(NNPA)—The words of the late singer Edwin Starr never said it more direct, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing!”
The beautiful diva Freda Payne also chimed into this anti-Vietnam War movement with her song “Bring the Boys Home.” Songs, poems, public protests and 500 body bags a week coming home made this ugly conflict intolerable. Today, Vietnam is a prime business partner of the United States with its “favorite nation” status. Somehow the ugly communist nation has become one of our best friends. I guess this shows how ridiculous that war was.
The fact was we couldn’t win in Vietnam. One thing I learned during my tenure at the Infantry Officers Candidate School in Ft. Benning, Ga. is that you don’t risk your men in a war you cannot possibly win. So why did we enter into Vietnam? One of our Tacks (tactical officers) clearly told us one day, “War is now a business and right now business is damn good.” It was chilling to realize that this Vietnam War which all of us were drafted into was not about national security or democracy. It was about sales for the military industrial complex.
That is a group of businesses that make money from its products, technology and services needed during armed conflict. Many of those profiting directly or indirectly were members of Congress and even a president here and there were benefiting from the deaths of our troops and the needless involvement in a serious armed conflict. It is just amazing how elected officials can make millions from their portfolios as a result of the policy that they make. It is disgusting how the net worth of senators, congresspersons and others in the Executive Branch skyrockets from this violent pro-war policy making. Why do we let it happen?
The term military industrial complex was coined by our great general and president, Dwight D. Eisenhower. He lamented that we should no longer be caught by surprise as in World War II when we had to turn our industries into war machines and play “catch up” during World War II for the first couple of years. He said we should have enough industry to keep our war capability strong but that we should not get so far out there that we become so prepared for a war we may help create one. His farewell speech, January, 1961, was so prophetic.
There was no way we could win in Vietnam. All of North Vietnam loved its leaders, especially Ho Chi Minh, and more than half of South Vietnam considered him their hero and sought his leadership. What was left in South Vietnam was a very corrupt regime that we spent an ungodly amount of troops on. We came into Vietnam after they ran out the Japanese and then the imperialist French. Sound familiar? Before you knew it we were making weaponry by the billions, importing drugs into the United States and “spending” about 500 troops per week. It was absolutely tragic.
Thus, here we are repeating it in Afghanistan. We followed the Soviet Union who was terribly defeated. We are fighting the Taliban who we previously armed and trained. There wasn’t an opium poppy growing in Afghanistan before we got there. Now they are shipping it out by the billions of dollars. This is déjà vu.
We can keep throwing troops at Afghanistan but sooner or later we are going to figure out that the Taliban aren’t leaving and we are spending good people for a cause that won’t materialize. It’s time to get out and let the military industrial complex find another game to play
Oh yes, then there is Iraq. This war was certainly started for no-bid contracts and big bucks. There is just no other way to look at it.
The mission here, like Afghanistan, cannot be articulated or measured. They are wars with no military or diplomatic justification. Haven’t we lost enough (if not too much) already. It’s time to tell the beneficiaries of the military industrial complex to rest on their revenues and cease the greed. The troops are coming home to be with their families and be treated like the unsung heroes they have been. They have laid it all out for their country even though their country has abused them for the price of “business.”
We have lost a lot of our own good people and have killed a terrible amount of strangers. History is not going to be flattering about this. It is important for America to be strong and capable of defending itself. But when you go making war for business’ sake, you are headed for bad news. Bring the troops home!
(Harry C. Alford is co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc. Website: www.nationalbcc.org.)