From the book The Lost Battalion about the Battle of Hue in Vietnam, by Charles Krohn (Praeger, 1993):
I know I say things about living and dead that some will find offensive, although it is not my intention to offend. Both my explanation and my defense is that I had to tell the story as honestly as I could. It's now obvious that we lost the war and some 57,000 died in vain. Some accounting is called for. The least we owe the dead is an obligation to be honest.
I don't agree with our invasion of Iraq. My view on this is well known. I felt that way before we invaded, and I feel that way now. Still, we must WIN because losing will cause us greater harm. Not because of "prestige" (fuck ego, would you ask your son or daughter to die for prestige?) but because an unstable, hostile, chaotic Iraq would be worse for us than Saddam was - and it will cost us more in the long run. It is too important a region for us to simply retreat. Indochina was different. Vietnam and Laos and Thailand and Cambodia simply aren't as important to us and our security as is the Middle East. So we MUST WIN.
But we aren't even playing to win. The President refuses to level with the nation about what is needed to win, and in fact refuses to allocate funding and troops needed to win in case the public realizes the truth about the overwhelming burden he has put upon us in the middle of the war against terror. He constantly reassures us that we are just fine. Remember when the justification was WMD? Or then when we would be greeted with flowers? Remember when the "Mission" was "Accomplished?" And later the attacks on American soldiers were just some "dead-enders" who refused to see the light and would be dealt with quickly? Remember how capturing Saddam was sure to put a dent in the insurgency? Remember how controversial it was when the Army called it a "guerrilla war" and the administration said no, it wasn't?
We could have won Vietnam. The Tet Offensive was actually a huge military defeat for the communists, but it cost public support back home. A lot of people blamed (and still blame) the media for this. But it isn't true.
The fault lay with politicians who preferred simply to "not lose" over doing what it took to win. Why? Because winning in Vietnam would have cost a lot more than we were told, and any politician who, for instance, supported calling up twice as many draftees, spending twice as much money, and who pushed aggresive combat that might cause 10,000 casualties in the first month would likely be defeated in the next election. We could have invaded North Vietnam, but we didn't. Our elected leaders preferred 1000 deaths a month for 5 years over 10,000 deaths in a single month, even if we were likely to lose.
Should politics matter when our security is at stake? It wouldn't matter to me. It wouldn't matter to the soldiers. It shouldn't matter to politicians whose first loyalty should be our nation's security, not their own careers. What matters is winning or losing. If we aren't willing to do what is required to win then we shouldn't be doing it at all regardless of the next election.
But their careers did matter to the politicians, and as a result we ended up losing more lives in the long run, for nothing. The public turned against the war, but only after years of buying into the "light at the end of the tunnel" and "we are winning" and "things are better everyday" talk. Talk that wasn't true. Some blame the media for that, but that is way too easy.
The same media that supported the war in the beginning turned against it in the end. Rather than a shaper of opinions it seemed more like a mirror of public opinion. We could have won in Vietnam, but the lack of a strategy to win cost us that victory - not the media.
So what does all this have to do with Iraq?
We have no strategy to win, and the truth is being kept from us. The President says the media isn't reporting the truth about the good happening in Iraq, but in fact the media apparently isn't reporting how bad it really is in Iraq, how the insurgency has grown, how we blew our golden window of opportunity in the first few months after the fall of Saddam and are now confronting an ever-more organized, more determined enemy.
And those in the military trying to do their jobs, trying to win, are being prevented from doing so - just as they were in Vietnam. Because no news is good news, and if there is lots of bad news blame the media, not the administration. Bush prefers to keep the bad news to a minimum, even if it costs us more lives in the long run. Even if it risks defeat.
This isn't Vietnam. We can't afford to abandon Iraq. It seems the simple solution but it isn't. We can't go back in time and NOT invade, and so now we must do what it takes to win a stabilized, non-chaotic Iraq. And we are not doing that. We aren't doing what we should in order to win.
We have no strategy for victory in this war, yet incredibly the challenger is criticized for not having a complete and detailed strategy, not the incumbent. If I am in charge shouldn't I be the one to have the detailed plan, instead of criticizing others who point that out? We have no strategy to win other than to "stay the course."
One year ago we had fewer dead than we do now and the situation looked hopeful. Now we are suffering more casualties and the situation looks grim. Staying the course has harmed, not helped. Should we "stay the course" or should we adapt, as our enemies have done? It is obvious we must adapt. We are not.
Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the decision to invade (and I thought it world-class stupid) we MUST WIN. This is NOT Vietnam. We lost there but our national security didn't suffer all that much. It cost us less to lose than it would have cost us to win. That isn't the case here. We must win. We are not.
Kerry is portrayed as flip-flopping on Iraq because he voted to give the president the authority yet later criticizes the war. In fact Kerry has been incredibly consistent. Read the speech he gave before he cast the vote giving the President the authority and see for yourself:http://www.independentsforkerry.org/uploads/media/kerry-iraq.html Kerry is called a flip-flopper on invading. He is not.
And, like myself, Kerry does not want to cut and run from Iraq. This is also portrayed as flip-flopping. It is not.
We need to have a strategy to win. This administration does not.
Those who would speak truth, including some very conservative people you would think the natural supporters of a Republican president, are getting into trouble for speaking the truth:http://www.govexec.com/features/0904-15/0904-15s3.htm
By the way, that second article is the story of a career army infantry officer and later deputy chief of public affairs for the Army who took a job with the Program Management Office in Baghdad as spokesperson and media advisor. He's a Vietnam combat veteran. During the Battle of Hue in January 1968, half his battalion was killed. He's also a partisan Republican. He advised the Bush 2000 presidential campaign on military management and regularly donates money to the GOP. He resigned from his synagogue in 1994 because he thought the leadership was too liberal. And while he refuses to be labeled a neoconservative, he believes the despotic Middle East can be turned democratic by force. And he wrote the book that I quoted to begin this post. His name is Charles Krohn.
Krohn was recently forced out from his Pentagon job for criticizing the Bush administration's management of the occupation. Even though everything he said was true. He was told he couldn't be "trusted."
The administration feels that those who criticize the president harm our cause. I respectfully disagree. Those that won't tell us the truth harm our cause. Those that refuse to adapt harm our cause. Those who "stay the course" even when the road curves are the ones that will drive us right off the cliff.
On Nov. 2nd the nation will decide if it prefers pleasant lies over truth. I believe we owe an obligation to the dead, and to our soldiers under fire today, to honor the truth.