30 April 2012
THE FALL OF SAIGON
Gather around, children, and learn how things end when your country becomes needlessly involved in a war whose stated goals (preventing the spread of communism) mask the real goals (securing natural resources like oil and rubber) ~ all the while guaranteeing the loss of the war by using conventional tactics against a guerrilla opponent. We continue to make that same mistake.
37 years ago yesterday and today, more than 7,000 American civilians and 'at risk' Vietnamese were airlifted from various points in South Vietnam's capitol city, Saigon, to a fleet of U.S. naval ships deployed in the South China Sea off Vung Tau. The evacuation took place as North Vietnamese Army (NVA) regulars were appearing in Saigon's suburbs. Fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters manned by military and CIA pilots struggled to accommodate as many refugees as possible, but time was running out. One of the enduring images of the evacuation appears above (click to enlarge) ~ a line of CIA station personnel filing to a waiting helicopter perched precariously atop the roof of their apartment building (often mistakenly identified as the U.S. embassy).
The sad and moving story of this complex operation is summed up nicely here. Incredibly, amid the confusion and gunfire, only four U.S. Marines lost their lives. Virtually all U.S. combat forces had been withdrawn from in-country by August 1973. Those who remained protected the U.S. embassy, and maintained advisory liaison with the South Vietnamese army and air force.
Human societies tend to have short memories, and new leaders take advantage of that fact. I was opposed to the Gulf War, the war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan from their inception. Clearly we weren't being told the whole story. Subsequent history has confirmed this. Nearly every war since WWII (with the exception of those few in which we sought to end genocide) have been fought to secure local natural resources or territory, shoring up American hegemony in the world. And all those wars have backfired. Our standing among the world community hasn't been been lower since the nineteenth century. We spent (officially) ten bloody years in Vietnam, to no good end. Ask me ~ I was there.