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[ Recorded presentation ] Recorded presentation

US wars on Vietnam and Iraq: Similarities, differences, and public health implications

Victor W. Sidel, MD, Professor of Social Medicine, Albert Einstein Medical College, Montifiore Medical Center, 111 East 210th Street, Bronx, New York, NY 10467, 718-920-6586, vsidel@igc.org

The presence of U.S. combat troops in Vietnam from 1965 to 1973, which reached a high of over 500,000 in 1968, and the invasion of Iraq in 2003, with U.S. troops levels so far reaching a high of approximately 150,000, have had profound health and social impacts on the United States, on Vietnam, and on Iraq.

Similarities in the wars include:

(1) Misleading Congress and the public to permit the United States to enter the conflict; (2) Repeated false U.S. claims of success in the war; (3) Massive numbers of civilian casualties; (4) Major economic, social and political costs; (5) Use of weapons likely harmful to long-term health of combatants and non-combatants -- in Vietnam use of the defoliant Agent Orange, in Iraq use of shells containing depleted uranium; and (6) Violations of the Geneva Conventions.

Differences between the wars include:

In the Vietnam War: (1) Use of a conscripted U.S. military force; (2) Much larger numbers of U.S. casualties (58,000 dead and 150, 000 wounded); (3) Extensive television coverage of U.S. casualties; (4) Massive protests in the United States; and (5) Withdrawal of U.S. troops in 1975.

In the Iraq War: (1) Use of a volunteer U.S. military force; (2) Far fewer U.S. casualties; (3) Limited television coverage of U.S. casualties; (4) Fewer public protests; and (5) Less effective efforts so far to end the war.

Both wars led to profound public health effects and both engendered policy statements adopted by the APHA Governing Council -- In 1969, over five years before U.S. troops withdrew, APHA called for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam; In 2005, APHA condemned the participation of health professionals in torture in Iraq, but has made no statement calling for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learning Objectives

    Presenting author's disclosure statement:

    Any relevant financial relationships? No

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