Lessons from Vietnam | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Lessons from Vietnam

This week, President George W. Bush made one more attempt to shore up support for our continuing war in Iraq by comparing our experience there to the war in Vietnam, warning that withdrawing from Iraq might produce results similar to our withdrawal from southeast Asia.

The president said:

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution. In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea. …

If we were to abandon the Iraqi people, the terrorists would be emboldened, and use their victory to gain new recruits. As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities. Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, this enemy will follow us home. And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas so we do not face them in the United States of America.


The full text of the president's remarks is available here.

There are many reasons to question this account. The most prominent is that there is no organized national army facing us in Iraq comparable to the North Vietnamese Army. Furthermore, those who call for a substantial withdrawal from Iraq would redeploy our forces in Kuwait and Kurdistan, where they could strike into Iraq with minutes' notice. As a consequence, there is no real concern that our Iraqi embassy would be evacuated by helicopter, and talk of our allies being sent to "prison camps" seems quite overheated. As for boat people, Iraq has already seen its mass exodus, with nearly 2 million refugees having fled the violence.

Despite these inaccuracies, I think that we should embrace the president's analogy and explore it in more detail, because doing so makes it clear why our current strategy in Iraq will fail.

The most rhetorically powerful part of the president's analogy is when he invokes the Khmer Rouge and the killing fields of Cambodia. The president suggests that it was the withdrawal of American military power from southeast Asia that produced the killing fields, but he is only able to make that argument by pretending that absolutely nothing happened prior to 1975.

When Cambodia gained its independence from the French in 1953, King Norodom Sihanouk declared that his country was neutral. Unfortunately, as the war in neighboring Vietnam accelerated, the North Vietnamese began to use the rugged eastern border of Cambodia to infiltrate men and supplies into the south. In 1969, President Richard Nixon began a massive bombing campaign of Cambodia, which greatly boosted the credibility of "anti-imperialist" groups like the Khmer Rouge. The king opposed our carpet bombing effort inside his country, so in 1970, the CIA planned a coup de tat against him led by General Lon Nol. Nol announced that his country was now allied with the U.S., and soon, U.S. troops poured over the border into Cambodia. This expansion of the war led directly to the Kent State shootings, where four students were killed by the National Guard.

As was the case in South Vietnam after the CIA engineered a coup there, the new military government had little legitimacy with the Cambodian people, and our bombing campaign was a gift to the Khmer Rouge. New York Times correspondent Sydney Schanberg, who was played by Sam Waterston in "The Killing Fields," said the Khmer Rouge would point at the "bombs falling from B-52s as something they had to oppose if they were going to have freedom. And it became a recruiting tool until they grew to a fierce, indefatigable guerrilla army."

When Nixon began bombing Cambodia, he kept the operation secret from Congress and even lied about it to the American people. The bombing continued for four years, until the U.S. Senate stopped it in 1973. We dropped 540,000 tons of bombs on Cambodia and killed between 150,000 to 500,000 civilians.

By 1973, the Khmer Rouge controlled 60 percent of Cambodia. By 1975, the Khmer Rouge had taken over the entire country.

The president's narrative begins here, with the victory of the Khmer Rouge, and the question his sleight of hand raises should be obvious. Did the Khmer Rouge seize Cambodia because the U.S. military withdrew from southeast Asia, or was it because the U.S. military expanded the war into Cambodia? Why does the president want us to remember the million or so people the Khmer Rouge killed in Cambodia after we withdrew but not the half million we killed with our bombing?

It's also worth noting that in an analogy between southeast Asia to the Middle East, Cambodia is not so much Iraq as it is Iran. After all, our rationale for bombing Cambodia was that the North Vietnamese were using it as a base for transporting materiel and men into South Vietnamese. The administration has made essentially the same charges against Iran today, specifically that Iran is training fighters and providing Shiite militias with explosive devices.

There are many reports that Vice President Dick Cheney is urging the president to launch a bombing campaign against Iran. We should remember Cambodia when we hear such proposals. For now, the war in Iraq is confined to that country. If we expand the war, as we did during the Vietnam War, it is likely that we will destabilize the entire region. The Khmer Rouge amply demonstrate that you cannot predict what horrors may arise from bombing campaigns. Things can always get worse.

Cambodia aside, there are two major myths about the Vietnam War that have bearing on our discussion of Iraq today. The first is that the U.S. military was forced to fight with one arm behind its back, that the politicians in Washington wouldn't unleash the full might of the military. (It's very funny that this argument paints Richard Nixon as some kind of dithering dove.)

The other is that we could have won the war if only the American people had not lost their will to fight. In this second narrative that is very popular among conservative commentators, the American people are essentially cast as lazy, cowardly traitors.

The military myth seems strange on the face of it, considering that we committed 650,000 troops, dropped more bombs than were used by all sides in World War II, and suffered 58,000 fatalities with 150,000 wounded. Estimates vary, but in documents declassified in 1995, Vietnamese estimates were that we killed 1.1 million Vietnamese soldiers and 4 million civilians. The U.S. military estimated that we killed 900,000 soldiers, and even the most conservative estimates put civilian fatalities at 1 million.

How is that fighting with one arm tied behind your back? The argument is that we should have invaded the north.

But if we had invaded North Vietnam, we would have drawn China fully into the war. This is precisely what happened in the Korean War, with devastating consequences. In that war, hawks including Gen. Douglas MacArthur urged President Harry Truman to expand the war into China, dropping atom bombs to counter Chinese numerical superiority. Fortunately, Truman declined that invitation to insanity, which might have precipitated World War III, as China and the Soviet Union were still allies at the time. By 1968, China had its own nuclear weapons, and it would not have tolerated an American proxy state on its southern border.

What's more, if we had invaded the north, we would have faced the same impossible situation there that we did in the south. Communist forces would have dissolved into the hills, fighting a guerrilla war against us just as they did the French. There is no reason to think we could have won such a war in the north when we could not win it in the south.

The bearing this has on the Iraq War is that you cannot win a war by military means alone. We did not lose in Vietnam because we were defeated militarily, and expanding our military effort would not have produced victory. We lost in Vietnam because we were defeated politically. To put it more plainly, we couldn't force the South Vietnamese to believe that their government was a legitimate democracy when it wasn't. We couldn't keep the population from supporting communism if that is what they were determined to do.

The second point conservatives make is that Americans lost the will to continue the war. The truth is that American political leaders destroyed the will of the American people by lying to them about the war, and that is precisely what has happened in Iraq.

In Vietnam, Johnson stampeded us into the war with the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin incident, just as Bush stampeded us into Iraq with fraudulent claims about weapons of mass destruction. In Vietnam, month after month and year after year, the politicians and generals kept assuring the American people that victory was just around the corner. This is why the Tet Offensive of 1968 was such a victory for the communists. Militarily, the offensive was a disaster for the communists, as the U.S. military was able to destroy the Viet Cong. Strategically, it was a huge victory for the communists, because after years of reassurances that the "insurgency was in its last throes," the American people had swallowed one lie too many. They began to realize that our efforts in Vietnam would never produce the results they had been promised. Vietnam would never be a stable, democratic country allied with the U.S. American commitment there would have to be indefinite in order to prop up one corrupt regime after another.

This is why the American people have lost faith that we can win the war in Iraq, and that is why they no longer believe optimistic pronouncements from the Bush administration that we are turning the corner there. The comparison with Vietnam is devastatingly apt.

The day after Bush's speech, our intelligence agencies released a new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that should make us think of Vietnam. The report finds that the while the surge has produced "uneven" military success, the surge has utterly failed to produce political reconciliation.

The intelligence report said that the influx of American troops in Iraq has achieved some successes in lowering sectarian violence there, but concluded that Iraqi leaders "remain unable to govern effectively" and that the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki "will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months" as rival factions led by Mr. Maliki's fellow Shiites vie for power.

The assessment concluded that there was little reason to expect that Iraqi politicians would achieve significant gains before the spring, when American commanders said they would have to begin to cut troop levels in Iraq, now at more than 160,000, to ease the burden on military personnel.


To quote from the report directly:

Broadly accepted political compromises required for sustained security, long-term political progress, and economic development are unlikely to emerge unless there is a fundamental shift in the factors driving Iraqi political and security developments.

The report also finds that despite years of effort, Iraqi forces are nowhere near ready to take over from our troops. In other words, Vietnamization is a sham. (Vietnamization was Nixon's effort to train South Vietnamese soldiers, so that as "they stood up, we could stand down." It was an utter failure.) The administration holds up Gen. David Petraeus as a straight shooter who can dispassionately assess the success of the surge, but we would do well to remember that he told us in the fall of 2004, just before the presidential election, that he had succeeded in training 230,000 Iraqi troops who were ready for combat. That was patently false. There are not 230,000 operational Iraqi troops today, three years later.

Furthermore, ethnic cleansing within Iraq has actually accelerated since the surge began, with the number of "internal refugees" more than doubling to 1.1 million.

Even with 160,000 troops on the ground, the NIE reports that the overall level of violence in Iraq remains "high," and improvements like the expulsion of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia from Anbar province were won by arming Sunni factions that are deeply hostile to the central government. In other words, Anbar is now safe because we have essentially given it permission to be independent from Baghdad.

Now, there are indications that the administration hopes to force out Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and replace him with Ayad Allawi, though there is no reason to think that Allawi will achieve what Maliki could not. (Allawi's effort is being run by Gov. Haley Barbour's lobbying firm.) Although there are no indications that our government is supporting a coup, our experience in Vietnam should give us pause in meddling with our allies' governments.

The president is right to predict that conditions in Iraq are likely to deteriorate if we draw down our forces, but a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites is unlikely to produce a safe haven for terrorists. If anything, unleashing the Shiite militias will make life very uncomfortable for al Qaeda.

The majority of Democrats who call for "ending the war" are talking about a redeployment. Under these plans, we would withdraw some of our troops from the region and redeploy tens of thousands more to places like Kuwait and Kurdistan. There, they would be safe from constant attack by Sunni and Shiite insurgents but still able to project power into Iraq at a moment's notice. It is not as if we would pull all of our troops out of the Middle East and let the chips fall where they will.

As for the president's claim that our troops are killing 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists a month in Iraq, the idea that everyone we fight and kill in Iraq is al Qaeda has already been thoroughly ripped apart by our own intelligence agencies and by our own troops on the ground.

In short, the real question before the American people is whether we should keep 160,000 troops in Iraq to prevent a civil war. No one wishes for further violence against the Iraqi people, but in the end, we cannot force the Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds to support a strong central government if they simply refuse to do so. We will never "win" militarily as long as we are losing politically.

In Vietnam, we spent a decade in the middle of a civil war between communists and nationalists. During that war, we heard the same arguments the president makes now about American "credibility" and the dire strategic consequences for America if we withdrew, most of which proved horribly overblown. In the end, we lost a war we did not need to fight, at a cost of 58,000 Americans dead plus another 4 million Asians. The president believes that we should have stayed longer and paid an even heavier price.

Though Mr. Bush draws the wrong conclusions, he is right that we should try to learn lessons from our history. Once again, the American people are being told that we must support an indefinite commitment of troops halfway around the world or face calamity, as if this justifies the calamity of the war itself. Once again, we are told that we are on the verge of military victory even though we have no workable plan for a lasting political success. The American people should listen to the president and take seriously the question he has suggested. Are we going to do Vietnam all over again?

Previous Comments

ID
114201
Comment

Quite a lecture there, B! But it needed to be said though. Looks like history is repeating itself.

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-08-26T07:22:55-06:00
ID
114202
Comment

Thanks Golden. I was stunned by the president's remarks and had to get it off my chest.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-26T07:48:37-06:00
ID
114203
Comment

Thanks Brian, for your well-supported and well-thought-out (as always) treatise. I, too, was stunned at Bush's blatant willingness to rewrite history to suit his political agenda. To say that the pull-out caused the rise of the Khmer Rouge is--to put it nicely--simply inaccurate. In some circles, we'd call that a(nother) flat-out lie. What is missing from the conversation, though, is that war, any war, even against a chimera in the desert, is necessary to maintain our economic "health." When the U.S. spends more on its military than all other nations on earth combined we can't be a force for peace without risking our economic way of life; it wouldn't support the system we've put in place. Military spending is an integral part of every congressional district, and therefore, of every decision made by our congress. Thus, congress itself becomes an equal player in the game, unable to stem the flow of money to war without risking their own constituents economic well-being. And it's no secret that U.S. arms manufacturers gain nearly as much from our own military spending as they do selling arms and military services to others. It has become a deadly case of the tail wagging the dog. America must maintain its military forces at all costs. Connect the dots. America's actions on the world stage are driven by economic forces, and, to risk a generalization, all wars are economic in nature. When I'm sitting in my air-conditioned living room with the TV on in the background and good food and clean water just a few steps away, it's easy to forget that the majority of people on the planet don't live this way. And when people are fighting just to keep their children safe and fed, an abstraction like "democracy" isn't even on the radar. That's the case for more than half of Iraq's people--some eight million are living in "absolute poverty" according to an Oxfam report released in July--as a result of the war. Those people can easily believe that the U.S. is Satan sent to rain devastation on their heads. Why not? I love this country, I really do. I love its beauty and the strength of its people. And I love the life it allows me to live. That doesn't mean that I have to agree with everything we do. And there's a lot that we do wrong. To keep our freedoms, we must be willing to engage and correct our wrongs, instead of doing them over and over again. Somehow, we must demand that military spending--and war--be disentangled from our economy. Until we do, I'm afraid our strategic options are limited to bloodshed.

Author
Ronni_Mott
Date
2007-08-26T10:00:14-06:00
ID
114204
Comment

Well said, Ronni. Another reason why I think Bush wants to continue this war (and I'm wearing my conspiracy hat now) is because of the money his oil buddies are making hand over fist with the price of oil. After Bush announced "Mission Accomplished" off the coast of San Diego in 2003, the price of oil began to shoot up (figuratively, though the price sting didn't really happen until the next year). And I remember hearing how the price of gas will be cheap since we'll be getting all the oil coming out of Iraq. Well, the opposite has happened. Prices have shot up, causing strains on family budgets and forcing business to raise prices and even setting surcharges for deliveries. The Exxons and Chevrons of the world are making more money than God has ever made this quickly. Though the prices at the pump have begun to level off a bit, with another year and a half to go, who's the say the prices won't go up even more before he leaves? Can you say $5 gas?

Author
golden eagle
Date
2007-08-26T12:35:33-06:00
ID
114205
Comment

Thanks for those comments, Ronni and Golden. Ronni, your comments make me think of another aspect of Vietnam, which is that we were always fighting that war much more for domestic political purposes than any of our leaders ever let on. I admit to being completely fascinated by LBJ. I love his oversized personality and his enthusiastic vulgarity. (LBJ: "What's the difference between a (Senate) caucus and a cactus? A cactus has the pricks on the outside.") He was so unusual in being a president who had long experience as the "Master of the Senate," and with the supermajority he gained after he clobbered Goldwater, he had a stunning legislative record. (It's also interesting to compare and contrast him with that other president from Texas. LBJ was about as far from being a spoiled little frat boy coward from Connecticut as it is possible to imagine. He came up from a Texas dust field and went to Southwest Texas State Teacher's College, which was one reason why he always hated Kennedy's Harvard folks.) More than anything, he represents the high water mark of progressive politics in our country. He was brought into politics by FDR, and his great dream was to complete the New Deal with Medicaid, Medicare, the first real education aid, poverty relief, the National Endowment for the Arts along with the endowment for the Humanities. He has the most progressive legislative record of any president except for his idol, and he got far more accomplished in this regard than Kennedy did. Yet the Democratic Party has never recovered from his presidency, for one reason that is admirable and another that is horrifying. The admiral reason is that he "signed away" the Democratic South with the Voting Rights Act. The horrifying reason is Vietnam, of course. Yet from the very beginning, LBJ's principal obsession with Vietnam was a domestic political concern. To put it bluntly, he had served in the minority in Congress in the '50s after the Democrats lost to Republicans who red-baited their way into office, using the mantra "Who lost China?" Although it sounds comical now, he wasn't going to let them play that game with Vietnam. Yet for all his wonderful qualities, there really was a murderous evil in him. By 1967, he knew that the war in Vietnam was unwinnable, but he still expanded it. He still undermined Hubert Humphrey's candidacy because Humphrey wasn't "tough enough" on Vietnam. He made himself a butcher, and he deserves all the hatred that people have heaped upon him. To return to my original point, I have to wonder if something similar is operating in Bush now. Does he really think we can win in Iraq, that if we just keep 100,000+ troops in Iraq through 2012, we'll achieve his neocon fantasy of Iraq becoming a bastion of freedom in the Middle East? Or did it long ago become a matter of domestic politics? Is he now locked into the same hubris as LBJ, dumping bodies into the grinder to preserve his political legacy, thereby ensuring that it will be destroyed?

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-27T07:26:43-06:00
ID
114206
Comment

By the way, Bush said in his speech that "unlike Vietnam," we would have to face our enemy at home if we don't defeat them in Iraq. For the record, LBJ made the same argument about Vietnam, and it makes for ridiculous reading now. "If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco." Of course, Iraq is totally different, because once Moktada al-Sadr secures Baghdad, he's coming for Palm Beach.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-27T07:37:48-06:00
ID
114207
Comment

It's clear that you, like many leftists of the era, have put a great deal of effort into rationalizing our abandonment of the Cambodians and South Vietnamese to slaughter. And you've identified some important problems in the President's historical recollection. But: Just to be clear, no one is contesting that, but for the U.S. pullout, the Khmer Rouge et al. would not have been able to murder a million people and change, correct? And, more to the point, no one is contesting that both the Sunni and Shiite militia forces, and Al Qaeda, all have proven themselves perfectly willing and able to engage in mass slaughter of one another, and expecially, of the Kurds? Is the theory that if we set them loose against one another, they'll be too busy to continue mass murdering civilians? And more generally, you're offering a false dichotomy, aren't you? Between carpet bombing and pulling out? There is no allied bombing in Iraq. That is, our operations don't collaterally kill many Iraqi civilians. So the "stay and kill 4 million more Asians" argument goes away. Only insurgents are killing Iraqi civilians, and if we leave, they'll start killing them more efficiently, right? With no offset in lives saved from eliminating collateral casualties? The New York Times frankly acknowledges that it's willing to let more five year olds be set on fire to make its political point. Why can't more leftists follow suit?

Author
laughter
Date
2007-08-27T11:55:22-06:00
ID
114208
Comment

WORDS OF WISDOM: Stay out the Bushes, otherwise crazy and irreparable things will soon occur. Don't hunt with an old, crazy, and violent man, else ye be shot. Don't lie initially lest you be forced to keep on lying. When ye lie be careful not to accidentally tell the truth.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-08-27T12:16:57-06:00
ID
114209
Comment

Its a sad state of affairs when we can no longer admit mistakes or attempt to correct mistakes. The situation in Iraq can best be described as "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". When people do not think things out, they do not envision making situations worse. That is exactly what happenned in Iraq. Now conservatives want to argue that something other than the status quo is failure. As Barack Obama said, "there are no good options in Iraq". That is unfortunately a true statement. The people that did not consider the consequences in the beginning should not be depended on to make rationale decisions now either.

Author
Goldenae
Date
2007-08-27T12:58:06-06:00
ID
114210
Comment

Lawtalker, I'm going to start from the bottom of your post, because that's where you are most egregiously in error. You wrote: There is no allied bombing in Iraq. That is, our operations don't collaterally kill many Iraqi civilians. That is stupendously uninformed. It's true that we are not using B-52s to drop bombs on cities in this war, but we are dropping thousands of tons of bombs every month in Iraq. Estimates of civilian casualties are very controversial, but here's a nice compendium of six surveys. Even the surveys favored by Bush and Blair put the number of civilian deaths at around 30,000, and they find that most of those deaths are caused not by terrorist bombings but by allied air strikes. Other sources that I assume you don't credit put the death toll as high as 650,000, but let's stick to the lower figures. In the three months from June 10 to September 10 (2004), it counted 1,295 civilians killed by U.S. forces and their allies and 516 killed in “terrorist” operations. Health Ministry officials told Ms. Youssef that the “statistics captured only part of the death toll,” and emphasized that aerial bombardment was largely responsible for the higher numbers of deaths attributable to coalition forces. The reason why that figure is a bit dated is that the Health Ministry stopped tabulating civilian deaths, but if anything, the numbers are likely higher today, as overall violence in Iraq is worse. Personally, I favor Iraq Body Count, which bases its figures on reported deaths only. As a consequence, its figure of 77,000 civilian dead is highly credible. The "Shock and Awe" bombings alone killed 7,400 civilians. We like to use the term "precision bombing," but it ain't as precise as we would like to believe. (This is from Afghanistan, where we just accidentally bombed three British soldiers, but you get the point.) Scores of civilian deaths over the past months from heavy American and allied reliance on airstrikes to battle Taliban insurgents are threatening popular support for the Afghan government and creating severe strains within the NATO alliance.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-27T19:18:40-06:00
ID
114211
Comment

To address your earlier point, I am contesting that a longer American commitment could have stopped the Khmer Rouge, just as I am contesting that a longer American commitment in Vietnam could have produced victory there. We didn't stop bombing the Khmer Rouge until 1973, by which time they already controlled 60 percent of the country. In other words, it wasn't working. We might have been able to slow down but could not have stopped their march on the capital if we had continued that bombing. Why are the million deaths caused by the Khmer Rouge so ghastly to you but the half million caused in Cambodia alone by our bombing nothing to get worked up about? The point is that the war itself made the Khmer Rouge's rise to power possible. If we had left Vietnam in 1967 instead of 1973, what dire consequences would have resulted? As far as I can tell, the only difference this would have made is that a) the Khmer Rouge would never have taken over in Cambodia, and b) a whole lot of Americans and Vietnamese who were killed would still be alive. As far as strategic consequences for the U.S., there would have been none of any global significance. Despite LBJ's pronouncements, the communists would not have taken Hawaii. I suppose you could argue that if we had committed two million men and stayed in southeast Asian until 1980, we might have actually won the war. This seems to be the point that Bush is making. The question from a strategic standpoint is: Would that have been a good use of our military power, especially considering the horrifying domestic repression such a course would have required? The question from a moral standpoint is: How could anyone argue that such slaughter was worth it?

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-27T19:29:12-06:00
ID
114212
Comment

I think citing "BodyCountIraq.org" for your stats pretty well ends this debate, Brian. I don't have time for a full rebuttal, but suffice it to say that there is a reason you can't cite stats more recent than 2004, and it's not a simple failure of international organizations to count (or toss off wild estimates, in Lancet's case). The fact is, in 2004 we were bombing Fallujah and Anbar, and we're not today. The overwhelming bulk of the casualties today come from mortar insurgent attacks, ied's, and bombs in public places. I'm sorry this doesn't fit your predetermined narrative. Your second point could be right, but it doesn't matter. Even if you're correct that the US couldn't have held off the Khmer Rouge for an extended period, you only serve to highlight the inapposite nature of the Vietnam analogy. Whatever the odds against the Khmer Rouge might have been, Iraq is what it is: we indisputably can hold full scale genocide at bay for as long as we choose to remain in the country. I never mentioned the purported 500,000 deaths caused by the U.S. Let's assume you're right about that number. My subjective feelings about it don't matter. (For reference, I think all war is awful. Big suprise there.) The only question is what you do going forward. If you can stay and prevent all out slaughter, you must. Particularly when you made the mess to begin with. In sum, the war was a bad decision, but we can't unmake it. All previous deaths are moot. The only moral consideration now is whether and how we can prevent another Cambodia. Period.

Author
laughter
Date
2007-08-27T19:55:50-06:00
ID
114213
Comment

Lawtalker, You are not a serious thinker, are you? We began this engagement because you claimed that we do not kill civilians in air strikes in Iraq. That is demonstrably false. You give a conservative scoff at Iraq Body Count but offer no reason why we should discredit its findings. The site is credible and numerically conservative because it is based on published news reports. The fact that it opposes the war does not mean that it is invalid, and you do not set the terms of this debate. My figures do not end in 2004. That was the year the Iraqi Ministry of Health stopped tracking civilian casualties. By all accounts, the rate of civilian deaths has greatly accelerated since then. The question is whether our continuing presence in Iraq is ultimately dampening the violence there or inflaming it. So far, with each additional year we stay, the violence grows worse. You shamelessly try to shift the argument when one of your points falls apart. Before, your point was that we could have prevented the Khmer Rouge slaughter had we stayed. Now, the fact that we could not have done so "doesn't matter." But the whole point of my original column was that we present a false calculus if we only focus on hypothetical positive consequences of a prolonged military deployment (in Asia or in Iraq) and discount real, horrifying body counts. You apparently have no answer to that argument, because you simply slink away from it with your tail between your legs. You have no authority, either here or in a moral sense, to declare previous deaths moot. Those deaths matter a great deal, because they speak to the credibility of the parties making the arguments in this debate. Part of why Bush has no credibility is that he has shown he will advance any lie or rationalization to extend the war. If Nixon had told the American public that we were extending the war into Cambodia for humanitarian reasons, everyone but sycophantic hawks like yourself would have laughed at the lie. That should be our response to Bush's argument now, particularly in light of the president's apparent determination to go to war with Iran. Remember that Iran represents a more accurate application of the president's Cambodia analogy. You continue to act as if drawing down our forces means that we will be powerless to influence events in Iraq. You earlier suggested that there would be slaughter in Kurdistan if we left, a suggestion that is ridiculous considering the strength of militias there and the fact that American forces simply will not pull out of Kurdistan any time soon, even if we do draw down from the surge. You keep acting as if we know there will be a Cambodian-scale genocide in Iraq if we withdraw when that is purely speculative. (I am tickled that you right-wingers have been drawn into this opportunistic idealism regarding our rationale for conducting the war. Conservatives used to be realists. The fact that you have all become dreamers now shows that we should not take your arguments seriously.) To put it plainly, we no longer have to listen to people like yourself bray to us the hard truths in the war on terror. Neither you nor the president have the credibility to make humanitarian arguments in light of your unwavering support for our misadventure in Iraq. All you can is keep shifting from one non sequitur to another, hoping that the rest of us will be cowed into submission by your tough talk. We are no longer listening. Period.

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-30T03:09:07-06:00
ID
114214
Comment

Brian, you're amazing. You listen to their arguments then destroy them with great writing and reasoning abilities. I admire that, and wish I had your patience for them. Those conservatives and repubs have more nuts than Planters Peauts Company. I used to think they were smart at least. Now I know they're simply residents of Nut Bush City Limits. No amount of creativity and fantasy can save this administration. As I walked the countryside the other day, I even heard some birds discussing global warming, cussing Cheney and saying these Bush people are full of crap.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2007-08-30T08:07:46-06:00
ID
114215
Comment

The odd thing about the people that berate the critics of the war for things that they say never admit that those things are usually true. Instead of disagreeing, they will try to make the argument that those states do not apply to "all" soldiers. I do not think the point was to lump all soldiers together. But the actions of a few, do reflect on all. The issue is heightened when the bad soldiers are not weeded out. Similiar to how cops protect each other. What people like Law Talkin Guy do not admit is that they expect a different standard of decency for themselves than they do for others. That is true for at home and abroad. Would we love a country that might kill us in an attempt to get the bad guys? People in the majority always are accepting of tactics used on people outside of their subset. Regardless of what kind of country we had, Americans would hate another country occupying us, searching our homes, accidently killing our friends and family. Until people realize that, we will always think our way of helping is the best.

Author
Goldenae
Date
2007-08-30T10:14:28-06:00
ID
114216
Comment

Thanks Ray. I will always be indebted to you for the Big White Dude and Lil' Sho You Right, among much other comic relief. That is unadulterated genius!

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2007-08-31T01:28:03-06:00

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