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Iraq as Vietnam? Forget it.

Sorry to cut and paste, but I’m a lousy linker and I thought this piece was worth it.


Beating a Dead Parrot
Why Iraq and Vietnam have nothing whatsoever in common.
By Christopher Hitchens
Monday, Jan. 31, 2005

There it was again, across half a page of the New York Times last Saturday, just as Iraqis and Kurds were nerving themselves to vote. "Flashback to the 60's: A Sinking Sensation of Parallels Between Iraq and Vietnam." The basis for the story, which featured a number of experts as lugubrious as they were imprecise, was the suggestion that South Vietnam had held an election in September 1967, and that this propaganda event had not staved off ultimate disaster.

I can't quite tell why this article was not printed on the day before the Afghan or Palestinian elections, or at any of the times when Iranian voters overwhelmingly chose reform candidates but were thwarted by the entrenched reserve strength of the theocracy. But perhaps now is the moment to state the critical reasons why there is no reasonable parallel of any sort between Iraq and Vietnam.

To begin with, Vietnam had been undergoing a protracted struggle for independence since before World War II and had sustained this struggle militarily and politically against the French empire, the Japanese empire, and then after 1945 the French empire again. By 1954, at the epic battle of Dien Bien Phu, the forces of Ho Chi Minh and Gen. Giap had effectively decided matters on the battlefield, and President Eisenhower himself had conceded that Ho would have won any possible all-Vietnamese election. The distortions of the Cold War led the United States to take over where French colonialism had left off, to assist in partitioning the country, and to undertake a war that had already been lost.

Whatever the monstrosities of Asian communism may have been, Ho Chi Minh based his declaration of Vietnamese independence on a direct emulation of the words of Thomas Jefferson and was able to attract many non-Marxist nationalists to his camp. He had, moreover, been an ally of the West in the war against Japan.

Nothing under this heading can be said of the Iraqi Baathists or jihadists, who are descended from those who angrily took the other side in the war against the Axis, and who opposed elections on principle. If today's Iraqi "insurgents" have any analogue at all in Southeast Asia it would be the Khmer Rouge.

Vietnam as a state had not invaded any neighbor (even if it did infringe the neutrality of Cambodia) and did not do so until after the withdrawal of the United States when, with at least some claim to self-defense, it overthrew the Khmer Rouge regime. Contrast this, even briefly, to the record of Saddam Hussein in relation to Iran and Kuwait.

Vietnam had not languished under international sanctions for its brazen contempt for international law, nor for its building or acquisition, let alone its use of, weapons of mass destruction.

Vietnam had never attempted, in whole or in part, to commit genocide, as was the case with the documented "Anfal" campaign waged by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds.

In Vietnam the deep-rooted Communist Party was against the partition of the country and against the American intervention. It called for a boycott of any election that was not an all-Vietnam affair. In Iraq, the deep-rooted Communist Party is in favor of the regime change and has been an enthusiastic participant in the elections as well as an opponent of any attempt to divide the country on ethnic or confessional lines. (Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is not even an Iraqi, hates the Kurds and considers the religion of most Iraqis to be a detestable heresy: not a mistake that even the most inexperienced Viet Cong commander would have been likely to make.)

No car bomb or hijacking or suicide-bombing or comparable atrocity was ever committed by the Vietnamese, on American or any other foreign soil. Nor has any wanted international gangster or murderer ever been sheltered in Vietnam.

American generals and policymakers could never agree as to whether the guerrillas in Vietnam were self-supporting or were sustained from the outside (namely the northern half of their own country). However one may now view that debate, it was certainly true that Hanoi, and the southern rebels, were regularly resupplied not by minor regional potentates but by serious superpowers such as the Warsaw Pact and China, and were able to challenge American forces in battlefield order. The Iraqi "insurgents" are based among a minority of a minority, and are localized geographically, and have no steady source of external supply. Here the better comparison would be with the dogmatic Communists in Malaya in the 1940s, organized principally among the Chinese minority and eventually defeated even by an exhausted postwar British empire. But even the die-hard Malayan Stalinists had a concept of "people's war" and a brave record in fighting Japanese imperialism. The Iraqi "insurgents" are dismal riff-raff by comparison.

Where it is not augmented by depraved Bin Ladenist imports, the leadership and structure of the Iraqi "insurgency" is formed from the elements of an already fallen regime, extensively discredited and detested in its own country and universally condemned. This could not be said of Ho Chin Minh or of the leaders and cadres of the National Liberation Front.

The option of accepting a unified and Communist Vietnam, which would have evolved toward some form of market liberalism even faster than China has since done, always existed. It was not until President Kennedy decided to make a stand there, in revenge for the reverses he had suffered in Cuba and Berlin, that quagmire became inevitable. The option of leaving Iraq to whatever successor regime might arise or be imposed does not look half so appetizing. One cannot quite see a round-table negotiation in Paris with Bin Laden or Zarqawi or Moqtada Sadr, nor a gradually negotiated hand-over to such people after a decent interval.

In Vietnam, the most appalling excesses were committed by U.S. forces. Not all of these can be blamed on the conduct of bored, resentful, frightened conscripts. The worst atrocities—free-fire zones, carpet-bombing, forced relocation, and chemical defoliation—were committed as a direct consequence of orders from above. In Iraq, the crimes of mass killing, aerial bombardment, ethnic deportation, and scorched earth had already been committed by the ruling Baath Party, everywhere from northern Kurdistan to the drained and burned-out wetlands of the southern marshes. Coalition forces in Iraq have done what they can to repair some of this state-sponsored vandalism.

In Vietnam, the United States relied too much on a pre-existing military caste that often changed the local administration by means of a few tanks around the presidential palace. In the instance of Iraq, the provisional government was criticized, perhaps more than for any other decision, for disbanding the armed forces of the ancien regime, and for declining to use a proxy army as the United States had previously done in Indonesia, Chile, El Salvador, and Greece. Unlike the South Vietnamese, the Iraqi forces are being recruited from scratch.

In Vietnam, the policy of the United States was—especially during the Kennedy years—a sectarian one that favored the Roman Catholic minority. In Iraq, it is obvious even to the coldest eye that the administration is if anything too anxious to compose religious differences without any reference to confessional bias.

I suppose it's obvious that I was not a supporter of the Vietnam War. Indeed, the principles of the antiwar movement of that epoch still mean a good deal to me. That's why I retch every time I hear these principles recycled, by narrow minds or in a shallow manner, in order to pass off third-rate excuses for Baathism or jihadism. But one must also be capable of being offended objectively. The Vietnam/Iraq babble is, from any point of view, a busted flush. It's no good. It's a stiff. It's passed on. It has ceased to be. It's joined the choir invisible. It's turned up its toes. It's gone. It's an ex-analogy.
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Old 01-31-2005, 05:18 PM
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Its strange that CH is willing to look at the truth of vietnam as an immoral war but then spews a bunch of malarky about iraq to claim they are not the same at all mailny because their religious demographics are different.

That stuff is so weak he must have been drunk when he wrote this drivel.
Old 01-31-2005, 06:43 PM
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Hitchens cites 11 differences, moral, legal and political. One relates to religion. And how is even this incorrect? What is weak here? What is the "malarky"?
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Old 01-31-2005, 07:48 PM
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Well the Vietnam vet I talked to this morning (most mornings) said the guys coming back from Iraq will be going through the same things he went through - a tough time dealing with the after affects of war (upon the mind). The sorrow he feels is shared by many others, differences or similarities be as they may.
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Old 02-01-2005, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by rrpjr
Hitchens cites 11 differences, moral, legal and political. One relates to religion. And how is even this incorrect? What is weak here? What is the "malarky"?
On the 11 differences, so what?? I could probably come up w/ 22 more differences, and they are all just as irrelevent to any Iraq/Viet Nam comparisons that I have seen. Please cite the treatise or article that you and Hitchens are responding to, the one that makes the parallels that he "debunks" here.

Personally, I find no need to compare our involvement in Iraq w/ any previous war, frankly it has no precedent. No U.S. leader and administration has ever mislead congress and the public into invading a sovereign country w/ claims that the U.S. was in imminent danger, (or un-imminent danger), from attack by said country. Viet Nam was a noble endeavor in comparison, (at least in the beginning), but that's not saying much.

The current situation in Iraq is a massive, man-made disaster on its own, no comparisons to the past are necessary or appropriate, IMO. The only real analogy to Viet Nam is that most intelligent people learned something from our bungled mission in VN, and it wasn't the Chuck Norris version of, "the politicians would not let us win......"

Quite the contrary, we had politicians who were willing to secretly and illegally invade and bomb a 3rd country w/ massive civilian casualties in order to make themselves look like winners to the American voters, and Hitchens has written books about them, including "The Trial of Henry Kissinger". I assume that you are down w/ him on that, right, rrpjr?

I sat in a theatre 2 blocks from my home listening to Hitchens make his case for invading Iraq on the eave of the war in 2003, it mostly had to do w/ an obsession w/ the treatment of Kurds in the past by Hussein. It was heartfelt and sincere, and therefore difficult to argue against, but the panellists on the other side still made due since Bush had not made a good case for kicking the inspectors out and starting an unpredictable and bloody war where relative peace was occuring at that time.

I do not wonder whether Hitchens is drunk when he writes, it is documented fact. Undisputed by him, I'm pretty sure. He is passionate and formidable, and when he is backing your horse he yells as well as anyone in the stands. This essay is absolutely desperate, however. He is shadowboxing w/ a non-existent strawman opponent in an empty room. There is absolutely no neccesity of comparing Iraq to anything else, it stands as a humanitarian and political disaster on its own.

And yes, I am glad to see anyone vote, including Iraqis, but delivering "democracy" at the tip of a gun or a cruise missile is not my prefered method. Invading, reducing their country to rubble and killing tens of thousands of them is not how to sell them on our wonderful way of life. And no, I do not "hate America", just the current leadership, or more specifically their policies and how they are implementing them.
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:08 AM
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Geezus boyz if your knowledge of history were an indication of your intelligence you'd all be considered slobbering idiots....

I have always maintained Vietnam and Iraq are completely different...

Vietnam was a struggle to contain Communism in SE Asia....and as such the N Viets were BACKED by the USSR and to a lesser extent China...There was NOWAY the the US could push the situation without the possibility of Soviet intervention., and a resulting NUCLEAR CONFRONTATION... This paradgm is what coloured US Foreign Relations throughout the Cold War period.
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:33 AM
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Iraq has NO SUCH benafactor as the USSR...therfore US optiuons are much broader...Sadam was a Bad Man, who was a disstabilizing agent in the region which is strategically the most important to the USA. With the threat of Al Queda, the cost of tolerating Sadam had grown. Also I doubt if anyone disagrees that Sadam woulda if he coulda on the question of WMD's. He also had a history of being ruthless enough to use those weapons if he had them.

Also what most of U boyz havn't interanlized is the fact that the ME is such a FRAGMENTED region politically and religiously. The arabs/Sunnis are still a Tribal society... There is NO Monlitic bogey man operating under the flag of Pan Islam...
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:42 AM
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:48 AM
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I still don't believe there were ANY TIES between Sadam and AL Queda....there probably were meetings between Iraqie Intellignece and AL Queda operatives....but what does that mean...thats like saying the FBI and CIA cooperate with each other .

There is an outside chance Sadam sent money to AL Queda...thorugh the food for oil program but that is still ONLY speculation at the very best...

There was NO LOVE LOST between Bin Laden's Al Queda which thought Sadam was a Secularist Thug...the very anthesis of what Bin Laden stands for and Sadam...
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:49 AM
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To put the relationship between Al Queda and Sadams Iraq in an American perspective it would be...

Pat Robertson/Jerry Fallwell to Teddy Kennedy
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Old 02-01-2005, 10:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally posted by speeder
Personally, I find no need to compare our involvement in Iraq w/ any previous war, frankly it has no precedent. No U.S. leader and administration has ever mislead congress and the public into invading a sovereign country w/ claims that the U.S. was in imminent danger, (or un-imminent danger), from attack by said country. Viet Nam was a noble endeavor in comparison, (at least in the beginning), but that's not saying much.
Remember the Maine? History does repeat, right?

It was later concluded that the ships boiler blew up by itself (old ship) - it was not Spanish doing, America had it's splendid little war (and expansion) none the less.

http://www.smplanet.com/imperialism/remember.html
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A minor revolt in Cuba against the Spanish colonial government provided a colorful topic. For months now the papers had been painting in lurid detail the horrors of Cuban life under oppressive Spanish rule. The Spanish had confined many Cubans to concentration camps. The press called them "death camps." Wild stories with screaming headlines -- Spanish Cannibalism, Inhuman Torture, Amazon Warriors Fight For Rebels -- flooded the newsstands. Newspapers sent hundreds of reporters, artists, and photographers south to recount Spanish atrocities. The correspondents, including such notables as author Stephen Crane and artist Frederick Remington, found little to report on when they arrived.
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In the wake of the Maine incident, Congress hurriedly appropriated $50 million to prepare the nation for war. "Big navy" supporters, including the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, appropriated the lion's share of the money. Next, President McKinley insisted that Spain agree to a cease-fire with the Cuban rebels and negotiate a permanent settlement with them. After a slight delay, Spain agreed to the American demands. Two days later, McKinley asked Congress for authority to use military force to end the Cuban conflict. Essentially, this was a declaration of war.
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Rough Riders Despite Dewey's early victory, the war in the Caribbean was getting off to a slow start. More than 250,000 soldiers rushed enthusiastically into the service. The army's quartermaster corps, however, had only fifty-seven men to supply the army with equipment. Soldiers gathered in Florida and waited impatiently for supplies and transportation. Some individuals organized and outfitted their own regiments. One such individual, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, resigned his post and formed a volunteer regiment of cavalry. Teddy Roosevelt did not intend to miss his chance at glory.
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In the months following the Spanish-American War, the winds of expansionism blew strongly across the United States. There was a lot of talk about "Manifest Destiny," and many people suggested that America should assume its role as a world power. In Congress, legislators called for the annexation of all Spanish territories. Some newspapers even suggested the annexation of Spain itself. Expansionists such as Roosevelt, former President Harrison, and Captain Mahan argued for creating an American empire. Others, including Grover Cleveland, Andrew Carnegie, and Mark Twain, opposed these ideas.
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Old 02-01-2005, 12:26 PM
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KAchii.....wipe the slobber off your mouth.....

Mr Hearst and his Yellow JOurnalist rags (The MEDIA) was the prime stimulus for arousing public opinion for the Spanish war.....Not Congress nor the President (McKinely).
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Old 02-01-2005, 12:56 PM
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The simularity was and is that they were both wars of choich, like 1812 and the Mexican war of 1845....
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Old 02-01-2005, 12:59 PM
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Originally posted by tabs
The simularity was and is that they were both wars of choich, like 1812 and the Mexican war of 1845....
Don't talk with your mouth full.

I think Speeder's point is well intended, something like; "we are supposed to be the good guys - the good guys don't pick the fight". Our history however it might be "glossed over" is not always beautiful, but it beats the heck out of a lot of other nations.
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:08 PM
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Quote:
Originally posted by kach22i
- the good guys don't pick the fight".
well then we ain't the GOOD guys then, we are what we are...and I totally agree in spite of our flaws we are the best yet devised....

Back in the day when I was learnin my History in school...America was presented as the White Knight in shining armour that could do no wrong....

That didn't seem so realistic so my generation took to exposing the under belly of American history...and now that has grown into an industry unto itself....the media and Liberal thinking...what they fail to mention is that they would rather be living here than anyplace else...for in reality this is the only country where they could get away with what in other countries would be treason....if anybody really doubts that just go ask Fidel what he does with dissentors....
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:19 PM
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Or Liberals have gotten so wound up pointing at whats wrong with America they have FOTGOTTEN to mention the GOOD...
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:22 PM
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Or Liberals have gotten so wound up pointing at whats wrong with America they have FOTGOTTEN to mention the GOOD...
Enough of the "L" word, it's not going to make you as many friends as you think.

Liberals have fought and died for America, it's those liberal who wanted liberty and the conservatives who wanted to stay under King George, or have you forgotten?

The part that bugs me is the current trend the of rightwing to say only they love America, only they fight for America. Without getting into old wounds of "deferments" and "National Guard duty gone AWOL, lets be fair and say nobody owns "love" of America - it's all of ours together.
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:32 PM
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I've grown up in the "every thing America does is wrong" period. The problem I see is that absolute perfection is the standard by which our media judges our country. The foreign press had seized upon this.
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:33 PM
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Kachi do you think I am being harsh on Liberals...I'm not, I'm just stating the facts... They have become so wound up bashing America they have FORGOTTEN to mention the good.

Conversely there are conservatives who can see no wrong in America...

Some place in between lies the truth...thats why I always look and see how fair and balanced a presenters arguement is...if it's only one sided I proclaim it to be delusional..."Ahhh..haaa XXXX is delusional in their thinking!!!!" Usuallly said at a pitch and tone loud enough to scare the dogs...who are placidily sleeping near by as I write this detritus.
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Old 02-01-2005, 01:49 PM
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Quote:
Please cite the treatise or article that you and Hitchens are responding to, the one that makes the parallels that he "debunks" here.
You went the distance, Denis. Good stuff. Incidentally, I was at the Wiltern theatre that night too.

Last things first. Hitchens drinks. No one knows perhaps except his wife whether he drinks and writes at the same time, but I assume a measure of overlap. In any case, the proof is always on the page. I'd be happy to write half as well, drunk or sober.

You may find the analogy to Vietnam irrelevant. So does Hitchens, actually. He is merely responding to the stream of Vietnam comparisons in the media beginning nearly from the first day of Afghanistan. You haven’t noticed? That is the “necessity” of the piece. The “strawman opponent in the empty room” is a pretty sizable slice of the Left, including the bulk if not the moral heft of Ted Kennedy, who made the comparison three days before the election. Now there is the “desperation” you speak of.

It is now all a disaster, you say. I would say, rather, it is a necessary disaster in progress toward something else. In my view, Bush was preemptive. He had from the beginning the design to democratize Iraq as a long-term foreign policy strategy. Opportunity presented itself in a bipartisan, even worldwide, consensus on the intentions of, and inventory of dangerous weapons in, Iraq, and he seized it. He sold what he had at hand, to achieve a larger goal he wouldn’t have been able to sell otherwise. There may have been deception involved, I don’t deny it, but it is not the sort you ascribe to him. A more charitable view would be that he took a gamble that the intelligence he was getting was too conservative, and that the US and the region did in fact face a real threat. In any case, I can assure you that if Iraq had achieved nuclear status under Bush (after all, North Korea did under Hans Blinx) the first people lining up to politically eviscerate Bush for failing his most sacred duty to protect America would be the current crowd now assailing him for being ahead of the curve. Hussein certainly wasn’t interested in standing still, and anyway, as Hitchens has argued, the type of mafia family rule in Iraq was ripe for the kind of ultimate upheaval which would have certainly guaranteed a terrorist infestation. How would we have dealt with that?

I’m down on Hitchens and Kissinger. I don’t see what it has to do with this issue. We didn’t silently or secretly bomb anybody in Iraq. We loudly announced our intentions months in advance, marched dutifully to the UN as everybody on the Left insisted, gave the Iraqi crimelord plenty of time to own up, then took action when he didn’t. We, along with a few other brave nations, took action against an international gangster no one else in the world had the nerve to confront. We finished a war he started. How long were we supposed to have gone on defending a "no fly zone"? Anyway, Hitchens’ credibility in this argument is only strengthened by his positions on Vietnam and the moral rot of Henry K.

War is abhorrent. And not everything about this war has been right or even good. I do believe however that it is a war we would have had to fight sometime, some day, and chances are, if we had waited for the time and place to be chosen for us, we and the rest of the world would be in a far worse position than we are now. We’re going to have to fight these people, now or later. It just isn’t avoidable.

As for democracy at the point of a gun? You’ve got it a little confused. The CHANCE for democracy came at the point of gun. Democracy really came only by the collective courage of ordinary people.
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