50 Years Ago: Target Hanoi

The start of this year was considerably dampened by the flood of crocodile tears provoked by the admitted bombing of civilians in Hanoi.

The tears flowed strongly as the eye witness accounts came in, especially those from Harrison Salisbury, assistant managing editor of the New York Times. Harrison’s reports also provoked a slight, but distinct, surprise that an American newspaper man should actually tell the truth about the results of his countrymen’s military exploits.

It is difficult to imagine anyone really believing the Pentagon’s assurances that only military targets were being bombed. This is a well worn fiction of modern war; even the RAF tried it in the last war, until the evidence to the contrary became overwhelming.

In any case, why the indignation about civilian deaths in wartime? The “advance” of capitalism’s war-making machine has brought everyone into the front line.

War is now very much a social business, with many civilians playing a more important part in the war effort than many men in uniform. It is also important for a side to break the morale of the other’s civilians — usually by bombing or blockade.

The people of Hanoi, then — its children, its old people. its hospital patients — are all legitimate targets.

Does this sound callous? War is never an agreeable business and those who complain about its effects while they support the system which produces it, or those who demonstrate about the military activities of only one side, they are the callous ones.

As long as capitalism lasts there will be no end to war and we may expect it to become more and more fearsome.

The solution is not to wave banners about one incident or one aspect of war. It is to build a new society in which the cause of war no longer exists.

(Socialist Standard, February 1967)

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