Friday, February 2, 2007

What Redeployment and Protests Really Mean: A Lesson from Vietnam

Since Hanoi Jane is back in the limelight after her latest anti-war rally in DC, it’s worth looking back with a little 20/20 vision on Vietnam and what our pulling out did not just to Vietnam but to our nation as well.

There is a wealth of info out there on Vietnam that truly is amazing. Here are a few interesting ROE (Rules of Engagement) factoids for you.

1 – No matter the circumstances, do not shoot unless you are shot at first.
Translation: If you are out in the boonies with your platoon and see VC approaching across a rice patty. Keep those weapons down, Boys.
Yes, folks this was actually an ROE in parts of I Corps during the early phases of the war. Why? Because the enemy was not easily identified and civilian casualties were bad PR. Sound familiar?

2 – When an operation was going to be executed in a rural area that most likely had civilians in the vicinity, leaflets were dropped a day or two before to “warn” the locals that we would be coming. Hey! Nothing like letting the enemy know where to find you. No joke folks, I have actually seen copies of the leaflets. (Reminds me of that hilarious scene in “Heartbreak Ridge” when Gunny Highway blows a gasket because Major Powers has the ambush site pre-arranged for a training exercise)

I can tell you right now that these two ROEs did not come from the Pentagon but from those politicians in Washington who, for all extensive purposes left our fighting men with one hand politically tied behind their backs from the mid 60’s until the final pull out on 1975. Sound familiar?

The next step is to consider what the anti-war rallies did to the men in the field, those being held in POW camps and to the propaganda machine of the enemy. We are obviously seeing in recent days the beginning of what Vietnam Vets must have felt upon hearing Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden and others spouting what many believe equates to treason when we hear last Friday’s NBC Nightly News report from Iraq. In this report Staff Sergeant Manuel Sahagun was interviewed and stated, ”one thing I don't like is when people back home say they support the troops, but they don't support the war. If they're going to support us, support us all the way.” Here the Staff Sergeant is expressing frustration, which will most likely escalate to other, stronger emotions as the MSM has their way with the minds of the American people. The point that many reporters just refuse to accept is that the men in the field are more knowledgeable about what is going on in Iraq than they are and they don’t like it. What a reporter may see in the act of witnessing a tactical operation in the field will not have the same translation as the men who planned and organized the mission and who have the military training to know why they do what they do. A reporter, no matter how good, will not have the trained military eye to truly understand what is transpiring before their eyes. There is no “War for Dummies” book out there. The MSM just can’t handle this simple fact that a 19 year-old kid from Missouri has a better grasp of a given situation than a seasoned journalist who has spent the last ten years honing his/her craft. They aren’t about to let some snot-nosed kid show them up.

This next section is not well know outside of certain circles, and for those who don’t know a lot about the POW situation in Vietnam, please, pay close attention. When the anti-war machine started gaining momentum in the US, the North Vietnamese were quick to take advantage of this unsolicited propaganda and use it against the thousand or so US POWs that were held both in the North and South. Many misrepresent the Vietnamese as a ragtag loosely structured fighting force. We must not forget that the Vietnamese had been fighting off aggressors for decades before we arrived, the most recent aggressor before the US arrived in the early 60’s were the French and it is no secret that the French were paying off the Vietnamese behind closed doors long after their war ended in exchange for prisoners the Vietnamese held back after the French officially pulled out their troops. In short, these guys weren’t stupid, they knew exactly what to do and how and people like Fonda were just feeding the beast. Sound familiar?

Many uninformed Americans consider the insurgency to be a group of ragtag loosely structured fighting units. Today’s insurgency is fueled by more than our Vietnamese enemy was 40 years ago. In Nam it was the political threat of Communism yet the insurgency, because of the intermingling of their politics and their religion, have more at stake than their form of government. For those held in the now infamous Hanoi Hilton, tape recordings of Jane Fonda and others were piped right into their cells via a PA system. During torture sessions they were reminded that their fellow Americans considered them criminals by quoting these treasonous statement. Additionally, what I consider the most damning of statements, they attempted to drive home the fact that no one at home cared about them and claimed “we can keep you forever”. Even today, these former POWs question the short sightedness of these anti-war protestors and even many within our government. I highly recommend the DVD Stolen Honor which focuses on a series of present day interviews with former POWs from Vietnam who detail exactly what the anti-war movement meant to them when they were behind bars. Just imagine for a moment, knowing the kinds of excruciating torture that you were being subjected to both physical and mental only to have Fonda, Hayden and others come visit you in prison and reaffirm how thankful you must be for the kind treatment of your captors.

Now here is where Vietnam and Iraq diverge, once our troops were pulled out of Vietnam, we simply packed our bags and went home, left with the perception of having lost the first military conflict of our nation’s history. As false and untrue as that idea of defeat was, and as horrible as the reception our troops received upon their return home, at least it was definitely over for the US. The Vietnamese took their spoils of war and went home.

This is NOT the case with Iraq. Yes, if we pull out before the job is done as we did in Vietnam, there will be civilian atrocities that may well mirror Nam and many Vets of this latest conflict will have to deal with the difficult reality of the anhialation of their former counterparts who whom they fought the good fight. But Iraq will not end there. Many Americans have turned into perpetual ostriches refusing to accept the fact that the insurgency is about much more than who is in control in Iraq. The enemy will not stand up dust themselves off, pat each other on the back and go back home. They have been programmed to believe that their purpose in life is to destroy our way of life, our belief system and to either convert us to Islam or kill us for our defiance. They have openly stated this over and over.

This hasn’t been called the War on Terror for nothing, Folks. They will bring the war to a city near you in short order. And don’t think for a minute that pulling out of Iraq will not fuel their thirst even more giving them the perception, just as in Nam, that they were able to defeat the most powerful military force on the planet not by over powering them but by simply knowing the enemy and that we are a nation of instantaneous gratification. We are a spoiled people, always used to getting what we want at the drop of a hat. I think back to what my grandparents were asked to sacrifice during WWII in the name of the war effort, what has been asked of the American people today? “Support the Troops, all the way”, so little to ask compared to past generations yet the real question is, “What is the alternative?”

I don’t know about you but I like being able to pray to whom I want, when I want and that my daughters can be whoever they want to be.

How about you?

1 comment:

RoseCovered Glasses said...

Your post has some excellent points. Here's some additional data:

The U.S. Department of Defense, headquartered in the Pentagon, is one of the most massive organizations on the planet, with net annual operating costs of $635 billion, assets worth $1.3 trillion, liabilities of $1.9 trillion and more that 2.9 million military and civilian personnel as of fiscal year 2005.

I am a 2 tour Vietnam Veteran who recently retired after 36 years of working in the Defense Industrial Complex on many of the weapons systems being used by our forces as we speak.

It is difficult to convey the complexity of the way DOD works to someone who has not experienced it. This is a massive machine with so many departments and so much beaurocracy that no president, including Bush totally understands it.

Presidents, Congressmen, Cabinet Members and Appointees project a knowledgeable demeanor but they are spouting what they are told by career people who never go away and who train their replacements carefully. These are military and civil servants with enormous collective power, armed with the Federal Acquisition Regulation, Defense Industrial Security Manuals, compartmentalized classification structures and "Rice Bowls" which are never mixed.

Our society has slowly given this power structure its momentum which is constant and extraordinarily tough to bend. The cost to the average American is exhorbitant in terms of real dollars and bad decisions. Every major power structure member in the Pentagon's many Washington Offices and Field locations in the US and Overseas has a counterpart in Defense Industry Corporate America. That collective body has undergone major consolidation in the last 10 years.

What used to be a broad base of competitive firms is now a few huge monoliths, such as Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Boeing.

Government oversight committees are carefully stroked. Sam Nunn and others who were around for years in military and policy oversight roles have been cajoled, given into on occasion but kept in the dark about the real status of things until it is too late to do anything but what the establishment wants. This still continues - with increasing high technology and potential for abuse.

Please examine the following link to testimony given by Franklin C. Spinney before Congress in 2002. It provides very specific information from a whistle blower who is still blowing his whistle (Look him up in your browser and you get lots of feedback) Frank spent the same amount of time as I did in the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) but in government quarters. His job in government was a similar role to mine in defense companies. Frank's emphasis in this testimony is on the money the machine costs us. It is compelling and it is noteworthy that he was still a staff analyst at the Pentagon when he gave this speech. I still can't figure out how he got his superior's permission to say such blunt things. He was extremely highly respected and is now retired.

The brick wall I often refer to is the Pentagon's own arrogance. It will implode by it's own volition, go broke, or so drastically let down the American people that it will fall in shambles. Rest assured the day of the implosion is coming. The machine is out of control.

If you are interested in a view of the inside of the Pentagon procurement process from Vietnam to Iraq please check the posting on this blog entitled, "Odyssey of Armaments"

On the same subject, you may also be interested in the following sites from the "Project On Government Oversight", observing it's 25th Anniversary and from "Defense In the National Interest", inspired by Franklin Spinney and contributed to by active/reserve, former, or retired military personnel. More facts on the Military Industrial Complex can be gleaned from "The Dissident" link, also posted below: