Of Vietnam and Iraq - blunders past and present

A quote from a friend of mine who is old enough to have a valid opinion:

Of all the historical events during my lifetime, Vietnam is the one I know most intimately and puzzle over the most. I still don't understand why it turned out to be viewed as so pointless.

I think that the Vietnam war is considered pointless for the same reasons that our current conflict will be considered pointless. There weren't real clear reasons for going in, and so it is impossible to say whether or not those goals were reached. It is viewed as a waste because there is not a single thing that was accomplished that stood as a clear cut goal. Troops take a hill or patrol a route, and the next day, with a lack of presence on that hill or on a route, the forces of the other side take it back. Because the native "good guys" look just like the native "bad guys", they're all subject to instantaneous death. Result: there are no more "good guys", just "bad guys" that aren't actively shooting at us at any given time. If you eliminate the success condition of "capture this much territory and hold it against enemy forces", then you're left with the "hearts and minds" strategy, which, if you're trying to grab them by the testes to make sure that the hearts and minds are near by, doesn't often work.

Did I mention the pointlessness of the current conflict? C and I went to a lecture last month, ostensibly to listen to a lecture on propaganda during times of war. The lecture was part of the White River Historical Museum's display that coincides with their current exhibit. One of the speakers was talking about people who support the current war. He mentioned three statements.

1) Iraq had significant ties to Al Queida.
2) Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.
3) The world agrees with our decision to invade Iraq

The polls that he reported stated that if people agreed with one of these statements, their support of the war was perhaps 50%. If they agreed with two of the statements, their support of the war was 70% or so (I forget the exact numbers, but I'm trying to make a point here!). And that if people agreed with all three statements, their support of the war approached 90%. And you know, it makes perfect sense. If you believe any of these three things, then it follows logically that we were attacked by or at least threatened by Iraq, and that a pre-emptive strike against that country was in our country's best interest. Joe's got a gun. Joe lent his gun to Fred who attacked us. The neighbors think that we should take Joe out. Perfect sense.

Except that it's all a lie. None of those three statements are "true" to the extent that "truth" is something that can be investigated and agreed upon. If you ignore or choose to disbelieve "truth", then your reality is your "truth", and you feel that your "truth" is in fact true.

So we were lied to about our involvement in Vietnam. We were (and continue to be) lied to about our involvement in Iraq. There are no clear goals, certainly no attainable goals, short of reducing a bunch of rag heads / budda boys to radioactive slag, so victory was / is impossible. Right now, all we can see is an endless line of twisted bodies of young people returning from a mistake. And we can't even see that, because seeing the bodies, shredded and twisted, or just boxed up and delivered in the dark of night, isn't politically expedient, so they're hidden away out of sight, unless we need an inspirational story about how this soldier, who had his lower legs ripped off, is being fitted with orthotics, and may someday walk again. We don't see the coffins, and we don't see the thousands who are warehoused in VA hospitals, because they might make us question why we're doing what we're doing where we're doing it. The way I see it, going in was wrong, staying there is wrong, and pretending that it's not a horrible thing is wrong. War is horrible, and to pretend that it's not is to claim that it's not, and therefore make it easier to do again. I'll stand on any soapbox on the planet, and claim that war is sometimes a necessary thing, but if you go and start one, it better be for a fucking good reason, because it is a terrible thing, and not something to be entered into lightly.

I doubt that we will ever agree on the current administration. There are legitimate things to disagree about in most any discussion, but certain principles must exist for any discussion to move forward. I'm pretty sure that we might both agree that, as a general rule anyway, it's bad to kill people, especially in unpleasant ways. Unless there is a REAL good reason to do so, and sometimes there are. I just don't think that we can agree that the two examples mentioned above actually fall into the category of "good reasons". So I don't talk about them much in mixed and friendly company. But when I wrote this I got pretty wound up. About some subject, it doesn't take much any more.

This page is authored and maintained by Rich Webb.You can send E-mail to me by following this link to the contact page. And feel free to contact me if you have any comments, criticisms, or suggestions. I remain, however, perfectly capable of ignoring your useless opinion...

This document was last modified on January 25, 2007, and has been viewed countless times.