Being a combat vet, I have always had a hard time with people who believe that our country is different than other countries, in that in war, we play by the book. I guess "by the book" means that we fight fair.
I am by no means a expert, I was a Marine in Vietnam 1968-69, in the northern I corp. I did happen to notice that we killed women, children, old people, burned houses, crops, and even killed farm animals. We also killed lots of North Vietnam's troops. All this to "win the war."
When America goes to war, we throw out that "book" and do what ever is needed to win.
All countries try to do that same thing. With our technology and money, we are just a little better at it. We all gasped when we heard that Iraq used chemical weapons on the Kurds. What about Agent Orange? Not only did it hurt thousands of our own troops, but what about all the people who lived and drank the water in the thousands of square miles that we sprayed?
It is real nice that America and its people have not ever seen war in more than a hundred years, but there is a price to pay for that too. We as a nation seem to think that is OK for us to inflict untold suffering on other countries because we do it "by the book." We delude ourselves into believing that our "smart" weapons only hurt the other guy’s army, while leaving the population just as safe as can be.
I am sure that if you have never seen combat, then you will never be able to comprehend what we as a nation can do to another people. Countries that have seen the real horror of war have to bend to our will, as they have lived in the aftermath of other wars and to even chance that America will unleash its forces on them must bring out delayed stress in large parts of their population. If you have never gone to war, then a new war doesn't seem that bad if you think you are in the right. If you have just finished a war, you will do almost anything to keep out of the next one.
We as a country have a moral obligation to learn what our country does in our name. We are the "superpower." We carry the big stick and I believe that as we abuse that power, we will some day get to see what war is all about.
If you want a glimpse of what war is all about, go down and volunteer at one of our hundreds of veteran hospitals or long term care facilities. Talk to the vets and see what war has done to change their lives. See what the price is in limbs, eyes, and minds.
Our country has the chance now to show the world another way, other than war. A country can only do this when they are on top. Also a country can only do this by example. Every time we invade a little country like Panama or Grenada, we are showing the world how "small" we really are. Every time we fire missiles at targets that we can't see like Afghanistan, we show the world the bullies that our leaders are. And, yes, every time we move the fleet into new waters we are telling the world that we can't show them by example what we want our world to become, that we still only know how to use the big stick.
I don't pretend to know all the answers, I do know that a nation can never stay on top forever, and if we don't take this opportunity now, someday everyone in America will get a chance to see what the horrors of war are.
June 14, 2001