M.I.A., Or, Mythmaking in America: How and Why Belief in Five Pows Has Possessed a Nation
Author: Franklin H. Bruce
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication Date:May 2006
Summary: reviewed by MC45 In his Preface to this myth-shattering volume, Bruce Franklin writes: “When I began investigating this belief in live POWs, I intended the results to be only a chapter in a book about how American culture shaped and was reshaped by the Vietnam War. I had little sense of the depth or breadth of the faith, perhaps because it seemed so obviously irrational and related to an issue of such apparently minor significance compared with other effects of the war on both America and the nations of Indochina.”(p. xi) From a chapter on Amerikan culture and the war in Vietnam Franklin’s project grew into a detailed explosion of the manufactured documentation, trumped up charges of barbarism against the Vietnamese, and mass wishful support for the idea of remaining POWs fed by popular culture of the Rambo variety.
MIA or Mythmaking in America is a fast-paced account of the development and perpetuation of the myth that live u.$. soldiers remain as POWs in Vietnam. Throughout, Franklin puts the POW/MIA myth in the context of Amerika’s war against Vietnam. This is not the work of a liberal who argues that the governments of Indochina have done all they can to satisfy the u.$. Franklin consistently argues that many failures of Vietnamese record-keeping (i.e., records on the state of prisoners of war) were a direct result of their country being bombed. It is difficult to retain records and keep prisoners alive when bombs and troops are attacking every day. He also notes repeatedly where Amerikan economic and military interests are served by keeping the POW/MIA myth alive as a lever against the Vietnamese government in negotiations on any topic.
MIM recommends this book highly both for people who are familiar with the war in Vietnam and those who are not. A former anti-war activist who remembers the developing logic of the POW/MIA campaign has told MIM that s/he has never believed in the tens or hundreds of POWs supposedly being held. The logic is simple: why? What could a country already brutalized by the Amerikan military possibly have to gain by hanging on to prisoners-of-war and keeping them secret? For liberals and for others familiar with the war, Mythmaking in America provides the detail to substantiate the apparent logic that the u.$. government has manufactured the POW/MIA myth to serve imperialism. For younger readers who are new to the history of this country’s war against Vietnam, Mythmaking in Amerika is a solid introduction to the war’s major events. Because his subject is the united snakes’ propaganda machine as it developed around the war, Franklin does a better job explaining the reactionary version of the war’s history taught in school or in the movies. Franklin explains how the myth began, when Richard Nixon’s administration collapsed the categories of POW and MIA into one as the war was going badly and protests against the war became larger.
Nixon’s public relations tactics amounted to lying to the families of Amerikan soldiers. Franklin describes how a soldier who is lost in action can only be found to be presumptively dead after “investigation over a lengthy period of time” and “a complex administrative and legal process.”(pp. 16-7) The u.$. government further decided to hold both the Viet Minh and National Liberation Front responsible for a list of individuals who had been lost in the war even if they were known to be dead.
The administration complicated this demand by excluding CIA employees from the list (while reserving the right to demand their return), and reporting all on the list as having been lost in Vietnam (even if they were in Laos, Cambodia, or the South China Sea).(pp. 68-9) The MIA/POW category eventually included more than 1,000 soldiers who were originally designated as Killed in Action/Body not Recovered (KIA/BNR).
This was because in spite of direct military witness accounting that these soldiers had been killed, the military changed their classification using the excuse that if the bodies were not in the care of the government or the families they could not be sure.(pp. 11-13) Franklin writes: “Even without subjective elements coming into play, these rigorous definitions lead unavoidably to creating more MIAs than actually exist.”(p. 17) There are some rational reasons to expand the MIA classification. Some soldiers whose deaths really are unconfirmed will initially be called MIA.
The more difficult it is to find identifiable remains, the longer their MIA status will persist. By turning so many people who were clearly KIA/BNR into MIAs, and the into potential POWs by combining the categories, Nixon’s spin doctors purposely gave false hope to soldiers’ families in the name of creating a reason to stay in this increasingly questionable war. Out of Nixon’s P.R. machine grew a number of families’ and support organizations that were dedicated to the task of spreading a very emotional brand of propaganda about the existence of live POWs.
The “You Are Not Forgotten” slogan we still see on bumper stickers shows how bent this movement was on sustaining the belief that Amerikans in Vietnam are only waiting to be rescued. To “forget” these men has become synonymous with telling these families that their 30 years of waiting for the return of their loved ones has been nothing but a service to the Amerikan government’s desire to keep an enemy in Vietnam. Nixon could never have developed such a fierce following for his war effort through the state alone. The POW/MIA Fact Book, first issued in 1982 by the Reagan Administration,(p. 5) has done much to confuse the issue and the facts. Franklin takes a handful of cases from the factbooks of the 1980s and early 1990s and compares the stories of the same supposed POWs from year to year.
The Fact Books commit such butchery of history as to count one individual of a crew of six as a POW — although his five crew members were openly released to the Amerikan government. The Fact Books of later years have resurrected soldiers and spies who had been reported as dead in years past, without explanation of how the prior reporting was incorrect. Yet another Amerikan soldier who died (and whose death was substantiated in writing by a fellow solder) remained in the Fact Books because the government of Vietnam had not reported on his death to the Amerikan government.(pp. 28-32) Franklin takes time to elaborate the responsibility borne by the Amerikan press and movie industry. He refers to the Pentagon as “using ink as an octopus does, clouding the waters to obscure its own activities.”(p. 88) In this effort, the newspapers were complicit — printing the stories as they came out of the Defense Department rather than doing some basic math to figure out that the day to day reports didn’t add up.
Cataloging the Hollywood movies that provided explicit imagery for the POW/MIA myth, Franklin details historical falsehoods in The Deer Hunter, POW: The Escape, Uncommon Valor, The Rambo Series and many more. He writes that The Deer Hunter took “images of the war that had become deeply embedded in America’s consciousness and transform[ed] them into their opposite.”(p. 133) So a scene that could have been the massacre by Amerikan troops at My Lai features Vietnamese soldiers brutalizing a village and an Amerikan stepping in to stop the bloodshed.
A History of Iraq
Author: Charles Tripp
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication Date:August 2007
To understand Iraq, Charles Tripp’s history is the book to read. Since its first appearance in 2000, it has become a classic in the field of Middle East studies, read and admired by students, soldiers, policymakers and journalists. The book is now updated to include the recent American invasion, the fall and capture of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent descent into civil strife. What is clear is that much that has happened since 2003 was foreshadowed in the account found in this book. Tripp’s thesis is that the history of Iraq throughout the twentieth-century has made it what it is today, but also provides alternative futures.
Unless this is properly understood, many of the themes explored in this book - patron-client relations, organized violence, sectarian, ethnic and tribal difference - will continue to exert a hold over the future of Iraq as they did over its past. Book Description To understand Iraq, Charles Tripp’s history is the book to read. The updated book includes the recent American invasion, the fall of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent descent into civil strife. Tripp argues that the history of Iraq throughout the twentieth century has shaped where it is today.
Conflicting Missions: Havana, Washington and Africa, 1959-1976 (Envisioning Cuba)
Author: Piero Gleijeses
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication Date: February 2003
This superb book is based on research in Cuban, American, Belgian, German and British archives. Piero Gleijeses is an expert on the USA’s role in Latin America. He has written The Dominican crisis, the best account of the US invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965, and Shattered hope, the classic account of the US overthrow of the elected Guatemalan government in 1954.
Gleijeses stresses Cuba’s internationalist role in Africa, from sending teams of doctors to Algeria in 1963, to the 2000 doctors in 21 African countries today. It is a unique example of a country’s selfless aid. By contrast, US and British foreign policy in Africa has been squalid and self-interested. In 1964, in a secret CIA operation, assisted by MI6, the US state armed, organised and transported 1000 mercenaries (mostly South African and Rhodesian) into the Congo. The mercenaries raped, pillaged, tortured and killed the Congolese people. Cuba provided valuable aid to the national resistance. Belgium, Britain, France and the USA all backed Mobutu’s coup there. Henri Spaak, the Belgian Prime Minister, one of the key figures in the founding of the EEC, at US orders allowed Zaire’s government to recruit mercenaries in Belgium, breaking Belgian law.
The USA and South Africa cooperated in arming and training terrorist UNITA forces in Angola in 1975. In October 1975, South African armed forces invaded Angola. The US, British and French governments all pressed the South African government to keep going, to capture Luanda, Angola’s capital. Cuban forces entered Angola in November, and played the decisive role in turning back the invaders - a historic defeat for apartheid, which should never be forgotten. In 1976, Britain’s Labour government aided the recruitment of mercenaries to support UNITA’s efforts to destroy Angola and its newly elected government, allowing 200 of them to leave Britain, many without passports. In 1991, Nelson Mandela visited Cuba and rightly said, “We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations with Africa?”
Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA
Author : Tim Weiner
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Is the Central Intelligence Agency a bulwark of freedom against dangerous foes, or a malevolent conspiracy to spread American imperialism? A little of both, according to this absorbing study, but, the author concludes, it is mainly a reservoir of incompetence and delusions that serves no one’s interests well. Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times correspondent Weiner musters extensive archival research and interviews with top-ranking insiders, including former CIA chiefs Richard Helms and Stansfield Turner, to present the agency’s saga as an exercise in trying to change the world without bothering to understand it. Hypnotized by covert action and pressured by presidents, the CIA, he claims, wasted its resources fomenting coups, assassinations and insurgencies, rigging foreign elections and bribing political leaders, while its rare successes inspired fiascoes like the Bay of Pigs and the Iran-Contra affair. Meanwhile, Weiner contends, its proper function of gathering accurate intelligence languished. With its operations easily penetrated by enemy spies, the CIA was blind to events in adversarial countries like Russia, Cuba and Iraq and tragically wrong about the crucial developments under its purview, from the Iranian revolution and the fall of communism to the absence of Iraqi WMDs. Many of the misadventures Weiner covers, at times sketchily, are familiar, but his comprehensive survey brings out the persistent problems that plague the agency. The result is a credible and damning indictment of American intelligence policy.
From Bookmarks Magazine
Tim Weiner, multiple Pulitzer Prize winner, longtime New York Times reporter, and the author of Betrayal: The Story of Aldrich Ames, American Spy (1995) and Blank Check: The Pentagon’s Black Budget (1991) hits his marks in Legacy of Ashes. Drawing on more than 50,000 documents and 300 on-the-record interviews with key players (10 of them former directors of the agency; all of the book’s many notes and quotations are attributed), Weiner treats his subject with a ruthless, journalistic eye, skewering Republican and Democratic administrations alike for the CIA’s slide into mediocrity. One critic finds a weakness in Weiner’s exuberant dismantling of the old guard at the expense of more contemporary analysis. Still, this is an important book that will capture the attention of anyone interested in the CIA’s checkered history.
Hardcover: 702 pages
Publisher: Doubleday; 1St Edition edition (June 28, 2007)
Author : Philip Jones Griffiths
Publisher: Phaidon Press (September 25, 2001)
‘Few photo books can claim the social and historic importance of Vietnan Inc.’ (Bookforum) ‘The greatest description of war since Goya”, raved Henri Cartier-Bresson… Thirty years on, Vietnam Inc. is still a classic… essential to anyone interested in Vietnam’s history, America, photography or war.’ (Far Eastern Economic Review) —This text refers to the Paperback edition.
First published in 1971, Vietnam Inc. was crucial in changing public attitudes in the United States, turning the tide of opinion and ultimately helping to put an end to the Vietnam War. Philip Jones Griffiths’ classic account of the war was the outcome of three years’ reporting and is one of the most detailed surveys of any conflict. Showing us the true horrors of the war as well as a study of Vietnamese rural life, the author creates a compelling argument against the de-humanizing power of the modern war machine and American imperialism. Rare and highly sought-after, the book has become one of the enduring classics of photo-journalism. It is now available in this new edition a careful recreation of the original with Philip Jones Griffiths’ personal layouts and commentaries. A new introduction by US linguist and political critic Noam Chomsky discusses the book’s impact in changing public opinion.
Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Rendition and Torture Program
Author: Stephen Grey
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 2007
On June 10th, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that the US had captured a known terrorist who was exploring a plan to explode a “dirty bomb” on American soil. That alleged terrorist was José Padilla who was finally charged in 2005 with conspiracy to murder. What Ashcroft didn’t talk about was how information against him was obtained – by the relentless torture of one man— Binyam Mohamed, in the name of the United States. Arrested at Karachi Airport before Padilla’s arrest on April 10, 2002, Mohamed was put on a luxury executive jet and flown to an interrogation center in Morocco. For over 18 months, he was subjected to one torture after another: Beating followed beating and, then, his guards produced razor blades and began to split the skin all over his body, including on his genitals. Since 1997, hundreds of people, many of whom have no ties to terrorist organizations, have been abducted from foreign airports or street corners on suspicions based at times on the flimsiest of evidence courtesy of the United States Central Intelligence Agency.
In Ghost Plane, Stephen Grey tells the true story of the CIA’s torture program known by the euphemism “extraordinary rendition” and the airplanes that make the program run. Begun during the Clinton administration, but taking a decidedly more voracious turn after 9/11, the rendition system has seen the transfer of more than 1000 prisoners into jails stretching from Guantanamo to Syria, from Kabul to Bangkok and beyond. Grey had access to the thousands of CIA flight records and has interviewed dozens of sources from the most senior levels of the National Security Council to the CIA. In Ghost Plane, he paints a disturbing picture of the War on Terror that reaches to the highest levels of power in Washington, D.C. and exposes the extreme ethical corruption at the heart of this US government program, a program finally acknowledged by President George Bush in September 2006, undertaken in the name of the citizens of the United States..
For Reasons of State
Author(s): Noam Chomsky, Arundhati Roy
Publisher: New Press, The
Publication Date: May 2003
Summary: Chomsky’s major works now reissued by The New Press.An essential record of Chomsky’s political and social thought as it was sharpened during the upheavals in domestic and international affairs of the early 1970s, For Reasons of State includes articles on the war in Vietnam and the “wider war” in Laos and Cambodia, an extensive dissection of the Pentagon Papers, reflections on the role of force in international affairs, essays on civil disobedience and the use of the university, and a now-classic introduction to anarchism. These essays reveal very different facets of Chomsky’s power as a thinker, from his uncanny ability to join abstract philosophical considerations with the concrete political realities of his time, to his singular capacity to mount withering, fact-based critiques of American foreign policy. Following the recent release of American Power and the New Mandarins, For Reasons of State is a major addition to the intellectual history of the Vietnam era.
Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (South End Press Classics)
Author(s): Noam Chomsky
Publisher: South End Press
Publication Date:October 1999
Amazon.co.uk Review: First published in 1983, Fateful Triangle is a comprehensive indictment of what Noam Chomsky calls the “disgraceful and extremely dangerous” policy the United States has enacted towards Israel, particularly with regard to Israel’s actions with regard to the Palestinians. Supporters of Israel must wilfully overlook or deny that nation’s long history of human rights violations and military aggression, Chomsky writes, and they will continue to do so as long as Israel is strategically useful towards “the US aim of eliminating possible threats, largely indigenous, to American domination of the Middle East region”. In the course of elaborating his argument, Chomsky cuts through the myths and distortions that appear in mainstream media accounts, the damning facts that he so systematically assembles portray a government more brutally and overtly racist, perhaps, than even apartheid-era South Africa. Three new chapters, drawing upon material from Z magazine and other publications, incorporate such developments as the Palestinian uprising, Israel’s war on Lebanon, and the ongoing “peace process”.
Author(s): Edward L. Bernays
Publisher: Ig Publishing
Publication Date:September 2004
With politics taking centre stage due to the US presidential election, the time is perfect for a reprint of this classic work from Edward Bernays, the father of public relations and political spin and the man who designed the ad campaign that got the United States involved in World War I. Written in 1928, this was the first book to discuss the manipulation of the masses and democracy by government spin and propaganda.