Letter to the Editor

Lessons from Vietnam

At the end of March 1973, the United States withdrew all its combat troops from South Vietnam. Within 25 months the Army of North Vietnam completed its conquest of this country.

Individuals who had bet their lives and fortunes on the United States were placed in North Vietnamese reeducation camps. Stanley Karnow who visited Vietnam in 1981 and authored the book "Vietnam: A History" estimated that 400,000 people were placed in these camps, and it is estimated that 250,000 of them died. In addition, some 1 million people attempted to escape Vietnam by boat. Tragically about 200,000 of them perished at sea.

The situation was such that individuals who had expressed strong opposition to this war, such as Joan Baez and Daniel Berrigan, bitterly assailed the North Vietnamese regime for its "brutal disregard of human rights." No one can foresee the future with unerring accuracy, but I predict that if the United States and NATO withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, similar events will take place in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, our opponents, the Taliban, are very much on the offensive, attacking not only Afghan security forces but also the kind of people who can lead Afghan society into an advanced future. And the Taliban have not disavowed al-Qaeda.

If we remove all our troops from that country in September, ordinary Afghans will be consigned to the same fate as our abandoned South Vietnamese allies. The fall of Kabul could be as ugly as the fall of Saigon.

JOHN PIEPHO, Cape Girardeau