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Bush's Disastrous "Iraq is Vietnam" Speech

vietnam.jpg

The reaction is coming in fast and furious to Bush's "Iraq is Vietnam" speech. The emerging consensus is that the speech was an unmitigated disaster and will contribute to eroding public support for the war. Vulnerable Republican incumbents in Congress are no doubt gnashing their teeth over this one (Norm? Susan? Mitch? We're coming to get ya!). Raw Story has the transcript of Bush's Vietnam remarks. Below is an excerpt from the speech that pretty well sums up the new marketing campaign that the administration has come up with to perpetuate America's involvement in the quagmire of Iraq:

Bush: "One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields,'"

This argument is a popular one among neoconservatives embittered by the disaster in Iraq and seeking to shame the American people into supporting a continuation of this debacle until a Democrat occupies the White House and can be blamed for losing the war. But it is historically inaccurate as I am more than happy to explain.

The Vietnam War lasted from 1959 until April 30, 1975 when Saigon fell to invading North Vietnamese forces. The final death tool was estimated at 1.5 million. Another 500,000 were killed in the aftermath of the war. What many people in this country don't understand however is that the Vietnam War and the First Indochina War that preceded it didn't have to happen at all and were only the result of meddling by Western powers in Indochina after World War II.

When the Japanese surrendered, the US, Britian and France along with China made a deal to restore French colonial rule to Indochina even though Ho Chi Minh and his Viet Minh forces had already seized control of the country. This led to the First Indochina War during which the French sought to reassert their control over Vietnam. In 1948, the French set up a separate political entity in southern Vietnam under former emperor Bao Dai. Consequently, it was the French along with their American supporters, who created the artificial division that lead to North and South Vietnam and laid the groundwork for the Vietnam War (aka the 'Second Indochina War").

The Vietnam War itself might have ended in the mid 1960's had then President Lyndon Johnson not order a massive escalation of US forces in the country. The South Vietnamese government was widely viewed as corrupt and incompetent (just like the Maliki government in Iraq), and steadily lost the support of the South Vietnamese people as the war progressed.

It's no surprise that the North Vietnamese conducted brutal reprisals against South Vietnamese officers and officials who had facilitated the US in conducting the savage bombing campaigns that killed hundreds of thousands of people and completely obliterated the economic infrastructure of the North. It's also no surprise that two million Vietnamese who were involved with the regime felt it necessary to flee Vietnam with about half losing their lives on the open seas.

But again, none of this, the First Indochina War, the Vietnam War, the escalation by Lyndon Johnson with the resulting casualties, none of this ever had to occur if the Western powers had simply allowed events to take their natural course in Vietnam after World War II. Millions of lives could have been spared, and there would never have been any re-education camps and boat people.

Bush also referred to "killing fields" in his speech. This is a reference to the sites in Cambodia where the communist Khmer Rouge slaughtered about 2 million people from 1975 to 1979. Once again, upon closer inspection, this analogy falls apart.

Cambodia was never occupied by the United States. While we did drop millions of tons of bombs on the country and engaged in skirmishes with Viet Minh forces who used bases on Cambodian territory to fight the South Vietnamese government we never established a formal and permanent presence. Cambodia was ostensibly neutral in the Vietnam War and we "respected" that neutrality.

So, our withdrawal from Vietnam was in no way responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia. The Khmer Rouge and its predecessors were in existence long before the Vietnam War began heating up. Our intervention in Cambodia did, however, succeed in increasing support among the Cambodian peasantry for the Khmer Rouge. Our savage bombing campaigns drove the enraged populace into the arms of the Khmer Rouge which had never enjoyed widespread support before then. This turned out to be a key factor in the rise of Pol Pot who eventually overthrew the Cambodian government and began the mass slaughter of millions of people.

And we all know who eventually toppled the Khmer Rouge and put an end to the killing fields. Not the Americans. Not the French. Not the British. That's right, it was the Vietnamese Communists who invaded Cambodia and toppled the Khmer Rouge putting an end to that genocidal regime.

President Bush, because of his ignorance of the actual history of Vietnam, has clearly drawn the wrong conclusions with respect to Iraq. The conclusion we should draw is that civil wars in foreign countries are best settled by the people in those countries themselves. In Vietnam, our meddling greatly extended the conflict and increased the number of casualties on both sides.

In Iraq, we will have the same influence given that we are now arming and organizing Sunni militias which will most likely one day violently engage with the Shiite-dominated Iraqi army and police. By perpetuating our involvement in Iraq, we are only increasing the final death toll of this misguided and unnecessary war that didn't have to happen. There didn't have to be a civil war in Iraq, and there might not have been if we had just allowed events to take their natural course. We don't know what will happen if we leave, but we do know that our continued presence will be a source of conflict for years to come just as it was in Vietnam.


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» Democrats Respond to Bush's Vietnam Speech from Wizbang Blue
Former US Senator Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam Vet, delivered the Democrats' official response to President Bush's speech earlier this week where he drew false analogies between Iraq and Vietnam. My fellow Americans, this is Max Cleland, former U.S.... [Read More]



Comments (10)

Allen:

FLIP FLOP? Wasn't that long ago the wingnuts were saying you couldn't compare the Nam to Iraq. Well, now you can.

marc:

This argument is a popular one among neoconservatives embittered by the disaster in Iraq and seeking to shame the American people into supporting a continuation of this debacle until a Democrat occupies the White House and can be blamed for losing the war.

As opposed to what? All the democrats going back as far as Kerry's ill fated run and on to "Iraq is a quagmire like Vietnam" that occurred long before any repub brought up the subject.

Lee Ward:

Here's some of the reaction Larkin referenced as compiled by US News and World Report:

Despite the thirty years elapsed since the end of the Vietnam conflict, reaction to Bush's reference to that conflict was fast and furious augmented by the fact that some leading Vietnam War critics are now leading the charge against Bush's Iraq "surge." The Washington Times notes Bush's speech drew a stern rebuke from Sen. Ted Kennedy, who said, "Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam. ... It is a quagmire. -- The president misled the American people about the need for war, and he misleads them now, clinging to the false hope that his failed policy has a chance of succeeding with a few more months." Fox Special Report noted Sen. John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam vet who later protested the war, called Bush's comments "irresponsible" and "ignorant." The Hill reports Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid "said that Bush, 'instead of providing the country with a history lesson...should be reevaluating his flawed strategies.'"

Academians and political commentators also jumped into the fray. The New York Times reports Bush "is challenging the historical memory that the pullout from Vietnam had few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies." A second New York Times story says many historians "quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw." Likewise, NBC Nightly News reported, "Some historians claim" Bush's "use today of Vietnam was too simple and not accurate." The CBS Evening News said, "Historian Douglas Brinkley says there's no real parallel" between Iraq and Vietnam. Brinkley was shown saying, "You're not going to be able to sell the lessons of Vietnam being we should have stayed a decade longer."

CNN political analyst and former Clinton strategist Paul Begala said on CNN's The Situation Room, "He's saying, essentially, that 58,000 dead in Vietnam weren't quite enough, that maybe we should have twice as big a tragic memorial on the Mall. And who's saying it? A man who chose not to serve." Joseph Galloway, in an analysis piece for McClatchy, writes, "Year-by-year, month-by-month, now even day-to-day, we're treated to a different rationale for the Iraq war from a different...Bush." The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, says Bush's speech contained "rhetoric that would stir any patriot but logic that should persuade few. ... The real lesson of Vietnam is that its civil war was a nationalist struggle that toppled no communist 'dominoes' across Asia. Bush's rhetoric implying an Al Qaeda 'domino effect' in the Middle East has the same false ring."

USA Today says "historical comparisons dominated Bush's speech," while AFP and The Hill, among other news outlets, also focused their reports on the Vietnam angle. NBC Nightly News showed Bush saying, "Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price for American credibility. But the terrorists see it differently." And ABC World News showed the President saying that in Vietnam, "The price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms, like boat people, re-education camps and killing fields."

Likewise, Bush's comments drew extensive coverage on local TV, with more than 400 local newscasts across the nation noting the Vietnam analogy. For example, WCAU-TV of Philadelphia said Bush "didn't talk about Vietnam being an American loss that continues to haunt the American psyche. He talked about worrying" a withdrawal "could be perceived outside by the enemies of the United States as a sign of weakness." KBWB-TV in San Francisco, which led with the story, reported Bush "said when troops pulled out" of Vietnam, "it led to thousands of deaths, and leaving Iraq, the President said, would be just as terrible." WCVB-TV in Boston reported Bush "argued that terrorists...think Vietnam is proof that Americans don't have the stomach for a long, drawn-out battle." WSVN-TV Miami (8/22, 12:19 p.m.) said Bush "made quite a stir mentioning Vietnam." And WGN-TV in Chicago reported Bush said the "price of American withdrawal from Vietnam was the deaths of millions of innocent civilians" and "he does not want that to happen again."

Bush's brain leaves town, and we see now that GWB is just another conservative troll...

Vietnam and Iraq have one similiarity that Bush ignored. A Bush family member didn't fight in either war.

kim:

Read Captain Ed yesterday about Maliki. You'll still be losing the Iraq War in your nursing homes.
====================

marc:

Hooson:

Vietnam and Iraq have one similarity that Bush ignored. A Bush family member didn't fight in either war.

How many of the 435 members of the House of Representatives that voted on the AUMF had members in the U.S. Military?

Answer ONE.

Hooson... you can take your "chickenhawk" argument and tke a long walk off a short pier.

Larkin:

The argument as I have heard it expounded by neocons is that our being chased out of Vietnam is the reason that Al Qaeda attacked us on 9/11. In other words, every defeat (Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia) has led Osama bin Laden to conclude that we are weak and can't stomach a long fight.

Why try to reconstruct/make-up what "neocons" have claimed?

Why don't you believe what Osama has said? Guess you have forgotten, or avoided for partisan reasons, his calling the U.S. a "paper tiger" as a result of pulling out of Somolia.

Xennady:

Seems like Bush hit a nerve with you, didn't he Larkin? Damn those corrupt South Vietnamese for resisting - they turned the peaceful North Vietnamese into murderers! Just like all those folks who resisted Hitler- murderers all of them! If they'd just rolled over WW2 never would have happened. Larkin, of all the stupidity you have spewed into the internets, this post takes the cake.I used to work with a former refugee from Laos who told me about the communist murder of his family in some detail. Funny- he didn't blame the US.He blamed the actual murderers.But what the hell did he know, anyway? No doubt the mass murder in Laos was our fault too, wasn't it?

michael:

Larkin

even prior to your recount of VN history & the post-war return of Indochina to the French, there is more evidence of the kind of USduplicity in foreign policy that has dragged the US into more than one disaster.

Namely, to enlist Ho Chi Minh's resistance to Japanese occupation of IndoChina, the US promised to support VN's independence after WWII.

After the war, the US reneged, as we supported the return to French colonialism. That was the beginning of Ho's war of national independence.

As a sidebar to US postwar perfidy, the first person in the Eisenhower Administration to advocate that the US should pick up the fallen French standard after Dien Bien Phu was none other than Nixon.

In the interim period in VN between the French collapse in 1954 and US involvement, the US advocated in Geneva the temporary partition of VN into North and South with unification elections to be held in 4 years. Ho and the Viet Minh were to regroup in the North & the non-communist forces were to regroup in the South under the French-educated and pro-French quizling, Diem, a minority Catholic in a nation overwhelmingly Buddhist.

The US supported Diem in his refusal to proceed w/ the reunification elections w/ the lame claim that the Communists of the North would cheat, even tho the CIA assessment was that Diem could not win in even a fair election.

With this US dodge, the war of independence resumed in the late '50's w/ Tricky Dick advocating US support of the French toady Diem.

Got that, LoveAmerica Enemagrunt?

Lee Ward:

Cambodia circa 1975 - compelling argument there, kim. You raise some good poin.... wait. you didn't raise any points at all - just more of your sophomoric fortune-cookie conservative head-up-your-ass crap.

Bush lies on national television and it brings the conservative liars out in force to help spread his lies. Yes, the Khmer Rouge gained power in Cambodia in 1975, but our bombing of Cambodia actually accelerated their popularity. Another unintended consequence of meddling in places where we have no business meddling, nor expertise.

Bush draws the Vietnam analogy and it shoots him in the foot. I'm amazed at how stupid this man really is, but when you listen to the idiots who still support him it isn't surprising...

Let's remember: we are now, and have been for year, maintaining an occupation in Iraq, not a war as Bush wants us to think. In both Vietnam and Iraq U.S. forces were trying to breath life into unsustainable 'fake' client governments. If our occupation of Iraq is allowed to rekindle into another war - Cheney's great dream - Iran will become Bush's Cambodia.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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