Well, here we are, humping the boonies of the Culture Wars, and one of the Things We Carry is our 10th-grade textbook for homeschoolers, World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective. We know we promised we’d get to Ronald Reagan singlehandedly knocking over the Berlin Wall this week, but there’s just so much Cold War to cover that we’ll just have to wait another week while we get through some of the delightful proxy wars of the late 20th Century. And of course, let’s not forget to blame The Liberal Media for the sixties!
We begin with a sleepy little island called Cuba — tropical breezes, Ernest Hemingway being all manly and shit, happy mafiosi running the casinos, and prosperity for all, as long as they were rich friends of Fulgencio Batista, who must have really been a bastard, since even this textbook calls him a “dictator.” And then Fidel Castro, “a young Cuban lawyer with record of violence and revolutionary activity,” started stirring up trouble in 1953, and eventually,
Thanks to a liberal American news media, the Castro revolution gained a reputation as a war of liberation, and Castro as a heroic reformer. By January 1959, The Batista government, having lost support from the U.S. State Department, had fallen from power.
We like the suggestion that the State Department — which, as we know, was full of communists — acted entirely on its own, apparently while President Eisenhower was preoccupied (this section literally only mentions him once, noting that the U.S. broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba just before Eisenhower left office).
Then there’s the Bay of Pigs, with the predictable denunciation of JFK for betraying the “freedom fighters” by cancelling the air support that could have won the day, probably, because it was such an awesome plan. Kennedy therefore becomes responsible for both the failure to remove Castro, and for the aftermath:
The fiasco gave Castro an excuse to destroy all remaining opposition to his regime by executing most of the prisoners he already had in custody and imprisoning thousands more. In May 1961, Castro openly declared Cuba to be a Communist state and announced that there would be no more elections.
Kennedy doesn’t even get any credit for being Mr. Tough Guy during the Cuban Missile Crisis — instead, it’s suggested that JFK was snookered by Khrushchev:
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The Soviets “pledged” to halt construction of missile bases in Cuba and to remove their weapons under United Nations supervision. The Americans agreed to end the quarantine and gave assurances that Cuba would not be invaded. President Kennedy also agreed to remove American missiles from Europe. In late November, the United States ended its blockade of Cuba since the Soviets were allegedly dismantling their missile bases
Not only did he weaken America; Kennedy was even oblivious to the scare-quotes gap.
Wisely, the editors know that anti-communism is far more important than mere democracy, since people sometimes elect the wrong leaders. The book notes that in 1964,
a group of anti-Communist army officers and their troops took control of the Brazilian government. To deal with the Communist threat to Brazil, the military assumed wide-ranging powers, and law and order prevailed. Most Brazilians were grateful that their country had not become another Cuba.
They sort of leave out the trivial fact that the coup ousted a democratically-elected government, because come on, who likes socialists? Similarly, Chile’s election of Salvador Allende was dangerous, since “Allende was decidedly pro-Soviet, and he immediately established diplomatic relations with Cuba and Communist China.” (Hey, you know who else pursued diplomacy with China in the early 1970s?) The 1973 coup by Augusto Pinochet gets this exhaustive analysis:
In September 1973, Allende’s regime was ended by an anti-Communist military coup (overthrow). Allende committed suicide, and Augusto Pinochet leader of the coup, assumed the office of president. Pinochet broke off relations with Cuba and made efforts to let free market economic forces work.
Yay. We hear he did some other stuff, too, but yeah, mostly when people hear the name Pinochet, they think “free market reforms.”
The textbook’s discussions of Soviet meddling in Africa (and American efforts to help brave freedom fighters resist it) are exactly as tendentious and tedious as you’d expect, and we won’t go into it here — needless to say, post-colonial atrocities in Africa were uniformly the USSR’s fault. Also, South Africa bravely battled communist terrorists, but the communist-friendly UN inexplicably accused the plucky apartheid regime a “human rights” offender.
Similarly, you can probably guess what the book has to say about Vietnam. Communist aggression and atrocities, Kennedy making things worse by engineering the overthrow of Diem in 1963, and so on. One surprise: the book actually condemns the Gulf of Tonkin incident, citing Admiral James “Who am I and what am I doing here” Stockdale’s view that
the entire incident was fabricated to give the U.S. President unconstitutional war-making powers.
Of course, they also note that this claim was “later repeated by the conservative Constitutional law activist Phyllis Schlaﬂy,” which puts us in the uncomfortable position of feeling kind of sorry for LBJ. Just as with Korea, we learn that the real problem in Vietnam was that weak Democrats feared provoking the Soviets too much: Robert McNamara blocked General Westmoreland’s perfectly reasonable 1967 proposal to
invade Laos and Cambodia to disrupt Communist supply lines, to increase the number of allowable bombing targets in North Vietnam, expand the naval mining of North Vietnamese ports, and launch an amphibious invasion of North Vietnam.
And so we are treated to Strom Thurmond lecturing McNamara at a Senate hearing, with italics to indicate that this will definitely be on the test: “Mr. Secretary, I think it is a statement of placating the Communists. It is a statement of appeasing the Communists. It is a statement of no-win.” And wouldn’t you know it, in the very next paragraph we are informed that
American soldiers fought bravely against Communist forces from North Vietnam, the Soviet Union, and Red China, but they were not allowed to win; inexperienced politicians and bureaucrats mismanaged the war from Washington, turning it into a no-win conﬂict and forcing the military, in essence, to fight with its hands tied behind its back.
We also learn that there is only one correct way to think about the Tet Offensive, which was not a complex series of battles that shook public opinion about the Johnson Administration’s credibility, but rather a simple matter of lying by reporters who hated America:
Although American and South Vietnamese troops inﬂicted overwhelming losses on the Communist forces and defeated them militarily, the liberal American media portrayed the Tet Offensive as a stunning North Vietnamese victory and a devastating American and South Vietnamese defeat.
It should come as no surprise that the next section is headed “Betrayals At Home.” You will perhaps be astonished at the magnitude of dissatisfaction with the war, however:
In the United States, hundreds of anti-war protesters and Communist-inspired agitators took to the streets of every major American city and on college and university campuses across the country to denounce American “imperialism” in Southeast Asia.
Hundreds, we tell you! Since there were so few of them, and they were just a bunch of communists anyway, there is no mention of Kent State in this textbook. There is also somehow no mention of My Lai, or of destroying villages to save them, or of body counts, nor even of the Pentagon Papers. There is somehow no inclusion of iconic photos like those of Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc setting himself on fire to protest the South Vietnamese government, or of Phan Thi Kim Phuc running naked after being burned by napalm, or of General Nguyen Ngọc Loan blowing a Viet Cong prisoner’s brains out on a street in Saigon, probably because those are all liberal images. We do get one iconic photo; can you guess what it is? Yes, of course: it is the helicopter evacuating staff from the roof of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, because liberals lost this easily winnable war.
But perhaps we digress. In any case, somehow those hundreds of protesters and the liberal media managed to utterly sap America’s will to fight, leading to the eventual dishonorable withdrawal from the war and the loss of South Vietnam to Communism. Once again, American foreign policy appears to have been set without any input from the President, Nixon in this case:
With American military aid, South Vietnam could have maintained its independence, but the U.S. State Department decided that further American involvement would hamper the effort to open relations with Communist China and ease Cold War tensions.
Somebody really should look into why the State Department helps the Communists whenever there’s a Republican president. It’s a real puzzler.
Finally, to round out the Vietnam experience, the textbook also repeats as unequivocal truth the claim that following the war, “hundreds of American prisoners of war were also left behind in North Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian prisons.” This claim remains in both the 1997 and 2010 editions of the book, despite the conclusion of a Senate committee in 1993 that nothing of the sort had happened. But notorious liberal John McCain was on that committee, so it was probably a whitewash — we all saw Rambo; we know the truth.
Next Week: This time we’ll get to Reagan for sure! Also, why the Moon Race proved the superiority of American Free Enterprise through a massive program of government spending.