(originally posted at The Motley Patriot and cross-posted at TalkLeft)
How does a man, or woman, betray their country? How does a person justify watching other people die for lies? What purpose can be called "noble" that it cannot be named outright, instead, lies are necessary in order to carry out that cause? America's involvement in Vietnam did not start with the "shock and awe" of invasion and it did not begin with the American public being fed lies by our President; that came later.
In 2005, Melvin Laird, former Secretary of Defense from 1969 to 1973 under President Nixon, wrote an article entitled, `Iraq: Learning the lessons of Vietnam`. In the article, he wrote:
They join their voices with those who claim that the current war is "all about oil," as though the loss of that oil were not enough of a global security threat to merit any U.S. military intervention and especially not "another Vietnam."The problem with this assertion by Mr. Laird isn't that oil is a security issue to the world, but, that the United States could lose something that it clearly never owned; the oil in the Middle East.
In 1953, the CIA deposed a democratically elected leader in Iran. In 1979, the Iranian people took back their government. What "loss" did the United States suffer when the Shah of Iran was deposed? Did America lose access to the Iranian oil, or, did we merely lose the ability to control something that wasn't ours?
Mr. Laird states that when he took over as Secretary of Defense in 1969, America started a four-year withdrawal from Vietnam:
The memo had remained in limbo in the defense secretary's desk, neither approved nor rejected. As my symbolic first act in office, it gave me great satisfaction to turn down that request formally. It was the beginning of a four-year withdrawal from Vietnam that, in retrospect, became the textbook description of how the U.S. military should decamp.The memo to which Mr. Laird refers is the memo authored by General Westmoreland requesting that U.S. troop levels be increased from 500,000 to 700,000. By 1968, the United States had 538,000 troops in Vietnam. 16,592 troops died in Vietnam in 1968 alone. From 1960 thru 1968, a total of 36,152 troops had died in Vietnam. During the four-year "withdrawal" from Vietnam that Mr. Laird cites, 20,863 additional troops were killed or declared dead. Mr. Laird wrote:
I cannot speak for the dead or the angry. My voice is that of a policymaker, one who once decided which causes were worth fighting for, how long the fight should last, and when it was time to go home. The president, as our commander-in-chief, has the overall responsibility for making these life-or-death decisions, in consultation with Congress. The secretary of defense must be supportive of those decisions, or else he must leave.Mr. Laird is correct; he cannot speak for the dead. But then, who does? Who spoke up in 1969 for those who were going to die that year? Who spoke up in 1970 for those who were going to die the following the year? Who is speaking for the dead from Iraq? Who is speaking for the troops that will die tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year?
The most important lesson learned from Vietnam was that the American media had to be controlled, manipulated, and the true cost of war hidden. Today, our soldiers who are dying for a cause so "noble" that the public couldn't even be told the truth of it. Our soldiers are being flown back in coffins, not like heroes fighting for a "noble" cause; but in secrecy.
The American public knew why our forces were fighting in Vietnam; it was the reason to escalate that fight that was a lie. The Gulf of Tonkin incident, whether real or not (and there are still many contradicting accounts of it), was at best a gross mis-characterization of an incident to justify the escalation in Vietnam. It was that "incident" in 1964 that justified the escalation, that justified the continued fight, that justified the war that raged for another 5 years before we even began to withdraw from it. For Iraq, the lies to invade and occupy Iraq started from the beginning.
The lies were repeated for months by the administration and media with almost no fact checking at all. The justifications were changed over the years, until finally, the reason for the very war itself was lost.
Like Vietnam, we've had our "surge" and we've seen it fail. We have watched General after General enter and leave this fight in Iraq that has no clear mission, nor, a clear end to it. Like Vietnam, the American public is now tired of the war, tired of the rhetoric, tired of the dead piling up, and wants out. But, it is not 1969 and the withdrawal is not even beginning. It is, in relative terms, 1965, and the American public wants out only to know that more years of war, more years of dead, await us before a withdrawal begins in earnest.
After Vietnam, the American public, rightfully, was distrustful of our military leaders. After Vietnam, the American public, rightfully, was incensed by the fact that our government abandoned American soldiers. Once again, we are fed lies by our military leaders. Like Kent State, protesters are attacked, only this time with wooden dowels instead of real bullets. Yes, we have been betrayed, as a nation, as citizens, and as soldiers, once again, for the true lesson that was learned; that if you manipulate the media you can wage any war, at any time, for any pretext; that you can attack and smear anyone in the media without consequence; that you can torture and kill; and that nothing can stop you if you just refuse to listen. Mr. Laird wrote:
I didn't miss the fact that it was an ugly, mismanaged, tragic episode in U.S. history, with devastating loss of life for all sides. But there are those in our nation who would prefer to pick at that scab rather than let it heal.And yet, even as he acknowledges that the Vietnam war was ugly, mismanaged, tragic and held devastating loss of life for everyone involved (except those who dodged the draft or got their daddy to get them cushy flying jobs in the Guard), he states:
The truth about Vietnam that revisionist historians conveniently forget is that the United States had not lost when we withdrew in 1973. In fact, we grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory two years later when Congress cut off the funding for South Vietnam that had allowed it to continue to fight on its own.This is revisionist history at its finest. We had not lost in Vietnam when we started to withdraw our forces in 1969? We had four years of withdrawal, by his own account, and four years of soldiers continually dying as we withdrew; but we hadn't already been defeated? By his own words, President Nixon was elected, not because the Vietnam war was being won and needed another President to continue the war, but because the war was being lost and America said it was time to leave. This statement by Mr. Laird should sound familiar:
Over the four years of Nixon's first term, I had cautiously engineered the withdrawal of the majority of our forces while building up South Vietnam's ability to defend itself.Yes, we were merely standing down as the South Vietnamese "stood up". Yes, and they stood up so well during that "cautious four year withdrawal" that, two years after the withdrawal, Saigon fell. But, it was those nasty people in Congress that "lost Vietnam"? If only we had not withdrawn our forces for 4 years, if only the South Vietnamese had 8 years instead of 6 years, they could have "stood up" enough?
This is the same rhetoric we hear today. We have heard since 2003 how we've progressed in Iraq despite all evidence to the contrary. We have heard how the insurgency was in its "last throes" as it only grew larger and more determined. We have heard how they will "stand up as we stand down" only to be told they cannot stand up in the time already allotted to them. We have already heard how we need our forces to remain in Iraq to protect Iraq because they, supposedly, cannot protect their own country. We continue to hear the same lies and rhetoric we heard during, and after, Vietnam.
What type of person does it take to betray their country, their military, and their own citizens? What type of person does it take to lie, over and over, about why our soldiers are dying while they sneak the coffins back into the country? What type of people use our military as backdrops and props, just to smear any veteran, any active duty person, who dares speak out against them?
No, it is not wrong to call it a betrayal, or, to call those who have betrayed us out for it. We do not own the Middle East or the oil in it. We could have invested in alternative energy sources for decades; but our government didn't. We could have found ways to avoid becoming so dependent on oil that it becomes a national security issue; but we didn't. No, it is not wrong to place the blame on our government for leading us into a war based on lies, or, to hold those in the military leadership accountable for supporting it.