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Not another Viet Nam: the stakes are higher.

At the junction of two sun-scorched Arizona dirt roads, a blistered sign on a single rambling building proclaimed BEER--ICE--GAS. That was all the two men in the dusty truck needed for their return to southern California from a weeklong fishing trip along the Colorado. Both were police sergeants and former Marines, Viet Nam combat veterans.

A gold star hung in a front window, and they both knew what that meant. Behind the counter another gold star pennant suspended a framed photo edged in curling black ribbon. A lean, jug-eared forever-young son in Marine dress blues smiled from the photo, but at the counter, his mother wept. She held a newspaper open in her shaking hands, the top copy of a just-delivered stack. The woman's head jerked up as the men came in, and she daubed at the tears streaming from her eyes, mumbling, "Sorry; sorry."

The headline read "SAIGON FALLS." It was April 30, 1975.

The men spoke little with the woman as they loaded up and paid, and what was said in low tones were terms familiar to all three; Da Nang and Khe Sanh; Killed In Action and The DMZ. Over the next six hours on the long drive west, they spoke not a word. More than road-hum, a vibration far deeper than the rumble of knobbed tires on cracked asphalt filled them.

They drove away from a blinding day reminiscent of patrols run out of Phu Bai and ambushes along Highway One, into an indigo night where roadside neon and rest-stop lights brought back memories of tracers and rockets, napalm and parachute flares. They had everything to think, and nothing to say. The woman's last words to them, her reddened eyes suddenly fierce and bright, had said it all:

"He's forgotten already. Not by me, never, and not by you boys who fought there, but by them!" she spat, jabbing her finger in trembling fury toward nameless cities far away.

Bitter End

On paper, it was the end of a decade-long war, a conflict repeatedly won in the jungles and lost in the press. A war in which the courage of young Americans was betrayed by the waffling indecisiveness, political sensitivity, and sheer lack of will of those who sent them to Southeast Asia. For them, the pain of unpopularity or low poll ratings outweighed the selfless sacrifice of those actually doing the fighting and dying. For the veterans, stained with the dirty brush of a thrown-away war and stripped of their rightful place in history, the war never ended.

And so it goes, and so it went, until a decade later, a president with the heart of a kindly lion gently but firmly chastised a nation and declared. "'Theirs was a noble cause." Finally, a generation of abandoned, cast-off veterans "came home" from the Highlands and the Delta, like grim gray ghosts filing silently out of the giant bamboo. For many it was too little, too late, and the bitterness of their disgraceful treatment stung worse than any shrapnel wound a pain that never ends.

Another riot Nam?

As soon as they felt they had enough "political capital" to commit subtle treason and get away with it. certain politicians began declaring Iraq to be "another Viet Nam," and saying "the war is lost"--this, while our troops are still furiously, determinedly engaged, and absolutely unconvinced of their "failure." No sound was ever sweeter to Osama bin Laden. I'm sure.

Another Viet Nam? Hardly. But Iraq is clearly another Spanish Civil War. In that conflict major powers especially Germany and Italy--tested. evaluated and refined the weapons, tactics and logistics which they then applied globally in World War II. Those who refused to see the Axis "Jihad to come" were doomed to reap the whirlwind.

That's exactly what is happening in Iraq. A relentless, dedicated enemy is learning precisely how to bring down an urbanized and industrialized population.

I fear America will learn this lesson in its subway stations, movie theaters, sports stadiums and anywhere else people gather under the same conditions as they now assemble in Iraq. What works in Baghdad will work in Boston or Biloxi--if it is allowed to work. And because a dispirited withdrawal is important to some people's political ambitions, such an end is being crafted. Ignominious defeat is being dictated not by fortunes in the field, but by political expediency.

At The Water's Edge

It used,to be said "Politics stops at the water's edge." meaning we can endlessly prattle and debate at home. but when we go to war, we must be united in our resolve, or lose far more than a war abroad. But such is no longer the practice of our politicians. It has been too long since a significant segment of our "leadership" has had the experience of wearing the blood of a brother-in-arms on their shirts. As a retired general recently observed, "Our military is at war. America is at the malt." I submit our Congress is "out to lunch."

As important as it is to some of our politicians to lose the war in Iraq, it is equally important to our enemies to win there and defeat a weak and divided "Great Satan"--America. They understand this is the crucial ideological struggle of the century and, perhaps, of this millennium. Their resistance stiffened and ferocity escalated, as soon as the phrase this war is lost was uttered.

Ten thousand acts of valor, a million acts of kindness and compassion, all thrown away, tossed at the feet of enemies who will step over them to keep on killing. I cannot change the course of national policy, or rally a population so deeply divided by bumper-sticker rhetoric they cannot see the present course does not offer a choice between peace or war. but only where the future battles of that war will be fought. Will withdrawal and isolationism stop global Jihad? Such a simple notion should've died in the rubble of the World Trade Center.

So I will only hope for this: That the veterans of this war are not painted with the same bitter brush as their fathers who fought in Viet Nam, that we the people embrace and honor them.

Those who will not stand behind our warriors will one day kneel in front of theirs.

(Connor can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:ODD ANGRY SHOT
Author:Connor, John
Publication:Guns Magazine
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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