Listening to ghosts

The French surrendered to the Vietnamese Communists at Dien Bien Phu fifty years ago today: “Vietnam, France recount battle 50 years later.” Running a column by the grandson of a French general who fought in the battle, the New York Times finds that the anniversary presents another opportunity to abuse the past for the sake of the present: “When liberators become tyrants.” Preaching a message of suicidal pacifism, the author of the Times column concludes:

Can the echoes of the valley of Dien Bien Phu be heard in the streets of Falluja, at the prison of Abu Ghraib? Forty years ago, French friends of America tried to warn Washington about the pitfalls of Vietnam. The French themselves repeated their mistakes in Algeria. In Iraq every day even the best of intentions are cruelly put to test by the miseries and sorrows of war. As the promoters of a modern, “clean” war would have it, torture, humiliation, rapes, the killing of innocents, useless destruction are now avoidable.
But to go to war is to go to the bottom of the pit: what if those tragedies are not “collateral damage” but war itself, the essence of war? And when the damage is done, the pain and the shame are there to stay, and the dead (those bastards, my pals) keep coming back like ghosts.

The freedom this Frenchman enjoys to malign his forebears, however, comes at a certain cost that he somehow omits to mention. We look forward to this gentleman’s report of future ghostly visitations on the occasion of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day on June 6.