America defeats America

Large portions of the globe have become hostile to the U.S.  To illustrate this from a personal vantage point: when my grandfather was born, in the late 1800’s, Russia was not an enemy of the U.S.   When my father was born, China and North Korea were not Communist.  When I was born, Vietnam and Laos and Cambodia were not Communist, and neither was Cuba.   In my lifetime Venezuela and Bolivia have gained anti-American socialist leaders, and Iran now has an ideologically committed Islamic regime that describes the USA as the “Great Satan”.  Nicaragua now has anti-American regime as well.    Russia may no longer be Communist, but it aids Iran and the Taliban.

How did this happen?   Clues in some cases come from an overlooked book titled “Bad News” that was written by Russ Braley, a correspondent for The Daily News.  He was writing on the shortcomings of a rival newspaper, The New York Times, but in his discussion of American policy of the period from 1956 to 1983, he shows that not only have we been dubious allies in cases that are well known, but in even bigger cases that are not well known.

Most of us know that the effort by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs invasion was undermined by the refusal of President John F Kennedy to give them air support.  For instance, Townhall columnist Humberto Fontova describes one moment during that invasion:

Camelot’s criminal idiocy finally brought Adm. Arleigh Burke of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was receiving the battlefield pleas, to the brink of mutiny,,,The fighting admiral was livid. They say his face was beet red and his facial veins popping as he faced down his commander-in-chief that fateful night of April 18, 1961. “Mr. President, TWO planes from the Essex! (the U.S. Carrier just offshore from the beachhead)” that’s all those Cuban boys need, Mr. President. Let me order…!”


JFK was in white tails and a bow tie that evening, having just emerged from an elegant social gathering. “Burke,” he replied. “We can’t get involved in this.”

“WE put those Cuban boys there, Mr. President!” The fighting admiral exploded. “By God, we ARE involved!” 

What many do not know is that Americans were responsible for Castro’s rise to power to begin with!  Russ Braley dedicates a whole chapter to this topic, but I’ll give one illustration from the book: the Ambassador to Mexico, Robert Hill, told the Internal Affairs subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee that when the new designated ambassador to Cuba, Earl Smith, came to him for advice, the advice he gave was: “Earl, I am sorry that you are going to Cuba… You are assigned to Cuba to preside over the downfall of Batista [the ruler of Cuba at the time].   The decision has been made that Batista has to go.   You must be very careful.”

As for a part of the globe far from Cuba, Vietnam, most of us know that President Kennedy gave the OK for the coup that toppled the leader of South Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem.   Supposedly Diem was unpopular and alienating his own population.  It turns out, according to “Bad News”, that this was not true either, and American encouragement of the coup (which killed Mr. Diem), was a gift to the Communists.  Here too Braley dedicates an entire chapter, but I’ll mention just one item: a reporter from the Chicago Daily News, Keyes Beech, was sitting at a bar alongside a pro-Communist Australian, Wilfred Burchett.   Burchett was talkative because, says Beech, “he was loaded.”  Burchett said to Beech that he was in South Vietnam with the Communist National Liberation Front when Diem was assassinated, and they thought it was a hoax.   When Nguyen Huu Tho, head of the NLF, was convinced that Diem was dead, Burchett quoted him as saying, “The Americans have managed to do what we couldn’t do for nine years.”  Burchett added: “Diem was a national leader, and you never will be able to replace him–never.”

It may be a bad idea for the U.S. to be identified with unpopular dictators, but Diem was not so bad.   Diem was a Catholic who at one time was living at Maryknoll seminary in Ossining New York.  In 1945 he had been held prisoner for four months by the Communist leader, Ho Chi Minh under near-starvation conditions (in 1945).   Ho Chi Minh then reversed himself and offered Diem a position in his government.   Diem asked him one question: “Why did you kill my brother (Nhgo Dinh Khoi)?”   Ho said it was a mistake, but Diem walked out.   Diem rejected both Fascism and Communism, but did not believe Democracy would work either in Vietnam.

When North Vietnam mounted its final attack on South Vietnam, the Democrat majority in congress refused to aid the South.   Since the North was backed up by Russian and Chinese arms, and the South was not backed by anyone, the resulting defeat was inevitable.

The above is all taken from Russ Braley’s book, but the pattern he describes started earlier.   Anthony Kubek, Chairman of the Dept. of Political Science at the University of Dallas, wrote the following in a book titled “How the Far East Was Lost”, which describes the events leading to Mao’s Communist party taking over China:

Our policy in China has reaped the whirlwind.  The continued insistence that aid would not be forthcoming unless a coalition government with the Communists was formed, was a crippling blow to the national Government [who were anti-Communist].

A U.S. General, George Stratemeyer, testified before the Senate that he flew 90,000 Chinese troops north: “We promised we would supply them, but the troops were left there stranded, at the mercy of the Communists.   “They had no ammunition, they had no spare parts, they couldn’t fight.”

Another soldier, colonel L. B. Moody, explained that at the end of World War II, instead of the small arms and ammo that the Nationalists needed, we sent “…billions of moldy cigarettes, blown-up guns and junk bombs and disabled vehicles”. 

The consequences of “losing” China included the death of at least 45 million Chinese at the hands of their new ideological rulers.  Yet even today, Mao is presented as a great leader to the Chinese public.  American pilots flying near the Chinese base at Djibouti have gotten hit in the eyes by Lasers fired from Chinese on the ground.   It would have been better to not lose China.

In the summary near the end of Braley’s book, he says: “The United States … must above all stop the practice of double-crossing or abandoning friends at a moment of trouble when the United States is needed.”   I would think also that if we ask U.S. citizens to fight in these places, we should make sure the goals they are asked to sacrifice for are important, achievable, and supported by both citizens and their elected representatives.


Bad News – The Foreign Policy of the New York Times – Russ Braley 1984 published by Regnery Gateway.

How the Far East Was Lost – Anthony Kubek 1963 – published by Regnery Gateway.

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