“War, huh. What’s it good for?

On this Memorial Day, it seems like the United States has been at war for most of my lifetime. The cost in American lives has been unbearable. Parents of friends, and friends themselves, have died. The financial cost has been astronomical. The impact on our culture has been massive. The resulting erosion of trust in government has been substantial. What have we accomplished?

Vietnam

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson used reports of attacks on two American ships in the Gulf of Tonkin as political cover for a Congressional resolution that gave him broad war powers in Vietnam. There were only two dissenting votes, Senators Morse of Oregon and Gruening of Alaska.

As American involvement in the war and body counts escalated, so did anti-war protests at home. The end came when Saigon in South Vietnam fell to the communists in April 1975.

VietnamUStroops

David Halberstam wrote “The Best and the Brightest” about the overconfident people in leadership roles in the United States who pursued the war.

“The basic question behind the book,” he said, “was why men who were said to be the ablest to serve in government this century had been the architects of what struck me as likely to be the worst tragedy since the Civil War.” (The term “Best and the brightest “ has often been twisted since then to mean the top, smart people, the opposite of Halberstam’s original meaning)

Now, 41 years later, the U.S. and Vietnam are reconciling. The U.S. wants the business opportunities that are expected to open up in Vietnam and a counterweight to Chinese adventurism.

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President Obama reviewing a guard of honor during a welcoming ceremony at Vietnam’s Presidential Palace in Hanoi, May 23, 2016.

 

Cost of the Vietnam War to the United States                                            $173 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War                                             58,220

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties of the Vietnam War       58,220

 

Afghanistan

The Afghanistan war began in October 2011 to oust the Taliban that sheltered al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

USTroopsInAfghanistan

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan ended its combat mission in December 2014, according to the White House.

In terms of Western goals — things are right back where they started: needing to keep Afghanistan free of extremists and a viable country for its people, CNN recently reported. The result is thousands of refugees and a continued safe haven for ISIS.

The Taliban currently controls more territory than at any time since 2001, when it ruled from the capital, Kabul, Western defense officials say, and the United Nations says civilian casualties are at a high since it began keeping records in 2009, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The United Nations said 3545 civilians were killed in 2015 as Taliban stepped up attacks after British and American troops left at end of 2014.

Furthermore, U.S. intelligence agencies have been warning the White House that the Taliban could seize more Afghan territory, including population centers, during this summer’s fighting season, in part because the Afghan government and its military forces are so weak, according to the Journal.

 

Cost of the war in Afghanistan to the United States                            $686 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the war in Afghanistan                          2,381

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties                                      2,381

Iraq

On March 19, 2003, the United States and coalition forces, began a war in Iraq against Saddam Hussein, the Sunni leader of Iraq.

When explosions from Tomahawk cruise missiles launched from U.S. fighter-bombers and warships in the Persian Gulf began to rock Baghdad, President George W. Bush said in a televised address, “At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.”

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U.S. soldiers hold back crowds as the statue of Saddam Hussein falls in Baghdad, April 9, 2003, by Peter Nicholls

The Shia-led governments that have held power since Hussein was toppled have struggled to maintain order and the country has enjoyed only brief periods of respite from high levels of sectarian violence. Violence and sabotage have continued to hinder the revival of an economy shattered by decades of conflict and sanctions.

Politically and economically, Iraq’s trajectory is currently a negative one, Brookings said recently. The country is politically fragmented at all levels and the centrifugal forces appear to be gaining strength. This, in turn, has paralyzed the government, suggesting that the most likely paths for Iraq are toward a situation analogous to the Lebanon of today.

Cost of the Iraq War to the United States                                             $818 billion

U.S. military fatal casualties of the Iraq War                                             4,491

Grieving families of U.S. military fatal casualties of the Iraq War       4,491

 

“War, huh

Good God, y’all

What is it good for?”

      “War” by Edwin Starr

 

 

Joe Biden’s legacy: hold the applause

Following Joe Biden’s announcement that he would not run for president, public pronouncements and media coverage have been more hagiography than biography.

The praise has been so over the top, you’d think Joe had died and gone to heaven and folks were delivering cloying funeral orations.

Joe Biden Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Joe Biden Caricature | by DonkeyHotey

Before the Democrats and the media canonize Joe Biden, let’s step back a bit.

The most consistent element of the comments has been the assertion that Joe is a great and good man because of his unquestioned honesty.

Not so fast.

In his 1988 campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Biden gave a speech that drew the attention of New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd. She accused Biden of outright plagiarizing speeches given by British Labor Party leader, Neil Kinnock.

As it turned out, not only did Biden lift text from Kinnock’s speeches; he even appropriated parts of Kinnock’s life, citing his ancestors’ ability to read and write poetry, his accomplishment of being the first in his family to attend college and, in an apparent effort to show his blue-collar roots, that some of his ancestors were coal miners. That was all true for Kinnock, but most certainly not for Biden.

Biden’s problems escalated when media discovered that he had also exaggerated his college academic record and been accused of plagiarism there. Biden claimed that he’d finished Syracuse Law School in the top half of his class when he’d actually graduated 76th of 85. He’d also and gotten an F in a law school class for plagiarizing a substantial portion of a paper from an article in the Fordham Law Review. Biden dismissed the plagiarism incidents as “much ado about nothing,” but subsequently ended his campaign.

Biden also played a major role in the Robert Bork and the Clarence Thomas hearings in 1987 and 1991 that many observers still describe as defamatory. “Joe Biden has had his finger in every tawdry hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee in my memory,” said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, a conservative legal advocacy group. “He has lowered the standard of debate. He has politicized the confirmation process. He has used his position to defame a number of nominees, including Bob Bork and Clarence Thomas, and there’s no road too low that he won’t travel.”

Like so many politicians, Biden also has not shied away from rewriting history. Remember when Hillary Clinton claimed she was threatened by sniper fire when she visited Bosnia in 1996, an assertion that was later disproved? Biden once claimed that his helicopter was “forced down” on “the superhighway of terror” by Afghan extremists. The facts? He was in a helicopter with two other senators when a snowstorm closed in and the pilot decided to put down, after which a U.S. troop convoy took them to Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan.

Biden’s shifting versions of events continue today. In 2012, Biden said he advised President Obama not to approve the raid on the Abbottabad, Pakistan compound that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden. White House spokesman Jay Carney confirmed Biden’s comment. But on Oct. 20, Biden said just the opposite, that he had he privately advised Obama to approve the raid.

And let’s not forget Biden was perfectly willing to embrace and propagate the administration’s lie that the Benghazi terrorist attack that resulted in the death of American ambassador was a spontaneous reaction to an inflammatory anti-Muslim video.

Then, of course, there’s Biden’s seemingly never ending dithering on whether to enter the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. His hemming and hawing and general indecisiveness on that issue alone should tell you a lot about his suitability for the presidency.

When Biden dropped out of the selection process this time around, Hillary Clinton said she’s confident that “history isn’t finished with Joe Biden.” Let’s hope not, at least insofar as historical truth goes.