My Lai: war is an ugly thing, plenty of guilt to go around…

March 25, 2015

I just read a long piece by Seymour Hersh about the My Lai Massacre some 47 years ago this month. Several hundred unarmed civilians were killed.

Though lengthy I can boil it down by saying that U.S. soldiers murdered civilians in cold blood, men women and children, including babies. And it was not an isolated incident. It helped turn the American public against the war.

Not stressed but mentioned in the article, the enemy (and that is a question, who was the enemy? but that is a different story) committed atrocities just as savage (but of course that does not make immoral behavior right — nothing we could ever comprehend should make our own boys baby killers).

I found it interesting that the article describes My Lai of the time as a peaceful village and indicates that our intelligence mistakenly identified it as a Viet Cong base (the Viet Cong being part of the enemy). But later the article reveals that some of the men there belonged to the Viet Cong. Of course that is the problem, the United States unwisely interjected itself into a civil war, a war of insurgency, albeit one supported by the Soviet Union (to a lesser extent Red China) and its satellite then known as North Vietnam. It was not the good guys coming to the rescue of an innocent country from invading Nazis.

(Those of us who were not there were constantly informed throughout the war by journalists that it was not a war of territory and that there were no front lines actually. Many areas supposedly held by the South Vietnamese government (our ally) were controlled by the Viet Cong (some of them local villagers) by night. It was a civil war, with outside assistance, with the two world superpowers of the time, the United States and the Soviet Union, backing opposites sides in a proxy war, that was really an extension of the Cold War — and I give this background for the benefit for those younger than I or for those who just never paid attention, but then the latter probably would not bother to read this anyway.)

The article told of how our military covered the massacre up as long as it could and that once uncovered no one ever went to jail over it, although one lieutenant, guilty as he no doubt was, served as the fall guy for his superiors who surely knew what took place and in fact no doubt ordered it. (Okay some of this I am saying, in addition to what I read in the article.)

Some of those soldiers who took part claim they were directly ordered by their superior or superiors to kill everyone. And it may well be that not everyone there took part in the massacre.

I recall hearing the story of an American army  helicopter pilot who happened upon the scene and rescued civilians.

The incident occurred in March of 1968. I was in Army basic training at the time, and as luck would have it I was sent to Germany. My only connection if you can call it that was that when I was promoted to Specialist 5 or E-5 My Lai was the current events question.

And there was actually another massacre at a nearby village the same day and apparently many more, although smaller in scale, during the course of the war.

And it quotes North Vietnamese officials of that time saying that the massacre helped them eventually win the war by both supporting their own recruitment efforts within Vietnam and by turning the American people against what turned out to be a most immoral project for America.

We all know now that our leaders throughout that long war knew it was all hopeless and wrong but supported its continuance so they would not be blamed for losing. If you can make that kind of decision it seems to me you’re missing a moral compass.

Our current wars in the Middle East are by no means a carbon copy of Vietnam. But there have been atrocities committed by our soldiers and private mercenaries our government hires. And no doubt attempted cover-ups too.

Atrocities occur in all wars.

War is an ugly thing.

Why do some people love it so much?


When I was growing up and playing army I always thought only the bad guys committed outrageous acts, certainly not our side. I was naïve.

P.s. P.s.

And this was not meant as a comment on our current foreign policy which must include what to do about ISIS (and Al Qaeda), except we can’t become ISIS or terrorists or wanton murderers in the process.

p.s. p.s. p.s.

And when I write something like this I always feel obligated to say with all sincerity I have nothing but total respect for military personnel who carry out lawful duties and orders. When I was in basic we had a class in which an officer told us we must follow lawful orders. He said we were not obligated to follow unlawful orders. But if we disobeyed something because we at the time thought it to be unlawful we could be punished if the authorities found otherwise after the fact. What would you do? The answer is you don’t really know until it is too late.

(Of course the atrocity at My Lai was unlawful on its face, but you had the fog of war, youth, incompetent leadership or higher-ups in the war zone who stayed far enough away, either in helicopters or back in air-conditioned headquarters, that they could collect their combat badges for future promotion to further their careers, while claiming ignorance of what was going on at the actual scene.)

A fellow platoon member over in Germany did a tour in Vietnam as a door gunner on a helicopter. When sober he would brag about killing everything that moved, and supposedly quite legally in what were called “free fire zones”. But when he had too much to drink he would cry about the same thing.

As bad as war is it may be a necessary evil at times, I suppose.

The Seymour Hersh article from the New Yorker magazine is worth reading:

Comparing JFK assasination to 9/11, and have our own security concerns turned us into a police state we’ve always fought against?

November 4, 2013

I’m not sure what has been the most momentous thing to happen in current events in my lifetime, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the 9/11 attack on the U.S.

With the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination coming up (Nov. 22) I was thinking of those two events. In my life, perhaps, the JFK assassination has had more significance. I was a freshman in high school. I paid attention to current events and read a weekly news magazine and watched Huntley-Brinkley and Walter Cronkite newscasts on TV. I knew that not everyone loved JFK even if the hype in popular culture seemed to indicate otherwise. Still, he and his family were something different and exciting for much of the public. The president was relatively young (in his 40s), when compared to the previous presidents, and I guess JFK and wife Jackie and children Caroline and John John were the first mediagenic first family. And JFK had that strange but fun-to-listen-to Boston/Irish accent where he pronounced Cuba as “cuber”, and in his press conferences, of which he held many, he would flash that magic, magnetic smile, often along with some expression of wry humor often via innuendo, which to any guy seemed cool and probably to any girl or woman, well, whatever…

But when it came to things like the Cuban Missile Crisis when the nation was actually concerned that it might end up in nuclear war at any second with the standoff between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, he presented himself as a steady reassuring hand as he soberly addressed the public. He just seemed to say the right thing.

They say he was not a top student at Harvard (I don’t know, maybe he kept up the “gentleman’s c”) but he was eloquent in speech and always seemed to make the well-reasoned and convincing case.

He was staunchly pro-civil rights but had to deal with the political realities of the times. It would take the older and much more seasoned congressional wheeler-dealer Lyndon Johnson, JFK’s vice president, to push the civil rights legislation through after he assumed the presidency, upon the assassination of JFK.

The assassination of JFK blew our whole world apart. While he had his detractors much of the nation seemed enthralled with him and his family. They were like royalty almost. And maybe that is what someone or ones were afraid of.

I’m not a conspiracy buff by any means. But I have to wonder if his assassination was not a CIA job. That theory has been posited before of course. I have a book by some woman who claims to have been a lover of Fidel Castro (I mean one of his lovers) and who claims that she was with the CIA and that they were mad about JFK’s abandoning the Anti-Castro forces in the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation. I think her book is rather obscure and she may have well been just trying to make some money. You think? But still…

We know that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin. We also know that he did not just pop up out of nowhere. The CIA and the FBI already knew about him and yet why did they not make sure where he was that fateful day in Dallas? Well, back then maybe we did not have that much capability in tracking people? (We had a hard time finding Osama Bin Laden is nearly plain sight.)

And what made me think of all of this is the recent and ongoing revelations as to how much our own government via the National Security Agency and other intelligence branches is spying on its own citizens — eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, and other world-wide web data. It is also spying on friendly foreign leaders and in the process the president himself (which he claims not to have known about — and that is bad either way). I mean what possible reason or justification is there to spy on our allies? And is not an agency dangerous if it is spying on the president? J. Edgar Hoover, the late director of the FBI, was infamous for blackmailing high officials with the dossiers he held on them.

And then to 9/11. In the first direct attack on U.S. soil since the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, a group of terrorists pulled off the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, hijacked four airliners, and ran one into the Pentagon. And the baffling thing is that our intelligence agencies had the names of these guys and I guess their descriptions on their watch list and yet they were allowed to board airliners. Okay probably too paranoid conspiracy-centric here, but did someone want this to happen? We know that forces behind the rather dim-witted former president George W. Bush were pushing for war in the Middle East and even published a paper that opined we needed a new Pearl Harbor to wake the electorate up — and along comes 9/11 with the numbers of dead very close, close to 3,000 in each.

The death of JFK put LBJ in office. I have no doubt that he had good intentions, but he was perplexed over what to do about the ongoing situation in Vietnam, threatened by an ongoing insurgency that would result in a communist takeover of South Vietnam. And it was simply understood at the time that we had to stop communism anywhere we could. While JFK was trying to keep from sending actual American combat troops there, while supporting the anti-communist side nonetheless — we only had military advisers in the theatre — LBJ eventually sent as many as a half million U.S. troops there, even though he knew from almost the start that the situation was hopeless. But ever since China was lost to the communists in 1949 during a Democratic administration, Democrats had to be on guard not to lose anything else. The fear of being weak in the face of the communist threat forced President Harry Truman to send troops to save South Korea (a highly unpopular move at the time).

And the lives of so may young Americans (and the their loved ones) were forever changed by LBJ’s actions. I probably would not have gone into the Army if it were not for the Vietnam. In some kind of twisted logic I joined the Army, figuring I would be drafted soon enough anyway. The draft lottery had not been put into place at that time. But I was sent to Germany. But one of my brothers was grabbed by Uncle Sam and put into the Army and sent to Vietnam. Fortunately he did his tour and came home safe and sound. But such was not the case for nearly 60,000 American troops who died and thousands more who were gravely wounded. And besides that: all the lives torn apart. Wives who lost husbands and parents who lost children and so on.

(Even though I joined the Army I was not much of a soldier, but I am glad I served if for no other reason than I can say I served. I am proud that all the boys in my family served. My oldest brother served 20 years in the U.S. Navy.)

So, anyway, the 9/11 disaster was used as a pretext to get our nation into war in both Afghanistan and Iraq. We all know what that has wrought, nearly 7,000 dead Americans over a decade (thousands more wounded) with no discernible good to have come of it and trillions of dollars drained from our treasury. But of course we can’t afford to guarantee health care to our own citizens, the troubled Obamacare program notwithstanding, and have to cut back on aid to the poor, and we fail to invest in our infrastructure.

So, it is hard to choose as to which event was more momentous, the JFK assassination, or 9/11. There is no correct answer. It depends upon your age, really, and your own personal situation (you may have lost someone in the current wars).

And then again, with the result that intelligence agencies have been so emboldened to turn on the public they are supposed to protect, maybe 9/11 is the more momentous.

We are all so accustomed to giving out our Social Security number and our email address and we are so wired-in now with commercial interests knowing our personal tastes and information and every move, that we almost do not notice that we have become something close to a police state worthy of the old Soviet Union or East Germany or Hitler’s Germany. So far, no discernible ill effects, but overnight that all could change, the apparatus for the evil of control over all humans by a minority is already in place.

There is talk (or maybe it has already happened) of domestic use of drone aircraft by local law enforcement. We may not fear it as much when used elsewhere, but here?

We really need to pause and think about all of this.

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday, some thoughts about war…

July 4, 2010

I wanted to write about the Fourth of July. The only thing I could come up with is something I had already started to write a couple of weeks ago but never got time to finish or post. But since Fourth of July celebrations often play up the military and war, I wanted to share this:

There was mention in the news recently about the fact we reached the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War.

It got me to thinking about being in the Baby Boomer generation and my or our attitude towards war.

My introduction to war began when I was maybe five years old. My middle brother and I used to watch Saturday morning TV, and there were several weekly documentary type shows on. I think the Korean War had just ended (or technically was halted with an armistice or cease fire or whatever it is called — it has never been officially ended, we have all been reminded, and there‘s even been some recent threats that it might resume, with the recent sinking of a South Korean ship by North Korea and the accompanying South Korean casualties).

One show began with a tag line that said something about the “Korean Conflict”. At first it had been dubbed a “police action”. Politicians who for some reason are wont to commit troops to war often create euphemisms, such as “police action” or they even talk of the fantasy of “limited war”.

(There of course can be limited and temporary or even intermittent military action that does not rise to the level of what most would call war, but I am not writing about that.)

But anyway, we watched newsreel footage on TV about the Korean War. We also saw a lot of footage about World War II. We also saw a lot of movies downtown while I was growing up that were about World War II. They were always mowing down all those “Japs”. They were also killing Germans by the score.

I was learning about world events and history and politics along the way — fortunately my folks were well informed and my father was a journalist.

But it was a little too early for me to completely understand the relations among nations. I was always bemused by the fact that so many of my toys were “made in Japan” (today that would be made in China).

It further puzzled me to some extent that my last name was German, in fact the famous name of some German handguns often carried by Nazi officers — Walther.

But I think what I really want to say here is that all the stuff we watched had the same theme. American soldiers always prevailed over the evil enemy. And we fought in the defense of liberty after being attacked without provocation and we were completely innocent.

My brother and I both told each other we wanted to be in the military when we grew up. We usually decided we wanted to be in the Navy, because our older brother was a career Navy man. But sometimes we wanted to be in the Coast Guard or the Marines or the Army — don’t recall wanting to be in the Air Force, but maybe.

We often played war or Army (or Navy).

We rooted for Navy in the Army-Navy football games.

As I went through school I learned more about our history of war — although I think I learned more from my parents or outside reading than from public school. In fact history at school seemed to stop sometime not long after the Civil War.

And I think I realized that any desire to be in the military was really a little boy thing. It did not stick with me, really.

When I was in high school what we now call the “Vietnam War” was beginning.

I have written much of our history there and will not go into all that now. But I know that although there was much debate in the government about whether we should go to war in Vietnam to prevent the communists from taking over our nominal ally, South Vietnam, the prevailing mood in the government and society at large was that surely if we did we would prevail — America always wins!

(Actually we have been reminded that we did not really “win” in Korea. It was more of a stalemate — but we did prevent the North Korean communists from latching on to South Korea, so that does seem somewhat of a victory to me, as opposed to Vietnam where we unquestionably lost or gave up before we could win.)

As a teenager, I was of mixed emotions myself. Possibly in the interest of my own self-preservation (but I am not sure about that), I tended to question whether we ought to go to war for something that did not seem to pose any direct threat to our nation (domino theory aside). On the other hand, I did not like to see the U.S. back down from a challenge.

At any rate, I too was sure the U.S. could prevail and it was not my decision to make. The voting age was still 21 at the time, so I couldn’t even express my opinion that way.

I also thought that surely that by the time I graduated from high school (I believe our direct involvement in the war began when I was a high school sophomore) it would all be over.

Lo and behold it was not. By the time I graduated from high school in 1967 we were nearly at our height of involvement in the war.

I recall going to register with the draft board, as required, and the lady telling me that if I volunteered for the draft, I could get it all out of the way, with two years’ required service.

And now I just recalled that her son was a Green Beret and with another soldier had come to my high school and talked to us in my gym class. They talked about setting up Claymore mines, a device that hurls hundreds of nails at its victims.

I think the general attitude among most of us was that was interesting or “awesome” as some kids might say today, but I don’t think most of us were focused on the reality of war; it was all like a movie or playing war as kids.

Also, I think by that time we had started realizing via the news that this Vietnam War was a different animal than our past wars. We were not always fighting a uniformed army face the face (although there were NVA uniformed soldiers in the fighting too), but more often black-pajamed guerillas hiding in the jungle who would ambush and then disappear.

Even though we had overwhelming superiority in armaments and complete control of the air, we were not prevailing over the jungle fighters (never mind that mindless claim that we won all our battles — if so, why did we lose?).

And I have been accused of having a good memory. This is something I can state for a fact and something that always frustrates me. Even though there became to be a deep divide in public opinion over the war as it continued, time and time again I heard people say that although they were not especially pro-war, they felt that if we must fight we must fight to win. But there was all this wrangling in the political and public policy establishment about whether we should fight harder. If we did, we would be guilty of “escalating” the war. Even then I saw that argument as nonsense (and I’m sure a lot of others did too). How do you escalate a war? How or why would you half fight if attacked? Apparently there was some fantasy that if you fought on a limited basis (pulled your punches), you could keep casualties to a minimum politically accepted level.

In the end in Vietnam, firepower lost to commitment on the part of the enemy who was in the thing for only one reason — to win. We also were hampered by a corrupt government in South Vietnam and a population who at the time did not share our dream of keeping them free.

Today. We face much the same situation in Afghanistan (and let’s don’t even talk of Iraq just now).

We lost nearly 60,000 and suffered thousands more of gravely wounded in Vietnam in a decade-long war. The casualties are not as high yet in Afghanistan, past 1,000 now — but give it time.

While I think the reality is that we cannot re-make Afghanistan in our own image and make everyone love us and not want to come over and blow us up (and it was Saudi-Arabians who tried that, really, but let’s don’t confuse ourselves with the facts), that is all beside the point.

At this juncture we really have no interest in Afghanistan.

The only reason the public puts up with us still being there is its inattention, complacency and distraction caused by the Great Recession (ironically fueled to some extent from the costly war),and most of all to the clever move by politicians and the mistake by peaceniks in creating an all-volunteer professional military and doing away with the military draft.

If all were subject to the draft, there would be no war.

I will stop here and note that if one wanted to argue the case, there is a slightly better rationale for being in Afghanistan than there was in Vietnam. We were attacked by forces that staged and were aided and abetted by some in Afghanistan. In Vietnam, we were not attacked on our homeland and we faced no such imminent threat of attack. But Osama Bin Laden, the master-mind of 9/11, has moved on, possibly to Pakistan (our nominal, but not real, ally) or possibly to the grave. Al Qaeda, the organization we are supposedly fighting, has essentially moved on to Pakistan as well. Of course it could set back up in Afghanistan or even Iraq, once we clear out of the area — but then again, with its decentralized and surreptitious nature it can set up in spots all over the globe.

But back to baby boom generation and the Vietnam War — is that what I was talking about more or less?

I first attempted to get into the Navy right out of high school, more for lack of anything else to do — I wasn’t ready for college — than anything else.

But I could not pass the test for the Navy (and there is a strange and silly story to that, which I may or may not have blogged about before — I once wrote a newspaper column about it, but I’ll skip it for now).

But several months later I decided to join the Army. And this at a time when the casualties in Vietnam were mounting. I was in this strange disconnect world where I did not really admit to myself that I was essentially volunteering to be possible cannon fodder (to borrow a term I think used a lot during World War I).

However, as it happened, I was sent to Germany, where the only thing I suffered was some near frostbite and dish pan hands from too much KP.

During my three-year enlistment I experienced the phenomenon of my middle brother being caught up in the draft between college and law school. He served his year in Vietnam, in the Army, and continued along his path to becoming a lawyer.

And now on this Fourth of July, I stop and think how much I love my country and feel proud that I did my service, such as it was.

Even though what I did was relatively inconsequential, at least I served in uniform — something a lot of the war mongers of today never did!

But let’s not be negative on this our nation’s birthday.


Lessons of My Lai just never took hold

April 27, 2010

I watched the documentary on the 1968 My Lai massacre on PBS Monday night and had the feeling that I had seen it all before, but it was compelling nonetheless.

American soldiers wantonly murdered unarmed Vietnamese women and children and old men and others — hundreds of them.

Americans are not supposed to commit such atrocities.

Of course we did this in our own country to the American Indians.

There are a lot of explanations for what happened or why it happened, but few of them hold up.

What good excuse would you have for killing obviously unarmed women and children and others?

But it seems these things happen in war — always have, always will.

The thing that disturbs me the most about such incidents, other than the human suffering itself, is the fact that the higher ups seldom if ever get in trouble. In this case no one really got into trouble over it, high or low.

The evidence seems clear that the chain of command supported what went on at My Lai and if they did not know what was going on, then that would be their fault too.

According to comments in the documentary, there was ongoing abuse of civilians even before the incident.

As to the individuals who took part, that is the soldiers on the ground, I have some sympathy or understanding for those who may have fired into the bush or at adult males in the distance before they knew they were just innocent (or at least unarmed) villagers.

From what we know now, the soldiers were basically told they were going into enemy territory and that they were not to leave anyone alive.

But when it comes to coming face to face with obviously innocents (especially women and children and old men), I just can’t go there. I don’t see how anyone can do this.

I do understand the quandary soldiers find themselves in when it comes to the idea that they do not have to follow illegal orders. While it is obviously illegal to be ordered to kill innocent people, the way the system of military justice works is that the burden of proof is on the poor soldier who chooses not to follow an illegal order. If the system gangs up against him, which would likely be the case, he would not stand a chance.

Given the fact, as brought out in the documentary, that the American public made its feelings known that it did not want one of the main culprits, one Lt. William Calley, who was accused of giving orders that resulted in the atrocity, punished, what chance would a lone soldier have if he had refused to follow the orders to shoot everything that moved?

(Of course the public support for Calley was over the fact as they saw it that he was simply an officer who had to make decisions in the confusion of war and that if you start sending officers and soldiers to jail for killing people in a war then we could never be successful in a military operation.)

Well, anyway, My Lai is ancient history almost. But what I really got from all of this is that it is futile and dangerous to impose ourselves into the internal struggles of other nations. We end up doing terrible things and make enemies in the process.

We went into Afghanistan supposedly to go after forces that attacked us on 9/11 and now nearly a decade later we have imposed ourselves into an internal struggle and are killing civilians in the process.

We just never learn, do we?


Anyone who has been in the military, or even in a big organization, can probably tell you that the way things often run is that higher ups tell you to do something but at the same time let you know that if things go wrong they will swear they never had anything to do with it, but you have to go along with the program or face the consequences — you lose either way.

When we intervene in others’ business murder can result…

April 26, 2010

Just saw on the New York Times website that PBS is supposed to run a documentary entitled “My Lai”, about the massacre by American soldiers of hundreds of unarmed villagers in 1968 during the Vietnam War.

It’s supposed to be on tonight (Monday) — check your local listings. I certainly plan to watch if I can.

To some it may seem like just a terrible aberration or something that just happens in the fog of war.

Well, it does happen. We are doing it today in Afghanistan and have done it in Iraq, although perhaps not on such a grand scale (unless you count the totals).

My Lai, from all accounts, was rather up close and personal — troops mowing down women and children (babies) and others with automatic weapons fire.

There were too many soldiers involved in the My Lai incident for it to be simply blamed on a deviant or two.

The Nazis did such things in World War II out of pure hatred and some terrible programmed group-think thing.

From what I have read over the years, My Lai was kind of the result of fear and frustration out of losing fellow soldiers to booby traps and a largely unseen enemy firing out of the jungle and the reasonable suspicion that villagers were either Viet Cong guerillas themselves (although the babies could not have been) or were aiding and abetting the enemy. And their command also instilled a mentality to kill first and ask questions later (and right or wrong, in the interest of survival that was probably necessary to some extent — killing women and children and other innocents still not excusable though).

When soldiers are sent to a strange land to intervene in an internal struggle (notwithstanding outside involvement of other belligerents or wider world implications) terrible things result.

That’s a good reason not to commit our troops to fight internal struggles that should be left up to the locals.

It’s kind of like the local cops going out on a domestic disturbance call. The husband is beating the wife (or visa versa), but when it’s all said and done the unhappy couple both beat up on the cops.

Message from McNamara’s book: it’s not too late to rethink our war policy…

July 13, 2009

With the war in Afghanistan getting more serious and the indication that Iraq’s ongoing civil war might be heating up with the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the cities, it seems a good time to look into not-so-distant history – the Vietnam War – and see if something can be learned from it.

I have now finished reading the late Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara’s book, some would say his mea culpa, on Vietnam: “In Retrospect, the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”, published in 1995. McNamara died a week ago at the age of 93. He lived with the fact that many had called Vietnam “McNamara’s War”. Having left President Lyndon Johnson’s administration in 1968, he apparently kept all that bottled up until he published his book.

After reading it, I would sum up his position this way:

I was wrong. I was not the only one. We should have analyzed the situation better, but the mood of the times (Zeitgeist?), the Cold War philosophy, precluded that, and we were supported by the public up until we had gone too far. And the reason we conducted a limited war (instead of doing anything and everything to win) is that we feared getting Communist China and the Soviet Union directly involved and pushing events to a nuclear confrontation. And we eventually realized that due to the ineffective government in South Vietnam and the ambivalence of the population there really was never a chance to save that nation from the communists.

One portion of the book dealt with the fact that at one time there seemed to be a direct and public confrontation between the military chiefs and McNamara. They accused him of micro-managing the war and not letting them do their jobs. They, the military chiefs, wanted to be more aggressive, especially in the air war, and go after all targets, no matter their geographical location, such as Haiphong Harbor and on the border of China.

And I have blogged before, and nothing in this book told me anything different, that the mood of the public at the time was this: first the nation was truly divided on the war. Nonetheless, I think even among those who did not like it, most of them agreed with war supporters that if we must fight then the only way was fight to win and get it over with. By doing that, we would achieve our goal of saving South Vietnam from the communists and we would save American lives by not needlessly prolonging the conflict. I lived through this entire history and I heard people, so many, say things like: “I don’t really believe in this war, but if we’re going to risk American lives then why don’t we fight to win?”

In one brief passage in the book, McNamara notes that in the process of trying to save South Vietnam we indiscriminately killed a large number of civilians and did much damage to the country. I would add that it seemed like we were doing more damage to South Vietnam, our ally, than North Vietnam. We bombed North Vietnam, but with many restrictions. And we never invaded North Vietnam, even though North Vietnam invaded the south with both regular army forces and the Viet Cong guerillas they supported (and McNamara referred to other types of forces, such as militias, I was never aware of).

I’m not going to go back through the book and quote things. But I would suggest if you have not read it to read it. It’s kind of self-serving, and I got the impression that he slyly took the blame while spreading it around and went to great lengths to say that he at some point knew along with many others who supported the war that they were all wrong and that he tried to tell other insiders, thus trying to lessen his own blame (I would blame LBJ and then Richard Nixon; they were the commanders in chief through the all-out part of the war).

But here is something important that I think the book brings out: Public opinion means everything. You can’t fight to win a war without full public support. And unless you level with the public early on, you will not get it or be able to keep it. The Johnson administration withheld their own studies that demonstrated the cause was probably hopeless (and they knew this early on).

We fought the Vietnam War on the premise that we had to hold the line against the expansion of communism. But once we withdrew and once South Vietnam fell, while that nation became one nation under communist rule, the communists did not expand. Their own system worked against them and does today.

Also, reading the book has only served to confirm my already-held belief that the United States should only fight wars in true self defense. Sometimes it is hard to decide what that actually means, but that should be the rule to guide decision making on whether to fight a war, nonetheless.

(Also before I forget, I have more than once blogged that really we could have won the Vietnam War, kind of Korea style, but I am not so sure of that now, but that is moot anyway.)

So, using history as a guide, the U.S. needs to reassess what it is trying to do now in Iraq and Afghanistan and whether we can prevail and whether it is all worth it (and is it ever too late to save American lives?).

My take on what the Obama administration’s position seems to be is that we need to exit Iraq gracefully, but we need to press on in Afghanistan because that is where the 9/11 forces staged and where Al Qaeda leaders got refuge (so they seem to be in Pakistan now – so do we invade Pakistan?). The administration has also decided that we should protect the Afghan villagers to get their support, kind of like the pacification program in Vietnam (which was a failure).

But my question is: given our economy at home, whose living conditions should we be working on, those of Afghan residents or U.S. residents? (And there is a direct parallel here with the guns and butter approach of the LBJ administration – fight Vietnam, improve things at home at the same time, and that did great damage to our economy – but as often is the case, I digress.)

We did manage to install a government, however effective or ineffective, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Maybe we should simply tell it, handle it, and don’t harbor enemies of the U.S. We can come back by air or land or both.

And I think that if the Obama policy makers came to the conclusion in private that winning the hearts and minds of the Afghans cannot be done, they would face the same dilemma as McNamara said he and others did. They were afraid that the U.S. would lose face and would become weak. Decisions are tough. But do you continue to commit others’ lives to save face?

In my previous blog I wrote that the U.S. still today needs to come up with a clear policy on how the nation gets into war. I think we ought to follow the Constitution, which indicates that declaring war is the responsibility of congress. While the president always has to have the authority to deal with emergencies, a war is a much more involved process with such dire ramifications that it needs deliberation and support from elected representatives. And don’t play games with the definition of war by calling it something else (police action, conflict), everyone knows one when they see it.

The U.S. has not fought a constitutionally-declared war since World War Two. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that we have not had a clear-cut victory since then. Korea was a stalemate (although we did save South Korea), Vietnam a failure, the first Gulf War indecisive in that we found ourselves going back into Iraq years later, Kosovo, well you have me on that one, I don’t even know why we felt we had a dog in that hunt (and that was not an all-out war on our part), and the current wars – don’t know, still in progress.

But without taking a position on the current wars, I can only say, let’s learn from history and think this thing out and do what is actually best for our own defense and realize we cannot nor should not remake the world in our own image.

And to paraphrase a famous quote: who wants to be the last person to die for a lost cause?

Oh. But I feel self-conscious now, for some would contend I am not supporting the troops. To the contrary, I support them one hundred percent. I am only saying we need to clearly have goals spelled out and be in agreement that they are just and we need to make an honest assessment as to whether our efforts are practicable. If we have checked all the boxes in support – throw everything at it and fight to win.

I do not believe in the concept of “limited war”. Seems like if you limit your actions but the other side does not, you lose. And if you both agreed to limit your war, you would both be morally wrong — wasting lives for a game. 


I did not mention the involvement of the UN or NATO in Korea or Kosovo, respectively, or coalitions, because it is my observation that the U.S. always uses those organizations as cover for its own policy. On that subject I fear one day it could come back to bite us. Sure it works when we run the show, but what if we were outnumbered? And in no case should the U.S. ever give over its sovereignty to another nation or entity (I think it has been done to some small extent, but it should not be done).

McNamara at least apologized for acting on false assumptions…

July 7, 2009

Upon reading that Robert S. McNamara, an architect of the Vietnam War, died at the age of 93 Monday, I went to the library and checked out his book “In Retrospect, the Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam”.

McNamara served as Secretary of Defense for both Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and was so closely connected with the Vietnam War policy that it was sometimes derisively called “McNamara’s War”.

Nearly 60,000 Americans died and thousands more were gravely wounded in an effort that was eventually abandoned after nearly a decade of all-out war.

I remember so many kept saying through the years of struggle that we could not quit because then all the sacrifice would have been in vain.

(To be fair, some have credited our effort with helping to force the eventual end to the Soviet empire, but I think McNamara rejects that in his book – and I would ask: and that made all of that worth the sacrifice?)

I’ve only begun reading it, but it is fascinating from the beginning, to me at least. I think in the book he pretty much says something like – the Vietnam War was all my fault and I’m sorry.

It’s history, but it has lessons for today.

Like I say, I’ve only just begun reading the book, but already I have picked up on the notion that no one involved in making foreign policy can really know what the consequences of actions might be, but one should really think a lot about a situation and ask questions rather than going on blind assumption.

We got bogged down in a seemingly unwinnable war in Southeast Asia largely because so many in government assumed that the “domino theory” that stated that if one country falls they all will fall like a row of dominoes to the communists was true on its face without need to reassess it. Much of the public fell for that line too.

All Vietnam went communist, but the rest of the dominoes did not fall, and Vietnam today is a solid trading partner trying to transform its economy to be more in line with the capitalist model (and of course suffering from the same malady now that all capitalist economies are afflicted with at this time. It still has a communist government).

And then since the 9/11 attacks were inflicted by persons from the Persian Gulf area (most natives of Saudi Arabia) and we as a nation seem to just lump all the peoples from that area together, the nation became jingoistic and you heard things like “better off to fight them over there than here”. And since we lumped them altogether we blindly let the former president put our forces in Iraq even though the 9/11 attacks came from elsewhere. And so many fell for the notion that the Iraqis suffering under a cruel dictator (and they were) would greet our troops with open arms and throw flowers as if they were the allies marching into Paris to liberate the city from the Nazis. But it was only upon pulling our troops out of the cities years later (just last week) that there was any jumping for joy. We’ve lost some 5,000 troops (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and thousands more gravely wounded. You’re welcome Iraq (sorry we killed so many of you and bombed out your houses, but it was like Vietnam, we had to destroy you to save you). The troubles in Iraq are not over yet – it’s still open ended.

And now under a new president we have finally turned our full attention back to Afghanistan from where the 9/11 attackers command was headquartered, harbored by the Taliban.

We assume that if only we can win over the people there we can destroy the safe haven they provide for Al Qaeda (the force behind 9/11) and the Taliban (who support or work with or are the same as Al Qaeda, take your pick).

We are back to winning the hearts and minds Vietnam style. Have enough questions been asked? Are we making false assumptions? What has been the history of foreign armies winning in Afghanistan? (Not good from what I have read, neither in recent nor ancient history.)

I keep hearing during Memorial Day and Fourth of July celebrations that our armed forces are fighting for our freedom. I’m sure they think so and I’m sure we want to believe that. But is it better to really think about and discuss things or do we just act impulsively? And here’s another question, do the different levels of policy makers just tell the next level higher up what they think they want to hear? (I think we know what the answer to that last question was in the previous administration.)

So many people probably don’t feel they have the time and probably don’t have the interest to read histories such as the McNamara book I mentioned. It’s too bad, though. If the public would only read them more, it might learn something that would save a lot of lives and forestall a lot of misery.


I have mentioned books I am reading or planned to read before and said I would write more about them, only to not do so. But I make the claim once again. I plan to review it more fully once I’m done.

If we suffered Vietnam-style casualty rates the war would be over, won or not, and war and oil usually do mix…

June 2, 2009

War has become so blase that the fact that four more U.S. troops were killed in Afghanistan did not make any headlines.

ADD 1: If you really wanted to gauge public opinion of the war on terror, just imagine what it might be if we had casualties on the scale of the Vietnam War. During a two-week period in April  in Vietnam in 1968 the U.S. suffered 752 combat deaths. In Iraq in 2007 the U.S. had 334 deaths over a four-month period, and that was considered alarming. In Vietnam that high of a casualty rate with no end in sight turned public opinion steadfastly against the war. I hate to be cynical, but the public seems to be able to put up with lower casualty numbers, regardless of the justification or practicability of a war. I realized that the Democratic party victories in the congressional elections of 2006 and the presidential election of 2008 were seen as a kind of referendum that was negative on our war policy, but I notice that the war on terror continues, seemingly much as it would have under Bush/Cheney if they could have continued or even John McCain (of course the referendum was more related to the economy during the presidential election and Obama did admit in his campaign that he would push harder in Afghanistan). If the public mood was as anti-war as it became in the early 70s, we would be done with the whole thing, right or wrong.

And back to where I began with this blog:

I first read the fact that there had been four more combat deaths in Afghanistan while reading my morning newspaper on Tuesday in the ninth paragraph (on the jump page) down in a somewhat oblique reference in a story. Admittedly, the paper long ago gave up trying to be the latest in news on the national and world front. But you would think the death of four U.S. service personnel would rate a little higher priority. But maybe that was kind of the point of the story. It was something about the military using the latest communication tool for those with short attention spans, Twitter.

News that U.S. and Afghan forces had killed four “militants”  (I guess that’s what we call the enemy) was put out via Twitter by the military, according to the story, as a way to reach an audience that gets its news outside the traditional sources.

Let’s cut through the bull here – the military is using news selectively for propaganda to reach young people to ra ra ra the war (and I realize morale is important, but so is honest and complete info). Conveniently, as the story indicates, the fact the four service people were killed was not tweeted. Supposedly, according to the story, that was because, well, I did not get this part, something about that all has to go through NATO command.

But using that story and then searching the internet, I finally gathered that there had been four more U.S. combat deaths.

Now in traditional wars, four deaths in one day is not really big news unless you might turn it around and say that ONLY four were killed. Back in the old-time wars thousands were killed in a day or even less than a day. Then we went to hundreds, and today in our wars we go to things like one, none, seven, four, that kind of thing. But it all adds up and it seems to go on forever.

(The latest figures I got off of Wikipedia show there have been at least 4,296 U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq war since 2003, and 677 in Afghanistan since 2001 (I don’t think this includes the latest deaths, and of course there are deaths from other nations’ forces and the of Iraqis themselves and thousands wounded.)

And maybe too close attention to the negative gets in the way of the mission. Maybe that is why we lost the Vietnam War. We concentrated on our losses and not our wins – that often seems to be the new history (revisionist?) of the whole thing I see these days. I just watched an Vietnam War documentary and that’s partly why I’m blogging this today. But I am not a convert yet. I still think Vietnam was a deadly mistake for us and also a shame because we sacrificed so many without having a clear cut purpose or resolve. I hope we are not replaying history in another part of the world now.

No we probably should not have screaming headlines that say FOUR KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN. But at the same time we should not get so numb or jaded about the war effort that we just put it all out of our mind.

The fact that the Military would see fit to brag that we killed four enemy, but leave out that we lost four of our own reminds me why we need independent reporting so we can get the full picture.

And I go back and forth here because I realize that just as the government and military can be biased and misleading in its reporting, so can so-called independent sources.

I have to admit that the tone of the reporting on television and the newspapers and news magazines for the most part during most of the Vietnam War seemed negative against the war. We were told that we seemed to be meddling in the affairs of a nation that had a corrupt government and had a civil war going on (what would have we thought if England, who leaned toward the confederacy in its feelings, had interfered in our own Civil War?). But the civil war in Vietnam was being aided and abetted by the Soviet Union and to a lesser extent communist China. But the idea of North and South Vietnam was basically an artificial one – after all they were all Vietnamese and it was a Cold War construct that created a North and South, just like the two Koreas. We were told that there were no front lines and that despite our overwhelming fire power (most of the time), the enemy seemed to be inexhaustible, anywhere and everwhere, and could take heavy losses and come back forever. We were also told our own government would not let our forces go all the way (and I guess that was because the public had been convinced that wars could be controlled, as if run by a rheostat device or a light dimmer – escalate, de-escalate, which begs the question, why not just turn them off then?).

Probably our biggest mistake in Vietnam was not to do everything we could to disrupt the supply lines and go to the source of supply in North Vietnam. We finally did do some of that late in the war, but by that time support at home for the war was depleted. I actually have to credit Richard Nixon for some of his actions – but it was too late and not carried far enough, because as I mentioned, public support was gone. I think he must have thought that somehow we could stave off the enemy a little longer and that South Vietnamese forces would fight on their own and in the meantime we could get out and haver “peace with honor” (Nixon’s own words)). But without our continued involvement and with the fact that their government was corrupt, there was no hope.

Okay, so much history. Maybe only useful to history buffs. But could we apply this to today? Do we really know what we are trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan? Personally, as much as I follow current events, I keep asking that question.

(In the beginning – the first Gulf War, it was all about oil, and if we are honest, even though we have 9/11 to consider, doesn’t oil still become the bottom line here? And if does, does that make it wrong? Why do we not want to admit it?  And see Add 2 at the end of this blog.)

George W’s (and dark Dick Cheney’s) concept seemed to be of an all-encompassing never-ending war against not a particular force or group or nation, but a concept (U.S. vs. Concept) called “terror,” or as W pronounced in “Terrr”.

President Obama seems to be trying to extricate us from Iraq (ever so carefully), but has vowed to fight on in Afghanistan. He would have never have got the support of the electorate if he had simply just run as an updated version of George McGovern and Vietnam. Americans were nearly always divided on Vietnam and seem to be on this one, but all out surrender is not to our liking (even if we did essentially quit Vietnam).

But even if we were able to subdue those who seem to support terror against us in Afghanistan, who is to say the forces of terror will not pop up somewhere else?

Bottom line here:

The reason we fought in Vietnam was that we had a well entrenched Cold War policy of containment of communism and along with that we followed the “domino theory” that said if one country falls, they all will. China fell, South Korea would have if not for our defense of it, and no one wanted to be blamed for losing South Vietnam (even though in the end we did lose it).

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight we find all these years later that communism, although a terrible form of government as practiced, with its totalitarianism and its police state mentality, crumbled seemingly by itself from its inefficiencies and failure to catch the imagination of the people it subdued. Seems given a chance most of them want capitalism and the goodies and freedom that come with it – although there is some indication that some former communist citizens miss the social safety net – in Russia, the former East Germany, as examples. But the last major power to still have communism, China, seems to be evolving into a capitalist society, with only the old-line government officials holding out.

Had we known all this (and we couldn’t have), we could have avoided conflict and just waited it out, perhaps. Of course the fact that the Soviet Union decided to spend so much of its resources fighting us in places such as Vietnam, which was really a proxy war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, helped lead it to its demise. It essentially went bankrupt (oops, I shouldn’t mention that, a country going bankrupt).

And isn’t it ironic that after another proxy war where we fueled the insurgents in Afghanistan against their Soviet neighbors who also expressed concerns about disruptive forces there, we find ourselves fighting many of those same insurgents we once aided, to include Osama bin Laden, if he is still alive.

A lot of disjointed thoughts here maybe. But I got this idea originally because I was reading a book about Pearl Harbor and the fact that we conducted a policy that led to it (not that we were in the wrong – that can be debated). And I thought about how in World War II we fought a costly war with Japan only to become good buddies later and then for a time we were even threatened by their own prosperity that we helped create (that role has now gone to China, whom we saved from Japan).

It’s all about making sure we really know what we are trying to do and what the consequences might be and deciding whether we should continually try to fight the whole world or whether we should try to live in peace, but keep our defenses strong. The general public can remain in ignorant bliss in all of this and leave it to the politicians, but there are risks.

Add 2:

I made a reference to fighting for oil earlier in this blog. Related to that I recall I blogged some months ago, possibly in August, that here we have been fighting in Iraq and we know it has something (a lot) to do with the fact that most of the world’s oil is in that region and meanwhile China has signed a deal for oil with the government we helped install there after executing Saddam Hussein. I just ran across an article on the web (dated April Fools Day, but it’s apparently too true) that says our main rival for world oil, China, has indeed finalized an agreement to develop an oil field in Iraq that is expected to produce 25,000 barrels per day for the first three years and 115,000 barrels per day for the following six years . China had initiated the deal in the 1990s when Hussein was in power.

So, yes, it is about oil, but whose oil? Seems like if we fight for oil, we should get it all. (I don’t recall China helping us out in Iraq).

But kind of related to the idea of fighting for oil, I ran across this in a history of the Vietnam War on Wikipedia: “Because of the vast Dutch oil discoveries in nearby Indonesia, first the French, then the Americans, wanted to explore the broad Vietnamese contenental shelf.” Today Vietnam is not listed as a top oil exporter, but it is an exporter. It installed its first oil refinery in February.

P.s. It occurs to me in all of this that the thinking of policy makers seems to have been that the U.S. can fight wars if casualty numbers can be kept down low enough that there will be no significant public backlash. We all would like to minimize casualties, but in so doing we run the risk of both prolonging wars (thus raising casualty rates) and being unsuccessful in the long run.

Will Obama get stuck to the tar baby with a guns and butter approach in Afghanistan???

May 15, 2009

Add 2

Long before Democrat Barack Obama came upon the scene to enact change in government another Democrat sought to do the same thing. And he did.

President Lyndon Johnson became a champion of civil rights and greatly expanded the government’s role is social welfare with his Great Society program. And he might have done more and his legacy might have been brighter had he not become stuck to the Vietnam War tar baby. The monetary costs of that war cut into the funding needed for his Great Society and caused the government to go deeper into debt by borrowing to pay for what at the time was called “guns and butter”.  The human costs in lost and ruined lives and the discrediting of the government that had lied as to the facts leading up to full-scale war in Vietnam and the progress along the way wreaked havoc on our whole political system which in some respects is still trying to recover.

Asking for nearly $100 billion in supplemental funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with an emphasis on Afghanistan, and appointing a new general to lead in Afghanistan, Obama has now made it his war (at least that’s how everyone is writing about it). The wars have already cost the U.S. nearly $1 trillion and it is estimated they may eventually cost 2 or 3 trillion dollars (or more).

While President Obama seems to be pulling back somewhat from Iraq, he is going full speed ahead in Afghanistan. One wonders if Afghanistan will be President Obama’s Vietnam and American’s Vietnam, part 2.

Add 1:

What if in all this nation building in Iraq and Afghanistan we create governments that are not really democratic and do not really serve the best interests of the citizens in those respective nations and what if those governments turn out to be corrupt and what if they are not friendly to us after all? What will all of this have been for? Remember, we propped up a corrupt government in South Vietnam, and we supported the assasination of a previous corrupt leader there. Getting too involved in other nations can create quite a mess.


The preceding was afterthoughts following original posting of the following blog:

A different time, a different place, a slightly different situation, and newer technology – that’s how I see the difference between the Iraq and Afghanistan (Pakistan) war situations today and Vietnam some 40 years ago.

But it seems to me that for all intents and purposes, the war in the Persian Gulf area today is essentially Vietnam all over again with some key differences.

In both war situations we have essentially committed conventional forces against an enemy that uses guerilla tactics. We have the overwhelming power in forces and technology, to include highly sophisticated unmanned, drone, aircraft, that can go after specific targets, being piloted remotely here at home, thousands of miles from the battle area, but it does not seem any guarantee to success. We are still for the most part ponderous. The enemy is light footed and melts into the urban settings in Iraq and into the rugged terrain in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In Vietnam we were fighting on the belief in the so-called Domino Theory that said that nations would fall one after another under the influence of communism and in the end the communists would enslave the whole world. We eventually gave up in Vietnam. The communists did not take over the world. In fact, the biggest communist nation ever, the Soviet Union, eventually dissolved. And China, as Vietnam, has moved toward capitalism and maybe even some crude form of democracy (I’m not sure about the latter).

In the current Persian Gulf situation we first faced the prospect of unfriendly Islamic extremists forces (and maybe even China) gaining control of a precious source of oil (the U.S. is the biggest oil consumer, with China now after much of that oil too). And then after the 9/11 attacks on our own soil we went after forces supposedly protected in Afghanistan. We went into Iraq under the notion that supposedly the enemy was supported by that nation or that nation was somehow allied under an unfriendly dictator with our enemy or maybe he was about to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction (really who knows? Or who can remember all the reasoning?).

Our former adversary North Vietnam was heavily supported by the Soviet Union. Today, I am not sure who supports our enemies. Seems to me that might well be a key to any kind of headway in the wars in the Persian Gulf area. Find that out and go after them in any means practicable.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban have to get their arms and ammunition and resupply from somewhere. I have not heard a lot about that. I hate to think that in some quirk of the vast international arms trade that we are inadvertently supplying our enemies (there have been reports indicating that).

The Afghanistan war has spilled over into Pakistan. During Vietnam, then President Nixon was castigated for moving forces into Cambodia (“widening the war”, his critics cried). Today we have struck into remote areas of Pakistan where the enemy seeks refuge (and Pakistan is supposed to be our ally but now it is fighting its own insurgency).

Continuing with the comparison/contrast between Vietnam and today’s Middle East or Persian Gulf wars, in both we have wound up trying to “win the hearts and minds” of the populace. There seems to have been some success along those lines in Iraq (some, I emphasize), but not so much in Afghanistan.

I don’t think the efficacy of winning the hearts and minds of potential enemies along with nation building has ever been proven. And yes, we are being told now in no uncertain terms that we must do nation building in Afghanistan to win the war. In my mind I automatically question why it is the job or even the right of the United States to make people side with us and to help them build a nation, regardless of what their prevailing attitude may be.

Think of all that we could do in our current economic crisis here at home were we not burdened with the costs of “winning the hearts and minds” of all those people and helping them build a nation.

And what are we to do when adversaries appear in other parts of the world? Back to winning the hearts and minds, I suppose. This could get out of hand, or in fact already has.

Personally, I would be more apt to support the notion that our mission should be to go after forces that may pose a threat to our own security here at home or after forces that might latch onto the capability of destroying the world (such as is the situation in Pakistan and even Iran). Granted that is hard to do when, as in the case of Afghanistan, these forces often do not wear uniforms and blend into the populace and have the cover of rugged terrain. Nonetheless, even if we are to have success in so called counter-insurgency measures or, as we called them in Vietnam, pacification measures, in the end I think overwhelming force is still likely to be the deciding factor.

Iraq right now is in a holding pattern. We have not won. In Afghanistan we are in fact told by the military now that we are behind the curve, not only are we not winning, we are in grave danger of losing big time if we do not pour much more resources into the area immediately.

This week it was announced that the current Afghanistan war commander Gen. David McKiernan was fired, reportedly the first field commander suffering that fate since MacArthur in Korea. The Secretary of Defense has proposed that he be replaced by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, credited with being an expert in things such as counter-insurgency and black ops or whatever. McKiernan is to stay on till his replacement is confirmed. The fired general was said to be old-school, tied to the notion of force on force (or overwhelming force as I like to say). To the old man’s credit, it has also been proposed that another general, David M. Rodriguez, be appointed to a new position of deputy commander. So it takes two men to replace one.

I hope the new plan, to the extent there is one, and the new team works. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that unless we introduce overwhelming force we are in for a long drawn out fight, a war of attrition, ending in some kind of jumbled stalemate, to be followed later, if there is a later, by still more war.


Supporting my point about force, what success we have supposedly had in Iraq after all these long years is always attributed to the recent “surge” or addition of troop strength there. Now we are having to rob that theater of war of troops and equipment to augment the effort in Afghanistan. History of the region tells me that we are facing a tougher fight and a tougher adversary in Afghanistan.