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Déja vu all over again


Fri, Sep 2nd, 2005
Posted in Commentary

This has been the summer of the Hollywood remake. “The Longest Yard,” “The Bad News Bears,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” are all movies with old story lines re-made with new actors and faux glitz and sold to an unsuspecting public as new entertainment. Throw in re-tread TV shows like “Bewitched” and “The Dukes of Hazard,” polished up for the silver screen and you have a summer of “deja vu all over again,” to quote that famous squatting philosopher Yogi Berra.

But there is another re-make in the offing that is eerily similar to what was taking place forty years ago in Vietnam: a quagmire. New place, new combatants, same old tired plot line of “we can’t win and we can’t get out.”

Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel (Republican), a decorated Vietnam veteran, recently said that the war in Iraq has destabilized the Middle East and is looking more and more like Vietnam.

“We should start figuring out how we get out of there,” Hagel said. “Stay the course is not a policy.”

So what is the plan in Iraq? Constitution building is bogged down in disagreements between the Kurds, the Shiites and the Sunnis over federalism, references to Islam, and the distribution of oil revenues. The Sunnis are already advocating that voters reject the constitution.

The Iraqi Army is no where near ready (will they ever be?) to take on the insurgency, which continues to fight unabated. And the American military are fighting a war of attrition with search and destroy missions in a place where they can’t tell the friendlies from the unfriendlies.

“What is the worst case scenario in Iraq, the worst that can happen?” a Vietnam vet asked me a few weeks ago.

“A civil war,” I responded.

“I can accept that,” he said.

“Or you end up with a partitioned country,” I followed.

“That is not a problem for me,” he said. “I can accept that too.”

Surprisingly, I found myself defending the reasons why we can’t pull out of Iraq now. But my defense soon led to resignation.

“We’re screwed,” I said.

“When I enlisted in the Army in 1966, I supported our reasons for being in Vietnam,” he said. “But one month after arriving in-country, I knew we were screwed. I knew we couldn’t win. Put that in a headline ‘We are screwed.’”

“Do the people of Iraq deserve better?” he continued. “Sure they do.”

“Was Saddam Hussein an evil dictator? Sure he was.”

“But is any good going to come from our losing more lives there?” he asked. “I don’t think so. They [Iraqis] are going to have to figure this out for themselves.”

Hagel, who advocated sending in extra troops when the war started in 2003, said, “The longer we stay there, the more similarities (to Vietnam) are going to come together.”

The next time your elected official says that ‘we fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here,’ you ask them, “For how long do we need to do this? What is the strategy for winning the war? What is the plan for getting our troops home? Tell them, staying the course is not a policy.”

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