Wednesday, September 22, 2004

So, Tell Us, John, What Was the Lesson We Should Have Learned

In A War Remembered (Boston Publishing Company/Boston, 1986) a first term Senator from Massachusetts contributed a five page essay. From which, I excerpt:

It seemed to me that you had a classic insurgency in Vietnam in which the Communists were exercising governmental functions within the villages like taxation and so forth, a situation where the chief's head would appear on a stake and then a couple of days later if other people hadn't come on board they would start disappearing. You had to turn the process around. You had to secure territory, build your own political infrastructure, engage in the psychological contest for the population.

Good advice, John. So, you'd advise W to do in Iraq, what is in those last two sentences? I presume that, because near the end of your piece, you seem to be quite firm:

I don't disagree with those who refer to Vietnam as a noble cause. I think it was very noble that we sought to help the South Vietnamese. ....

But things that are noble may not always be realistic or well designed or well implemented. It wasn't a war we were determined to win. That was what enraged me and so many others when we returned from Vietnam, that there was a terrible expense of human life that added up to nothing. That's what I was trying to say to people.

Of course, it didn't have to add up to nothing. In fact it didn't in April 1972, when--with Nixon's Vietnamization 80% implemented, and only about 100,00 Americans in country--North Vietnam launched an all out invasion of the South, with nearly 250,000 troops. The South Vietnamese army beat back that invasion (with the help of American air power), humiliating the legendary Gen'l Giap, who was relieved of his command by Hanoi.

It was such a debacle for the Communists they agreed to a peace treaty. After a little more bombing in December. But then a disturbing thing happened in Washington DC. Friends of yours, John, among them Teddy Kennedy gave you what you'd been crying for for years; the Case-Church legislation prohibited any more money being spent for the defense of South Vietnam.

And, when Richard Nixon had had to resign (again thanks to friends of yours), the Communists knew they could win. In 1975 a smaller North Vietnamese army invaded the South and quickly overran it. Two and a half years after the South had prevailed, thanks to you and your buddies, our victory of 1972 was reversed. And millions of people died as a consequence.

Today, you want to see the sequel.

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