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June 30, 2008

Kim Phuc Speaks

By: Bernard Chazelle

NPR is paying attention to this blog (who isn't?) and posted a fascinating essay by "the girl in the napalm-bombing picture."

Besides sheer terror, what's running through the head of a 9-year old child as she is running naked, badly burned, on the Saigon to Phnom Penh road in 1972? The answer is both obvious and surprising.

I still remember my thoughts at that moment: I would be ugly and people would treat me in a different way.

The road to recovery was long and painful.

I lost my consciousness. Several days after, I realized that I was in the hospital, where I spent 14 months and had 17 operations. It was a very difficult time for me when I went home from the hospital. Our house was destroyed; we lost everything and we just survived day by day.

Vietnam is ancient history? Not for Kim Phuc.

I still have many scars on my body and severe pain most days.

Did the US pay any war reparations? No, it enforced a 25-year embargo against Vietnam (thus making the US world champ in soreloserness).

Today, Kim Phuc lives in Toronto. Canada did not fight in the Vietnam war, yet it opened its doors to nearly twice as many Vietnamese refugees per head as the US.

Read the full essay. Or, better, listen to it.

— Bernard Chazelle

ADDED BY JON: An extremely striking recent picture of Kim Phuc is available here.

Posted at June 30, 2008 06:38 PM

Please don't do the Canadians the favor of retailing their most self-serving propaganda.

I dig the following passage from a speech Noam Chomsky gave in TORONTO. I love that guy--he goes to Canada where they love to condemn the US, and he shows up their vaunted humanitarian hero Lester Pearson as another was criminal.

Anyway dixit Chomsky:

Canada was a member of the International Control Commission for Indochina, theoretically neutral, in fact spying for the aggressors. We learn from recently released Canadian archives that Canada felt “some misgivings about some specific USA military measures against [North Vietnam],” but “supports purposes and objectives of USA policy” in opposing North Vietnamese “aggression of [a] special type.” This Vietnamese aggression against Vietnam must not be allowed to succeed, not only because of the possible consequences in Vietnam, still not facing the threat of “extinction” at this time, but also because if Vietnam survives “as a viable cultural and historic entity,” the aggression of the Vietnamese might set a precedent “for other so-called liberation wars.” The concept of Vietnamese aggression in Vietnam against the American defenders of the country has interesting precedents, which out of politeness I will not mention. It is particularly striking because the Canadian observers surely were aware that at the time there were more US mercenaries in South Vietnam as part of the invading US army than there were North Vietnamese – even if we assume that somehow North Vietnamese are not allowed in Vietnam. And the US mercenaries, along with the far greater US army, were threatening South Vietnam with “extinction” by mass terror operations right at the heart of the country, while the North Vietnamese “aggressors” were at the periphery, mainly trying to draw the invading forces to the borders, at a time when North Vietnam too was being bombed. That remained true, according to the Pentagon, until many years after these Canadian government reports.

The diplomatic historians who have explored the Canadian archives have not reported any misgivings about the attack against South Vietnam, which by the time of these internal communications, was demolishing the country. The distinguished statesman Lester Pearson had gone far beyond. He informed the House of Commons in the early 1950s that “aggression” by the Vietnamese against France in Vietnam is only one element of worldwide “communist aggression,” and that “Soviet colonial authority in Indochina” appeared to be stronger than that of France – that’s when France was attempting (with US support) to reconquer its former Indochinese colonies, with not a Russian anywhere in the neighborhood, and not even any contacts, as the CIA had to concede after a desperate effort to find them. One has to search pretty far to find more fervent devotion to imperial crimes than Pearson’s declarations.

Posted by: seth at June 30, 2008 09:10 PM

Seth: Chomsky on an off-day, I suppose. Pretty weak material. So Lester Pearson loved France and its empire in the early 50s...

Damn, that didn't last though. When de Gaulle made a nuisance of himself by reclaiming Quebec for the Glorious Empire of "La Douce France," Pearson nearly had a stroke!

But Pearson kept his country out of Vietnam despite US pressure. And Canada proved more welcoming to Boat People than the US. Be kind to Canadians! They're stuck with Celine Dion. Don't they deserve a bit of sympathy from us?

OK, I am not saying I am going to tattoo a giant maple leaf on my forehead JUST YET, but credit needs to be given where credit is due.

It's very regrettable that Canadians didn't express misgivings about killing 3 million people. But I'll take suppressed misgivings any time over actual mass killings.

One has to search pretty far to find more fervent devotion to imperial crimes than Pearson’s declarations.

This cracked me up. Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, King Leopold, and... Lester Pearson.

No one beats Churchill anyway, and one doesn't need to look far for his fervent declarations.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 30, 2008 10:08 PM

BTW, I noticed that she mentioned she was hiding out in the Cao Dai Temple. I dunno if any of you guys know what Cao Dai is, but for such a grim subject, it provides a veneer of unintended humour. It is an amazingly kooky religion, native to Vietnam where the three patron saints are recognized as Chinese nationalist Sun Yat Sen, French writer Victor Hugo, and Vietnamese mandarin Nguyen Binh Khiem.

Posted by: En Ming Hee at June 30, 2008 10:14 PM

Even on a weak day Chomsky is pretty good.

Someplace else he says that Canada made more money from the Vietnam War than any other country. I will dig up the reference if anyone insists.

Posted by: seth at June 30, 2008 10:45 PM

Gang your default font choice for the web page looks terrible in the new Firefox 3 on linux.

It's actually not your fault, it's an error on the linux side, but rather than wait for months for someone to fix the code, you could just change the font to something that isn't broken. Probably something san-serif.

Posted by: patience at June 30, 2008 11:13 PM

Seth: Yes, I am curious. Not as a debating point but out of curiosity. And I agree with you that Chomsky is always a force to reckon with, even when he has a cold.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at July 1, 2008 12:08 AM

I read the most interesting stuff here...

Posted by: A Different Matt at July 1, 2008 01:30 AM

Kim Phuc learned to FORGIVE, but don't YOU worry, WE will find 100, today alone, that won't. EVEN OUR buddy Mr. Maliki.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 1, 2008 02:30 AM

I'm guessing Ole Noam buys him some war, too. Can't say as I blame him if its his stock in trade. War damn sure pays the bills at MIT. Why not, if one can afford it. (or turn a profit,eh)

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 1, 2008 02:40 AM

So you think
You can tell
Heaven from Hell
Blue skys from pain
Can you tell
A green field
From a cold steel rail
A smile fron a vail
Do you think
You can tell
Did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts
Hot ashes for trees
Hot air
For the cool breeze
Cold comfort
For change
Did you exchange
A walk-on part in a war
For a leading roll in a cage
How I wish
How I wish you were here
We're just
Two lost souls
Livin' in a fish bowl
Year after year
Runnin' over
The same old ground
And how we found
The same old fears
Wish you were here----Pink Floyd

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 1, 2008 03:53 AM

Bernard--I don't mind looking for the Chomsky reference to Canadian war profiteering, but it will take a few days of thumbing through my library.

Posted by: Seth at July 1, 2008 09:28 AM

Bernard--I know you can't wait for the Chomsky reference. But in the meantime here is a link to the CBC website and a report called "Canada's War Profiteering."

“The Uniroyal plant in Elmira, Ont., was one of seven suppliers producing Agent Orange for the U.S. military.”

Canada has for decades been freeriding in the slipstream of American power, enjoying both the subsidiary benefits of trade in arms, and the moralistic satisfaction of having someone else drop the bombs they made.

Posted by: Seth at July 1, 2008 11:39 AM

Labiche: I love that old song. My younger brother collects EVERYTHING by Cohen. (He had 24hours worth on a reel to reel when he came back from Viet Nam)Democracy has since come to the USA. WE invited it out back into the alley for a "special" smoke, bludgeoned it to death and stole its wallet. Perhaps Leonard will write a song about it someday. (" There is no safety in the covens of the witch. Some very special doctor went and sterilized the bitch.")

Posted by: Mike Meyer at July 1, 2008 07:51 PM