The War Itself -- Not Protests -- is Affecting Troop Morale, Argues Prof. Ken Bode
December 2, 2005
December 2, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - "Oct. 15, 1969, was the date of the Vietnam Moratorium," recalls Ken Bode in today's Indianapolis Star. The op-ed by DePauw University's Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism continues, "Life magazine called it 'a display without historical parallel, the largest expression of public dissent ever seen in this country'... As anti-war speakers all over the country called for a drawdown of U.S. forces and an end to hostilities, the posture of the Nixon administration was that arbitrary timetables of withdrawal would only play into the hands of the enemy and cause America to suffer a loss of reputation and self-respect. Withdrawal would dishonor the sacrifice of soldiers killed in action and amount to a self-imposed defeat. Public displays like the Moratorium encourage the enemy and undercut the morale of our troops. How much does that sound like Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld today?"
Bode, former senior political analyst for CNN, maintains, "What is damaging morale is the knowledge that our troops have never had adequate armor and equipment. What is damaging morale is the fact that the military and their families are stretched so thin. Reports of rising cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, job losses among returning national guard troops, wounded and maimed veterans receiving huge medical bills -- these are the things our soldiers know about, and they surely undercut troop morale."
The professor notes, "At the time of the Moratorium, the Nixon administration was saying this: Withdrawal of U.S. troops will be offset by the increased capacity of South Vietnamese troops to defend themselves. We cannot be handcuffed by arbitrary timetables. Bush is saying that same thing today. As soon as the Iraqi army and police can act on their own, he says, we can begin drawing down the American commitment of 160,000... This week, the Pentagon admitted there are only 'several hundred Iraqi troops capable of operating fully independent of American troops.' So, our soldiers know they are fighting in integrated units alongside Iraqis whose competence and loyalty they cannot fully trust. On Bush's timetable, they will be there for a long time."
Dr. Bode concludes, "These things are affecting troop morale far more than the rising tide of criticism, which, in fact, may lead to a timetable for withdrawal. After the Moratorium, the Vietnam War went on for more than five years at a cost of another 20,000 lives. It need not happen again."
Read the complete column at College News.org.
Source: Indianapolis StarBack