Friday, April 29, 2005


30 years ago today Saigon was falling, bringing the Vietnam war to an end. US helicopters were staging a massive airlift to remove Americans and some few South Vietnamese from the embassy - the images of that day are clear in my head, though they probably owe more to movies and documentaries than to any actual news reporting since I was 7 at the time and hadn't really developed much political consciousness yet.

Today marks the beginning of the airlift, and tomorrow marks the South's unconditional surrender, but we'd lost the war long before that date, maybe as early as the date we first decided to send our troops over there. We lost almost 60000 people, a number that is dwarfed by the 3.3 million Vietnamese killed (250000 South Vietnamese troops, 1.1 million North Vietnamese troops, 2 million civilians).

We'd also lost something else... perhaps it was innocence... certainly we lost faith in our own government, knowing that we couldn't trust them to keep our troops out of unnecessary harm. And unlike the heroes welcome that the soldiers of WWII received, many soldiers returning from Vietnam were met by people waving signs and chanting 'babykiller'; not only had the government betrayed these soldiers, the people of this country failed them as well.

And now we've got history repeating itself, no lessons learned from Vietnam, which might be due in part to the fact that a majority of our lawmakers and our president himself all managed to avoid the draft. We've lost more soldiers, the foundation of our economy, and the goodwill of other countries... not bad for just 4 years of work. I just hope we don't have to re-learn some of the other lessons from the Vietnam war, but our administration's obsession with North Korea is pretty much guaranteeing more carnage. These are sad times we live in.