Flashback 1966: Just as the US was sinking ever deeper into the quagmire known as Vietnam, Vermont Senator George Aiken delivered a famous speech in which he said that “we should declare victory and go home.” Unfortunately the war dragged on for six more years and eventually North Vietnam won.
Take a look at North Vietnam today: Three decades later, Vietnam is a quasi-capitalist country, cultivating US investment, consumer markets, and tourism. How might history have changed if only we had the guts to admit a stupid mistake in 1966, declaring the war “won” and going home? For starters we would have spared countless American and Vietnamese lives. The outcome of history would have been far different and we would have had one less huge black spot on the soul of the US.
At the time, “staying the course” was posed as a test of American credibility. I was in the 7th grade at the time. Our science teacher, Harry Don Wirth told us “I do not think we should have entered this ‘conflict’, but It’s too late to pull out now”. As Lyndon Johnson liked to say: Who would follow the lead of a superpower who “tucked tail and ran”?
Harry Don Wirth was drafted and left in the middle of our 7th grade year. I have no idea what happened to him. He was the single best teacher I ever had. Mr. Wirth was simply amazing. He even had the class dunces motivated to work. The class in general was disappointed if we did not receive enough homework. We ran roughshod over his replacement. I can not even remember his name.
Public sentiment changed against the war in 1968 and Nixon decided to masquerade as the “peace candidate”, on a “peace with honor” campaign. By the time I reached senior year in high school, however, the stupid war was still going on. Then on January 23, 1973 Nixon gave his “Peace with Honor” television broadcast announcing the initialing of the Paris ‘Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam’.
Fighting between South Vietnamese and Communists continued despite the peace agreement until North Vietnam launched an offensive in early 1975. South Vietnam’s requests for aid were denied by the U.S. Congress, and after Thieu abandoned the northern half of the country to the advancing Communists, a panic ensued. South Vietnamese resistance collapsed, and North Vietnamese troops marched into Saigon Apr. 30, 1975. Vietnam was formally reunified in July, 1976, and Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City. U.S. casualties in Vietnam during the era of direct U.S. involvement (1961–72) were more than 50,000 dead; South Vietnamese dead were estimated at more than 400,000, and Viet Cong and North Vietnamese at over 900,000.
Is it 1966 again?
It sure feels like it.
All this talk of “cutting and running” is as much horse hockey today as it was in 1966 when George Aiken proposed doing the same. The only difference is that Senator Aiken was smart enough to package his proposal as a “victory”. The sad truth of the matter is that we can no more win this war than we could win the Vietnam War. The entire basis for the Vietnam War was based on one stupid theory and one big fat lie.
Back in the 60’s that Stupid theory was known as “The Domino Effect” whereby if we lost South Vietnam, Communism would spread over all of Asia. The lie was the Gulf of Tonkin incident in which supposedly North Vietnam supposedly attacked the US in international waters.
One can only ask, would Vietnam be any better off today if the US managed to win the war? I think the question is moot because winning was not possible. Vietnam had more willpower and stamina to fight the US than the US public had stamina for sending masses of soldiers to their graves. In short, winning the war was not possible because there was nothing ever to win.
Today’s Stupid Theories and Stupid Lies
Today’s stupid theory is that we can cram Democracy down the throats of people that do not want it and/or are ill equipped to deal with it. President Bush campaigned against “nation building” in the 2000 election yet violated that pledge. It is obvious that he has learned nothing from either the Vietnam War or Russia’s miserable failure in Afghanistan, as he now seems bound and determined to continue his failed policies of “nation building”.
Everyone knows today’s lies: Weapons of mass destruction, mushroom clouds, uranium “yellow cake” from Niger, and trumped up charges by Colin Powell in a speech to the UN that he now regrets.
Reminiscent of Aiken’s 1966 speech, Congressman John P. Murtha, in a press conference as well as in a speech before Congress Murtha had this to say…
“The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.
“We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.
“I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won “militarily.” I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.
“Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home.”
Unlike the chickenhawks in this administration, Murtha won two Purple Hearts as a combat Marine in the Korean and Vietnam wars, and then tacked on 23 more years in the Marine Reserve. In Congress he has been a huge supporter of the Pentagon, and since 1989, he has been either chairman or the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. In other words this was a stunning switch for Congressman Murtha.
In marked contrast, here is the administration scorecard:
- President Bush hid out in the guard and arguably did not even bother showing up for duty.
- Cheney had 5 deferments.
- Ashcroft had 7 deferments.
- Rove did not serve.
- Hastert? Frist? Did not serve.
- DeLay Did not serve. In fact, in one of the silliest assertions ever, Delay actually said: “So many minority youths had volunteered that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself.”
- There is not a single member in Congress with a son or daughter actively serving in Iraq
Rather than admit the obvious, supporters of this stupid war immediately went on the attack by questioning Murtha’s patriotism. The debate in Congress was rather heated to say the least. At one point in the emotional debate, Rep., R-Ohio, told of a phone call she received from a Marine colonel.
“A few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp, Ohio Representative from the 88th district in the House of Representatives. He asked me to send Congress a message: Stay the course. He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do. Danny and the rest of America and the world want the assurance from this body – that we will see this through.”
By the way, exactly who is this “Colonel Danny Bubp”, some kind of war hero like Murtha? No, all of his time was spent in the reserves. In other words, this was a self serving stunt by Jean Schmidt on behalf of a state legislator who never served active duty. Bubp’s big claim to fame is receiving a plaque along with Schmidt in support of keeping public displays of the Ten Commandments.
Harmy on the Motley FOOL had this to say about Danny Bubp:
“Danny Bubp is typical of many military and political types who do the tub-thumping that sends young men to war. It has always sickened me the way these people manage to stay out of the real war and yet suddenly appear on the dais when it’s all over complete with immaculate shiny shoes and a chest full of medals for the military and civic honours showered upon the politicians. You needn’t think that the US is unique in this respect. It happens and has happened in every country. At the conclusion of WW1 the British held a victory parade with the King and Queen, Generals and Politicians all on the dais. The parade took hours to pass but shamefully a battalion of the war’s maimed were not allowed to participate because the extent of their injuries might offend people.”
Vice President Cheney also attacked Murtha, to which Murtha responded:
“I like guys who have never been there to criticize us who have been there. I like that. I like guys who got have five deferments and never been there and send people to war and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.”
Let’s return to reality.
Here is that reality:
CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll. Nov. 11-13, 2005
Q: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?”
A: Approve: 35% Disapprove:63% Unsure:2%
Q: “In view of the developments since we first sent our troops to Iraq, do you think the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, or not?”
A: Mistake: 54% Not a Mistake: 45% Unsure: 1%
Q: “All in all, do you think it was worth going to war in Iraq, or not?”
A: Worth it: 38% Not worth it: 60% Unsure : 2%
Q: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq?”
A: Approve: 30% Disapprove: 65% Unsure 5%
Q: “Do you think Dick Cheney deliberately misused or manipulated pre-war intelligence about Iraq’s nuclear capabilities in order to build support for war with Iraq?”
A: Cheney deliberately misused 52% Did not deliberately misuse: 33% Unsure 15%
Whether or not you agree with this war or not, the reality of the situation is clear.
- The public has turned against this war.
- The public thinks we were misled about the war.
- The public thinks it was a mistake to enter this war.
- Support for this war even by some former Congressional hawks has ended.
- This administration is blowing up in scandal after scandal and senators are distancing themselves from the president.
Flash back once again to 1966.
We made a horribly foolish mistake to enter the Vietnam War and an equally stupid mistake to not just admit it and leave.
Flash forward 29 years.
Oddly enough it seems to be 1966 all over again.
We have a chance to admit we were wrong as Congressman Murtha is asking us to do or we can play politics with “Cut and Run” speeches as the chickenhawks are doing.
Can We Win?
Politics aside, we can no more “win” in Iraq than we could “win” in Vietnam. For starters our original goals were too high, based on lies, and we fought the war with to few resources without ever planning for the aftermath. We have made far too many mistakes to “Win their hearts and minds”. It was a serious misjudgment to think we could EVER win their hearts and minds at gunpoint. Current polls reveal that 80% of Iraqis want us out of there. Unless we can turn those numbers around it is impossible to win either their hearts or their minds let alone both. Can those numbers possibly be turned around given our use of white phosphorous on civilians, prison torture by US soldiers, and countless collateral damage on civilians? I think not. It is simply too late.
Yes, Iraq is likely to break out into Civil war if we leave. Then again we can stay six more years, waste another $800 Billion dollars on top of the $200-$300 billion we have already wasted, waste possibly 6,000 more US lives, and then leave only to find Iraq break out in Civil war as we eventually toss in the towel. If it plays out like that, it will be an exact repeat of Nixon’s “Peace with Honor” victory, only to see South Vietnam overrun the moment we left.
The bottom line is this war can not be won for multiple reasons.
- It was never really winnable in the first place given that its foundation was based on hopeless intelligence at best and a pack of lies at worst, all on top of a false premise that we could cram Democracy down their throats at gunpoint while they would shower us with flowers in glee.
- We made far too many mistakes to ever win their hearts and minds now, and without doing that there is no way to win.
- The Iraqi “insurgents” have more willpower as an occupied nation than we do as occupiers
- Even if you disagree about the above, history is clear about what happens once public support for a war wanes. We will eventually pull out, consequences be dammed. The public seems likely to insist upon a pullout, voting out anyone that gets in the way.
- Just as in the 1983 movie “War Games” , the only way to win was to not play. It’s too late to adopt that strategy now. Seriously, if you have not seen that movie, I suggest you check it out soon.
Mish Peace Proposal
We can no longer “win” as defined by our original goals, but perhaps we could escape with some semblance of a “draw” if we could just manage to turn our problems into an Arab problem. The first step in correcting a problem is to admit you have a problem and admit the many mistakes that caused it. It simply must be done to have any chance. We have made dozens of mistakes but refuse to admit any of them. Nor has anyone but low level scapegoats been held accountable for those mistakes. Here is my four step proposal.
- Apologize to the world and Iraq for the mistakes we a have made.
- Offer to turn Iraq over a consortium of Arab nations including Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as the UN.
- Agree to let that consortium set Iraq policy regardless of what happens or how we feel.
- Hold accountable some higher up military and administration officials for mistakes that have been made.
It is unclear if a consortium of Arab nations would agree to take on the problem even with our admission of guilt. Following are the potential outcomes of that proposal:
- The Arab nations refuse to take on the problem. Far from being a total disaster we could immediately wash our hands of this sordid affair and begin pulling our troops out. We would at least be able to say we made a good faith effort.
- They accept the proposal and ask we withdraw our troops. This is likely the best case scenario. We effectively hand over our problems to someone else. We relinquish all control of course, but it is a mistake to assume we ever had any in the first place.
- They accept the proposal but still want a US military presence in Iraq. This is highly unlikely and not realistic. The consequence would be that US military would be under control of UN or Arab command. I doubt that would be acceptable to the US.
- The Arabs want to study the plan for something like forever. If this happened we could force a choice by setting a timetable to withdraw forces in nine months or so if agreement was not reached. In the end, it would probably be better to have the plan rejected upfront rather than after we waste more money and lives.
Personally, I think the odds that we would admit our mistakes at something close to zero%. In other words such a peace proposal would be “politically incorrect” and therefore dead on arrival. Given that likelihood, the best practical approach is probably to do what Senator Aiken proposed in 1966: Declare Victory and Leave.
Mike Shedlock / Mish/