Monday, December 05, 2005

May America not fall victim in Iraq to General Giap's trauma inflicted in VN

Instapundit has looked at the phenomenon of lagging support for Bush and the Iraq War. A part of the answer I think is found in the following. The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu taught his men to "know your enemy" before going into battle. For if "you know your enemy and know yourself," he wrote, "you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." But, Sun Tzu warned, "If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat" (quoting Sun Tzu after I am reminded of the centrality of his doctrine by Thuan Q. Vu, M.D. of Bedford, Texas, the quote from Oliver North).

General Giap, the commander in chief of North Vietnamese communist, military forces from the forties through 1973 when his assault on South VN was repulsed, used this lesson it seemed to me from my vantage point as a VA psychiatrist. During the Tet offensive part of the quadrangle of a trench line was overrun and one of the sergeants that I treated faced a large man running at him with a rifle in the trench at port arms, that is carried at a 45 degree angle. He recalled how to fight such an opponent from an exercise in basic training, grappled with him, holding the man's rifle, and attempted to stab him in the belly with his knife. The opposing soldier had a wide web belt and this was difficult. A struggle literally to the death ensued and the sergeant stabbed him in the belly and threw him out of the trench bleeding to death. The next morning, the battle over, our sergeant went to see his opponent, found a picture in his front shirt pocket of a woman and 2 children. He threw the man's rifle as far as he could in expressing his tension as in the beginning of 2001, A Space Odyssey. Years later he would spend days rubbing his hands, rubbing the blood off that he perceived there. Another soldier found himself having investigative talent in VN. After the Tet offensive, when 2 ton trucks carried our casualties out of Hue as Mariness marched in to retake it, though he guarded city gates, he was in a quiet place. Somewhat later during the rainy season he wondered why the ground near him was bubbling during the rain. A mass grave was discovered. The communists executed thousands of civilians they apparently had a list for when they overran the city and buried them in mass graves. He also found out that the communists put pictures of a woman and children in front pockets of North Vietnamese soldiers, particularly those raised in their orphanages who would be most fanatically loyal to the regime. If they were killed in battle, well you already know the story. At Tet, General Giap sadistically to his own forces threw them in all their fury against a foe in another weight class militarily, nearly annihilating his forces in the South but showing to America the potential of hatred. He did not leave all to this battle though in adapting himself to the dictum of Sun Tzu.

A soldier in illustrating to me that the Vietnamese did not control sadism by internal guilt in contrast to a Western position offered this example. The Vietnamese would beat a dog to tenderize the meat before killing the dog to eat it. Nor in VN was there a protected period for childhood. General Giap appeared to use these differences to affect Americans. A soldier was in his first day in country and walking in a city. Something in the distress of a mother and child on a bridge led him to hustle over to her. Another US soldier, happening there, ran to her first and threw the baby off the bridge. The baby exploded just before it hit the water. In another example a young boy was running toward a patrol boat. A sailor saw a bulge in his shirt and fired; the boy exploded being wrapped in explosives. The sailor, partially African American, perhaps better able than most of us to pick up the syncopated overtone in a presentation, said, "I'd like to talk to the commanders about the way they treated their children." For many Americans, it was not so easy to resolve the double bind of wanting to be tender to children and being affronted with their death and the implication of some responsibility. Such incidents I heard again and again. The way the communists induced guilt and psychological isolation in Americans was taken to an art form, and I am afraid you would tire of the gallery but interestingly and in seeming contradiction in such a hardened enemy, such seemed a priority military objective . Americans did commit, occasionally, war crimes and/or the appearance of them in defending themselves against their feelings of guilt or in the liberty of sadism both taught in the school above or in frightened isolation. This was just the icing on a devil's food cake prepared mostly by the North Vietnamese communists and as America ate it, particularly the public, it became nauseated. Even though President Johnson's choice for Commander in Chief VN, Creighton Abrahms, led his forces in new directions with the South Vietnamese toward true liberty, Pavlov's American dog wanted none of it, just wanted, desperately, out of the bakery. Wanted nothing of the military. And thus we come to Iraq. In a detail left out of the riveting Street Without Joy, some at least of those French forces who fell shortly before Dien Bien Phu in the magnificent Ashau Valley and surrounding mountains, were not recovered by the French and were buried by their Vietnamese foes standing up in the ground on the mountain pass where they fell, facing France with a bright domed stone on the ground above their heads. Similalry, the ABC program This Week buries our dead facing toward America. May they rest in honor and in peace.


Trish said...

So the North Vietnamese would use kids as bombs with the intention of inflicting bodily harm and mental anguish on American soldiers? That is horrible.

I don't think we should ask our soldiers to use means of torture in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., because they have enough of a burden to carry around just dealing with combat. We shouldn't force them to commit actions that may create more anguish for them when they are back in civilian life.

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