24th March 04:24
We are not making friends in Iraq, probably the opposite.
Where is the next scenario? Colombia?.
The attached paste from a Veteran of the Vietnam War give us some
lights of where are we heading today.
Have Americans Forgotten All About Vietnam?
James L. Larocca . Newsday
WASHINGTON, 16 August 2003 - Ordinarily, our boats patrolled Vietnam's
rivers in pairs. But on this night we had several teams operating together
as we launched the Pentagon's latest ingenious scheme for winning the war in
the Mekong Delta.
The concept was simple enough: Instead of surprising people with
conventional gunfire during raids, the boats would first set the houses and
buildings on fire with bows and arrows. The brass called this early version
of "shock and awe'' Operation Flaming Arrow.
Of course, the flimsy huts burned like matchbooks, leaving the
families homeless and destitute.
The next day, civil action teams of soldiers would arrive bearing
sheets of corrugated tin for new roofs and bags of rice to help the
villagers get started again. There would also be bars of soap and clothing
from church groups in the states.
I remember a particular time when, with the fires still smoldering in
the stultifying heat of a Delta morning, the teams distributed boxes of
I'm sure the church folks back home felt good about their gifts. But
we shared with the villagers a sense of absolute mystification at a policy
that would burn down people's homes in the middle of the night, then give
them tin and soap and sweaters to rebuild their lives.
Our government called it "pacification.'' We called it madness. It all
has come back to me while watching the news from Iraq, where we should be
applying more of the lessons so painfully learned in Vietnam. Instead, we
seem to be repeating our mistakes.
What I remember most from those nights are the faces - and the eyes.
The children would be terrified, but also oddly fascinated in that way that
The mothers, beyond ordinary fear, would be wildly angry, often
unleashing a flood of invective that, of course, none of the Americans could
specifically understand because no one spoke the language.
The old widows - there seemed to be one in every hut - would look at
you with the cold, dead eyes of people who had been violated forever and
seemed to expect always to suffer.
But mostly I remember the men, who, if they hadn't slipped away when
the mess began, would be taken by the American troops for interrogation.
Usually, several young soldiers would throw the man down while yelling
the few Vietnamese phrases they knew. At least one would hold a rifle to his
head. Another might stand on his neck. His hands would be bound behind his
back. He would be wrenched up into a kneeling position. Many times he would
Eventually a "pacification'' team member would come along and question
the man in Vietnamese. He would be asked to show his papers - do***ents
which, more often than not, had been lost in the fire. He would be yelled
at, cursed at, and sometimes spit on. Many times he would be kicked and
Those lucky enough to have the right kind of do***ents and otherwise
convince the Americans of their innocence (of what?), would be released.
Then you would see it. In the eyes. The clean, white fury of men who
have been reduced to abject humiliation and powerlessness in front of their
families. The hatred in their eyes would be as pure as any you would ever
see. It would last forever. You would never forget it.
I saw those eyes again the other day on the evening news. A group of
young US soldiers, sent by their government to go house to house in a
sweltering Baghdad suburb, had kicked in a door and rousted a family. The
children were terrified, crying. The mother was furious, screaming. The eyes
of the US soldiers were filled with confusion and shame at what they were
being made to do by their government.
And the father, down on the ground in front of his house with a kid
from Arkansas or Detroit or California standing on his neck, showed in his
eyes the kind of white-hot hatred that will take a thousand years to
President Bush, who spent almost all of his military service out of
uniform and involved in political campaigns in the South, and Vice President
**** Cheney, who never served at all (he had, in his words, "other
priorities''), would do well to consider the lessons of Vietnam.
We did not win the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people because
we occupied their country while we burned down their homes and killed them
and brutalized and abused them.
We will not win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people by wrecking
their towns and cities, destroying their homes, terrorizing their families
and humiliating their men. Incredibly, we have again become an occupying
army, out of touch with the realities of the lives and culture of the people
we are there to save. Not surprisingly, the Iraqi people are striking back.
Recently, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the chief commander of allied
forces in Iraq, said that "maybe our iron-fisted approach to the conduct of
ops is beginning to alienate Iraqis.''
Perhaps today's army is remembering the eyes.
- James L. Larocca, a professor of public policy at Southampton
College, was a naval officer in Vietnam during 1967-68.