International Perceptions of the United States since 9/11

The death toll is one of the greatest disparities between Vietnam and the Middle East. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost a total of less than 5,000 U. S. soldiers’ lives according to the latest body counts, as daily reports of not only American casualties but Iraqi civilian casualties roll in. However, five years into the Vietnam War, numbers were in the tens of thousands of Americans killed.

But, in Iraq, reports of the daily violence against civilians continue to roll in, including a suicide truck bomber in the Sulaiman Bek city hall, a predominantly Sunni area of northern Iraq, which killed at least 16 people and wounded 67; add to this at least 21 other Iraqis that were killed or found dead in attacks nationwide and life in the U. S. -occupied country becomes more apparent (Gamel).

This has led to a negative view of the United States by many of the Iraqi that are supposed to be helped. This is similar to Vietnam, where in the end over a million Vietnamese ended up dying. According to Iraqi author, Abdul Hadi al-Khalili, who was kidnapped in broad daylight by gunmen and forced to pay $30,000 to be released, this is a product of American occupation: “Crimes like carjacking, murder, and kidnapping were nearly unheard of during the years of Saddam’s repressive police state.

The United States successfully dismantled Saddam’s government but completely failed to bring a sense of law and order to the nation of Iraq” (Al-Marashi and Hadi al-Khalili). Unlike Vietnam, which saw America fail to meet its objective of holding off the communist forces, the War in Iraq could be claimed to have reached its objective, which at this point seems to be the occupation of the country. In Afghanistan, the war is far from over and will not be until Al Qaeda is eradicated.

However, like in both wars, it is the soldier that ultimately decides the wars’ fate. One of the quietest statistics from the wars in the Middle East is the number of servicemen and women wounded in action. Because the armed forces keep such firm control on media and personal reports by the soldiers, the American public is largely unaware of the sheer numbers of soldiers that come back from Iraq gravely wounded. According to the latest reports by the Department of Defense, the total U. S.

Iraq War casualties stand at over 56,000; this figure includes the nearly 28,000 wounded by hostile action and almost double that amount for soldiers who were evacuated for illness and non-hostile action, a blanket description that also includes soldiers who commit suicide (White). The thing that differentiates the war in Iraq from previous wars is that the fatality rate is misleading and the casualty rate is significantly higher than Vietnam and Korea, which experienced fewer than three people wounded for every death, and the World Wars, in which there were less than two (Bilmes).

Some of this can be attributed to better medical technology and the use of body armor, but the overall theme is that there are and will continue to be a large amount of wounded veterans, both physically and psychologically, coming back to the United States needing treatment on an already grossly understaffed and under-funded Veteran Affairs administration.

So far, more than 200,000 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have been treated at VA medical facilities — three times what the VA projected, according to a Government Accountability Office analysis; of these veterans, more than a third have been diagnosed with mental health conditions, and thousands more have crippling disabilities such as brain and spinal injuries (Bilmes).

The Veterans Benefits Administration has 400,000 pending claims, some which will never be honored, and of the 1.5 million service members involved in the war from the beginning, 900,000 are still on active duty, which will only lead to greater problems when their time is up (Bilmes). The conservative estimate of the price wounded veterans will cost the U. S. taxpayers in between $300 billion and $600 billion, not to mention the price the veterans themselves have already paid. No matter what the reasons for fighting the war in Iraq may be it is apparent that those who fought it and those who paid for it will continue to pay for years to come, much like the Vietnam veterans that continued to suffer from their physical and emotional wounds for decades.

The main difference between the wars in the Middle East and the war in Vietnam is that veterans are not being protested against and receive nothing but support, even though when they return from duty they are virtually forgotten about. In essence, while Vietnam vets received rebukes for fulfilling their duty, the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan receive indifference. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have many similarities to the Vietnam War, both in their unpopularity, money spent, and suffering incurred by those that fought.

Though no veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are actively scorned in public, they are largely forgotten about, even as many suffer crippling mental and physical ailments. In the thirty years since the end of Vietnam, the American military has become far more savvy in making sure the American public knows only what it needs to know, but perhaps it fails to give Americans enough credit for knowing what it does. What Americans do seem to know is that the wars in the Middle East, namely the war in Iraq, is one that has far too many similarities to the Vietnam War, and those that remember care never to go there again.

Works Cited:

Al-Marashi, Ibrahim and Hadi al-Khalili, Abdul. “Iraqis’ Bleak Views Of The United States. ” What They Think of Us: International Perceptions of the United States since 9/11. Ed. David Farber. Princeton University Press. 2 February 2007. 23 Jul 2008. <http://press. princeton. edu/chapters/s8381. html>. Bilmes, Linda. “The battle of Iraq's wounded. ” Los Angeles Times. 5 January 2007. 23 Jul 2008. <http://ksghome. harvard. edu/~lbilmes/paper/bilmes010507. pdf>.