As The Bamboos Sway: The Post & the death of a best friend


Watching the movie, The Post, on DVD two days ago, months after it was shown in the theaters, I sobbed when it came to the part “the Pentagon knew since 1965 that we could not win the war (in Vietnam)…The government had been lying to us for the last 30 years” – but still continued to send Americans, mostly boys in their late teens, to die in Vietnam, 6,000 miles away from home.

I sobbed because my high-school best friend did not have to die.

In June 13, 1971, the New York Times begins to publish the first series of the ‘Pentagon Papers,’ a secret US Defense Department archive of the paperwork involved in decisions made by previous White House administrations concerning Vietnam. This angers President Nixon and attempts to bar further publication of the Pentagon Papers through legal action with the U.S. District Court. In spite of this, the Washington Post, getting hold of copies of the classified documents, and against the odds of being closed down and with the publisher and editor possibly being imprisoned like that of their rival paper, also begins its publication of the Pentagon Papers. The legal action elevated to the US Supreme Court which, by a 6-3 vote, ruled in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post.

By then, my best friend had already died.

Richard Arellano Supnet and I evolved our BFF, as you may call it today, closeness when we were in third year high-school in the Philippines. With another friend, we called ourselves The Spectacles by virtue of us wearing bifocals. At the height of our puberty period, we had girlfriends; went to and crashed parties, dancing to the latest craze to the tune of the Beatles, Dave Clark 5, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, etc.; and had sleep over study sessions.

Right after our graduation in 1968, he followed his parents who have earlier immigrated to the United States. The next thing we heard about him, he had already died in Danang. He served with the U.S. Air Force. He was only 19.

In 1996, I was able to see his name on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in D.C. When I touched his name, my spine collapsed into tremors that coaxed uncontrollable sobs, almost the same sobs I had watching the DVD for the first time.

Yes, within the recesses of The Post is the remote story of my best friend, Richard Arellano Supnet. Yes, it did not matter that Steven Spielberg directed the movie, it did not matter how superb Meryl Streep as Kay Graham and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee acted their parts as publisher and editor of the Washington Post respectively. Within their expose’ of the classified secret Pentagon papers is the story of every soldier who died in Vietnam; the survivors, many of whom still suffer the vestiges of the war; their families; and the American people who were lied to, since 1945 to the end of the war in 1975, by President Harry Truman down to Richard Nixon about the Indochina state of affairs.

The expose’ and subsequent triumph of the fourth estate through the Washington Post over a lying government would not be a solace for Richard Supnet. Nonetheless, for sure, it helped avert thousands of more names of close to 60,000 to be chiseled on the memorial wall. With the publications, protests against the Vietnam war became more intense. It resulted to bringing home troops, staggered, by the thousands.

Although the troops were completely withdrawn in November 1972, however, Nixon continued, with more barrage, the bombings over Vietnam. U.S. warplanes flew 40,000 sorties and dropped over 125,000 tons of bombs during the Operation Linebacker I that ended only in October 1972. Nonetheless, after the collapse of peace talks in December 13, 1972, Nixon orders Operation Linebacker II, a.k.a. Christmas Bombings, which what had been the most intensive bombing campaign of the entire war with over 100,000 bombs dropped on Hanoi and Haiphong.

The North Vietnamese forces were never stopped, however, and on April 30, 1975, the last American helicopters flew off from 18 Gia Long Street in Saigon in a hasty evacuation of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese US related personnel. By 11 a.m., the victorious flag of the Vietnamese rebel forces towers over the presidential palace.

The United States lost the war.

By then, nearly 60,000 Americans were killed-in-action, over 150,000 wounded to include 10,000 amputees, and over 2400 missing as of 1973 – in a war based on lies and cover-ups.

Of which, my best friend, Richard Arellano Supnet has become just a statistic.

But not to me, not to the Spectacles, not to his family and relatives, not to the Saint Louis Boys’ High School Class on 1968, not to his service mates in the US Air Force, and others whose hearts he might have touched.

Blessed are those souls who could have still been drafted if the war was further prolonged but had been saved by the US Supreme Court which ruled against the lying government in favor of the New York Times and the Washington Post because “In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

By the way, the bullet that killed my friend, I am sure was paid for from the taxes of the American people. It may have cost just a nickel but, nonetheless, added to the profit of the bullet producers who do not care whoever dies in war mongered battles.

And by the way, what is the latest in Iraq where there were supposed to be weapons of mass destruction? #


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