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The Unquiet Frenchman

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Posted on Oct 3, 2006
Bernard Fall book
From Amazon.com

Dorothy Fall’s new memoir/biography of her late husband, the celebrated political science professor Bernard Fall, tells the story of the first academic-cum-soldier who blew the whistle on the French and American credibility gap in Vietnam.

By Sarah Stillman

Editor’s note: The life of political scientist Bernard Fall, the first soldier-scholar to predict an inglorious end for America in Vietnam, is remembered in a new biography by his widow. She speaks with Truthdig guest interviewer Sarah Stillman about the government’s lies—in Vietnam then, and in Iraq now.

When I recently stumbled upon Confucius’ ancient invective against armchair academics—“The scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar”—I couldn’t help but wonder: In the unlikely event that the grumpy old philosopher’s words were enforced through the barrel of a gun, just how many contemporary Western political scientists would be left standing?

Although your guess is as good as mine, I can assert one thing with confidence: If I had to identify a single 20th-century thinker who could save the fuzzy-sweatered clan from extinction on such an awkward occasion, my money would be on the late French political scientist Bernard Fall.
 
Sure, this unsung exemplar of rough-and-tumble scholarship met his tragic death almost 40 years ago, stepping on a land mine in Vietnam while conducting research for his eighth book on foreign interventions in the region.  But Fall’s name is now witnessing a much-deserved resurrection among activists and counterinsurgency experts as our nation stumbles deeper into yet another catastrophic misadventure abroad, tripping over familiar phrases like “stay the course” and “light at the end of the tunnel” while the American death toll in Iraq climbs toward 3,000.

Against this Orwellian backdrop, Dr. Fall offers us a powerful model of wartime scholarship at its least comfortable and most courageous.  Never content to pontificate on counterinsurgency from within the Ivory Tower, Fall traveled frequently to Vietnam to catalogue body counts, survey Vietminh tactics, and map fissures between official political rhetoric and what he liked to call “hard facts.”  He then relayed his findings in a wide array of popular publications like The Nation and Foreign Affairs, as well as in scholarly books with telling names like “Hell in a Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy” (the latter celebrated as “the definitive military history of the Indochina conflict” by the New Republic).

 

Regarded as the first theorist to publicly document why American troops were destined to repeat French failures in Vietnam, Fall paid the price for this title in ways that might have prompted Confucius to stroke his beard approvingly: He confronted jungle rot and dysentery during his tropical fact-finding missions (much as he had at age 16, fighting in the French Resistance against the Nazis), faced ostracism for his politics within some camps of the academy, and endured wiretaps and accusations of spying from the FBI.

But you needn’t take my word on any of this.  If you’re eager for details about Fall’s larger-than-life biography or want proof of his recent popular comeback, look no further than a new memoir by his widow that hits bookstores this month, “Bernard Fall: Memories of a Soldier-Scholar.” 

Drawing upon 30 years of interviews and newly released U.S. government documents, Ms. Fall traces her late husband’s transition from waging guerrilla wars to theorizing them.  She offers a compelling chronicle of Fall’s scholarship, tracking his escalating commitment to denouncing the Vietnam War and helping us to grasp why such a diverse array of government policymakers, public intellectuals and military leaders viewed him as a critical ally.

All this is sandwiched between accounts of Dorothy Fall’s own intimate journey as a painter, a mother and—come that untimely telegram in 1967—a mourner.  As a result, the prose sometimes tiptoes dangerously close to the no man’s land between biography and memoir—not quite fine-toothed or rigorous enough to qualify as the former, but not quite juicy or literary enough to qualify as the latter.  But oddly, this is precisely what many readers will grow to appreciate about Ms. Fall’s approach: Amidst the recent deluge of woe-is-me confessionals and scholarly biographical tomes denser than Grandma’s fruitcake, it’s refreshing to encounter a narrator who makes no attempts to woo us with her labyrinthine footnotes or wow us with a peek at the skeletons in her late husband’s closet.  Instead, she simply aims to tell us an important story about her life with an extraordinary man who lost his mother to Auschwitz and his father to the Gestapo, who cradled a gun in the French Resistance and investigated Nazi war crimes as a teenager, who trudged through jungles and rice paddies to document foreign blunders in Vietnam, who won her heart with letters from the world’s most dangerous highway, and who suffered greatly to tell his version of the truth—ultimately paying with his life to issue a cry against hubristic U.S. interventions that echoes all the more urgently today.

The particular implications of this legacy for readers and thinkers in 2006 is exactly what Dorothy Fall and I chatted about over a plate of smoked salmon in her Washington, D.C., home recently: me, a college student familiar with war only through the pixels of a TV and computer screen, and her, a more seasoned veteran torn between her palpable commitment to political optimism and her grief at lessons left unlearned.  As we continued our dialogue through a series of e-mails and chats in the days that followed, it occurred to me that the finger-wagging Confucius was right about more than just armchair academics: Wasn’t he the one who declared, “To respect your elders is the root of all humanity”?

Sarah Stillman: Listening to George Bush’s recent speeches on Iraq after reading your husband’s work, I got chills down my spine: Again, here we are, waging a war against a caricatured enemy we’ve greatly underestimated, and again, here we are, using flimsy logic to insist that victory waits just around the corner….  Does the war in Iraq have anything to do with why you wrote this book and what you hope it will accomplish?  What drove your writing process?

Dorothy Fall: I wrote this book because I had to.  I knew from the beginning—that is, shortly after my husband’s death in early 1967—that his was an exceptional, important story.  Bernard was so prolific and produced so much material in his very brief life, and his story encompassed so many important themes of the mid-20th century.  I wanted to write about how he felt he had a mission to inform [the public] about Vietnam, how important it was for him to see everything firsthand in order to report on it, to take risks. He was the first one who told us that we would not win in Vietnam and who explained why, which of course drew the ire of the U.S. administration….

When we went to war [in Iraq] in 2003, I felt it was even more urgent to get this manuscript done.  Bernard’s story is relevant now because the same mistakes are being made in Iraq: We don’t understand the local culture, we have no idea of the history of that region—the place where civilization was born!—and, just like Vietnam, our leadership had no idea that we would be faced with a counterinsurgency.  If [President Bush] had bothered to read or understand Bernard’s work, we might never have invaded Iraq.  I think that Bernard’s story is a warning about what happens when our government completely ignores the information that was there and goes headlong into a conflict that we know nothing about.


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By Stuart Wetzler, July 19, 2007 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

Thank you for your curiosity for my Posts and comment about Sarah Stillmans interviiew with Ms. Dorothy Fall about her book: “Memories of a Soldier-Scholar.”  While The Mirror Image concept is undoubtedly the most effective way to live in peace and harmony, in this wonderful world entrusted to our care.

My comments see the Muslim Threat to the entire world, as a Land Mine that all scholars, and books and training will not solve.  Albert Einstein stated: “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” 

All of our education and ability are for naught if we are not smart enough to look, or to learn, where we step, in a war zone or a world at war.

Thomas Jefferson to Miles King, September 26, 1814
” . . . there is no act, however virtuous, for which ingenuity may not find some bad motive.”  And so it is with all the problems of the world.  People will engage in forensics and state their point of view, but nothing will resolve the issues facing this world. 

I salute Mr. Fall for his courageous ingenuity to report the acts that he found, during his career.
As his wife stated:  ” This was just a matter of reading the newspaper systematically!  But he would see that these men were being replaced by Communist cadres.  And again, he drew a map and showed that, indeed, the Viet Cong were infiltrating in the south.

So, the lesson is that there are ways of using your head and reading public documents that can reveal something other than what you’ve been led to believe.”  This is what I ask each of us to do, to use your head and to read public documents that can reveal something other than what others are telling us.

Thomas Jefferson to John Wyche, May 19, 1809
“our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our god alone. I enquire after no man’s and trouble none with mine; nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friend’s or our foe’s, are exactly the right.”
Hopefully this comment will end the passion for confusion one responder felt because of his age.

I defer any response about the intelligence, I might have to Thomas Jeffersons position stated above about…“any act, no matter how virtuous… will be a victim of ingenuity…” 

Our Mexico and Canada borders are not designed to prevent infiltration, how many “Bombers” have walked across these borders, intent to destroy Order in America. Land Mines are capable of being detected and defeated, but just talking about them will not destroy them, before some wonderful person in our life steps on one.  Again thank you for examining this perspective.  May your God Bless you.

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By Roger Hawkins, July 3, 2007 at 12:05 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I went to Vietnam as an Army photo officer in 1968 carrying a copy of Bernard Fall’s street without joy in my backpack. In fact, while awaiting a helicopter ride into a combat assault, I lay in the red dirt next to the airstrip reading the book while helicopters loaded and took off.

Tonight I am reading Dorothy Fall’s memoirs of her husband’s life and work and thinking damn here we go again.

My website http://www.azcreative.com/vietport includes photos I took while flying over the site of the massacre of Groupement Mobile 100 recounted in Street Without Joy.

Thanks for your interesting review.

Roger Hawkins

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By Ion C. Laskaris, November 27, 2006 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It woulld be a pity to see Roger Roth,at his age and with his experience, fall prey to one of the monotheistic mumbo-jumbo follies, whether Christian, or the more barbarous Nation of Islam.

There has been available to all inquiring human minds something called “the life of the mind” evolving in the Greek city-states since the 7th Century B.C. Pagan worship was increasingly given casual lip service by the secular humanists who were, with their intellectual inquiries,creating the world of human thought divorced from any kind of theism. This is an individual choice, not a subservient, submissive groveling to modern religiosity. The ancient Greek dramas are filled with themes of the struggles of individuals; Electra, Antigone, Oedipus, the Bachae, Prometheus, (a God, like all Gods, invented out of the minds and fantasies of needy mankind)to fulfill their own destinies by personal choice.

This is the major theme of the growth of Western civilization for the last 2600 years. It’s most important struggles involve men and women being true to themselves, even in the face of repression and death.

Such encounters might be discovered by reading authors on our native ground with “Freethinkers” by Susan Jacoby, a fascinating narrative of the many indivividualists who worked for positive change in our nation in the teeth of ignorance, bias,racism,greed,sexism, corruption and other reactionary forces over the last 200 years that have made us a decadent community.

The fiction of Melville,Twain,Faulkner and other major authors explores the evils of our shabby culture rather than ballyhoo our modern KKK, the Korporate Kapitalist Krooks who have given us an illegal president with the help of 5 Fascist/ Republican Supreme Court Justices, (count em!)in 2000,and with more election fraud,again in 2004.

This is our nation’s and our world’s true “Axis of Evil”. Only a secular humanist devotion to our constitution, bill of rights and humane values can ever restore the republic we have lost to the corporate moral trash in collusion with the equally degenerate religious crazies. We are now living in the most dangerous times of our short, arrogant,greedy American history. Either we find community grounds for a moral revolution or we face another civil war. We therefore need every secular humanist along with every Christian with a decent conscience we can find. Time is running short. With more individualists, there is a better chance for a humanist redemption.

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By Ion C. Laskaris, November 27, 2006 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

stonehinge strikes me as pretty near the mark.The use of the instrument of permanent force and violence is really born with the rise of the city state in the Nile, Euphrates/Tigris and Yangtze river valleys enabled Kingship to keep most of the population enslaved to the land, and so to create the first item of surplus wealth -food in abundance, to maintain the cults of priests and the warriors to maintain repression and invade other populated areas as opportunities to acquire their treasures and resources arose.

Trade,tariffs, artisans crafting goods,weapons,plows and other useful items built up the powers of these mini-states which swell into bloated empires dominating vast areas and populations. And that, in anutshell is the history of civilization.

The religious mumbo-jumbo of monotheism merely mirrors the powers of the ruling kings, and sanctions their rule.The reactionary Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant behaviors of present day America, supporting the dominant Kapitalist regime now in power, with our illegal piece of degenerate presidential trash make a mockery of the secular humanist tradition of popular govern- ance we tried to create here. And failed! Ecce Homo!

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By Roger Roth, November 17, 2006 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I’d be really curious to hear Wetzler’s opinion on Reza Aslan’s, “No God But God”.  Wetzler is impassioned, to be kind; and Aslan, rational, unless, of course, he’s an idiot.  How’s a schmuck like me going to know whether to convert to Islam, dig a hole somewhere and hide, enlist in the U.S. Army as a 65 year-old or go to Harvard Divinity School and become a Lutheran minister.  Help me out here, I’m dyin’.

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By Ion C. Laskaris, November 15, 2006 at 6:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Wetzler’s comments on the perpetual Islamic intifada vs. western civilization come near the mark in many respects. On the other hand Moslems would like to strike East toward China and South into India as well.

Wetler vastly overestimates the list of enemies we must compile as well. Spain,France,England and Bosnia are part of the European defense system. It will not collapse for all the cheap Arab boasts and Moslem threats of the moment.

Africa is a host of countries, most of them corrupt, murderous and degenerate, which are bound to see revolution and civil war soon, just
like all the barbarous Moslem world. So we may as well eliminate that threat as well. Leave them to heaven - or hell…as the case may be.

Afghanistan is a useless entity like Iraq, never a nation-state of any consequence. Withdraw and let it relapse to a fragmented clutch of tribal and ethnic states with no liking or trust for one another. If the Talaban take it all back, time will put them in their place too. Remember,in 2400 years, the only permanent conquest of this region was by the Mongol hordes in the 13th and 14th centuries. And its dominance soon faded too. 

As for the corrupt Phillipines, let them rot. Does Wetzler seriously propose the USA defends Ismelda Marcos’ rights to her 3000 pair of shoes? What other national interest could our Fascist/ Republican clowns conceivably have over there? If the southern part becomes Moslem makes no difference. As for Iran, our bloody Secretary of State,in 1953, laid the foundations for 53 more years of hostility between that nation and our devious U.S. Empire.

In those days the Republican reactionaries picked a stupid puppet,Eisenhower, Dulles, plus Crook Nixon and other Big Business types to spread the gospel of corporate capitalism around the world; America’s only true religion.

This moral trash also laid the foundation for the Vietnam war when Dulles chose to sabotage the 1954 Geneva peace convention.

That generation of Fascist/Republicans was as much an American “Axis of Evil” as the current illegal president. I get the impression Wetzler was not even born then - hence his careless recit-ation of needless enemies.

The worst enemy of humankind and world civilization only takes a hard look by each American in the mirror today. That would be a step toward moral responsibility.

This was the primaeval lesson of Vietnam from 1954 to 1974. I have the impression Wetzler has not yet learned it. But it is likely some 58,000 of our military dead, all with names inscribed on a curving D.C. granite wall, learned it long ago.

Ion C. Laskaris,Burlington,Vt. + iclrevusa.com

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By Stuart Wetzler, November 9, 2006 at 10:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As a Retired US Army First Sergeant, who is a Viet-nam veteran, and retired just before “Iraq”, With all due respect to the friends whose blood saturated the soil of those “Wars” amd their lands, it is important to address the real danger of Iraq, Iran, Africa, Bosnia, Afganistan, Spain, France, England, the Phillipines.  The greater threat to the world is summarized by Professor Moshe Sharon, to which the follwing truth is owed:

“The Agenda of Islam - A War Between Civilizations

Professor Moshe Sharon- Wednesday 24th Dec 2003

The war has started a long time ago between two civilizations - between the civilization based on the Bible and between the civilization based on the Koran. And this must be clear.

There is no fundamental Islam.
“Fundamentalism” is a word that came from the heart of the Christian religion. It means faith that goes by the word of the Bible. Fundamental Christianity, or going with the Bible, does not mean going around and killing people. There is no fundamental Islam. There is only Islam full stop. The question is how the Koran is interpreted.

All of a sudden we see that the greatest interpreters of Islam are politicians in the western world. They know better than all the speakers in the mosques, all those who deliver terrible sermons against anything that is either Christian or Jewish. These western politicians know that there is good Islam and bad Islam. They know even how to differentiate between the two, except that none of them know how to read a word of Arabic.

The Language of Islam
You see, so much is covered by politically correct language that, in fact, the truth has been lost. For example, when we speak about Islam in the west, we try to use our own language and terminology. We speak about Islam in terms of democracy and fundamentalism, in terms of parliamentarinism and all kinds of terms, which we take from our own dictionary. One of my professors and one of the greatest orientalists in the world says that doing this is like a cricket reporter describing a cricket game in baseball terms. We cannot use for one culture or civilization the language of another. For Islam, you’ve got to use the language of Islam.

Driving Principles of Islam
Let me explain the principles that are driving the religion of Islam. Of course, every Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is only one God.  But it’s not enough to say that there is only one God.
A Moslem has to acknowledge the fact that there is one God and Mohammed is his prophet. These are the fundamentals of the religion that without them, one cannot be a Moslem.  But beyond that, Islam is a civilization. It is a religion that gave first and foremost a wide and unique legal system that engulfs the individual, society and nations with rules of behaviour. If you are Moslem, you have to behave according to the rules of Islam which are set down in the Koran and which are very different than the teachings of the Bible.

The Bible
Let me explain the difference.
The Bible is the creation of the spirit of a nation over a very, very long period, if we talk from the point of view of the scholar, and let me remain scholarly. But there is one thing that is important in the Bible. It leads to salvation. It leads to salvation in two ways.

In Judaism, it leads to national salvation - not just a nation that wants to have a state, but a nation that wants to serve God. That’s the idea behind the Hebrew text of the Bible.

The New Testament that took the Hebrew Bible moves us toward personal salvation. So we have got these two kinds of salvation, which, from time to time, meet each other.

But the key word is salvation. Personal salvation means that each individual is looked after by God, Himself, who leads a person through His word to salvation. This is the idea in the Bible, whether we are talking about the Old or the New Testament. All of the laws in the Bible, even to the minutest ones, are, in fact directed toward this fact of salvation.

Secondly, there is another point in the Bible, which is highly important. This is the idea that man was created in the image of God. Therefore, you don’t just walk around and obliterate the image of God. Many people, of course, used Biblical rules and turned them upside down. History has seen a lot of massacres in the name of God and in the name of Jesus. But as religions, both Judaism and Christianity in their fundamentals speak about honouring the image of God and the hope of salvation. These are the two basic fundamentals.

 

The Essence of Islam
Now let’s move to the essence of Islam. Islam was born with the idea that it should rule the world.

Let’s look, then, at the difference between these three religions. Judaism speaks about national salvation - namely that at the end of the story, when the world becomes a better place, Israel will be in its own land, ruled by its own king and serving God. Christianity speaks about the idea that every single person in the world can be saved from his sins, while Islam speaks about ruling the world. I can quote here in Arabic, but there is no point in quoting Arabic, so let me quote a verse in English. “Allah sent Mohammed with the true religion so that it should rule over all the religions.”

The idea, then, is not that the whole world would become a Moslem world at this time, but that the whole world would be subdued under the rule of Islam.  When the Islamic empire was established in 634 AD, within seven years - 640 - the core of the empire was created. The rules that were taken from the Koran and from the tradition that was ascribed to the prophet Mohammed, were translated into a real legal system. Jews and Christians could live under Islam provided they paid poll tax and accepted Islamic superiority. Of course, they had to be humiliated. And Jews and Christians living under Islam are humiliated to this very day.

Mohammed Held That All the Biblical Prophets Were Moslems
Mohammed did accept the existence of all the Biblical prophets before him. However he also said that all these prophets were Moslems. Abraham was a Moslem. In fact, Adam himself was the first Moslem. Isaac and Jacob and David and Solomon and Moses and Jesus were all Moslems, and all of them had writings similar to the Koran. Therefore, world history is Islamic history because all the heroes of history were Moslems.  Furthermore, Moslems accept the fact that each of these prophets brought with him some kind of a revelation. Moses, brought the Taurat, which is the Torah, and Jesus brought the Ingeel, which is the Evangelion or Gospel - namely the New Testament.

The Bible vs. the Koran
Why then is the Bible not similar to the Koran?

Mohammed explains that the Jews and Christians forged their books. Had they not been changed and forged, they would have been identical to the Koran. But because Christians and Jews do have some truth, Islam concedes that they cannot be completely destroyed by war [for now].  Nevertheless, the laws are very clear - Jews and Christians have no rights whatsoever to independent existence. They can live under Islamic rule provided they keep to the rules that Islam promulgates for them.

Islamic Rule and Jihad
What happens if Jews and Christians don’t want to live under the rules of Islam? Then Islam has to fight them and this fighting is called Jihad. Jihad means war against those people who don’t want to accept the Islamic superior rule. That’s jihad. They may be Jews; they may be Christians; they may be Polytheists. But since we don’t have too many Polytheists left, at least not in the Middle East - their war is against the Jews and Christians.  A few days ago, I received a pamphlet that was distributed in the world by bin Laden. He calls for jihad against America as the leader of the Christian world, not because America is the supporter of Israel, but because Americans are desecrating Arabia with their filthy feet. There are Americans in Arabia were no Christians should be. In this pamphlet there is not a single word about Israel. Only that Americans are desecrating the home of the prophet.

Two Houses
The Koran sees the world as divided into two - one part which has come under Islamic rule and one part which is supposed to come under Islamic rule in the future. There is a division of the world which is very clear. Every single person who starts studying Islam knows it. The world is described as Dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) - that’s the place where Islam rules - and the other part which is called Dar al-Harb - the house of war. Not the “house of non-Muslims,” but the “house of war.” It is this house of war which as to be, at the end of time, conquered. The world will continue to be in the house of war until it comes under Islamic rule.  This is the norm. Why? Because Allah says it’s so in the Koran. God has sent Mohammed with the true religion in order that the truth will overcome all other religions.

Islamic Law
Within the Islamic vision of this world, there are rules that govern the lives of the Moslems themselves, and these rules are very strict. In fundamentals, there are no differences between schools of law.

However, there are four streams of factions within Islam with differences between them concerning the minutiae of the laws. All over the Islamic world, countries have favored one or another of these schools of laws.  The strictest school of law is called Hanbali, mainly coming out of Saudi Arabia. There are no games there, no playing around with the meanings of words. If the Koran speaks about war, then it’s war.

There are various perspectives in Islam with different interpretations over the centuries. There were good people that were very enlightened in Islam that tried to understand things differently. They even brought traditions from the mouth of the prophet that women and children should not be killed in war.
These more liberal streams do exist, but there is one thing that is very important for us to remember. The Hanbali school of law is extremely strict, and today this is the school that is behind most of the terrorist powers. Even if we talk about the existence of other schools of Islamic law, when we’re talking about fighting against the Jews, or fighting against the Christian world led by America, it is the Hanbali school of law that is being followed.

Islam and Territory
This civilization created one very important, fundamental rule about territory. Any territory that comes under Islamic rule cannot be de-Islamized. Even if at one time or another, the [non-Moslem] enemy takes over the territory that was under Islamic rule, it is considered to be perpetually Islamic.  This is why whenever you hear about the Arab/Israeli conflict, you hear - territory, territory, territory. There are other aspects to the conflict, but territory is highly important.

The Christian civilization has not only been seen as a religious opponent, but as a dam stopping Islam from achieving its final goal for which it was created.  Islam was created to be the army of God, the army of Allah. Every single Moslem is a soldier in this army. Every single Moslem that dies in fighting for the spread of Islam is a shaheed (martyr) no matter how he dies, because - and this is very important - this is an eternal word between the two civilizations. It’s not a war that stops. This was is there because it was created by Allah. Islam must be the ruler. This is a war that will not end.

Islam and Peace
Peace in Islam can exist only within the Islamic world; peace can only be between Moslem and Moslem.

With the non-Moslem world or non-Moslem opponents, there can be only one solution - a cease fire until Moslems can gain more power. It is an eternal war until the end of days. Peace can only come if the Islamic side wins.  The two civilizations can only have periods of cease-fires. And this idea of cease-fire is based on a very important historical precedent, which, incidentally, Yasser Arafat referred to when he spoke in Johannesburg after he signed the Oslo agreement with Israel.

Let me remind you that the document speaks of peace - you wouldn’t believe that you are reading! You would think that you were reading some science fiction piece. I mean when you read it, you can’t believe that this was signed by Israelis who are actually acquainted with Islamic policies and civilization.

A few weeks after the Oslo agreement was signed, Arafat went to Johannesburg, and in a mosque there he made a speech in which he apologized, saying, “Do you think I signed something with the Jews which is contrary to the rules of Islam?” (I have obtained a copy of Arafat’s recorded speech so I heard it from his own mouth.) Arafat continued, “That’s not so. I’m doing exactly what the prophet Mohammed did.”

Whatever the prophet is supposed have done becomes a precedent. What Arafat was saying was, “Remember the story of Hodaybiya.” The prophet had made an agreement there with the tribe of Kuraish for 10 years. But then he trained 10,000 soldiers and within two years marched on their city of Mecca. He, of course, found some kind of pretext.  Thus, in Islamic jurisdiction, it became a legal precedent which states that you are only allowed to make peace for a maximum of 10 years.  Secondly, at the first instance that you are able, you must renew the jihad [thus breaking the “peace” agreement].

In Israel, it has taken over 50 years in this country for our people to understand that they cannot speak about [permanent] peace with Moslems. It will take another 50 years for the western world to understand that they have got a state of war with the Islamic civilization that is virile and strong. This should be understood: When we talk about war and peace, we are not talking in Belgium, French, English, or German terms. We are talking about war and peace in Islamic terms.

Cease-fire as a Tactical Choice
What makes Islam accept cease-fire? Only one thing - when the enemy is too strong. It is a tactical choice.  Sometimes, he may have to agree to a cease-fire in the most humiliating conditions. It’s allowed because Mohammed accepted a cease-fire under humiliating conditions. That’s what Arafat said to them in Johannesburg.  When western policy makers hear these things, they answer, “What are you talking about? You are in the Middle Ages. You don’t understand the mechanisms of politics.”  Which mechanisms of politics? There are no mechanisms of politics where power is. And I want to tell you one thing - we haven’t seen the end of it, because the minute a radical Moslem power has atomic, chemical or biological weapons, they will use it. I have no doubt about that.  Now, since we face war and we know that we cannot get more than an impermanent cease-fire, one has to ask himself what is the major component of an Israeli/Arab cease-fire. It is that the Islamic side is weak and your side is strong. The relations between Israel and the Arab world in the last 50 years since the establishment of our State has been based only on this idea, the deterrent power.
Wherever You Have Islam, You Will Have War
The reason that we have what we have in Yugoslavia and other places is because Islam succeeded into entering these countries. Wherever you have Islam, you will have war. It grows out of the attitude of Islamic civilization. What are the poor people in the Philippines being killed for? What’s happening between Pakistan and India?

Islamic Infiltration
Furthermore, there is another fact that must be remembered. The Islamic world has not only the attitude of open war, but there’s also war by infiltration.  One of the things which the western world is not paying enough attention to is the tremendous growth of Islamic power in the western world. What happened in America and the Twin Towers is not something that came from the outside. And if America doesn’t wake up, one day the Americans will find themselves in a chemical war and most likely in an atomic war - inside the U.S.

End of Days
It is highly important to understand how a civilization sees the end of days. In Christianity and in Judaism, we know exactly what is the vision of the end of days.  In Judaism, it is going to be as in Isaiah - peace between nations, not just one nation, but between all nations. People will not have any more need for weapons and nature will be changed - a beautiful end of days and the kingdom of God on earth.

Christianity goes as far as Revelation to see a day that Satan himself is obliterated. There are no more powers of evil. That’s the vision.

I’m speaking now as a historian. I try to understand how Islam sees the end of days. In the end of days, Islam sees a world that is totally Moslem, completely Moslem under the rule of Islam. Complete and final victory.  Christians will not exist, because according to many Islamic traditions, the Moslems who are in hell will have to be replaced by somebody and they’ll be replaced by the Christians.  The Jews will no longer exist, because before the coming of the end of days, there is going to be a war against the Jews where all Jews should be killed. I’m quoting now from the heart of Islamic tradition, from the books that are read by every child in school. They Jews will all be killed. They’ll be running away and they’ll be hiding behind trees and rocks, and on that day Allah will give mouths to the rocks and trees and they will say, “Oh Moslem come here, there is a Jew behind me, kill him.” Without this, the end of days cannot come. This is a fundamental of Islam.

Is There a Possibility to End This Dance of War?
The question which we in Israel are asking ourselves is what will happen to our country? Is there a possibility to end this dance of war?  The answer is, “No. Not in the foreseeable future.” What we can do is reach a situation where for a few years we may have relative quiet.  But for Islam, the establishment of the state of Israel was a reverse of Islamic history. First, Islamic territory was taken away from Islam by Jews. You know by now that this can never be accepted, not even one meter. So everyone who thinks Tel Aviv is safe is making a grave mistake. Territory, which at one time was dominated by Islamic rule, now has become non-Moslem. Non-Moslems are independent of Islamic rule; Jews have created their own independent state. It is anathema.  And (this is the worse) Israel, a non-Moslem state, is ruling over Moslems. It is unthinkable that non-Moslems should rule over Moslems.  I believe that Western civilization should hold together and support each other. Whether this will happen or not, I don’t know. Israel finds itself on the front lines of this war. It needs the help of its sister civilization. It needs the help of America and Europe. It needs the help of the Christian world. One thing I am sure about, this help can be given by individual Christians who see this as the road to salvation.”

May I close by saying thank your for taking the time to read these passages, I thank any person who is an athiest for bearing with me, and ignoring the religious chatter. because in this politically correct world, all due respect must be given, but the point of this is to know your TRUE enemy, and as it is with Mr. Fall it only takes a second to step on a land mind, and you no longer exsist.  The same is to say Islamic ideology governs the war in Afganistan and Iraq, and will confront all of us, until we learn to live with each other in peace.

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By Philip D. Rand, October 26, 2006 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment
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Over the years, I’ve read and reread “Hell In A Very Small Place” and “Street Without Joy”. I finished my active duty too early to be sent to VN, but still feel connected to those who went and fought. My war was the cold one in Germany. The first time that I read “Street Without Joy” I wondered how we could have gotten into that mess?? Weren’t our leaders reading this also?? (And, learning by Fall’s cautions?) Now, I hear that our present leaders have ignored the warnings and cautions of a half century of wisdom Are we doomed to perpetually suffer from institutional amnesia?? Our military is the best, most highly motivated, best trained and equipped in the world. Its a shame that we can’t say the same about its leaders in DC!!

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By David H. Pryce, October 25, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
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I read all of Fall’s books, then published, before going off to RVN the first time in 1964. I was a young LT, armed with a superior American attitude that we would finish what the French could not.  It was our war, the sons of the fathers who won WWII.  It would be years before I recognized the folly of my innocence.  I look into the faces of our brave Soldiers and Marines and see myself as I was back then.  That’s why we send our young off to war.  The older and wiser won’t do it anymore.

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By Samuel Buick, October 24, 2006 at 8:30 am Link to this comment
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Two things mark human civilization.
One, there is no such thing as the “inherent goodness of mankind”.  Morality, and how how we ethically treat those who are defenseless and without a voice, reveals the true character of who we are as human beings.  Our hearts are revealed by how we treat these people.  Looking at Iraq and Afghanistan, and Lebanon, I see nothing more than the evidence of the “total depravity” (see the writings of John Calvin) of mankind.  The goodness of man to his fellow man flows from a renewed and transformed life by that which is greater than himself. 
Two, military conflict is the tool used to manipulate and control events and people and resources.  It is the physical violence that is done in order to obtain not only polical and social ends, but more so, economical superiority over others. The Neo-Con agenda (and here I am one who has been a conservative all his life) is nothing but the wanton denomiation and exploitation of other nations and their resources.  If it was not for the oil and the Euro, the USA would never have invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.  The 911 conspiracy is just the miserable excuse to contol natural resources by use of military power and political oppotunism.  One ought to remember the absence of physical conflict does not mean we are at peace.  All the Western democracies are at war in their own cities, in their own streets and in each home, over these very issues.  We just have not resorted to the use of violence yet.  I pray to God we never do.

As a person born a Brit who was raised in France,and a former infantryman, who knew many former soldiers who fought in Indochina and Algeria, I have always appreciated the writings of Mr. Bernard Fall.

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By Clifton Mitchell, October 22, 2006 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
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I was astonished to learn that Colin Powell had not read STREET WITHOUT JOY until the early 90’s.  What a devastating admission on his part!  I was a lowly enlisted man in the mid-60’s when I read, nay - studied, Bernard Fall’s STREET WITHOUT JOY and HELL IN A VERY SMALL PLACE, and Jules Roy’s THE BATTLE OF DIENBIENPHU.  Having served in RVN in 65-66, and shortly thereafter having studied these three books, had Colin Powell sought my advice (I’m being facetious), I could have told him back then that the US would fail militarily in Vietnam.  The major mistake made by the US in Vietnam is that it violated the first principle of war - it showed contempt for its enemy.  Now it seems to be “deja vu all over again,” in Iraq and Afghanistan.  I never thought much of Powell as a general, and even less of him as a “statesman”.  To me he epitomized the “affirmative action” appointee, as does Condoleza Rice.  Roy states in his book that the motto of the Vietminh was “Always attack, always advance.”, reminiscent of General George S. Patton Jr., whose motto was “L’audace, l’audace, toujours l’adace.”  General Patton probably would not have liked the Vietminh, but he certainly would have admired their audacity.

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By Lily Maskew, October 19, 2006 at 11:33 am Link to this comment
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It is time for a civilized nation to dispense with war.  If we spent as much money on finding the path to peace as we spent on killing other human beings, a solution could be found.  The only thing lacking is the Will.

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By masa, October 14, 2006 at 9:38 pm Link to this comment
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In this vein, the work of Wilfred Burchett is invaluable. He was an Aussie journalist that travelled with the Vietnamese or Viet-Cong. One of his books is titled “Vietnam will Win!” I believe the lesson of Vietnam is that the US government then and now, serve money. For many reasons, invasions and war serve their bottom line and for this millions of unwitting soldiers hurl their bodies at desperate survivors and true fighters with a purpose. This can explain the lack of moral, and the loss. One side is politicized while the other is at a loss to understand the true reason for his position and tasks.

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By stonehinge, October 14, 2006 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
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Herein lies the problem:

But one nugget that remained from my earlier life was a dogged belief in the inherent goodness of all people, that George Washington never told a lie, that if people were unable to see the underlying truth of the lies, it was only because they were mistaken. Lee Driver #27170

I too grew up believing this to be true.

I was wrong…utterly wrong…but it took me 35 years of intense searching to see the truth for what it is.  And in the end, I needed somebody else to supply the foundation I needed to take the last steps in realization. 

The problem starts with the fact that a great many Americans see nothing wrong with killing a million “gooks” or 650k “ragheads” — plus or minus.  For many Americans, this is the price that somebody else should pay to sustain the American Way of Life.  And what is even more astonishing, these very same people somehow conclude that they are actually morally superior to all those gooks and ragheads who were forced to pay that bill at gunpoint.

Given this psychotic state of affairs, it is not surprising that a class of “warlords” has risen to capitalize on such a situation.  In fact, one can argue that the warlords induced this state for their own benefit, and such argument would be correct, for that is what they have done since ancient time.  However, times have changed, and they have not changed for the better.  It is the devolutionary nature of this symbiotic relationship which threw me off the trail for so long.

I wish that my own thinking had matured fast enough to develop the words that were needed, but that is not the case.  That honor goes to Dr. Norman Livergood who has given us the phrase Barbaric Annihilation to describe the workings of this American psychosis in it’s latest stage of metamorphosis.  And given what I have seen, I think it’s good enough to proselytize on his behalf.

You can find his analysis by clicking here.  For anyone who hopes to find a way through this nightmare, I recommend that you read this essay for it supplies the philosophical framework that has been missing.  Ignore the somewhat sophomoric look of his website as I’m sure this was done before the advent of the super-slick weblog systems of today.

Under a regime of Barbaric Annihilation:

- The Destruction of the WTC was an intelligence success, the culmination of decades of diligent effort!
- The invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq is one of the greatest military successes in human history — Mission Accomplished!
- The failure to rebuild New Orleans is exactly what Bush had in mind and he was right to praise Brownie for his success!

This is just a partial list, enough to get my point across, I think.  The point here is to understand that GWB is not stupid and Cheney is not a moron — in their universe, they have been stupendously successful at every step.  And until progressives everywhere come to understand this reality, nothing is going to change. 

We have lost America to a junta which came to power with Ronald Reagan and which has been fully operational ever since.  We have not seen it for what it is because it operates differently than totalitarian regimes of the past.  To quote Dr. Livergood:

Previously, imperialism had been the underlying policy of the cabal when it seized Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Cuba, Philippines, and the Mariana Islands and set up the German empires that led to World War I and World War II.  But British and American imperialism involved a certain amount of concern for the possessed territory and the people, if no more than pride in having control over the holdings of the empire. The new totalitarianism has absolutely no such concern; its only interest is imposing the diabolic policy of barbaric annihilation on the world, thereby reaping huge profits from its energy, financial, and “defense” industries and turning all countries into militarized police states whose peoples will be forced to become their “cannon fodder.”

It was this statement that opened my eyes to the light.  This is the reason that the magnificent historical artifacts in Afghanistan were destroyed with no concern whatsoever.  This is the reason that entire cities in Iraq have been destroyed with no intent to restore the infrastructure.  And this was why such destruction was rained down upon Vietnam when there was no intent to win.  There never was any intent to win in these situations.  The purpose was to leverage an unending stream of money from the American economy to replace the materials that were consumed in the destruction.  This is also why it is of no concern how much is lost in the forthcoming encounter with Iran.

I’ve said enough for a “comment” to a blog.  Read what Dr. Livergood has to say about Barbaric Annihilation so that we can all get on the same page and figure out how to regain control of this nation.

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By John Vedilago, October 9, 2006 at 4:39 am Link to this comment
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In his 1995 autobiography, Colin Powell remarks: “I recently read Bernard Fall’s book on Vietnam, ‘Street Without Joy.’ Fall makes painfully clear that we had almost no understanding of what we had gotten ourselves into.  I cannot help thinking that if President Kennedy or President Johnson had spent a quiet weekend at Camp David reading that perceptive book, they would have returned to the White House Monday morning and immediately started to figure out a way to extricate us from the quicksand of Vietnam.”

Maybe its time we take a new look at “Those who haven’t learned the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.” It appears to me that those who have learned the lessons of history are just as likely, if not more likely, to repeat them. In fact the continual need for committing these repetitive brutal crimes against humanity are always based on and supported by historical lessons, precedents, perceptions and justifications.  Maybe it’s time just dedicate ourselves to peace and non-violence because it is simply, not historically, nor practically, the right and moral thing to do. If we commit ourselves to resist and refuse any temptation historical or expedient, to do violence against others to achieve our goals simply because it is the right and moral thing to do, maybe then, we will get a history lesson that is worth repeating.

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By Kwagmyre, October 8, 2006 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment
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It was the philosopher George Santayana who famously said, “Those who haven’t learned the lessons of history are condemned to repeat them.”

It may have been before the U.S. invasion and occupation in Iraq that I read that Sadaam himself researched the U.S. experience in Vietnam perhaps because he anticipated an inevitable invasion in Iraq and would have anticipated that even with himself getting dethroned that in the long run the U.S. would get bogged down in yet another quagmire.

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By Ron Weinert, October 6, 2006 at 9:30 pm Link to this comment
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I read Bernard Fall’s books in the early sixties, and I recall thinking, just as Mrs. Fall says, that we would never fail like the French. I was a fighter pilot, and an American, and we don’t lose wars “like the French.”
It took me a short tour in Vietnam, flying out of Danang, and many years to come to the realization that Fall was right all along, and that our adventure in SEA was the biggest mistake in our history, and that we would learn from our mistake to never again get trapped in a war and adventure that had not been absolutely unavoidable. I was sure that the pain and agony of our Vietnam tragedy would not be repeated.
I was wrong again, and I now know that we should have read “Street Without Joy” and taken to heart the lessons France learned so painfully. We could have avoided 58,000 combat and millions of Vietnamese dead. We could have avoided Iraq as well, but we are in the clutches of idiots and madmen, and we are doomed to failure and agony once again.

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By George A. Hoffman, October 5, 2006 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
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As a Vietnam veteran (31 May 1967 to 31 May 1968) never in my wildest imagination did I ever believe an American president in the future would commit a foreign policy debacle that rivaled LBJ’s quagmire in Vietnam. But Gore Vidal has called this country, the United States of Amnesia. And I see why.
The similarities between these two wars are uncanny.
Paul R. Pillar, who headed the CIA desk on the Near East and Southwest Asia (2001 to 2005), observed in an article published in the April/May 2006 issue of Foreign Affairs that the ambiguous intelligence reports manipulated by the Bush administration to justify the invasion in Iraq reminded him of the murky incident in the Gulf of Tokin that LBJ used to escalate the conflict in Southeast Asia.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who was chief of staff for Colin Powell at the department of state, gave a speech at the New America Foundation that blamed the Cheney/Rumsfeld cabal for cherrypicking the fradulent intelligence and pushing aside cautious and reasoned counsel against the invasion.
Paul Wolfovitz, the main architect for the war in Iraq, now is head of the World Bank, holding the same position that former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara did after his tenure in the LBJ administration. So there Wolfowitz safely resides, still quite mystified by the ferocity and tenacity of the insurgency in Iraq. Perhaps serving as the head of The World Bank is a career move in the rehab clinic for deluded architects of unneccesary American wars.
Francis Fukayama, the intellectual darling of the neocons in the Bush administration, published a article in the NYT, divorcing himself from the Bush administration neocons and their debacle in Iraq. Success has many fathers but failure is an orphan.
In the same edition of The National Review several months back, William F. Buckley wrote the obituary for the Iraq War while his political colleague, Victor Hanson having just returned from a whirlwind tour of Iraq, wrote that victory is just over the corner. If we only stay the course.
That stark contrast between Buckley and Hanson reminded of an incident in David Halberstam’s The Best and the Brightest. President Kennedy sent two administration officials to the then Republic of South Vietnam to assess the political and military situation. One reported the war against the VC guerillas was a complete failure and the Republic of South Vietnam was on the verge of collapse; the other had a glowing report that predicted victory in the near future if we just hang tough. President Kennedy, quite taken back by their reports, quipped, Did you two go to the same country?
There is a line in Alfred Hitchcock’s North By Northwest, which sums up my emotional and intellectual response to the quagmire in Iraq. The scene takes place in the CIA headquarters in Washington,D.C. A CIA operative is sitting at the table during a meeting and he is reading a newspaper article about Roger Thornhill, the hapless ad executive who is photographed holding the knife that killed the real Robert Townsend during their brief meeting in the lobby of the UN. The aricle states that Thornill has gone undercover as George Kaplan, the fictitious character invented by the CIA to track the movements of Van Dam, the American spy that was impersonating the real Robert Townsend. The CIA operative looks up from the newspaper and asks himself, So horrible yet why do I feel like laughing?
Of course, North By Northwest was a movie, and the debacle in Iraq is sadly real life. But I wonder where reality and fantasy intermingling in this unfolding historical narrative, this farce of sound and fury, shock and awe, will end. Certainly there has to be some denounement? Yet closure is too definitive a word for what is happening in this nightmare of delusion and destruction. In his new book, State of Denial, Bob Woodard reports that Henry Kissinger has been advising President Bush on the war in Iraq. Yes, Henry the K., the only Ameican diplomat able to leap over the Great Wall of China in a single bound. Dr. Strangelove advised the Chickenhawk-in-Chief that the only exit strategy is complete victory. Mmm, where have we heard that before?
I know that since Vietnam, I have never fully returned home from the war. But now with the appearance of Henry the K, I know I never again have to worry about returing to the land of the free and the home of the brave after my tour of duty there. Vietnam has come home to me.
“Mein Furher, I can valk!”

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By Lee driver, October 5, 2006 at 8:46 am Link to this comment
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Being one who went off to Viet Nam a naive, enthusiastic, unquestioning patriot, and then came away feeling betrayed by my country and my father’s generation, I will read this book. Everyone has events in their life where things took a turn, and Viet Nam was mine. My father also was forever changed by his war experience, but he came home from war in the Pacific, dented yes, but profoundly proud to be an American. I grew up in his household and took in like a sponge everything he believed. It was so simple, like a comic book, this little Asian country was asking for our help and of course we should give it. In one short year, I was flipped over like a pancake, my midwestern middle class Republican altruistic self face down in the pan, a bourgeoning counter culture drop out liberal face up. I screamed to the established order,” I see your game and will not to play.” If I could have listened I would have heard their answer, which was, “we don’t care,” but I couldn’t hear. My hair grew long, I moved up in the woods and set out to make a new world. But one nugget that remained from my earlier life was a dogged belief in the inherent goodness of all people, that George Washington never told a lie, that if people were unable to see the underlying truth of the lies, it was only because they were mistaken. Now, 36 years later, having spent decades running around living blithely and blissfully on the earth like Johnny Appleseed, I’m being flipped again, and disavowed for all time, of that notion. The spectre of the smoking hole in the ground that was once a Viet Namese village, has raised itself again, and is the talking head burnt out hole of the mouth of my government. All over again. Just as then. Only now, they’ve grabbed all the reins. A historical study of government or politics or corporate business, might just as well be a study in psychology, detailing the process by which one goes from innocent child to active member in a gang of thieves, or as is it is called today, the culture of corruption. Those who opt out of this process along the way, though heralded in literature and occasionally in history as heroes or good guys, like a Bernard Fall or maybe a John Paul Vann, are regarded by the men of power, as turncoats, whistle blowers, committers of treason, or if possible, as just plain losers. Having watched this so-called eternal battle between good and evil go through several cycles in my own time and throughout history, and seen that the same flaws are laid in us like chromosomes, I will curl up with Dorothy Fall’s memoir of her late husband, blissfully suspend the disbelief and outrage at the moral state of our republic, and disappear for a time into a good yarn. Then maybe get up, go prune the trees, hook up the photovoltaics, and lay in a few years worth of supplies for the coming adventure.

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By Jennings McLean, October 4, 2006 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
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Kudos to Sarah Stillman for a superb essay/interview on Bernard Fall and thanks to Dorothy Fall for a book I now plan to read.  Given the Iraq mess, there are some real lessons here.  Stillman’s questions were thoughtful and engaging and showed real intellectual depth for someone who, judging from her picture, appears to be a member of the Britney Spears generation. I assume Dorothy Fall will be doing a book tour, which hopefully will focus attention on what our country and leaders should have learned from the Vietnam debacle.

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By Henry Pelifian, October 4, 2006 at 12:12 pm Link to this comment
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I have read Bernard Fall’s excellent works on Indochina but the “best and brightest” hired by our national political leadership seems to consistently get it wrong. The slipsod thinking, ignorance and arrogance of our U.S. elected political leadership and their vaunted appointees in government has now led our country astray again in Iraq.

I have written about my own experiences in Vietnam during the war and after the war in Southeast Asia and Iran. They are stories of American ethnocentrism. The lessons of history may never truly be learned, not because people do not learn the lessons, but rather our national elected leaders are often the most uninformed despite their affluence and influence. 

It seems that one of the challenges of democracy is chosing the right leaders by having real options in many politial parties and their leaders.

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By STEVEN BATUG, October 4, 2006 at 10:06 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Falls’ published works on the French experience in Indo-China are as relevant today as they were before his unfortunate death…

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By David Macaray, October 4, 2006 at 9:35 am Link to this comment
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Thanks for an excellent essay.  I read “Street Without Joy” many years ago, and put it (and Herr’s “Dispatches”) as the two best books of the era.  Your piece brought back some vivid memories.

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