Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How We Stumble into Wars #2


E-mails have poured in after last week's blog, when I attempted to lift the doormat before all the facts that induced the Kennedy administration to risk its reputation over Cuba could scurry out of sight.  This week I  intend to point up factors that tempted Jack Kennedy to light the fuse on what had been a minor CIA advisory presence in Saigon.  My friend Nick Natsios served as the Agency station chief there during the Eisenhower years, so I had access to many of the details.

The sequence of events that actually led us into the quagmire of Viet Nam is laid out in Chapter 21 of my book Bobby and J. Edgar, and follows the narrative developed by Col. L. Fletcher Prouty, who served as Kennedy's head of special operations -- active spookery -- for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  As Prouty saw it, Kennedy was under heavy pressure to support the million or so Viet Namese Catholics who with U.S. help fled Ho Chi Minh and had been forced into leadership positions in the villages of South Vietnam by the Diem regime.  Diem himself was a family friend of the Kennedys during the years he awaited his moment in a monastery in Maryland and a protege of Cardinal Spellman. Once the indigenous Buddhists began to revolt, President Kennedy ordered the 16,000 helicopter troops into South Viet Nam and our national nightmare was upon us.  Vatican politics, never really acknowledged.

What we had done was to attempt to force our will on one element of what began as a civil war.  We have been attempting a similar form of intervention periodically ever since, playing favorites among the clans and tribes of the Middle East, and we have lost every time.  By that I mean -- we as a nation.  We as interested corporations -- Brown and Root, which built Cam Ranh Bay, to become Halliburton, to morph into KBR, which built billions and billions of dollar's-worth of airfields and dependent-housing-quarters that we are abandoning now in Iraq -- we as corporations made out beautifully.  Our surviving children and grandchildren can deal with the costs. 

My pal and patron of many decades, John Fry, the godfather of the modern ski movement in America, responded to last week's blog with a hard-headed appraisal of what we have taken on in an e-mail that begins:  "..the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and has another 6000 bases in the United States...."  according to the 2003 Base Status Report.  This itemization omits installations such as Camp Bondsteel on Kosovo, built and maintained by Kellogg, Brown and Root, as well as "bases in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar, and Uzbekistan."

All this while Medicaid benefits are about to be cut back and class sizes in the ghettos are ballooning.

All the best, as always,

Burton Hersh

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