Search This Blog

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bush's Misleading Vietnam analogy strikes a nerve

Bush's misleading Vietnam analogy:
The President needs to look no further for killing fields and refugees
than modern-day Iraq, even without a withdrawal
Bush Iraq War analogy strikes a nerve in Vietnam

Maliki as Diem? Bush, Vietnam and 14 More GIs Dead

President Bush's Vietnam analogy is not inaccurate, just incomplete. Max Boot, Wall Street Journal

Dubya steals an analogy. John Podhoretz, New York Post
Dems dread hearing the V-word. Rosemary Righter, London Times
ush's Vietnam Blunder - Jim Hoagland, Washington Post

presidents resort to desperate rhetoric -- which then calls new
attention to their desperation. President Bush joined the club this
week by citing the U.S. failure in Vietnam to justify staying on in
Iraq. Bush's comparison of the two conflicts rivals Richard Nixon's "I
am not a crook" utterance during Watergate and Bill Clinton's "I did
not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky," in producing
unintended consequences of a most damaging kind for a sitting
president. It is not just that Bush's speech to the Veterans of Foreign
Wars convention on Wednesday drew on a shaky grasp of history,
spotlighted once again his own decision to sit out the Vietnam
conflict, and played straight into his critics' most emotive arguments
against him and the Republican Party. More important, Bush has called
attention to the elephant that will be sitting in the room when his
administration makes its politically vital report on Iraq to the nation
next month. For Americans, the most important comparison will be this
one: As Vietnam did, Iraq has become a failure even on its own terms --
whatever those terms are at any given moment.

Fruits of Retreat - John Podhoretz, New York Post

so the world of conventional wisdom is even now rearing in horror at
the mere thought of President Bush daring to compare the war in Iraq to
the war in Vietnam - or, rather, describing the consequences of losing
the war in Iraq by discussing the consequences of our loss in Vietnam
and asking the American people if they want to see that disastrous past
repeated as our inglorious future. You could almost feel the outrage
rising like steam heat from the left side of the blogosphere: Why,
doesn't that evil moron know that Vietnam is our analogy? Doesn't he
know no one should be permitted to mention Vietnam in any context other
than the one we use - as an example of an immoral, pointless and stupid
war, a quagmire from which the nation was saved not by heroes on the
battlefield abroad but by political opposition at home?

Maroons Rush In - Mackubin Thomas Owens, National Review

1972 Easter Offensive provided the proof that Vietnam could survive,
albeit with U.S. air and naval support, at least in the short term. The
Easter Offensive was the biggest North Vietnamese offensive push of the
war, greater in magnitude than either the 1968 Tet offensive or the
final assault of 1975. Despite inevitable failures on the part of some
units, all in all, the South Vietnamese fought well. Then, having
blunted the Communist thrust, they recaptured territory that had been
lost to Hanoi. Finally, so effective was the eleven-day "Christmas
bombing" campaign (LINEBACKER II) later that year that the British
counterinsurgency expert, Sir Robert Thompson exclaimed, "you had won
the war. It was over." Three years later, despite the heroic
performance of some ARVN units, South Vietnam collapsed against a much
weaker, cobbled-together PAVN offensive. What happened to cause this
reversal? First, the Nixon administration, in its rush to extricate the
country from Vietnam, forced South Vietnam to accept a ceasefire that
permitted North Vietnamese forces to remain in South Vietnam. Then in
an act that still shames the United States to this day, Congress cut
off military and economic assistance to South Vietnam. Finally,
President Nixon resigned over Watergate and his successor, constrained
by congressional action, defaulted on promises to respond with force to
North Vietnamese violations of the peace terms. Of course the
president’s reference to Vietnam did not have to do with operational
art or strategy but with the consequences of defeat: the abandonment of
allies to the tender mercies of Vietnamese and Cambodian Communists,
resulting in the death of millions in Cambodia and thousands in
Vietnam, the “boat people,” and re-education camps. This abandonment of
our Vietnamese allies was a massive moral failure on the part of the
United States. It is one we should not repeat in Iraq.

Why America's Pullout from Vietnam Worked – Michael Hirsh, Newsweek

all, we have learned that Vietnam and Southeast Asia were never really
central fronts in the cold war (although Korea at the time of the
outbreak of war in 1950, when Beijing still kowtowed to Moscow and
before the Soviet Union and China split, might have fit that bill). The
decision to pull out had very little effect on the ultimate outcome.
America triumphed in the cold war because it had the right kind of
economy—an open one—compared to Moscow and Beijing, and its ideas about
freedom were more attractive to the states within the Soviet bloc than
their own failed ideas were. The president would like to make the
argument that Iraq is about the same struggle. It’s not, for several
important reasons. In contrast to the Soviet and Chinese communists, or
for that matter the fascists of the 1930s and '40s, Al Qaeda and its
ilk have no universalist program, no persuasive alternative ideology to
globalization and some brand of democracy. They are nihilists, and they
have failed to capture half the world’s attention as communism and
socialism once did. So, yes, while a U.S. pullout would no doubt
inspire a great deal of Al Qaeda propaganda about how they succeeded in
forcing the Americans to withdraw from Iraq as they forced the Soviets
to do in Afghanistan, the majority of the world’s elites won’t buy it.

Iraq, Vietnam and McGovernism - Washington Times editorial

media and the political left have taken umbrage at President Bush's
choice of a Vietnam analogy to illustrate the dangers of withdrawal
from Iraq. Then, as now, he said Wednesday at the national convention
of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, "people argued the real
problem was America's presence and that if we would just withdraw, the
killing would end... 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 has set off a firestorm. "Historians Question Bush's
Reading of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq," read yesterday's New York
Times' "news analysis." The president's logic "should persuade few,"
opined the Los Angeles Times. Both newspapers downplayed the Korea and
Japan analogies which Mr. Bush also delivered at the convention. This
is more than a little convenient. The president spent much more speech
time on Korea and Japan than on Vietnam. Both Korea and Japan stand as
rebukes to people who once argued for the purported incompatibility
democracy and freedom among peoples who lacked a history thereof. Today
we hear it about Middle Eastern peoples instead of Asian ones. Mr.
Bush's point is that each was proven wrong in time and that he expects
the same to be true in Iraq.


Snuffysmith said...

Original Content at

August 23, 2007

Dear Dubya, So You're Saying Vietnam Just Didn't Go On Long Enough

By Don Williams

Dear Mr. Bush,


We needed another Vietnam, and you gave us one. Only this time we'll stay longer and finish the job, you suggested in your speech Wednesday.

Good for you. You've finally admitted what some of us have been saying since 2003. Iraq is like Vietnam.

Of course your memory of Vietnam's a lot different from most of ours. You could say it's new and improved. Like most works of creative nonfiction--or is it outright fiction--your story of Vietnam reads a lot better in the rewrite, because rewriting allows you to leave out some of the distasteful or redundant parts. Like, for instance, the untidy little story of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, passed in August 1964 in direct response to a minor naval skirmish. It would've hardly been news-worthy except that it gave U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization, without a declaration of war by Congress, to use military force in Southeast Asia. Then there's the matter of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge. It's easy to forget that Cambodia was a beautiful country--some considered it a paradise--until we began bombing hell out of it, which brought about a coup, against its beloved Prince Sihanouk, by Lon Nol, the dictator we supported. Our bombing and strong military support of Lon Nol helped bring about a revolution of the peasants and middle class, and so the country turned to Pol Pot, a genocidal Stalinist who thought he'd bring on a an age of peace and brotherhood by emptying the cities and killing most of the intellectuals. Of course, you simplify that part, by suggesting it was our leaving that unleashed Pol Pot, rather than our meddling.

So, again, congratulations. You've managed to obscure history for a whole new generation. Tell me though, which came first? The idea that we needed another Vietnam? Or the quagmire in Iraq? Either way it fits the bill.

First, like Vietnam, Iraq's a long ways from home.

Second, the war has lined the pockets of all your friends in the military and arms and aerospace industries, plus many in the media, just as Vietnam did for your daddy's cronies in Texas and elsewhere.

Third, Vietnam was based on a series of big lies we were told at the time, like these, endlessly repeated in the "liberal media."

1. Vietnam was in league with Russia and China. Those communists were all in it together.

2. They provoked us to the breaking point by firing on our ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

3. Unless defeated, the Viet Cong would swallow southeast Asia.

4. The South Vietnamese were democracy-loving allies.

Compare that to the big lies and innuendos of Iraq.

1. Saddam was in league with al-Qaeda. They were all in it together.

2. They attacked us on 9/11, and so we had to fight back by invading Iraq.

3. Saddam had WMDs, and so he threatened the entire Middle East, and even our own Eastern seaboard, what with aerial drones, anthrax, nukes he was building and so forth.

4. Democracy would break out all over after we won.

Of course the wars are similar in other ways as well.

1. We stayed in Vietnam a long long time (though not long enough, you imply).

2. The Vietnam War spread to Cambodia.

3. It threatened to become WWIII.

4. Our leaders said publicly we were winning, long after they acknowledged in private we were losing.

5. It cost billions that might've been spent on any number of things--like new sources of energy.

6. Mostly lower middle class and poor people died in Vietnam, very few sons of senators.

7. The war spawned genocide.

8. In the end we had to leave.

9. Even though we lost, Vietnam is a friendly trading partner.

Amazing! That's just like Iraq.

1. We've stayed a long time. It's been years now since you flew onto that ship at San Diego, dressed like a pilot, and strutted under that banner, "Mission Accomplished."

2. Your war threatens Iran and Pakistan. You could make the case it spread to Lebanon and Israel last year.

3. It could become WWIII, should you unleash Cheney and the Neocons again.

4. You say we're winning the war on terror in public, yet virtually all our intelligence agencies say we're losing.

5. It's cost billions we might've spent on healthcare, keeping social security solvent and developing new sources of energy.

6. Only a few rich people or politicians, like Joe Biden, have children serving there.

7. Your war has spawned genocide, or at least ethnic cleansing. The Shiites you put in charge of Iraq are using this opportunity to kill Sunnis in record numbers, and the Sunnis are responding in kind.

8. In the end we'll have to leave, because, as many in and out of your administration have warned, this is a war we cannot win militarily.

9. Who doubts we'll all be burning Iraqi oil again one fine day?

So Congratulations, Mr. President, you knew we needed another Vietnam, and presto!

You gave us one.



Authors Website:

Authors Bio: Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist for the Knoxville News-Sentinel and the founding editor and publisher of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of literary writing. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Michigan Journalism Fellowship, a Golden Presscard Award and the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize. He is finishing a novel, RED STATE BLUES, set in his native Tennessee and Iraq. His book of selected journalism, ?Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes, the Best Writings About People? by Don Williams, is now available for ordering. For more information, email him at Or visit the NMW website at

Snuffysmith said...]

Another Iraq-Vietnam Link: Many Killed By U.S. War
Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, August 24, 2007

I was quite delighted that President Bush brought up the topic of the
relationship between the U.S. war in Iraq and the U.S. war in Vietnam.
I was about to bring up the subject myself.

Just Foreign Policy has been working to put the question of the
overall scale of Iraqi dead since the U.S. invasion in March 2003 back
on the table. To this end, we created an online estimate of Iraqi
dead, by extrapolating from last year's Lancet study - which estimated
more than 600,000 Iraqi dead - using the trend provided by the tally
of deaths reported in Western media that is compiled by Iraq Body
Count. Our count now stands at more than a million.

President Bush dismissed the Lancet study as "not credible." Of
course, this was a meaningless statement. Honest people call something
"not credible" when they have some defensible basis for doing so -
another reference point about which they have a defensible basis for
being more certain. If I say it is raining and you can look outside
and see no rain coming down, you can say my statement is "not
credible." If I say I am ten feet tall you can dismiss my statement as
"not credible" based on your life experience of meeting different
human beings and seeing that all of them were nowhere near ten feet
tall. You could also consult a standard reference to see how tall the
tallest recorded human was.

But if I present a science-based estimate that a million Iraqis have
been killed, you can only dismiss this as "not credible" - if you are
honest - if you have some objective basis for doing so. The Lancet
study is the only scientific study that exists, so it makes sense to
take this as a starting point - not the prejudices of the President of
the United States, who obviously 1) has presented no scientific
evidence 2) has a direct stake in the matter 3) has some credibility
issues of his own.

The fundamental question here is not what the exact death toll is -
that of course will never be known - but what is its order of
magnitude. Is it on the order of many hundreds of thousands, as the
Lancet study suggests, or is it on the order of less than a hundred
thousand, as the President of the United States would have us believe?

In considering the question of scale, in addition to considering the
scientific evidence, it is quite relevant to consider what we know
about other wars. And the comparison to Vietnam is particularly

The official Vietnamese government estimate of Vietnamese war dead -
including combatants and civilians - was about 5 million. One can say
that the Vietnamese government had motivations for overstating the
case - although when this number was released in 1995 the Vietnamese
Government admitted that they had kept their estimate secret during
the war for fear of demoralizing the population. For the purposes of
this rough calculation, let's consider a range from two million to
five million (this is the range given by Wikipedia, for example.)
Let's say that the population of Vietnam during the war was about 40
million (roughly the 1970 figure, so this overstates the population a
little, thus understating the resulting percentages.) Then, very
roughly speaking, between 5% and 12% of the population was lost in the

Now let's consider Iraq. Its population in 2003 was about 25 million.
The Just Foreign Policy estimate would indicate that 4% of the
population have lost their lives. If it's true that less than 100,000
Iraqis have been killed, then less than .4% of the pre-war population
have lost their lives (still a horrific outcome, obviously.)

This calculation proves nothing, of course. It simply suggests that
the order of magnitude of the Just Foreign Policy estimate is in the
same ballpark as generally accepted estimates of the death toll in
Vietnam, and therefore, is not wildly implausible, in the absence of
some argument as to why we should not compare estimates of the death
tolls between the two wars.

Here's another comparison to consider: how many Iraqis have fled their
homes? The standard estimate is four million - two million inside the
country, two million outside. The Just Foreign Policy estimate would
suggest that there has been 1 Iraqi killed for every four that have
fled their homes. If the true death toll were an order of magnitude
lower, than 1 Iraqi was killed for every forty who fled their homes.

Why is this a relevant comparison? Because it is well known that
people are very reluctant to flee their homes. In his book "The Myth
of Rescue," William Rubinstein gives a simple explanation for why Jews
did not flee Hitler's Germany prior to Kristallnacht - they didn't
want to go. They were waiting for a decisive sign that they needed to
leave - which Kristallnacht gave. By the outbreak of war, 90% had left
Germany. (Many subsequently perished - because they did not flee
continental Europe.)

One thing that will cause people to overcome their reluctance to flee
is fear of imminent death. One thing that proves that the threat of
imminent death can no longer be ignored is the death of someone close
to you.

And in fact, if you look at say, Iraqi refugee accounts from Jordan
that have appeared in the U.S. press, you find that death of a family
member often preceded flight.

This comparison, again, proves nothing. It simply suggests that the
Just Foreign Policy estimate is not, in fact, wildly implausible.

If anyone wishes to challenge our estimate, let them do so - on the
basis of data.

In the meantime, we encourage people to cite it.

Robert Naiman
Just Foreign Policy

Just Foreign Policy's current estimate of Iraqi deaths due to violence
since the U.S. invasion - now more than a million:

Sunny Ellis said...

Snuffy Smith, do you realize that online content is copyrighted too?