It was 40 years ago this week when I heard the news about the Fall of Saigon. I was a senior in high school, on break from rehearsal of the play Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. My reaction was immediate: I let out a whoop of joy. “It’s over! The good guys won!” I don’t recall my classmates’ reaction; perhaps they looked at me like I was crazy. They knew me to be a radical. Forty years later, I stand by that reaction.
You may dismiss me as a traitor; be my guest. To me, getting this country involved in an unnecessary, immoral war was the actual betrayal, and JFK, LBJ and Nixon were the traitors.
“My country right or wrong” was the watchword for lots of folks in my parents’ generation. That attitude was not just misinformed, it was utter folly. The whole purpose of a constitutional republic, which the US supposedly is, is to allow the people to correct their leaders when they are wrong. In a functioning system, there is no blind trust, no embarrassing secrets shielded by “national security.” The Founding Fathers would have been appalled at our gullibility.
You may say I’m insensitive to the Americans who died there; not so. I understand that most of those young men who went were drafted or volunteered after being brainwashed to believe the country needed protection against the fairy tale of falling dominoes. Our intervention in Vietnam had nothing to do with freedom; it was a violent invasion by a nuclear power against a weak, backward nation which had never attacked us. (The Gulf of Tonkin Incident was, of course, a fabrication which our corrupt, complicit media never bothered to expose.)
I would have preferred that the whole male cohort aged 18-25 had gotten up and high-tailed it for Canada, which is exactly what I would have done, had I been drafted. I would do it still, if a similar situation arose. “You would let someone else do the fighting,” you say? No, if I had it in my power NO ONE from America would participate in foreign wars, not in Vietnam, nor the more recent idiotic crusades in Iraq or Afghanistan.
I have no illusions that the North Vietnamese or the Viet Cong were angels. No doubt many of their enemies perished after the fall. Yet they may have seemed kind and gentle, compared to the brutal senseless violence of the American occupation. (See Kill Anything that Moves, by Nick Turse.) The one morally correct thing the US government did was to welcome as refugees many of the Vietnamese who had foolishly sided with them, thus any Communist bloodbath was averted.
And speaking of bloodbaths, what of the genocide that happened next door in neighboring Cambodia? Was that the fault of peaceniks like me? No, the fall of Prince Sihanouk’s government was largely due to Nixon’s secret bombing campaign, which paved the way for the psychopathic Khmer Rouge. Those with short memories may not recall that the US opposed the Communist Vietnamese government when it intervened in Cambodia to restore order. That was hardly one of the high points in our history.
So say what you want, I’m glad Saigon fell, because the US elites who had perpetrated this incomprehensible war crime deserved to get a metaphorical black eye. Too bad they weren’t charged, tried and convicted as well.