Posted by Brad @ 5:54 pm on May 24th 2007

The Vietnam Question Redux

I’ve already argued over and over again that, despite some hot-headed claims, America is NOT divided over the War in Vietnam. It was seen as a bad idea, poorly executed, the withdraw from which was perfectly justified and even morally required. The only people who think otherwise are a small, but loud, minority, some of who currently have jobs at 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Now, more distortions from that same gang on the Vietnam question. President Bush yesterday:

“Now, many critics compare the battle in Iraq to the situation we faced in Vietnam. There are many differences between those two conflicts, but one stands out above all: The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. The enemy in Iraq does.

Wow. The revision of history is now quite wholesale. Frankly, I’m not even sure WHAT the neocons think of Vietnam anymore.

But let’s be quick about this: the conceptualization of Vietnam, as an isolated and self-contained struggle that entailed a bunch of Vietnamese nationalists wanting to kick us out of the country but whose interest in us ended there, was actually pretty popular in the 1960s, among dirty hippies and flower children. But it’s a pretty startling reverse-course from how THAT war was sold or remembered by the neocon bunch, including GWH Bush, Dick Cheney, and W Bush himself circa the 80s and 90s.

In the pro-war (in Vietnam) notion of it, the parallels between Vietnam and Iraq should be pretty close. Vietnam was a war, we were told, that we were REQUIRED to fight “over there” so the Communists didn’t start claiming whole chunks of the world wholesale and, soon, start fighting us “over here”.

Sound familiar?

Of course, they were wrong back then, too.

Josh Marshall has this, and more. Including some juicy quotes from LBJ, including:

What in the hell is Vietnam worth to me? What is Laos worth to me? What is it worth to this country? We’ve got a treaty but hell, everybody else has got a treaty out there, and they’re not doing a thing about it.

Johnson: Of course, if you start running from the Communists, they may just chase you right into your own kitchen.


“If we quit Vietnam, tomorrow we’ll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week we’ll have to fight in San Francisco.”

And I’m sure you can scare up another 500 quotes like that from primary sources if you spend a day googling, or going to your local library.

Make no mistake, nearly EVERY time we’re pushed or frightened into boondoggle wars in pissant little countries, it’s on the grounds that so doing is required in some mystically nebulous but very simple and clear way to stop direct threats on our homeland, in some fashion. That was true for Vietnam, it’s true for Iraq. And so we send half a million of our boys into jungles and deserts falling into triggered explosives and dying over various patches of ground about as far removed from our national interest as is imaginable.

There ARE lessons to be learned from Vietnam. George Bush Jr., apparently, has learned all the wrong ones (even, idiotically, where mutually exclusive).

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