Bush's compares Iraq & Vietnam, concluding?????????

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 11:49 AM

Finally, praise for a piece of ordinary journalism, which managed to identify and explain the built-in contradiction in President Bush's comments about what Vietnam means for Iraq.

They NY Times managed to get it right in its story about Bush's trip to Vietnam:

HANOI, Vietnam, Saturday, Nov. 18 -- President Bush, visiting a country that forced the United States into a humiliating withdrawal three decades ago, declared Friday that Vietnam's transition to a modern, growing economy gave him hope about what could be rebuilt from the ruins of Iraq. But he added that the lesson he drew from the bitter American experience here was that "we'll succeed unless we quit."
But it was the Iraq comparisons that were the most difficult, because they required Mr. Bush to argue two seemingly contradictory threads: that Vietnam turned out well despite America's withdrawal, but that the situation in Iraq was so much more complicated that retreat was not an option.

Yes, those comparisons would be "the most difficult."  Especially since Vietnam was the subject of the exact same dire predictions of the consequences of "failure" as the White House has been drumming into our heads about Iraq for several years.

Back then, it was Vietnam where failure "was not an option," where a defeat would start the dominoes falling and, before you knew it, we'd be fighting those stealthy Viet Cong in Manhattan, or Miami, or Memphis, or, or...all three!

Now we'll be "fighting terrorists in the streets of America" if we don't defeat them in Iraq.

The current hyperbole is about as accurate as the past hyperbole.  No matter what you think about the claim that Iraq is the "central front in the war on terror," the outcome there is not likely to be either the end of the existing world or the beginning of a new world.  It may well be important to us, and it is most certainly important to the countries surrounding Iraq, and is definitely crucial to Iraqis, but it is not the final battle in any war between good and evil.

To me, the dead giveaway on that is how little importance the White House attached to Iraq until it had gone so bad that it started to erode the current addiction to free market Republicanism.  Until chaos had arrived full blown, they found it more important to put Paul Bremer in charge to issue free market capitalism edicts guaranteed to tick off those Iraqis we'd failed to tick off for other reasons.  Until chaos had infested the country, driving hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to leave and many thousands of others to relocate within Iraq, we were happy with an occasional plastic turkey photo-op and a ham handed egomaniac named Rumsfeld in charge of our military operations, to the point that he refused to allow the top military person to speak directly to the president, as had been the procedure in past wars.

Yes, Mr. President, there are lessons that Vietnam should have taught you and the rest of us about Iraq.  There are definitely  lessons that Iraq should teach us about our future actions, both military and political.

But if you and those who surround you were capable of learning those lessons, you would not be what you are, we would not have surrendered our national will to you out of fear, and you would not have used that surrender to institute program after program that threatens the future of ordinary Americans.

It may seem like a cheap shot, but it really isn't intended that way: perhaps if Vietnam had been more of a real possibility for you those many decades ago, you would not feel as you do now, would not need to grope for unworkable analogies to avoid the obvious, would not want to prolong and deepen an Iraqi national tragedy that is tearing at the fabric of multiple nations (at a minimum Iraq, America, the United Kingdom).

Perhaps if you didn't feel a supernatural sense of rightness and privilege there could long ago have been an honest discussion of what the hell we were doing in 2003.  Or even earlier.

But for now, we'll take small steps in the right direction, like a major newspaper pointing out the obvious contradiction in a small story about a President's trip abroad to a former mortal enemy.

With steps that small as the source of optimism, it's going to be a hell of a long haul.