Open Phones: Vietnam Vets

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC (bigberto on flickr/flickr)

Yesterday's Memorial Day celebrations also marked the start of a 13-year-long commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War. Vietnam vets, call us with the lessons you take from the Vietnam War.

Comments [20]

Ed from Larchmont

Also, in Southeast Asia, we saw what happened when the Communists finally took over there. The Cambodian genocide - more killed brutally than we can imagine. And in Vietnam, with many Catholics from the French government, were persecuted and still are, many in prison. And the other caller was right, other countries could have gone Communist as well, as the theorists feared, and that didn't happen. The Vietnam veterans are great heroes.

May. 30 2012 06:12 AM
Ed from Larchmont

Looking back it seems that the Vietnam War had a global effect: in 1961 the US and the USSR were at the verge of nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. They were heading toward nuclear conflict.

Then the Vietnam War started, and it allowed a proxy conflict to be the place of conflict between the US and USSR. By the time the Vietnam War ended, enough time had passed that the economic weakness of the USSR's system had weakened it enough that we weren't on the very edge of nuclear conflict.

And years passed and the USSR got weaker, and finally Glasnost and the end of the USSR.

So the soldiers from Vietnam can be said to have rescued the world from nuclear war through distraction. A wonderful work done.

May. 30 2012 06:10 AM
Juris Jurjevics from New York, NY

I share the sentiments expressed on the floor of the Senate way back when:
“I am frankly of the belief that no amount of American military assistance in Indo China can conquer an enemy which is everywhere, and at the same time nowhere, ‘an enemy of the people’ which has the sympathy and covert support of the people.” Senator John F. Kennedy, 1955.

My Viet Nam era blog:

May. 29 2012 04:56 PM
Juris Jurjevics from New York, NY

To learn the "lesson of Vietnam" you have to go back and look and think, which I've tried to do in a novel, RED FLAGS, from the vantage point of the Central Highlands in 1966 where I served and observed the corrupt drug regime that was South Vietnam (shades of Afghanistan)resentfully host the American forces and the cornucopia we brought of free and easily appropriated materiel that drove and drowned their regime and undermined their culture and economy. With a great sense of superiority, we advised the Vietnamese on how to conduct their war the American way, these people whose earliest military academies dated back tot he time of Christ, and who had overtime successfully outwitted and fought Mongolians, Chinese, Chams, Khemer, Japanese, French, Americans and the aboriginal tribes who had retreated into the sanctuary of the Highlands. I remember standing on the lip of a dormant volcano in Pleiku province staring out at he vast US war machine that we were and feeling dumbfounded at the audacity of LBJ to believe he could demand obedience of the unleashed forces roiling through Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.

May. 29 2012 12:06 PM

Same here Ed. I remember losing out on a job over it. The employer was interested until he learned I was in Vietnam.

May. 29 2012 11:47 AM
Ed from northern new jersey

The disrespect put on the men and women in uniform during the war was real, I experienced it myself. The lessons that should have been learned by Vietnam have sadly been ignored or forgotten by politicians as they have continued to commit young people to "nation building" around the globe. The politicians, of both parties, have continued to expand the role of the military beyond it's stated purpose, defending the United States, on unclear missions. They continue to insist on restrictive "rules of engagement" that the opposing force exploits.

May. 29 2012 11:41 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

It doesn't matter WHY the French helped us, nor why we helped others. There are always BROAD geopolitical considerations on why we do things, but the bottom line is, we have FREED BILLIONS. And not only for their sake, but for our sake too. More democracy makes the world safer, especially in a world where ballistic missile and nuclear technology means that no place is safe nor "out of the way." There is just no way we can successfully hide from the rest of the world. WE couldn't do in the 1930s, and certainly can't do it today. The enemies of democracy, regardless of what ideology or theology they are cloaked in will find us. And as nuclear technology becomes more and more available, the conceivable consequences are too frightful to ignore.

May. 29 2012 11:23 AM
Mike from Inwood

jgarbuz: We solicited French aid during our revolution from England. The French were fighting England on many fronts around the world at the time and aid to the North American revolutionaries was just one more way to poke England in the eye. Had the French declined, it simply would have taken longer. The only Vietnamese movement to ask the US for support was headed by Ho Chi Minh. The Iranians did not ask the US to replace the democratically-elected Mosaddegh with the Shah in 1953. A majority of younger Koreans blame for their divided country. No credible Iraqi movement asked the US to invade Iraq. The list goes on and on. US intervention was ever requested in the Carribean. The South Americans do not want our drug war. The list goes on and on; we cannot remake the world in our image, or in the image we imagine we have. The Soviet decline resulted from the high cost of maintaining their empire. Hopefully, this country can be smart enough to climb down from empire before it meets a similar fate. That will be the test of whether Democracy functions better than the alleged totalitarian regimes that have confronted us.

May. 29 2012 11:06 AM

Interesting to see which comments were considered 'uncivil', and I don't think many Vietnam vets have commented so far.

May. 29 2012 11:02 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Mike,

Were it not for France and help from many others who came to help the Americans win their freedom from King George, we would have remained part of the British empire. Now that might not have been a such bad thing, but the idea that people must always free themselves is ridiculous. It has never happened. The closest I can think of is the Irish in the 1920s and the Jews of Palestine in the late 1940s. But generally speaking, I can't think of many cases where people freed themselves with no outside help.

May. 29 2012 10:51 AM
Mike from Inwood

BL Show moderator: Please put the comments somewhere else so that we can all see them. Free speech does not need an arbiter of staying on topic.

May. 29 2012 10:48 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

One of my earliest childhood memories of TV, besides Milton Berle and Superman, was at age 8 watching the surrender of the French Foreign Legion after the defeat at Dienbienphu back in 1954. When the US began to involve itself very directly under the early days of the Kennedy administration, I wondered why the US thought it could win where the French had lost after years of figthing. I read the books of Bernard Fall which described the Indochina War (as it was called before it became the Vietnam war) and was immeediately skeptical that we could win there. Not that we were wrong, but that we could win. After the war, the hundreds of thousands of boat people, that Vietnamese refugees that took to the sea to escape made it clear why we had fought that war at all.

May. 29 2012 10:48 AM
Eve from NJ

Don't forget the horrible legacy of Agent Orange which is rarely mentioned. All Vietnam vets had exposure and thousands have died and continue to die from it to this day. It's very sad, and needless to say this war's costs continue to climb because of it.

May. 29 2012 10:44 AM
Mike from Inwood

jgarbuz: I do not want my country fighting wars to make other people free. They must make themselves free. Of all these people we have supposedly made free, how many appreciate our efforts? Virtually none; most consider the US to be an imperialist empire. And no war fought in your life time has made you free, either. Think of Vietnam: We did not prevail, yet no US citizen is less free as a result. The US has fought wars to make the world free for multi-national corporations to move capital over borders and maximize profits. That is all. We have been used.

May. 29 2012 10:44 AM
Brian Lehrer Show moderator

Some comments have been removed. Please stay on topic and be civil. Thanks. -- BL Show moderator

May. 29 2012 10:42 AM
pliny from soho

this disrespect for the troops is a right wing canard.
we fought the war machine in the 60's to save the troops.

May. 29 2012 10:40 AM
Juan from Yonkers

War is a business!!!!!

May. 29 2012 10:39 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

The United States has liberated more people and nations from totalitarianism and horror than any other nation in history. When I was a kid over 50 years ago, most nations were either dictatorships and/or living under Communist or fascist dictatorships. Today most people are free thanks to America. Yes,it has cost the US some 100,000 dead and many more maimed and wounded since WWII, but YES it has been "worth it" for the billions we have brought into the light of freedom! I'm sick and tired of all of these pacifists and "blame America firsters." They can all go and concentrate in North Korea, Cuba and Iran if they don't like America. GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Yes, war is hell and we must do much more to respect and honor our heroes, and see they are well cared for and get work if they can work.

May. 29 2012 10:34 AM

Re-institute the draft. Men AND women. No exemptions. Maybe then Congress will do it's job.

May. 29 2012 10:30 AM
Ken C from Brooklyn

Regarding the lessons learned from VietNam, if nothing is learned, is it really a lesson?

May. 29 2012 10:27 AM

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