In fact, he decries the overextension of American military might and says other nations must do more. However, unbeknownst to the American public, the president's own Pentagon advisers have already cooked up a plan to go to war.
All they are looking for is an excuse.
Based on faulty intelligence, cherry-picked information is fed to Congress and the American people. The president goes on national television to make the case for war, using as part of the rationale an incident that never happened. Congress buys the bait -- hook, line and sinker -- and passes a resolution giving the president the authority to use "all necessary means" to prosecute the war.
The war is started with an air and ground attack. Initially there is optimism. The president says we are winning. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense says we are winning. As a matter of fact, the secretary of defense promises the troops will be home soon.
However, the truth on the ground that the soldiers face in the war is different than the political policy that sent them there. They face increased opposition from a determined enemy. They are surprised by terrorist attacks, village assassinations, increasing casualties and growing anti-American sentiment. They find themselves bogged down in a guerrilla land war, unable to move forward and unable to disengage because there are no allies to turn the war over to.
There is no plan B. There is no exit strategy. Military morale declines. The president's popularity sinks and the American people are increasingly frustrated by the cost of blood and treasure poured into a never-ending war.
Sound familiar? It does to me.
The president was Lyndon Johnson. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense was Robert McNamara. The congressional resolution was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The war was the war that I, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John McCain and 3 1/2 million other Americans of our generation were caught up in. It was the scene of America's longest war. It was also the locale of the most frustrating outcome of any war this nation has ever fought.
Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense.
Too bad. They could have learned some lessons:
• Don't underestimate the enemy. The enemy always has one option you cannot control. He always has the option to die. This is especially true if you are dealing with true believers and guerillas fighting for their version of reality, whether political or religious. They are what Tom Friedman of The New York Times calls the "non-deterrables." If those non-deterrables are already in their country, they will be able to wait you out until you go home.
• If the enemy adopts a "hit-and-run" strategy designed to inflict maximum casualties on you, you may win every battle, but (as Walter Lippman once said about Vietnam) you can't win the war.
• If you adopt a strategy of not just pre-emptive strike but also pre-emptive war, you own the aftermath. You better plan for it. You better have an exit strategy because you cannot stay there indefinitely unless you make it the 51st state.
If you do stay an extended period of time, you then become an occupier, not a liberator. That feeds the enemy against you.
• If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just "darn good," as the president has said; it must be "bulletproof," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the administration's was against Saddam Hussein. Anything short of that saps credibility.
• If you want to know what is really going on in the war, ask the troops on the ground, not the policy-makers in Washington.
• In a democracy, instead of truth being the first casualty in war, it should be the first cause of war. It is the only way the Congress and the American people can cope with getting through it. As credibility is strained, support for the war and support for the troops go downhill. Continued loss of credibility drains troop morale, the media become more suspicious, the public becomes more incredulous and Congress is reduced to hearings and investigations.
Instead of learning the lessons of Vietnam, where all of the above happened, the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of defense have gotten this country into a disaster in the desert.
They attacked a country that had not attacked us. They did so on intelligence that was faulty, misrepresented and highly questionable.
A key piece of that intelligence was an outright lie that the White House put into the president's State of the Union speech. These officials have overextended the American military, including the National Guard and the Reserve, and have expanded the U.S. Army to the breaking point.
A quarter of a million troops are committed to the Iraq war theater, most of them bogged down in Baghdad. Morale is declining and casualties continue to increase.
In addition to the human cost, the war in dollars costs $1 billion a week, adding to the additional burden of an already depressed economy.
The president has declared "major combat over" and sent a message to every terrorist, "Bring them on." As a result, he has lost more people in his war than his father did in his and there is no end in sight.
Military commanders are left with extended tours of duty for servicemen and women who were told long ago they were going home.
We are keeping American forces on the ground, where they have become sitting ducks in a shooting gallery for every terrorist in the Middle East.
Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance.
--Max Cleland, former U.S. senator, was head of the Veterans Administration in the Carter administration. He teaches at American University in Washington.
IRAQ: WHAT WENT WRONG
By Ted Rall
A Fair and Balanced Look at America's New Vietnam
KIRKSVILLE, MISSOURI--In my March 25th column, I wrote that Bush could salvage a war based on lies only if he played the earnest liberator rather than the crusading colonizer.
He had already abandoned Afghanistan; few cared or noticed. But Iraq wasn't nearly as remote. The world would be watching, and we would only have one chance to make a good first impression.
I wish I could pick stocks as accurately.
The bombing of Najaf's Imam Ali mosque, killing pro-U.S. Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr al Hakim and at least 90 Shiite faithful, marks the start of full-fledged religious warfare in the U.S.-occupied central and southern sectors. (Our de facto recognition of a future Kurdistan has effectively ended the prospect of a unified Iraq.) Possible suspects include fellow Shiite cleric Mukhtader al Sadr, an Iraqi nationalist opposed to the U.S. occupation, Iranian intelligence agents and Sunnis affiliated with Saddam Hussein's deposed government.
Iraqi complaints that U.S. forces failed to provide adequate security only tell part of the story. Hoping that Iraq's next leaders would organically emerge from the mish-mash of former exile groups, Administrator Paul Bremer refused to create a new U.S. puppet regime or to allow Iraqis to hold elections.
This faith-based occupation policy has sparked a violent struggle among the opposition parties. DeBaathification and random sweeps of homes in Sunni-dominated regions are alienating the Sunni minority while emboldening insurgent Shiite militants. And the Iranians, worried that Bush will invade them after next year's presidential election, are funding radical Shiites to keep us tied up.
Saddam kept Iraq's federation of conflicting tribes and religions together through intimidation and bribery. The Pentagon has doesn't have enough troops to accomplish the former and none of the cash needed for the latter, making the old tyrant look great by comparison--and sparking paranoia in the Muslim media.
"The Zionists want to divide Iraq into three separate states, a Shiite, a Sunni and a Kurdish state," posits Charles Ayoub in Beirut's Ad-Diyar newspaper. "The United States is ruled by the Zionists. The...announcement by U.S. authorities in Iraq that the perpetrators of the [Najaf bombing] belonged to the Sunni Muslim community and to the Al Qaeda organization was aimed at triggering such strife between the Sunnis and Shiites."
Even if we had proved ourselves to be the most benevolent occupiers to ever march through their streets, Iraqis would still have yearned to have their nation back to themselves. We've been anything but.
Our early emphasis on seizing oil fields, and schemes to funnel revenue from the U.N. oil-for-food program into lucrative contracts with Halliburton (which still pays Dick Cheney a huge salary) and MCI-WorldCom (a major Bush-Cheney campaign donor) belie our stated commitment to liberation and spreading democracy.
We're more Genghis Khan than Dwight Eisenhower.
Bush, a former businessman, is treating "liberated" Iraq like the victim of a hostile leveraged buy-out. In an LBO, you borrow a target company's purchase price and saddle its balance sheet with the resulting debt, layoffs and possible bankruptcy.
In Iraq Bush hopes to defray rising costs of occupation--$1 billion a week for the Pentagon, plus $30 billion to fix water, electricity and oil production facilities--by selling Iraq's oil.
But it's Iraq's oil, not ours.
Our soldiers disposed of Saddam's army, but they haven't been nearly as effective as good will ambassadors. Partly because they don't speak Arabic or understand Islamic culture, jumpy U.S. soldiers are killing so many Iraqi civilians that the Pentagon is deliberately not keeping a count of accidental casualties.
Our troops are swaggering about the desert like Gestapo thugs, robbing locals of their cash, kicking down doors, roughing up women (a no-no under Islam) and brown-bagging innocent men's heads before dragging them off screaming into the night.
The good news, such as it is, is that Bush's neo-con wolf pack is finally beginning to admit that the facts didn't fit with all their bluster. "Some conditions were worse than we anticipated, particularly in the security area," acknowledges Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. Richard Armitage, the radical right's number two at State, now wants the U.N. to get involved.
The Defense Policy Board's Richard Perle, newly concedes that we should have prepared a postwar Iraqi government. "The answer is to hand over power to Iraqis as soon as possible," says Perle.
Getting warmer...but still wrong.
The real answer is to get the hell out before one more American or Iraqi gets killed in a lost cause. "Leaving now would place Iraqis under violent usurpers and set a precedent that could haunt the U.S. government for years," argues The New York Times' Christopher Marquis, but we've already blown our chance to make a good first impression. More money, more men, more international involvement--those were good ideas back in March. Now it's too late to avoid the ostracizing of the United States or the Afghanistanization of Iraq.
For God's sake, cut our losses--and Iraq's--and bring our troops home.
(Ted Rall is the author of the graphic travelogue "To Afghanistan (news - web sites) and Back," an award-winning recounting of his experiences covering the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. It is now available in a revised and updated paperback edition containing new material. Ordering information is available at amazon.com.)
We Can Win the War in Vietnam
And other chestnuts from a not-so-bygone era
Daniel Patrick Welch
I love the smell of quagmire in the morning. My, but it takes you back, doesn't it?
The only thing left to say is that there is "light at the end of the tunnel." But everything else has already begun to play itself out. We have even seen the resurrection of that Orwellian mantra "winning the peace." If I had been just a few years older in the Vietnam era, the deja-vu might kill me.
As it is, I have to rely on crazy resources, like history, to feel the eerie similarities coming into focus. No real sense carpet-bombing the desert, so that's out-no trees to hide in. Napalm made a surprising rebound, though. They lied about it for months (gasp!) of course, but its comeback was all but assured given the recycled cast of characters. I'm beginning to think the only reason we haven't heard more about "Iraqization (Iraqicization¦ Iraqation ?) is that it's so much harder to spell than Vietnamization. The hubris of the Best and the Brightest is back with a vengeance, though-recast as The Most Dangerous Men on Earth.
Of course we can win the war in [enter name of hopeless imperial adventure in which the U.S. is currently involved here].
These colors don't run! I wonder if remorse is even a quality even remotely familiar to these Men of War. Having whipped up a war fever among the gullible with a pack of lies wrapped in jingoistic slogans, they are sending other people's children to die in yet another far-off place. Do they care? Has the ice in their veins warmed at all since the days of Civil War impressments, the hireling campaigns of the British Empire, the thousands of boys sacrificed at Gallipoli on the altar of nation building?
Ahhh, that's how you work your way up from the stockroom if your boys get wiped out in a war, now that's how you become a country!
Obviously, the relation of rulers to fighters is one thing that hasn't changed since Vietnam, nor for ages before. One of the most troubling aspects of the draft, after deferments and exemptions and the like, was the age. A huge outcry arose over the unseemly fact that young adults qualified to fight and die for the goals of their government were not, alas, eligible to vote to shape those goals.
Today still, the number of offspring of members of Congress in the military barely registers. Yet almost 40,000 of America's frontline soldiers are not eligible for citizenship (and thus voting)-what British MP George Galloway has called America's "Green Card Army."
US attacked over green card soldiers.
Back then, this outrage sparked a constitutional amendment to insure that never again would America's youth be sent off to die without having a say in the matter. But of course, the ruling elites have ways of dealing with such insolence, and devised an even more ingenious end run: pick from those who can't vote in any event. Great show, guv'nors! The thing about The People having a say was even easier to dispense with. A spineless Congress having been hoodwinked and bullied into ceding its constitutional power, the people were easy dominoes. Actually, the people put up more of a fight than the "opposition," but in the end the Big Lie held sway enough to drown out the voices of reason.
The neocons and their Fellow Travelers will screech about how this or that is completely different. Well, duh! The only true analogies are in math: 2 is to 4 as 3 is to 6, and so on. Every historical period has its social and cultural characteristics.
Nobody expects today's Antichrist to be a short, goofy looking character who is adopted by big business because they think they can play him for the buffoon he is, oh, wait a minute. The one thing that is different is the speed and intensity with which the ill-fated project in question seems to be imploding. Unless we start with Reagan's Morning in America, this sunset appears to have come awful quick compared to Vietnam.
True to form, then as now, the Cold War [or enter current global nemesis-of-the-month here] knows no party loyalty. But this, sadly, is indeed a bit different. When things started going this badly in Vietnam, there was a sizeable antiwar bloc within the party claiming to be the Tribune of the People.
Now, of course, as we know all too well, the "opposition" which cut its teeth on caving with the 2000 election apparently liked the flavor. Having voted for the war (or having even if was a bad idea, or that it was insufficiently macho, or that the planets weren't aligned quite right, or whatever), it has decided that the real problem is one of management.
A well-managed occupation might succeed just fine: more troops, more electricity better slogans? Most Democrats, all too like their truly frightening counterparts, are all for continuing the occupation, bless their incorrigible little imperialist hearts.
You see, the right wing has always blamed Democrats for being spineless. Their version of the Vietnam syndrome was akin to a geopolitical Rorschach test: no matter what the little blob looked like, Democrats always saw Vietnam.
In their smug, arrogant way, the right has lobbied for another Vietnam since April 1975, and tried to bully the opposition with silly analogies like this one. Little did they know that they simply chose the wrong psychiatrist.
The real bogeyman here is the fictional Dr. Zilkov, the Russian scientist who programmed the killing machine in the classic Manchurian Candidate. Angela Landsbury, in one of her greatest roles, acts as the Russian agent who controls Laurence Harvey's character. Coaxed to "pass the time by playing a little solitaire," the brainwashed Sgt. Raymond Shaw dutifully turns cards until the Queen of Hearts turns up. Once this trigger is revealed, he is doomed to follow the murderous plan of his trainers, in a trance, through to its bloody end.
The Democrats don't seem to realize that the Queen of Hearts has already been turned, and by staying in Iraq we only prolong the time until we are driven out, the treasury looted in the process.
The only "obligation" the US can be serious about is to undo the war crimes committed in the name of our people by the Dark Knights in Washington.
Arresting them and turning them over to the International Criminal Court would be a start-except that we don't belong to it. The right wing is obviously off its rocker-no sense wasting ink there. The rest of us should be careful not to be deceived into thinking that the Iraqis need us, except to pay damages for ruining their country.
Think about it, does the oldest city on earth really need Paul Bremer's "expertise" to get back on its feet?
The UN, having allowed itself to be used as an arm of US policy, is unfortunately equally tarnished. Iraqis hate the UN as much as they do the US, in part for their failure to stop the invasion, in part for their obsequious role in the murderous decade-long sanctions regime that throttled the country.
The Republicans, having destroyed an entire country-not including the US (and cutting them some slack here if we concede that Afghanistan was already mostly rubble), are lost.
Ironically, they not only seem doomed to see the US commit the same mistakes as in Vietnam, but to play out the rest of the deck by blaming the same people.
They have even begun griping about the press-the press (!) who so dutifully jumpstarted their little exercise in imperial lunacy to begin with, is now somehow hindering the flowering of their neocon fantasies.
Denial, it seems, another stubborn hallmark of the Vietnam quagmire, has also come back for a second run.
© 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted with credit and link to danielpwelch.com Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. A writer, singer, linguist and activist, he has appeared on radio [interview available here] and can be available for further interviews. Past articles, translations are available at www.danielpwelch.com
Mediocre times produce the very worst that the world has to offer:
Laden, Bush, Hussein, Sharon, and Blair. None but the feeble minded
inspiration from such a ghastly lineup of "leaders".
Turn Off TV and Turn On Quantum
Humanity's most valuable possessions are Clean Water, Clean air, and Trees