2005-05-06 / Letters

Those Who Don’t Understand History…

Thirty years ago last week, American closed a chapter in its long history that many would rather forget. On April 29, Saigon, the capitol of what was then South Vietnam fell to North Vietnamese regulars, ending the war for America. Embedded in our minds is the famous picture of American citizens climbing a rickety ladder to a make-shift copter pad on the roof of the Pittman Apartments, in which most of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officials lived. While many still believe that the evacuation picture was taken at the American Embassy, the photographer who took the infamous picture, Hubert Van Es, says that he has been trying for 30 years to convince us of the actual location where it was shot. In any case, it is not important where the iconic photo was taken, but what it depicted: The end of a military venture that we did not have the political will or the resources to win and in which too many young American men died. Are there parallels between Vietnam and Iraq? Will we see one day in the future photographs of CIA agents pushing and shoving to get onto helicopters to evacuate Baghdad as insurgents pour in on their tanks? You can get an argument on that question in any bar or any street corner in America. We have written in the past of what we perceive are the similarities between the two conflicts: The ongoing guerilla war; the continuing loss of American lives; the seeming inability of the new Iraqi government to take over the war and stop the insurgency; the growing animosity on the part of Americans towards the war; the lies that the government can “see the light at the end of the tunnel; the corruption of the indigenous government, etc. etc. We hope that those who believe that the war in Iraq is being slowly won are correct. In the meantime, however, we have to look at the history of such conflicts and worry about our nation’s future.

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