Vietnam General Giap Made A Profound Impact Upon History By Defeating Western Imperialist Forces

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DR. SAWRAJ SINGH

INTERNATIONALAFFAIRS / EDITORIAL

General Vo Nguyen Giap died at the ageof 102. However, he has reserved a placefor himself in history. He will always beremembered for his victory over Frenchcolonialists in the decisive Battle of DienBien Phu (in modern-day Vietnam).This was the first time that a western colonialpower was defeated in a direct confrontationin an occupied colony. GeneralGiap continued to write another gloriouspage in history when the Vietconglaunched the Tet Offensive. Even thoughthey lost about 15,000 soldiers, this offensivein January 1968 laid the ground workfor the eventual American defeat inVietnam because the Vietcong came up toSaigon and even up to the AmericanEmbassy. This offensive really demoralizedthe American forces and they ultimatelylost Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.General Giap was born in 1911 in CentralVietnam in Quang Binh Province, FrenchIndochina (now Vietnam). He was the sonof a rice farmer. At age 14, he joined theclandestine struggle against French colonialists.He founded the Vietminh, whichwas engaged in armed resistance to Frenchcolonial rule. In 1938, he joined theCommunist Party of Indochina. At thattime, French Indochina included Vietnam,Cambodia, and Laos. Before the Japaneseinvasion, he escaped to China along withHo Chi Minh. From there, they organizeda Guerilla war against the Japaneseinvaders who were defeated.Even though General Giap did not receiveformal military training, yet he was able towin against two much technically superiorand stronger armies. After defeating theoccupying Japanese army, he helped toestablish the Democratic Republic ofVietnam. He was appointed as InteriorMinister of the Republic. The French stillcontrolled the Southern part of the country,which provided most of the rice andrubber-the two most important productsof Vietnam at that time. General Giapstarted a Guerilla war against the French.The French parachuted 12,000 soldiers tothe Dien Bien Phu Valley. General Giap’sforces fought with the French forces. TheFrench lost 4,000 soldiers and they surrendered.This is the largest loss of soldiers bya colonial power in one battle. This lossended French colonial rule in Indochina.In 1954, after the French defeat, Vietnamwas divided into North Vietnam andSouth Vietnam. It was agreed that therewill be a referendum to decide the futureof the country. However, the South wentback on this promise. The patriotic forcesestablished the National Liberation Front(called Vietcong) and started the struggleagainst South Vietnam. In 1965, Americasent its forces to help the losing SouthVietnam. In 1968, the Vietcong started theTet Offensive, which laid the ground forthe eventual American defeat. GeneralGiap was the Defence Minister of NorthVietnam at that time.General Giap,Ho Chi Minh, and Mao Tse-Tung will be remembered as the Asianleaders who inflicted serious and humiliatingdefeats on western colonialists andimperialists. All these leaders were a productof a particular time and particular conditions.There was a deep nationalist feelingand great revolutionary spirit at thattime. All of these leaders believed in thePeople’s War. They also believed thathuman spirit is the main factor whichdetermines the outcome of a war.Unfortunately, neither the present Chinesenor the Vietnamese leaders seem to havethat feeling. Even though, comparatively,Asia is rising and the West is on thedecline, yet most of the Asian leaderstoday have more faith in technology thanin human spirit. In 1976, General Giap wasmade Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam.However, in 1982, he retired from the job.The capitulation and compromising policiesof present Vietnamese leaders towardthe US so soon after the war,was probablyresponsible for General Giap’s differenceswith them and his retirement.Even though Deng Xiaoping considerablydampened the revolutionary enthusiasm ofChinese leaders, yet overall, their policiescan still be considered anti-imperialist.However, the Vietnamese leaders run therisk of becoming complete apologists forwestern imperialists.We can hope that thegreat legacy of Ho Chi Minh and GeneralGiap will prevent degeneration ofVietnamese leadership from capitulationand compromise to becoming completeapologists of western imperialists.Dr. Sawraj Singh, MD F.I.C.S. is the Chairmanof the Washington State Network for HumanRights and Chairmanof the Central WashingtonCoalition for Social Justice. He can be reached [email protected].