Column: Sept. 11 should not lead us into another Vietnam nightmare

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 12, 2002

Holiday? Someway it seems to me a holiday should be a holy and happy day. True, Halloween has its evil elements but it originally rested on the Celtic concept of a new year and marked the dividing line between yesterday and tomorrow, a solemn betweenment in mortal time.

To make a holiday of Sept. 11 is to commemorate evil. It is not a day that we will soon forget, anymore than we will soon forget Dec. 7. To remember a day in sadness, however, is not to make a holiday of it.

It troubles me, too, that our reaction to the horror of the 11th is not more measured. There is something about our response that puts me in mind of the young man in a Leacock story who &uot;jumped to his horse and rode off furiously in all directions.&uot;

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There are American citizens imprisoned on mere suspicion, denied legal advice, and without hope or promise of the early trial granted by our Constitution.

Our threat against Iraq has united the Arab world against us, and we have few if any allies who support us. I don’t doubt that there are destructive weapons in the hands of our enemies. China, too, and who knows how many other nations with no great love for us, holds the same weapons.

It is a time to consider all our possibilities rather than hastening to perhaps lay roots for World War III.

Recently there was a documentary on Vietnam showing that the then-president sent thousands of young Americans off to be killed, maimed and mentally scarred for life even though he knew there was not the slightest possibility that we could win the war.

It is an evil time when we feel more afraid of our own government and what it will do than we feel about possible invaders. We are constantly being told that there are things we don’t know, dangers of which we are unaware. Then why not take us into the confidence of those who hold this information?

The enemy must know what our government knows. So why keep it secret from the rest of us, particularly from those who will be expected to put their lives on the line because of that information?

Our invasion of Vietnam divided our country as it had not been divided since the Civil War and left scars that are still unhealed. It was a long war and many of our military leaders say an invasion of Iraq may also lead to a long war.

There is no doubt in my mind that our leaders are doing their best. What they are not doing is inspiring our confidence in how good their best is.

Our vice-president, for example, is absolutely straining at the bit to get the war started. I have every sympathy for him. As a collector of rejection slips, a producer of fallen souffls, and a loser of important papers, who better than I to understand the misery of frustration?

It is tragic to want something as passionately as Vice-President Cheney wants to invade Iraq and to be blocked from it because of age or health. It would seem a kindness if we indeed make the invasion to let him go with the front-line forces, perhaps as a mascot.

A passage from one of my journals, dated Feb. 19. 1991, records a news report of 60,000 citizens of Iraq killed and 60,000 of them wounded by our forces. That conflict has gone down in our history as a victory for us. Was it?

It is well and necessary to outlaw terror. First we must identify it. Any war, however justified it may seem, is a form of terror. Terror does not overcome terror. The greatest gift, next to life, that can be bestowed upon humanity is intelligence. Any people that can put a man on the moon can devise a substitute for war.

It is all very well to say, &uot;There will always be war,&uot; but in the same breath we must say there will not necessarily always be humans. To consider the weapons with which mortals are now equipped, to consider the urge toward self destruction the mortal race embraces, is to come face to face with the recollection of the many species long since extinct. Many of the extinct creatures had, before their exit, walked the earth centuries before our beginnings.

We are not indispensable.

Love Cruikshank is an Albert Lea resident. Her column appears Thursdays.