Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Eerily reminiscent words

Despite the best efforts of the administration to distance the war in Iraq from such comparisons, it seems that every week you hear about some comparison to Vietnam. Of course, the comparison is clear-- a protracted guerilla war in which the mission seems to change regularly (meaning there is no clearly defined mission).

However, a story out today compares the literal words right out of the mouth of Lyndon B. Johnson (1967) and George W. Bush (this year).

LBJ: "America is committed to the defense of South Vietnam until an honorable peace can be negotiated"...Despite the obstacles to victory, "We shall stay the course."

-- speech to the Tennessee Legislature on March 15, 1967.

Bush: "We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We'll help the Iraqis develop a democracy."

--August 3, 2005

OK. Not quite the same. I do recall once learning the difference between 'shall' and 'will' in my grammar class. Not sure who has the correct usage.

If you read through the article, there are other comparisons between their words. One in my mind stands out.

"Be assured that the death of your son will have meaning," Johnson told the parents of a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor during a Rose Garden ceremony on April 6, 1967. "For I give you also my solemn pledge that our country will persist — and will prevail — in the cause for which your boy died."

Speaking to military families in Idaho on Aug. 24, Bush said: "These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country, and now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission."

Unable to justify our remaining there for any better reason, the purpose of these speeches seem to be to justify staying and losing more young Americans because of those who have already died.

Now I have had a number of friends (mostly Republicans, but also a couple of Democrats) tell me that we need to support the President during time of war.

I understand that position, but I wonder how many people had the same view 38 years ago, and how many more American soldiers died fighting in a dead end war because of it. It was the wrong position then, and it is the wrong position now.


Mark said...

As you say, Eli.. "Our clearly defined mission seems to change". We have completed the first goals and only one is remaining.

1.Find the WMD or answer the question if Iraq had them. Check. 2.Get rid of that murdering idiot Saddam. Check. 3.Fight the Terrorists over there instead of here. Check. 4.Bring a stable and free-er society to Iraq. Not yet but we are giving them a chance.

Seems like the same goals from the beginning to me, some are just checked off the list.

So, are you saying that you agree that we were right to pull out of Vietnam when we did and let the whole of SouthEast Asia fester for two decades with nothing but warlords ruling? Remember Eli, My wife and I were in Thailand in 80 to 82. She worked with the refugees from Laos and Cambodia, during some of the heaviest refugee flow.

We were right to allow the people of N Vietnam murder and kill the educated people of the South because they were had supported the Americans or because they wore glasses? We were right to not keep our promises?

We were right to stay out of SE Asia and allow demons like Pol Pot in Kampuchea (Cambodia) to commit atrocities equivalent to Hitler?

We were right to pull out? I disagree. We should have stayed and used the full capabilties of our military. I have talked with Generals in Thailand that believed that we would have won in weeks without nuclear weapons if we would have had the support at home for all-out war. Protesting wars prolong them not shorten them. Any person knows that indecision takes more time that taking action.

I suppose there is something inate in our two party system that we always have to argue. But, once we have troops on the ground we have got to be united and determined.

The terrible killing fields weren't happening in Cambodia and Laos until we left. It is true the war was hell, but every war is hell.

The trick is don't fight wars unless you have to, BUT ONCE THE DECISION IS MADE AND TROOPS ARE COMMITTED THE ONLY OPTION IS TO WIN. War is survival.

What you are saying is that we should agree to lose now and leave and turn over Iraq to the same thing.

I don't think so. I agree with McCain on this one.. We have got to win now even if we've got to send in more troops to do it... If we don't, Iraq and the whole area will pay, and that means ultimately that the US will pay with more terrorist attacks and more soldiers lost on foreign soil in some terrorist country.

From your comments I would gather that you think that since we pulled out of Viet Nam that the sacrifice of those 58,000 soldiers was meaningless?

I disagree. Their deaths represented what America used to stand for under true Democratic presidents. It was JFK who committed the first armed Americans to Viet Nam and who stood up against the Cubans and Russians by threatening war. Do you think that if the Russians had tried harder to run the naval blockade that JFK had set up that he wouldnt have fired a shot? He would have blown the Russians out of the water and started WWIII.

Where are the brave and Courageous Democrats now? I think Bill Clinton would have been one if faced with the same challenges that George W Bush has faced.

I like Hillary for that one reason. She will not back down if we are put in danger. God help the foe that fights against us if Hillary is President. Eisenhower and Truman (the Bomb Dropper) were both democrats. They were willing to make the tough choices.

My Brother (a republican) is quietly providing a home free of charge to a Katrina family... What is the Democratic party of today doing? Pointing fingers at Repulicans and waiting for the Government to fix things.

Truman was right, Unconditional Victory was the solution.

Eli Blake said...


Wrong on many counts.

1. We could have let Blix find the WMD. And we were told before the war that they DID have them, in fact could deploy them in 45 minutes. I doubt if anyone would have supported the war if it was cached as an invasion to 'find out IF they have them.' 2. No matter how bad he was, why invade instead of letting the people there take care of the situation (as they did in the Soviet Union). Since when is it the role of the US to try and fix everyone else's problem. 3. The London bus and train bombings made it clear that the terrorists are capable of operating in more than one place at a time. In fact, since we let Osama get away by outsourcing the job at Tora Bora, we are now in a situation where he and his compatriots are free to plan attacks against the U.S., and if they want to get assets (be it people, weapons or equipment) into the US, I doubt, just looking at a globe, that Iraq is part of the chain. So having our army in Iraq will not interfere with either the planning, coordination of, or carrying out an attack in the United States.

In fact, they have been very successful in using our presence in Iraq to recruit more terrorists, so they now have plenty to fight us there AND attack us here (remember that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 19 men, so it's not like they need to spare a lot).

4. If you consider the Iraqi draft constitution, under which women have LESS rights in matters like inheritance, custody and legal status than they did under the brutal, if secular regime of Saddam, and the likelihood of an elected fundamentalist Islamic state a step forward, then that is your right. But I don't personally think it's worth losing 1900 American soldiers for.

Yes, as a matter of fact I am saying we were right to pull out of Vietnam (and before you point out that we could have overrun the North, which is true, consider that 1) military planners remembered what happened in 1951 when we did the same thing and had to assume another Chinese intervention was likely, and 2) even areas where we figured we had control ended up being areas where our soldiers were attacked from the rear. We could have fought for ten, twenty, thirty more years (in fact, we'd already had a decade) and we would still be fighting there. In fact, just to point out that this is not a partisan issue, it was a Republican (Nixon) who actually had the foresight to see this and pull the plug on Vietnam. And he deserves credit. As to the future of SE Asia, first, remember that Vietnam after the NVA took over had the only really stable government in the region. And while I wouldn't point to them or the Laotian gov't. as sterling examples of human rights, the killing fields and genocide (and ditto the glasses issue) were the purview of Pol Pot-- who was removed from power by-- Vietnam, which invaded Cambodia in 1978 in order to end the madness. They then installed the Heng Samrin government.

As far as Thailand is concerned, the whole justification for Vietnam had to do with the so-called 'domino' theory. According to the theory, if Vietnam fell, then all of SE Asia would fall. But it did not. And the place that stopped was in Thailand, proving the whole justification false.

And as for keeping promises, I would question making them to questionable governments (and you can't say that a military dictatorship like the Diem gov't. doesn't qualify). And it doesn't matter if JFK or Johnson were Democrats, they were wrong. As I said before, the best war president we had in relation to Vietnam was Nixon. Unlike Vietnam, the Cuba missile crisis was directly related to the security of the United States. We have a department of Defense. And Defense is what we should use it for. Changing governments in other countries is way beyond what we should be involved in.

By the way, Eisenhower was a Republican. And he had the good sense to end another deadlocked war of attrition-- in Korea. In fact, my mother, a very liberal Democrat, voted for Eisenhower because he did have the good sense to know where NOT to send the military.

Also, you obviously haven't been on the DNC site lately. Within 48 hours after Katrina, they posted a number of links, including one for housing, (as well as to send aid, which I did) and if you go there right now (you can find it in the links at the left of my page) you will still find volunteer housing as a link at the top of the page. So you are wrong about what the Democratic party is doing. And, I'd be doing the same if my daughter and her family weren't presently renting our trailer. But I did donate. Did you?

dorsano said...

Iraq is a perfect example of what happens when 1/2 the country insists that they know all the answers.

"Fight the Terrorists over there instead of here."

Iraq wasn't responsible for 9/11. Saddam tortured and killed "terrorists" by and large in order to keep himself in power - and those he was able to kill - like Muqtada al-Sadr's (Moqtada Alsadr's) father and uncle weren't able to "fight us over here."

The "fight them over there" propaganda was smithed by Frank Luntz of "The Luntz Research Companies" fame at

It is the most callous piece of propaganda this nation has ever produced - and it's indicative of why we're failing in Iraq.

You can see the effect of that propoganda in abu-Gharib. And if we look into our collective soul, we'll find rooms there that look just like abu-Gharib.

And some day, either here or later, we'll be held acountable for those rooms.

Chuck said...


As you said so eloquently and differently, we all know the outcome of the Indochina fiasco (right behind the French); THE DEATH TOLL, PTSD & a divided United States (how's that for an oxymoron?).

As bad as LBJ must have been, bush is infinitely worse, imo. With him, there is no accountability (nor will there ever be). This Kennebunkport boy who pretends to be a Texas cowboy, complete with the "goat roper" drawl, will retire in shame in 2009, but he'll never feel it. His chemistry is absent the necessary endorphins.

What we (our government) need to do is start learning to keep our noses out of other peoples' asses.

As far as Iraq:

I don't recall our congress ever declaring war on that country.

Eli Blake said...

Oh, yeah and one other thing, Mark:

Unconditional victory? First define it. Then we can talk about how to get there, and whether that is possible. As I've said, probably the best outcome we can hope for at this point is if we leave a post-war Iraq looking much like the pre-war Afghanistan-- an about 90% stable country with a fundamentalist Islamic government where clerics (warlords with a Koran) run the country, and if that happens it will, ironically, be exactly what we were deathly afraid that the Iranians would achieve if they won the Iran-Iraq war. And like I said before, that is in no way worth hundreds of American lives to achieve.

However, the bigger issue is this:

It is hard to argue that we are winning anything when we supposedly 'pacify' a town like Fallujah, Baqouba or Ramadi, and then we read the same names on the newswire as where we are getting hit again.

This is a classic guerilla war, and it is exactly the kind of war that our military (designed to quickly overwhelm and opponent) isn't designed to handle.

We could stay there ten or twenty years, and we would still be fighting. If anything, our presence there is probably helping the terrorists (who were not in Iraq in any significant numbers before the war) recruit and give battle experience to at least as many people as they are losing.

Eli Blake said...

Punisher over at the Obfuscation Report (I love his blogspot layout, by the way :) ) has a great post of a Time Online article discussing how the insurgency was started, in fact how Saddam himself was involved in starting it. It makes the point that almost everything that has been done since the fall of Baghdad has strengthened, rather than weakened, the insurgency.