America's Indochina Holocaust
The History and Global Matrix of The Vietnam War
by Stefan Schindler
The original impulse for writing about The Vietnam War was the Socratic realization that I did not know the history of this defining event of my generation. Research began with the CIA and covert U.S. intelligence operations. The unfolding story showed not only my own ignorance, but also the ignorance of most Americans: about the war, about their country, about Vietnam, about the world, and about the history of the world since World War Two. My book is a form of service, urging citizens to emerge from Plato's cave by becoming historically informed.
Faulkner said: "The past is not dead. In fact, it's not even past." This is relevant for the following reasons. Most Americans don't realize that The Vietnam War was in fact a holocaust. They don't know that it lasted for thirty years, from 1945 to 1975. They don't know the history of the war, can't list the lies told by five presidents to justify it, and refuse to see the use of Agent Orange as part of a package of war crimes. Even the phrase "The Vietnam War" is misleading, since it disguises the double genocides erupting from the war's expansion into Laos and Cambodia. Hence the title of my book: "America's Indochina Holocaust." Also, most Americans don't comprehend the war as part of America's larger imperial policy in Asia, mirrored most violently, for example, in Indonesia and The Philippines; therefore, they can't place the war in its proper global context. This historical ignorance means that most Americans are functionally illiterate. This is important. As Jefferson and Franklin both frequently said: We can be ignorant or free, but we cannot be both.
Refusing to assume responsibility for war crimes, America has failed to right its moral compass. Collectively, we live in a state of denial, delusion and moral schizophrenia. Therefore, we are at war again, and we remain a danger both to the world and to ourselves. America's current war in the Middle East is Vietnam Redux; our "Second Vietnam War." It confirms Santayana's claim that those who don't learn from history are self-condemned to repeat it. The "shock and awe" of Bush's crusade was another monstrous war crime. It was completely unnecessary; and it remains morally obscene and geo-strategically self-defeating. In fact, America's current war in the Middle East parallels the Athenian fleet sailing for Syracuse: the final imperial overstretch that marks the turning point, the pivot toward implosion. Jean-Paul Sartre said: "A writer has a place in his age. Each word has an echo, as does each silence." As a student of Zen, I have great respect for silence, and try to practice it often. As a writer, I think it's important to remember that Sartre's words echo Camus: "It is necessary not to side with the executioners." I don't think America will cease to be war-like until we learn to be honest about our own history. The present and the past are connected; and that connection - or disconnection - determines our future. So my book looks to the past to heal the present to give hope for the future.
Stefan Schindler does an extraordinary job of telling the story of The Vietnam War in simple, clear, compellingly dramatic language, thoroughly documented and completely accessible to anyone who can read. I hope it gets wide circulation.
Author of A People's History of The United States and Declarations of Independence
America's Indochina Holocaust is a profound contribution to the study of war and its consequences. It offers a sketch of the twentieth century, and dares to proclaim the unlearned lessons of recent history. It pulls back the curtain of Oz, showing the forces at work behind the veil of public announcement. Concisely narrating the origins and evolution of The Vietnam War, this book also weaves together past and present: it parallels America's assault on Indochina to America's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. Schindler's writing echoes with the passion of Tom Paine, the elegance of Emerson, and the courage of Thoreau. I recommend this book highly, and to educators everywhere most especially.
Lewis M. Randa,Director
The Peace Abbey
Schindler's chronicle places America's "Vietnam War" in global context. It brings to light the cold-war matrix of hubris and delusion leading to so much folly and tragedy. The book argues that America's 21st century invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq constitute America's Second Vietnam War, confirming Santayana's claim that those who don't learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Schindler's narrative voice is informed without being presumptuous, passionate without being inappropriately emotional, courageous in its insistence upon offering candid judgments about various individuals without being an ideological diatribe. Professor Schindler shows that, like Classical Athens, modern America defeats itself in pursuit of a contradiction called democratic imperialism. This book is for the soul. It illumines and corrects the historical illiteracy which still traps The United States of Amnesia in Plato's Cave. I shall recommend it widely and enthusiastically.
In gratitude and solidarity,
Professor of Philosophy
Pennsylvania State University
This product was added to our catalog on Tuesday 24 April, 2012.