Ngo Vinh Long, Professor of History, University of Maine; Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor, MIT
Description: In this bitter commemoration of the end of the Vietnam War, the speakers dispel any comforting notion that Americans have absorbed lessons from that bloody time, much less sought the truth. Ngo Vinh Long describes how the United States policy of pacification, starting in the early '50s, involved "incredible assassinations of people at the local level." The U.S. blocked free elections, and helped the Saigon regime annihilate not just Communists, but eventually hundreds of thousands of peasants in the south who took up arms to defend themselves. Long has intimate knowledge. As a teenager, he met some U.S. generals at a club in Saigon. Seeking to travel around his country, Long agreed to make maps of villages for the U.S. military's anti-malarial disease program, which he quickly learned was a cover for rooting out suspected subversives. "When I protested to higher ups, 'You're making people suffer and producing more enemies, more Communists', I was told, 'This is how we defeated them in Malaysia and the Philippines.' It turned out not to be the case."
Noam Chomsky expands on this grim chronicle, characterizing the slaughter of the civilian population of the south "as one of the worst, if not the worst, war crime of the post-Second World War era." He says the United States' "basic war aim was to destroy the country," out of concern that an independent Vietnam "would undertake a course of development that others might want to follow it was a virus that might infect others." Chomsky scoffs at the view, circulated at least among Iraq-focused media, that the public has a Vietnam fixation. "There's no concern, let alone obsession, about what actually happened in Vietnam," says Chomsky. "Unless people like us become capable of looking in the mirror honestly, then biology's only experiment with higher intelligence is likely to prove quite brief."
Host(s): Dean for Student Life, Technology and Culture Forum
MIT World -- special events and lectures