Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Denial is a River in Vietnam

Even if there weren't so few platitudes left in the White House manual to engulf and devour public opinion on the Iraq War, a comparison -- any comparison -- by President Bush to Vietnam would seem loopy.

Especially since Bush himself rejected that comparison not so long ago.

Especially since books about the Vietnam War have titles like "The
Making of a Quagmire
."

Especially since, in a mere couple of generations, the country from which we cut and ran and left to be overrun by our enemy has emerged as a stable nation and trusted trading partner.

Especially since when we stopped fighting over there the only people who followed us here were peace-seeking war refugees who have coalesced into one of the most quickly assimilated ethnic groups in this nation's history.

Especially since someone so well versed in history might be expected not to start a war that could be compared to Vietnam.

There is nothing left except desperate, mangled Vietnam War history lessons and hiding behind the skirts of grieving victims and victims to be, all to avoid shame from which there is no escape.
A lot has changed in 40 years. The Republicans of the pre-Nixon 1960s ran ads in the major newspapers criticizing the Vietnam policy of Lyndon Johnson that contained catchy phrases like "The United States should not be the world's policeman." Liberals of the day -- who hated the war more than anyone -- bled for the oppressed peoples of the world and believed US might should be used to liberate them. Now Republicans are pimping for regime-change and goading liberals -- who hate this war more than anyone -- to bleed for the Iraqis that they have lined up for the firing squad.

Blame where it Belongs

At least public anger now is directed squarely at the policy makers and not the people in uniform. This, too, is an enormous change: Vietnam War draftees were called "baby killers" by some protesters simply because they didn't make a difficult decision to flee to Canada, whose government and people openly welcomed draft dodgers, instead of serve. Our all-volunteer forces are collectively referred to as heros even though not a single one of them has to serve.

With all other self-interest and self-defense rationales debunked (though "They attacked us!" is still on the hit parade, thanks to lead singer Rudy Giuliani), Bush and his acolytes tell us the world is better off without evil Saddam even though he was only as evil as he ever was when he gassed his own people before the Gulf War, or when in 1994 when Veep-to Be Cheney told us we were savvy not to topple him and leave a ... horrible ... power ... vacuum ... that ... would ... leave ... untold ... numbers ... dead). They scurrilously scold the rest of us for not caring about the untold horrors that they are certain will transpire against people they put into jeopardy.

No Shame

The gaul continues with a new political ad airing now by a group lead by former White House spokesman Ari Fleisher in which a badly wounded Iraq veteran tells us "If we pull out now, everything I've given in sacrifice will mean nothing."

There is nothing left except desperate, mangled Vietnam War history lessons and hiding behind the skirts of grieving victims and victims to be, all to avoid shame from which there is no escape.

So as we await the return of a hopefully energized Congress the White House is going double-down. The rationale for war is now to make some sense of the death of every soldier, sailor and marine who has already fallen by killing more of them. It is to angrily insist that someone else's son or daughter jump into the raging river to save innocents you have thrown in.

The cynics among us might think this is just a play for time. Send in more IED fodder to forestall judgment day for the disastrous consequences of an incoherent policy until the next administration takes over and the whole sorry mess can be blamed on a Democrat who lost the war only because she lost her nerve.

The ugliest truth about the Vietnam War is that it was, after all, only about establishing US resolve. It backfired, of course, because once you are in a quagmire there are no good choices: stay in and drown, leave and accomplish nothing at great cost. This is the comparison one would think Bush would most like to avoid, but he makes it himself: "Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price for American credibility. But the terrorists see it differently."

But there is a bright side to the invocation of the "V" word from the Oval Office. At least nobody from the right can knock us for calling Iraq "Bush's Vietnam" anymore.

Historians: note the time.

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