Back to previous post: The will of man made visible

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: *SPOILERS* What’s Wrong With Veronica Mars? *SPOILERS*

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

August 24, 2007

Bright Shining Lies
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:43 AM * 70 comments

Bush is pushing a new story, comparing Iraq to Vietnam.

As you’d expect, the Republicans’ version of Vietnam, and the lessons to be learned from it, are a blend of fiction, magical thinking, and propaganda. They’re helped in this by the simple fact that nearly half of all Americans (42.2% if you must know) hadn’t yet been born in 1973 when the US pulled out.

Bush cites Vietnam in making case for Iraq war

“Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left,” Bush said. “Whatever your position in that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like ‘boat people,’ ‘re-education camps’ and ‘killing fields.’”

This is nonsense.

Rick Perlstein debunks the right-wing propaganda in a series of posts at Common Sense.

Start with The ‘Genocide’ Card

It is true that tens of thousands of Vietnamese were killed, and hundreds of thousands exiled to re-education camps, by a triumphant Communist government after Saigon fell in 1975. But by the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were being killed, and millions being exiled from their homes—carnage that came to a dead stop once the war ended. As cruel as the Communist consolidation of power was, ending the war entailed an obvious net saving of lives, and if it were saving lives conservatives actually cared about—instead of scoring ideological points—this should be obvious.

That’s the first point. The second: America’s war aim—standing up an anti-Communist democratic government in Saigon absent an American military occupation—was impossible. President Nixon admitted this privately all the time, even while he was simultaneously publicly claiming he was negotiating to achieve exactly that. The point has finally become so obvious that now even conservatives admit it. Though conservatives still haven’t brought themselves to admit the more fundamental point: Nixon was right. Indeed, sickeningly, after more visits and better contacts in-country than any American politician, he had been saying we couldn’t win in Vietnam privately since 1966, as Len Garment disarmingly acknowledged in his memoir.

From there, move on to The Cambodia Card

Indeed, leaving Southeast Asia itself, with the subsequent unification of North and South Vietnam under a Communist government, ended up producing the conditions that stopped the genocide—because Communist Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978. That was what ended the genocide.

Then Lying about liberals: our national sport

Early in 1974, Nixon requested a support package for the South Vietnamese that included $474 million in emergency military aid. The Senate Armed Services Committee balked and approved about half. A liberal coup? Hardly. One of the critics was Senator Barry Goldwater. “We can scratch South Vietnam,” he said. “It is imminent that South Vietnam is going to fall into the hands of North Vietnam.” The House turned down the president’s emergency aid request 177 to 154; the majority included 50 Republicans.

Then Coked up

Digby tells me that Cokie Roberts assured her Sunday morning audience that the Democrats’ move to end the Iraq war will prove a debilitating political liability for them, “just like it was in Vietnam.”

The latest Bush story is that history repeats itself. We should find out what history said the first time before we go running off to prolong the folly in Iraq.

Comments on Bright Shining Lies:
#1 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:12 PM:

Maha makes an excellent point. It's useless arguing history with these freaks unless you speak Tamarian.

#2 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:27 PM:

There was a point where this administration made me miss Richard Nixon; now they're making me miss Bismarck instead..

#3 ::: Luthe ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Out of all the stupid things Bush could have done, comparing Iraq to Vietnam is pretty high up there. He's reminding the country of a war that is unequivocally considered a military failure by the United States while trying to promote a war that most of the country is seen to have become a military failure. And yet the irony is barely recognized by the mainstream media.

I would love to see the people who actually believed what Bush had to say in that speech. The half of the country that doesn't remember the Vietnam War is already opposed to Iraq, and the baby-boomers who lived through Vietnam in one way or another will be reminded of what they experienced. Way to piss off the Vietnam vets, everyone who opposed the draft (and the prospect of a new one *shudder*), the hippies and peaceniks, and every male who lived in fear of being called up. The only people left to believe him are people like him and Cheney, who never saw the war for themselves, since they were busy going AWOL from the National Guard.

#4 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:46 PM:

Out of all the stupid things

Yes, but he's not trying to win back support from the sane and rational. He's trying to keep the troglodytes on board long enough to run out the clock so he doesn't have to admit defeat.

The only thing American troops are protecting at this point is this SOB's ego.

#5 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Luthe, #3: I wish. There are people out here who believe what I call the "Rambo" scenario--you know, "Can we win this time?" Meaning that if only the politicians and peaceniks had gotten out of the way, we would have won in Vietnam . . . with no definition of the word "won," of course. That's the subtext that bothers me the most, I think.

#6 ::: Nina Katarina ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:48 PM:

Even if you make the most positive possible reading of Bush's war record, you're still left with the fact that he used his Congressman daddy's connections to get a cushy position in a unit that would never see overseas service, and spent most of that commitment stoned out of his gourd.

Of course he remembers Vietnam positively. It was a great time of life for him.

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:49 PM:

Obsidan Wings

For those who haven't seen it yet, Hilzoy runs it down.

#8 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:51 PM:

We should find out what history said the first time before we go running off to prolong the folly in Iraq.

Possibly this time history will use a four-by-six, since a two-by-four doesn't seem to pack enough punch for this crowd to get the message.

#9 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Sorry, that link should have said "Obsidian Wings." But misspelled or not, it'll get you to Hilzoy's post just the same.

By now, nothing about Bush's ability to distort, dismember, and disrespect historical fact surprises me. Unfortunately, I keep hoping that the media will do its job and point out his errors. That's clearly knock-down-drag-out stupid of me. I feel like Charlie Brown kicking the football. They disappoint Every. Damn. Time.

#10 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 12:58 PM:

All your reality base are belong to us!

#11 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Remember back when all the pro-war writers were insisting that Iraq is nothing like Vietnam? "Too bad that so many Western pundits still think the Vietnam analogies fit" whined Glenn Reynolds in June 2003. "How the liberal media can compare Iraq to Vietnam is beyond logic or reason" complained the Gateway Pundit last year. "It has been a tough 10 days for those who see current events through the prisms of Vietnam and Watergate" wrote Michael Barone, also just last year.

#12 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 01:46 PM:

But by the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were being killed, and millions being exiled from their homes—By Rick Perlstein -emphasis in original omitted.

A stunning endorsement of strategic airpower if the connection between bombing and the deaths of hundreds of thousands is implied - as I think it must be intended here given the draw down of American ground forces in Vietnam.

Operation Linebacker and I suppose Linebacker II - the Christmas Bombings - are the subject here? A few sorties of about 100 B52s each time were so effective it's incredible.

This from Wikipedia - not I'd think an obviously Republican source despite the problems of Wikipedia discussed ex-thread.

During operation Linebacker II a total of 741 B-52s had been dispatched to bomb North Vietnam and 729 had actually completed their missions.[78] 15,237 tons of ordnance were dropped on 18 industrial and 14 military targets (including eight SAM sites) while fighter-bombers added another 5,000 tons of bombs to the tally.[79] 212 additional B-52 missions were flown within South Vietnam in support of ground operations during the same time period.[80] Ten B-52s had been shot down over the North and five others had been damaged and crashed in Laos or Thailand. 33 B-52 crew members were killed or missing in action, another 33 became prisoners of war, and 26 more were rescued.[81] North Vietnamese air defense forces claimed that 34 B-52s and four F-111s had been shot down during the campaign.[82]

769 additional sorties were flown by the Air Force and 505 by the Navy and Marine Corps in support of the bombers.[83] 12 of these aircraft were lost on the missions (two F-111s, three F-4s, two A-7s, two A-6s, an EB-66, an HH-53 rescue helicopter, and an RA-5C).[84] During these operations, ten Americans were killed, eight captured, and 11 U.S. airmen rescued.[85]

Damage to North Vietnam's infrastructure was severe. The Air Force estimated 500 rail interdictions had taken place, 372 pieces of rolling stock and three million gallons of petroleum products were destroyed, and 80 percent of the North Vietnam's electrical power production capability had been eliminated. Logistical inputs into North Vietnam were assessed by U.S. intelligence at 160,000 tons per month when the operation began. By January 1973, those imports had dropped to 30,000 tons per month.[86] The North Vietnamese government claimed that 1,624 civilians had been killed by the bombing. [footnote in original] 87->^ Victory in Vietnam, p. 319. emphasis added.

This is nonsense.Jim Macdonald

No doubt the current discussion in a Labour government about proper action toward translators employed by British interests in Iraq is equally GOP nonsense?

#13 ::: aphrael ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:05 PM:

The irritating thing about the Cambodia argument is that it really isn't clear that the Khmer Rouge would have come to power had the previous government not been destabilized by the actions of the US. In that reading, not only was genocide not the result of us leaving; it was (albeit indirectly) a result of us being there in the first place.

#14 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:08 PM:

But by the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging, hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese were being killed, and millions being exiled from their homes—carnage that came to a dead stop once the war ended.

Clark@12: A stunning endorsement of strategic airpower if the connection between bombing and the deaths of hundreds of thousands is implied

I believe the closing part of that sentence ("once the war ended.") is probably a better indicator that it is discussing the entire war, not any particular firefight or raid. What particular type of bomber, or bomb, or gun, or weapon is sort of irrelevant to the discussion.

I'm pretty sure his point is more to calling out the folks who subscribe to the High Road Bypass on the Road to Hell, the war pr0n fallacy that good intentions will prevent anything bad from ever happening during a war.

#15 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:15 PM:

Two jokes I've heard recently, which seem somewhat appropriate:


Q: How is Iraq like Vietnam?
A: Dubya didn't fight in Vietnam either.


A young Marine was lying in bed at Walter Reed when a cute nurse asked him how he'd been injured.

The man responded: "Well, I was leading my patrol down a street in Baghdad, when we saw a group of armed Iraqis coming up the other side of the street. Now, it's difficult over there to tell who's a friendly and who's an insurgent, so I shouted out 'Fuck Hussein!' And he shouted back, 'Fuck George Bush!'. We were shaking hands in the street when a car hit us."

#16 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:22 PM:


Clark. Linebacker II was powerful, but it would not have defeated North Vietnam.

They would have dug in, and gone back to infiltration. For America this was a political war, for the North Vietnamese, a war of national survival.

They were in worse shape when the French retook Hanoi. But it didn't stop them.

No one has mentioned the 'December Surprise' but it's pretty clear that the US was making headway at the Paris Peace Talks, under Johnson, but Nixon arranged with South Vietnamese President Thieu, that he walk out, thus stalling the talks.

Thus Hubert Humphrey was scuppered in 1968 by the lack of progress on the peace talks, and all the people who voted for Eugene McCarthy's ticket on an independent ballot.

One more trick to Tricky Dicky's tally.

Ronald Reagan was accused of the same over the Iran hostages, but there's no hard evidence of that.

#17 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:38 PM:

A. J. (15): Your second joke has come up before: .

#18 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:41 PM:

I wonder if even the 28% of Americans who remain Bush supporters would still be on board if our nightly newscasts were spending the amount of time showing the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan that the three networks did during the Vietnam War, instead of the 1-2 minute segments devoted to Bush's Middle East misadventure I'm seeing now.

I can almost understand how people born post-1970 could be misled by the lie that reads "If only the military had been allowed to fight instead of being stabbed in the back by the politicians (mostly Democrats) we coulda won that war." But I can never forgive the idiots like Bush and his contemporaries among the neocons (Kristol's 54, for example) who've bought into it. What were they seeing back then?

#19 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:42 PM:

Mary (17):

I thought that might be the case, but I don't feel bad for repeating it. a) It's a pretty good joke, and b) like the first joke, it neatly illustrates what a gap there is between Bush and people who actually serve in the military.

#20 ::: Andy Vance ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I wonder if even the 28% of Americans who remain Bush supporters would still be on board...

Yes, they would. The only way Bush would lose their support is if he demonstrated some sign of capitulation to the pinkos - thus the in-your-face Vietnam rhetoric. John Cole puts it bluntly:

this is not about Iraq or domestic politics anymore. This isn’t about the soldiers and it isn’t about the prospect of Democracy in Iraq. This is about being “right” in the face of evil leftists. This is about “winning.” This is not about what these policies and this vile rhetoric are doing to this nation and our standing- this is about saving face and their own personal stake in what they have attached themselves to in the course of achieving “victory.” My guess is Bush and his speechwriters and Kristol and those mutants at the Weekly Standard and other rags feel comfortable saying this stuff because they know that out there in the blogosphere and the world there are ample knuckledraggers willing and happy to cover for them.

Sadly, they are probably right. It doesn’t matter what type of filth you churn out- The Powerline will have your back. Remember- the Democrats are worse.

#21 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:02 PM:

#15, A.J.: Your second joke goes back a ways; the first version I heard uses the phrases "Fuck Ho Chi Minh!" and "Fuck Nixon!" (Heck, there was probably a "Fuck the Sun King!" "Fuck the Medicis!" version ...)

One more Vietnam parallel, anyways.

#22 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:05 PM:

mfgates @21
It goes further back yet. Or maybe not.

#23 ::: Chris Gerrib ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:08 PM:

I do think we need to learn from Vietnam. We pulled out all but 3,000 troops from Vietnam by 1973, but the country wasn't stable, and certainly not able to stand on its own. When it fell (by an armored invasion, not guerillas) in 1975, hundreds of thousands of people died, and more were imprisoned and mistreated for no other reason then that they helped the US. Many more fled. The lucky ones, including a kid I went to high school with, survived. (Of course, none of his family did.)

The fact that we didn't take our refugees with us is our fault. It's even MORE our fault if we shouldn't have intervened in the country in the first place. I agree with the Yorkshire Ranter - a withdrawal has to be with a very generous refugee asylum program. It's simply immoral to leave people who helped us in the lurch.

#24 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:16 PM:

#14 - No doubt an ambiguity in E/n/g/l/i/s/h American verb tenses that would have been avoided in say French - however arguable the facts the intent would have been clear - but I'll take were being as intending a different meaning in the lines quoted than had been or some of the other possible usages. Else why characterize that particular bombing as the worst?

#16 - I at least never asserted that Linebacker II or any other military action short of total war would have defeated North Vietnam.

Much as we see in all wars - the war was hard on Americans. My own favorite personal view of the course but not the progress of Vietnam and American history follows: I had an Army captain acquaintance in about 64 who was a real hearts and minds type - joined the army to see the world, married a nice German girl and wanted ultimately to stay in the Army but go to medical school and be in effect a medical missionary for America. Later I knew a Marine reaction force leader who just wanted to kill the people who perpetrated the atrocities he reacted to. Later still I knew a Navy riverine type who quite clearly and quite correctly felt tasked to make the locals more in awe and fear of himself and his fellow Americans than they were of the enemy. I knew others of course but these three encapsulate a timeline for American involvement as I saw it. Call it fiction, magical thinking and propaganda if you will.

One wise and observant man said war is hell - "There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell." but John Stuart Mill as well has a point.

Literally years after Linebacker II and the end of American involvement - indeed after Frequent Wind long after the period of the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging, ... and millions being exiled from their homes others were indeed exiled in large numbers. Utilitarian theory may suggest some balancing of numbers or maybe not.

According to the Vietnamese government, within two years of the capture of the city one million people had left Saigon, and the state had a target of 500,000 further departures.[49][49]^ Dawson, 351. Dawson, Alan. 55 Days: The Fall of South Vietnam. Prentice-Hall, 1977. again from Wikipedia

#25 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:45 PM:

I wish the poster had left the original attribution for the cartoon here. Doesn't make me laugh any less for that, though.


A.J. #15: I've heard that one with a different punch line. "Dubya had an exit strategy for Vietnam."


Personally, I'm not terribly surprised that Bush is trying this. Stupid as it is, I've been hearing the same canard for the past 35 years: "They didn't let us win in Vietnam." Now that he has a quagmire, he's by damn going to prove that he can too win this time, if they only let him keep moving the goal posts enough times *cough* get enough US soldiers and Iraqis killed have sufficient manpower for the job. (Do we count the mercenaries he can no longer control, if he ever did?)

What a yutz.

#26 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Abi @22

When you said it went even further back, I must admit I had this thought...

A modern translation of a questionably apocryphal passage in Ezekiel:

An angel was on earth tending a scorched wing after the War of Heaven. A seraph approached him and inquired how he had come to receive such a wound.

The injured Angel replied: "Ah, It was a glorious day. My flaming sword was tearing a hole in the sky when I saw another angel I did not recognize. It was unclear what side he was on, so I cried out 'Fuck Lucifer.' The other angel stopped in his tracks and called out 'Fuck Jehovah' We were laughing and having an enlightening conversation when we crashed into a thunderstorm."

#27 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:23 PM:

What all this is leading up to (as Washington prepares for the Petraeus report to Congress on, of course, September 11) is:
- the removal of our puppet president in Iraq, and his replacement by a new puppet president. Just like Diem in Vietnam.
- the new president has to be given a chance to "stabilize the situation". Like another nine months?

The Democratic leadership in Congress appears to be quite willing to go along with this scenario. It is to weep.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:36 PM:

Jon Meltzer @ 27... September 11? Me, I'll be commemorating that date by watching my DVD of On the Town. One of the best ways to celebrate the Big Apple, I think. (By the way, isn't Xopher's birthday on that date?)

#29 ::: rm ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Yes, I've heard the punch line as Dubya had a plan for getting out of Vietnam.

I think in Bush's analogy, Cambodia is Darfur. That's the genocide which is now occurring because of our presence in Iraq. (I know, in reality would we actually be doing something there if we weren't tied down? But at least we wouldn't have an excuse.) But Bush, of course, doesn't know that; he thinks Iraq is both Vietnam and Cambodia, because he originally thought Iraq was Afghanistan, which he thought was Nazi Germany.

Regarding the link in #1, which is right on, no one ever said to Bush, "Napoleon in Russia."

#30 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:53 PM:

Bruce (25) and rm (29),

A minor quibble: You have to reverse the question for that punchline. "How is Iraq different from Vietnam?".


I was thinking about Avram's original post on the 2nd joke and realized that the joke is true to life if the American shouts "Hussein". He doesn't really know who the enemy is.

Of course, if you really want the story to be true to life, you change the last line to "...when we were hit by a mortar round." Unfortunately, then it's a parable, not a joke.

#31 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 04:55 PM:

Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great, and Napoleon are in the Elysian Fields watching the war in Iraq.

"Look at those armored columns!" Alexander says. "If I'd had just one of them I'd have taken all of India!"

"Look at those air wings!" Frederick says. "If I'd had just one of them the Seven Years' War would have lasted just seven days."

"Look at Fox News!" Napoleon says. "If I'd had them no one would have known I lost in Russia."

#32 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 05:07 PM:

Clark@24, one can parse that sentence as nothing more than a laundry list of things going on at the time, or an accumulation of things that happened up to that time, without attributing causation between them: Bombings, killings, exilings. i.e. milk, bread, eggs. If you want to claim that the man's entire argument collapses because you insist that he is saying the bombings caused the killings and exilings, i.e. milk caused bread and eggs, well, I can't stop you. To me, it clearly parses as a laundry list, not a list of cause and effects.

#33 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 05:22 PM:

I think the iconic Cokie Roberts moment (which used, imho, to be her sponsored-by-WalMart As A Mother speech) is Cokie snippily insisting that it was riDIculous to suggest that the government hadn't done everything they possibly could in New Orleans while people were dying in piles of their own excrement a few miles from the food and water and medicine being kept out of town at gunpoint.

Many of those people were in buildings named after Lindy Boggs.

#34 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 05:58 PM:

I had thought that Bush had exhausted my capacity for jaw-dropping disbelief. I was wrong.

#35 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 06:16 PM:

For me one of the most jaw-dropping parts of that speech is the bit where he actually cites Graham Greene's novel The Quiet American.

In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, "The Quiet American." It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."

If ever there were a book that he shouldn't have wanted to remind us of...

#36 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 06:50 PM:

Yes! Wasn't that wonderful? In a really awful sort of way?

#37 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:23 PM:

#32 - If the numbers charged to Americans are historical, sunk costs, then the utilitarian argument for the actual American exit as saving numbers close to the numbers actually killed and relocated, the damage which actually followed the American exit falls down and reverses.

Deaths and dislocations following an American stay at the then current rate - see above for civilian deaths associated with Linebacker II - with the worst(scare quotes) bombing of the war would have been much less than the actual damage following the American exit. Balancing ongoing American support other than ground against actual deaths and relocation suggests fewer deaths and less relocation with such American support for a utilitarian analysis

Granted we should never have gone in - granted that there be a utilitarian net gain in lives had we never gone in - it does not follow that lives were saved - that there was a utilitarian gain caused - by the actual American withdrawal.

Due to the continuous withdrawal of American forces and the ongoing policy of Vietnamization, at the time of the invasion [time of Linebacker I] fewer than 10,000 U.S. troops remained in South Vietnam, and most of them were scheduled to leave within the next six months.[13] ^ Michael Casey, Clark Dougan, Samuel Lipsman, Jack Sweetman, Stephen Weiss, et al, Flags into Battle. Boston: Boston Publishing Company, 1987, p. 182. Wikipedia again.

Those poor lonely 10,000 must have been running wild to kill and evict in numbers approaching the numbers that followed in 1975 and after.

My own current belief is that a repeat of Linebacker I

- (summer 1972) and speaking of "the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging" Linebacker was the first continuous bombing effort conducted against North Vietnam since the bombing halt instituted by President Lyndon B. Johnson in November 1968 Wikipedia again

- at the time of the second invasion by conventional forces from the North would have been a wise even a moral thing to do. A two state solution enforced by American arms on the Korean model - thankless as much of Korea has been in recent years but wise all the same.

Notice that in Vietnam that relatively happy ending would have meant staying more than 15 years after the point where we made the mistake of going in and certainly for some time after once going in the proper thing to do would have been to get out promptly.

Granted too that in Iraq we should never have embarked on such quixotic foolishness; having gone in we should have wasted no time in getting out - just as in Vietnam.

The discussion in Iraq today has been in football metaphors - go long - and I'd say the alternatives are withdrawal with haste or with all deliberate speed - and all deliberate speed may well mean as long as it took to settle Charlotte-Mecklinberg Schools.

That said I find the argument by analogy that abrupt cut and run was in fact the right thing to do in Vietnam and so an abrupt cut and run in Iraq is also the right thing to do to be a defective argument. The fact that I think a Linebacker III should have been flown does not mean I think we should stay in Iraq nor does it mean I think we should go.

For those who would accuse me of wishy-washiness on Iraq I'd say that on days I can wash my car and water the lawn I think we should stay and on days outdoor water use is restricted to the other side of the street I think we should di-di.

#38 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:26 PM:

Kind of like Reagan citing "Born in the U.S.A." as though it had a positive, uplifting message.

You know, I'd say that they were imbeciles, but they keep getting away with it.

#39 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:30 PM:

Stefan @ #38:
"You know, I'd say that they were imbeciles, but they keep getting away with it."

Which says something unflattering about the opposition, both in Congress and on the streets of America.

I wonder if a nationwide moratorium similar to the one on October 15, 1969 would get anyone's attention.

#40 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 07:58 PM:

#39. Yes it might. But sans a draft and news sources that aren't gutless line-toers I doubt we'd be motivated to try.

If No End in Sight were played on prime time on a major network, that would sure make a difference. Maybe. I'm afraid people would just turn the channel, and watch something like Fat March instead. Because the fact that the imbeciles keep getting away with it says something unflattering about us, too.

#41 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Clark@37: Those poor lonely 10,000 must have been running wild to kill and evict in numbers approaching the numbers that followed in 1975 and after.

Give me a break. No one said that American troops directly inflicted those deaths or those evictions. Acting as if that's what is being said is nothing more than a strawman.

What is being said is that the American involvement in the war, took a bad situation and made it worse. That war has unintended negative side effects that are beyond anyone's control.

And the idea that any problem, any problem at all, can be solved by a sufficient application of firepower without any negative repurcussions, without any backlash, only works in comic books and with people who don't know history.

#42 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:24 PM:

Fidelio #2: You're not that old....

This administration is making Warren Harding look good.

#43 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:28 PM:

Serge #28: September 11 (l'onze de septembre) is the Diada de Catalunya, the national day of Catalonia. It should be celebrated by waving red and yellow striped flags and drinking lots of rough red wine.

#44 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:44 PM:

#42: This administration is making James Buchanan look good.

#45 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 08:53 PM:

Hell, even King John is starting to look good for having actually ratified the Magna Carta into law, albeit under duress....

#46 ::: Clark E. Myers ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:17 PM:

#41 - Perhaps you have not read Mr. Perlstein's full post as excerpted above and referenced in toto for the point made in which Mr. Perlstein writes:
....As cruel as the Communist consolidation of power was, ending the war entailed an obvious net saving of lives, and if it were saving lives conservatives actually cared about—instead of scoring ideological points—this should be obvious....

I suggest there is nothing obvious about the notion that ending the war entailed an obvious net saving of lives given the manner in which the war in Vietnam ended.

Mr. Perlstein asserts that the only alternative to the American abandonment of the South is one in which the South takes over the North ...If so, our Saigon allies would probably have likely been just as bloody-minded in their score-settling as the Communists.... A false dichotomy. I suggest that would never have happened - the only way our Saigon allies could have survived is by partition as in Korea earlier.

Again I say that South Korea had many problems for many years including more or less justified student riots and all that. Still life is better in South Korea today than in the North. An obvious saving of lives based on American -and other - willingness to bleed and die for containment - I remember Eisenhower saying "I will go to Korea" He didn't say he had a perfect solution, he said he would work something out for the better. I think we could have worked something out for the better in Vietnam following a hypothetical Linebacker III.

#41 What is being said is that the American involvement in the war, took a bad situation and made it worse. I quite agree in terms of 1960 or 1963 when the Democrats acceded in the death of Diem.

I disagree that what was once true was always true. I suggest that the Vietnam war in the early 1970's is being mischaracterized by Mr. Perlstein ("...the early 1970s as the worst American bombing was raging...") in support of an unwarranted assertion that continuing American support at the levels of Linebacker I -"worst American bombing" - would have been worse than the actual alternative.

It may be that given Mycroft's ability to analyze alternatives continuing American presence - Linebacker III - would have been worse - it might also be that continuing American presence might have made things better. It is not obvious that an American cut and run entailed an obvious net saving of lives then or now.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:30 PM:

Julie L @ 45

That takes some doing, given his other actions (having child-hostages executed in their parents' view has to be high up in any list of Things Not To Do).

#48 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 24, 2007, 09:36 PM:

"ending the war entailed an obvious net saving of lives"

Because a continuation of an unwinnable war would result in a continuation of the deaths and evictions that had happened up to that point.

Again, no one is saying those 10,000 troops pulled the trigger on every single one of those deaths or forced the eviction of every single one of those made homeless. Which means no one is saying that those 10,000 GI's would be CONTINUING to pull the trigger in the continuing deaths and continuing exilations.

How to put this in simple terms..... Hm....

Oh, I know, it's like Iraq. You know, how we're in an unwinnable situation as far as everyone but those infatuated with the notion that any problem can be solved with enough firepower and the will to use it? So, if we stay in Iraq, civil war continues to go on, Iraqis continue to be killed in the crossfire (NOTE that these Iraqis don't have to be killed by Americans, but they could be killed by a civil war that is continued by the American presence and insistence on a single, unified Iraq.)

If the US pulled out of Iraq, and if Iraq split into three countries, and the killings stopped because the civil war ended, then that could be a net savings of lives. Even though Americans aren't doing the killing.

You are grasping for straws and coming up with strawmen.

#49 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:16 AM:

Whatever the means, the deaths go up. I think I've mentioned before, someone on State Line Road just south of Bannister/95th St. (it changes names, 95th in KS, Bannister in MO) has set up a single flag for every death in ranks between their fence and the roadway. It's gone over 3700, they also post a wire real estate sign with the total, updated day to day.

Makes it more than real daily. They probably couldn't find enough Iraqui flags to total the deaths on that side, or room to place them.


#50 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:37 AM:

The Black Hawk crash this week killed 10 soldiers stationed at Schofield Barracks on this island. That's the second big event that killed multiple soldiers from that base in this disaster; a year or two ago it was 26 soldiers in another chopper crash.

Interesting stat, if true: one of our TV newspeople looked it up and discovered there have been over 200 deaths from chopper crashes alone in Bush's not-so-excellent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

#51 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:21 AM:

I've been saying that the repeated deployments and tactic of keeping the equipment in theater instead of rotating it home too is wearing it out. That would help to explain why there appear to be so many crashes of helicopters; there's just so much a field mechanic can do to keep one flying.

#52 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:46 AM:

Leah (26): The prehistoric version to match your mythical even further back:

A caveman limped back into camp with his spear dragging behind him. When the others asked what happened he explained:

I was out hunting when I saw someone on the other side of the ravine. I couldn't tell if he was Neandertal or Cro Magnon, so I yelled, "Death to Ugg the Mighty!" He yelled back, "Big Snorgul die, too!" We were exchanging tokens of friendship when stampeding mammoths trampled us.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:48 AM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 49... someone on State Line Road just south of Bannister/95th St. (it changes names, 95th in KS, Bannister in MO) has set up a single flag for every death in ranks between their fence and the roadway. It's gone over 3700, they also post a wire real estate sign with the total, updated day to day.

Meanwhile, in the Bay Area... Near the Lafayette BART station, there's private land where people have been planting white crosses for months now. It's on a slope, where everyone taking the train can see it, and so can people driving to SF. I'm amazed that the wingnuts haven't wrecked the area yet.

#54 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 08:54 AM:

Serge #53: The wingnuts probably leave it alone because, being wingnuts* in the Bay Area, they fear the Gay Riots any infringement on the Liberal New Order might set off.

*This word is impossible to type when a) the last time you slept was over 20 hours ago and b) your stupid browser's stupid spellcheck thinks it's spelled wrong no matter what.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 09:43 AM:

ethan... I t probably is because they fear the Gay Riots. Meanwhile, one of my homosexual co-workers living over there is still waiting for the Gay Armmageddon that the Governator said would happen if San Francisco continued allowing 'them' to be legally married.

As for stupid spellcheckers... I am reminded of the time I was working for the Gap. When I wrote my resignation letter (not one moment too soon), the spellchecker suggested replacing my manager's name with either 'valuator' or 'violator'.

#56 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 01:09 PM:

Linkmeister@50: there have been over 200 deaths from chopper crashes alone in Bush's not-so-excellent adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Well, some of that is inherent to military+aircraft. Even if we weren't in a war, military training accidents destroy aircraft and kill American troops on a regular basis. And military helicopters are notorious for having to operate in the red zones, low altitude and slow moving means you've got no room to recover in the event of an engine failure.

#57 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 02:48 PM:

There's also the point that military helicopters that go down in Iraq are always said to have "crashed" unless there is video of the anti-aircraft missiles that took them down.

"Crashed" is not a lie. But frequently "crashed after taking enemy fire" would hew closer to the whole truth.

Which wasn't very likely, and we didn't expect it, et cetera.

#58 ::: bad Jim ::: (view all by) ::: August 25, 2007, 11:42 PM:

In the 80's I worked near the Marine Corp helicopter facility in Tustin, CA (presently becoming another big-box mall). There was a crash or two every year. Up the frequency of flights, add in the rigors of a desert or mountain environment, figure in a finagle factor for the deficiencies of field maintenance, and you're going to see lots of crashes.

Please note that, whether they're downed by rough use or enemy fire, they and their crews and cargo are still casualties of war.

#59 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 03:33 AM:

Julie L @ 45: Hell, even King John is starting to look good for having actually ratified the Magna Carta into law, albeit under duress....

Also, it's lucky that King John never heard of "signing statements".

#60 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 07:51 AM:

A Magna Carta signing statement would make good parody material.

#61 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 12:44 PM:

The wingnut who wrote that speech for Bush was probably born after Vietnam.

As for other atrocities, The New Yorker recently had an article (book review?) on the partition of India and Pakistan along religious lines, back when the British Empire was collapsing, and the sectarian violence was *appalling* -- millions died. Israel/Palestine was just as disastrous, if with a smaller death toll. Obviously, meddling empires have been getting into these kinds of messes for a long time (and I know it goes back much further than the 20th cent.). "When will they ever learn ...?"

#62 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 01:28 PM:

That takes some doing, given his other actions (having child-hostages executed in their parents' view has to be high up in any list of Things Not To Do).

"The CIA has acknowledged that last September, the seven and nine year old sons of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, arrested last week and alleged to be a "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks, were seized by Pakistani authorites, and that this weekend, the kids were turned over to the CIA and then flown to America so that the young boys could be interrogated in an undisclosed location about their father's activities and used to get their father to talk."


#63 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 01:48 PM:

wrt #62, there was also Seymour Hersh's 2004 speech to the ACLU about Abu Ghraib:

The women were passing messages out saying 'Please come and kill me, because of what's happened' and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has.

As of August 2005, the DoD was still defying a federal judge's order to release more media from Abu Ghraib. I don't know how the situation has developed since then.

#64 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 02:47 PM:

The stress on the mechanics is almost as high as the stress on the guys in the choppers, and its even more unrelenting. In Vietnam, I pulled 12 hour shifts for a year doing maintenance and operations, and that was when we had more personnel (almost twice as many) than the TO called for. The mechanics in Iraq must be zombies by now, many of them being on their second or third tour; exhausted maintenance is usually bad maintenance, and it doesn't take much to wreck a turbine engine running at redline.

#65 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: August 26, 2007, 04:15 PM:

The apposite comparison is Algeria. Maybe the British in Palestine, but certainly the French in Algeria.

Torture. Failure of conventional military tactics. Corrosive political effects at home.

This is what Chirac (a veteran of th at conflict) was trying to warn Bush and Blair about in 2003 (neither of whom had any combat experience, nor serious military experience).

Eventually the French left behind over 100,000 local troops who had been allied to them. They were slaughtered.

#66 ::: Fats Durston ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Be careful:

As for other atrocities, The New Yorker recently had an article (book review?) on the partition of India and Pakistan along religious lines, back when the British Empire was collapsing, and the sectarian violence was *appalling* -- millions died.

First of all, the article in question says "as many as a million," not "millions".

Second, the numbers in this partition were highly contentious for the exact same reason as the Bush VFW speech: they were used to "prove" that Indians were not ready for the imperial power to leave. The argument: a million died, ergo, Britain should've stayed. See the similarity?

Third, the "million" number was something Winston Churchill pulled out of his ass to make his "cut and run" opponents look bad.

#67 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 10:14 AM:

#66: Pardon my lousy memory and a quickly dashed-off comment for the mistakes. (The issue in question was back at my Mom's.) But I didn't get the impression that the article was defending the Brits; they were screwing up royally -- pardon the pun -- and the world was/is the worse for it.

#68 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 12:24 PM:

#28: I hope your DVD of On the Town includes the theatrical trailer which boasts it's "Twice As Gay As Anchors Aweigh!"

Surely one of the great all-time opening numbers but doesn't the movie coast a bit after that? (MGM decided it had to dumb down the show from the Broadway version, for one thing.)

#69 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: August 27, 2007, 01:24 PM:

#42 Fragano--Who here is? At least that old authoritarian SOB was competent, planned hs wars well, and saw the value of social-welfare programs.

And ended up being fired by someone who--reminds me a lot of GWBush.

George Bush = Kaiser Wilhelm II. Dear, dear.

#70 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: September 04, 2007, 09:28 PM:

[tangent]To celebrate the official beginning of GWB's APEC visit to Sydney, and the signing of a new defence treaty, with a press conference, we've just been buzzed by (I think) an F-18. Up to now it's just been day & night circling helicopters, small watercraft zooming around the harbour & many, many police ground vehicles, as well as the 5km of steel & concrete fence through downtown. (According to eyewitnesses, he travelled the ~300 yards from his hotel to the office in a motorcade almost that long.)
They are talking mostly about Iraq, rather than what the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum is about.

HAHAHAHA! He's criticising Burma/Myanmar for stopping people from marching in protest. I wonder if the ears of PM Howard & all the others who've been really coming down heavy on any kind of protest to encourage APEC to 'turn to the Light Side of the Force' are burning.

Is there likely to be any coverage in the US news? Maybe at the end of the APEC meeting, when the leaders of three different Chinas, Russia, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific leaders all line up in fancy costume — probably with the Opera House &/or Bridge behind them — for a photo opportunity.[/tangent]

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.

(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.