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Vietnam Invades Cambodia: Soviet Backed and Inspired Aggression
Support for the Liberation forces in Indochina was one of the foundations on which VVAW was built. We fought against U.S aggression in Vietnam with every ounce of our strength and energy, taking on the police, getting arrested and finally adding our contribution to the victory of the peoples of Indochina. We have watched, with growing alarm, the leadership of Vietnam growing closer and closer to the Soviet Union. With the invasion of Kampuchea and the installation of a puppet regime there, Vietnam has now taken the same path of aggression that we condemned the U.S government for taking. Cambodian freedom fighters must now fight again.
It has been three and a half years since the Cambodian people threw out the U.S puppet Lon Nol and his U.S backers. The Khymer Rouge had beaten back two U.S sponsored invasion, survived the most tremendous bombing known to man and utterly defeated a U.S. puppet who had direct support from the U.S. military, and financial and political support from the other superpower, the Soviet Union.
Today the people of Cambodia have gone through another invasion and another puppet. This time the invasion force is made up of 100,000 Vietnamese troops with armor and air support, and some 10,000 of their Cambodian puppet troops. The Cambodian patriots have abandoned the cities and gone back into the countryside, letting into the jungles, mountains and populace from which they emerged victoriously three years ago.
Meanwhile, the Vietnamese and their Soviet backers announce proudly that the terrible regime—the Pol Pot government of Cambodia—has been overthrown and that a new era has been ushered in to Indochina. The U.S. condemns the invasion but at the same time echoes the charges about the inhuman Pol Pot regime. Many forces have been in play in Indochina since the U.S. was thrown out.
THE STRUGGLE AGAINST U.S. INVOLVEMENT IN INDOCHINA
The U.S. jumped into the footsteps of the French dream of holding on to their colony was ended. The U.S. took a Vietnamese, who was not even in Vietnam at the time, and placed President Diem at the head of a government in Saigon. In 1956 when elections were scheduled, Diem called them off. His reason was simple: Ho Chi Minh, leader of the North Vietnamese, would, in the words of then U.S. president Eisenhower, have won "by more then 80% of the popular vote."
The people of South Vietnam, under the leadership of the National Liberation Front, fought. The U.S. rushed in with recognition and funds, later followed by advisors, and finally more then 4 1/2 million men and billions of dollars. In vain the U.S. tried to stop the Vietnamese people from throwing out the puppet regime in Saigon. They invaded Cambodia to hit sanctuaries and trails; they dropped more then 3 1/2 times the amount of explosives used in the World War II on an area they size of California; they carried out, through the CIA, the Phoenix assassination program which killed more then 100,000 Vietnamese village chiefs, elders and teachers; and, in the process they sacrificed 55,000 American lives. The U.S. imperialist role in Indochina found much opposition and little support around the world, and was opposed by the American people. Even GIs and Vietnam veterans opposed the war, rising up in revolts in Vietnam and throwing away their medals in Washington. In the end, the U.S was defeated on the battlefields of Indochina and in the streets of America.
The Indochinese peoples faced difficult problems after kicking out the U.S. invaders and their puppets in Phnom Penh and Saigon. They had to rebuild their war-torn countries and immediately faced the enormous problem of how to feed a hungry population.
The Vietnamese immediately looked for help from the outside. Their problems were not so great as those of Cambodia because, despite the terrible bombing of North Vietnam, the northern half of the country had been free for 20 years developing its agriculture and industry. Still, they turned to the USSR. Signing "Treaties of Friendship," they joined the Soviet controlled COMECON (an economic grouping) which placed their resources and workforce under the tender care of Russian "international division of labor" (a concept whereby the Soviets import raw materials, make finished products, and sell them back to the original countries at high prices—if this sounds like imperialism, that's because it is!) and even allowing Russian troops to be stationed in Vietnam.
Cambodia (renamed Kampuchea) set out to build back its country by its own efforts, determined not to trade imperialist, the U.S., for another, the USSR. They faced almost insurmountable problems. Starvations, disease, lack of housing, a capital city crowded by refugees from the countryside, attempts by U.S. backed forces to regain control all added to the problems. As the U.S. could see liberation approaching, it deliberately cut in half food brought into the city of Phnom Penh by airlift planning that, after liberation, the starving population would overthrow the revolutionary regime and let the U.S back in. The situation called for drastic measures; to feed the people, stem possible epidemics and prevent a possible U.S.-backed uprising, the government moved the population to the countryside where the food was—which the people understood. They did not become rich overnight or have lots of consumer goods. They did have food, housing, a beginning of education, and were starting to rebuild their war-ravaged country on there own—not trying it to either superpower.
Not liking this situation at all, the U.S. carried out a propaganda blitz against the new government of Kampuchea. It ignored years of bombings, the slaughter of innocent civilians, the use of toxic chemicals, the systematic extermination of the population whether through free fire zones (where U.S. troops killed anything or anyone who moved), or Operation Phoenix. It attacked the Indochinese for trying to feed their people by evacuation the cities. The blitz geared in on Kampuchea, leading up to a point where ex-dove George McGovern called for an "international invasion force" to go into Kampuchea.
As the war against U.S. aggression faded and the countries rebuilt, changes began to take place. The Kampuchean people began to build up their industry and agriculture to the point where they were exporting rice. Their army remained a "peoples' army" whose members worked in the rice paddies along with the peasants, and in the factories with the workers; they built dams and irrigation projects.
Vietnam also began to change. The Soviet presence and influence began to have an effect. Officials began to see themselves as heroes and began to accept favors the way the Saigon officials did from the U.S. in the past. They began to persecute the minority Chinese population in Vietnam. They claimed land belonging to Cambodia, the Philippines and China. They began to eye their neighbors as weak, saying that they alone had expelled the foreigners. A change also took place in the military. Many of the units which had fought against the U.S. were disbanded. New units were built up with recruits who have never fought before, or with former Saigon troops who were being "re-educated" by serving in the Vietnamese military; this was especially true for units stationed along the border with Kampuchea. Vietnam began to demand closer cooperation between itself and Kampuchea. It tried to intimidate its neighbor to give in to economic and territorial demands by carrying on a border war. When this tactic failed, Vietnam, with complete Soviet encouragement and backing invaded Kampuchea with its puppet Cambodian and Soviet advisors; the invasion had many similarities to the U.S. invasion of 8 years earlier.
VIETNAM TURNS AGGRESSOR
The Vietnamese are treading in the precarious footsteps of the U.S. and the French before them. They believe they are destined to be masters of an "Indochina Federation," but like other imperialists before them, they are setting themselves up for a fall. They won against the French, the Japanese and the Americans because their people supported and sacrificed for a just war, a war of national liberation to kick out a foreign aggressor. They are now putting themselves in the position of being the aggressor that their own people fought so long and hard to expel.
Moreover, the Vietnamese government has put itself in the position of trading one foreign domination (that of the U.S.) for another (that of the USSR).
We in VVAW waged active struggle against the U.S. involvement in Indochina because the U.S. was wrong in its attempts to rip off the resources and to try and control the destiny of the people of Vietnam. We were right to do this, and we cherish the memory of the friendships we made with the Vietnamese people by opposing our government and whole-heartedly supporting the Vietnamese in their battle for freedom and independence. But we did not give the Vietnamese a blank check for our support back in 1972 when we threw away our medals in Washington. We do not and cannot support their invasion of and aggression against Kampuchea, home of a people whose struggles we also supported and whose friendship we also value highly. We cannot condone trading one master for another which, while it may win temporary advantages for the leaders of a country, can only work to detriment of the people. We cannot let aggression go unanswered.
As we took to the streets to demonstrate against U.S. aggression against Indochina, we have demonstrated against Vietnamese and Soviet aggression against Kampuchea. On January 12th, VVAW participated in demonstrations by hundreds of people in the Bay Area, in Chicago, and in New York City in support of an independent and free Kampuchea, against recognition of the Vietnamese puppet regime in Phnom Penh, and against Vietnamese and Soviet aggression The Vietnamese and Soviets will learn a lesion in Kampuchea, the same lesion that Ho Chi Minh taught: "Nothing is more precious than freedom and independence." Eventually, the wrath of the people of Kampuchea along with the Vietnamese who fought the Americans, will teach this lesion in blood.