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30 Years Ago: Empire Still!

November 11, 2005

BY MUMIA ABU-JAMAL, from death row

It has been over 30 long, distant years since U.S. helicopters were ditched into the tropical waters of the South China Sea, as their sister-birds whirled over the last American colonial outpost of Saigon, fleeing the city as Communist tanks roared down the city’s main street.

Much has been said about the ephemeral ‘lessons of Vietnam’ in the corporate media, but one wonders: which lessons?

In those 30 years, we have seen the expansion of empire, and the intentional ignorance of Vietnam, as this government seeks to wash it from collective memory.

Have we learned about the impossibility of imposing puppets on other people?

In Vietnam, President Johnson gave his personal commitment to Premier Nguyen Cao Ky and General Nguyen Van Thieu, that the U.S. would support their military regime, and staged an election to give it democratic trappings.

The *New York Times* of Sept. 4, 1967 reported U.S. “surprise” at how well the recent elections went:

United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting. According to reports from Saigon, 83% of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong. (*NYT*, 9/4/1967)

How surprisingly similar these words, from 38 years ago, sound to us today!

Change Vietnam into Iraq, and Vietcong into Islamists, and it could’ve been written yesterday — literally.

If that is so, what is the lesson from Vietnam?

We are but an echo of what came before, with recycled lies used over and over again, to pull the young into service of the Empire, in defense of mass murder and government-industrial corruption.

Has the media learned that it cannot blindly follow the dictates of military and government officials when it comes to matters of war and peace?

Has that nation’s cultural leaders learned that it’s important to not bend their will to the winds of the national mood?

Has the judiciary learned that war is ever the enemy of liberty, and it is wrong to unleash the police power against whole ethnic and religious communities?

Have politicians learned that wars cannot be built on the tissue of lies?

What have ‘we’ learned? Not a damn thing!

And as we’ve learned nothing, so we continue to stumble and fall, into the traps of the past; into the eternal trap of empire, when some people believe they are divinely meant to rule over others.

Gore Vidal, one American who can rightly be called a national sage, speaks darkly of the present hour, and what it portends. In a recent interview with the Minneapolis *City Pages*, Vidal commented:

Well, let us say that the old American republic is well and truly dead. The institutions that we thought were eternal proved not to be. And that goes for the three departments of government, and it also goes for the Bill of Rights. So we’re in uncharted territory. We’re governed by public relations. Very little information gets to the people, thanks to the corruption and/or ineptitude of the media. Just look at this bankruptcy thing that went through — everybody in debt to credit cards, which is apparently 90 percent of the country, is in deep trouble. So the people are uninformed about what’s being done in their name.

On the Iraq War, Vidal was equally acerbic:

Iraq is a symptom, not a cause. It’s a symptom of the passion we have for oil, which is a declining resource in the world. Alternatives can be found, but they will not be found as long as there’s one drop of oil or natural gas to be extracted from other nations, preferably by force by the current junta in charge of our affairs. *Iraq will end with our defeat*. [From: *City Pages* (Minn., Minnesota); 3/23/05, p. 17]

Vidal, who has written a slew of historic novels, several plays, and an uncounted number of essays, has always been a voice that spoke unpopular truths before their time.

He still does so, after some 80 winters in the world.

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