Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Total Recall

At the VFW convention, Mr. Bush proved once again why reading and studying is overrated. In a desperate attempt to build support for his Iraq War policy in front of a friendly crowd, Mr. Bush drew comparisons between the Iraq War and other wars of the past. Remember, this is the administration that lambasted anyone that had previously tried to compare this quagmire with the one in Vietnam just months ago. Now, this war has parallels to the Korean, WWII, and the Vietnam Wars. Not only did this president not serve in Vietnam, he obviously didn’t study it either. This just shows how desperate this administration is for reasons to continue this debacle.

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.[1]

It is interesting how some people can take bits of history and weave them together to make anything look good. Mr. Bush in invoking the SE Asia analogy failed to mention some significant points that led to the upheaval there. Many of the people who were killed or imprisoned in Vietnam were people who were allied to us and who we left behind, similar to what we are doing today in Iraq. I guess Mr. Bush is suggesting that our staying in Vietnam was not long enough and that victory there was also just around the corner. As far as Cambodia is concerned, it was precisely our involvement in the region that created the despot, Pol Pot and the subsequent Khmer Rouge that created the killing fields that he speaks of. We destabilized the region in our pursuit of the communist menace. To use one catastrophe to justify another one is amazing. And if that wasn’t bad enough, our history buff added a reference to the occupations of WWII. However, according to real historians this reference is dubious at best for the following reasons.

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.”[2]

So it is disingenuous to compare our current situation to that of WWII, this administration will stop at nothing (even rewriting history) to try to gain support for this failed policy. They continue to claim that success is just around the corner but as more intelligence reports come in, they refute this rosy scenario. Iraq is a bottomless pit with no end in sight. We can continue to delude ourselves, but eventually the reality on the ground will dictate our awakening. The surge is a short-term fix to a long-term problem; its results will be short-term. Unlike us Americans, the Iraqis do not have the luxury of living from one election cycle to the next, this is there reality. Instead of providing them with these “band-aids” we should be putting in place long-term solutions that will provide them the tools to one day be independent and self-governing.

Vietnam today is a unified and stable nation whose Communist government poses little threat to its neighbors and is developing healthy ties with the United States. Mr. Bush visited Vietnam last November; a return visit to the White House this summer by Nguyen Minh Triet was the first visit by a Vietnamese head of state since the war.

“The Vietnam comparison should invite us to think harder about how to minimize the consequences of our military failure,” Mr. Bacevich added. “If one is really concerned about the Iraqi people, and the fate that may be awaiting them as this war winds down, then we ought to get serious about opening our doors, and to welcoming to the United States those Iraqis who have supported us and have put themselves and their families in danger.”[3]

It is time to allow the international community to come in and help the Iraqis to build the institutions that lead to stability. Our presence as much as we would like to think otherwise, is not adding to the stability of this country. All of the historic references in the world cannot change that reality. We can continue to lay the groundwork for more strife upon our departure through sectarianism and division as we did in Vietnam or we can provide our support for the unification of all Iraqi citizens. Continuing to support the current government will not unite this country; they are proving incapable of doing so. It is time we use our considerable influence to bring all parties together in an international peace conference to negotiate a true unified peace for the safety of all Iraqis. That is of course if we were serious about the welfare of the Iraqi people.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/23/washington/23history.html
[2] Ibid.
[3] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/23/washington/23history.html

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