The Road from Vietnam to Iraq

Ron Glasser has an excellent post up at Huffpost that makes so many good and new points that I can’t even excerpt them adequately here. You should just read the whole thing. But two points did catch my eye.glasser.jpg

The Draft

He began by describing a talk he gave last year to a freshmanclass at UCLA on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The talk was based on his book, Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq. “Some 400 students, all science majors, pre-med or pre-law, the freshman elite of UCLA, filed into Schoenberg Hall for what had been listed as a mandatory 10 o’clock lecture.”

“The talk…was to describe the national and personal costs of both wars, but specifically the astonishing numbers of severely wounded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan who would have simply died in the jungles of Vietnam.”

He then describes the interest level of the students.

“The students didn’t even begin to listen. I might as well have been talking about the First World War or the Battle of the Bulge. They sat there — listening to iPods, reading the newspaper, talking on cell phones, text messaging someone or simply leaning back in their seats and looking at the clock on the wall, finishing their midmorning lattes.”

They sat bored and distracted as he described the horrors of those wars, the dead and wounded, the unprecedented level of amputations performed and the problem of brain trauma.

“Ten minutes into the talk, even those who had feigned interest had given up, sinking the whole of the auditorium into a stupor of self-absorbed indifference.”

He tried to perk their interest by comparing the casualty statistics between Vietnam and Iraq, which are startling.

dcgijakesfeetbackward.jpg
“Unlike Vietnam, where the number of casualties to deaths was 2.4-to-1, in this war the ratio is 16-to-1. Because of better body armor and improvements in battlefield medicine, soldiers survive today who would have been dead in Vietnam. It is not the graveyard that is legacy of this war, but the neurosurgical unit and the orthopedic ward.”

That didn’t work either so he put down his prepared notes and he…

“decided to scare these kids with the realities of being the right age in a nation that had sent virtually all of its volunteer army as well as the majority of its reserve troops into a war…I told this newest generation of 17- and 18-year-olds that our army, stretched too thin, was wearing down, and that to keep troops in Iraq — or for that matter to send more troops anywhere in the world — we would need a draft. That caught their attention.”draftcard72.jpg

Pause here. Is the reason these young people don’t care simply because they don’t have to with no draft? And do thier parents, friends and relatives feel the same?

We know the war is “unpopular” and we know what the polls say and we beg the government to bring our troops home. But we are not demanding it. We are not issuing ultimatums. Our young people are not burning draft cards in protest because they don’t have any draft cards to burn.

If our sons and daughters were getting draft cards in the mail, if they were faced with dropping out of college or having to quit jobs, or leave family to join the army, if they were forced to serve like the tens of thousands during Vietnam then maybe we would have some goddamn serious protest in this country and maybe our elected officials would actually start taking us seriously. Especially if their kids got draft cards too.

Maybe we need to reinstate the draft so our young people will stay awake and learn about the horrors of this war and then along with their parents, friends and relatives, do every damn thing they can to stop it so they won’t have to go!

Medals and Citations

Glasser goes on to show the eerie similarities between Vietnam and Iraq beginning with the presidents who would not believe the initial assessments of their commanders and through the lack of an exit strategy.

“At the very beginning of the Iraq war, Gen. Eric Shinseki, the chief of the Army, a Vietnam veteran and commander of our troops occupying Kosovo, told Congress the U.S. would need at least 400,000 troops on the ground in Iraq to hold the peace. He was ridiculed by the assistant secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, and basically dismissed from command by Donald Rumsfeld as not the kind of the “out of the box”-thinking officer we wanted to run our show.”
“It is all there, everything that went wrong. The need for more troops on the ground, the inability to close the border to enemy supplies and reinforcements, the lack of any real exit strategy, the fact that the enemy always had the initiative in deciding when and where to fight and when to withdraw, the decade-long effort to train a South Vietnamese Army that would last less than a year after we left. It all sounds eerily familiar, because it is.”

Glasser then describes how Bush has tried to hide the realities of this war from the people and in so doing, control the spin.

‘There were to be no photographs of American caskets coming home. The president declined to attend military funerals. The planes flying in the wounded were to land at Andrews Air Force Base at night. Medals for bravery and valor were not to be encouraged. Four years into Vietnam, more than a hundred Medals of Honor had been awarded. In this war there has been two Medals of Honor.”
Each month we lose on average a battalion of soldiers, half of those killed or severely wounded. There is an astonishing amount of courage, bravery and commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan that has gone unrecognized and unappreciated as a way of keeping the real facts of this war out of the public consciousness. If you give a medal for bravery you have to tell why.

So not only do our troops pay the whole price, with their lives, their limbs, their emotional stability and their ongoing psychological trauma. They get little or no recognition for their bravery and heroism. Instead they get obscenely low pay increases, poor and inadequate hospital care and a public who cannot possibly understand their needs because the truth of their war has gone unexposed. Again, the whole article is here.

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2 Comments on “The Road from Vietnam to Iraq”

  1. Ken Larson Says:

    We need to be careful to differentiate between the Active Service Hospitals and the Veteran’s Administration. There are major differences.

    I am currently a resident in a Veteran’s Home after having undergone treatment through the VA for PTSD and Depression, long overdue some 40 years after the Tet Offensive that cap stoned my military 2nd tour in Vietnam with a lifetime of illness.

    My blog has attracted the stories of many veterans such as myself and other sufferers from PTSD who were victimized by elements of society other than the VA system of medical and mental treatment. I, for one, became trapped in the Military Industrial Complex for 36 years working on weapons systems that are saving lives today but with such high security clearances that I dared not get treated for fear of losing my career:

    http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html

    When my disorders became life threatening I was entered into the VA System for treatment in Minneapolis. It saved my life and I am now in complete recovery and functioning as a volunteer for SCORE, as well as authoring books and blogging the world.

    When I was in the VA system I was amazed at how well it functioned and how state of the art it is for its massive mission. Below is a feature article from Time Magazine which does a good job of explaining why it is a class act:

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1376238,00.html

    I had state of the art medical and mental care, met some of the most dedicated professionals I have ever seen and was cared for by a handful of very special nurses among the 60,000 + nursing population that make up that mammoth system. While I was resident at the VA Hospital in Minneapolis I observed many returnees from Iraq getting excellent care.

    I do not say the VA system is perfect but it is certainly being run better on a $39B budget than the Pentagon is running on $494B.

    We have bought into the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). If you would like to read this happens please see:

    http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/03/spyagency200703

    Through a combination of public apathy and threats by the MIC we have let the SYSTEM get too large. It is now a SYSTEMIC problem and the SYSTEM is out of control. Government and industry are merging and that is very dangerous.

    There is no conspiracy. The SYSTEM has gotten so big that those who make it up and run it day to day in industry and government simply are perpetuating their existance.
    The politicians rely on them for details and recommendations because they cannot possibly grasp the nuances of the environment and the BIG SYSTEM.

    So, the system has to go bust and then be re-scaled, fixed and re-designed to run efficiently and prudently, just like any other big machine that runs poorly or becomes obsolete or dangerous.

    This situation will right itself through trauma. I see a government ENRON on the horizon, with an associated house cleaning.

    The next president will come and go along with his appointees and politicos. The event to watch is the collapse of the MIC.

    For more details see:

    http://rosecoveredglasses.blogspot.com/2006/11/odyssey-of-armaments.html


  2. IF you want to read the rest of the story, get his book, “Wounded: Vietnam to Iraq” It’s on Amazon.


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