Forgotten Lessons?

Forgotten Lessons?

 

 

          I just turned 55 a couple of weeks ago and I was in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. After basic training, I was sent down to Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. I was permanent party there but after a few months, orders came down that half of so-called ‘permanent party’ would be sent to Germany & the other half would be sent to Vietnam. I’ll be up front and tell you that I hated the army from day one. When I was stationed at Ft. Sam, I had it very easy and just about every night while on duty in ‘shipping and receiving,’ the topic of home seemed to come up. I wasn’t politically aware by any stretch of the imagination back then but when the possibility of being sent to Vietnam came up, I did some serious soul-searching. I met an older guy who had been trying to get out of the army for some time and he told me that basically, you have to show the army that you’re more trouble than you’re worth because they don’t give a damn if you’re unhappy or not. He suggested that I keep going AWOL and turning myself in just under 30 days absent because after 30 days you’re considered a deserter. He said that by doing this, you’d be tied up in court martial proceedings and they couldn’t ship you to Vietnam while you were going through the court martial process. Well, I took his advice and kept going AWOL but they didn’t seem to be taking me seriously, so after three or four AWOL experiences, I stayed gone for over two months until the F.B.I. busted me at my mom’s house. And after 11 days in the stockade at Ft. Ord, I was offered an Undesirable Discharge and jumped at it. I have looked back on this decision at different times in my life when I was feeling pretty low, as perhaps the most fortunate mistake of my life.

 

I say the most “fortunate” mistake of my life because I don’t have the terrible nightmares or the physical ailments that those poor souls who served on the front lines of the Vietnam War suffer and I obviously didn’t suffer the ultimate fate of death. I use the word “mistake” because I have paid as I was warned I would, by ruining my “future.” Mind you, most of the time I am sure that I made the right decision by going AWOL but the times when I am low, I can’t help but wonder if I made the right decision? You see, me and a handful of other guys who scored pretty high on the initial tests our first week of basic training, were offered the moon so-to-speak. If we’d re-up (sign up for an additional four years and go to O.C.S. —Officer Candidate School), we were promised that we could be trained in whatever M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) we wanted & be stationed wherever we wanted in the world. I don’t know where I found the nerve to say no other than that of trusting my gut instinct and my observations of army life in the brief time I was there? I can’t help but wonder at times, how different my life might have been if I had gone along with the program? And I also wonder if my “quitting” the army set a precedent for the rest of my work life? All I know is that since my time in the military & perhaps because of my sense of betrayal due to the lies & harm that the army has wreaked on so many of us and others in foreign lands, I have become a very skeptical & jaded individual. And ever since that experience in the U.S. Army, I have quit any job that I felt was physically dangerous or that treated me as an inferior who was suppose to just follow orders and never question “authority.”

In any event, what reasons have the “authorities” given us regarding why we lost the war in Vietnam and are there any parallels between those “reasons” or “justifications” and those proffered for our invasion of Iraq? The most common excuse I hear given for our loss in Vietnam is that we lacked the will to win the war. And George Bush is beating the same old dead horse. “We must stay the course.” Of course we’re suppose to overlook the fact that he, like Lyndon Johnson, lied us into this war. And we’re suppose to overlook the fact that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqis like the Vietnamese before them, didn’t welcome us with flowers, candy, & open arms and clearly don’t want us there. I guess what the “president” and the Pentagon mean by “lack of will” is that unless 100% of the American public accept unconditionally what they tell us is in our “national interest,” we lack the “will,” to “win,” in these internationally condemned wars of aggression? Maybe I’m just too jaded, but I thought citizens of a democratic country were suppose to be able to express their opinion even if it contradicts their “leaders?” Isn’t expecting 100% conformity of thought what happens in a dictatorship?

 

Next in the grab bag of excuses as to why “we” lost in Vietnam and are losing in Iraq is because the media have a liberal bias and turned the public against the war. I must admit that I too, fell for this “reason” for many years but not any more. Noam Chomsky and others have pointed out that for the most part, the overwhelming majority of American journalists in Vietnam basically reported what the Pentagon in their “press briefings” told them. For example, at the time of the My Lai massacre, there were over 600 U.S. journalists in Vietnam, and not a single one reported on this horrific crime except Seymour Hersh who later published a book on the “incident.” Nonetheless, the Pentagon and the AWOL president (Bush the Dubya) have gagged the press to such an extent that again I can’t help but compare it to the worst totalitarian regimes around the globe. It seems that not only the general public but also the “fourth estate,” have forgotten their original duty to report the facts objectively to us so we can make informed decisions regarding matters of domestic & foreign policy and thereby hold our “representatives” accountable.

 

I was at my local tavern the other day and had quite a lengthy conversation with a gentleman but when we got to the subject of the media coverage in wartime, we had a major difference of opinion. It really saddens me that well-intentioned American citizens still fall for this Pentagon propaganda. On the one hand, this gentleman agreed that Bush was a liar and that we shouldn’t be in Iraq but on the other hand he believes that it was the media who caused us to be defeated in Vietnam. To me this is tantamount to saying that during times of war (and we’ve been at war consistently my whole lifetime), the media should be silent and only repeat what the Pentagon says is the truth/facts. Again, is this a democracy? The powers that be in Washington D.C. & in the corporate CEOs offices around America aren’t taking any chances anymore & that’s why they won’t even allow the flag-draped coffins of our returning dead soldiers to be shown on television let alone the grisly scenes of war & death in Iraq of not only our soldiers but the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens. As someone said—George Seldes, I believe? —Truth is the first casualty of war, and I would add that democracy or freedom is the next casualty. Why do the powers that be hide the coffins of our war-dead if this is such an honorable war? Could it be that they fear public opinion and believe that if they can just sanitize/hide the war from us, they can go on waging this war of aggression forever? They tell us that we needn’t worry about their spying on us if we have nothing to hide yet they obviously have something to hide and that’s why they “embed” reporters and don’t allow the graphic images of death & destruction of both our soldiers and the Iraqi citizens maimed & killed by our “smart” bombs.

 

Tragically, in my opinion, because the American public has been so “dumbed-down” by our public educational system and our corporate, media lap-dogs, most of us can’t even see the resemblance of “our” mainstream media to that of the former Russian media such as Pravda. The corporate robber barons even have their own network—FOX News Channel, and FOX literally takes its daily marching orders (talking points) from the White House. And this is why a majority of Americans erroneously believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11th attacks on America.

 

Next in the bag of lies and deceptions the greedy, warmongers have used to rationalize why “we” lost in Vietnam and are losing in Iraq is that war protestors demoralize our citizenry and our soldiers in the field. And again I have to confess that I too believed this for quite some time. I think I wanted to believe this because I wanted to believe that my generation of hippies, student protestors, etc. in the 1960s was responsible for bringing the Vietnam War to an end. I now know that we did have some impact or affect but we were far from being the major reason for the U.S. pullout of Vietnam. Nevertheless, the Pentagon propaganda machine continues in its campaign of deception and delusion and gives the anti-war coalitions far more blame/credit than is its due. But the power elite isn’t taking any chances and their handmaidens, the “mainstream media,” obsequiously comply by blacking-out the massive public demonstrations against the war. So, as far as “middle America” is concerned, there is little if any dissent against the war in Iraq. Yet as Professor Chomsky has pointed out, one ray of hope is that this is the first war in U.S. history where there were massive public demonstrations against it before we invaded. Maybe the public isn’t as asleep at the wheel as the crooks at the top would hope? Perhaps people do remember some of the tragic lessons of our history?

 

I can only hope and pray that we do wake-up and rise up to stop this insane, war fever before we lose another 56,000 American soldiers and kill two to three million Iraqis like the two to three million Vietnamese “we” killed in Vietnam. By the way, as I recall, we went to Vietnam’s rescue to protect the South Vietnamese government, which we set up and controlled, from the communists and as you may remember, Communist China was “our” greatest fear. The greatest danger we were supposedly facing was the “Domino-Effect” which claimed that if we didn’t stop the communists in Vietnam, the surrounding nations would fall like dominoes to the communist way of life. Then why is it that within a couple of years after our “defeat” in Vietnam, we were touting Nixon & Kissinger’s détente in China and celebrating the great opportunities for trade with China? What did all our soldiers die for or get maimed for? And like in Vietnam, our illustrious “leaders,” created a puppet government in Baghdad to give the illusion of consent for us to occupy their land and steal their resources. But you can bet your last dollar that “we” will dismiss the Iraqi Congress as soon as it becomes expedient or in “our” best interests to do so. If “we” were truly going to just liberate Iraq and leave, why have we built fourteen permanent military bases there and the world’s largest American embassy?

 

In conclusion, a connection between our illegal and immoral invasion of Vietnam and Iraq is evident in the person of Colin Powell. Powell supposedly had a reputation of honor and integrity and that’s why Bush & his cronies had him in their cabinet. Bush & Cheney did everything in their power to lie us into the war against Iraq but the final key to persuading the American public was Powell’s testimony before the U.N. in which he declared unequivocally that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Well, I just learned in the last year or so, something about Powell’s history that I bet if the public were aware of it before he gave his infamous speech to the U.N., they never would have given their support for our attack against Iraq. In short, Colin Powell it turns out was assigned by the Pentagon to investigate the My Lai massacre after Sy Hersh had brought it to world-wide attention and he basically said that there was no massacre i.e. he assisted in the Pentagon’s cover-up.

 

Consequently, why we lost in Vietnam and why we are going to lose in Iraq is because we were wrong to ever invade in the first place. At the risk of being perhaps overly simplistic, I believe we lost and will continue to lose in such pursuits because our soldiers know when they are fighting in such wars of aggression against people defending their homeland that they can’t win. And when immoral & corrupt leaders place our soldiers in harm’s way, their morale drops and they lash out at the “enemy” out of fear and anger when their comrades die. Our soldiers fight only to protect and avenge their fellow soldiers and know that our government has betrayed them and this makes them very bitter and dangerous. And as in Vietnam, the soldiers who do make it back alive, don’t want to talk about it because they are ashamed of what they did and were forced to do in the name of “liberating the Iraqis.” Finally, I hope you believe me when I tell you that I don’t hate America, I love America and I believe true patriotism lies in daring to speak truth to power not just going along with whatever “our” leaders tell us. And what Bush, the coward who’s daddy got him in the Texas Air National Guard called the “champagne unit,” and who was AWOL for several months partying yet his military records mysteriously disappeared has done, is make America the most feared & hated nation on earth and has increased the number of terrorists in the world not reduced their numbers. This is his version of the ‘War on Terror.’ No, America is no longer the land of “Law & Order,” and Bush’s cabinet has clearly revealed that truth. Look how almost everyone who was in his cabinet has been forced to resign or leave office in shame and dishonor. Bush and Cheney truly think they are above not only International Law but U.S. law as well. And America has become the bully of the world because we have the most terrifying arsenal of weaponry. Hopefully we will wake up and take back our country before these madmen destroy the world and us along with it?

 

—Rob DeLoss, Veteran’s Day, 2007

12 replies
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    • admin
      admin says:

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    • admin
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    • admin
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