Editor, Manteca Bulletin,
I was very impressed by Dave Campbell’s column ‘Exactly what was accomplished?’ in Wednesday’s Bulletin. Mr. Campbell’s perspective and the question that he asks doesn’t, unfortunately, seem to come up anymore in conversations about the wars that our country has conducted during the past 50 years.
I served as a medic in the Army from ‘69 through ‘71, and as a veteran, always feel a little uneasy around Memorial Day. I’m sure that the gratitude expressed by people who haven’t served in the military is genuine and heartfelt, but a day of flags and speeches and flyovers and thanking veterans for their service really does very little to honor the sacrifice and suffering of the 1,343,812 dead, 1,529,230 injured, and 38,159 missing from the Revolutionary War up to and including the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
Besides all of us demanding that our government officials adequately fund the Veterans Administration and its hospitals, I believe that the best way to truly honor the sacrifices made by our country’s military personnel is to ask the question that Mr. Campbell asks, exactly what has been accomplished by past wars, and what do our politicians hope to accomplish by calls for further war and conflict. And equally important, who profits from the death and suffering of American soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines?
Back in the ‘60s, our politicians told us that Chinese and Soviet communism would overrun the world if we didn’t stop them in Vietnam. Many called for nuclear war as the only means to halt the spread of the red menace that they said threatened all free men everywhere. Fifty years later, China is still a dictatorship, but now a capitalist dictatorship and perhaps the most powerful capitalist country on the planet. Much of our industry and many of our jobs have moved there. There were 58,209 Americans that died and 153,303 were wounded in Vietnam, a country which was never a threat to the United States, and is now a sweat shop dictatorship, turning out Nike shoes by the millions, as well as other consumer junk. Exactly what was accomplished by that war? Was it worth it? What would the situation be like today if we hadn’t gotten involved in that conflict? How would the dead answer?
Afghanistan and Iraq, though neither a bed of roses, were both arguably more stable and better off before our politicians lied us into a war which has claimed 7,402 American dead and 52, 489 injured so far. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, he managed to hold that divided nation together, and just look at it now. What a disaster. Was the sacrifice of American lives and treasure worth it? As Mr. Campbell asks, exactly what was accomplished? Now, some of the same politicians who lied and led us into those disastrous conflicts are calling for another war, perhaps a nuclear war, against Iran. Do we really want even more chaos in that part of the world? How many more American sons and daughters are these politicians willing to kill to satisfy their ‘mission’? Too many have died already, and for what?
It seems obvious to me that in the spirit of Memorial Day, we owe our troops more than just a parade and a day of thanks and remembrance. We owe them the truth — the truth about the reasons for past wars, the answer to the question “what was accomplished?” — and the truth about the need for future conflicts. These men and women are after all, laying their lives on the line. Anything thing else is unworthy of them, and of us as a nation,