Almost every day in Vietnam I thought we were winning and I just knew most of the Vietnamese loved us. Every time we had a pep talk by an officer, he stressed all the good things we were doing for the Vietnamese people, how we were keeping them free, and giving them democracy.
Lance Cpl. Jeff Boskovitch, of North Royalton, Ohio, died in Iraq this week. His uncle Paul said, "We got a lot of e-mail from him." "He felt he was making a difference there and that the Iraqi people were appreciative of what they were doing. He loved the Marines and he loved his unit."
Every Marine I knew in Vietnam loved the Marines and unit loyalty is a given. I too thought that the Vietnamese loved us and appreciated everything we were doing for them. Like most Americans in Vietnam and most Americans in Iraq, I didn’t speak the language, so smiles and shaking of the head, looked to me like approval, but who knows, they might have been saying, "Get out of my country, you son of a bitch."
More and more Americans are complaining that all the good things we are doing in Iraq get under reported by our media or go totally unreported, but is there really that much to report?
Yes we are fixing up schools and we are trying to fix the infrastructure, but if one American unit destroys something, and another tries to fix it, is that really progress?
In Vietnam, I think they called it "Winning Their Hearts and Minds." I don’t know what they call it in Iraq, but the Iraqi people know what we have done to their country and a few Americans fixing up a school or a water supply system is not going to change hearts and minds.
Every Iraqi knows that if they tell an American what they really think, chances are very good that they will be taken away to some prison, and every Iraqi knows what Americans do to prisoners. So, even if you hate and want to kill every American you see, you are far better off to smile and say how much you like the Americans.
The continued growth of the insurgency tells us that there are hundreds of Iraqis willing to die, in the hope of taking an American with them. We are still a foreign aggressor occupying their land. Think how much we would like that here in the United States. Americans seem to forget that Iraqis love their country, just like we love ours.
No matter how much we want to help the Iraqis, we are still the people who have killed and maimed tens of thousands of innocent people over there.
Like I said, I thought we were winning in Vietnam and I thought we were doing a lot of good things, but the longer I was there, the more dead and mangled children I saw, the less sure I was.
When I finally came home and started learning just how much death and destruction we were causing, I knew we would never win that war. When you are in a combat zone, you can only see what is going on right in your area and yes, there are a few mistakes, and yes, some women and children are killed, but only a few. When you have a chance to look at the big picture and realize that those "few mistakes" are happening all over the country, you know something is very wrong. When you add all those mistakes up, they reach sickening numbers. Soon you realize that no matter how many "good works’ you and your unit do, you will never overcome the horror and suffering inflicted throughout the country.
Some reports say we have killed 25,000 innocent Iraqis, while other reports put that number at over 100,000. No one has any idea of the numbers wounded, but it is safe to assume that American and coalition troops have hurt someone from almost every family in Iraq. Those people look at their country after two and a half years of occupation, and there is destruction everywhere. There still isn’t reliable electricity. Iraq still doesn’t have safe drinking water and much of the raw sewage is pumped directly into the river, untreated.
Yes, some American troops are doing some good things, but when those things are compared to what most of the American units are doing, it isn’t much. If you kill with the right hand and attempt to heal with the left, which hand is remembered?
Jim Glaser [send him mail], a Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran and Commander of American Legion Post 499, works to educate the American public on the consequences of war. His personal website is James-Glaser.com.