Right after World War II, a revolutionary group forced the Vietnamese emperor to resign and then declared Vietnam independent of French colonial rule. The emperor headed to the southern part of the country and established a new capital in Saigon, where he got his new government recognized by the U.S. and French governments.
In 1949, U.S. President Harry Truman ordered U.S. military advisors into the country to train the South Vietnamese forces in how to use American weapons. From that tiny detachment of advisors grew a war that killed more than 58,000 Americans, some of whom hadn’t even been born yet when the advisors were first sent.
I couldn’t help thinking about that as I read Friday about Barack Obama sending about 100 armed U.S. troops into Uganda to train government forces fighting rebels for a religious group calling itself the Lord’s Resistance Army. Will more Americans get sucked into a conflict that we know almost nothing about? I don’t know. The only thing I’m sure of is that there’s no reason for U.S. taxpayers to be paying for training another country’s army in a civil war.
One of the things politicians of both major parties agree about is that the U.S. military is the world’s policeman. If there’s a problem anywhere, the response from some Democrat or Republican (usually whoever’s in the White House) is to send in troops (as advisors or “peacekeepers”) or to send in bombers to reduce the country to rubble. While this death and destruction is going on, most Americans go blithely about their business, unaware and unconcerned that their tax dollars are financing the killing of many people in other parts of the world.
As Americans, we tend to be happily in a little bubble where we believe “our troops” are the good guys everywhere they go — and that they’d never do terrible things the way the other guys do. But have you ever heard of the My Lai massacre? A company of U.S. soldiers murdered somewhere between 350 and 500 unarmed civilians, including many women and babies. Many of the women were raped and many of the bodies were mutilated. The bodies in the picture above are only a few of the victims. Only one U.S. soldier was ever held responsible for anything related to these murders — and he only served three and a half years under house arrest. There are plenty of other atrocities that you’ve never heard about.)
We’ve seen plenty of reports (many substantiated) of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan by U.S. forces. It’s not a uniquely American thing. Unfortunately, it’s what men do when they go to war and get numb to killing. It’s always been done and always will be done, just as long as humans exist and send soldiers off to kill each other.
When we get involved in other countries’ wars, we’re dragging ourselves into fights that shouldn’t be ours and we’re setting ourselves up to be responsible for more death and destruction. It’s foolish. It’s unconstitutional. And it’s immoral.