By Fred A. Reed
Today, August 15 2021, helicopters ferried US embassy personnel to ‘safety’ after the Taliban movement captured the Afghan capital, Kabul, virtually without a shot. The scene harked back to the fall of Saigon on April 30 1975 that transformed that it into Ho Chi Minh City.
This time the Yanks planned better. The helicopters were standard US Army craft, in contrast to the Air America choppers used in the CIA heroin smuggling operation that carried US citizens and Vietnamese collaborators to ‘safety.’ And there did not appear to have been a desperate struggle to board. The photo shows little luggage. The Taliban announced that they would be taking over peacefully.
Meanwhile, the Afghan ‘president’ left the country, perhaps to return to his former position with the World Bank.
To paraphrase the late Mao Tzedong: ‘for the fleeing enemy build a golden bridge.’
I write these things out of a sense of intense pleasure at seeing the defeat and humiliation of the United States. But the date on which it happened is cause for bitterness greater still. On August 15 1942, my late brother James Blanchard Reed was born in Los Angeles. And on that same date 38 years later, at the wheel of the family car in a closed garage in Wairoa, New Zealand, he ended his life.
For he, in the memories of those who knew him, was intimately connected in life as in death with the disaster that was Vietnam.
What would the man who had endured blows to the spirit, culminating in the guilt brought from participating in atrocity, have said at the sight of war-criminals and enablers fleeing, on their golden bridge, the scene of the crime?
I confess that I cannot know; can only imagine. He was a kind and gentle man with no taste for injustice, and no place in his heart for vengeance.
I hold no brief for the master criminals who have shaped American politics and foreign policy. On their hands is the blood of millions: those whom they had killed, and those to whose deaths they led by forcing them or convincing them to participate in their crimes.
My late brother killed no one. He served in Vietnam as a medical photographer. His job was to record the mangled bodies of soldiers wounded in action. Horribly. He heard the guns roaring at night; saw the helicopters setting out on their missions for which the orders were ‘leave no one standing.’
No! No need to like, support, endorse or otherwise approve of the Taliban (‘religions students’ in Arabic) to congratulate them on liberating their country from its most recent and indisputably most dire foreign invader/occupying power and its allies, Canada included.
The British, who drew the line that cut the Pashtun nation in half, called Afghanistan the ‘graveyard of empire.’ How right they were. The Soviet Union, which set out to bring progressive values to that distinctly un-Western society, lasted longer. It made higher education available to girls and women. Women in the villages may have worn the burka; not their liberated sisters in Kabul.
What happened? Well, Zbigniew Brzezinski, then-president Carter’s National Security Advisor made a deal with the devil. He would empower Islamic extremists and inflict ‘Vietnam’ on the Soviet Union. Those were the ‘freedom fighters’ so dear to a succession of American leaders. The men from whose ideological loins sprang such monsters as al-Qaeda and ISIS, to name but a few.
One of the lies fashioned to justify the Vietnam War was the infamous Gulf of Tonkin incident. The more magnificent lie that opened the gates of hell for Afghanistan is that somehow, despite all evidence, the attacks of September 11 were planned and plotted in some cave there. One of the caves built earlier by the CIA, one might venture.
On matters of war and peace, it is always prudent to view the Official Version as a lie. I am agnostic about the attack on the New York World Trade Center. But they provided a rationale for the twenty-year disaster that, today has, thankfully, come to an end.
Canada, a bit player in this sad drama, suffered its own lot of humiliation. Its special forces, its armies and air forces marched into Afghanistan to the tune of “O Canada” to liberate women and to instil Western values in that backward land. Now they are fighting rear-guard actions and their wretched translator collaborators are looking for a way to protect their rear ends.
It didn’t have to be this way. Prior to the US invasion of Iraq (will helicopters soon be lifting off from their Baghdad embassy?) hundreds of thousands demonstrated their opposition in Montréal on a bitter cold winter day. Then-PM Jean Chrétien got the message and politely declined.
The ‘petit gars de Shawinigan' experienced a moment of stiffened spine and declined to involve Canada. He would be the last to show the kind of grit that current PM Trudeau’s late father demonstrated when he opened the country’s borders to US draft resisters, including the author of these lines.
Any influx of American veterans—now surely distraught by the fact that they fought for a gang of drug lords and child molesters (if the truth be known)—is unlikely. Their presence will become a festering boil on the US body politic.
What happens now? I don’t know and I don’t want to say ‘I don’t care.’ Today’s happiness and today’s sadness is enough for me.