by Mark Chmiel
Liberal filmmaker Michael Moore infuriated some Vietnam veterans with his early May tweet that the U.S. should have national holiday on the date of the fall of Saigon, which should lead to “a commitment to never make same mistake again.”
“Mistake” is a common shorthand used by liberals to refer to the U.S. destruction in Indochina—Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Even veteran and antiwar critic John Kerry at the 1971 Winter Soldier hearings in Detroit asked this question, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
Was the My Lai massacre a mistake? Was Operation Speedy Express likewise?
Was U.S. torture of the Viet Cong (a broad category) a miscalculation?
Were the 20 million bomb craters just one mistake after another?
Was General Westmoreland misspeaking when he said, “The Oriental doesn’t place the same high value on life as does a Westerner”?
Were the scientists who made sure napalm would burn Vietnamese people down to the bone, even under water, committing a faux pas?
Was the policy of escalating body count of the enemy as a sign of imminent victory a goof up ?
Was the U.S. propping up one corrupt South Vietnamese general after another a pattern of benign inadvertence?
Was the Phoenix Program of mass assassination just one more example well-meaning American fumbling?
Were the Democratic and Republican presidents who consistently lied to the American people merely making slips of the tongue?
Was the ecological devastation from Agent Orange an innocent mishap?
Was the Army cover-up of massacres a result of excusable confusion?
Were U.S. war crimes merely bumbled into, over and over, month after month for years, an oddly uncorrectable error?
Was the whole conception of “free-fire zones” simply a boo boo?
Were thousands of search-and-destroy missions a snafu?
Did Martin Luther King, Jr. make a mistake at the Riverside Church in April 1967 when he referred to his own government as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today”?
John Marciano, The American War in Vietnam: Crime or Commemoration? Monthly Review Press, 2016.