Vietnam and Iraq: A Comparison

Craig recently commented that he thinks characterizations of the current situation in Iraq as a Vietnam-style “quagmire” are inappropriate. He asked there for “a rational and coherent analysis of how this really compares in any specific, factual way to Vietnam.”

“Rational” and “coherent” aren’t phrases that people normally apply to me, but I thought I’d give it a try anyway. Follow the link below, or scroll down, to read the result.

To avoid getting caught up in irrelevancies (“Vietnam is a country whose name starts with the letter “V”; there isn’t a single V in Iraq’s name!”), let me first explain in a little more detail what I’m referring to. In the wake of the Vietnam war, a widespread consensus emerged in this country that it had been problematic. Even for people who supported wars generally, or who supported that war in particular, there were things about the way it played out that were undesirable. People disagreed strongly about whose fault it was that the war had gone so badly, but everyone pretty much agreed that it had gone badly.

A big part of what went badly about it has come to be referred to by the (possibly too-glib) expression quagmire. That is, the war became, metaphorically speaking, a big, sucking, muddy, bog which we’d gotten ourselves stuck in and from which it proved extremely difficult to remove ourselves. In the course of dealing with that quagmire the nation spent tremendous amounts of time, money, energy, and, most tragically, the health and lives of a great many of its citizens — and in the end had very little to show for it.

As I said above, it wasn’t just peaceniks who held this point of view. It was pretty much everyone in the country, including the military brass who (perhaps unfairly) bore a lot of the blame for having failed to prosecute the war more successfully.

Colin Powell addressed these issues in the “Powell Doctrine” (see the list of sources on the lies.com wiki page IsIraqLikeVietnam for a link). The Powell Doctrine asserted that because of the terrible costs associated with going to war, our country should only do so when certain conditions had been met, and having chosen to do so, we should conduct the war in a certain way. Specifically, the Powell Doctrine asserted:


  • War should be used as a last resort, when less-extreme solutions have proven ineffective
  • War should be initiated with strong public support
  • War should be undertaken only when there is a well-defined national interest at stake
  • War should be executed with overwhelming force
  • There should be a clear exit strategy

On its face, the Powell Doctrine is pretty hard to criticize. Anyone with an adult appreciation of the horrible costs of war would have a hard time arguing against any of these points. And yet an argument could be made that the Iraq war failed to a greater or lesser degree on all of them. Here’s my take on ways in which the Iraq war failed to live up to the spirit of the Powell Doctrine (recognizing that some or all of those points would be disputed by a war supporter):


  • UN weapons inspections had not been proven ineffective (though the Administration asserted that they had)
  • There was not strong public support for the war (at least where “strong” is defined as “based on an honest presentation of the available evidence,” since support based on lies will by definition be subject to swift erosion when those lies are exposed).
  • Whatever national interests were being pursued were not “well-defined”; they were, in fact, exceedingly murkily defined.
  • The force we used was overwhelming in terms of achieving the initial military victory, but apparently underwhelming in terms of the necessary post-war peacekeeping.
  • Exit strategy? What exit strategy?

The Powelll Doctrine never represented official US policy, and Powell himself was a strong supporter of this war, both of which points lessen the impact of the above arguments. And even if the Iraq war gets an “F” on its Powell Doctrine grade, it doesn’t mean we’re necessarily in a quagmire. But it could be argued that by having so-thoroughly violated its principles we’ve certainly put ourselves at risk of one.

But are we actually in one? There are a couple of different perspectives we can use in looking at this question. On the one hand, we can look at the situation from the perspective of US military forces on the ground in Iraq.
Points in favor of saying Iraq is like Vietnam from their perspective:


  • We face a significant insurgency, with daily snipings and RPG attacks.
  • We don’t speak the language, don’t understand the local culture, and can’t effectively distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys when the latter aren’t actually shooting at us.
  • We may lack sufficient force to achieve our (peacekeeping) mission, with statements by military leaders as to the required force being overruled by their civilian superiors.
  • We have no clear idea of when, or even under what circumstances, we get to go home.

Points opposed to such a characterization:


  • The death toll remains well short of Vietnam standards. At its peak the Vietnam War was taking 500 US lives per month, and did so for many years. We’re only losing about a tenth that many people per month at this point, and have only been doing so for a few months.
  • Our Iraq opponents lack a secure base of operations. They have no equivalent of North Vietnam with its regular army, or the support of nuclear-equipped superpower China.
  • Our opponents have no jungles to hide in. (They do, however, have the extensive urban areas that Tariq Aziz famously likened to them, at least for guerilla-concealment purposes.)
  • All our troops in Iraq are volunteers. While there has been some talk of reviving the draft, and such talk may turn into reality if the needs of waging perpetual war and the reported low rates of reservist re-upping continue, we’re not there yet.

Now let’s look at things from the perspective of domestic politics. Points in favor of the Iraq/Vietnam connection:


  • A president who arrived in office with questionable legitimacy (LBJ by way of assassination, Bush by way of an electoral “victory” in which he received fewer votes than his opponent).
  • A war authorized by Congress in response to questionable, politically tainted intelligence (Gulf of Tonkin/Iraqi WMDs & al Qaeda connection).
  • A lack of clarity by political leaders as to the war’s purpose, justification, duration, costs, and exit strategy.
  • A disconnection between political pronouncements at home and realities on the ground, with ideology substituting for objective analysis in the generation of either overly dire or overly rosy predictions (we must stop Communism in South Vietnam or the other nations of southeast Asia will “fall like dominos”; the overthrow of Saddam Hussein will lead to a spontaneous wave of pro-US democracy-formation throughout the middle east).
  • A bait-and-switch approach to escalating involvement; “mission creep”. Note how it is only now that the administration is beginning to publicly address the true length and cost of the Iraqi occupation.

Arguments against the Iraq-is-like-Vietnam characterization, with respect to the domestic political scene:


  • The drawing of parallels is ludicrous on its face. It’s an apples and oranges comparison. We’re simply too early in the process to see how Iraq will play out politically over the long haul.
  • Public support for the war remains high (although it has been dropping).
  • Unlike Vietnam, where the threat of nuclear-equipped communist nations opposed to US interests could only be linked indirectly to the cause of waging war, the memory of the 9/11 attacks makes the waging of war on “terrorist nations” an easier sell today. The resulting domestic support will tend to give politicians a freer hand in using whatever means are necessary to avoid a Vietnam-style quagmire, as opposed to the incremental, “proportional” steps pursued by Johnson and Nixon in Vietnam. (Note, though, that this will require continued identification in the public mind of the Iraq war with the 9/11-inspired “war on terror”.)

So, where does leave us?

I think it leaves us in the murk. For someone like me, suspicious of Bush’s motives and willing to see every development in the worst light, the Iraq war shows every sign of developing into a full-blown Vietnam-esque quagmire. Under this scenario, the level of violent resistance to the occupation will continue to increase, the bodycounts will escalate on all sides, and civilian hearts and minds will increasingly turn against us. Our options will increasingly look like choices of the lesser of various evils, and the initial strong public support for the war will erode over time, leading to an eventual discrediting of those who sold it as a good idea (possibly not, however, until after pro-war sentiment delivers one or more landslide presidential victories, as happened in 1964 and 1968).

For someone like Craig, who is much more supportive of the president and the war, talk of a quagmire is wildly premature. Hostilities will subside as we continue the work of reconstruction; the Iraqi-in-the-street will come to see US forces as benign, or at least neutral; force reductions will bring our men and women home alive and healthy, rather than in bodybags and wheelchairs.

I believe there actually is a Truth that’s out there in this case; either we are seeing the initial stages of a Vietnam-style quagmire or we aren’t, and before too many more years have passed we’ll know which it was. But by then, whichever of Craig or me was wrong will have morphed his position to accommodate the unfolding reality, and probably will take no particular notice of having been wrong; he (or I) will be too busy railing against the perceived evils of the day to acknowledge such historical irrelevancies.

Which is too bad. Because when you get right down to it, it’s only by our ability to learn from our mistakes that we have any hope at all.

Anyway, numerous web links to opinions and source data are available in the wiki’s IsIraqLikeVietnam page. Please feel free to add your responses as comments here, or as edits there, and to add additional links to the sources. I’d be especially interested in people offering arguments refuting the Iraq/Vietnam comparison. Thanks.

11 Responses to “Vietnam and Iraq: A Comparison”

  1. MMR Says:

    First, if John is looking for someone to disagree with him it won’t be me (at least not on this subject). We’re not at the Vietnam stage yet in Iraq but we’re quickly heading down that path. One thing that wasn’t mentioned in the post is the similarity between current leadership and that in existence during the vietnam era.

    Now a quick note, I was born in ’67 so have no memory of the Vietnam era (let’s face it, I was six when we pulled out of the country). However, my father was of draft age during that time and although he was not called up (college deferment, then two small children…), he did not draft dodge in my opinion. And since he was from the poorer end of the white spectrum and his father was dead, his stepfather drove a truck, he couldn’t use his daddy’s influence to get a berth in the “Air National Guard” (yes, Craig, that was a direct slam at Bush). He also had to work his way through college and is now what I would characterize as an upper middle class (economically) baby boomer. My father is also a bit of a history buff so I recently asked him for his take on the situation over in Iraq and here’s what he wrote.

    I should also mention he’s fairly conservative and votes heavily republican:

    “Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are very dangerous men in my opinion….no credibility, and always operating with a hidden agenda which satisfies their own particular philosophy—and always an excuse if things don’t go their way. Did you ever hear Rumsfeld take the blame for anything during the Iraq news conference updates? The lack of planning for the peace following this conflict to fill the vacuum of leadership is appalling. They seem to have a mindset that if you are not 100% on our side, then you are 100% against us….example, Rumsfeld’s threat to move 90+ military bases out of Germany. They are today’s equivalent to Robert McNamara, President Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense who was latter listed as one of the 10 most inept leaders in US history ever to serve in public office. McNamara (ex Ford Motors executive) was the wizard who decided to build overkill into the nuclear deterrent strategy which kicked off an ever escalating nuclear arms race with Russia and the consequential waste of tremendous resources. He later confessed in a book he wrote that he knew the men dying in Vietnam were dying for nothing because we could never win the war.

    I believe both Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are power mongers who fundamentally have a disconnect with the procedures of diplomacy and have caused great harm to this country’s relationships with the rest of the world. I now believe the intelligence was manipulated to exaggerate the weapons of mass destruction threat from Iraq—and that Rumsfeld, more than Bush Jr, was determined to even the score with Saddam because of the assassination attempt on Bush Sr. during his watch the first time around.

    Bismark once said that militarily, trying to defending all fronts means defending none. I believe in killing those who kill us….and doing it very thoroughly. I also can buy into pre-emptive strikes based upon our experience with Hitler if the evidence is so obvious that covert operations are not needed to decide the issue for the majority. There are countries in Africa that have dictators who have killed magnitudes more than Saddam did …so I’m not too moved by the argument that we did the world a great favor (a small one, yes).

    Anyway, you get my mood.”

    Anyway, you get his mood. This from a conservative republican.

    Me? I used to lean republican but have been cured of that. I actually did vote for Bush the first time…won’t happen again.

    My motto is A-B-C, anyone but Bush and Cheney.

    Anyway, I look forward to Craig’s response on the observations posted in John’s letter and mine.

  2. Craig Says:

    Some of the comments I’ve read since I inquired about wanting to see a factual assessment of the existence of a “Iraq-Vietnam quagmire” have just been more of a general disagreement on the war and about Bush.

    However, John has put together a commendable and well-reasoned answer which is a good initial “stake in the ground” regarding the pros and cons of the validity of this Iraq-Vietnam comparison.

    As for the reasons he listed, I’ll put in my two-cents worth of opinion:

    “…significant insurgency…snipings…RPG attacks.”

    Vietnam was a continued, full-out war with no signs of sustained progress toward a sucessful completion. The Iraq “combat war” is over, with its ruling regime authorities dead, arrested, or in hiding.

    “…different language…culture…can’t distinguish between good and bad guys.”

    The language and culture issue may be similar in both cases but I would call it a peripheral issue in directly creating a quagmire in either case. The lack of distinction between friend and foe however, is a valid point of comparison, and contributes directly to the current level of frustration, stress, and resentment in Iraq.

    “..lack of sufficient force…for peacekeeping.”

    My own understanding is not so much that it is a insufficient number, but that these US and British forces are not really geared for policing and peacekeeper duties. I believe Bush will relent in allowing more international influence into the post-war nation-building process so that the burden can be shared with other countries.

    “..No clear idea of when we get to go home.”

    Another good point which, for now, is similar to the problem faced in Vietnam.

    I would also add some points, and subtract a point, from John’s “no quagmire” military-oriented arguments:

    First, in Vietnam there was ongoing support in money and materials from other large world powers (i.e., China and Russia) that kept North Vietnam well-supplied. No such similarity in Iraq. In addition, there was a throughly corrupt puppet government in power in South Vietnam and an inept SVN army. Both of which were completely dependant on US support to remain a viable authority/military force.

    However, I would say that the lack of jungle concealment isn’t a strong counter-point that I would use, since the current elements of opposition can blend in with the population and can hide in small numbers in the homes and businesses of sympathizers.

    On the domestic politics side:

    “…presidents…questionable legitimacy”

    I’m not sure how LBJ’s presidency isn’t legitimate, just because he was elevated to President due to JFK’s assassination. And the Bush “legitimacy” is strictly a partisan opinion. Besides, I don’t really see how a “legitimacy” issue would create the quagmire itself.

    “…war authorized due to politically tainted intelligence”

    This point may have more validity once the WMD question has been fully resolved (yes John, I know what you’re thinking!).

    “..lack of clarity by…leaders.”

    Actually, this is a redundant point used in the earlier set of arguments.

    “..disconnect between political pronouncements…and realities.”

    Still too early to make a final call on the level of validity of the political ripple effect that Iraq’s regime change will have in the Middle East. Much will depend on how things progress in Iraq’s political transformation.

    “mission creep”

    This elongated process of committed Coalition troops and money could have some definite similarities between Iraq and Vietnam, in terms of public patience in the US and military resolve.

    On the anti-quagmire side of domestic politics:

    “..too early in the process”

    I completely agree that such a drastic cultural and political change in Iraq needs much more time to get an accurate reading on its success.

    “Public support…remains high.”

    Very true at this point in time.

    In summary, I believe that the point has not been proven in any significant way that the US is in another Vietnam quagmire.

    And that is probably the bulk of the reason for the disagreement here. The fact that people insist on attaching Vietnam to their “quagmire” concerns. If people left the “V-word” out of their argument, there would not be as much defensiveness on the side of those who discredit it. Not to mention the fact that those who oppose any sort of armed intervention which the US Government commits to, which may not have a quick and easy resolution, seem to toss in this Vietnam comparison almost as a reflex action! I’ve read how the Columbian drug wars were going to be a Vietnam quagmire. Our involvement in Kosovo; a V-quagmire. In fact, this is the SECOND time people have described the Iraq war as Vietnam-esqe. Remember the bogged down US army, the fatally underestimated enemy, and the deeply flawed war plan?

    Could this post-war democratization of Iraq become an 800-pound gorilla on the back of the Bush Administration? Yes, the possibility is there. This process is already difficult, and will likely remain so for some time. But can we put our Vietnam halloween masks away and just judge the effectiveness of this undertaking on the simple terms of “will it or won’t it work”?

  3. Bruno Friedberg Says:

    I’m living in France.

    I don’t understand why the US army doesn’t leave the towns of Iraq to a UN force which will be able to build a democracy in Iraq. Then the US army could build bases in Iraqi deserts and by this way, Iraqi wouldn’t have the feeling to be occupied. In that way, US could search ADM and there wouldn’t be all this losses of lifes to cry.

    Gd bless yours soldiers!

  4. Andreas Says:

    Just wanted to say its some interesting points u have made but lets not forget that another IRAQISVIETNAM point which is the most obvious but the least talked about is the financial benefits.

    Vietnamn under communist rule would threaten USA´s interest in Oil, rubber and tin in asia and the fact still remains that USA did NOT help the french against north vietnamn until the destruction of Cheng Kai Shek(all glory to ´the peoples army of china). But after Sheks departure USA suddenly saw a threat since vietnamn was a former colony of china and the risk of vietnam and other asian countries being under Non-friendly rule was just too much.

    Now in IRAQ there is of course one obvious rescource, OIL. Dont forget those few billion dollors that USA stole from “USA Appointed” terrorist by freezing thier bank accounts.

    Another point is that after bombing the shit out of vietnam/iraq USA think its only fair that the rest of the world pays for the rebuilding.

    All this makes me wonder. Whos next?

  5. Anonymous Says:

    “the most obvious but the least talked about is the financial benefits.”

    Andreas

    I agree, and those who benefited from this Iraq war or that Vietnam war is always the people who hold power in their hands. In the old days, the king simply say I’d like to use this tax payer money for the building of my palaces. Nowadays the king, elected by the people, paid by some people, could only say, I do this, because it’s good for the people. How the people’s money is spent, we all know too well.

    Thus this is a flaw of big democracy with big tax revenue. And this is a circle of energy that must repeat itself. In such view Iraq and Vietnam are only the symptoms, not the cause. But there’re striking similarities.

    And the Iraqis fighters on the ground are trying to emphasize that to the Americans as often as possible.

    How would it turn out, mostly depends on the ability of democratic society to overcome its internal flaw.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Most people try to compare Iraq to Vietnam.No two things are exactly alike.The one thing that I know is that this occupation will bog this country down.Slowly but surely we will tire of the lives being lost.The question of why we are there will weigh over the administration.Those three reasons alone may cause the president to lose the election.Comparing Iraq to Vietnam by casualty numbers is nearly impossible if you compare 12 years to 1 year it’s pretty unfair.But if you compare year by year then that is another story.1961 was the first year that we were officially involved in Vietnam.From 1961 to 1964 392 soldiers were killed.Remember this was pre-draft and we had only 17,000 troops in Indochina.In just over a year in Iraq we have over 600 casualties and counting.600 plus casualties plus in a place where we are suppose to be occupying and in control of that is very questionable.People need to realize that in Vietnam we had politicians and high ranking army who believed we could not be beat.I feel some of our politicians and high ranking army officials feel the same today.I have no doubt in my mind that we are the world’s dominant power but with bad decisions and not wanting to admit mistakes and correcting them.The Vietnam and Iraq wars maybe more similar than we even know.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Most people try to compare Iraq to Vietnam.No two things are exactly alike.The one thing that I know is that this occupation will bog this country down.Slowly but surely we will tire of the lives being lost.The question of why we are there will weigh over the administration.Those three reasons alone may cause the president to lose the election.Comparing Iraq to Vietnam by casualty numbers is nearly impossible if you compare 12 years to 1 year it’s pretty unfair.But if you compare year by year then that is another story.1961 was the first year that we were officially involved in Vietnam.From 1961 to 1964 392 soldiers were killed.Remember this was pre-draft and we had only 17,000 troops in Indochina.In just over a year in Iraq we have over 600 casualties and counting.600 plus casualties plus in a place where we are suppose to be occupying and in control of that is very questionable.People need to realize that in Vietnam we had politicians and high ranking army who believed we could not be beat.I feel some of our politicians and high ranking army officials feel the same today.I have no doubt in my mind that we are the world’s dominant power but with bad decisions and not wanting to admit mistakes and correcting them.The Vietnam and Iraq wars maybe more similar than we even know.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    Most people try to compare Iraq to Vietnam.No two things are exactly alike.The one thing that I know is that this occupation will bog this country down.Slowly but surely we will tire of the lives being lost.The question of why we are there will weigh over the administration.Those three reasons alone may cause the president to lose the election.Comparing Iraq to Vietnam by casualty numbers is nearly impossible if you compare 12 years to 1 year it’s pretty unfair.But if you compare year by year then that is another story.1961 was the first year that we were officially involved in Vietnam.From 1961 to 1964 392 soldiers were killed.Remember this was pre-draft and we had only 17,000 troops in Indochina.In just over a year in Iraq we have over 600 casualties and counting.600 plus casualties plus in a place where we are suppose to be occupying and in control of that is very questionable.People need to realize that in Vietnam we had politicians and high ranking army who believed we could not be beat.I feel some of our politicians and high ranking army officials feel the same today.I have no doubt in my mind that we are the world’s dominant power but with bad decisions and not wanting to admit mistakes and correcting them.The Vietnam and Iraq wars maybe more similar than we even know.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Should Southerners Vote for George Bush?

    Pollsters are now saying that in order to take back the White House Democrats must win the South, a region where their support has been eroding for years. And it’s no wonder Southerners have turned away from the Democratic party. Democrats have ignored religion, promoted “tax and spend” policies, advocated for abortion rights, while favoring gun control. Not only that, but Democrats are weak on defense, don’t understand the racial tensions in the South, and at times seem downright unpatriotic. It is these policies and attitudes that have driven Southerners into the Republican fold, where they have been welcomed with open arms.

    At least it appears that way. But some say that Southerners are being used by the Republicans, that while Republicans campaign for their votes they enact laws and favor policies that tend to keep Southerners poor, uneducated, and racially divided.

    Southerners — just as Northerners or Westerners or Easterners — should vote for candidates who best represent their interests. Although some argue that we should vote for the greater good of all, politics rarely works that way. Instead, if everyone votes for what is best for them, the majority will be served. The question then is whether Republicans or Democrats best serve the interests of Southerners. Four key areas highlight the differences between the parties: the economy; education; race issues; and national defense. There is also a fifth category, which can be called “distractors” that includes guns, sex, abortion, capital punishment, and art, but we’ll get to that later. First, we’ll look at the issues that have dramatic, day-to-day impact on working people in the South.

    Economy
    For decades, the South has suffered from high poverty rates. Often twice as high as in other regions, poverty in the South is deeply ingrained and extraordinarily difficult to overcome. In Mississippi for instance, the poverty rate is over 17%, the highest in the country. And South Carolina has lost so many jobs in the past three years, it marks the worse period since the Depression. For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 24% in 2002. Clearly the economy of the US has done nothing for those on the bottom, especially in the South.

    But what does this have to do with the presidential election? A look at Bush’s policies gives an indication of his priorities. As the economy began to dive shortly after he took office, his response was to push for tax cuts, which he pushed as a “jobs and growth” package. Yet no serious economists thought his kind of cuts would have much impact on the overall economy, since they were heavily tilted toward the rich. Bush’s claim was that favoring corporations and investments would help the rich create jobs; in fact, what it did was help the rich get richer. Jobs have still not materialized, and we are two years into the “recovery.”

    This is not just a Southern issue — Bush’s mishandling of the economy — but it has been especially cruel in the South, where many were already on the poverty line. The middle class got their tax cuts, too, but they were paltry compared to those for the wealthy, and in most cases they have been offset by higher state and local taxes as states suffered under new federal requirements for Medicare.

    Democrats have been labeled as the “tax and spend” party, but recent history shows how inaccurate this is. We all remember the budget surplus of the Clinton years, the low unemployment rate, and the high stock market. While some taxes were higher, they were essential to solve the budget problems inherited for the prior Reagan and Bush I presidencies. For spending, the budget has exploded under Bush and the Republican congress. And it’s not just the wars he’s waged that have caused the expansion; spending is up in most areas. As John Kasich, former chairman of the House Budget Committee, wrote today in the New York Times, what is currently missing in Washington is leadership. Bush has simply watched Congress pass bill after bill, then pushed for his own spending, with no concern for the deficit. And this record deficit will hound us for decades to come.

    Education
    Schools in the South are frequently substandard, which is no surprise, given the way they are funded. When property taxes are the primary source of income for schools, those in poor areas have little to spend, while their richer cousins in other areas of the state or country have modern, high-tech schools, and well paid teachers.

    According to the US Census Bureau, spending for most Southern states is below the national average, which is not surprising given the state of the Southern economy. While it can be argued that this is a state problem, a significant portion of the state’s problems are due to national policies. For instance, the No Child Left Behind act, which Bush is quite proud of, imposes requirements on states but provides no funding to carry them out. Additionally, NCLB is opposed by many educators for its heavy emphasis on testing and the punishments it requires for under performing schools.

    National Defense
    Southerners are patriots, and favor a strong national defense. Democrats have been criticized for being “soft on defense” or too weak to wage war when necessary. While it’s true that Democrats tend to shy away from war, they often push for peaceful means to solve international problems. Many of them advocate a stronger role for the United Nations, the only worldwide force for peace. George Bush has adopted a “go it alone” policy, which when combined with his willingness to strike preemptively leads to situations like Iraq, where hundreds of US soldiers have been killed and thousands wounded.

    We know now that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. We know now that the Democrats were right to resist this war. It’s also significant that most Democrats voted in favor of the war against Afghanistan, which was clearly sponsoring terrorism. This is not a sign of being weak on defense, but rather an acknowledgment that war is hell. And hell fall predominantly on the poor and minorities.

    Bush is now calling for increased spending for his missile defense shield, up now to $12 billion for next year. Most scientists see this as an impossible task, the shooting down of nuclear missiles. Especially now, when we have a more immediate threat — terrorism — it makes little sense to invest so heavily in a system unlikely to ever work, which was designed for an enemy that no longer exists.

    Race and Class
    Racial divisions in the US may have lessened over the years, but we still see significant differences between the classes, and racism continues. George Bush, who promised to be a “uniter” has done little bring us together. It began during the 2000 election, when either through design or incompetence, his brother had large numbers of Blacks stricken from the voting rolls. We should not blame George for Jeb’s transgressions, but George was curiously silent on the subject. And his administration deemed very few of the complaints filed during that election worthy of review.

    Additionally, George Bush is openly against affirmative action policies that allow more minorities to attend college, and he has appointed judges many deem “racially hostile.” His push for school vouchers, while seeming to offer parents the option of transferring their children out of low-performing schools into better ones, actually helps destroy the under performing schools by draining away resources. The poor are rarely able to take advantage of vouchers. This becomes a Southern issue because of the higher rate of poverty in the region and the higher percentage of minorities.

    Distractors
    Southerners may have other issues on their minds, however. The economy is too abstract and beyond their control to worry about, they may believe, and international relations are much less important than what happens in their own cities. Instead, Southerners, like many others, may vote based upon the emotional issues of guns, sex, religion, and abortion. And it is on these that the Republicans seem to have the clear advantage in the South. Republicans are against gun control, against sex education in schools, public in their support for religion, and strongly anti-abortion.

    Democrats — and perhaps this is why they lost the South — have taken precisely opposite stands on these issues. They prefer individual rights over government intervention, and believe that religion is a private rather than government affair. They also look at guns from the standpoint of the damage they have done to our society: crime, violence, and accidents. But all this is beside the point. These issues are not the ones that affect our lives day in and day out. They have nothing to do with our jobs, our education, and our safety in a dangerous world. They are distractors, emotional issues used very intentionally by the Republicans to get the conservative, and especially the Southern vote. And they must laugh hysterically behind those closed doors at their success in getting people to vote against their own self interest.

    Choosing
    It is no easy job choosing a candidate worthy of the presidency. But in 2004 one thing is clear: George Bush has been bad for the South. It is only on the emotionally charged, yet ultimately less important issues that he has been able to win support. Working men and women, the poor, and minorities have nothing of significance to lose and everything to gain from voting with the Democrats. Only the rich should vote for Bush, and there are very few of them; it is the rest of us who will decide the next election. May we have the good sense to vote for those who will actually help us.

    Should Southerners Vote for George Bush?

    Pollsters are now saying that in order to take back the White House Democrats must win the South, a region where their support has been eroding for years. And it’s no wonder Southerners have turned away from the Democratic party. Democrats have ignored religion, promoted “tax and spend” policies, advocated for abortion rights, while favoring gun control. Not only that, but Democrats are weak on defense, don’t understand the racial tensions in the South, and at times seem downright unpatriotic. It is these policies and attitudes that have driven Southerners into the Republican fold, where they have been welcomed with open arms.

    At least it appears that way. But some say that Southerners are being used by the Republicans, that while Republicans campaign for their votes they enact laws and favor policies that tend to keep Southerners poor, uneducated, and racially divided.

    Southerners — just as Northerners or Westerners or Easterners — should vote for candidates who best represent their interests. Although some argue that we should vote for the greater good of all, politics rarely works that way. Instead, if everyone votes for what is best for them, the majority will be served. The question then is whether Republicans or Democrats best serve the interests of Southerners. Four key areas highlight the differences between the parties: the economy; education; race issues; and national defense. There is also a fifth category, which can be called “distractors” that includes guns, sex, abortion, capital punishment, and art, but we’ll get to that later. First, we’ll look at the issues that have dramatic, day-to-day impact on working people in the South.

    Economy
    For decades, the South has suffered from high poverty rates. Often twice as high as in other regions, poverty in the South is deeply ingrained and extraordinarily difficult to overcome. In Mississippi for instance, the poverty rate is over 17%, the highest in the country. And South Carolina has lost so many jobs in the past three years, it marks the worse period since the Depression. For Blacks, the poverty rate increased to 24% in 2002. Clearly the economy of the US has done nothing for those on the bottom, especially in the South.

    But what does this have to do with the presidential election? A look at Bush’s policies gives an indication of his priorities. As the economy began to dive shortly after he took office, his response was to push for tax cuts, which he pushed as a “jobs and growth” package. Yet no serious economists thought his kind of cuts would have much impact on the overall economy, since they were heavily tilted toward the rich. Bush’s claim was that favoring corporations and investments would help the rich create jobs; in fact, what it did was help the rich get richer. Jobs have still not materialized, and we are two years into the “recovery.”

    This is not just a Southern issue — Bush’s mishandling of the economy — but it has been especially cruel in the South, where many were already on the poverty line. The middle class got their tax cuts, too, but they were paltry compared to those for the wealthy, and in most cases they have been offset by higher state and local taxes as states suffered under new federal requirements for Medicare.

    Democrats have been labeled as the “tax and spend” party, but recent history shows how inaccurate this is. We all remember the budget surplus of the Clinton years, the low unemployment rate, and the high stock market. While some taxes were higher, they were essential to solve the budget problems inherited for the prior Reagan and Bush I presidencies. For spending, the budget has exploded under Bush and the Republican congress. And it’s not just the wars he’s waged that have caused the expansion; spending is up in most areas. As John Kasich, former chairman of the House Budget Committee, wrote today in the New York Times, what is currently missing in Washington is leadership. Bush has simply watched Congress pass bill after bill, then pushed for his own spending, with no concern for the deficit. And this record deficit will hound us for decades to come.

    Education
    Schools in the South are frequently substandard, which is no surprise, given the way they are funded. When property taxes are the primary source of income for schools, those in poor areas have little to spend, while their richer cousins in other areas of the state or country have modern, high-tech schools, and well paid teachers.

    According to the US Census Bureau, spending for most Southern states is below the national average, which is not surprising given the state of the Southern economy. While it can be argued that this is a state problem, a significant portion of the state’s problems are due to national policies. For instance, the No Child Left Behind act, which Bush is quite proud of, imposes requirements on states but provides no funding to carry them out. Additionally, NCLB is opposed by many educators for its heavy emphasis on testing and the punishments it requires for under performing schools.

    National Defense
    Southerners are patriots, and favor a strong national defense. Democrats have been criticized for being “soft on defense” or too weak to wage war when necessary. While it’s true that Democrats tend to shy away from war, they often push for peaceful means to solve international problems. Many of them advocate a stronger role for the United Nations, the only worldwide force for peace. George Bush has adopted a “go it alone” policy, which when combined with his willingness to strike preemptively leads to situations like Iraq, where hundreds of US soldiers have been killed and thousands wounded.

    We know now that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction. We know now that the Democrats were right to resist this war. It’s also significant that most Democrats voted in favor of the war against Afghanistan, which was clearly sponsoring terrorism. This is not a sign of being weak on defense, but rather an acknowledgment that war is hell. And hell fall predominantly on the poor and minorities.

    Bush is now calling for increased spending for his missile defense shield, up now to $12 billion for next year. Most scientists see this as an impossible task, the shooting down of nuclear missiles. Especially now, when we have a more immediate threat — terrorism — it makes little sense to invest so heavily in a system unlikely to ever work, which was designed for an enemy that no longer exists.

    Race and Class
    Racial divisions in the US may have lessened over the years, but we still see significant differences between the classes, and racism continues. George Bush, who promised to be a “uniter” has done little bring us together. It began during the 2000 election, when either through design or incompetence, his brother had large numbers of Blacks stricken from the voting rolls. We should not blame George for Jeb’s transgressions, but George was curiously silent on the subject. And his administration deemed very few of the complaints filed during that election worthy of review.

    Additionally, George Bush is openly against affirmative action policies that allow more minorities to attend college, and he has appointed judges many deem “racially hostile.” His push for school vouchers, while seeming to offer parents the option of transferring their children out of low-performing schools into better ones, actually helps destroy the under performing schools by draining away resources. The poor are rarely able to take advantage of vouchers. This becomes a Southern issue because of the higher rate of poverty in the region and the higher percentage of minorities.

    Distractors
    Southerners may have other issues on their minds, however. The economy is too abstract and beyond their control to worry about, they may believe, and international relations are much less important than what happens in their own cities. Instead, Southerners, like many others, may vote based upon the emotional issues of guns, sex, religion, and abortion. And it is on these that the Republicans seem to have the clear advantage in the South. Republicans are against gun control, against sex education in schools, public in their support for religion, and strongly anti-abortion.

    Democrats — and perhaps this is why they lost the South — have taken precisely opposite stands on these issues. They prefer individual rights over government intervention, and believe that religion is a private rather than government affair. They also look at guns from the standpoint of the damage they have done to our society: crime, violence, and accidents. But all this is beside the point. These issues are not the ones that affect our lives day in and day out. They have nothing to do with our jobs, our education, and our safety in a dangerous world. They are distractors, emotional issues used very intentionally by the Republicans to get the conservative, and especially the Southern vote. And they must laugh hysterically behind those closed doors at their success in getting people to vote against their own self interest.

    Choosing
    It is no easy job choosing a candidate worthy of the presidency. But in 2004 one thing is clear: George Bush has been bad for the South. It is only on the emotionally charged, yet ultimately less important issues that he has been able to win support. Working men and women, the poor, and minorities have nothing of significance to lose and everything to gain from voting with the Democrats. Only the rich should vote for Bush, and there are very few of them; it is the rest of us who will decide the next election. May we have the good sense to vote for those who will actually help us.

  10. giantmonster » Blog Archive » skewed intelligence basis for war Says:

    [...] history has a way of unraveling truths. does anyone remember the unprovoked attack that led us into vietnam? the gulf of tonkin incident? this was what led to the escalation of U.S. involvement in vietnam – it became the gulf of tonkin resolution and was the basis for the war. a lot of people came out and said that incident and what took place was fabricated. of course, like anyone else who disagreed with the vietnam war, those people were called liars, traitors, communists, and enemy sympathisers. so now with the secret papers on the episode in vietname finally released, it does turn out that the gulf of tonkin intelligence was deliberately skewed (that means faked). and the second attack in the gulf of tonkin never occurred. this post could very easily be about iraq as the lies about the two are so similar. what is it with presidents hailing from texas who feel the need to fabricate lies and deceive the american public about going to war? and how can you trust authority, much less respect it, if it openly lies to you for it’s own greedy, selfish, short term interests? [...]

  11. Douglas Hawes Says:

    There is a definite problem with the Vietnam/ Iraq comparison, when both situations are equated with the notion of “quagmire,” a hopeless mess without solution.

    While South Vietnam, the non-communist part of Vietnam, was a country falling apart when the U.S. intervened in 1965, by 1970 the situation was much improved. In fact, in 1970 when the antiwar movement was at its height here in the U.S., South Vietnam was the most stable it had been in years. It had a strong leader in Nguyen Van Thieu, and the Viet Cong insurgency had been defeated to a large extent in the countryside.

    Furthermore, North Vietnam’s ultimate victory, as the U.S. withdrew, was predicated on a foundation that was open to international censure and condemnation. First of all, the North’s strategic superiority was based on the flagrant violation of the neutrality of two nations, Laos and Cambodia, which it used as its main staging areas for the invasion of South Vietnam.

    Also, it was no longer a case of South Vietnam’s government dealing with a domestic insurgency – - the raw majority of South Vietnam’s population had now turned decisively against the Communists after the atrocities directed against civilians in South Vietnam’s cities conducted during the Tet Offensive of 1968. North Vietnam would ultimately win the war through the outright invasion of South Vietnam, a sovereign country.

    Finally, billions of dollars of Soviet military aid in the early seventies gave the North the military muscle to do the job.

    In the case of Iraq, the country is in shambles. The current Iraqi government is not like South Vietnam’s government in 1970, which was gradually consolidating its authority.

    Large numbers of Iraqi civilians are in basic sympathy with the various insurgent groups, as the Westernized elites have largely deserted the country. As I have already mentioned, in South Vietnam by 1970 the majority of South Vietnam’s population had turned against the Communists. The Catholics in South Vietnam had always been opposed to the Communists, but the destruction of Hue and the massacre of many of its inhabitants during Tet in 1968, turned the Buddhists against the Communists as well. Hue was the old imperial capital and the spiritual center of Buddhism in South Vietnam.

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