Speaking before a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) group recently, US President George W. Bush evoked the slaughter, concentration camps, and devastation following the US pullout from Vietnam, to warn against the costs of precipitous withdrawal from the Iraq debacle.
The argument boiled down to the recent conservative claim that if the US leaves Iraq now, it'll result in a societal bloodbath.
There is something quite unseemly about a man who, when he was of age, declined to go to Vietnam, now arguing for its lessons before men who did go, some of whom have lost limbs.
There is another odd, almost surreal quality to hearing the president who went to war on the most naked of lies, who authorized a bombing campaign called "shock and awe", who sent the entire region into a tizzy of maddening discontent, which led to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 Iraqis, argue about the costs of withdrawal. His "stay the course" is as empty an echo as was that of one of his presidential predecessors, Lyndon B. Johnson when he called for troop increases in Vietnam.
What is missing from his convenient 'lesson' from Vietnam, is the reckoning of just how such pain, suffering and death was visited upon the Vietnamese by the American war. According to many sources, some 3 million Vietnamese were killed by US military forces (the number isn't clearer, simply because, as they were Asians, it wasn't deemed necessary for an accurate count).
What Bush conveniently forgot to mention was the continuing costs of war facing Vietnam, because of the US use of toxic chemicals, such as the defoliant, Agent Orange. The US dropped over 10 million gallons of that poison on Vietnam, and the country still suffers from this aerial assault.
According to Anthony Arnova's The Logic of Withdrawal (N. Y.: The New Press, 2006), some four million people suffered from this barrage, which has left an untold number with serious birth defects, and has caused an unprecedented environmental and ecological damage to the rural regions.
A recent civil lawsuit against Dow Chemical (which created the weapon) was dismissed by US courts.
Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from Vietnam after all, but not ones the Bush Regime may wish to address.
Recent Bush Administration criticisms of Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki, that his government is 'ineffective', and doesn't listen enough to his American paymasters, sounds eerily similar to mumbled musings against South Vietnam's President Ngo Dinh Diem. The CIA 1st key military leaders know that the US was losing faith in their chosen puppet, and thus laid the groundwork for a military coup that not only toppled Diem's government, but led to his brutal assassination.
Are we witnessing the opening stages of this 'lesson', being replayed in Iraq?
Let us not think for a moment that the US doesn't prefer generals to presidents; or, as in Pakistan's Musharraf, both for the price of one. The history of 20th century Latin America has been one of an American love affair with generals, and -- yes, with death squads (many trained in the infamous School of the Americas --since renamed --at Fort Benning, Georgia).
"Dubya", who was apparently a poor student of history, is not much better as a teacher, for if this is the only lesson learned from Vietnam, then he needs to go back to summer school.
One lesson is that lies and scare tactics may lead people to war, but it won't keep them there once they learn the truth.
-- (c) '07 maj