I did not like this war one bit, but I think we should go easy on the guys who fought over there. Face it, they are just pawns. Their country called, they answered. If if their country called them for a dubious thing, the fact that they answered is still worth something. My main beef against the US military is that we hardly ever fight on the side of the good guys anymore. We are always for the bad guys or at least fighting for some dubious cause.
And we commit war crimes like crazy, though we seem to be getting a lot better about this. The Rules of Engagement in Iraq were much stricter than in Vietnam and certainly than in Korea, where I wonder if we were even following any rules at all. We need to knock it off with the White Phosphorus already though. We no longer use napalm (thank God!) and we have ended the use of cluster bombs (good show!). We really need to end the use of all depleted uranium ammunition though. The stuff is toxic as Hell and it’s got to go.
Almost no enemy POW’s were executed in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am afraid that we did this in Vietnam (CIA’s abominable Phoenix Plan), and in Korea, it looks like there were some terrible cases of this and even of US troops executing hundreds of South Korean civilians. My Lai was not the only massacre in Vietnam. There were many more smaller ones. It was fairly common for US soldiers to rape and murder young Vietnamese women villagers, especially in enemy territory. No, I do not approve of setting huts on fire in villages. Free-fire zones were a complete abomination. Carpet bombing with B-52’s is madness. The use of Agent Orange was an outrage.
US troops were not really monsters. After Tet, severe cynicism set in among US soldiers. Drug use skyrocketed, especially heroin, and I believe ceasefires were often negotiated with the local NVA or Viet Cong. Fragging or assassination of hated officers by those under the command rose to epidemic levels. Many to most of the men felt that the cause they were fighting for was complete bullshit, and they were probably right. We had a draft in the US, and those men were called up and ordered to serve. You can hardly fault a soldier for being drafted into war.
But I will say that the US military is damn good. And I can respect that. The 173rd Airborne was legendary in Vietnam. It has long been said to be one of the finest units in the US military, and I believe they may still exist.
Does it make sense to say that you thought the war was a great big mistake and still thank the men who served for their service? I don’t know, but I am going to do it anyway.