|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Cheerleaders Never Learn
Saturday, November 18th, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? email@example.com|
|Travel may broaden, but not everyone is susceptible. The man who spent ten years slouching his way through Andover, Yale, and Harvard, learning nothing beyond how to bend his elbow at an angle appropriate for hoisting a beer mug, is in Vietnam today. Mr. Bush is aware that Vietnam is peaceful and relatively prosperous, boasting one of the world’s fastest growing economies. And yet today, in his radio address, the president said “History shows that free societies are peaceful societies, so America is committed to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternative to repression and radicalism.” Though at peace and prospering, present-day Vietnam is a repressive one party state, neither democratic nor free. That part of his trip seems to have escaped the president’s notice.
He might be aware that the United States fought a lengthy, costly, and futile war there over thirty years ago. Then again, he might not. Asked what was the lesson of Vietnam for a United States mired in a lengthy, costly and futile war in Iraq, Mr. Bush replied “We’ll succeed unless we quit.“*
Like the cheerleader he was at Yale, the president keeps repeating variations of slogans instead of expressing thoughts. Stay the course, complete the mission, we only lose if we leave, destroy tyranny, impose democracy -- there’d be just as much sense in his yelling “bulldog bulldog bow wow wow” or “boola boola,” as he did as an undergraduate. World travel at taxpayers’ expense and six years of occupying the world’s most important job has left him as ignorant and thoughtless now as he was cutting capers on the field at the Yale Bowl in the Vietnam era.
Fifty-eight thousand U.S. soldiers died in Vietnam because presidents Johnson and Nixon hadn’t the moral courage, or the manhood, to admit the whole thing was a terrible mistake. As late as 1975, after nearly a decade and a half of American blood-letting in Southeast Asia, Henry Kissinger told a press conference that abandoning South Vietnam would constitute “a fundamental threat over a period of time to the security of the United States.” Protect the American people, national security, don’t let the smoking gun turn into a mushroom cloud; we’re still hearing variations on the same imbecilic theme, echoes of Kissinger’s willful mendacity.
When we did finally abandon South Vietnam to its fate, and the corrupt regime we supported was swept contemptuously aside by the communist guerillas of the North, not one of the war mongers’ dire forecasts came true. There was no domino effect, no worldwide communist triumph, and no threat, none at all, to the security of the United States. It took the Vietnamese decades to recover from the havoc we’d wrought, but, despite their undemocratic, un-American regime, recover they have. When we leave Iraq, it’s very likely that the Iraqis too will have an un-American, undemocratic regime. It’s certain that they too will eventually recover from the havoc we’ve wrought there. Equally certain is that the present-day Kissingers will be proved just as wrong as their lying predecessors. The only remaining question is how many more of our fellow citizens will be killed and maimed before these outcomes become reality.
If Mr. Bush were a reading man, he’d have studied Barbara Tuchman’s account of our involvement in Vietnam in her always relevant, evergreen history of governmental military misadventure, The March of Folly. He might have learned of the dreadful irony that Tuchman teases out of her analysis of Vietnam: the very forces that gave birth to our nation, the ignorance, arrogance, self-delusion, hopelessly petrified strategizing and utterly incompetent execution that sank the British, were also, when adopted by us, responsible for the fiasco of Vietnam.
They are equally the cause of the fiasco of Iraq. Tuchman concludes her account by quoting Michigan Congressman Donald Riegle. After visiting with constituents whose son had just been killed in Vietnam he remarked “There was no way I could say what had happened was in their interest or in the national interest or in anyone’s interest.” That was the lesson of Vietnam, just as it’s the lesson of Iraq. Too bad our president is unteachable.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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