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The Ghosts of Vietnam Should Haunt Us, but Don't


The Ghosts of Vietnam Should Haunt Us, but Don't

Eric Margolis

It was 1967. The war in Vietnam was raging.

I was 24 years old, just out of graduate school in New York City. Cambridge University had accepted me to do a doctorate history.

But no. In a burst of youthful patriotism, I concluded it was every citizen’s duty to join the armed forces in wartime. So I enlisted as an infantry officer candidate in the US Army and was packed off to basic training.


If one would consider the possibilty that all of these wars waged abroad by the United States of America had far less to do with some belief of an impending collapse of said countries to Communism or Islamic Fundamentalism and far MORE to do with entrenching the MIC and Militarism into the Social Fabric of the United States of America it will become apparent that as ar as the Government was and is concerned NONE of these wars are mistakes.

It is a KNOWN fact that the very architect of the “Contain the USSR Policy” was claiming his policy a mistake and the USSR and China posed no threat to the USA. He was stating this as early as 1948.

The reality is his compatriots in Government knew this as well yet proceeded to advance the fiction of the USA in peril.


I was among the THOUSANDS of young people protesting the Vietnam War. The “flower children” knew it for the unapologetic horror that it was; and in my high school, it was jocks, centrists, children of pro-military leaning right wing families and guys who thought they could prove something–in the way of their masculinity–that willingly joined the Killing Fields Vietnam Apparatus.

So to make this ridiculous falsely inclusive comment reinforces the flaw I see too often used. It reflects an unexamined premise that takes what’s true for warriors and those who resonate with top-down patriarchal systems and applies it to EVERYONE else as one seamless, all-inclusive frame. It is inaccurate and misplaced:

“Alas, we seem to have forgotten everything about Vietnam and learned nothing.”

Ironic, I think, that Tom Engelhardt uses this frame and I would not be surprised if Ray McGovern did also. It certainly is a frame that suits many males, particularly those who were IN the military; but like so much of our lopsided patriarchal capitalistic culture: it takes what is true for dominators and applies it, as one uniform view… to all those UNDER that domination.

This is a way of making women voiceless. It’s a way of silencing dissent. And therefore, it is propagandistic.

The subtext is that we all are warriors. We all have input into war-making. We all agree; and therefore since the mistakes perpetuate, we all have learned nothing.

A FAR more accurate frame is to honestly admit that the Military-Industrial Complex with its “jobs plan” grown like cancerous tentacles into every state, has, in fact become precisely what President Eisenhower warned against.

Morphing into an insidious Deep State apparatus, its CIA, NSA, and counter-intelligence units change the fates of nations routinely through plots and assassinations. Few American citizens know of these events. Otherwise, as John Perkins explains in “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” the financial operators infiltrate other lands pushing dam-building projects and other “promises of prosperity through development.” Mostly, they bribe leaders and leave these nations tethered to debt and through it, under the control of global elites and other banking (or corporate) cartels.

WE did not choose this. A series of secret events starting with Project Paperclip and the importation of FAR too many Nazis into the State Department, added to the inception of the NSA in l947 and later, the inside job assassinations of both Kennedy Brothers, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, and others… crept its controls into place.

The humiliating aftermath to Vietnam made all the hippies, anti-war protestors, and flower children right. But in order to save the MIC from otherwise certain demise, other enemies had to be dreamt up or designed. And THAT is the ongoing story. Since winning wars is really an afterthought to the profit margins of making and sustaining them, the issue is really that of war profiteers and its Siamese twin, the MIC.

Since those committed to careers in warfare along with those powerful interests whose profits are drawn from “moving killer inventory” NEED war to justify their own existences, they make war. THAT is the bottom line. From there, the use of backdoor drafts or actual drafts, the relaying of propagandistic FALSE messages across a captured media, and the vetting of candidates deferential to the make-war state apparatus keep the war games going.

One could argue that THESE select forces have learned nothing but this way of framing the matter supposes that war is not made now for profit to some and geopolitical advantages to others. So long as there IS an MIC with a half-trillion dollar annual declared budget (to which other funds are also applied), it will work to justify itself. It HAS learned to do that; and it exists because of its power… not because those of us who abhor war and abhor a martial society have learned nothing.

This is about power. Few decent citizens are equipped to debate an armed weapon aimed at their skull. THAT is a fit metaphor for the MIC holding a nation’s peaceful people hostage in a form that only differs from the outcome to Egypt’s “Arab Spring” (and resulting military take-over) by degree.


Indeed. You and I get this… but you never see Tom Engelhardt or Robert Parry or Andrew Bacevich or apparently, Eric Margolis “get it.” They write elaborate essays that are peripheral to the glaring truth. Is it a current or former allegiance to some branch of the armed forces that blinds them? Or are they paid propagandists… offering up messages that critique how wars are fought along with their tactical errors while all the while never demanding an end to misplaced militarism and its record of Crimes Against Humanity, ongoing!

And to add insult to injury, the hubris to apply a one-size-fits-all WE frame to this carnage!

I don’t have the exact famous quote, but it’s by the Nazi who explained that OF COURSE THE PEOPLE do NOT want WAR… but they can be MADE to support it IF they are told, often and convincingly that THEY are under attack or under THREAT from another (target “enemy”) population.

Today’s mesmerizing mass media delivers low level mind control on a 24/7 rate of discharge. Between sports pushing team identifications and Hollywood sexing up war, gun-use, and violence… the appetite for AGGRESSION is being strongly programmed into the population, particularly within males.


Exactly, SuspiraDeProfundis - the war in Vietnam, like almost everywhere else, was more about resources and control than ideology. I recall that in his memoirs Eisenhower mentioned not only the fact that if elections had been allowed in both Vietnams (as agreed in the Geneva Agreement), Uncle Ho would’ve won the elections. And that was bad because of the potential natural resources of Vietnam. Years later, Zbigniew Brzezinski also commented that the war against communism was basically a war for territories. If Uncle Ho had not been a fierce nationalist but an obedient dictator, the Vietnam War might not have happened. Thus, though Ngo Dinh Diem was South Vietnam’s president, his desire to control his own forces and fight the North in his own way was an important factor in his assassination. Again, Margolis mentions about Vietnam “becoming” a US ally even though its Prime Minister had railed against “US barbarism” during the war just a couple of days ago. And that country still reminds its people through exhibits about the effects of Agent Orange, its papers continue to celebrate the Vietcong’s exploits against the “American aggressors”, etc. What the present Vietnamese government is afraid of is subversion, which I presume is what the PNAC people are planning. If these people succeed, THEN Vietnam will indeed become a US ally. Otherwise it will eventually show itself, like Russia and China and Iran and North Korea, to be an irritant: the Empire has no tolerance for those unwilling to toe their master’s line.


I wonder if there’s any polls showing that males are particularly warlike. The Vietnam protestors, so far as I can remember - I was a young teacher during the 60s/early70s - were mostly males. And as the years went on, the world has seen a Margaret Thatcher who was willing to use nuclear weapons on Argentina if that country failed to surrender the Falklands, not to mention the Albrights, the Nulands, etc. People become “warlike” because of what they see as opportunities for personal gains. Gender, by itself, is not the deciding factor. Nearly all my friends - typical white males - are against wars, especially wars of aggression.


I watched a documentary on the Lakota nation as recommended by some people here a few months ago.

In that documentary a male member of that tribe pointed out that prior to the arrival of the Europeans their own culture was in fact a Matriarchy with the women in the tribe holding much in the way of power. He then detailed the process used by those Europeans to break that culture down and turn it into a Patriarchy. This “breaking down” of Matriarchy and the replacement with a Patriarchy did not take long in the great scheme of things. In this regard the shortcut of violence is very effective.

This raised a very obvious question with me. Given we need to dismantle the patriarchy for our own survivals sake and given just how firmly it entrenched just how LONG will it take and how can it be done?

I think it should be obvious from history that patriarchy is NOT Human nature by the very presence of those Lakota Sioux and their own very recent history even as those who advance that “human nature” meme ignore the works by Eisler and others.

All of these guys you mentioned are part of that Patriarchy. While some might be part of the apparatus deliberately spreading the theme of Militarism , others are just part of that Patriarchy and can not see outside that meme.


Just ridiculous. Who favors war now? What gender is most obvious inside the NRA? Which gender produces 90% of serial killers? Which one rapes? In fact, your straining to make gender neutral (or using Maggie Thatcher as if ONE woman or today’s handful of female insiders to the bastions of the male-ordered military hierarchy or banker clubs that RUN things symbolize all) reminds me of a psychiatrist who, upon noting that 90% of violent crimes are executed by males STILL struggled to show parity between the genders by pointing out the FEW crimes done by females.

Males like you just have ZERO comprehension about what patriarchy means, and how a dominant culture put into existence by males and held in place by dominant macho power rewards what few females it allows in AS tokens. These women are not acting in the interests of women any more than Eric Holder or Obama are showing any interesting in furthering the rights, economic options, and police treatment of the Black Community.

You mistake tokenism for equivalence… an intellectual weakness found in those who want to retain a status quo that obviously lends very real and enduring privileges to white males. Naturally, within that pecking order males with sociopathic-aggressive ambitions and/or those born into money hold enhanced favor and men at the bottom resent that. Nonetheless, white male privilege is and has been a Western norm since the reign of the Romans and the patriarchal religious formatting that followed.


Conjecture is not required, Suspira. The type of society that occurred when it was the life-giving Mother Goddess that was revered is documented brilliantly by Merlin Stone, and Riane Eisler in her seminal work, “The Chalice and the Blade.” Ms. Eisler preferred to define such a societal model as “Partnership” based.

Since so many males have been conditioned to think in terms of rank, or who’s the winner and who’s the loser, VERY few can conceptualize what an ACTUAL balanced partnership means.

How many hundred times have I spoken of the balance between sun and moon, day and night, in-breath and out-breath, activity and sleep… added to the most compelling evidence of all in that balance portrayed through the complementary roles set between the genders composing the very structure of life in the form of the DNA molecule? Clearly, its entwined, dancing double helix is a product of HALF the genetic content of each parent.

What passes for human nature is the product of centuries of church-state control. The Enlightenment and the series of revolutions in our own land and across Europe were relatively recent events; and even so, since the onset of history–about 5000 years ago–a battle between controls enforced by a long line of tyrants, kings, pharaohs, prime ministers, presidents, czars, etc. and the rights of The people (added to the sovereignty and arguable free will of the individual) has endured.

In the same way that Gandhi answered, “I think it WOULD be a good idea” to the question, “What do you think of American civilization?”… true individual freedom for most is YET to occur. When people are born into chains and experts use that “evidence” to insist that the mortal shall never fly, it’s the crippled context being judged in lieu of actualized potential.

Patriarchal religion–be it Christian, Islamic, Hindu or Judaic fundamentalism holds back human freedom and pushes this idea that a male father god (usually one who champions war) runs the big show. By extension, men continue to use force, aggression, and other tactics to control it on the earth plane.

From “Idle No More” to the recent Peace Convention of women at the Hague to the acts of Code Pink and so many others… most women see no value in war and understand that it is FAR more cost-effective to build hospitals, schools, farms, and creative venues than bomb places to smithereens leaving millions of persons angry, maimed, and displaced. The war model is truly the habit that will represent the demise of the human race, yet still posters like LARRY decry the input of women using as his paltry model the few females who’ve shown homage to patriarchal power and thus have been allowed inside its temples (that salute Mars, god of war and all things macho).

It’s Anglo-European males who fashioned notions of human nature on the basis of what THEY value. Since the Dominant Culture has the tools–military, financial, educational–to control and condition the masses. Females have had no choice but TO adopt to the patriarchal culture in the same way that Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans must do likewise. Power is not the same thing as Democracy, and much in the way of power comes down to unconscious rituals and beliefs that have been for so long inculcated into BOTH genders as to make these asymmetric behaviors SEEM like “reality” or “human nature.”

At least you see through the Big Lies. So many here argue FOR them.

On hundreds of occasions a poster (likely a member of the same Tag Team) has brought up the example of Hillary Clinton, Condi Rice, Margaret Thatcher, and now it’s Susan Powers and some other Rice… they are tokens. They do NOT represent the majority of women just as Obama does not represent the Black Community.

Tokens are Trojan horses that appear to demonstrate diversity–by their presence… when in reality, these select few operate to reinforce the same status quo that privileges patriarchy and its centuries-old rites of conquest. THAT is why far too much money (and human resources) go towards militarism, weapons, and plans designed to make war and continue the karmic chain of destruction… as visited from the fathers to the sons.

It’s time for women’s input… not through tokens but through those that sound the anti-war message.


The Vietnam war memorial is the US governments WALL OF SHAME. That is what should haunt us!


Inotherwords, We, as a nation, have not learned from Viet Nam, Iraq, or any other disastrous war that the United States has been involved in for so many years, all of which are the USA’s own making.


Margolis is limited by his background - as sospira points out. Warfare is a necessary part of the present US power structure and will not change, absent a massive popular uprising through the only remaining (imperfect) channel Americans have: the vote. But given the system, don’t deride him. We need such as Margolis, imperfect as their analysis is. At least they show some moral fibre.

btw Mr. Margolis, forgive my pedantry but: firstly Talleyrand is spelt with an ‘e’ and secondly, he never said, “c’est pire qu’un crime, c’est une faute”. That was said by his fellow Minister Fouché, Head of Napoleon’s Secret Police, about the murder of the young Duc d’Enghien.