Social and Political Commentary

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Promises to our Vets 

 ... Whether or not it's Memorial Day

Jackie Wattenberg

There are two things we can do for our veterans:

One: Promise them the best medical care possible, including the Gulf War vets who need to be believed when they cite their terrible pains and weaknesses, with a promise of fuller research into their mystifying problems so that cures and relief can be found.

Two: Promise we will not make any more veterans. No more wars, which we are so good at.

As the world's chief spokesperson for peace, we must avoid needless wars and bombings. Former President Jimmy Carter said "We've acquired the reputation of being the world's warmonger..."

If we scan our wars since World War II, perhaps we may gain insight into why some nations were not teary-eyed at leaving us out of the U.N. Human Rights Committee. Nothing violates human rights so efficiently as war.

Korean War, five years after World War II ended; 1950-1953; U.S. soldiers killed -- 162,708; U.N. losses -- 17,260; S.Korean soldiers killed -- 58,127; South Korean civilians dead, one million. Communist forces from North Korea and China, 1,600,000 killed.

Cause: U.S. goal to prevent communism in North Korea from being pressed on South Korea.

Vietnam War, 1964 to 1975; U.S. soldiers killed -- 58,193; wounded -- 313,616; South Vietnamese soldiers killed -- 185,528; South Vietnamese civilians killed -- about one million. Total Vietnamese killed in the war according to Robert MacNamara -- 3,200,000.

Cause:    U.S felt, despite warning from France who had been there, that we could prevent the Communist North from taking over U.S. friendly South Vietnam. Though informed of the futility of the war, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon continued the war.

Grenada invasion, October to December, 1983; U.S. military killed --14; missing-in-action -- 6, wounded -- 39; Cubans killed -- 20 to 42; Grenada civilians killed -- 18.

Cause:    President Ronald Reagan asserted he sent in our troops to rescue American medical students there who, he said, were in danger.

Contra War in Nicaragua, 1980 to 1988. American killed, one civilian working as utility engineer, Ben Linder; Nicaraguans killed --36,000 plus; Nicaraguan children killed -- 3,000; children needing artificial limbs, 6,000; children orphaned, 16,000.

Cause:    Reagan called the Sandinista government headed by Daniel Ortega "Communist" and paid, clothed and armed mercenaries from nearby Honduras or from Nicaragua itself to undermine the regime. At war's end, the U.S. sent organizers to prevent the Sandinistas, the most popular party, from winning, by organizing a coalition of 11 other parties from far right to left -- the left being the Communist Party which we paid for taking part in the coalition. The Sandinistas had thus been dishonestly labeled "Communist". They were Socialist in effect.

Panama Invasion: December 20, 1989 to January 3, 1990; U.S. soldiers killed -- 23; wounded -- 322; Panamanian soldiers killed -- 297; civilians killed -- 314, wounded -- 3,000, displaced -- 18,000.

Cause:    George H.W. Bush broke from his long friendship with President Noriega over some matter, and sent in troops to kidnap that country's leader and bring him to our country for trial and imprisonment, ostensibly for involvement in drug activities. Noriega is still in an American jail.

Gulf War, January 17, 1991 to February 28, 1991; U.S. soldiers (and nurses) killed -- about 500, including 12 suicides; Coalition military killed -- 223; U.S. military killed by our own friendly fire -- 35; wounded by friendly fire -- 467; Kuwaitis killed in combat -- 148; Iraqis killed, civilian and military, estimated between 100 and 200 thousand.

Cause:    Saddam Hussein of Iraq invaded Kuwait, wealthy monarchy with large supply of oil; President Bush managed to form a coalition of other nations to join in removing Iraqi forces.

President Clinton did not initiate any war, but did join in the Balkans conflict, bombing heavily. He also retained sanctions, in his eight years against Iraq, which resulted in monthly deaths of between 4 to 5 hundred children and young people; he also ordered frequent bombing of Iraq, once or twice a week, when irked by Saddam.

No other developed nation has such a record of wars. This is a good time to reflect on past wars, and hope that President Bush will hold to his words during his campaign -- that we "mustn't be arrogant, but humble". A good word, humble.

July 6, 2001

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