For three decades, since the end of the Vietnam War, veterans of that
bloody fiasco have said, “been there, done that,” implying Americans should
listen to what they have to say about war.
We fought a war so we
understand the horror of war. We know war should be the last option, which seems
to have slipped the minds of most Americans. We fought a losing war so we know
the military needs a clear, specific military goal, not a vague wishful goal. We
know that lifeless bodies shipped home to the heartland will eventually speak
louder than all those determined words roaring out of Washington. But this can
take years and many thousands of dead bodies.
All knowledge is not equal,
nor can all knowledge be easily learned. That which is learned from painful
reflection after horrible experience is often the most important knowledge. “No
pain, no gain” applies not only to biceps.
For those who experienced
that ugly war, Vietnam was a hard experience for learning what is possible and
what is not possible -- a massive sobering antidote, actually, to hubristic
foreign adventures. Yet, for those who fervently supported the Vietnam War yet
refused to fight in that war -- those now running our country -- what they
learned on the safe sidelines far from the fighting was something quite
different. They learned fantasy can survive bloody reality and lies are more
politically effective than truth. They learned America can win any war,
anywhere, anytime, as long as they are in charge. They learned nonsense.
But they run this country, not us.
The reality is, although America is a
so-called superpower it does not have super military power. Like all
nations, our nation is restricted and limited by resources and power. Like all
nations, we need to be thoughtful and cautious. Like all nations, we need
leaders who are informed and wise, and citizens who are skeptical and
questioning. But our leaders are dense, hubristic and blind, and too many
Americans have followed these dense, hubristic and blind leaders, followed them
into another foreign policy nightmare.
The guerrilla forces of the world
cannot afford to be dense, hubristic and blind. To survive, they are forced to
be cunning and elusive, sharp tigers exploiting the advantages of fighting on
their own turf.
Nearly all insurgency groups today understand the
workings of asymmetrical warfare: avoid your more powerful military adversary
where it is strong; strike the sluggish leviathan where it is weak. Time is the
opponent of this expensive technically laden “stronger” power but an asset of
the no-frills “weaker” guerrilla force. So guerrillas slowly bleed the powerful,
costly fighting machines.
And the U.S. military is being slowly bled. In
May 2003 when President Bush arrogantly proclaimed an end to major combat
operations, there was an average of 17 U.S. combat deaths a month. Today there
is an average of 82 combat deaths per month. (Actually, nothing slow about this:
in only 9 months fatalities have increased four-fold.) During this same period,
the number of wounded Americans has spiraled from 142 a month to 808 a month --
nearly a six-fold increase!
Back in the 1980s, on an isolated Philippine
jungle island, I spent several days with a group of communist guerrillas. We ate
rice with our fingers and drank rum late into the night. These illiterate
Filipino farmers turned communist fighters understood clearly how the North
Vietnamese defeated the superpower America. They couldn’t write, they couldn’t
read, but they understood the weak points in the U.S. military machine and how
to exploit them. Today their sons probably know how the great Soviet Union fell
The same modern communication and transportation used to
ferry ideas and people around the globe for international business are also
being used by international insurgents. Instead of penetrating remote economic
areas for money making, they are spreading information about effective military
tactics and stymieing the world’s most powerful military power. Globalism is
making foreign occupation increasingly difficult; it has never been so difficult
for the rich and powerful to occupy the weak and the poor.
York Times says 1,417 Americans soldiers have died and 10,622 Americans
soldiers have been wounded in Iraq, more than half of whom have been unable to
return to duty. Now I hear a second amputee ward has been opened in San Antonio,
Texas because Walter Read Army hospital in Washington cannot accommodate all the
incoming amputees. When will there be a third amputee ward for our returning
And last week CNN said President Bush in his 21-minute
inauguration speech spoke the word “freedom” 27 times and “liberty” 15 times;
that was a “freedom” or a “liberty” every 20 seconds. But not once during his
entire 21-minute speech did he say the word “Iraq.” And not once during that 21
minute, 1,260 second speech did he say the name of even 1 dead American soldier.
Here is the name of 1 dead American soldier: Casey Sheehan. And
here is a poem by Carly Sheehan, little sister to dead American soldier Casey
A poem by Carly Sheehan
little sister to dead
American soldier Casey
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done They call
him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but Have you ever heard the
sound of a mother screaming for her son?
Have you ever heard the sound
of a father holding back his cries? He must be brave because his boy died
for another man's lies The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave But I
believe he died because they had oil to save Have you ever heard the sound
of taps played at your brother's grave?
Have you ever heard the sound of
a nation being rocked to sleep? The leaders want to keep you numb so the
pain won't be so deep But if we the people let them continue another mother
will weep Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to