Sat, Sep 01, 2007 - Page 9 News List

Invoking Vietnam comparison was a blunder too far for Bush

The US president's fallacious comparison between the Iraq dilemma and the doomed US adventure in Indochina represents a ludicrous misreading of history

By Christopher Hitchens  /  THE OBSERVER , WASHINGTON

How do I dislike US President George W. Bush? Let me count the ways. Most of them have to do with his contented assumption that "faith" is, in and of itself, a virtue. This self-satisfied mentality helps explain almost everything, from the smug expression on his face to the way in which, as governor of Texas, he signed all those death warrants without losing a second's composure.

It explains the way in which he embraced Russian President Vladimir Putin, ex-KGB goon, citing as the basis of a beautiful relationship the fact that Putin was wearing a crucifix. (Has Putin been seen wearing that crucifix before or since? Did his advisers tell him that the US president was that easy a pushover?)

It also explains the unforgivable intervention that Bush made into the private life of the Schiavo family: leaving his Texas ranch to try and keep "alive" a woman whose autopsy showed that her brain had melted to below flatline a long time before.

Here is a man who believes the "jury" is still "out" on whether we evolved as a species, who regards stem cell research as something profane, who affects the odd belief that Islam is "a religion of peace."

However that may be, I always agreed with him on one secular question, that the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein was long overdue for removal. I know some critics of the Iraq intervention attribute this policy, too, to religious motives (ranging from messianic, born-again Christian piety to the activity of a surreptitious Jewish/Zionist cabal: take your pick).

In this real-world argument, there is a very strong temptation for opponents of the war to invoke the lessons of Vietnam. I must have written thousands of words attempting to show that there is absolutely no analogy between the two conflicts.

Then, addressing the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week, Bush came thundering down the pike to announce that a defeat in Iraq would be -- guess what? -- another Vietnam.

As my hand smacks my brow, and as I ask myself not for the first time if Bush suffers from some sort of political death wish, I quickly restate the reasons why he is wrong to join with his most venomous and ignorant critics in making this case:

One, the Vietminh, later the Vietnamese NLF, were allies of the US and Britain against the Axis during World War II. The Iraqi Baath party was on the other side.

Two, Ho Chi Minh quoted US president Thomas Jefferson in proclaiming Vietnam's own Declaration of Independence, a note that has hardly been struck in Baathist or jihadist propaganda.

Three, Vietnam was resisting French colonialism and had defeated it by 1954 at Dien Bien Phu; the real "war" was therefore over before the US even landed troops in the country.

Four, the subsequent conflict was fought to preserve an imposed partition of a country striving to reunify itself; if anything, the Iraqi case is the reverse.

Five, the Vietnamese leadership appealed to the UN: the Saddamists and their jihadist allies murdered the first UN envoy to arrive in Iraq, saying that he was fit only for death because he had assisted in securing the independence of East Timor from Indonesia.

Six, Vietnam never threatened any other country; Iraq under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein invaded two of its neighbors and declared one of them (Kuwait) to be part of Iraq itself.

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