This article which I wrote appeared on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1990, during the time of Desert Shield, the precursor to Desert Storm. I interviewed several veterans of different wars including Desert Shield and Vietnam.
Veterans Comment on Operation Desert Shield
Once called Armistice Day, November 11th has long been set aside to honor all of our veterans. This Veteran’s Day we remember not only our veterans but those who are currently serving in the Middle East.
This reporter questioned several veterans about American’s controversial involvement in Operation Desert Shield.
Colonel Keith Taylor, who retired in 1988 after 42 years and 18 days wearing the uniform of his country, served in World War II, in Korea and in Vietnam. He stresses that he came up through the ranks in the Navy. “…in case anyone wonders why I was only a Colonel after all those years,” he says with a twinkle. “At one time I helped train Iraqi officers and even then wondered how long it would be before something like this happened,” he told us, then added, “I don’t feel we have much of a choice. Basic principles demand that you can’t let bullies run over little people.”
That seems to be the opinion of more than one veteran. Another told us, “In Vietnam the enemy executed and buried so many victims in communal graves that when the SeaBees went in to clean it up, it looked like Buchenwald.” Those things, he says, never were published, because of the mindset of the general public at the time.
He fears some of the opinions being voiced, namely that we’re in the Middle East to preserve the price of a barrel of oil.
“Nonsense,” this Vietnam veteran with three purple hearts says. In essence, he feels we’re there because we can’t let such horrible things happen to people who can’t defend themselves.
Gene Kinsinger of Yellville was aboard the USS California when it was torpedoed at Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. He served in the Navy for twenty years.
Gene says of the matter of oil, “We’ve got plenty in this country if we’d just get it out.” But he does go on to say, “Sooner or later they’re going to have to remove Saddam. Any war is bad but we love our freedom and if we hadn’t of put our troops over there he’d (Saddam Hussein) have had Saudi Arabia by now.”
How does Gene think the Middle East conflict compares to the Vietnam War?
“Vietnam was a politicians war, not a soldiers war, and if Truman had let MacArthur cross the 38th parallel (in Korea) we would never have had Vietnam. It takes a show of force to stop aggression.” This too is an opinion shared by others we spoke to.
Rick Keyes, Elementary Principal at West Fork School, spent ten months in Vietnam and four years in the Marine Corps. He is currently in the Arkansas National Guard.
Rick says, “You always have to expect things like this if you’re in the military. If I get called back in, I’ll go and not worry if it’s over oil. Most wars are fought for economic reasons. That’s just the way it is.”
Elaborating, Keyes said “If we allow them to control our national economy we’ll have a severe depression. And people wouldn’t stand for that. Just as in the Great Depression the people would demand the government do something.” He maintains that’s why we went to war then, too.
How does this conflict compare to Vietnam? Will the American people begin to protest as they did in the 60s?
Keyes seems to think it’s a matter of timing. “If it lasts a long time, protests can build and we’ll have another Vietnam. If we do what we should—get in there and get it over with—we won’t.”
“And if we do that,” he goes on, “It won’t last two weeks. Once we’re geared up with our massive firepower, it’s all over. But lives will be lost. I’d like to think it’s for humanitarian reasons, and maybe part of it is. As long as Hussein has the Americans I think we’ll back it as a country.”
All the veterans we talked to agreed on one thing. Defeating this kind of enemy is going to be difficult.
As Keyes puts it, “The American soldier tries to stay alive, while to those people it’s an honor to die…”
Colonel Taylor agrees, and maintains that it will take a Middle-East Army to defeat Hussein.
Whatever it takes, the United States forces are committed for the time, and there are a multitude of opinions regarding the consequences.
Comparing things stated in this article with what we’re hearing today, it’s easy to see we’re still embroiled in the same old idiocy.
Next coming up: Max Hall, a lifer talks about World War II, Korea and Vietnam and speaks about what’s in store for America.