The History Channel at, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-s-plane-shot-down-over-laos, reports of a United States intelligence gathering plane being shot down over central Laos in 1961. Its mission “was flown in an attempt to determine the extent of the Soviet support being provided to the communist Pathet Lao guerrillas in Laos.”
President John F. Kennedy went so far as to make a television address to the American public. In it he warned of communist expansion in Laos …” The fear of communism was real. The night before Kennedy was to be sworn in as President of the United States, he and key members of his staff met with outgoing Dwight D. Eisenhower and a few of his aides. It was at that meeting that the term “Domino Theory” was popularized to describe what Eisenhower believed would happen if Vietnam turned to communism. From there Laos and Cambodia would quickly do the same and, eventually, all of southeast Asia would be communist.
Now, I don’t want to know all the secret activities the government is running to keep us safe. But when they do leak information, I want it to be the truth. I used to believe, and I want to now believe, that somehow we, the USA, hold some sort of higher moral ground than our ever-changing enemy. We bought the Soviet drivel about their strength, before they imploded. Oh, yes, they had missiles and tanks and bombers; but they also had a starving population. Intelligence didn’t let any of that information go public.
Good old communism hating, tax vilifying, spokesperson superb, President Ronald Reagan showed those soviets a thing or two about funding military growth. Every line item in his budget was open for discussion, except one: defense. And there are those who believe to this day that Reagan’s show of strength–kind of the might makes right theory of governing–brought about the fall of the former USSR. The truth is that they were rotting from within, like Edgar Allan Poe’s House of Usher.
North Korea is another great example of government lying. But the lies that come from their leaders are so egregious that we don’t have to make things up about them. But the actual conditions on the ground in North Korea are much like the USSR before its collapse: lots of missiles and armament, lots of people starving to death, literally.
After I came home from Vietnam, President Richard Nixon, like Kennedy before him, went on TV to address the country about a grave situation: he had ordered airstrikes against Cambodia. Prior to this announcement it was supposed common knowledge that the US avoided entry into Cambodia because we did not want to start a war with yet another country. We wouldn’t invade, so to speak. I had a beer and a good laugh over that one.
My outfit had been operating near the Cambodian border for a couple weeks. We needed supplies: C-Rations and ammunition. So we cleared out an airdrop zone with machetes which was pretty much standard procedure. Someone up the chain of command decided this would be a good opportunity to test parachute drops from a very low altitude.
Three guys jumped. One broke his leg, one landed in a tree, and the third’s parachute got overtaken by a wind and dropped him in Cambodia. With a reinforced squad we crossed the border to find him. There was no toll booth and no Welcome to Friendly Cambodia billboard, but I can read a map. We were in Cambodia, as was the unfortunate airborne soldier.
Of course I would do the same thing a hundred times if it meant saving a comrade. It’s the lie–told by multiple American leaders, military and civilian–that gets me down. It was strategically essential for us to know what was going on just across the border where, by the way, the Viet Cong were receiving Chinese guns and ammo right down the Ho Chi Minh trail. Surveilling that road and making occasional raids was the right thing to do. We were at war.
I believed the lie until I lived it.