Why do we go to war? Part 3 Vietnam

So I can’t help but continue to ask this question although I’m afraid of the answer because as I daily study and teach on this subject I’m concerned about the answers I find. I’m shaken by the documents I’ve analyzed over and over again.

I don’t think our leaders mean for our soldiers to be in harms way. They maybe seeking what in the end is the greatest good for the salvation of the United States. They don’t see nor want to reflect on the soldier as an individual, but on the “greater good”, that being the enduring political, economic, and military power of the United States.

I use to think that U.S.A. placed the needs of its people first. It’s decisions were based on the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all humankind, that the U.S.A. was the most humanitarian nation on the planet. That with its strength it would, if necessary, fight for the rights of all people in the world. But I’ve seen enough throughout my life to admit to myself that I was wrong.

Spock said, “The needs of the many outway the needs of the few.” We are the few in comparison to the future many of America.

I wondered why we didn’t help the victims in Rwanda during the mass genocide in 1994 where 500,000 to 1,000,000 died, or the Black South Africans during the apartheid, or the vast number of other horiffic violations of human rights around the world.

I can write about the various wars involving the United States and maybe in some future blogs I will, but America has been at a serious turning point in regards to the motivations which drive it to risk the lives of it’s people after World War 2.

The Vietnam War has been on my mind so I will just skip to there. At some point I will blog about the wars prior to that one. For now I am going to try to be brief using the words of past Presidents to explain why we went to Vietnam.

You can read the documents below. I will just give you the brief version of what our leaders said.

President Eisenhower stated that Indochina was important to “the whole world” because of its resources like tin, tungsten,and rubber plantations. We also had to make sure that communism didn’t continue spreading. Then we would also lose obtaining those materials.

President Johnson said that presidents prior to him, since 1954, made a promise to Vietnam to help them gain their independence. And China would continue to “swallow up” all the nations in Asia. Which would mean that whole area would become communist.

President Nixon said that as the most powerful nation in the world we had an obligation to help bring “peace and freedom” to a country suffering under totalitarianism.

I guess that President Nixon didn’t mention the “Red Scare” because most Americans after McCarthyism weren’t frightened by the communist bogey man anymore.


So I think I had my answer for why we went to war in Vietnam. When soldiers left the whole country became communist. So I guess we lost, but no one in government used that word. We just left.


The “domino theory” , a saying just before the war was that as one country becomes communist, they all fall to communism wasn’t necessarily true. And I wonder if the U.S. government really believed that America would become communist? And why does the USA always make communism seem like a villain in a Batman movie? Yes, some communist countries have dictators who give their people no freedom and the people suffer, etc… But lately, I am not sure how much better capitalism is. It’s great for the rich, but it doesn’t seem to be working out too well for the poor. That’s a question for another time.

Thanks for reading my musings………..

Why do we go to war? Part 2 Freedom

Tomorrow has come and I am recalling my trip to Panama when I was 8 years old. I don’t know what possessed me to be the “ugly American” while I was there, but I’m disgusted with myself now as I look back on my behavior.

It was the summer of 1963, I made a poster out of a large piece of white paper my grandmother gave me, probably thinking I was going to do a little bit of drawing. Instead, I wrote in English, with a bold colored crayon, “I AM AN AMERICAN!” Then I held it draped over the second floor balcony of my grandparent’s house in the poor small city of Colon for all to see who walked on the sidewalk below or in the park across the street. I didn’t speak Spanish, but I read the smiles on their faces that whispered, “isn’t that cute.”

My motive may have been a declaration of my superiority, or I thought being an American in a foreign country made me a celebrity. I really don’t recall, but I do remember the later embarrassment I felt as an adult. Where that feeling of superiority came from I don’t know. Was it propaganda from the media, the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance? I always believed that the United States was the greatest nation in the world and that everyone wanted to come here, after all, it seemed like everyone was coming here.

In first grade, we had to practice duck and cover drills in case of a communist attack from the Soviet Union. We were told by the Sisters of the Presentation that if the enemy arrived we were to stay silent and pray to Mother Mary to protect us. We practiced by exiting the classroom and kneeling down in the dark hallway with our hands clasped and heads bowed.

So why do we go to war? The more I research US history the more I realize that the times and the leadership of the time dictate the reasons for war. Even the sentiments of the public at the time influenced and still influences decisions made on Capital Hill. There is never just one reason, nor always the same reason. I use to think the reason was “to protect the freedom of the American people”. That’s pretty simple until you ask yourself WHAT freedom? What does THAT¬†mean? And how is my freedom in jeopardy? ¬†9/11FDNY

Posted in War.

Why do we go to war? Part 1

I am a little older now than I was during the war in Vietnam and I did not understand why we were at war nor did I think to ask.

I teach U.S. history to high school students which has given me the opportunity to absorb more information about America’s past than I would have otherwise. I have read primary source documents, analyzed photographs, and facilitated interesting discussions with my students. My history classes four decades ago were conducted by my teacher simply and directly. We moved our desks into a tight circle, opened our state adopted textbook, read the chapter assigned for that day, and answered the accompanied questions at the end of the unit. Tests consisted of acknowledging names, dates, and places through memorization.

I was bored with history, but I think not because history is boring, rather because so many schools and teachers never get past the same pedagogy that I was exposed to in school.

Truth is always more exciting than fiction, yet the need to create patriotic citizens…

people who follow their government’s leaders
without questioning
the direction these leaders are taking them
because there is nothing to question
since you have been taught that
the USA is the greatest country in the world,

….is the ultimate goal.

Education is the number one catalyst for moving the masses. Knowledge is the brain trying to make sense of the world around it. The brain demands answers to complex questions in order to make meaning out of confusion. And those who find they have a passion for knowledge can never return to a place of complacent existence.

I think this is why NOT educating our young people is the first key to creating a totalitarian society. Young people who can read, write, and think critically tend to ask questions and expect answers. We have evidence of this at UC Berkeley in the 1960’s, Kent State University, in Ohio in 1970, the two founders of the Black Panther Party were Merritt College students, in Oakland, the Tiananmen Square protests in China in the 1980’s where university students joined workers in protesting over their political leaders.

Other countries have experienced the same discontent among educated youth. Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia was an advocate of higher education and founded the University College of Addis Adaba in 1955. The emperor tried to keep control over the school through censorship, and either because of this or in spite of it, the students created a movement in the 1960’s that grew and continued through the 1970’s to include economic inequality and poverty.

But still, why do we go to war? So my point is, the more I study the more I want to know, the more I know the deeper I want to reach into the pools of information, both credible and not, about a plethora of topics and issues. And why we go to war became a revelation as I studied my craft to be the best history teacher I could be and trying not to show my bias to my students at the same time. That’s a hard one.

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