Bush to cite Vietnam in defense of Iraq
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Critics of the war in Iraq who compare the conflict to Vietnam have the analogy backward, President Bush plans to tell veterans in a speech today.Biden gets it right.
In what the White House is billing as a major foreign policy address, the president will say that the lessons of Vietnam teach that the U.S. should stay in Iraq, not withdraw. Terrorists cite Vietnam to predict that the United States will run from the Iraq war, he will say.
"Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see things differently," Bush plans to tell a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, according to speech excerpts released late Tuesday by the White House.
Bush will argue that the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam had dire consequences for the people in that region and so would a withdrawal from Iraq.
"Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," Bush will say. "Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that 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.' "
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, criticized Bush's speech, saying the president "continues to play the American people for fools."Now Bush doesn't remember Vietnam - he was drunk and drugged for the entire debacle, but historian Robert Dallek sets him straight:
"The only relevant analogy of Vietnam to Iraq is this: In Iraq, just as we did in Vietnam, we are clinging to a central government that does not and will not enjoy the support of the people," he said. "Unless the president acts on that lesson from history and works toward a federal solution in Iraq, there is no prospect that when we leave, we will leave anything stable behind.
"In fact, the president's policies are pushing us toward another Saigon moment -- with helicopters fleeing the roof of our embassy -- which he says he wants to avoid.
"Al Qaeda in Iraq didn't exist before we invaded. It is a Bush fulfilling prophecy," he added.
"It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president," he said in a telephone interview.The conflict in Vietnam was a reaction to French colonialism and latter US occupation. The conflict in Iraq is the result of tribes and religious sects who have been fighting each other for over a thousand years combined with an unpopular US occupation.
"We were in Vietnam for 10 years. We dropped more bombs on Vietnam than we did in all of World War II in every theater. We lost 58,700 American lives, the second-greatest loss of lives in a foreign conflict. And we couldn't work our will," he said.
"What is Bush suggesting? That we didn't fight hard enough, stay long enough? That's nonsense. It's a distortion," he continued. "We've been in Iraq longer than we fought in World War II. It's a disaster, and this is a political attempt to lay the blame for the disaster on his opponents. But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out."