliament, army and
finances, within the French Union" (2). Although any
mention of independence was carefully avoided, the
agreement gave the clear impression that France was
intent on establishing new relations with its colonies.
postwar Constituent Assembly debated the overseas
situation, between 21 and 26 March 1946, Lamin Gueye
(French West Africa) (3), Raymond Verges (Réunion) and
other members invoked the example of Indochina. The
deputies of the Democratic Movement for Malagasy Reform
(MDRM) tabled a bill with the exact wording of the Hanoi
agreement: France was to recognise Madagascar as a "free
state, with its own government". The majority of the
assembly predictably rejected this demand. But the
contagion spread. Vietnam became a model for many
colonial peoples as the negotiations between France and
the Vietnamese nationalists continued. There was a
growing feeling that an agreement based on French
goodwill was possible. Then Ho Chi Minh went to Paris to
negotiate Vietnam's final status and returned
Ho Chi Minh,
with his modest and reserved demeanour, commanded
enormous respect among nationalists in other colonies.
For a long time little attention had been paid to his
earlier activity under his real name, Nguyen Ai Quoc,
but that changed in 1946. His foundation of the
socialist Intercolonial Union and publication of the
anti-colonial journal Le Paria (The Pariah) in France in
the 1920s, and his activity as a professional Comintern
revolutionary in the 1930s, became well-known, and his
reputation as an incorruptible patriot spread far beyond
Vietnam. Many colonial activists from elsewhere in the
French empire thought of Ho Chi Minh, at 56, as an elder
brother. Jacques Rabemananjara, a leader of the MDRM,
was struck by his combination of firmness as to the
ultimate aim of independence and flexibility as to the
form - his acceptance of the French Union as a
framework. Despite this, the negotiations failed and war
began at the end of November 1946. Ho Chi Minh's name
resounded again in the Vel d'Hiv cyclodrome in Paris on
5 June 1947, when overseas members of the National
Assembly held a mass rally with the slogan "The French
Union in danger".
Franco-Vietnamese conflict, there was increasing
repression in Madagascar. Félix Houphouí«t-Boigny,
future president of Ivory Coast, spoke for the African
Democratic Rally (RDA), which was allied with the
Communist group in the National Assembly; the poet Aimé
Césaire for the French Communist party (PCF); Lamine
Gueye, future president of the Senegalese National
Assembly, for the Socialist party; and an Algerian
introduced as "Chérif" for the party of the Algerian
Manifesto of Ferhat Abbas (4). According to several
contemporary accounts, all eyes were turned toward the
Vietminh who had dared to challenge French colonial
power. Would they hold out against the infinitely
superior forces of the French Expeditionary Corps? That
concern was shared by students from the colonies living
in France, who were strongly influenced by the PCF at
the time and very active in the anti-colonial movement.
Niggling censorship and repression in the colonies
prevented any spectacular show of solidarity, but
statements by the RDA in Black Africa and the PCF in
Algeria refer specifically to the struggle of the
Vietnamese people (5). The writer and member of the
French Academy, Maurice Genevoix, travelled widely in
Africa in 1949 and on his return he published his
impressions. "Everywhere I went," he wrote, "in Tunisia,
Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan, Guinea, Cí´te d'Ivoire
or Niger, it was taken for granted that events in
Indochina would be decisive. On this point, silence
spoke louder than words" (6).
strong echoes of this in North Africa. Early in 1949 Dr
Pham Ngoc Thach, a prominent minister in Ho Chi Minh's
government, wrote to Abd al-Krim (7), then in exile in
Cairo, asking him to issue an appeal to North African
soldiers serving in the French Expeditionary Corps. The
old leader of the Rif tribes happily obliged: "The
victory of colonialism, even at the other end of the
world, is a defeat for us and a setback to our cause.
The victory of liberty in any part of the world is our
victory, the sign of our approaching independence" (8).
In 1950 the Moroccan Communist party, contacted by the
Vietminh through the PCF, seconded a member of its
central committee, Mohamed Ben Aomar Lahrach, to Ho Chi
Minh's staff (9). Lahrach, known as General Maarouf to
Maghrebis and Anh Ma to the Vietnamese, played a major
role throughout the conflict, often calling on his
brothers in the Expeditionary Corps to desert, and
working on the Marxist political education of prisoners
and North Africans who had rallied to the cause of the
army's successive setbacks in Indochina strengthened the
growing solidarity among the colonised throughout the
French Union. It was in the Algerian ports of Oran and
Algiers, not those of metropolitan France, that dockers
first refused to load war materials destined for
Indochina. French decision-makers understood what was
happening and tried to oppose the solidarity of the
colonised through the solidarity of the colonisers.
Maurice Genevoix concluded from his African observations
that "once the string is broken, all the pearls of the
necklace fall off, one by one: the problem of the Empire
is a single whole."
anti-communism of those who supported the war effort was
reinforced by their determination to prevent any breach
in the French Union. They banked on the contagious
effect of victory: the use of force in Indochina would
avoid the need to use it elsewhere. Georges Bidault,
several times minister for foreign affairs in the early
1950s, told everyone that the French Union was a single
bloc: capitulation in any part of it would bring it all
crashing down (11). The most conservative, such as
National Assembly members Eduard Frédéric-Dupont and
Adolphe Aumeran, and journalists Robert Lazurick and
Rémy Roure, former sympathisers of the "colonial party"
(12) proclaimed that only strong-arm methods would
silence native pseudo-nationalists in Indochina.
French politicians thought Indochina was already lost.
What they feared was the con tagious effect of defeat.
Pierre Mendí¨s-France thought the game was up as early
as the autumn of 1950. France, he said, no longer had
sufficient forces to deal with conflict throughout the
empire. Franí§ois Mitterrand argued that the war in Asia
would undermine France's only real prospects, which were
in Africa. The Asian limb must be severed before
gangrene spread to the whole body (13). It was no
accident that the Mendí¨s-Mitterrand team settled the
Indochina issue only to be intransigent over Algeria.
went unheeded; then came the disaster of Dien Bien Phu.
What was its impact in other French colonies? There is
as yet no well-documented study of public opinion,
including police reports or the colonial press of the
period. But clues suggest that many people in Algiers,
Tanarive and Dakar rejoiced at the defeat of the French.
Four days later, on 11 May, the Gaullist minister
Christian Fouchet announced that several French
residents in Morocco had received anonymous letters
threatening that Casablanca would be a second Dien Bien
Phu (14). As Ben Khedda's memoirs show, the Algerian
nationalists reacted by increasing their preparations
for armed insurrection (15).
Dien Bien Phu
became France's symbol of anachronistic obstinacy
culminating in disaster. For Vietnam it symbolised the
reconquest of national independence. But its impact was
much wider. The battle was seen throughout the world as
foreshadowing other struggles. Hardly had the smell of
gunpowder faded in the Tonkin Basin when the Aures
Mountains were thick with it. And barely a year later
the "wretched of the earth" (16) came together in
Bandong (17). Two men on opposing sides drew parallels
that testify to Dien Bien Phu's historical significance.
In 1962 the Algerian nationalist leader Ferhat Abbas
wrote: "Dien Bien Phu was more than a military victory.
It is a symbol for all time. It was the Battle of Valmy
(18) of the colonial peoples, an affirmation of Asian
and African man against the European and a confirmation
of universal human rights. At Dien Bien Phu France lost
its sole claim to a presence in Indochina - the right of
the strongest" (19).
In 1974 Jean
Pouget, a former officer in the Expeditionary Corps,
commented bitterly but perceptively: "The fall of Dien
Bien Phu marked the end of the colonial period and the
beginning of the era of third-world independence. Today
there is not a revolt, rebellion or uprising in Asia,
Africa or America that fails to invoke General Giap's
victory. Dien Bien Phu has become decolonisation's 14th
of July" (20).
Author: Alain Ruscio is a historian and author of 'Credo
de l'homme blanc' (Complexe, Bruxelles, 2002) and 'Dien
Bien Phu, mythes et réalités: Les échos d'une
bataille1954-2004', co-authored with Serge Tigní¨res
(Les Indes Savantes, Paris, 2004)
(1) Les origines du 1er novembre 1954, Dahlab, Alger,
1989; quoted in Benjamin Stora, "Un passé dépassé? 1954,
de Dien Bien Phu aux Aurí¨s", symposium typescript,
(2) The French Union was the name given by the French
Constitution of 1946 to the entity constituted by the
French Republic (metropolitan France and the overseas
departments and territories) and the associated
territories and states. See Jacques Tronchon,
L'Insurrection malgache de 1947, Maspero/CNRS, Paris,
(3) Established in 1895, French West Africa was a
federation of Senegal, Mauritania, Sudan, Upper Volta
(now Burkina Faso), Guinea, Niger, Ivory Coast and
Dahomey (now Benin), with Dakar as its capital.
(4) L'Humanité, 6 June 1947.
(5) See Au service de l'Afrique noire: Le Rassemblement
Démocratique Africain dans la lutte anti-impérialiste,
brochure published in 1949.
(6) Afrique blanche, Afrique noire, Flammarion, Paris,
(7) A leader of the Moroccan independence movement in
the struggle against Spaniards and French in the 1920s.
He was deported to Reunion and escaped to Cairo, where
he organised the Committee for the Liberation of the
(8) See Abdelkrim Khattabi et son rí´le dans le Comité
de libération du Maghreb, quoted in Abdallah Saaf,
Histoire d'Anh Ma, Paris, L'Harmattan, 1996.
(9) See Abdallah Saaf, op cit.
(10) Nelcya Delanoí«, Poussií¨res d'Empire, Paris, PUF,
(11) See Jacques Dalloz, Georges Bidault, biographie
politique, L'Harmattan, Paris, 1993.
(12) The colonial party was an informal organisation of
(13) Aux frontií¨res de l'Union franí§aise: Indochine,
Tunisie, Paris, Julliard, Paris, 1953.
(14) Journal officiel, Paris, 11 May 1954.
(15) See Mohamed Harbi, "L'écho sur les rives de la
Méditerranée", Carnets du Vietnam, February 2004.
(16) A reference to Frantz Fanon's influential Les
damnés de la terre (The Wretched of the Earth), which
examined the psychological and material costs of
colonisation during the Algerian war of independence
(17) First meeting of the non-aligned countries in April
1955: 29 states were represented, including Indonesia,
China, India and Algeria, which had just begun its war
(18) A famous French victory over Prussian troops in
1792 that marked a turning point in the revolutionary
(19) Ferhat Abbas, La Nuit coloniale, Julliard, Paris,
(20) "Le mythe et la réalité", Le Figaro, Paris, 7 May
Translated by Barry Smerin
More Information on Empire?
More Information on Former Empires and Comparative
World: DIENBIENPHU: Could It Happen Again?
Friday, May. 15, 1964
FROM Pyongyang to the Yangtze, Asia's Communists last week
celebrated the tenth anniversary of Dienbienphu, the savage battle
that cost France her century-old Indo-Chinese empire. In Hanoi,
loudspeakers blared a specially composed song, Liberation of
Dienbienphu, and thousands of North Vietnamese massed to
commemorate the feat of arms that General Vo Nguyen Giap, the Red
victor of Dienbienphu, called "one of the greatest victories in
the history of the armed struggle of oppressed peoples."
Nor did the anniversary go unremembered in France. At a round
of reunions in Paris, business-suited survivors of the debacle
hoisted nostalgic toasts to "the Angel of Dienbienphu," Geneviève
de Galard-Terraube, who was the only woman nurse on the
battlefield. (Now 39, Geneviève is a retiring Paris housewife and
mother of two children, married to a former French paratrooper.)
They were poignant get-togethers, for Dienbienphu holds as deep
emotional implications for Frenchmen today as Verdun or Waterloo
did for earlier generations.
Tanks & Tablecloths. Many veterans of the fighting blame
France's defeat on General Henri Navarre, his government's
commander in chief for Indochina. But Navarre, a World War I
infantryman, only personified the Maginot mentality of most French
career officers. Though warned that it would be fatal to fight a
conventional engagement from a fixed base, Navarre concentrated 17
battalions in the North Viet Nam outpost, which lay in a
ten-mile-long river valley. His strategy was to draw the Communist
Viet Minh guerrillas into a set-piece battle in which French heavy
weaponry would prove decisive. Along with tanks and artillery, his
officers moved in their mess silver, embroidered white
tablecloths, stocks of wine.
Though Dienbienphu was surrounded by hills, Navarre was
unworried, since he was convinced that the Reds had no artillery.
Dienbienphu's two air strips, its only lifeline to the outside,
were within easy field-gun range of the mountains. Under Cavalry
Colonel Christian Marie Ferdinand de la Croix de Castries, who was
promoted to four-star general during the battle, the garrison had
been organized into ten separate commands. With Gallic gallantry,
each had been given a woman's name—Gabrielle, Béatrice,
Anne-Marie, Françoise, Isabelle, Dominique, Claudine, Huguette,
Eliane and Junon.
Bicycles & Backs. What the French did not know was that Red
China had armed the Viet Minh with 200 artillery pieces. Hacking
paths through jungle trails, traveling up to 50 miles a day on
foot, the guerrillas lugged the dismantled guns into positions on
their backs, then set up the batteries under rock cover. To fill
Viet Minh bellies, 50,000 Chinese coolies bicycled in relays down
the narrow mountain footpaths, each straining under a load of 600
lbs. of sacked rice. From November to mid-March, while his 60,000
guerrilla troops sparred with patrols from the fortress, Guerrilla
General Giap quietly laid his noose around Dienbienphu. Then one
morning Viet Minh artillery boomed a death knell.
In four days, Béatrice, Gabrielle and Anne-Marie fell. As
monsoon rains set in, French tanks became immobile. "To go on the
offensive," despaired one French officer, "we would need 10,000
mules." With both air strips raked by Red shells, the French had
to rely on airdrops for supplies. More than half the food,
ammunition and medicine—as well as De
Castries' brand-new general's stars and a bottle of
congratulatory cognac —drifted behind Red lines. Unable to
locate the Viet I Minh's well-hidden big guns, Dienbienphu's
guilt-stricken V artillery commander committed suicide.
Corpses in the Chamber Pot. While Paris tried clumsily and
in vain to obtain a U.S. bomber strike, outgunned, outmanned
French forces were pounded for 56 days by human-wave attacks.
By night, the Reds tunneled like ants under many outposts.
Dienbienphu's defenders fought back with machine guns,
flamethrowers, hand grenades and bayonets. Latrines filled and
festered, the water supply turned foul; French officers
bitterly endorsed their valley's nickname: "le pot de chambre."
The living grew too weary to bury the dead, and the stench of
putrefying flesh even forced the guerrillas to wear gauze
On April 2, Command Post Francoise was abandoned. In the
first days of May, Dominique and Huguette crumbled. Ordered
not to surrender, De Castries on May 7 radioed Hanoi: "It is
the end. The Viet Minh are only a few yards from where I
speak." His operator added: "Say hello to Paris for me. Au
revoir." By that night, the last three commands—Eliane,
Claudine, and isolated Isabelle to the south—were overrun, and
for the first time in six months the smoke-shrouded valley lay
Lessons Learned. Of Dienbienphu's 12,000 defenders, 2,293
were killed, and the rest, including most of the 5,134
wounded, began the long death march to Viet Minh prison camps.
The debacle resulted in the partitioning of Viet Nam and
thrust ultimate responsibility for Indochina on the U.S.,
which today grimly supports South Viet Nam's struggle against
the Communist Viet Cong. Whether from lingering humiliation or
its dreams of reasserting French influence in a neutralized
Southeast Asia, or both, the France of Charles de Gaulle holds
that the U.S. will inevitably meet its own Dienbienphu in Viet
U.S. military planners virtually rule out any such
prospect. For all their difficulties, South Vietnamese troops
and U.S. advisers command enormous fire power and mobility,
have learned never to box themselves into a static defense
against fast-moving guerrillas. The Viet Cong of late have
launched several attacks in battalion strength, but their
numbers are nowhere near comparable to the Viet Minh, which
moved entire divisions into Dienbienphu. Moreover, Dienbienphu
was only 80 miles from Red China; the circuitous supply line
to South Viet Nam is ten times longer. The Viet Cong have yet
to deploy artillery or antiaircraft guns. And French air power
was puny compared to the swarms of rocket-firing helicopters,
transport craft and fighter-bombers that the U.S. has in South
Viet Nam. With so great an advantage in air and fire power,
U.S. advisers would like nothing better than to see the Viet
Cong blunder into an open, pitched battle.
Tomgram: William Astore, Déjà Vu All Over Again in
[Note to TomDispatch Readers: A reminder -- I'll be away
and so unable to respond to letters or requests until next
Monday or thereafter. Tom]
It didn't take long. Only 11 days after Barack Obama
entered the Oval Office, a
story proclaimed the Afghan War "Obama's Vietnam." And
there wasn't even a question mark. As John Barry and Evan
Thomas wrote grimly in that January piece, "There is this
stark similarity: in Afghanistan, as in Vietnam, we may now be
facing a situation where we can win every battle and still not
win the war -- at least not within a time frame and at a cost
that is acceptable to the American people." In the two and a
half months since that piece appeared, the President and his
advisors have, in fact,
on what is increasingly the
-- with the expanding fighting in Pakistan's tribal
helping to destabilize that regional nuclear power. As a
result, it would hardly be surprising if "Obama's Vietnam"
became an ever more
common refrain in the year ahead.
In a number of ways, however, the Af-Pak War couldn't
bear less of a relationship to the Vietnam one. After all,
this time around there is no superpower enemy like the Soviet
Union or regional power like China supporting and arming the
Taliban (or, for that matter, like the United States, which
supported and armed the mujahideen to give the Soviets their
own "Vietnam" in Afghanistan in the 1980s). In Vietnam, the
U.S. faced a North Vietnamese professional army, well-trained,
superbly disciplined, and supplied with the best the Soviets
and Chinese could produce, including heavy weapons; while the
guerrilla organization we fought in South Vietnam, which
Americans knew as "the Vietcong," had widespread popular
support, was unified, dedicated, well structured, and highly
"Taliban," on the other hand, is a rag-tag, under-armed
set of largely localized militias adding up to only perhaps
armed fighters, loyal to a range of leaders, including the
pre-2001 Taliban leadership headed by Mullah Omar, various
former mujahideen commanders of the anti-Soviet War, or
sometimes just local warlords. Even where firmly lodged
itself, the Taliban's support in rural Afghanistan, as far as
can be told from what
opinion polls exist, is at best unenthusiastic, and based
largely on its ability to bring some safety to rural areas the
corrupt central government has no control over, and above all,
on its ability to present itself as the only real opposition
to a foreign military occupation of the country.
Unlike the Vietnamese, the Taliban are largely incapable
of bringing down American and NATO planes or helicopters,
attacking big American bases, or massing for major offensives
of any sort. While growing in strength
by every measure available, what they are largely capable
of doing, in military terms, is blowing things up via roadside
bombs or suicide attacks (which is, of course, no small
thing). As a result, American casualties, while serious and
possibly due to rise this year (along with
Afghan civilian casualties), are exceedingly modest if
measured by a
In other words, in scale, the Af-Pak War is unlikely
ever to become a real "Vietnam" (Obama's or otherwise). Looked
at another way, however, this war may have the capacity to
inflict upon the U.S. the kind of defeat that the Vietnamese,
for all their strength and nationalist fervor, were incapable
of. In a sense, Af-Pak threatens to be, in the personalized
terms the American media often favors, not "Obama's Vietnam,"
but "Obama's Afghanistan" -- that is, our version of the
defeat we once helped inflict on the Russians which played a
role in breaking the back of the Soviet empire. The U.S.
suffered a genuine defeat in Vietnam and its army nearly
collapsed in the process, but the American empire and the
American economic system stood in no mortal danger from it.
By the end of 2009, the cost of the Iraq War -- that is,
of putting down another set of rag-tag insurgents -- will
pass that of the Vietnam War and, in dollars spent, stand
second only to World War II in U.S. history. Add to that the
rising expense of a never-ending Af-Pak War and -- in the
worst of economic times -- you have the equivalent of a vast
financial hemorrhage, an economic sinkhole. In short, if
"Obama's war" proves a "quagmire," it may not be a
In one way, however, the Af-Pak War has borne, and
continues to bear, a certain eerie resemblance to the Vietnam
one: in the manner in which Americans have chosen to fight it.
Not surprisingly, as retired lieutenant colonel and
TomDispatch regular William Astore points out in the following
striking piece, in this we resemble ourselves 40 years ago. As
a result, for anyone who remembers Vietnam, much of our
military's "new thinking" on counterinsurgency warfare, which
has gotten such media praise, looks old and tired indeed. But
let Astore take up the tale from here. Tom
Mary McCarthy in Vietnam, Barack Obama in Afghanistan
Seven Lessons and Many Questions for the President
By William Astore
In 1967, outraged by the course of the Vietnam War, as
well as her country's role in prolonging and worsening it,
Mary McCarthy, novelist, memoirist, and author of the
bestseller The Group, went to Saigon, then the capital of
South Vietnam, to judge the situation for herself. The next
year, she went to the North Vietnamese capital, Hanoi. She
wrote accounts of both journeys, published originally in
pamphlet format as Vietnam (1967) and Hanoi (1968), and
later gathered with her other writings on Vietnam as a book,
The Seventeenth Degree (1974). As pamphlets, McCarthy's
accounts sold poorly and passed into obscurity; deservedly
so, some would say.
Those who'd say this, however, would be wrong.
McCarthy brought a novelist's keen eye to America's
activities and its rhetoric in Vietnam. By no means a
military expert, not even an expert on Vietnam -- she only
made a conscious decision to study the war in Vietnam after
she returned from her trip to Saigon -- her impressionistic
writings were nevertheless insightful precisely because she
had long been a critical thinker beholden to no authority.
Her insights into our approach to war-fighting and to
foreign cultures are as telling today as they were 40 years
ago, so much so that President Obama and his advisors might
do well to add her unconventional lessons to their
all-too-conventional thinking on our spreading war in
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
What were those lessons? Here are seven of them, each
followed by questions that, four decades later, someone at
President Obama's next press conference should consider
1. McCarthy's most fundamental objection was to the
way, in Vietnam, the U.S. government decided to apply
"technology and a superior power to a political situation
that will not yield to this." At the very least, the United
States was guilty of folly, but McCarthy went further. She
condemned our technocentric and hegemonic form of warfare as
"wicked" because of its "absolute indifference to the cost
in human lives" to the Vietnamese people.
Even in 1967, the
at times indiscriminate, nature of American killing was well
known. For example, U.S. planes dropped roughly 7 million
tons of bombs on Vietnam and parts of Laos and Cambodia
during the war, nearly five times the tonnage used against
Germany during World War II. The U.S. even waged war on the
Vietnamese jungle and forest, which so effectively hid
Vietnamese guerrilla forces, spraying roughly 20 million
gallons of toxic herbicides (including the
In her outrage, McCarthy dared to compare the seeming
indifference of many of her fellow citizens toward the
blunt-edged sword of technological destruction we had loosed
on Vietnam to the moral obtuseness of ordinary Germans under
Questions for President Obama: Aren't we once again
relying on the destructive power of technology to "solve"
complex political and religious struggles? Aren't we yet
again showing indifference to the human costs of war,
especially when borne by non-Americans? Even though we're
using far fewer bombs in the
Af-Pak highlands than we did in Vietnam, aren't we still
morally culpable when these "precision-guided munitions"
miss their targets and instead claim innocents, or hit
suspected "terrorists" who suddenly morph into
parties? In those cases, do we not seek false comfort in
the phrase, C'est la guerre, or at least that modern
2. As Richard Nixon campaigned for the presidency in
1968 by calling for "peace with honor" in Vietnam, McCarthy
offered her own warning about the dangers that arose when
the office of the presidency collided with an American
desire never to be labeled a loser: "The American so-called
free-enterprise system, highly competitive,
investment-conscious, expansionist, repels a loser policy by
instinctive defense movements centering in the ganglia of
the presidency. No matter what direction the incumbent, as
candidate, was pointing in, he slowly pivots once he assumes
Questions for President Obama: Have you, like
Vietnam-era presidents, pivoted toward yet another surge
simply to avoid the label of "loser" in Afghanistan? And if
the cost of victory (however defined) is hundreds, or even
thousands, more American military casualties, hundreds of
billions of additional dollars spent, and extensive
collateral damage and blowback, will this "victory" not be a
pyrrhic one, achieved at a price so dear as to be
indistinguishable from defeat?
3. Though critical of the U.S. military in Vietnam,
McCarthy was even more critical of American civilian
officials there. "On the whole," she wrote, they "behaved
like a team of promoters with a dubious 'growth' stock they
were brokering." At least military men were often more
forthright than the civilians, if not necessarily more
self-aware, McCarthy noted, because they were part of the
war -- the product, so to speak -- not its salesmen.
Questions for President Obama: In promising to send a
"surge" of State Department personnel and other
civilians into Afghanistan, are you prepared as well to
parse their words? Are you braced in case they sell you a
false bill of goods, even if the sellers themselves, in
their eagerness to speak fairy tales to power, continually
ignore the Fantasyland nature of their tale?
4. Well before Bush administration officials boasted
about creating their own reality and new "facts on the
ground" in Iraq, Mary McCarthy recognized the danger of
another type of "fact": "The more troops and matériel
committed to Vietnam, the more retreat appears to be cut off
-- not by an enemy, but by our own numbers. To call for
withdrawal in the face of that commitment... is to seem to
argue not against a policy, but against facts, which by
their very nature are unanswerable."
Questions for President Obama: If your surge in
Afghanistan fails, will you be able to de-escalate as
quickly as you escalated? Or will the fact that you've put
more troops in harm's way (with all their equipment and all
the money that will go into
and airfield and road construction), and committed more of
your prestige to prevailing, make it even harder to consider
5. A cursory reading of The Pentagon Papers, the
famously secret government documents on Vietnam leaked to
the New York Times by Daniel Ellsberg, reveals how skeptical
America's top officials were, early on, in pursuing a
military solution to the situation in South Vietnam.
Nevertheless, knowing better, the "best and brightest," as
journalist David Halberstam termed them in his famous,
ironic book title, still talked themselves into it; and they
did so, as McCarthy noted, because they set seemingly
meaningful goals ("metrics" or "benchmarks," we'd say
today), which they then convinced themselves they were
actually achieving. When you trick yourself into believing
that you're meeting your goals, as Halberstam noted, there's
no reason to reexamine your course of action.
Questions for President Obama: Much has been written
internal struggle within your administration over the
wisdom of surging in Afghanistan. Now, you, too, have called
for the setting of
"benchmarks" for your new strategy's success. Are you
wise enough to set them to capture the complexities of
political realities on the ground rather than playing to
American strengths? Are you capable of re-examining them,
even when your advisors assure you that they are being
6. In her day, Mary McCarthy recognized the inequities
of burden-sharing at home when it came to the war in
Vietnam: "Casualty figures, still low [in 1967], seldom
strike home outside rural and low-income groups -- the
silent part of society. The absence of sacrifices [among the
privileged classes] has had its effect on the opposition [to
the war], which feels no need, on the whole, to turn away
from its habitual standards and practices -- what for? We
have not withdrawn our sympathy from American power and from
the way of life that is tied to it -- a connection that is
more evident to a low-grade G.I. in Vietnam than to most
Questions for President Obama: Are you willing to
listen to the common G.I. as well as to the generals who
have your ear? Are you willing to insist on greater equity
burden-sharing, since once again most of the burden of
Iraq and Afghanistan has fallen on "the silent part of
society"? Are you able to recognize that the "best and
brightest" in the corridors of power may not be the wisest
exactly because they have so little to lose (and perhaps
much to gain) from our
7. McCarthy was remarkably perceptive when it came to
the seductiveness of American technological prowess. Our
technological superiority, she wrote, was a large part of
"our willingness to get into Vietnam and stay there... The
technological gap between us and the North Vietnamese
constituted, we thought, an advantage which obliged us not
Questions for President Obama: Rather than providing
us with a war-winning edge, might our
drones, satellite imagery, and all our other gadgetry of
war seduce us into believing that we can "prevail" at a
reasonable and sustainable cost? Indeed, do we think we
should prevail precisely because our high-tech military
brags of "full spectrum dominance"?
One bonus lesson from Mary McCarthy before we take our
leave of her: Even now, we speak too often of "Bush's war"
more recently, "Obama's war." Before we start chattering
mindlessly about Iraq and Afghanistan as American tragedies,
we would do well to recall what McCarthy had to say about
the war in Vietnam: "There is something distasteful," she
wrote, "in the very notion of approaching [Vietnam] as an
American tragedy, whose protagonist is a great suffering
Texan [President Lyndon Baines Johnson]."
Yes, there is something distasteful about a media that
blithely refers to Bush's or Obama's war as hundreds of
thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis suffer. For American
troops, after all, are not the only ones paying the ultimate
price when the U.S. fights foreign wars for ill-considered
reasons and misguided goals.
William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel
(USAF), taught for six years at the Air Force Academy. A
TomDispatch regular, he currently teaches at the
Pennsylvania College of Technology and is the author of
Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005),
among other works. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright 2009 William Astore
November 10, 2009, (Pal Telegraph) - Can we recall our
respective illustrious leaders saying that more troops had
to be made available for the forthcoming Afghan elections
to make sure that it remained democratic and fair? Can we
recall the increase in troop fatalities in the lead up to
those elections and how our leaders condemned those
attacks all in the name of democracy?
Can we all recall that soon after the Afghanistan
election our respective leaders said that the election was
democratic, successful and were pleased with the results?
Can we recall just days after the results were made
available that the UN had agreed with opposition members
that in actual fact the whole election campaign was rife
with corruption? Can we recall that again our leaders took
sides and agreed with the UN and demanded a run off? Can
we then remember Karzai backing down and agreeing to
another run off? It was around this time that the
commander of ISAF forces asked for a massive injection of
troops and that if we did not do this the war could well
Then we had a cat and mouse game going on between
Obama, Brown and Karzai. The President said that he would
not put his troops in harms way until their was a
democratic government in Afghanistan. This was immediately
followed by Brown repeating almost word for word the same
quote. Whilst all this was going on the ISAF Commander was
seeking an urgent response to his request. This was
followed by members of Congress also demanding that this
hesitation be resolved in order to protect our troops in
Things then took a dramatic turn when the leader of the
opposition backed down and stated that he would not be
contesting Karzai? Suddenly we had those same leaders
congratulating Karzai on his victory and Ban Ki Moon
making that special flight to Kabul to personally
congratulate him? So much for the sacrifice of our troops
all in the name of democracy!
After the dust had again settled we saw a massive
increase in ISAF fatalities along with a barrage of
accusation made against the British Government regarding
the lack of logistical support such as helicopters etc.
Then at last we saw that the general public where starting
to see that this war was rather futile and turning into
another Vietnam. The final straw came when 6 British
Soldiers died at the hands of one of the Policemen that
they had trained.
Throughout the last couple of months we have heard
both Obama and Brown repeat the same statement after the
death of even more troops that "This will only strengthen
our resolve" we have also seen key senior commanders
repeating the same spin and even an array of carefully
selected ex Afghan commanders appearing on television to
say that this war can be won.
Mr Brown again used the same old statement to the
British public that we must continue the battle in
Afghanistan to make sure the streets of Britain remain
safe. It was also very soon after this political drive
that he again repeated that the main area of concerned was
Pakistan and the border region and yet from the ISAF
perspective this area has little or no activity. It was
also repeated yet again that only around 100 Al Qaeda
remain inside Afghanistan.
If one looks at the Afghanistan Provinces adjacent
to the current Pakistan conflict zone we find that only
139 troops in total have died since the start of the war
to date and of these only 26 have died this year. It must
be remembered that this area in the past has housed Al
Qaeda and Taliban Militia and is the area that is likely
to again received militia that are being pushed over by
the Pakistan Army. Why isn't this area receiving the same
attention as the region either side of the pipeline
route.....at the end of the day this war was supposed to
be all about Al Qaeda?
does not have to be a Field Marshall to understand that
you take the battle to the area of concern and if possible
attack the enemy on at least two fronts. Consequently we
have the Pakistan Army fighting in mass with around 30,000
soldiers into the insurgent stronghold of South
Waziristan, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan (as
marked on the map). It was estimated that around 10,000
militants and foreign fighters exist in the region. The
Pakistan Army stated that this was a full-scale ground
offensive against Taliban and al-Qaida insurgents. The
headlines after day two of this operation read as follows:
"Pakistan hits Taliban, urges NATO to seal border" the
article went on to say that the remote and rugged South
Waziristan is a global hub for militants.
It's ironic that the US forces have only returned to
the adjacent Afghanistan province for a two day operation
this month after an absence of over three years. One can
see the frustration by Pakistan in being pushed by the US
and UK to resolve terrorism in their country which was as
a direct result of US forces pushing the problem over the
border. Now we see Pakistan troops have the potential to
push them back into Afghanistan and no one will be on the
other side to deal with the return of the problem.
I continue to ask the question "Why are we still in
Afghanistan? Why are there so many troops and more
required? If the main terrorist activity is in the region
indicated why are NATO troop's fighter such a long
distance away from those they have been tracking down for
such a long period of time? Is there some other hidden
agenda such as the TAPI pipeline? Let's just take a brief
look again at the map above to show where the main problem
areas are in regard to these so called terrorist and also
see where all our troops are dying and for what?
One can see that there is significant activity along
the pipeline route with the highest death rate. The main
enemy (according to the US, UK and NATO forces) are those
that were driven over the border, but this factor doesn't
appear to cause any concern. How many times have we seen a
surge in certain areas to then see them pull out and watch
the Taliban return to the area that so many people died
for? If it was so important to remove the enemy from the
area why wouldn't you stand your ground, defend and
As we can now see the Pakistan Government were
harassed by the US to do something about terrorism in the
northwest but for what purpose, to again attack the
militia and have them cross back over the border into
Afghanistan and if so who will stop them re grouping and
killing more soldiers?
There are so many things that really do not make sense.
We have listened to Gordon Brown repeat time and
time again that we have the right strategy in Afghanistan
and we will not turn our backs on its people. He makes it
clear that the purpose is to remove Al Qaeda and Taliban
and continue training Afghans until they are strong enough
to take back military control of their country. He again
places an emphasis that we must persevere in the effort to
keep our street free of terrorists and yet no Taliban have
attacked the US/UK.
Only when the death toll continues to rise and only
when senior military officer start to be critical of
government does he now start to show signs of weakness. We
have always known there has been an acute shortage of
helicopters to which he repeatedly denied. He backed this
belief up by asking one of the commanders if the lack of
helicopter were instrumental in the deaths of 6 British
troops recently and then issued a statement that in this
particular case there were helicopters available to cover
the task. Now only this week he announced a sizeable
increase in helicopters being made available to the troops
in Afghanistan by spring next year and a much higher ratio
in flying hours. This obviously told us the public that
there was definitely a shortage of helicopters. My
question would be why they have to wait for so long and
how many more troops will die because of the lack of
supply and logistical support.
One cannot totally blame the Prime Minister because
the responsibility for such operations, supply and
logistics remains under the control of The Secretary of
State for Defence who has an array of Sub Ministers,
Defence Department Staff and Department of Defence to
guide him. It would be an opportune time to look at some
of the past and current gentlemen that have held this
vital position. We certainly would have to go back a long
way before we were able to find any person that was truly
worthy of such a position. Historically we can start with
George Robertson, Geoff Hoon, John Reid, John Hutton (very
short lived) and finally the current and most ineffective
Bob Ainsworth. Many of these so called astute gentlemen
told so many fairytales and deceived we the public.
Now we unfortunately have to get back to Gordon
Brown who has now turned the failings of the war effort
into a case of "Corruption in Afghanistan". Both he and
Obama are now saying exactly the same "We will not allow
anymore troops to get into harms way until Afghanistan has
sorted out its own Corruption" I have to say hey both
sound like conjoined twins. Now it appears that at last
they are starting to accept that this is another Vietnam
and Brown for the first time gave a slight indication of
So could this be the first sign of an exit strategy
by using corruption in Afghanistan as the means to an end?
What happened to the war for democracy? What happened to
the statement that "We have the right strategy? Do they
believe that the only ones involved in corruption were the
Afghans? If Iraq is to act as a template for such a
statement I can assure you that corruption is rife at all
levels on all sides with the added bonus of deceit at the
It would be appropriate just prior to the pullout
for Obama and Brown to hold a press conference in Kabul
and wait for the barrage of shoes that will head their way
(even if they do happened to be second hand shoes that are
worn by a nation in extreme poverty) It would be a
goodwill gesture for all International NGO's around the
world to start collecting shoes to act as a back up supply
for the press conference and any surplus could be made
available for a shoe throwing rally in Washington and
The President that promised change to the people of
the US has reversed almost every promise made and is
showing clear signs of become a person who will surpass
George W Bush.........Obama promised his people change but
change didn't come. Instead Wall Street was allowed to
orchestrate the financial meltdown under the watchful eye
of both Bush and Obama with the worlds best financial
expert in Britain watching on. This rape of taxpayer's
money continues to rise and guess what? $6.8 Trillion has
gone missing from the vaults of America without trace and
no enquiry. The Federal Reserve Bank continues to rule the
President and US Government by strategically placing its
operatives next to Obama in senior advisory roles. The
Federal Reserve Bank does not have to answer to any US law
and therefore has a free hand to do what it likes.
Why is it that taxpayers are bled of all their
reserves to prop up those who intentionally allowed this
to happen then within a year show huge profits and
continue to hand out payments to their staff. Those
institutions then either have governments as shareholders
or they pay back the loans. Likewise the governments who
have taken taxpayers money and also borrowed from China,
Middle East or wherever eventually pay back their
My question is that if we the public have to then
suffer by extra taxes over the next 5-10 years of so to
cover this huge IOU then when do the taxpayers get paid
back?........the answer is simple.....they never
do!.......but that's another story for another day. Oh I
forget, before you leave the war zone I would like to
thank you on behalf of the people of Afghanistan for
contaminating the country with weapons containing uranium
components and killing off the genetics of Afghanistan
(people - land - crops - water) ......just like you have
done in the Balkans, Kuwait and Iraq. Maybe we should also
extend this thank you for the supply of weapons to Israel,
allowing further contamination of Lebanon and Gaza
(Palestine) and thus also contaminating Israel itself and
It was reported today that a possible NATO airstrike
may have killed Afghan soldiers as well as Afghan police
when they mistakenly hit a joint base housing coalition
troops and Afghan security forces. 8 Afghans were killed
and 22 injured which included 5 US troops. The UN
Representative and other unnamed international figures
have been very critical of the Afghan Government who has
now accused them of interfering in Afghanistan internal
affairs. President Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown
have added their weight to the criticism. I think we can
all see that this may well form the basis of a defeat and
a phased pullout using corruption as diversionary tactic.
From my perspective - "Admit you were wrong" -
"Admit defeat" - "Pull out" and bring the troops home. In
doing so you will save trillion of dollars that is so
vital to our respective countries economy and help us
overcome this economic collapse that you have allowed to
occur. In passing I would also like to add that in doing
so you will reduce the military carbon footprint that
according to your front man Gore is so vital for our
survival.....buy hey that's another propaganda story we
can cover another time......keep watching this space.
- Peter Eyre, Middle East Consultant
U.S. soldiers in 2007 search mountains in the Andar
province of Afghanistan for Taliban members and weapons
Lesson of Vietnam Lost in Afghanistan
Posted on Aug 20, 2009
U.S. soldiers in 2007 search mountains in the
Andar province of Afghanistan for Taliban members and weapons caches.
On Aug. 17, President Barack Obama made the
obligatory presidential pilgrimage to the conclave
of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, this time on Sen.
John McCain’s home turf. The Phoenix speech,
carried live on cable networks, captured a VFW
audience often surly and seemingly uninterested in
the president’s remarks. But at one point, he
predictably brought even his recalcitrant audience
to its feet when he made a pitch for his health
care proposals: “One thing that reform won’t
change is veterans’ health care. No one is going
to take away your benefits. That’s the truth.” No
Away from the convention, the president and his
spokespersons spent much of the day backing and
filling on health care. Did he or didn’t he favor
a public option? How much would “his” package (did
he have one?) cost? And what about those “death
But for the VFW, Obama concentrated on the
expanding war in Afghanistan—the war he now
proudly asserts as his own. After in effect
declaring victory in Iraq to justify the removal
of American troops, Obama promised he now would
“refocus” our efforts to “win” in Afghanistan. As
Obama made abundantly clear in his presidential
campaign, this was his war of choice, the one he
consistently has said is necessary to eliminate
al-Qaida, which had taken refuge in the desolate
During the campaign, he seemed at pains to
demonstrate he was not the caricatured soft
liberal when it came to American military power.
Although Obama consistently has admitted, as he
did before the VFW in Arizona, that military power
alone will not be sufficient, he nevertheless has
insisted that his “new strategy” has the clear
mission “to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat
al-Qaida.” Obama knows that defeat of the Taliban
is essential to this strategy. “If left
unchecked,” he has remarked, the Taliban
insurgency will bring “an even larger safe haven
from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more
Americans.” It is not, he maintains, a “war of
choice,” but “a war of necessity.”
In 1991, following the defeat of Saddam Hussein
and Iraqi forces in Kuwait, President George H.W.
Bush proudly announced that we had “kicked the
Vietnam Syndrome.” His successor son, propelled by
Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, heady with 2003’s
lightning rout of Iraqi forces, believed he had
restored the “can do” notions of World War II for
the military component of American foreign policy.
The same day
President Obama spoke to the VFW, The New York
carried a dispatch from Afghanistan in which a
villager talked about his security and the
difference between night and day: “When you [the
Americans] leave here, the Taliban will come at
night and ask us why we were talking to you,” a
villager named Abdul Razzaq said. “If we cooperate
[with the U.S.], they would kill us.”
Déjà vu all over again. The U.S. military in
Vietnam often announced it had killed a particular
number of Viet Cong and had “freed” a village. The
Americans left, assuming the enemy had lost
control, but at night, of course, the VC returned
and reminded villagers of the reality.
Whatever “syndrome” we kicked, Vietnam’s primary
lesson remains intact: American power is not
without limits, both in terms of defeating an
enemy and in terms of its domestic support. The
primary lesson of Vietnam seems to be that it is a
lesson lost. And now we have some of the same
intractable problems in Afghanistan.
Gen. Stanley McChrystal and Special Envoy Richard
Holbrooke recently called Vietnam War historian
Stanley Karnow for advice. After the
told the AP that the main lesson to be learned
from Vietnam was that “we shouldn’t have been
there in the first place.” We apparently don’t
know what was said on the other end in Karnow’s
talk with the general and the envoy, but
McChrystal has asked for more troops.
As Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B.
Johnson expanded the American commitment in
Vietnam, their deputies regularly insisted that
the insurgency had Chinese support and backing.
“Peiping,” as Secretary of State Dean Rusk said in
blatantly demeaning the Chinese, was to blame. If
the government had had any historians with the
courage to speak truth to power, they would have
pointed to a millennium of historical enmity
between the Chinese and the Vietnamese. As if to
prove the point, the Chinese launched war against
the victorious Vietnamese in 1975, only to suffer
an embarrassing defeat.
The historical lessons for Afghanistan are clear.
The British readily acknowledge their defeat.
Surely the Russians know that Afghanistan was
their Vietnam—with some not-so-covert intervention
by the CIA. Afghanistan has been a graveyard for
imperial ambitions, however noble and ostensibly
good the ventures may have been. Long after the
Guns of Health Care Reform are stilled,
Afghanistan apparently promises to be with
President Obama—and us—for a very long time.
We thought we defeated the Taliban once before;
and now it is back again. President Obama believes
we must do more to roll back the Taliban. But what
can we do with the ethnic and tribal rivalries,
the corruption and inefficiency in Kabul, all of
which are related to the place of the Taliban?
Will the U.S. be able to destroy, everywhere in
the country, the Taliban’s grip on power? Does
anyone in Obama’s circle ask “why?”
We can ponder the alternative. If successful, the
Taliban might offer “an even larger safe haven”
for al-Qaida and similar groups. But now, without
Taliban control of the Afghanistan government,
“safe havens” persist in the mountains of the
country and in the northwest provinces of
Pakistan. The situation is not much different than
it was in 2001, except that the safe area for
terrorists may be smaller. But what is different
is our intelligence, our use of it, our vigilance
and our capacity to strike with sophisticated air
Americans are questioning the Afghanistan
involvement as never before. A Washington Post-ABC
Poll, published this week, for the first time
showed a majority of Americans opposed to the
war. Meanwhile, suicide bombings and other attacks
mount in Kabul. U.S. troops can protect the
citizenry only sporadically, and with limitations.
But inevitably, Americans will ask how long we
will remain in Afghanistan, how many troops will
be needed, and whether the costs in lives and
treasure justify the venture. As with the Viet
Cong and the North Vietnamese army, chances of our
destroying the Taliban are slight. Eventually, the
Afghans—Taliban or otherwise—will inherit their
land and have to assume responsibility for
governing. We, like the British and the Russians
before us, will fade into Afghanistan’s history.
Stanley Kutler is the author of “The Wars of
Watergate” and other writings.
Aug. 17, President Barack Obama made the obligatory
presidential pilgrimage to the conclave of the Veterans of
Foreign Wars, this time on Sen. John McCain’s home turf. The
Phoenix speech, carried live on cable networks, captured a VFW
audience often surly and seemingly uninterested in the
president’s remarks. But at one point, he predictably brought
even his recalcitrant audience to its feet when he made a
pitch for his health care proposals: “One thing that reform
won’t change is veterans’ health care. No one is going to take
away your benefits. That’s the truth.” No doubt.
from the convention, the president and his spokespersons spent
much of the day backing and filling on health care. Did he or
didn’t he favor a public option? How much would “his” package
(did he have one?) cost? And what about those “death panels”?
for the VFW, Obama concentrated on the expanding war in
Afghanistan—the war he now proudly asserts as his own. After
in effect declaring victory in Iraq to justify the removal of
American troops, Obama promised he now would “refocus” our
efforts to “win” in Afghanistan. As Obama made abundantly
clear in his presidential campaign, this was his war of
choice, the one he consistently has said is necessary to
eliminate al-Qaida, which had taken refuge in the desolate
the campaign, he seemed at pains to demonstrate he was not the
caricatured soft liberal when it came to American military
power. Although Obama consistently has admitted, as he did
before the VFW in Arizona, that military power alone will not
be sufficient, he nevertheless has insisted that his “new
strategy” has the clear mission “to disrupt, dismantle, and
defeat al-Qaida.” Obama knows that defeat of the Taliban is
essential to this strategy. “If left unchecked,” he has
remarked, the Taliban insurgency will bring “an even larger
safe haven from which al-Qaida would plot to kill more
Americans.” It is not, he maintains, a “war of choice,” but “a
war of necessity.”
1991, following the defeat of Saddam Hussein and Iraqi forces
in Kuwait, President George H.W. Bush proudly announced that
we had “kicked the Vietnam Syndrome.” His successor son,
propelled by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, heady with
2003’s lightning rout of Iraqi forces, believed he had
restored the “can do” notions of World War II for the military
component of American foreign policy.
The same day President Obama
spoke to the VFW, The New York Times
carried a dispatch from Afghanistan in which a villager
talked about his security and the difference between night and
day: “When you [the Americans] leave here, the Taliban will
come at night and ask us why we were talking to you,” a
villager named Abdul Razzaq said. “If we cooperate [with the
U.S.], they would kill us.”
vu all over again. The U.S. military in Vietnam often
announced it had killed a particular number of Viet Cong and
had “freed” a village. The Americans left, assuming the enemy
had lost control, but at night, of course, the VC returned and
reminded villagers of the reality.
Whatever “syndrome” we kicked, Vietnam’s primary lesson
remains intact: American power is not without limits, both in
terms of defeating an enemy and in terms of its domestic
support. The primary lesson of Vietnam seems to be that it is
a lesson lost. And now we have some of the same intractable
problems in Afghanistan.
Stanley McChrystal and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke
recently called Vietnam War historian Stanley Karnow for
advice. After the
told the AP that the main lesson to be learned from
Vietnam was that “we shouldn’t have been there in the first
place.” We apparently don’t know what was said on the other
end in Karnow’s talk with the general and the envoy, but
McChrystal has asked for more troops.
Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson expanded the
American commitment in Vietnam, their deputies regularly
insisted that the insurgency had Chinese support and backing.
“Peiping,” as Secretary of State Dean Rusk said in blatantly
demeaning the Chinese, was to blame. If the government had had
any historians with the courage to speak truth to power, they
would have pointed to a millennium of historical enmity
between the Chinese and the Vietnamese. As if to prove the
point, the Chinese launched war against the victorious
Vietnamese in 1975, only to suffer an embarrassing defeat.
historical lessons for Afghanistan are clear. The British
readily acknowledge their defeat. Surely the Russians know
that Afghanistan was their Vietnam—with some not-so-covert
intervention by the CIA. Afghanistan has been a graveyard for
imperial ambitions, however noble and ostensibly good the
ventures may have been. Long after the Guns of Health Care
Reform are stilled, Afghanistan apparently promises to be with
President Obama—and us—for a very long time.
thought we defeated the Taliban once before; and now it is
back again. President Obama believes we must do more to roll
back the Taliban. But what can we do with the ethnic and
tribal rivalries, the corruption and inefficiency in Kabul,
all of which are related to the place of the Taliban? Will the
U.S. be able to destroy, everywhere in the country, the
Taliban’s grip on power? Does anyone in Obama’s circle ask
ponder the alternative. If successful, the Taliban might offer
“an even larger safe haven” for al-Qaida and similar groups.
But now, without Taliban control of the Afghanistan
government, “safe havens” persist in the mountains of the
country and in the northwest provinces of Pakistan. The
situation is not much different than it was in 2001, except
that the safe area for terrorists may be smaller. But what is
different is our intelligence, our use of it, our vigilance
and our capacity to strike with sophisticated air weapons.
Americans are questioning the Afghanistan involvement as never
before. A Washington Post-ABC Poll, published this week, for
the first time
showed a majority of Americans opposed to the war.
Meanwhile, suicide bombings and other attacks mount in Kabul.
U.S. troops can protect the citizenry only sporadically, and
with limitations. But inevitably, Americans will ask how long
we will remain in Afghanistan, how many troops will be needed,
and whether the costs in lives and treasure justify the
venture. As with the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese army,
chances of our destroying the Taliban are slight. Eventually,
the Afghans—Taliban or otherwise—will inherit their land and
have to assume responsibility for governing. We, like the
British and the Russians before us, will fade into
Stanley Kutler is the author of “The Wars of Watergate” and
November 20, 2009
Battlefield in the War of Ideas
November 20, 2009
Intelligentsia Against Intelligence
November 19, 2009
November 19, 2009
Enough G-2 Talk Already
November 19, 2009
The Afghanistan Speech Obama Should Give (but Won’t)
Afghanistan can become
Obama's Vietnam: Clinton
Posted: Feb 18, 2009
If the US President attempts to do what the British and
the Russians did in the past, then Afghanistan could
become 'Barack Obama's Vietnam', but it is unlikely to
happen, former president Bill Clinton has said.
"If President Obama
were to do what the British tried to do in the 19th
century and literally control the country, or what the
Russians did into the 1980s, trying to, have a puppet
government and then send the whole Russian Army in there
to fight, it could become
Vietnam," Clinton told Larry King of
the CNN in an interview.
"But I don't expect
that to happen," Clinton said when asked if Afghanistan
has the potential to become Obama's Vietnam. "In theory,
it could happen. But I don't think so. I think what they
mean is that Afghanistan has often been a sinkhole for
other country's aspirations, that it is big, tough
terrain, rugged people and impossible to control the
borders," he said.
"He's (Obama) got
perhaps our smartest General, Gen Petraeus, and our most
successful diplomat in the modern era, Dick (Richard)
Holbrooke, working together to craft a
military and diplomatic strategy,
strongly supported by (Secretary of State) Hillary
(Clinton) and Secretary (of Defence Robert) Gates,"
Holbrooke, the Special
US Envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan was recently in
the region visiting Afghanistan, Pakistan and
India to listen to the view of the
leaders of these countries.
Clinton said the
leadership of the Obama Administration knows what the
risks are in Afghanistan.
"But they believe the
risks of non-involvement, losing the Afghan democracy,
having the Taliban come back in and institute the most
repressive government in modern history against women
and little girls, giving free reign to the Afghan -- Al
Qaeda, all over Afghanistan -- those risks are far
greater," he said.
"So I think that
they'll be smart. I think they learned some lessons in
Iraq. And I believe they've got a reasonable chance to
succeed and no alternative but to try," Clinton said.
The former US president
said, "As you see from the area of Pakistan where the Al
Qaeda leaders and a lot of their Taliban supporters have
hung out, hidden and from which they have launched
attacks and incursions into Afghanistan.
"That's never ever even
been a part of the central government's control in Pakistan."
Iraq? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Is Arabic for
That old “Vietnam
is Arabic for
bumper sticker is still on my car. Am I
out-of-date? The continuing presence of
Cheney’s sneer on U.S. TV, as though he
should be considered a legitimate public
figure instead of a discredited national
disaster, suggests that I am not. The
pattern of errors from the French
Indochina War to the American Indochina
War to the War Against Islamic
Independence (if I may be permitted to
assign the sort of names that may become
generally accepted by historians of the
future) is ominous. By failing
unambiguously to denounce the mistakes
of their allies and predecessors,
American politicians ensure the
repetition of their mistakes.
French, being in
led the way in making fundamental
mistakes. According to
The Pentagon Papers:
In May, 1947, Minister of War
Coste-Floret announced in
that: "There is no military problem
any longer in
. . . the success of French arms is
complete." Within six months, though
ambitious armored, amphibious, and
airborne drives had plunged into the
northern mountains and along the
coast, Viet Minh sabotage and raids
along lines of communication had
mounted steadily, and
had come to realize that
had lost the military initiative.
to Political Problems.
The record shows that through 1953,
the French pursued a policy which was
based on military victory and excluded
meaningful negotiations with Ho Chi
of the Adversary. The following classic
oversimplification is of course a
self-fulfilling prophesy of which
politicians seem never to tire:
American thinking and policy-making
was dominated by the tendency to view
communism in monolithic terms.
It is ironic that
Washington attitude toward the
Viet Minh existed, since relations
between the anti-Japanese Viet Minh and
U.S. had been
cooperative during World War II.
From 1946 to 1954,
became increasingly engaged in a major
counter-insurgency campaign in
At first, the threat was not
immediately recognized as being
serious, but it soon became a
strategic imperative for
to keep its colony, and prevent a
precedent to be emulated across its
colonial empire. Furthermore, after
its defeat in June 1940 by
was engaged in reinstating itself as a
major power, and would not allow a
colonial conflict to be lost to a gang
of insurgents. Over time, the French
military commitment, including
auxiliaries and Vietnamese allies,
reached nearly 450,000 troops..
Assumptions for Granted. The surest path
to disaster is the failure to question
fundamental assumptions, and the classic
assumption is of course that everything
you want is essential for survival.
Whatever you do, never waste time trying
to figure out an alternative way of
achieving one’s goal.
Government internal debate on the
question of intervention centered
essentially on the desirability and
security interests in the
was taken for granted.
Decisions Too Quickly. Truman’s
decision only three days after the
North Korean attack on South Korea in
1950 to provide significant military aid
to the French war against the Viet-Minh,
who had assumed power, declared
Vietnamese independence, and requested
international recognition following
Japan’s surrender, is a classic. The US
military aid surge notwithstanding, by
the end of the year, a Viet-Minh
campaign to destroy French forts on the
Vietnamese-Chinese border had inflicted
has been called the worst colonial
defeat of French forces since the 1767
loss of Quebec.
Where, in all the
conflict, is any Western awareness of
the natural preference of societies for
making their own decisions? Regardless
of right or wrong, once a society
perceives a domestic conflict as being
dominated by foreigners, those
foreigners begin to lose momentum.
Perhaps the key fact about the whole
post-WWII Western experience in
Vietnam is that
the French had to reinvade after
e.g., the 1946 naval shelling of
Haiphong and consequent slaughter of
thousands of Vietnamese and provocation
of the French Indochina War following
the unilateral French decision to
modify its previous recognition of
Vietnamese independence by limiting the
Viet Minh regime to the north.
Without More Troops, Afghanistan Defeat Looms
Monday, October 19, 2009 12:44 PM
A Talib is a male student who is attending, or who has
graduated, from a madrassa and can recite the Quran in
Arabic by heart.
To learn Arabic and use the language of the
prophet to recite in rhythmic tones the entire quran's
114 chapters and 6,236 verses takes about 10 years. By
the time a Talib graduates at 16, he knows little
else, except that the earth is flat as a rug or a bed
(mentioned many times in the holy book with one
exception when it is described as egg-shaped).
Most important in a Talib's one-dimensional
education is the firm belief that America, India, and
Israel are mortal enemies of Islam.
The original spark plug for Pakistan's 12,500
madrassas originated during the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan in the 1980s. The idea, warmly endorsed by
the United States and Saudi Arabia, was the erection
of an ideological barrier against communist ideology.
As the United States turned against Pakistan for
its secret nuclear weapons program in the 1990s, the
Taliban's Afghan branch, the brainchild of ISI,
Pakistan's intelligence service, was spun off to put
an end to civil war in Afghanistan and seize power.
It then ruled for four years, imposing a cruel
Islamist dictatorship where music, TV, and girl
schools were banned. Public floggings and executions
were the only public spectacles allowed.
In May 2001 Pakistan's Baluchistan soccer team
returned from a non-match in Kandahar. The Taliban
didn't allow the players to wear shorts; only long
baggy sweat pants were permitted.
The Taliban was defeated by the United States in
October 2001 for hosting Osama bin Laden and his
al-Qaida terrorists. But, funded partly by
Afghanistan's multibillion-dollar illicit
opium-to-heroin narcotics trade and by clandestine
benefactors in the Gulf, the Taliban has staged a
Even the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in
Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says unless
President Obama authorizes 40,000 additional U.S.
troops, bringing the total U.S. force to 105,000, the
possibility of another Vietnam-type defeat looms
Training an indigenous Afghan army from an
illiterate manpower pool and increasing its strength
from 80,000 to 250,000 will take another four or five
years. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans have turned
against the war.
The Taliban's privileged sanctuaries in
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas made
the war unwinnable. Under constant U.S. prodding,
Pakistan finally moved troops from the Indian border
to take on Taliban in FATA in the mid-2000s.
Badly mauled by Taliban insurgents (1,400
killed, 4,000 wounded), the Pakistani army stood down.
Emboldened, the Pakistani branch of the Taliban
launched an offensive that swallowed the scenic Swat
Valley and pushed to within 60 miles of Islamabad.
Pride stung again, the army counter-attacked and
took back Swat, and the Taliban launched terrorist
attacks. Suicide bombers struck repeatedly in
Pakistan's major cities, even boldly penetrated
Pakistan's Pentagon. Inside general headquarters in
Rawalpindi, insurgents armed with AK-47s, grenades,
and rocket launchers held their own for 22 hours,
killing a one-star general and a colonel. Two dozen
hostages were taken and saved when a suicide bomber
was killed before he could detonate his vest.
The Taliban even came back to Swat, where they
attacked a military convoy, killing 40. Some 8,000
Pakistanis have lost their lives in 129 terrorist
attacks since former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was
assassinated two years ago.
The HQ attack finally prodded the military to
take on the Taliban in FATA's Waziristan tribal areas,
where they are deeply entrenched and heavily armed,
along with Uzbek guerrillas who have been with them
since their defeat in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountain
range in December 2001, when bin Laden made it out
unscathed with some 500 al-Qaida fighters.
Two-thirds of Pakistanis see the United States
as the "enemy," according to a recent Pew Research
Center survey. Most believe Sept. 11, 2001, was a CIA-Mossad
conspiracy to provide a pretext for a crusade against
Pakistan's anti-U.S. feelings were rubbed raw
when the "insulting" Kerry-Lugar bill authorized $1.5
billion a year for five years only to be spent on
items approved by the United States — peanuts next to
the trillion-dollar war in Iraq and the $230 billion
war in Afghanistan, now in its ninth year.
The cost of keeping a single U.S. soldier behind
the Hindu Kush is $1 million a year. And each gallon
of gasoline in the Afghan theater runs the U.S.
taxpayer $400, including transportation across a
couple of continents.
Former President Farooq Leghari (1993-97)
blasted the Pakistan Enduring Assistance and
Cooperation Enhancement Act of 2009, commonly known as
the Kerry-Lugar Bill, as a "supreme example of the
servility and shamelessness of our top-most leadership
who secretly aided and acquiesced in the unbearable
presumptions, language and conditionalities that leave
Pakistan in the dock of a country whose armed forces
and ISI stand accused and 'proven guilty' of
initiating, aiding and abetting terrorism . . . of a
country to be held hostage to accusations of terrorist
activity by India and Afghanistan, a country whose
entire social, religious, educational and economic
direction would be determined by U.S. congressional
committees and their government, whose defense forces
senior positions will be in the oversight and final
endorsement of that government, whose entire nuclear
program and its personnel will be accessible to that
government and whose federal and provincial
departments and local authorities and favored NGOs
will be directly beholden to that government."
Never publicly, concluded Leghari in an article
e-mailed to this reporter, has even a "banana
republic" succumbed to such conditionalities.
He pinned the blame squarely on "corrupt rulers"
who stole billions of dollars and hid their
"ill-gotten wealth with the help of international
money-laundering consultants in one shell company
after another in foreign countries, obfuscating their
criminal past by massive bribery through a corrupt
Were all this fraud to be brought back, Leghari
concluded, "Pakistan would have more dollars than the
Kerry-Lugar dispensation and whatever else we seek
with begging bowls in our hands."
The new Taliban leader for Pakistan, "Emir"
Hakimullah Mehsud, who replaced his brother Baitullah
after he was killed by a U.S. drone strike, held a
news conference last week for Pakistani reporters, in
which he spelled out the insurgents' two key
objectives: 1) getting Pakistan to abandon "the
company of America" and 2) enforcing Islamic Shariah
law. Judging from Pakistan's unanimously hostile
reaction to Kerry-Lugar and the Taliban's attack
against GHQ, the country's nuclear arsenal may not be
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