On holiday this week I met and talked with an American veteran of the Vietnam War for the first time in my life. He was just a bit older than me, a very likeable and patriotic man.
The brief discussion of Vietnam was both interesting and disturbing as he shared his view that “we achieved nothing”, and told of talking at the time with a Vietnamese woman who did laundry for the US Army and was also married to a soldier in the South Vietnamese Army. He had asked her which side she wanted to win, the US and its ally the South Vietnamese government – or the Vietcong. Her response was “it makes no difference to us”.
If there are any younger readers of this blog, these words will probably mean nothing to them. Who were the Vietcong?To those of my generation they will be completely familiar, but the important question at the start of 2013 is whether in fifty years’ time the answer of US and UK veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan will be any different. And whether the answer of most Iraqi or Afghan women today would be any different from that of the Vietnamese woman in the 1960s.