Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iraq/Afghanistan Veterans Fear Vietnam Syndrome

The veterans for Iraq and Afghanistan are worried about the present outlook of war affecting how the public treats them. They should be. The MSM seems to have more time to report atrocities, real or otherwise, while completely ignoring the good that is being done. Then there are the politicians who are playing the topic for personal gain. Not that I think that is something new, it's just another indicator of how Iraq is slowly turning into Vietnam on the home front.
Veterans of Iraq and Vietnam share some similarities. Public support for the Iraq invasion is steadily on the wane as the conflict enters its fourth year and US casualties climb. As with Vietnam, which lasted more than a decade, there probably will not be a clear victory over Iraqi insurgents; communal violence is expected to continue long after American troops leave. And both conflicts have been linked in the public consciousness with the abuse of prisoners and civilians, contributing to public anxiety.

As a result, some Iraq veterans worry they could be unfairly blamed for a quagmire.

I think that this is less of a worry than in Vietnam. There has been a great deal of shaming of those that abused the military during and after Vietnam. I think that the voices supporting the troops will rise if there is any systemic affects on the veterans. The passage of a funeral protection bill is a good indicator of this. It has been used to protect veteran's funerals from the likes of scumbags like Phelps and his ilk. There are also state level laws being enacted to take the protection to even greater levels.
"I think about how the Vietnam veterans were mistreated in basically every facet of life," said Richard Gibson , a 25-year-old former Marine corporal living in Kansas City , Mo . "I don't want the same result that happened in Vietnam. Everybody thought the battles were lost in Vietnam, but no battle was ever lost. It was the politicians back home that lost it for them."

Gibson helps publish "War of Words," a newsletter that is funded by the conservative political group America's Majority and is designed to highlight what troops are accomplishing in Iraq . He said he is speaking out about his experiences in part out of fear some of his fellow Iraq veterans "are going to go into hiding."

"I don't want to be ridiculed," he said an interview. "I speak out because the full story isn't being given. In the war on TV, American soldiers regularly mistreated civilians. But in the war we fought, American forces consistently restrained our overwhelming firepower superiority in order to save lives, even at our own risk."
These reaction groups are trying to help themselves, but from what I can see, they are generally written off as being tools of the president rather than being self-defense mechanisms of the veterans. That's too bad, because the veterans are the ones that saw what was really going on and are putting out a message that isn't controlled by an editorial board in the MSM. You think my message is wrong? When was the last time you heard something that happened in Iraq? Was the report about a death or a car bomb, or was it good news?
But leaders of the veterans movement are concerned that the challenges facing this new generation are not well understood by Congress and Americans. They point out that less than 1 percent of the population will have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, making it a war far removed from the everyday lives of average Americans or members of Congress, very few of whom have served in uniform.

"This is the first war that has become an issue rather than a national experience," said Paul Reickoff , president of the nonpartisan Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America in New York. "How many soldiers were killed this week while we were obsessed with 'American Idol'? But when the war winds down, the veterans' issues are going to be here for decades. We need to make sure both political parties make veterans a priority."

Rather appropriate analysis. The problem with Vietnam and now Iraq/Afghanistan is the lack of personal involvement. The vast majority of the country is still fat, dumb and happy and unconcerned with the effects of the world on their lives. The complacency is sickening. Unfortunately, the anti-war/pascifist crowds have really big mouths and get lots of air time. Previous conflicts like the World Wars had a lot of personal interest. Everyone had someone they new in the conflict. The vast majority of the population had some sacrifice demanded of them. That made the population an interested body. That doesn't exist today.
But perhaps the biggest challenge, say recent veterans, is educating the public and government leaders about the needs of veterans who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Danelo, the Marine captain, said he was taken aback during his recent book tour at how quickly Americans are losing interest in the Iraq war .

Said Danelo: "Talking about the war is not in vogue in a lot of places."

No real surprise there. I'll conjecture that the ability to discuss Iraq will go down-hill even more in the future. That doesn't bode well for veterans, nor the "long war" against terrorism.

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