I was watching the 2002 war movie We Were Soldiers a couple of nights ago. I’ve seen it before but it’s such a great movie that I periodically re-watch it. It stars Mel Gibson, Madeleine Stowe, Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott, Keri Russell, and others.
The movie is based on a true story. It dramatizes the Battle of la Drang in Vietnam, which was the first major battle between US military forces and North Vietnamese forces. The battle took place in November 1965, two years after President Kennedy was assassinated and a year after Lyndon Johnson was elected president in November 1964.
Gibson plays US Army Lt. Col. Hal Moore, who was ordered to lead his 400-man battalion in an attack on a North Vietnamese force that had recently attacked an American military base in Vietnam. US military intelligence had no idea how large the enemy force was. After Air Cavalry helicopters deposited Moore’s troops into the la Drang Valley, a captured enemy scout informed them that they were facing a veteran North Vietnamese division of 4,000 men.
In the movie, the final words of a US soldier who was shot and dying were something to the effect of, “I’m glad I am able to die for my country.”
Of course, it was a nonsensical notion, but one that was inculcated not only in US soldiers but also the vast majority of the American people, who, at that time, had a mindset of extreme and loyal deference to the US national-security state.
The notion was that there was an international communist conspiracy to take over the world, including the United States. The conspiracy was supposedly based in Moscow, Russia — yes, the same Russia that US officials are, once again, saying is hell-bent on coming to get us.
The American people were told that the North Vietnamese attempt to unify their country under communist rule was part of this international communist conspiracy. If the US did not prevent this takeover with military force, US officials claimed, it would mean that America would be in greater danger of falling to the international Red conspiracy.
Perhaps one of the reasons I am attracted to this movie is that I too was a victim of this indoctrination. I was 15 years old when that battle took place. By the time I graduated high school in 1968, I was fully convinced that American soldiers who were being killed in Vietnam were dying for their country. In fact, if I had been drafted out of high school and forced to go to Vietnam to fight the Reds, my mindset would have been the same as that of that dying soldier in the movie. If I had been struck with a fatal wound, I too would have died thinking that I was dying for my country.
During my first two years at Virginia Military Institute, I maintained the same mindset. And then during my junior year, I achieved a breakthrough to the truth. I’m not sure what did it, but my hunch is that periodic announcements at dinner in the mess hall of deaths of VMI graduates in Vietnam were a big factor in causing me to question what we were being told.
I just recall coming to realization that that it was all a lie — a crock. American men, including those VMI grads, who were being killed in Vietnam weren’t dying for their country. They were dying because of the ridiculous and paranoid mindset of the national-security establishment about the supposed international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow. They were dying because US officials were convinced that it was necessary for the US to intervene in what was nothing more than a civil war in Vietnam to prevent the Reds from coming over here to get us.
How do we know that it was all a ridiculous and paranoid mindset? Because after killing more than 58,000 American soldiers, the North Vietnamese ended up winning the war several years later. And guess what: The Reds never made it to the United States with a successful invasion, conquest, and occupation of our country. Despite the North Vietnamese victory, the supposed international communist conspiracy that was supposedly based in Moscow had failed to achieve its purported goal of worldwide conquest.
In other words, if the US government had never intervened in the Vietnam War, the result would have been the same as it ended up being — except that those 58,000 American men, many of whom were forced to serve the Pentagon, would still have been alive. Their deaths were a total waste.
Perhaps it’s worth pointing out that today the US government has extremely friendly relations with the Vietnamese communist regime. That, of course, could have been the case without the US intervention in the Vietnam War. In fact, that was precisely what President Kennedy was striving for when he was killed in Dallas.
Despite that soldier’s dying words in the movie, no American soldier who was killed in the Vietnam War died for his country. They all died for nothing. Or, to be more exact, they died for the Pentagon and the CIA and their ridiculous, paranoid, and baseless conspiratorial mindset regarding the Russians and the Reds.
Reprinted with permission from Future of Freedom Foundation.