The acutely real Vietnam War was blazing away 35 years ago when I was a young boy playing army in the deep woods near my home located amid the rolling solitude of North Texas farmland.
Counting my brother, our gang of army buddies numbered close to 10 on normal days. That meant five against five, provided there were enough guns for everybody. On the rare occasion that faux firearms were in short supply, we would often all agree to pretend and a kid's hand would be designated as a . 45-caliber automatic (if American G.I.) or a 9-mm P-38 (if German soldier).
We always aimed to be fair before killing each other. Such is not the case with this blundering, stumbling Bush war with Iraq. And that brings me to a point that I'd like to make, because Bush's behavior as commander-in-chief reminds me that in our old army-playing days, in those woods of long ago, there seemed to always be a sniveling little spoiled neighborhood kid who would only play by our war-game rules if it was to his benefit. For example: in cases where these kids were "hit" by sweeping, crushing machine gun fire from all sides in a sudden ambush, the more we proved they had indeed been shot first, the more emphatically they'd deny being hit at all.
"Blam, blam, blam, blam, blam! You're dead kid!" I remember shouting many a time at such kids. And they'd stand up in the middle of the fighting and wave a fist: "No I'm not. Not I'm not. YOU'RE dead. You didn't hit me!" such kids would retort, almost crying.
What could we do about such kids? Well, the only thing we could do. It gradually got to the point, over time and a series of weekly troop clashes, where these kids could score bullseyes on every shot and none of us would fall down. And pretty soon they'd quit playing with us, which made everybody happy. Nobody likes a spoiled-sport. President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the other war planners seem strikingly similar to some of those kids I used to know in those North Texas woods.
It definitely seems clear to me that these guys in The White House and The Pentagon are being just as childish in their prosecution of the War with Iraq.
Specifically, what seems odd to me is how the U.S. troops and tanks and helicopters and bombers and cruise missiles can blitzkrieg and bombard villages, towns, cities, soldiers, innocent civilians, blowing them to bits--action opposed by most of the world's nations and unsanctioned by the U.N. Security Council; also it is against the international law. And all the while the military holds many prisoners at the base in Cuba, in violation of the Geneva Convention.
But in the midst of this illegal war, when American troops are taken prisoner and subjected to rough treatment, Bush and Rumsfeld start whining about violations of the Geneva Convention. Don't they know what war is like? Well, I guess not. After all, while I was playing army in the late 1960s, during the Vietnam War, they had other priorities. So I think my Vietnam-era war experience exceeds theirs.
War is ugly, and in truth there are no rules on the battlefield except to kill the enemy before he kills you. This is not like war-games at all.
This is the real thing now. And it is likely that it will get much worse in the days and weeks ahead. Maybe if Bush had served combat during Vietnam War, instead of dodging it with the help of his father's connections, he'd know the distinction between war-game glory and the bloody hell of real war, especially this unprecedented type of American invasion.
When the giant military force of a superpower like the U.S. beats up on a weak little country like Iraq, with the aim of taking it over and owning it, the rest of the world naturally revolts. And the citizens of that country, even those who were previously fighting, put differences aside and join together to repel and destroy the invaders. We see this happening today with Iraq, and now Syria and Iran are beginning to join in against the U.S., however covertly.
The Vietnam War offers a stark view of what happens when outside nations try such aggressive tactics, even if they are well-intentioned--as was the case, at least initially, with Vietnam. American troops in Vietnam, in the mid-1960s, were attacked from all sides, even from the civilian population. Many people on both sides, North and South Vietnam, hated American troops. Even with far superior technology, we lost the war as a result.
Such was Vietnam, and Iraq looks a lot like that right now. What was said to be a pushover by the Bush Administration planners just prior to the invasion, is rapidly turning into a bloody mess. The reality of war is far different from tough talk and field exercises. Now Bush and his planners say an extended conflict was expected, but that's a cover story. They never said that before declaring war. "The enemy we're fighting against is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," said Lt. Gen. William Wallace in a Thursday interview with The New York Times. "We knew they were here but we did not know how they would fight." Wallace, 55, is currently commander of ground forces in Iraq. He graduated from West Point in 1969 and served in the Vietnam War. Wallace's comments are said to have evoked rising columns of smoke from Bush's ears as he read them, insulated as he is from his war in the Oval Office.
In recent months even the top brass in The Pentagon have tried to reign-in the Bush war horses, frothing at the mouth at a White House that seemed intent on invasion from the moment Bush took the oath of office.
But the military experts were summarily ignored, even ridiculed by Bush and Rumsfeld. Tens of millions of people worldwide are now protesting this atrocious war, taking to the streets, blocking traffic in major cities, displaying courageous and correct instances of civil disobedience. The soul of America is outraged because this nation is being scarred and abused by Bush and his warlords. Old Cold War dangers are beginning to materialize as Russian leaders openly issue words of scorn about the Bush-led invasion.
Now, U.S. forces are undoubtedly in trouble. And even so, Rumsfeld warns Syria and Iran--both bordering Iraq--that if they don't stop helping Iraq the U.S. would consider them enemies too. This angered both nations, and probably will only incite them to anger, and they'll likely assist the Iraqi resistance even more. Who could blame them? First Iraq, then perhaps Syria and Iran? After all, Bush called Iran part of an imagined "Axis of Evil."
Millions of people worldwide would say Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld are a virulent axis that needs immediate attention. Those responsible for the war-planning, most notably Bush, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Pearle, have led the U.S. forces into a quagmire. These troops, because of faulty planning and precipitous action, are now underfed, fatigued, and vulnerable. Supply lines are long, and many more armored vehicles and troops are weeks away from joining the fight. They should already be in place, but Rumsfeld told everybody we had plenty of equipment and personnel to take the country. He wouldn't listen to anybody. He doesn't make mistakes.
All I can say now is that like some of those kids I knew playing army in the woods, the more Bush and Rumsfeld are proven wrong, the more they say they're right. That kind of leadership has left American troops caught in the crossfire between massive diplomatic blundering and the realities of an unjust, political war they were ordered to start.
John W. Flores Texas
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