I have been watching the Afghanistan debacle unfold and worsen. The result of what’s happening will unfortunately not be felt for years. Setting politics aside, I think the United States should stand by those people who have helped us when it became necessary to militarily intervene in their internal affairs, including our withdrawal. By consistently doing so, we build up world- wide-credibility. These people thought they would be protected but may be left to face their doom.
I remember the withdrawal from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. The United States was literally chased out of the country, some being shot at and hit running to airplanes and helicopters. It was not a pretty sight, and so is this obviously unscripted withdrawal from Afghanistan.
We moved many high-ranking South Vietnamese Soldiers and political leaders to this country when Saigon fell. In talks after the war, an American General made a statement in a meeting with another high-ranking North Vietnamese General and stated, “We won every battle with the North Vietnamese Army.” The North Vietnamese General replied, “Yes you did, but that doesn’t matter now. Does it?” These missed opportunities will come back to bite us in the behind, when next we solicit intelligence, aid, and assistance from any country we invade. At St. John Vianney Parish School, I taught many Vietnamese students that were evacuated with their families and settled in the Americana Apartments off Southside Drive in Louisville. They were very bright, and they were very lucky to get away and start anew in the United States. The result of the Afghanistan pull-out we may never completely realize. We told every third world country and even our allies that we may not live up to our word. These things are always complicated, but even more so to those with whom we are seeking help and making promises. It may even confuse our enemies.
Sometime before the United States was forced to enter WWII, General, Douglas MacArthur, resided in the Philippine Islands, on the Island of Manella. He owned one of the swankiest hotels. When the Japanese took the Philippines, they used MacArthur’s hotel for their headquarters. MacArthur, whether it was because he owned the hotel, or to keep the Japanese brass confined to an area, a no-bomb-zone was declared in the vicinity of his hotel. It is unclear if the Japanese knew of his ownership, but it seems likely they did. If so, what kind of message did it send to the Philippine people, not to mention the Japanese military. It also adds another dimension to MacArthur’s statement, “I shall return.” Was his return in some way connected to reclaiming his property? The truth of anything becomes entangled and murky when there are cross purposes and competing grounds, calling into question actions taken. I do not suggest that MacArthur was anything but a patriotic loyal American, but a nest of Japanese officers could have been wiped out in one bombing raid.
Then look what we did in California with the internment of Nationalized Japanese citizens, when we built concentration camps with high fenced walls, and locked them behind the walls, because they didn’t look like us. This fact had a chilling effect on German immigrants and their descendants, such as the Henry Fischer family to whom I was born a member. Grandaddy Fischer called a family meeting around the kitchen table. Uncle Fred, Aunt Jack, Aunt Ruth, Mamaw Etta Mae, and my dad Henry Fischer Jr. held a solemn meeting trying to decide whether to drop the “C” from Fischer, the German spelling of the name. It was decided we would not change our name out of fear, and I’ve always been proud of that.
Lastly, let’s look at discrimination against the people of the Philippines who helped the Americans by forming guerrilla bands to disrupt, capture and kill the Japanese. I was proud to know Isigani Hernandez, a Philip-pine citizen, whose father fought the Japanese and almost lost his life. Gani had the misfortune to be called “Gook,” a disparaging remark based on a Vietnamese term of racial derision brought home from the war, because his eyes were slanted like the Vietnamese.
The Philippine Moro Islanders also fought the Japanese. We have in the history museum, a Moro Islander’s Head Hunter knife from WWII. I doubt they would have been called Gook.
(Read next week story’s by Sepeda and Fischer, titled ‘Saved by the Grace of God.)