“… is a country without a soul, and a country without a soul is a country that cannot survive.”
Since I’m a discussion leader this week I’m only bring up a few points. The Wages of War often gets me worked up and angry about the shoddy treatment of veterans, and this is no exception. Severo and Milford portray the victimized veteran well… which is important to keep in mind when considering the book’s bias.
It’s interesting to compare the Vietnam conflict to the Philippine-American War and the war in Iraq, but these comparisons are valid in many ways. American soldiers in an uncertain climate fighting against an enemy that uses guerilla warfare, making it difficult to tell innocent civilians from combatants. I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain level of racism was also part of the reason for the disregard of human life sometimes displayed. This was the case for our “little brown brothers” of the Philippines. How often have we heard about massacres like My Lai committed by Americans during either World War? In Europe we were fighting against white Germans of civilized Western society, people like us. It’s true that thousands of innocent German civilians were bombed during WWII, but it seems to me that it would be less personal and more detached to the soldiers than the murder, rape, and mutilation of innocents. Now, this doesn’t say much about the Japanese, but if the invasion of Japan had happened, I imagine it would have been very similar to the above conflicts.
The Agent Orange issue was simply painful to read. Thousands of perfectly healthy young men go to Vietnam, get exposed to chemicals, and come back with strange problems, including rashes, growths, and cancer, as well as miscarriages and birth defects in their children. But, no, there’s no problem, especially not with the chemicals. When the VA and Department of Defense finally decided to investigate, the people they got to look into it were herbicide advocates! It’s no wonder they said there was nothing potentially unhealthy about Agent Orange or other herbicides. This was, of course, despite the scientific evidence that said, yes, many chemicals are dangerous, especially the dioxin used in Agent Orange. The VA and the government just didn’t want to pay up. Then there was that little matter about terrifying the public about its own chemical exposure, but I think Rachel Carson covered that pretty well already. This claim that it was basically all in the veterans’ heads went on for years, and when the vets were finally paid it wasn’t much and hardly seemed worth all the trouble.