Was I in favor of winning the war in Vietnam? Darn right. Was I convinced that Johnson had blown the war with his policies? Darn right there as well. Did I volunteer to fight in the war? No. Very few young people did, regardless of their political persuasion. I was part of the draft lottery and my number was never called. Would I have obeyed the law if drafted? Of course.
Did the people of Vietnam suffer after we abandoned them to the Communist insurgency from the North? Terribly. Have conservatives apologized for supporting the war? None that I recall. Have some leftists apologized for opposing it? Yes, indeed.
I still believe that American involvement in Vietnam was a terrible mistake. It cost the lives of 58,000 Americans. A much larger number were permanently damaged by their experiences of this terrible war. It also ended in failure. It showed what the Soviets discovered in Afghanistan, it is now impossible for a superpower to occupy a country that does not want to be occupied. It is the lesson the Americans and British are re-learning in Iraq today.
You say the Vietnamese have suffered terribly since the end of the war. Can you explain what you mean by that. Do you think their suffering was greater than they experienced during the war? An estimated 2 million of them died during the war. Unfortunately, the suffering did not end for them when American troops left.
During the war about 10% of Vietnam was intensively sprayed with 72 million litres of chemicals, of which 66% was Agent Orange. Some of this landed on their own troops and soon after the war ended veterans began complaining about serious health problems. There was also a high incidence of their children being born limbless or with Down's syndrome and spina bifida. The veterans sued the defoliant manufacturers and this was settled out of court in 1984 by the payment of $180 million.
The TCCD dioxin used in Agent Orange seeped into the soil and water supply, and therefore into the food chain. In this way it passed from mother to foetus in the womb. In Vietnam the dioxide remains in the soil and is now damaging the health of the grandchildren of the war's victims.
A report published in 2003 claimed that 650,000 people in Vietnam were still suffering from chronic conditions as a result of the chemicals dropped on the country during the war. Since the war the Vietnamese Red Cross has registered an estimated one million people disabled by Agent Orange. It is estimated that 500,000 people in Vietnam have died from the numerous health problems created by these chemical weapons.