By: Robert Patton, Columnist
A half century ago the United States was at war. By the end of 1965 more than 45,000 young American men had been called up to do battle in Vietnam. Today we have far more Americans in uniform than ever served in Southeast Asia. Some of those young men and women returned to civilian life and lived productive, even prosperous lives. Many did not.
Even with the war long over, children continue to be crippled by landmines laid in Vietnam long ago. At first most Americans supported the war. If Vietnam falls, we were told, the rest of Asia will follow. They called it the domino effect. The war continued until well into the 1970s creating more and more victims on both sides. Even when the fighting ended, fear remained. There were those who thought that the failure to defeat communism in Vietnam would lead to more defeats elsewhere.
Many felt that America had been cheated of rightful victory by leaders who lacked the stomach for righteous war. Rambo said to his handler before returning to Vietnam in a fictional mission, “Do we get to win this time?”
As we entered the late sixties, college students became the frontline of protest against what proved to be a senseless war. In the Spring of 1970, National Guard troops gunned down student demonstrators at Kent State University and students at other colleges held candlelight vigils to memorialize the dead and protest against their killers.
This war was necessary, we were told, not to enrich America, but in the cause of freedom, not just for our people but for the peoples of the world. At home, even as we killed people in foreign lands, we took the first steps since the passage of the 13th and 14th Amendments to advance the cause of many of our own by fighting to end Jim Crow in the South. Above all, we seemed to recognize the mistakes that we had made both at home and abroad. And students had played a key role in our transformation.
Even the war ended largely because of the effort of students that demonstrated against it throughout the land. Students listened to and responded to songs of peace and freedom and gradually their voices were heard
But now, fifty years later, we find ourselves embroiled in one war after another. We are approaching $5 trillion in military expenditures just since the election of a president that promised change. Where once America was admired throughout the world, we now find that many people in foreign lands hate America. And in spite of all this, American students are silent. Why?
Part of the reason is that we have been trained by our handlers to fear others. “We have to fight them there so we don’t have to fight them here.” Have you heard that warning before? You are asked to believe that there are millions of fanatics that are ready to swarm like locusts over our land destroying everything we have of value. Incredibly many Americans have come to believe this nonsense. In this election year 20 men and women have been fighting for months to win a position on the two-party presidential ticket. Most of them have offered themselves as commanders-in chief, military leaders when what we need are leaders in peace.
Ted Cruz has said that on his first day in the oval office he would rip up the Iran treaty negotiated by the present administration and people cheered. The treaty, of course is intended to prevent Iran from developing the capability of building a nuclear weapon. Iran, they say, is a state sponsor of terrorism and dedicated to the destruction of Israel. But imagine if somehow Iran succeeds in building a bomb and delivering it on, say, Tel Aviv; Israel would retaliate and Israel has between 100 and 200 nuclear bombs right now. Do we really believe the leaders of Iran wish to commit suicide?
Hillary Clinton proudly claims credit for playing a role in the assassination of Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden on trial in the United States would have had tremendous propaganda value in showing the world that we value truth and justice. Bin Laden brutally murdered by a heavily armed military strike force and then summarily dumped in the ocean is no more than a recruiting tool for our enemies.
Before Abbottabad, bin Laden was an old man tethered to a dialysis machine. Most of his wealth was gone and so was his reputation and influence. Among the documents taken from his compound was one in which he expressed regret at the rise of Islamic organization that had become more influential than al Qaeda. After the attack on Abbottabad, the sickly old man was gone and in his place was a legendary martyr who will doubtlessly be remembered long after Hillary is forgotten.
The United States has long been synonymous with individual freedom and free individuals in this country created the greatest productive machine and the greatest concentration of wealth that the world has ever seen. But we have strayed from that path. When we have a problem or an objective, we no longer roll up our sleeves and get to work; we look to government to do it for us. And when we disagree with others we no longer rely on negotiation, diplomacy, and persuasion; we ask for new laws, new regulations, and even air strikes. We do, however, have something very real to fear. As the great philosopher Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Once before when this nation went astray, students manned the barricades and their example swayed those of us who were older and should have been wiser. Where are those students now that we so desperately need?