Iím often asked whether there arenít big differences between the Iraq War and Vietnam. And Iím always quick to say, of course, there are differences. In Iraq, itís a dry heat. And the language that none of our troops or diplomats speak is Arabic rather than Vietnamese.That's from a fabulously depressing essay by Daniel Ellsberg (via WIIIAI).
It was very hard to exit Vietnam, to end the American war in Vietnam. And there was no guarantee that it would end in 10 years from 1965, as it did. It was likely to have gone on much longer, and would have without a combination of Congressional pressure, pushed by public pressure, and luck of various kinds, including the revelations of Watergate.He's right. Very few in Congress have the courage it takes to be called wimps. And I think if you removed the word "American" from the paragraph I highlighted, you could probably attribute over 100 million deaths in the 20th century to the same "afraid to be called a wimp" syndrome on the part of German, British, French, Russian, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Iraqi, Iranian, Cambodian, Somalian and probably 100 other countries' politicians. Once the blood and testosterone get flowing, it seems to require far less courage to wave the flag and join the mayhem, even up to risking one's own life, than it does to object and refuse to play along.
I believe it will be much harder and longer to get out of Iraq. There was no oil in Vietnam. Our need for bases in that area was not what we perceive our need for bases in the Middle East to be.
We are the problem that unifies resistance forces.
The unity of resistance forces right now is on one thing and that is American occupation. That doesnít make for a peaceful Iraq, ever. In fact, it precludes the possibility of a peaceful Iraq.
Our administration says our duty is to stay there, that we owe them our presence, which is false. We owe them a lot in the way of money and reconstructions but not our presence. It only oppresses them, really.
People who call for getting out now will be called defeatists, appeasers, losers, weaklings, or cowards. They wonít be called pro-communist now, but they will be called pro-terrorism, pro-Osama bin Laden, which is ironic because as was foreseen by such administration experts as Richard Clarke, in the government, the occupation of Iraq day by day strengthens the forces of al-Qaida; itís the opposite of whatís being said now.
To get out, theyíll say youíre for terrorism, youíre for defeat.
I want to say this as an analogy toward Vietnam. We canít move toward what we should do, which is getting out as soon as we can. You canít move in that direction, without being willing to be charged with calling for defeat and failure and weakness and cowardice. And that just rules it out for most people.
I would say that many, I could say thousands, but itís really hundreds of thousands, and when we include the Vietnamese, millions, have died in the last century because American politicians were unwilling to be called names. They were unwilling to face, however invalid, however ridiculous, the charge that they were weak, unmanly, cowardly, defeatist, losers, and whatnot.
We were lied into Iraq the same way we were lied into Vietnam, even though the war initially, the blitzkrieg phase, looked very different. The war is now looking very similar. Kennedy and Byrd, two Senators who were still there who had voted for the Tonkin Gulf resolution, pleading with their fellow senators both said ďI am ashamed of what I did almost 40 years ago. Donít live with that for the rest of your lives.Ē Most of them will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.
That is the kind of courage that is needed. The courage to say that we need to get out. The courage to speak the truth. That will save us and the Iraqis from the occupation.