Vietnam: A Retrospective


by Gilles d'Aymery

May 1, 2000


As I said in the introduction, I was unprepared for the intensity of the emotions expressed by all contributors.

Before reading them, all I could think of about the Vietnam War was that the Viet Minh (short for Viet Nam Doc Lap Dong Minh Hoi, that is the members of the Vietnamese army that belonged to the Vietnam Federation of Independence) had defeated the Japanese and the French between 1941 and 1954. The French had been badly beaten in Dien Bien Phu. The entire garrison surrendered to the Viet Minh. The defeat led to the end of that colonial war and contributed to the fall of the French Fourth Republic in 1958. The Americans, filled with their messianic arrogance, had it coming. As a young colleague of mine, a 24 year-old computer-engineering graduate, told me when I asked him his thoughts about the Vietnam War: "I don't know much about it. In school, the subject was not even taught. What I understand is that the USA got its 'ass' kicked and nobody wants to talk about it."

But the more I read the contributions I had received, the more I felt uneasy about airing my opinion and my sentiments. From the raw feelings I sensed, particularly in Doug Baughman's and Rick Rozoff's words, started to emerge a tissue of complex questions. For instance, how to tell Doug, my companion's brother, that the killing of over four million Vietnamese and 600,000 Cambodians, whatever the circumstances, was plain wrong? How to say to a warrior that there is no just war? How to explain that dying for one's ideas is not the same as killing for one's ideas?

My close friend, Frank Wycoff, a real brother to me, said that when he visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. last year, he was unable to walk more than a few yards before, engulfed by emotions he had to leave at once, with tears flowing. How to tell him that when I visited the Memorial, I felt nothing but incomprehension in front of the people there who were reacting as he had? How could I understand his present emotions when, at the time, he had escaped to and hidden in Montreal, Canada, to avoid the draft? Was it remorse, shame, memories of time past?

How do you balance the deep emotions of all those people who, in one way or another, have been touched or affected by that war and my own absence of emotions? Let the dead rest in peace. I'd rather think of the present and the future and combat with all strength and convictions the leaders who send people to kill other people in the name of fallacious beliefs and goals, and the people like Senator McCain who "think that the wrong guys won."

But, if I had to say something, to conclude this Vietnam Retrospective, I would address my words to the grieving parents of the 4,000,000 Vietnamese and 58,000 Americans who lost their lives.

I would say to them something I have not heard or read in any of the contributions I've read here or the reports read elsewhere. I would only say:

I apologize.

And the night would come, and with it silence.


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
Making Sense out of Senselessness - by Eileen Rinde
An Uneasy Peace - by Margaret Wyles
Myths and Reality - by Antony Black
Stay Under the Radar Screen - by Milo Clark


Published May 1, 2000
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