Mainstream politicians and press critical of U. S. involvement in Vietnam and Iraq have always emphasized American losses in lives and treasure as the primary reason for disengaging from conflict. George McGovern was the exception that proved the rule when he astonished the few listeners who hung on until 3 AM to hear him include in his nomination acceptance speech this reason for withdrawing from Vietnam:
There will be no more Asian children running ablaze from bombed-out schools. There will be no more talk of bombing the dikes or the cities of the North.
More typical is John Kerry’s rhetoric urging a timetable for bringing American troops home from Iraq: A few weeks ago I departed Iraq from Mosul. Three Senators and staff were gathered in the forward part of a C-130. In the middle of the cavernous cargo hold was a simple, aluminum coffin with a small American flag draped over it. We were bringing another American soldier, just killed, home to his family and final resting place.The starkness of his coffin in the center of the hold, the silence except for the din of the engines, was a real time cold reminder of the consequences of decisions for which we Senators share responsibility.
Underlying Kerry’s choice of imagery is the assumption that American lives are more precious, that Americans are exceptional.
But that dearly-held, Ameri-centric view may be fading away. The evidence of the erosion of the idea that Americans enjoy special privilege in this world comes from a surprising source. The decades-long efforts of the antiwar left to get people in the U. S. to have concern and compassion for the people upon whom American bombs fall seems finally to have caught hold of the current Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne.
Secretary Wynne showed a stunning preference yesterday for using new high-power microwave weapons for domestic crowd control as a way of testing the possible side effects of the devices: ”If we’re not willing to use it here against our fellow citizens, then we should not be willing to use it in a wartime situation,” said Wynne. ”(Because) if I hit somebody with a nonlethal weapon and they claim that it injured them in a way that was not intended, I think that I would be vilified in the world press.’"
This is the Secretary of the same Air Force that dropped millions of tons of Agent Orange on Vietnam and untold tons of uranium-depleted shells on Iraq. Has Wynne been reading too much Noam Chomsky?
Michael Wynne hasn’t become a peacenik. He is merely the advance guard of the forces now sloshing their way across America’s constitutional and, more importantly, cultural Rubicon.
The Roman Republic barred its military leaders from bringing their legions across that watery boundary so that Roman troops would never be used against Roman citizens. While the legionnaires were free to butcher men, women and children anywhere else in the Mediterranean world, citizens of Rome enjoyed special privilege. They were immune until Julius Caesar brought his legion across that famous river, causing the Roman Senate to flee in fear and bringing the Roman Republic to an end.
America has now reached the point where its ruthless leaders so despise its people and its press that they feel it is safer politically to test dangerous new weapons on protestors and unruly crowds in the U. S. than in the streets of Baghdad or Ramallah. Like Joseph Stalin and Saddam Hussein, they have complete confidence that they can do whatever they like within the boundaries of the country they rule.
Many of us have wished for the death of the myth of American exceptionalism, but few could have foreseen its end announced by an Air Force Secretary who urged his own government to "nuke" Americans first.
Nearly 58,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam conflict along with more than a quarter million South Vietnamexe and other allied soldiers. The Vietnamese government puts the official military death toll at 1.1 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong. Civilian deaths are estimated at 2 million to 3.5 million.
9/11 attacks: 3,030 deaths .
More than 2,600 U. S. troops have been killed in Iraq. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 50,000 to 150,000 plus 55,000 insurgents. The Economist estimated that as many as 360,000 children died in Iraq prior to the war as the result of sanctions imposed at the urging of the U. S.