Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Remember the history of war

As I read the article “Why the axis is evil” in Wednesday’s Herald, it reminded me of a group paper about a military incident in the sixties.

In early August 1964, enemy forces fired upon an American destroyer on a routine patrol off the Southeast Asian shore. Machine guns and two torpedoes were fired, but only one machine gun round actually struck the destroyer.

The next night, that destroyer and one other were in a terrible thunderstorm. Believing they were under attack again, jets from a nearby aircraft carrier flew to assist them, and sunk one of three patrol boats nearby.

The next day, the president ordered air strikes against the attacking country in “defense of U.S. interests in the region.” American approval of the bombing was 85 percent, and the public and press, tantalized by horrific accounts of the incidents, demanded further action.

Five days after the first attack, Congress passed a resolution giving the president complete power to use U.S. forces to defend U.S. interests in the Southeast Asia region as he saw fit. The president ran with his “blank check,” and nine years later, a country divided over the ensuing and pointless war sought to put back together the pieces.

Of course, this was the beginning of the Vietnam War. The country was North Vietnam, the president Lyndon B. Johnson, and the resolution the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

Reports surfaced afterward the destroyers were not performing routine patrols, but running radar six miles off the coast to support South Vietnamese attacks on North Vietnamese locations.

Two senators got wind of this before the resolution was passed and objected to further attacks. Secretary of Defense McNamara emphatically denied these reports, but both senators still voted against the bill, saying not one American boy’s life was worth all of Southeast Asia. By 1969, a few more people agreed with them.

The theory was Communism was the evil empire, and if we allowed Southeast Asia to fall, soon the rest of the world would soon follow, including the United States. The only way to eliminate the threat was the offensive approach. Thousands of men died, trillions of dollars were spent, and yet nothing was accomplished.

A nation grieving from thousands of lives lost in attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was completely receptive to an aggressive solution to the problem of terrorism. Everyone, including myself, called on the president and Congress for swift justice.

Within days, a resolution was passed allowing the President to use the use of force against all terrorist groups, or even countries suspected of supporting them.

Bringing the al Queda — who were responsible for the attacks on America — to justice was the first priority, and it was a just cause. We have removed the Taliban government, and have the al Queda on the run. The parties responsible for the attacks on American soil have been crippled.

President Bush then declared Iran, Iraq, and North Korea the “axis of evil,” and accused them of housing terrorists and creating weapons of mass destruction. The only way to eliminate the threat of terrorism, he says, is to eliminate the “axis of evil” supporting it.

The foes are familiar. Everyone is certainly familiar with Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, our past terrorist problems with Iran, and North Korea’s status as part of the remaining communist block in Southeast Asia. If the government had its way, the governments of all three of these countries would have been removed during the last 50 years.

Now Bush’s administration has just cause, with their new “blank check” and tremendous public support to accomplish whatever aims they see fit in a war against terrorism.

Will this approach ever really eliminate terrorism? If we, the world’s greatest superpower, cannot control our own terrorist groups, such as the ones responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, how can we expect other countries to do so, or face U.S. military action?

If you’ve been following, both Iran and North Korea are outraged at being lumped in with Iraq. Iran in particular is begging our allies such as Germany to talk reason into the Bush administration.

Is the information about the “axis” completely legitimate? As we send 200 elite troops into Georgia, a former Soviet republic, what are the limits of this operation? Let’s not escalate in haste, but consider our actions before we may regret them. To quote an old Chinese proverb, “If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.”

Ryan Knaack ([email protected]) graduated from UW last semester with a degree in accounting.

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