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      Branfman Exposes Mass Assassination Policies

      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 [2007] 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.

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      Reader Comments (1)

      I seem to be the only person left with an "Iraq Is Arabic For Vietnam" bumper sticker on my car, but it is there for a reason: it remains relevant to current U.S. foreign policy, and this piece is a perfect example of that sadly continuing relevance. OK, I admit that I should update my bumper sticker to "Afghanistan Is Dari for Vietnam," but I assume we all realize that Afghanistan is just the current battlefield in the U.S. effort to suppress advocates of independent Islamic foreign policies. We should never let slip from public consciousness the degree of comfort that existed between the Reagan Administration and Saddam back when he was gassing the Kurds but also generally following the international rules set by Washington. To complete the circle, it is precisely the symbol of Muslim independence represented by Tehran's insistence on finding its own foreign policy path that today provokes Washington's irritation.

      Almost certainly an Iranian bomb would be a step in the wrong direction (though it might lead to a Mideast MAD stability that would be better than the current endless series of wars and war threats), but the issue of the Iranian bomb--still nonexistent after all these years--is a red herring. Israel's bomb is a huge problem for the U.S.; Pakistan's and India's nearly as dangerous. A non-nuclear Mideast would be a step in the right direction. But the lack of enthusiasm in Washington for Ankara's effort to discover a U.S.-Iranian compromise was painfully evident. Why? Washington does not want a compromise, because a compromise would entail Washington accepting Tehran's right to follow an independent foreign policy; bomb or no bomb, it would leave Iran still waving for all the world to see the symbol of the right to talk back to Empire.

      Officially-sanctioned assassination campaigns are--along with torture, collective punishment of civilian populations, and wars against cities--among the depravities part and parcel of empire-building. Empires rot the moral fibre of democracies. The lessons of Vietnam are relevant because Washington is still making the same mistakes, and those mistakes are still undermining not just the civil liberties of America's opponents but the civil liberties of Americans.

      September 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam deB. Mills

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