In Iraq for 365

About my experiences in Iraq... the frustrations, the missions and this country... and the journey home

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

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.


At 2:25 PM, Blogger JUST A MOM said...

VERY,,,VERY nice Smink, I think many need to see this and with your OK (that I won't wait for, unless you yell at me)I will be passing it on to others. Great stuff, thanks!!

At 5:06 PM, Anonymous kbug said...

Politics has always been out of the soldier's hands, Casanova...then and now. I'm really sick of reporters and talking heads trying to compare this war to the war in Viet Nam. Each war we've fought in, from the Revolutionary War on, has had its own identity and signature, so to speak. But, as much as each one is different, each one is also the same...every war has been opposed by some. Thank goodness the soldiers today are loved despite the fact that some people hate the war...that is the one huge difference between this war and Viet Nam.

At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Smink (the observer from the UK here), there is an interesting piece from Gallup out today that discusses the same issue. It's here. I reckon you and gallup are trend-setters, and there will be more debunking of one-on-one comparisons with Vietnam.

At 12:00 PM, Blogger Chris said...

You are very correct. There is no comparison. Iraq is not Vietnam. Are the politics the same? Maybe. But comparing the two wars is historically inaccurate.

At 3:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 12:53 PM, Blogger David Pakman said...

Hey, excellent website. A great Iraq resource is Deaths in Iraq. It breaks all of the casualties down by age, race, branch of the military, country, etc.

At 8:21 AM, Blogger feetxxxl said...

bush is right there is a similiarity between nam and iraq.

we became engage in the war from premeditated lies.

we were kept in it for the same reason as we are still in iraq. the misconception that the communists would be at our doorstep if we gave up nam.

in nam we found ourselves embroiled in the middle of a civil war that had been going on for 100's of years.

if we were stilll in nam BOTH SIDES would still be fighting. because our presence prevents the centralization of power that can only be attained thru blood.



At 7:30 PM, Blogger mwalzman said...

: I think you bring up a good point and I think your right, especially with the medical tech. Another advancement is how the soldiers communicated and got the news out about what is really going on. I just saw this documentary Sir! No Sir! And it’s about the G.I. Movement during Vietnam and how they made underground newspapers to get info out about the war. It reminded of the soldiers in Iraq blogging about their experiences, just like your doing, which I think is great. Here’s their site for more info

At 8:59 PM, Blogger a boy who like politics! said...

Im writing a 10 page essay about the Iraq war. My mom told me that people couldnt compare Iraq with Vietnam. People shouldnt be saying that this might last as long as vietnam but it wont. just look at the death count difference. plus the terrorist groups are running out of suicide bombers. so they are starpping the bombs to kids and mentally ill women! Doenst that sicken u?!? If that doesnt then i dont think u shouldnt be an American.

hopefully the comments i said are intersesting and make sence

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