The Bell Tolled
The bell tolled yesterday for Gen. William Westmoreland.
Did you hear it, Don Rumsfeld?
General Westmoreland was my generation's Don Rumsfeld, a true believer, a warrior on the front line of freedom, at least as he saw it. Back then, some 40-odd years or so ago, the enemy was creeping communism. Gen. Westmoreland's mission was to stop it's advance into Southeast Asia. If he failed, we were told, one Asian nation after another would topple, like dominos.
Well, Westmoreland failed, and no such thing happened. In fact earlier this month the poor old warhorse almost surely watched President Bush gush all over Vietnam's current leader at the White House.
Today China, the biggest Asian domino, is kicking America' capitalist butt around Wall Street.
That just leaves North Korea, the last Asian communist holdout and it can only continue to exist by holding a nuclear weapon to it's head shouting, "One move and the Commie gets it."
When we were chased out of Vietnam by a determined indigenous insurgency Gen. Westmoreland blamed the press for turning the American people against the war. It was a view he stubbornly held to the end. He believed the media not only undercut the war effort, but him as well.
"(It) is not about whether the war in Vietnam was right or wrong," he once said, "but whether in our land a television network can rob an honorable man of his reputation."
Well, not to speak ill of the recently dead, but Westmoreland's reputation is set, a permanent part of world history. And, by the way, that history was written by events, not the media. I can forgive someone for being stubborn and unshakable in face of facts to the contray, just not when such stubborn arrogance is getting people killed unnecessarily.
And, at the end of the day, that's what history tells us happened during Westmoreland's command in Vietnam – an unnecessary war, waged with unnecessary brutality, resulting in the unnecessary deaths of something well over 3 million (full-term) humans on both sides. Late-term abortions on a massive scale.
Westmoreland's passing comes at a time when the nation is again bogged down in an unnecessary war. This time Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plays the role of the stubborn wayward warrior, unpersuaded and unpersuadable by the facts.
Terrorism holds the role held 40 years ago by creeping communism. The stakes, we are told, are the same. If we fail in Iraq other Arab nations will fall like dominos, becoming radical Islamic nations hostile to the west. In this script Iran plays the role held during the Vietnam conflict by China. Syria is Laos and Pakistan is Thailand. Fail in Iraq and one by one they will fall, like dominos, into enemy hands and eternal darkness.
Of course, what we learned by losing in Vietnam is that it's never quite as simple as all that. There are alternative outcomes. While China is still antagonistic towards the US, it is also eager to sell American consumers all the crap their cheap labor can produce. Nuking their own customers would be, well, bad for business, and therefore less and less likely as times goes on.
Iran, while hostile to the US, has been making commercial goo-goo eyes at Europe. Iranians don't consider themselves part of the Arab world anyway. They are, Persians, and business is in their genes. As an Israeli friend once told me, "The only people better at business than Israelis are the Iranians. Every time we've treid to do business with those people they've taken us to the cleaners." (A lesson, I might add, learned the hard way by Ronald Reagan.)
I would be willing to bet that 20 years from now workers in France and the UK will be protesting the flood of skilled Iranian workers and products flowing into Europe and Israel will be filing protests with th WTO over Iran's "preditory trading practices."
You see, as in Vietnam, sooner or later a nation has to get down to business, regardless of their religious or ideological bent. They can't feed their populations on ammunition or employ them digging foxholes. They need to do business, first with their immediate neighbors and eventually the wider world community. China learned that. Vietnam learned it. North Korea will learn it eventually - or be acquired by the South.
That will also come to pass in the Middle East. And it will happen whether we leave Iraq sooner rather than later, or stay until we are chased out. In fact, the sooner we leave, the sooner the process can begin.
So, Don, as you reflect on the legacy of the departed General Westmoreland this week, why not reflect on yours as well? How do you want to go down in history? As a leader who got 1800 US soldiers killed unnecessarily? Or one who got several thousand killed unnecessarily?
That bell -- it tolls for you, Don -- for you and for your place in history.
Not Just Wrong – Dead Wrong
I can't leave this issue without mentioning a new report on how many people have died in Iraq over the past two years. According to a tally taken by a UK group that keeps track of civilian war casualties, more than 25,000 Iraqis have been killed in Iraq during the past 24 months. The group said that of that 11,000 of the dead were in Baghdad alone. (www.iraqbodycount.net)
Now, if I am not mistaken one of the reasons given for going into Iraq was to because Saddam was "killing his own people." Well, so far, so bad on fixing that little problem. In fact, I would be willing to be that even at his worst Saddam never killed 20,000 civilians in 24 months.
Congratulations, George, Dick, Don. You guys have out Saddamed, Saddam.
Listen, if you guys ever hear I'm in danger, don't send help. I'll take my chances on my own.