Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 12. 1966.
Imperialism, the US, and V'nam
Imperialism, the US, and V'nam
"Now Let Us assume that we lost Indo-China. If Indo-China goes, several things happen right away. The peninsula, the last bit of land hanging on down there would be scarcely defensible. The tin and tungsten that we so greatly value from that area would cease coming. So when the United States votes 400,000,000 dollars to help that war, we are not voting a give-away programme.
We are voting for the cheapest way that we can to prevent the occurrence of something that would be of a most terrible significance to the United States of America, our security, our power and ability to get certain things we need from the riches of Indo-Chinese territory, and from Southeast Asia."—President Eisenhower, 1953.
Owen Lattimore, head of the Department of Chinese Studies, University of Leeds, had this to say in The Nation of February 21, 1966—
"If a Russian today were to call American policy in Vietnam 'neo-colonialism,' my only retort would be that he, though a Marxist, couldn't recognise an attempt at outright colonial conquest when he saw it."
Why are we in Vietnam? The above quotes may partially establish the answer. The term "neo-colonialism" or "imperialism" may be today, "dirty" words, but I wish to advance various reasons why I believe that the United States is, as Owen Lattimore says, pursuing a course of "colonial conquest."
"At home inflation is causing growing concern—more concern than Washington admits officially. It's clearly problem No. 2, right behind Vietnam. In public, top men in Government are reassuring, playing down the danger. In private they find a good many of the signs disquieting."
—U.S. News and World Report, March 7, 1966.
"To those in the Administration, particularly in the Council of Economic Advisers, who believe the nation's primary task is still to get a fuller rate of employment of men and machines, all of these developments spelled the need for a modest additional expansionary stimulus by the Government. Now thanks to the efforts of the Viet Cong, such a stimulus has come. The level of Government spending is expected to turn out several billion dollars higher between now and next July, adding to what economists call the 'aggregate demand'."—The New York Times, August 7, 1965.
". . . though shareholders are reluctant to crow about it, there is a quickening sense that the nation's (USA) expanding military involvement in Vietnam can scarcely avoid being good for business, especially military suppliers and many other companies that bid in Government orders. As a result erstwhile talk on a recession possibly starting this whiter (i.e. January) has given way to a growing feeling that economic activity will continue lively into 1966."—Economist.
The boom experienced would explain the 'peace scare' on the Stock Exchange, and which was so lightly dismissed by most persons. The New Zealand Monthly Review of September, 1965, had this to say on the subject of economic boom and the Vietnam War—
"... in spite of the economic storm clouds on the horizon, (we may) be allowed to keep two cars in every garage, our chicken in every pot, and our obesity diet sheets in every toilet cabinet, thanks to the death by napalm, white phosphorus, mincemeat bombs, and other high explosives thrown by 'our boys' on the women, children and fighting people of starving Vietnam."
At present there appear to be two schools of thought about the cure for America's ailing economy. According to the Time Magazine, money had devaluated by 1 per cent in the first quarter of 1966, and some economists believe that a reduction in Government expenditure and an increase in taxation are the two necessary moves which will halt the steadily increasing inflation. President Johnson, with economist experts, is maintaining the opposite view, that increased Government expenditure and expansion in industry will curb the inflationary trends now being experienced.
Unemployment is now down to approximately 4 per cent. The increased industrial activity may result in the eventual disappearance of unemployment. Industrial plants throughout the United States engaged in the production of munitions of other military equipment, are absorbing more and more manpower.
For example, the United Aircraft Corporation last year increased staff from 65,000 to 70,000 and expects to reach 77,000 by December this year. The Gruman Aircraft Engineering Corporation has doubled employment since 1962 to 29,500. At Fort Worth, Texas, General Dynamics has about 14,000 men at work, and expects to hit 20,000 by 1967.
And what of United States business in South Vietnam? "Never before," says Newsweek, "have United States businessmen followed their troops to war on such a scale." American companies monopolise the market on many commodities in Saigon. For example, Esso and Caltex provide 55 per cent of the oil and gasoline used in South Vietnam: a New York company, Parsons and Whittemore, have put up a 1 million dollar paper factory; Johnson International Corporation of New Brunswick have built a textile mill.
The list could continue. Hoping to swell the total, Washington's "Agency for International Development" insures United States investors against loss from war, revolution, expropriation or currency inconvertibility—Newsweek, January 31, 1966. Recently, also according to Newsweek, American companies have averaged profits of 20 per cent to 30 per cent on investments.
Yes, it would appear, that come what may, nothing less than military defeat will force the United States to leave Vietnam. In fact, the recent fears by some people that the United States may leave Saigon to the people of Vietnam are groundless. "Johnson certainly would not build all this for the Communists" said a United States businessman in Saigon, speaking of the vast American economic aid in Vietnam.
Two characteristics of 19th century imperialism were economic exploitation and disregard for the lives of those people who had been subjugated. I have briefly touched upon economic exploitation, but what of disregard for the lives of the subjugated? I would like to illustrate this with two recent incidents, one in the Dominican Republic, and the other in South Vietnam.
In the beginning of last May, a twelve-year-old Dominican boy was accidentally shot by a United States Marine. According to Newsweek of May 9th, "General Robert R. Linvill, Commander of the 6,800 United States troops in Santo Domingo, Apologised To The Boy's Family, and the incident Seemed Closed," (emphasis mine).
Why was the Marine not courtmartialled, or why was there no extensive inquiry? The point I am trying to make, is that if that boy had been an American citizen, the soldier probably would have been charged with manslaughter. The incident and apparent casualness in which the Americans dismissed it were no doubt big factors which contributed towards the riots approximately a week later.
In Vietnam recently, a South Vietnamese soldier shot and killed a rebel Vietnamese prisoner; the incident was widely broadcast over the NZBC. We (and the United States) are morally responsible for such brutality as we support the Ky regime. I do not believe that the Vietcong are the paragon of virtue, but their ruthlessness does not excuse ours. That the Vietnamese was shot under the eyes of newspaper and camera men, would suggest that such summary executions are not as infrequent as they could be.
The suspect economic motives of the United States and her disregard for the lives of the subjugated can lead but to one conclusion: that imperialism is not of the past but is a major force in the world to-day.