Please, let this time be different

Olivia Fowler

Olivia Fowler

On The Way

By Olivia Fowler

Remember how we first became involved in Vietnam? First we sent “advisors.” Then “boots on the ground.” Just a few in the beginning. Then we saw the war escalate. The draft was in place, and anyone 18 and older could be sent. And we sent them and sent them and sent them.

Many were killed. Many more were damaged. Some were held prisoner and were tortured for information. We watched these events unfold on the nightly news. And in the end we saw our helicopters lifting off while those aboard dislodged South Vietnamese from the landing gear.

Young men came home maimed, addicted and destroyed. Some died later from their exposure to Agent Orange. A substantial number of these surviving veterans joined the ranks of the homeless.

The waste of human lives can’t be calculated. And as far as we know, other than the usual advancements in medicine brought about by every war, nothing was gained and much was lost.

Although we at first thought that the Gulf War under George Bush Sr. was virtually a slam-dunk, it turns out that’s not the case.

An article in the Huffington Post by Eric Margolis informs us that a Congressional Report released this week has concluded that 175,000 of the 697,000 U.S. soldiers (one in four) deployed in the 1991 war against Iraq suffered “serious, long-lasting, or even permanent neurotoxic damage from exposure to drugs and chemicals.”

Next we see the mounting costs of the trillion-dollar war. If only we had waited for the reports from the U.N. inspectors to determine whether or not weapons of mass destruction existed.

But we didn’t wait. And look at what has happened.

Everybody says hindsight is 20-20. True. But now that we have that hindsight, can’t we exercise a little wisdom and learn from our mistakes?

Crimes against humanity can’t be ignored. But repeating actions that have failed in the past will not result in a different outcome.

A young family with local ties has experienced and continues to experience the devastating results of war. The husband and father of two was blown up in a roadside bombing in Iraq. He wasn’t expected to live, but he did.

He has had more than 20 surgeries, suffered memory loss and has diminished cognitive skills. Most of the bones in his body were broken. One leg had to be amputated. The father who came home to his family is not the same man who left. It would be a fine thing to be able to tell his children that the sacrifices he and they have made were necessary to the security of our country. That’s something none of us can know at this time.

It will be half a century before we will have an accurate account of what has happened and why. It takes that long for classified information to be released and for scholars to sift through everything and draw some conclusions.

The first two decade of the 21st century will eventually end up as a couple of paragraphs in future history books. We all have a vested interest in what they say.