Sunday, May 04, 2008

A letter from a Vietnam vet in response to "Five years in Iraq"

I wanted to share with you all a response I received from a friend of mine who is a former infantry officer who served two tours in Vietnam. He sent me this after listening to a podcast of a talk I gave entitled "Five years in Iraq: How did we get there and where do we go from here?" You can listen to the presentation by clicking on the "podcasts" link from this site: Prin radio I found his remarks so heartfelt, interesting, and a serious call to action for all Americans. I hope his comments spur thought about the endeavor in which we find ourselves.

Dear Janessa,

My wife and I finally carved out time this afternoon to listen to your
moving talk at Prin on the 5 years in Iraq. We felt like we were sitting
in the front row!

It was really hard to stay up with your dialogue as my feelings kept
coming out as I pictured my fellow soldiers trying to do the only thing
they knew how to do and then suddenly realizing that it was accomplishing
nothing permanent. No hills were taken; no territory was captured;
no enemy army surrendered. Only death and doubt and frustration day after
endless day. How we find men and women who return there for their
third (and some their fourth) tour, knowing they will make no difference,
yet willing to return again and again, laying their life on the line.

So, you did everyone a service by carrying us back to 2003
and without a bias or an agenda, laying out the facts surrounding 2004-2008 for all to see.
Hearing the letter from your brother regarding one of his Seal Team Five
buddies that was lost was soul crunching. such a waste!

I know that prayer is the ultimate future course of action, for only
through this course can we bring the full power of God to this problem. There is
no human power that can peacefully resolve the problems in the Middle East.

Yet, the politicians, being politicians, and not have their sons and daughters over there,
will look for yet another course of action that preserves
the oil, preserves the administration's reputation, gives the appearance of progress,
and places the blame for failing on the other political party. Insane.

At a CS (Christian Science) Lecture last Thursday evening, Ryder Stevens reminded us
not to expect a quick reconciliation between the Shia and Sunnis as they
have been enemies since the year 620!! If we leave next year, they
will kill each other; if we leave in 2020, they will kill each other. The
difference between choosing those 2009 and 2020 to depart is how many
more American lives and American dollars are we willing to spend to
delay the ultimate killing of each other. It's really a form of insanity.
Forgive the terminology, but in Hawaii, we used to refer to this type of
thinking as "pissing into the waves" only get wetter.

So long as we seek diplomatic, political, military future courses of action,
soldiers will be walking the same ground, being killed by the same (or more sophisticated) Iranian IEDs
next year, the year after, the decade after that. I remember on day
on a daylight patrol north of Qui Nhon SVN in 1970, the point man stepped
on an antipersonnel mine which blew his leg off. He was lifted out
by medical helicopter and we continued our mission. Thirty minutes
later another soldier triggered an antipersonnel mine, and the shrapnel
killed him. At that point, the soldiers let me know by nothing but the
expression on their faces that whatever lay ahead was not worth one more life today.
They didn't refuse to continue forward; I refused to command them to do so. We reversed our direction,
went to a safe pickup zone and returned to the base came. We would have
accomplished nothing by continuing on the patrol...would have killed or
wounded another soldier before the day was over.

Wonder if some day, soldiers will no longer get in vehicles and go down
roads knowing that if not today, then tomorrow, they will be blown up
and killed by an IED? Interesting question. Of course when the IEDs
cause us to stop going a certain place, using a certain route, then the
insurgents have won.

Yes, the US people are tired of the war and I'm afraid the government
and the US media do not want the American people to become too attached
to what's going on or they would begin to influence decisions made in
Washington. So long as the public doesn't have to pay for the war with
direct taxes and so long as it is not their sons and daughters dying over there,
they will, like those of 1971, continue to visit Walmart, complain about high
gas prices, and plan their vacation trips as if peace was a permanent given.

I remember in 1971 in Vietnam, the country had almost totally turned
off their TVs and stopped reading any story in the paper about Vietnam.
Yet, each and every hour, we felt we had a reason to be there, we had
daily examples of freeing villagers from Viet Cong oppressors.

But you know, we shouldn't have been in Vietnam either. And had LBJ
not used the fallacious attack on the destroyer Turner Joy as a reason
to execute a massive build up of forces we would never have been there.

So now, as I hear our navy cruising up and down the Straits of Hormuz
taunting the Iranians to send out small gunboats, I wonder how long it
will be before the Iranians launch an anti-ship missile into the side of
one of our ships, and in response our government launches a HUGE
response into downtown Tehran and off we go again.......
Except this time, he war will have to be fought by the air force
and navy ONLY as we have no Army or Marine units to put on the
ground in Iran.

Should be interesting.

I pray you will be watching it from an office in the US somewhere...but I know that
will probably not be the case.

Back to the talk: Years from now as we see how history ultimately unfolds,
the students and parents you have touched with your talk will reflect on that
night when they first caught a glimpse of a huge American diplomatic and
military blunder that could have been prevented had honesty and patience

Looking back at the length of my thoughts about your talk, you can easily see it struck a chord with me.
Humanly, I really feel very small and powerless to do anything about Iraq...Yet, spiritually, there is prayer, and
I know the power of prayer, so I do have a purpose, and I commit to that purpose.


a former Infantry officer who served two tours in Viet Nam

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