This is by way of removing the ice pick from Bill Laurie’s eye.
That’s how Laurie, who lives in Mesa and spent three years in Vietnam, described his reaction by my column last Tuesday regarding Iraq, Vietnam, war and peace. Herewith, a few excerpts from this long and thoughtful letter:
“Your statement, ‘If the demonstrators and protests hadn’t stopped the war, what would have?’ has one very definite answer that was very apparent to those of us who were in Vietnam: Any kind of coherent strategy, backed up by support from the homeland.”
Laurie’s research revealed that Washington blocked Gen. William Westmoreland’s plan to cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail, by which the North funneled most of its supplies and troops to the South. “That, among other things, would have ‘stopped the war,’ Laurie wrote.
Laurie also notes that U.S. casualties steadily dropped under President Richard Nixon, from 181 a week in 1969 to 81 in 1970, 27 in 1971 and six in 1972.
“I do not take these numbers lightly as too many of them were good friends of mine, but the fact remains that far fewer Americans were dying and the war was being won because of the cumulative impact on (Communist) forces over the years.
All of this may not have been necessary after 1968 or 1969 had there been anything resembling leadership in Washington, and had the Ho Chi Minh Trail been cut.”
American protesters, Laurie wrote, “actually prolonged the war because they encouraged Hanoi to press on, despite catastrophic battlefield losses, gambling the Americans would quit.”
Still, Laurie said, he harbors no ill will toward the protesters, who “were as well-intentioned as they were abysmally ignorant.” In part, he tells me, this was because “your predecessors in the ‘news’ media were dumber than a box of rocks, and annealed this ignorance with holier-than-thou arrogance.
Then came the U.S. government, as incoherent and unconvincing as a hog on opium. . . . Our ‘information industry’ — the news media, academia, the government, all failed.”
Further, Laurie points out, U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam unleashed a holocaust.
“Only myopic American ethnocentrism allows one to deny the death and misery arising from our crypto-surrender in Vietnam. Over four million people died violent deaths in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam after 1975, more than during the war, and all of it because of Hanoi’s lust for political lebensraum.”
All of which is to say it was a grave oversimplification on my part to have asserted that fuzzy-cheeked antiwar protesters put a halt to the engines of death 30 years ago.
Which brings us to today, and to Iraq, and to the various protests springing up at Arizona State University and elsewhere objecting to a war that looks increasingly certain.
If Laurie is right — and the guy really has done his homework — peace protests, however well-intended they may be, are no less likely than war itself to yield unintended consequences.