Friday, November 07, 2003

Remember Saigon?...

It was April of 1975. I was two months shy of graduating from high school. Are you old enough to remember the images that were being shown on the evening news at that time? If not, then maybe you should check out the following links… The U.S. was pulling out of Saigon. The Vietnam War was, for all intents and purposes, over. The South Vietnamese people clearly understood the oppression that was upon them. There are images of people crowding onto helicopters and landing, unauthorized, onboard U.S. aircraft carriers. From, Saigon's Finale, by the New York Time’s Malcolm W. Browne, “As swarms of Vietnamese air force helicopters set down on the American warships, each helicopter was quickly unloaded and heaved overboard to make room for the next one. Meanwhile, legions of refugees used their sampans and fishing boats to reach the fleet, setting their craft afire to keep them from falling into communist hands. The tranquil sea, covered from horizon to horizon with blazing watercraft, looked like a vision of hell.” For those who continue to rant on that our presence in Iraq must not become another Vietnam, I heartily agree. We must not betray the Iraqi people, whom we have liberated from the hands of Saddam Hussein, as we did the South Vietnamese people (in 1975). We must not engage in an extended and limited conflict with terrorist cells in Iraq, as we did with the North Vietnamese (from the ‘60s into the ‘70s). We have recently lost upwards of 16 personnel in an attack on a U.S. helicopter. With every report on U.S. servicemen killed or wounded in action, the media paints a picture that our continued presence in Iraq is potentially counter-productive. Exactly who do they think military personnel should expect to encounter in their line of work?… girl scouts selling cookies?… or maybe the Dixie Chicks expressing their opinions? Let’s face it, we shouldn’t be surprised that soldiers in Iraq are still being shot at… but c’mon now – how many of the soldiers in Iraq are surprised that they’re still being shot at? No U.S. soldier lost in the War on Terror is insignificant. No U.S. soldier killed in the War on Terror should be forgotten. Yet we, as a country, need to understand the reality of fighting a War on Terror. Between March and November 3rd, there have been 376 U.S. killed in Iraq. Of those, 249 have been combat deaths. Compare those numbers with the Vietnam War, which lasted from 1959 to 1975, and took the lives of 58,000 U.S. soldiers. Now compare with the battle of Gettysburg, which lasted from July 1st to July 3rd, 1863, and took the lives of 48,000 soldiers on both the Union and Confederate sides. Have we become so frightened at the cost of freedom that we turn and run at the first sight of the reality of war?

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