Not all Vietnam protestors ask forgiveness

In his opinion piece "My Vietnam War and theirs" (April 26), Edward Blum wonders if those of us who protested against America's war in Vietnam should now admit we were wrong.

He describes his actions at that time: "For us, Hanoi had it right; Washington had it wrong. We disrupted classes, marched in the streets, burned our draft cards, and screamed at the police who protected the public property we tried to deface."

If Mr. Blum did those things, he had a simplistic view of the situation in Vietnam, and chose an immature, counterproductive method of expressing his dissent.

My friends and I protested peacefully, with dignity, fully aware of the political complexities of the war we protested. We did not think Hanoi was entirely right, but we did think the American government was fundamentally wrong. We saw the American government trashing the principles and traditions of American life and law, and we asked our government to honor the traditions and principles we cherished.

Blum's behavior and attitudes, it occurs to me, dishonored the American peace movement. Before he apologizes to the Vietnamese, let him apologize to the peaceful, serious protesters his hooliganism undermined.

William Slattery Los Angeles

Cheers for Edward Blum's opinion piece! He finally said in print what many Vietnam vets have known for years. For the nation to truly heal, those who protested, as well as those who silently sat on the sidelines, need to apologize for the way they treated vets upon our return. The vets need to hear and accept the apology.

To those who have the moral courage and love to apologize, a note of advice: You may need to say it several times to us before we accept it. Trust takes time.

Many vets respect those who protested and were willing to go to jail for their values. We do not respect the way we were treated. It only added to the suffering and pain.

John W. Russell Calais, Vt.

Updating the Army

Regarding your April 26 editorial "Transforming the Army": You are right in saying that the US Army needs smaller and faster units if it is to remain relevant. But the Army's current plan to build medium-weight brigades will not achieve this goal. In most respects the planned units are fairly traditional. They may involve lighter, wheeled combat vehicles, but wheels are not the issue. Current plans will keep these brigades weak and heavily dependent on larger divisions. When they deploy, they will need to drag along additional assets from their home divisions. This complicates field arrangements and splinters the units left behind.

Here is the problem: Today's Army is organized and trained to fight best in corps made up of several divisions of 10,000 to 15,000 people. For flexibility, it needs smaller building blocks, but these will have to be stronger than today's brigades. In his book "Breaking the Phalanx" (1997), Col. Douglas MacGregor proposes an Army comprising different types of combined-arms units with 5,000 people - about twice the size of today's brigades and with much greater organic capability.

These would supplant both divisions and brigades. But they would be designed to easily combine into larger task forces and to work with units from other services and other nations. One "problem" is that this would "flatten" the Army's organization, like a modern corporation's.This means less seats for generals, which may be one reason the current leadership is leaving Macgregor's ideas on the shelf.

Carl Conetta Takoma Park, Md.

Co-director, Project on Defense Alternatives

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