Two Ignominious Anniversaries
This summer we have to decide how to digest two anniversaries; July 28, which marks 100 years since the beginning of WWI in 1914; and, Aug. 7, which marks 50 years since Congress approved the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964.
All wars are evil, and all could have been avoided if individuals, tribes, leaders, and countries had practiced common decency and common sense. But some wars are more vile, more unjustified than your run-of-the-mill war. WWI and the Vietnam War both fit that description.
What might have been settled with some arm-wrestling contests or sword fights among royal cousins in 1914 instead led to the deaths of 10 million soldiers and six million civilians. Lloyd George, British Prime Minister said, “If people really knew, the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know.” Not only was the war the most devastating the world had ever seen, it did not lead to peace. In spite of the widespread horror at the carnage of WWI , WWII grew out of the seeds of WWI.
Fast forwarding from 1914 to Aug. 7, 1964, we witness the U.S. Senate voting 88-2 to approve the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, henceforth used as the legal basis for the U.S. war in Vietnam. The resolution was based on lies and pretense– history is clear on this.
The two senators, Morse and Gruening, who had the courage to say no, should be honored as heroes. Many have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in D.C., which lists the 58,286 US troops who died as a result of the war. It’s about 150 yards long. If a similar wall were built for the Vietnamese who were killed in the war, the wall would stretch for miles. People are still dying today from the Agent Orange and land mines of that war.
The anniversaries are an opportunity to understand our past and thus more effectively wage peace in our war-torn present.