Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White Christmas

Today marks the 33rd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon to the North Vietnamese. It was one of the tragic milestones in a conflict which had its roots in the years following the Second World War and that still has lingering sentiments today.

The image that you see to the left is probably one of the most iconic images of the Vietnam War. There were scores of Vietnamese with ties to the Americans in South Vietnam, many who were actually CIA agents. That iconic photo of a CIA officer (whose name escapes me at the moment, but his name is declassified if I am not mistaken) assisting Vietnamese into an Air America helicopter (CIA cover airline) was taken not at the embassy but at a apartment complex nearby.

Reading the book Decent Interval by former CIA analyst Frank Snepp, who was present in Saigon at the time, painted a disturbing picture of what it was like there at that time. It was a chilling reminder that there is always a human cost in the actions of nations, and sometimes that cost doesn't always have to be paid.

So why is this important? While this is a tired, old analogy, take a look at Iraq. The United States has to eventually leave sometime, but if and when it does, there is a risk of instability. People who are in danger due to their assistance to the United States should be evacuated for their own safety, well ahead of the final date of withdrawal, to avoid another Saigon incident. Withdrawal methods, the few that do exist out there, often do not discuss this. If the United States is not to be cheated at the market of human costs, then it should remember 30 Apr 1975 and plan ahead.

Friday, April 25, 2008


ANZAC Day is the Australian and New Zealand version of our Veterans Day and Memorial Day (and maybe a bit of an Independence Day tossed in there). It commemorates service of men and women in the armed forces of both nations and is celebrated on 25 Apr each year to commemorate the landing of the first ANZAC troops at the Battle of Gallipoli. It is often considered the day when Australia and New Zealand proved itself to Great Britain and therefore is considered a day of national pride.

So go celebrate the ANZACs and their sacrifices. A nation will understand.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Pirating is Not Cool, Dickwad.

When we think of pirates, we think of those quaint folks talking about scurvy, rum, and whether or not eyeliner is appropriate for pirates. We also think that piracy of that sort died out when they did. Surprisingly enough, this isn't the case. Pirates were a serious enough problem in 1930s China that foreigners (British and Americans) were recruited to help fight the menace.

And now we have the modern day piracy problem that exists on the East African coast. The area has historically been a major area of nautical trade, and where there's trade of any sort you have people looking to nab it. The problem has grown increasingly rampant as Somalia has yet again devolved into a state more chaotic than parties hosted by these guys. Now the US and France are pushing for a UN resolution that would allow nations to chase after pirates into national waters.

Hold on. So you have to ask to take something of yours back from people that stole it from you by force. What the hell? Is this really necessary?

What should happen? What happened in 1801-1805 and in 1815: the Barbary Wars. Sure, there really wasn't a structure of international mediation in place, but why should that be necessary when punk-ass rogues and thieves start messing around with your merchant ships and disrupting your commerce? The US should replicate the basic lambasting of the Barbary pirates in the early nineteenth century today with respect to these Somali warlords who sponsor this type of thing: seek out who they are and destroy them with the mercy shown to an ant stepped on by a five year old.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Forgotten Heroes of a Forgotten War

As some of you know out there, I've been working on an independent study on the First World War in Africa and Asia. Besides the fact that I may or may not be insane, you might be wondering why I would pursue such an seemingly esoteric topic.

The answer is simply that someone needs to do so. When you picture the First World War, the first thought that pops into your mind are the trenches at Verdun or the Somme and the flights of the Red Baron (and Snoopy, of course). Yet it is called World War I and not "The War Fought in Europe and Europe Only." (There was also fighting in Eastern Europe, by the way.) My goal is to make sure that people understand that there were equally large sacrifices made by people worldwide in conditions equally or even more insufferable than those in the trenches of France.

If you want to get a sense of my motivations, listen to one of the incarnations of "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda." My preference is for the version the Pogues did on their album Rum, Sodomy, and The Lash for its raw power. While there's the regular "war is a tragedy" message that comes with it, there's also the message of "honor your veterans and never forget their sacrifice." The people that I have researched as a part of the independent study do not deserve to be relegated to a sentence in a dusty tome for their sacrifices.