Saturday, May 29, 2010

American Dead

This is the fifth year I've run this post, which I usually keep up for one day when everyone is busy. This year, I'm posting it for the entire weekend, until the morning of Tuesday, June 1.

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Today, May 31, 2010 is Memorial Day. It is the day Americans remember, for a moment of silence at 3 p.m. (so it does not interfere with anyone’s picnic or beer swilling), their war dead. We honor all of those who have given their lives in the service of their beloved country, from the Revolutionary War to the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today, I am remembering the 58,178 American boys who died in Vietnam because I am a veteran of that war. 58,178 American boys who came home in black garbage bags to a no-heroes welcome. Boys who gave their lives not in the defense of America, but for the human rights of the South Vietnamese people to live free from the oppression of communist tyrants.

Or so our boys thought as each one lay dying in a pool of his own blood and urine, crying out to God for forgiveness, to his mom for help and comfort, to his wife and children to say one last “I love you.” IF, that is, he had time to cry anything.

As it turns out, these 58,178 boys gave their lives for . . . nothing.

In a report dated May 29, 2006 by the Associated Press, Calvin Woodward reported that Henry Kissinger, President Nixon’s envoy, told Chinese Premier Chou En-lai in 1972,

"If we can live with a communist government in China, we ought to be able to accept it in Indochina [Vietnam]."

Woodward writes,

"Kissinger told Chou that the United States respected its Hanoi enemy as a 'permanent factor' and probably the 'strongest entity' in the region. 'And we have had no interest in destroying it or even defeating it,' he insisted."

Kissinger told Chou,

"What has Hanoi done to us that would make it impossible to, say in 10 years, establish a new relationship?"

Absolutely nothing, Mr. Kissinger, except to kill and torture to death more than fifty-eight thousand sons, husbands, lovers, fathers, brothers, and friends while playing a deadly game of political gamesmanship.

Fifty-eight thousand, one-hundred and seventy-eight . . . Nothings.

Please LISTEN to this video by The Statler Brothers.

A link from TechnoBabe

(Do not forget the boys from other countries who gave their lives for nothing: Australia, South Korea, Laos, New Zealand, and The Philippines.)


TechnoBabe said...

Wow, I am liking your total makeover on your blog. Really clean and nice. Good for you to make the change. Vietnam is a tender spot for me too. My first husband was there. His cousin was a medic and our best friend and he died there trying to help soldiers who were wounded. Very moving post, Charlie.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Even those of us who didn't have to go have friends or relatives who did... some of whom did not return.

A truly eye-opening film about the Vietnam war is Errol Morris's "Fog of War", a biographical documentary about McNamara. I HIGHLY recommend it!

While reading your post, the short but very poignantly line from another great film came mind:

hope said...

Well said. One day I'll point you in the direction of my MIA bracelet post...even when I was 12, I knew you didn't spit on people who served to protect our country.

Mary Witzl said...

I can't make it through any Memorial Day ceremony without crying. I feel a mixture of emotions: rage, confusion, sorrow.

Love the Statler Brothers. 'The War Still Ain't Over for Mama' is another good one they've done.

Ocean Girl said...

This is heartbreaking.

I think the first Vietnam War casualty was JFK.

Ponita in Real Life said...

War is such a waste... for everyone involved, really. Very touching post. Years ago, I recall reading the National Geographic magazine when they ran an article about the unveiling of that big wall with everyone's name carved into it. I was moved to tears...

Love the new look too!

Frances said...

Hear, hear Charlie.

We are such slow learners. We are so easily manipulated.

Mama Zen said...

Well said.

Friko said...

Remember them always; all of them throughout history. and history isn't over yet.

Jerry said...

Thank you.

Kim Ayres said...

I just wanted to point you to a blog post by another Charlie:

The Mouring After.

Or perhaps I shouldn't. I don't know. After I read it, I thought of things you've said and written about.

Buzzard said...

Hey Charlie, thanks for the post, from one Vietnam Vet to another.

I do take one exception to the post however, It's the line I personally never waiver on in my retort. I have heard so many times the expression, "these boys gave their lives for... nothing."

I can tell you the names that I know on the Vietnam Memorial Wall, and I can tell you for certain, they died for their country not for nothing. I would guess that almost all would say they died for their country. It's only after the historical analysis that someone decides if it was right or not. Like you I served my time there, two tours in fact. No one asked me my opinion before I went, and like you said, no one cared after. Our country asked us to go to war and we did.

I didn't agree with the Iraq war, but I don't believe our soldiers their died for nothing. Our country asked them to fight there, and they went. No weapons of mass destruction were ever found, no threats to the U.S. by those within before we invaded. One could make the same argument about dying in vain or for nothing. I can't go there. Soldiers die for their country, not for nothing.

We usually don't disagree on things, but on this point I will take exception.

Charlie said...

BUZZARD: I don't think we disagree at all. AT THE TIME, you, I, and all the rest felt it was our duty to serve our country. None of us were draft dodgers or ran off to Canada. I enlisted, just as my dad did in WWII and my grandfather in WWI.

I was proud to serve, even when it entailed shit-burning detail or 24-hour beer-dump guard duty. I felt, all the time that I was there (one tour), that I was doing my part for my COUNTRY, no matter how mundane the task.

It was only after the war ended in 1975 that we found out the war was a political game. I am outraged by Kissinger's toady statements.

"Nothing" is probably too strong a word; "in vain" is more on the mark. But let me reiterate: every boy (and eight women) who died in Vietnam DID IT FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Those clips really illustrate the vast differences of those involved in war - the heads of state who toy with the lives and fates of countless people, and the fodder who are sent in to make the ultimate sacrifice. And for what?

Charlie said...

Thank you all for your comments—especially you non-Americans who have your own war dead to remember, honor, and mourn. They shall not be forgotten either.

Alice said...

My uncle often talks about his time there and even does presentations to high school history classes. He once told me he re-upped because he thought it would mean one less fresh recruit that got himself killed. That kind of selflessness still amazes me.

I watch the parade each year with my daughter and I always make her stand by me when the vets come through with the flag. Shocking to see so many adults just sitting on the curb.

Like Mary, I never get thrugh a Memorial Day without crying.

Pat said...

Thank you for reminding us Charlie. And still it goes on - two more boys from our Taunton Marines lost this week in Afghanistan and always the grieving parents say how their sons were gglad to be doing their duty for their Queen and country and how proud they were of them.

Charlie said...

Alice and Pat, thank you.

Cathy said...

Thanks for this post, Charlie. I tried to do my own bit as well. So many people don't know the meaning behind holidays like this. No wonder history is doomed to repeat itself. Those of us who do remember should be much more vocal.