Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My Kind of Teacher

I watched HOWARD ZINN: YOU CAN'T BE NEUTRAL ON A MOVING TRAIN last night. Well-done, moving, informative.

One new term I learned by watching it was Operation County Fair.

From Zinn's book: "Early in 1966, a new pacification technique was developed by American soldiers. It involved surrounding a village, killing as many young men as could be found, and then taking away the women and children by helicopter. The [soldiers] called this procedure "Operation County Fair."

Here's the 9th Marine's own perspective of the same operation:

COUNTY FAIR was a combination of military, civic, and physchological-warfare {sic} actions to reestablish Vietnamese control over the populace of a given area. It was designed to flush the Viet Cong from the community in which they were a parasite, while at the same time insuring that the populace was not alienated towards the government. Military actions were accompanied by a vigorous civic action program which attempted to convince the population that the Government of Vietnam was interested in the welfare of the people and that a government victory against the Viet Cong was inevitable. The 9th Marines' participation in COUNTY FAIR operations consisted of cordoning a target area (village or hamlet) in order to isolate it for the duration of the operation (normally two days) and providing limited medical and logistical assistance. To the largest extent possible, Vietnamese military, police, and civil authorities performed the task of searching the target areas and handling the populace. This was considered an essential element of COUNTRY FAIR operations, since one of its primary purposes was to restore the populace's confidence in the Vietnamese governmental structure and to instill a sense of trust and loyalty towards duly appointed officials.

Vietnam is not a template for what's happening in Iraq. But all too frequently, the parallels are as striking as they are ominous.