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L. Neil Smith's
Number 526, July 5, 2009

"There are aliens among us."

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The Cost of Vietnam
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

The Vietnam war had a very high cost in lives, in treasure, and in loss of individual liberty at home. It also prompted a series of protests, including many very violent protests, including some where the government brutally responded with murder. As a result of these protests and the general pointlessness of the war, some things changed, for a time.

In my essay last week about the Vietnamization of Iraq, I pointed out the difficulty with the currency that LBJ faced. He had a lot of money to create out of nothing, so he got rid of the silver in the coinage. This prompted many banks overseas, including a lot of banks holding French government money, to redeem dollars for gold. The price of gold went up, and soon everyone wanted in on the "sure deal" of selling a hundred ounces of gold for $4,200 and redeeming those dollars for 120 ounces of gold—to be redeemed again.

To give you some idea of the scale of this insane monetary policy, the USA military was called upon to airlift gold to London to be redeemed for dollars. So much gold was placed on the weighing floor at Rothschild's in London at one point that the entire floor collapsed into the basement. This event closed the London redemptions for about two weeks. Someone of a cynical frame of mind might suppose that the event was staged. But the market soon moved to Switzerland when the gnomes of Zurich began offering redemptions, and so the London market re-opened. If you want to know more about these events, check out the London Gold Pool, the name given to the deliberate cartel in restraint of trade that attempted to limit world gold prices between 1961 and 1968 (when it was abandoned as unworkable).

So why all this focus on monetary policy? It is important to know why things are so screwed up, and monetary policy is often the lynch pin for other government policies—war policy, trade policy, foreign policy, and fiscal policy. Understanding Vietnam in the context of other 20th Century wars that were financed by austerity programs—meatless, sweetless, and wheatless days among civilians who purchased war bonds, victory bonds, and had Milton Friedman withhold their pay as an emergency war measure—it is important to know that Vietnam was funded by inflation. All wars since then have, as well.

Why? Because the establishment powers that be are afraid of the people. Austerity today would mean reduced pensions for the elderly, reduced medical coverage for the elderly, reduced unemployment compensation, and rioting in the streets. After all, it has happened before.

If Vietnam was paid for with inflation, what did that buy? One source says that "Between 1965 and 1975, the United States spent $111 billion on the war.(1)" Today, that doesn't seem like a lot of money, really. So how much was that worth in today's dollars?

Well, the price of gold gives a good comparison. Then the price of gold averaged about $45 per ounce over the period. Today the price of gold is about $930 per ounce. That means that the dollar's value has fallen by a factor of about 20.7. Put another way, it would take about $2.3 trillion today to have the same buying power.

By way of comparison, the direct spending on the Iraq war so far has been $648 billion for the USA government, with costs extending into the future of caring for injured veterans, etc., running into the trillions. By another estimate, the Iraq war has cost the American economy about $3 trillion (2).

In terms of lives, the figures are staggering. Altogether about 7.9 million people were killed or injured, including combat casualties on both sides, and civilian casualties. USA military deaths included 58,159 killed in the war (3) about 2,000 missing, and 303,635 wounded (4). (Considering the life-changing, and life expectancy reducing nature of many of these wounds it is important to include them in the toll of lives lost or permanently altered. Remind an injured vet how sorry you are that the government sent them to war.)

The inflicted toll of lives lost or altered forever is much higher. Consider the South Vietnamese military, which lost 220,357 dead and about 1.17 million wounded (3). South Korea sent troops and 4,960 died while 10,962 were wounded; Laos lost about 30,000 killed (5).

Australia sent troops and 520 died (3) while 2,400 were wounded. New Zealand, 37 dead, 187 wounded; Thailand, 1,351 dead (3).

Civilians in South Vietnam killed in the war—about 1.58 million (3).

Civilians in Cambodia killed—often by USA bombing, about 700,000.

North Vietnamese civilians were slaughtered in very large numbers, again often by bombing campaigns. Estimates vary up to about two million dead (8). About fifty thousand civilians in Laos were killed. About 1.2 million North Vietnamese military were killed or missing and about 600,000 wounded (3, 6). People's Republic of China lost 1,446 military dead, about 4,200 wounded. The Soviet Union had about 16 military dead (7).

So, what did we get out of this bloody mess? Whatever strategic value Vietnam had to France was lost. Although the USA tried to take over the war effort after 1954, and spent a huge amount in lives and treasure, the war was lost. Whatever strategic importance it had as a "domino" in the fight against global communism—as nonsensical a hobgoblin as has ever been raised up to scare people into supporting the establishment, was also lost.

The war was hugely profitable to death merchants. Evil companies like Boeing and Lockheed and Bell Helicopter run by blood spattered homunculi were able to make enormous profits from the war by corruptly allocated contracts. Depraved politicians like LBJ went to bed every night of the war a little richer in treasure, a little more damned to perdition. Bureau-rats had lots of jobs to distribute all this stolen wealth.

But it was basically a scam. There was no strategic interest worthy of all that killing. There was no need to slaughter all those civilians. There was only greed and viciousness, corruption, and abuse of power. The war was never declared, so not authorised by the constitution, and the escalation in 1964 was based on a lie—the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, and the NSA released documentary proof of this fact in 2005. LBJ himself said that the sailors were shooting at "flying fish" and knew, all along, that there had been no attack on US naval vessels in international waters. LBJ lied and millions died (10).

The good part is that Americans resisted the war. They resisted the draft. They refused to serve. They began a campaign of resistance in the military, with soldiers preferring to serve in the stockade rather than at a duty station where they would have to kill civilians.

Americans rioted. They burned out the ROTC barracks on several campuses. They protested against the war mongers in the CIA being allowed to recruit on campus. They ended campus recruitment for the military for many years.

Journalists, not yet entirely corrupted by the establishment, did some impressive work ferreting out the Pentagon papers and proving the facts of the Watergate scandal—felony acts committed with the direct knowledge of the president. Nixon, a racist, xenophobic, homophobic bigot war monger and depraved mass murderer was removed from office, forced to resign in disgrace. That he was not tried for treason, convicted, and executed is a shame Americans have had to live with.

That his cronies like Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld were not convicted of treason, or other crimes, and executed or imprisoned, but, rather, left free to run further treasonous escapades more recently is also a lasting shame. That Kissinger has not been deported to the World Court to stand trial for crimes against humanity is a shame.

Nevertheless, the peace process begun in 1972, the war protest process begun in the 1960s, and the exposure of corruption and betrayal had many important and lasting results. Eventually, the Soviet Union's grip on a vast region was shattered. The hobgoblin of global communism was revealed to be a hollow threat. And for nearly a decade, a peace dividend was available—until another hobgoblin, this time of global Islamism was raised to frighten people out of their wits.

And so we have had the recruiters come back to campus to encourage men and women to go off and slaughter babies in foreign countries. We have had the CIA back on campus to recruit assassins, liars, and rapists. Another war, with millions more casualties, not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan and by proxy in Somalia has interrupted many lives. And individual liberty is again under assault.

It is again nothing but a scam. The slaughter of millions does not protect American homes and lives. Suicidal terrorists can be prevented from crashing planes into buildings by armed air crews and armed passengers, not by mad violations of civil liberties at the airports.

Most importantly, the death merchants have made billions in revenues, once again. This time some of the names have changed—consolidation in the death cartel in restraint of trade is merciless. But Halliburton, KBR, the mercenaries formerly known as Blackwater, and Boeing continue to sell death to a government that continues to buy it with stolen tax dollars.

One of the lasting consequences of the protests over the Vietnam war was the end of the military draft. We killed the draft through our protests, including our violent protests. Americans won't be conscripted, or there will be more rioting, and a revolution. The powers that be know this fact, and are right to be afraid.

We know where they live. The Internet is a powerful tool for research. We know where the owners of the death merchant companies live. We know where the politicians who voted for war live. We know where many of the senior bureau-rats live. And they should be afraid.

Burning the ROTC barracks on college campuses, confronting the federalised national guard, sacrificing lives and suffering injuries, the anti-war protestors and anti-government protestors were able to end the war, end the draft, and end Nixon. We did it before, we can do it again. And we should.

Because the cost in lives and treasure is not worth bearing. There is nothing about slaughtering children in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, or anywhere else that makes Americans safer. But the war machine does it, and loves doing it. The war mongers are covered in the blood of innocents. It is time, once again, to make them pay.


(1) Daggett, Stephen (24 July 2008), CRS Report to Congress : Costs of Major U.S. Wars, Foreign press center, US Department of State, [PDF file] (Order Code RS22926, see table on page 2/5).


(3) Ulrich, Aaron (Editor); (2005 & 2006) (Box set, Color, Dolby, DVD-Video, Full Screen, NTSC). Heart of Darkness: The Vietnam War Chronicles 1945-1975. [Documentary]. Koch Vision. Event occurs at 321 minutes. ISBN 1-4172-2920-9.

(4) Vietnam war-eyewitness books; Iraq and Vietnam: Differences, Similarities and Insights, (2004: Strategic Studies Institute)]


(6) Soames, John. A History of the World, Routledge, 2005.

(7) Krivosheev G. F., Russia and the USSR in the wars of the 20th century: losses of the Armed Forces. A Statistical Study Greenhill 1997 ISBN 1-85367-280-7 (Russian)

(8) Philip Shenon, 20 Years After Victory

(9) The landmark series Vietnam: A Television History, first broadcast in 1983, is a special presentation of the award-winning PBS history series, American Experience.

(10) Wiener, Tim, Legacy of Ashes, 2007

Jim Davidson is an author and entrepreneur. His 700-page tome Being Sovereign is a work in progress. His current projects include an agorist cadre, a documentary film a feature film, a no-state wedding registry , a financial newsletter, and an individual sovereign university. He works every day to structure his affairs so he takes nothing from the state, and gives nothing to it.


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