I wrote this in October, 2005 and kept it in draft until now. Now is the time to publish it.
"The Vietnam period was a really bad thing for the United States. In that time the country split left, right and center. Some people fought the war and others supported the enemy. There were even some who were actually pacifists. We don’t have that split yet and people on all sides should draw back from re-enacting it. It was a terrible thing. Some Americans marched inthe streets behind the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese flags chanting "Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh. The NLF are going to win" while other Americans were dying or being maimed under the US flag.
Those of us who remained in the armed forces after the war remember just how bitter was the feeling on both sides, and it is with mixed feelings that Vietnam veterans see the appropriate and good way in which soldiers are treated today. The mythology of Vietnam lingers on today with many people in the population still believing that veterans of that war are ruined, drug soaked losers guilty of crimes they won’t admit, and unable to adjust to normal life. In fact, the opposite is true, but that does not stop people from thinking otherwise.
After Vietnam it took many years of "hard work" (quoting the pres.) to overcome the psychological gap between those who serve the Republic and those who are served. Iraq is dragging us back to that hateful period in American history. You only had to see that demonstration in Washington last week to know that the danger of deep division is upon us. What flag will the demonstrators march behind this time?
I understand from journalists who "hung out" around the headquarters of United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam (USMACV) headquarters in Saigon during the once and future war that every afternoon the Public Information Office (PIO) would brief them at 5 PM. At these sessions the briefers would pretend to tell the journalists something and the journalists would pretend to learn something. This was known as the "Five O’clock Follies." It made for a kind of life, largely meaningless on both sides, but then, it was a hell of a lot easier for both sides than going to "the field." It was an exercise in "news management," something the military wasn’t very good at. Now the whole government is MUCH better at it but we seem the be returning to the spirit of the "Follies."
General Officers are now often heard saying things that are childish in their transparent "wrongness." The insistence that "all is well" in Iraq and that the political program now underway will end the insurgency is so blatently non-sensical that it is bringing the good name and reputation of the armed forces for selfless service into question once again. The generals are torn between the evidence before their eyes of impending decline in our position in that country and the insistence on the part of their political superiors that they should not only say that things are going well, but that they must BELIEVE IT. As a result you have the spectacle of generals vacillating on issues such as future troop withdrawals and the strength of the Iraqi military. This is pretty basic stuff.
Defenders of present policy often point out that the US presence in Iraq is doing some splendid things for the Iraqi people(s). That is undoubtedly true, but, in fact, if the political situation can not be straightened out so that the interests of the Sunni Arabs AS A COMMUNITY (not as individuals) are "taken care of" so that they stop supporting the guerrillas, then all these good works may be for naught. Surely the generals know that.
Like Cassandra, I will warn the generals. Gentlemen, you may be politicians in uniform but your subordinates are not. If you destroy their good name among their fellow citizens while at the same time giving tham an emtional burden to carry for life, they will never forgive you.