For many of us the thought of Vietnam brings back intense and painful memories. For several years we watched on television while the United States turned a small nation on the other side of the world into a slaughterhouse. We saw young Americans, sometimes people we knew, die by the thousands for no good reason, while thousands more were psychologically wounded by the horrible things they were ordered to do.
In our various, usually inadequate, ways we did what we could to try to stop the slaughter. Above all, we swore to ourselves that it would never happen again.
Eventually the killing of Vietnam did stop. And we did, for a while, keep it from happening again. Potential U.S. military interventions in the Angolan, Iranian, and Nicaraguan revolutions were severely limited by domestic opposition to such adventures. But now some of our leaders have seemingly forgotten Vietnam, while others are cynically rewriting its history. And it is all happening again, this time in El Salvador.
In recent months President Reagan has asked for an additional $110 million in 1983 military aid to El Salvador and waged a major propaganda campaign to appeal for its passage. In a personnel shakeup dubbed by the press the "Memorial Day massacre," Reagan fired U.S. Ambassador Deane Hinton and Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Enders for showing signs of softness on El Salvador. Hinton and Enders were replaced by men less likely to question the president's hard-line policies.