One of the most powerful critics of the Vietnam War was Fred Branfman, who uncovered the secret US bombing campaign against Laos, accused the US of creating six million victims in Indochina, and was involved deeply in the Indochina Peace Campaign which helped end the war in 1975. Fred recently published an extraordinary article on Alternet documenting the mass assassination strategy of the U.S. across the Muslim world.
Some history is relevant here. During Vietnam, the American military's most discredited venture arguably was the "Phoenix program" [the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Program] which was shut down after media coverage and Congressional hearings revealed a systemic pattern of mass incarceration, torture and targeted assassinations by the Saigon army under American CIA advisers. Tens of thousands non-combatant supporters of the Vietcong were uprooted, held in camps called "strategic hamlets," tortured or died. CORDS evaluators in Vietnam's Central Highlands reported that use of truncheons and electric shock interrogations were widespread.
But out of the ashes of Phoenix rose the virtual cult of counterinsurgency today. It is little noticed that today's Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual  attempts to revive the Phoenix Program as a basic approach to succeeding in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to this official legend, Phoenix was "one of the most valuable and successful elements of COIN" and "a useful model" for current battlefields.
An officially-sponsored conference on Vietnam history, to be held this month in Washington DC, is likely to continue rehabilitating the legacy of Phoenix for the current counterinsurgency wars. That is why Branfman's analysis of our mass assassination policies is so important as a counterpoint.