Sunday, March 14, 2010

Revisionist history

In David Shribman's review of "Valley of Death" by Ted Morgan (Boston Globe, 3/14), he discusses the defeat of the French forces at Dien Bien Phu, which eventually led to American involvement in Vietnam. He summarizes pretty well most of the history, except for the glaringly misleading line: "eventually aggression by the communist north against the south would lead to American involvement." First of all, the Geneva accords dividing North from South Vietnam called for elections to determine unification. The U.S., under Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, unilaterally repudiated these elections, which would have surely united the country under the very popular nationalist hero Ho Chi Minh; they never took place. Shribman also characterizes the North as "communist", even though historians, as he himself points out, would conclude that "the Vietminh were more nationalists than Marxists." Shribman gives no characterization of the South Vietnamese government, which was corrupt and unrepresentative -- and eventually a puppet of the U.S. It wasn't North Vietnamese aggression but U.S. violation of the Geneva agreement that lead to the the war. How soon we forget.

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