Vietnam: 50 Years On

War is often a product of propaganda, with governments lying to get what they want and the media following suit while the citizens pay the “ultimate price”.

Vietnam: 50 Years On
Photo by Ann / Unsplash

Last week we marked 50 years since Australian troops were withdrawn from the Vietnam War.

That war, between North and South Vietnam, lasted 20 years, although our involvement was somewhat briefer.

However, it involved over 60,000 Aussie troops, resulting in 523 dead and over 3,000 wounded.

At the time, most people thought we were doing the right thing. After all, we were defending freedom from the threat of Communism.

Looking back, one wonders how we were lured into a US proxy war built on a lie.

I say that because the US justified their escalation of involvement in the war based on the 'Gulf of Tonkin incident'.

The encounter began in a real enough fashion.

On July 31, 1964, the United States patrol boats shelled some North Vietnamese islands, leading to a US warship, the Maddox, entering the area.

Maddox was confronted by three Soviet-built, North Vietnamese torpedo boats, leading to Maddox firing 'warning shots'. The North Vietnamese boats were undeterred and returned fire.

Maddox reportedly received no damage save for a single bullet lodged in her superstructure.

The following day, Maddox was joined by the U.S. Destroyer Turner Joy, and they both engaged in more offensive actions against North Vietnamese positions.

On August 4, the Maddox and Turner Joy reported being ambushed, with enemy boats firing 22 torpedoes. That led to U.S. President Johnson ordering air strikes and seeking authorisation of Congress to enter the war formally.

The endorsement was virtually unanimous, with just two dissenting votes in the Senate.

The President told the US Public that the attacks were unprovoked and never disclosed the clandestine activities of US forces.

But there was a bigger problem.

The second incident, involving both ships, never happened.

Intelligence officials knew this but covered up essential facts from Congress.

Essentially, the US formally escalated engagement in the Vietnam War based on fake news.

Australia followed suit at the request of the United States.

Like so many wars, it proved to be a senseless endeavour that took a heavy toll on the national psyche and the soldiers sent to fight.

Many who returned were scarred by what they saw and the battles they fought. Many more were damaged by the response they received from the Australian public, who had turned against the war.

Some unfairly sought to blame the men who served rather than those that forced them into service.

It was truly a war where there were no winners.

The result was lives damaged and wasted and a community divided - based mainly on a lie.

We've entered wars since then. Unfortunately, most of them have been based on lies too.

Politicians will insist they act in good faith, based on accurate information, but the truth eventually emerges and the Western propaganda is revealed.

Not much has changed over the years. Government still lies to get what they want.

The media dutifully deliver the preferred narrative, often refusing to question the obvious falsehoods while the citizens are left to pay the ultimate price.

Rarely do those who give the orders wade into battle themselves. They leave that for others while giving lip service to empathy and understanding, offering up thoughts and prayers.

In my view, it's all a waste. Fighting wars at the behest of dishonest politicians and the defence industry is a fool's game.

It's high time we learned that lesson before they have us doing it again.

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