The Vietnam lesson – again!

The whole world (minus Israel) is praying that we don’t go to war against Iraq. But we probably will: the die is cast, and it is only a matter of time now — unless we massively mobilize to stop what can only be described as a horrible act of madness.

To begin with, the propaganda season is in full swing: how interesting and convenient that all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a man approaches CNN and leads them to a large cache of tapes in exchange for a few thousand dollars. How convenient that the tapes would contain recordings of instructions on how to make chemical weapons, and, to boot, scenes of a helpless puppy yelping in agony under a deadly gaseous cloud. And how strange that the government would make no fuss over freely airing the content of those tapes, when it all but arrested CNN executives for airing portions of Al-Jazeera’s Bin Laden tapes last year. Wouldn’t the terrorists who were apt to decode hidden messages from Bin Laden be liable to pick up a couple of pointers on making a bomb or two? Apparently not.

Moreover, it is now becoming clearer by the day that Saudi Arabia is no longer willing to keep US bases on its soil for much longer. The political overhead at home is becoming so enormous that the Saudi government, taking a rare step, publicly announced that it will not give the United States permission to launch attacks against Iraq from Saudi soil. In other words, the United States needs to find a new home for its Saudi base. So, what better solution than to plop them right there in Iraq, a much better strategic position (and the weather is much nicer) than the Saudi desert, flanked by arch-enemies Iran in the east and Syria in the west, and long-time allies Turkey in the north and Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the south?

But perhaps the best indication that we are going to war is the fact that president Bush has all but openly said that we are going in. Egged on by a team drunk with the myth of the “painless” victories of Desert Storm and the war in Afghanistan, they feel that they can easily pull it off a third time.

But maybe we should be superstitious instead of starry-eyed. Perhaps just as the third war was not a charmer with Vietnam, after the “successes” of World War Two and Korea, this war also may turn out to be an agonizing, protracted nightmare that will end badly for us. The similarities are certainly alarming: our involvement in Viet Nam was sold (though not for long) to the American public as part of a global struggle against the evil of the day back then, “the communist menace”. Today, the war against Iraq is being explained (and loosely at that) in terms of our global struggle against the evil of today, “terror”. Back then, we had the FBI’s J Edgar Hoover uprooting and exposing Communists left and right, and keeping a close tab on anyone who rocked the boat; today, we have Attorney General John Ashcroft, who seems to have already outdone Hoover by imprisoning for months, and without formally charging them, hundreds of Americans simply on the suspicion that they could be valuable “material witnesses”. Also back then we were dragged into Vietnam by a young, inexperienced president who was ill-advised by his secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, a hawk, but a man with no real military experience. Our president today is also advised by a hawk, Donald Rumsfeld, who also happens to have very little military experience.

But perhaps we should remember now, before it is too late, the biggest lesson that came out of Vietnam: that our government should have listened to the people rather than to the hawks who knew very little about real war and were willing to put in harm’s way not their own sons and daughters but those of ordinary Americans. The American people were right all along then. We had no business forcing our will on others when the threat against us was based on an unproven theory. Today, we have no business invading a country when the threat against us is once again based on a theory that has yet to be proven.

Mr. Ahmed Bouzid is President of Palestine Media Watch.


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