The price of withdrawal
Noone could have said it better:
From the California Patriot:
The legacy of Vietnam
Lessons of retreat
By Jessica Vu
Posted on 04/30/07
April 30, 1975 — the fall of Saigon. The day that Vietnam fell to Communism. On this morning, the streets of Saigon stood deathly still, subdued by a sense of impending doom. From the north, the Viet Cong were coming; their military tanks could be heard in the near distance.
Some of the men, like my grandfather, burned their uniforms and fled for their lives. Others, such as my father, too young to fight, stood and wept bitterly for the freedom that was now lost. The Americans had left long ago. Nothing could save them from the vengeance of their worst enemies, their own countrymen.
In the days that followed, a new era of totalitarian rule was unleashed upon the Vietnamese people. The world could only watch and cringe as the newly reinstated Socialist government began its systematic persecution of opposition political leaders and their followers. Thousands of innocents were tortured and executed in “work” camps, mere euphemisms for concentration death camps. In this society, where any deviation from the party line had severe consequences, few dared to protest.
For many Vietnamese, living the nightmare of Socialism and poverty, enough was enough. It’s commonly said that in a place where people have no political voice, they vote instead with their feet. Two million desperate Vietnamese fled to the high seas; only an estimated half of these refugees, among them my parents, were lucky enough to find haven in sympathetic neighboring and Western nations.
As we flash forward to the present, little has changed. Vietnam was ranked this year as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world by Freedom House. No freedom of religion, no freedom of political expression, and no freedom of the press — all thanks to a regime that efficiently imprisons and silences a population of 85 million.
That is the deep heartbreak of the Vietnamese people, as 32 years later we look upon this date today and mourn for a nation that is still not free.
This inevitably leads me to ask, What is the legacy of this day and the suffering of the Vietnamese people? As our nation questions whether Iraq has become this generation’s Vietnam, the disheartening tragedy that befell the Vietnamese after U.S. withdrawal should be a compelling lesson for us in Iraq.
Under the Paris Accords of 1973, the U.S. government had promised it would continue to provide financial support to the South Vietnamese even after withdrawing American troops from the country. In 1975, President Gerald Ford asked Congress to approve legislation granting financial assistance for the South. Yet Congress denied Ford’s request, and effectively cut off the final remaining lifeline for the Vietnamese dream of freedom, leaving the population at the mercy of the Viet Cong.
In March of this year, President George W. Bush called upon Congress to renew legislative funding for our troops in their efforts to keep Iraq secure for democracy. In response, Congress has demanded a clause mandating the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, perhaps as early as the end of this year. Already it appears that many in the House and the Senate are ready to turn their backs on Iraq as well.
Our country simply cannot betray the Iraqi people as it did the Vietnamese. Our troops must stay to keep the peace until it is certain that the peace is lasting. That much we owe to the Iraqi people.
The obligations we assume in securing stability and democracy abroad are ones that we must keep and ultimately fulfill. If we truly do not want another Vietnam to unfold in Iraq, then we cannot afford to break our promise there. Our nation must stay the course in Iraq.
History has shown us what unfolded in Vietnam after we departed. Let us not repeat that same mistake.
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