Thursday, August 23, 2007

Vietnam and Iraq

Analogizing about history is always iffy even for professional historians, but historical analogies are most dangerous in the hands of people who are too ignorant to know better. That's how you end up with comparisons like this:

President Bush defended his ongoing military commitment in Iraq by linking the conflict there to the Vietnam War, arguing Wednesday that withdrawing U.S. troops would lead to widespread death and suffering as it did in Southeast Asia three decades ago.

"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,' 'reeducation camps' and 'killing fields,' " Bush told a receptive audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national convention.

Well, that's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is to acknowledge that we killed millions of people forestalling a unification that we ultimately did not have the power to prevent, and produced untold bloodshed by not permitting the conflict to be resolved in the only way it could be resolved. Which actually sounds a lot like what we're doing in Iraq right now, but the President won't make that comparison.

UPDATE: The Vietnamese are somewhat rankled by the inapt historical comparison (via War in Context):

...people in Vietnam, where opposition to the U.S. intervention in Iraq is strong, said Thursday that Bush had drawn the wrong conclusions from the Southeast Asian conflict.

"Doesn't he realize that if the U.S. had stayed in Vietnam longer, they would have killed more people?" said Vu Huy Trieu of Hanoi, a veteran who fought against the U.S. troops in Vietnam. "Nobody regrets that the Vietnam War wasn't prolonged except Bush."

Well, Bush and many other right-wing Americans who adopt a historically revisionist view of the war. Our President could learn something from a man who actually fought in the war however.


Truth4AChange said...

Not to mention that the Cambodian regime began the slaughter of its people well before our ungraceful exit, using our presence partly as a cover...

I tell ya the man is loony...

Xanthippas said...

Good point, and something I alluded to an the earlier blog post I link to up top.

Xanthippas said...

In case anybody's interested, here's a post that summarizes what truth4change is talking about pretty well.