Sunday, December 17, 2006

Exiting Iraq - My Vietnam experience - 35 years ago

I was visiting my parents in my home town of Ada, Oklahoma last summer and ran across this clipping from the Stanford Daily, November 1971.

What I find interesting about this photo:

1. Where are the women? I don't remember it that way and certainly when things heated up in spring of 1972 that had shifted.

2. It's also strange how these two police trusted us enough to mix in with our little crowd. We even lent one of them our bullhorn according to the caption.

I was part of the group in the photo, a freshman, protesting the war in Vietnam. I'm in the upper left. The year before I played on the state champion football team. But by 1971, even a football player from Ada, Oklahoma knew that we should be out of Vietnam. I got a bad (low) draft lottery number in the summer of 1971 but luckily the draft was winding down and I barely missed that experience. I had no idea of what I would have done.

Iraq makes me very anxious. I protested before we went in, and when we went in. But I haven't done much since. At first it wasn't totally clear that that getting out immediately was the best thing. After all, we brought the war to them and we should stick around to make it right.

Now it's clear that we are just digging a deeper hole. It feels very much like Vietnam where there was a very strong argument that we had to stay to prevent more bloodshed. It's an awful situation but prolonging won't help.

I even remember that we introduced more troops into Vietnam even after the policy of slowly reducing our involvment was announced. As today the justification was that we have to improve the situation to make it possible to withdraw.

I was so glad when the Democrats won the House and Senate. The recent report also lowered my anxiety about the war, feeling that there's no way Bush is going to stay the course when so many are against him. I even imagined Bush asking the Iraqis to vote on whether or not we should stay, and justifying the pull out in that way.

But now the news suggests that Bush is considering a surge of more troops. Even as public opinion surges against having any there at all. I've read some Democrat say that they won't cut funding, that they will wait until the next presidential election. That's too long to wait.

My memory of the end of the Vietnam war came when Congress cut funding. This is confirmed by Wikipedia -
"In December 1974, the Democratic majority in Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, which cut off all military funding to the South Vietnamese government and made unenforceable the peace terms negotiated by Nixon. Nixon, threatened with impeachment because of Watergate, had resigned his office. Gerald R. Ford, Nixon's vice-president stepped in to finish his term. The new president vetoed the Foreign Assistance Act, but his veto was overridden by Congress."

I keep asking my friends what they think will happen in Iraq. I haven't heard anything that makes me feel confident about a good solution.While I haven't actively pushed against our involvement since we went in, this feels like a historic moment that offers possibilities.

I'm hoping very much that Congress will cut funding and I'll be trying to figure out what the best way to encourage them to do that.

An interesting coincidence is that my son is 18 and a freshman in college - the color photo below. I know Bush is resisting starting the draft but if another war starts before we get out of Iraq then he might do it. There is nothing that gets me more angry than the thought of him getting drafted into a war like this.


hvyTK said...

Great post. I appreciate how you've tied, via words and pics, the two era together. You were born to blog, my friend.

misskrob said...

That is really powerful. As the Mom of a 16 year old son these thoughts weigh heavily on my mind as well.

Thank you for the link to the past. I was born during the Vietnam "conflict" and it is really helpful for me to read a perspective like this.

I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog...we've got 3 bloggers in our pod!!