Swans

Vietnam: A Retrospective

Making Sense out of Senselessness

by Eileen Rinde

May 1, 2000

 

Iím going to leave it to others to write about the arrogance, the paranoia, the stupidity, and the self-righteousness of governments and military commands of all stripes and persuasions. There was plenty of that during the Vietnam War, and I ranted and raged with many others about it during the long years that the war lasted.

I was a young child during World War II in occupied Europe, and I saw first-hand the results of war on young soldiers, their families, refugees, collaborators, escapees, those who suffered tremendous losses, and those who had to begin all over again in scarred and dangerous landscapes. But I learned to think about World War II as a necessary war, terrible but critical for the preservation of democracy and human rights.

The war in Vietnam had no reason for me, only pain: pain for those who fought on both sides; those who refused to fight; brothers and sisters or parents alienated from each other; wives left as widows; parents whose sons died or slipped into Canada and were not heard of for years; children who grew up without the love and support of a parent; friends who were on opposite sides of the rancorous debate; the "enemy" who was often a child and was certainly a part of a family. So it seemed to me, the immigrant who, like many immigrants, had fallen in love with my new country, that there were two needless and hopeless wars going on: one in Vietnam, and one here in the United States. In Vietnam it rained napalm, Agent Orange, bullets and people; American and Vietnamese (the latter in enormous numbers) died horrible deaths. In the U.S., the alienation, recriminations, and hatred for those who didnít agree with one or the other point of view did not heal for years after the war ended, and for some has not ended yet. And for me, there was disillusionment and pain, and the intense conviction that this war was useless, indeed only millions of lives left much worse than they had been. And that those who make the decisions are not the ones who suffer the greatest losses. It might always have been true, but I learned during Vietnam that we can no longer resort to war to settle our conflicts. We have to dig deep into ourselves to find the tenacity, the patience, and the skill to resolve our differences long before we get to the threshold of war.

I remember the song, sung often during those years, "Where have all the flowers gone?" and the last lines, "When will they [we] ever learn? When will they ever learn?" With all the wars still going on, personal, national, religious, ethnic, all of them needless, all of them perpetuating incredible suffering, the question still haunts me.

 

Vietnam: A Retrospective

Introduction - by Gilles d'Aymery
Prism And Touchstone - by Rick Rozoff
The Road to Wisdom - by Aleksandra Priestfield
Through the Eyes of a Child - by Jan Baughman
The Trauma of Coming Home - by Doug Baughman
Reflections on the War in Vietnam - by Mac Lawrence
An Uneasy Peace - by Margaret Wyles
Myths and Reality - by Antony Black
Stay Under the Radar Screen - by Milo Clark
Conclusion - by Gilles d'Aymery

 


Published May 1, 2000
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