Not Refighting is Different from Remembering – How Obama stumbled into Syria


            Barack Obama is famous for saying that we’re not going to refight old wars.  Unfortunately, that adage was taken to heart by his new generation of foreign policy advisors who ridicule the Vietnam generation as old fogies unable to forget the past and move on.


            However, if those hurrying to forget Vietnam because it’s over and we lost it, had bothered to study it, they would have discovered, to their chagrin, that Ho Chi Minh wrote in a 1924 pamphlet entitled The Case Against French Colonialism  a section called “The Militarism Continues” in which he documents the objections of the Vietnamese soldiers to being sent as occupiers to Syria.  Let me repeat: Syria.


            Ho Chi Minh wrote:


“Here (in Haiphong), there are also seamen’s strikes.  Thus Thursday (August15) two ships had to leave taking a large number of Annamite infantrymen to Syria. [Italics in the original.]


            The sailors refused to leave, claiming that their wages were not being paid in piasters.  In fact, the piaster’s market value was 10 francs instead of the official rate of 2.5. The companies established an unheard of abuse, the sailors’ deductions in francs while the officials are paid in piasters.


            Everyone was then disembarked and the men of the crew were immediately arrested.


            “As you can see, sailors in the Yellow Sea have nothing to envy of the Black Sea sailors.[1]


            “We protest with all our strength against sending Annamite troops to Syria.  Is it believed, in high places, that not enough of our unfortunate yellow brothers were massacred on the battlefields between 1914 and 1918, during the ‘war for civilization and justice?’”  


[1] On April 19, 1919, French crews of the battleships Jean Bart and France, sent to the Black Sea in support of intervention in the Russian civil war, mutinied.







            Vietnam and Syria are linked by more than French imperialism from the 1920’s. Israel seized Sinai, the West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights in June 1967 when the United States was distracted and Vietnam War was going badly.  In the binary Cold War competition with the Soviet Union, the US and its allies needed a win, and the Middle East was the place.  While LBJ was pretending to defuse the conflict, he secretly supplied Israel with 200 tanks in the weeks before the war to ensure Israel’s fastest possible victory. [See The Foreign Policy of LBJ by Jonathan Coleman.]


As the Spanish philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Obama has succumbed to what Andrew O’Hehir in his brilliant “Dick Cheney, Iraq and the ghosts of Vietnam” Salon article on June 21, 2014 refers to as post-Vietnam stress disorder.  According to O’Hehir, all American military ventures in the past four decades have been inter alia in pursuit of a clean military “victory” that will exorcise the ghosts of failure in Vietnam.  Unfortunately for America and Obama, each successive military endeavor in the Middle East looks more and more like Vietnam because we’re on the wrong side.


Israel is really a western implant in the Middle East.  According to David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding Prime Minister, Israel’s legitimacy rests, not on UN resolutions, but on the Bible. That is why, with the support of Christian fundamentalists in the west, Jewish fundamentalists claim vast stretches of the Middle East from the Sinai to the Euphrates.  When Israel demands “recognition” of its right to exist, it refuses to divulge its borders.  It is asking the Palestinians to recognize an unknown.  Naturally, the indigenous Arabs find it offensive to be dispossessed of their lives, lands and property based on an alien religious text.  Israel pretends it is willing to make peace with the Palestinians, but first it needs help fighting: the Egypt, Syria and Jordan in the 1950’s ‘60’s, and ‘70’s, Iraq and Iran in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, now Hezbollah and Hamas in the 21st century. And the United States always falls for the bait, it fights Israel’s wars and then the Israelis reneg and still don’t make peace.


            The United States is becoming a colony of Israel, turning into a religious state by abandoning its own history to embrace Israel’s version of religious statehood.  The US now engages in targeted killings, just like Israel.  The Supreme Court gives religious rights to employers to determine the health care coverage of its employees, it gives corporations and individuals the right to spend unlimited amounts of money in political campaigns based on “free speech”, but individual people have “no right to vote under the constitution.”  Well, if you believe that a document that had to be ratified by voters to come into effect denied its ratifiers the right to vote, they you’ll agree that the Supreme Court is an honest group of great legal scholars instead of a bunch of partisan political hacks who are jeopardizing the survival of the United States (not to mention the human race.)


            People are not flying airplanes into our buildings and committing suicide because the United States is this great good country dedicated to freedom, democracy and rule of law.  The United States and its western allies have become a shill for the religious state of Israel and are fighting an aggressive global war against democracy in the Moslem world to protect the privileged status of Israel. Any truly democratic regime in the Middle East will gird for war against Israel.  For a hundred years, the experience of the Middle East with respect to the west has been one of continual attacks by western arms.  The reason the Arabs hate us is that they are tired of being bombed and killed by western arms while their treasure, oil, is taken to support the west’s opulent and wasteful life style.  Now, they are fighting back.  The implantation of Israel in the Middle East is the cause of the rise of Islamic fundamentalist movements.  Isis and the rest of the so-called Islamic terrorist movements can not be defeated until Israel decides to make peace with the Palestinians.  Peace with the Palestinians is Israel’s best and only survival strategy.  If the Israelis are so smart, why can’t they figure out how to make friends with their neighbors after sixty-six years?


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Contact: Joshua Leinsdorf





[1] On April 19, 1919, French crews of the battleships Jean Bart and France, sent to the Black Sea in support of intervention in the Russian civil war, mutinied.