Posted 1 year ago on Sept. 2, 2016, 8:41 a.m. EST by flip
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September 2, 2016 Truth is stranger than dystopian fiction. Last May, for example, United States President Barack Obama announced the opening of the U.S.-sponsored Fulbright University of Vietnam (FUV), the first private university in a small nation the U.S. tried to “bomb back to the Stone Age” half a century ago. Intended to be “a U.S.-style university not under control of the Communist Party of Vietnam,” FUV hopes to begin teaching students about how to be good global-era capitalists and world capitalist citizens in the fall of 2017. It’s a collaboration between the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and the U.S. State Department. The U.S. government has so far invested roughly$20 million in the project.
Bronze Star Butcher
The chair of FUV’s board of trustees is Bob Kerrey, a man with an interesting resume. It’s a curiously Orwellian choice. He is a former governor of Nebraska (1983-1987), a former U.S. Senator from the same state (1988-2000), and the former president of the New School University (a curious position for a man whose “higher” educational credentials stopped with a 1966 bachelors’ degree in Pharmacy at the University of Nebraska) in New York City (2001-2010). He is also a highly decorated war criminal in the “crucifixion of Southeast Asia” (as Noam Chomsky once aptly described the U.S. War on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia) that was planned by the “best and the brightest” from Harvard and other Ivy League institutions.
From 1966 through early 1969, Kerrey was a gung-ho Navy SEALs officer. In February of his final year, Kerrey’s unit slaughtered 21 innocent women and children in the Vietnamese village of Thanh Phong. This horrific incident is commemorated in a display at the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh City. The display includes several photos, a drain pipe, and a placard that includes the following historical crime-scene background:
“From 8PM to 9PM February 25th, 1969, a group of Seal Rangers [sic] (one of the most selective rangers of U.S. Army): led by Lieutenant Bob Kerry [sic] reached for Hamlet 5, Thanh Phong Village, Thanh Phu District, Ben Tre Province. They cut 66 year-old Bui Van Vat and 62 year-old Luu Thi Canh’s necks and pulled their three grandchildren out from their hiding place in a drain and killed two, disembowelled one. Then, these rangers moved to dug-outs of other families, shot dead 15 civilians (including three pregnant women), disembowelled a girl…It was not until April 2001 that U.S. Senator Bob Kerrey confessed his crime to the international public.”
It was a CIA operation, part of the Agency’s notorious Phoenix Program. Kerrey, historian John Mariciano notes, hardly just fell into a chaotic situation that led inadvertently to unpredictable civilian deaths. As Marciano explains:
“he was on a CIA mission and participated in an ‘illegal, premeditated mass murder.’ According to an investigative report in The New York Times, one thing is certain: Around midnight on February 25, 1969, Kerrey’s unit killed at least 13 innocent civilians….no guerrillas were killed in action and the official report was a lie…Attacks such as these…were part of the Phoenix Program and run by the CIA. Kerrey and his team were part of a larger campaign to murder and terrorize Vietnamese civilians. The object of this program was to target not only individual members of the [revolutionary Vietnamese] National Liberation Front’s political infrastructure, but also their families, friends and neighbors. These war crimes were a central part of the CIA’s actions during the war.”
According to witnesses from his unit and the village, Kerrey helped kill the elderly Bui Van Vat and gave the order to shoot women and children. A “baby was the last one alive,” unit member Gerhard Klann recalled. “There were blood and guts splattered everywhere.”
Kerrey was awarded the Bronze Star for commanding this “heroic” action, falsely reported by Kerrey and the U.S. military as having “killed 21 Viet Cong guerillas.”
“Imagine,” Vietnam-based educational consultant Mark Ashwill wrote last July, “what would happen if a foreign university in the United States appointed an individual who had killed US civilians…to serve as chair of its board of trustees? Or…‘If the post-war West German government had selected a former German army officer who had killed (or ordered the killing of) unarmed French civilians to head the Goethe Institute in Paris [historian David Marr]…’”
“The Destruction Was Mutual”
Kerrey admitted that he’d killed noncombatant Vietnamese women and children after 16 years in higher political office, after one initially promising but failed presidential bid (1991-92), and just two months after he was installed atop the New School. The compelling force behind his long- overdue confession was not a sudden surge of moral guilt and courage on his part but rather his knowledge that the New York Times and CBS News were about to expose his war crime. The confession came with the nauseating excuse that “both sides did a lot of damage in the Vietnam War” – a preposterous suggestion of moral equivalence for the colossal calamities resulting from a prolonged assault on a poor peasant nation by the most potent military killing machine in history.
During a book tour after the facts surrounding his war crime came out, Marciano notes, Kerrey said angrily that “Both sides did a lot of damage in the Vietnam War.” It’s a standard U.S. claim, one that deletes the incomparable devastation the world’s most powerful military empire and industrial state inflicted on Vietnam and neighboring states. The United States lost 58,000 soldiers in an imperial invasion that killed as many as 5 million Southeast Asians between 1962 and 1975. The massive U.S. imperial assault laid waste to vast stretches of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It spread disease and birth defects across the region. The Vietnamese did not kill a single American solider – much less a U.S. civilian – on U.S. soil. Their American “victims” were invading gendarmes sent by Washington to keep Vietnam savagely unequal and under the thumb of the world’s rich nations.
But, as Jimmy Carter claimed in 1977, explaining why the U.S. owed no special reparations or apologies to Vietnam, “the destruction was mutual.”.......................
Who Controls the Past
Orwell would be impressed. In his famous dystopian novel 1984, history is deleted and otherwise altered in accord with the shifting accumulation and propaganda needs of the totalitarian state-capitalist state of Oceana, whose reigning party proclaims that “Who controls the past, controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”
Sadly enough, it’s all about selling a false and lethal promise. There is no glorious future of mutually beneficial peace and commerce to be enjoyed over a horizon enabled by forgiving and forgetting past imperial crimes. The global capitalist system the U.S. was defending and advancing against Vietnamese national independence and socialist revolution in the deceptive name of the Cold War struggle against “international communism” has brought humanity to the brink of catastrophic ecosystem collapse. It has also concentrated wealth and power into ever fewer hands on a scale that would make plutocrats of past eras blush. According to Oxfam earlier this year, just sixty-two super-opulent billionaires own as much wealth between them as half the planet’s population.
The crimes of the American Empire continue to be committed beneath the airbrushing cover of the reigning Western media and intellectual culture, including that of the United States’ supposedly “leftist” system of “higher education,” which is shockingly rife in elite posts with US war criminals, few as directly blood-soaked as the longtime New School president an current FU chair Bob Kerrey but no less real nonetheless – a topic to which I shall turn in a coming special “Back to School” report.
Paul Street’s latest book is They Rule: The 1% v. Democracy (Paradigm, 2014)