Thomas Friedman's Vietnam Quicksand

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman recently opined on ''Vietnam's Lessons in Iraq and Syria." Here's the problem -- his Lessons from Vietnam are either learned from communist/leftist propaganda, or he simply invented the “lessons” to support his pontification on current day Iraq and Syria. The Vietnam War is not the mysterious, misunderstood, unfathomable mess the left would have you believe.

Democratic icon JFK called it the cornerstone of US efforts in Asia to corral communism. The American involvement supported a country fighting the take-over by a brutal communist regime in Hanoi. Certainly, until Nixon, it was a horribly mismanaged war, but one which the U.S. military won. Only to have the victory forfeited by a Democrat congress two years after American troops had left the country. America’s left simply abandoned the South Vietnamese to a communist invasion supported by millions of tons of weapons and ammunition supplied by Russia and China.

Friedman’s main “lesson” seems to be his erroneous assumption that our failure in Vietnam was due to the embrace of nationalism fomented successfully by the North Vietnamese and ineptly by our ally, the South Vietnamese. In other words, the South Vietnamese chose a brutal communist regime over a struggling democratic government. Logic and common sense have never hindered the left’s view of the world. The facts are:

•    After the Geneva Accords of 1954 divided the country along what was known as the DMZ, nearly a million people from North Vietnam moved to South Vietnam


•    During the Tet Offensive of 1968, touted by the communists as the opportunity for their southern brothers to join them, virtually none did. Communist defections were in the tens of thousands


•    There are no accounts of South Vietnamese people moving to North Vietnam during the entire Vietnam War 


•    When the North Vietnamese conquered South Vietnam after the American withdrawal, over 800,000 people exited South Vietnam by any means possible (the Boat People) facing the danger of pirates, sharks, starvation and drowning rather than live under the communists. The U.N. Human Rights Commission estimates 25% of them perished. 

Friedman’s statement that the Northern aggressors were communists but also nationalists, ignores the simple fact that all communist regimes claim nationalism. They can hardly claim to be a foreign entity. The Vietnamese people, he says, perceived Ho Chi Minh and his communist comrades were the more authentic nationalists. It borders on racism that the American left believes only westerners are smart enough to know the difference. 
It was the United States ‘obsession with communism’ which led us into the war, Friedman says. Or could it have been the Russian atrocities in Europe after WW II, the communist aggression in Korea, the loss of China to the communists, or the staggering total of nearly 100 million dead from communist regimes?

Friedman’s (and the left’s) claim that it was a civil war in Vietnam is laughable given the concurrent aggression by the communists into Laos and Cambodia, inflicting thousands upon thousands of deaths. It would have been as if the South, during America’s civil war, invaded Mexico and Canada.

The left has obfuscated the truth about the Vietnam War for decades.  Why? Because their support of Hanoi and its murderous leaders directly led to the death of hundreds of thousands of people. And make no mistake; the left wasn’t just ‘against the war.’ They actively supported, from speeches in Hanoi to demonstrations on the campuses of America, the aggression against the South Vietnamese people. 

Friedman may or may not know much about Iraq and Syria. But one could question the strength and validity of his Middle East musings if he bases them on the lies and myths propagated by supporters of the America’s communist enemies.

For more, see Vietnam Veterans for Factual History.

Phillip Jennings
Phillip Jennings
Phillip Jennings is a founding member of Vietnam Veterans for Factual History.