Consumerism/Frankfurters and Moby Grape Juice

Jose G. Perez jgperez at
Mon Nov 29 11:14:34 MST 1999

>>Agreed the social costs to keeping the bombs falling and the troops
killing and dying got to be too much but if you look, for example at Paul
Joseph's book on the war in the context of neo-Marxist theories of the state
which was put out by South End Press back in the early 80's, you'll see that
intra-elite divisions in the ruling class played a role too. The ferment
from below and the social and economic factors that were exploding the
domestic set-to were ruffling the feathers of those that attempt to contain
the contradictions of the system that they attempt to control.<<

Sure the ruling class was divided but it was divided for a reason. A lot of
it had to be with the burgeoning antiwar movement  and the growing militancy
of the black population. But BEYOND ALL THAT was a factor the ruling class
could not ignore.

The U.S. army had been BROKEN. It was DEFEATED. By 1971, the U.S. army in
Vietnam was no longer an effective fighting force.

The army, of course, was disproportionately working-class, Black and
Hispanic. But even within that framework, the actual infantry troops in
Vietnam were largely draftees and much more working class, Black and
Hispanic than the army as a whole. Combat units were typically one-fourth to
one-half Black and Hispanic.

These were young workers in uniform, not professional soldiers, and they
just wanted to survive their 2-year period of service. Tours of duty in
Vietnam were one year. That means that by 1970, you had thousands of Blacks
who had lived through and in many cases participated in the massive wave of
rebellions that followed Dr. King's assassination in April 1968. Nixon had
been elected that November with the promise that he had a "secret plan" to
end the war. In reality, he was trying to buy time for military victory. In
1969 he announced the "Vietnamization" of the war, i.e., gradually turning
over ground fighting to the ARVN (the puppet regime army). The truth is that
he intensified the war and broadened it, He resumed bombing of North
Vietnam, and greatly intensified it. He invaded Cambodia (1970) and Laos
(1971). The (official) lying propaganda about the U.S. wanting to disengage,
however, only contributed to the growing collapse of fighting morale. If
we're going to pull out anyways, why take any unnecessary risks?

Prior to Nixon, there had been many cases, though few reported in the press,
of units refusing to fight. After he came president, the Vietnamese
patriotic forces announced a policy that they would not attack American
units that did not attack them, and the combats dropped off dramatically.
American units would refuse to move out when commanded, or go somewhere
else, shoot their guns in the air, invent a body count and come back to tell
the lifer officers some cock-and-bull story about a succesful engagement.
Soon the "Search and Destroy" missions came to be known as "Search and
Evade" missions. A company on patrol would spend most of the day smoking
marihuana in an open field with a big bonfire to give away their position.
That way they could make sure NOT to have an accidental run in with a
patrolling Vietnamese unit. Officers and non coms that didn't like it would
be "fragged" with a grenade rolled under their bunk while they slept, or
shot during operations. Many of these were reported as deaths due to enemy
action, or as accidental "friendly fire" causalties but both sides -- the
"grunts" and the "lifers," knew better.

By June 1971, Marine Corps historian Col. Robert D. Heinl was writing in the
Armed Forces Journal:

"The morale, discipline and battle-worthiness of the U.S. Armed Forces are,
with a few salient exceptions, lower and worse than at any time in this
century and possible in the history of the United States."

The U.S. army in Vietnam, he said, was "approaching collapse, with
individual units avoiding or having refused combat, murdering their officers
and non-commissioned officers, drug ridden and dispireted when not near

    He said the only parallels in this centuries were mutinies in the French
army in 1917 and the collapse of the tsarist army in 1916-17. He also
reported that in one division (the Americal) fraggings in early 1971 were
running at one a week and that the troops cheered when hearing of officers
that had been killed.

In 1970 and especially 1971, Nixon finally did implement Vietnamization, but
it was because he had no choice. Any incident might have triggered a
wholesale rising of the GI's against the army, a mutiny that would have had
the sympathy of the big majority of the American people and therefore might
have triggered an upsurge of unprecedented proportions in the Unitd States.

Among the first ones to be pulled out were the marines, to try to salvage
them from the shipwreck. Their strength was cut back to permit a weeding out
of everyone but the gung ho "lifers." As the shock troops for interventions
abroad, this was the most important ground force to preserve. Among the
later withdrawals was the fragging-a-week Americal division. It was
unsalvageable, and was simply disbanded.

So deep and powerful was the lesson drawn by the ruling class that it has
never again committed US ground forces for extended combat operations, even
when the military situation on the ground called for them, such as in



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