While the United States of America over the past decades has maintained its superiority over other nations in terms of political clout, there is a certain imbalance in power within the geopolitical system of the world that is causing nations to become embittered. The United States began its reign of controversy after World War II and yet, it was the Vietnam War that completed the role in unethical representation in terms of military and political power. The Vietnam War was fought on the basis of freedom, democracy and the need to hinder the spread of the evil of Communism. The slogan of the times was that if the spread of communism was not stalled, America would soon lose its freedom and democracy the world over would be wiped out. These words may seem dramatic to the rational mind but to really understand the mood of the time such words must be used. The government of the time played on the emotional fear of the people through propaganda to make them believe that unless they supported the Vietnam War they would be unpatriotic and cause the nation to lose its sovereignty. Though Vietnam was thousands of miles away the war soon reached the borders of the U.S. For as the war began so did dissent. Some groups within the U.S. began to question the ‘voices of authority’ and stood against the war. Lobbying, war protests, and strikes became common. Amidst these voices of dissent was one that reached out to have a powerful impact on the nation. It was in 1965 during a peace march in Washington against the war that Paul Potter, President of the Students for a Democratic Society, spoke words that made a mockery of the War and the authoritative figures that stood for it.
Terming the speech the “The Incredible War” Potter made the title an irony of situation. He spoke the word ‘incredible’ in a manner that questioned and condemned rather than commemorated. He spoke words that revealed the actions of the U.S. As self supporting rather than for the people of Vietnam. Setting aside the government’s claim that the war was for the Vietnamese he clearly condemned this argument by presenting the fact that Dictator, Diem, was installed in Vietnam by the U.S. Had the U.S. been so concerned about the Vietnamese people then it would not have allowed the dictator to persecute the Vietnamese through complete and utter control where the slightest rebellion was punished by death. Through direct political and military intervention Potter stated, the U.S. had managed to create concentration camps of the nation where the citizens were confined to certain areas not free in anyway- as fearful of the Americans as they were of the Communists.
The President claimed that the War in Vietnam was to preserve democracy and yet it was seen that there was a ‘red’ hysteria in the U.S. which caused the government to confiscate films, censor media and interrogate any person who raised a voice against the government. [Smith, 1989] To preserve democracy was a mockery of the word. The war as per the words of Potter was not as the President said, ‘to defend the freedom of the Vietnamese people…’ [Potter, 1995] it was to allow the U.S. control over other nations. Consider the scenario and the words and then spiral into the new century.
Today, we see that President Bush has begun a war on terror. He retaliated against Afghanistan after the attack on the World Trade Center and then began a war with Iraq. Consider the parallels between the war on Iraq and the Vietnam War. The Vietnam war was fought to free the Vietnamese from a dictator the U.S. previously supported. The war on Iraq is being fought again, to free the Iraqi’s from a dictator the U.S. previously supported. The Iraqi’s are being bombed, killed, harassed, unable to move freely in their country and being brought under scrutiny by their protectors, the U.S. soldiers. It seems that the U.S. has once again started a war it cannot finish. The protests in America have started against the Iraqis war eerily similar to the protests of the past. Again patriotism is being fanned while the enemy today is Islamic Militarism.
The U.S. is flexing its muscle to show the nations around the world that it is the most powerful. It alleged that the U.S. had weapons of mass destruction then reneged when there was no evidence to support the fact. It stated Iraq had terrorist links, another fallacy. The War on Iraq like the War on Vietnam is a mere ploy of politicians attempting to prove their superiority. The actors have changed as have the names but the rules are the same. Under the guise of freedom and democracy the U.S. is adopting bullying tactics. It is a dangerous game the U.S. is playing, going to war with innocents for it is the innocent citizens who are the victims, now and then. When civil disobedience turns to revolution there may be more of a problem than the U.S. envisaged for the power of the people as democracy states, should never be underestimated. Potter’s words resonate in our minds for when violence in the name of freedom turns to terror, then, “The pattern of repression and destruction that we have developed and justified in the war is so thorough that it can only be called cultural genocide.” [Potter, 1995]
Potter, Paul. “Incredible War” by Paul Potter, from Takin’ it to the streets: A Sixties Reader Edited by Alexander Bloom and Wini Breine. Oxford University Press, 1995.
Smith, Ted. J., III. Propaganda: A Pluralitic Perspective New York: Praeger, 1989.
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