Tag Archives: Ngo Dinh Diem

No British troops on the ground in the Sahel?

US involvement in Vietnam began with sending military advisers and look what happened.

Since the French military adventure in Mali began, we’ve heard a lot from Dizzy Dave Cameron about how British troops will not be sent to the Sahel to serve in a combat role. So the other day when I heard Britain was to dispatch 330 soldiers to the region in an “advisory” capacity, I was reminded of the US’s involvement in the Vietnam War, which began in 1956 when Eisenhower sent “military advisers” there to “train” the Vietnamese forces. In actual fact, advisers and observers had been sent there in 1950 by Truman to support the French efforts but in small numbers.

In 1954, the Americans and the French installed the puppet president, Ngô Đình Diệm in Saigon (he won a rigged election). He had impeccable anti-Communist credentials and was a Roman Catholic. An ideal choice for a country with a large Buddhist population. Opposition grew to  Diệm’s rule and by 1957, there was a full-scale insurgency. Diệm responded by torturing and killing those whom he believed were Communists. Such was his popularity, that he faced two assassination attempts. He was finally killed in 1963 in a CIA-supported coup and was replaced by Dương Văn Minh.

When Kennedy became US president in 1961, he sent more “military advisers” to Vietnam to support the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). My father was part of a contingent sent to Saigon in 1963. When Kennedy was assassinated in the same year, Johnson sent even more troops to Vietnam and by 1965, he’d escalated the war. You know what happened next.

The sending of “military advisers” to another country to counter “insurgents” is never a good sign. The Cat suspects that British special forces have also been sent to Mali and neighbouring Niger. Today, Cameron has flown to Algeria to have talks with his opposite number, Abdelmalek Sellal. No prizes for guessing what they’ll be talking about.

The Globe and Mail reports that Canadian special forces are already in Mali to “protect the country’s diplomats”.

The US has negotiated a deal with the Nigerien government to establish a base for its unmanned drones.

The head of the U.S. Africa Command, General Carter Ham, visited Niger last month. The poor, landlocked West Africa state has said it wants to have closer security cooperation with Washington.

Carter Ham… you’ve got to love that name. AFRICOM was established in 2006.

The new scramble for Africa is under way and ordinary people will get caught in the middle while the US, France, Britain, Canada and the rest of them slug it out with China and India (yes, India) for the continent’s resources.

Anyone for yellow cake uranium?

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Filed under 20th century, Africa, Algeria, History, History & Memory, Mali, The Maghreb, World

Libya. Confused? So am I

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Still free.

They say that the first casualty of war is the truth. The war in Libya is no exception. Since the bombing began in February, we have been treated to all sorts of rumour, speculation and innuendo. First, we were told that the no-fly zone imposed by NATO was to prevent Gaddafi from launching air strikes against his own people. We heard the same thing in the 1990’s in the days of the Iraq no-fly zone. Civilians were killed and tanks, which can’t fly, were destroyed. Civilians have been killed in this war too. But as long as we get our hands on the oil, who cares? You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. Right?

Then, some members of the SAS or SBS or whoever they were, were captured by the rebels after we had been told that there were no “British boots on the ground”. Later we were told by the MOD that there were British ‘mentors’ and ‘advisors’ in Libya. In pre-1965 Vietnam, the US stuffed the country with ‘advisors’. But they weren’t advisors at all; they were actively involved in combat operations and also helped to facilitate the coup that ousted Ngo Dinh Diem in 1963.

Then, about a month ago, were informed that top rebel general, Abdel Fatah Younis, had been assassinated. The finger of blame was immediately pointed in the direction of Daddy Gaddafi. It turned out that the general had been killed by gunmen on his ‘own side’ and that the National Transitional Council and all the rebel forces are far from united in their efforts to topple Gaddafi.

In the last couple of days, Tripoli was reported to be moments away from collapse and that rebel forces had entered the Libyan capital. Gaddafi’s sons, Saif al-Islam and Mohammed had apparently been captured with the former being in the custody of the International Criminal Court. Last night, Saif al-Islam appeared on television to urge his supporters to fight on. The two South African air force planes on the tarmac of Tripoli airport weren’t there to fly Daddy Gaddafi to Zimbabwe or Angola as the commentators had speculated. In fact, no one really knew why they were there but the ‘experts’ still offered an ill-informed expert opinion nonetheless. Daddy Gaddafi remains in charge and doesn’t look as though he’s going anywhere in a hurry. Some of the rebels who apparently entered Tripoli withdrew overnight. Why? Well, not even Chatham House knows the answer to that question.

The war is over? It doesn’t look like it.

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Filed under Africa, Libya, World