This letter responds to a naive but nasty conservative attack on the anti-war movement and defense of U.S. imperialism that appeared in The Montclarion, the student newspaper at Montclair State College.
To the Editor
Student Center, MSC
February 5, 1994
Dear Sir or Madam:
I agree with Editor-in-Chief George Calle that the U.S. is an "empire" in decline (Montclarion Feb. 3, p. 2). But if Calle understood empires, he would see that the decline of the American empire is a very good thing for all of us, including him.
Take Vietnam. The French imperialists seized it at the end of the 19th century, and -- following the model of Western imperialism throughout the world -- exploited it for cheap labor and raw materials, killing millions through starvation and overwork, and anyone who opposed them. The U.S. ruling class supported this brutality, subsidizing the French war to keep "their" colony after World War II. When the anti-imperialist forces, led by the Vietnamese Communist Party, had defeated the French in 1953, the U.S. simply stepped in and replaced them -- a more powerful exploiter replacing a weaker one.
The U.S. war was carried out with typical imperialist butchery . Civilians were routinely massacred; terror was the main weapon. One authority called U.S.-occupied Saigon "the torture capital of the world." So widespread were the atrocities committed as a matter of policy by U.S. troops that there can be few combat veterans of that war who did not either participate in, or at least witness, at least one.
U.S. soldiers were not in Vietnam to "defend their country," of course -any more than French, or British, or Spanish soldiers were "defending" their countries by raping Africa, India, Central America, etc. It's an old story: the working classes provide the cannon-fodder, the killers and diers; the taxpayers -- mainly these same working classes -- pay the bills; and the bosses -- in this case, international corporations -- get the profits.
French soldiers in Indochina killed and died for Michelin rubber. U.S. soldiers -- my friends and schoolmates -- killed and died so that U.S. corporations could export their jobs to a large pool of cheap labor in Vietnam. As a former student of mine aptly said: "They fought so they could be unemployed." If the U.S. had won the war, hundreds of thousands of American jobs would have been exported to that huge pool of cheap labor. In other words: when the U.S. government lost, we -- the working people of the U.S. -- won.
We didn't know that then. But tens of thousands of G.I.s knew something was wrong. By 1970 the U.S. army was wracked by massive rebellion by the soldiers. This aspect of the war is carefully hidden from American students today, for obvious reasons, during the years of indoctrination that we call "elementary school". But there are some accounts of it: Turn the Guns Around by Waterhouse and Wizard; Boyle's Flower of the Dragon; Davis, G.I. Joe's A Red.
My best friend in graduate school gave up his student deferment, then, when drafted, went on to found one of hundreds of underground, anti-war G.I. newspapers while in the army. The army brass could never convict him because, of 10,000 G.I.s on his base, not one would testify against him, though hundreds wrote for and read the paper.
As for "hippies" taking over: Mr Calle, so overwhelming was opposition to the war on college campuses that it was hard to find a student -- and especially a Vietnam veteran -- who would defend the war. I know, because it was my task to try to find pro-war students to represent "the other side" in discussions. For example, at MSC the SGA and Montclarion staff led the strike to protest the war and the Kent State killings in May, 1970.
Soldiers rebelled; refused to obey orders; "fragged" (killed) officers and NCOs who ordered them to torture and kill peasants who only wanted the exploiters to go home. None of this is taught in school. The imperialists -- by which I mean the big business interests who run the U.S., and the government which stooges for them -- desperately want us to forget these things ever happened.
Naturally, the U.S. government didn't tell us: "Go fight, kill and die for the profits of our big corporations, so that you may lose your jobs or have your wages cut!" No; imperialists always claim they are fighting for something "good", like "civilization", "freedom", or "democracy." Or, as in Somalia, "to feed the starving."
Or, the imperialists appeal to "patriotism" -- "defend your country." That, too, sounds better than the truth: Kill and die for the profits of large corporations, who then will exploit you, and then your children, for the rest of your lives -- IF you are lucky enough to survive with body and mind intact, and IF we leave you any jobs!
The Vietnam War was not unique. The U.S. carried out even greater horrors before and during the Korean War. Since Vietnam, U.S. soldiers have killed and died for imperialism in Grenada, Panama, Kuwait, and Somalia defending exploitation -- including their own -- all in the name of "patriotism." Since World War II U.S. imperialists have far outstripped their Soviet counterparts in worldwide murder and exploitation -- and that is saying a great deal.
Perhaps Editor Calle will term these opinions "anti-American." Certainly they contradict the U.S. ruling class's patriotic fairy-tales. But, if words have any real meaning, it is the big corporations, and the government they control, that are "anti- American," because they have tried to turn generations of American men into legionnaires for brutal exploitation, and they are trying to do so again.
I'm sorry to have had to devote so much space to those questions on which I disagree with Calle. I agree with him in opposing the KKK, Rabbi Kahane, and the Nation of Islam, all conservative and the first two fervently "patriotic".
We should not be duped by the propaganda of "patriotism" into supporting our own oppression. Although spreading this poison is what governments support schools and colleges to do, we also have considerable opportunity to open our minds to reality, refute the lies, seize the truth. If Vietnam can teach us anything at all, it is that we should oppose those who exploit us at home, and sabotage their dirty work abroad.
Grover Furr, English Department
Forward to the follow-up letter with documentation, or back to Table of Contents of my Vietnam War Page.