Serving in Vietnam Did a Disservice to US

Serving in Vietnam Did a Disservice to US

Robert McNamara, in his new book ''In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam,'' acknowledges his substantial role in America's Vietnam tragedy. As a surgeon in Vietnam in 1969 and 1970, I participated in the war effort, and by my mere presence supported a war widely recognized as unwinnable, if not patently wrong. Despite the perpetual war cries for those who served, I performed no ''service to my country.'' Rather, I performed a disservice by my passive support. I, like others there, and like the majority of the country who supported the effort, must accept responsibility, too: blame for the 58,000 Americans who died and blame for the many more who will suffer for the rest of their lives.

I feel an awesome grief and responsibility when I read the names that I knew -- and the many more I did not know -- on ''The Wall'' in Washington. Pride for having ''served my country'' is not among my feelings. The war belongs to all those who failed to stop it. The heroes were those innocent individuals not in a position to object, and those who recognized the wrong and courageously did their part to bring it to an end.

Richard A. Brand, Iowa City, Iowa

Professor, College of Medicine, The University of Iowa

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