Friday, November 29, 2013

The Snake-Eaters and the Yards

At Slate this month, Rebecca Onion has a good overview on "The Vietnamese tribesmen who fought alongside American Special Forces won the Green Berets’ admiration—and lost everything else."

As with most communities, I think the journey of the different members of the Montagnards is a complicated one that we're only now beginning to fully understand. There was a deep bond between the Green Berets and the cultures they left behind. Did we learn from this as we went into conflicts elsewhere around the world?

As we look at the Pashtuns, the Kurds, and others, I think we'll need to keep a close eye on the Montagnard journey as well, to understand the possibilities and implications.

"Despite the isolated efforts of some former Green Berets and of the government ministers appointed to help ethnic minorities, the Montagnards suffered in postwar Vietnam. By the time the hostilities between North and South Vietnam ceased, according to historian John Fredriksen, around 200,000 Montagnards had been killed and 85 percent of their villages leveled. Known to have fought with the Americans, the Yards entered a new phase of repression under the Communists. Many of their remaining leaders were thrown in prison or escaped across the border to Cambodia. There, the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and killed those it could find."
I can only imagine what it must have been like in those chaotic final moments near the end of the war where running across the border into Khmer Rouge country seemed like a sensible option for survival.

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