Tag Archives: Vietnam War

The War That Never Ends (for the U.S. Military High Command), by Danny Sjursen

If you’re in the military, even though US involvement in Vietnam ended in 1975, you have to try to make sense of that conflict, if only because there are similarities between that involvement and current conflicts. From Danny Sjursen at tomdispatch.com:

Vietnam: it’s always there. Looming in the past, informing American futures.

A 50-year-old war, once labeled the longest in our history, is still alive and well and still being refought by one group of Americans: the military high command.  And almost half a century later, they’re still losing it and blaming others for doing so.

Of course, the U.S. military and Washington policymakers lost the war in Vietnam in the previous century and perhaps it’s well that they did.  The United States really had no business intervening in that anti-colonial civil war in the first place, supporting a South Vietnamese government of questionable legitimacy, and stifling promised nationwide elections on both sides of that country’s artificial border.  In doing so, Washington presented an easy villain for a North Vietnamese-backed National Liberation Front (NLF) insurgency, a group known to Americans in those years as the Vietcong.

More than two decades of involvement and, at the war’s peak, half a million American troops never altered the basic weakness of the U.S.-backed regime in Saigon.  Despite millions of Asian deaths and 58,000 American ones, South Vietnam’s military could not, in the end, hold the line without American support and finally collapsed under the weight of a conventional North Vietnamese invasion in April 1975.

There’s just one thing.  Though a majority of historians (known in academia as the “orthodox” school) subscribe to the basic contours of the above narrative, the vast majority of senior American military officers do not.  Instead, they’re still refighting the Vietnam War to a far cheerier outcome through the books they read, the scholarship they publish, and (most disturbingly) the policies they continue to pursue in the Greater Middle East.

The Big Re-Write

In 1986, future general, Iraq-Afghan War commander, and CIA director David Petraeus penned an article for the military journal Parameters that summarized his Princeton doctoral dissertation on the Vietnam War.  It was a piece commensurate with then-Major Petraeus’s impressive intellect, except for its disastrous conclusions on the lessons of that war.  Though he did observe that Vietnam had “cost the military dearly” and that “the frustrations of Vietnam are deeply etched in the minds of those who lead the services,” his real fear was that the war had left the military unprepared to wage what were then called “low-intensity conflicts” and are now known as counterinsurgencies.  His takeaway: what the country needed wasn’t less Vietnams but better-fought ones.  The next time, he concluded fatefully, the military should do a far better job of implementing counterinsurgency forces, equipment, tactics, and doctrine to win such wars.

To continue reading: The War That Never Ends (for the U.S. Military High Command)

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American Warfare’s Giant Open Secret, by Danny Sjursen

Congress has shirked all of the war-making responsibilities given it in the Constitution. From Danny Sjursen at thenation.com:

All of the wars waged by the United States in the last 70 years have had one thing in common.

A Vet Remembers: A Bad Mood, a Six-Pack, and a Typewriter, by Fred Reed

Fred Reed’s take on Vietnam, where he fought, from a Harper’s article written in 1980. From Reed at theburningplatform.com:

This column is on lactation and isn’t going to write a damned word until half-October. People are talking about some Vietnam series by Ken Burns, I think it is .I saw the original, so I’ll pass. But if we want opinions, I’ll contribute from long ago.

Harper’s, December, 1980

I begin to weary of the stories about veterans that are now in vogue with the newspapers, the stories that dissect the veteran’s psyche as if prying apart a laboratory frog — patronizing stories written by style-section reporters who know all there is to know about chocolate mousse, ladies’ fashions, and the wonderful desserts that can be made with simple jello. I weary of seeing veterans analyzed and diagnosed and explained by people who share nothing with veterans, by people who, one feels intuitively, would regard it as a harrowing experience to be alone in a backyard. Week after week the mousse authorities tell us what is wrong with the veteran.

The veteran is badly in need of adjustment, they say — lacks balance, needs fine tuning to whatever it is in society that one should be attuned to. What we have here, all agree, with omniscience and veiled condescension, is a victim: The press loves a victim. The veteran has bad dreams, say the jello writers, is alienated, may be hostile, doesn’t socialize well — isn’t, to be frank, quite right in the head.

But perhaps it is the veteran’s head to be right or wrong in, and maybe it makes a difference what memories are in the head. For the jello writers the war was a moral fable on Channel Four, a struggle hinging on Nixon and Joan Baez and the inequities of this or that. I can’t be sure. The veterans seem to have missed the war by having been away in Vietnam at the time and do not understand the combat as it raged in the internecine cocktail parties of Georgetown.

To continue reading: A Vet Remembers: A Bad Mood, a Six-Pack, and a Typewriter

Betrayal by the Brass: Dereliction of Duty, Part Two, by Robert Gore

Moral abdication and atrocity start at the top.

Part One

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

United States Army Oath of Enlistment

As the British discovered trying the quell the American rebellion, it’s difficult to fight the natives on their own territory, even when many of them are on your side. The US faced the same situation in Vietnam, its difficulty magnified because Americans were of a different racial stock than those they subjugated.

Also unlike the British, the Americans were perceived—even by their ostensible allies—as another in a long line of imperial conquerors that stretched back to Chinese domination during the first millennium. Belying US rhetoric and propaganda, industrial warfare and atrocities destroyed South Vietnam and killed or alienated many of the South Vietnamese whose freedom we were supposedly defending.

To defeat a local population when much of it wages guerrilla war or covertly supports those who do, the invading power has to kill most and terrorize the rest.

The aim was described by Colonel Edward Lansdale, the famous CIA man on whom Graham Greene based his central character in The Quiet American.

Quoting Robert Taber’s The War of the Flea, Lansdale said, “There is only one means of defeating an insurgent people who will not surrender, and that is extermination. There is only one way to control a territory that harbours resistance, and that is to turn it into a desert.

The Killing of History,” John Pilger, Information Clearing House

The population subjugated, the invading power must maintain a satrap and garrison state. The invasion is usually easy compared to the occupation, as the imposed order fights continuing resistance. Garrison states are inherently unstable and the subjugated often outlast their conquerors.

None of this was news in the 1960s. America had its own Revolutionary War plus its and Europe’s experiences with imperialism and colonialism to draw on. By the mid-1960s, it was clear the US political leadership wouldn’t allow the military to completely subjugate either North or South Vietnam. North Vietnam was off-limits because a full-scale invasion might draw in the Chinese and memories of the Korean War were still fresh. South Vietnam was the US’s ostensible ally, but complete subjugation would have exposed US “protecting freedom” rhetoric as a lie. It would have provoked widespread revulsion among the US populace—seeing the war through the eyes of TV and print media already hostile to it—further stoking protest and resistance.

The US military leadership faced a situation where it could neither win nor withdraw. When did it have the duty to tell the civilian leadership that as fought, a war could not be won and continuing would only waste more blood and treasure? The question goes far beyond Vietnam.

After Vietnam, the US was supposedly beset by the Vietnam Syndrome: the public’s aversion to quagmires and refusal to endorse military interventions. That syndrome dissipated after 9/11 and the military has intervened repeatedly in a number of conflicts that have or threaten to become quagmires.

The military and political leadership have gotten clever about the public relations aspects of war. The media is never given the virtually free rein it had in Vietnam. The mainstream media is more docile now, rarely challenging official stories, explanations, and rationales. The alternative media doesn’t have the resources, personnel, and geographic reach to consistently do so.

The draft has been suspended; there are no campus war protests. The number of troops deployed in today’s conflicts are small fractions of what was deployed in Vietnam. Drones, long-range missiles, and other technologies equipped with sophisticated electronics allow the military to inflict destruction and death at long-range with minimal risk to US personnel.

Yet the Vietnam quandary persists: as fought today’s conflicts are not won, but spill blood and waste treasure. The mountains of Afghanistan are not the jungles of Vietnam, but just as in Vietnam, a substantial part of the population engages in guerrilla resistance against the US and its puppet regime. As in Vietnam, the war has bounteously funded the military and its contractors and fueled widespread corruption. It has gone on for sixteen years, making it America’s longest war. A war of complete subjugation and a garrison state would require many times the 11,000 troops the Pentagon officially acknowledges are now in Afghanistan.

With winning off the table, the US wages wars with all downside and no upside. There are the dead and wounded, and the burden of caring for the latter. The ambiguities of war goals, fighting guerrillas, and waging war on non-combatants takes a moral and psychological toll long after the soldiers return home. Hypocrisy and corruption in the military, its contractors, and allied governments embitter US personnel, the subjugated population, and the rest of the world. Wars and weapons make a significant contribution to the $20 trillion national debt. Even regime change wars like Iraq and Libya, ostensibly won, pose the challenges and costs of garrison states amidst insurgencies and sectarian warfare.

Given the costs and preclusion of winning, isn’t a general’s duty to present to the civilian leadership an appraisal and a choice? To state that a war as fought will be never be won; tell them that what it would take—“extermination” that turns the territory into a “desert”—and present the choice: that kind of war or no war at all? Isn’t that what the military leadership owes to the Constitution, to the political leadership, to the men and women they command, and to all Americans, instead of mindless drivel about “generational wars”?

If the political leadership presses wars that will never be won, for political reasons, for venal considerations of personal prestige, careerism, and financial gain, for any reason that senselessly prolongs those wars, shouldn’t an officer resign and publicly state his reasons for doing so? Isn’t that the duty owed to the dead and wounded—an individual effort to stop the carnage so that no more will be slaughtered and maimed, no more treasure wasted?

The Army Oath of Enlistment qualifies the duty to follow orders. It’s subject to the Constitution and to the Uniform Code of Military Justice. If it weren’t, the oath would be a Nuremberg defense, a defense the US and its allies rejected after World War II. No one can abandon the requirements of morality simply because they’ve been ordered to do so. Yet that is what the military leadership has done these many years, with disastrous consequences for the country they’ve sworn to defend.

ISN’T IT GREAT TO READ A GREAT STORY?

AMAZON

KINDLE

NOOK

Kill Anything That Moves: Dereliction of Duty, Part One, by Robert Gore

History is not always written by the winners.

I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.

United States Army Oath of Enlistment

The Vietnam Memorial lists over 58,000 dead. Many more sustained serious, life-altering wounds, physical and psychological. If only we had taken off the kid gloves, goes the refrain, we wouldn’t have lost in Vietnam. We didn’t bring to bear the full weight of American firepower, and our “warriors” were hampered by senseless, politically driven rules of engagement.

In one sense the refrain is true. The US didn’t carpet bomb North and South Vietnam with nuclear weapons. That kid glove stayed on. Other than that, the assertion is complete bunk.

Between 1965 and 1972, the US and South Vietnam air forces flew 3.4 million combat sorties, the plurality over South Vietnam. Their bombing was the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, and South Vietnam got the brunt of it. The provincial capital district of Quang Tri, the northernmost South Vietnamese province, received 3,000 bombs per square kilometer. Between 1965 and 1973, the US Strategic Air Command launched at least 126,615 B-52 bomber sorties, again the majority of them targeted to South Vietnam.

In 1969, US units fired 10 million artillery rounds, and over the course of the war they expended almost 15 billions pounds of artillery shells. By the end of the war, formerly scenic South Vietnam featured an estimated 21 million craters, which wreaked havoc on the landscape and largely destroyed its agricultural-based economy. Keep in mind South Vietnam was the US’s ally. North Vietnam, the enemy, also sustained massive casualties and destruction.

Bombs and munitions weren’t the US’s only weapons. An estimated 400,000 tons of napalm, a jellied incendiary designed to stick to clothes and skin and burn, were dropped in Southeast Asia. Thirty-five percent of victims die within fifteen to twenty minutes. White phosphorus, another incendiary, burns when exposed to air and keeps burning, often through an entire body, until oxygen is cut off. The US Air Force bought more than 3 million white phosphorus rockets during the war, and the military bought 379 million M-34 white phosphorus grenades in 1969 alone. The US also sprayed more than 70 million tons of herbicide, usually Agent Orange, further decimating indigenous agriculture and destroying the countryside.

A “pineapple” cluster bomblet was a small container filled with 250 steel pellets. One B-52 could drop 1,000 pineapples across a 400-yard area, spewing 250,000 pellets. “Guava” cluster bombs were loaded with 640 to 670 bomblets, each with 300 steel pellets, so a single guava sent over 200,000 steel fragments in all directions when it hit the ground. Pineapples and guavas were designed to maim, to tax the enemy’s medical and support systems. Between 1964 and 1971, the US military ordered 37 million pineapples. From 1966 to 1971, it ordered 285 million guavas, or seven each for every man woman and child in North and South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia combined.

No other conclusion is possible: the US waged unrestricted (other than not using nuclear weapons) industrial war against the far less well-armed Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.

Most Americans think the My Lai massacre was an unfortunate anomaly. That delusion is a lingering tragedy of Vietnam. Plenty of villages were burned and leveled, farm animals and crops destroyed, and unarmed and visibly helpless women, children, and old people—generally counted as VC in the often meretricious statistics—murdered. Some of the villages contained Viet Cong, some did not, and that was often not the first concern or even a cited justification for US troops. The slaughter was frequently wanton, or indiscriminate vengeance for American troops killed or wounded, not to fight the enemy.

In 1964, 40 percent of the South Vietnamese countryside was considered under Viet Cong control or influence and was thus a free-fire zone: shoot first, ask questions later. By 1968, according to a US Senate study, an estimated 300,000 South Vietnamese, or over five times the US personnel killed during the entire war, had been killed in free-fire zones. That its rules of engagement prevented the US military from killing anyone in Vietnam is an obscene distortion of reality. My Lai was anomalous only because it was publicized and some of its perpetrators were brought before military justice.

All figures and policies cited are from Nick Turse’s meticulously documented study Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War In Vietnam (American Empire Project) (Metropolitan Books, 2013), which relies primarily on US government archives and sources, and interviews with former military personnel. It’s an excellent book that many Americans should read but few will (it should be required reading for anyone entering the US military or the State Department). Americans would rather stare at their bloodshot eyes and distorted faces in the mirror after a night of drink, debauchery, and dinner discharge than glance at Vietnam.

The war shattered many of those who fought it. There was the inevitable combat violence and horror, and the depravity of murder and destruction inflicted upon innocents. Many turned to drugs, readily available, and many worked the various rackets themselves: drugs, weapons, currencies and military scrip, pimping, and child trafficking.

Over a relatively short period of time, you begin to treat all of the Vietnamese as though they are the enemy. If you can’t tell, you shoot first and ask questions later.

W.D. Ehrhart, quoted in Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War In Vietnam

The quote frames the moral void and the intellectual paradox at the heart of Vietnam: if everyone is your enemy, for who and for what are you fighting? When the devastation and death you’ve inflicted on your ally are greater than what you’ve inflicted on the ostensible enemy, how can you pretend that your ally will not become your enemy? What are you doing there?

A few bought off sycophants within your satrapy will always spout the party line, but out there in the countryside, hamlets, villages, towns, and cities you’ve destroyed, you will be hated and your enemy succored. Common nationality and heritage—and a history of oppression by a string of imperial powers—will inevitably triumph over your money, arms, and feeble “hearts and minds” programs, all designed to cover your imperialistic designs. No one with an ounce of brains and intellectual integrity is fooled, particularly not your own soldiers in the field.

It was almost impossible for those soldiers to question the policies that required them to do what they did, much less oppose or expose them. The risks ranged from ostracism to discipline, court-martial and military prison to death by friendly fire. Any effort would almost certainly have been futile, changing nothing.

But what about the military’s upper echelon? How did it acquiesce to a war that was destroying the country it was ostensibly meant to save, killing the people it was ostensibly meant to protect, clearly and understandably turning allies into enemies, and taking the lives and souls of the soldiers in their charge who had to fight it? Where were they, and where have they been since then as the US government has repeated the same mistaken policies over and over again? Have they supported and defended “the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” bearing “true faith and allegiance” to the same?

There are more civilians killed here per day than VC either by accident or on purpose and that’s just plain murder. I’m not surprised that there are more VC. We make more VC than we kill by the way these people are treated. I won’t go into detail but some of the things that take place would make you ashamed of good old America.

From the dairy of US Marine Ed Austin as quoted in Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War In Vietnam

Next: Betrayal by the Brass: Dereliction of Duty, Part 2

WHEN HONOR WAS MORE THAN JUST A WORD

AMAZON

KINDLE

NOOK

He Said That? 5/23/17

From Nam Vet 0331 Marine Grunt, on a comment on “My War, by Fleabaggs”:

Thanks Mike…Here are some edgy poems written in the early 70’s when the wounds were open and the memories still bleeding. I don’t know if Robert will allow the first one it has some profanity…I don’t talk like that anymore, but I did then, its a blunt raw poem about war. These have been locked away a long time.

Got to Pray…Got to Kill

Crossing stagnant marshes
leeches take turns with the mosquitoes
sucking our blood
flies are swarming
over spots of flesh
festering with jungle rot

a 155 booby trap blew Thomas apart
we just found his boot
with his foot still in it

monsoon season is here
patrols every day
ambushes every night
we hump in the rain
and sleep in the mud

sniper got the lieutenant
right through the forehead

got mortared again
lost three men

we fought all day
torched a vill
found an old mama-san
who was setting a bobby trap for us
it blew her hands off
we just stared as she bled to death
she just glared back

stepped over ole Luke the gook
burnt, charred and gooey by napalm
we call ’em crispy critters

watched the funeral of an eight year old boy
in the vill at hill 65
the V.C. had slit his throat
because his father had helped us

I’ve got the screaming shits again
Had to slit my cammies always squatting
Doc gave me some tiny white pills
told me to eat C-rat cheese
begged, borrowed and stole C-rat toilet paper
my asshole is a faucet…

dry season is here
it was 114 degrees yesterday
humped fourteen hours
seven dudes passed out

platoon got ambushed
purple hearts for everybody
lost half my gun team
and most of the squad
was hit tee tee
by a B-40
but greased their ass
payback is a motherfucker

second platoon was overrun
on no-name hill
gooks in the wire!
Most of the platoon
was K.I.A.
N.V.A. took Tex alive
cut off his balls
and sliced him open
Fuck the Geneva Convention

what’s left of the company
got three days R&R in China Beach
beer and steak
boom, boom and dope
more nicky new guys
back in the bush

on a patrol
lost one man
had a million dollar wound
but he died of shock!
he only had two weeks in country
can’t remember his name

big operation
buck, buck two solid weeks
105s, 155s, phantoms and Puff the Magic Dragon
saved our asses
played some heavy rock and roll
with my lady M-60

in country five months
out of the six I came with
I’m the only one left…

Hear back in the world
Jody has been busy
And the long hairs are rioting.
If I make it back
gonna kick some ass and take some names

Doors got a new jam
“It’s all over for the unknown soldier”
Blood Sweat and Tears got a new jam
“And When I Die”
It’s a rock and roll war

fuck it, it don’t mean nothing

on a four man killer team
we did the J.O.B.
get some Mac Marine
payback is still a motherfucker

Drew a bulls eye on the back
of my flak jacket
Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke
on my helmet I wrote
Kill First, Die Last, Burn and Destroy
so much for their hearts and minds

the company assaulted on line
swept through a V.C. vill
it was a “Search and Destroy”
but we got it reversed again…

the odds are crazy
don’t think I’ll make my twelve and twenty

company got hit
sweeping through Dodge City
Beacou Med-Vacs
more nicky new guys

I’m in my seventh month
getting close to being short

nothing to eat but C-rats
nothing to drink but river water
haven’t washed in weeks
got use to the smell
but my skin is crawling
dream of frosty vanilla milkshakes
and women with round eyes and big tits

on a patrol
it rained grenades
I got hit again
two weeks on Hill 327
14 nights in a hospital bed!
but they sent me back

during a “Search and Destroy”
all we found were booby traps
lost four men
my old buddies are gone
dead, wounded or crazy
got to saddle up
got to hump
got to dig in
got to stay alive
got to pray
got to kill

it don’t mean nothing.

The Casualty

I laid between the crisp white sheets
trapped in the folds
of the hospital corners
bleeding from wounds
no one could see
dreaming
sweating
floundering
in the surreal nightmare
of my fears, trauma and remarkable survival…
a scarred statistic
unconsciously mourning
his dead youth (Killed In Action)
and not really sure of anything
especially all
once held to be noble
staring up at the ceiling
hour after day after week
counting the cracks
in my mind

Who Was I … What Had I Become?

5 a.m. in Kennedy airport
sitting alone sipping coffee
in an almost empty terminal
staring blankly
trembling slightly
a few silent travelers hurry past
ignoring the slumped teenager
who stared at nothing
but felt everything

In a glass wall reflection
I saw a stranger
stiff in the uniform of his country
owning the heart of a frightened child
and the eyes of a ruthless survivor
a man-boy
caught in a whirlpool of emotions
drowning in a sea of blood
spinning…spinning…lost

The past overwhelmed the present
death and hate battled relief and gratitude
blood lust and gore haunted the survivor
nightmares smothered reality
(reality…what the hell is reality?)
pain mingled with confused fear
who was I…what had I become?

It was time to leave
a moment I had prayed to see for so long
and yet
an empty numbness ached
it was so hard to rise
a weight crushing, grinding me down
hailing a taxi
I headed home
nervous and worried
I had survived the war, but
who was I…what had I become?

All That I Wanted … All That I Found

I wanted to experience life
instead I destroyed it
I wanted to become a man
but became a guerrilla
I wanted to be brave
but became crazy
I wanted to be strong
but turned cold and hard
I wanted to follow my conscience and convictions
but lived by raw animal instincts
I wanted to help defeat my country’s enemies
but found my country didn’t care
I wanted to do what was right
and almost drowned in the wrongs
I wanted to be a hero
but returned a haunted casualty

from the rose colored glasses
of a teenaged idealist
to the sunken glazed stare
of a shell shocked veteran
all that I wanted
and all that I found
are questions screamed in my mind
that never make a sound

My Rage is Blind and So Is My Country

I am sorry
the grinning boy who left
returned such an angry young man
trapped in a gun barrel
impaled on the flag
dreaming with ghosts
and covered with scars
you could never see
never touch
never comprehend

My stolen youth
shattered ideals
broken dreams
and dead eyes
don’t belong anymore
to your pampered Pepsi generation
with their fists in the air
and their heads in the sand

It’s no one’s fault
your love couldn’t kiss
the blood off my hands
or calm the horrors
that scream in my sleep
or soothe the torment
of my betrayed patriotism
or hide your revulsion
from my private hell

I am sorry
your pained doe eyes
wept and pleaded
for the cold hard man
to put down his drink and leave
and for the grinning boy to return
but their innocence couldn’t see
he was killed in action
sent home
and buried alive
by his country’s hostile indifference

I am sorry
my back is to the wall
as my angry pen
spits out these words
but…
the war has stolen my tears
turned my heart into a rock
marooned me with my own blood lust
and left your eyes
reflecting a violent stranger
that scares us both

I’m sorry
your hidden romance
and rebound marriage
to my secret understudy
made it all seem
like a poorly written soap opera
but the show must go on!

Now I am where I need to be
alone
and a thousand miles away
from yesterday
fighting a war in my head
and healing slowly
so very, very slowly
there’s no other way
there’s no one to blame
my country is blind
and so is my rage.

The Unwritten Poem, By the Forgotten Man

Remember the night we first met
and I kept staring
you thought I liked your girlfriend
instead of you
but I didn’t

remember our first date
the picnic at the park
you pushed me in the pond
and laughed while I almost drowned
but I didn’t

remember the first time we made love
it just happened by itself
you were afraid
and thought I was using you
but I didn’t

remember that summer night
we held each other and cried
because we were so happy
and you thought we were being silly
but I didn’t

remember that big fight
and the things we said we didn’t mean
I drove away cursing
and you thought we’d break up
but I didn’t

remember our wedding day
and the joy we shared
we held one another all night
and kissed for hours
you said I fell asleep first
but I didn’t

remember when I answered the call
how brave you were
we talked about our plans
the children we would have
and the life we would live
when I came home from Vietnam
but I didn’t

 

 

He Said That? 5/18/17

From “My War,” by Fleabaggs:

One of my closest buddies from school got drafted and found himself in Bumdeal Vietnam where nothing ever happened. He’s standing in a wet trench in the Monsoon for hours every day waiting for nothing to happen. Then he gets to go back to a smelly sandbag hooch to rest and his buddy is escaping to La La Land with some pot and a squeeze tube of morphine from a kit. 3 months later he’s sharpening his needle on a nail file and cooking smack over a Zippo, wondering how this happened. He’ll be able to quit pretty easy when he gets home he thought. But I just can’t go back out there tonight without it. Just 8 more months. On the flight home he gathered up what little dignity and self-respect he had left, thinking that he was still a hero for sticking it out. A month later that little shred of hope was gone.

He had no idea how he killed that many old women and babies without remembering at least some of the details. So much for the quitting. 2 years later he died with a needle in his arm. I’m not excusing our bad decisions after we saw the farce that it was. I’m saying that was what happened and that we had lots of help getting to that point. We were not going to disgrace our families by deserting or going to Leavenworth and getting a BCD. So we put on our best pair of man pants, sucked it up and muddled through.