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Democrats Respond to Bush's Vietnam Speech

[Former US Senator Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam Vet, delivered the Democrats' official response to President Bush's speech, made earlier this week, which drew false analogies between Iraq and Vietnam.]

My fellow Americans, this is Max Cleland, former U.S. senator from Georgia.

This week, President Bush gave a speech comparing the ongoing war in Iraq to the Vietnam War. He used this analogy in his latest plea to the American people for yet more time to continue his war.

I know something about the Vietnam War. I know something about the price that was paid for continuing that war long after it was clear we could not succeed. I know something about years of war failing to produce a stable, secure and democratic country.

I know something about enemy attacks increasing and taking an ever higher toll on our troops. Fifty-eight thousand young Americans were killed in Vietnam; 350,000 were wounded. I was one of them.

There are similarities between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam. One of the lessons to be learned from Vietnam is that the commitment of American military strength alone cannot solve another country's political weakness. This should be a somber warning to us all to responsibly end the war in Iraq and the additional loss of precious American lives.

Congress has required the president to issue a report soon on the state of the war. This assessment gives him yet another opportunity to do the right thing and change course in Iraq.

Unfortunately, it appears he will continue to argue that, if the American people and the U.S. Congress will just be patient, things will work out. He is likely to say that, given more time, victory is just around the corner. He is likely to argue that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

But like political leaders during the Vietnam era, this president has a "credibility gap." The majority of Americans see a profound difference between President Bush's optimistic rhetoric and the grim reality which lies beneath. Our history in Vietnam and the facts on the ground in Iraq today prove the American people are right.

How do I know? Because I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends. I know that all the P.R. in the world didn't change the truth on the ground in Vietnam and won't change the truth on the ground today in Iraq.

What is this truth? The truth is that more than 3,700 Americans have already lost their lives, more than 20,000 have been wounded, and nearly $500 billion in American taxpayer funds have been expended.

The truth is that, despite this enormous sacrifice, we find ourselves mired in a civil war with no end in sight and Iraqis unable or unwilling to make the political decisions necessary to end this conflict.

And the truth is President Bush's decision to go to war and stay at war has actually encouraged thousands of new recruits for Al Qaida in Iraq and around the world, has made the Middle East and other parts of the globe less safe, has alienated the Muslim world and allowed Al Qaida -- the enemy that attacked this nation six years ago -- a chance to rebuild and restore its terror network.

These are the facts. But the facts will not stop the president and his fellow Republicans from trying once again to sell the American people a bill of goods on the Iraq war.

The failures in Iraq are not the fault of our troops or their courage in battle. They have done everything asked of them and more. The conflict in Iraq is an Iraqi political problem, not a U.S. military problem.

We can't continue to sacrifice American lives, deplete our treasury and weaken our national security. We can't expect our soldiers to continue to risk their lives, especially when the Iraqi leaders themselves show no interest in achieving a peaceful political solution.

President Bush's report to Congress will attempt to show that his escalation has produced improved security in certain parts of Iraq. But it will ignore the stark truth in Iraq: that his overall strategy to buy time for Iraqis to make the needed political decisions has failed and, just like Vietnam, we are enmeshed now in an open-ended war for which our troops and our country will pay the price for decades to come.

That's why we must act now. This fall, Democrats in Congress will continue to stand with our troops and with the American people to remember the lessons of history and end the Iraq war.

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Comments (6)

"How do I know? Because I've seen this movie before"

Cleland couldn't sell that point to the citizens of his own State. That's why Chambliss won his seat in the Senate.

The democrats are in trouble, just as they were in 2004, when they pushed the same wheel chair all the way to Crawford, Texas and voters saw it, carefully considered it, and voted for Bush.

Learn this and get off your high horse: Bush lost the 2006 interim election because he abandoned his base (on immigration, spending and defending his policy on the WOT) and did not defend the same policy he rode to victory in 2004.

The Surge is succeeding, and Dems are panicking because they have invested exclusively in our defeat. You discount the military success and now focus on the political element. American voters will see through that pretense. Political progress in Iraq is ....what? Not taking a summer vacation, as our Congress is now on? Having all political factions hug one another?

Military success is well documented now, and will become more so now that the President has adopted a strategy that is more effective. Don't you think it is...well, smart, that we have a president who will implement and change strategy based on field commander's recommendations?

Warning: Don't bother linking this:


It has been fully discredited at other sites:

Should we follow the example of, say, the last wartime Democratic CIC....LBJ? Who was worried more about Walter Cronkite's opinion?

But I digress...liberals, with the exception of Joseph Lieberman, have absolutely no credibility in this matter.

Lee Ward:

Bush flip-flopping like a Romney over Maliki doing a heck of a job has been humorous.

Since Republicans are fact-challenged and probably won't click on Larkin's link above here's a quote:

"And so we will help this Iraqi government succeed. And the first step for success is to do something about the sectarian violence in Baghdad so they can have breathing space in order to do the political work necessary to assure that different factions in Baghdad, factions that are recovering from years of tyranny, that there's a hopeful future for them and their families. I would call that political breathing space. And by providing this political breathing space -- in other words, giving the Maliki government a chance to reconcile and do the work necessary to achieve reconciliation -- it will hasten the day in which we can change our force posture in Iraq."

Since no amount of breathing space could give Maliki enough room to do what we all know now (and us Dems knew back then) was impossible as long as the US continued our occupation of Iraq, what lies will boy George tell us now?


"Bush and the generals have both made clear that the real purpose of the surge was to foster reconciliation that is the only real path towards stability."

There will be no reconciliation unil the counter insugency component of the surge works, and that is happening.

As to the political element, Sunnis are turning on their former AQ allies. The body count has risen for an obvious set reasons: AQ no longer has safe sanctuary, and they have escalated their most effective method of attack: killing civilians.

I think the Republican spin machine is in fact more energized now than I have seen it in well over a year.

Steve Crickmore:

If the surge is going so well why does Petraeus think it will take us at least 9 or 10 years to subdue the enemy? It is always said ambiguously and no reporter has the sense or courage to ask Petraeus does this mean we are halfway there or do we have another decade in Iraq? They probably realize it is only optimistic tendentious guess work anyway.

Hugh S...Everyone is spinning this, because the occupation has gone so badly awry..It only worked on the drawing board or in the boardrooms like every other half-baked idea of this administration. Practically all the Shiite leaders of Iraq were exiled in Iran by Saddam, and Bush who didn't know the difference between Shittes and Sunnis until January 2003, is now arming the most brutal Sunni militias, complains the Iraqi Shiite leaders like Malaki, are getting too close to Tehran..The mind spins.

Lee Ward:

I suspect Patraeus is correct in his assessment that our continued presence in Iraq will keep matters there chaotic and violent for at least another decade. Eventually, we'll kill off enough Iraqis and enough will die from the violence that we will break their will.

All the more reason we need to get out sooner, rather than later. I thought our mission was to liberate Iraq and form a democracy, not destroy the lives of millions of innocent Iraqis.

Patraeus is looking at this from a law enforcement perspective. We need to look at this from a political perspective, and recognize that our occupation there is inciting violence - Patraeus isn't equipped for or charged with decision-making like that - which is why basing the decision on his report alone is hugely flawed.

What Iraq needs is Sunnis policing Sunnis and Shiites policing Shiites, not a street-battle level permanent American peace-keeping force.

We need to get our asses out of there.

I frankly don't know why Pteus said that....but I will gladly speculate.

The U S has enormous millitary infrastructure and other assets in Iraq. I would not be surprised if Pentagon planners intend to set up a permanent base there for decades, just as we did in Germany, Japan and PI. Doing so solves a lot of force projection problems, particularly logistics.


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

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

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