CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Twelve helicopters, bristling with guns and U.S. Marines, breached the morning horizon and began a daring descent toward Cambodia’s besieged capital. Residents of Phnom Penh cheered the Americans they believed were rushing in to save them. But at the U.S. Embassy, in a bleeding city about to die, the ambassador wept.
Ambassador John Gunther Dean later described April 12, 1975, as the day the U.S. “abandoned Cambodia and handed it over to the butcher.” Dean cried because he knew what was going to happen — a reign of terror.
Nearly a half-century later, as the U.S. prepares to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, even as the war escalates, some of my Indochina War colleagues — former journalists, soldiers and diplomats — are resurrecting the past and asking whether history will repeat itself after the last U.S. troops exit Afghanistan on Sept. 11.