An Anniversary Unearned

30 April, 2010 HO CHI MINH CITY – Vietnam marked the 35th anniversary of the Communist victory in the Vietnam War with a grand military parade Friday through the former Saigon, with the government basking more in its economic achievements than its historic military defeat of the United States.

While this date is clinically the end of the Vietnam War, we were all aware it was over months even years before. Troops withdrawal had begun nearly three years prior to the ultimate surrender, which was an end only for the U.S. and not for the Vietnamese who had suffered under imperialists of one flag or another for decades.

So it might be hard to remember where you were on April 30th of 1975. It was a Wednesday, I was working the late shift at the pharmacy. We did see a shot of the U.S. embassy above on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, but there was little celebration. The anti-war movement had won but fifty-six thousand Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese had died in the futile struggle for nothing more than a discredited foreign policy.

Nixon had already been run out of office in disgrace in '74. There was talk of healing the wounds of war but little was being done for the surviving veterans who still today carry the scars of this national hubris. All in all, not an anniversary to celebrate and apparently not a milestone from which the country has learned the lessons of attempting to impose democracy on other cultures.