Reflections on “The Wall” and Iraq
- 29 July 2007 by Author 0 Comments
Reflections on “The Wall” and Iraq
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 07/29/07
I was moved to tears visiting the Moving Wall, the transportable Vietnam War Memorial this week. It is truly a humbling experience to see the very personal nature of the Memorial listing by name the men and women who involuntarily gave their lives in a cause that was noble, stemming the tide of encroaching Communism, but was managed ineffectually by politicians.
As striking as it is to visually and emotionally process the names of 58,000 American soldiers who died in that undeclared war, I can’t even imagine what it would be like to see a comparable walled memorial for the million to million and a half Vietnamese who died after the U.S. withdrew from that theater. To the people of Vietnam the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime had to have been absolutely catastrophic. To the people of the United States, that should have been a tremendous blow to our collective conscience. Communism was eventually defeated gratefully without major bloodletting by American soldiers, although continued civilian losses behind the Iron Curtain may be incalculable.
As seen in Vietnam, American foreign policy has not only been driven by national security concerns, but by altruism. The United States through its military strength has freed more people worldwide from oppression and tyranny than any other nation in the history of the world. And unlike previous world powers or what some among us would have us believe, we don’t do it for empire building or colonial purposes. The best thing that can happen to a country is to be a battle zone for America, for not only do we get rid of the nefarious and bellicose elements in a country, but we rebuild the country and leave it in better shape than what we found it in.
Today, we have an elite, well-trained force in Iraq that is not only trying to stabilize a country that is infused with terrorists, but protect our country by eradication of those insurgents who could otherwise be planning attacks against us here at home. General David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, in an interview last week said that during exercises in Kosovo that the special forces would conduct a tactical mission and they’d “feed off that for months.” He said now they may have a dozen elaborate, sophisticated special forces missions going on every night that are increasingly successful in disrupting the flow of weaponry from Iran and decimating the Al Qaida leadership of the terrorists.
I hold in contempt those who ascribe evil to our military men and women. Those who are so quick to condemn purported actions of impropriety and inhumanity against those whom we’re striving to provide protection for in pursuit of their freedom. I disdain those who jumped on the mass media bandwagon of condemnation of those soldiers who served in Haditha a year ago, charged with murdering men, women and children wantonly. As the evidence has been gathered and examined it appears that the forensic evidence and the moment by moment narrative of an intelligence officer who was on the scene will likely clear the charges against the Marines involved in the infamous Haditha incident. The whole situation, with the mass media leading the charge, is very similar to the Duke lacrosse rape case, where because the accusations fit the media’s model of white on black crime, the accused were not just accused; they were tried, found guilty, and sentenced by the media before the case was even underway. Likewise, the media have attempted to do the same with the Marines involved in the Haditha incident since the accusations fit their model of evil military stereotyping.
Coincidentally, there is ample motivation for the families of those killed at Haditha to claim the casualties were non-combatant civilians. The Government gives $2,500 to every family of an innocent killed by U.S. forces in Iraq.
We have the most moral and conscientious military perhaps in the history of the world. There is literally as much training in avoiding “collateral damage,” both in terms of infrastructure and human life through Rules of Engagement and Escalation of Force, as there is in pursuing, apprehending, and engaging the enemy. In reality, our military personnel are more at risk since they have the protection of innocents so firmly ingrained into their training. As a nation, and as represented by our military in the theater, we believe in the sanctity of life. We expect the best from our military, and we get it. Why else would the very rare exception like Mi Lai be such a shock to our collective conscience? Come to think about it, since our military is an all volunteer force, the mass media should praise and lionize them like they do illegal aliens them since they are willing to do jobs that other Americans are not willing to do!
I’m convinced that part of being a good American, even a patriotic American, is believing enough in our country, it’s leaders, it’s military, and it’s citizens, that we believe and hope for the best of our country. That instead of assuming all is wrong, or all are guilty of purported crimes, that we assume competency, propriety, and innocence until proven guilty. Accusations do not a case for execution make.
There are few similarities between the Vietnam conflict and the current operation in Iraq. But the biggest one would be literally created by us if we leave prior to completing the task of stabilizing that nascent democracy and a literal bloodbath ensued because of the vacuum left by our withdrawal. By the way, next time someone tries to tell you that Iraq is a failure, tell them that 7 of the 18 Iraqi provinces are now totally under the control of the Iraqi government. It seems much more logical to me to finish the job now rather than returning sometime down the road when the situation is much, much worse. And next time you see a soldier, thank them for their service. After all, they are the ones who continue to pay the price for our freedom and security. They did in Vietnam as memorialized with the Moving Wall, and they continue to do it today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.