Monday, September 24, 2007

Re-fighting the Vietnam war

So a bunch of South Vietnamese refugees, most of whom fled South Vietnam rather than pick up a rifle and go fight the North Vietnamese, wave South Vietnamese flags and chant anti-Communist slogans and want a shopping strip in San Jose to be renamed "Little Saigon".

Give it up, people. You lost. You and your fellow rich Frenchified Catholic South Vietnamese failed to build a national identity for your country, failed to fight for your country yourselves instead relying on the "little people" that you looked down your noses at to fight for you (the fact that you're here is proof of that -- the North Vietnamese could not have taken South Vietnam if every South Vietnamese had been willing to fight to the death, you ran instead of fighting) and you lost. Get over it. This is 2007, 32 years after your beloved Saigon was overrun because you were too busy looting the government coffers to, like, actually buy rifles and bullets and go out there and kill some NVA. It's time to move on.

These South Vietnamese "patriots" remind me of the Confederate "patriots" after the American Civil War and their mythology of the "Lost Cause". The fact of the matter is that if everybody who'd been drafted by the CSA had actually answered the call to arms, the Confederate armies would have been larger than the Union armies. On paper, Joe Johnston's Army of North Carolina outnumbered General Sherman's army by a factor of 3 to 1. Reality, though, is that the majority of Confederate draftees never showed up and Joe Johnston barely had 18,000 men to deal with Sherman's 65,000 men. They didn't care enough about their country to fight for it, and indeed President Jefferson Davis was the most hated man in the Confederacy at the time that Joe Johnston surrendered to Sherman. It was not until well after the war that statues of Jefferson Davis were put up all over the South and he became a "hero of the Lost Cause". At the time of the final Confederate surrender, Jefferson Davis was widely detested as a haughty dictator who'd managed to lose the war for the South via a pattern of micro-management and consistently bad decision making.

But "Lost Cause" mythologies always seem to follow the same pattern, so I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that one has arisen around the South Vietnamese aristocracy-in-exile. But there's one big difference between the Confederate "Lost Cause" aristocracy and the South Vietnamese one. The Confederate aristocracy actually fought, and died in large numbers, for their cause. The South Vietnamese aristocracy never did. They had people for that.

-- Badtux the History Penguin


  1. on more than one occaision i looked at the guys with me, then scanned the latest batch of "marvins" and said

    boys, we are shooting at the wrong motherfuckers here.

    good thing i never aspired to a career in the state department.

  2. I grew up in the middle of all that "Lost Cause" bullshit in the South. Didn't figure out it was bullshit until I got into college and started reading some detailed history of Louisiana during the Civil War. There were more Louisiana boys hiding in the swamps to avoid the draft enforcers than fighting in the armies of the Confederacy, and they hated them some Jefferson Davis almost as much as they hated Yankees (but they didn't hate Yankees enough to, like, want to risk dying to kill them). Unlike in South Vietnam, pretty much all the men and boys of the aristocratic class went to war, they believed in that "honor" stuff that wouldn't allow them to send other people's sons into wars they wouldn't send their own sons into and a lot of them didn't come back. But the white trash crackers and Cajuns... no effin' way were they going out there to die for an abstract principle ("State's Rights"), and they had no slaves so they damn well weren't going to die for slavery either. So they ran to the swamps and hid every time the draft press gangs came by. A lot of Louisiana boys got caught by the press gangs anyhow, but if all of them had reported for duty when requested, the Confederates would have had some serious manpower on the Western front and Grant would have never taken Vicksburg and Sherman would have never made it past Chattanooga. The South fell, in the end, because it ran out of aristocrats, not because it ran out of military-age manpower.

    Doing the research for that post, I did a lot of reading of U.S. Army accounts of the ARVN. Seems your opinion was well shared by a lot of GI's. Heck, one of the source documents may well have been quoting a younger you, as far as I can tell :-). The CIA pretty much came to the same conclusion, noting that the village boys who were the grunts had a serious culture clash with the city aristocrats who were the officers, and the city aristocrats preferred to be anywhere but the fighting, preferably somewhere that they could loot the supplies that were supposed to be going to the grunts. Their suggestion was, of course, "more professionalism". This was 19 fuckin' 69, over 5 years after we'd gotten involved in the war! And the damn fools still hadn't figured out that unless they created a real professional military rather than that nepotism bullshit they were going to get their butts kicked.

    During the final collapse of South Vietnam, the only South Vietnamese troops who fought worth a damn were the provincial militias in the Mekong area, who'd already had experience with the NVA coming through and stealing all their food and raping their women and stuff and didn't want anything to do with that again. These were village boys led by village boys, and they fought like demons -- alas, without sufficient rifles and ammo to make the difference because of course the fucking aristocrats had embezzled all the money that was supposed to go to arm them.

    Yeah, I don't have much sympathy for the aristocrats who "lost it all" when they had to flee to America because the poor boys who'd fought their war for them quit fighting and they were too fucking aristocratic to fight their own wars. So they had to start all over when they got here to the 'States. Oh wah. So did I, and so did you, and with a lot further to go because we didn't have access to the first-class education that these people did and had to learn shit the hard way. Trailer parks in Louisiana aren't exactly mansions any more than the rez was.

    -Badtux the Lost Cause Penguin

  3. Actually, those Vietnamese assholes you've got are a lot like the Cuban assholes I've got down here in Florida. They're all desperately whispering to each other that el Fidel malvado is dying and once he's dead we'll see the final victory of... something.

    They still demand an embargo, and so their cousins and nephews and nieces still are hungry for the last8 days of each month. They're fighting Communism by harming their blood relatives.

    Oh, they'll block off Calle Ocho in Miami, and have a grand street party complete with pachanga bands, and conga lines, and music, and lots of great food!

    And when they stagger home at 5 AM, and the city begins to clean up after them, they'll still be here. Their homes they abandoned in Cuba will still belong to others. Nothing will have changed, but they will still yearn for what is irretrievably lost.

  4. Tux and Lurch,

    I was going to bring up the Cubans in this country as what I see as a parallel situation. Big Cuban populations up here in NJ too, but I never get the same sense of them as I do when I see the Florida peoples on the news, whining and moaning.

  5. There are tonnes of Vietnamese in Australia, also courtesy of the war. Oz accepted many refugees out of a feeling of being responsible, because it also piled on in that idiotic enterprise. They are hard-working citizens, good restaurant owners, and also heroin smugglers. Not all of them, of course, but you'll have a few in any ethnic group. However, even though they dominate several suburbs in town, none of them has demanded to have anything renamed. What is it about Anmerica that everyone has to express their indentity like that, including the loser crackers in the South?

  6. There are Vietnamese refugees, and there are Vietnamese refugees, Bukko. At my last job I worked with folks whose parents were dirt-poor hill people in Vietnam, consider them the hillbillies of Vietnam, and they're still poor here in America but they and their children are the heart of the electronics assembly industry in the Fremont area and the next generation won't be so poor. They don't wave flags or want parts of cities named "Little Saigon" because to them Saigon was practically a foreign country even when they lived in South VIetnam. So the deal is that you Aussies got refugees, mostly of Chinese extraction (the North Vietnamese got kinda pissed at their Chinese ethnic group after China invaded them) and thus merchant-class in Vietnam (another reason the Communists didn't like them), but the U.S. airlifted out a shitload of the aristocrats and their families before Saigon's final fall (thus the famous photo of the overloaded chopper lifting off from the U.S. embassy). The folks waving the South Vietnamese flags at that city council meeting were mostly the sons and daughters of those aristocrats, a lot of whom resent the fact that here in America they're just ordinary people, instead of living in mansions and going on vacation in Paris at whim and shit like that. Same deal with the Havanos in South Florida. Reason they're so obnoxious is that they're the remnants of the Cuban aristocrat class who think they're entitled. Hmm, same deal with Dear Leader for that matter, but his aristocrat class is still in charge. I'm starting to see a pattern here. Is it, like, a law of nature that corrupt aristocrat classes all turn out to be assholes?

    -Badtux the Plebian Penguin


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