Vietnam War

Vietnam War

For years after the war, people still kept the question of what was the war about, how was it started, and who was who. The nature of the Vietnam War then remains complicated to many, depending on different sides and perspectives. But to me, it can be seen like this:

To the US and South Vietnam governments, this is a war between two ideologies:  Communism and capitalism. The US came and fought the war in order to stop the communist expansion in Southeast Asia. The American public ideas remained divided; one side believed in the government and supported the war against the communists in Vietnam, while the other saw it as an invasion and protested what the US was doing in Vietnam. To most Americans, their government came to Vietnam for the interests of American corporate capitalism.

To the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam, it was the war for national independence, national unification, and building socialism. Vietnamese, in both North and South, do not care about political ideology; they just want peace to be doing.

Most people even the Americans thought they knew at least a little bit about the Vietnam War, from things they have seen in movies, TV programs, information received from the government, newspapers, high school textbooks, and so on…but the problem is that most of the stuffs are just incorrect, there are misinformation and wrong assumption up there.

Vietnam and its people have existed for 4000 years; they are ancient people with their own culture and identity. One of the most salient traditions is fighting for national independence. Even from ancient times, they have struggled against foreign domination. China occupied Vietnam for about 1000 years, and finally after years of Vietnamese’s revolts, Chinese was expelled in 938, then again in the mid 1800s, Vietnam fell under foreign domination, and this time they were colonized by French.

The French ruled Vietnam through the use of a puppet government for 100 years. Until 1940 when Japan following its own imperialist occupied Vietnam. The Japanese kept both the French and the figurehead government’s place while exercising control from behind the scenes. It was known as a double puppet government.

In 1941, Viet Minh was formed, they were a group of Vietnam nationalists, who dreamed of an independent Vietnam, free from foreign domination, their first political and military objective was to out the occupied Japanese and French from their homeland. Their leader, communist, revolutionary Ho Chi Minh was supported by the US in China because they were fighting the neutral enemy, the Japanese from within Vietnam.

In 1945, when World War II was over, the Japanese surrendered to Viet Minh, and Viet Minh declared Vietnam’s independence, there were a lot of parties on the streets. When Japan was no longer a threat, the US revoked Viet Minh and Vietnam’s independence and instead transferred support to the French, who immediately tried to establish Vietnam as a colony. It is obvious to Viet Minh that they have been betrayed and so of course they resist. So the new war between the Vietnamese and the French or the French-Indochina War happened in 1946.

Although the war refers to the French Indochina war, behind the scenes the US is the French’s financial partner, financing up to 80% of France’s war costs. Even with all the money and guns on their side, the French were defeated in 1954 at the Dien Bien Phu battlefield after 9 years of very bloody fighting. For the second time in 10 years, the Vietnamese look like having total independence, now you may think that the French just pick up their stuff and leave.

But in the real war, the situation was never that simple. The French have been in Vietnam for about 100 years, and the war, not to mention the effect of colonization itself, has left the country in a mess, also the former prisoners of France’s surrenders had to be discussed. So the French, Vietminh, China, Soviet Union, Britain, and the US all met in Geneva in 1954 to solve everything.

At the Geneva Accord, the first thing that needed to be discussed was how to actually end all the fighting and separate the combatants. It decided that Vietnam would be temporally divided half into two regroup areas, the Vietminh forces on the North of the 17th parallel and the French forces on the South of the 17th parallel. After getting all the stuffs together, the French would then leave, and after a period of 2 years, a unified national election would be held in both the North and the South, at which time Vietnamese people would be formerly and finally have independent under a single government of their choice. It was the plan.

The 2 sides agreed to this term for different reasons:

HCM knew that Vietminh had strong support among the Vietnamese people; he was sure that they would easily win in the national election.

The French and the Americans on the other hand also wanted an end to all the fighting, but the US didn’t want a communist government in Vietnam, a government that would certainly be more politically and economically allied with China or the Soviet Union rather than the US. So the US saw the 2 years as a window of Opportunity, during which they had chances to pour the money into the Southern half of Vietnam in order to create a good example of a good economy so that when the peasants elect their government it would be more open to the US influence. That’s exactly what the US did.

When the French left Vietnam, the US immediately started an enormous project of nation-building. The result was a new nation: South Vietnam. This is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Vietnam War. One of the fundamental facts that people know about the Vietnam War is that North Vietnam was communist – it’s true. The South Vietnam government was democratic – it is false. And that the US was helping the Vietnamese people in the South repel the communist aggression – mostly false. What most people don’t realize is that South Vietnam was invented by the US as a base for building and maintaining its own interest in Asia.

Actually, there was nothing in the Geneva Accords that stated that Vietnam would become 2 separate countries. Most people just say South Vietnam, North Vietnam like it was always like that. This particular situation was exploited by the US to create a foothole so that they can get in Vietnam and reserve their interest in the region. The Vietnamese people by a lot did not want their country put in half.

The US installed a puppet government in the newly created South Vietnam; they chose an anti-communist, catholic Ngo Dinh Diem to head the new government in Saigon. Then 2 years went by quickly, and it became clear that Diem and the American backer were still not popular enough to win an election over the more popular HCM, so the US encouraged Diem to block the 1956 election, and he did. The election never takes place.

By 1960, grass root opposition In the South with the support from Vietminh leadership in the North, formed a front named National Liberation Front of South Vietnam or NLF, they are a basically social and revolutionary movement, dedicating their life to the US and the puppet government by forces. Diem and the US called them Vietcong or VC and considered them the enemy, which is why all the fighting during the Vietnam War took place within the border of South Vietnam. Which is also the second most misunderstood about the Vietnam War, a lot of people know Americans were forced against an enemy called the Vietcong and just assume that the Vietcong were from North Vietnam.

Frankly, from the early stage of the war, most of the Vietcong was from the South. They received guns, supplies, and other kind of support from Vietminh in the North. Vietcong is rooted in the South, though people usually imagine American and South Vietnamese in the South, Vietcong in the North, and everybody fighting each other in the middle.

By 1963, the Vietcong had gained strong support throughout South Vietnam, so the US was getting really annoyed with Diem in his role of controlling the situation. Finally, Diem was assassinated in November of that year.

Immediately, the US exercised much more direct control over South Vietnam. Far away in America, President John F. Kennedy is himself assassinated, and then Vice President Lyndon D. Johnson became president. In the following years, Johnson’s administration decided that allowing war was the only way to defeat the Vietnamese. But the American public ideas remain divided. The administration created a solution named the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which, North Vietnam was firing a US boat, well it never actually happened, but the story is good enough to kick off the American people and Congress.

Then Congress over welling approved the Gulf of Tonkin resolution in August 1964. The resolution gives Johnson all the power to use military force to retaliate against North Vietnam without declaring war. US airplanes began booming North Vietnam almost immediately and continued for a decade, by 1969, there were more than half of a million US troops in Vietnam. All fighting in a country that people can barely find on the map, fighting an enemy that no one seems to understand.

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