Chuck Hagel said what I felt
I’m often at a loss to explain my feelings about war. It is a sense of tragedy—a sense that trusting, loyal people are shamelessly used—not by the enemy, but by the rich and powerful who condemn them to lifelong trauma.
I was surprised, today, to find someone who could say it. It was Sen. Chuck Hagel, in a New York Times story dated February 18, ’07.
Hagel was a “grunt,” a regular soldier, during some of the most brutal combat of the Vietnam war. At right is a photo of him with his brother Tom, atop a personnel carrier.
Here’s an excerpt. In quotes are Hagel’s own words; narration is by journalist Janny Scott (emphasis mine):
“I was part of, I think, the forgotten group of people in all wars — that is, the person at the bottom who is expected to fight and die and has very little to say in policy, even tactics.”
His faith in the rightness of the Vietnam War was worn down by reading history and traveling abroad, but what changed his mind most, he said, was listening to tape recordings released in the late 1990’s of telephone conversations in which President Lyndon B. Johnson confided that he saw the war as pointless. That was in 1964, and Mr. Johnson said he feared impeachment if he tried to withdraw.
“The dishonesty of it was astounding — criminal, really,” Mr. Hagel said. “I came to the conclusion that they used those people, used our young people. So I am very careful, especially now. We’d better ask all the tough questions. This administration dismissed every tough question we asked. We were assured, ‘We know what we’re doing.’ That’s what they said in Vietnam.”
1964! Lyndon Johnson thought it pointless in 1964! The US’ main build-up happened after that! Set aside, for the moment, the enormous losses of the S.E. Asians themselves. 58,000 US troops would die. 150,000 would suffer wounds. Their emotional and physical losses haunt many of them, their families, their children, to this day.
They obeyed their Commander-in-Chief. Who saw no point to it. Who could have prevented it.
Who sentenced them to death and suffering rather than risk impeachment.
May God have mercy.
Related posts: Maj. Gen. S. Butler, USMC (ret), in a famous speech on war, Theodore Roosevelt on criticizing the President
Tags: Chuck+Hagel, war, Vietnam, peace, power, soldier, patriotic, Lyndon+Johnson, Vietnam+and+Iraq, President+war, grunts, soldiers+betrayed, impeachment, power+corrupts, anti-war, Monte Asbury
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