It has been over thirty years since the United States pulled out of a protracted, unpopular war in Asia, and forty years since that war and the opposition to it almost tore the country apart. Today, America finds itself again mired in a protracted, unpopular war in Asia, but the opposition has been far less riotous than before. However, the similarities between the Vietnam War and the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are many, including the devastation felt by soldiers that fought in the respective conflagrations.
While Vietnam veterans returned home to no fanfare, no victory parades, and no sympathy, many veterans of the Iraqi and Afghani War find themselves returning to similar alienation at home. Even more than the Vietnam War, soldiers of the current wars are also returning home with large numbers of them suffering terrible war injuries and finding hospitals and their government unable to take care of them. The similarities between the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are many, and sometimes to seem to outweigh the differences.
One of the main similarities between the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that both wars are covered regularly in the news, giving Americans at home an almost real time glimpse of the wars. Headlines like, “American soldiers killed in attack,” are common out of Iraq or Afghanistan, while Vietnam media coverage was known for showing the battles over the evening dinner. A big difference, and perhaps a lesson learned by the military from the Vietnam War, is that the armed forces now do their best to censor the reality of the war from reaching the home front.
This is one of the reasons that Americans have been kept in the dark and scarcely know the extent of the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan, save for the reports of body counts. However, the brutal realities of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot be sufficiently censored to prevent Americans from finding out the horrible toll our soldiers pay each day, losing their humanity by killing and losing their minds by having to see their friends’ arms or legs blown off.
Though the American public initially support the wars, it has finally started to voice its opposition to at leaat the protracted war in Iraq, as recent polls and presidential approval ratings show that the public is increasingly upset with the direction the war has taken, even though support for the troops continues to remain high.
As it stands, opposition to the war also continues to grow and the polarization like experienced during the Vietnam War and that marked the early days of the war is diminishing, as citizens, politicians, members of the armed forces, and even those in the Bush administration are realizing the errant decisions that led to and sustained the war have cost far too much--in billions of taxpayers’ dollars, international economic and political status, and most importantly the lives of tens thousands of Americans and many more Iraqis.
Though many believe the War in Afghanistan is a just war seeking to rid the threat of terrorism, few issues have polarized the political community and general population in the United States as the sustained war in Iraq. While most of the country agreed that invading Afghanistan was necessary to combat terrorism, the decision to invade Iraq was met with mixed feelings at best. At the time, the Bush administration used everything in its power to convince the American public and the world of the righteousness in attacking Iraq.
The many reasons, with varying degrees of honesty and accuracy, ranged from the threat of weapons of mass destruction to Iraq’s participation in terrorism to the plain fact that Saddam Hussein was a bad man. Unfortunately, many Americans who would normally be in the middle of the road on such issues were blinded by the administration’s continued propaganda about having to support a president during wartime, regardless of the terrible decisions or unexplained actions he takes, and many also believed that Iraq was involved in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
A Washington Post poll of 1,003 adults taken in August of 2003 found that nearly 70% of Americans polled believed that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in Al Qeada’s attacks on the United States; a Time/CNN poll conducted around the same time found Americans more closely split on whether the military action in Iraq was worth the price in America lives, taxpayer dollars and other costs — 49% said yes, 43% no and 8% were unsure (“Poll: 70% Believe Saddam, 9-11 Link”).
With its aims justified in the eyes of the misinformed American public, in March of 2003 the Bush administration got its wish to expand the war in the Middle East to include Iraq.