6-06: The Idiocy of Claiming Success in War

Because of the nature and intent of this blog, I generally pause to read items regarding Vietnam. And so,

Nixon Calls Cambodian Operation a Success

The year was 1970. The source of the piece: http: //www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nixon-calls-cambodian-operation-a-success? If one wants to see in action the definition of mission creep, here it is.

In 1966 I was based in Tay Ninh which is approximately six miles east of Cambodia. It was no secret that our enemy was using Cambodia as a staging area and safe haven for planning operations. We, the U.S. Army, were “not allowed” to pursue the enemy beyond the border which we couldn’t find on a map because we didn’t have maps; we had green-tinted aerial photos with gridlines superimposed.

Despite this allegedly rigid rule of engagement–no Cambodia–my squad conducted a successful search and rescue mission and recovered a wayward airborne comrade. What caused me to include this article in this blog is the 2nd paragraph which I will share.

U.S. and South Vietnamese forces had launched a limited “incursion” into Cambodia on April 29. Richard Nixon had run on the platform of ending the war and bringing troops home. Like so many before him and since, before a war can be ended it must be expanded. I don’t know who wrote that rule.

The campaign included 13 major ground operations to clear North Vietnamese sanctuaries 20 miles inside Cambodia. The campaign failed.

Some 50,000 South Vietnamese soldiers and 30,000 U.S. troops were involved, making it the largest operation of the war since Operation Junction City in 1967. I fought in Junction City. Here is a poem I wrote about it in 1980.

I’m far to young to be afraid / Of plots and schemes that others laid. / I’ll survive / Come out alive / God damn this war that old men made!

I hate the napalm bombers drop / Too close screams that will not stop. / I’ll survive / Come out alive / To see a fertile paddy crop.

Boredom, action, firefight / Zinging, whistling, bursting light … / I’ll survive / Come out alive / But will I ever sleep at night?

At the squad level, which in my view is what all armies boil down to, it doesn’t matter whether the operation is the largest ever known to mankind or a routine patrol. To engage the enemy, we walk outside the bunker line, we jump off the back of trucks, we hop out of helicopters. We go where we are told. Size and numbers don’t really mean very much. So there is no particular sense of pride, or anything else, knowing we fought in the largest operation of the war on Vietnamese turf. It really does ultimately come down to him or me.

It is the lying, looking back, that gives us–me for sure–a particular sense of betrayal. I remember reading a Stars and Stripes article in base camp after returning from Junction City. The body count was 100-1 in our favor (I’m lying here because I don’t remember actual numbers, but it was some outlandish figure). I was there. “They” lied.

We weren’t supposed to be in Cambodia or Laos. We were. They lied. Despite all the untruths spread by and across administrations about how well American GIs were doing, the truth is we lost the war. I believe that lying about our bogus successes contributed to the ultimate failure.

The Vietnam War was a Ponzi scheme. Every “success” had to be followed by a bigger success and on, and on, and on. In order to keep the war going, the public had to be convinced we were winning. How is that for tortured logic?

I wonder how many more successes we need to have in places including Iraq and Afghanistan until we can declare victory. How many lives and limbs will it take?

Government, bring our troops home from those hopelessly unwinnable places where they serve. Since the wars are based on lies to begin with, declare to the world that we are withdrawing because we have won. Civil wars will no doubt continue, but American lives will be spared.

2 thoughts on “6-06: The Idiocy of Claiming Success in War”

  1. Can anyone explain why one is considered unpatriotic for wanting troops brought home alive and desire for no more wars.

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