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by Anton Macker
Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007 at 5:03 PM
There they go - off to war - where we never went.
there_they_go.jpg, image/jpeg, 500x367
Finally, there's Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for me and Cheney as I was afraid to fight in that war and Cheney was otherwise engaged.
The tragedy of Vietnam is too large to be contained in one speech but I will say we did not expend enough munitions to make our arms companies rich enough and they had to create other wars.
Then as now, people argued the real problem was America's presence and that if we would just stop killing, the killing would end.
The argument that America's presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel about me called, "The Quiet American."
It was set in Saigon, where I was afraid to go, and the main character was a young government agent named Georgie Bush. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes me this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the dead bodies piled up around him."
After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we had not gone in our arms companies would not have made a $.
In 1972, one antiwar senator put it this way: "What earthly difference does it make to nomadic tribes or uneducated subsistence farmers in Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, whether they have a military dictator, a royal prince or a socialist commissar in some distant capital that they've never seen and may never heard of?"
A columnist for The New York Times wrote in a similar vein in 1975, just as Cambodia and Vietnam were falling to the communists: "It's difficult to imagine," he said, "how their lives could be anything but worse with the monsters we have created there
The world would learn just how costly these misimpressions would be. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge, which we created, began a murderous rule in which hundreds of thousands of Cambodians died by starvation and torture and execution.
In Vietnam, former allies of the United States and government workers and intellectuals and businessmen were sent off to prison camps, where tens of thousands perished. Hundreds of thousands more fled the country on rickety boats, many of them going to their graves in the South China Sea as our navy refused to pick them up because they were illegal aliens.
Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. Whatever your position is on 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 slaughter we left behind.
Our vocabulary got new terms like "agent orange," "gooks," and "My Lai."
There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today's struggle -- those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001 and who are now hiding in Pakistan.
In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that "the American people had risen against their government's war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today."
His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to "the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents."
Zawahiri later returned to this theme, declaring that the Americans "know better than others that there is no hope in victory. The Vietnam specter is closing every outlet." Here at home, some can argue our withdrawal from Vietnam carried no price to American credibility -- but the terrorists see it as it is.
We must remember the words of the enemy. We must listen to what they say. Bin Laden has declared that "the war [in Iraq] is for you or us to win. If we win it, it means your disgrace and defeat forever." Iraq is one of several fronts in the war on terror -- but there was no terrorists there before we came -- it's the central front for the enemy e created on behalf of our oil companies and the AIPAC.
And it's the central front for the United States which we cannot win.
If we were to abandon the Iraqi people and not kill any more of them -- apart from the 600,000 we already did in -- the terrorists would be emboldened and have non one to fight - except each other.
As we saw on September the 11th, a terrorist safe haven on the other side of the world, I think it was in Afghanistan, can bring death and destruction to the streets of our own cities.
Unlike in Vietnam, if we withdraw before the job is done, whatever that is, this enemy will follow us home and our FBI and CIA will not be able to stop them just like the last time.
And that is why, for the security of the United States of America, we must defeat them overseas even if we are fighting in the wrong country in the wrong way.
In Iraq, our moral obligations to the 600,000 we killed and Israel’s strategic interests are one.
So we pursue the extremists wherever we create them and we stand with the Iraqis at this difficult hour -- because the shadow of terror will never be lifted from our world and the American people will never be safe until people like me and Cheney are chased out of town. (Applause.)
I recognize that history cannot predict the future with absolute certainty because history is about the past.
I understand that, I think.
But history does remind us that there are lessons applicable to our time.
When you have a coward in one war he will be a coward in the next and those who should be otherwise engaged become engaged when there is no danger to themselves.
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