Last week, President Obama hosted Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in a visit to the White House. It was a meeting characterized by friendliness and cooperation between the president and the Communist Party head.
Referring to the meeting, the New York Times editorialized that the it made sense because “Mr. Trong is Vietnam’s highest-ranking political leader and, along with other influential conservatives in that nation’s ruling party, has been the most resistant to closer relations with America.”
It’s not the first friendly contact that U.S. officials have had with the Vietnamese communist regime. A few years ago, the U.S. Navy sent three of its warships to the Vietnamese port of Da Nang in what was intended to be a sign of U.S. national-security state friendship. In fact, the Pentagon has even sought permission from Vietnam’s communist regime to establish a friendly U.S. military base in Vietnam.
Obama’s meeting with a died-in-the-wool, self-avowed communist, along with the Pentagon’s friendly overtures to its communist military counterparts in Vietnam, only goes to show what an unnecessary sham the entire Cold War was and how there could have been mutual coexistence with communist regimes all over the world, including the Soviet Union.
Think back to the end of World War II, when the Soviet Union, England, and the United States were celebrating the end of the war. After working together to defeat Nazi Germany, mutual cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union could have continued, much like United States and communist Vietnam are cooperating with each other today.
But the advocates of a national-security establishment for America would have nothing of that. In order to convince Americans to accept the fundamental restructuring of America’s governmental system brought on by an enormous, permanent standing army, the CIA, later the NSA, and the rest of what President Eisenhower would term the “military-industrial complex,” U.S. officials knew that they needed crises — big crises — ideally, permanent, ongoing crises that would keep Americans anxious and afraid and, therefore, willing to accept a national-security apparatus being grafted onto America’s federal governmental system.
As U.S. Senator Arthur Vandenberg put it to President Truman, it was necessary to scare the hell out of the American people. Truman and the national-security establishment succeeded in that endeavor beyond their wildest dreams.
They first began provoking the Soviets, issuing orders to them, humiliating them, and bullying them. When the Soviets refused to be cowed by U.S. officials, they were accused of “aggressiveness” and “assertiveness,” the same terms that U.S. officials and the mainstream press have used to describe Russia’s response to the U.S.-directed aggression and assertiveness by NATO and the CIA in Eastern Europe and Ukraine.
They then convinced Americans that the Soviets were bent on world conquest, including a communist takeover of the United States.
Having been inculcated with a mindset of extreme deference to authority, most Americans passively and submissively succumbed to whatever the president, the Pentagon, and the CIA said about the Soviet Union and its supposed designs of conquest on the United States.
Of course, the notion that the Soviet Union was planning to attack the United States was always ludicrous on its face. For one thing, the Soviets had lost some 20 million people in World War II and their entire country, including most of the industry, had been destroyed. The Soviet government was broke and the Soviet citizenry were impoverished and exhausted.
Moreover, the United States had nuclear weapons, which U.S. officials were more than willing to employ against Soviet cities, while, for a long period of time, the Soviets had none. Even when the Soviets acquired the Bomb, they knew that given the disparity of nuclear weapons, the Soviet Union would be entirely destroyed in a nuclear war while the United States would be partially destroyed.
U.S. officials cited the Soviet Union’s installation of puppet regimes in Eastern Europe and East Germany as a sign of its aggressive designs against the United States. But of course, U.S. officials, led by Truman’s predecessor, President Franklin Roosevelt, had knowingly and intentionally delivered Eastern Europe and East Germany to the Soviet communists as part of their wartime cooperation against the German Nazis.Throughout the Cold War, U.S. military and CIA officials maintained that “You can trust a communist … to be a communist,” which meant, for them, that there could never be peaceful coexistence with the Soviet Union and communist regimes. That was the mindset that drove Cold War, the anti-communist crusade, the spying on American citizens, the destruction of civil liberties, and the official persecution of Americans who were sympathetic to Cuba.
And let’s not forget about the U.S. regime-change operations in Cuba, Guatemala, Iran, Chile, and elsewhere — all because of the U.S. national-security state mindset that held that the United States could not survive with Castro in Cuba, Arbenz in Guatemala, Mossadegh in Iran, Allende in Chile, and other communists or supposed communists in power.
As President Eisenhower pointed out in his remarkable Farewell Address, the adoption of a national-security state apparatus fundamentally altered America’s governmental system. In the name of combatting Soviet totalitarianism, the United States adopted a totalitarian structure, one that still exists and one that has sent our nation into the dark side that would come to embrace things that communists and Nazis would do, including medical experimentations on unsuspecting people, torture, assassination, indefinite detention, denial of due process and trial by jury, and partnerships with criminal organizations and tyrannical regimes, such as Egypt today, Cuba under Batista, and Chile under Pinochet.
President Kennedy saw through the sham and attempted to end the Cold War and establish friendly relations with the Soviets and the Cubans, just like President Obama is doing today with Vietnam (and with Cuba). The national-security establishment would not permit it, on grounds of national security, which is why it conducted a regime-change operation right here in the United States on November 22, 1963.
As President Obama and the communist regime in Vietnam are demonstrating, the Cold War was an unnecessary sham. It’s too late, of course, to do anything about that but it’s not too late to dismantle the U.S. national-security apparatus that was grafted onto and fundamentally altered our governmental system. That’s what needs to be done now, before it provokes new crises, engenders a new round of fear-mongering, bankrupts our country, and totally destroys our freedom.
Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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