The Vietnamistan Graveyard

8 Aug

When the last US Marines finally left Southeast Asia, the American Empire was at a crossroads. The Vietnam War nearly tore the country apart, and Americans started to contemplate the dangers of military intervention abroad. That war, which lasted for nearly 20 years, saw nearly 60,000 Americans come home in flag-draped caskets, a million Vietnamese incinerated, Laos left in ashes, and allowed a bloodthirsty Pol Pot to slaughter one fourth of his fellow Cambodians.

The Pentagon, addicted to imperial adventures, was left with the task of damage control. It appeared that the peaceniks had finally ended the pointless slaughter, and other Americans might begin to question why it is in our national interest to bomb and occupy third-world countries. The military establishment soon became slick and clever: “The lessons of Vietnam” were learned, and Americans were lectured that mistakes like this would never happen again. Conscription had to go too, and eventually the US war machine was filled with an all-volunteer force, severing wars from the public, who began to lose interest. Controlling the press also became key, and from Walter Cronkite to The New York Times, the media have been unpaid employees of the Department of Defense.

Throughout the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton years, the Pentagon began to test the waters again; a coup or two to spice things up, million-dollar cruise missile strikes, the occasional air raid. What they learned was not how to win wars, but how to prolong them. When wars are perpetual, the promotions and contracts continue, the budget increases, and more and more power is centralized into the District of Corruption.

Nearly four decades after we learned the lessons of Vietnam, the Pentagon is at it again, fighting exactly the kind of war that they crave in Afghanistan: no foreseeable end, no tangible enemy, and thousands of young cannon fodder to do the dirty work. Once again, Air Force jets howl over an impoverished and defenseless country, raining the Afghan countryside with “liberating” bombs.

July has been the deadliest month for US forces since the 2001 invasion, a US soldier remains captive in the Taliban’s hands, and the US is spending $200 million a day occupying the country that Alexander the Great, the Mongols, the British, and the Russians couldn’t tame. President Obama may have inherited this unnecessary war from his predecessor, but the Bomber-in-Chief is hailing this war as “the good war” (the ultimate oxymoron; there has never been a “good war”). Obama asks for 20,000 more Marines, he gets it. He wants more money to increase the raids, he gets it. The “peace” candidate is leaving Central Asia in pieces.

During the presidential “debates” last year, we were told that pulling our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan would harm our “honor.” What honor has to do with imperial occupation is lost on me. If the Luftwaffe had started landing in New York, then it would be honorable to defend our country. But where is the honor in dropping bombs on lightly armed peasants? America’s war on the people of Afghanistan is cowardly and obscene, and there is nothing honorable about murder just because government employees are doing the killing.

Afghanistan is this generation’s Vietnam. Vietnam started with a few thousand GIs assisting the corrupt South, then in a heartbeat, half a million American men were dragged out of their homes to lose their souls in the jungles. George McGovern, a man who should’ve been president, has repeatedly said that all American forces should be home by Thanksgiving. He knows the horrors of war, having flown thirty five B-24 missions over heavily-defended Germany in WW2, better than the armchair warriors that are currently pulling the war levers.

As the costs of staying in Afghanistan, in both blood and treasure, continue to rise, history is already carving the American tombstone in the land known as the “graveyard of empires.”


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