''Iraq déjà vu Vietnam''
Printed on Tuesday, May 04, 2004 @ 00:05:28 CDT   ( Printer Friendly Page )

Guest Editorial By David Antoon, Colonel, USAF Ret.
YellowTimes.org Guest Columnist (United States)

(YellowTimes.org) – When I was an innocent and naïve young man, I served three tours of duty in Vietnam, an immoral war that left some fifty thousand Americans and three million Vietnamese dead. Each of these deaths, both American and Vietnamese, represented the loss of a relative -- grandparent, parent, son, daughter, brother, or sister -- and left a void only known by those families who have suffered such losses. Today, Vietnamese children suffer birth mutations, cancers, and untimely deaths from the Agent Orange that was deposited in their ground water by America decades ago.

And now a misguided America is using its war machine with the same horrible results in another fraudulently manipulated war. Depleted uranium (with a half-life of 1.5 million years) has replaced Agent Orange as the contaminant of choice. Iraqis and Afghanis have become the victims instead of Vietnamese. AC-130 gunships are again raining down indiscriminate death in Iraqi cities as they did three decades ago on Vietnamese villages. And young innocent Americans (“fungible” units as described by Rumsfeld in one of his jocular press briefings) are vainly dying again at the hands of a misguided, mendacious and immoral administration. American, Iraqi and Afghani families are experiencing a void that we all hope to never know.

With Vietnam, the falsified Gulf of Tonkin incident was used to “buy” America’s support for war. The objective of that war became a moving “goal post;” “domino theory;” “democratization;” the fraudulent and morbid score of body counts and finally to “avoid defeat.” This time, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice fraudulently acquired American support with false claims about Iraq’s capability and intent to manufacture and use nuclear weapons. These claims, along with Colin Powell’s Oscar-winning performance before the United Nations Security Council describing vast quantities of chemical and biological “WMDs” were all false. In less than a year, the goal posts have moved from WMDs to regime change to “freedom” and now to “smoke out” the terrorists while avoiding language that depicts U.S. terrorism inflicted upon Iraqis clearly manifested in the siege of Fallujah. In response to the chaos in the besieged city of Fallujah, the military commentators are now talking about “avoiding defeat,” instead of outright victory. The goal posts won’t stand still.

Three decades ago, Colin Powell, in his first tour of duty in Vietnam, did search and destroy missions. During his second tour of duty, Major Powell was assigned to investigate the My Lai massacre where he dismissed the reports of the real heroes in this atrocity, those who reported the crime. He has again demonstrated in his position with the current administration that he is still a “dutiful soldier.” At the beginning of the war in Iraq, Secretary of State Powell stated that the numbers of Iraqi casualties was of no concern to him or his government. The U.S. government has done no accounting, but NCOs estimate the number of innocent Iraqis killed in Iraq to exceed 17,000 thus far. Human carnage at the expense of moral courage and truth seems to follow Powell wherever he goes. His lack of accounting does not make him or this administration unaccountable for the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

As in Vietnam, the killing of the “enemy” is so much easier if soldiers are “desensitized” and the “enemy” is “dehumanized.” Today, BBC reported that an American general and her soldiers were responsible for Iraqi prisoners being forced into naked, sexual poses where they were photographed with American troops in uniform. They were even tortured with electrical wires attached to their genitals. Beatings led to deaths. It appears these war crimes were not isolated, but endemic. Interviews with American snipers on NPR describe shooting Iraqis as sport. Apparently, the “dehumanization” of the “enemy” has been successful as evidenced by these “desensitized” transgressions. Contrast this treatment of Iraqi prisoners with the humane and life-saving treatment Jessica Lynch received from her captors.

This month, the Toledo Blade was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on the Tiger Force atrocities in Vietnam, including the killing and torturing of innocent Vietnamese, and the wearing of body parts of their victims as “necklaces.” Tiger Force was recently reactivated in Iraq to shoot and kill, from over a mile away, any Iraqi approaching the oil pipelines. It doesn’t matter if they are innocent bystanders or not. It’s another way to endear our occupation to the Iraqi people.

Al Jazeera has reported and documented over 450 innocent, elderly men, women, and children killed and buried in the Fallujah city soccer field now being used as a makeshift grave. They report that American forces are shooting at anybody who moves and have also prevented the injured from being transported to hospitals for emergency care. Even Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reports that the American military has bombed Al Jazeera offices, and persecuted and killed its reporters and cameramen. Al Jazeera’s crime was providing truthful reporting and images to the outside world, news that has been suppressed by American forces.

Senator John McCain has lashed out at his colleagues in the Senate who have referred to the war in Iraq as another “Vietnam.” Many, if not most Vietnam veterans, would strongly disagree with Senator McCain. Large numbers have joined forces in the organization, Vietnam Veterans Against War. It should be noted that more Americans have died in the first year of the Iraq war than died in the first year of the Vietnam War. Senator McCain is only correct in the observation that the consequences of this misadventure will be far, far graver than they were in Vietnam.

I am no longer innocent and naïve. I consider writing this letter more patriotic than anything I did during my thirty years in uniform. I confess that I am a humanitarian who does read newspapers and books and history. As the American war machine continues its horrors in Iraq, a country without WMDs, without infrastructure and civil order, and now without a popular government, the world easily sees the war’s real purpose -- control of natural resources and protection of our lone “ally” in the region. Most of the world, and even now many Americans, realize this war, too, is a mistake. Military occupation in Vietnam (French and then the U.S.), Iraq (British and now the U.S.), Afghanistan (Russia and now the U.S.), Palestine (funded by the U.S.), Algeria (French), or Chechnya (Russia) is, and always has been, doomed to failure at extreme cost to both the occupied and the occupier. History has shown us that installing a government of the occupier’s choosing, and not of the occupied, is doomed to failure.

How many human beings, American, Iraqi, or Afghani must be killed or destroyed? How much of our national treasure must be expended before the misguided officials in Washington are willing to admit their mistake? Must the draft be reinstated, as is now being planned, to feed this military monster? Must our campuses again burn as young people refuse to become the “fungible” fodder of this administration?

A decade from now, will we again be building a granite monument to our thousands of brave military soldiers who died in vain? Two or three decades from now will a senior member of this administration write a book and say, “the Iraq war was a mistake?"

Yes, this is deja vu Vietnam. The only question now is, “When will it end?”

[David Antoon is a Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Air Force officer, a devoted husband and father who worries about what kind of world his children, and all children, will inherit. He fears the damage to America's reputation and credibility due to hypocritical, immoral, and illegal foreign policy supporting the military occupation of Palestine, and now the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, will not be repaired in his lifetime.]

David Antoon encourages your comments: david_antoon@hotmail.com

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