“Peace with honor,” was the phrase President Richard Nixon used on January 23, 1973 to describe the Paris Peace Accords that ended the Vietnam War. What really happened was a disorderly evacuation, appropriately ending as a CIA officer helped the last, desperate evacuees to get onto the last Air America helicopter to leave the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon on April 29th, 1975.
We disgraced ourselves in Vietnam. After promising to lead South Vietnam to freedom and democratization, tens of thousands of real and suspected American sympathizers were tortured and killed by the North Vietnamese after we fled.
We are doing it again in Afghanistan, where we once again promised to lead a country to freedom and democratization. With President Joe Biden saying that he “trusts” the Afghan Army because it is “well trained and well equipped”, once again, thousands of real and suspected American sympathizers will be tortured and killed by the Taliban after we run away.
That is the subject of today’s 10 minute episode.
The US goes into various countries, including Vietnam and Afghanistan, promising freedom and democracy. The government calls it nation building: I call it bait and switch. We know full well that we cannot impose democracy on another country; either they want it and are willing to demand it and achieve it on their own, or nothing happens. Yet knowing that, our politicians and military leaders recklessly promised the Afghans democracy, all while wanting to invade for personal and political reasons.
Pop Quiz: Q. Name the one country that had never been a democracy that became one after we invaded. A. Japan. After almost completely destroying Japan in WWII by bombing, including the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, utterly destroying the country economically, getting the Emperor to admit that he was not a god, instituting a complete military occupation and writing a new constitution for the country, it worked. Second Q. Where else are we willing to do all that? Second answer. No where. Not even close.
Going back to the days of Alexander the Great, four powerful armies tried invading Afghanistan before us; all of them failed: the Greeks, Romans, British and the Russians, all at the height of their military powers. We knew that it would take a victory-over-Japan-like-effort to succeed. We knew that going in, yet we are pretending to be surprised that we failed. Now we are leaving, making excuses and happy statements while we run. “Retreat and declare victory,” is hollow and deceitful.
The Taliban will be free to exert cruel, dictatorial control over Afghanistan in exactly the same way that North Vietnam did when we reneged on our promises to South Vietnam. In both countries, the carnage and human suffering will be dramatically worse than if we had never set foot there.
Some lucky ones escaped the communist dictatorship’s terrible retribution in Vietnam. The Vietnamese boat people were the refugees who fled Vietnam by boat and ship following the end of the war in 1975. This migration and humanitarian crisis was at its highest in 1978 and 1979, but continued through the early 1990s. Escaping landlocked Afghanistan will be a touch harder. And none of the surrounding countries, e.g., Pakistan, China and Iran, are all that attractive anyway.
We were right in intervening in South Korea when North Korea attacked, but not in South Vietnam. Q. But Will, weren’t we defending against the spread of communism in both cases? A. No; these are very different examples. Both Germany and Korea were partitioned post WWII; North Korea was administered by the Soviet Union, and South Korea by the US. In 1950, the Communist-aligned Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), North Korea, suddenly attacked the West-aligned First Republic of Korea, South Korea, the US-backed South.
Unlike South Korea, when we intervened in Vietnam, we had no vested interests to defend. And we were propping up a cruel, dictatorial Catholic regime in an overwhelmingly Buddhist country.
When the Allies liberated France in 1944, female Nazi collaboraters and sympathizers were publically ridiculed and shamed. Most commonly, they were dragged to a public place, and had all of their hair shaved off and were accused of being Nazi whores. The North Vietnamese burned entire villages in South Vietnam and slaughtered whole families, exacting a terrible revenge from anyone proved or suspected of being in any way sympathetic to the Americans. The very same Americans who were no longer there to keep their promises and protect them. In Afghanistan, the Taliban will return to taking evil delight in things like denying women basic civil rights, and denying gays the right to life itself. They will exact their revenge for 20 years of being outgunned and stymied by the Americans.
Neither the Afghan Army nor the Army of Vietnam (ARVN), the South Vietnamese Army, could stand up to their opposing countrymen; the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the Viet Cong, the militia, and the NVA, the regulars, the North Vietnmese Army, in Vietnam. The Taliban had things their way before the Americans showed up, and will again when we leave. Being even more cruel now to make up for 20 years of American military presence. The South Vietnamese Army could not hold its own against the North even with thousands of supporting troops from the American 1st Special Forces (A), the Green Berets, further supported by a lot of American money and materiel, so we came up with an excuse to fight as intact American units starting in 1965. For those of you believing the oft-repeated claim that, “Afghanistan is America’s longest war”, know that Maj. Dale R. Buis and Master Sgt. Chester M. Ovnand were the first Americans killed in the American phase of the Vietnam War when the North struck a Military Assistance Advisory Group (MAAG) compound in Bien Hoa, 20 miles northeast of Saigon. MAAG had arrived in South Vietnam on November 1, 1955 to provide military assistance. Both wars lasted 20 years, with over 2K Americans killed in Afghanistan, and over 57K of us killed in Vietnam. Both were disasters, neither needed to be.
Each one of us must be personally responsible for knowing history and the truth about what is happening today so that we can know when the media and our politicians are spreading more manure than an organic farmer. And we must be personally responsible for stepping up, actively using that knowledge to make things around us better.
Speaking of personal responsibility, it does not stand alone; the two main and interdependent principles at Revolution 2.0 are:
Where do you stand? What are you going to do? Remember, it does not matter where you stand if you don’t do anything. You can start by subscribing to these episodes, and encouraging others to subscribe with you.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty. 1 Corinthians 16:14
As we get ready to wrap up, please do respond in the episodes with comments or questions about this episode or anything that comes to mind, or connect with me on Twitter, @willluden, Facebook, facebook.com/will.luden, and LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/in/willluden/. And you can subscribe on your favorite device through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and wherever you listen to podcasts.
Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.