The Last Day – America’s final hours in Vietnam (John Pilger) [1976]

the last day

Smart, insiktsfullt, varmt, med en stark känsla för rättvisa och ett pathos som han inte hymlar med. Han är likaså öppen med den skam han känner när han tränger sig förbi väntande vietnameser vid Saigons ambassad för att ta sig ombord helikoptern, lättnaden när den landar tryggt. Observant noterar han hur ”makar” lämnar sina fruar när stunden väl är kommen att säga farväl till soldaternas drömland. Pilger besöker föräldrarna till soldat nr 55 566 och 55 567 (de två sista amerikanska soldater som dog i kriget) – med samma värme skildrar han vietnameserna, deras syn på de jättelika ockuperarna, deras sätt att skapa sig en vardag i kriget. Han är bevandrad i retoriken, vet hur generaler och PR-män snackar, och vet hur sällan deras prat stämmer med verkligheten. Invävt i berättelserna finns svartvita fotografier av ögonblick från vardagen och från kriget. Den starka helheten gör att man rycks med som läsare, nästan 40 år tillbaka i tiden.

Det här är den bästa journalistik som någonsin har gjorts.



”You want to know my solution to Vietnam? Tell the Vietnamese they’ve got to draw in their horns or we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age!” – General Curtis E. LeMay, US Air Force Schief of Staff, May, 1964

No, these Quiet Americans are very sad to have to leave Vietnam because Vietnam gave them what they could never have back home: a cheap life, more often than not provided by the magical PX card, which was a seasonal ticket to the military’s Post Exchange, an Ali Baba’s cave of duty-free-everything, for as long as the empire lasted. But Vietnam gave them something else even more elusive than Budweiser beer on the cheap. Vietnam gave them women.

…General Gracie, ordered the Japanese to be re-armed so that they could put down the Vietnamese nationalists until the Vichy French arrived to take back their colony.

The Vietnamese, who are often open about their sorrow, are subtle and oblique in their anger and bitterness…

The CIA had long run its own empire within the empire in Indochina: its own arm of mercenaries, its own airline, Air America, its own Murder Incorporated – the Phoenix Program – and its own ”secure GVN people”.

Saigon is now falling before our eyes: the Saigon created and fattened and fed intravenously by the United States, then declared a terminal case; capital of the world’s only consumer society that produced nothing; headquarters of the world’s fourth greatest army, whose soldiers are now running away at the rate of 1,000 a day; and center of an empire which, unlike the previous empire of the French who came only to loot, expected nothing from its subjects, not rubber or rice or treasure, only acceptance of the American Way and gratitude for its Asian manifestations: Coca-Cola and napalm.

For as long as they can remember, these people, who worked for the Americans, have been told to fear the Communists because of all the barbaric things Communists are supposed to do; now they are being told, with the Communists in their backyards, that they should not panic. Their confusion is complete.

So, swiftly and unceremoniously, big men slip away from their ”fiancées” and their families, even from women with whom they have lived for years, some even from wives and children. It is every ”round eye” for himself now.

The extent of British complicity in the American way has never been fully understood in Britain or America. The British fought the war in their special way. Hovercraft were supplied secretly to the Americans – the same hovercraft which killed aimlessly along the rivers of the Delta – together with helicopter radio equipment and jungle training facilities for the Green Berets, with whom the British Strategic Air Services (the SAS) played secret games. With the knowledge and approval of the British Government, President Nixon used bombs stored in Britain in his attempts to flatten Hanoi during the terror raids of Christmas, 1972.

It is time to catch my Jolly Green Giant. Lights blinking, it descends into the compound, and we are told by Colonel Summers, ”Now…go…move!” The loadmaster stops counting at sixty; people are in each other’s arms. The helicopter tilts, clims and there are shots; and I am immediately back in time to the years the Americans took us all to the war in their helicopters so that we could have a grandstand view of their catastrophe; in the morning they would fly you to watch American artillery blasting away at villages and American planes dropping napalm on people, and in the evening they would bring you back to a large base camp where more than likely there was a Press room and a padded bar, with soft lights, pretty girls and a jukebox. It did not matter if you were friend or foe then, and it does not matter now. Such are they.

[…] We fly out along the Saigon River, over the Rung Sat, the ”swamp of death” which lies between the city and the sea. The two gunners scan the ground, as they always used to, looking for ”Charlie.”… There is some fire around us, and it is probably from ARVN soldiers firing more out of frustration than anger; but they, and the victors, are letting us go; and when the South China Sea is beneath us, the pilot, who is so young he has acne and who is red-eyed with fatigue, lights up a cigarette and hands the packet around, and we smile and feel much relieved.


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