At Times It Defies Explanation

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As a rule of thumb, I generally try to avoid topics considered politically sensitive. My rationale is simple: Folks who fall out on either side of any issue are generally resolute in their positions. People who are by nature personable, responsible, thoughtful, and kind become creatures of a very different sort when political issues are at stake.

 

I’ve known friends who jeopardized long-term close relationships because of a thoughtless comment or two that was interpreted as demeaning and denigrating. If you have difficulty believing what I’m saying is true, just read some of the emails that get circulated and broadly distributed. No wonder we are known by our actions as a warring people. I’ve even seen folks come close to fist-a-cuffs over a perceived lack of civility on another’s part. It’s crazy isn’t it? I’ve lived long enough to know that neither political party has the answer for the problems that most need resolution in our world. Billy Graham said it like this: “Our world is on fire and man without God will never be able to control the flames.”

 

I find it both disturbing and sad that the highest number of causalities our nation has encountered in any war was experienced in the Civil War (the term is an oxymoron) or the “war between the states”. In fact, over 620,000 Americans lost their lives. That represents about the same number of Americans who have accumulatively died in wars or conflicts since that time.

 

By the way, the Civil War doesn’t speak well of our nation’s ability to closely adhere to the tenets of our faith. The “God fearing people” on both sides of the Mason Dixon Line were fighting for their deeply held religious beliefs. In the process, they were responsible for killing each other. It defies explanation.

 

It was Calvin Miller who coined the phrase, “Hate dresses well to please the buyer?” That is the only explanation I can fathom. The forces of evil always pay off in counterfeit money. I maintain that at a very real level, there is not a positive face to war. Please don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. There are times when a call to action is absolutely essential and a declaration of war cannot be avoided.

 

I spent several hours in the car yesterday. Car time is my time to think and I had a lot of thinking to do. After spending four days at the POW/MIA League of Families meeting in Washington D.C. last week, I was blindsided by information overload. Consequently, there was much on my mind that I needed to process and attempt to understand.

 

When it comes to Vietnam, there is still a lot of unfinished business associated to that war. Although I never served, there are times I am incapable of talking about how Vietnam impacted our family because of the involuntary lump that forms in my throat or the tears that fill my eyes when I try to speak.

 

Many of the veterans who courageously served still struggle.  They too, at times, cannot share their story without the involuntary lump that forms in their throat or the tears that fill their eyes.  Families who lost loved ones were forever changed. What might have been was forever altered. In addition, if war is about winners and losers, the historic record of Vietnam four decades later doesn’t speak well for the sacrifices and commitment made by our loved ones and all who served.

 

Actually, the way history has crafted the outcome of the Vietnam Conflict defies my understanding and belief. Out of curiosity, I did a Google search for “Who won the Vietnam Conflict”. I was more than surprised by the verdict. Many historians credit Vietnam with strategically accomplishing all of their stated goals. Our nation didn’t fare as well. We didn’t accomplish all of our stated goals. Consequently, according to many historians, our nation didn’t come out as the winner. Others explain it this way: “Our fighting serviceman won the war, but our politicians lost it.”

 

I struggle with the concept of war because it doesn’t routinely have a positive face. Better yet, I have a very difficult time understanding the concept of a limited war. The folks whose lives were endangered on the battlefield were at the mercy of those safely sheltered on the other side of the world that took pride in the fact that they were controlling the shots and were ultimately in control. According to one source, “President Lyndon Johnson personally decided targets for the ‘Rolling Thunder’ campaign of air strikes against North Vietnam, famously boasting that ‘they can’t even bomb an outhouse without my approval.’

 

As the conflict escalated, those in control dramatically increased the number of Americans drafted to serve. They placed strong parameters around military action to be taken or permitted and they signed governmental contracts with outside venders as though money grew on trees and the sky was the limit in terms of expenditures. At the risk of being branded a cynic, I’d be the first to say that the profitability of war served as a boost to the nation’s economy and was seen as one of the positive outcomes of the war. Better yet, if you do research regarding the number of non-competitive procurements of companies that found the war big business, you may find yourself sharing the kind of skepticism that at times colors my perspective. Before you do the research, be prepared to becoming sick at your stomach.

 

Let me whet you appetite by sharing a paragraph from an article entitled “War Profiteering from Vietnam to Iraq” written by James M. Carter. It only describes a snapshot, but it is concerning:

 

“By all accounts a traditional society, southern Vietnam needed an infrastructure to receive this influx of military aid. Responsibility for building that necessary infrastructure was given over to the largest construction entity ever, the RMK-BRJ (Raymond International, Morrison-Knudsen, Brown & Root, and J.A. Jones Construction). Calling itself “The Vietnam Builders” and receiving highly lucrative “no bid” contracts, this consortium of private corporations was to turn southern Vietnam into a modern, integrated military installation that would enable the United States to properly defend its client. The Vietnam Builders entered into a contract with the federal government, via the U.S. Navy, as the exclusive contractor for the huge military buildup that was to come; there would be no open bidding or otherwise competitive process”.

 

I love our nation and I carry a tremendous debt of gratitude for all who served. My father served in WWII. My brother served in the Vietnam Conflict. Following in my brothers footsteps, my son joined the United States Marine Corps after graduation at Texas A&M. He served two tours of duty in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

 

The military men and women who had their feet on the ground in the jungles of Vietnam and those who flew through the skies courageously embraced the calling made of them by their country. With few exceptions, they were resolute in their love for country and commitment to carry out the mission they had been given. Sadly, from a behind the scenes look from the vantage point of decades later, the decisions made regarding the war effort from thousands of miles away under the umbrella of safety and affluence at times cause speculation that not everything associated to our activities in Vietnam had a relationship to the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

 

All My Best!

Don

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