I read with great interest Cheri DelBrocco's account in last week's Flyer of her visit to Cindy Sheehan's protest site in Crawford, Texas. I used to live in Memphis and write for the Flyer. Fast-forward a few years and I'm now married to a soldier and living just outside the gates of Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. And I have some pretty strong feelings about this war too.
As a mother and a military wife, I sympathize with Cindy Sheehan. She lost her son. I can't imagine many things worse than that. Since the war began, my husband and I have lost several friends. Just a few months ago, the husband of one of my closest friends was killed in Iraq. I miss him terribly, but his death has not made me, or his widow, demand that the war end.
Don't get me wrong. I'd love for my husband to not have to go to war again. He's already been gone for half of our marriage. Where I live, there'd be dancing in the streets if the war were truly over. But forcing our politicians to bring the troops home before the job is done is dangerous, reckless, and selfish.
The Vietnam War ended because U.S. politicians gave in to anti-war sentiment, and, as a result, the Vietnamese suffered horribly. That war is widely considered an American defeat, though, militarily speaking, it was an unprecedented success. U.S. forces won every single engagement but lost the war because the American people turned against it.
As the protest movement grew in the early 1970s, politicians made decisions designed to achieve, as President Nixon said, "peace with honor" -- in other words, ways to appease protesters and get us the hell out of Vietnam without making us look like losers. But when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese hours after the last U.S. troops left in 1975, losers we became.
After the war, North Vietnamese forces used firing squads, torture, and concentration camps to punish people believed to have helped us. Between 1975 and 1978, nearly all of the Montagnard tribal leaders were imprisoned or executed. To this day, Montagnards are being tortured and killed by the ruling government. Two million Vietnamese refugees have fled persecution and poverty in their homeland since the U.S. withdrawal. Things were just as bad in neighboring Cambodia, which fell to the Communist Khmer Rouge in 1975.
In all, it is estimated that 2.5 million peasants in Vietnam and Cambodia were murdered when the U.S. withdrew from Vietnam.
Now consider Iraq. Before the U.S. invasion began in March 2003, Iraq was under the control of the stable, if tyrannical, Saddam Hussein. It was a country where women enjoyed more freedoms and people were more educated than elsewhere in the Middle East. And, for the most part, it was an orderly country. Still, in that orderly country, Saddam killed thousands of Kurds, Iranians, and Shiite Muslims. Whole villages were razed, and property was confiscated and turned over to Saddam's supporters.
Iraq is not orderly today. If we "bring them home now," we leave 26 million Iraqis vulnerable to the bullying tactics of terrorist groups. Iraq might fall into chaos as rival groups battle for power; the people might choose to install a Taliban-type fanatical government just to restore order -- as the Afghans did after their country was devastated by war with the Soviets; or Saddam's allies might resort to the familiar tactic of genocide. Undoubtedly, anyone who helped U.S. forces during the war would be killed.
That's my problem with the demand that the U.S. withdraw immediately. Doing so is immoral and inhumane. It's the equivalent of condemning millions of people to a brutal death. By trying to force politicians into making "peace with honor" decisions, Cindy Sheehan and all those who protest with her will share the blame for the millions who stand to suffer if we leave Iraq too soon.
Bringing our soldiers home might save a few hundred, even a few thousand, American soldiers in the short-term. But it will condemn all of us to fighting Middle Eastern terrorism for generations.