Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Vietnam Minus Jungle Add Sand And Repeat

Photograph by Kilroy_60

"I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it." - Samuel Goldwyn

I lived in Washington, D.C. in the days when the city was not an armed camp. Ronald Reagan resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and George Herbert Walker Bush was a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Yes, D.C. had one of the highest murder rates in the country. Such facts, though, were never taken into consideration. When we went to a bar in the Mount Pleasant area, for pitchers of beer and some of the best pizza you could imagine, you were likely to never see a police car. Not in "little Vietnam". Perhaps it was because we were oblivious to threats as much as we chose to ignore dangers.

Those were the days when you could walk into the United States capital without hassles and the possibility of a cavity search. You could walk freely throughout the complex and sit in the galleries to watch the Senate and the House of Representatives in session. No one questioned where you were going or what you were doing. Or maybe I ignored them and no one pressed the issue.

There were nights we sat on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, smoking joints and watching the eternal flame flickering on Kennedy's grave across the Potomac River. You could walk over to the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial anytime of the day or night. There would always be people there. It would be quiet.

At the time John F. Kennedy was leading our country he was planning with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to pull military advisors out of Vietnam. Vice President Lyndon Johnson disagreed; believing such talk should not have been made public.

Enter Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy was out. Johnson was in. The Domino Theory emerged in Southeast Asia with the focus being Vietnam.

40 years later the progression of events occurring a world away is eerily familiar. Circumstances changed on the ground in ways we did not foresee; there was faulty intelligence which led to bad decisions by the President; Congress granted the President extraordinary power; a military campaign ensued guided by flawed rules of engagement; ineffective strategies were incorporated; the war was unpopular at home; there was a huge expenditure of financial resources; the loss of lives, the number of casualties and the damage to military families was incalculable; the quality of life in America was changed for the worse.

Fast Forward to 1980 and then wind slowly through to 1988. Iraq was at war with Iran; we backed Iraq. Afghanistan, meanwhile, was invaded by the Soviet Union of 1979 and stuck around for more than nine years. The horse we bet on this time was Afghanistan; although the meaningful support promised did not materialize. On to August, 1990...Iraq invaded Kuwait which led to The Persian Gulf War. Hostilities began, involving a coalition of countries under the banner of the United Nations let by the United States, at the beginning of January, 1991 and "The TV War" came to a close at the end of February.

Again, the cast of characters in place at the time of Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and those in power on September 11, 2001 are sickeningly familiar.

to be continued...


*DB* said...

Reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw: "Iraq: Arabic for Vietnam" or also, "Iraq the 51st State".

We do have an extremely short attention span in this country. Everyone is all "but WHY do they hate us?? What did we do to them?" Gee, let's see: we've fucked around in the MidEast for longer than they've had imposed nation-state boundaries put on them. We've bet on one country against another - just like you said - and then switched when the one side no longer suited us. Some diplomacy. No, really, I wonder why they haven't beat the crap out of us YEARS before now.

I had an amazing class about multiculturalism in the US educational system a couple semesters ago. Our teacher was a Dr. Kenneth Addison (I wonder if he shows up on Google). Dude could tell some absolutely OUTRAGEOUS, but true, stories. He's been a consultant for Boeing and United...hello, even the CIA or was it NSA? Something to do with "security". It boiled down to this: one day in the hall, I asked him, "Does it bother you that you've spent all this time providing all this intelligence to the government and they just go "thanks, we'll keep it under advisement" and then proceed to do exactly the opposite of what you recommended?" He just laughed and said "yeah." Seriously brilliant man who, with his colleagues, were saying "in the MidEast, you don't just screw with one person, you screw with an ENTIRE tribe/clan/whatever." That's what we don't get over here. It's never just one person or even one group - - we don't understand their culture and we never will.

Anonymous said...

I don't watch the news or pay too much attention because we all know where it is going and I keep telling my kids how insidious this thing will get...thE word I heard on the Sunday morning news gave me chills, not because it was a new word but because its an old one. It was "Iraqification" and I will never forget where it comes from. What really disturbs me is that Iraq is only the rim of the bigger problem.

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