April 30 was the anniversary date when North Vietnamese forces forced U.S. officials to exit Vietnam, much to their chagrin. That was after some 58,000 American men had died for nothing, not to mention the tens of thousands of injured American soldiers and the millions of Vietnamese who were killed or injured as a result of U.S. intervention in Vietnam’s civil war.

To this day, there are those who claim that those 58,000 men died for their country and in defense of our freedoms here at home. Almost 50 years after the end of that sordid intervention, such people continue to operate under severe self-delusion.

North Vietnam never attacked, invaded, or occupied the United States or even had any interest in doing so. Moreover, North Vietnam lacked the military, money, transport ships, planes, and supply lines that would have been necessary to cross the Pacific and invade the United States. If they had been successful in landing a few thousand troops on the West Coast, they would have been quickly massacred by the U.S. military or by well-armed private Americans. All that North Vietnam wanted to do was reunite North Vietnam and South Vietnam and make it one country again — Vietnam.

In other words, North Vietnam never posed a danger to our rights and freedoms here in the United States. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, despite the fact that North Vietnam defeated the United States and won the war, the defeat did not result in North Vietnam’s taking away any of our rights and freedoms. In fact, the irony is that it is the U.S. government — our government — that has destroyed our rights and freedoms.

By the same token, those 58,000 U.S. soldiers who were sacrificed in Vietnam did not die for their country. They died for their government. There is a difference. The government is one entity and the country is another entity. This difference is reflected by the Bill of Rights, which expressly protects the country from the government. Dying for one’s government is not the same as dying for one’s country.

During the war, the U.S. government resorted to conscription, which is also known as the draft. It’s impossible to reconcile conscription with freedom. When a government has to force people to fight in a war, that’s a pretty good sign that that is a no-good, rotten war. If the war were really about protecting our freedom and our country, people wouldn’t have to be forced to fight. They’d be willing to fight voluntarily.

The rotten nature of the war was reflected by the disparate treatment between rich and poor. The rich and politically connected kids were given college and post-graduate school deferments, which would enable them to delay being forced into the military and sent to Vietnam. Another way for rich and politically connected kids to get out of being sent to Vietnam was to use political influence to get into a National Guard unit or a Reserve unit. During the Vietnam War, those units were not being activated to be sent to Vietnam. Thus, anyone who was lucky enough or privileged enough to get into those units knew that there was no risk of being sent to Vietnam. The poor were not so lucky. They couldn’t afford college and so they were drafted immediately on graduation from high school. They became the U.S. government’s cannon fodder in Vietnam.

Of course, from the day he was forced into the army, every soldier was indoctrinated into believing that he was being sent to Vietnam to protect our “freedoms” here at home. One irony of this indoctrination was that if black conscripts were lucky enough to make it back alive, the “free” society to which they were returning was a segregated one.

Those who had the audacity to challenge or criticize the war were immediately branded traitors, cowards, or communist lovers or appeasers. That included civil-rights leader Martin Luther King and championship boxer Muhammad Ali. U.S. officials destroyed Ali’s boxing career by ensuring that he was prohibited from fighting at the height of his career. But at least they let him live. They snuffed out King’s life given that they were convinced that he and the civil-rights movement were advance, Fifth Column troops of a communist invasion of the United States.

Unfortunately, North Vietnam’s victory over the United States didn’t result in any fundamental changes here at home. Today, Americans continue to live under a national-security state form of government, an interventionist foreign policy, and an empire of foreign military bases. The Cold War is still being waged against Cuba, North Korea, Russia, and China; ironically, North Vietnam is, at least for now, considered an official friend. The war on communism has been replaced by the war on terrorism and Islam. State-sponsored assassinations, torture, indefinite detention, and military tribunals are still part and parcel of America’s legal system. And so are unconstitutional undeclared wars that sacrifice American soldiers for nothing, like with the wars against Iraq and Afghanistan.

Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation. 

Originally Posted at https://mises.org/

By Mises