Sunday, September 03, 2006

Repetitions of History ad nauseum.....
Cliches about history like, "Those who refuse to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them," or "What we learn from history, is that we don't learn from history," may seem trite, but what is really frightening is that they are so true and that they are ignored so routinely with such horrific consequences!
Recently a friend gave me a publication called, "The Monthly Review," from April of 1989, because a deceased relative of his, Leo Cawley, had written a book review of Neil Sheehan's book, "Bright Shining Lie," and he wanted me to read it. Leo had been in the Vietnam war and was subsequently a journalist covering the Westmoreland/CBS trial when he issued this review of the book.
I remember reading "Bright Shining Lie," about the incredibly brave and legendary John Paul Vann, who after a distinguished service record came to Vietnam and concluded that the US government and the military brass were fighting this guerrilla war all wrong. Vann who immersed himself in the culture of Vietnam and got to know the people and came to realize how much they despised the government of S. Vietnam and how inept the army of S. Vietnam was, soon realized that the massive bombing tactics being used to win the war by the Pentagon were worse than useless, they were counter-productive. In Vann's view the best weapon in a guerrilla war was a knife and secondly was a rifle. Airpower was too indiscriminately destructive of civilians to be used at all. Vann was subsequently drummed out of the military for his impertinence about questioning the military brass and eventually returned to Vietnam as a top civilian advisor in 1965 and appeared to mute his criticisms of the war so he could stay and gloat as the body counts rose.
While Vann turned out to be something less than a heroic figure, the Sheehan book was more than just the story of one man fighting the wrongheadedness of the military high command. It was the story of how the US government acted with arrogance and self-delusion about subduing a small country and stifling a national uprising by peasants and poor people. It is also the story of how the US military presumed an easy victory because of it's greater manpower but especially because of it's far superior fire-power, particularly with air-strikes.
According to Leo Cawley, David Halberstram wrote a more comrehensive book about the folly of the US government and the military brass in Vietnam with his, "The Best and the Brightest," but Sheehan's book looked deeply into the class struggles that occurred within these institutions and within the country of Vietnam itself, and through Vann's eyes he saw therein the seeds of destruction of the American empire.
Today we have history repeating itself in Iraq. We have the same presumptuous follies being perpetrated by the US government and it's military chiefs. We have the same wanton destruction of civilians and the same colossal ignorance of the culture we invaded.
But this time the American empire is being taken to the breaking point and instead of just walking away as we did in Vietnam with no "falling dominoes" or other long-term consequences, the Iraq war will leave in it's wake an aroused and vastly increased jihadist movement, which will counter any attempt for American dominance in the Middle East for the foreseeable future and might even bring the taste of terror once again to the shores of America.
Maybe someday we'll learn the lessons of history. Maybe someday we'll learn the limits to military power. Maybe someday we'll have a government of, for and by the people ..... but given our history, I doubt it.


At 5:32 AM, Blogger cabearie said...

Nicely done!

This country (and probably most Western powers) still don't get that fighting this kind of war with classical military might just isn't effective. However, since the military industrial complex still rakes in the big bucks, maybe they never will.


At 5:42 AM, Blogger BlakNo1 said...


At 5:58 AM, Blogger mom-akabitchfromhell said...

found you from your link in atrios comments. great and appropriate revival and comments on your part. my dad was career army (helicopter pilot) who did 2 tours in Nam. He told me that had he a son, that son would have been on his way to Canada. even now he worries about his grandson's future. good work.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Beatrix Kiddo said...

Found your site from a google search on Leo Cawley, who was my godfather.

It amazes me to see how his work is still so influential.

At 9:23 PM, Blogger DocFeelgood-Seditionist said...

I was also googling "Leo Cawley" because I used to listen religiously to his show, "Fearful Symmetry" on WBAI. It was a rare weekly foray into Leo's musings on currrent events, history and culture, always closing with an illumination of the future. It was always reassuring to witness the power of an eloquent brilliant scholar. I really miss him.

At 7:54 AM, Blogger AnJaka said...

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At 7:09 AM, Blogger jelloca said...

was this the book that clinton's sec of defense had his generals read? the reaction being after reading it was never again would they let another vietnam happen.

cowards. the brass should have all piled on rumskull en masse and threw him in gitmo.

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