|09-09-09 - SILLY DREAM - I was on a big yellow school bus with my
mother-in-law . my husband, and my brother-in-law, and a bunch of kids.
My husband and my brother-in-law dressed down to gold skimpy bathing
trunks and did an Egyptian kind of circus act dance and my brother-in-law swung
my husband in the air in a circle by his feet. I wondered at the time why
they didn't shave their bodies. They had all their hair on them, including
chest, belly and legs. It was rather ugly looking at the time.
After the dance performance was over, my mother-in-law roasted a chicken
on the bus. This was not your usual fare either. The chicken was
plucked live and it stood in the barbecue and entertained the kids while it was
being roasted. This chicken was over 40 pounds as well so it took awhile
and the chicken told stories and jokes to the kids while he was standing in the
After my mother-in-law left the troop, it was up to me to roast the
chicken. I don't know how I learned to pluck a live chicken, but I did it,
and my roasted chicken act was just as successful as hers.
THE YELLOW SCHOOL BUS IN MY DREAM
FOR WHAT IT'S WORTH- BY BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD
9-9-09 - VISION VISIT - I went back to bed to get some more
sleep because I had gotten up just after 4 a.m with the dumb dream about
the chickens being plucked alive. All of a sudden, this man appeared
in front of me and started talking about bombs falling, and he said, "You
just don't remember the bombs falling in 1975.
That was the end of my ability to sleep, because I was seeing a map
with a bunch of islands on it, and I had to know what the man was talking
THE FALL AND THE WALL
The fighting, of course, didn't
stop when America left Vietnam. By March 13, 1975, North
Vietnamese troops were 35 miles north of Saigon. People from
fled with their injured children. Roads became massive
traffic jams. On March 29, 1975 the communists from the
closing in on Da Nang.
By April, people tried to
board helicopters transporting
fleeing refugees to safety.
Mobs, hoping for a seat in a chopper, showed up at the
U.S. Embassy. Americans were also
get out of the country
before Saigon fell. Sometimes a fist to the face was
part of the
Bombs fell on the capital city as people scoured the
ruins for survivors.
Saigon fell on
April 30, 1975 when North Vietnamese soldiers
took over the Presidential Palace. On the same day,
Tan Son Nhut (sometimes spelled Tan Son Nhat)
Today Saigon, the
former capital of South Vietnam, is
called Ho Chi Minh City.
Hanoi, the former capital of the North, is now the seat
of government for the unified country.
"Vietnam vets," those Americans who
the war, returned to a divided country. The popular music of the time, included the
timeless 'or What It's Worth.' Many
wondered how it was that fellow citizens (who never had
to risk their lives) had "the guts" to scorn them.
Drafted veterans had not asked to fight. Many did not want
to go "to Nam" in the first place. Others
various branches of the military because they were
motivated by idealism and a sense of patriotic duty.
But for the first time in the history of the nation,
thousands of Americans were contemptuous of fellow citizens
who went to war at their government's behest. The country's
collective anger about Vietnam was directed more at the
people who fought than at the
politicians and military leaders who
Bob Greene, the journalist who also writes for the
Chicago Tribune, collected and verified stories from
returning Vietnam vets. Readers leave his book
Homecoming, now out of print, stunned and
outraged. A quote from Tony J. (at page 30) makes the point:
Well, I had to take this fellow's body to his
wife - she was nineteen years old... I was helping the
mortician take the casket out of the hearse. Of course I
was in my dress uniform, medal and all that, and the
American flag was over the casket and some guy walked by
when we had it about halfway and the fool spit on it and
said, "Good, he deserved to die."
Not until later, after the veterans
themselves built "The
Wall" with private donations, did Americans really show
support for the men and
women who endured the unpopular
struggle in Vietnam. Today, the Wall has become a sacred
Filled with the names of all 58,219 who fell, written in
their order of sacrifice,
it is often the site of grief and
tears. It is where those who
survived can speak to those who died. It is the spot
where one can honor the memory of a buddy by leaving a
memento that only had meaning between friends.
And, more than anything else,
the Wall represents what Americans finally
learned. A nation, if it is truly great, neither
scorns nor disgraces the people who respond to
their country's call.
The Fall of Saigon was the capture of
Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the North
Vietnamese army on
1975. The event marked the end of the
Vietnam War and the start of a transition period
leading to the formal reunification of Vietnam under
North Vietnamese forces under the command of the
Văn Tiến Dũng began their final attack on Saigon,
which was commanded by General
Nguyen Van Toan on
April 29, with a heavy artillery
bombardment. By the afternoon of the next day, North
Vietnamese troops had occupied the important points
within the city and raised their flag over the South
Vietnamese presidential palace. South Vietnam
capitulated shortly after. The city was renamed Ho Chi
Minh City. The fall of the city was preceded by the
evacuation of almost all the American civilian and
military personnel in Saigon, along with tens of
thousands of South Vietnamese civilians. The
evacuation culminated in
Operation Frequent Wind, which was the largest
helicopter evacuation in history.
In addition to the flight of refugees, the end of the
war and institution of new rules by the communists
contributed to a decline in the population of the
Various names have been applied to the incident.
Fall of Saigon is the most commonly used name in
English. It has also been called Sự kiện 30 tháng 4
(April 30 Incident) or Giải phóng miền Nam (The
liberation of the south) by the current Vietnamese
government and Ngày mất nước (The day we lost our
country/nation) or Ngày Quốc Hận (National Hatred Day)
or Tháng Tư Đen (Black April) by
anti-communism Vietnamese people overseas.
North Vietnamese advance
The rapidity with which the South Vietnamese
position collapsed in 1975 was surprising to most
American and South Vietnamese observers, and probably
to the North Vietnamese and their allies as well. For
instance, a memo prepared by the
CIA and Army Intelligence and published on
5 March indicated that South Vietnam could
hold through the current dry season—i.e. at least
These predictions proved to be grievously in error.
Even as that memo was being released, General Dung was
preparing a major offensive in the
Central Highlands of Vietnam, which began on
10 March and led to the capture of
Ban Me Thuot. The ARVN began a disorderly and
costly retreat, hoping to redeploy its forces and hold
the southern part of South Vietnam, perhaps an enclave
south of the
Supported by artillery and armor, the North
Vietnamese continued to march towards Saigon,
capturing the major cities of northern South Vietnam
at the end of March—Huế
on the 25th and
Da Nang on the 28th. Along the way, disorderly
South Vietnamese retreats and the flight of
refugees—there were more than 300,000 in Da Nang—damaged
South Vietnamese prospects for a turnaround. After the
loss of Da Nang, those prospects had already been
dismissed as nonexistent by American
Central Intelligence Agency officers in Vietnam,
who believed nothing short of
B-52 strikes against
Hanoi could possibly stop the North Vietnamese.
8 April, the North Vietnamese
Politburo, which in March had recommended caution
to Dung, cabled him to demand "unremitting vigor in
the attack all the way to the heart of Saigon."
14 April, they renamed the campaign the "Ho
Chi Minh campaign," after revolutionary leader
Ho Chi Minh, in the hopes of wrapping it up before
his birthday on
Meanwhile, South Vietnam failed to garner any
significant increase in military aid from the United
States, snuffing President
Nguyen Van Thieu's hopes for renewed American
PAVN forces reached
Xuan Loc, a strategic gateway situated on the
highway into Saigon, on
9 April. The
battle of Xuan Loc lasted until
20 April, and though the
ARVN fought with extreme tenacity, the communists
captured the town. The North Vietnamese front line was
now just 26 miles (42 km) from downtown Saigon.
The victory at Xuan Loc, which had drawn many South
Vietnamese troops away from the
Mekong Delta area,
opened the way for PAVN to encircle Saigon, and they
soon did so, moving 100,000 troops in position around
the city by
27 April. With the ARVN having many fewer
defenders, the fate of the city was effectively
The rapid North Vietnamese advances of March and
early April led to increased concern in Saigon that
the city, which had been fairly peaceful throughout
the war and whose people had endured relatively little
suffering, was soon to come under direct attack.
Many feared that once Communists took control of the
city, a bloodbath of reprisals would take place. In
1968, PAVN and
National Liberation Front (NLF) forces had
occupied Hue for close to a month. After the
Communists were repelled, American and ARVN forces had
found mass graves. A study prepared for the U.S.
mission in Vietnam indicated that the communists had
targeted ARVN officers, Catholics, intellectuals and
businessmen, and other suspected
More recently, eight Americans captured in Ban Me
Thout had vanished and reports of beheadings and other
executions were filtering through from Hue and Da
Nang, mostly spurred on by government propaganda.
Most Americans and other Westerners wanted to evacuate
the city before it fell, and most South Vietnamese
wanted to leave as well.
As early as the end of March, some Americans
were leaving the city. For instance, ten families
departed on March 31.
Flights out of Saigon, lightly booked under ordinary
circumstances, were full.
Throughout April the speed of the evacuation
increased, as the Defense Attaché's Office (DAO) began
to fly out nonessential personnel. Many Americans
attached to the DAO refused to leave without their
Vietnamese friends and dependents, who included
common-law wives and children. It was illegal for the
DAO to move these people to American soil, and this
initially slowed down the rate of departure, but
eventually the DAO began illegally flying undocumented
Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines.
3 April, President
Gerald R. Ford announced "Operation
Babylift", which would evacuate about 2000 orphans
from the country. One of the
C-5A Galaxy planes involved in the operation
crashed, killing 138 passengers and seriously reducing
the morale of the American staff.
In addition to the 2000 orphans evacuated by Babylift,
Operation New Life resulted in the evacuation of
over 110,000 Vietnamese refugees.
Administration plans for
By this time the Ford administration had also
begun planning a complete evacuation of the American
presence. Planning was complicated by practical,
legal, and strategic concerns. The administration was
divided on how swift the evacuations should be.
The Pentagon sought to evacuate as fast as
possible, to avoid the risk of casualties or other
accidents. The U.S Ambassador to South Vietnam,
Graham Martin, was technically the field commander
for any evacuation, since evacuations are in the
purview of the State Department. Martin drew the ire
of many in the Pentagon by wishing to keep the
evacuation process as quiet and orderly as possible.
His desire for this was to prevent total chaos and to
deflect the real possibility of South Vietnamese
turning against Americans, and to keep all-out
bloodshed from occurring.
Ford approved a plan between the extremes in
which all but 1,250 Americans—few enough to be removed
in a single day's helicopter airlift—would be
evacuated quickly; the remaining 1,250 would leave
only when the airport was threatened. In between, as
many Vietnamese refugees as possible would be flown
Meanwhile, Martin began (in his words) "playing
fast and loose with exit visas" to allow any and all who wished to
leave Saigon to depart by any means available in the
early days. Without the Pentagon's knowledge, Martin
and Deputy Chief of Mission Wolfgang Lehmann had
already begun allowing thousands of South Vietnamese
nationals to depart.
American evacuation planning was set against
other administration policies. Ford still hoped to
gain additional military aid for South Vietnam.
Throughout April, he attempted to get Congress behind
a proposed appropriation of $722 million, which might
allow for the reconstitution of some of the South
Vietnamese forces that had been destroyed. Kissinger
was opposed to a full-scale evacuation as long as the
aid option remained on the table, because the removal
of American forces would signal a loss of faith in
Thieu and severely weaken him.
There was also concern in the administration
over whether the use of military forces to support and
carry out the evacuation was permitted under the
War Powers Act. Eventually
White House lawyers determined that the use of
American forces to rescue citizens in an emergency was
unlikely to run afoul of the law, but the legality of
using military assets to withdraw refugees was
The evacuation of Saigon also had to compete for
resources with the imminent evacuation of
Phnom Penh, the capital of
Cambodia, which fell on
While American citizens were generally assured
of a simple way to leave the country just by showing
up to an evacuation point, South Vietnamese who wanted
to leave Saigon before it fell often resorted to
independent arrangements. The under-the-table payments
required to gain a passport and exit visa jumped
sixfold, and the price of seagoing vessels tripled.
Those who owned property in the city were often forced
to sell it at a substantial loss or abandon it
altogether; the asking price of one particularly
impressive house was cut 75 percent within a two-week
American visas were of enormous value, and Vietnamese
seeking American sponsors posted advertisements in
newspapers. One such ad read: "Seeking adoptive
parents. Poor diligent students:" followed by names,
birthdates, and identity card numbers.
movements and attempts at a negotiated solution
As the North Vietnamese chipped away more and
more of South Vietnam, internal opposition to
President Thieu continued to accumulate. For instance,
in early April, the Senate unanimously voted through a
call for new leadership, and some top military
commanders were pressing for a coup. In response to
this pressure, Thieu made some changes to his cabinet,
and Prime Minister
Tran Thien Khiem resigned.
This did little to reduce the opposition to Thieu. On
8 April a South Vietnamese pilot bombed the
presidential palace and then flew to a PAVN-controlled
airstrip; Thieu was not hurt.
Many in the American mission—Martin in
particular—along with some key figures in Washington
believed that negotiations with the Communists were
possible, especially if Saigon could stabilize the
military situation. Ambassador Martin's hope was that
North Vietnam's leaders would be willing to allow a
"phased withdrawal" whereby a gradual departure might
be achieved in order to allow helpful locals and all
Americans to leave (along with full military
withdrawal) over a period of months.
Opinions were divided on whether any government
headed by Thieu could effect such a political
Provisional Revolutionary Government's foreign
minister had on
2 April indicated that the PRG might
negotiate with a Saigon government that did not
include Thieu. Thus, even among Thieu's supporters,
pressure was growing for his ouster.
President Thieu resigned on
21 April. His remarks were particularly
hard on the Americans, first for forcing South Vietnam
to accede to the
Paris Peace Accords, second for failing to support
South Vietnam afterwards, and all the while asking
South Vietnam "to do an impossible thing, like filling
up the oceans with stones."
The presidency was turned over to Vice President
Tran Van Huong. The Communist line, broadcast by
Radio Hanoi, was that the new regime was merely
"another puppet regime."
- All times given are Saigon time.
27 April, Saigon was hit by three NVA
rockets – the first in more than 40 months.
A Marine provides security as helicopters
land at the DAO compound.
Before daybreak on
Tan Son Nhut airport was hit by rockets and heavy
artillery. In the initial shelling, C-130E, 72-1297,
c/n 4519, of the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing, out of
Clark Air Base, Philippines, was destroyed by a rocket
while taxiing to pick up evacuees. The crew evacuated
the burning aircraft on the taxiway and departed the
airfield on another C-130 that had previously landed.
The continuing rocket fire and debris on the runways
Homer D. Smith, the U.S. defense attaché in
Saigon, to advise Ambassador Martin that the runways
were unfit for use and that the emergency evacuation
of Saigon would need to be completed by helicopter.
Originally, Ambassador Martin had fully intended
to effect the evacuation by use of fixed-wing aircraft
from the base. This plan was altered at a critical
time when a South Vietnamese pilot decided to defect,
and jettisoned his ordnance along the only runways
still in use (which had not yet been destroyed by
Under pressure from Kissinger, Martin forced
Marine guards to take him to the air base in the midst
of continued shelling, so he might personally
ascertain the situation. After seeing that fixed-wing
departures were not an option (a mammoth decision
Martin did not want to make without firsthand
responsibility in case the helicopter lift failed),
Martin gave the green light for the helicopter flights
to the embassy to begin in earnest.
Reports came in from the outskirts of the city
that the North Vietnamese were moving.
At 10:48 a.m., Martin relayed to Kissinger his desire
to activate "the FREQUENT WIND" evacuation plan;
Kissinger gave the order three minutes later. The
American radio station began regular play of
Irving Berlin's "White
Christmas," the signal for American personnel to
move immediately to the evacuation points.
Under this plan,
CH-46 helicopters were used to evacuate Americans
and friendly Vietnamese to ships, including the
Seventh Fleet, in the South China Sea.
The main evacuation point was the DAO compound at Tan
Son Nhut; buses moved through the city picking up
passengers and driving them out to the airport, with
the first buses arriving at Tan Son Nhut shortly after
noon. The first CH-53 landed at the DAO compound in
the afternoon, and by the evening, 395 Americans and
more than 4,000 Vietnamese had been evacuated. By
23:00 the U.S. Marines who were providing security
were withdrawing and arranging the demolition of the
DAO office, American equipment, files, and cash.
UH-1s also participated in the evacuation.
The original evacuation plans had not called for
a large-scale helicopter operation at the U.S.
embassy. Helicopters and buses were to shuttle people
from the embassy to the DAO compound. However, in the
course of the evacuation it turned out that a few
thousand people were stranded at the embassy,
including many Vietnamese. Additional Vietnamese
civilians gathered outside the embassy and scaled the
walls, hoping to claim refugee status. Thunderstorms
increased the difficulty of helicopter operations.
Nevertheless, the evacuation from the embassy
continued more or less unbroken throughout the evening
Vietnamese refugees arriving on a U.S. Navy
At 03:45 on the morning of
30 April, the refugee evacuation was
halted. Ambassador Martin had been ordering that South
Vietnamese be flown out with Americans up to that
point. Kissinger and Ford quickly ordered Martin to
evacuate only Americans from that point forward.
Reluctantly, Martin announced that only
Americans were to be flown out, due to worries that
the North Vietnamese would soon take the city and the
Ford administration's desire to announce the
completion of the American evacuation.
Ambassador Martin was ordered by President Ford to
board the evacuation helicopter.
The call sign of that helicopter was "Lady Ace
09", and the pilot carried direct orders from
President Ford for Ambassador Martin to be on board.
The pilot, Gerry Berry, had the orders written in
grease-pencil on his kneepads. Ambassador Martin's
wife, Dorothy, had already been evacuated by previous
flights, and left behind her personal suitcase so a
South Vietnamese woman might be able to squeeze on
board with her.
"Lady Ace 09" from
HMM-165 and piloted by Berry, took off around
05:00 - had Martin refused to leave, the Marines had a
reserve order to arrest him and carry him away to
ensure his safety.
The embassy evacuation had flown out 978 Americans and
about 1,100 Vietnamese. The Marines who had been
securing the embassy followed at dawn, with the last
aircraft leaving at 07:53. A few hundred Vietnamese
were left behind in the embassy compound,
with an additional crowd gathered outside the walls.
The Americans and the refugees they flew out
were generally allowed to leave without molestation
from either the North or South Vietnamese. Pilots of
helicopters heading to Tan Son Nhut were aware that
PAVN anti-aircraft guns were tracking them, but they
refrained from firing. The Hanoi leadership, reckoning
that completion of the evacuation would lessen the
risk of American intervention, had instructed Dung not
to target the airlift itself.
Meanwhile, members of the police in Saigon had been
promised evacuation in exchange for protecting the
American evacuation buses and control of the crowds in
the city during the evacuation.
Although this was the end of the American
military operation, Vietnamese continued to leave the
country by boat and, where possible, by aircraft.
South Vietnamese pilots who had access to helicopters
flew them offshore to the American fleet, where they
were able to land; those who left South Vietnam this
way include at least General
Nguyen Cao Ky. Most of the South Vietnamese
helicopters were dumped into the ocean to make room on
the decks for more aircraft.
South Vietnamese fighters and other small planes also
landed on American carriers.
Ambassador Martin was flown out to the USS Blue
Ridge, where he pleaded for helicopters to return to
the embassy compound to pick up the few hundred
remaining hopefuls waiting to be evacuated. Although
his pleas were overruled by President Ford, Martin was
able to convince the
Seventh Fleet to remain on station for several
days so any locals who could make their way to sea via
boat or aircraft may be rescued by the waiting
Many Vietnamese nationals who were evacuated
were allowed to enter the United States under the
Indochina Migration and Refugee Assistance Act.
Decades later, when the U.S. reestablished
diplomatic relations with Vietnam, the old U.S.
Embassy property was returned to the U.S. The historic
staircase that led to the rooftop helicopter was
salvaged and is on permanent display at the
Gerald R. Ford Museum in
Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Capitulation of South
At 06:00 on
29 April, General Dung was ordered by the
Politburo to "strike with the greatest determination
straight into the enemy's final lair."
After one day of bombardment and general
offensive, the North Vietnamese were ready to make
their final push into the city. In the early hours of
30 April, Dung received orders from the
Politburo to attack. He then ordered his field
commanders to advance directly to key facilities and
strategic points in the city.
The first PAVN unit to enter the city was the 324th
Duong Van Minh, who had been president of South
Vietnam for only three days, at 10:24 announced a
surrender and asked South Vietnamese forces "to cease
hostilities in calm and to stay where they are," while
inviting the Provisional Revolutionary Government to
engage in "a ceremony of orderly transfer of power so
as to avoid any unnecessary bloodshed in the
However, the North Vietnamese were uninterested
in a handover and simply took the city, arresting
Minh. The gates of the
Independence Palace were destroyed by PAVN tanks
as they entered, and the NLF flag was raised over the
Palace at 11:30. At 15:30, Minh broadcast over the
radio, stating "I declare the Saigon
government...completely dissolved at all levels." The dissolution of the South
Vietnamese government effectively ended the Vietnam
Turnover of Saigon
The Communists renamed the city after Ho Chi
Minh, former President of North Vietnam, although this
name was not frequently used outside of official
Order was slowly restored, although the
by-then-deserted U.S. embassy was looted, along with
many other businesses. Communications between the
outside world and Saigon were cut. The Communist party
machinery in South Vietnam was weakened, owing in part
Phoenix program, so the North Vietnamese army was
responsible for maintaining order and General
Tran Van Tra, Dung's administrative deputy, was
placed in charge of the city.
The new authorities held a victory rally on
According to the Hanoi government, more than
200,000 South Vietnamese government officials,
military officers, and soldiers were sent to "reeducation
camps", where torture, disease and malnutrition
One objective of the Communist government was to
reduce the population of Saigon, which had become
swollen with an influx of people during the war and
was now overcrowded with high unemployment.
"Reeducation classes" for former soldiers in the South
Vietnamese armed forces indicated that in order to
regain full standing in society they would need to
move from the city and take up farming. Handouts of
rice to the poor, while forthcoming, were tied to
pledges to leave Saigon for the countryside. According
to the Vietnamese government, within two years of the
capture of the city one million people had left
Saigon, and the state had a target of 500,000 further
30 April is a public holiday in Vietnam,
Reunification Day (though the reunification of the
nation actually occurred on
1976) or Liberation Day (Ngày Giải Phóng).
Evaluation of the
Whether the evacuation had been successful was
questioned following the end of the war. Operation
Frequent Wind was generally assessed as an impressive
achievement — Van Tien Dung conceded this in his
memoirs, and the
New York Times described it as being carried out
with "efficiency and bravery"
But the airlift was also criticized for being too slow
and hesitant and that it was inadequate in removing
Vietnamese connected with the American presence.
Ambassador Martin shouldered much of the blame,
and did so without feeling the need to explain his
motives to the media. Martin's actions had either
allowed thousands of South Vietnamese to escape who
otherwise would have been trapped, or doomed thousands
of others who could not escape. The evacuations might
have caused a rash of panic resulting in loss of
American lives, or they might not. Meanwhile, from the
onset of the evacuation, President Ford and Henry
Kissinger were only concerned about the evacuation of
crucial American personnel.
However, many in the
United States Congress (with no first-hand
knowledge of the massive operation) blamed Martin for
proceeding too slowly. This was in direct
contradiction to the realities of the situation, since
Martin had been the one who had allowed many to leave
the country days before the final evacuation with
little or no official reason.
The U.S. State Department estimated that the
Vietnamese employees of the American Embassy in
Vietnam, past and present, and their families totaled
90,000 people. In his testimony to Congress, Martin
asserted that 22,294 such people were evacuated by the
end of April.
Of the tens of thousands of former South Vietnamese
collaborators with the State Department, CIA, U.S.
military, and countless armed forces officers and
personnel in risk of reprisal, nothing is known.
Citizens also protested the idea of having
Vietnam refugees flown to America because many
protesters said "We need jobs, not employees!" while
others thought the influx of refugees was commendable
saying "We need everybody; we need everybody! Love thy
neighbor as thyself. Love the Vietnamese, and love
April 30 is celebrated as a
public holiday in Vietnam as Liberation Day or
Reunification Day. Workers get the day off, as
May 1, and the holiday is filled with much public
Vietnamese refugees in the United States and in
many other countries, the week of April 30 is referred
to as Black April and is used as a time of
commemoration of the fall of Saigon.
. The event is
approached from different perspectives, with arguments
that the date was a sign of American abandonment
, or as a
memorial of the war and mass exodus as a whole. The
term, "Black April", is the namesake for a rock band
which includes two Vietnamese-American musicians
- Associated Press.
"Minh Surrenders, Vietcong In Saigon", The New
- Brown, Weldon. The Last Chopper: The
Dénouement of the American Role in Vietnam,
1963-1975. Kennikat Press, 1976.
- Butterfield, Fox. "Many Americans Quit
Vietnam; U.S. Denies Evacuation Orders", The New
1975. p. 1.
- Dawson, Alan. 55 Days: The Fall of South
Vietnam. Prentice-Hall, 1977.
- Dunham, George R. and Quinlan, David A.
U.S. Marines in Vietnam: The Bitter End,
1973-1975. History and Museums Division,
Headquarters, US Marine Corps, 1990.
- Engelmann, Larry. Tears before the Rain: An
Oral History of the Fall of South Vietnam. Oxford
University Press, USA, 1990.
- Isaacs, Arnold. Without Honor: Defeat in
Vietnam and Cambodia. The Johns Hopkins University
- Kissinger, Henry. Ending the Vietnam War: A
History of America's Involvement in and
Extrication from the Vietnam War. Simon &
- Pike, Douglas.
The Viet-Cong Strategy of Terror. 1970.
- Smith, Homer D.
The Final Forty-Five Days in Vietnam. May 22,
Snepp, Frank. Decent Interval: An Insider's
Account of Saigon's Indecent End Told by the CIA's
Chief Strategy Analyst in Vietnam. Random House,
- Tanner, Stephen. Epic Retreats: From 1776
to the Evacuation of Saigon. Sarpedon, 2000.
ISBN 1-885119-57-7. See especially p. 273 and
- Todd, Olivier. Cruel April: The Fall of
Saigon. W.W. Norton & Company, 1990. (originally
published in 1987 in French)
- Tucker, Spencer, ed. The Encyclopedia of
the Vietnam War. Oxford University Press, 1998.
Van Tien Dung. Our Great Spring Victory: An
Account of the Liberation of South Vietnam.
Monthly Review Press, 1977.
- Weinraub, Bernard. "Attack on Saigon
Feared; Danang Refugee Sealift is Halted by Rocket
Fire", The New York Times,
1975. p. 1.
- "The Americans Depart", The New York Times,
1975. p. 40.
Dunham and Quinlan, 202.
Dunham and Quinlan, 157; Snepp, 304
Accounts of Operation Frequent Wind can be found
in Spencer (s.v. "FREQUENT WIND, Operation"), Todd
(346-387), and Isaacs.
Esper, George, "Copters Ending Vietnam Era", The
Washington Star, Washington, D.C., Tuesday 29
April 1975, page A-1.
Isaacs gives the number of Vietnamese left waiting
b Tanner, 314.
b Snepp, 568.
Associated Press, "Minh Surrenders, Vietcong In
b Dawson, 351.
New York Times, "The Americans Depart".
"Fall of Saigon, 1975 Year in Review"
News: Black April events commemorate fall of
Saigon | april, black, saigon, little, vietnam -
Black April 30th 1975
By Nancy Umbach
The story of her trip to Vietnam
This February I began a
journey that I have been planning and dreaming of for over
20 years. A journey to the land of my youngest son's birth
place, Vietnam. Many times over the years, I plotted how a
trip to Vietnam would take place. My husband and I would
take our son Tam and together we would explore his heritage.
In my musings, I envisaged us travelling from one end of the
country to the other. Visiting villages and cities, tasting
the food, smelling and absorbing the essence of the culture
and marveling again and again, how a tiny baby came so far
to Canada to become the core of our family.
I wanted to watch his face as he rediscovered and reclaimed
his homeland. Would he feel an alien, not speaking the
language, transported to another world for the second time?
Would he be at ease in a country where he was no longer a
minority? But ah, we would be there to sustain him, nurture
him, and to ease his confusion. What would he truly think
Today, however, I am in Vietnam, without my husband and son,
waiting for my eldest daughter to arrive from Nepal where
she has worked for the past five years. This is not how I
imagined my visit to my son's birth country would be. How
ironic that the child born and raised in Toronto is now
living her life in Asia and the child born in Vietnam will
never be well enough to leave his adopted country.
This morning was spent in Ho Chi Minh City with Irene
Dewarty at the Phu My Orphanage. Irene, who was formally in
the fashion business in Paris, came originally to Thailand
to volunteer for a few months and stayed. She has been the
director here for several years and has adopted a Cambodian
boy, who is now eight. There are 268 disabled children at
the orphanage, 90% have been reluctantly abandoned by
parents unable to care for their children in a country
without resources for exceptional children.
It is a clean, well run institution without enough staff and
a constant need for funds and medicine. How many of us, who
adopted children from Vietnam remember Rosemary Taylor from
Australia and Sandra Simpson, Bonnie Cappiccino and Naomi
Bronstein from Canada. Strong women, still all working for
children. Rosemary in Thailand and Vietnam, Sandra in
Bangladesh, Bonnie in India and Nepal and Naomi in Cambodia
and now Guatemala. Do we have young crusaders to follow
these women? The need is still there for children at home
and abroad to have champions to care for them. Standing in
the courtyard it all flooded back to me as if it were 1975
and I wept.
Our son Tam's orphanage building no longer exists. I'm not
even sure which of Rosemary's homes he was in. It doesn't
really matter, just as finding a diagnosis after his first
stroke at age seven became a mute point. Tam's world changed
forever when he was brought to Canada, as did our lives.
Nothing was going to be a cure for Tam nor change what our
entire family has had to deal with over the years. Standing
on Vietnamese soil and talking to the people and feeling and
tasting the very being of the country is what I came to see.
His heritage will always be intertwined with mine and I had
to experience his culture first hand.
Did I rejoice when our child arrived in 1975 and forget the
others left behind? I'd like to think I didn't. I'd like to
think that sponsoring South East Asian refugees and now
Bosnian and Burmese refugees and helping them to resettle in
Canada was a small way to repay the gift of Tam that was
given to us. Was this enough? Of course not.
Tam has been a part of our family for 23 years and yet
standing here it seems as if only a moment has gone by since
that tiny babe was placed in our anxious arms. He weighed
only 9 pounds and looked like a plucked chicken, all head
and little bones with hanging skin that bled when you
touched it. What a roller coaster life he has given us!!
Our family grew to seven children, all unique and special in
their own way. They are adults now and on their own journey
of life. In my work with adult adoptees and birth relatives,
we talk a lot about reunions and closure. "I found my birth
mother/sibs and I felt as if the circle was complete." I
realize being in Vietnam is part of my closure. Adoptive
parents need closure also. I needed to go to the land of my
son's birth, just as I continued my journey to Burma
(Myanmar) to visit relatives of another son and go to
Trinidad to visit the home of our daughter-in-law.
It has taken me 23 years to get here and I am incredibly sad
that my son, who has lost most of his brain stem, is not
even able to be aware that I am here. I wish I was clinging
to my husband's hand for support. I need his arms around me
to sustain me. Will I be able to help him visualize what I
have experienced? It is his selflessness that has enabled me
to be here. It is his willingness to care for our two
medically fragile young adults for 5 weeks and his
encouragement that I should seize this opportunity to make
this pilgrimage that has finally brought a fruition of my
dream to come to Vietnam.
Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
February 5, 1998
Note: This was given by our 36 year old
son Colin on the occasion of Tam's funeral.
I am primarily here today to give thanks. Thanks to everyone
here for being a part of Tam's life. Thanks to Tam for the
blessing of his life.
Tam flew over to Canada from Vietnam,
literally a gift from the sky. He arrived at the Sick Kid's
Hospital in Toronto weighing only 9 pounds at 1 year of age.
He was in the hospital a month before he was well enough to
join his new family. Unfortunately, hospital stays would be
a too common feature in the rest of Tam's life.
From the beginning, we recognized in
Tam a magical personality that drew people to him. By
unspoken consensus, he was the heart of our family. I
believe he will continue to be that heart. We were pulled
around his orbit for so many years, like planets around a
bright sun. For those who loved and took care of Tam, I
suspect you also felt the influence of his gravity.
As children, many of our happiest times
were spent at our cottage on Georgian Bay. Tam loved
swimming in the bay, building sand castles, and sitting in
front of the fireplace.
I remember all the games we used to
play. One of his favourite boardgames was called Sorry and
Tam thought it was so funny to say "I'm sorry" as he soundly
beat you at that game. I remember how he would throw a
blanket over his head and pretend to be a ghost to scare
you, and sitting with him on our living room couch taking
turns blowing a feather back and forth between us.
Tam loved to snuggle in bed and have
stories read to him. When Mom would get tired of reading
"Winky the Wacky Witch" for the hundredth time, she would
sing Tam to sleep.
Mischevious is a word that could
certainly be applied to Tam. The stories about Tam's
exploits are endless. There was the time he fed the entire
contents of our fridge to the dog, and he dumped an entire
container of fish food into the Sindrey's fish tank, killing
all of their fish. Mom told me how he squirted toothpaste
over all the clothes in Marilyn Phillips closet, and lit a
fire in the kindling box rather than in the fireplace.
Tam would have been 30 this June 12th.
I count it a miracle that we had him around us for as long
as we did. We have lived with the real possibility of Tam
dying for over 20 years. We learned to cope with the temper
tantrums, the hospital stays, the multiple brushes with
death, while he had to learn to cope with the severe
physical challenges. Yet Tam always defied the doctor's
predictions with his stubbornness and powers of recovery.
My world has changed. I now live in a
world without Tam here before me yet a world with Tam still
in my heart. I know I will learn to cope with Tam gone. What
I still find hard to think about is the actual leaving. Tam
being taken away from us; we being taken away from Tam. Tam
now as an influence, as many fond memories. Tam not a
burning sun now, but an invisible gravity.
Tam was a connoisseur of noise. He
loved to listen to music for hours. And it would not be
enough just to turn up his record player to the maximum
volume. He would precede his listening sessions with a well
practiced slam of his bedroom door. Then he would put his
finger on the record and spin it faster and faster. You knew
which songs were his favourite when he would start banging
his fist or foot on the floor to keep time.
Does your family hold on to their
dinner dishes and cutlery when singing grace? Tam's
favourite grace was singing Johnny Appleseed and he would
get us all to sing it at the top of our lungs while he would
wind up, give a few practice swings of his arm, and deliver
the coupe de grace by pounding his fist on the table on the
final "Amen." The bangs were so loud that Cassandra's knees
would rise up involuntarily to hit the bottom of the dinner
Tam did everything with a lot of verve.
He even had a unique way of disrobing. Every item of
clothing, including potentially lethal shoes, would be taken
off and then flung heedlessly across the room. When he
started running, he would often have trouble stopping. One
time he ran right through the kitchen screen door. Another
time he ran down the hallway, bounced off the closed
bathroom door, and fell down the back stairs. He survived
that without a mark on him.
His tenacity would often scare us.
After his stroke left him partially paralyzed, he would
still walk up and down the stairs with just one hand and one
foot. He could even climb into my bunk bed with just the use
of his right arm. When these feats became impossible, Tam
would just find another way to have fun. He took to sliding
down the stairs headfirst on his back, laughing as he bumped
his head on each step. When he could no longer reach my bed,
he would wake me at five in the morning saying "I love you"
as he emptied all of my dresser drawers of their clothes.
Tam did not like going to sleep. He
seemed determined to stay awake at all times and was really
quite good at it. However, there were many interesting
places where we have found him asleep - with his head on a
spinning record player, halfway climbing onto a couch, in
the bathroom sink with the water running, and at the dinner
table with his head in a plate of food. One of Tam's
favourite activities while he was awake and others were
sleeping was tickling their feet. We all used to try to
avoid his early morning wake-up calls by giving him
permission to go tickle the feet of the parent or sibling in
the next room.
Tam was not unkind. He would often
console Mom when she would start crying in frustration with
him. His hugs could turn into asphyxiating chokeholds. He
would rub your kisses off his face and do anything to avoid
them. He would laugh hysterically at your coughs and
sneezes. Yet you always knew that he loved you.
For Cassandra, Tam was the older
brother she felt protective towards; an example of strength
and courage she will always remember. She remembers Tam
climbing into her electric wheelchair and then driving it
around her bedroom, leaving holes in all four walls. This
kind of damage was common, especially during Tam's temper
tantrums. Dad remembers repairing the holes in the wall
plaster and the broken windows caused by his violent
outbursts. Yet Mom felt a sadness when Tam stopped raging.
As if he had resigned himself to the overwhelming fact of
his deteriorating body.
Two days before Tam died, Hilary and I
heard a Raffi song playing incongruously on a pop radio
station. It was one of Tam's favourite songs - Shake Your
Sillies Out - and Hilary cranked it up with delight just
like Tam used to.
I believe we all have gifts to give.
And a community is a place where everyone's gifts are given.
Thank-you for being Tam's community; and thank-you Tam for
giving your gifts of kindness and enthusiasm, stubbornness
We all had our own way of loving Tam. I
want to say thank-you especially to Mom for fighting so hard
for Tam his entire life. And thank-you Dad, for being there
so much for Tam, when we kids could not always be there. I
also want to thank those who comforted Tam during his last
time in the hospital and everyone who ever held his hand.
We may say that Tam's body betrayed
him. That he was trapped inside a body that slowly fell
apart. But this body was his life. And he lived it as fully
as he could. He was determined not to let anything get in
his way. He struggled with it, he raged against it, but he
Tam and I grew up together and he has
influenced me in ways too deep to describe. He is no longer
there to grab my hand and not let go. He will no longer poke
me painfully in the ribs to get my attention. I cannot sing
or read to him anymore. Those opportunities are gone. But
there will be similar opportunities with other people, and I
hope Tam has taught me to respond to those opportunities
with truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance.
Tam was not just my brother. He was
your brother; he was your son. He was your cousin and he was
your friend. Tam loved me. And I know you are here because
he loved you too.
Note: This was given by our 40 year old
daughter Jill who lives and works in East Timor and managed
to get home in time for the funeral after 4 days of travel.
Tam Douglas Umbach
29 May 2004
My brother was the toughest, most stubborn person I have
ever met. He had a wicked temper and was a head banging
sensation. He had a tenacious hold on life and a high
tolerance of pain.
Life is full of pain and suffering.
How you live your life in the understanding of this is the
test of who you are.
He fought hard for his life.
Many of us have never had to do that in the same way.
We have never been born in a war zone and abandoned.
Survived the war to then come face-to-face with a disease
that would rob us of our eyesight, speech and mobility.
Many of us grumble about what life has
Tam was no exception.
He was sad and frustrated with his disease.
One night when he was around 9 years old we curled up
together before bed.
He told me he was very sad about what was happening to him
and our family.
We cried together.
In destroying my innocence that
everything in life is nice and about me, he also taught me
at a very young age that preparing for death is part of
23 years of living with the fear of losing him is a long
time to study this lesson.
During those years, he has tested me more than anyone else
in my life.
To accept the pain of slowly losing someone.
To not wait for death, but enjoy life.
To appreciate the love of my family and friends.
To demand compassion, understanding and tolerance from
myself as well as others.
Tam changed me profoundly.
He is responsible for shaping who I am and what I do with my
So many rituals exist in my family that
revolved around Tam.
Midnight ramblings and flooding bathrooms
Singing grace triumphantly while thumping the dinner table.
Hand clapping and dancing whenever the spirit moves you.
Family water fights.
Breaking hospital rules.
"Please return to 4 West"
Long car rides to the cottage with non-stop singing.
"Sing it really fast"
"Sing it really slow"
At times he made me laugh because it
was so easy to make him laugh.
Stub a toe.
Cry out 'ouch'.
Sing a song.
Threaten to Kiss him.
Kiss him and he would wipe it off.
The hand arching out slowly and swiping at his face.
Then his slow grin and commanding 'No'.
Moving towards this day has taken 23
years of my life.
I urge you to:
Overcome an old fear
Accept suffering and live life
Fight for your principles
Don't be so hard on yourself or others
Forget an old grudge
Express your gratitude by being compassionate and tolerant
Tell someone you love them
Tell them again
I love you
Beetle BombHand squeezed Tight
A young man's journey of
discovery to find out about his lost past in Vietnam.
In 1975, hundreds of children were airlifted out of Saigon
to a new home in Australia. One was Zion, whose name was
chosen from a bible.
Nearly 30 years later, he has grown into a happy and
successful young man, but one without a history.
Zion has no idea who his parents were. He has only two
clues to his identity: a birth certificate and a
photograph of a malnourished baby.
'Rewind' follows Zion on his first trip back to Vietnam.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Now, in 1975, the long and bitter
war in Vietnam was coming to an end with the fall of
Saigon to the North Vietnamese. Australia fought in that
war for 10 bitter years. But our troops were well and
truly gone when the Americans were driven out in one of
the USA's most humbling moments. But amidst the horror and
the bloodshed of those final days, an extraordinary act of
humanity played itself out as hundreds of babies - many
abandoned or orphans of war - were rescued from the chaos
and flown out to new lives in America, Europe and
Australia. One was a baby with a name plucked from the
Bible - Zion. Tonight, then, history at a very personal
level as Zion journeys back to Vietnam for the first time
since he arrived on our doorstep in a cardboard box. The
storyteller is Peter George.
ZION MITCHELL: Deep down, deep down, I want to know where
I'm from. I want to know bits and pieces about how I got
PETER GEORGE: Zion Mitchell is 30 years old, lives in
Melbourne and embraces Australia. He's been lucky. A
loving adoptive family, good school grades a keen
sportsman. Zion's not an outsider, but he does know that
JENNY MITCHELL, ZION'S ADOPTIVE MOTHER: He's always
wholeheartedly entered into the Australian culture. He's
more Australian than many Australians I know.
PETER GEORGE: Still it's not surprising he feels an
overwhelming need to find out who he really is.
JENNY MITCHELL: I do remember that you had this little
scratch on your nose when you arrived.
ZION MITCHELL: When did you think I was yours, though?
JENNY MITCHELL: It felt like you were mine from that very
ZION MITCHELL: It was born out of panic. The South
Vietnamese capital Saigon was falling to the Vietcong and
in the days before capitulation, 271 babies and children
were flown out for adoption. Operation Babylift was one of
Australia's most celebrated humanitarian efforts.
JENNY MITCHELL: I have a memory of the air hostess handing
over the baby and unwrapping him to see if his nappy
needed changing. And I remember taking off his little baby
outfit and thinking, "This boy'll never walk," because his
legs seemed so skinny. He arrived with chicken pox. He had
scabies. He seemed sad. He didn't smile for quite a time.
Even though he was tiny, his eyes were quite unlit. I
guess one of the things that seemed important to me was to
make him smile and make him healthy. I'd take him out
shopping or walking, and we were mobbed! Suddenly we'd
find ourselves surrounded by people saying, "Is that one
of the babies?" Wanting to touch him. So there was some
sense of rescue around these babies.
PETER GEORGE: Not all rescue attempts would prove
successful. But many fought hard for the orphans of war.
This is the woman who helped bring Zion to Australia.
ELAINE MOIR: That was a very frightening time. We had 600
children in our care and we had to get them all out.
Elaine Moir now lives just around the corner from Zion in
Melbourne. 30 years ago, she was part of a group of women
who made it their mission to find homes in America, Europe
and Australia for children from Vietnamese orphanages.
ELAINE MOIR: And so that's how the airlift first started -
working out, "How are we going to get all these kids out?"
It was late at night, I know. Very late at night. We were
surrounded by reams of paper associated with all the
children who had to be evacuated. We said, "Well, we're
going to have to...divide up the babies." One for America,
one for Australia, one for America, one for Australia. And
you landed on the Australian group. It's one of those
lotteries in life. The terrifying thing, of course, is had
you been on the American list, you would have been on
PETER GEORGE: The Galaxy disaster started as a baby
airlift provided by the American forces. It crashed on
take-off. More than 200 children and adults were killed.
ELAINE MOIR: That was a terrible time. I had lots of
friends on that plane. I knew a lot of the kids on the
PETER GEORGE: Despite the horror, there was no time to
grieve. There were still other children to get out of the
ELAINE MOIR: We had these big cardboard boxes and we put
two, and sometimes three, and I think in one case, four,
babies in a box because it was such an easy way of dealing
ZION MITCHELL: Wow!
PETER GEORGE: Boxes of babies being sent to a foreign
ELAINE MOIR: It's just that there was a war on. And that's
what dictated bringing you to Australia. Not leaving you
in an orphanage in a war-torn country where your future
would have been very dim.
ZION AND ELAINE EMBRACE
ELAINE MOIR: Oh, and you turned out so beautiful. You
turned out so beautiful.
PETER GEORGE: In his new country, the only official proof
of Zion's existence is a photo and a copy of a Vietnamese
birth certificate. And there's not much that Elaine can
add about his previous life. She simply drew his name from
a pile of cards.
ZION MITCHELL: I do want to know what happened to my
parents. The best outcome would be to know how I got to
PETER GEORGE: He may never know what happened to his
parents but to get some inkling of who he is, he feels the
need to return to the country of his birth.
ZION MITCHELL: I'm looking forward to getting on the
plane. (Tearfully) I'm a little bit scared. That's all.
JENNY MITCHELL: Isn't it good that we all find all the
parts of ourselves? And if this journey allows him to
explore all the corners of himself I think that's a very
good thing. He can only become a stronger individual
through doing that.
PETER GEORGE: And so the stranger returns to a strange
ZION MITCHELL: Oh, wow. Look at this! I'm lost.
(Speaking to local girls) I'm Vietnamese, but, um, uh...
Um...brought up in Australia.
There's definitely a connection. It's odd. (Laughs) Really
PETER GEORGE: The first way station on his journey home is
a meeting with an American nun who helped choose children
for the airlift. She's Sister Mary Nelle. She remembers a
very different time and a very different city.
SISTER MARY NELLE GAGE: Because of the war, because of
poverty, because of military encampments here, then
orphans were in abundance.
ZION MITCHELL: Do you...do you know...
SISTER MARY NELLE GAGE: (Holding photo of baby Zion) Oh,
ZION MITCHELL: Do you know me?
SISTER MARY NELLE GAGE: My God! (Tenderly) Look at this.
Oh! Oh! Oh, wow, you're so much more relaxed now.
ZION MITCHELL: Oh, I know. Oh!
PETER GEORGE: Mary Nelle is able to answer some of Zion's
questions. His name, she says, was picked at random from
the Bible. More importantly, she gives him the address of
the orphanage from which he was plucked.
ZION MITCHELL: Can't believe I'm going back to my
orphanage, but I am. It is called 'Hope' and so I was
probably at that last little end of my straw that I was
either going to die or survive. I can't speak Vietnamese.
I've got a translator, which is great. So I'm very
fortunate. She'll try to help me to try to find as much as
TRANSLATOR: This is your school before.
ZION MITCHELL: Over here?
TRANSLATOR: Yeah. That over there. The whole...this is the
whole play area.
PETER GEORGE: They're directed to the orphanage known as
'Hope'. But the orphanage is now occupied by a military
newspaper and strictly off limits. Then in an alley by the
side, Zion makes a remarkable discovery about his past.
TRANSLATOR: Ah, there's a woman work in the orphanage
before, I think.
WOMAN: Come in, please. You want...?
ZION MITCHELL: Come in? Yes, please. If that's OK? Take my
TRANSLATOR: Yeah. Take them off.
PETER GEORGE: Although Zion may not remember, he's met
this woman before.
ZION MITCHELL: (Laughs) Tell her that I'm doing very well.
PETER GEORGE: It turns out that Han worked in the
orphanage. She nursed a sick baby Zion back to health.
HAN: You are strong. I very happy.
ZION MITCHELL: (Tearfully) Yeah, thank you. I'm very
happy. I have some serious guardian angels, and this is
PETER GEORGE: But there's another nurse who remembers him
- another guardian angel. Han's sister, Ngan. It was she
who collected him from a provincial orphanage in the
Mekong Delta and brought him to Saigon.
ZION MITCHELL: And I feel like I've got two grandmothers,
or two mothers at least. And for me to meet them out of
the blue...it means that I existed.
(ZION MITCHELL WALKS WITH HAN AND NGAN INTO THE STREET)
ZION MITCHELL: Oh, what a great day!
PETER GEORGE: Zion now knows the region where he was born.
His home province had been one of the biggest US Army
bases during the war. He's often wondered about his own
appearance and whether, in fact, his father could have
been an American serviceman.
The next stop is the provincial records office.
(ZION AND A TRANSLATOR MEET PROVINCIAL RECORDS OFFICE
ZION MITCHELL: Is this a real certificate? Is this
really... Is this a genuine birth certificate?
PETER GEORGE: Zion's been told that his papers might be
matched up with the records here. In just half an hour, he
could have his full birth details - including his parents'
ZION MITCHELL: (Sighs) It's going to be the longest half
TRANSLATOR: Oh, my God, huh?
ZION MITCHELL: Isn't that unbelievable?
TRANSLATOR: Maybe we can find something out.
PETER GEORGE: But it turns out that the original of the
birth certificate has been lost.
TRANSLATOR: 264. Your birth certificate's lost.
PETER GEORGE: Is lost?
PETER GEORGE: So it's only up to 200?
PETER GEORGE: My heart went up and down, because... I
can't... It was like a lottery ticket. It was...I had a
number, they were gonna match that number with another
number, I was thinking, my goodness, this could be
like...yeah, it could be my parents. But...didn't know
what to think or what to feel.
PETER GEORGE: The officials send him on to Vin Long's main
cathedral. Its baptism records stretch back well beyond
1975. And this time, Zion's number comes up.
(ZION MITCHELL EXAMINES FILES)
ZION MITCHELL: 264.
TRANSLATOR: Ah... Five kilometres from here.
PETER GEORGE: The first record of Zion's existence was
made by a priest from a nearby village. It's time to
return to the place where he was born. But as Zion is
about to discover, there are no simple answers in a time
ZION MITCHELL: Especially on the motorbike getting there,
and in the courtyard, I was thinking, "This is my
village," and you are, you're looking around going, "Do
they know me? Are they relatives? Are they my parents?"
PETER GEORGE: Father Khieu was a pastor in a provincial
nursery that cared for abandoned babies.
ZION MITCHELL: How are you, Khieu? Pleased to meet you.
FATHER KHIEU: I came from time to time to say mass for
ZION MITCHELL: Fantastic.
FATHER KHIEU: From '73 to '75.
ZION MITCHELL: So were the babies just dropped off at the
FATHER KHIEU: Usually left outside of the hospital.
ZION MITCHELL: In the door?
FATHER KHIEU: In the door or in the...the street. Near to
the hospital and around the hospital.
PETER GEORGE: Zion, it turns out, was indeed a foundling.
He was one of two or three children left here each day
with no hint to their identity.
ZION MITCHELL: Do I look Vietnamese?
FATHER KHIEU: Yeah. For me...
ZION MITCHELL: Yes?
FATHER KHIEU: ..you look a bit like a Philippine...
ZION MITCHELL: Philippine, yeah... So I could be a half
baby from the US Military and Vietnam? So I could be a
FATHER KHIEU: Yeah.
PETER GEORGE: Father Khieu has no doubt that Zion is a GI
baby, but despite that, he is accepted as both Vietnamese
and part of the village.
FATHER KHIEU: I'm very happy to have you as a man of my
village. We are in the same village.
PETER GEORGE: For Zion, returning to his birthplace has
solved one mystery - he truly is a child of war. His past
is Vietnam, his future, Australia. He may never find his
parents, but he does feel he's found himself.
ZION MITCHELL: I have solved who I am and what...and what
I am. My life story is real, it's confirmed. I feel more
secure, I feel more at peace. I feel like I've found Zion.
I'm not scared of being someone else.
MICHAEL CATHCART: Zion's still in Vietnam, and he tells us
he's struggling with the language but really starting to
enjoy the experience of being back in the country of his
birth. He's actually been contacted by another American
nun with more information, but he's decided he's content
with his history as it stands.
on Monday, April 19, 2004 by CommonDreams.org
Another Vietnam? Actually, It May Become Worse
A virtual cottage industry has sprung up comparing
Iraq with Vietnam. And well that it should. Vietnam cost
the lives of not only 58,000 Americans but of three
million Vietnamese. Neither the US nor the Iraqi people
nor the world need another such horror.
The similarities between Iraq and Vietnam run both
shallow and deep. The shallow similarities are obvious and
can serve to signal our attention. But it is the deeper
similarities, those that shape policy and drive
alternatives, that should signal our fears. For they point
to the possibility of an outcome perhaps even more
calamitous than in Vietnam.
Both Iraq and Vietnam were founded on lies. In
Vietnam, the original lie was that an impoverished nation
of pre-industrial age farmers posed a threat to the
mightiest empire the world had ever known. The Gulf of
Tonkin hoax was the manufactured excuse to jump in with
all guns blazing. And the Pentagon Papers were the
meticulous, irrefutable chronicle of the litany of all the
rest of the lies.
With Iraq, we don’t need to wait for a Pentagon
Papers to know the trigger or the extent of the lying. It
is already notorious. Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Connections to Al Qaeda. Complicity in 9/11. A “cakewalk”.
Being welcomed as “liberators”. A “self-funding” war.
“We’ve found the weapons of mass destruction.” Reducing
global terror. Mission Accomplished. The real question in
Iraq is not whether the Bush administration has told any
lies but rather, almost literally, whether it has told any
Both wars quickly became guerilla wars. In Vietnam,
the battlegrounds were jungles, rice paddies, and small
rural hamlets. It was the antithesis of the set-piece
battle style of warfare the U.S. military had been built
and trained for. In Iraq the battlegrounds are city blocks
with houses, apartments, stores and schools. In both
settings, the enemy controls the timing, scale, and place
They shoot opportunistically and quickly melt away
into their surroundings. Combatants are indistinguishable
from civilians with the result that eight civilians are
killed for every combatant. This understandably alienates
the civilian population from its “liberators” while
increasing its support for the resistance—an inescapable
and fateful cycle. In Vietnam, this process became
mockingly known as “winning the hearts and minds of the
people.” It hasn’t been graced with a name yet in Iraq.
Both wars used the palpable fiction of “democracy”
to pacify the American public into quiescence. In Vietnam,
“democracy” took the form of a clique of wealthy, urban,
Catholic dictators running a country of poor, rural,
Buddhist peasants. After the US had its puppet, Diem,
assassinated in 1963, it took two years and seven
different governments before a suitably brutal but still
obeisant figurehead could be found.
In Iraq, a “governing council” of US-appointed
stooges pretends to represent Iraqi interests by handing
over almost all industries to large U.S. corporations—all
of which just happen to be munificent donors to the
Republican party. Commenting recently on the handover of
“sovereignty,” US proconsul Paul Bremmer noted in
seemingly oblivious irony that, “There’s not going to be
any difference in our military posture on July 1st from
what it is on June 30th.” This is democracy™ for foreign
subjects, American style.
But there are still deeper bases for comparing Iraq
with Vietnam. It is these that are most disquieting for
Both wars were against victim nations already deeply
scarred by colonial domination. It is this legacy that
poisons all U.S. sanctimony about installing “democracy”
in Iraq. Vietnam was dominated for over a century by first
the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and
eventually the Americans. But all the Vietnamese people
ever wanted was to be free of such domination, to craft
for themselves their own destiny, much as the American
colonists had done in their revolutionary war.
Iraq, too, bears the scars of a long and repressive
colonial legacy. It was created in the aftermath of World
War I, literally carved out of the sand by the British for
the sole purpose of controlling the world’s oil supply.
The US helped Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party overthrow the
uppity Karim Qasim in 1963 but its purposes were the same
as the British’s: to control the world’s supply of oil.
The aggressively disinformed American public is unaware of
this legacy and, therefore, the reason behind Iraq’s
vociferous resistance to its would-be “liberation.”
Still deeper in meaning is the strategic context of
the two wars. Both wars were fought in the vanguard of
grand U.S. strategy. In Vietnam, the strategy was
“Containment,” George Kennan’s famous formula for stopping
the Soviet Union from expanding its empire. Eisenhower’s
overwrought and ultimately disproved version had dominoes
falling from Laos and Cambodia, on to Thailand and Burma,
all the way to India.
In Iraq, the grand strategy is global hegemony. It
is the neo-conservatives’ vision of the
once-in-a-millennium chance to dominate the world. With
the Cold War ended and no plausible military challenger in
sight, such a chance must not be let to pass, certainly
not for want of sufficient “manhood”. Iraq is simply the
first tactical step in this vision, the basis for
controlling the world’s oil and, thereby, the US’s
strategic competitors. This is the reason the Pentagon
plans to leave 14 military bases in the country
indefinitely—to project military power throughout the
Persian Gulf, site of 55% of the world’s oil.
Finally, it is the ideological context that perhaps
most eerily presages (and dooms) the U.S. role in
Iraq—just as it did in Vietnam. The Vietnam quagmire was
formed in the toxic aftermath of World War II. When China
fell to the communists in 1949, Republicans mounted an
ideological dragnet to purge the government of those who
had “lost China.” This morphed into Joe McCarthy’s witch
hunts of the 1950s that targeted supposed “communist
sympathizers” throughout the country.
It was close personal knowledge of these
ideologically-driven purges that drove Eisenhower,
Kennedy, Johnson and even Nixon to aver that they would
never allow the U.S. to fail in Vietnam for fear of being
portrayed as “soft on communism.” Despite the fact that
all of these presidents were warned—repeatedly—that
Vietnam was unwinnable, all “soldiered on”, dooming ever
more soldiers and civilians to death and destruction.
For years, the public rationale for U.S. involvement
in Vietnam had been to keep Vietnam out of the hands of
communists. But in March 1965, before the massive
escalation that would make the war irreversible, Pentagon
briefers told President Johnson that the true U.S. goals
in Vietnam were, “70% to avoid a humiliating U.S. defeat;
20% to keep South Vietnam (and adjacent territories) from
Chinese hands; 10% to permit the people of Vietnam a
better, freer way of life.” This is the smoking gun of the
ideological aversion to withdrawal.
And so, because of the strategic imperatives of
containment and the ideological pressures of McCarthyism,
the U.S. couldn’t stay out of Vietnam. But because of the
colonialist taint, the nature of guerilla war, the
ludicrous fiction of “democracy”, and the foundation of
lies that undergirded the entire venture, it could never
win either. This was the essential, inescapable, tragic
dilemma for America in Vietnam: it could not manage to
stay out; but it could never manage to win.
Much the same can already be said of Iraq. Bush’s
latest post-hoc rationale, that “we’re changing the
world,” betrays a near-messianic obsession to stay. Such
compulsion is impervious to mere logic or facts. Steadily
increasing violence and chaos are cheerily parried with
ideological divinations that these are actually proof we
are winning! In psychiatric wards, this would be dismissed
for what it actually is: dangerous delusion.
But as was the case with successive presidents in
Vietnam, the necessity “to avoid a humiliating U.S.
defeat” now drives Bush policy more than anything else.
And we should be clear: this goes far beyond the need to
simply maintain appearances until November. If the U.S. is
driven from Iraq, the credibility of U.S. force and the
potency of U.S. power in the world will be irreparably
damaged, far more than it was by the loss in Vietnam. This
is why Iraq may actually become worse than Vietnam.
The reason is that military force has increasingly
become the principal tool of persuasion for the U.S. in
the world. Unlike the 1960s when its economy was still the
envy of the world and its ideals were still the model for
many nations, the U.S. economy is now a wreck and U.S.
ideals are in tatters.
The private U.S. economy is so uncompetitive it runs
a half trillion dollar a year trade deficit with the rest
of the world. And the U.S. lives so far beyond its means
it runs a half trillion dollar a year federal budget
deficit. It must go, hat in hand, to the rest of the world
to borrow these sums, well more than two billion dollars a
day. This is hardly a model of economic vibrancy. And the
U.S.’s civic culture—what the neo-cons once lauded as “the
soft power of ideas”—is now feared and mocked by much of
the world, including former allies. And herein lies the
What is the point of spending more on the military
than all of the rest of the world combined if it cannot
deliver when called upon? In Vietnam, General Curtis LeMay
answered this question with his famous dictum: “We’ll bomb
them back into the stone age.” And Nixon tried, mightily.
During one twelve-day period in December 1972 (the
“Christmas Bombings”), the U.S. dropped more tons of bombs
on North Vietnam than it had dropped during the entire
period from 1969 to 1971, the military height of the war.
When the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts
to look like a nail.
This is now the danger for both Iraq and the U.S.
Because of Bush’s strategic commitment to global hegemony
and his messianic ideological persuasions, the U.S. cannot
get out of Iraq; but because of the realities of
colonialism, guerilla war, phony democracy, and the
foundation of lies to justify it all, it will not be able
to win either. Does this sound familiar?
Worse, the forces for moderation in Vietnam (such as
they were) are nowhere in sight in Iraq. There is no
independent media capable of calling out the emperor’s
nakedness. There is no China next door to threaten another
Asian land war should U.S. aggression become too heinous.
There are no allies the U.S. needs to heed for its Cold
War against the Soviet Union. In fact, without the Soviet
Union, the U.S.’s former allies look more and more like
its future competitors. Hence its public derision for
their counsel of restraint.
Finally, if Iraq falls, Bush’s cabal of
neo-conservative policy makers, never so much concerned
with American interests as they are with their own, will
be decisively, publicly, embarrassingly repudiated. All of
this is a formula for potential catastrophe.
The damage to U.S. prestige in the world for its
illegal invasion of Iraq is already done. The danger now
is that in his desperation to “avoid a humiliating U.S.
defeat,” the repudiation of his entire presidency, and a
generation-long disdain for U.S. military power, Bush will
resort to apocalyptic barbarism. This is exactly what
Nixon did trying to salvage “peace with honor” in Vietnam.
It is this temptation that only the American public can
force Bush to resist.
Robert Freeman writes about economics, history, and
education. He can be reached at
U.S. Military Experts Devise
Another Vietnam-Like Debacle
Rory Cripps | August 23, 2009 at 07:35 pm
My original intent was to make this story a
"non-opinion" story. But after reading the crap
in the following highlighted stories, my
emotions got the better of me. Here goes:
The idiot and murderous American military
brass can't accept the fact that the "war" in
Afghanistan is unwinnable. They're like some
geek that studies a martial arts manual; and on
that basis, gets into a fight, and gets his ass
kicked. And then the geek goes back home and
re-reads the martial arts manual and goes back
out on the street and gets his ass kicked
The bloodied geek goes back home and
re-reads his martial arts manual again . .
.certain that the next time he'll win the fight.
Of course he loses the next fight . . . .
That's what the American military brass is
today: A bunch of geeks that think that they're
so smart and yet they can't fight their way out
of a paper bag. They sit on their fat
collective asses and send young American men and
women to some hell-hole, like Afghanistan, in
order to engage those that have no regard for
human life. And the U.S. military men and women,
that are sent to hell-holes like Afghanistan,
are given strict orders not to respond in kind .
. . .
The Vietnam debacle occurred over thirty
years ago. The war in Afghanistan is similar in
many respects. It's obvious that the U.S.
military brass and the U.S. government haven't
learned a thing throughout the past thirty
years when it comes to fighting a war . . .
The U.S. military's top uniformed
officer expressed concern Sunday about
eroding public support for the war in
Afghanistan and said that country remains
vulnerable to being taken over again by
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, said President
Obama's new strategy for defeating the
Taliban and al Qaeda was a work in
progress as more U.S. troops are put in
Just over 50 percent of respondents
to a Washington Post-ABC News poll
released this past week said the war in
Afghanistan is not worth fighting.
Adm. Mullen, a Vietnam veteran, said
he's aware that public support for the war
is critical. "Certainly the numbers are of
concern," he said, but, he added, "This is
the war we're in."
Three years ago, the U.S. had about
20,000 forces in the country. Today, it
has triple that, on the way to 68,000 by
year's end when all the extra 17,000
troops that Mr. Obama announced in March
are to be in place. An additional 4,000
troops are arriving to help train Afghan
"I recognize that we've been there
over eight years," Adm. Mullen said. "This
is the first time we've ever really
resourced a strategy on the civilian and
Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican
and top GOP member on the Senate Armed
Services Committee, said he wants the
military leadership in Afghanistan to use
the same aggressive approach that Gen.
David Petraeus used successfully in Iraq.
He said the top U.S. commander in
Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal,
should say exactly how many troops he
needs in Afghanistan, let the Congress
debate it, and Mr. Obama would make the
Troops in Afghanistan should "clear
and hold" an environment for people so
that economic and political progress can
be made, he said. Mr. McCain said he
worries Gen. McChrystal will be pressured
to ask for lower troop totals than he
Mr. McCain acknowledged that public
opinion on Afghanistan is slipping, but he
said that opinion could be reversed.
"I think you need to see a reversal
of these very alarming and disturbing
trends on attacks, casualties, areas of
the country that the Taliban has increased
Gen. David H. Petraeus plans to open an
in-house intelligence organization at U.S.
Central Command this week that will train
military officers, covert agents and
analysts who agree to focus on Afghanistan
and Pakistan for up to a decade.
The organization, to be called the
Center for Afghanistan Pakistan
Excellence, will be led by Derek Harvey, a
retired colonel in the Defense
Intelligence Agency who became one of the
Gen. Petraeus' most trusted analysts
during the 2007-08 counterinsurgency
campaign in Iraq.
Mr. Harvey distinguished himself in
Iraq by predicting that the Iraqi
insurgency would spiral out of control, at
a time when it was widely underestimated
by the Bush administration, in 2003 and
He later dissented from the emerging
consensus in Congress and the CIA, when he
said, as early as March 2007, that al
Qaeda had been strategically defeated.
This was during the early days of the
surge, at a time when most of the
intelligence community thought the Sunni
insurgency was intact.
Mr. Harvey said the new center would
focus on integrating all sources of
information to develop strategic products
for both war fighters and decision makers
in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We have tended to rely too much on
intelligence sources and not integrating
fully what is coming from provincial
reconstruction teams, civil-affairs
officers, commanders and operators on the
ground that are interacting with the
population and who understand the
population and can actually communicate
what is going on in the street," he said.
"If you only rely on the intelligence
reporting, you can get a skewed picture of
Mr. Harvey calls this approach
"widening the aperture."
Asked whether the new training
commitments suggest a long-term military
presence in Afghanistan, Mr. Harvey said
those decisions are above his pay grade.
But he said, "Even if we downsize, we are
still going to have investments in South
A retired four-star general who
helped develop the Iraq counterinsurgency
strategy, Jack Keane, compared Mr.
Harvey's work to that of a homicide
detective: "deliberate, methodical,
thankless work, putting all the evidence
together to form a story."
"As it turns out, Harvey in my view
is the only intelligence analyst who was
right from the beginning to the end in
Iraq. So it's no wonder that General
Petraeus, who has tremendous confidence in
him, wants him to focus on Pakistan and
Afghanistan, which is the next-thorniest
problem our troops are facing," Mr. Keane
Afghanistan could become another Vietnam for
the U.S.: former IRGC chief
Tehran Times Political
TEHRAN - Afghanistan
could become another Vietnam for the U.S. and its
allies, according to the Supreme Leader’s senior
advisor on military affairs.
“It seems that the defeat of
the United States’ military strategy will be much
worse in Afghanistan than in Iraq, and the
possibility that Afghanistan will become another
Vietnam for the U.S. and its allies is
increasing,” Major General Yahya Rahim Safavi told
the Mehr News Agency on Saturday.
Signs of a velvet revolution plan in post-election
Safavi also said that there were signs of a plan
for a velvet revolution after the June 12
“Some signs of a velvet revolution became evident”
in the illegal incidents that were provoked by
certain people after the election, he added.
Safavi noted that soft threats cover a wide range
of activities meant to induce people to change
their views. For example, these activities are
usually meant to persuade people to adopt Western
values, he added.
“A velvet revolution requires education because
the attitudes, values, and thoughts of nations can
be changed through education. The Americans and
the British have come to the conclusion that only
soft threats can bring about the necessary changes
in independent nations,” he said.
Safavi cited Georgia as an example where the
United States educated over 200 individuals in the
U.S., who put what they had learned into practice
when they returned home.
Thus, it is necessary for the Islamic Republic of
Iran to understand the sources of soft threats and
to devise plans to counter them, he added.
He also criticized certain presidential
candidates, saying they did not recognize the
threats against the nation, and thus their
reputations were ruined in the eyes of the people.
The election was one of the most successful
elections since the victory of the Islamic
Revolution and could have raised Iran’s profile in
the international arena, he noted.
However, the activities of a number of political
groupings and prominent figures were in line with
the West’s objectives and undermined the effect of
a tremendous turnout, he stated.
Some candidates were not able to control their
parties and in fact were controlled by their
parties, and these candidates oppressed the nation
and undermined the system, Safavi said.
Obama didn’t change U.S. foreign policy
Elsewhere in his remarks, Safavi pointed out that
U.S. President Barack Obama has not changed U.S.
“The military strategy of the Obama administration
has not changed remarkably from that of the Bush
administration except for the withdrawal of 35,000
military forces from Iraq and the increase in the
forces in Afghanistan,” he said.
The presence of over 200,000 foreign troops in the
region and the increasing number of military bases
in the Middles East are the root causes of
regional instability, he observed.
And peace and security can only be established in
the region when all foreign troops are withdrawn,
He went on to say that animosity toward the U.S.
is at its highest level ever in the region.
U.S. promoting Iranophobia in the region
Safavi also stated that the U.S. is promoting
Iranophobia in the region.
“The Americans are trying to instill Iranophobia
into the minds of a number of Arab leaders in the
region,” he said.
The U.S. has repeatedly told the Arabs that Iran
is the main threat to them, not Israel, he noted.
And former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney held a
four-hour meeting with an Arab leader about the
alleged Iranian threat to Arab states, he said.
Safavi also pointed out that the Iranophobia
strategy has allowed the U.S. to sell billions of
dollars of weapons to the Arabs.
Iran can give devastating response to any
Commenting on Israeli officials’ threats to attack
Iran, Safavi said that Iran’s armed forces would
deliver an “unimaginable” response to any attack.
“Although the Iranian armed forces have great
might, they will not underestimate the Israeli
threat. However, if they make any mistake, Iran’s
(response) will be unimaginable and very
devastating,” he insisted.
Israeli officials have had frequent meetings with
officials of certain countries, and Israel will
make some political and probably (also some)
military moves by the end of the (Iranian
calendar) year (March 2010) to compensate for
their humiliating defeats in the 33-day and 22-day
wars in Lebanon and Gaza, Safavi stated.
Round and Round in Our Circle Game
Round and Round in Our Circle Game
By J. G. Fabiano
Mar 12, 2008
Email this article
Back in November of 1986, I
wrote an article entitled, "Bleeding Heart, and
Proud of It". It described how my brother-in-law and
I had always reflected a classic confrontation
between conservative and liberal. Into the new
millennium we still defend philosophies that began
early in our lives. He is now a builder pushing his
conservative ideals of free growth and commerce
while I am a liberal teacher praying that
uncontrolled growth will not destroy the reason I
decided to move to Maine over 37 years ago.
Our arguments intensified
during the Reagan administration. He was thrilled
when our nation decided that it could no longer
afford the social programs of the 1970's. Reagan
declared them full of fraud and deceit. In the early
1980's my brother-in-law was thrilled to show me
that because of Reagan's conservative policies the
economy enjoyed a strength it never had before. That
was true up to the mid-1980. After that our economy
suffered through double digit inflation and interest
rates. At the end of this decade we did pull
ourselves out after many of our banks failed and
property rates went in a direction they were never
supposed to go. The problem was that the lost social
programs never came back. The concept of health
insurance for all and the elimination of poverty in
our nation was not only forgotten but also blamed
for the excesses of our nation's wealthy.
In the early 1990's, despite
the euphoria over our victory in the Persian Gulf
War, it was easy for candidate Clinton to quote Mr.
Reagan's campaign slogan from 1980, urging each of
us to ask the question," are we better off than we
were four years ago?" At that time most of us were
not. Mr. Clinton beat Mr. Bush and off into the
1990's we were thrown. My brother-in-law was
horrified exclaiming that the modest recovery of
1990 would be destroyed by the liberal ideas of that
Governor from Arkansas. Little did he know that this
would be the beginning of the largest economic
growth in our nation's history? But, little did I
know that the poor would get poorer and that
national health care and the elimination of poverty
would still remain a dream from the past.
On issues of foreign policy,
our ideas were also highly polarized. My
brother-in-law still believes that any policy
promoting the strength and security of our nation is
necessarily the best and most moral policy. Back in
1986, I argued that history shows that any time one
nation tries to impose its will on another; disaster
strikes the societies of both nations. I tried to
convince him that Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Central
America were supposed to represent great victories
but in hindsight we all know they didn't. Even the
police actions of Panama, Somalia, The Persian Gulf,
and the Balkans seem to have made us ignore the
social problems we have in our own backyard.
When it comes to the pursuit of
wealth, my brother-in-law is deeply entrenched into
the capitalist system. In other words, he believes
that our nation is based on competition and that the
Darwinian concept of "survival of the fittest" is
all that exists. I argued in 1986, that never before
in the history of our nation has there been so much
power behind the idea that success and happiness
must be measured in terms of how much money is
acquired. These ideas are now at their highest
pinnacle in that the people of the new millennium
are gambling in a market that everyone understands
is destined to fail. For how can something that
doesn't exist, succeed?
I, in my bleeding heart role,
begged to have him look at the consequences of the
"yuppie" mentality. I advised him that drug use is
on the rise because of this compulsion for the need
for money. In 1986, the financial bubble exploded on
all that were part of it. Even the builders and
entrepreneurs of York felt the floor fall out from
beneath them. It took ten years for property values
to regain the strength they had before the times of
incredible inflation and bank failures. From 1995 to
2000, our financial and real estate markets have
once again boomed. The names of the people who ran
into York looking for their fortunes have changed
but they are pretty much the same kind of people.
The "tech" market propelled this boom into a growth
that seemed unstoppable. But, like Newton stated,
everything that goes up has a tendency to come down.
In 1986, the family structure
was becoming all but non-existent. In 1991, the
family had officially joined the ranks of the
dinosaur along with the single income, the ability
for most of us in this country to own a home, and
the capacity to believe our children's lives can be
better than our own. Even the concept that education
must be offered equally to all Americans has been
altered to state that the best education will be
offered only to those who can afford it. Today many
in our nation want to take public money away from
our schools and give it to private schools so that
the rich would not have to pay too much for their
private education. No one argues, not even my
brother-in-law that if this system of vouchers goes
into effect public education for all of our children
will literally disappear.
I ended my article back in 1986
by stating that being called a bleeding heart
liberal didn't hurt that much. In fact, it actually
felt good. But, with a national credit card debt
reaching astronomical amounts keeping pace with our
trade deficit, kids shooting kids in our schools,
zoos, and just about everywhere else, prison
populations surpassing those of Russia and China,
the working poor becoming the rule and not the
exception, and the possibility of national health
care being compared to seeing pigs fly, my bleeding
heart is just about running out of blood.
The problems of the roaring
1980's devastated the hopes of America's future. I
am not that naÃ¯ve to realize there is not much we
can do about the past but I am not too foolish to
understand that we can and must change the way we do
business as a nation in the future. But, the 1990's
showed us we are not. We are still allowing our
lawmakers to continue the ways of the past, which
are destroying our future.
I find in 2000, even my
conservative brother-in-law does not argue that the
road our nation took during the 1980's was ill
advised. I can see in his eyes that the policies we
enjoyed in the 1990's seem to be bringing us into a
dangerous time. As a professional bleeding heart I
can only watch the times for it is too late to
We are now in the year 2008. We
have suffered through an attack we thought
impossible, we started a war based on lies we
thought would be over before the beginning of a new
President's second term, our economy is in shambles
with inflation eliminating any chance of surviving
it, and this is the first time in our history our
children will not be as well off as we were.
In 1986, I wrote that I was
proud to be a bleeding heart liberal. In 1991, I
found myself in a position of throwing a gate to the
wind. Now in 2000, I find that I have little blood
to give. In 2008, I clearly understand we are making
the same mistakes of our past but these mistakes
seem to be deeper and darker. I know it is again
time for a change but I pray it is a real change
instead of the kind we have been forced to suffer
through for the past 22 years; a change to put our
nation back on the track of taking care of all of
its citizens. In fact, I have been waiting for that
change for over 20 years now. The only thing that
makes me feel better is that my brother-in-law and I
have traveled full circle and are now beginning to
agree more. I guess it is because we've both seen
the future before and we know that we will need each
other to survive it again.
Jim Fabiano, a teacher and
writer who lives in York, is a past recipient of the
Maine Press Association's award for Best Weekly
Column. You can E-mail Jim at: email@example.com.
2002-2008 by Magic City Morning Star
Published on Monday, March 31, 2003 by
Mubarak Says Iraq War Will Produce "100 bin Ladens"
CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on
Monday the U.S.-led war on Iraq would produce "one hundred
new bin Ladens", driving more Muslims to anti-Western
"When it is over, if it is over, this war will have
horrible consequences," Mubarak told Egyptian soldiers in
the city of Suez.
A wounded Iraqi girl in central Iraq March 29, 2003.
Confused front line crossfire ripped apart an Iraqi
family on Saturday after local soldiers appeared to
force civilians towards U.S.
marines positions. The four-year old
girl, blood streaming from an eye wound, was screaming
for her dead mother, while her father, shot in a leg,
begged to be freed from the plastic wrist cuffs
slapped on him by U.S. marines, so he could hug his
other terrified daughter. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
"Instead of having one (Osama) bin Laden, we will
have 100 bin Ladens," he added. Osama bin Laden is the
Saudi-born fugitive Islamic militant leader blamed by the
United States for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New
York and Washington.
Egypt, a key regional U.S. ally which has cracked down
hard on Islamic militants, publicly opposes the war
launched by Washington to overthrow President Saddam
European opponents of the war, led by French
President Jacques Chirac, have also argued that military
action against Iraq would fuel terrorism and split the
international coalition assembled by Washington to fight
bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Mubarak said Iraqi forces fighting U.S. and British
troops were "guarding Iraq's lands and defending its
national honour and nobility" in the conflict.
Reflecting widespread public anger at what many
Arabs see as Western aggression against an Arab country,
he said the war woould cause a "great tragedy (and)
destroy a deep-rooted culture and people".
"Egypt's position has been and still is clear in
rejecting...the military option and rejecting
participation in military action of the coalition forces
against brotherly Iraq," he said.
Mubarak said the war had raised many questions,
especially among the Arab and Muslim peoples of the Middle
East, about the "credibility of the international system
of collective security represented in the United Nations".
Many Arabs think Washington has employed double
standards in enforcing U.N. resolutions on Iraq while not
making Israel comply with resolutions demanding withdrawal
from Palestinian territories and an end to Jewish
Mubarak read out the highlights of an international
plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace called the "roadmap",
saying that while the Palestinian Authority had accepted
it, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
had asked for 100 changes.
"This means the roadmap has been rendered meaningless.
Unless the big powers agree and put forward a mechanism to
implement it without any alterations...I believe the
roadmap will not move on the right road and it might lead
to complications," he said.
Copyright 2003 Reuters Ltd
(CNN) -- President Obama delivered his
long-awaited and wide-ranging speech
Thursday on American and Muslim relations,
offering a hand of friendship to Islam and
addressing an array of quandaries and
conflicts dividing the two cultures.
Obama urges a new chapter in
ties between the U.S. and
Muslims in a speech Thursday in
At Egypt's Cairo
University, Obama quoted from the Quran as
he expounded on Islam's glories and rights,
the legitimate rights of Israel and the
Palestinians, Iranian nuclear aspirations,
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, women's
rights, economic development, and religious
rights and democracy in the Muslim world.
The address, billed as a
fence-mending mission between the United
States and Islam, urged those present and
the people across the globe viewing the
speech on television to enter a new,
productive and peaceful chapter in their
Obama's stop in
Egypt is part of a trip that started in
Saudi Arabia on Wednesday and will continue
later to Germany and France.
Watch Obama's entire speech »
"I know there are many
-- Muslim and non-Muslim -- who question
whether we can forge this new beginning,"
Obama said, emphasizing that "it is
easier to start wars than to end them. It is
easier to blame others than to look inward,
to see what is different about someone than
to find the things we share."
Obama reiterated a
statement he made in Turkey in April.
"In Ankara, I made clear
that America is not -- and never will be --
at war with
"We will, however,
relentlessly confront violent extremists who
pose a grave threat to our security --
because we reject the same thing that people
of all faiths reject: the killing of
innocent men, women and children. And it is
my first duty as president to protect the
Obama explored the
Palestinian and Israeli conflict, endorsing
a two-state solution and urging compromise
and understanding between "two peoples with
iReport.com: A reaction to Obama's speech
And then he entered into
the conflict's thickets, understanding
claims from both sides. He said the United
States "does not accept the legitimacy of
continued Israeli settlements" seen by
Muslims as impediments to Middle East peace.
Watch as Obama seeks a "new beginning" »
violates previous agreements and undermines
efforts to achieve peace. It is time for
these settlements to stop."
"strong bond" with Israel "unbreakable," he
said, "It is based upon cultural and
historical ties and the recognition that the
aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted
in a tragic history that cannot be denied."
He denounced the denial
of the Holocaust and anti-Semitic
stereotyping, and criticized anyone who
would threaten Israel's destruction.
Expounding on the plight
of Palestinians, Obama said "it is also
undeniable that the Palestinian people --
Muslims and Christians -- have suffered in
pursuit of a homeland."
"For more than 60 years
they have endured the pain of dislocation.
Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank,
Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of
peace and security that they have never been
able to lead," he said.
Watch Obama discuss the Israeli-Palestinian
"They endure the daily
humiliations -- large and small -- that come
with occupation. So let there be no doubt:
The situation for the Palestinian people is
intolerable. America will not turn our backs
on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for
dignity, opportunity and a state of their
Obama also denounced
Palestinian violence and the rejection by
some of Israeli existence -- both seen by
Israel as obstacles to peace. The president
conjured the lessons of America's civil
rights movement when he urged Palestinians
to "abandon violence."
violence and killing is wrong, and it does
not succeed. For centuries, black people in
America suffered the lash of the whip as
slaves and the humiliation of segregation,"
he said. "It was not violence that won full
and equal rights. It was a peaceful and
determined insistence upon the ideals at the
center of America's founding."
The conflict, Obama
said, needs to be seen from a larger
perspective, not from the viewpoint of one
side or another. And both sides must live up
to the responsibilities of the moribund
"road map" peace process, he said.
Watch CNN's Christiane Amanpour on Obama's
message of detente »
He added that the Hamas
movement -- which controls Gaza -- and has
some support among Palestinians must end
violence and recognize past agreements. He
also urged Arab states to no longer use the
conflict to distract their peoples from
"The only resolution is
for the aspirations of both sides to be met
through two states, where Israelis and
Palestinians each live in peace and
security," he said.
Obama talked about
importance of confronting
touching on the fight
against the Taliban and
al Qaeda after the
September 11, 2001,
attacks on the United
Emphasizing the fact that
the United States entered
Afghanistan by "necessity"
and not "choice," he
countered the stances of
some "who "question or
justify the events of
let us be clear: Al Qaeda
killed nearly 3,000 people
on that day. The victims
were innocent men, women
and children from America
and many other nations who
had done nothing to harm
anybody. And yet al Qaeda
chose to ruthlessly murder
these people, claimed
credit for the attack and
even now states their
determination to kill on a
massive scale. They have
affiliates in many
countries and are trying
to expand their reach.
These are not opinions to
be debated; these are
facts to be dealt with,"
said the United States
does not seek to keep its
troops in Afghanistan or
establish military bases
there but needs to
continue the fight against
"extremists," with both
military power and
investment in the
infrastructure and economy
of Pakistan and
agonizing for America to
lose our young men and
women. It is costly and
politically difficult to
continue this conflict. We
would gladly bring every
single one of our troops
home if we could be
confident that there were
not violent extremists in
Afghanistan and Pakistan
determined to kill as many
Americans as they possibly
can. But that is not yet
the case," he said.
addressed the conflict in
Iraq, calling it unlike
Afghanistan "a war of
choice that provoked
strong differences in my
country and around the
"Although I believe that
the Iraqi people are
ultimately better off
without the tyranny of
Saddam Hussein, I also
believe that events in
Iraq have reminded America
of the need to use
diplomacy and build
international consensus to
resolve our problems
whenever possible," he
said the United States
needs to help Iraq "forge
a better future and leave
Iraq to Iraqis."
have made it clear to the
Iraqi people that we
pursue no bases, and no
claim on their territory
or resources. Iraq's
sovereignty is its own.
That is why I ordered the
removal of our combat
brigades by next August.
That is why we will honor
our agreement with Iraq's
government to remove
combat troops from Iraqi
cities by July, and to
remove all our troops from
Iraq by 2012."
Speaking about prohibiting
torture and the closing of
the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba,
detention facility, Obama
talked about working on
"concrete actions to
change course" and correct
abuses in the war on
as America can never
tolerate violence by
extremists, we must never
alter our principles. 9/11
was an enormous trauma to
our country. The fear and
anger that it provoked was
understandable, but in
some cases, it led us to
act contrary to our
traditions and our
ideals," he said.
dwelled on the tensions
over nuclear weapons
between the United States
and Iran and the
between the countries.
pointed to the U.S. role
in overthrowing a
government during the Cold
War era and Iran's role in
violence against U.S.
troops and civilians since
the Islamic revolution in
president reiterated his
desire to move forward
with Iran on many issues,
saying the "question, now,
is not what Iran is
against, but rather what
future it wants to build."
it is clear to all
concerned that when it
comes to nuclear weapons,
we have reached a decisive
point. This is not simply
about America's interests.
It is about preventing a
nuclear arms race in the
Middle East that could
lead this region and the
world down a hugely
United States and other
Western nations have
opposed what they believe
are Iran's intentions to
develop nuclear weapons.
said that any nation,
including Iran, "should
have the right to access
peaceful nuclear power if
it complies with its
responsibilities under the
Treaty." He said such a
"commitment" is at the
treaty's core and "it must
be kept for all who fully
abide by it."
"And I am hopeful that all
countries in the region
can share in this goal,"
Circle in the Sand: Why We Went
Back to Iraq
Synopses & Reviews
An important, massively researched and
revelation-filled work of history that uncovers how
decisions made by the first Bush White House
preordained the current administration’s decision to
“Is this a one-time thing, or should we
foreshadow more to come?”
This was the prophetic question posed by
National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft in a
secret April 1991 memorandum about the postwar
management of Iraq, two months after the United
States had defeated Iraqi forces in Operation Desert
Storm—but left Saddam Hussein securely in power.
Circle in the Sand challenges the widely held
notion that Saddam’s survival was the result of a
spur-of-the-moment decision by the first President
Bush and his inner circle (especially the “Reluctant
Warrior” Colin Powell) to call off the Desert Storm
campaign "one day too soon."
Through interviews with the Bush team’s
principal decision makers—including President George
H.W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, and Paul
Wolfowitz—as well as hundreds of
never-before-revealed White House documents,
Christian Alfonsi shows how Saddam’s survival was
the result of a calculated decision, albeit one with
disastrous consequences, which had settled the issue
of how the first Iraq war would end long before it
Circle in the Sand also provides the definitive
account of the collapse of the first Bush
administration’s Iraq policy after the war.
Unprecedented in its detail about the decision
making inside the Bush White House during the first
Circle in the Sand provides not only a dramatic
portrait of history in the making but also a
compelling rationale for the United States’
mishandling of the current situation in Iraq. Did we
invade Iraq in 2003 to ensure that George W. Bush
would not suffer an electoral fate in 2004 similar
to his father’s defeat in 1992?
Circle in the Sand forces us to consider that
disturbing scenario and its larger implications for
the American war on terror.
"This isn't the first time Robert Gates has
worried about an American occupation of Iraq. In
December 1991, with the first Bush administration on
the brink of war to expel Iraq from Kuwait,
then-Deputy National Security Adviser Gates led the
high-ranking committee that unanimously urged
President George H.W. Bush not to make regime change
one of Operation Desert Storm's war objectives.
Toppling the... Washington
Post Book Review (read
the entire Washington Post review)
Baathist regime could lead to 'the Vietnam
scenario,' warned the man now nominated to replace
Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary. 'Our concern
was that if we had been in occupation, having bombed
bridges and everything else, we would be expected to
fix it all, and we didn't want any part of that.'
But the unseen cataclysm looming in September
2001 would unleash a wave of conservative scorn for
that decision. In 1990-91, Bush and National
Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft — Gates' boss and
the president's foreign policy alter ego — thought
that humbling an aggressive Iraq without marching on
Baghdad would help create a stable balance of power
in the Middle East. But in 2001-03, the president's
son and his quite different national security team
would conclude that their gimlet-eyed, unsentimental
predecessors should have tried not to stabilize the
region but to remake it.
That long pivot in Republican foreign policy
thinking — from a power-balancing Bush
administration to a power-flexing Bush
administration — is the subject of Christian
Alfonsi's 'Circle in the Sand.' The book works best
as a retelling of the 1990-91 Gulf crisis with the
benefit of new documents and on-the-record
interviews with senior officials then and now.
Unfortunately, Alfonsi skitters around in the period
between Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait and America's
2003 invasion of Iraq. And his take on the early
1990s is shot through with what historians call 'presentism'
— seeing the past through contemporary lenses, with
the inevitable distorting effects of reading the
history of Operation Desert Storm in the light of
Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Alfonsi, who formerly worked at Young &
Rubicam Brands, cherrypicks his data here,
harvesting snippets of meetings that help explain
the earlier thinking or actions of officials who
served in both administrations. That means that
'Circle in the Sand' is in no danger of displacing
more methodologically sober classics on the Gulf
War, such as Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E.
Trainor's 'The Generals' War,' Rick Atkinson's
'Crusade' or Michael Kelly's dazzling 'Martyrs'
Day.' But it does have plenty of juicy tidbits about
the once and future Bushies; Senate staffers will no
doubt scour its pages before Gates' confirmation
It's delicious to learn, for instance, that
President Bush asked his staff for talking points on
Aug. 1, 1990, for 'the next world leader on his call
list: Saddam Hussein,' who would conquer Kuwait on
Aug. 2. (Somehow, Alfonsi gets the invasion's date
wrong.) That day, at the first National Security
Council meeting of the crisis, the biggest hawks
came from the State Department, despite its
reputation for preferring jaw-jaw over war-war. 'You
must kick Saddam out of Kuwait and wreck him in the
process,' Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence
Eagleburger urged the president. But Paul Wolfowitz,
then undersecretary of defense for policy, sat in
stunned silence as the principals argued. He recalls
leaving the meeting 'deeply disturbed' by the Bush
team's early indecision about whether to let Iraq's
aggression stand. Surprisingly, it was Scowcroft —
now the neoconservatives' favorite bete noire — who
rode to the hawkish Wolfowitz's rescue. At the next
NSC meeting, the national security adviser slammed
the door on the idea of leaving Iraq in control of
Kuwait, having coordinated his 'eruption' with
Wolfowitz's boss, Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.
The detail gets even better when it comes to
questions of regime change — which in 1990-91 meant
not U.S. nation-building but hammering Baghdad until
another mustachioed Baathist strongman took over.
'Iraq could fall apart,' Scowcroft warned Gen. Colin
Powell, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Fascinatingly, Gates and his fellow postwar planners
worried both about another Vietnam and another
Panama — a replay of the embarrassingly protracted
1989 hunt for Manuel Noriega. Realism prevailed and,
after Iraq surrendered, the battered dictatorship
crushed rebellions by its much-abused Kurdish and
Shiite subjects, eliciting calls for America to get
off the sidelines. 'I am not going to involve any
American troops in a civil war in Iraq,' the
president lectured in April 1991. Wolfowitz seethed.
Substance and echoes aside, it's also something
of an eye-opener to see the elder Bush's foreign
policy team back in action. During the Gulf crisis,
the policy apparatus moves decisively, snapping down
loose ends with hospital corners. The Scowcroft-led
interagency policymaking process hums along; the
secretary of state and the secretary of defense work
amicably together; and the vice president's staff is
almost entirely irrelevant, minus the occasional
episode where Vice President Dan Quayle or his chief
of staff, William Kristol, wanders off the
reservation and needs to be herded back on message.
Senior U.S. officials even trust the French. The
decisions weren't always right, but the process was
All of which underscores how dissimilar these
two Bush administrations have proven, in both style
and strategy. But the seeds of conservative
dissatisfaction were already evident under the first
President Bush. 'I do not think the United States
wants to have U.S. military forces accept casualties
and accept the responsibility of trying to govern
Iraq,' Cheney said on 'This Week with David
Brinkley' on April 7, 1991. 'I think it makes no
sense at all.' That's a nice 'gotcha' moment for
Alfonsi. But later in the show, the defense
secretary added: 'If you don't have a clear-cut
military objective, if you're not prepared to use
overwhelming force to achieve it, then we don't have
any business committing U.S. military forces into
that civil war.' Thanks to Alfonsi's presentism,
it's not hard to hear Cheney's hint that he might
have seen a massive U.S. invasion of Iraq aimed
forthrightly at regime change as a viable option
even back in 1991. Cheney's first comment now sounds
like a display of loyalty to a realist president;
his second now sounds like foreshadowing.
Warren Bass, a senior editor at the Washington
Post Book World, was a contributor to 'Triumph
Without Victory: The History of the Persian Gulf
War,' by the staff of U.S. News & World Report."
Reviewed by Warren Bass, Washington Post Book World
(Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World
Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
most of this review)
“The roots of the Iraqi tragedy start long before
9/11, and Alfonsi shows — through his use of newly
declassified documents, extensive interviews, and
rather remarkable records of official conversations
— how Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others
fatally misread the lessons of the 1991 Iraqi war to
produce the debacle of the 2003 Iraqi invasion. This
account is necessary for understanding that
Walter LaFeber, Tisch University Professor,
“This fascinating and well-documented book shows
how the decisions made by the Administration of
George Bush senior about Iraq and Saddam Hussein
failed to meet its expectations and thus opened the
way for the spectacular policy reversals carried out
— sometimes by the same men — after George W. Bush
came to power. Alfonsi demonstrates that very
different definitions of the national interest can
be profoundly flawed."
Stanley Hoffmann, Buttenwieser University
Professor, Center for European Studies, Harvard
“The roots of the Iraqi tragedy start long before
9/11, and Alfonsi shows — through his use of newly
declassified documents, extensive interviews, and
rather remarkable records of official conversations
— how Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others
fatally misread the lessons of the 1991 Iraqi war to
produce the debacle of the 2003 Iraqi invasion. This
account is necessary for understanding that
Walter LaFeber, Tisch University Professor,
in the Sand is an important, exhaustively
researched, and fluidly written analysis of the
impact of the conduct of the first Gulf War on the
outbreak of the second. Alfonsi argues, based on
remarkable first hand interviews with the
participants, that the misguided invasion of Iraq in
2003 was driven less by fear of WMD and terrorism
than by fear that Saddam Hussein might once again
triumph over a Bush national security team.”
Louise Richardson, Executive Dean, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University,
and author of What Terrorists Want
“Circle in the Sand is an important, exhaustively
researched, and fluidly written analysis of the
impact of the conduct of the first Gulf War on the
outbreak of the second. Alfonsi argues, based on
remarkable first hand interviews with the
participants, that the misguided invasion of Iraq in
2003 was driven less by fear of WMD and terrorism
than by fear that Saddam Hussein might once again
triumph over a Bush national security team.”
Louise Richardson, Executive Dean, Radcliffe
Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University,
and author of What Terrorists Want
About the Author
Christian Alfonsi received a Ph.D. in political
science from Harvard University.
Circle in the Sand represents the culmination of
over a decade of in-depth research on the two Bush
presidencies by Dr. Alfonsi. Prior to this, he was a
Vice President of strategic Planning at Young &
Rubicam Brands in New York, where he currently
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