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Who is responsible for the mess in Iraq today?

Who isn't responsible for Iraq? Honestly, this is a good question.For those of us in the West the answer is pretty simple, "Let's just stay out and let them handle themselves while we take care of the new season of Orange is the New Black." Many quickly, far too quickly, just dismiss the situation as Bush's Folly, though few put any real thought into understanding exactly what is going on well. Still many more just say, "They've been killing each other like that for thousands of years." Well, I am not going to touch that, but at least answering back some of the big points of the last twenty years could be worth some time.The United StatesSince I was a Marine who was there in 2005 and 2007, I feel uniquely qualified to go ahead and be the guy who says it. This one is obvious and to ignore it is tantamount to a complete denial of some very key points in history. Honestly, if I didn't start off with this, most of you would never have read it. The point is simple and undeniable, Iraq would not be like it is today if the American led Coalition had not gone into the country in 2003.This, of course, is true on a factual basis. Most likely Saddam would now be a very old man and perhaps either of his sons Qusay or Uday would be in charge. We remember Uday right? His career of rape, torture and murder was so bad they made a movie about his body double called The Devil's Double. Even though daddy was bad enough by wiping out entire cities of Kurdish citizens with chemical based weapons of mass destruction, Uday would probably be putting Kim Jong Il to shame, by now.But I am deviating. Back to America the guilty. America was responsible for destroying the central working government of the Nation of Iraq. Perhaps today a maniacal tyrant would be in charge, but they would be getting a nice dose of state owned media (Uday, after all, was in direct ownership of the media back in 2003.) While the first three months of Iraq represented the most astounding feat of military superiority and execution, what followed was blunder after blunder of political ineptitude. What follows is an excerpt from my answer to War in Iraq (2003-11): With the benefit of hindsight, should America have invaded Iraq in 2003?:... Bremer was the American administrator of Iraq installed shortly after the war. This guy was really under-qualified for the role of governor of a combat zone. His resume is from business and while he was a real "go-getter" he never had any experience with international affairs and didn't even bother to take any Arabic-speaking aids with him. Among his few policies were two that had completely devastating consequences to the success of the war effort. The first, dubbed de-Ba'athification, was an order to fire everyone in the government who was in the Ba'ath party. 'They're the bad guys, right?' you might say, but to put a comparison to this it would be like if Obama became President and fired everyone in the government who was Republican. The "bad guy" chief officers are gone, but so are a great deal of the military, police, doctors, teachers, social workers, engineers and sanitation staff. Most of the most important jobs were now empty of the talent necessary to run them. Idiot. Second was his order to disband the entire Iraqi military. As I mentioned before, a large military is necessary to secure the population after a governmental collapse. So let's just get rid of the most easily accessible military force that we could use for such a policing action. Idiot.L. Paul Bremer was the fat kid in the candy store whose mother told him, "You deserve this, Honey." He was completely irresponsible with his decision making, applying Cold War anti-communist tactics to the international Ba'ath Party believing the US military could somehow overcome every one of his ridiculous policies shortcomings with omnipotent force.What happened next was a combination of factors. A lot of people were pissed. They had been disenfranchised and without jobs. The infrastructure was collapsing by the day and there was really no hope. I'd be pissed too. This was the start of a very large chain reaction that would have many, many problems to deal with down the line.That chain ended with the complete pull-out of American forces. I would like to say that we are to blame for that too, but really I don't think that is completely fair to say. Sure, some might say they did a great thing by getting out of the country, though I don't think they are bragging as much now, but really, we were forced out. I really don't know why the Obama administration took credit for what was essentially a choice made by the people of Iraq in the only successful democratic choice they ever came together to make, but I suppose that doesn't matter.The truth of the matter is that the coalition did what it did and then had to leave, leaving a massive power vacuum in the country, particularly in Al Anbar. That sort of brings us to today.Saddam HusseinOh, that's right. Forgot about that a-hole. Can't really talk about today without talking about him. It seems that we would be remiss if we just said, "Blame 'Merca!" without first acknowledging what is still the worst thing to happen to Iraq since the Mongols. So let's try and get a grip on how bad this guy was.Reprisal Against Dujail - ...Approximately 1,500 other townspeople, including children, were rounded up and taken to prison, where many were tortured. After a year or more in prison, many were exiled to a southern desert camp. The town itself was destroyed; houses were bulldozed and orchards were demolished.Anfal Campaign - ...Hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled the area, yet it is estimated that up to 182,000 were killed during the Anfal campaign. Many people consider the Anfal campaign an attempt at genocide.Chemical Weapons Against Kurds - Beginning in the morning on March 16, 1988 and continuing all night, the Iraqis rained down volley after volley of bombs filled with a deadly mixture of mustard gas and nerve agents on Halabja. Immediate effects of the chemicals included blindness, vomiting, blisters, convulsions, and asphyxiation. Approximately 5,000 women, men, and children died within days of the attacks.Invasion of Kuwait - On August 2, 1990, Iraqi troops invaded the country of Kuwait. The invasion was induced by oil and a large war debt that Iraq owed Kuwait. The six-week, Persian Gulf War pushed Iraqi troops out of Kuwait in 1991. As the Iraqi troops retreated, they were ordered to light oil wells on fire. Over 700 oil wells were lit, burning over one billion barrels of oil and releasing dangerous pollutants into the air. Oil pipelines were also opened, releasing 10 million barrels of oil into the Gulf and tainting many water sources. The fires and the oil spill created a huge environmental disaster.Shiite Uprising & the Marsh Arabs - As supposed punishment for supporting the Shiite rebellion in 1991, Saddam Hussein's regime killed thousands of Marsh Arabs, bulldozed their villages, and systematically ruined their way of life. The Marsh Arabs had lived for thousands of years in the marshlands located in southern Iraq until Iraq built a network of canals, dykes, and dams to divert water away from the marshes. The Marsh Arabs were forced to flee the area, their way of life decimated.Yeah, that's right. Presumedly, this guy would still be in charge. We are talking about a man who openly idolized the former Soviet premier Joseph Stalin. He was guilty of political oppression, attempts of ethnic cleansing and religious persecution. Under his reign, as many as 800,000 Iraqis may have lost their lives. If you include all sources of violence during the Iraq War, which means the Americans, Iraqi police and military, insurgency and anyone else with an ax to grind, Saddam still outpaced the killing of his own people by a margin of more than two to one. Seriously, at the rate Iraqis died in the nine years of the War in Iraq more than twice as many people would have to die to match the annual killing of Saddam during his twenty three years in office.And now for why Iraq is his fault. Not only did he completely disenfranchise entire populations that he didn't attempt to wipe off the map, but he fractured a country which was more than ready to erupt upon itself at the first chance. He marginalized the Shia Arab majority while leading genocidal campaigns against the Kurdish people. He created major divisions while implementing minority rule. I've never seen that situation end well once the word "democracy" started getting whispered.Not only this, but he built up massive facilities for the purpose of producing chemical based weapons of mass destruction. I know, I can already hear all the WMD deniers out there skipping to my comments section for a rage rant now. The point here is that a weapon of mass destruction doesn't always involve a mushroom cloud. Only in Cold War movies are nukes the only type of WMD in existence. A weapon which can be packed into a barrel and pushed out of the back of a helicopter to kill an entire village in a vomiting, seizing fit is, in fact, a WMD.These are exactly the types of weapons we said should be outlawed when Assad was using them in Syria against, ironically, the fanatical jihadists now taking over Iraq. In an even more ironic twist, Saddam's old chemical weapons manufacturing facilities were just taken over after a decade of disuse by none other than the nation of terrorists, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL. Fantastic! Thanks Saddam, your contributions to the human race are noted.Iraqi Ba'ath PartyThe Ba'ath Party is a deeply hidden element of the Iraqi landscape to Westerners who don't understand it for the important force for destabilization and general horribleness throughout the region going back 70 years that it was.The Ba'ath Party began as an Arab answer to European ethnic nationalist movements and also a middle eastern brand of European socialist political structures. They sought to join the Arab world as a single nation following a secular, socialist model where Arab supremacy ruled. To be completely clear, the comparisons to the Nazis are staggering and a bit terrifying, considering the party first came together in 1946, only a few years after defeat of the Hitler's Third Reich. Whatever, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.While beginning innocently enough, baring questionable influences on the main ideologues of Ba'athism, by the 60's the Ba'ath Party had gone full on crazy. By the time of Saddam, the party was responsible for not one, but several coups throughout the country, even against itself. One of these coups involved the attempted assassination plot of the President of Iraq led by none other than Saddam Hussein himself. The larger Ba'ath Party eventually broke into variants in Syria (where it is still the ruling party under Assad) and Iraq. Each party took on their own Orwellian spin on what was, on their best day, an Arab supremacist movement. The Iraqi Ba'ath party leadership instituted an "Iraqi First" policy, whereby it basically said that all Arabs are more important than everyone else, but Iraqi Arabs are even better, pushing their Syrian and other allies aside. It also broke from other party traditions by aligning with various other groups such as the Iraqi Communist Party and eventually Sunni Muslims.When the party officially took power, it replaced all other schools of thought and instituted the despotic regime previously mentioned. Saddam brought the closest thing to stability the region had by channeling funds and resources toward internal security and repressing various groups that would try to rise up politically. Security was also maintained by rewarding various leadership roles in alignment with factional loyalties, explaining why eventually the majority of key government positions were run by Sunni, in spite of it making up only a fifth of the population. This regime required, however, the constant need for military action against first Iran and then later Kuwait, to justify its military strength, which quite honestly, may have just been kept around to subjugate its own people.In 2003, the Iraqi Ba'ath Party was disbanded by the Americans during the beginning of the Iraq War and all Ba'ath party members were removed from office. This was viewed as a beautiful idea on paper, since basically they were modern day Arab Nazis ruled by a guy who idolized Stalin and maintained their power through little more than political corruption, military force, and subjugation. It had severe repercussions in the form of unintended consequences though, when it quickly became apparent just how far reaching the Iraqi Ba'ath Party was when not only key government offices went vacant, but also police officials, most of the leadership of the military and even many of the few remaining civilian engineers, doctors, and teachers. You simply had to be of the party to get anywhere in life, but following Deba'athification, the system broke to an almost irreparable point. Since then, many of the Iraqi Ba'athist, mostly those prior military with no jobs and who knew where all the guns and bombs were hidden, joined the insurgency as legitimate warfighters hoping to be part of the new order once the coalition forces went home. Like I said, it was a good idea on paper.The legacy of the Ba'ath party in Iraq is one of extreme racism and Arab supremacy. It made connections with many Sunni Arabs of similar beliefs, who now carry on their legacy. Furthermore, it empowered psychopaths as a matter of policy and left a political vacuum in the nation once its flame was was rightfully snuffed. The problem was, having endured forty years of political repression and an education system not favorable to ideas like free thinking, there were no other strong and non-crazy parties left. This left the country for years without any good choices for leaders and a fuming undercurrent of racial hate and political resentment.Islamic FundamentalismIs such an answer complete without talking about the three hundred pound gorilla in the room?There is a strain of the religion that finds itself collecting a great deal of support among a lot of really crazy scary people. It pushes for a return to a medieval style of Islamic government theocracies where Islam is the chief religion. Christians and Jews have it better off than most by just paying hefty taxes for their faith, never being allowed to worship openly nor fix their places of worship should they fall into disrepair, ever, but that is far better than people who don't believe in the God of Abraham. All the rest are essentially put to death by beheading.In fact, most problems seem to be handled with beheading. It's kind of the thing to do, as I understand. If not beheading then stoning, forced amputations, female mutilation, honor killings, or, what is growing more and more popular, mass graves riddled with AK-47 fire. Honestly, in Iraq right now, the death by violent acts has skyrocketed to a conservative reporting of at least three thousand in the last month. This is due mostly to the growth of one ISIL, previously mentioned, taking over the former Al Anbar province and much of northern Iraq. They are essentially driven by the dream of creating a newly minted Islamic state, which they've done a pretty good job of so far, where they can literally force their beliefs on anyone they can subjugate.While in Iraq I knew a man who served as one of our translators. He summed up his region's problems like this:"They aren't even practicing Islam! They just go out into the desert and recruit a bunch of ignorant goat farmers with all sorts of promises and then they become terrorists. "The real danger behind the Jihadists is that no one is more uncompromising. There is an infinite supply of people who are dumb enough to join a fight for a religion they don't truly understand. All you need is a bona fide religious leader to bless the action. There you have it. You have invoked the spirit of Heaven to sanctify a person's belief that what they are doing is righteous. Now you run into the fact that many of these people are absolutely loyal to an unquestionable hierarchy. They will literally be able to follow someone's order to the death because, hey, that is when they get to cash in the big reward. At least the West has to have a justifiable reason and risk analysis when putting its people in danger, but not a fundamentalist. Everything you thought was rational goes out the door for these people.So you have God basically saying that anything you do is OK and to "make a deal" with the democratic government next door is sacrilege. Any crime isn't really a crime because it furthers your goals, which your perverted idea of God is cool with, and finally even if you die it's OK, so long as you take a couple of others with you.This would be considered bad enough if it wasn't for the fact that now, after thirteen years of fighting terrorism, there is now a whole country of them that essentially means we lost the war. Where they are going to go from there, who can tell? All I know is that no righteous God could be happy with what is being done over there in His name.The Islamic State of Iraq and the LevantIf this question is saying, "Who is responsible for what Iraq is going through right now, June 2014?" these are the guys you are looking for.ISIL is an unrecognized state and active jihadist militant group in Iraq and Syria. In its self-proclaimed status as an independent state, it claims the territory of Iraq and Syria, with implied future claims intended over more of the Levant, including Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus, and Southern Turkey.The group in its original form was composed of and supported by a variety of insurgent groups, including its predecessor organizations, the Mujahideen Shura Council, the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the insurgent groups Jaysh al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah and Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, and a number of other Iraqi groups that profess Sunni Islam.ISIL is renowned for its harsh interpretation of Islam and brutal violence, which is directed particularly against Shia muslims. It has at least 4,000 fighters in its ranks who, in addition to attacks on government and military targets, have claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of civilians. ISIS had close links with al-Qaeda until 2014, but in February of that year al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, declaring that it was "too extreme".ISIL's original aim was to establish a caliphate in the Sunni-majority regions of Iraq. This later expanded to include controlling Sunni-majority areas of Syria as a result of ISIS's participation in the Syrian Civil War and the spillover from the Syrian Civil War.Al-Qaeda said they are "too extreme"? Wow, this world is going to hell in a handbasket. Essentially, ISIL has created a medieval nation state that is gobbling up chunks of Northwest Iraq along with sizeable portions of Syria, claimed during the war with Assad. This region includes many bases built up by the United States Marines during their occupation. They have already secured numerous military installations and cities in Al Anbar and Nineveh provinces and along the Tigris and Euphrates, Saddam Hussein's largest chemical weapons manufacturing facility, and the nation's largest oil refinery. They also captured, last week, Iraq's second largest city, Mosul, along with looting its central bank for about USD $450,000,000. Some estimates by Economist state that pseudo-state is valued at over $2 billion USD in assets. For perspective, Al-Qaeda operated on about $30 million prior to 2001. Now we have what seems to be an entire country of murder hungry jihadists and terrorists and no one gives a damn.I wonder what will happen twenty years from now.Neoconservative IdeologyI know I already said the US, but it really breaks up into parts. One of those parts is the mentality of Neoconcervative Republicans at the time of 2003. I'm not one of those people who is going to say that a regime that became the most powerful alliance in the most powerful nation on Earth is stupid, but on the best day, they seem to have been the wrong people to solve this problem. Most of the time, I vote red myself, but to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. What I wonder is if the ruling regime of the Republican party after a few decades of success got a bit too over zealous. What needs to be considered is this, they were fine, but exactly wrong for this situation.Neoconservatives promote an interventionist foreign policy to promote democracy and defend Israel. They were the strongest supporters of the Iraq War in 2002-11; many of these 'neocons' were originally considered to be liberals or were affiliated with the U.S. Democratic Party in earlier days. Neoconservatives have been credited with importing into the Republican party a more active international policy. Neoconservatives are willing to act unilaterally when they believe it serves a moral position to do so, such as the spread of democracy.Neoconsertivism was considered by many a branch of more liberal idealists who broke off and joined in with the Republican party. From there the movement evolved to have a belief that it was necessary for the reigning hegemony to exert direct influence in the form of direct military maneuvering or other "hard diplomacy" initiatives in the name of preserving peace. You can see this in the long going growth of American military bases abroad to keep various regions from erupting and secure trade lines.One thing to remember though, is that in November 2000, the big thing to talk about was taxes and education. A regime that was elected to try to help the economy continue to grow in the wake of a terrifying dot com bubble and fix a declining education situation was suddenly then presented with the worst shock to the world in fifty years. I'm just sayin', that's a lot to deal with.They then sent in almost enough people to get the job done in Afghanistan, pretty much wiping out the troops present, but failing to stem the tide of fresh recruits from elsewhere (Pakistan). That was somewhat, sorta considered a success when the focus turned to Iraq. There was a lot going wrong there, including the presence of Al-Qaeda camps and recruiting. A closer look would have shown that that sort of thing existed in many places besides just Iraq. Yemen, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, for example, would be places on that list. Following the rush of support from 9/11 I could see the case being made that it was a rational choice to also clear up that snake pit that was Iraq before us. You guys remember Iraq in 2000? We said it in the same sentences with Cuba and North Korea.Still, overcome with a want to invade Iraq to solve all the problems of Iraq was probably a dumb idea. The fact that it was poorly executed on an epic scale didn't help either. Trying to be too cheap and too efficient while basically revolving your whole strategy on the Iraqi people getting on board because it was the obvious choice was just hubris.AmericansLet's ask a gut check question. Were you really watching the news for the last thirteen years? Let's check that one. Do you not know why the Taliban has not been mentioned throughout this entire post? No, not really sure? How about this... What is "twirking?" Yeah, you haven't been paying attention to the real news.I remember a saying a Sergeant I had back in 2007 told me once. We were talking about the war, a thing we often did, being that we were active players in it. He said that America isn't at war. The Marines were at war. Americans are at the mall.It was true. Think about it. How has the daily lives of anyone been changed in the last decade? Was anyone asked to donate or buy war bonds? Were there any new taxes levied to pay for it? Did you have to ration anything? Were you even asked to miss one single episode of "The Voice" in all that time? Tougher question: Do you know anyone who served? One thing I noticed when I suddenly got to take part in a game involving much more wealthy players than I was used to, was the fact that none of the wealthy and connected knew anybody who served in the military. I was like a magical unicorn or something that they all assumed had magical powers. That means you're disconnected people. So I have to ask, did we, as Americans, have any sort of real role in the fight?No. We griped. It's what we do. We shop and we gripe. We are awesome at deducing problems, but it's usually up to someone else to fix them, and Iraq was full of problems for us to gripe about. The dead soldiers and Marines were used by one party to show how bad the war was, right up until the party lines switched and the same arguments were made again. My question though, how many of you who are reading this actually ever met a person who died in Iraq? Yes, genius, I mean that you knew them before they were killed. How many did you shake hands with for any reason? Of course I knew a few, but the one that hurt the most was the guy who played football right next me for years in High School. Of course I went to a poor rural high school, which, statistically speaking explains why I knew him and you didn't. Still, did you know anyone? I'm sorry if you did, but the point is that so very many of the people who gripe about the war use their loss to prove an agenda, when in reality, they probably wouldn't be seen with such types.And that is the problem, the war really didn't mean anything over here except talking points and agenda pieces. No one actually cared. The moment that the guy you wanted was in office, it's like no one cared at all.But why is it that this problem is the fault of Americans? Well democracy is a beautiful thing. Everyone gets exactly the government they deserve. All the choices related to America or in her name, they're all our fault. It was either our apathy or incompetence that caused the bad decisions we now point our all knowing fingers at. Awesome. Enjoy your pretzel the next time you go to the mall. Sorry for being a downer.The United NationsSo apparently the UN Secretary General sorta', kinda' said that he believed the invasion of Iraq was an illegal action. That's nice. I suppose that explains why the UN never sent in security forces to help stabilize the nation. Sort of a huge way of saying, "Your mess, you clean it up." I'm just sayin' that it would have sure prevented a lot of needless death if the world community didn't just sit and watch it happening while sanctimoniously pointing the guilty finger at the US and UK.And what is this about the war being illegal? Apparently a full eighteen months after the war started, it was decided that it was illegal. I'm serious, the SECGEN of the UN didn't make his "Illegal" statement until September of 2004. The invasion was in March of 2003. What took so damn long to figure this out? It's just me, but if I rob a bank it doesn't take the police a year and a half to determine that it was illegal. Secondly, it doesn't explain why at least five resolutions calling for "immediate actions" were voted on and passed by the UN Security Council in the months leading up to Iraq, followed by silence and vetod actions when actual actions were made . What seems to be the case is that the UN sat around, talked, talked, talked, a war happened, they talked, talked, talked, talked, the war isn't going so well, talked, talked, talked, "This wasn't legal."If anything, it plays out as if the UN was simply trying to exonerate themselves from the center of the debate in which their absence was blatantly obvious to those of us who were there. Basically, the whole event showed the UN's inefficacy and unwillingness to act when action was necessary, whether it was before the war or after, when intervention by more than just the Americans and UK was needed. List off all the international legal justifications you like. The world's only truly international peacekeeping force was completely absent from the most dangerous war zone of a decade, and by proxy, the international population proved to be nothing more that an apathetic, self-righteousness, collective of hypocrites. No offense, but many citizens of Earth simply patted themselves on the back for loving peace over martinis while sitting back and looking the other way as Iraq burned. It seemed more important to be right than it did to actually help Iraq.So bravo UN. The people of Iraq are in your debt for... absolutely nothing.The IraqiYeah, the people of Iraq have a huge role in their own self-collapse. I mean you were basically handed a country with only one string attached; No Religious State! Whatever your belief in why we went to Iraq, one of the stated goals was to bring democracy to the country. What is the first thing they manage to do after ten years of democracy? Kick out the one source of stability they had.Right now I am only speaking from experience with the people there. I doubt you will find this in print in many places. I am just saying what I saw. There was no passion whatsoever in fixing the problems themselves. When dealing with training up the Iraqi Defense Forces, I was shocked at the poor training and discipline standards they upheld upon themselves.I've heard that we are to blame for that too on a cultural level. Apparently, in some parts of the world, if you take over an area, you are responsible for them, all-in-all, from that day on. Wait, we didn't sign on for that. Still, there were many Iraqi who acted as if it was our responsibility for providing them with every measure of luxury and freedom that they deserved.Meanwhile I really didn't see anyone pushing down the door to help. I mean in twenty three years, hundreds of thousands had been killed and no one really seemed to care. The moment we arrived the whole place seemed to erupt into anarchy where even basic civility couldn't be expected upon by the basic population. Within days museums were looted, homes and businesses were robbed and I guess the Americans are to blame for that. I mean, which was worse for the Iraqi, the Americans or themselves?Add to this that in the years that followed, no strong leadership formed, besides of course fanatical Sunni clerics. There was no real effort to band together to fight the insurgency, it was just something no one was willing to do. Rebuilding after a terrorist blew up a building? Not really a major priority. It blew my mind. I don't know why. It just didn't seem like any of them really had hope of making anything worthwhile as a home. And you also want to know a nasty fact, most everyone killed in Iraq was not from American "collateral damage" as many seem to think. Even the popular site Iraq Body Count shows very blatantly that the vast majority of those killed were done so by other Iraqi insurgents. Consider events like Yazidi bombings, the deadliest event of the war. More than 700 people were killed in a day by suicide bombings. It was madness and it was the Iraqi attacking each other. Honestly, the worst thing in the world could have happened and the Iraqi wouldn't get mad at the insurgents. No one could find them. It was the Americans fault. The Americans would rebuild the hospital/school/store/ext and then someone would blow it up again... still America's fault.It is like they had no ownership of the country. Perhaps that is why you can't just hand a country to people. I just don't know if they want to rule themselves. You look back at history, they haven't really had that much power to choose their own destiny. I mean it took nine years for them to make a government that they halfway believed in enough to say to the Americans, "We got this, you should go." What followed? Less than one month later, Al Anbar, which was previous kept under control by only the United States Marines began being gobbled up by insurgency forces only surviving by hiding out in places like Fallujah and Ramadi. Within a year, a new nation of psychopathic terrorists had just popped out of nowhere. Now, all of Northwestern Iraq has basically eroded as its military retreated to Baghdad for fear of annihilation.This brings us to a lot of the turmoil happening within Baghdad. As it stands currently, the guy in charge Nouri al-Maliki is facing a lot of international heat. He took office in 2006, which for those of you who don't know, means that he was there, in charge, during the most violent time in the country's recent history, namely the years from 2006 to 2008. He has been in charge ever since, for better or worse. Some of the worse that is involved in that is that his regime, comprised mostly of Arab Shiites, is turning the tables on the Sunni. They spent the last several years justifying their horrible treatment under Saddam with repression of their own in the parliamentary sense of the word. The Kurds were also given less political strength than was rationally justifiable and you can sort of see how it was a perfect storm to see what would eventually manifest itself in June of 2014. Now Maliki is being asked by many to step down and for his successor to lead a more unitarian Iraq, though I really don't know if that would be too little, too late by now.Now the Iraqi are responsible for it. I'm hopeful that this whole event will at least solidify the people there and embrace them with some sense of, "Oh wait. I like voting... and my head," and that they are able to come together to do something great. At least it would be nice if they are able to do something that ensures some level of peace in the region for the foreseeable future.All I can say is that, to say that the Iraqi are innocent bystanders in all this is incorrect. If anything, they are proving to be apathetic to the point of entrusting their destiny to fate, but the longer they go in doing little to nothing to better their own situation, the more their fate is going to be owed to no one but them. As I said before democracy is a beautiful thing because people get exactly the government they deserve.The KurdsHonestly, I don't know how, but the Kurds have to be responsible for something.That's not true, I just wanted to mention them. They've been awesome in all this. Before the war, they were Saddam's target practice for chemical weapons training and faced numerous attempts to wipe them from the region. When Iraq happened, they basically just took charge and said that they would help by administering and self governing their own territory. They policed it and kept the peace there when the rest of the country was going to pieces. When this new problem of ISIL happened, they provided the line in the sand which the insurgent's couldn't cross. They've done everything to embrace the first opportunity their people have had at a real homeland since the break-up of the Ottoman Empire and they deserve respect for that. Unfortunately, most don't even know who they are.Point being, more than anyone else, they have been innocent in the problems of Iraq, but have done the most toward stabilizing their little corner of the country since the beginning of the Iraq War. So I'm sure that plenty of people hate them for that.Liked this? 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Is Vietnam corrupt?

Q. How was corruption in the Republic of Vietnam?A. Four takes on corruption.Foreign Policy and the Complexities of Corruption: the Case of South Vietnam. The State Department historian looks back at the relationship between the United States and South Vietnam during the Vietnam War years, assessing the impact that tolerance of corruption in diplomatic partners can have on outcomes.Bribes, Corruption and Lost Wars actually makes a lot of sense, and I can attest to the accuracy.A Failure of Leadership in South Vietnam is a new book from a counterinsurgency official.Vietnam 40 years on: how a communist victory gave way to capitalist corruption is another long read from the Guardian, looking back at the revolution and the current state of corruption with a new term “Red Capitalists”.Vietnam is by no means a basket case. Its recovery from war is close to miraculous, particularly in cutting back poverty while developed nations such as the UK were increasing it. But the reality now is that it has ended up with the worst of two systems: the authoritarian socialist state and the unfettered ideology of neoliberalism; the two combining to strip Vietnam’s people of their money and their rights while a tiny elite fills its pockets and hides behind the rhetoric of the revolution. That, finally, is the biggest lie of all. Victorious in war but defeated in peace, the claim by Vietnam’s leaders to be socialist looks like empty propaganda. In the words of one former guerrilla who risked his life for this: “They are red capitalists.””We traded millions of lives for independence and equality. I imagined corruption would end after the war, but it didn’t.”FOREIGN POLICY AND THE COMPLEXITIES OF CORRUPTION: THE CASE OF SOUTH VIETNAMTHE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL > JUNE 2016BY STEPHEN RANDOLPHAs illustrated in other articles in this issue of The Foreign Service Journal, the U.S. government recognizes corruption as a major issue, prevalent around the world, with a range of damaging forms and effects. While details vary locally and over time, the dynamics of corruption, the problems that follow in its wake, and the difficulties in addressing it have broad continuity over time, and so a historical case study can offer perspectives that remain useful today.In the aftermath of the fall of Saigon in April 1975, thousands of South Vietnamese fled to the United States, including many senior civilian and military leaders. Seeking to capture their stories and analyses “before memories faded and before mythology replaced history,” the RAND Corporation, which had been deeply involved in the war since its inception, assembled a small team to interview these senior leaders as quickly as possible on their arrival in the United States, focusing on the causes of South Vietnam’s sudden and catastrophic collapse.Respondents included 23 military leaders and four from the government. These leaders attributed the fall of South Vietnam to a series of linked causes, the most fundamental of which was, in their view, “pervasive corruption, which led to the rise of incompetent leaders, destroyed army morale, and created a vast gulf of social injustice and popular antipathy.” They considered corruption the “fundamental ill” within South Vietnam’s body politic, manifesting itself in four ways: racketeering; bribery; buying and selling important positions and appointments; and pocketing the pay of “ghost soldiers,” whose names were carried on the duty roster but were either nonexistent or who paid their commanders to be released from duty.As one commander put it, the pervasive corruption “created a sense of social injustice” by creating “a small elite which held all the power and wealth, and a majority of middle-class people and peasants who became poorer and poorer and who suffered all the sacrifices.”Evolution of a “Fundamental Ill”This summary would have surprised few Americans who served in Indochina or dealt with the war at the policy level. Throughout the 21 years of decisive American engagement with South Vietnam, from the time of Ngo Dinh Diem until the fall of Saigon, corruption was invariably and routinely identified as a pervasive issue in the country, one with corrosive effects in every aspect of the state and society.In September 1954, during the first days of America’s involvement, a Special National Intelligence Estimate opened with an offhand reference to Premier Diem’s struggles with “the usual problems of inefficiency, disunity and corruption in Vietnamese politics.” Two decades later, just weeks before the North Vietnamese attack that would overwhelm South Vietnam, Senator Dewey Bartlett (R-Okla.), returning from a fact-finding mission, reported to President Gerald Ford in March 1975: “Corruption should be ferreted out, there should be freedom of the press and proper use of the courts and police. This will help them to develop their resolve and will strengthen their capability to develop in peace.” Along with its deadly effects within South Vietnam, the readily visible corruption provided an easy and unanswerable point of attack for opponents of the war in the United States, and a ready justification for Congress’s reluctance to support this American ally.Corruption in South Vietnam was invariably and routinely identified as a pervasive issue in the country, one with corrosive effects in every aspect of the state and society.Why, then, did this phenomenon persist, and even grow progressively more egregious over time? The basic conditions were set at South Vietnam’s birth in 1954, when the country emerged suddenly from its colonial past. With very few competent civil servants, with no functioning political system or tradition of democracy or transparency in government and with deep divides across religious, regional, ethnic and class lines, the new government built a military establishment from scratch. Few expected the state to last more than a couple of years. With the advent of active insurgency, the government of the Republic of Vietnam faced a deadly and immediate challenge that absorbed all of its attention.The massive intervention of American forces that followed within a decade added to the challenge in fundamental ways by infusing vast amounts of money and resources into South Vietnam and conducting military operations that created massive turmoil and dislocation across the country. As the nation moved from crisis to crisis, hampered by a sclerotic and limited government bureaucracy, corruption was always an issue to address later.At the same time, as U.S. involvement grew during the mid-1960s, American advisers were brought in who considered action against the corruption that had grown with the American investment in the nation to be an integral element of the war for “hearts and minds,” and therefore an essential component of pacification and a high priority for action. There were, however, serious obstacles to taking decisive action, reflecting the basic nature of the U.S. relationship with South Vietnam.Anti-Corruption Efforts StymiedThe most vigorous and sustained attempt by the United States to effect change in this area occurred in late 1967, as “Blowtorch” Bob Komer established the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support program, known as CORDS. Recognizing President Nguyen Van Thieu’s long-standing caution in attacking corruption, Komer sought leverage that the Americans could use to encourage a more aggressive approach to the problem.Embassy Saigon’s Minister-Counselor for Political Affairs John A. Calhoun noted a fundamental problem with Komer’s approach: it “entails an invasion of the sovereignty of the Republic of Viet-Nam so great that it could and would be argued thereafter that the United States is indeed the neo-colonialist power its critics and enemies allege it to be. … I believe that the more representative government which is emerging in Viet-Nam must be the vehicle for eliminating the social evils which beset the people. I do not think we can or should do this job for them.”The issue came down to the relationship of the United States to South Vietnam. There was a basic tension, never resolved, between helping the South Vietnamese and compelling them to accept American solutions. Or as a CIA analysis later summarized the conflict in American objectives: “The GVN [Vietnam Government] must be invigorated and reformed, and the peasantry must be won over to the government side, but all of this must be done without disturbing the political, social and economic structure bequeathed by the French colonial regime.” Put another way, corruption was not incidental to the political system of South Vietnam; it was an integral and defining characteristic of that system.There was a basic tension, never resolved, between helping the South Vietnamese and compelling them to accept American solutions.Komer sought less intrusive means of encouraging action—regular liaison with South Vietnamese officials, review of plans and budgets, and the threat or action of withholding resources. The most effective measure seems to have been the gradual accumulation of information on corrupt or incompetent officials, providing that information to both the South Vietnamese and the American chains of command. The expectation was that the South Vietnamese would eventually act, if sufficient evidence could be found to justify a dismissal.The original proposal for this program included suspending assistance if the South Vietnamese failed to react to the information, but this was a step Komer was unwilling to take—weakening support for allies in a theater at war was a very difficult course of action to propose. Ultimately, Komer succeeded in persuading the South Vietnamese to dismiss a limited number of officers, but with no guarantee that their successors would be any improvement.Setting Good Governance AsideThe Tet Offensive in early 1968 changed the war in every respect. For the communists, the successive waves of the offensive cost them dearly, the losses concentrated among the Viet Cong. Increasingly the war fell to North Vietnamese soldiers, infiltrating down the Ho Chi Minh trail. On the American side, the offensive ultimately persuaded President Lyndon Johnson not to run for a second term, and to seek a negotiated settlement.Incoming President Richard Nixon had an entirely different perspective on the nature of the war than his predecessor. Nixon and his national security advisor, Henry Kissinger, were classic realists. In part due to their basic outlook on power, and in part due to the change that the Tet Offensive had had on the war, Nixon and Kissinger were not so much interested in winning “hearts and minds,” as they were on ensuring physical control of the population. Similarly, they were more interested in ensuring a stable and acquiescent South Vietnamese government than in abstract notions of good governance.As Nixon summarized it in a conversation with British counterinsurgency expert Robert Thompson, he thought that Thieu was “getting an undeservedly bad reputation.” Nixon commented that while some people wanted the administration to pressure Thieu to “crack down on corruption, broaden the base and go forward with land reform, he, the president, didn’t care what Thieu did as long as it helped the war.” The emphasis on good government as a means of ensuring popular support for the GVN dissipated, as did the willingness to expend political capital on encouraging South Vietnam to combat corruption. In late 1971 Deputy National Security Advisor Al Haig, on a fact-finding mission to South Vietnam, noted: “Thieu’s actions against corruption have been inadequate. He has not spoken out against corruption as strongly as he should, and he has not removed the more notoriously corrupt officials.” This was one of a litany of problems Haig identified in the South Vietnamese government, and like most of the others, was never effectively addressed.In the end, the Nixon administration’s implicit tolerance for corruption served as other elements of its policy toward Vietnam to maintain a short-term stability in the government at the expense of its long-term prospects. The fall of South Vietnam stemmed from a range of causes. But, among those closest to the events, corruption was considered the most damaging, “largely responsible for the ultimate collapse of South Vietnam.”Stephen Randolph is the State Department historian. A 1974 graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, he served for 27 years on active duty in the Air Force, retiring as a colonel in 2001. He flew F-4s and F-15s, with a tour in Operation Desert Storm; held senior staff positions on the Joint Staff and the Air Staff; and then joined the faculty at the National Defense University, serving for 15 years before moving to the State Department in 2011. He is the author of Powerful and Brutal Weapons: Nixon, Kissinger and the Easter Offensive (Harvard University Press, 2007).Read More...Uncovering the Lessons of Vietnam, by Stephen Randolph (The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2015)The Fall of South Vietnam: Statements by Vietnamese Military and Civilian Leaders, by Stephen T. Hosmer, Konrad Kellen, Brian M. Jenkins (RAND)Bribes, Corruption and Lost WarsMay 14, 2011by William P. MeyersCorruption, the taking of bribes by politicians and government employees and the theft of public funds, is a nearly universal practice. But it is also a spectrum, with come governments having very little corruption, and ranges to governments that exist almost exclusively. South Vietnam (the Republic of Vietnam) during the 1960s is noted for its high degree of corruption. It is generally agreed that government corruption was one of the main reasons the government eventually collapsed and the south was unified with North Vietnam, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.I am reading Understanding Vietnam by Nilm L. Jamiseson and a section on the cultural aspects of corruption in Vietnam explained what happened in a way I had never considered. This contrasts with other histories I read that described the corruption, but implied it was simply due to defects in human character. This new understanding also sheds light on the collapse of the Chiang Kai-Shek regime in China in the late 1940s. It also explains a lot about many of today's regimes, including, on a smaller scale, the behavior of all too many individuals in local government in these United States of America.In Vietnam (I will call South Vietnam just Vietnam from this point forward) traditional status was highly dependent on wealth. However, leaders were supposed to show their wealth by providing feasts for their villages, and through other forms of ostentation public distribution of their wealth. In a village economy men competed for status by sharing with the less fortunate. Their families had priority, of course, but it was not too bad of a system.When the U.S. invaded in the 1960s the shock to the Vietnamese economy was profound. Government employees, including military employees, changed in a few years from being highly respected and decently paid members of a mainly traditional society to among the poorest citizens.American privates had higher salaries than Vietnamese generals. For that matter, call girls whose clients were American enlisted men made more money. The influx of American money drove inflation, but while America paid for military supplies and all sorts of economic programs, no one thought to make payments to the Saigon regime to increase the salaries of soldiers and bureaucrats. High-ranking military officers would moonlight as taxi drivers to try to make enough pay to keep their families from losing face due to poverty.Their wives came to the rescue, and that was also due to cultural traditions. In Vietnam women had traditionally done the marketing and small scale craft making that kept families afloat. Men, mostly, did not engage in business. While men went about their hierarchically controlled, government-dictated lives, women had to do more than make ends meet: they had to maintain their family's status in society. "During the late 1960s and early 1970s it was often impossible to be a dutiful and virtuous family man and a dutiful and virtuous military officer or civil servant ... his womenfolk kept reminding him that prices were up again in the market and the children needed new shoes." Women ran the free market show, which largely consisted of diverting American-donated goods into the black market. "As Madam General called Madam Colonel who called Madam Head Clerk ... the daily flow of money and of goods throughout the country was anticipated and careful plans were formulated for diverting some percentage of this bounty."This looking deeper contrasts with A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan, which is better at providing insight into the American side of the war. Americans were concerned about the corruption of Vietnamese officials and military men, but their answer was classroom training about the importance of good governance standards. That they paid their girlfriends more than they paid men they expected to die fighting communists did not seem to cross anyone's mind.Corruption has its own cultural momentum. Simply raising pay is not a sure way of stamping out corruption. Lowering pay somewhat is not likely to cause most honest civil servants to suddenly be selling their souls. Nevertheless, poor pay in the long run does breed corruption and incompetence.A single word, corruption, encapsulates a wide variety of social pressures. Americans thought that the corruption of Vietnam was due to weak ethical values in the national culture. American soldiers did not need to steal food from peasants to fill their bellies. Their corruption was at a higher level, the corruption of an entire nation by wealth from industrial production and imperialist domination.That era of American global economic supremacy is coming to an end. The corruption (lack of self-control and external control) of the banking sector and Wall Street almost brought the entire nation to its knees in 2008. The same gang funded Barack Obama's presidential campaign, just like they funded Clinton and Bush before him. So we have had much talk of reform, but very little reform.Millions of people died violent deaths in Vietnam during the French and American interventions and civil war. Corruption was problem, but it was also a symptom of the larger problems of that era. The problem now is we still have an American economy and government built for imperialism. The cracks in that system will continue to widen as the imperialist overhang continues to crumble.A Failure of Leadership in South VietnamBY JERRY MORELOCK4/14/2017 • VIETNAM MAGAZINEWas the Vietnam War essentially “unwinnable” because of the incorrigibly venal, consistently corrupt and—worst of all—egregiously incompetent South Vietnamese government officials and senior military commanders? Frank Scotton, a former foreign service officer who spent at least part of every year from 1962 to 1975 in Vietnam working for the United States Information Agency, thinks so.In his extensive and detailed memoir, Uphill Battle: Reflections on Viet Nam Counterinsurgency, Scotton looks back on the 1975 fall of Saigon and the final North Vietnamese offensive that quickly overwhelmed the U.S.-trained and -equipped Army of the Republic of Vietnam. He concludes: “There really never had been anything wrong with the courage and endurance of the [ARVN’s] basic soldiers, experienced noncommissioned officers, and junior officers. The problem was inadequate leadership higher up the chain of command.”BY HISTORY NETThe reason inept ARVN generals kept their jobs is no secret, Scotton says. In a corrupt system maintained by patronage, blind loyalty to political bosses in Saigon easily trumped battlefield competence in the selection of generals. The military leadership problem was worsened, Scotton notes, “by the deaths in combat or helicopter crashes of some of the best officers, who led from the front.” Most telling is the author’s conclusion that the South Vietnamese government, our crucial ally in the war, “failed to develop a viable political ideal for which men would risk dying.”Although most Americans who served in Vietnam were involved in combat against North Vietnamese regulars and Viet Cong main force guerrillas, Scotton fought the “other war,” the counterinsurgency effort (then variously called “revolutionary development” or “pacification”), a grassroots program to get South Vietnam’s population to support the Saigon government. Over the years, he worked closely with a cast of South Vietnamese and American officials, civilian and military, that reads like a “Who’s Who” of counterinsurgency, notably including John Paul Vann, Robert Komer and William Colby.Uphill Battle seems a particularly apt title for this memoir. Scotton describes his efforts to build effective counterinsurgency programs at theSo local level against dedicated and experienced Communist operatives, South Vietnamese government corruption and frequent opposition (or, at best, indifference) from senior U.S. officials in Washington and Saigon.Considering that Scotton wrote this book four decades after the events he describes, it is a remarkably detailed account of his experiences. He explains that “stored boxes of maps, correspondence, books and other research material” helped him reconstruct his experiences so thoroughly. Although readers may find Scotton’s frequent barrage of unfamiliar Vietnamese names (of individuals and places) tough going, those who persevere will be rewarded with a truly first-rate firsthand account of Vietnam’s “other war.”Scotton has included very useful appendices, chiefly an extensive glossary of Vietnam War abbreviations and terms, as well as a “Persons of Interest” list, identifying more than 160 people that he mentions. The book has 16 pages of personal snapshots showing Scotton with various Americans and Vietnamese between 1962 and 1972. Readers would have greatly benefited, however, from the inclusion of at least one map showing the locations of the countless places the author refers to.Finally, Scotton deserves praise for giving all proceeds from the book’s sales to the publisher, Texas Tech University, “in appreciation for the university’s maintaining the Vietnam Center and Archive.” In an era when seemingly every high-ranking politician and government official feels compelled to write a book hoping to cash in on his or her public service, Scotton’s stance is refreshingly principled: “It is ethically questionable for retired officials to profit from their own accounts of service for which they have already been compensated.” Well done, Mr. Scotton.First published in Vietnam Magazine’s April 2016 issue.Vietnam 40 years on: how a communist victory gave way to capitalist corruptionNick Davies Wed 22 Apr 2015 06.00 BST Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017 19.41 GMTSouth Vietnamese soldiers sleeping on board a US Navy troop carrier in 1962. Photograph: AP/Horst FaasEarly one morning in February 1968, when the fighting in central Vietnam had reached a new level of insanity, a group of South Korean soldiers swept into a village called Ha My, a straggly collection of bamboo huts and paddy fields about an hour outside the city of Danang. They were from a unit called Blue Dragon, which was fighting alongside the Americans, attempting to suppress the communist uprising.For weeks, they had been herding farmers and their families into a crowded compound that the Americans called a “strategic hamlet”. By taking the farmers out of their villages, they hoped they could starve the communist guerrillas of food and shelter. And for weeks, the farmers and their families had been escaping, trailing back to Ha My, loathing the captivity of the strategic hamlet, needing to farm their land. Now, the Blue Dragon soldiers had had enough.In the hour that followed their arrival, the Koreans herded the waking villagers into small groups and then, methodically, opened fire. An hour later, they had killed 135 of them. They then burned their homes and bodies, and bulldozed the whole mess into mass graves. For years the truth lay buried, too.Now there is a monument to that massacre, built 30 years later at the expense of Blue Dragon soldiers who came back offering genuine remorse. But there is something wrong. The monument stands proud, as big as a house, with ornate roofing that shelters two collective tombs and a large gravestone carrying the names of the adults and children who died. But there is no explanation for their deaths.The villagers say that when the monument was first built, the back of the gravestone displayed a vivid account of what happened that day. One even has a copy of the words, which turn out to be a powerful poem recalling the fire and blood, the burning flesh, the bodies in the sand: “How painful to see fathers and mothers collapse into pieces beneath the flames … How terrifying to see children and babies screaming and crying, reaching out, still suckling on the breasts of dead mothers … ” But, the villagers say, some South Korean diplomats paid a visit before the official opening and complained about the poem; instead of standing up to them, Vietnamese officials ordered that it be covered up with a tableau of lotus blossom. A Korean anthropologist, Heonik Kwon, who was studying Ha My at the time, recorded one villager saying this denial of the truth was like a second massacre, “killing the memory of the killing”.Why would the Vietnamese compromise like that? Why would the people who won the war allow the story of that war to be defined by the losers?The villagers say the answer is simple: South Korea had become one of the biggest foreign investors in their economy, and had offered to pay for a local hospital if the massacre poem was concealed. So the Vietnamese authorities agreed; they could not afford to resist. And there is the heart of what has happened to Vietnam since the war ended 40 years ago, on 30 April 1975.A month spent travelling there at the beginning of this year – talking to farmers, intellectuals, academic specialists and veteran fighters from both sides of the line – revealed numerous falsehoods and compromises that have been forced on the Vietnamese people by the powerful in pursuit of profit. The US has succeeded in promoting a false account of the cause and conduct of its war. In spite of losing the military conflict, the Americans and their allies have returned with the even more powerful weapons of finance, forcing the Vietnamese down a road they did not choose. Now, it is their leaders who are telling the biggest lie of all.US army helicopters provide covering fire for South Vietnamese troops as they attack a Vietcong camp near the Vietnam-Cambodia border in March 1965. Photograph: AP/Horst FaasNguyen Hao Thu, aged 90, lives in a bright and beautiful flat in Hanoi. She chatters like a bird in fluent French and broken English, describing how, as a young woman, she saw her country crushed between two powerful enemies. First, it was the French who refused to let go of their colony at the end of the second world war. In 1946, aged 21, Thu took to the jungle and joined the guerrilla struggle, specialising in mixing acid, saltpetre and alcohol to make gunpowder: “I was very happy in the forest. With the powder in the bomb, you can – pop! – realise our dream.”And that dream was not simply nationalist, to expel the foreign invader. It was specifically communist and revolutionary. Thu recalled a childhood during which the French took away her father, a kindergarten teacher; she used to bring food to him in jail when she was just seven years old. “I hated all the people who wanted to fight and occupy Vietnam. In my mind, I became communist,” she said. Her family were comfortably middle‑class, but during the 1930s, she said, their home was used as a meeting place for the underground Vietnamese Communist party. She remembered reading Marx and Lenin and how, when she was 16, the French executed one of her friends. “Sincerely, I am communist.”Le Nam Phong is nearly as old as Thu. He was 17 when he signed up as a common soldier to fight the French in 1945. He spent the next 30 years at war, rising to become a lieutenant general in the army of North Vietnam and a key figure in the eventual destruction of the US military machine. Sitting outside his comfortable home, slicing a mango on a warm evening, he remembers his own revolutionary motive: “Socialism? Yes, of course. The purpose of all the fighting was to build a socialist society, to gain freedom and independence and happiness. During the first days against France and against the US, we already had in mind the society we wanted to create – a society where men would not exploit other men; fair, independent, equal.”We already had in mind the society we wanted – one where men would not exploit other men: fair, independent, equalThis is where the US’s own account of its behaviour begins to fall apart. The American version of events has it that when the French were defeated in 1954, the US army became involved in order to protect the nation of South Vietnam from the threat of a takeover by communists from North Vietnam. The reality is that the French had alienated people all over Vietnam, driving them into the arms of Ho Chi Minh’s Communist party. And, more important, there were no two separate nations. In 1954, in spite of the victory of the Vietnamese army, France and its western allies hung on to power in their southern stronghold. At an international convention in Geneva, all sides then agreed that the country should be divided – temporarily – into South Vietnam and North Vietnam, until July 1956, when an election would deliver a new government for the nation as a whole.The then US president, Dwight Eisenhower, later admitted that if that election had been allowed to take place, some 80% of the Vietnamese people would have voted for Minh and the new socialist society – and the Vietnamese we spoke to concurred. But the US would not allow it. Instead, they turned to a notorious CIA officer, Edward Lansdale, who proceeded to use a dexterous combination of bribes and violence to install a new government in Saigon, headed by the Catholic politician Ngo Dinh Diem. He was autocratic and nepotistic, but anti-communist and pro-American. In October 1955, Lansdale rigged an election in the South to make Diem president. The national elections were cancelled. The “temporary” division now became a prolonged pretence that Vietnam really was two different countries, the South as the passive victim of invasion from the North.* * *At first, the US, which had been funding the French war, was content to pour money into South Vietnam’s army, and to send its own troops only in the guise of “advisers” – 16,300 of them. By March 1965, it was sending its own men into combat. At the peak of the fighting, in 1969, the US was using 550,000 of its own military personnel, plus 897,000 from South Vietnam’s army and thousands more from South Korea and other allies. By the time the war was over, the number of dead was beyond counting, possibly as high as 3.8 million, according to a study by the Harvard Medical School and the University of Washington.The British foreign correspondent James Cameron described US actions as “an offence to international decency, both disgusting and absurd”. Writing in 1965, he looked back at the path to war: “It was clumsy and cruel and thoughtless and without consideration. Step by step, the west blundered and floundered into a dilemma they never completely comprehended and never in fact sought: from the very beginning, they argued in cliches.”The violence of those years still lives with those who suffered its grand assault. In a small house in Saigon, as many Vietnamese still call Ho Chi Minh City, a former member of the communist guerrillas remembered the US bombers roaring down on their jungle camp, and how he and his comrades hid in shallow foxholes: “We had very strong rice wine. If you drink it, it would bring tears to your eyes. We used to call it ‘tears of the motherland’. It stopped us being frightened.”The US dropped more high explosives on Vietnam than the allies used on Germany and Japan together in the second world war. It also dropped napalm jelly, which stuck to its victims while it roasted their skin; white phosphorous, which burned down to the bone; fragmentation bombs, which hurled ball bearings and steel shards in all directions; and 73m litres of toxic chemicals, including 43m litres of Agent Orange, which killed vegetation and inflicted illness on those who were exposed to it.Infamously, the US also bombed Hanoi – a city full of civilians with no air force to defend it. A woman who was eight at the time remembered wearing a leafy branch on her back as flimsy camouflage against F-111 bombers flying at twice the speed of sound. A man who worked on an anti‑aircraft battery says he went home after a night of fruitless defence to find his neighbourhood obliterated: the only sign of his son was a dismembered leg, which he identified by a scar.On the ground, the US assault was just as powerful. In a village in the Mekong delta, a peasant farmer in her late 60s sat peacefully in her home, with its floor of baked mud. She remembered the day her mother in law, who was working in the fields nearby, made the mistake of running when a US helicopter thundered down towards her: a missile caught up with her and smashed her to pieces against a coconut tree. “We had to go to collect her. We had to pick up her teeth.” The helicopter gunships killed three of her brothers as well, she said. All these years later, she added, she still has trouble sleeping, and is full of fear if she hears any sound that could possibly be a helicopter.A US paratrooper guides a medevac helicopter down to pick up soldiers injured during a five-day patrol in Vietnam in April 1968. Photograph: AP/Art GreensponMany Americans now believe that the notorious massacre of villagers at My Lai was a unique or rare event, but the journalist Nick Turse found a different picture in the US National Archives in June 2001. He discovered files that recorded the findings of a secret US task force, the Vietnam War Crimes Working Group. They showed that the army had substantiated more than 300 claims of massacre, murder, rape and torture by American soldiers.Turse then visited Vietnam. In his book, Kill Anything That Moves, he describes trying to find the site of an incident from the files in which 20 women and children were said to have been killed in a hamlet in the central highlands. Following local people, he says, he stumbled across memorials to five other massacres in the same small area: “I’d thought that I was looking for a needle in a haystack; what I found was a veritable haystack of needles.” He concluded that a combination of racial indifference to the life of mere “gooks”, official pressure to raise the number of “kills” and the designation of rural areas as “free-fire zones” meant that “killings of civilians were widespread, routine and directly attributable to US command policies”.Those who survived were sometimes taken prisoner and subjected to harsh abuse. In 1970, a group of US congressmen visited the notorious Con Dao prison. There they found men and women shackled in “tiger cages”, starved, beaten, tortured and reduced to eating insects. In spite of the uproar when this was reported, the prison stayed open.* * *Until a couple of years ago, journalists from one of the big newspaper groups in Saigon used to stop to buy their coffee from an amiable woman who spent each day on the pavement in front of their office. Few of them knew her name. They used to call her the Coffee Lady. She has her own small story about the war, but mostly she has a story about what has happened since peace came. This is the context in which the Vietnamese Communist party now tells its lies.She remembers Liberation Day: the wild rejoicing because the war was over; the sheer pride that communist forces had beaten what everyone said was the biggest army in the history of the world; the hopes for a better life. There was fear, too. There were rumours of violent retribution and looting. The Coffee Lady was worried about crazy people picking up the guns she could see lying in the street. And she was sad, for a very personal reason.A few years earlier, she had worked as a waitress on a US base at Vung Tau, on the coast near Saigon, and there she had met a soldier called Ronald. He came from New York and he flew surveillance missions over Vietnam and Cambodia. They fell in love. At short notice, he was sent back to the US, but for a while he carried on writing, and he told her that he would sponsor her to join him. Then he went quiet, and she came to understand that there was no chance he would come back for her. Scared that the new regime might be angry, she burned Ronald’s letters and never heard from him again. Years later, now aged 64, grey-haired and calm, sitting quietly outside a Buddhist pagoda, she can still feel the sadness.The Coffee Lady belonged to neither side in the conflict. She was simply a Vietnamese woman, in love with an American man and in search of a decent life. Liberation Day did not bring easier times. At first, she found work in one of the new cooperative factories. There, she sat bowed over a sewing machine for 11 hours a day, earning nothing more than a ration card that entitled her to small amounts of low-quality rice and even smaller amounts of meat. For years, she shared a tiny house with her brother, who spent his days in another textile workshop. The economy ran into a decade of depression. “Life was tough for ordinary people,” she said.The US left Vietnam in a state of physical ruin. Roads, rail lines, bridges and canals were devastated by bombing. Unexploded shells and landmines littered the countryside, often underwater in the paddy fields where peasants waded. Five million hectares of forest had been stripped of life by high explosives and Agent Orange. The new government reckoned that two-thirds of the villages in the south had been destroyed. In Saigon, the American legacy included packs of orphans roaming the streets and a heroin epidemic. Nationally, the new government estimated it was dealing with 10 million refugees; 1 million war widows; 880,000 orphans; 362,000 war invalids; and 3 million unemployed people.The economy was in chaos. By the time Liberation Day arrived, inflation was running at up to 900%, and Vietnam – a country full of paddy fields – was having to import rice. In peace talks in Paris, the US had agreed to pay $3.5bn in reconstruction aid to mend the shattered infrastructure. It never paid a cent. Adding insult to penury, the US went on to demand that the communist government repay millions of dollars borrowed by its enemy, the old Saigon regime. Vietnam desperately needed the world to provide the trade and aid that could turn its economy around. The US did its best to make sure it got neither.As soon as it had lost the war, the US imposed a trade embargo, cutting off the war-wrecked country not only from US exports and imports, but also from those of other nations that bowed to American pressure. In the same way, the US leaned on multilateral bodies including the IMF, the World Bank and Unesco to deny Vietnam aid. The US acknowledged that Agent Orange was likely to cause serious illness and birth defects and paid $2bn compensation – but only to its own veterans. The Vietnamese victims – more than 2 million of them – got nothing.South Vietnamese soldiers escort terrified children after a napalm attack in June 1972. Photograph: Nick Ut/APIt is not clear how any economic model could have survived this hostile encirclement. Inevitably, Vietnam’s socialist project began to collapse. It adopted a crude Soviet policy that forced peasant farmers to hand over their crops in exchange for ration cards. With no incentive to produce, output crashed, inflation climbed back towards wartime levels, and the country once again had to import rice. In the early 1980s, the leadership was forced to allow the peasants to start selling surplus produce, and so capitalism began its return. By the late 1980s, the party was officially adopting the idea of “a market economy with socialist orientation”.It was this shift that allowed the Coffee Lady in 1988 to leave the textile factory to become a trader. Each morning, she says, she would get up at 4am to prepare coffee in time to travel across the city. By 5am, she was sitting on a small chair outside the newspaper office. Change was all around her during the 1990s. Foreign investors were allowed to come in and private businesses were encouraged – free trade, free markets, profits for some, wages for others. Behind the scenes, the government was sending signals of compromise to Washington. It stopped asking for the $3.5bn reconstruction aid or compensation for Agent Orange and war crimes. It even agreed to repay the old Saigon regime’s war debt of $146m. By 1994, the US was appeased and lifted the trade embargo that had been throttling Vietnam for nearly 20 years. The World Bank, the IMF and other donors began to help. The economy started growing by up to 8.4% a year, and Vietnam was soon one of the world’s biggest exporters of rice.Crucially, throughout the 1990s, there were still strong factions within the Communist party that defended socialism against the new tide of capitalism. In spite of the economic chaos, they had succeeded in engineering a dramatic reduction of poverty. When the war ended, 70% of Vietnam’s people lived below the official poverty line. By 1992, it was 58%. By 2000, it was 32%. At the same time, the government had constructed a network of primary schools in every community, and secondary schools in most; it had also built a basic structure of free healthcare. For a while, the socialist factions still had enough political muscle to direct the new capitalist vehicle. Three times during the late 1990s, the World Bank offered extra loans worth hundreds of millions of dollars if Vietnam would agree to sell its state-owned companies and cut its trade tariffs. Each deal was rejected.Three decades after the communist victory, Vietnam was part of the global capitalist economy. The west had won after all.But from 2000, the rate of change accelerated and the political balance shifted. Reflecting persistent pressure from international donors and foreign investors, Vietnam now approved the sale of its state-owned companies. It also struck a trade deal with the US, and finally hit a peak in 2006 when it was given membership of the World Trade Organisation, which meant it could reap yet more foreign investment and aid. Three decades after the communists emerged as victors in the war, it was now a fully integrated member of the globalised capitalist economy. The west had won after all.On the pavement in Saigon, the Coffee Lady watched all of this unfold, and yet she saw no change in her life. “I earned the same, lived in the same room,” she says. “There were more things in the shops, but the prices kept going up. The country changed, but not for people like me. The people who had connections got richer.” All throughout these years, she had stuck with the same brand of Vietnamese-made coffee, Trung Nguyen. While she remained poor, the man who owns that company rode the new tide of free enterprise and is now reckoned to be worth $100m.* * *In an office across the city sat Nguyen Cong Khe. For years, he edited Thanh Nien, the newspaper that was based in the building outside which the Coffee Lady plied her trade. During his editorship, Khe upset some powerful people, disclosing links between a Saigon gangster and senior officials, then publishing the story of a huge scandal that implicated some very well‑connected families in the theft of public funds. That was risky. Vietnam runs a clumsy system of official censorship, calling in editors every week – on Tuesdays in Hanoi and Thursdays in Saigon – to tell them what to cover and what to conceal. For his efforts, in 2008, Khe was sacked.In November last year, Khe took another risk by using the New York Times to call on his government to allow a free press. Sitting in the office where he now runs a news website, he went further. Insisting that his name be attached to this appeal, he said what others will say only behind one hand: that the leadership of the Vietnamese Communist party have become traitors to their own cause.“At the very outset, those who made the revolution installed a government [that] had a very good intent to develop the country and to be prosperous in the fairest way, but things went wrong somewhere. Those who joined the revolution, who swore to be transparent – eventually they betrayed their commitment and their ideology.”Khe was himself part of the revolution. As a student in the early 1970s, he agitated against the Americans and spent three years behind bars. He was a party member for years. He understands why the leadership turned to the tools of capitalism to kickstart the economy, but he has seen the dark side of the neoliberal coin – the corruption and the inequality.You can see it on the streets. Despite its dark past, Saigon has boomed into a seething mass of commercial activity. But it is, nonetheless, a city in the developing world, with signs of poverty on every side. And then there is Dong Khoi Street – an island of self-indulgent wealth where the new elite can buy a T-shirt from Hermes for $500, a watch from Versace for $15,000, or a dining-room table with four chairs covered in gold-leaf calf skin and stuffed with goose feathers for $65,000. And on the corner, the Continental Hotel sells meals that would cost a week’s pay for a worker, in a restaurant called – with one final slap in Ho Chi Minh’s face – Le Bourgeois.Khe reckoned that for every $10 assigned to any public project, $7 is going into somebody’s pocket. Really? So 70% of Vietnam’s state budget is being stolen? That would be a theft of staggering proportions. We spoke via a translator. He nodded, and twisted one hand in the air: “Between 50 and 70%.”Transparency International last year reported that Vietnam is perceived to be one of the most corrupt countries in the world, doing worse than 118 others and scoring only 31 out of a possible 100 good points on its index.Nobody claims that the corruption is new. There is a well-established tradition of public officials in Vietnam selling their influence and favouring their families. But the allegation is that it has hit new levels under the current leadership. People say that the problem was boosted specifically by the privatisation of Vietnam’s huge state-owned companies and the opportunities that provided some politicians and officials to appoint themselves and their families as executives. The British academic Martin Gainsborough, who spent years in Vietnam doing fieldwork for his research on development in south-east Asia, wrote: “Rather than being inspired by reformist ideals, officials have been motivated by much more venal desires … What we often refer to as ‘reform’ is as much about attempts by rival political-business interests to gain control over financial and other resources.”For three months recently, an extraordinary website published detailed allegations about the behaviour of named members of the Vietnamese power elite. The site called itself Chan Dung Quyen Luc (“Portrait of Power”) and backed up its claims with documents, audio and video footage. It has never been verified, but observers speculated that it was the work of a very powerful politician using inside information to try to damage rivals. It claimed to provide glimpses into a secret world of theft.The site attacked one very senior figure, claiming that a local official had delivered a suitcase containing $1m in cash to his home, as a result of which he had agreed not to collect $150m of tax due from a property company who were involved in a “giant development”. The company had then given him and the local official free villas. The site went on to finger two leading politicians, claiming that one had blocked the prosecution of a corrupt banker and was now receiving healthy backhanders; and that the second had diverted $1bn from a state company into the bank account of his sister, who was now running 20 different businesses. It also accused a senior military figure of using his son’s company to sell army land for personal profit. In his case, the website displayed a letter from bank employees who claimed he was part of an “extremely large-scale corruption network”, with bank accounts worth millions of dollars.Vietnam Is Sentencing Corrupt Bankers to Death by Firing SquadFrom time to time, the state acknowledges corruption and cracks down. In high-profile trials at the end of last year, four executives from former state-owned companies were sentenced to death for bribery and fraud; two others were sentenced to life in prison. Khe does not believe these trials are tackling the scale of the problem. He shrugged: “We traded millions of lives for independence and equality. When I was in prison I imagined the country would be clear of corruption after the war, but it didn’t happen. The development of the country should proceed, so we don’t go against those who make money legitimately. But we can’t allow those who make illegitimate money to continue to make poor people poorer.”We traded millions of lives for independence and equality. I imagined corruption would end after the war, but it didn’t.There he hit the most painful nerve. Despite its earlier track record of spreading economic success quite evenly, Vietnam no longer stands up for the poor as it once did. A 2012 report for the World Bank noted that “inequality is back on the agenda”. Between 2004 and 2010, income for the poorest 10% of the population fell by a fifth, it found, while the richest 5% in Vietnam were now taking nearly a quarter of the income.The worst of this inequality is in the rural areas. Millions of farmers have been driven off their land to make way for factories or roads. In the early 90s, nearly all rural households (91.8%) owned land. By 2010, nearly a quarter of them (22.5%) were landless. A relentless tide of poor peasants has poured into the cities, where they have been joined by hundreds of thousands of workers who have been made redundant as the private owners of the old state-owned companies set about cutting costs. This wave of men and women has swirled into the “informal sector” – hidden away in sweatshops in private houses or sitting trading on the pavements – and into the sprawling network of new industrial parks and export‑processing zones.In the informal sector, there is no protection at all. In the industrial areas, protections have become noticeably weaker. Prof Angie Ngoc Tran is a specialist in the study of labour in Vietnam. In her book, Ties That Bind, she explains how the country’s labour code – which was once famously progressive – has been watered down, partly as a result of lobbying by groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce. The state-sponsored unions have been weakened and have never called a strike. Tran concludes: “With the surge of capital entering Vietnam by way of foreign investment and the privatisation of state-owned enterprises, the state is becoming less and less of a government acting on behalf of the people. At times, some state organs and institutions are in alliance with the capitalists.”Every worker is guaranteed a minimum wage. Originally, in 1990, this was set at a level that matched the “living wage” – meaning that it covered the essentials of life. But over the years, for fear of losing foreign capital, the government has allowed it to be cut, frozen and overtaken by inflation, with the result that by April 2013, the government’s own union was protesting that wages now covered only 50% of essential costs. Most city workers, the federation said, were “destitute and physically wasted away … They rent cheap, shabby rooms and cut daily expenses to a minimum … suffer serious malnutrition and other health risks.”Meanwhile, healthcare and schooling are no longer free. The World Bank report noted that “incomes are beginning to matter more for determining access to basic services”, and that the government was spending considerably more on hospitals for the better off than it was on communal health centres for the poor.Vietnam is by no means a basket case. Its recovery from war is close to miraculous, particularly in cutting back poverty while developed nations such as the UK were increasing it. But the reality now is that it has ended up with the worst of two systems: the authoritarian socialist state and the unfettered ideology of neoliberalism; the two combining to strip Vietnam’s people of their money and their rights while a tiny elite fills its pockets and hides behind the rhetoric of the revolution. That, finally, is the biggest lie of all. Victorious in war but defeated in peace, the claim by Vietnam’s leaders to be socialist looks like empty propaganda. In the words of one former guerrilla who risked his life for this: “They are red capitalists.”• Additional research by Calvin Godfrey. Follow the Long Read on Twitter: @gdnlongreadIs Vietnam corrupt? ( of PetroVietnam flutters next to Vietnamese flag and Communist Party flag in front HQ of PetroVietnam in Hanoi Jan 11, 2016. REUTERS/KhamWhat's behind Vietnam's corruption crackdown? ( (Reuters) - Vietnam’s crackdown on high level corruption has led to the arrest of dozens of officials from state oil firm PetroVietnam and the banking sector.As well as shedding light on graft, mismanagement and nepotism within state firms at a time privatization is accelerating, the arrests show the ascendancy of a more conservative faction within the ruling Communist Party.HanoiVietnam Corruption ReportSaigonCorruption continues to be pervasive in Vietnam's business environment. Companies are likely to experience bribery, political interference and facilitation payments in all sectors. The land administration, construction sector, and public administration are especially prone to corruption. The Vietnamese Penal Code and the Law on Anti-Corruption criminalizes public sector corruption, in the form of attempted corruption, facilitation payments, extortion, abuse of office, fraud, money laundering, and active and passive bribery. Punitive measures range from fines to capital punishment, depending on the severity of the corruption case. Enforcement of the anti-corruption framework is lacking. Gifts are criminalized by law, but there are exceptions for special occasions gifts with a value below VND 500,000. Facilitation payments are illegal but common in practice.Last updated: September 2017GAN IntegritySaigonVietnam's Corruption Crackdown Is All About Protecting Its Economic Miracle From Its SOEs (

If you support the Black Lives Matter movement, why do you?

As a grassroots movement, that is, as a self-organized local-level movement to stop police brutality yes, but as a national organization no, that is, as a motto and coalition or movement to support Black people against police brutality and that advocates the need for police reform yes, but as an official national organization no because, among other things, the national organization rejects the nuclear family, two-parent homes, along with all their biological grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces, and nephews of the two parents for “villages” with no accountability or liability. Thus, this leads to economic, educational, and even incarceration disparities. The disparities between a one-parent home and a two-parent home are egregious. (Note: Sept. 17, 2020—6 hours after I wrote this, the BLM website took their “What We Believe” page down that stated their intent to “disrupt” the “Western” concept of the “nuclear family” for “villages”.)The #Black Lives Matter, first used in 2013, became a rallying cry for a social movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience in protest against incidents of police brutality by seeking justice for their victims which includes not only judicial accountability but also police reform in order to prevent further deaths by law enforcement. While Black Lives Matter can primarily be understood as a broader mainstream decentralized grassroots social movement, by 2014, an organization known as the Black Lives Matter Network had begun as a centralized network establishing over 30 national chapters between 2014 and 2016 that spread worldwide. So, it’s now known as the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation ( This smaller movement or organization does advocate against police violence towards Black people, but they also advocate for various policy changes considered to be related to Black liberation which many may not necessarily agree with. Another organization closely related to it is the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL). Then there is the California-based organization called the Black Lives Matter Foundation that has accepted donations that do not support the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. They are a separate organization.There are two social issues that need to be addressed in America, police brutality (i.e., the use of excessive force and deadly force) and racial profiling, particularly of Blacks, which the Fourth Amendment expressly prohibits. The reason these two social injustices need to be addressed separately is because police violence and misconduct is committed against every racial group, though against Whites there is no national media outrage or coverage of it, and it is perpetrated by all races of offIcers. When officers respond to a call or see a violation of the law being committed, there is no White privilege, but racial profiling is primarily focused on Blacks. Black men are often detained by police and treated as dangerous criminals for no other reason than suspicion, that is, for being Black. So, more focus on Blacks by police leads to more arrests for weed (and imprisonment if it’s an ounce or more because they call that trafficking, and now it’s even legal in a lot of states though they are still imprisioned) and altercations with police and then the numerical odds of a deadly encounter also increase.Thirty years ago, in 1990, former Los Angeles Laker Star Jamaal Wilkes, “Silk”, was driving home from his office on Wilshire Boulevard when two officers pulled him over, ordered him out of his car, and cuffed him with no reasonable explanation. They said something about his license tags being about to expire. “Their treatment of me was arrogant and distasteful”, he said. “They acted like I was dangerous. The way they handled things, it could have gotten ugly. If I got angry and said, ‘Why are you doing this?’ it might have started something. I realized how easily police brutality could happen. It made me more sympathetic toward the common guy who isn’t famous and gets into a situation like that”.Jump ahead to 2020, to when Sports Editor John Zant interviewed Wilkes after George Floyd’s death at the hands of police. “There’s no mistaking what happened to George Floyd”, he said. “He was clearly murdered. We don’t have to speculate about it. [The police] can no longer hide behind the blue wall. We can’t tiptoe around the elephant in the room that is systemic racism”. Wilkes sees the Black Lives Matter movement as an essential response. “Of course, all lives matter, he said. “But not all lives are being slaughtered in the streets”.And thirty years later, innocent Black citizens are still being harassed for driving while Black—sportswriter Victor Bryant was pulled over by traffic cops five times in one year without being ticketed—and if your not famous and just a kid or common man, detentions often escalate into tragic killings.Will Smith said “I have been called (racial slurs) by the cops in Philly on more than 10 occasions. I got stopped frequently. So I understand what it’s like to be in those circumstances with police”.American films as early as 1967 brought attention to this systemic problem. “In the Heat of the Night” which won five Academy Awards, Sidney Poitier’s character Virgil Tibbs finds himself in a precarious position: He is a Black man at the wrong end of a cop’s gun. A redneck police chief is enthralled that such an obvious suspect as Tibbs has landed in his lap. His logic is chilling. A rich White man is dead and a Black man is out late at night; thus, he has found the murderer. And as early as 1946, radio programs brought attention to this problem. Issac Woodard, a Black US army veteran, didn’t know the name of the police chief or the town where he beat him, crushing his eyeballs and blinding him, but Orson Wells mounted a radio program that found both.Systemic racism is racism established and perpetrated by government systems. Slavery was made legal by the US government. Segregation, Black Codes, Jim Crow, and peonage were all made legal by the government, and upheld by the judicial system. These acts of racism were built into the system, which is where the term “systemic racism” is derived. When a system, such as governmental policing, is flawed and its malicious acts are upheld by the judicial system, this can be a form of systemic racism if it is applied disproportionately towards one race because of being targeted for trafficking even small amounts of illegal drugs.Concerning Breonna Taylor’s shooting by police for “alleged” drug trafficking (she wasn’t as confirmed by the raid, came up empty, and the post office that was monitoring all her packages), Walter Katz, a veteran police oversight expert who has monitored departments in Los Angeles, San Jose, and Chicago, called the known circumstances around Taylor’s death “very problematic”, and indicative of systemic flaws in training and tactics.This killer did this for over nine minutes without a care in the world, while his three partners just accepted it as normal procedure, even getting hostile to the bystanders who were pleading with them to stop. This is the face of systemic tactical flaws that often result in death. Police response nationwide, “Why do we not get any respect”. Why? because you don’t angry when you see things like this, and instead, you try to justify it. Your supposed to protect us, not kill us. All were asking is for you to help us out with this problem—flawed training and tactics that lead to the killing of unarmed citizens—and to stop ignoring it. You should be just as angry when you see a fellow officer kill a handcuffed citizen like this as you do when a fellow officer is killed. Our safety and your safety are equally important, but this officer was in no danger.Is Jacob brandishing a gun or knife? No. Are the police being threatened? No. You don’t kill fleeing suspects. (We are all innocent until proven guilty.) You apprehend them. Scared or worked up officers should never pursue a suspect since they are prone to panic and shoot when they haven’t even been threatened. Have the brave and calm ones lead, or apprehend him later with a well organized setup.When governments, both local and federal, fail to secure the safety of its citizens from harm's way, and worse yet, are often the source of such action, then citizens must rise up for humanities sake in the form of nonviolent political action groups that address the needs of its citizenry to bring about social and political change, and the numerous Black Lives Matter coalitions throughout the country are such a platform against police brutality. Before this, the only people giving voice to this issue were Black youth, particularly the Hip Hop group N.W.A. with their song “Fuck the Police” in 1988, and, arguably, the most prominent Hip Hop artist for this cause is Ice Cube, a former member of N.W.A. (In the movie “Behind Enemy Lines”, 2001, Ice Cube and N.W.A. get some props from a young Bosnian soldier.) In 2017, he struck again with a song called “Good Cop, Bad Cop” that has this line:“Black lives matter is not chit chatterCause all they [police] want to do, is scatter brain matter”Until recently, there really hasn’t been a successful platform or movement to address our grievances over police brutality. Instead, there was one really big setback. The 1992 Los Angeles Riots, or sometimes called the 1992 Los Angeles uprising, were a series of riots and civil disturbances over a six-day period following the Rodney King verdict of acquittal of four officers that went beyond social protest. Wilkes said, “I was shocked by the verdict. I was further shocked by the riots”. By the time the riots ended, 63 people had been killed, 2,383 people had been injured, more 12,000 had been arrested, and estimates of property damage were over 1 billion, much of it in Koreatown. The violence, theft, and attacks on motorists only divided the nation even more and prompted even more aggressive police responses, especially the videos of Reginald Denny being pulled from his truck and having his skull fractured in 91 places and having one of his eyes hang out of its socket, and the video of Fidel Lopez being dragged out of his truck, robbed of 2,000 dollars, beaten in the face with a car stereo, stabbed in the head, and spray painted black. I was even mugged at gunpoint. A coworker of mine was stabbed on two different occasions, once nearly missing his spine, and another time, he had a gun forced so hard against his forehead that left an imprint for days. Another coworker was mugged twice, once at gunpoint and once at knifepoint. Though the anger and rage were justifiable, they should have been channeled into political and social coalitions against corrupt police, like the popular Black Lives Matter coalitions are doing among American athletes and the Hip hop artists were doing, and not against innocent White, Korean, and Latino citizens. So, instead, they fueled racial fears and stereotypes.But that temporary misstep doesn’t negate the problem of systemic police brutality first evidenced by the Rodney King video. There is such a disconnect between the public and law enforcement agencies that they don’t even realize the fear and mistrust that a lot of citizens have of them, and how much anger there is over the killings of unarmed citizens. It baffles many how law enforcement agencies haven’t put an end to the constant asphyxiation of detainees or the endless shooting and killing of unarmed citizens. But, George Floyd’s death has galvanized the nation, and other parts of the world, to stop police killings of unarmed citizens by amending use-of-force laws and by transforming policing as we know itSpecifically, there should be policing and use-of-force policy reforms that abolish the right of an officer to use deadly force due to a “perceived threat” (Although laws vary by state, police officers are generally allowed to use deadly force when they BELIEVE their lives or the lives of others are in danger. It doesn’t matter if there is no actual threat when force is used. Police officers can shoot you if they just think you might be a threat, have a weapon, or be a felon trying to flee.), that abolish impunity for officers, use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and stun guns against protestors, no-knock raids, corruption, and chokeholds or any type of neck restraint, and police departments should match the police force demographics to those of the community and require officers to use body-warn cameras.The biggest obstacle to policing reforms, however, are police unions and culture. So, some cities may have to start over by dismantling their police departments that are racist and then restructuring them or, in most cases, by just getting rid of the White supremacist’s among their forces. This is the present goal of the “defund the police” movement, not abolish them but to restructure corrupt departments by instituting public oversight and shifting some of their present responsibilities to social services. This way, police can spend more time focusing on violent crimes and keeping our neighborhoods safe from thieves and violence. For instance, during protests, we need them to protect businesses, property, and vehicles, and apprehend looters and vandals who steal and damage property in the guise of pseudo-justice but not to harass protestors. Each city and state will have to decide what course of action to take. But there is one city that should be the case study for police reform and that is Camden, New Jersey. Before it’s police reforms, Camden was routinely named one of the most violent cities in the US. Now, seven years after the old department was booted (though around 100 officers were rehired), the citiy’s crime has reduced by close to half. Officers host outdoor parties for residents and knock on doors to introduce themselves. It’s now a radically different Camden due to police reform that brought and end to police corruption and misconduct.Our police departments are failing us, along with our politicians. Who is there to speak for the common man? To speak up against injustice? Who among them has the courage to lead us? The answer, none of them. Right now, the voice of reason is found among the men and women on our national sports teams. They are leading the way for racial justice and social reform, and historically always have been. Starting with football, the LA Rams signed Kenny Washington in 1946, followed by baseball, Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers signed Frank Robinson in 1947. And then the NBA, the Boston Celtics signed Charles Cooper in 1950. The same can be said for our present generation of sports teams. In 2020, we have experienced historic solidarity from our national sports teams and players, both collegiate and professional, from the Milwaukee Bucks - the first NBA team to strike during game 5 of the playoffs to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in the Buck’s home state of Wisconsin - to the WNBA, MLB, NFL, and collegiate football. Players, such as Trevor Lawrence and Joe Burrow, have spoken up, and the NCAA revealed a 5-point plan to fight racial injustice.The following is a statement from the Baltimore Ravens:“With yet another example of racial discrimination with the shooting of Jacob Blake, and the unlawful abuse of peaceful protestors, we must UNIFY as a society. It is imperative that all people - regardless of race, religion, creed or belief - come together to say, ‘‘Enough is Enough’.This is bigger than sports. Racism is embedded in the fabric of our nation’s foundation and is a blemish on our country’s history. If we are to change course and make our world a better place, we must face this problem head-on and act now to enact positive change.It is time to accept accountability and acknowledge the ramifications of slavery and injustice.Though we cannot right all the wrongs of our county’s history, we can:Arrest and charge the police officers responsible for Breonna’s killing and the shooting of Jacob Blake.Demand that Senator Mitch McConnell bring the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 to the Senate floor for vote.End qualified immunity; require body cameras; ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants; hold police accountable in court; establish a framework to prohibit racial profiling at federal, state, and local levels.Support state- and federally-mandated CALEA Accreditation and national standards of care in policing.Encourage everyone to engage in the political process by registering to vote on both the local and national level ( prison sentencing reform that is fair and equitable.Encourage every citizen to act with respect and compliance when engaging with the police. If you feel there has been an abuse of power, we encourage you to contact your police department’s internal affairs unit.We will use our platform to drive change now - not just for our generation, but for the generations that follow, for our sons and daughters and their children.”This organization should be running our country and law enforcement, not the present politicians and police chiefs.Some, however, because of the success of the Black Lives Matter movement, think police brutality is only committed against Blacks. This is far from the truth. It effects us all. I was almost shot by a police officer who said I had committed a felony (lie). As he was crouched in a shooting position midday on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, his White partner snuck up behind me and whispered in my ear, “I have never seen him like this”. Then he slowly moved away, so he wouldn’t also be shot. Consider some of the following unpublicized killings of unarmed White citizens, including one in Minneapolis. Many are available on YouTube, but I must warn you, they are REALLY GRAPHIC:Daniel Shaver was shot and killed by police while pleading “please do not shoot me” inside a La Quinta Inn when he was walking down a hallway with a girl friend—-see YouTube video, very graphic. (The 26-year-old officer was acquitted and allowed to retire from the force with a tax-free pension worth 31,000 a year for life as a result of his “suffering” due to his killing of Daniel Shaver.)Daniel Saenz was shot and killed by police while handcuffed outside a jail—-see YouTube video, very graphicJoseph Hutcheson was asphyxiated to death by a policeman’s knee after he went to a police station for help—-see YouTube video, very graphicJason Conoscenti was shot in the back and killed by police—-see YouTube video, very graphicJustine Diamond was shot and killed by police in MINNEAPOLIS (2017) after calling 911 and walking up to their car to greet them—-see pic aboveDillon Taylor was shot and killed by police after exiting 7-Eleven with friends to buy a drink—-see YouTube videoKelly Thomas was beaten to death by six officers. He choked on his own blood—see pic aboveZachary Hammond, a teen, was lured by police to a Hardee’s parking lot in a drug-sting operation and then was shot twice in the back at point-blank range while still in his car. The Officer didn’t even mention the shooting in his report.Ethan Saylor, the white Eric Garner, was asphyxiated by police while wailing “Mommy it hurts”.Christopher Cervini, the White Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by Roderick Scott, the Black George Zimmerman.Christopher Roupe was shot and killed by police while playing a video game.Douglas Zerby was shot and killed with 12 rounds by police while watering his grass with a water hose nozzle.Eugene Mallory, 80, was shot and killed while in bed after a mistaken meth raid by police.Just last Friday, September 4, Golda Barton dialed 911, she hoped emergency responders could help hospitalize her autistic 13-year-old son who was having a mental crises. Instead, officers repeatedly shot Linen Cameron after he ran away, leaving the boy in serious condition with injuries to his intestines, bladder, shoulder, and ankles. Her response, ““Why didn’t you just tackle him”.The present times, with the BLM movement, are similar to the 60s and early 70s with the social unrest demonstrated by the Berkeley protests or “Berkeley Revolution”, a series of protests in 1964–1965 and 1970 at the University of California, Berkeley and the wider area around Berkeley, the Columbia University protests of 1968, and the “The Student Strike of 1970 when over 4 million college students across the nation protested America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, the largest protest in American history.The watershed moment was when 4 Kent State students were shot and killed by National Guardsmen on May 4, 1970.However, The Student Strike of 1970 quickly turned to civil unrest, without the looting though, in the form of violence towards the National Guard in many areas, instead of being a social and political movement, and thus lost its ability to bring about change. Rather, it divided the nation even more. However, almost all of the outbreaks of violence in American cities in the late 60s were triggered by instances of police brutality. One college student even hung a sign that read “They can’t kill us all”. Thus, Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968 on a law-an-order platform, and California Governor Ronald Reagan called for military force to crush dissent: “If it takes a bloodbath, let’s get it over with. No more appeasement”. He would then send 2,700 National Guards to People’s Park near the University of California, Berkeley. Trump also declared himself “Your president of law-an-order” to quell dissent. However, former military generals and admirals have learned from history and rebuffed Trump’s request. They called for him to, instead, unify the nation. Stopping young looters by protecting businesses is one thing, but denying someone’s right to protest is the most un-American thing you can do in a democracy. It’s our fundamental right to question and challenge authority, our government. This is the key to what has made our country so great.The events of that time were often contrasted in American films by law-and-order redneck sheriffs and other government authorities, often referred to as “The Man” in both White and Black films, who targeted long-haired “hippies” (Whom they also referred to as “commies”.) for persecution and killing: “Tribes” (1970), also known as “The Soldier Who Declared Peace” (UK), starring Jan-Michael Vincent; “White Lightning” (1973) starring Burt Reynolds as “Gator” whose brother is murdered by the sheriff for protesting; and “First Blood” (1982) starring Sylvester Stallone as Rambo who is persecuted by a small town sheriff for his long-hair as he wrongly profiles him as a hippie and un-American.At the same time in America, there were other organized social protests going on in the 60s, such as the Civil Rights Movement.However, this movement, led by Martin Luther King Jr, would follow the path that all the great 20th century protest movements were using worldwide, nonviolence, that would sustain them as social and political movements. These nonviolent protest movements would make the world a much better place by following the footsteps of Jesus as he confronted the Roman Empire. For example, Mohandas Gandhi (who learned the technique of passive resistance from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5–7, and from its 20th century socio-economic political form as detailed in Henry David Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”), Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, Nelson Mandela, Lech Walesa, Aung San Suu Kyi, Benigno Aquino Jr., Kwame Nkrumah, and Cesar Chavez, all used nonviolence and civil disobedience for political reform, justice and equality, rather than terrorism. In America, MLK’s non-violent protests spurred JFK and LBJ to pass the “Civil Rights Act of 1964”, the”Voting Rights Act of 1965”, and the “Civil Rights Act of 1968” or also known as the “Fair Housing Act”.Another extremely well organized protest movement in the 60s was the East Los Angeles Walkouts or Chicano Blowouts.They were a series of 1968 protests by Chicano (Mexican) students against unequal conditions in Los Angeles Unified School District high schools. The first walkout occurred on March 5, 1968. The students who organized and carried out the protests were primarily concerned with the quality of their education. This movement, which involved thousands of students from the Los Angeles area, 15 to 20,000, was identified as “the first major mass protest against racism undertaken by Mexican-Americans in the history of the US”. Here are some examples of how well organized it was. Funds for Los Angels Schools were allocated based on the number of students in class each day. By having students walk out of homeroom before attendance was taken, the organizers could increase public attention by targeting the schools financially. And students from seven high school campuses, four from East LA, participated in the walkouts, one time many of them met together at a park. Following the walkouts, the students were allowed to meet with the board of education to list their academic, administrative, and facilities demands.So yes, every non-violent racial and social reform movement is important to give us voice, to be heard, and to bring about change.

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