Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Consequences

Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, my father liked sitting in his chair watching episodes of “World At War” and “Victory At Sea.” I’d sit with him through the black-and-white, 30-minute programs and occasionally, he’d point at the TV and say, “I was there,” or “That’s the kind of ship I served on.” I’d see a gray warship with its bow plowing through large waves. Sometimes he’d point and say, “Your Uncle Bobby was there with General Patton,” or “Your Uncle Joe flew on a plane like that.” He didn’t display much affect as we watched and we sat through a lot of those programs. I was proud that my father had been involved in dramatic battles like D-Day, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa but I couldn’t brag about it to my friends because all their fathers were in the big war too.

Author Studs Terkel called it “The Good War,” and wrote a book by that title. No war can really be good. Terkel called it that because everybody was behind it, soldiers and civilians alike. If there was dissent, it was silent. America had been attacked and the country was united. Everyone realized that we could lose if we were not. We were fighting against Germany, Japan and Italy. There was no doubt that those countries, very different from one another, would nonetheless cooperate in the effort to defeat us. We were their biggest obstacle to world domination.

“The Good War” came out in 1984 and the contrast with Vietnam was obvious. At first, America was united against communist North Vietnam, but we all know how that changed. Comments from North Vietnamese leaders afterward acknowledge how much opposition to the war in the United States helped their effort and contributed to our ultimate defeat. Over 58,000 Americans died and over a million Vietnamese. Another million Vietnamese boat people fled the country after our defeat. Cambodian communists, called the Khmer Rouge, killed another two million people after taking over that unfortunate country. North and South Vietnam were reunified under communism, but now they’re realizing it doesn’t work. That’s difficult to admit now though, after all the misery they went through to get it.

Americans who opposed the Vietnam War wear their opposition as a badge of honor and they’re correct when they brag about how they forced the United States to withdraw from Vietnam. They don’t like to acknowledge however, that their efforts also led to the misery of the Cambodian Killing Fields and the Vietnamese Boat People but they own part of all that too. They don’t like to hear Vietnam Vets talk about how they felt when they heard about people back home pulling the rug out from under them while they were fighting and dying in the jungles. Americans have freedom of speech and the press and we exercise them often, but we must take responsibility for what we say, what we write, and what we broadcast. All that dissent affected our effort in Vietnam and it affects today’s war against radical Islam.

Today’s activists try to deflect that, claiming they oppose the war but support our troops. Come again? How is that possible? When senators, congressmen, and journalists claim the American war in Iraq is based on lies, they’re also saying our soldiers are dying over there for nothing. Empty statements like, “but we support the troops” only add insult to injury. They may salve the consciences of the dissenters, but our soldiers are not comforted. Ask them. They’ll tell you. Several of my former students who served there have told me they wish reporters and broadcasters wouldn’t focus constantly on the negatives, that we’re doing great things over there but all that’s being reported is gloom and doom and quagmire.

It sounds just like Vietnam after 1968. American soldiers were disheartened then, and they’re disheartened now. Likewise, our enemies were encouraged then and they’re encouraged now. Television networks choose not to show footage of Americans jumping from the World Trade Center, of Zarqawi cutting off the heads of American hostages, of terrorists dragging the bodies of American soldiers through the streets, or of Palestinians cheering the September 11th attacks. No. Footage like would remind the American public of what we’re fighting against so let’s keep that film in the can. Instead, we’ll show footage of endless car bombs and pools of blood in the streets. We’ll call terrorists “insurgents” and claim that, even though Saddam Hussein used nerve gas against the Kurds and the Iranians, he had no weapons of mass destruction. Even though he harbored terrorists like Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, and Al Qaida training camps, he had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden.

Yes, there are consequences for the drumbeat of negativism about our efforts in the Middle East. If we lose in Iraq, and the wacko Iranian President Ahmadinejad gets a nuke and makes good on his threats to “wipe Israel off the map,” will antiwar activists continue to claim there’s no connection between any of these Islamic terrorists?

Get this: They all hate Israel; they all hate the United States; they all hate Europe, and they have special contempt for western liberals. They want to make the world Muslim. If they win, there will be no women’s rights or gay rights or anything resembling civil rights at all. Those will be the consequences for your smug anti-war activism, and you better realize it before it’s too late for all of us.

5 comments:

Brock Townsend said...

"President Kennedy’s domino theory didn’t hold up well as Cambodia was the only domino to fall after Vietnam."

Laos, also.

Tom McLaughlin said...

You're right. Thank you. It's corrected.

bob walker said...

"President Kennedy’s domino theory didn’t hold up well as Cambodia was the only domino to fall after Vietnam."

Laos, also.

bob walker said...

"President Kennedy’s domino theory didn’t hold up well as Cambodia was the only domino to fall after Vietnam."

Laos, also.

Sorry 'bout that. But...

Do you think for a minute that our holding the line in Vietnam didn't allow those other "dominoes" to grow and be able to not fall? Thailand? Great country today, sure it has its troubles, but overall, the Thai people are fantastic, and I've always enjoyed working and visiting there. But if we had abandoned Vietnam in 1954, or 1962, do you think for a minute Thailand wouldn't be a communist country today? Get real.

Tom McLaughlin said...

No Bob. I don't think they would have held up as well. Brock was quoting a line that was in the my original post that I've since corrected. He was pointing out that Laos was a domino as was Cambodia. I think Brock may agree that holding the line as long as we did strengthened other countries in the region, but I can't speak for him. I certainly think so.