Eerie similarities between Vietnam and Iraq wars
Published: Thursday, June 19th, 2014
News coming out of Iraq is not good. Islamic Sunni extremists are taking over cities that U.S. troops fought and died to secure. Reports are that this same group of extremists is heading for the nation’s capital city of Baghdad, also liberated by U.S. troops years ago. There doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do to stop them.
Members of the Iraqi army are taking off their uniforms and hiding them and getting rid of their rifles, lest they be identified and gathered up by the oncoming militants and summarily executed. In the process, much of the $14 billion in military equipment left in Iraq when the last of American troops pulled out Dec. 18, 2011, has been taken over by the advancing rebel forces.
Those who are students of history cannot help but compare what is happening in Iraq to what happened when American forces left Vietnam April 30, 1975. Ten marines were the last to leave our embassy at 8:35 that morning and by 11 a.m. the North Vietnamese Army rolled south and the Viet Cong flag was flying over the presidential palace in Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. The entire country is now Communist. We accomplished nothing, and the loses in human life on both sides was tremendous.
The U.S. had 58,220 casualties in the Vietnam War, with another 303,704 wounded. Those with a lost limb totaled 5,283 and 1,081 sustained multiple amputations. The Iraq War cost this nation the loss of 4,489 service members with another 32,021 wounded. Thus far in Afghanistan we have suffered losses of 2,187 military members, and counting.
Things haven’t gone south quite that fast in Iraq, but what is happening now was inevitable with the total absence of any stabilizing American forces. The Islamic Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq are once again taking arms up against each other. Nothing has changed in that country. But a lot has changed in this country as a result of these failed forays in foreign intervention.
For one thing, Americans are getting tired of trying to fight other people’s wars on foreign soil. They are also getting tired of their government lying to them. We went into Vietnam to stop the domino effect of the spread of Communism. We went into Iraq to take out Saddam Hussein and find the weapons of mass destruction he was supposedly hoarding. None were ever found.
The cost of the Vietnam War is estimated at $686 billion, according to USA Today. That would have to be considered a bargain compared to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with an estimate of somewhere between $3-4 trillion. This figure is bound to increase because Afghanistan is winding down, but still going on. We also don’t know the extent of the medical bills being racked up by veterans from these wars who are being treated in VA facilities.
So, the loss of life and injuries from Vietnam and Iraq wars is significant. We spent 15 years in Vietnam and eight years in Iraq and nothing changed, except for our casualties and injuries to so many of our service members. Many observers would argue that we had little to gain in any of these countries and much to lose.
We lost a great deal in human life. We also spent a great deal of money that has significantly contributed to our national debt which is at $17 trillion and climbing daily. We know how Iraq and Afghanistan U.S. veterans must feel. Vietnam veterans started asking themselves a long time ago if their war was worth the tremendous loss of life and limbs and expenditure of vast sums of money.
Welcome to the club.
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