Sunday, August 22, 2004

Still crazy after all these years 

During the Vietnam war, I remember some people, particularly military types, promoting the idea that it was the war protestors who caused America's defeat.
Now, I am not a military historian, but I lived through this war and I do know that's ridiculous -- America could NEVER have won in Vietnam (the French couldn't win it, either). The idea that any combination of firepower and tactics could have defeated North Vietnam is like thinking that Napolean could ever have defeated Russia in the War of 1812, or that Japan could ever have defeated the United States in World War II (I'm sure a real military historian could think of many more apt and perhaps more accurate examples.) History has many examples of wars which could have gone either way -- Germany came incredibly close to taking over all of Europe before the US entered that war, for example -- but Vietnam isn't one of them.
But I have gone through the last 30 years thinking that this blame-the-protestors idea had been completely discredited as last self-serving gasp of an archaic military culture which had afterwards learned to face reality. In fact, it was the war protestors who saw, much sooner than the military, that the Vietnam War was both unwinnable and immoral. They saved thousands of American and Vietnamese lives by getting the war stopped before the military could adopt a desperate and despicable tactic like using an atomic bomb on Hanoi (and even doing that would not have "won" the war).
Seeing the anger emerging now about Kerry's war protests, however, makes me realize that the blame-the protestors revisionism may have been festering all these years, and now infecting a younger generation who don't know what really happened. And if this is so, then it must be addressed.
All the thousands and thousands of Americans who protested that war will need to open the wound again, to speak out again, just like William Rood has now done, to set the record straight and to educate their children and their grandchildren about what really happened over there and also in America.
Oh, that goddammed war.

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