Thursday, June 01, 2006

Remembering Vietnam / War Scores

I remember the Vietname war just a bit. I was born in 1963, so was too young to serve. But my whole life has been lived in the shadow of that war and among veterans that have been my friends and mentors.

I remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news, giving the Vietnam death scores. Night after night, the scores would be posted on the screen telling us how many Viet Cong died, and how many US Soldiers died.

The Viet Cong were always reported as being higher numbers. Something like ten to one. So I asked if that meant we were winning, and the answer was, 'No'.

Now we know that the higher Viet Cong death rate was compiled partly as a fiction and partly by simply counting every non-American causualty. Every man, woman or child killed, for whatever reason or how, was a Viet Cong. Many people probably knew it then, but I was being sheltered.

By the time this was going on, and I was old enough to understand any of it, we had gone from a war in which we were told we were fighting for noble goals, to one were we were fighting, because we didn't want to lose. We couldn't win, so we fought to keep fighting.

Iraq is there now. It's no longer about helping Iraq, or building a government, or WMDs or anything else. We have to stay because we don't want to lose. And we can't win. There is nothing to win. We can't give them a democracy, because we have to enforce stability first. We can't have stability because we have to kill everyone to make them stop fighting back. As long as the Iraqis live, they will keep fighting to get us out of their country. They will fight us for revenge. They will fight us to win their freedom back. So in order to kill to give them Democracy and Freedom, we have to kill them all. And killing them all does nothing toward accomplishing some of the original but very fluid goals. That is, to free them from tyranny and give them a peaceful and stable government that is friendly to the US. We already failed in ridding the nation of WMDs and the nuclear weapons program, as they didn't exist.

Now in Iraq, just like in Vietnam, we're playing a numbers game. Our troops are expected to make their quotas of dead insurgents. So they kill to fill numbers. Any dead Iraqi is now a dead insurgent. It doesn't matter what they did in life, we hunt them now to make our numbers. That way, when the war scores are posted, our team has the best numbers.

bush has said in speeches that previous administrations started this war and he'll hand it off to the next administration. He makes it clear he's bored with it now and doesn't think much about it.

So we're in maintenance mode until after 2008. For now, our mission is to kill Iraqi Men, Women and Children, faster than they kill US Soldiers. Then in a few years, someone else can make the decision to change course.

One other thing I remember about Vietnam, is all of the amputees. I remember a quadruple amputee in Safeway, being pushed around by his mother. He looked like a teenager to me, even though I wasn't but seven or eight. I laughed and he started crying. I felt bad right away, though I remember laughing mostly out of surprise. I asked my mother why he was like that and she explained it to me. I asked why he would go to war to have his arms and legs amputated. She told me that wasn't why he went. I remember that it didn't make any sense to me, but my impressions of what war is for, began to change that day.

Since then, most of the worst cases have committed suicide in one fashion or another. Some with a bullet, some with a bottle.

Lately I'm seeing more amputees on the train, in stores, out in public. Young men and women, missing an arm a leg, or more. I know I'm not seeing the worst cases. My wife volutneered one day at the local VA hospital, then cried all night.

And for what? It's just to make the numbers. It's the cold hard accounting of human lives.

Until bush leaves office, we have to kill Iraqis faster than they kill Americans, so that bush isn't embarrassed by bad statistics. bush is a baseball fan, which is a game flush with statistics. He's probably right at home counting deaths as if they were ball scores.

So for now, we hunt Iraqis and kill them. They hunt us back. We do this, because stopping would be quitting. That would hurt bush's self esteem. We can't have that. We gotta keep the scores up so the home team looks like it's winning, whatever it is we're trying to win.


At 1:49 PM, Blogger Mike said...

Strong post, Weas.

Moving stuff about the amputees, especially.

Kudos to your wife for helping, and heres hoping it doesn't take too much of a toll on her emotionally.

At 4:26 PM, Blogger Puma said...

I remember the same things you do, Weasel. I was born a couple of years before you were, and I vividly remember Chet Huntley and David Brinkley every night on our black-and-white television, ("Good night, David." "Good night, Chet.") going on and on about Vietnam. This was back when they would actually show footage of reporters in the field (not "imbedded" and babysat) filming firefights (and it was film, not video!) You are right, we grew up utterly over-shadowed by Vietnam, and then the nuclear standoff between the US and the Soviet Union.

At 1:56 PM, Blogger DED said...

Bush isn't just a baseball fan. He used to own the Texas Rangers, the ball club not the law enforcement outfit, though maybe when he was governor he owned them too.

Excellent post.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geez, Wease. Powerful writing. Hugs to your wife--it's not easy stuff to work with, I know. Bless her heart for being willing to look.


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