Brother/Comrade Rick Ayers

September 20, 2017

Minor commentary on Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary, “Vietnam War.”

Episode two (Riding the Tiger, 1961-63):

My first thought: Yes, please do watch this series; it is totally worth watching it. I don’t know why so many people on FB declare their criticism of a piece by saying they won’t watch something. Check it out, especially if you are younger than 70. There is much for you to learn. And there is plenty to criticize. For this episode, I watched on line so I could include “explicit language.”

Great music. #2 starts with “So What?” by Miles Davis

The whole series is suffused with a feeling of white innocence, white privilege not only in the framing of the story but just in the way the script is written. It is really a missed opportunity. It was a white man’s war fought by thousands of Black and Brown conscripts against Asian peasants. And yes many white youth were drafted too, which proved fatal to the war plan – too many were getting beaten down. But all of these brutal realities are softened. So many white talking heads in the interviews. Even the guy who describes the power of the Black freedom movement in the early 60’s – it’s a white guy.

They now frame Le Duan as the bad guy, the counter to a more avuncular Uncle Ho. Perhaps in time Ho Chi Minh will be defanged in American mythology the way they tried to turn Martin Luther King into a harmless man with a dream – instead of the revolutionary activist he was. As for Le Duan, read his work.

The key to the US defeat was of course people’s war – a combination of broad organizing and guerrilla resistance. This approach has been used to eject invaders since forever (viz. American revolution). The invader is dogged day and night, small ambushes, hit-and-run. They find themselves walled up in safe fortifications, unable to move. The US and its Saigon allies responded with “search and destroy” missions which were utter failures. Then they implemented “Strategic Hamlets” (villages caged in by barbed wire) Burns/Novick describe as a ineffective but not what they really were: prison camps. The British tried this first, in Malaya, always to rob the guerrillas of their base, to dry up the sea that the fish swim in. But it is a genocidal, hateful policy that is self defeating as it creates more enemies.

The story of Ap Bac is itself reason to watch Episode 2. This 1963 battle was a moment when the National Liberation Front (NLF) forces switched tactics, fighting a pitched battle at a location and time of their own choosing. It was a defeat for the Americans and South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) and it’s something to understand. Quite a bit of footage brings you close to this moment – including yes interviews with NLF cadre.

Another typical theme of the western point of view is emerging: the incompetence of our puppet forces. Those darn ARVN troops, they wouldn’t fight. They were cowardly, corrupt. This is such a racist perspective. “What’s wrong with them?” lament the invading Germans about the Vichy French (collaborationist) forces. “They don’t fight well, even when we tell them where to attack.” It’s an old story. Those darn Iraqi army forces, those darn Afghans. We send advisers, trainers. They just don’t know how to fight. They are corrupt. Why do the enemy, those who reject the blessings we are bringing to them, fight so well, so heroically? You will find ARVN-blaming throughout this series. So that’s the formula: well-intentioned Americans (“we had to kill the Vietnamese to save them”), cunning evil guerrillas, and corrupt, incompetent friends of the Americans. Expect to hear that version for the next 8 episodes.



September 20, 2017
I’m starting to watch the Burns/Novick documentary on PBS. I am visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Spokane, Washington, both of whom have health problems. I want to focus on them more, but they wanted to watch the second episode last night. I have read several articles about the PBS series, along with what people are posting on Full Disclosure. I am sure I am no different than most people. I have been somewhat hesitant to watch the Burns film, because I am away from my friends and support group back in Portland, Oregon. When I came back from Vietnam, I was eventually hospitalized in a psychiatric facility for PTSD, once in 1980, and in 1994 after I came back from my first return to Vietnam with three close friends who were also Vietnam veterans. One of those friends was involved in the Phoenix Program, where he was personally pulling the trigger on assassinations. Another friend in our group was involved in radio intercept. Halfway through his tour in Vietnam, he realized he was giving B-52 pilots coordinates in the bombing of civilian targets. When he realized he was involved in mass murder, he walked into the orderly room on his base, and told his company commander that his tour in Vietnam was officially over. Well, they threatened him with a court martial, and even a firing squad, but he stuck to his guns, and told them to go fuck themselves. He was eventually sent back to the US as a psychiatric case, and wound up on a psyche ward at Madigan Army Hospital. His war was over, and he spent the next twenty years drinking heavily, and packing a pistol. He was basically suffering from the LIE of the Vietnam War, and the dismantling of his core belief system. He absolutely hated the US Government, and called the Pentagon a house of goons. He used profound articulate sarcasm to get through his day, as he referred to the American flag as a Nazi symbol riddled with madness. To this day, he is a person I have the utmost respect for, because he walked into his orderly room in Vietnam, and told people that he could no longer morally commit murder for corporate America. Now, run this voice through the 18-hour Burns documentary on The Vietnam War. This is not complicated, except for people who are still looking for a noble cause for America’s involvement in Vietnam. The LIE is the truth of the Vietnam War. That LIE put me in two psychiatric hospitals, and that is why I dearly love my friend, because he validated me to the core.

Before I went to Vietnam, I spent a year in Denver, Colorado at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital attending an advanced 41 week medic course. Fitzsimmons had a lot of amputees from Vietnam, as they were going through various stages of being severely wounded. I saw a lot of people in wheelchairs during the year that I was there. One experience I had, as we were involved in many medical rotations throughout the hospital, was my two week rotation on the psyche ward. Many soldiers coming back from Vietnam were severely wounded psychologically, and the drug of choice was Thorazine. You could tell soldiers were on heavy doses of Thorazine, because they had the Thorazine shuffle. When soldiers did not respond to drugs ( if they ever would ), they often received shock therapy. As a student, I witnessed one of those high voltage treatments. I remember they brought this young American kid into the room on a gurney and we transferred him to the shock table. He was strapped down to the table, a padded tongue blade was put in his mouth. He was already on a sedative, but the nurses were there to give him as much comfort as they could. Electrodes were attached to his head, and the switched was executed. His body became very rigid, and he convulsed with jerking movements that seemed to elevate him off the table. What I saw in that moment, was the utter LIE of the entire Vietnam War in a nutshell. I wish Ken Burns had a clip of that shock therapy session in his 18-hour epic on The Vietnam War, as it would cut through a lot of bullshit ideological rhetoric. When you get away from emotional intelligence, and the incredible grief and sorrow of the Vietnam Holocaust, you are still discussing whether it was a noble cause. When I saw the end results of a couple of American soldiers commit suicide in Vietnam, and a good Vietnam vet friend hang himself in a motel room twenty years after he got back from Vietnam, I didn’t need anymore proof on weather it was a noble cause of not. I had the blood on my hands to prove it, and the emotional trauma of the LIE for a lifetime.

Mike Hastie
Army Medic Vietnam
September 20, 2017
Full Disclosure

You do not bring the enemy to the peace table by just killing military combatants. You ultimately bring the enemy to the peace table by killing innocent civilians, because they are military targets. The primary goal of the aggressor nation is to break the will of the people, and their ability to defend their homeland. This strategy is as old as warfare itself.

Mike Hastie
Vietnam Veteran

Sent from my iPhone

Santa Fe this Sunday

September 20, 2017,


September 18, 2017
The National Lawyer’s Guild Chicago Annual Celebration (2017) will honor Bernardine Dohrn with this year’s Arthur Kinoy Award.
Please join us for an evening of joy and justice.
Tickets are from $65 to $125, and a booklet announcement can be ordered at:
When: Friday, November 3, 2017, 6:00-9:00 pm
Where: Second Unitarian Church, 656 W. Barry
Celebrating 80 Years of Law for the People

Rain Taxi

September 13, 2017
Rain Taxi Review of Books in Minneapolis has a lovely review of DEMAND the IMPOSSIBLE! which concludes with this:
“This book is essential reading for activists hoping to foment the changes in our society that will transform the next centuries of global democracy—that is, if the experiment can survive that long.”
Thank you Rain Taxi!


September 10, 2017

A natural and expected reaction to the disasters in Texas and Florida is the normal, everyday human response: as fellow creatures, we will help you. Of course.

But when we watch Governors Abbott and Scott rolling up the sleeves of their work shirts, donning their “NAVY” baseball caps, and offering the optics of responsible leadership, it’s only fair to point out that these guys and their donors and allies are leading climate change deniers, that they’ve intentionally underfunded infrastructure development and safety programs, that they are austerity hawks who consistently serve the interests of the banksters and their hedge-fund homies, that they are vicious America-firsters and proponents of the harshest treatment of immigrants, and that they always seem to want FEMA, the EPA, and Washington “off our backs…” except for right now. They urge us to keep politics away from a “natural disaster,” and with the complicity of the bought media and the chattering class it is done—endless images of flood and storm, less and less illuminating as the catastrophe rolls forward, and not a peep about the climate chaos brought on by human-caused change and run-away predatory capitalism. And within the ballooning hypocrisy this: immigrant scrutiny and harsh treatment will be suspended for the storm, so please go to shelters; after the storm, back to normal: scapegoating, targeting, exploiting, oppressing. The gathering catastrophic storms here in Chicago and around the country—terrible schools, scarce jobs and crisis-level unemployment, shoddy health care, inadequate housing, and occupying militarized police forces—are of no interest to the political and financial classes, or the 1%. It’s up to us to organize and rise!

Notes on Violence

September 4, 2017

Brother Rick Ayers on the NYT piece on protest, September 3, 2017:
I appreciate this piece – and it includes Berkeley’s own Michael McBride and other African American leaders on the debates about movement building and recent demonstrations. I find myself defending, or deflecting broad criticisms of, the Antifa activists just because so many of the criticisms strike me as wrong.

Here are a few reasons:

1) It is ridiculous to suggest that anyone who resorts to violence is “helping the enemy.” Violence is terrifying, problematic, heart-breaking. But it is not most important to be debating on the level of tactics – unless you are forwarding some kind of winning strategy.
2) But if you want to talk about violence, at least be honest. Too many people today praise the Black Panthers now that Cointelpro has safely defeated them. Just to be clear: they did not only do a breakfast for children program. If you want to condemn the Black Liberation Movement, the Vietnamese independence struggle, the Cubans, the Tupamaros, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, anti-Nazi guerrillas in Europe, John Brown and the (Black) 54th Regiment Massachusetts regiment during the civil war. Go for it. Be consistent. But don’t repeat Chris Hedges’ fantasy view of history, when he declared, “revolutions are always fundamentally nonviolent.”
3) Don’t declare that Antifa gives ammunition to the enemy, allows the Washington Post to equalize the protests and the fascists. No, that is you who are doing the work of the bourgeois press, you are doing the equalizing. I always find it funny to hear the bourgeoisie giving advice to activists as to how to build the movement. My suggestion: they probably aren’t interested in building a movement.
4) The movement will always have a large range of people coming out. You can be annoyed by whoever you want to be annoyed by. Personally I’m especially annoyed by the RCP who always shows up with their loudspeakers and their culty Bob Avakian lock-step. But I don’t write posts saying they ruined our demonstration.
5) You may feel that the fascist-confederate white supremacists are a tiny group who only get attention because of the reaction they provoke. That might have been true 30 years ago. Now they are clearly connected to the head of state, to the Breitbart-Trump-AltRight snake pit that is taking over. So it is no joke.
6) It’s not always about free speech. Sometimes it’s about a fight. I’m sure John Brown’s guerrillas, when they attacked Harper’s Ferry, were not respecting the free speech of the slave-owners they attacked.
7) You may find Antifa to be naïve, hyper-masculine (though many of those arrested in Berkeley were women), or mis-judging the time. I tend to agree with you. But when does the next phase start? I don’t know. Full disclosure: When Weather-SDS did the Days of Rage demonstration in 1969, I thought it was adventuristic and wrong. A year later I had joined.
8) My biggest complaint about all the Antifa-hate out there is that it is coming from a place of incredible privilege. I would ask: what have you done? How is it going on building a tremendous mass movement that is stopping the Trumpistas? You (and I!) are not speaking from a place of great success. Perhaps you are comfortable coming out for a stroll through the streets every few months. I would venture that such an approach is flabby and not nearly enough to confront a growing fascism. I’m struggling to know what to do next but I’m not interested in lecturing the militants to chill out. I keep hearing the words of Stevie Wonder:
• ‘Cause if you really want to hear our views
• You haven’t done nothing

So that’s my two cents worth. Hardly a definitive analysis. Just some thoughts.