Oliver Stone's analysis of Ukraine lacks Vietnamese perspective

By Sergei Blagov, -

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Protesters evacuate a wounded demonstrator from Independence square, dubbed Maidan, in Kiev on February 20, 2014. Photo: AFP Protesters evacuate a wounded demonstrator from Independence square, dubbed Maidan, in Kiev on February 20, 2014. Photo: AFP
In his longish Facebook posts, film-maker Oliver Stone came up with an analysis of Ukraine that is clearly at variance with the mainstream media coverage in the West. This analysis, notably in a December 30 post, includes comparisons between the "Maidan Massacre" and the Chavez "regime change", as well as Iran ‘53, Chile ‘73, etcetera. Stone noted the coup of 2002 in Venezuela, when Chavez was temporarily ousted after pro- and anti-Chavez demonstrators were fired upon by mysterious shooters.
Following a four-hour interview with Ukraine's deposed president Viktor Yanukovych in Moscow, Stone went on to argue that the so-called "shooters" who killed 14 policemen, wounded some 85, and killed 45 protesting civilians in the Ukrainian capital were outside third-party agitators. Many witnesses, including Yanukovych and police officials, believe these foreign elements were introduced by pro-Western factions - with CIA fingerprints on it, according to Stone.
Surprisingly, Stone did not mention that the third-party shooters episodes of the "Maidan Massacre" were almost carbon copies of the fighting in Saigon in April 1955. Apparent parallels between Maidan 2014 and Saigon 1955 episodes may hopefully help to understand the bigger picture.
On April 28, 1955, every time the fighting subsided in Saigon, elements belonging to neither side fired shots, which reanimated the battle. These "snipers", christened as "The Third Force", were rumored to be Vietnamese General Trinh Minh The’s men. However, neither these mysterious shooters nor their commanders were ever positively identified. Likewise, the identity of the "Maidan snipers" remains a mystery.
Life Magazine said on May 13, 1957, "Just how Ngo Dinh Diem came to power has never been divulged." But later on, in A Bright Shining Lie, Neil Sheehan called the legendary covert operator Edward Lansdale the "father of South Vietnam". The identity of the "father of modern Ukraine" is yet to be revealed: it may take decades to get the right documents declassified, or it may happen earlier, courtesy of yet another Snowden.
Hero of Lansdale’s In The Midst Of Wars and villain of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, Trinh Minh The died in mysterious circumstances. In an ominous prequel of the 1963 Dallas tragedy, Trinh Minh The was reportedly struck by a sniper bullet on May 3, 1955. (See, A tale of two assassinations: Vietnam's JFK, Asia Times Online, November 22, 2003.)
Following his apparent victory in April 1955, Ngo Dinh Diem crushed all opposition as the first step towards monopolizing power in the South. A handpicked "independent nationalist alternative", Ngo Dinh Diem insisted on defying the North and ignoring the Geneva elections provision, thus opening the way to the Vietnam War.
The Saigon 1955 episode was described by the mainstream media at the time as a clash between the honest Ngo Dinh Diem and the corrupt Emperor Bao Dai. The emperor was accused of getting a cut in the proceeds of drug, protection and vice in Saigon to finance his lavish lifestyle in Cannes. Similarly, Ukraine's regime change in 2014 was also described as a spontaneous popular revolt against the corrupt Yanukovych.
Strangely, both incumbents used to be part of preceding regimes. Ngo Dinh Diem was a province chief and cabinet minister in Bao Dai's administration. Likewise, Ukraine's current President Petro Poroshenko served as the Minister of Trade and Economic Development in 2012 in Yanukovych's administration.
In the late 1950s, international media outlets helped to inflate Ngo Dinh Diem myth. The black-out on all reports adverse to Ngo Dinh Diem was viewed as complete. It appears to remain the case as long as Ukraine's new authorities are concerned.
There are other similarities. In an apparent populist move, Ngo Dinh Diem confiscated the property of his opponents, included expensive apartments, villas, and cars. Similarly, posh real estate assets of Yanukovych and his team members were also confiscated by the new authorities.
There are other parallels. When Ngo Dinh Diem's authorities faced armed opposition, they rushed to describe their opponents as "terrorists" and "aggressors". In a letter to Ngo Dinh Diem on December 14, 1961, the then US president, John F Kennedy, pledged to assist defense efforts of South Vietnam against "the campaign of force and terror" being supported and directed from outside. Ngo Dinh Diem's armed opponents were neither "terrorists" nor "aggressors", but 3 million Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans had to die to prove it.
Likewise, Ukraine's new authorities lost no time in dismissing their opponents as "terrorists" and "aggressors". The war zone in Eastern Ukraine is officially described as a region of an "Anti-Terrorism Operation". More than 5,000 people, mostly civilians, have already died in Eastern Ukraine, where there is hardly any light at the end of the tunnel. Furthermore, Ukraine's new authorities are actively seeking US arms supplies.
In the late 1950s, US arms supplies were followed by non-combat advisers, who turned out to clear the field for the American soldiers to take on the job of protecting South Vietnam. Late president Ho Chi Minh used to write about South Vietnam that "the US imperialists are intensifying their plot to supply their henchmen with armaments to massacre the people. They drag some bad elements into becoming their tools." From the grave, Uncle Ho offers a good summary of what is going on in Eastern Ukraine.
Incidentally, armed opponents of Ukraine's new authorities are yet to rely on terrorist tactics, like the killing of village chiefs in Southern Vietnam. They do not even call Poroshenko's administration a "puppet regime", although Ngo Dinh Diem's administration was more independence-minded. Ngo Dinh Diem was not exactly a puppet, as he created a system of power that answered to no one.
As for the endgame, Ngo Dinh Diem was deposed and murdered by his own military. A denial of US aid to Ngo Dinh Diem’s opponents in 1955 had assured him of power, while the denial of further US aid to him in 1963 exposed him to his enemies. President Poroshenko hardly has reasons to fear this fate as he apparently lacks Ngo Dinh Diem’s obduracy.
Whoever the "father of modern Ukraine" is, or whoever they are, they probably learned Lansdale's advice, "You can … get away with almost anything." Lansdale's other trademark piece of wisdom, "Don't let the little formalities of life stop you", also appears applicable to the ongoing events in Ukraine.
The article was first published on Asia Times Online. Republished with permission from Sergei Blagov.
Sergei Blagov, who was a reporter in Vietnam for six years, is the author of Honest Mistakes: The Life and Death of Trinh Minh The (1922-1955) (Nova Science, 2001). The opinion expressed is his.
Sergei Blagov can be contacted at: sergeiblagov@mail.ru.

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