Saturday, January 13, 2007

BODY COUNTS

I’m not the only one who is having Viet Nam War era flashbacks these days.

The “body count” the administration has started using gives me the shivers.

It’s what the politicians and generals came up with as Viet Nam became un-winnable, and the public knew it, but the politicians didn’t want to admit it and take the blame.

They started issuing “body counts” at press conferences to try and hide the failure of their policy with numbers. When we lost a hundred troops in battle, we also seemed to kill a thousand of theirs. An exaggeration, but not by much.

The generals hoped the “American public” would be hoodwinked by the numbers—“we’re winning because we’re killing more of them than they’re killing of us.”

Now here it comes again.

In the first days and months, and even years, of the Iraq invasion and attempt at occupation, the military mostly avoided enemy body counts, maybe because they knew they couldn’t tell among the damage who was an enemy combatant and who were “innocent bystanders” as they used to call “collateral damage.”

But more probably, because they didn’t want to draw comparisons to the Viet Nam debacle.

As I said in my post about that, what did we gain from all the lives lost there? Viet Nam is still Communist, we actually have a good relationship with their government, and they didn’t take over the world, or us, or anything much more than parts of Cambodia for a while to protect it from an even worse fate under Pol Pot, whose rise was partly a result of our meddling in Viet Nam and Cambodia in the first place.

But I digress.

The point is, the politicians and/or generals in Iraq didn’t want to be compared to those who “lost” Viet Nam, so they didn’t do “body counts”—until recently, when suddenly, they do. “50 insurgents killed” etc., to balance out the five more “Americans” killed.

There’s no way to know, of course, if an unarmed man shot near an armed man is an insurgent or not. Or even if the one with the gun is, since most Iraqis are armed, because Rummy and Dick and Junior—the comic trio that out pratfalls the Three Stooges—didn’t think it was necessary, or more likely were told it would be impossible with the number of troops the Stooges decided to send, in opposition to their top general military advisor who became the sacrificial lamb when the Stooges retired him early for advising they’d need another hundred thousand troops, at least, to control the country after the invasion.

Not to turn this into a rant—though what’s a blog for—but to make the point, the sudden appearance of “body counts” not too long ago, signaled the generals admission that yes, this is like Viet Nam, what was then called a “quagmire,” and is over.

How many more troops who die there will be dying for a lost cause? To paraphrase what the young John Kerry said—a Viet Nam hero I admired back then, no matter how many swift boat lies have been spread by people who were not there when he took the action that earned him his heroism—“Who should we send to be the last man, or woman, to die for a lost cause?”

PS: And now the two Stooges left want to bring their same failed military intervention policy into Iran!

1 comment:

Blaine on the Coast said...

Yo Lal - Finally logged into your blog. I am happy you have a place to rant, I am going to send you a few of mine soon. Love you. Blaine