A BuzzFlash Editorial
September 6, 2002
BuzzFlash Message to America's Veterans: Part IV
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
by Judith Foster
It's been 3 decades since the Vietnam "war" and the word has become part of our language and describes a very complicated set of ideas and memories in the collective American Psyche. But in 30 years, millions of people have been born who have a limited understanding of what phrases like "another Vietnam" mean.
At the beginning of the Persian Gulf War everyone was talking about "another Vietnam" and the generals in charge of the military campaign and the elected officials in Washington were promising that it wouldn't be "another Vietnam."
As everyone knows we lost that undeclared "war," but that's only a tiny part of what the pundits and the politicians mean when they use the word. It was a war that started small, but which grew ever larger as more and more military were sent in. The thought was that we could beat those peasants, because the Viet Cong (the enemy) were peasants. If we just sent more troops, more bombers, and more ships in and used more napalm, more carpet bombing, more agent orange how could we lose?
And yes, the average age of the US soldiers fighting that war was 19. Not old enough to drink or vote, but easy to train and highly pliable to "patriotic suggestion." They were sent there to "stop the spread of communism" -- evil, evil communism.
And yes, almost the entire Bush Administration managed to get out of being drafted because they were privileged and they let a disproportionate number of blacks and poor do their fighting for them. And now Cheney has told these veterans that their children must do the bidding of the government and unquestioningly go to war -- again to fight "evil" because the Administration says it is.
But I think the thorn that still festers under our collective skin, the thing that makes the word "Vietnam" much more than a word that conjures the idea of a lost war, is that for the first time we watched it on television, and we got the uncensored news and some of our boys over there did some horrible things that people have always done in wars, only we were watching them, and this country tore and ripped at itself from the inside out as people at home rose in horrified protest against the war and dared to question it.
When the soldiers came home they were treated like child-killers, like criminals because the rest of us saw the dead babies and the demolished and burned huts. We saw the girl running away from the napalm that was burning her body. And the nation blamed the soldiers, the same 19 year olds who had no choice, because they were drafted into the military, came home and were spit on by some. We couldn't tell the good guys from the bad so we rejected all of them. Instead of blaming our government for what it had done to us, we blamed our own. Our country was wounded. It was a hard and horrible lesson for our nation, and the phrase "another Vietnam" became part of the language.
We could have handled the fact that we lost the Vietnam war a long time ago. By now it would be forgotten, remembered only in the history books. But for so many of us who remember, because we watched it nightly on our televisions, the lesson that war is horrible and the memory that people suffered and got killed and maimed and burned and butchered is real. There is no glory in massacre. There is no glory in dropping bombs on villages populated by innocent people. Just as there is no glory in the murder of thousands of just as innocent Americans on 9/11. And there is no glory in losing your 19-year-old son, your sister, father or friend because a handful of people running our government decide they want to send them to countries we don't really have a beef with.
The lessons of Vietnam must include that we don't have the right to wage war on a country because we don't like who governs it or the ideology of its leaders. We should never go to war except to defend ourselves. And this so-called "war on turrah" is not defense of our land. It's a false war, waged by the Bush people who want to control the earth's resources. There is no serious campaign to find the terrorists. By their very nature terrorists don't have "headquarters," or stationary camps, or permanent strongholds. At the first hint of war terrorists can break camp and disappear, probably within minutes, if not seconds. It's a pretty sure bet that by the time the first bombs fell on Afghanistan, the terrorists were long gone. Hell, Bush had been telling the world he was going to war against the Taliban from day one. So does anyone believe Osama hung around to watch? Does anyone think Saddam is just sitting around waiting for Bush to make up his mind?
We must not ever forget the entire "Vietnam" lesson, because it's the only way to heal that wound -- by not repeating it at all; by not going to war ever again to defend or attack abstract things like "communism" or "terrorism" or any other "isms." I'll fight back by speaking out like this, to do my part to fight the insanity of the Bush Administration.
One last thing. I never spit on or shamed myself by denigrating our Vietnam veterans and I never will. I learned to turn against the Vietnam "war," but I never blamed the warriors. I am relieved and grateful to see more and more veterans writing to BuzzFlash and to all of us readers. This country needs to hear from these veterans because their voice is a unique one in our history. What they have to say is what we need to hear.
A BUZZFLASH READER CONTRIBUTION
to Veterans Part I at http://www.buzzflash.com/editorial/2002/07/23_Burned.html
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otherwise noted, all original