Despite the warnings before Bush's war, Vietnam and Iraq turned out to be quite similar

LBJ and GWB, vietnam war, iraq warA recent essay in Political Science Quarterly caught my eye and having read it, I can say with some degree of certainty that no one in Washington, DC has a clue as to what went wrong with the Iraq war.

I recall that, after a little “shock & awe” had rained down from the sky, the word out of Washington was that this certainly was not going to be another Vietnam. We were told by the beltway intelligentsia that regime change was a good thing and once we had rebuilt Iraq in our image, the world would be a safer place.

I find it mildly surprising that these words were uttered from some of the very mouths that told us we were winning in Southeast Asia fifty years hence. How soon we forget that the identical theories and practices used in Vietnam were also used in Iraq War right from the beginning.

Both conflicts centered on nation states lead by questionable characters. Both conflicts lacked a Congressional Act of a Declaration of War and saw the Executive Branch flex its muscle; changing the rules by which this country is constitutionally supposed to go to war. Both conflicts had their own unique style of a “surge”. Both conflicts dealt with secular tribes at all levels.

You can nit-pick at some of the details. Yes, most of the logistics was a little different, given modern day warfare. Yes, the soldiers who fought the battles were trained and equipped a little differently, again because of modernization.

And, yes again, communism is just a little different from radical Islam. Yet, none of that takes away from the fact that the American public was sold down the river one more time.

nam-iraqWhy do we insist on drinking the Kool-Aide every time some politician thinks it would be good for the Military/Industrial Complex to throw a little armed conflict into the mix? Based on history, yes we are just that stupid.

Kennedy received conflicting advice with regards to Vietnam. Charles De Gaulle warned Kennedy that warfare in Vietnam would trap America in a “bottomless military and political swamp.”

In 1961, Kennedy also agreed that an extra 1000 US military advisers should be sent to South Vietnam to help train the South Vietnamese Army.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? These decisions and the one funding the South Vietnam’s Army were not made public because they broke the agreements made at the 1954 Geneva Agreement. What happened in Camelot stayed in Camelot.

Yes, everybody’s darling of a President lied to us too, shocked? Don’t be. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and Don Rumsfeld all lied about “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. There seems to be a historical pattern when the U.S. Government decides it has all the answers to other people’s problems, and unilaterally decides a shooting war is the most effective way to deal with the situation.

During the War:

“Our purpose in Vietnam is to prevent the success of aggression. It is not conquest, it is not empire, it is not foreign bases, it is not domination. It is, simply put, just to prevent the forceful conquest of South Vietnam by North Vietnam.”Lyndon B. Johnson

“Iraq is no diversion. It is a place where civilization is taking a decisive stand against chaos and terror, we must not waver.”George W. Bush

After the War:

“We didn’t lose Vietnam. We quit Vietnam.”Alexander Haig

“What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.”Dick Cheney

In both cases, the enemy masterfully engaged in “guerrilla” warfare with the use of “booby traps” and “hit & run” as effective tactics against superior forces.

In the end, a negotiated cease fire preceded the withdrawal of American Forces from both Vietnam and Iraq. In both cases, the U.S. Government was humiliated and vowed never to wage a similar war.

I am dumb-founded by the fact that politicians in this modern era can fool all the people all the time when it comes to sending our young men and women off to fight and die in foreign lands.

It probably shouldn’t surprise me. After all, less than 1% of the Nation’s population sees fit to don the uniforms of our Armed Services. This is certainly not the 1% that the “occupy” movement speaks of.

This is the 1% who, when they return to civilian life after their stint in the Military, can’t find a job, can’t pay the rent, can’t put food on the table for their families, and gets thwarted at every turn by a Veterans Administration who is supposed to help. God forbid if they own a house. The bankers don’t seem to care that it is illegal to foreclose on a Service Member in most instances.

Iraq is arabic for vietnam

The citizenry of America are the only ones who can change this dilemma into a positive force for peace. Perhaps, our society does have to reach rock bottom for us to act in any meaningful way. There will always be disagreements between people, tribes, sects, states, and countries. The dialogue may get heated from time to time, but that’s alright, we can survive that.

Possibly, someday, we will come to realize that hurling words at each other is a lot less harmful than hurling bullets. Bullets tend to have a finite quality about them.


  1. What really bothers my husband & I is, did Bush/ Cheney ever learn from History? Viet nam was a total fiasco- so is the Mideast. Didn’t the Russians pull out in Afghanistan & yet, Bush is arrogant enough to think “we will be victorious”?

  2. I find the most disturbing similarity is the need for deception in order to get us involved to begin with. As history has shown, through the words of Admiral Stockdale himself, there was no “Gulf of Tokin incident”, North Vietnam never took action against us at the time, the same way there was never any proof of WMD’s in Iraq, any involvement in the 9/11 attack or any imminent threat to our national security.
    Since we chose to ignore our own history, we sure as hell wound up repeating it.

    • Jeff,
      What bothers me more than what the politicians are doing to us is the fact that my generation wasn’t supposed to let this happen ever again. We did stand up, but we didn’t shout loud enough. I hope future generations don’t make that mistake, too.

  3. Great article Hutch…the Iraq war has so many similarities and the lives damaged will never be the same. Politicians who know nothing about combat are so out of touch with what they’re doing.

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