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Young couple cycling around the world

April 21, 2019 — BarryK

I borrowed a book from the local library, "The road that has no end", by Tim Travis, which details the first leg of their journey, from the USA to Panama. I have not read the second book, which covers the segment from Panama to Argentina. fascinating, they took seven years to get that far, really getting to know each place they went through.

A lot of danger too, and in some places the locals hate Americans, due to US military support of dictactorships, and the young couple pretended they were Canadian.

A few days ago, I borrowed the third book. I would like to have read the second, but will do so when it becomes available. After Argentina, the young couple, well, not quite so young after seven years, now in approx late 30s, flew back to stay with family in the USA, then decided to change their original plan, flew to Thailand, with the intention of cycling through Cambodia, Vietnam, up to China.

Their experiences in Vietnam have brought back sad memories for me. I was in my 12th year of school when conscription was introduced here in Australia. Call-up was by a ballot system, and fortunately I missed out. Anyway, those going onto higher education would have had their call-up deferred. Some members of my class joined the "home guard", forget what it was called, a part-time military service, being a member of was a way of avoiding the military call-up and being sent to Vietnam. The war began in 1965, not sure when compulsory conscription was introduced, but it was in place in 1968 when I reached the 12th year of school.

Quoting Tim from his book:

The Vietnam war lasted eight years and killed 57,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese. It all but destroyed Vietnam, and came pretty close to wreaking America as well, with anti-war protests splitting the country in two. In 1975, two years after the war ended, Communists took over South Vietnam anyway, making the entire ill-conceived adventure for naught.

In Australia, we watched the horror of those millions getting killed, as the US carpet-bombed the North, as well as neighbouring Cambodia. Then there was the spraying of Agent Orange over vast areas. Tim wrote:

Agent Orange, the defoliant used by Americans to clear away Vietnam's lush greenery to prevent the VC [Viet Cong, the enemy combatants) from hiding. Even today, decades after the war, children are being born with no limbs, curved backs or other disfigurements due to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

And again:

It's hard to be proud of America's so-called high moral ground after riding through village after village with deformed and crippled children due to their parent's exposure to something paid for by American taxpayers.

Tim also made a very sobering comment on what he learned in school about the Vietnam war:

Growing up in America, studying history in public schools, and watching television, it was never clear to me exactly how the war came to an end. I tried to remember what I was taught about the Vietnam war, but it seemed fuzzy; possibly a tie.
Not only did the USA lose, we lost using some pretty underhanded tactics -- another thing that schools do not teach.

It is all very sad. More recently, we have the war in Iraq, where the US trumped up a story about "weapons of mass destruction", as they needed an excuse to invade Iraq. More massive bombing. I could go on. But, enough, it is all too depressing.

On a bright note, Tim and his wife found the people of Vietnam to be very friendly. Of course, they asked people about their feelings toward Americans, and the general response was of forgiveness. 

The authors have a website: 

EDIT 2019-04-23:
It was "Tricky Dicky" (Richard Nixon) who authorized the carpet bombing, and John F. Kennedy who authorized the use of Agent orange. This website documents the Agent Orange horror story:

Did they know in advance that the dioxin in Agent Orange and other herbicides (known as Operation Ranch Hand) was very dangerous? Yes, they did, and guess who manufactured it: mostly Monsanto, also Dow Chemicals. Quoting:

In 1988, Dr. James Clary, an Air Force researcher associated with Operation Ranch Hand, wrote to Senator Tom Daschle, “When we initiated the herbicide program in the 1960s, we were aware of the potential for damage due to dioxin contamination in the herbicide. However, because the material was to be used on the enemy, none of us were overly concerned. We never considered a scenario in which our own personnel would become contaminated with the herbicide.”

US servicemen mounted a class action, and were awarded compensation by the chemical companies, but when a group of Vietnamese people mounted a class action, it was rejected by US judges. Quoting:

Fred A. Wilcox, author of Scorched Earth: Legacies of Chemical Warfare in Vietnam, told the Vietnamese news source VN Express International, “The U.S. government refuses to compensate Vietnamese victims of chemical warfare because to do so would mean admitting that the U.S. committed war crimes in Vietnam. This would open the door to lawsuits that would cost the government billions of dollars.”

Which reminds me, there was a class action mounted against Tony Blair, Prime Minister of the UK, for war crimes in Iraq, based on the trumped up "weapons of mass destruction", but it was rejected by judges. George W. Bush seems to have been immune from such action. Both men were religious zealots, making "faith based" decisions rather than logical, and not minding using "spin" (often considered to be euphemism for a lie) to achieve their goal of Western-style democracy in the Middle East. Then there was John Howard, our Prime Minister in Australia; I conclude that he was a weak man, who sucked up to Bush and Blair.

You might think from reading the above, that I am left-wing. But no, I have always been very conservative, and have tended to vote for the right-of-centre political parties. However, as I became more mature, understood more, I gradually came to understand just how sick the US is, in certain respects, not all. I am not exonerating other countries such as China or Russia either.

I know that Americans are patriotic, and that patriotism is for the principles established by the Founding Fathers. They are very noble. But, many things have gone wrong. Partly, I think, it is individuals and corporations having too much power, as per that old saying "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely".

This started out as a blog post about a young couple cycling around the world, but the book sparked old memories. Enough. Unlikely that I will post anything more about these wars, as there is enough already out there on the Internet. So, signing off, getting back to blogs about Linux, solar power and camping! 

Tags: ethos