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We are now looking back 35 years.  Tomorrow, April 30, is the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, the images in our mind stark.  The evacuations by helicopter, as shown above.   And this, the image of those helicopters, like one might say of the mission in country, being abandoned, pushed overboard or ditched in the ocean:  

Tomorrow is the anniversary, of these events, of April 30, 1975.    

But today is also an anniversary:

on this day the last of our Marines (for I was a Marine, and once one, always one), were killed in Vietnam.  Records say that four Marines died in country this day, Darwin Judge of Marshalltown, IA; Charles McMahon, Jr. of Woburn, MA; William Nystul of Coronado, CA; and Michael Shea of El Paso, Tx.  !2 of the civilians we were evacuating also died.

Perhaps tomorrow, because that is the official'end' of the U S endeavor in South Vietnam, there will be massive coverage.  There should be.  

We will see the panic in those Vietnamese being left behind.  

At one point during the evacuation Pres. Ford ordered the military to take out no more Vietnamese, because time was running short, Saigon was being overrun, the men and equipment was being taxed.   South Vietnamese flew their own helicopters out to the fleet but were not allowed to land, so they ditched with the crews jumping out as the birds ditched in water.

Now we are engaged in two ongoing conflicts overseas.  The total deaths of the two conflicts does not yet approach the American losses of Vietnam.  The length of the conflicts is still less than the period from when the Marines landed in Danang in 1965 to the final ignominious withdrawal.  We still do not know the cost of our endeavors in lives of people lost and broken.

The physical death toll is less - our skill at saving lives has improved, and we are not fighting a military organized by a national state.  The cost in broken lives may be greater, given figures of as many as 1 in 5 returning suffering from PTSD and worse.  

Neither conflict is yet completed, nor do we necessarily see a similar withdrawal under fire:  there is no organized resistance in Iraq on a scale to offer such a threat, and as far as we know the Taliban lacks the capacity (armor, for example), to roll into a major city and force our withdrawal.  

And yet, it seems as if we may have learned the wrong lessons.   We are much more efficient at killing and destruction.  Yet in the process we have not learned how to avoid "collateral damage" of property and deaths of civilians.  In Vietnam we doubled down and doubled down again, and it was only when Westmoreland wanted yet another large increase in troops that Johnson finally drew the line.  Yet the war went on for the better part of another decade.  Yes, the peak year for loss of American troops was 1968, with 16,592 lost.   Yet consider these figures:

1969  11,616
1970   6,081
1971   2,357

In 1972, the death toll finally dropped below 1,000, for the first time since 1964.  We would continue to account for deaths even after we left Vietnam, as we discovered remains of those listed as missing.

The toll of a war is always more than the lives of American servicemen, as important as those are.  Those lives also include the devastation on the families they left behind.  

There are deaths of those who fought on "our side" -  in Iraq and Afghanistan we have good figures for our partners in the "Coalition of the Willing" and the NATO forces respectively.  We rarely have good figures for those we fight, because the numbers of those killed are never merely enemy combatants, given that messy "collateral damage."  And when we do count, it seems somehow obscene, that is, we seem to brag about how many we have killed, the phenomenon of body counts . . .

One result of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan is that there are still mines left from that war that kill and maim.  Even if a minefield is marked, it represents a continuation of the war, a limiting of the freedom of movement of those who live near that field, if it is marked.  And if it is not, the terror that ensues when someone stumbles upon it.

The damage of the wars continue with those effected long after its end by the weaponry and other means used - think of those from Vietnam damaged by Agent Orange, and in more recent conflicts from depleted uranium.  

I make no predictions about how - or if - our current endeavors in Iraq and Afghanistan will end.  Perhaps we will not have images like those so ingrained in the memories of those of us who lived through those times -  Vietnam was the televised war.   The military might try to censor images now, but the ability of handheld devices to record video as well as still photography probably means that images will eventually come out, as we discovered with Abu Ghraib.

No predictions, but a caution.   Winners get to write history.  We may look back at a particular war and call it good, but not be willing to examine the bad that it did, including atrocities by our own troops.  My Lai is not the only exemplar of American atrocities in wartime.  

War is hell.  And Robert E. Lee was right with his remarks at Marye's Heights during the battle of Fredericksburg:  It is well that war is so terrible, lest we grow too fond of it.

Thirty Five years have passed.  The images still remain.  The damage to our national image still lingers.  And the harm that was done by our prosecution of that war may never go away, not for those who experienced it.  Some who fought it still seek to justify -  as they must, because how else can they justify their sacrifices, or the death and destruction they caused?

Should not we as a nation be willing to look back and not limit ourselves in what we learn?

Those images -  helicopters on roofs, people pushing against embassy gates desperate to be evacuated, helicopters pushed over board or ditched in the sea. . . .

Have we really learned any lessons?   I wonder . . . . .

And I hope that we never experience anything like that again, as I also hope that we find a way not to be engaged in ongoing warfare, even as I acknowledge that there are times and places where we must intervene with force, even deadly force, to preserve our own humanity.  

A monk I greatly admired who was on Mount Athos in Greece during WW II once wrote of his thoughts in the early 1940s -  he prayed that the less evil side might win.  I have written about this before.  To his words I add these -  I pray that when we do engage, we not be in the position of being the more evil side, and that the harm that is done be the least necessary to prevent greater evil from prevailing.


Originally posted to teacherken on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:28 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I wanted to post this today (48+ / 0-)

    so that we are prepared to think about the events not just as a snapshot, but in a somewhat larger context.  I probably lack the verbal facility to do the subject proper justice.  And I am too burdened with school tasks to give it much time.  

    Yet I felt obligated to at least do this.

    Do with this what you will.  And if someone can post something better, more power to them.

    We should not forget.

    We should remind ourselves, not merely of that ending 35 years ago, but also how we got to that point.


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:28:11 AM PDT

    •  now in transit to school (6+ / 0-)

      will be offline for perhaps 45 minutes.  Will have some time to catch up once classroom is set for the day.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:59:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  thanks for the reminder (9+ / 0-)

        Having lived through the Viet-Nam nightmare, I was appalled at the ease of the bush-cheney slimes in starting a war of choice.   They were aided tremendously by the WaPo, NYT, and every TV station beating the drums of war, and repeating their lies endlessly.

        What a sad commentary that the USA does not learn from history.

        Imagine the "Iran has a nuke" theme that could be trumped up at any time, we are living in a country that is dangerously flawed, totally in the clutches of the bi-partisan War Party.

        Medicare for All, that is the REAL public option that only needs 50 votes + Biden.

        by MD patriot on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:03:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Our "leadership" learned from Vietnam (5+ / 0-)

          and that's the problem.  Rummy and Cheney were right at center stage in 1975, and they applied what they perceived to be lessons learned then to future events.  That's part of the reason why we're so screwed now.

          In 1979, I happened to ask Kissinger about Vietnam at a press conference.  I was an intrepid student reporter at Notre Dame, and he was speaking at another local university.  I asked him if a Communist victory in Vietnam could've been prevented, and he replied: "In retrospect, yes."  I then asked him how, and he launched into a long digression about 1/3 of the S Vietnamese air force being grounded for a lack of spare parts and other apparent failures of American support after ground troops w/drew.

          Our MIC will never admit failure and move on.  Even worse, it will never learn the right future lessons from a past failure.  We're seeing that truism right now in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

          One of my biggest hopes for Obama in '08 was that he had learned different lessons and that he would apply them upon taking office.  When he made HRC SoS and kept Gates as SecDef, that die was largely cast.  Obama is no more capable of bucking the MIC than he is of dunking a basketball.

          He will have to choose next year between furthering a commmitment to an clearly failed enterprise in Afghanistan or taking the political heat for acknowledging inconvenient truths there.  We all know where the smart $ is betting on that question. Words cannot describe how much I wish it were otherwise.

          Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

          by RFK Lives on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:59:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Your diary says it well - speaking from (9+ / 0-)

      experience, not from a think tank or university campus writing a book to be published or a thesis to be defended.

      35 years -- a generation in time -- long enough for people to forget the toll of a foreign war.  Long enough for those who successfully evaded serving in Vietnam to decide another war to 'prove our might' was a good idea.

      Remember the anti-war poster?  Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer & saying "War is good business.  Invest your son."

      Aud, the Deep Minded

      by HylasBrook on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:54:21 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  thanks for the info teach nt (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kestrel9000, mcmom, brushysage

      I volunteer for Jennifer Brunner current SoS running for US Senate from Ohio, and I voted.

      by J Brunner Fan on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:06:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If this is true (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I probably lack the verbal facility to do the subject proper justice.

      then perhaps it's best addressed by a moment of silence for all those affected by the conflict because you do the eloquence thing so much better than many...

      the irony of this is that even now... a generation later... we are still affected by it... all of us... from the military brass using this current conflict as a do-over for that one to the veterans such as yourself who saw the price paid for such a conflict as far too high and who see too many parallels in the current conflict to the people like me who who enlisted in the military and served while the wounds from Vietnam were still healing ( one of my company commanders in boot camp was horribly disfigured in the USS Forrestal fire; the other was a "brown water navy bo'sun" who served on swift boats ) to the current generation of soldiers, sailors and marines who have been condemned to repeated the history that we have yet to learn from to the current society who will have to embrace and reintegrate this generation of warriors who have seen too much death and destruction and who will carry the sights and sounds and smells of what they've seen and experienced for the rest of their lives.

      Then... as now... sooner or later... the whirlwind must be reaped. That is the lesson, IMO, of the fall of Saigon... a lesson that has not been fully learned...

  •  Roughly half the names on the Wall (21+ / 0-)

    of the Vietnam memorial, I once heard Daniel Ellsberg say, came after the Pentagon Papers were released and it was an established fact that the war could not be won.

  •  remember when we'd learned our lesson? (19+ / 0-)

    how did we overcome those lessons to never engage in a land war in asia? to never again prop up corrupt regimes, who profit from the drug trade, and the exploitation of their people?  and never again would we turn a blind eye to the illegal acts of our soldiers made in the cause of freedom...
    and why are we not lamenting the loss of this knowledge now?

    republicians believe government can't work, when they're in power, they're right

    by askyron on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:53:52 AM PDT

  •  I had, perhaps naively, believed that a (14+ / 0-)

    war like Viet Nam would ever occur again in my lifetime.
    But then I've thought that about so many social and fiscal injustices from the past fifty years, and now we're back to even talks of secession and proving citizenship if we wander into the wrong state. I'm fully aware of the immense problems that we are facing today, and yet I lapse into moments of cognitive dissonance at times.  The neoconservatives were able to bring back into debate every horror from our worst periods of history.  Now they're all "on the table" again, just updated and revised to attempt to appeal to a contemporary audience.

    Will the real trolls please raise their hands. Awfully damn confusing lately.

    by blueoasis on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:57:05 AM PDT

    •  For awhile Vietnam DID keep us out of war. (6+ / 0-)

      Reagan desperately wanted the US to intervene in Central America on the side of the "Contras." These were the powerful elite who were ruthlessly putting down attempts at true democracy and redistribution of wealth in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicauragua.

      Strong Congressional resistance and public opposition to the war kept the Reagan administration from intervening.  All the administration could do was covert support - giving the Contras military training and equipment.

      The covert and illegal Iran-Contra affair was another way the Reagan administration supported the repressive regimes in Central America.

      Most of us living during that period have pretty much forgotten about it.  Perhaps that's because the US's military forces never became truly engaged there.  (I believe a few 'advisors' were killed.)

      Many American lives were saved keeping Reagan out of the war.  The people of Central America were not so lucky - hundreds of thousands were killed by death squads during that period.

      Aud, the Deep Minded

      by HylasBrook on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:17:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You weren't the only one who believed that. (6+ / 0-)

      I spent most of my childhood naively assuming that most Americans had learned the lessons of Vietnam. My mother who came of age in the 60s shared that belief. Clearly, we were wrong. Santayana warned that, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." Sadly, he was correct.

      A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future. ~ Leonard Bernstein

      by AuroraDawn on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:56:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  And suddenly (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, mcmom, Predictor

      we're even talking about the Civil War as well.  Truly shocking and nothing we ever expected to see in our lifetimes.

  •  There were many things I could say about that (11+ / 0-)

    war but nothing that has not been said many times by others.

    But I will say this:

    Many people learned entirely the wrong lesson from that war: That the news media and the liberals "didn't let us win." They therefore resolved not to let that happen again. So they supported Reagan and the Bushes and led us into the deserts of Iraq.

    The political history of this country from 1980-2006 was a prolongued but slightly delayed backlash against the "loss" of the war in Vietnam.

    I have flow thru Detriot in recent months and the number of TSA women in hijab is alarming. It's like the foxes are overseeing the chicken coop -- A RW blogger.

    by Kimball Cross on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 03:59:07 AM PDT

  •  Most wars are pure folly. (7+ / 0-)

    Only the dead have seen the end of war.

  •  It was not a folly. (11+ / 0-)

    It was a criminal act, and the perpetrators of that war should have been imprisoned.

    As far as learning from history, I think we have a long way to go. Most Americans, for example, have no idea that the war from the beginning was a war against the people of South Vietnam. We also have no idea about how many people were killed (upwards of 4 million, including Laos and Cambodia) or the consequences (the CIA regarded the U.S. bombing of Cambodia as a primary cause for the rise of the Khmer Rouge).

    Regarding the famous Pentagon Papers (the once-classifed Defense Department report on the history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam), Defense Secretary McNamara remarked that if the public every learned the truth, the planners of the war - including McNamara - would be hanged.

    In 1977, our "human rights" president Jimmy Carter stated there was no need to apologize to Vietnam for the war because "the destruction was mutual." Which was obvious, of course, from the tens of millions of American citizens slaughtered and cities destroyed by the bombing of the U.S. mainland by the Vietnamese air force. Excuse me while I puke.

    Yes, we've got a long way to go.

    See you in Detroit this June for the United States Social Forum!

    by cruz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:12:50 AM PDT

  •  Frozen For Overseas (4+ / 0-)

    I was frozen for overseas duty starting March 1975.

    It was not until recently I read the rest of my orders* and it was obvious I was heading to SEA either Thailand or ? for some operation starting in April. This was very interesting because at the time we were winding down Thailand too.

    I did not go.  Looking back I did not go because everything collapsed so fast and there was no operational base left.

    * I had been frozen for overseas duty several times and just tossed the paperwork into my file box after reading the first lines and finding out where to go to do my will, get shots and physical and requal on weapons. The rest of the orders did not matter much because it was just general info about what I could do and where I could travel (nothing and no where).

  •  My lesson: Never trust the Generals (10+ / 0-)

    The little death-toll table in the diary reminded me of the weekly "score" that was broadcast on all the evening news shows.  Even when we lost 800 soldiers in a week, we could be certain that the Commies would lose 12,000 (or some such outlandish number).  My Dad never voiced an opinion on the war, but, as a WW2 vet, he didn't like the protests and such.  After one of the death-score reports, I said "They're lying."  Dad took a bit of offense... "Why do you think that?"
    The simple answer was that we had been killing ten thousand North Vietnamese each week for the past two years.  How many people are in that country?  Ten million?  By now we must have wiped out every young man in the country.  I watched my Dad as the realization came over him that I was probably right.
    So, when the reports came out that Westmoreland was a lying bastard... well, I guess I didn't consider it to be news.

    Don't be a DON'T-DO... Be a DO-DO!

    by godwhataklutz on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:19:46 AM PDT

  •  Still more than 80 killed every year (6+ / 0-)

    For fifty dollars you can buy a leg
    But of course that's an estimate as many die, are cremated, and live on only in the memory of those who knew them.
    twenty two dollars buys a walker
    which is much nicer than scooting along on your butt all day.
    I've no idea the total killed from the conflict in SEAsia. I do know the effects are still felt in the destroyed families.

    "Don't fall or we both go" Derek Hersey

    by ban nock on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:21:33 AM PDT

  •  This diary is incomplete... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Crashing Vor, DWG

    without acknowledging that Congress, under pressure from those who opposed the war, cut off funding and air support for the ARVN before the fall of Saigon. The policy of Vietnamization was that the US would withdraw combat forces from the Republic of Vietnam as the ARVN was trained and equipped to fight for themselves. B-52's would continue to provide air support for the ARVN after US ground forces departed.

    This policy produced mixed results during the Easter Offensive of 1972. The ARVN performed poorly, however, with massive US air support the NVA was driven back. I do not suggest that this policy would have achieved a better result, had it not been abandoned. I'd say the likelyhood of achieving a stalemate along the 18th parellel, as has been achieved along the 38th parellel in Korea, was poor. After all, we didn't need to withdraw from Korea. But if we're going to discuss the plight of pro-US Vietnamese left behind during the fall of Saigon, we have to discuss the fact that the US government chose to go back on promises it made to those people prior to the withdrawl of US ground forces.

    I don't mean to open old wounds which I'm sure still exist, nor do I mean to justify a policy which should never have been pursued in the first place. I have been to the wall, and it had a hell of an effect on me. But if we are to truly learn any lesson from this fiasco with regards to our current involment in IRaq and Afghanistan, it should be noted that while keeping ground forces in country indefintley is untenable, totally abandonment of our allies in the region is just as wrong... both strategically and morally.

    Either way, anyone who claims they have the answer for solving this problem is either the smartest person ever (unlikely) or just another jackass with a big mouth. I'm pretty sure I'm the latter. I do have supreme faith in President Obama to do the right thing, or at least to do the least wrong thing. I have no desire to see helicopters evacuating people from the roof of the embassy in Baghdad, as long as BHO is in office, I don't think I will.

    Don't make me meta. You wouldn't like me when I'm meta.

    by Han Shot First on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:32:44 AM PDT

  •  I remember my father's reaction (8+ / 0-)

    He was stationed in Vietnam for 18 months from 1970-71. His reaction to the fall of Saigon was one of frustration for the waste. He was sitting at the kitchen table when the news was announced. He slammed his fist into the table and walked out. Less than a year later, he retired from the Army even though he had been told he was going to be promoted and get the star (general). After 30 years in the service, it was Vietnam that soured him, discouraged him, frustrated him, disappointed him about the service and the political process that fostered it.

    I will say this. He left the service to run the water quality and enforcement for a state so in my mind, the personal toll that Vietnam took on him had a silver lining. The personal toll it took on too many other veterans did not have that silver lining.

    Now if only the politicians would the learn the lesson of Vietnam.

    Please help the people of Haiti

    by DWG on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:36:06 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for writing, Ken. I served two tours in (8+ / 0-)

    Vietnam (Army).  When I saw how it ended, I wept.  Was this what I devoted those two year out of my life for?  So many died, and we remember them with sorrow, awe and gratitude.  Thank God we are both still here to ask and comment about it.  Wishing you a wonderful day at school.

  •  Meet the new folly....same as the old folly (5+ / 0-)

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:42:46 AM PDT

  •  Beg to differ, teacherken . . . (5+ / 0-)

    the war, and more importantly the bankrupt foreign policy of American exceptionalism and imperial overreach that have been the hallmark of US policy since at least the National Security Act of 1947 and which enabled the Vietnam War is alive and well in Washington DC . . . and responsible for the two unlawful wars we're presently involved in, explain our use of predator drones outside of combat zones and our continuing provocations involving Iran.

    737 military bases in 130 countries around the world.  Is that a plan or what?

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:44:21 AM PDT

  •  seven hours before I went to Viet Nam (6+ / 0-)

    in August 1968, I was thrown in an Enterprise, Alabama jail for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Funny thing was, I wanted to go to Viet Nam. Wanted to go kill some "gooks". Consequently, I didn't go to Viet Nam till 2008.  They have a crappy war museum where you can't see the pictures on the wall for the tears in your eyes. What lovely people.  

    "Bad Bruise before dishonor"

    by tRueffert on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:46:09 AM PDT

  •  Our Congress has the power and the right... (3+ / 0-) end wars by cutting off funding.

    Few seem to be pressuring them to stop the funding.

    As James Madison wrote, ‘‘Those who are to conduct a war cannot in the nature of things, be proper or safe judges, whether a war ought to be commenced, continued, or concluded.’’

    "Here's the book on Alan Greenspan: He thinks what everybody else thinks, but one fiscal quarter later." -- James Grant

    by dov12348 on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 04:47:02 AM PDT

    •  end the EastAsia wars NOW! (4+ / 0-)

      Total waste of money and lives, and counterproductive if our goal is really to rebuild Af-Pak.

      Give 1/100th of the money spent on bombs to Greg Mortenson's group and they'll turn "Stones into Schools" to really help the Af-Pak people.

      Medicare for All, that is the REAL public option that only needs 50 votes + Biden.

      by MD patriot on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:09:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I recently read (0+ / 0-)

        Mortensen's second book (the "Stones into Schools" that you mention) and wonder daily when I read the news how the many small villages he discusses are doing.  Maps are never sufficient to see if a village where he built a school has been decimated by recent events. I feel pretty certain, however, that we are busily demolishing his amazing heritage and contributions in the area.

  •  Brings back some memories. (6+ / 0-)

    In April 1975 I was 18 and in my first quarter in college: a Southern private institution  associated with my  denomination.  Watching the news in my dorm's living room every evening was quite an experience.  As the North Vietnamese advanced the tempo picked up, with a strong majority of the guys advocating sending our troops back in to "stop the Commies." But when one of the cooler heads asked how many planned to enlist, for some reason no one stepped up to the plate.  

  •  Another partner in the dance of folly (6+ / 0-)

    was US Ambassador Graham Martin, who refused to entertain the possibility that the North Vietnamese would win--even up to the day they entered Saigon.  His intransigence made it difficult to impossible for an orderly withdrawal, and was one of the reasons so many Vietnamese who'd been loyal to our cause were left behind.

    Martin wouldn't even call for evacuation when ordered to do so by Gerald Ford, claiming that Ford hadn't appointed him.  They had to call up Nixon in San Clemente to phone Martin in Saigon to personally order the evacuation of the embassy.

    "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain."

  •  Navt vet here (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, mcmom, brushysage
    in may 65 some in my HS graduation class were getting draft notices. I was not able to get to get the money for school, so i joined the Navy may 26, I spent four years in a F4 fighter many of my friends and class mate i have not seen since school.some times i wonder if i should of waited for my draft notice, i guess it's guilt that i had it so easy, i spent a week in in the NAS Jacksonville Hospital in 65 it was full of wounded soldiers from Nam I can still see them today when i think about that time.

    "I want to be in Kentucky when the end of the world comes, because it's always 20 years behind" -Mark Twain

    by vet on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:31:14 AM PDT

  •  God what a waste (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, mcmom

    That stinking war was the worst thing that ever has happened in my lifetime.  People today can't begin to imagine how f**ked up things were back in '68-'70.  The same blowhard chickenhawk conservatives who pushed us into that mess have been replaced by even dumber blowhard chickenhawk conservatives today.

  •  Those of us of a certain age can never forget, (3+ / 0-)

    Ken, the sacrifice of so many for so little. I am so glad you survived to become a great teacher, and to be a good person, and contributor to us Kossacks. Thank you. Such sad memories.

    I think, therefore I am. I think.

    by mcmom on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 05:54:27 AM PDT

  •  One of my friends got out that day (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, texasmom

    He was nine. His father was a Colonel in the South Vietnamese Army. His whole family was able to get aboard a US Navy ship in the Mekong River and come to the United States.

    We met at college where we pledged a fraternity together. He had a bizarre skill in being able to turn a regular frat party into an ultra lounge experience. Somehow that experience translated well into his chosen field of accounting and finance which led to venture capitalism.

    He returned to Vietnam several years ago to pursue venture capitalism and he is very successful with it. He now spends his days living on the beach, surfing, drinking 50 cent beers and entertaining friends with a couple of hours of work tossed in.

    As long as the victorious communist government gets it's share, capitalism has the green light.

    "As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."- Arthur Carlson

    by bobinson on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:13:07 AM PDT

  •  We cannot really bring home the costs of our (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Heart of the Rockies, Iranaqamuk

    military to the vast majority of the U.S. without a draft and congress-critters willing to raise taxes to fund the wars/empire building.

    If President Obama's daughters had an equal chance of being put in harms way as my grand-daughter we'd have a much better chance at a restrained foreign policy, no wars of choice and less empire building.

    What we learn from History: History repeats itself. History never repeats itself. Histories lessons are always ignored.

    by Hector Gonzalez on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:13:15 AM PDT

    •  I served '66-'72 (0+ / 0-)

      This old citizen soldier says:

      Reinstate the draft now.

      •  Are you outta yr mind?? (0+ / 0-)

        "....Reinstate the draft now....."
        this old Vietnam veteran says don't even try

        Hector--So you want to start up the draft so you can hold Obama's daughters hostage against starting a war?? Oh, thats a GOOD idea, I'm sure that will go over big.

        Happy just to be alive

        by exlrrp on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:11:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Serious proposal. When the children of the (0+ / 0-)

          powerful are at risk and their wealth is raided in true measure of what the American Empire actually costs, we will see marked restraint in our foreign policies.

          What we learn from History: History repeats itself. History never repeats itself. Histories lessons are always ignored.

          by Hector Gonzalez on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 09:27:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I went out and got drunk that day (0+ / 0-)

    And I mean Blotto. I remember the day very well, I was working on a fishing boat in Hawaii and watched it on the news as we were coming in to Kewalo Basin.
    I'd spent a year in Vietnam as a grunt, saw quite a lot of people get killed or f**ked up bigtime. Although I'd protested the war when I returned, to see it go down in flames like that at the end was heartbreaking. What a waste of time, money and people.
    A lot of people gave a lot and gave up a lot.

    Happy just to be alive

    by exlrrp on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:32:43 AM PDT

  •  From quote bag (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    "I don't think,the whole of Southeast Asia, as related to the present and future safety and freedom of the people of this country, is worth the life or limb of a single American [and] I believe that if we had and would keep our dirty, bloody, dollar-soaked fingers out of the business of these [Third World] nations so full of depressed, exploited people, they will arrive at a solution of their own.... And if unfortunately their revolution must be of the violent type because the "haves" refuse to share with the "have-nots"  by any peaceful method, at least what they get will be their own, and not the American style, which they don't want and above all don't want crammed down their throats by Americans."
    General David M. Shoup, former US Marine Commandant and recipient of the Medal of  Honor after Tarawa, 1966

    Served under General Smedley Butler in China

    The folded coffin flag is nothing but a receipt from the Masters of War to the pawns in their game.

    by BOHICA on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 06:36:52 AM PDT

  •  Vietnam (0+ / 0-)

    As a person who, as a boy, was around at the time, and who has never liked the war, nevertheless...

    yes, let us remember Tonkin Gulf, My Lai, Agent Orange...

    but let us also remember the Vietnamese Gulag, the boat people, and the killing fields...

    not to mention the Buddhists who burned themselves to death in 1978, as well as 1963.

  •  Nothing learned. Nothing at all. (0+ / 0-)

    The very beginning of lessons learned would be to acknowledge that theater casualties for that stupid pointless war were six to ten million dead. Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai. Have at me for my anti-patriotic "exaggeration".
    Failure to accept American war guilt poisons the political life of this country.

  •  that evening in 1975 (0+ / 0-)

    Around 150 of us had spontaneously gathered in Lafayette Park (across from the White House.)

    Taking a smoke break from what must have been an intense Cabinet meeting, Secretary of Defense Schlesinger came over (alone), to deliver a freaked out rant blaming us for the US defeat.

    When Sheriff Arpaio asks for my papers, I'll hand him a pack of ZigZags.

    by ben masel on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 07:23:41 AM PDT

  •  On my own website, I spell it Iraq-Nam because (0+ / 0-)

    I see the same thing happening when Moqtada al Sadr finally takes over.

  •  Ken, I cannot believe how few comments (0+ / 0-)

    there are for your diary. It should have stayed on the recommended list for the entire day. It shows how few Kossacks have any knowledge of, or memory of, those terrible times. I still feel overwhelming sadness remembering the images on television of the wounded and dead, and for what? A generation of dead, wounded, both in body and in spirit. When I go to the VA with Joe, the oldest veterans now are mostly Vietnam era vets, and they look uniformly dispirited. A sad reminder.

    I think, therefore I am. I think.

    by mcmom on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 09:47:44 AM PDT

    •  some people more interested in current events (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      or other topics.  I am not complaining.  It got on the rec list, it has a decent number of comments, some of very high quality.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Thu Apr 29, 2010 at 10:20:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Military Morning (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This morning I was at a non-classified briefing at one of the local military installations.  Several of the attendees are VietNam Vets.  They did not realize the anniversary date.  The active duty troops only know about Viet Nam through history books so I did not expect anything from them.

        But, the moment I said I was frozen for overseas SEA that got several of the vets to perk up.  Once you get that set of orders you generally know you are moving. The memories of getting those orders hit them.

        I forgot to write in my earlier reply that the reason I am sure I was going to Nam was I was unfrozen from overseas a couple weeks in to May '75. Nothing left to go to (unless you were in Thailand so to speak).

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