This was a wonderful day as tens of thousands joined in the huge celebration of the final end of the war. It was the last big demonstration and as you can see from the film and leaflets, it featured many of the best known anti-war performers. Members of CANLF participated and helped near the stage. But there was a dark incident that foresaw the many problems to come.
Near the end of the performances, Cora Weiss a rich patron of the peace movement and the MC asked me (Walter Teague) if I wanted to give the final speech. I was surprised because normally she didn't approve of my strong pro-Vietnam politics, but I welcomed the opportunity to congratulate Vietnam and the Peace Movement for the peace we were celebrating. I asked for a moment to compose my thoughts about what was needed next, aid to the victims of war and seeking normalization between our countries, but I was surprised to hear Joan Baez had taken the mike and was making a very negative speech, literally attacking the Vietnamese for violently winning the war. OK, I knew she was a dedicated pacifist and had arguments with her in the past about the right of the Vietnamese to resist militarily, but on this day, this was a shockingly selfish act.
As you may know, Joan Baez went on in later years to actually support the US government's position against Vietnam for "invading Cambodia" to remove the Khmer Rouge. She seemed to ignore the US government's prior support of the KR delegation at the United Nations and the unfolding horror of the Killing Fields, she even lent her celebrity to visiting and supporting some of the right-wing Cambodian refugee camps in Thailand. Fortunately both the US government's efforts to punish the Vietnamese for not surrendering and the effort to blame Vietnam for invading Cambodia failed. But it was sour and ugly to hear her really selfish and muddled political attack on this day of peace. In the years after 1975 we all learned of the madness that the KR brought to Cambodia and efforts of the US government and military to irrationally blame everyone but themselves for the ongoing conflicts and even the madness that the Pol Pot forces brought on the vulnerable people of Cambodia.
During those years, I saw wonderful people destroyed and my only criticism of the Vietnamese role was that they took too long to go in and oust the KR. I understand the Vietnamese faced many difficulties surviving after such a terrible war. And they clearly didn't want new conflicts and they faced attacks from both the KR on their western border and soon the Chinese on the North. But finally they had little choice and since by 1979 the KR forces had so alienated even the Cambodian peasants, it only took days for the KR cadre to flee the Vietnamese troops. Soon most of us were faced with the many traumas and conflicts of a devastated Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos suffered not only because of the aftermath of the wars, but the continuing interference of the US and other powers.
I soon learned of terrible details of the torture and death of friends in the KR prisons in Phnom Penh and in 1989 I joined the Campaign To Oppose the Return of Khmer Rouge. From 1980 through to the present, I have learned so much about the horrors and bravery of those who suffer and survive these wars and traumas. I have posted a very personal story of the wonderful Cambodian woman I met and lived with from 1980 to 2010 at SinanSoc.com . Only one story of millions, but I wish we had learned these lessons years ago...
Perhaps later, I will list here some of the other life stories of the many wonderful people I met during those years. They should not be forgotten.
One project I want to launch if my health holds out, is to help create a web site where individuals can post the stories of people who tried to make the world a better place. Not the famous, but the ordinary wonderful people that should not be forgotten. A page where anyone can post the story of someone they admire, with photos, video, links etc. Making these many lives available to be found by the young people discovering the world.