Remaking Iraq, as Vietnam
The Bush/Cheney administration seems hell-bent on making President Bush’s seemingly ludicrous analogy of Iraq and Vietnam into a reality.
A few weeks ago, the president drew hoots of derision from critics and pundits for claiming that the US lost the war in Indochina because it pulled out of Vietnam too early. His implication was that even though the country had killed several million Vietnamese and had lost 58,000 of its own troops in years of escalating fighting there, if we had only stayed on and killed and lost even more people, we would have eventually prevailed, and that thus, it would be a mistake to pull out of the quagmire in Iraq.
That analogy and its bloddy-minded "moral" were seriously flawed for two reasons. First of all, the U.S. couldn’t stay on and fight in Vietnam, even if it wanted to, because increasingly after 1968, the soldiers on the ground were refusing to fight, and in many cases were in passive or even open revolt against their officers, and besides, they were losing to the infinitely more motivated Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. And secondly, Iraq’s insurgents are not coming from another part of the country that is sheltered from attack US troops, the way North Vietnamese regulars were coming down to help their brothers and sisters in South Vietnam,. Iranian troops aren’t fighting and dying, or even being captured, in Iraq. It is the Iraqi people who are living in and around the U.S. forces that are fighting them.
No matter. Bush, safe behind his mahogany desk in the Oval Office and his phalanx of Secret Service guards, is now trying to shoehorn Iraq into the model of the Vietnam War that he so famously ducked out of 40 years ago.
Claiming that all of the problems faced by American forces are the fault of Iran and its Revolutionary Guard forces, Bush and his sycophantic backers in the military like Gen. Peaches Petraeus are trying to suggest that, like North Vietnam in that earlier conflict, Iran is sending people and weapons to the fighters in Iraq, and that that’s why we’re losing.
It’s a bald-faced lie. Most of the attacks on American forces for the past four years in Iraq have come from Sunni forces who assuredly are getting no help from Shia Iran. If they are getting outside help, military or financial, it is coming primarily from Saudi Arabia! The Shia militias, like the Badr Brigades and the Mahdi Army, both of which have leaders who spent long periods of exile in Iran during the Saddam Hussein era, no doubt forged relationships and likely even did receive training in Iran, and probably have also received some financial and other aid from Iranian allies, but for the most part they’ve steered clear of confrontations with American forces, preferring to target Sunni rivals. And given that the US has been trying mightily to prove a connection between the fragmented Iraqi resistance and Iran, the evidence of any significant flow of arms from Iran into Iraq has been pretty damned pathetic (and even what evidence has been shown looks trumped up).
North Vietnam had the remarkable Ho Chi Minh Trail, a veritable superhighway of jungle paths and dug-in hideouts and bomb shelters that allowed the North Vietnamese to ferry weapons, soldiers and even mechanized forces in large quantities southward into South Vietnam. There is nothing even remotely approaching such a thing along the Iran/Iraq border.
Yet just as Lyndon Johnson decided to make the disastrous decision to expand the Vietnam War to North Vietnam by initiating a bombing campaign that ended up dumping more tonnage on that little country than was dropped on all of Europe and Japan during World War II, Bush is now using this red herring of alleged arms shipments from Iran to build support for a massive bombing campaign against Iran.
As Sy Hersh has written in the New Yorker magazine, Bush and Cheney have failed to gain adequate support internationally or even here in the U.S. for an air attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but they are close to getting what they need to bomb Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
According to Hersh, a plan to make "limited" attacks on Iran’s military forces has been endorsed by Britain’s new yes-man, Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
If such attacks are begun, let’s be clear. They will do nothing to stem attacks against US forces inside Iraq, which are being conducted by indigenous fighters. And they will not stay limited in scope. They will inevitably expand to include most of Iran. A bombing campaign would, moreever, be an act of war against a nation that poses no threat to America-a monstrous war crime. As such it would set off a chain of events which, like Johnson’s expansion of the Indochina War into North Vietnam, will end up making things much worse for American soldiers and marines in Iraq, just as Johnson’s expansion of the was to North Vietnam made things much worse for American troops in South Vietnam.
If anything, an attack on Iran’s military will lead Iran to start a serious program of aiding America’s enemies in Iraq, ferrying large quantities of arms across a long common boarder that will be impossible for the US to guard. For another, the Shia militias in Iraq will almost certainly respond to an attack on Iran by turning their guns and IEDs on American forces. It seems likely that Iran would also start becoming more ecumenical in its aid to Iraqi fighters, so that Sunni fighters could also benefit from their largesse.
That is to say, an attack by the US on Iran could well have the perverse effect of uniting the fractious Iraqi resistance against a common enemy: the U.S.
This is all so patently obvious that it is hard to believe the administration doesn’t see it, but then, I’m not so sure they really care. With the Bush/Cheney administration, the war’s the thing. War is an absolute good in and of itself to these people. It keeps the Congress to heel, it keeps the country waving the flag, and most importantly it keeps Bush in the vaunted role of Commander in Chief.
It used to be said that "democracies don’t start wars." That notion always was absurd, or course. The US, one of the world’s leading democracies, has started probably close to 30 wars just since World War II, including invasions of the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Panama, Cuba, and of course, Iraq. Still, the scale of America’s wars of aggression under the Bush/Cheney regime has been rising to the point that this country has become the number one war-monger in the world, rivaling, in its predations, the villains of the 1930s.
What makes it all particularly obscene is that instead of the Congress, ostensibly in the hands of the opposition party, and ostensibly a "people’s body" which the Founders thought and hoped would provide a brake to war-mongers in the executive branch, is giving the administration backing to bomb Iran’s military.
It’s increasingly looking like a done deal. If so, we’re into a long war, and it will no longer be Bush’s war. It will be Bush’s and Congress’s war.
And if we don’t prevent it, it will be our war, too. At least the Germans, Japanese and Italians had the excuse that their countries went to war under absolute dictators. We can’t say that.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Lindorff’s newest book is "The Case for Impeachment",
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org