I put Middle Earth Journal in hiatus in May of 2008 and moved to Newshoggers.
Well Newshoggers has closed it's doors so Middle Earth Journal is active once again.

Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Vietnam. Show all posts

Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering The Vietnam War

I graduated from high school in June of 1964.  The US had placed military advisors in Vietnam since the French left in 1954.  In August of 1964, a few weeks after my high school graduation, the North Vietnamese  allegedly fired on 2 US ships in the Gulf of Tonkin and congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution giving President Johnson unprecedented power to wage war.  The first action was the aerial bombing of military and industrial targets in North Vietnam.  It was anticipated that this action would bring the North to it's knees within 8 weeks.  That should remind you of "shock and awe" in Iraq.  Well it didn't work out that way.  The North Vietnamese and the Vietcong started attacking the US air bases in Vietnam.  In my freshman year in college the first US ground troops were sent to Vietnam to protect the air bases in March of 1965.

During my college career the war continued to escalate and a few months before my graduation in January of 1968 there was a coordinated attack by the North Vietnamese and the Vietcong - the Tet offensive.  As a result even more troops were sent and the draft boards were very busy.  Unlike the recent operations in the Middle East most Americans knew someone who served in Vietnam and many knew someone who died there.  When the war ended in 1973 over two and a half million had served there and 58,272 had died there.

The Vietnam war shaped my political thinking.  While over 58,000 of America's finest died for nothing I had hoped that we had learned a lesson.  But that was not to be the case.  The Bush/Cheney cabal and the military industrial complex made all the same wrong assumptions and there are still some who want to involve us in unwinnable military adventures.

I fear for the future.  The Middle East is a powder keg about to explode.  There are those who insist the US needs to show "leadership."  Leadership equals more of America's finest dying for nothing and resources needed to fix the homeland will be squandered elsewhere.  

This is what I'm thinking on this Memorial Day.  

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Is It Really The Iraq War?

With the 10 year anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq there have been a number of conservatives and Republicans who think the war has tarnished the GOP brand.  I referenced Daniel McCarthy's piece in The American Conservative yesterday and Doug Mataconis has some thoughts on a few more today starting off with Ross Douthat's opinion piece today.   The Republican's predicament is being compared to the Democrat's problems post Vietnam War.  I am old enough to have been an adult in both situations.  While I can see parallels I'm not convinced it's entirely the parallels they are seeing.
First let's take a look at the Democrats post Vietnam.  I think there are 2 factors that led to the Democrat's woes after the war, one related to the war, one not so much and both were somewhat related to each other.

  • The first was the emergence of the radical left - the hippies if you will.  The radical left movement was certainly a result of the war but it scared the hell out of people and their association with the Democratic Party hurt the Democrats.  The voters simply did not trust them to govern.
  • The second was the Civil Rights Act.  Do you really think the South went from blue to red because of the Vietnam war.

It was a case of a majority of the population seeing the image of America changing.  The old morality and social order was dissolving before their eyes and they were afraid.
Now let's fast forward to the post Iraq war world.  Lee Atwater and Richard Nixon's "silent majority" has become the very loud minority. The country has moved on when it comes to civil rights, women's rights, gay rights etc.  So like the Democrats in the early 70s the Republicans no longer represent the majority of the American citizens.  While the Vietnam war was responsible for the emergence of the radical left it was the election of a black Democratic president that was responsible for the emergence of the radical right - the Tea Party.  Both were out of touch with the times.
Sorry Republicans, while the Iraq war was a mistake and mismanaged that's not your problem anymore than the Vietnam War was the Democrats real problem in the 70s.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Iraq War 10 Years Latter - Saturday Reads

As we all know it was 10 years ago that the Iraq war began.  I did a post last week but I wanted to see what others were saying.

John B. Judis recalls what it was like to oppose the Iraq war. He makes this observation at the end:
My own experience after Powell’s speech bears out the tremendous power that an administration, bent on deception, can have over public opinion, especially when it comes to foreign policy. And when the dissenters in the CIA, military, and State Department are silenced, the public—not to mention, journalists—has little recourse in deciding whether to support what the administration wants to do. Those months before the Iraq war testify to the importance of letting the public have full access to information before making decisions about war and peace. And that lesson should be heeded before we rush into still another war in the Middle East.
Noah Millman agrees with Judis for the most part but thinks he underestimates the dissenting voices.
But the dissenters weren’t “silenced” so much as ignored – and not only by the Administration. They were ignored when they testified before Congress. They were ignored by the press. They were ignored by ordinary people – like myself – in personal conversation. I remember vividly having an argument with an intelligent, non-ideological friend who opposed the war simply because he saw that the case for it was absurdly threadbare. When I couldn’t actually refute his arguments, I changed them in my own mind to easier-to-defeat straw men, the better to preserve my already-settled opinion. Yes, we were deceived about any number of matters – but we, official Washingtonians and ignorant college students, wanted to be deceived. Because we wanted to go to war.
Daniel Larison writes about the Unlearned Lessons of the Iraq War.  One of the lessons that hasn't been learned is that those who want war will engage in fear mongering and threat inflation.
Following the end of the Cold War, American hawks have felt compelled to build up every minor threat as a new global menace to replace the vanished Soviet Union. That has inevitably required grossly exaggerating the danger to the U.S. and the rest of the world from third- or fourth-tier states. The fear-mongering about Hussein’s Iraq in 2002-03 was one of the more extreme and absurd examples of this since there were few states in the world that posed less of a threat to America than a broken-down, disarmed, impoverished, and internationally isolated dictatorship. The idea that the U.S. was being “forced” to go to war was preposterous at the time, and in hindsight it appears even more so. 
We are seeing something similar now from those who want to attack Iran and get us involved in Syria.
Over at The Moderate Voice Dorian De Wind discusses the numbers of the Iraq war.

Daniel McCarthy thinks that Iraq will become The GOP's Vietnam:
The Republican Party may not be able to escape its McGovern phase, even if Democrats screw up (as they will) and we briefly get a Republican Carter. The party and the ideology soaked into it have lost their reputation for competence, and they’ve lost the emotional resonances that come with being the party of America: victory, prosperity, normality. Instead the resonances that come from the War on Terror are of a party and an era marked by resentment, recession, and insecurity. Although the party still sees Ronald Reagan when it looks in the mirror, what the rest of the country sees is George W. Bush—much as post-Vietnam Democrats continued to think of themselves as the party of Franklin Roosevelt when in the minds of most Americans they had become the party of Johnson and McGovern.
Until the Republican Party can come to grips with its failure, the Democrats will be the party Americans trust to govern.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Year Was 1972

George McGovern / Wikimedia Commons
The Year was 1972.  I had just become a civilian after three years in the military.  While I was never in Vietnam I knew many who were and the impact it had on their lives.  Friends and relatives had been killed in SE Asia and nearly everyone had known for some time that the war could not be won but thousands had died anyway.  I voted for George McGovern that year.  My second presidential election and the second time I had voted for the loser.  Well George McGovern has died at 90.  
If you are looking for an eulogy for the "liberal stalwart" you probably can't do any better than the 2006 article by Bill Kauffman  in of all places The American Conservative, Come Home, America.  You really should go read the entire thing but I will give you a few snips.
But perhaps, as George McGovern ages gracefully while his country does not, it is time to stop looking at McGovern through the lenses of Scoop Jackson and those neoconservative publicists who so often trace their disenchantment with the Democratic Party to the 1972 campaign. What if we refocus the image and see the George McGovern who doesn’t fit the cartoon? Son of a Wesleyan Methodist minister who had played second base in the St. Louis Cardinals farm system, this other George McGovern revered Charles Lindbergh as “our greatest American” and counted among his happiest memories those “joyous experiences with my dad” hunting pheasants. He was voted “The Most Representative Senior Boy” in his high school and went to the college down the street, walking a mile each morning to Dakota Wesleyan and then coming home for lunch.
This other George McGovern was a bomber pilot who flew 35 B-24 missions in the Dakota Queen, named after his wife, Eleanor Stegeberg of Woonsocket, South Dakota, whom he had courted at the Mitchell Roller Rink. He grew up in and remains a congregant of the First United Methodist Church of Mitchell; he knows by heart the “old hymns” and sings them aloud “with the gusto of those devout congregations that shaped my life so many years ago.” This other George McGovern is a lifelong St. Louis Cardinals fan and member in good standing of the Stan Musial Society. He lives most of the year in Mitchell, his hometown, and says, “There is a wholesomeness about life in a rural state that is a meaningful factor. It doesn’t guarantee you are going to be a good guy simply because you grow up in an agricultural area, but I think the chances of it are better, because of the sense of well-being, the confidence in the decency of life that comes with working not only with the land but also with the kinds of people who live on the land. Life tends to be more authentic and less artificial than in urban areas. You have a sense of belonging to a community. You’re closer to nature and you see the changing seasons.”
And yes that B-24 pilot was no 'chicken hawk' but a decorated peace hawk.
McGovern is, as you might guess, an opponent of the Iraq War and the Bush administration, which he finds appallingly un-conservative.
I ask if Iraq is yet in Vietnam’s class as a foreign-policy disaster. “The casualty rate isn’t nearly as high,” he responds, “but the assumptions are just as misguided. Vietnam was a logical expression of the Cold War ideology that we operated under for half a century. If you accepted the view that we had to confront communism wherever it raised its head, Vietnam became perfectly logical.
Caution to the wind:
With the Oregon Republican and neo-Taftie Mark Hatfield, McGovern sponsored the 1970 McGovern-Hatfield “Amendment to End the War,” which called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam and “an end to all U.S. military operations in or over Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos no later than December 31, 1971.”
Impatient with the chronically cautious, with the kind of eunuchs who tell you behind closed doors that they’re against a war but don’t want to risk their position by taking a public stand, McGovern told his colleagues, “Every Senator in this Chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave. This Chamber reeks of blood.”
Kauffman concludes with this:
Oh, how the Democrats could use a bracing shot of McGovernism.
I couldn't agree more.  Rest in Peace George McGovern.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Support the Troops - Be critical of Petraeus

The right wingers are enraged that anyone would dare question General Petraeus - they call it "character assassination" and that it proves that critics don't support the troops.
Is it "character assassination" when you point out that General Petraeus wrote what certainly appears to be a very political editorial a few weeks before the election in 2004? Is it "character assassination" to point out that nearly all of the claims he made in that editorial turned out to be wrong? Is it "character assassination" to point out that nearly all of the claims that General Petraeus made about the situation in Iraq now are contradicted by other sources? I don't think so and I think those who question the general are the ones who are supporting the troops.

As I said below I think that the MoveOn ad was on the money although the closing paragraph was a mistake.
Today, before Congress and before the American people, General Petraeus is likely to become General Betray Us.
At the same time as a Vietnam era veteran I have to wonder how many of the troops on the ground would agree with the General Betray Us characterization. I certainly know how we felt about General Westmorland forty years ago.

Ohman cartoon from the Comics Page.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nonsense - Iraq - Vietnam

I don't often disagree with Juan Cole but they he is wrong on this one. Professor Cole thinks that the Democrats are being set up to take the fall for the inevitable chaos in Iraq.
If the Democrats cannot prevail in withdrawing before Bush goes out of office (and they cannot), and if they then rapidly draw down the troops on taking office in 2009, they face the real prospect of a "Gerald Ford meltdown" of the sort that occurred in 1975 when the North Vietnamese and their VC allies took over South Vietnam.

You will note that Ford only served a couple of years as president and lost his election bid to a relative unknown named Jimmy Carter. Although economic stagflation and the stain of Watergate contributed to his defeat, I think the spectacle of the debacle in Indochina harmed Ford a great deal. The United States lost a war, and lost out to its ideological rival in an entire subcontinent of Asia in the midst of the Cold War. That would cause at least some Republicans to stay home in 1976, a sure way for Democrats to win an election.


But in all likelihood, when the Democratic president pulls US troops out in summer of 2009, all hell is going to break loose. The consequences may include even higher petroleum prices than we have seen recently, which at some point could bring back stagflation or very high rates of inflation.

In other words, the Democratic president risks being Fordized when s/he withdraws from Iraq, by the aftermath. A one-term president associated with humiliation abroad and high inflation at home? Maybe I should say, Carterized. The Republican Party could come back strong in 2012 and then dominate politics for decades, if that happened.
Now don't get me wrong, I think the neocons and Republicans will try to hang this on the Dems but using the Vietnam example it won't stick. There is a very vocal minority who still think we could have won in Vietnam and blame the Democrats for the defeat. They are very vocal but they are very much the minority. Over at Balloon Juice Tim F. is talking about Norman Podhoretz but what he says applies here as well:
Honestly, it’s fine with me if luminaries like Norman Podhoretz want to base their grand analogy for leftish perfidy on Vietnam. Unless a wave of Vietnam nostalgia has swept the nation since the last time I checked, only the loopiest of hard-liners think we should have gone on throwing kids into that bloody guerilla war ad infinitum. Even Robert MacNamara finally recognized when it is time to stop digging.

Podhoretz almost certainly hangs out with the same group of ultra-hardliners whom he has known since the sixties, so he might just not realize that his diatribe accomplishes exactly the opposite of what it intends. Rather than condemning the left, for most normal people Podhoretz just underlines that once again he and a small band of crazies stand on the wrong side of a conflict that a growing majority of America recognize to be a bloody waste of men, materiel and prestige.
And TPM reader TB agrees:
Ask yourself more than 30 years on, who gets the blame for the Vietnam catastrophe? Richard Nixon, or Lyndon Johnson? Did Nixon or Ford get the blame for losing Vietnam after the pullout? Did Gerald Ford lose in 1976 because the Democrats blamed him for losing the war?

This is Mr. Bush's mess - he and his Party cannot escape it, or history.
Like Vietnam a majority of Americans have had it with this war and see it as a mistake - Mr Bush's mistake. They recognize that it will be unpleasant when we leave but also recognize we simply can't do anything about it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Mesopotamia News Wire

There is lots of news from an about George W. Bush's occupation of Iraq this morning.

First - is the surge working? While most admit there has been no progress on the political front Republicans and even many Democrats seem to think there has been some military success. Kevin Drum takes a look at the numbers for June/July, 06 and compares them with the numbers from June/July, 07 and finds that in most cases things are worse.

Jim Hoagland becomes the latest to rip apart Bush's comparison of Iraq to Vietnam in Bush's Vietnam Blunder. Hoagland agrees that while it may fire up the swift boat base it will hurt the Bush cause overall. Bush is reminding people of all the wrong things.

Josh Marshall expands on Hoagland's commentary and points out that the US was bigger than Vietnam and that it is bigger than Iraq. The US survived the defeat in Vietnam and will survive a withdrawal from Iraq. The same can't be said for the legacy of George W. Bush.
And here I think we get back to the root of the matter: We are bigger than Iraq.

By that I do not mean we, as America, are bigger or better than Iraq as a country. I mean that that sum of our national existence is not bound up in what happens there. The country will go on. Whatever happens, we'll recover from it. And whatever might happen, there are things that matter much more to this country's future -- like whether we have a functioning military any more, whether our economy is wrecked, whether this country tears itself apart over this catastrophe. But we'll go on and look back at this and judge what happened.

Not so for the president. For him, this is it. He's not bigger than this. His entire legacy as president is bound up in Iraq. Which is another way of saying that his legacy is pretty clearly an irrecoverable shambles. That is why, as the folly of the enterprise becomes more clear, he must continually puff it up into more and more melodramatic and world-historical dimensions. A century long ideological struggle and the like. For the president a one in a thousand shot at some better outcome is well worth it, no matter what the cost. Because at least that's a one in a thousand shot at not ending his presidency with the crushing verdict history now has in store. It's also worth just letting things keep on going as they are forever because, like Micawber, something better might turn up. Going double or nothing by expanding the war into Iran might be worth it too for the same reason. For him, how can it get worse?

And when you boil all this down what it comes down to is that the president now has very different interests than the country he purports to lead
Atrios takes it a step further - beyond George W. Bush.
But it isn't just the president. It's also all of the Very Serious People who have no trouble doubling down on their bets again and again. They're playing with other peoples' money and other peoples' lives, and why not wait another Friedman or two to see if that lottery ticket hits.

It's been going on for years now, and the cowards who rule us won't make it stop.
And about those Generals
Top general to urge Iraq troop cut
WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is expected to advise President Bush to reduce the U.S. force in Iraq next year by almost half, potentially creating a rift with top White House officials and other military commanders over the course of the war.

Administration and military officials say Marine Gen. Peter Pace is likely to convey concerns by the Joint Chiefs that keeping well in excess of 100,000 troops in Iraq through 2008 will severely strain the military. This assessment could collide with one being prepared by the U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, calling for the U.S. to maintain higher troop levels for 2008 and beyond.
Pace's recommendations reflect the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who initially expressed private skepticism about the strategy ordered by Bush and directed by Petraeus, before publicly backing it.
I guess we know now why Pace is on his way out the door. The man to watch here is Defense Secretary Robert Gates. He is not a Bush/Cheney sycophant and realizes that Bush misadventure in Iraq is destroying the military.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

When the dominoes fell the other way

I discussed Bush's rewrite of history below but Michael Hirsh has a must read article in Newsweek,
Why America's Pullout From Vietnam Worked
The truth behind Bush's mangling of Cold War history.
I'll give you the first paragraph but be sure and go read the entire article.
The Soviet Union was in its final days of existence when I visited Vietnam in late December of 1991. The cold war was about to end forever with the collapse of one of the two adversaries that had kept it going for 40-odd years. A lot had changed in Vietnam, too, I discovered during my trip. The coziness between Moscow and Hanoi, once comrades within the Soviet bloc, had curdled into mutual hatred. Throughout the country, but especially in the North, the Vietnamese had come to despise the large resident Russian population for its cheap spending habits and arrogance. Visiting Americans, by contrast, were welcomed with smiles (“Russians with dollars,” we were called.) On the day I visited the old U.S. Embassy in Saigon—the where some of those iconic photos symbolizing American defeat were taken—I discovered government workmen removing a plaque that once commemorated the North’s victory over the “U.S. imperialists.” In the waning days of that epochal year, 1991, the propaganda against American involvement in Southeast Asia was suddenly no longer politically correct. Hanoi’s new message: Yankee Come Back (and bring your investment dollars). Today Vietnam remains nominally communist, but Hanoi knows it is an ideological relic surrounded by Asian capitalist tigers, all of them U.S. allies or dependents (one reason Vietnam was so eager to have Bush visit last November: it wants to be part of that club). The cold war dominoes did fall—but the opposite way.

Iraq is like Vietnam if you re-write history

The Bush administration has spent the last few years arguing that the occupation of Iraq was nothing like the failed war in Vietnam. That all changed yesterday when George W. Bush did just that. Of course it was necessary to re-write history to do it.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 — The American withdrawal from Vietnam is widely remembered as an ignominious end to a misguided war — but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies.

Now, in urging Americans to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush is challenging that historical memory.

In reminding Americans that the pullout in 1975 was followed by years of bloody upheaval in Southeast Asia, Mr. Bush argued in a speech on Wednesday that Vietnam’s lessons provide a reason for persevering in Iraq, rather than for leaving any time soon. Mr. Bush in essence accused his war critics of amnesia over the exodus of Vietnamese “boat people” refugees and the mass killings in Cambodia that upended the lives of millions of people.

President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians. But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw.

“It is undoubtedly true that America’s failure in Vietnam led to catastrophic consequences in the region, especially in Cambodia,” said David C. Hendrickson, a specialist on the history of American foreign policy at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

“But there are a couple of further points that need weighing,” he added. “One is that the Khmer Rouge would never have come to power in the absence of the war in Vietnam — this dark force arose out of the circumstances of the war, was in a deep sense created by the war. The same thing has happened in the Middle East today. Foreign occupation of Iraq has created far more terrorists than it has deterred.”

The record of death and dislocation after the American withdrawal from Vietnam ranks high among the tragedies of the last century, with an estimated 1.7 million Cambodians, about one-fifth of the population, dying under the rule of Pol Pot, and an estimated 1.5 million Vietnamese and other Indochinese becoming refugees. Estimates of the number of Vietnamese who were sent to prison camps after the war have ranged widely, from 50,000 to more than 400,000, and some accounts have said that tens of thousands perished, a figure that Mr. Bush cited in his speech, to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Mr. Bush did not offer a judgment on what, if anything, might have brought victory in Vietnam or whether the war itself was a mistake. Instead, he sought to underscore the dangers of a hasty withdrawal from Iraq.
Bush also continued to use the WWII analogy that also requires a new view of history.
Mr. Bush also sought to inspire renewed support for his Iraq strategy by recalling the years of national sacrifice during World War II, and the commitment required to rebuild two of history’s most aggressive and lawless adversaries, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, into reliable and responsible allies.

But historians note that Germany and Japan were homogenous nation-states with clear national identities and no internal feuding among factions or sects, in stark contrast to Iraq today.

The comparison of Iraq to Germany and Japan “is fanciful,” said Steven Simon, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. He noted that the American and allied militaries had eliminated the governments of Japan and Germany, and any lingering opposition, and assembled occupation forces that were, proportionally, more than three times as large as the current American presence of more than 160,000 troops in Iraq.

“That’s the kind of troop level you need to control the situation,” Mr. Simon said. “The occupation of Germany and Japan lasted for years — and not a single American solider was killed by insurgents.”

Senior American military officers speaking privately also say that the essential elements that brought victory in World War II — a total commitment by the American people and the government, and a staggering economic commitment to rebuild defeated adversaries — do not exist for the Iraq war. The wars in Korea and Vietnam also involved considerable national sacrifice, including tax increases and conscription.
Bush calling up memories of Vietnam is a sign of desperation. It shows that the administration fears they may even lose the "swift boaters". It certainly won't help with the majority of the population.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Is it a quagmire yet?

After years of saying the occupation of Iraq was nothing like Vietnam, suddenly it is.
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.

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.' "
Biden gets it right.
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."

"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.
Now Bush doesn't remember Vietnam - he was drunk and drugged for the entire debacle, but historian Robert Dallek sets him straight:
"It just boggles my mind, the distortions I feel are perpetrated here by the president," he said in a telephone interview.

"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."
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.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Dangerous Myth

The dangerous myth I speak of is the one that claims that the Democrats suffered because they cut off funding for the Vietnam war. It is a myth that has been spread by militarists and neocons including Democrats of the DLC. It's one that many Democratic politicians subscribe to which is what makes it so dangerous. Much to my amazement Peter Beinart tries to drive a stake through the heart of this dangerous myth in Why the Dems Should Go for It.
Since the Democrats won control of Congress last fall, they've been besieged with warnings against acting too aggressively on Iraq. Such "moves carry clear risks for a party that suffered politically for pushing to end an unpopular war in Vietnam," suggested the Washington Post in January. And now that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are pushing to bring the troops home next year, the admonitions will probably grow. Just before the Senate narrowly voted down a Democratic resolution calling for withdrawal in 2008, a G.O.P. staff member crowed that "the public won't go for it." Haven't the Democrats learned anything from Vietnam?

Actually, they have. Despite today's conventional wisdom, Democrats didn't suffer in the 1970s for opposing Vietnam. And they're even less likely to pay a political price for trying to end the war in Iraq.
But the real danger is that the Democrats will believe the "conventional wisdom".
The real danger for Democrats in the Iraq debate isn't that they'll oppose the war too aggressively; it's that they won't oppose it aggressively enough.
The Democrats did indeed suffer after Vietnam but ending the war had little if nothing to do with it. There were several reasons. As a 61 year old "hippie" I look back on the me that was in the early 70's and it scares me. The radical social change which was very visible scared people - the drugs - the cloths - the open sex - the rejection of traditional religion. Now this was associated with the anti-war movement and the Democrats and hurt the party. Another big reasons was the civil rights movement; the Democrats lost a big chunk of their traditional base in the south. You can't outlaw bigotry and fear and Lee Attwater and the Republicans were able to take full advantage of it. And then related to some extent to the above was Roe V Wade. Attwater and the Republicans were able to redirect the energy of the Southern Conservative Christians from open bigotry to the more political correct "pro-life" movement.

Peter Beinart is correct, the real danger for the Democrats is not to oppose the war in Iraq with enough vigor.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The best and the worse

A couple of right leaning commenters in the post below took exception with the "slandering" of war heroes associated with the Swift Boaters.
I disagree with you about the Swift Boats, Ron. There is no doubt that the American soldier has often been slighted by the far left, not just by Kerry and his "Genghis Kahn" nonsense in the 70s, but by Kerry, and others, recently. No doubt there are political motivations behind them, but these guys are first group of their kind to really stand up and take issue, with the "spit on the baby-killer" mentality that many on the far-left, who are dusting off their own Vietnam-era nonsense, still blab on about.

Bud Day is a former POW and is the most decorated American serviceman alive. I urge you to look more deeply at who Bud Day is and what he's been doing over the years, including his work with Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve and his legal work as a veterans advocate wrt the VA.

Day is no partisan bomb thrower. If Kerry offends men like Day, then that's Kerry's doing.
As I said in my response I have no doubt that Bud Day is a hero but I also have no doubt that what John Kerry said upon returning is the truth. War does indeed bring out the best in some and create heroes, it also brings out the worse. Over at Rolling Stone Matt Taibbi has an example of the latter.
"The fellas from 121 started showing up the other day. It's starting to sink in...I'll have to go home, the opportunities to kill these fuckers is rapidly coming to an end. Like a hobby I'll never get to practice again. It's not a great war, but it's the only one we've got. God, I do love killing these bastards...Morale is high, the Marines can smell the barn. It's hard to keep them focused. I still have 20 days of kill these motherfuckers, so I don't wanna take even one day off. "
-- Letter home from an unnamed Marine F/A -18 pilot in Iraq
Is this an aberration? The answer to that is yes. Is this immoral and dangerously insane? One again yes. Like Vietnam we the Iraq war has created many heroes. It has also created many atrocities by Americans. That's war - it can bring out the best in some and the very worse in others. Yes, atrocities happen and should a war hero who points this out be slandered?

As for the old "spit on the baby-killer" meme: I came home from three years in the army in 1971 to one of the most antiwar cities in the country. No one ever spit on me or taunted me and no one ever spit on or taunted any of the people who returned with me. The blame belonged to the politicians who continued to send Americans into a war to kill and be killed even when they knew it could not be won. Yes Johnson and McNamara knew the war couldn't be won in 1966 and they continued to send Americans into the meat grinder.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dangerous BS

The Democrats and progressive have enough trouble with Republicans rewriting history to put them in a bad light so we don't need Lawrence Haas doing it for them. This is dangerous nonsense:
Lawrence Haas: Democrats should beware of the post-Vietnam syndrome
WASHINGTON - Reading the polls, congressional Democrats are racing to distance themselves from the war in Iraq, competing over who has got the best proposal for a speedy exit of U.S. troops.

History suggests, however, they should look down the road. They may be planting the seeds for a trip to the political wilderness for their party in the near future, akin to what happened after Vietnam.

The parallels are striking. In 1975, a Democratic Congress cut off funds for the U.S. effort in Vietnam. The public, disillusioned over Vietnam and Watergate, elected Jimmy Carter, who promised honesty and applauded the end of “our irrational fear of Communism.”

As America turned inward in the late 1970s, enemies sensed our vulnerability and dangers mounted. The fear of communism was not so irrational after all. In Ethiopia, Angola, Rhodesia and elsewhere, the Soviet Union or Cuba worked to stoke Third World revolution. The Soviets more openly laid bare their expansionist agenda in late 1979 by invading Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Revolution in Iran of 1979 toppled a staunch U.S. ally. The student seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, leading to a 444-day hostage crisis, painted a picture of American impotence.
If there is one overriding reason the Democrats lost power in the 80's it's not anything Hass talks about above, it's Roe VS Wade or to be exact the ability of the Republicans harness the holy energy of the collective insanity of the religious rights's abhorrence of abortion. They created an army of one issue voters who voted Republican because the Republican candidates promised to over turn Roe VS Wade.

The Republicans also successfully rewrote history to make Ronald Reagan the winner of the cold war. This too is BS but Hass reinforces this myth.
Reagan’s election initiated a long period of Democratic struggle to compete for the White House. While Reagan looked ahead and projected strength, Democrats looked back, focused on the failure of Vietnam, and expressed hesitancy about America’s role in the world. Not surprisingly, voters came to question the Democrats’ ability to protect the nation.
If the Reagan administration did anything to speed the demise of the Soviet Union it was supporting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. You remember them, they are now called al-Qaeda, you know the guys that attacked us on 911. In reality the Pope had more to do with the Soviets loss of Eastern Europe than Reagan did.

So Hass is telling the Democrats that if they don't support George W. Bush and is Iraq debacle they will once again find themselves out of power. Mr Hass is dead wrong - continued support of the Iraq war will turn it into the United State's equivalent of the Soviet's misadventure in Afghanistan, the misadventure that finally brought them down.

No the Democrats should beware of of guys like Lawrence Hass.

If Al Gore has any presidential aspirations he must distance himself from this dangerous nonsense at once.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Running from the myth

Yesterday I referred you to a commentary by historian Rick Perlstein, Why Democrats can stop the war, where he explained that it's not only possible for the Democrats to stop war monger George but necessary for them to do so. Well over at The New Republic he has another great article,
Legend of the Fall
Are congressional liberals to blame for Vietnam?
He debunks the myth that it was congressional liberals that lost the war in Vietnam and wonders why the Democrats are still running from that myth.
[W]hen Senator Hillary Clinton stepped up to the microphones Wednesday to introduce her new anti-surge bill, the language was so defensive you'd think she was proposing to outlaw Christmas--not to stop one of the most unpopular ideas a president has ever dared to propose. She framed her bill not as an effort to keep President Bush from adding more troops to Iraq (though a Newsweek poll suggests that only 23 percent of Americans support adding troops) but as a bill to add troops to Afghanistan. Most importantly, she made sure to emphasize, "I do not support cutting funding for American troops." (She repeated that on the NewsHour the next evening: "Instead of cutting funding for American troops, which I do not support because still, to this day, we do not have all of the equipment, the armored Humvees, and the rest that our troops need... .")

If Americans didn't think so irrationally about war and the politics of ending it, more people might have thought to ask: Who had suggested she had? Who was she defending herself against? Why would the most cautious politician in the Senate commit anything so morally enormous as "cutting funding for American troops" as they faced a dangerous enemy on the battlefield?
Hillary was indeed running from the myth that the Democrats were responsible for losing the unwinnable war in Vietnam. It is a myth spread by those in denial like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and various neocon organizations. Of course it is a myth because you can't win a war when you are fighting the entire population of a country. That was the case in Vietnam and has at least become the case in Iraq. Perlstein explains what actually happened at the end of the Vietnam war.
The first time the Senate actually voted to suspend funding for American military activities in Vietnam was in the summer of 1973, two months after the last American combat brigades left, by the terms of a peace treaty Nixon negotiated. That amendment passed by a veto-proof majority--encompassing Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals--of 64 to 26.
That's right, the funding was cut off after the last American had left Vietnam. Go read the entire article for the complete time line and the lies that continue. So Hillary listens to the consultants and refuses to state the obvious. Perhaps the new engineer of the "straight talk express", Jim Webb, will continue to call it as he sees it.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Vietnam Redux

While many of us who opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the beginning were thinking of the debacle in Vietnam Tom Engelhardt reminds us that the Bush administration and the war hawk neocons had Vietnam in mind as well in
Good Evening, Vietnam
Although Vietnam flooded instantly back into American consciousness as the invasion of Iraq was launched in March 2003 – along with its ancient vocabulary from "hearts and minds" to "quagmire" (or the deeply referential "Q-word") – for the Bush administration the rhetorical reference point was World War II and its aftermath. From Churchillian phraseology to that famed "axis of evil," modeled on the Axis powers of that global war, to endless invocations of the successful occupations of Germany and Japan, World War II was its analogous war of choice.

Yet from the beginning, no American critic had the Vietnam War era more firmly lodged in the brain than the top officials of the Bush administration. It was as if their invasion was always aimed, as in a suicide mission, directly at America's well-guarded Green Zone of Vietnam memories. After all, much war planning was based on what they considered the "lessons" of defeat in Vietnam.

From the dead-of-night way they brought the dead and wounded back from Iraq to the Pentagon's decision to embed the dreaded media, long blamed for defeat in Vietnam, in military units, Iraq was to be the anti-Vietnam battlefield. If we had, as the right believed, never lost an actual battle in Vietnam, but lost every one on the home front, then the major campaigns of the Iraq War would first be launched and managed on that home front (and only secondarily in Iraq).

But even as the White House and Pentagon were attempting to erase all Vietnam-like thoughts from the reality they hoped to mold both in the Middle East and in the US, even as they were avoiding the "Q-word" or the infamous phrase "light at the end of the tunnel" (for which, in the years to come, they would substitute an endless string of Iraqi "milestones," "landmarks," "tipping points," and "corners" turned), they were themselves hopelessly haunted by Vietnam.
That's right they spent more time and effort fighting the was at home than they did fighting it in Iraq. Make sure the majority of Americans don't have to sacrifice - make sure a majority of Americans don't see the war. And to make all of this possible make sure the media cooperate and in fact become cheerleaders rather than critics. But they learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam and eventually reality overtook the spin. And who should appear on the scene but the ghost of failed invasions past, none other than Henry Kissinger.
And that's the least of the matter. As 2006 ends, Iraq has become Washington's Vietnam in every sense of the word. On the one hand, the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report, representing the world of the elder George Bush, has opted for a policy which combines the Vietnamization program ("Iraqification") of the Nixon years (reduce American ground troops, bulk up American advisors to local forces, increase American air power, and at the very least create a "decent interval" between the withdrawal of American combat forces and the moment when defeat becomes evident). In the meantime, the President's upcoming revamped approach looks to be a combination of a John F. Kennedy-era massive advisor build-up and a classic Lyndon-Johnson years "surge" of troops. In the Vietnam era, another word was used for "surge" – "escalation." And, as it happens, the newly proposed surge into Baghdad and al-Anbar Province of perhaps 20,000 extra American soldiers (along with a tripling of American advisors/trainers) is exactly the kind of "incremental" escalation that American military men, looking back on the Vietnam disaster, swore would never happen again

Just to ensure that this is indeed Vietnam we're now enmeshed in, both sides in the present recommendation debate have been consulting a key architect of the final losing years of the Vietnam era – Henry Kissinger.
Yes, the war in Iraq has moved beyond the Kennedy/Johnson stage and is now officially in the Nixon stage. Those of us who are old enough remember that most of the casualties occurred during the Nixon stage of the Vietnam war.
Even more to the Vietnam point is the evidence of collective establishment cowardice in present Iraq planning – the willingness simply to put off the loss of a war (and of a dream of global domination) into someone else's future. In the Vietnam years, President Nixon (advised by Kissinger) could undoubtedly have gotten us out of Vietnam, but squandered his "capital" instead on his historic China opening, trying in the process – shades of Iran today – to get a neighboring regional power to do for his war what he was incapable of doing for himself.

This kind of ongoing madness Рpart of which, these days, passes for "realism" just as Kissinger's particular brand of Vietnam-era madness passed for "realpolitik" Рshould be material for The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. Unfortunately, it will also be the basis for the deaths of tens or even hundreds of thousands more Iraqis as well as hundreds or thousands more Americans in the years to come. And undoubtedly, when we're done, the Iraqis will be forgotten and Рas in the Vietnam era Рthis will be called an "American tragedy," to be followed by an "Iraq Syndrome," and so on into the M̦bius strip of history, farce, and catastrophe.