Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been listening to a lot of protest songs from the 60s and 70s – songs opposing the Vietnam War. They resonate as I watch Trump turn 180 degrees from the non-interventionist that he promised to be into someone dropping bombs (illegally) on a Syrian military base and threatening to start wars there and in North Korea.
Vietnam was a horrible war. We had no business going in, and the death toll was incredibly high. According to Britannica:
The human costs of the long conflict were harsh for all involved. Not until 1995 did Vietnam release its official estimate of war dead: as many as 2 million civilians on both sides and some 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong fighters. The U.S. military has estimated that between 200,000 and 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died in the war. In 1982 the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C., inscribed with the names of 57,939 members of U.S. armed forces who had died or were missing as a result of the war. Over the following years, additions to the list have brought the total past 58,200. (At least 100 names on the memorial are those of servicemen who were actually Canadian citizens.) Among other countries that fought for South Vietnam on a smaller scale, South Korea suffered more than 4,000 dead, Thailand about 350, Australia more than 500, and New Zealand some three dozen.
Those are just deaths of course. There are hundreds of thousands, or likely millions, or people walking around with physical or mental injuries that will never fully heal.
I think about the Vietnam War – one that millions opposed, yet that went on for a total of 20 years – and I think about our rush into Afghanistan and Iraq (neither one resolved yet), the chaos we’ve caused in places from Libya to Ukraine, and our thirst for more. And it sickens me.
We have no national interest in any war today. And yet the politicians and the media are all behind the new President as he rushes in. And, like Iraq, the public will be ignored if they disagree.
I guess the reason for the protest songs is that I just need to hear someone say “no.” Just hear someone say this isn’t right; I don’t approve. That the toll on the lives of the young people we send into battle cannot be justified just to make our politicians look good and make our companies rich.
While there are lots of good songs, from artists ranging from Arlo Guthrie to Creedence Clearwater Revival, one sticks with me in particular: “I can’t write left handed” by Bill Withers (one of my favorite artists anyway). Take a listen, and understand that if you oppose war, you’re not alone.