(Causes of the Vietnam War, a Personal View)
The Vietnam War was a ten-year rainstorm, one I experienced for one tenth of it (and got a decoration for). It carried us, as if to the moon, as if the moon had dropped on us. It infected the community, everyday life; it also gave some of us, excitement (as it had for me), but many funerals, 56,000-American funerals, over 5,000 a month. It gave us new and daily sounds over the radio, and television, and the full actual sounds of war, I would get to hear, in 1971.
The political power of the day embodied us all; it killed JFK, and brought the war even closer to our living rooms. As the world turned at the United Nations, behind closed doors, in our Congress, right up to the Oval Office, politicians and industry discussed its merits (its intrinsic worth) for ten-years. We had many dragons in our flag. Thus, the storm continued unabated.
We all looked at each other—back then (us soldiers), as if we were young blind owls in the night, once confident Americans, now feeling abandonment and estrangement because of the nature of the war. And the people of the nation, my nation the ones that commanded us to fight it, behind our backs, cussed us, called us baby killers, told us to go to Canada, spit at us: damned if we ran, damned if we stayed and fought.
My story is not quite like most of the other soldiers’ stories in Vietnam. I didn’t question if the war was right or wrong, I just went, matter of fact, I had taken some jungle training in Washington State, when the doctors discovered my toes on my right foot had been smashed from a bomb falling on it in Augsburg, West Germany a few months prior—as a result, I became unfit for war. I did not have to go to Vietnam, —because I would not be able to run well enough. However, I wanted to go so I kept my old orders as they were cutting new ones, and jumped on the plane to Vietnam: I wanted the experience of being in a war, I had filled my veins with patriotic fever, and the travel seemed exciting. I was a silly boy back then.
There was a hostile spirit in the core of America, so I discovered during this time—being from the Midwest, I never noticed it until I started traveling, for the Army; this spirit, I do believe created a defeated attitude among us in Vietnam. Again, I suppose I was different, single, no one back home—for the most part, but many a soldier cried in the night, wanting to go home, be with his wife, children, even some cried for their mothers, this created a storm of drug related soldiers. I saw them come in healthy, and three months later, they were on every drug available. Soldiers not wanting to be soldiers do not make for good soldiers.
President Johnson had taken the 34,000-troops that President Kennedy had sent to Vietnam, American soldiers of war—sent them home, and replaced them with 500,000-soldiers, new ones (much like Obama has done, shifting soldiers like toys in the Middle East; and all remains quiet in the White House.) What can you say to a man like that, like Johnson? Only the devil knows.
Pickled and indecisive Americans, we were all of that and more back in the early late sixties and early seventies. Actually, Nixon was the only one who wanted to stop the fighting, and started bombing Hanoi, and had we continued, we would have won the war (without shame, or dishonor), but again, America screamed and howled at our barbarism, which it was, but we were fighting barbarians. Nixon sent home 300,000-Americans by end of 1971. Those 300,000 were part of Johnson’s scheme for the American Iron Horse, American Industry, and the real barbarians who kept the war going. It was a commercial war, costing the American Government—not one dime, we made up the paper money as if it was wallpaper; oiled the money machines night and day: it cost over nine-billion dollars—devaluing the dollar worldwide, as we have done today, are doing right now, with the two wars going on in the Middle East. Equal perhaps, at today’s inflated rate, Vietnam would have cost 105-billion. In comparison, Iraq has cost us 700-billion, a war like Vietnam, of no crisis for America.
I went to fight communism. I believed in America, only to find out the cold hearts and thin shadows of the emperors of America’s industrialization had designed the war to last, or last longer. By proxy, that is to say, to fight a war in another country—a playground war sort of—instead of fighting one another (the Russians and Chinese), in our own backyards, and profit by it. In addition, in the process we destroyed the ecosystem of Vietnam, which was nearly equal to that of the Amazon, along with killing three-million Vietnamese inhabitants.
Let me add, Agent Orange killed a good friend of mine, among others of course, and genetically altered and lowered the life span of a million other American soldiers (out of the ten million sent to Vietnam), perhaps even my system was infected, who’s to say. In any case, during its usage and years later, a grasshopper was not safe to live in the environment, and for ten years after the war, defected children were born because of the massive usage of chemicals by America. Therefore, Vietnam was also a testing ground for new biological warfare (not much different from Saddam Hussein, who used it on the Kurds, and we scorned him for it).
The industrial machines of America was at full capacity in the mid to late ‘60s and early ‘70s: cranes, jeeps, wings for planes, bullets for rifles, and helicopters: trains filled up with rations: beef and butter, vegetables and fruits, all to feed those ten-million soldiers rotating yearly. It was an industrial heyday for America’s Kings of Industry (they ruled the political system).
The executives of industry knew nothing of leaping over bodies, digging holes in the dirt to hide one’s face from incoming rockets, the scrap metal, metal fragments displaced, and flying everywhichway (they quickly sent their children to college so they’d not have face the torrents of war). During one attack, a piece of metal the size of my fist, and bulky like a round smooth rock, red hot, passed flying by my cheek during a rocket attack, I moved an inch, seeing it come, and it missed me.
We were not baby killers—although babies—truth be told, in every war are killed, that is a fact, a reality of war—I do not know of any wars where they were not killed—consequently, we were just soldiers fighting a barbaric war, and trying to win it. We wanted to triumph, but no one back home did. Back home in the good old U. S. A., (figuratively speaking) they were all like happy fish, smiling at us as worms’ dangling on a hook, ready to be eaten one way or another. The very ones that called us baby killers were the ones who worked for the war machines. The factories, the food chain, the trains, the airports and transportation system in general, why didn’t they all go on strike, quite their jobs, hence, the war would have stopped abruptly—they made their living off the war and once it stopped unemployment rose to over six percent, from nearly zero. I remember because I was part of that unemployed era. Therefore, I suppose it was a Catch-22 for them, as it was for us in winning the war.
Vietnam was a cup of darkness poured over our heads. We were all invaders, if not terrorists, in some country, someone else’s country, that we were supposed to bring freedom to—where we didn’t belong, in which self-determination never came for the South. Constitutionally, the White House considered the Vietnam War a ‘Conflict’ thus giving the war justification to continue. Put another way, the only wars that were a crisis to America in the 20th and 21st Centuries, were WWII and Afganistan. No other wars of this period were politically or constitutionality correct and that came into play for Vietnam. It had to be justified. Of course, today, everything comes under the heading of National Security—hence, truth be told, we are fighting wars for world domination, not for America’s safety—which is fine if only we’d admit it, instead of pretending otherwise; we want to be placed strategically—which is obvious to the world that surrounds America, but not Americans per se.
For the soldiers the war was a jagged and heavy stone, one, no one could move, we were like a bear under the snow, we could not move any which way. We were like blind-owls in the night, blind to the ministers and department heads of American industry. We could not bomb this area or that area, or fight over here or over there, we had to shoot over the rubber trees or around it, do not shoot the enemy if they are in it. Do not shoot the enemy when they are stuck in the barbwire fences, which allows them to escape and live another day to kill more Americans. There were too many rules for us, and none for the enemy. We could not figure this out, that this was not a war to be won (because we could have easily won it; we had the manpower, the firepower, and the airpower, and even sea power—sailing about in the South China Sea; but the Americans and the political system and industry, did not have the willpower. In a way, we never lost the war per se; we simply got tired of it and walked away). No one could win a war anyhow, with such rules and such deviation among Americans—; they made such policies run ramped in our heads. These were either people who never fought a war, or people who were a lot smarter than us, who profited by it, and could care less if we won or lost, and who got killed in the process. This was America’s industrial and political way of thinking (God forbid, but the truth resides in the graveyards of America, in a so-called lost war, and in the devastation of Vietnam).
Anyhow, this is the way I see it, forty years later.
In closing, let me say, the first Americans created a civilization. The second developed it. The third, my generation perhaps yours also, we inherited it. Moreover, we tried to protect it, often like barbarians. However, as one can see it is a dying gift, to the future Americans. Unbelievably, barbarism is always around a civilization, especially if you intend to fight wars. Its center theme is to engulf its people by arms. Barbarism never admits its defeat, it will wait, and wait, outwait peace for war, like American Industry.
Vietnam, it was a bloody war, from bloodthirsty barbarians in our country, ruled by a bloody city called Washington D.C., by a vicious, cold calculating ruler called Johnson who gave a free hand to our industrial barons to use the political system as they wished. Johnson, —the mightiest of the rulers of his day, now long dead of course, and mostly forgotten, under drifting sands, and all the better for us Americans.
Note: written in a poetic prose flow, or style, No: 3152; written on October 27 & 28, 2011; at the request of a writer ((thus, this author was inspired to write this inspection) (inspired by Erisa Isufi))
By Dr. Dennis L. Siluk, Poet Laureate