Peace and Love: Part One (War Casualties).
(In response to suggestions from a few readers, I am trying a slightly new format of much shorter and more frequent posts; we’ll see how that works, for me and for readers. Feedback welcome on that or anything else.)
To some readers, “Peace and Love” reminds you, as it does me, of slogans from the 1960’s. It arose in response to the war in Vietnam which President Johnson led us into full-bore with a lie about the Gulf of Tonkin. That war produced over 58,000 American deaths.
There were also more than a few American citizens who were wounded physically and a great many who were wounded mentally as well as their families. It also resulted in millions of Vietnamese casualties.
However, the loss of lives did allow Vietnam to remain a free and democratic nation. Wait. Wait. No it didn’t. Vietnam became communist and sadly Vietnam was only the first “domino to fall.” Now, all of Asia is communist. Oh, wait. No it isn’t. I’m sorry. I’m confused. How could “the greatest” nation on earth spend nearly a trillion dollars (in current dollars) and kill so many lives and end up losing the war?
And how could the fall of Vietnam not result in Japan and South Korea and Singapore and India becoming communist once this first domino nation fell? What happened to the other dominos? I’ll tell you how. In war, truth is the first casualty.
We were lied to in order to get enough support to get us into the war and we were lied to continuously about the likely consequences of losing the war and about the progress of the war. What would our lives be like now in America, let alone Vietnam, if all the money we poured into the war had instead gone into advances in science, medicine, technology, infrastructure and education?
Not only were there many protests about the war in America; there were actually candidates who ran mainly on a platform to end the war. Some may recall the names of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern who ran on peace platforms. You may also recall that Hubert Humphrey, who had been Johnson’s Vice President obtained the nomination of the Democratic Party via shenanigans at the convention in Chicago. Meanwhile, the Chicago police beat up peaceful demonstrators outside the convention. Humphrey would have won the nomination, most likely, even if the people in charge of the Democratic Party had allowed the McGovern camp to speak their piece. I was so pissed off at the senseless violence perpetrated by the police against peaceful demonstrators that I found myself sorely tempted to vote for the Republican candidate in protest. He had a “secret plan” so he claimed, to end the war in Vietnam.
Richard Nixon did get voted in as President and I did vote for him even though I was skeptical that he actually had a secret plan. But he did! He did have a secret plan to end the war. The plan was to give up. Yeah, there were more deaths and more lies along the way, but basically his secret plan was to give up. Well, that and rely on “dirty tricks” to secure his power. I was mistaken to vote for Nixon. He was impeached and he was a liar and he was, despite his protestations to the contrary, a crook. (My “revenge” vote against the establishment of the Democratic Party didn’t really work.) However, whatever faults Nixon might have had, he was a paragon of virtue compared with #45.
At least America learned a good lesson. Before going into a costly war, we now make sure we know the real facts. And so, before Bush got us into the second Iraq war, Republicans and Democrats worked together to make absolutely positively sure that the Iraqis really did have “weapons of mass destruction.” Oh wait. I am so sorry. I got confused again! No, we didn’t. We had a Vice President with financial interests in having a war in the Middle East. We had rich old men who had cheated their ways to fortunes who hoped to cash in on even more oil money through the war. And so they did. A small price to pay — a few tens of thousands of American deaths and a few hundreds of thousands of Iraqis killed and maimed. There seems to be no consensus on the exact numbers.
At least now, there is finally a unified and peaceful Iraq though so maybe it was worth it. Oh, wait. Damn! Something in the water must be muddying my memory because, no, there isn’t a peaceful, democratic and unified Iraq. How could the “greatest nation on earth” spend two trillion dollars on a war and end up gaining nothing from it? I guess we just sacrificed all that money that we could have spent on education, keeping our bridges and roads from collapsing, researching cures to cancer and other diseases for the benefit of Iraqis. That is really quite remarkably altruistic of us. But I guess it was worth it because now, as everyone knows, the middle east is at last at peace. Democracy everywhere! Or, at least everywhere except Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and maybe a dozen other places. Apart from the lack of success in meeting our objectives…which were what exactly? Anyway, apart from meeting our objectives, it wasn’t that big of a deal because all we lost were wealth and human lives and limbs and a working infrastructure for Iraq. Oh, there is the continuing cost of medical and psychiatric care for Gulf War vets and the impact the war had on their families and our national debt, but hey. Every success requires sacrifice, right? Or, to put it in slightly more exact terms, every success for the transfer of wealth from the middle class and poor to a few extremely wealthy people requires sacrifice on the part of ordinary citizens who don’t really count for much anyway because, well, if they really counted for anything, they’d already be wealthy! If they really counted for anything, they sure as hell wouldn’t be off fighting a war where other people were shooting at them! They’d be in the National Guard doing nothing. Or, they’d be excused from military service because of a severe medical problem such as heel spur which might, luckily enough, heal later.