A CLASSIC BLUNDER

World War II ended in 1945 when Japan, Germany and Italy gave up the lands they had invaded. Vietnam, part of French Indochina, had been occupied by the Japanese. The French and the South Vietnamese capitulated to them. In North Vietnam, a small military organization called the Vietminh continued to resist the enemy.

In that war, I served with a highly secret organization, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which was the forerunner of the CIA. After WWII, I became friendly with a super-spy who had first been dropped in Occupied France and was then transferred to China. He told me how the United States had double-crossed the Vietnamese when they were fighting the Japanese, how we essentially stabbed the Vietnamese leader in the back.

My friend’s name was René Défourneaux, a major in the OSS. He knew the story was true because he was involved. The American high command in China learned about the Vietminh still warring with the Japanese. Our high command also heard that they had rescued an American pilot who flew with Gen. Claire L. Chennault’s Flying Tigers, and had been shot down over Vietnam. The Vietminh were able to get him back to China.

Our general staff in China decided to drop a number of OSS agents into the area where the Vietminh were headquartered. About eight or 10 were parachuted in; Défourneaux was among them. The group, called the Deer Team, was greeted by a gentleman named Van. He told the Americans that their leader was seriously ill, but that he still wanted to meet them. The team was introduced to a gaunt, sickly individual who appeared to be near death. One of the Deer Team members, Paul Hoagland, was a medic; he’d brought several drugs among his medical supplies. After diagnosing the ailing leader with malaria, he administered the correct drug, thereby saving his life. The gravely ill leader’s name? Hõ Chí Minh.

While assisting in the Vietminh’s battle, the U.S. dropped all kinds of military supplies to the small army to help them better fight the Japanese. In return, Minh kept us posted on Japanese troop movements and navy maneuvers to make it easier for us to hit their military targets.

The OSS asked Minh what it could do for him. He answered that he’d like its support in his objective of Vietnam becoming an independent country, rather than a French colony. And he wanted to meet Gen. Chennault. When the two met, Chennault asked how he could help. The now-healthier leader said he’d like an autographed photo of the general to demonstrate how close his people were to the Americans.

The mysterious Van turned out to be General Võ Nguyên Giáp of the People’s Army. Giáp, who died in 2013, was best known for his involvement in the overthrow of French forces and a corrupt South Vietnamese government, culminating in a surprise attack of a French base at Dien Bien Phu. France left Vietnam, officially, after that defeat.

However, the U.S. involvement in replacing the French was a disaster. Almost 60,000 of our troops on the ground, in the air and on the sea — bombing, strafing and destroying crops, villages and cities — were killed or crippled in the Vietnam War.

There were many warnings that our invasion would be a disaster. In April 1962, the economist and ambassador John Kenneth Galbraith warned President John F. Kennedy of the “danger we shall replace the French as a colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did.” The most powerful criticism of our invasion came from the former general who headed the Free French group fighting the Germans. Here is an excerpt General Charles de Gaulle wrote, from his memoirs, discussing his conversation about Vietnam with Kennedy. It is so true, it’s scary.

“But it was above all on the subject of Indochina that I pointed out to Kennedy how far apart our policies were … You will find that intervention in this area will be an endless entanglement. Once a nation has been aroused, no foreign power, however strong, can impose its will upon it. You will discover this for yourselves. For even if you find local leaders who in their own interests are prepared to obey you, the people will not agree to it, and indeed do not want you. The ideology which you invoke will make no difference. Indeed, in the eyes of the masses, it will become identified with your will to power …

We French have had experience of it. You Americans wanted to take our place in Indochina. Now you want to take over where we left off and revive a war which we brought to an end. I predict that you will sink step by step into a bottomless military and political quagmire, however much you spend in men and money. What you, we and others ought to do for unhappy Asia is not to take over the running of these states ourselves, but to provide them with the means to escape from the misery and humiliation which, there as elsewhere, are the causes of totalitarian regimes. I tell you this in the name of the West … Kennedy listened to me. But events proved that I had failed to convince him.”

We paid a hell of a price for selling out Minh. Réne Défourneaux wrote a book on his experiences in Vietnam. BBC did a 45-minute documentary on the story, Uncle Ho and Uncle Sam. The documentary confirms everything Défourneaux wrote and a lot more. For years, the video wasn’t available in the U.S., for obvious reasons.

Since our invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, which began in 1991 and continue to this day, there has been no end in sight.

As it happened in Vietnam, so it goes still: Every time we kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, we help recruit new members to terrorist groups such as ISIS. We are in a “no win” situation. The nation that benefits the most is Iran, whose leaders talk about the destruction of America. They continue to send money and military weapons to the terrorist groups who are murdering innocent civilians caught in the middle of a seemingly endless series of wars.

More American lives will be lost or otherwise destroyed, and the cost, running in the billions of dollars every year, is currently estimated at $4 to $6 trillion. This proves that we learn nothing from history; all over the world, nations and their leaders repeat the same mistakes, to the everlasting detriment of mankind.

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