"We as a country have not come terms with the truth about Vietnam", said Bill Ayers -- founder of the militant anti-war group Weather Underground -- on MSNBC's Morning Joe this past Monday. “The war in Vietnam was a horrendous crime against humanity,” he said in defense of his known terrorist actions committed in protest of the war, "6,000 people a week were being murdered…What I did, I don’t make much of a claim for, but it was in opposition to a genocidal war.” No badge -- in their self-styled sash of merit badges -- arouses more hubris in the American left, and indeed the leftist media, than when they collectively punched the oppressive grip of "American Imperialism" square in the face during the tumultuous 19-year conflict infamously known forever as the Vietnam War.
If you’ve read your government sanctioned history book or actually listened to the latest lecture from your Howard Zinn clone of a professor, your knowledge of the war will predictably be as follows: President Johnson (Kennedy gets a freebie here) manufactured the "Domino Theory" to satisfy our blood-thirsty "Military-Industrial Complex", our soldiers (but mostly innocent Vietnamese) died needlessly, and our great heroes amidst the madness were John Lennon, Jane Fonda, Walter Cronkite, and, of course, Bill Ayers. Denying the U.S. Military engaged in unimaginable brutality during the Vietnam War with examples like My Lai,free-fire zones, and the Tiger Force War Crimes would be a gross miscalculation of human conscience. To deny orders like "search and destroy" were deeply ineffective counter-insurgency strategies that lead to unnecessary loss of American soldiers (thousands even) would be an even grosser exercise in human folly. However, to deny that the U.S. went to war defending South Vietnam from a very real and dangerous threat of U.S.S.R sponsored communist insurgency would be denying a fundamental fact. By 1964, we had already been doing it for South Korea, Taiwan, and Western Europe for nearly two decades. As Bruce Herschensohn dutifully noted in his book, An American Amnesia: How the U.S. Congress Forced the Surrenders of South Vietnam and Cambodia, "those who authored the amnesia hope the hiding of truth continues forever."
April 30, 1975 -- The Fall of Saigon. Will we know the significance of that day generations from now? Will the cries from millions of Southeast Asians echo in the annals of our psyche, haunting us to remember promises broken and dreams shattered? After months of unsuccessfully battling the north's aggression, South Vietnam had been forced into a corner, its capture seemed inevitable. Outside the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, hundreds gathered at the gates with what little belongings they could carry, banging the steel grates for airlift to safety. Off the coast, on the USS Blue Ridge, helos were pouring in from all over the countryside, carrying civilian cargo; the deck so crammed, helicopters were dumped into the South China Sea to fit the excess refugees. Once all American personnel had fled, the Communists swarmed the city and destroyed whatever hope remained for a free South Vietnam. A little under two weeks earlier, the Khmer Rouge under the tyrannical rule of Pol Pot, overtook Cambodia from the U.S. sponsored Lon Nol government. In the following months and years, the American media would bury their heads in shame as South East Asia became a concentration camp where more innocent people died than anytime during the Vietnam War itself. The Domino Theory had come to fruition.
The atrocities of the Khmer Rouge goes without saying. After Phnom Penh's fall, millions were marched into the countryside where children would watch their mothers systematically raped and fathers brutally tortured to death. Bullets were considered much too valuable for the Khmer Rouge to waste on executions, so heads were either bludgeoned into a tree stump or clubbed via hammer. Public executions were routine along with mass starvation. The death toll under Pol Pot's reign currently clocks in 1,700,000.
In Vietnam, now "peaceful" as hoped for by Bill Ayers and American journalists, a phenomenon known as the "Vietnamese Boat People" -- a mass exodus of 1-2 million refugees -- began to occur. The people fled to the sea, many on planks of wood coiled with rope. The lucky ones were granted asylum in Europe or here in the states, but an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 were either killed by pirates off the coast of Thailand or simply sank to their graves at the bottom of the South China Sea. After the Communist take-over, an estimated 1-2.5 million South Vietnamese were placed into "Re-education Camps". 250,000 are estimated to have died there from execution, disease, or malnutrition.
According to historical accounts of Herschensohn and Michael Lind, the atrocities outlined above could've been avoided had the U.S. kept its promise to continually re-supply South Vietnam and Cambodia with military armaments as laid out in the 1973 Paris Peace Accords. Prior to the agreement, President Nixon authorized Operation Linebacker II -- an 11 day aerial bombing that crippled the North Vietnamese military industrial plants. At the White House, they were calling it "Victory in Vietnam Day" because the bombings achieved their intended goal by forcing the North Vietnamese to sign the peace accords. The document explicitly stated that South Vietnam would be a free nation and, most especially, the United States would continually re-supply South Vietnam of ammunition, tanks, helicopters, etc. on a piece by piece basis. The Soviet Union could do, and did, the same for North Vietnam.
Why didn't the U.S. keep its word? The Democratic controlled Congress wouldn't let it. After U.S. forces withdrew from Vietnam, the Democrats in Congress, not to mention University professors, had a reputation at stake for having built a career on protesting the war's morality. Once victory in Vietnam had been achieved, "the Emperor had no clothes". Congress then proceeded to pass bills to stop funding South Vietnam and Cambodia, but President Nixon vetoed every one. However, history took the turn for the worst with Watergate. Once Nixon resigned, the Democrats enjoyed a landslide victory into the House and Senate majorities of the '74 mid-term elections, thus sealing Cambodia and South Vietnam's fate. Below are direct quotes of several U.S. Senators and Journalists a week before Cambodia's demise on April 17, 1975.
Senator George McGovern:
Cambodians would be better off if we stopped all aid to them and let them work things out their own way.
Senator Mike Mansfield:
The cut-off of aid is in the best interest of Cambodians.
Journalist Sidney Schanberg:
I have seen the Khmer Rouge and they are not killing anyone.
New York Times Editorial:
Aiding Cambodia would only extend Cambodia's misery.
On the eve of Phnom Penh's fall, President Ford held a conference begging Congress to appropriate funds to South Vietnam and Cambodia, but many Senators walked out from the meeting. After the Communist take-overs, Senator William Fulbright stated, "I'm no more depressed than I would be about Arkansas losing a football game to Texas."
Almost 40-years now since the darkest chapter in American history came to a close and the wounds are still felt. For every American who looks upon the flag, pondering the heroism of Normandy and Iwo Jima, respect dwindles into sorrow when they open their history books to a picture of frightened South Vietnamese piling into a helicopter atop the Saigon Embassy. With every military intervention, the mantra "it's another Vietnam" gets repeated in every University and on every network. Our soldiers, who bravely protected South Vietnam from Communist insurgency, have unjustly been stripped of the heroic title given to veterans of World War II and Korea. Instead, they're either patronized as victims of a manipulative government who sent them off to war for nothing or perpetrators of a genocidal holocaust as Bill Ayers would have us believe. How long will it be when the protesters who marched down the streets of Pennsylvania Avenue shouting, "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh! The N.L.F is going to win", are labeled for what they are? When will men like Bill Ayers finally see the pain and suffering brought about by their calls for peace? How long will the media continue to hide from very well documented facts that we abandoned South East Asia to a horrific fate? Our own President even publicly stated his admiration for Ho Chi Minh -- a man whose reign very clearly reflected the works of a committed totalitarian marxist. The effects of Vietnam will forever have a stranglehold on American foreign policy until these truths are reconciled to the American public.