Former Senator Cleland Disputes Bush's Vietnam Analogy on Iraq
Molly PetersonSat Aug 25, 11:06 AM ET
Aug. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Former Democratic U.S. Senator Max Cleland, a disabled Vietnam veteran, said President George W. Bush made a faulty analogy when he cited that war to bolster his case for continuing U.S. military operations in Iraq.
``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,'' Cleland said today in the Democratic Party's weekly radio address. ``This should be a somber warning to us all to responsibly end the war in Iraq and the additional loss of precious American lives.''
Bush said Aug. 22 that an early pullout from Iraq would lead to the kind of bloodshed Southeast Asia experienced after U.S. forces left Vietnam in 1975.
``Some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price for American credibility, but the terrorists see it differently,'' Bush said in Kansas City in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the largest U.S. veterans' group.
Cleland, who was defeated for the Senate in 2002 by Republican Saxby Chambliss, said Bush has a ``credibility gap'' just as political leaders during the Vietnam era did, and is ``trying to sell the American people a bill of goods on the Iraq war.''
``I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends,'' Cleland, who lost both legs and his right arm in a grenade explosion in 1968, said. ``I know all the PR 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.''
Army General David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker are scheduled to testify to Congress on Sept. 11 on progress since the U.S. sent about 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, bringing the force there to about 160,000.
Senator John Warner of Virginia, the senior Republican on the Armed Services Committee, this week urged Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq by Sept. 15 to show the Iraqi government that the U.S. commitment there isn't open-ended.
The number of troops to be withdrawn and the timing would be up to the president, Warner, who was secretary of the Navy during the Vietnam War, said at an Aug. 23 news conference.
Some 3,722 U.S. personnel had died in Iraq as of yesterday, of whom 3,049 were killed in action. More than 27,500 have been wounded, 12,340 of them so seriously that they couldn't return to duty, according to the Defense Department Web site.
In Vietnam, Cleland said, 58,000 Americans were killed and 350,000 were wounded. ``I know something about the price that was paid for continuing that war long after it was clear we could not succeed,'' he said.
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