Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Vietnam circle

It just keeps coming around and around and ending up in Iraq, one way or another.

In this episode, thoughts from a column in the Salt Lake Tribune, by David R. Irvine: U.S. reaps what the Army sows. (Via Metafilter.)

Irvine discusses Tiger Force, the secret Army unit, and how allegations of brutality were covered up by then-Ford administration staffers Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. Says Irvine:
The common thread which runs from Tiger Force through My Lai, to Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib, to a hundred episodes of sadistic brutality inflicted by U.S. soldiers in Iraq, is the remarkable fact that the official responsibility for all these tragedies never runs higher than the lowest-level trigger-pullers or body-stackers.

Twenty-some years later, someone leaked documents about Tiger Force to a reporter from the Toledo Blade, which led to a Pulitzer Prize winning series. One part of the series focuses on Col. David Hackworth, a unit leader, and why he was allowed to retire rather than be prosecuted for some of his actions; he isn't linked to any atrocities in the story, though. (The Metafilter posting makes note of Hackworth's connection).

I've read a couple of David Hackworth's books and found them remarkable. His military record was amazing as he worked his way from an orphaned, unschooled, underaged recruit sent to Italy, to combat hero in Korea to Colonel in Vietnam, then anti-war speaker, columnist and author. When he died last year, he was given full military honors and buried at Arlington.

Hackworth believed his tactics in Tiger Force were necessary and fair. He admitted to using unusual motivations, including gambling, liquor and women, to keep his men happy. He claimed the only money he took was gambling winnings. He also said the accusations were in retaliation for his outspoken statements that the Vietnam war was a mistake and unwinnable. Before his death, he criticized the Iraq war too.

Sometimes it seems the whole Iraq war is retaliation for the anti-Vietnam War movement.



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