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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Devastation We Inflict: Two Letters from Vietnam Vets on "Collateral Damage" in Iraq

Published on Monday, January 23, 2006 by 
Almost two weeks ago, I published a piece by Michael Schwartz, "A Formula for Slaughter," on the brutal nature of American "rules of engagement" from the air in Iraq and the consequent proliferation of Iraqi civilian casualties.  As it happened, this piece spurred powerful memories in a number of Vietnam veterans who wrote vivid e-responses in to Tomdispatch -- striking enough that I chose the two most eloquent to send out (with permission, of course) in my latest dispatch (along with a discussion of my own on the way the Vietnam experience has dogged the Bush administration in its Iraqi adventure).  The first letter comes from Wade Kane, once a helicopter door gunner and crew chief in Vietnam, who wrote in from Crescent City, Florida; the second is from George Hoffman, a former Vietnam medic, from Lorain, Ohio, which he describes as being "thirty miles west of Cleveland, in the heart of the industrial rust belt, and my apartment has a scenic view of the smokestacks and the steel mill." Both in their accounts give the Vietnam analogy in Iraq painful new meaning.  These are the sorts of voices we should hear far more from in this country and, unfortunately, almost never do. -- Tom Engelhardt


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