COL Iraq doesn't compare to Vietnam

Many critics of the war in Iraq say we are now bogged down in a quagmire, just like we were in Vietnam. Are these critics right?

In a controversial speech U.S. Sen. John Kerry made to Congress back in 1971 the then member of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War cited many examples of the erosion of the morals and ethics of those who fought in that war. (His remarks were republished in the September 2003 issue of The American Legion magazine).

In the speech, Kerry stated that our soldiers in Vietnam bombed, shot, raped, maimed, killed, tortured, burned, blew up, poisoned, electrocuted, and finally, lied about everything they saw. I guess his war over there wasn't the same war I fought in. I served with very honorable, honest, capable, courageous and well-disciplined soldiers. My story was not told back then in either Congressional hearings or on the nightly news. Kerry's story was.

Kerry went on in his 1971 tirade to accuse the leaders of our Army and Marines of "leaving all the casualties and retreating behind a pious shield of public rectitude. They have left the real stuff of their reputations bleaching behind them in the sun in this country."

Kerry did make some correct observations about some soldier actions, which were unfathomable and unthinkable, such as the My Lai massacre. War brings out both the best and the worst in human nature, to be sure.


Fast forward to September 2003. Although Democratic presidential hopeful Kerry is backing away from his vote that authorized military force to be used in Iraq, and hedging that he intended his vote was made to only threaten the use of force, the fact remains that he did authorize the United States to go to war in Iraq.

So 30-something years after his anti-war rhetoric, he is once again claiming anti-war turf after a major political "flip-flop." John Kerry, you haven't got a chance to be my president, Purple Hearts or no Purple Hearts, if you keep changing your political positions. And I'm also tired of coiffed hairdos in high places!

The Kerry press, and other stories from presidential "wannabees" seem to have shifted from attacking the economy to Bush's handling of foreign affairs, citing problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do we have problems over there? You bet. Did we plan well for what is happening today? No. Should we be there even though the latest Congressional Budget Office estimates potential occupation costs of from $8 bill to $29 billion? Let's not ask Democratic presidential candidates that question. Let's find the answer elsewhere.

On a well-deserved leave from the 1st Marine Division, Pvt. Jacob Critea of Kouts, Ind., was quoted in a feature story written by Brian Williams, published in the Northwest Indiana Times. Pvt. Critea said, "What's important to me is that my country knows the good we did for (Iraq). You see stuff every day on TV. What you don't hear is the progress we've made over there. All you hear is negativity. Ninety-five percent of the population in Iraq -- in my experience with the locals -- they had nothing but good to say about us."

Do you believe the Democratic presidential candidates, the press, or do you believe Pvt. Critea? My money is on the United States Marines. I knew Vietnam, and Iraq is no Vietnam. We now have a professional, all volunteer military and a very clear mission.

Do we have problems in Iraq and in Afghanistan? You bet. Were our plans for after the war as well prepared as those before the war? No. Did we anticipate the magnitude of the anger and frustration after liberation? No. Did we realize how bad the condition of the Iraqi infrastructure was? No. Is this occupation necessary? Yes.

Is Iraq another Vietnam? No. Revisit Pvt. Critea's remarks above. You didn't have returning soldiers from Vietnam make such positive statements.

We are in Iraq to defeat terrorism at its source, to dig up its roots. We must strike terrorists on their territory, not wait to retaliate after they have killed thousands of Americans. Remember 9/11. Remember the shock and horror of that tragic strike against our nation. View those who seek to place our nation at risk by adopting some loose form of pacifism in international relations with a great deal of skepticism.


President Bush can't pronounce his words very well, and he is not my favorite person, but he is right about how to win the war on terror. Suck it in, Democratic presidential hopefuls.

We don't want to live in fear, and as long as we have terrorists willing to make senseless sacrifices for distorted causes and warped beliefs, we'll need a genuine cowboy in the White House.

Col. Shaver is a retired U.S. Army officer who writes about military issues, subjects and strategies. He can be reached at

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