My turn: Doesn't anyone remember who the hippies were?

Posted: Thursday, April 21, 2005

It's strange, I think, that a war that caused so much controversy less than 31 years ago, can seemingly be so easily forgotten.

Americans are now living through a Vietnam-type experience again and re-enacting the same horrific deeds that the government committed us to just three decades ago. From my research on the Vietnam War, the similarities between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War are shocking. Why is it few people seem angered by the errors America is making again?

I'm sure you all remember your mother saying when you were little how it's OK you messed up, because you learned from it. We have seen the mistakes of the Iraq War before. There is no excuse for repeating historical mistakes.

The Vietnam War was against communism. Americans knew the possibility of other countries becoming communist. What Americans didn't seem to realize was that these were countries, not schoolgirls rediscovering plaid. The war was a political choice.

So the United States was quick on conclusions. America started to bribe South Vietnam to see things our way, and soon enough a war had started. America had imposed its beliefs on Vietnam and told it that they as Americans were helping them. The last time I checked, helping someone was carrying an old lady's groceries to her car, not invading another country and killing 3 million of their people.

The Vietnam War was the first war to be highlighted on U.S. televisions. Everyone knew about it, and people were divided over it. There were a group of people who were very against the Vietnam War who you might remember as "hippies." The protests, the flowers in the gun barrels, signs saying "Make Love Not War," were all demonstrations of personal protest. How is it that we remember the hippies, but not what they stood for?

The conclusion of the Vietnam War was when other countries gradually began to see things as the hippies did, and the military was unable to overcome the politics. America pulled out. And not but a few months later, Vietnam became communist. All those lives - all 56,000 of them - spent on nothing but a country that had already made up its mind. All on a war fought against an idea. Nothing more than a suspicion on our part. And for what? Their country has been a peaceful, well-functioning country ever since we left.

Does any of this seem familiar? Let's look at some of the repeats from the Vietnam War: Neither the Iraq War nor the Vietnam War was supported by many other countries. We stayed (and are staying) until many other nations were against us and we left recognizing our failed policies. What are the chances this is how the Iraq War will end?

Both of these wars are being fought militarily, though it is a political battle that was causing unwanted friction. In both, the truth at home and trust abroad were distorted. Though the U.S. was winning militarily, we were not winning politically, which is why they started the war in the first place: to change the politics of Vietnam. Political problems should be solved with words, not wars.

In the words of President Calvin Coolidge, "The business of this country is business." I don't believe this is good business. This war has caused the United States massive debt. We owe more than $8 trillion. This is such a large number it's difficult to comprehend. "A billion here, a billion there, sooner or later it adds up to real money," former U.S. Senator Everett Dirksen once said. Being part of the next generation of this country, I don't believe the government should ignore these debts. They are the burden of the next hopeful adults trying to bring about positive change to the mess the previous generation left behind.

These wars are too similar for my taste and I think the president should reassess this war and our reasons for it. Why is it that the hippies would so easily speak their minds against the Vietnam War, yet we are so reserved for this one?

We are making no progress except death, because in war, there is no winner. It was fear that started these wars, and fear has ended them, and now fear that prevents us from saying how we truly feel.

• Shannon Smith is an eighth grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School. She wrote this piece as part of a yearlong ROPEs project.

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