The Small Print
Faces & Places
The Goods
Tech Know
Cars & Bikes
Arts & Entertainment
Japan Beat
The Agenda
Dining Out
Table Talk
Local Flavors
International Dining
Restaurant Review
Bar Review
The Last Word
Photo of the Week
About Us
Distribution Points

775: The M-List
774: Compatriotic Spirit
773: The Naked Truth
770-71: It Ainít Easy Being Green
769: íTwas the Night Before Christmas in Japan
768: Japanese Lessons
766: Bad Credit
765: Chew on this
764: Red faced
763: Down and Out in Tokyo
761: Kicking the bucket
760: Thumbing It
759: Fixing the System
757: Smoke rings
756: Stalking the Predators
755: Banding Together
753: No Competition
752: Sex and This City
751: Letís Shogi
750: The Yasukuni Follies
748: Loud and Clear
747: Iíll be back
746: Raiders of the lost SMAP
744: Magical Mystery Tour
743: Murder in Lotus Land
742: Stereotypes íRí Us
740: The Mother of all Mothers
739: Crimes of Fashion
738: The Hafu Dad Brigade
737: The Green Team
736: Fight Club
735: The Paper Chase
734: The Wind-Up Writer Chronicle
733: Food For Thought?
732: Home and Away
731: The 2008 Nazi Olympics
730: The Two-Wheel Revolution
729: Gimme a Break
728: Power Play
727: Dying for a doctor
726: Footloose Revisited
725: Little Fish, Bigger Pond
724: Japanís Peace Monster
723: Language Abuse
722: Scumbusters ďRĒ Us
721: First Action Hiro
720: The Return of Asashoryu
718-719: A Time to Give
717: My Homelessness Dilemma
716: The 30 Percent Solution
715: Past Imperfect
714: Killing the Kimono
713: The trouble with Tibbets
712: Surfing the Shinto-net
711: Falling Stars
710: Macho Man
709: Bad Impressions
708: Bloodsport
707: Our Last Word
706: Anonymocracy
705: The Air Up There
704: Read the Signs
703: The sky should not be the limit
702: My Year Zero Proposal
701: The Joys of Freeganism
700: Prada for the People
699: The Parasite Country
698: Washed up in Tokyo
697: Birthingís Not for Babies
696: On the Handlebars of a Dilemma
695: My So-Called Poverty
694: Get Out the Vote
693: The Ishihara Mystery
691: Let it Flow
690: Cafť Culture
689: Oyaji Fashionistas
688: The Democracy of the Dysfunctional
687: Polite Disregard
686: Venting on Climate Change
685: Silent No Longer
684: To protect and serve?
683: Save the Sanshin building!
682: In the Realm of the Pond God
681: The Open Society and Its Enemies
680: Five-Ring Circus
679: Topic of Cancer
678: Pet Peeves
677: Why I am Banned in Japan
676: A long way to the top
675: Euro-vision
674: Childís play
673: Why I did it
672: I Love Japan
671: Running Crazy
670: Planet Apology
669: A peek behind the curtain
668: Opening Up
666: Pitching a fit
665: All wrapped up
664: Yule Rules
663: Field of Dreams
662: Save Lives, not Face
661: Why Do I Buy a Ticket?
660: Dying for a Nap
659: We, the jury
658: Grain of truth
657: Remembering The Maverick
656: A Rose by any Other Name
655: Heir today, gone tomorrow
654: Manhandled on the Metro
653: The bodyguards of the road
652: Separate but equal
651: Going for the gold
650: Being Audrey Hepburn
649: Not Sitting Pretty
648: Get Smart
647: Through foreign eyes
646: A failing grade in cute
644: Club Lands
643: Sayonara, Hide
642: The JET SET
641: What, me worry?
640: The Da Vinci Load
639: Making Waves
638: Final Cut
637: Resave the whales
636: Soccer Silliness
635: I, Smoker
634: The Ultimate Loss
633: Shoot the Messengers
632: The second sex
631: A Maverick Moves On
630: The curse of Baron Mitsui
629: Waiting for Heidi
628: Memoirs of a fake celebrant
627: Take it Outside
626: Wa? What wa?
625: A well-drawn life
624: St. Patrick the abducted
623: Bend over
622: The (Un)Late show
621: Oil spill
620: Ice Follies
619: Pride Goeth
618: Lost roles
617: Saying it with Cookies
616: Wrestling with foreigners
614-615: Blank Pages
613: Fretting Over Freeters
612: Farewell, Sensei
611: Sympathy for the wild ones
610: Back in Black
609: Out of many, one
608: Youth culture
607: The Russians are coming!
606: Meddle Detector
605: Tokyo, Mon amour
604: The Wailing Wall
603: Getting Abreast of Cancer
602: Willing Ally
601: New war,same story
600: The Big Chill
599: The Gray Zone
598: Jail break
597: Extremely Lost in Translation
596: Wounded Despot
595: History Lessons
594: Valhalla of the Imperial Army
592: Culture crash
591: Complaints Department
590: What lies beneath
589: Strange Games
588: Junk Science
587: The day the invaders came
586: The Test that Drove Me Crazy
585: Smile and say “lesbian”
584: Keep Article 9
583: The Great Divide
582: An ad for all seasons
581: Killing the Golden Goose
580: The other half
579: Give me back my bye-bye
578: Araki in Focus
577: Head out on the Highway
576: The hate that won't go away
575: Here's the beef
574: Yukking it up
573: Squatter’s rights and wrongs
572: The Trouble with Yokoso
571: Fire from the sky
570: Invasion of the gairaigo
569: Good company
568: Find Out What it Means To Me
567: Field of schemes
566: In the Name of Justice
565: Winner or Loser?
564: Staying Foreign
563: The Scare after Tomorrow
561-562: The Spirit of Things
560: War for remembrance
559: Storm damage
558: The Meaning of Godzilla
557: Who’s left to listen?
556: Paying respects
555: Gender Trouble
554: Coming clean at last
553: Go our own way
552: Hits of yesteryear
551: Heir apparel
550: Personal Reflections
549: Nuclear Reactions
548: Article of faith
547: Martyrs for the firm
546: A different anniversary
545: We, the jury
544: Wrongs & rights
543: Moore or less
542: Fair games
541: Developmentally challenged
By Henry Scott Stokes

New war,same story

Iraq in 2005 looks a lotlike Vietnam in 1968

Henry Scott Stokes is the former Tokyo bureau chief of The New York Times

Do you believe that you understand events in Iraq? By any chance? I ask the question, mind you, without having any great insights to offer. I just couldn’t help feeling in the last few weeks that the war has passed through some kind of crux—as it did in Vietnam in the spring and summer of l968. In very many ways the two wars are totally different. But they have enough in common to make people who experienced it at the time remember Vietnam.

As felt here in Tokyo, there were distinct phases over the roughly 12 years of the Vietnam War, from l964 to l975. There was, as seen from here, a first fantastic surge of commitment by the US military, when huge forces were rushed into the field and the US presence shot up from something like 50,000 to half a million men. This happened very quickly (in l965/66), and there was scarcely any time to think about it.

I was sent to Saigon by the Financial Times in the hot summer of l965, and I was absolutely convinced from the word go, at one glance, that the Vietnam War would be a disaster. How so? It was many things. But for me they were all summed up by the person of a young American man—not a soldier, but a military-related supply officer of some kind—who shared a room with me at the Caravelle Hotel in the heart of downtown Saigon.

This guy, maybe 23 years old, rushed off to Honolulu, I believe it was, to get married. He came back into Saigon drained of energy, slumped in his bed and lay there for hours as if poleaxed—knocked out by the heat and the excitement. I saw his sleeping form, and suddenly I was struck by his vulnerability. He had huge, thick broad arms that stuck out of the sheets. He had big, brawny shoulders.

This fellow’s just one big target, I thought. He’s an easy target for mosquitoes or for enemy riflemen or for a VC guerilla with a knife. He’s just too big. He won’t fit in this landscape—the manicured world of rice paddies in Southeast Asia. These were hardly grounds for some swift, broad generalizations, but I reached my conclusion right there. This American was too nice, too kind, too open-hearted—he told me his life ambitions, very naturally and easily—but above all he was too big.

He would need, he and his buddies, so much support to survive in this alien country, where they spoke languages that were unknown to him—French, Vietnamese. There would be a gigantic logistical tail—of which this young guy was part—just to keep one soldier fighting in the field. There would be mess tents, there would be canned foodstuffs, there would be frozen T-bone steaks. Each man in action might need eight or nine buddies to make him go.

Now here’s my point. When you reach a crux in a war such as this, when tens of thousands of big lads are thrust into combat in a totally foreign land, far from home, it involves an awful lot of people—mostly not fighting, but ferrying others, or gathering info at depots. If suddenly there’s a kind of freeze and the mammoth logistical tail is struggling and not quite in sync with the guys in front doing the shooting, then an awful lot of people are going to know, many of them free to chat and free to comment among themselves.

The media—plain reporters, columnists back in the US, and photographers in front—pick up the discombobulation in two seconds. That is how we are. Trained to use our antennae. Out they go, these feelers, and back comes the conclusion, however thinly based on fact, and yet usually right, as gut instincts go.

Jon Siegel

The sense I’m getting now—reading The New York Times, where I used to work; and following the BBC, where I made my first broadcasts; and dipping into The Economist—is that something has gotten unstitched in Iraq. This war is not going well at all when we hear these continual complaints about equipment—the lack of body armor, for instance. Nobody had body armor in Vietnam. I think back to my sleeping roommate in his bed at the Caravelle Hotel in Saigon. Since his time—since the ’60s—the needs of the US fighting man have gone up to the point where the guys are loaded up like armed Christmas trees.

Many fail to see that this matters. This war, a right-wing Japanese friend of mine was saying the other day, risks being lost not in the field but in the US—as during the Vietnam years, when US public opinion turned against the war. With respect, I disagree. I think that what happens in the field is what matters.

Any soldier would know that.

Would you like to have The Last Word? Send your thoughts and contact details to thelastword@metropolis.co.jp

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.