Saigon Redux

April 30, 2015

Picasso-Guernica-Horse_bigIn a flight of American history, today is the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, actually bringing to a shitty end America’s shitty experience in Vietnam — iconic photos of helicopters lifting people off US embassy rooftops a reminder a generation later that war don’t work.

Last month, three physician groups released a report, Body Count: Casualty Figures after 10 Years of the War on Terror, which reflected even more idiocy, and disclosed ‘…with at least 1.3 million lives lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone since the onset of the war following September 11, 2001.’

The body count is low-ball, too.

(Illustration: Pablo Picasso’s ‘Head of a Horse, Sketch for Guernica,’ found here).

Underestimation appears the policy of modern American warfare. The doctor groups — Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War — also concluded the under-reporting helped in removing “…the ‘fingerprints’ of responsibility.”
An insight on the numbers via Commondreams:

However, the report notes, this is a conservative estimate, and the total number killed in the three countries “could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely.”
Furthermore, the researchers do not look at other countries targeted by U.S.-led war, including Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, and beyond.
Even still, the report states the figure “is approximately 10 times greater than that of which the public, experts and decision makers are aware of and propagated by the media and major NGOs.

Vietnam, however, was in the old-style layered war — escalation was over more than a decade, including fuck-ups by three presidents, and wasn’t instigated/orchestrated by a goon-squad of nefariously-arrogant, yet highly-incompetent assholes.
Historian David Kaiser via Time magazine on the Saigon/Baghdad match-up:

The neoconservatives who took over policy and strategy under George H. W. Bush were either too young to have fought in Vietnam, or, like Bush (and, for that matter, myself), had served in non-combatant roles.
Some of them had persuaded themselves that Vietnam would have been successful if the United States had sent South Vietnam more aid, and all of them were certain they could topple the Iraqi government without serious repercussions.
Iraq in 2003 was about twice as populated and much larger in area than South Vietnam in 1962, but they were certain that less than a third of the troops eventually needed in South Vietnam would do the job.
They were wrong on all counts.

And killed millions.
A slaughter which continues unabated — there’s an excellent, detailed piece at Vanity Fair on the origins of ISIS, and the bushwhacked legacy.

In mid-April 1975, I started my first journalism job — police reporter at the the Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama — and  not too long afterward, an interview assignment of a local woman who’d just returned from Vietnam, airlifted out as South Vietnam quickly disintegrated, though in obvious stages, a looming event which occupied/overwhelmed the news cycle.
Memories fade in, fade out, but I recollect no other reporter was available at the time to interview the lady, so the City Editor sent me.
I have no idea who/what the lady did in Vietnam, or the interview itself. One memory is clear, though, a scene frozen in time of both of us watching TV in her living room during the interview. I think she had persisted in having the TV on while we talked, she must have had friends there.
And her living room was sunny.

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