Congress v. the President in Iraq and Vietnam





Mr. Kirstein is professor of history at Saint Xavier University and a member of Historians Against the War. His blog is located at http://english.sxu.edu/sites/kirstein/ and his website at http://people.sxu.edu/~kirstein/.

The midterm congressional elections in November 2006, with the return of a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress (although razor thin in the Senate), have been widely interpreted as an antiwar referendum on the Iraq conflict. A majority of Americans now oppose the Iraq War and believe it was a mistake. On January 10, 2007, President George W. Bush announced there would be an escalation of the conflict with the deployment of 21,500 additional military personnel to ravaged Baghdad and to Anbar province, a major source of the Sunni resistance to American colonialism. As a direct response, the House of Representatives on February 16 passed a historically significant resolution that “disapproves of the decision” to effectuate this “surge.” While brief and couched in a politically defensive manner, to avert charges of abandoning previously deployed American military forces, it explicitly challenges a president and his conduct of the war. While I would hope that an eventual cut off of funding would be consummated to prevent continued military action in Iraq, the Democratic-controlled House has taken a significant first step in passing this non-binding antiwar resolution.

Not since the Vietnam War has the nation witnessed such congressional courage in resisting a significant escalation of a disastrous and immoral war. Richard Nixon in his epochal April 30, 1970 announcement, declared that Cambodia would be invaded by U.S. and Army of the Republic of Vietnam (A.R.V.N.) forces to destroy the Central Office for South Vietnam. This alleged North Vietnamese “Pentagon” we were told had to be destroyed or “totalitarianism and anarchy will threaten free nations and free institutions throughout the world.” Such a command center did not exist and was never located. Similar to the Bush administration’s prewar assertion that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it is another egregious example of deliberate disinformation or careless inattention to inconclusive intelligence used to justify an invasion of a third country.

During Vietnam, it was the Senate and not the House of Representatives that attempted to constrain the military action of an imperial presidency. By 1970, Americans had tired of the war and wanted to withdraw from Vietnam. Senators John Sherman Cooper, Republican of Kentucky and Frank Church, Democrat of Idaho, led a bipartisan effort to reverse the escalation. The Cooper-Church Amendment was an effort to stop a Nixonian expansion of the conflict. This post-surge amendment would have cut off all funding for the Cambodian “incursion” by June 30; it passed the Senate but died in the House. Yet Nixon, perhaps coincidentally, did withdraw American and A.R.V.N. forces from Cambodia by the end of June. It is unlikely Mr. Bush would be prepared to follow a similar Nixon disengagement strategy given his oft-repeated commitment to continue his futile crusade for military “victory” for the remainder of his presidency.

Furthermore, in June 1970 the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was repealed by the Senate. Passed in 1964, it was the closest Congress came to a declaration of war. It followed non-existent and possibly fabricated North Vietnamese patrol-boat attacks on the U.S.S. Maddox and U.S.S. C. Turner Joy in the Gulf of Tonkin on August 4. While perhaps moot by 1970 due to Vietnamization, it was, nevertheless, a dramatic withdrawal of Senate support for the Vietnam War. Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, and chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has proposed a similar repeal of the Senate’s “Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution” of October 2002.

Nixon pursued his “Peace With Honor” with strategic bombing and “Operation Linebackers” with their horrific Vietnamese civilian casualties for another two and a half years. It seems unlikely that a similar Senate or House of Representatives repeal of their authorizations to use force, would materially alter the neo-conservative-messianic-imperialist vision that continues to hold sway at the Executive Branch. It would not succeed in coercing the president to terminate the conflict and withdraw American occupation forces from Iraq.

The most heroic effort by Congress to stop the Vietnam War was the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment. Named after Senator George McGovern, Democrat of South Dakota, and Senator Mark Hatfield, Republican of Oregon, it was another post-Cambodian “surge” response. It was introduced in 1970 and would have required Nixon to withdraw all American forces from Vietnam by the end of 1971. It would have reserved funding only for the safe and orderly withdrawal of American forces. While the amendment could not garner a majority in either house, it did receive the support of some thirty-nine Senators. When it was introduced on September 1, 1970, the future presidential candidate George McGovern said:

It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.

It would appear that if the 110th Congress wishes to end the carnage and the crime that is Iraq, it would have to cease funding future military operations. This would take political courage because of the never ending myth that supporting the war is required in order to support the troops. Of course, military conflicts are not fought for the troops but for alleged war aims that purportedly serve the national interest. Whether those war aims are just or not, wars are never fought to benefit the combatants, who suffer and sacrifice greatly in a conflict, but for some other constituency.

In the Iraq War, 3,180 Americans have been killed in action and some 24,000 have been wounded. United States military personnel should not be asked to continue that kind of sacrifice unless the mission is just, the war had been waged as a last resort and the support of the American people is widespread and sustaining. In Vietnam, beginning with the TET Offensive in January 1968, the country had progressively recognized that the war was wrong, that the sacrifice was too great and that the killing must end. Congress should be willing to end this Iraq War and challenge, however belatedly, the president’s constitutional authority to wage preemptive war under the most egregious and false pretenses.

We do not need to accept a restrictive notion of patriotism as merely an expression of national or presidential worshipping in time of war. Engaged citizens would do well to remember Vietnam, when a Congress decided that the national interest and the international community would benefit from an end to the war. Such is the time now, when militarists need to be challenged, super-patriots need to be confronted and a president needs to be stopped in the prosecution of the Iraq War.



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Edwin Moise - 3/17/2007

Kirstein wrote in caps that Herring had said the Defense Department had not been sure, in 1970, that COSVN existed. Herring did not express an opinion of his own, as to whether the Defense Department had been correct to doubt COSVN's existence, and Kirstein did not claim Herring had expressed an opinion of his own on this question.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/16/2007

I remember when I was in Socialist Eastern Europe in June 1975. I was in Budapest shortly after the liberation of Vietnam by the communists on April 30, 1975--five years to the day after the Kampuchean invasion and the Nixon administration lie about C.O.S.V.N. being "the headquarters for the ENTIRE Communist miitary operation in South Vietnam."

A friend and I went to the Vietnam Embassy on a beautiful tree-shaded street on embassy row. I approached a black steel-grated fence bordering a beautiful courtyard and thought: "Things were a lot different at the U.S. embassy in January 1968 in U.S. occupied Saigon."

I rang a bell. A minute or two later two embassy personnel came to the gate. After some discussion in French, they let us in the courtyard area with verdant flowers and trees. I told them I mourned for the victims of this holocaust and for the destruction of your country. One then returned to the interior of the embassy; I embraced the one still outdoors and then the other returned with several books in French that were written by Ho Chi Minh.

I offered to pay but they refused. We left, walked a few steps, turned to look again at this bucolic setting and thought to ourselves: "Why did the U.S. do these awful things to these people?"


Trung T. Nguyen - 3/16/2007

Professor Moise,

Well, he did, in CAPS:
http://hnn.us/comments/106612.html

If you prefer a more technically correct statement, please consider " 'cause it can be found in a Herring's book".



Edwin Moise - 3/16/2007

Kirstein is not arguing that his view of COSVN must be accurate "'cause Herring said that". If Herring has ever expressed an opinion on COSVN's existence, size, or organization, I have not heard of it and Kirstein has not mentioned it. What Herring is interested in, and what he knows a lot about, is the activities of the Americans in Vietnam.


Trung T. Nguyen - 3/16/2007

Dr Kirstein,

Anticipating your objection to wikipedia, I provided another link to the _official_ online encyclopedia of Vietnam, short of a Vietnamese Webster online. I can provide bibliographic data to Vietnamese books that acknowledge the very same information found under those two url.

Your _personal_ feelings toward any aspect of the Vietnam War should not in any way affect your assessment of a simple fact that C.O.S.V.N did exist, was the brain of all PLAF military actions in Soth Vietnam, did have a very extensive ogranizational structure, did employ a sizeable staff, and was not a mobile command post. This fact is quite simple to verify, without bringing out arguments that " 'cause Herring said that".


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/16/2007

Professor Herring is one of the great historians of the Vietnam War and his work appears on numerous reading lists on university courses on the Vietnam War. I would have to say, with all due respect, that Wikipedia does not approximate in accuracy or scholarship the work of Dr Herring.

Wikipedia did a biography of me which was littered with error so I am in a position to assess that source with particular knowledge.

I presume you are Vietnamese and every day of my life I think about the genocide and the war of extermination that this lawless, vicious nation perpetrated throughout Indochina. Nothing I have seen in my study of history compares in scope to the American war crimes and racist butchery since the end of World War II.


Trung T. Nguyen - 3/12/2007

Dr Kirstein:

Perhaps you should wonder what Prof. Herring would have to say about this:
(wikipedia)
http://vi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trung_%C6%B0%C6%A1ng_C%E1%BB%A5c_mi%E1%BB%81n_Nam
(online official Encyclopedia of Vietnam)
http://dictionary.bachkhoatoanthu.gov.vn/default.aspx?param=1625aWQ9ODk3NSZncm91cGlkPSZraW5kPXN0YXJ0JmtleXdvcmQ9dA==&;page=54

For a mobile command structure, this had quite an impressive organizational structure and a lengthy history.

I find it amazing that today the existence and significance of COSVN can still be disputed when the answer is only a click away.


Edwin Moise - 3/11/2007

Kirstein cited as sources Americans who did not have any great expertise on the subject of Communist organizations and did not have any direct personal knowledge of COSVN.

I cited Vietnamese sources. One was a man, Truong Nhu Tang, who was a member of a Communist-controlled organization that was located in Cambodia not far from COSVN, and had considerable dealings with COSVN. The other was a book published by the People's Army of Vietnam.

I am not close to being the ultimate expert on Vietnam, or even on 20th century Vietnam. Of the books I have written, the two most important, for both of which I did a significant part of my research in Vietnamese language sources, are LAND REFORM IN CHINA AND NORTH VIETNAM and TONKIN GULF AND THE ESCALATION OF THE VIETNAM WAR. Neither of these is comprehensive, and neither of them deals with COSVN. I have not done any serious scholarly research dealing specifically with COSVN. But I have been interested every since I learned about COSVN while reading Jeffrey Race's enormously important book WAR COMES TO LONG AN in 1972. All specialists in this field have at least a vague knowledge of COSVN.


Carl Becker - 3/11/2007

Kirstein answered your arguments, cited sources which you ignored as not authoritive. So you must be the ultimate expert on Vietnam: so where are your sources and what are the names of all the comprehensive books you've written on the subject?


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

This is getting strange. You started out, originally, saying that COSVN "did not exist". After I disputed this, you shifted to saying that COSVN had been very small. You cited various sources stating that COSVN had been a small, mobile facility, that was ready to move on a moment's notice.

But now, contradicting your own statements of the past few days ("Sure there were perhaps a few senior officers in the south" - March 5) and most of the sources you yourself have been citing, which (while understating the size and importance of COSVN) made it clear that COSVN existed as an operational entity in the theater, you seem to be going back to your original position that it did not exist in those terms.

I must also object to your rather seriously misrepresentation of my statements. I have not suggested that Nguyen Chi Thanh or Pham Hung were involved in anything resembling a "Pentagon" or "Pentagon East".

Since you have brought up Tran Do: Yes, he was a major figure at COSVN, though I am pretty sure he was deputy head, not head, of the political committee. I am not sure whether he was actually a full member of the Trung uong cuc mien Nam. He was not promoted from alternate member to full member of the Lao Dong Party Central Committee until 1972, and I am not sure it was possible to be a full member of the Trung uong cuc mien Nam without being a full member of the Party Central Committee. Source: _Tu dien bach khoa quan su Viet Nam_ (published by the People's Army of Vietnam, Hanoi, 1996), page 800.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

This is now becoming personal and so it is time to stop.


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

It is true that specialists can disagree, but so far as I am aware, every specialist in this field agrees with me on the issue of COSVN. You certainly have not been able to come up with a specialist who disagrees with me.

So this is not an example, prime or otherwise, of the fact that specialists can disagree.

Partial definition: Anybody who does not read Vietnamese probably is not a specialist in this field.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

Specialists can disagree. This is a prime example. May peace replace war so one day such discussions will indeed be ancient history.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

You have made that link for four days that because there were Hanoi personnel running this "Pentagon," it must have existed. Examples you cite are Nguyen Chi Thanh as director of “Pentagon East” and Pham Hung. I think Tran Do was also a “major” figure of this "office" who ran the “Political Department.” Yet you provide no evidence these individuals were in the field, outside of the D.R.V. with P.A.V.N. (North Vietnam) forces in either the south or in Kampuchea. Hence you seem to make the assumption if there were staff command in Hanoi, which might have been more titular than operational, there must have been an equivalent entity in the theatre.

Even though I have provided four sources to support my conclusions, and you dismissed each of them, I think the burden of this argument and the evidence marshaled strongly supports my conclusions in a single paragraph of the H.N.N. article.

Of course history is about debate and people can draw their own conclusions from my article, our exchange and other independent sources.


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

Dr. Kirstein:

I am a specialist on Vietnam; I actually do know quite a lot about Communist organizations in Vietnam. But I don't ask you simply to accept the fact that I think COSVN was a substantial organization as proof that it must have been one.

I think it is unreasonable when you cite statements about COSVN made by people who are not specialists on Vietnam, and don't know much about Communist organizations in Vietnam, and expect me to accept the fact that those people say COSVN was not a substantial organization as proof that it wasn't.


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

One of the problems with historical encyclopedias like that is that so many of the entries are written by people who don't know much about the subject matter. Tilford is a good scholar of U.S. air operations in Indochina, and I respect his work on that subject. Mangrum's specialty is the American Civil War. Neither of them knows any more about COSVN than President Nixon did. Quite possibly less.

If you are going to talk about proof, you need to find statements made by people who have some serious knowledge of the subject matter at hand.


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

I have never heard of anyone who confuses COSVN with any office in Hanoi. You say some people do. Can you tell me who?

Le Duan did visit China and the Soviet Union during the war. He was in South Vietnam late in 1958, but he did not go back there during the war. What makes you bring this idea up? I did not say or imply anythign whatever about Le Duan's movements during the war. I wrote nothing carrying the faintest implication that he was on the Ho Chi Minh Trail during the war (which he wasn't), any more than I implied he had travelled abroad during the war (which he did).


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

Ok, I am a lousy typist.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

In Spencer Tucker, Encyclopedia of the Vietnam War, Oxford University Press:

Earl H. Tilford, Jr of the Army War College described C.O.S.V.N. in this manner:

“Since the end of the Vietnam War, it has been learned that C.O.S.V.N. was hardly a Communist “Pentagon.” Rather it consisted of a radio transmitter and a dozen or so individuals who moved around constantly.”

In the formal entry for C.O.S.V.N., Robert G. Mangrum of Howard Payne University described C.O.S.V.N. as:

…” C.O.S.V.N. eluded destruction throughout the war. In terms of organisation or structure , it was no more than what the U.S. Army would describe as a forward command post, consisting of a few senior officers and key staff personnel. As a result, it was extremely mobile and moved frequently to avoid capture or destruction.”

I noticed you were one of the contributors to this anthology.

Perhaps, I am not being ironic, Clemson might host a panel on the following topic:

“Vietnam: The Battle for History."


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

My first question of course referred to the beginning of war on March 19, 2003. I typed 2007. I have the beginning of the fifth year of this war on my mind.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/8/2007

You are a good sport and I will let your answers stand on their own. On my blog I did spell your family name with an umlaut which I know is your preference.

By the way:

Some confuse C.O.S.V.N. Hanoi's "office" which was set up in May 1959 even before the National Liberation Front was formed the following year. This was during the Eisenhower administration and folks might be lured into believing it had a correlative, bureaucratic structure in the South or in Kampuchea when such was not the case.

Le Duan I doubt ever left Vietnam during the war, unless he went to China or Russia, and would not venture south of the 1954 partition line. I am not saying you said that directly but he was too important to be sitting in a tent with a walkie talkie on the Ho Chi Minh anti-genocide trail.


Edwin Moise - 3/8/2007

None of the questions you ask has any relevance to the issues we have been discussing (did COSVN exist, and how many Americans have been K.I.A. in Iraq). But since you ask:

1) I was neither a supporter nor an opponent of Bush's decision to invade Iraq, in 2003. I was perched on the fence. I could tell that the Bush administration's argument for the war was unfounded, but I had very little respect for the Bush administration. I did not assume that Bush's failure to articulate a valid case for war proved that there was no valid case to be made.

2) No.

3) No.

4) Yes, I am proud to be an American, but no, I would not make the blanket statement that America's use of military force has historically been positive and just. It has sometimes been positive and just, sometimes not.


John Charles Crocker - 3/7/2007

The stop surge action in Congress was delayed not stopped by Republican obstructionism (filibuster - remember how Republicans howled about anti-democratic that tactic was when they were in power).

The surge did not stop the violence it merely displaced it. The number of attacks did not diminish appreciably. When the troops move the violence will move in behind them. They have a minor victory that is quite limited both spatially and temporally. This will not likely do much to sway public opinion which is still strongly against the war and for bringing home our troops.

As for your advice to the GOP, I sincerely hope they take it.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2007

Dear Professor Moise:

Do you believe George Bush was correct in his decision to invade Iraq on March 19, 2007? I am not referring to tactics and atrategy but did you or do you support military engagement in Iraq?

Do you believe it was moral and ethical for the United States to wage war in Indochina in the 1960s and 1970s?

Do you believe patriotism means that one should support the troops and defer opposition to their mission until a war is completed?

Are you proud of being an American and do you believe generally speaking, America's use of military force in its history has been positive and just?


Edwin Moise - 3/7/2007

Yes, exactly. Herring is really a historian of what the Americans did in Vietnam. He does not deal much with what the Communists did, which I why I cannot really regard him as the preeminent American historian of the war. The book you cite, a broad history of the war, has no index reference for Nguyen Huu Tho, Nguyen Chi Thanh, or Pham Hung, and only one for Le Duan. This reveals a real lack of interest in what the other side was doing. So I cannot take the book seriously as a source for information on what the other side was doing.

If I had to pick the authors who have written seminal works on the war, I would probably start with Jeffrey Race, Neil Sheehan, and David Elliott. Then maybe Andrew Krepinevich? Not Herring.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2007

You ignored Professor Herring. Do you consider my citing the preeminent historian on the Vietnam War as "information from the sort of Americans who know little about COSVN?"


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2007

You ignored Professor Herring. Do you consider my citing the preeminent historian on the Vietnam War as "information from the sort of Americans who know little about COSVN?"


Edwin Moise - 3/7/2007

You are getting your information from the sort of Americans who know little about COSVN, because the United States never found COSVN. I try to pay attention to the information that comes from the Communists, who know more about COSVN because they were running it.

COSVN was headed by Nguyen Chi Thanh from 1964 to 1967, and by Pham Hung from 1967 to 1975. Both of these men were of _very_ high rank in the Vietnamese Communist command structure, higher than the rank of anyone the United States ever assigned to command the U.S. military forces in South Vietnam. Men at that level would not have been wasting their time running "an episodic mobile communications device."

You are wrong in saying "They said this thing was 50 miles from Ho Chi Minh city over the wall in Cambodia." There were areas of Cambodia within 50 miles of Saigon. But COSVN was not in those particular areas of Cambodia, and I don't believe the U.S. government ever said it was.

Instead of quoting a reporter who says he thinks senior officials thought of COSVN as a big bamboo Pentagon, it would be nice if you would find a quote from a senior official _describing_ COSVN that way.

And while Langguth was correct in saying that COSVN was spread out in a number of small facilities, rather than being one big one, he is wrong in saying that they could be abandoned on a moment's notice. Truong Nhu Tang, who was not a member of the Trung uong cuc mien Nam (he was not that important) but was a member of another organization housed in a similar Communist base area in Cambodia near the Vietnamese border, has described some of the preparations that had to be made early in 1970 when the Communists decided to move such organizations northward deeper into Cambodia, away from the Vietnamese border. Elements of the 5th, 7th, and 9th Viet Cong Divisions were assigned to provide security for the move. COSVN, the most important, made the move first, two months before Nixon launched the Cambodian incursion. Tang's outfit, much less important, was still in its base near the border when the incursion began.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2007

Sorry for the typos. I am really busy:
..."although the Defense Department had made clear to him its uncertainty where COSVN was located or WHETHER IT EVEN EXISTED."


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/7/2007

Also George Herring, one of the great historians of the Vietnam War wrote in his seminal work: "America's Longest War:" President Nixon in justifying his invasion of Cambodia claimed, "COSVN was the "nerve center" of North Vietnamesee military operations, although the Defense Department had made clar to him its uncrtainty where COSVN was located or WHETHER IT EVEN EXISTED."


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/6/2007

You apparently are one of the few who believe that C.O.S.V.N. was more than an episodic mobile communications device. They said this thing was 50 miles from Ho Chi Minh city over the wall in Cambodia. GEE, never quite found it did they?? My article was accurate in every detail on this. Do you really think President Nixon would have minimalised this as the justification for the invasion? Do you actually believe that they wanted Americans to know the truth of this trumped up illusion?

L.B.J. who was the chief architect of the genocide, launched "Operation" Junction City in 1967, if my memory serves, and could not find this "Pentagon."

Kindly consult an oral history of the Vietnam genocide, Christian Appy, Patriots. He interviewed A. J. Langguth, the esteemed reporter for the New York Times who was in country:

"A mythology had grown up about COSVN in the minds of American policy makers. I think they pictured it as a kind of huge bamboo Pentagon. Though they had some relatively sophisticated communication tools, COSVN was really just a collection of SMALL JUNGLE OUTPOSTS that could be abandoned in a moment's notice. The idea that you were going to go in and wipe out the source of the infection once and for all was preposterous."

It is your burden to prove Johnson and Nixon correct in demonstrating with evidence that is was more than an improvised, mobile command center that reflected guerilla war. Small, adaptable and easily relocated with a small, very small coterie of senior officers. To think the U.S. would invade a country to destroy something so minor as this is a disgrace and a war crime.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 3/6/2007

It seems to me the stop-surge sentiment in Congress has subsided in direct response to the surge's success. Baghdad now looks like it will be pacified, and if so, Anbar cannot be far behind. Whether Democrats like it or not, this will be perceived as victory by the public, and they can expect to see their cut-and-run noises turn up again in the commericals for GOP candidates in 2008.


Lawrence Brooks Hughes - 3/6/2007

When you see a large number of wounded you should remember every wound requiring a band-aid is counted, and also many soldiers report multiple wounds and re-up for multiple tours, which can get the same person counted several times... As for the death totals, it is amazing how many members of the armed forces are killed in accidents during peacetime.


Edwin Moise - 3/6/2007

Supplement to my previous comment: When I wrote that the Trung uong cuc mien Nam was not just a military operational headquarters, I should have mentioned that it was headed, at the time of the Cambodian incursion, not by a general but by a member of the Politburo of the Lao Dong Party. This was Pham Hung. He had replaced Nguyen Chi Thanh, who had been both a general and a member of the Politburo.


Edwin Moise - 3/5/2007

It simply is not true that news outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press habitually apply the label "K.I.A." to the figure for total deaths. On the contrary, they are pretty good about observing the distinction between total deaths and killed in action. See for example "U.S. casualty pace in Iraq combat higher than ever," Associated Press, February 8, 2007, which states "Since the start of the war in Iraq, nearly 3,100 U.S. troops have died, of which nearly 2,500 were killed in action." See also "Army Finds 7 Incorrect War Death Reports," Associated Press, October 31, 2006, which states "In another case, in September 2005 the Army acknowledged publicly that it had known for more than a year after 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard's death in Iraq in May 2004 that he was not killed in action, as it initially told his family."


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/5/2007

You have chosen to break down the figures. Fair enough. I chose to give an accurate figure on K.I.A. which is the most conventional one and includes both hostile, friendly and non-hostile fire. Perhaps if I were to do an article, unlikely because it is too depressing on the numerous categories of death, I will rely on your work.

My figures are the same as the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, B.B.C. and other major news outlets of the world. They all use the general figure and conventional notation of K.I.A. as I did.

Some of the K.I.A. were not in Iraq but in the gulf area which is considered, or parts of it, as included in the theatre of war. An example is:
Jennifer A. Valdivia, Petty Officer 1st Class 17-Jan-2007

Yet the 3180 are those who were in the theatre of war and died for a variety of reasons. I did NOT say they were all classic combat deaths.

I assure you when they build another wall or memorial for those who died in the Iraq War, all of the fallen that were included in my 3180 figure will be included--not just those killed by I.E.Ds. The same applied to Vietnam as well.

Most authors do not directly defend their work on this website, I have done so three times and it has been a pleasure.


Edwin Moise - 3/5/2007

The web site to which you refer me gives a figure, matching the one you cited, for total deaths from all causes. But it does not suggest that all these people were killed in action. It gives considerably lower figures for what it refers to as "hostile" deaths, meaning killed in action. See in particular the figure of 2,764 "hostile" deaths on the sub-page "Hostile/Non-Hostile Deaths" at http://icasualties.org/oif/hnh.aspx

"Killed in action" means either killed directly by enemy guns and bombs, or killed in ways to which enemy action contributed (killed in aircraft crashes or vehicle crashes that occurred while the aircraft or vehicle was under fire, drowned while in combat, etc.). But the figure for total deaths, which you have been using as a figure for killed in action, includes men who died of heart attack, leukemia, drowning not occurring in combat, vehicle crashes not occurring during combat, etc. On the web site to which you referred me, go to the sub-page "Coalition Casualty Count Metrics" at http://icasualties.org/oif/Stats.aspx and choose the menu option "View Totals by Cause of Death Detail."


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/5/2007

Kindly consult:

I stand by my figures and every fact of my article. You are free to disagree but I used a round figure which is accurate in the normal and general use of the term K.I.A.

You may wish to consult this website for greater differentiation on the categorisation of casualties.
http://icasualties.org/oif/

Virtually every study of the war's casualties uses the type of categorisation that I used. The 3180 figure, given the rounding and the normal use of the term, was factual and accurate.


Edwin Moise - 3/5/2007

The statement that 3,180 Americans have been killed in action in the Iraq War is a bit of an exaggeration. I think it probably is a figure not for those killed in action, but for deaths from all causes, including accident and disease as well as hostile action.

The number of American military personnel who have been killed in action in the Iraq War is 2,546. I know some American civilians have also been killed in action, but not more than 600 of them.


Edwin Moise - 3/5/2007

Prof. Kirstein: Can you refer me to a Nixon administration description of COSVN that matches this description (huge C3I, underground bunkers, massive cache of weapons, major hierarchical command structure, etc.)? I see no such description in Nixon's very brief comment on COSVN in his speech of April 30, 1970, in which he announced the Cambodian incursion.

I know the image to which you are referring; I remember the marvelous cartoon by Herblock of an American soldier who yells "Hey Joe, I think I found it" as he lifts up a pentagon-shaped cover that looks as if it is woven out of bamboo, under which is a pentagonal hole in the ground, containing a steno pool, and a lot of desks with papers on them with titles like "Cost Overruns in Rice Production." But I am not sure to what extent this image was based on statements by the Nixon administration.

The Trung uong cuc mien Nam was more than a few senior officers running an operational command unit. It was a political-military headquarters, with a significant staff.


Peter N. Kirstein - 3/5/2007

It did not exist in Cambodia in 1970 in even a remote manner to the Nixon administration claims. This was the rationale for this escalation and was presented as a Pentagon "East" with huge C3I etc. If it were so extensive with underground bunkers, massive cache of weapons, major hierarchical command structure, I have seen no evidence of that. Sure there were perhaps a few senior officers in the south who had some command over a mobile operations command unit.

Like W.M.D. in Iraq, it was just another myth perpetrated by a deceitful and dishonest government.


Edwin Moise - 3/5/2007

The command center that the Communists called the Trung uong cuc mien Nam and that Americans called the Central Office for South Vietnam (COSVN), which President Nixon announced as a major target of his Cambodian incursion in 1970, certainly did exist. It has been discussed in numerous books published in Hanoi since the end of the Vietnam War. At the time of the Cambodian incursion, the Communists were in the process of moving the Trung uong cuc mien Nam (headed at that time by Pham Hung, with Nguyen Van Linh as his deputy) from the area near the Vietnamese border, where the Americans searched for it in vain, to a location much deeper in Cambodia, near Kratie.

It didn't have a great resemblance to the Pentagon, but it did exist.

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