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Ignorance or self-conceit or ….
27/9/2007 16:18' Send Print

On the 22nd August 2007 in Kansas City in his address to a meeting of American veterans who have fought in foreign wars, US President George W. Bush raised his voice against the thinking of the majority of American people who demand that the US administration withdraws US troops from Iraq. To create support for the increase in the numbers of US troops and continue the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush generalized and made comparisons with the war in Vietnam and others in which US troops have participated in. He then compared these lessons to the current situation in Iraq. 4 days after his address to this meeting, in his regular speech which was broadcasted on radio, Mr. Bush repeated his arguments and reiterated that the war in Iraq is now similar to the Vietnam war more than 30 years ago. So Americans should support his plan to keep American troops in Iraq in order to avoid making a similar mistake, which happened in Vietnam, as the result of an early withdrawal of US troops.

Immediately afterwards, President Bush’s argument was contested by American and world opinion. Former senator McClellan, who is a Vietnam veteran and lost two legs during the war, reminded Mr. Bush that, “one of the lessons that could be drawn from the Vietnam war is that the commitment to use military strength only cannot tackle the political weakness of another country”. The well-known British journalist – Mr. Robert Cowell posted a long article in The Independent newspaper, analyzing and rejecting President Bush’s false claims. Before ending his article, Mr. Cowell quoted a character in the novel titled “The Quiet American” written by Graham Green, implying that Mr. Bush has a frightening mixed character of idealism, ignorance and self-conceit. Let’s consider Mr. Bush’s argument so that people can make up their own minds.

In general, there are 3 points in Mr Bush’s argument:

1. Mr. Bush assumed that the early withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam and the Indochina peninsular left behind catastrophic consequences for the region such as misery and massacres, the flood of the boat people etc. A similar situation could now happen in Iraq if American troops withdraw now and many innocent ordinary people would suffer from revenge killings. Therefore, the US troops have an elevated and humanitarian task to stay on in Iraq to protect innocent people.

2. Mr. Bush assumed that to keep US troops in foreign countries after wars has led to miracle situations where a number of democratic and prosperous nations have come into existence such as Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea. So, people may believe a similar thing may happen and Iraq will become a democratic, prosperous country and a close ally of the US.

3. Mr. Bush supposed that if US troops were withdrawn from Iraq, the prestige of the US would be significantly affected and terrorism would again come to the US mainland but on a much larger scale. He maintains that the best way to protect the prestige of the US and the Americans against terrorist plots like the attack on 11th September 2001 is to keep and reinforce the US troops in Iraq.

It is quite apparent that the last two points in Mr. Bush’s argument had a very self-conceited tone which offended the people of Germany, Japan and the Republic of Korea and continued to intimidate the American people in order to cover the deadly mistakes made by the US administrations policies in Iraq. With regards to the first point of his argument, it is an obvious distortion of history, a total refusal to take responsibility and must be denounced.

The Vietnamese people have a saying that “one will remember for ever the death-blow”. It is quite true that the Vietnam syndrome is still fresh in his and many of the American people’s feelings. The Vietnam war brought about a bitter defeat to the US. Along with the defeat comes a feeling of loss which still remains in each American family. The spiritual and material losses will remain for a long time and be hard to erode, especially in sensitive periods, when American politics falls into crisis or faces a dilemma like the situation in Iraq at present. In this broad context, Mr. Bush is also haunted by the bitter defeat of the Vietnam war. However, if he was conscious he would never have referred to the Vietnam war. Mentioning America’s experiences in the Vietnam war is like rubbing an unhealed wound again and again. Last year, he strongly criticized people who compared the deadlock of the Iraq war with that of the Vietnam war. No one knows why he forgot himself and spoke about his discontent which others consider to be wrong and a subjective argument contrary to history.

Firstly, Mr. Bush distorted history by saying that at the end of the Vietnam war, the US administration took the initiative in withdrawing the US troops from Vietnam, and that at the time the US administration had other alternatives other than withdrawal. Everyone knew that the withdrawal of US troops stemmed from its failure and it was the only way out for the US administration. More than half a million American soldiers and tens of thousands troops of the American allies were deployed and fought during the war. More than USD 500 billion was spent in this war. The most reputable US generals-one after another, led the battle, and the most advanced and sophisticated weapons were used in South Vietnam in an effort to stop the inevitable failure of the war. However, the US troops was still defeated and the air bombardment by the US air forces and navy, from 1964 until the end of 1972 was also unable to alter the outcome of the war. In only 12 days of attacking Hanoi and North Vietnam by US air forces at the end of 1972, 81 US planes were short down, of which 34 were B 52’s and 5 F-111’s.

The Vietnam war divided the United States and was denounced by the world. A movement of anti-military service broke out in the US and an American citizen burnt himself to death to protest against the unjust war in Vietnam. In such an impasse, the withdrawal of US troops was just an action to save the US’s face and avoid a prolonged defeat. If the withdrawal had not been carried out, no one knows how many of the US troops and their Vietnamese collaborators would have perished in late April 1975.

Secondly, Mr. Bush argued that the withdrawal of US troops from Vietnam and Cambodia had led to humanitarian catastrophe and a holocaust of innocent people. Any conscious and just people can easily see that Mr. Bush’s argument is completely wrong, if not to say an outrageous distortion. Everyone knows that if the US had not intervened in Vietnam in the 1954-1956 period in order to prevent the so-called spread of communism, North and South Vietnam would have been able to negotiate the unification according to the Geneva Agreement. The US troops used bombs and shells, chemical weapons and cruel mercenaries to kill people, burn houses and destroy the peaceful lives of innocent people, which left heavy and long-lasting consequences for Vietnam and the Vietnamese people. The Vietnam war destroyed most of the country’s infrastructure like bridges, roads, seaports, plants and factories and leveled many cities and communes in the North. After the war, the US administration implemented hostile policies to embargo and boycott Vietnam, which caused huge difficulties for the Vietnamese people in their efforts to reconstruct their economy which was indeed a disaster. No one could see any massacres in Vietnam, as Mr. Bush embellished and propagandized by the western mass media in the past.

With regards to the genocide in Cambodia which resulted in 1.7 million people being killed, one fifth of Cambodian population, the US administration should bear the first and foremost responsibility. Everyone knew that the CIA was the instigator in the overthrow of the administration headed by Norodom Shihanouk in order to put General Lonnon in power in Cambodia. This was the start of the process which led to the genocide conducted by Polpot in later years. Rubert Cowell was right to comment that: “regarding Polpot, all historians agreed that if there had been no war in Vietnam, no destruction by the US bombs and shells, or the wicked plots of the CIA in Cambodia, it’s certain that the genocide would have never happened”. Everyone knew this fact before it was said by Rupert Cowell. It was undeniably historic reality.

The denial of responsibility for the Vietnam war made people think of Mr. Bush as ignorant and conceited. Such a denial also reflects the inhumanity immorality and dishonesty about the damage that the US causes to other countries and how they try to defend their cruelty. With our traditional benevolence, our Party and State and people have put aside the past and the crimes of the US troops in Vietnam, and have opted for a cooperative and developing future between the two countries. In reality, bilateral relations between the US and Vietnam have healthily developed and have bright prospects. So what was the reason for the distortion and fabrication made by Mr. Bush about the situation in Vietnam.

One may think that the US defeat in Vietnam was not bitter enough to make the President of the US correctly understand the price to be paid for military action against other nations for profit or self interest? This is reflected in the maintenance of US troops in Iraq to conduct this ambiguous war. It is apparent that the military strength of the US, supported by ever decreasing assistance from its allies, is not able to turn out a smooth and victorious success in making Iraq a democratic, prosperous country according to the expectations of Mr. Bush and his cohorts. Perhaps, Mr. Bush also realizes that the outcome of the Iraq war will be very much like that of the Vietnam war. However, the price to be paid for its second Vietnam will be more costly and inevitably create another long-lasting legacy for the United States.

Truong Luu