Bush, Vietnam and 14 More GIs Dead


After checking the baseball scores this morning, August 22, 2005, I turned to the front page only to read that fourteen US soldiers died in a copter crash near Baghdad. Of course, preliminary reports from the military claimed that the cause was an accident and not from hostile fire. The actual truth of that summation may change but the men will remain dead, no matter what the reason, just like the other 3704 soldiers and marines killed in that war. Meanwhile, here in the US most of the politicians who authorized this debacle continue to wrangle about how best to continue it. As they do this, they also provide the US people with ever-changing rationales.

US politicians from both sides of the aisle continue to talk about the need for Iraqis to achieve political reconciliation, as if it were something Washington can create. Even if Washington could create such a reality, it would probably not be one acceptable to too many Iraqis. Furthermore, its only intention would not be true reconciliation between all Iraqi parties, since many armed actors would be left out, but an agreement among hose willing to go along with the next phase of the imperial occupation project.

Members of both factions of the war party are calling for the PM’s head and one wonders how much longer he will survive politically, if not literally. If he did die in a “terrorist” attack or coup it wouldn’t be the first time the US was involved with the death of an uncooperative puppet. Does the name Diem ring a bell?

Speaking of Diem and the “country ” he ruled at the behest of the United States, Mr. Bush is now comparing the US occupation of Iraq to the US war in Indochina. Of course, he is doing so for all the wrong reasons. “Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left,” Mr. Bush will tell the Veterans of Foreign Wars. “Whatever your position in that debate, 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,’ ‘re-education camps,’ and ‘killing fields. Naturally, Mr. Bush fails to note that if the United States had never been in Vietnam, there would not have been the need to add these terms to “our vocabulary.” It was the decision by Washington to refuse the right of the Vietnamese to hold countrywide elections as agreed to in the 1954 Geneva agreements and the subsequent machinations by the US military and intelligence agencies to install a client government in southern Vietnam that created the situation that precipitated all of the newly termed phenomena.

Furthermore, (to borrow most of Mr. Bush’s words), if there is one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam it is that the price of America’s involvement was paid by millions of innocent victims.

Mr. Bush is now calling the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan part of an ideological struggle on the scale of Dean Acheson and the Dulles brothers’ war against Soviet communism in the post World War Two era. Besides the sheer hyperbole of this assertion, the fact is that this perception of the current wars is held by very few people on the planet including US residents.

This late-in-the-game rationale for the slaughter and waste undertaken in our name is merely the most recent excuse the Washington establishment is using to sell their war for total dominance. It is unlikely to receive any more support than the previous lies and half-truths have, even at the VFW convention where Mr. Bush will officially present it.

If the US was not in Iraq, the fourteen men killed in that copter crash would never have died there. In the same way, if the US had never been in Vietnam, there never would have been boat people or the other things Bush mentions. Talk about revisionism.

Beware, this is only the beginning of a new effort to sell these wars. The next salvo will take place on September 11, 2007, when General Petraeus, the latest general to run the war in Iraq, presents his commercial for an extended surge and an increased commitment to the ongoing occupation of that country. Of course, the date has “absolutely nothing” to do with the anniversary of the attacks in New York and Virginia six years ago.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His first novel, Short Order Frame Up, is published by Mainstay Press. He can be reached at: rjacobs3625@charter.net


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Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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