Friday, October 3, 2008

Book Review: Ghost Train – Paul Theroux

More of an open letter to Theroux (but “Book Review” gets more hits):

You found Japan inundated by comics but short on books. A likely result of having to use a unique character for every word – instead of an alphabet.

John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding, once told Isaac Asimov that they both probably knew 300,000 words. Can anyone know 300,000 characters? Would you want to write books in characters? How many would want to read them if you did?

If Japan (or any nation that uses individual character writing) doesn’t want to fall short of world education standards they may ultimately need to shift to using an alphabet.


Vietnamese persistence won the Vietnam war. Which Vietnamese won what? (I only recently read in "The Two Vietnams" by Bernard B. Fall that Vietnam was essentially freed from French colonization in 1949 -- the French Army stayed behind to help fight off Ho's insurgency -- for the information of my fellow misinformed.)

3 million Vietnamese died which probably means 12 million more permanently maimed or wounded by normal distribution of casualties -- out of a population of 35 million -- to inflict a crackpot police state than can get half the population shot at the whim of one madman and a permanently impoverishing economic madness called communism.

Prosperous Vietnam (I virtually never support sanctions)? Prosperous like South Korea? Or at least like Thailand or Singapore?

Korea involved the same civilian and soldier casualty rates as Vietnam. 7 million tons of bombs in 7 years? Maybe if we made it 10 million in 10 years South Vietnam would be free – and truly prosperous – today.

The book, Decent Interval, by former CIA employee Frank Snepp actually claims that we had somebody on Ho’s politibureau and that the bureau had voted to give up on the war after Nixon’s last Hanoi bombing (portrayed by the administration as only targeting industry). In any case, after losing 60,000 American lives over there, when we finally got the South Vietnamese to do all the bloody ground fighting – imagine if we had had that opportunity in Korea (but of course the Koreans could not fight the Chinese single handed. At which point we singed a “peace treaty” and then we pulled out most of the financial and all of the air support -- after which the South still held out three more years.

The worst you or anyone can say about our involvement in the war is that it would not have been worth it to us – and/or it would not have been worth it to the South Vietnamese – even if we did win – that the game wasn’t worth the candle to either.

You come on like we were the root cause of the whole horror because we didn’t drop out and let the South lose. Those 19 year old Hanoi kids volunteering for the army were volunteering to invade another country in order to impose a heavy fascist/stupid economic state the other country did not want (or they could have voted for it right after Ho took the North).

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