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Date Posted: Mon, May 23 2005, 13:07:54
Author: Larry Lusk
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Subject: An Act of Desperation?

During the Vietnam War one tactic that was used to combat the Viet Cong was to round up all males within a certain age range in a district where a lot of insurgent activity was occurring. While most of these operations were conducted by ARVN troops they were almost always supported by American troops. The idea was that at least a portion of the VC were pretending to be or were actually part of the population of that area and worked in the fields and shops during the day. At night they joined their VC units to conduct military operations. No one really knows how many of those that were gathered up during these sweeps were actually Viet Cong but forced confessions and executions were reported but never officially acknowledged. This tactic did reduce the number of VC attacks in many areas, at least for a short while, but the anger they generated is well documented. In addition some of those “detained as suspected Viet Cong” were forced to join the ARVN to prove they were not VC and what happened to the rest is somewhat murky. The general feeling in the field was that while these “sweeps” were effective in the short run they only fostered increased anger and hatred against the South Vietnamese Government and American troops in the long run. I think that the various written histories of this war tend to bare this out.

One of the expressed purposed of this site; through our stories and the insights gained through our experience in Viet Nam, is to provide information so the younger people of today can draw some benefit from what “we” learned. I have been scolded in the past when I have suggested parallels between the war in Iraq and Vietnam and I probably will on this one too. “Operation Squeeze Play” that is now in progress in Iraq sounds, at least on the surface, very much like the “round-up” sweeps done in Vietnam. If the comparison is strong then while there may be a reduction in attacks in that area in the short run it only makes more determined enemies in the long term. It’s as much an act of desperation now as it was in Vietnam. How much pain are we willing to inflict on a people to prove that the act of war we committed was the right thing to do? How many more of our troops will die in the future because we are repeating a tactic that in Vietnam only prolonged that conflict? It is already clear that retaliation for this new operation is resulting in increased attacks in other parts of Iraq. I doubt that any of our current Generals and military thinkers read this board. Perhaps they should.

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