Mike Gravel is a minor Democratic candidate for president, who's sort of the Democratic equivalent of Republican Ron Paul. He's very outspoken, supports a national sales tax and the abolition of the IRS. During a recent debate, he said that the soldiers died in vain in Vietnam. Whether you agree with him or not, he does make some good points in this column: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sen-mike-gravel/dying-in-vain-in-vietnam-_b_58091.html During Monday night's YouTube.com/CNN debate, I was asked if I would stand by my statement that our soldiers in Vietnam died in vain. Here's why our country needs to own up to this fact, especially now that our soldiers are once again dying in vain in Iraq. Throughout our three decades in Vietnam, we had several opportunities to stop the war. But each time our leaders chose to escalate because they saw Vietnam as a pivotal battle in the war on communism. From Eisenhower to Nixon, the mantra was the same: If we don't fight the communists in Vietnam, the dominoes will fall and we'll have to fight them in California. Under that logic, thousands of American deaths were regarded as a small price to pay. This false notion also obfuscated the immorality of dropping more bombs on the people of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos than were dropped in WWII -- people who were never a threat to our vital interests nor meant us any harm. The idea that Vietnam was part a worldwide communist conspiracy hid the fact that we were actually caught in the middle of a civil war that we instigated by denying them free elections. By the time Nixon came to power in 1969, it was perfectly clear that after spending billions of dollars and losing 36,000 troops, we still couldn't win. To secure Vietnam, the CIA overthrew the Cambodian government, opening the door to Pol Pot. Nixon then chose to expand the war by bombing and invading neutral Cambodia and Laos -- killing 800,000 innocent civilians. Nixon began a phased troop withdrawal that was intended to gradually hand over all military operations to the Vietnamese government. This "Vietnamization" strategy took four years and resulted in the deaths of an additional 22,000 Americans. And for what? South Vietnam fell almost immediately, and the only other country that went communist was the one we destabilized -- Cambodia, where Pol Pot killed one-third of his people until the communist Vietnamese government intervened and deposed him in 1978.