Under the Black Flag


Thirty-nine years ago this spring I was in Vietnam, busy sending nonstop dispatches back home about how well the war was going for the good guys.  When the North Vietnamese took Quang Tri in the north a year later and were about to attack Hue, Bill Buckley sent me a cable asking for 1,000 words on whether Hue could hold out this time.  In 1968 the old imperial city had fallen to the Viet Cong, and every priest, doctor, and community leader had been slaughtered.  The Marines had retaken it at great cost, and now 40 NVA divisions were rumored to be advancing from the north.  I caught a flight from Da Nang on a Chinook and was there in no time.  Everyone was on edge, but the attack never materialized.  I cabled my copy announcing the end of the war and pronouncing victory for Uncle Sam and the South Vietnamese republic.  Bill sent me a nice telegram telling me that he was happy to see me leave that “miserable place” and looking forward to a piece about Americans in Paris.  Three years to the day of the Hue non-event, Bill rang me in Athens and asked if I could get back into Saigon as soon as possible.  I rushed to the South Vietnamese consulate, where I had contacts, but in the four days it took for the visa to come through, there was no more Saigon and no more South Vietnam.

Well, the United States never understood the realities in Vietnam, and she does not understand the realities in Iraq, Afghanistan,...

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