Firstly, I should say that the h in Nakhon Phanom is silent. It’s there because that’s the way linguists decided to spell the Thai consonants that way in English. The town and province in Thailand is actually pronounced Nakone Panome with kone like an ice cream cone and nome as in Nome Alaska.
When I lived in Nakhon Phanom as a Corps volunteer, it was the center of my world and it remained so long after I was physically back the States. I learned a lot there, and, even when I write about other things, my experiences there remain in the back of my mind. Some people, like the late author and activist Louis Lomax, author of a Random House book called Thailand, The War That Is, The War That Will Be, even said what was going on there was a war.
I used to write as if I was writing to an old girlfriend in Nakhon Phanom. She was very naive, or at least I thought she was very naive even before I learned she’d been raped by a Communist suppression officer, and I wanted her to know what was going on behind the scenes when I was with her. It took me decades to realize she already knew or suspected much of what I wanted to tell her and that I’d been being played all along. I may cast myself as a victim in some of my stories, but, from my perspective, I just tell the truth as I saw it when I was somewhat naive myself.
And what with this war in Ukraine, it seems pretty obvious that Vladimar Putin is the reincarnation of the devil. We’ve had a string of guys like that in my lifetime: Ho Chi Minh, Sadam Hussein, Ossama Bin Ladin, now Vladimar Putin. I’m sure there’s more. I just can’t think of their names at the moment. There’s actually a shrine to Ho Chi Minh in a Vietnamese village in Nakhon Phanom. Strange to realize now that the vast majority of Americans weren’t even born when he was America’s enemy number one back in the 1960s.
We like to personalize our wars with good guys and bad guys, and right now Volodymyr Zelensky is the good guy. It seems strange that Putin and Zelensky have the same given name. Or almost the same. Putin is Vladimir and Zelenski is Volodymyr.
I’m not saying I don’t believe that Putin is the bad guy or that Zelenski is Ukraine’s savior if they have one. Like other Americans, I think it’s important for Volodymyr to beat Vladimir, but I don’t see how that can happen unless this war becomes a war of attrition like Vietnam, and I don’t think Vladimir will allow that to happen. I think we’ll learn a lot in just the next month.