The Two Vietnam Wars

On Friday of last week, much of the establishment media reminded us of the awful 35th anniversary of the so-called "End of the Vietnam War" -- on April 30, 1975. This is only partly true, and now we need to know what the late commentator Paul Harvey would correctly call "the rest of the story."

On Friday and throughout the weekend, familiar pictures were shown of American helicopters lifting people off the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon as the South Vietnamese government was collapsing to the invading Communists from the North -- and this was dutifully labeled again as the "first war ever lost by America."

Since this snapshot of so-called "history" is highly misleading, it becomes vital that the entire story of Vietnam and its Cold War aftermath be clearly understood -- so that today's partisan politicians, media commentators and far-Left "Progressives" cannot scam the American public with a variety of false "lessons" of that long-ago conflict and its far-reaching consequences.

Unfortunately, we live in an age when far too little attention is paid to history -- real history. What actually happened back then is often rewritten to satisfy political or ideological appetites of "Scamalot" revisionists -- who may be journalists, or academics, or deceitful governments, or religious zealots, or even occupants of high political office.

Evidence of this deceit can be found in America's failure three months ago to memorialize the actual late-January 1973 end of the Vietnam War -- or, more correctly, the end of "Vietnam One," in which American armed forces fought. That was the twelve-year war which was fought largely by U.S. combat forces and which officially ended with the Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973.

But sadly, back in January, we saw not a single historically correct commentary about the end of "Vietnam One" in any major U.S. newspaper. Nor was there any detailed mention by any TV network "talking head" of the historical truth of a badly defeated North Vietnam's exodus from the South. That was the imperfect but largely victorious and now-forgotten end of Vietnam One.

Remembered and loudly acclaimed, instead, is the infamous anniversary date more than two years later of the tragic end of "Vietnam Two" -- which

(a) began in January 1975,

(b) involved no U.S. combat forces at all, and

(c) came to a tragic end on April 30, 1975.

That was when South Vietnam's capital city of Saigon fell to rampaging Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese armies -- and when televised pictures of helicopters rescuing American diplomatic personnel, Marine guards, and friendly South Vietnamese from the U.S. Embassy roof were first burned into our memories.

The deceitful tactic: Loudly and relentlessly propagandize a first-ever "Defeat of America" when, in fact, all American combat units had departed the scene more than two years earlier.

Two Sharply Different Wars

The many differences between these "two Vietnam Wars" -- and their "lessons learned," if any, for the ongoing battles for peace, stability, and democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan -- should be searched for in the following historical sub-texts. While an entire book could be written about each of these under- and falsely reported items, a brief paragraph about each might help to avoid their being completely ignored or wrongly described in the context of today's Vietnam/Iraq comparisons.

1) Beginning in 1961, all significant increases in U.S. combat forces in South Vietnam occurred during the administrations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson (to a peak of 543,400 in late 1968) -- while all significant reductions (down to only 20,000 in late 1972 and to virtually zero by mid-1973) occurred in the administration of Richard Nixon.

These large reductions were made possible both by the steady weakening of North Vietnamese and by significant strengthening of South Vietnamese forces, especially during and following the widely and cynically misinterpreted Tet Offensive of 1968 -- which was an unmitigated disaster for the North.

2) During their dozen years in South Vietnam, U.S. combat forces did not lose a single major battle, despite the marginally insane (i.e., politically correct) rules of engagement to which they were subjected by Lyndon Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and their "best and brightest" entourage -- and then by a similar, but less intrusive, micro-management by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

Clearly, U.S. combat forces did not "lose" the military war, as contrasted to the political and psychological losses they suffered in the McGovernite Congress, in the left-leaning media, among the radicalized academia and foreign policy elite, and in American public opinion.

3) The biggest and longest battle of the entire Vietnam War -- the Tet Offensive of early 1968 -- was the biggest victory for U.S. and South Vietnamese forces and the most devastating defeat for the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese. But a combination of mainline media lies and of negative "spin" by antiwar activists managed to persuade the American public that it was our biggest failure, instead.

4) That part of the conflict in which US combat forces participated ended with the Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973, when American troop count was down to about 20,000 and headed for zero by mid-year -- and with formal treaty assurances from North Vietnam that it would cease its cross-border aggression against South Vietnam.

At that point, American and South Vietnamese forces had thwarted the Soviet-supported North. They had both militarily and diplomatically achieved the same status quo ante as the one which ended the Korean War twenty years earlier -- not a clear-cut victory, but surely not the shameful defeat which today's revisionists contend.

Enter Vietnam Two

5) As stated above, it was not until January 1975 that the Soviet-backed North began "The Second Vietnam War," or Vietnam Two, against a largely abandoned South. This was a war made possible and winnable for the communists by three principal factors:

a) the post-Watergate, August 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon;

b) the dominance of the antiwar congressional Democrats (pressured by Blame America First radicals of the Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, George McGovern, and Frank Church varieties), who in 1973-74 slashed aid to South Vietnam by more than half; and

c) the Moscow-Hanoi certainty that an unelected and politically insecure President Gerald Ford would not dare to intervene if the North were to invade the South.

6) The final Blitzkrieg-style victory of the Soviet-supported North Vietnamese came on April 30, 1975. This was not a victory over U.S. combat forces; our forces had departed more than two years earlier. It was the defeat of the South Vietnam military, whose assistance and political support had been decimated by a Democrat-dominated, weak-on-liberty U.S. Congress.

7) The predicted "communist bloodbath" in South Vietnam did, indeed, occur. There were tens of thousands of summary executions, millions of innocents herded into brutal "re-education" camps, and hundreds of thousands of "boat people" fleeing the single-party, police-state communist dictatorship. This communist state is still in power, thirty years later.

8) The long-anticipated "domino effect" also occurred over the next five years (1975-80), during which a "no-more-Vietnams" retreat by the United States and its allies allowed some twenty nations to fall to Soviet imperialism, colonialism, and subversion. Divided into two slightly overlapping groups, these post-Vietnam colonies for communism were:

Ten plainly Marxist-Leninist states: South Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Mozambique, Angola, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Suriname, Grenada, and Nicaragua.

Ten more socialist, single-party "client states," which were close enough to communist tyranny as no longer to require so-called "liberation": Libya, Syria, Algeria, Iraq, Tanzania, Seychelles, Madagascar, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao-Tome/Principe, and the Congo.

9) It was not until Ronald Reagan became president in January 1981 that this veritable avalanche of "dominoes" into the Evil Empire ceased falling. The trend was reversed by the preemptive "roll-back" liberation of Grenada from Soviet/Cuban colonial status in 1983. Although only a tiny part of the Evil Empire, Grenada's great geopolitical significance was the first clear-cut reversal of the so-called Brezhnev Doctrine -- that much-propagandized rule which said "once Communist, always Communist."

10) Whether or not Vietnam One was either strategically wise or militarily winnable (which this writer strongly believes it was), it was most certainly a "moral" and "just" cause. As with the case of World War II, such a determination can be based only on an objective analysis of the character and motivations of the enemy against whom the war was fought.

In total context, was this enemy the "good guy" who deserved to win, or the "bad guy" who should have lost? In this case, that Soviet-sponsored enemy -- Ho Chi Minh's North Vietnam -- proved quite clearly in the postwar period to be far more imperialist than "nationalist," far more repressive than "liberationist," and far more fascist-Left than "people's democratic."

This is why so many Americans have always believed that by any objective standard, "the wrong side won." And this is why we must remind everyone, in the name of truth-in-history, that this "wrong side" victory came against a cut-and-run U.S. Congress -- and not against American combat forces in Vietnam One, which ended imperfectly but honorably in early 1973.

Of course, that historic truth is regretted to this day by many of the anti-liberation left, who would have preferred that "arrogant America" and "imperialist America" be defeated outright -- just as they would prefer in Iraq and Afghanistan today.

A final note: The idea that there would be no "domino effect" to a defeat of American and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is as deceitful as the constantly repeated lie that there was no such triggering effect to the April 1975 collapse of South Vietnam.

Review #8 above for a truth-in-history reminder of the twenty post-Vietnam dominoes which fell in a period of only five short years -- four of them during the pathetic Carter-Mondale years -- followed then by the 1980s decade of the "roll-back of communism," which was applauded by many (and demeaned by many others) as the Reagan Revolution.

A DC-area attorney and national security strategist, Jim Guirard was longtime Chief of Staff to former U.S. Senators Allen Ellender and Russell Long. His website focuses on truth-in-language and truth-in-history in public discourse.