Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Johnson Conspiracy

On Thursday we had a lecture by General Uoc, an 80-year-old genial fellow who commanded troops at Dien Bien Phu. He showed up in full short-sleeved general’s uniform and spent an hour telling us all the reasons why Americans could never have beaten the communists—the insurgents weren’t afraid of casualties, the Saigon government was corrupt, the Americans didn’t understand guerrilla war, etc. It was great to have a Vietnamese General in the class, but after all the past lectures and readings, his concepts were no longer novel.

Except for one. At the end of the lecture, he claimed that Lyndon Johnson was behind the Kennedy assassinations. “Johnson never got along with Kennedy,” General Uoc noted casually, “and had him killed. Then Robert Kennedy became a dangerous critic of the Vietnam War, and he too was eliminated.”

The General paused, noticing our surprised looks. “Oh, yes,” he continued, “it’s true. There’s a Cuban documentary about it. After JFK was assassinated, there’s a picture of Johnson holding up one finger. Then after Robert Kennedy was killed, there’s another picture showing Johnson with too fingers. This is true, you know.”

No, it’s actually not true. But it’s considered common knowledge in Vietnam. Even Dzung, a Vietnamese classmate completing a degree in International Relations, insisted that Johnson killed the Kennedy brothers.

Of course the Vietnamese aren’t any more foolish than the rest of us. Many Muslims, for instance, are convinced that the U.S. Navy purposefully triggered the Tsunami with underwater nukes, and mainstream Arabs firmly believe that Israel was behind September 11th. Not to be outdone, the majority of Americans still think Saddam Hussein masterminded the attacks.

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