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Vietnam War images from the North Vietnamese side (rarehistoricalphotos.com)
741 points by pmoriarty 8 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 581 comments

I am a software developer in the US with a Vietnamese origin, so I am no historian and my views are probably skewed.

I am among the minority Northern Vietnamese people in the US, most Vietnamese people in the Bay Area are (refugees) from the South. People can tell where one comes from with one's accent. It was undeniable that much suffering and injustice was done for Southern people, especially after the war ended. So many still have a lot of resentments against the Hanoi government in particular and people from the North in general. Some still secretly view Northen international students in the US as red princes and princesses. The truth is far from that, they are just ordinary people looking for a better life. Many of the Northern people also have resentments with the current government as much as anyone else. However, I have to say much of the suffering and conflict is fading. I am so glad that in the last three years I was in the Bay Area, I have made many new Vietnamese friends, and have gone to many Vietnamese-owned shops buying groceries. I have not once had bad experiences with anyone in here. We spoke to each other and caring about each other despite of the differences.

When I was a student in the US, I borrowed as many books and DVDs about the Vietnam war I could from the library and began watching to understand where I came from, and what to make of the war. I am still searching for the answer. One thing I began to understand is the reason that the North won the war. The people from the North did have a charismatic leader and more importantly, they had a sense of righteousness and revenge when they participated in the war. I still remember vividly, one day I watched an (American) documentary about a farmer after the 1972 bombing operation. The bomb killed all of his family members and all the pigs he raised and left him with nothing. He cried and vowed to fight till he dies. The guy had lost everything, he had nothing left to lose. That was the moment I realized it was inevitable that the North would inevitably win.

I see that pattern a lot in places that talked about the war, for example in the article:

>She was only 24 years old but had been widowed twice. Both her husbands were soldiers. I saw her as the embodiment of the ideal guerrilla woman, who’d made great sacrifices for her country.

I do not have as much exposure (or at least as much as I wished) to the literature, arts, and music of the South, but I can say that the sense of righteousness while fighting wasn't as strong in places that I have looked into.

My (personal and flawed) conclusion is that it wasn't the policy, the brainwashing, or the political power of communism, or the help of Russia that made the North win. They won despite despite being poor as hell, they won despite being communist, and they won despite having lost more troops. They won because they took part in the war with a sense of righteousness.

By chance, I just revisited the Vietnam war and the scar it left a couple of days ago, how much it matters in my everyday life, and wrote an essay about it on my blog. Here is the blog I wrote a couple of days ago about the war, btw, if you're so interested: http://www.tnhh.net/posts/lullaby-of-the-artillery.html

> They won because they took part in the war with a sense of righteousness.

This belief is certainly reflected in one of the best books I've read about the Vietnam War, A Bright Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan, who was a reporter there throughout the war and devoted a large part of his life to chronicling it.

He repeatedly shows how the ARVN (South Vietnamese Army), from commanders down to recruits, were not deeply motivated in the same way the Viet Cong were - abandoning battlefields, taking bribes to leave the front, etc. Additionally, the South Vietnamese political class was a corrupt gerontocracy with little in common with the people (either peasant farmers or urban) they were supposed to be leading.

For that reason, early American observers said they'd rather be on the side of the North than the South.

I like this video about a soldier on the ground who realized quickly why the war was unwinnable. The cycle of killing and destruction left the people with nothing but anger and pain, leading them to fight even harder:

> it became clear within three or four months, That my reasons for being in Vietnam were not clear. I mean this notion of defending the people against these invaders from North Vietnam. The people hated me. The Vietnamese people hated me. [...] the Vietnamese people hated me and I gave them every reason to hate me. I beat them, I sometimes kill them, I destroy their houses, I destroy their crops, I destroy their fields, I destroy their culture. Why in the hell should those people like me? And I could see that I was doing that, and I could see that nothing we were doing was having any impact on the war itself.


I think that video is part of a bigger documentary series by PBS[1]. I learned so much about the modern US history and how even to this day the Vietnam war continues to exert its influence in the US in many different ways.

[1] https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/the-vietnam-war

The US had no real conception of what 'winning' was, no real connection to the actual politics.

I have a bunch of family in the Bay Area, who ended up there from North Vietnam. You're right that the accents can be recognized, but I also think you're right that resentments have faded. At least I'm pretty sure one of my cousins married a South Vietnamese lady a few years ago.

We still have a couple of stories in the family about the bombings. I wonder how accurate the details are.

One was my uncle, who was driving a truck over the last bridge to be bombed in Hanoi. He got to the bridge, it got bombed, and everyone was looking for his body for days. My grandmother was at the river every day. Luckily, he had somehow not gotten killed, and was in fact stuck on the wrong side, safe. He'd driven upriver to the next crossing, which took some time.

The other story is that my mom's neighbour had a bomb land in her house. The family was killed, apart from the girl, who was my mom's age. My grandmother took her in to live with them. I think the memory had quite an impression on my parents, as they in turn took in a girl to live with them later in life.

> The bomb killed all of his family members and all the pigs he raised and left him with nothing. He cried and vowed to fight till he dies.

That's why Sun-Tzu teaches to always leave an escape route for enemy, otherwise he will fight to the last man and inflict more damage than giving up.

As a south Vietnamese refugee, I think you make good points. I disagree here:

> The guy had lost everything, he had nothing left to lose. That was the moment I realized it was inevitable that the North would inevitably win

I think we can find many counterexamples of other peoples where the result did not turn out in their favor

If find it more often than not, the side losing the war is the one who thinks that the war was probably a good idea, and than it wasn't.

When your soldiers starting to think "wtf am doing here?," after first thinking they were going for a picnic, you loose in a short order. And even faster if soldier also think that their political leadership are idiots.

A lot of wars in history have been won by invaders who chose near total genocide of the male population of annexed territories.

Many nations opposed by a military-superior enemy have lost no matter their sense of righteousness.

The Vietnamese won because they managed to inflict sufficiently large number of American casualties that the US lost the will to war. Some folks say wars are won by logistics and not tactics. But it seems that Vietcong guerrilla tactics were far superior to American ones at the time.

All credit to them. To be honest, few nations could have managed this. In that era they were likely the most battle-hardened people in the world.

> The Vietnamese won because they managed to inflict sufficiently large number of American casualties that the US lost the will to war. Some folks say wars are won by logistics and not tactics. But it seems that Vietcong guerrilla tactics were far superior to American ones at the time.

It's also worth mentioning that the US had no reasonable way to "win". The threat of Chinese involvement prevented them from invading the north, and strategic air campaigns alone aren't enough when it comes to guerrilla warfare.

Not to mention that the US had a huge antiwar movement, a widely despised draft, and a media which actually did real reporting on the war.

Without these it's quite possible that the US might have used overwhelming force (like nukes) to "win" the Vietnam War.[1]

[1] - https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/nixon-want...

Nixon admits within the tape that he's trying to incite Kissinger, whom he is addressing. Both of them knew the risks of increasing the stakes in Vietnam.

The threat of Chinese reaction to American over-reach was very real. It happened in Korea and the Americans didn't want to repeat that mistake.

The U.S. did try to use overwhelming force in Vietnam. It literally dropped more bomb tonnage on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia than it did during the whole of WWII. It drafted all the men the country would stand. It destroyed one, if not two, Presidents. Still not enough.

I guess the point of my comment is to push back against the suggestion that the US "could have won" except for pesky morals and domestic critics.

America lost Vietnam because they failed to understand how to undertake counter insurgency operations, they threw untrained conscripts (who didn’t want to be there, and fucked up) into it. They also didn’t care about winning hearts and minds of the local population to drive support away from the VietCong, measuring success by bodycount.

Vietnam massively scared the US military for a long time, only really going away with the massive success of the Gulf War. It is always valuable to get the other sides perspective on a conflict.

Ultimately in a civil war, both sides are usually good and bad, depending on the perspective you take. The vietnam war was no different. It is good to see that the wounds of the war are mostly healed.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

Thank you for sharing. I read your blog and it was really well-said and moving. I shared it with a friend who thought it was poignant and fantastic writing. If you ever create a Substack or something of the sort, I'd certainly subscribe.

>Many of the Northern people also have resentments with the current government as much as anyone else. However, I have to say much of the suffering and conflict is fading. I am so glad that in the last three years I was in the Bay Area, I have made many new Vietnamese friends, and have gone to many Vietnamese-owned shops buying groceries. I have not once had bad experiences with anyone in here. We spoke to each other and caring about each other despite of the differences.

Former bureaucrats and their children, who fled Vietnam before 2009, are always having disgruntled feeling against Vietnam and Vietnamese successes in general. I know a bunch of them but they won't exist much any longer since Vietnam will aggressively become more powerful and extend its Communist influence overseas. It's merely a matter of time that you will not only see hatred from anti-Communist side disappearing but also pro-Communist side triumphs.

I strolled around many Chinatowns across the US to Europe, and I see PRC flags and Chinese United Fronts everywhere. This is the future of overseas Vietnamese communities.

>My (personal and flawed) conclusion is that it wasn't the policy, the brainwashing, or the political power of communism, or the help of Russia that made the North win. They won despite despite being poor as hell, they won despite being communist, and they won despite having lost more troops. They won because they took part in the war with a sense of righteousness.

They won because they have been largely smarter than history. Trần Văn Hương, a former top RVN official, once said that only Northerners can reign the country supreme, while Southerners and Centralers are more fitting at commerce and warfare which Northerners are also very proficient. This is also my similar observation in the overseas Vietnamese communities where those Vietnamese people of Northern background or Chinese Vietnamese are largely more successful than anyone in the community - mostly Northerners.

The North won because it had been cultured, determined, militant, more clever due to centures of exposure with threats from China.

> It's merely a matter of time that you will not only see hatred from anti-Communist side disappearing but also pro-Communist side triumphs.

As a Vietnamese I don't see this happening, if you think because it happened in China then it'll happen in Vietnam too, there are a couple of differences:

1) Vietnam doesn't have a "middle kingdom" mentality, we've always been and always will be a small country navigating our success with bigger powers around, so less of that blind nationalism bs, eventhough it's there

2) More importantly, we don't have a great firewall, so people are only going to be more disillussioned about the regime as more of them learn about the outside world.

I am pro socialism btw but of course it's a different thing. Socialism is a growing mindset in the west for sure.

Thanks for sharing your stories. I liked your blog post. I felt sadness, fear about the future and past, and hope as well as strength in there. I'm sorry this will probably seem like an inconsiderate or dumb question, and I don't know much about Vietnam's history or government, but I wanted to ask what do you think, or what do Vietnamese people think these days, about China's success with their socialism model?

My ex-wife Grandmother had spent over 10 years (1964-1975) in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia as a reporter on the Vietnamese side during the Vietnam War and consecutive conflicts (Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia 1978).

She was the first European to walk all length of Ho Chi Minh trail, lived in Saigon undercover during American occupation and wrote couple of books about the Vietnam Wars.

She was telling a lot of stories and I remember some people from US visiting her in 90s hoping to use her contacts in order to find some lost American POWs.

Unfortunately her books had been not translated into English.





> I remember some people from US visiting her in 90s hoping to use her contacts in order to find some lost American POWs.

Ah yes, yet another crazy Republican idea I had forgotten about, that there are still POWs being kept in secret camps in Vietnam.

Vietnam has opened their entire country to Americans to inspect, including Republican politicos, and yet America still tells this evil lie.

Fascinating! It looks like her books have Russian translations; will be very interested to give them a read.

> Unfortunately her books had been not translated into English.

Sounds like an excellent opportunity. Has anyone considered crowd sourcing a translation? I'd chuck in 10 bucks to read it and there's certainly a lot of history buffs out there looking for a fresh perspective.

Mind that Monika was reporting for largest communist daily in Poland - her books are good reporting, lots of focus on people involved in the war but there is also a propaganda narrative.

On the other hand her reporting angle is much better then some Western "useful idots"[1] like Tiziano Terzani [0] (der Spiegel), who had been calling Pol-pot 'great man with a vision for a nation' even on his deathbed.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiziano_Terzani

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Useful_idiot


That's something that I think can be put into context with a short preface. I think propaganda is some of the most interesting parts of history.

On the other hand, this kind of prefaces often have the danger of sounding condescending or even disrespectful to the reader (and to the author). A safer bet that I've seen sometimes is to give two prefaces, exposing complementary or even contradictory views. This lets the reader approach the book without holding hands.

Sure, it used to be. I'm sad beautiful propaganda is gone and all the propaganda is about stupid internet trolling nowadays.

>> ... Vietnamese intervention in Cambodia

>> ... American occupation [of Saigon]

> but there is also a propaganda narrative.

Yes you can see it explicitly from how he describes the two sentences above, one as an "intervention" and the other as an "occupation". I don't think most Cambodians considered the Vietnamese invasion in late '70's as an intervention, nor did the majority of the rest of the non-Soviet aligned world.

You're quoting the same person you're replying to.

That sounds like a very good startup idea. Crowdsourcing for translations, with each chapter being a stretch goal.

Of course you would need to navigate international copyright law, but I could definitely see a market for this

>> reporter on the Vietnamese side

Which Vietnamese side?

The one not artificially kept alive by a foreign power through a puppet regime.

I think you will still need to be more specific: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/China_in_the_Vietnam_War

The US is repeatedly on the wrong side of history. And they cannot even face that.

Red scare. Supporting neo-liberal-to-fascist govts. Yelling democracy but then killing democratically chosen representatives when they do not "suit de US likings". Bitching about some "meddling" in their election when the history is full of US meddling in democratic process of other nations. Giving "foreign aid" to apartheid regimes.

US looked like a force of good after WW2, but that deteriorated quickly. Not that other western nation states are holy, but the US seems to be the ringleader.

Yes, the world is a chaotic reflexive system and trying to manipulate it always creates unintended consequences. The US absolutely does dumb stuff all the time, and power always gets abused.

But for a contrarian view on the “US Bad” narrative, check out a book called The Accidental Superpower

Here’s a good summary of the book: https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/your-book-review-the-a...

It presents an interesting case that the relative peace of modern society is entirely due to US military over-investment brought on by the Cold War—which allows for uninterrupted global supply chains, safe global trade, and enforces the intertwining of economic interests through global markets.

Absent the US existing, the world doesn’t suddenly become a utopia of people living happily ever after. Humans don’t have a great track record of being nice to each other. Unfortunately the alternative options to US power don’t look all that great.

I agree with you that a “US Bad” view which paints everything America as evil is misguided. But also the other extreme which portraits US as a savior and protector is also not true.

From the book:

> American disinterest in the world means that American security guarantees are unlikely to be honored. Competitions held in check for the better part of a century will return. Wars of opportunism will come back into fashion.

It sounds like a narrative where a powerful monopolistic entity backed by military power bullies everyone else and claims to provide “protection” for them.

When was the last time consolidated power in one place ended up to be good for people?

I believe a world with US as a powerful country along with other equally powerful nations (an equilibrium) is a much better place for everyone to live in (also for people of US). Maybe it’s naive, at least for now, but one can only dream.

Didn't we have that equilibrium (sorta) with USSR? I don't think it was a good kind of equilibrium - mutually assured destruction and all.

Nope. Pick any point in history and there was a huge imbalance between the sides. Often such "gaps" were unrecognized at the time, but each side would later learn that their perception of the other was incorrect. The "missile gap" and "bomber gap" were illusory. The public picture, the one on which budgets were based, was disconnected from the intelligence picture which was in turn often disconnected from the on-the-ground reality. Those involved at each stage of abstraction turned the information to suit their own needs. People who sold airplanes in the US counted extra bombers in the USSR. The people who drafted budgets counted more troops in the opposing army. In the end they all got what they wanted: massive spending on material.

An interesting example is the number of ICBMs programs on both sides. The engineering culture within the USSR meant that it had many different missile designs, some only ever resulting in a handful of missiles. Missiles would have short service lives and then be replaced by a new model. The Americans were different. They stuck to a smaller number of designs but mass produced and maintained them for decades. Both sides perceived that the other "had more missiles" because they were effectively counting them differently. The USSR saw American missile factories churning out missiles. The US saw a flood of new designs on parade and assumed they were being mass produced. Such cultural splits continue to inflate budgets today.

I also agree an equilibrium would be the ideal state.

But I just don’t think humans do equilibrium well. We seem to have a constant need to seek control or to be controlled.

I would say the US is a hegemony like any other...with the benefit of structural hedges of the Madisonian system to avoid the most egregious abuses of power. Not perfect but better than tyrants of the past...

> Absent the US existing, the world doesn’t suddenly become a utopia of people living happily ever after.

And importantly we can't know the counterfactual, so we can't claim that the US is responsible for all those good outcomes with any real certainty, and it's entirely possible that the incentives were there no matter which nation had the resources to control global affairs.

The amount of goodwill the US had from ending WWII is sadly running out. US felt invincible after it and tried to do the right thing. But did not actually manage to replicate to what they did in WWII.

Backup these results with data is not the way to go. You have to proof the same results could have not been achieved without force. Which is impossible to proof IMO

> goodwill the US had from ending WWII is sadly running out.

Sadly? It's about time. Vietnam, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, most of Latin America, many places in Africa. They all have a US hangover.

> US felt invincible after it and tried to do the right thing.

Serious? What propaganda outlet do you read? They try to help their big biz make max profits. That's all. That's not "the right thing". Yeah sure they sell it as "the right thing". Who does not...

Yet the US is still the premier nation that everyone tries to immigrate to, because as a nation it actually works. The same can’t be said of many of the nations you mentioned, and that was before U.S involvement. The cool narrative of today is to point a finger at the west, but most people I think who espouse this view haven’t had the misery of living under the absolutely nuts regimes that exist in this world.

> Yet the US is still the premier nation that everyone tries to immigrate to, because as a nation it actually works.

Not really - the US looks really attractive from the outside - Hollywood propaganda probably does the heavy lifting. The reality is disappointing. Before I immigrated, I told an American expat friend my plans and he asked me a bewildered "Why?!" and that surprised me a little because "The greatest country on earth" and all that. After my first month in the US, I was legitimately depressed, and I finally understood why he had asked. The reality of living in the US is not close to being as good as it appears from the outside (or as a visitor). Fortunately, I got better at coping but I'm still very much aware of how abnormal and batshit crazy some things are in the US that most Americans are inured to.

The (gross) salary and tech scene are good, but almost everything else is worse compared to other developed nations. I probably would have been better off moving to Canada, Germany or the Netherlands (I might do that yet - the 2020 elections were pivotal in my decision to stay put for now)

Sure, if we compare like for like, I suppose other rich nations, those are real alternatives, However, since I’m black I am also aware of the incredibly prevalent casual racism of the other G7. It’s not even a point of discussion it’s so common, and good luck trying to get government help in your language if it isn’t English, or trying to obtain citizenship (Japan).

Comparing racism vintages is depressing as fuck, but I'll give it a go. I'm black too - I'll take casual racism over whatever the US has going on, which appears to be casual racism and a mix of disregard of, and generalized fear of black people (black men to be specific). One is a threat to my well-being, the other is threat to well-being as well as life and limb. I've never felt uneasy or witnessed people crossing the street to avoid me while cycling through well-to-do neighbourhoods in Amsterdam.

I'll take the Gollywog and Schwartz Pete over anxiety-inducing traffic stops any day.

Agree. I decided to move to Australia instead. That was a very good choice!

All my friends are moving to Canada. I intend to go there and buy an apartment for my children next year. USA is not more the dream country to emigrate to.

>Yet the US is still the premier nation that everyone tries to immigrate to

Yes, because they are richest natiom in the world. How is that statement not a complete non sequitur to what was being discussed?

The immediate post I responded to was arguing that the US doesn’t do the right thing, but tries to extract max profits for its big businesses and a bunch of foreign policy mistakes.

My point was the US is more than that, and “good” as illustrated by its popularity with immigrants. You can, actually, in this court system receive justice, you can speak your mind at least legally without reprisal. You can leave this nation if you so choose.

Being just a “rich” nation isn’t it. There are many rich nations and many not as accommodating.

That the US (rich) rapes poor nations not something we can critique because people from the poo nations want to immigrate to the US.

This is such a bad argument I dont even know where to begin with unpacking.

Regimes being bad to their own people (US is also in this category, but not like some poorer countries), is separate from it behaving bad to other nations. Internal affairs vs foreign affairs.

So your argument is: if Finland is a nice place to live, then it has the moral right to invade any country where standards of living are lower?

Also before US involvement all countries were colonies, do you think being repeatedly invaded and bombed has any negative effects?

No, it’s not about standards of living, it’s about defending people. If you’re in a position to help then you should! South Vietnam was invaded, South Korea was invaded. Would you prefer South Korea to be a North Korea?

I agree bombings, chemical warfare and the like are some of the worst outcomes for people, but what would you suggest for the Koreans under attack? Not my problem? I don’t have the moral authority to get involved? Send aid? What about the Cambodians massacred? No help from anyone and they were absolutely brutally destroyed by the millions. Millions. We haven’t even spoken of the millions in the 20s in Eastern Europe or the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I can’t so easily write off those dead, and I don’t think inaction is the answer, but war.

Thank you for saying things so directly. I was trying to give them at least some slack, maybe it's already time.. but I'm afraid my personality wont let me. It's like giving up hope

>> the US had from ending WWII is sadly running out.

Right there is half of the animosity behind the cold war. Try telling a Russian that it was the US that "ended" WWII. Remember to duck. The US bombings of Japan were bad, but worse was the threat of a Russian invasion of the home islands. Japan decided that it would rather be occupied by Americans than Russians. And it was Russian troops on the streets of Berlin. They suffered far more losses and killed more enemies. It isn't "WWII" in Russia. It's "The Great Patriotic War". Despite what Texas highschool textbooks say, the US did not end that war solo.

True, the Americans were the better alternative for hegemon, hands down.

Sure, it’s impossible to prove what would have happened otherwise (given the chaotic reflexive system).

But an interesting thought experiment, imagine, after ending WWII the US and its people simply sunk into the ocean.

Then you’ve got a massive imbalance of power tilted towards Stalin and the Soviets with nuclear weapons and allied with China, vs a weak UK and France.

While it’s impossible to prove the USSR wouldn’t have started caring about democracy and human rights and stopped caring about expansion on their own...I don’t think it’s a leap to say the world would be a worse place.

Same what if problem.. Of course the shift in power would change how we would life now, probably for the worse. That still doesn't justify anything.

> US felt invincible after it and tried to do the right thing

Wait, you think that was the motivation for US actions?

Nice review! Thanks!

There is no 'right' and 'wrong' side of history. There are complicated shades of grey coloured by propaganda. And if there was a right side of history, the US has a very credible claim to it. They've pushed science and the arts forward, promoted freedom as a cultural aspiration rather than rule by a monarch and generally acted as a credible supporting force for the greatest improvement of living standards the world has ever seen in Asia.

There was a lot of cruelty, bloodshed and lies. But there has not yet been anyone in history who avoided that while being large. The US could certainly have been much worse.

> promoted freedom as a cultural aspiration rather than rule by a monarch


Iran '53 and Guatemala '54 are some of my favourites, as is Timor.

Both Iran and Guatemala were operations undertaken by the CIA with absolutely no knowledge by the American public.

You do understand this right? At no point were the American public consulted by the intelligence agencies when they did these operations.

It's rather childish to retcon history by implying that declassified operations that were deeply unethical were endorsed by the American public at the time. These operations were ultra-classified in the American public had no idea about them for decades. Do you think that's fair to make the assertion that the American public do not promote freedom as a cultural aspiration based on this?

Meanwhile millions of people have lost their freedom in the last year when the CCP officially retook Hong Kong and violated the treaty with the British. They are literally being deprived of their democratic rights. Less than 10% of the Chinese public have any form of voice in their government (via CCP membership). Hong Kong is vastly less free than it was a year ago. But sure attack the US for crimes committed 70 years ago, while ignoring what's happening as we speak.

> At no point were the American public consulted by the intelligence agencies when they did these operations.

That's exactly the problem! Once the federal government started conducting secret projects during the world wars, it stopped being accountable to the public. And it used that latitude to commit war crimes, assassinate foreign leaders, and experiment on American citizens. All in the name of lower commodity prices and fat profit margins for well connected companies.

The CIA should have been disbanded after what came out in federal hearings in the 70s. We have known since the 90s that the joint chiefs of staff endorsed killing Americans in a terrorist attack to justify invading Cuba.

Americans as a whole are good people, or at least no worse than anyone else. But our government is a bloodthirsty imperial machine whose claims of any sort of moral high ground are laughable.

But nobody said they were endorsed by the American public. The discussion is if the American actions were for a force of good, just because Americans were lied to by propaganda doesn't wipe away the actions. What do you think the people in the USSR thought (and knew about?)?

Moreover, many of the US operations were not really secret, people either ignored them, or favoured them. Also you say crimes 70 years ago? The US implemented the largest mass surveillance system in the world very recently, strong-arming many allies and infiltrating the internet infrastructure of other allies as well as likely violating their own constitution in the process. Also note that the US has by far the largest proportion of their population incarcerated (although the unknown numbers on China's internment camps adding some uncertainty).

Now nobody is saying China is better. The issue is that very often people (typical Americans) portrait the US as the main force of "good" in the world, but as soon as somebody points to all the atrocious things the US (the state not the people) have done, they get accused of anti-americanism, or people bring up "but China"

>"You do understand this right? At no point were the American public consulted by the intelligence agencies when they did these operations."

German public was not informed of the gas chambers, and Soviet public didnt endorse the gulag. So thet don't count then?

The German public were responsible for what they knew of and had control of, just like the Soviet public. These were authoritarian regimes.

Nobody is responsible for what they don't know about and are unable to learn about. In what world should they be?

Well, there are cases where you are legally responsible, like sex with minors and money laundering, because otherwise noone would ever face punishment

Whether this applies here depends on what you mean by 'responsible' in thos context, is it morally responsible?

I'm a big fan of the enlightenment principle that human beings are responsible for the things which they can control. As opposed to the belief that we are all extensions of our collective tribe, and are therefore collectively responsible for our tribe's crimes, as well as those of our ancestors.

I am not morally responsible for actions I don't commit, or actions that others commit that I had no way of stopping.

This belief appears to go against a current cultural zeitgeist of regressing to tribalism and collective/ancestral guilt. The labelling is different, but the implications are the same.

So are you responsible for things you could have known, but deliberately chose not to look into (or not believe)?

The fact that we had no knowledge was intentional and does not diminish the impact of the operations.

Let's compare Hong Kong and Guatemala, right now, and pick one to live in.

And Iraq invasion of 2001, that replaced a stable (albeit dictatorial) regime by a civil war, and enabled ISIS to become a state.

Even ignoring the warlords, it's in constant revolt due to corruption now.

You say:

> There is no 'right' and 'wrong' side of history.

But then you conclude:

> There was a lot of cruelty, bloodshed and lies. [...] The US could certainly have been much worse.

So you do accept there's a gradient of right and wrong.

> The US could certainly have been much worse.

But also a lot better!

> But there has not yet been anyone in history who avoided that while being large.

What we've seen is next level. This is due to the increase in mobility and world trade, sure. But it has been abused heavily, and seemingly to every extend possible. I dont know how it could have been worse without being a straight up dictatorship. (having only two parties come very close to being a dictatorship if you ask me; only one party better than the China the US like to bash so much lately).

> They've pushed science and the arts forward, promoted freedom as a cultural aspiration rather than rule by a monarch and generally acted as a credible supporting force for the greatest improvement of living standards the world has ever seen in Asia.

Tell that to the Vietnamese and North Koreans. Indonesia and Philippines also have a bit of a US hangover.

Science is fucked nowadays. Very "proprietary", as by the US-push patent law.

I think there is right and wrong. Read some Jesus and you know that ideas of what it good behavior and what is bad is not at all new. I'm not religious, but just to show that it is not merely the last decades that we know we should be nice to people and now do any horrible act for a bit of profit.

There is a gradient of right and wrong. Most (realistically all) successful countries are on the wrong side of it.

I mean, look at the path the Europeans took to get to the modern era. Short periods of it, like the last 2000 years, have involved questionable acts.

I believe the point is that we have to acknowledge this rather than sugar-coat US history.

US history is extensively documented. Nobody is claiming that there aren't long lists of terrible things done (and still doing, I might add). The factual nature of those claims isn't really open to challenge. It is often pointed out in real time as the decisions are made.

If 'acknowledge' literally means acknowledge then I doubt you'll struggle getting what you want. If 'acknowledge' means 'and then we have to follow my political recipe for what to do next' then it might be a struggle.

Bro you live in the Netherlands.

I have numerous Dutch friends who are not as young and foolish, and your perspective is not the mainstream one in that country.

Your nation was under occupation by the Nazis until the United States came in with the UK and made it otherwise.

Obviously that doesn't mean the United States isn't imperfect and of course it has tremendous flaws and has yet to live up to its true ideals in its founding documents. That being said there aren't American soldiers walking around outside your door right now.

Ask yourself if anyone in the EU will stand up for your nation?

Angela Merkel sat on her hands and did absolutely nothing when a Dutch jet liner was blown up by Russian weaponry in Eastern Ukraine. Hundreds of your fellow citizens died and nobody in Europe did a single thing. Sure, sanctions were procured and many other nasty letters but not a single Russian military asset was arrested or brought to justice. Hundreds of your countrymen are dead and nobody was ever held accountable for it. It was a war crime and there is no trial.

I look forward to the United States continuing to recede from its superpower status so that the world can finally realize what they were taking for granted. About half of the United States population spent the last 5 years talking about how terrible their government was. That makes the US unique compared to the other superpowers in the world which are authoritarian at their core.

I should hope that India will eventually step up and develop into a democratic superpower but until then you have no other options other than a toothless, useless Germany dominated EU. The EU couldn't even handle vaccines properly, so I'm sure they'll do very well in protecting your citizens from the realities of authoritarian superpowers.

While i don't agree with the whole US Bad sentiment, shooting down a civil airliner isn't something that never happened to the US military. And i don't think anyone went to jail for it.


So confused.

"Universal truth is not measured in mass appeal." -- Immortal Technique

I don't know what's confusing about it.

After WW2, Stalin immediately began claiming as much of western Europe as possible. Historical documents reveal he wanted the Warsaw Pact to extend over all of Europe.

The only thing that prevented this was the US/UK forces immediately after WW2. The Berlin Airlift wasn't supported by the French government, because they viewed Berlin as a lost cause.

The Netherlands would have ended up like East Germany if not for the evil capitalist empire you clearly despise, despite the fact that it's technology is how you make a living. As a United States taxpayer, I strongly dislike the size of the US military, and wish we would scale it back dramatically, and let Europe handle (and pay for) their own defense. If I was you, I would want this as well.

In the meantime, realize that you benefit tremendously from the evil empire you openly resent, not unlike a spoiled teenager who complains about her rich father from her bedroom in the mansion.

Cannot complain about your evil overlords if they give you prosperity, right?

Now I know HN is not all about jokes. But this came to mind in context of this most horrible war the Viet had to fight to gain independence from their colonial overlords:


Never mind the horrors inflicted by the North on their newly liberated Southern brethren, 800,000 of whom fled by boat (many to take up successful lives as immigrants in the evil, racist USA).

The Southern Vietnamese population in the US would strongly disagree with you. One shouldn’t forget what happened to them after the U.S. pulled out. It wasn’t a rainbows and sunshine reunification, but murder, anguish and famine.

I don't think the "other side of history" is much better most of the time

> the wrong side of history

I can't stand this phrase. It reeks of the history is a narrative with good guys and bad guys point of view.

This file has a long list of some of those things. It has some bias and some things I don't think there's much evidence for but I think it's good entry point for starting to research:


"the history is full of US meddling in democratic process of other nations"

There's an interesting book about this called Overthrow.[1]

[1] - https://www.amazon.com/Overthrow-Americas-Century-Regime-Cha...

Eh, my relatives are South Vietnamese, Vietcong was basically mafia and when communists won, they were horrible to the South.

Not saying Diem government was that good, especially in their last months their anti-buddhist paranoia made them insane; but yeah communists were bad against the buddhists too once they came into power.

But yeah Agent Orange and napalm were horrible. There is no debate about that.

Sorry that this got downvoted. Large numbers of Vietnamese refugees fled Vietnam after the North's victory.[1] Arbitrary arrest and torture remains widespread in Vietnam according to Amnesty International.

These were incredibly interesting and inspiring pictures and it's a shame to see the top comment hijacked by juvenile America-baaad-ism.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_boat_people

The difference between N.Korea and S.Korea is a good support for this. At the time of the Korean war maybe they weren't too different but the difference today is stark. Not difficult to imagine a similar outcome if the south had won the Vietnam war.

Well nowadays the government is much better and basically tolerable. Torture and death sentences are still present, but I would not say widespread, unlike in the hardest years of communism.

There are political prisoners, but it’s not random and widespread.

Coincidentally, Vietnamese communist government nowadays tries to be Best Friend with USA.

> Torture and death sentences are still present, but I would not say widespread

Also in the US that you seem to defend...

I am not defending or commenting on US itself, I have never been there honestly.

I am kind of defending US actions in Vietnam, and really not US actions themselves, but the South Vietnam government (US did some bad stuff there)

My Vietnamese friends would explain to you: They are happy to have worked hard here, own restaurants, get degreees and raise children in a system that is largely fair and representative.

It does not lack problems but they would argue it is far fairer than communism.

The hardliner Communists may have never taken over the Northern government if elections had happened and Ho Chi Min was elected, as was expected. He modeled their constitution on the US constitution and asked the US for help.

It's a lot easier to see that in hindsight and I'm sure it was not easy at the time to make the right decisions though.

> And they cannot even face that.

Except for maybe the Germans, Americans have a credible claim to more "facing" of their sins than any other country on Earth. Have you consumed any U.S. news over the last 20 years? Wrestling with our past is practically the national pastime.

"Wrestling with our past is practically the national pastime."

Most Americans don't care about politics, don't care about history, and certainly don't engage in any past wrestling.

It's a relatively small, well educated elite who has that interest. The rest of the population would rather watch cat videos.

Sure, but that's true of all people in any country at any point in history. When we say something like, "they cannot even face that," we're either talking about the portion of the population that pays attention to and discusses national issues or we're not talking about anybody at all, pretty much by definition.

Still, you can't call something done only by a small minority of the population a national pastime.

Watching sports is a national American pastime. So is drinking beer.

Wrestling with the past is not.

You should investigate CIA/NATO funded clandestine operations such us GLADIO involving terror attacks in Europe against civilians. AKA "strategy of tension".




>The August 2, 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station which killed 85 people, is widely recognized as a Gladio operation. While it was initially blamed on the communist “Red Brigades,” eventually, right-wing and fascists elements were discoverd to be the culprits. Two Italian secret service agents and Licio Gelli, the head of the infamous P2 Masonic lodge, were convicted in connection to the bombing.

>1969: “In Italy, the Piazza Fontana massacre in Milan kills 16 and injures and maims 80 [….] during a trial of rightwing extremists General Giandelio Maletti, former head of Italian counterintelligence, alleges that the massacre had been carried out by the Italian stay-behind army and rightwing terrorists on the orders of the US secret service CIA in order to discredit Italian Communists.”

It's telling that mere links to factual information on Wikipedia can still garner downvotes on HN.

>US looked like a force of good after WW2, but that deteriorated quickly. Not that other western nation states are holy, but the US seems to be the ringleader.

Humanity has seen the most positive growth by far under Pax Americana.

What's your alternative?

>Humanity has seen the most positive growth by far under Pax Americana.

It's not really much of a Pax Americana in the middle east or Central/South America. East Asia seems to be next too. "Pax Americana" has definitely been amazing for the west and it's friends but as countries like China and India start to challenge that, true colors will probably start to show as the existing world power(s) fight to keep that title.

Global poverty has plummeted over the last 70 years

The United States is happy to accept all credit for any correlation, no proof of causation necessary.

Since the US has been at the forefront of technological development, global stability, and investing in many of the biggest economic players today (south Korea, Japan, and Germany) it deserves significant credit for the current state of the world.

> it deserves significant credit for the current state of the world.

Ok good, so both the good things and the bad things they did, yes credit where credit is due.

Stop with the whataboutism we don't know if there was a better alternative because we hadn't have the chance to see one. It's that easy it could have been worse or better.

>It's that easy it could have been worse or better.

Lead by who?

> US looked like a force of good after WW2

Watching some of the US WW2 propaganda is really eye opening. We're the lesser of 2 evils, but that's not saying much.

You have to admit though, the US does have a history of producing good music.

Not as good as the UK, and historically Germany and Austria, which have their own little problems in the past...

Tell that to the generation of Viet women that have no men.

How dare you on an article like this...

But then sure, I have to admit. :)

The US made it possible that war is less wanted then economic relations.

And the world is not perfect, but for whatever it's worth. I think the US does and did a fine job.

While it is true that the US has done morally questionable and practically useless world-policing, it's not as cut and dry as you state. In both world wars, the US was undeniably a force for good, against the extremely evil Nazis, the extremely cruel Imperial Japanese, and helping more monetarily and supply wise in WW1. Furthermore, the US fought itself to free millions of slaves in it's own Civil War. While it's true the South attempted to leave to keep their slavery power, the other half of the US stomped them in the war.

Outside of militarism, the US has generally been cruelly expansionist against Native Americans, and has seen a lot of atrocities on "its own" soil. Yet the colonists eventually established a nation today that is pivotal to the arts, science, technology, and even human rights, humanitarianism, and large scale philanthropy.

How do we weigh all these? The US is not merely on the wrong side; we are a mixture of good and bad.

> Furthermore, the US fought itself to free millions of slaves in it's own Civil War.

This is simply not true.

The North prosecuted the war to preserve the Union. It was only afterward that it was re-imagined as a war of liberation. This reimagination makes perfect sense from a propaganda perspective. After all, the Confederacy was a democracy. Its people voted to leave the Union. The Yanks, for the stated purpose of "preserving the Union" invaded a democracy and killed half a million of its citizens. Ingeniously, by pretending that the war was always about freeing the slaves, the US has people walking around celebrating a one-million casualty war as a sign of their country's morality! Woof!

The truth is this: The Civil War was waged to preserve the American Empire in North America. The fact that it happened, in an unforeseeable confluence of circumstances, to result in the end of slavery, does not make it a moral war.


"The North prosecuted the war to preserve the Union."

This is known as the Lost Cause myth, and it's investigated in an Atlantic article titled "Why Does the Myth of the Confederate Lost Cause Persist?"

From the article:

It was then, in the late 1800s, that the myth of the Lost Cause began to take hold. The myth was an attempt to recast the Confederacy as something predicated on family and heritage rather than what it was: a traitorous effort to extend the bondage of millions of Black people. The myth asserts that the Civil War was fought by honorable men protecting their communities, and not about slavery at all.

We know this is a lie, because the people who fought in the Civil War told us so. "Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery--the greatest material interest of the world," Mississippi lawmakers declared during their 1861 secession convention. Slavery was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution," the Confederate vice president, Alexander Stephens, said, adding that the Confederacy was founded on "the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man."

The Lost Cause asks us to ignore this evidence. Besides, it argues, slavery wasn't even that bad...

[1] - https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2021/06/confede...

> This is known as the Lost Cause myth

No, the Lost Cause myth is not that the North was fighting for the Union, it was that the South was defending against Northern aggressionn rather than to prevent the perceived threat of future abolition.

The aims of opposing sides in a war are often not simple inverses of each other. The South fought for slavery, but the North (especially the slave states in the Union) did not fight against it.

There is a common little rhetorical tool, utilized frequently by politicians, where when you find yourself asked a question which you don't like, you choose instead to pretend that you've been asked a question with which you're more comfortable. That's what you've done here, by ignoring the points that I've made, and instead attempting to associate me with some other bucket of claims which you feel more comfortable responding to.

> The myth was an attempt to recast the Confederacy as something predicated on family and heritage rather than what it was: a traitorous effort to extend the bondage of millions of Black people.

The states that seceded in 1860 seceded purely to preserve slavery--that's a matter of fact. I don't see how that changes anything I stated above, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

> The myth asserts that the Civil War was fought by honorable men protecting their communities, and not about slavery at all.

This is an odd statement, because it contains two assertions, one true and one false. The Confederacy was created by white supremacists who wanted to preserve slavery. But they didn't start a war, they started a country. A country which was, for all the odious motivations underpinning its inception, just as much a democracy as the one that was founded by the Washington and Jefferson. When the United States declared their intent to wage war on the South, they were just as much a foreign power as the British were in 1775. The idea that Southerners were not defending their communities is simply bizarre.

None of this has any bearing on the assertions made above. Slavery is evil, we're all on the same page there. The Confederacy was created to preserve slavery. That was evil. But that doesn't change the fact that the North did not fight the war to free the slaves, but to subjugate the South and to preserve the American Empire. The fact that Confederacy was founded to preserve slavery doesn't have any bearing on the simple moral fact that imperialism is evil, too. And that nations don't get to start imperial wars, kill a million people, fall ass-backwards into taking an important moral action, and then pretend that the war was about that moral action all along.

If the North had fought the war to free the slaves, then you could make the case that it was a moral war. But they didn't, and it wasn't. It was an evil war which happened to bring about the end of an evil institution. We're adults, and we should be able to entertain nuance in our appreciation of history. It is okay observe that the end of slavery was a beautiful thing, and that we're glad that it happened, AND that the Civil War itself was a moral abomination and nothing to be proud of.

A democracy? Not for Blacks in the South...

Black folks couldn't vote in the North in 1860, either. In fact, when Lincoln started the war by calling up 50,000 volunteers to "put down the rebellion", there were more slave states still in the Union (DC, Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Kentucky, Maryland, and Delaware) than there were in the Confederacy! Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee seceded only after they realized that Lincoln intended to wage war on the South.

This is just more "Lost Cause" tripe. If you think the Civil War was about "states rights" etc etc, read the Confederate Constitution.

“In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected by Congress and by the Territorial government; and the inhabitants of the several Confederate States and Territories shall have the right to take to such Territory any slaves lawfully held by them in any of the States or Territories of the Confederate States.”

> If you think the Civil War was about "states rights" etc etc, read the Confederate Constitution.

You seem confused. Nobody said that.

> Black folks couldn't vote in the North in 1860, either.

That’s overgeneralized. They couldn’t vote everywhere in the North, and in some of the states where they (and sometimes other nonwhite citizens) could they had different terms than whites (e.g., New York imposed a property requirement on non-Whites for voting that wasn’t imposed on Whites.)

> Furthermore, the US fought itself to free millions of slaves in it's own Civil War.

Neither side of the Civil War fought to free slaves. One side fought to separate itself to prevent the distant future threat of that happening, the other side fought to preserve the Union (those on that aide interested in abolition had previously decided to defer it to preserve the Union.)

Secession and the rebellion ended up backfiring and also enabling abolition sooner than it otherwise would have happened, but that wasn’t what the war was fought for in the same way as WWII wasn’t fought to establish the UN.

US involvement in Vietnam was based on complete misunderstanding. The US is not know for their cultural or historical intelligence to begin with, but McCarthyism had wiped out many China and Asia experts from the State Department.

US misunderstood the history of Vietnam and the goals of the belligerents. Vietcong also misunderstood the US.

Ho Chi Minh and Vietcong were nationalists first, communists second. US feared the domino effect that had no change of happening with Vietnam. Vietnam would not side with China for any reason and China was prepared to go to war against Russia if Russia got too much influence in Vietnam.

> complete misunderstanding

So admit it, say sorry, pay reparations.

Say sorry, why not, but demanding to pay back I don't understand. It is not the same people in power nor the same population, why should they pay for their parents? It is preposterous. And where do you stop with this logic, neolithic?

They're still paying the price for what the US did to them, I don't think it's too uncommon for reparations to be payed by different people because usually reparations are on behalf of the government itself. If a different government took over the US then I think it would be a bit unfair to expect reparations. But as it stands it's the same government and a lot of the people who took part in the atrocities are still alive today, it's not like it happened hundreds of years ago.


Things the US fought against: Japanese occupation of East Asia. Nazi occupation of Europe. Soviet occupation and oppression of Eastern Europe. Oppression of Iran by a theocratic fascist government. Russia again. Establishment of a nuclear capable unbelievably horrible regime in North Korea. More Russia. A regime in Afghanistan that murders girls for wanting to read. Lots of more recent Putin shit, for details ask the populace of any neighbour of Russia on it's western side.

So yes, they've done a lot of bad crap. Their history of supporting corrupt murderous fascists in latin America is a notable series of lows. Not that the communist alternatives were all that wonderful. However it's a very mixed bag. Take the US out of the post-war period, and does it really look a whole lot better?

If you're going to go off on one about countries the rest of the world could have done fine without for the last 70 years I could probably name a few for you.

Tell me more about the communist contributions to human history without omission on its costs.

Communism invented space travel, the mobile phone, and the artifical heart.

Where's the without omission on its costs part?

So the "right side" is a communist dictatorship?

If you have a war between two sides and you are calling one the wrong side, you are creating a dichotomy

> repeatedly on the wrong side of history

Also repeatedly on the right side of history. It's really intellectually dishonest to ignore one over the other.

> they cannot even face that

I don't know who "they" are, but Americans are extremely self critical -- just look at this thread. It's also certainly the only of three global superpowers where citizens can be (and are) openly critical of their country's policies.

> Red scare

I'm sorry, have you ever lived in a communist country?

> Supporting neo-liberal-to-fascist govts

Yeah pretty much any time a country is a global superpower / police, it's going to make mistakes. But also, many governments the US has supported historically have had broad popular support on the ground, too, and the governments overthrown have been oppressive regimes. The regimes that take their place may often have also been oppressive, but that's not known without the benefit of hindsight. (Also there are legitimate victories in this camp too. Just ask any resident of South Korea.)

I could keep going, but it seems like your main beef with the US is that it operates like a global superpower pursuing its own domestic and international policy. I don't know what you think the world would look like under another superpower like China or Russia, but given the treatment of those countries _towards their own citizens_ in Chechnya, Crimea*, Uyghur Xinjiang, and Tibet, it's hard to imagine your or my life would be much better off under those global regimes.

I also challenge you to find a global superpower in world history that has yielded a more unshakeable global peace for almost a century.

You failed to mention the times the US was on the right side of history. Most importantly, it defeated the USSR, which was, as Ronald Reagan correctly pointed out, an evil empire.

As a former East German, 90% of that "defeat" was done by the USSR (and the Eastern Bloc) itself, not the USA. Credit where it is due, since you insist.

That defeat could have been deferred a long time if it was free to gobble up countries and bring them into the communist sphere.

The USSR collapsed from the inside.

> it defeated the USSR

Very arguably: no, it didn't.

The USSR defeated itself. It overspent and was rife with corruption. They don't call it "the collapse of the USSR" for no reason. It couldn't maintain its own weight and fell in on itself.

Why did the USSR overspend? Was it trying to keep up with the west?

Yes, every empire collapses under its weight, sooner or later.

I agree overall!

The USSR didn't really "overspend" though. The amount of money it was spending on the military was wildly exaggerated by the CIA and other people who wanted more budget.

The issue was the centrally planned economy and the monthly plans where factories would be effective for one week a month and spend the other three turning raw materials into garbage.

In the end, the USSR was simply unable to deliver sufficient goods and services to its citizens.

> Most importantly, it defeated the USSR

I just hurt my eyes from rolling them _so hard._

The USSR collapsed because it was a wildly inefficient system that was unable to provide goods and services to its people.

In order to believe your wild statement you have to believe a lot of huge implausibilities, like the idea that the USSR would not have spent money on their military if not for the Americans, which would literally make them the ONLY empire in history to do that.

Particularly hard to believe is the idea that if Reagan hadn't spent trillions on thoroughly useless weapons, the USSR would have magically flourished.

> Ronald Reagan


Americans just love their wildly incompetent and corrupt Presidents, don't they?

It is not at all implausible that competition with the US made the USSR spend more on arms. The reason empires throughout history spend money on arms, as you rightly say, is to compete with their neighbours. The US upped the ante.

I'm not arguing either for or against Reagan. I merely point out that he was right about the USSR.

The USSR suffered a bloody revolution at the turn of the 20th Century which upended its social order. Then tens of millions of its people dies in WW2 and the country was devastated, tens of millions more died of famine or were killed, imprisoned, and/or enslaved by a totalitarian regime which terrorized its people. Much of its intelligencia (the creative lifeblood of any society) were themselves oppressed or exiled.

None of this had anything to do with the United States, but it did contribute greatly to just how broken the USSR was by the time it collapsed. The collapse wasn't only about this, but it certainly wasn't simply a defeat by the US either.

A controversial assertion. If there's a "wrong side" of history, there must also be a "right side." Who do you consider to occupy that position?

~~False.~~ Their does not need to be a right side just because there is a, or even many, wrong. Everyone can be shitty.

e: not false, I misread.

Wouldn't your view be in agreement with the poster? They aren't saying they personally believe there must be a right side but that the metaphor implies it.

I think you are right.

Not a country or group, but individuals. The countless good people who work for what is right. Like Corrie Ten Boom who wrote The Hiding Place [1]


I'd say post WW2 Scandinavia+Iceland has been rather exemplar. Bhutan comes to mind too.

Apparently Bhutan has some nationalist fuckery going on, exiling "non-Bhutanese people" and declaring them non-citizens. Most people don't know because it is so small. If it were a larger country it would be a big deal.

I see. Bhutan, Scandinavia, and possibly some other countries too small to have much of an effect on humanity one way or the other.


My dad was a hospital corpsman on the USS Repose (hospital ship) during Vietnam. Having seen some of his operating room photos, I can't imagine that we were on the "winning" side.

The video above is his amateur footage he took while aboard the ship. Probably 1968/1969.

I had the film digitized after he passed in 2016.

Quite a coincidence. My dad was an HM3 on the USS Frontier from 1964 to 1967. He also passed in 2016. He never talked much about his service though. I only remember one story he told where US soldiers were issued bullet proof vests for the first time, and they chose to try them out by shooting each other with M16s. The result wasn't pretty.

My Father-in-law was a Vietnam Vet, an older one who had been in the military for awhile and made a career out of it. I believe he retired in 1978, he passed several years ago. My wife was born after he retired and he spoke very little about the war. He had PTSD, but he'd mostly dealt with it by the time I met him.

The only vivid story I recall. He talked about when they were stationed at an outpost. The supplies would be stacked up in a central area and he was getting the rations for his men. There was an explosion and everyone thought they were being shelled.

However, it turned out that one of the other Sergeants was wearing a grenade on his vest. The pin caught on something and pulled out without him noticing.

They had to spend the next few days taping down the pins on all the grenades to avoid another accident.

Fascinating. I wonder what the psychology is there.

I saw a Plymouth Superbird a couple years ago that had “original damage”. It looked like it had been stolen and taken on a joyride. No straight body panels, scratches everywhere.

The story went that some kid got drafted and figured he was never coming home so he spent his life savings on the fastest car he could and tried to have as much fun as possible.

I assume it is a similar state of mind to a terminal medical diagnosis.

pro-Russian rebels of the Donbass war trying out bulletproof vest


Arghhh! Where was Darwin when this video was made?

I worked with a electrician whom was my boss.

The company supplied us with kevlar gloves.

He took a drywall knife, and with all his might, propelled the knife into his hand.

He was know as Kevlar Ken from then on.

This is really cool, what an honor to see. Thank you for digitizing the footage and sharing it to the world.

Couple q's if you're up for it:

* What camera did he have? Was it common in that era for cameras to not have a mic? (not complaining, just curious)

* Did he ever watch the footage, after the war? I know some veterans, depending on how they processed their experience, just block it all out.

* Can you share more on what he thought of his service there?

* I'm not sure of the specifics of the camera. But the reels of film say "KodaChrome Movie Film Super 8" on their boxes.

* I don't think he ever saw the footage. I would assume that at some point he had a projector, but as far as I can remember, he just always kept them in his top drawer. He always talked about getting them transferred to VHS. Never did it.

* He's in the video at 38 seconds in. I assume his buddy from the previous frames filmed him. https://youtu.be/1hiNanqC5aQ?t=38

He didn't like the military. He had a lot of explosive outbursts I remember growing up. Later in his life, when he was finally convinced to see a VA doctor, he was diagnosed with PTSD with - 100% related to the war. He received full disability but very late in life. He was fired from so many jobs during his lifetime.

Most Super 8 cameras could not record sound.

In the 70s, Kodak introduced a variant of Super 8 film that had a magnetic strip for audio, but it wasn’t widely used. Later in the 70s video on magnetic tape cassettes became popular, which was the first time most people had home movies with sound.

Both technologies arrived too late for the US war in Vietnam.

Amazing... my aeromedical examiner, Dr Richard Pellerin, served as a special forces medical corpsman in Vietnam in 1969/1970. He also filmed his own observations and recently digitized/uploaded about an hour worth, along with narration. Powerful stuff. https://youtu.be/87Dd7GSNAPM

Dont imagine and look at the article . They refer to photos taken by vietnamese photographers. It is actually pretty good.

The photo https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-StC-dVAdOns/YK081DEgPdI/AAAAAAAAd... is probably a captured M16 since, AFAIK, Vietnam used AK-47.

What impressed me the most: "Using home-brewed chemicals, they developed their pictures in the open air or in underground tunnels" if by chemicals to develop photos in open air means no need for a dark room, that is really not something easy to do with then available technology. It is basically Polaroid chemicals quality.

Also "The Americans denuded the landscape with chemicals to deny cover to the Viet Cong." means chemical weapons. How the US avoided international courts is something that should be better explained. Specially considering Iraqi invasion decades later alleging chemical weapons suspicions.

Some pictures look extremely noise and grain free for such old photos. Makes me think they are probably digitally enhanced or Vietnam chemicals were really first class quality.

> How the US avoided international courts is something that should be better explained

Might makes right, aka US foreign policy since its inception. The US has never recognised any court that could try them ( like the ICC) and have veto powers in the UN, so they can go about committing war crimes with impunity.


"'War crimes' are defined by the winners. I'm a winner, so I can make my own definition.".

"The US has never recognised any court that could try them ( like the ICC) and have veto powers in the UN, so they can go about committing war crimes with impunity."

They don't have to recognize the court in order to be tried in the court, in absentia if need be.

It's interesting that despite the power to try alleged US war criminals, the ICC has chosen not to.

The ICC can't choose whatever it wants, it has a charter. It doesn't invent its jurisdiction, it's built on countries participating in it. Which is why its investigating US war crimes in Afghanistan, having jurisdiction there, but not Iraq, where it doesn't.

> Also "The Americans denuded the landscape with chemicals to deny cover to the Viet Cong." means chemical weapons.

I believe the distinction is that Agent Orange was not used as a weapon per se, in that it wasn't applied to people, but rather was used to destroy plants. Please note I'm not making any claims about the ethics of its use.

Defoliation. A precursor for a lot of that junk was made by Philips-Duphar, and dumped in a polder 25 km North of Amsterdam. The cleanup operation continues today... Dioxin, 2-4-5-T, very nasty stuff.

Article about this: https://www.volgermeer.nl/artikel/na-de-ontploffing-kwam-de-... (dutch)

If you irresponsibly drench a country with deadly poison, killing and crippling vast numbers of people and causing consequences that persist till this very day, you can't get out from under it by pretending it wasn't a weapon.

"I just set your house on fire to flush you out of it so I could kill you. I didn't intend the fire as a weapon itself."

>Vietnam used AK-47.

This is common misconception. What you mean by "AK-47" is usually AKM rifle.


Secondly: SKS rifles were very popular as well in North Vietnam.


The US avoided international courts because, technically, the chemical weapons were to clear forest covers and not intended for use on civilians and military personnel.

I'm not sure if lack of intent would absolve them of committing a war crime... not to mention that it's not clear that they didn't actually intend to cause harm to people by their use of Agent Orange and other chemical weapons like napalm.

"...if by chemicals to develop photos in open air means no need for a dark room"

I don't think that's what it means. They presumably developed the photos in near darkness, either during the night (open air) or in those tunnels.

> How the US avoided international courts is something that should be better explained.

It's probably relevant that the horrible health effects of Agent Orange were a result of accidental contaminants (dioxins), not the defoliant itself. Not that this makes it ok, but it's something different than dropping mustard gas on Kurdish civilians.

> How the US avoided international courts is something that should be better explained

The fact the US has made it clear they will use any force necessary against the ICJ if they ever dare trying a US citizen should be a good explanation. You can get away with war crimes just fine if nobody dares to charge you with them.

Legally, whether something is a "chemical weapon" depends on whether it's used to attack people, or is used in population centers where many people will be directly injured regardless of intent.

See also the legal wrangling around US use of white phosphorous, which is 100% legal if used as an "illuminant" [https://treaties.unoda.org/t/ccwc_p3] (i.e. for flares), but not as a weapon against people.

> How the US avoided international courts

You do know there is no such thing as international court, right? There are few organization which has name court in it like ICJ but they don't have any hard power like courts, and definitely have no force/military to stop a country.

A court doesn't need a military force to impose its will. The ICC and the ICY work on consensus and UN backing, it's just that the US refuses to take part because they're afraid they have way too many war criminals and it'd be bad for PR. And not only do they not accept the ICC's jurisdiction, they have a law allowing themselves to invade the Hague if another country turns their war criminals in, and the previous administration sanctioned ICC prosecutors ( obstruction of justice) for daring to investigate US war crimes in Afghanistan on the behest of Afghanistan, an ICC member.

Maybe they developed the photos in open air at night?

I have a friend who served as a tank gunner in Vietnam. Has was wounded and sent home. He ended up with 4 teeth left after his jaw has been shot.

He refused to accept that the US lost. No amount of reasoning would make him budge on that opinion. I dropped the subject as it was a risk to our friendship.

I understand where he is coming from though. To have lost so many friends in addition to his personal injury, it would mean to him that it was all for nothing if he were to acknowledge it as a loss.

[edit - a word]

Why would you be friends with someone like that?

Millions of innocent people died for nothing, and the US learned nothing, and did it all over again many times, because so many Americans, like your friend, were unwilling to concede that there was anything wrong with Vietnam.

Suppose your friend were instead an injured Al Qaeda member who felt Al Qaeda was right. Would you accept that?

But the US has killed _hundreds_ of times as many innocent people as Al Qaeda - ten times as many just in Vietnam.

it wasn't all for nothing. there was time when Americans cared about advancing a free world. Free from soviet style communism. And this was an ideal worth sacrificing for. Unfortunately, Americans have been demoralized by propaganda to the point of seeing freedom as something not worth dying for.

If exporting freedom involves bombing civilians you're supposed to free and spraying their country with herbicides, then perhaps you should rethink your strategy.

The Vietnam war was a lost cause all the way from the start, just like more modern endeavours of trying to make ultra-conservative societies of Iraq and Afghanistan democracies by invading them. Pointless waste of money and lives.

Clearly, you are not a citizen of a nation who has been the target of one of the US's efforts. Crippling sanctions, extra-ordinary hypocrisy and outright lies/propaganda in the name of 'freedom', support of hard-core and insane terrorists as 'freedom-fighting' rebels, etc.

The US has historically been perfectly happy to advance its agenda of "freedom" by installing or supporting brutal dictatorships that suppress all political opposition. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_Chilean_coup_d%27%C3%A9ta....

When I think of the word "propaganda", the first two things that come to mind are the Nazis and the "fight against communism".

Because South Korea would be so much better off today had it fallen to Kim Il Sung rule...

Impossible to say definitely. North Korea military spending has been around 25% of its GDP, which is said to be one of the top reasons why its economy plateaud in the 70s. Would it have needed to be so high if they had annexed the whole peninsula, and would they had closed up like they did if they had decisively won the war? Perhaps not: Vietnam certainly did better.

Around 20 percent of their population got also killed during the war.

>Douglas visited Korea in the summer of 1952 and was stunned by the “misery, disease, pain and suffering, starvation” that had been “compounded” by air strikes. U.S. warplanes, having run out of military targets, had bombed farms, dams, factories, and hospitals. “I had seen the war-battered cities of Europe,” the Supreme Court justice confessed, “but I had not seen devastation until I had seen Korea.”

And instead of Marshall help they got global economic sanctions.


The carpet bombing of North Korea was one of the great war crimes in history. 15% of the population died. 85% of the buildings were destroyed. Many, many cities were wiped off the map forever.

All this for a country that had never offered the slightest threat to the United States.

> Viet Cong meet the enemy face-to-face, most likely in the Mekong Delta or Plain of Reeds. This rare image shows both sides in combat, ARVN soldiers at the top and Viet Cong in the foreground. The VC have flanked the enemy at left and right, which likely meant the ARVN unit was wiped out.

This photo is a well known to be staged.

Makes me doubt the authenticity of everything else.

I thought that looked pretty dubious. Do you know of anywhere to read up on it?

edit: some reddit discussion here https://www.reddit.com/r/history/comments/44gfpz/astonishing...

You mean there weren't photo ops on the american side? Come on it's war there is propaganda everywhere take it all with a grain of doubt.

The operating picture looks staged too despite the caption claiming otherwise. Battlefield hospitals tend to be chaotic and bloody things. Not peaceful and calm operating rooms without a drop of blood in sight.

Anyone looking for context of what it was like as a soldier fighting for the north in the Vietnam war, I highly recommend The Sorrow of War[0].

I read it in college in a Vietnam and the US History class and it was blown away.

This book, along with The Things They Carried[1] are worthwhile reads.

[0] - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrow_of_War

[1] - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Things_They_Carried

I was introduced to The Things They Carried in my freshman high school English class. That was a tough row to hoe as a 13-14 year old. I never understood why it was in there.

Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong and Style were especially weird in the in-class discussions. That was 25+ years ago, and those classroom talks still stick with me. That teacher was either an unbelievable genius, or an insane person. Not sure.

The sourcing of these photos is terrible. Several are from before the US involvement, namely the Plain of Reeds photo which is from the French War in Indochina.

Plus, many of these photos are staged propaganda photos, in particular the battle scenes. After an enemy surrendered, POWs would often be told to “recreate” the battle. Actually battle photographs from the north are blurry and a bit more chaotic.

I only see one other battle scene (NVA soldiers dash) aside from the Plain of Reeds photo.

The other photos are posed as well. The downed wreckage, the Ca Mau operating room in the swamp, the Lam Son 719 photo are well known photos that were staged. You can find similar photos from the Battle of Dien Bien Phu. The French POWs were asked/made to recreate the final battle for photographers.

An Eastern Bloc country, I believe the USSR or East Germany, sent photo equipment and photographers to North Vietnam. They understood the propaganda value of these photos.

And don't get me wrong, these photos are very valuable in reinforcing morale and swaying international opinion. The West does it too. There was less staging of photos by the West back then as they tended to have more people taking photos of the action at the time.

I’m pretty sure USSR published a photo book “Vietnamskiy Reportazh”

European now living in Vietnam. One thing I learned pretty quickly about the Vietnam war... it was two wars:the French War and the American war.

Technically it was three, the third Indochina war took place between Vietnam and China

Don’t forget the 5 years of Japanese occupation sandwiched in there.

Japanese occupation was before the two wars cited though. It went French colony -> Japanese occupation -> War against the French -> War between North and South (with US siding with te South)

The political impossibility of invading North Vietnam meant the war became an insurrection in the south, at that point I think the conflict became a competition of will to win and the north and Vietcong were more motivated.

If it had been a full on traditional war like in Korea the conflict might have ended differently but the risk of a full blown world war would have been high.

I absolutely love seeing history from different perspectives.

The White Silk Dress is an amazing Vietnamese War movie.

I saw a French movie about a French soldier in Vietnam set in 1945

I was also in France at the time when viewing the movie, it was very surreal in so many ways to be empathizing for a protagonist on one of the enemy sides - from an American perspective as I am an American.

But I had never seen anything depicted about that war decades before the US got involved.

I had never seen a war movie produced outside of Hollywood. Or a director with primarily french influences producing a war movie.

It was sensual, horrific, erotic, fascinating. I dont think it would get greenlit by American studios. Maybe some streaming services have it though.

> I had never seen a war movie produced outside of Hollywood. Or a director with primarily french influences producing a war movie.

Not sure if the stipulation is a war movie about Vietnam, or just plain a war movie. But certainly here's a list of some non-U.S. 20th century war movies, very vivid, biased towards France:

The Battle of Algiers (French, Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)

Come and See (Russian, Elem Klimov, 1985)

Ivan's Childhood (Russian, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1962)

Beau Travail (French, Claire Denis, 1999) -- OK, soldiers but not war

Army of Shadows (French, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969)

A Man Escaped (French, Robert Bresson, 1956) -- POW, not front lines

Little Dieter Needs To Fly (British/French/German?, Werner Herzog, 1997) -- actually relates to the war in Vietnam

A Man Escaped


- is that the one where the pow makes it to the front lines and gets shot by his own side who assume he's German, since he was disguised?

Thanks! These are new to me

"Centurions" movie and more importantly the novel by the same name on which movie is based, written by Richard Lopteguy, offers an incredible French perspective of Vietnam experience including the demoralising defeat at Dien Bien Phu.

There are some depictions of the French occupation of Vietnam in the beginning of "We Were Soldiers".

Also Apocalypse Now extended cut has a part with the French elite still trying to live their old privileged life. I get why it's cut from a writing perspective, but it shows some important context.

Also The Quiet American

What is the name of the film?

I need to look it up from the time and place I was there, I'll edit if I find it in two hours or make a separate comment

edit: Les Confins du Monde (English: To the Ends of the World), 2018, directed by Guillaume Nicloux

I'm not immediately seeing where to stream it, I would really like to view it again! With English subtitles!

Thank you.

You're right, doesn't seem to be streaming yet. https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/to-the-ends-of-the-world

A DVD is available on Amazon without subtitles.

The first step

War movies produced in Israel are also a distinctly different experience from American ones.

They tend to be made by veterans of those wars, after the ~20 year gap that seems pretty standard for the PTSD barrier to crack. e.g. the best ones made about the Lebanon War (what Israel calls its intervention 1982-2000 in the Lebanese Civil War) all came out within a couple of years of each other:

* Lebanon (2009)

* Waltz with Bashir (2008)

* Beaufort (2007)

And the first of the good Yom Kippur War (1973) films is probably Kippur (2000), with the long-development-time miniseries Valley of Tears (Sha'at Ne'ila) only coming out last year.

Not quite enough time has passed for films about the heaviest fighting of the 2nd Intifada to be made - the closest thing I can think of is the TV show Fauda (2015-present) but that's a somewhat different genre.

Is the trend of "publish with sensational title, switch to benign version to continue growth" creeping into HN or is it the fate

I don't think it's sensational to say that North Vietnam won and South Vietnam lost.

Original title for this post was “Rare Vietnam War images from the winning side”

HN is not the same place it was a few years ago.

It's a victim of its own success.

Looking at those pictures, I would not have predicted them as the winning side. The picture of the field operating theater in the middle of a swamp is particularly moving. They must have felt they were fighting against unbelievable odds: the most powerful military in the world, with all the bombers, the agent orange, the napalm, the best equipment.. it must have taken a lot of courage to keep up the fight against that. Especially as they watched all their compatriots dying like flies.

I went to Vietnam a few years ago. The locals I spoke to had a very dim of view of their government, saying that it was deeply corrupt. It is a shame that the extraordinary sacrifices made fighting the French and then the US resulted in such poor outcome for the Vietnamese people.

> I went to Vietnam a few years ago. The locals I spoke to had a very dim of view of their government, saying that it was deeply corrupt.

I feel like if you asked random Americans on the street how they felt about their government the sentiment would be at least as bad.

As a counterpoint, it does not seem to a foreigner that their government is worse than average

I recently read Garth Ennis' _Punisher: The Platoon_ and it does a great job of humanizing "the winning side". The art in that book (Goran Parlov) is excellent and reminds me a lot of the photos in this series.

These pictures are stunning. Each one of them is so powerful. We've really only been shown our side of history. Le Minh Truong is an astounding photographer, and one that should be as celebrate as Robert Capa, or many other Western photoreporters. Impressive. The picture with the two women and the fishnet is one of the most beautifully composed pictures I've ever seen, period. And I've seen a lot. Insane that I never got to see these pictures before today.

>> We've really only been shown our side of history.

Really? Maybe if one confines one's self to US TV news channels. There have been plenty of books, films, and documentary series that address the Vietnamese side of the war.

If I were to recommend one, I suggest "Vietnam Minefield" (2005), covering the Australian's improper use of a minefield that resulted in countless bombings as Viet Cong forces repurposed captured mines as IEDs.



I've always known that, yes. Yet, as an Italian kid of the 80s I've been raised by American and American-influenced media way more that I would like to admit. I knew the US were wrong, but there was still a disconnect between that and the depiction of the American War (as they call it in Vietnam) I took as "standard" for so long. My wake up call was 2017, during the first of a few trips to Vietnam. The War museum in Saigon is impressive. Despite having known qiute a bit about the conflict, for example, I had never heard of My Lai. Boy, that was hard to watch. I also was not aware of Cu Chi. I'm surprised I didn't get to see pictures from Le Minh Truong in Vietnam, or maybe I did, and I didn't recognize their power back then? There's also an easy language barrier, as this part of history is mostly told in languages different from the ones I speak.

You hadn't heard of Mi Lai? That's like know about the Iraq war but not Abu Ghraib, the war on terror but not Gitmo. If I had to list things to know about the Vietnam war, Mi Lai would be in the top five. If people are hearing about the Vietnam war, but not that part, then American media indeed has problems communicating history.

Consider that in Italian high school study plans, history "stops" at WW2, sometimes right after. I never got exposed to the Vietnam War as a history topic, and I've got my information like many others in my generation in Italy mostly from Rambo movies. Want another one? I had no idea Nixon bombed Cambodia secretly for five years until I visited Cambodia, also in 2017, and visited the landmine museum near Seam Reap.

>A guerrilla in the Mekong Delta paddles through a mangrove forest defoliated by Agent Orange. The Americans denuded the landscape with chemicals to deny cover to the Viet Cong

The official line, maybe, but untrue. Agent Orange was used to destroy crops. Its side effects and lasting effects are well known, but the focus on these are to the detriment of awareness about why the US used it. The indiscriminate destruction of food for combatants and innocents alike is genocide.

These are really neat. One photo has this caption:

> Even using antiquated WWII rifles such as these, the Vietnamese were able to cripple or down many U.S. aircraft.

Seems impossible? Allied aircraft were flying at least 5-10,000 ft, at least 300mph?

Small arms have a ceiling of around 10,000 ft, so aircraft flying at 5,000 ft would definitely be vulnerable. And 300mph is fairly slow compared to a small arms projectile traveling maybe 1700mph. Even today, fighter jets will often try to stay above 10,000 ft, roughly where small arms and flak peter out.

I could easily imagine WWII rifles having some success damaging helicopters, which were (and compared to modern fighters still are) low and slow.

There were a bunch of Forward Air Controllers who flew smaller, slower planes much lower to direct air strikes. In particular those flying in support of SF missions flew low routinely. Although the predominant danger is still going to be flak and large machine guns rather than rifles. Then you also have attack helicopters and troop transport helicopters are particularly vulnerable whilst loading and unloading who all fly lower and slower.

Dive-bombing (no clue whether that tactic was/is still in use) and strafing aircraft fly a lot lower when attacking ground targets. The danger is so great that ground-attack planes like the A-10 Thunderbolt are designed with survivability in mind and carry a lot of armor.

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