By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 31, 2008
Every time I hear someone like Barack Obama talk about an immediate removal of American troops from Iraq, I say to myself: “you will condemn unknown millions to death and torture.”Even former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes a speedy U.S. troop removal will be a good thing. And he said he supports Mr. Obama.
Writing in the Washington Post yesterday (March 30, 2008), Mr. Brzinski said, “The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for ‘staying the course’ draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of ‘falling dominoes’ that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.”
Ironically, many of the same liberals who demand an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are the same ones who believe they are great protectors of human rights and also suffer from the dream that America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was justified and made Southeast Asia a better place.
The truth is: America’s departure from Vietnam meant death, torture and imprisonment for millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians. Both contries became communist — which is hardly a good thing.
In my view, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was the biggest tragedy of American foreign policy during the last century. America’s withdrawal from Vietnam is a gigantic black mark on America’s history.
Yesterday, Dith Pran died. Dith Pran is the person who called the carnage in Cambodia after America left Vietnam “The Killing Fields.”
Mr. Max Boot, writing in today’s Washington Post said, “Why am I not reassured by Zbigniew Brzezinski’s breezy assurance in Sunday’s Outlook section that ‘forecasts of regional catastrophe’ after an American pullout from Iraq are as overblown as similar predictions made prior to our pullout from South Vietnam? Perhaps because the fall of Saigon in 1975 really was a catastrophe. Another domino fell at virtually the same time — Cambodia.”
Mr. Boot continued, “Estimates vary, but a safe bet is that some two million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia. In South Vietnam, the death toll was lower, but hundreds of thousands were consigned to harsh ‘reeducation’ camps where many perished, and hundreds of thousands more risked their lives to flee as ‘boat people.’”
How do I know personally about the carnage of refugees when America departs from a far away war zone? I am married to a former prisoner of communism and a refugee who was born in Vietnam.
Saigon fell to the communists in 1975. My bride made it to America in 1998. She considers herself one of the “lucky ones.”
Just yesterday, as my wife and I were teaching English to Vietnamese-Americans, a man named Chien told me that in 1975 his father was given three days notice by the communists to report for reeducation. He was gone for six years and ten months. When he returned, he had lost nearly half his body weight due to overwork, malnourishment and harsh conditions with no medial care.
Chien’s father considered himself one of the “lucky ones” — because he had seen so many tortured and seen so many deaths.
One of the most degrading and harmful crimes committed against refugees is rape. Pirates, criminals, police, guards, soldiers even sometimes representatives of the United Nations have been known to rape refugees.
The criminal act of rape is not so much a sexual act of gratification, according to psychologists. Instead, in the case of refugees, it is a barbaric act of power, control and forced compliance with any order or directive.
After hearing countless stories of rape and humiliation related to me by Vietnamese refugees and “boat people” who fled communist Vietnam between 1975 and the late 1990s, I thought it might be useful to share some small bits of these stories without using the real names of any of the victims.
May was about 25 years old when she left Saigon and began to run away from communism and toward freedom. She traveled with her family to the sea coast and as a group they paid a broker about $1,000 per person for the privilege of leaving Vietnam by boat.
They transited by sea toward Thailand and freedom but they had never heard about the pirates plying the seas in search of the vulnerable and weak.
May’s entire family and everyone else in her boat suffered the horrible fate of being descended upon by armed pirates. Four Vietnamese men were killed in the attack and two more were slaughtered because they did not react quickly enough to the orders of the pirates. One man was beheaded by the pirates in front of the horrified refugee women and children.
May and all the other women in the boat were raped repeatedly. But, because she was one of the youngest and most beautiful women in the boat, May was singled out for special humiliation, abuse and torture. Her arms were tied so each spread out parallel to the deck and away from her torso. The lines were knotted painfully tight so that she could not move. She looked like someone subjected to crucifixion. Then her ankles were bound and tied so that her legs were apart. More than 22 men had they way with May before she lost consciousness.
When she regained the ability to think, she felt unbearable pain and shame and embarrassment. He own mother cut her down after the pirates left and tended to her bleeding.
When this refugee boat made landfall in Thailand, every woman was “rinsed out” without her own consent or authorization. The Thais didn’t want any pregnant refugees on their hands.
“And the cost of entering Thailand and the cost of entering the refugee camp was rape,” a Vietnamese American woman told us.
“My sister was raped 13 times,” she said.
“Many of my relatives disappeared. We are sure they must have been killed.”May wound up in the infamous Thai refugee center called “Sikhiew Camp.” She estimated that in her two year stay there she was raped about 60 more times.
Another Vietnamese woman named Suan told me a heartening story about the value of human life.
Like May, Suan was raped on the boat trip from Vietnam to Thailand. When she debarked from the boat in Thailand and saw the women being rinsed out, she faked an illness and refused the procedure. For some reason the Thai police sent her on her way to the refugee camp.
A few months later Suan realized that she was pregnant. All of her relatives and friends told her to abort the baby – and an old woman said she knew how to carry out the procedure as painlessly as possible.
Suan, a Roman Catholic who believed abortion to be a sin, prayed for two weeks for guidance. Then she told her mother she would need help having “her baby.”
Suan gave birth to a baby boy while in the refugee center. Today he is an American citizen who is a policeman in New England.
Suan’s decision to have her baby — a baby forced upon her by a man she didn’t know and didn’t love — turned out to be a good one. A real lesson in the value of human life and our ability to overcome hardship.
So when I hear people talk about quickly pulling American troops out of Iraq without discussing the implications for so many in that region who will then be at risk, I think about the refugees and their hardship. I live among them every day.
I live among the “lucky ones,” because millions died and we’ll never know how many.
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Plan to End Iraq War
How Not to End the War
By Max Boot
‘Killing Fields’ survivor Dith Pran dies
Disaster of Hasty Withdrawal
By Henry Kissinger
Vietnam After the Fall of Saigon: 1975 Until Present
The Fall of Saigon: 1975 (Part II)
The Fall of Saigon: 1975 (Part I)
Thailand’s Criminal Abuse of Refugees: a Shameful 30+ Year Saga