Vietnam vs. Iraq
I grew up watching Vietnam movies. As a kid, I wanted to wear green fatigues, walk through a jungle and carry an M60. Instead, I get a khaki uniform, a desert and an M16. I always envisioned war in the jungle and so did John Goodman’s character in the Big Lebowsky… “Whereas what we have here? A bunch of fig-eaters wearing towels on their heads, trying to find reverse in a Soviet tank. This is not a worthy adversary,” he said referring to Desert Storm. Of course, Goodman’s character was a Vietnam vet and proudly disputed any war being tougher.
While this character was fiction and played a large role in one of the great 1990’s comedy, there is some true resentment behind his words. Almost all Vietnam vets I talk to speak of their war as the war. And rightly so, they should be very proud of their service. They served a country that was divided, with half hating the men in uniform. And the difficulties they endured from the random jungle disease to ambushes to being captured by a skilled enemy. Vietnam vets deserve recognition, and they are the first to thank soldiers returning home.
Occasionally, I run into this Vietnam vet at the VA, who loves to compare Iraq to Vietnam.
“Vietnam ain’t no Iraq. Shit, we had 50 times the casualties.”
He’s right. In Vietnam, there were almost 60,000 deaths. Currently, 1,872 servicemen have been killed in Iraq.
From a tactical standpoint, the two wars are completely different though. G.I.s in Vietnam fought an army plus random guerillas. Except for the initial ground war, all we fight are guerillas. And in Vietnam, the enemy would sustain a fight. In Iraq, the enemy plants a bomb and runs. In both wars, soldiers rebuilt schools and hospitals, and both enemies are / were extremely difficult.
However, the one thing that sticks out more than anything about these two wars is the equipment. While there have been numerous reports about lack of equipment in Iraq, make no doubt about it, we still have the best equipment in all the land. We have body armor that will stop an AK round. Imagine if our soldiers had this in Vietnam. How many lives would have been saved? We have up-armored hummers that stop bullets, RPGs and shrapnel. And we have robots that search for bombs. Not to mention, today’s aerial support and GPS can pinpoint a target whereas in Vietnam, a lieutenant directed artillery basically off a map and compass… increasing chances for friendly fire.
Plus, today’s medical technology and expertise has saved countless lives on the battlefield. In two years, there have been 14,000 injured in Iraq, half of those returned to duty within 72 hours. That’s credit to the Army Medical Corps.
My point is this, today’s soldier is equipped with the absolute best. There’s no telling how many lives have been saved. But one thing is for sure, you cannot compare Vietnam to Iraq from a casualty standpoint. They are two different wars. But I understand that the major comparisons are more for political reasons. And that’s another story… One that is out of the soldier’s hands.