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Iraq and Vietnam
"So they stood on the sidelines as the parade marched on and 50,000 of our soldiers died in a war they did not understand. And they watched and cheered as millions of Vietnamese died at our hands, while the silent enemy went to Sunday barbecues and John Wayne movies and trotted out the flags for the Fourth of July. They watched and applauded, year after year, as presidents spoke of victory and light at the end of the tunnel, as the body count grew and soldiers came home in boxes. They watched until their silence turned to sickening horror and they began to whisper among themselves: What have we done?"
Jazzman Chronicles, Vol. II: The War Chronicles
Confronted with the Tet Offensive in 1968, American warlords publicly professed confidence in our campaign to liberate Viet Nam. There was a light at the end of the tunnel. Secretly, they lamented the ineffectiveness of South Vietnamese forces: Vietnamese would not kill Vietnamese. We know now that the presidency of Lyndon Johnson would not survive long enough to see that light revealed as Vietnamese liberation.
Confronted with the rising tide of Iraqi resistance in the wake of Fallujah, our president assures us it is only the remnants of Saddam loyalists and isolated foreign terrorists. Secretly, our generals know better. They have expanded the targets to include noncooperative journalists (Al Jazeera) and civilians who refuse to collaborate with the occupying force. Like Operation Phoenix in Viet Nam (a CIA operation that killed 20,000 South Vietnamese), we are targeting the very people we are supposed to be liberating. Openly, our warlords lament the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi security force. It seems we must learn again another lesson of Viet Nam: Iraqis will not kill Iraqis – at least not for a foreign invader.
What has become clearer than any light at the end of the tunnel is that there can be no American victory in Iraq. The people of Iraq have delivered a strong and unambiguous message: Victory is an end to the occupation. They do not believe we are liberators. They believe we are there to secure their oil and to establish a permanent military base in the Middle East. As long as our president flatly refuses to disavow such claims, those beliefs will persist and harden into a conviction that will feed the resistance. We cannot kill enough Iraqis to suppress the will of the nation and the more we kill, the stronger the resistance will become.
The president is right for the wrong reason: Failure is not an option because it has already been secured. America will never be allowed to establish permanent bases in Iraq. America will never be allowed to control Iraqi oil. And whatever form of government evolves in Iraq, it will be one of their own choosing.
The Vietnamese fought against foreign invaders for centuries before securing independence. Are the Iraqis so very different? How many lives are we prepared to sacrifice to find out? How many lives must be sacrificed before America can admit: We are wrong? How many more must we ask to give their lives for this mistake?
You cannot convert wrong to right by prolonging the occupation. You can only increase the cost in lives, money, and the respect of all nations. You can only fuel the fires of our true enemies and further alienate our true friends.
Let us undo the harm insofar as it can be undone. Let us use our resources not for weapons but to rebuild the nations we have destroyed. Let us make amends as best we can. Let us admit wrong and withdraw our troops. Let us pledge our support to the United Nations. At this critical juncture, we can do little else.
JACK RANDOM is the author of the Jazzman Chronicles (Crow Dog Press). The Chronicles are currently being aired by Speer Presents in Nashville TN. He can be reached through his website: www.jackrandom.com