Two graves in An Loc District, Binh Phuoc Province, where a cynical American bombing campaign dragged out battles that killed thousands of civilians
An Loc District sits on a series of rolling hills in the northern end of Binh Phuoc Province, not far from the Cambodian border.
In the afternoon, the sunset lights up the district’s rubber plantations and rice paddies giving the place a warm, still feeling.
Life here is mostly marked by weddings and funeral parties. Men play tennis on a pair of newly built courts; children watch movies in a new 3-D theater and you can literally walk from one end of it to another in a half an hour.
Despite the sleepy town’s tiny size, I needed a guide to locate the mass gravesite where 3,000 dead were buried by bulldozers in the summer of 1972.
“Killed,” the sign says, “by American bombs.”
Walter Pearson, an Australian veteran who retired just outside the town recalled that his mother-in-law was giving birth in An Loc when the American Air Force began dropping endless sorties of 500-pound bombs in an effort to squash the National Liberation Force’s advancing tanks.
“She tells me the streets literally ran red with blood,” he said.
America’s allies never had a chance in Binh Phuoc; the province would be ruled by the Provincial Revolutionary Government by the end of 1973. But the suicidal siege mentality would drag on and on thanks to America’s military advisors, some of whom pushed Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) units to continue fighting by threatening to bomb them if they tried to surrender.
Back at Pearson’s house, while drinking a beer on the veranda, this extensive bummer of a history lesson took on a whole new level of horror when I made the mistake of browsing the New York Times on my iPhone.
The cause of my alarm was entitled “Foreign Policy’s Bipartisan Trio Becomes Republican Duo” and focused on the forced retirement of Senator Joe Lieberman.
For those who don’t know, Lieberman began his political life as a founding member of the Antiwar Caucus of Connecticut Democrats and will end it in January as a golem clinging to two shriveled hawks as he plummets into political ignominy.
For a long time, Lieberman was just a typical beltway sellout. He and his pharmaceutical lobbyist wife are the kind of people who publicly chastised Bill Clinton for his sexual peccadilloes while passing legislation that made it harder for consumers to sue the manufacturers of defective medical implants.
“That’s right: Joe Lieberman fought for the principle of manufacturing faulty fake tits with impunity,” wrote Matt Taibbi, the Rolling Stone writer who has pilloried Lieberman on numerous occasions.
But 9/11 changed all of that. Lieberman quickly became a cheerleader for neoconservative hawks.
For the past decade, Lieberman has traveled the world with a vitriolic South Carolina legislator named Lindsay and Senator John McCain. Together, they’ve advanced the cause of American military intervention, everywhere all the time.
General David Petraeus dubbed them “the three amigos” – a merry band that, even in its final hours, continues to push for bombing campaigns in Syria and Iran.
The senator proved such an outstanding weasel that George W. Bush (literally) kissed him on the Senate floor following his dark 2005 State of the Union address.
Shortly after the incident, Lieberman’s party held an election that effectively ousted him.
Lieberman refused to give up.
Instead he ran on his own ticket and shrewdly deflated his anti-war opponent by speculating that America’s soldiers would be home soon. When Lieberman won, he instead lobbied for a troop surge that did little more than drag out America’s inevitable withdrawal and pile up bodies.
Sadly, Lieberman’s war whore act has finally caught up to him. When he announced his retirement in 2011, he did so because he was facing an approval rating hovering at 30 percent.
The New York Times article didn’t tie any of this together. Instead, it treated Lieberman’s shameful career like a fun buddy film that wraps up with a kind of sunny montage:
“The amigos say they will miss their travels, watching Borat films, walking together after dark on Friday nights instead of driving so Mr. Lieberman could observe the Sabbath and visiting with troops.
Mr. Lieberman remembers going to Vietnam with Mr. McCain, who spent more than five years as a prisoner of war there after his plane was shot down over Hanoi. ‘Going with McCain to the Hanoi Hilton for me was quite an emotional experience,’ Mr. Lieberman said, noting that there is a statue of Mr. McCain where his plane was shot down.
‘We complained to our Vietnamese hosts that the statue was much too small and not at all grand enough,’ he said. ‘They claimed they would replace it.”
By Calvin Godfrey, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the December 7th issue of our print edition, Vietweek)