As these words appear on the computer screen before me, I’m back in Vietnam. The news reports and videos from the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, have taken my mind back to the ones we received from Saigon in April 1975. My heart is with the people of Afghanistan now as it was with the people of Vietnam back then.

Physically, I haven’t been in Vietnam since my tour ended in February 1970. But, psychologically, no matter how I wish I could put it behind me, I’m back there on most days. Some days are worse than others. This day is one of the worst.

As I picture the slaughter of our Vietnamese allies by brutal communists who descended on Saigon after our exodus in 1975, I envision the same for countless numbers of our Afghan allies at the hands of the ruthless Taliban in the coming days and months. I rue the senseless deaths of more than 58,000 of my American brothers in Vietnam. I feel the same for 2,448 U.S. military members plus 3,846 U.S. civilian contractors lost in Afghanistan.

In his 1997 book, “Statistics of Democide: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900,” R.J. Rummel, a Cleveland native and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, painstakingly extrapolated the deadly consequences of the post-Vietnam War. He found that the most probable total count from “democide” committed by the communists was about 1,040,000 dead Vietnamese men, women and children. We do not know how many innocent Afghans will be slaughtered by the Taliban. But they fear the worst. And so do I.

As thousands of Afghans were swarming the Kabul airport in a futile attempt to escape that perceived inevitability, my mind focused on desperate Vietnamese scaling the evacuating U.S. Embassy walls in Saigon. Visions of Vietnamese people who worked and fought with us, some of whom I knew personally and cared for deeply, are embedded in my brain. I don’t know what happened to them. I fear the worst.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the courageous Americans who served our country in Afghanistan are sharing such feelings.

Like me, they also will never forget their fellow Americans whose lives have been lost in what have been described as endless wars. Of course, they end. But, of course, their impacts are interminable.

Unfortunately, though, as the late Harvard philosophy professor George Santayana is credited with espousing so eloquently, those who fail to learn history are doomed to repeat it.

Even before then-President Lyndon B. Johnson contrived the Tonkin Gulf Resolution in 1964, as documented by the Pentagon Papers, American political leaders had been warned for years by American military leaders that a war in Southeast Asia was unwinnable. Even after then-presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon secretly conceded in 1968 that “there’s no way to win the war,” the killing went on and on and on.

And so it has gone on for nearly 20 years in Afghanistan. Like the communists in Vietnam, the Taliban were never going to leave Afghanistan.

In his 1961 farewell speech, then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans about the military-industrial complex and the profits associated with death and war. The Vietnam War cost American taxpayers $168 billion then, $1 trillion in today’s dollars. Costs of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars are estimated at $2 trillion.

In March 2002, after terrorist al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden evaded the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, then-President George W. Bush said, “I truly am not that concerned about him.” In August 2015, then-President Barack Obama, after 14 years of war, acknowledged that the United States never would build Afghanistan into a self-defending democracy. And the killing went on.

Like the fall of Saigon that has been momentarily back in the news, the American people will get over the fall of Kabul soon enough. But I never will.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.