CSotD: Collateral Damage

Jack Ohman (WPWG) evokes a parallel between our withdrawal from Saigon and our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and, once more, I will point out that the two events are only vaguely alike.

One similarity, however, is that there’s a reason police hate being called in on domestic disturbances: Spouses may be angry with each other, but they’re both apt to hate you for interfering, to which I’ll add that they’re both likely to come away with stories about what you did wrong, and you will, too.

Sometimes, it’s deliberate: When the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were smearing John Kerry, they called him a liar for saying he had gone up the Mekong towards Cambodia to resupply Special Forces. The Swifties insisted no troops were there.

Well, I had a friend who was, across the border in Cambodia with montagnards, the pre-industrial minority who dwelt in the Highlands.

And who, when the war ended, were told to go to a beach and we’d pick them up, only we never showed. Instead, the Khmer Rouge did. The Green Berets didn’t forget their allies and they helped resettle other montagnards in the US, but the betrayal still hurts.

Oddly enough, BTW, the only time my friend caught a bullet was while he was on R&R in Saigon and was shot in the street by a 9-year-old cigarette boy.

Bob simply racked it up to a long line of shit that happened over there.


Jeff Danzigerwho served in Vietnam — recreates another scene from that day, as sailors pushed those choppers off the flight deck and into the sea to make additional room for our fleeing friends and allies.

He labels the chopper “US Reputation” but I’m not sure what we had left to lose.

There was a great deal of ugliness in that war, including evidence that Nixon torpedoed a peace settlement several years earlier to avoid giving the Democrats an edge in the 1968 elections.

Now he’d brokered his own peace and we’d withdrawn our forces nearly two years before the fall of Saigon.

Everyone knew the ceasefire was a sham, but, if nothing else, the time between our withdrawal and Hanoi’s final push gave us a chance to fly a few orphans out and to begin to ponder the fate of our Vietnamese staff and allies.


As Ed Hall says, our Afghan supporters will certainly need help.

However brutal the Re-Education Camps of Vietnam were, they had a goal of eventually bringing former opponents into some kind of unity. That’s nothing our supporters in Afghanistan can expect, just as it wasn’t what our supporters in Iraq were likely to get.

There’s a lot of hype in all this, but I think a gun to the head is, if anything, a bit of a euphemism.

I knew a soldier in Iraq who helped raise funds and collect supplies for a school. The teacher was killed in reprisal, and not with a merciful bullet to the head.

Not to say “They’re all alike,” but I seriously doubt the Taliban will be setting up re-education camps.


Juxtaposition of the Day


(Steve Sack)

Nick Anderson (Tribune)

It appears that Biden is attempting to replicate our actions in Vietnam, but far more abruptly, and not by simply loading up some helicopters.

Remember, however, that the people scrambling for the choppers in Saigon were a drop in the bucket. The bulk of the 120,000 Vietnamese who eventually came to the US got out on their own and, yes, were housed in resettlement camps in Guam and elsewhere until their paperwork was processed and places were found for them.

Vietnam has a long coastline from which Boat People were able to launch. Some drowned, and we know others were attacked by pirates, but many got out.

Afghanistan won’t be nearly so easy to escape, though Biden is asking neighboring Himalayan countries to take in refugees.

However, the real barrier to their arrival here is not narrow mountain passes but, rather, 20 years of Islamophobic hatred stirred up by the same chickenhawks who got us into this mess.

Bureaucracy and paperwork are hardly the sticking point: We don’t even want furriners to come pick our vegetables and process our chickens so we can put food on our tables.

Getting 120,000 visas for Muslim refugees through Mitch McConnell’s Congress seems unlikely, even if 120,000 Afghans can find their way out.

How’s it going to turn out?

I doubt we’ll ever know the real story, except that we’ve got a stunning track record of broken promises, and I’m not even counting the Fort Laramie Treaty.

But we promised the Marsh Arabs that, if they rose up against Saddam Hussein, we’d support them. They did and we didn’t.

And has anyone heard from our Kurdish allies since Trump yanked the carpet out from under them in Syria?

Our abandonment of the montagnards was only one part of that story, the larger part being our horrified “discovery” of the Killing Fields in which victorious Khmer Rouge had slaughtered a quarter of Cambodia’s population.

We knew nothing about it, until it was too late.

Or so the story goes.

Except that a high-ranking member of the Cambodian government somehow landed in my town along with the Vietnamese refugees, and he knew exactly what was going on and who was doing it. I sat in his living room while he spoke on the phone with Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Philip Habib.

My friend was getting reports from Cambodians in the refugee camps in Thailand, and we — he, and I, and Philip Habib — knew exactly what was going on as it was happening. When TIME magazine reported on Cambodia’s “unknown leaders,” he and his wife explained to me who each one was, chuckling over a couple of misidentifications in photo captions.

I don’t know what we could have done, but ignoring it seems like allowing it.

Now I look at our Vietnamese neighbors and optimistically think, “We could do that again.”

Then I look at 600,000 dead Americans and see that half the country opposes letting Biden try to end our own deaths.

Our Afghan allies haven’t got a chance.



2 thoughts on “CSotD: Collateral Damage

  1. Two things I learned during the “war” was: It was very important to call your “enemies” by denigrating names-it makes them enemies if you are taught that they are; and 2: someone always feels the need to “have a war,” to keep the troops at top performance levels, to test new weapons systems, and to keep the democrats from having a majority.

  2. People ally with the Americans during wartime for their own reasons, both political and personal. They are independent actors and not just pawns. To focus only on American policy and responsibility seems somewhat patronizing.

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