Is Iraq another Vietnam? You might be surprised at the answer.
"Recent Iraq attacks on U.S. troops have demonstrated a new tactical sophistication and coordination that raise the specter of the U.S. occupation force becoming enmeshed in a full-blown guerrilla war," write Tom Ricks and Rajiv Chandrasekaran in the Washington Post this week, citing "military experts."
"The new approaches employed in the Iraq attacks last week," they write, "are provoking concern among some that what once was seen as a mopping-up operation against the dying remnants of a deposed government is instead becoming a widening battle against a growing and organized force that could keep tens of thousands of U.S. troops busy for months."
Translation? Iraq has become Vietnam.
Assessments were pretty much the same over at Reuters, which charged that "With each U.S. death in Iraq, President George W. Bush faces the potential of a growing political threat at home as Americans become more unsettled by the continued violence, analysts say."
"Bush, whose 2004 re-election strategy relies heavily on casting himself as a strong leader in a time of grave threats, could see that image damaged by the steady death toll or prolonged attacks on U.S. troops," adds Reuters. The glee from Reuters poured right out of my monitor and into my coffee cup. Yuck!
If Bush's "image as a strong leader" is "damaged?" He's finished. Forget 4 more years. In "times of grave threats," voters turn against weakling milksops, rallying behind genuinely powerful leaders, leaders with national security bona fides, whose unassailable credentials and proven experience inspires confidence and commands authority. Leaders like super-hawks Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley Braun, Howard Dean and what-cha-ma-call-it (the French-looking guy) fit the bill perfectly. Kucinich, Braun, Dean and what-cha-ma-call-it (the French-looking guy) have attacked Bush throughout for being super-hawk. And for eschewing advice from the French, Kofi Annan, the E.U., Guinea, Cameroon, Samoa, Fiji, you name it.
A similar thing happened in 1972, during the Vietnam war, when U.S. troops were dying in significant numbers per week. In the fall, voters dumped milksop Nixon, pulling the lever for super-hawk Sen. George McGovern instead. Oops, never mind.
"`There is a public recognition that things aren't going well in Iraq,'" Reuters quotes Gallup's Frank Newport as saying. While "Administration officials say U.S. troops in Iraq are not facing a Vietnam-like quagmire," Reuters insists U.S. troops in Iraq are facing a Vietnam-like quagmire.
So, what's the truth -- is Iraq Vietnam or not?
My curiosity couldn't take it anymore. I've had it. I decided to hop on a plane over the weekend and see for myself. Up close and personal. Naturally, for security reasons, I can't disclose every detail of how I got there, but here's a thumb-nail sketch.
On a flat map, Iraq is 7 or 8 thousand miles from Florida. Strangely, by the time we landed, it felt like we had flown 12 thousand miles or more. Anyway, once we finally touched down (can't reveal exactly where, for security reasons), we grabbed a row boat. The humidity that morning was off the charts. Then came a monsoon rain. Forget what you think you know about Iraq topography and climate. The place was like nothing I'd expected. On each side of the sinuous river, we saw very fertile land, used for growing rice and sugar cane. It was hardly paradise, though. Nerve-wracking sounds of bullets and rocket-propelled grenades filled the air, choppers roaming back and forth overhead. Clearly, this was a war-zone. Yet, we were only miles from Baghdad.
Forget what you think you know about Iraq culture and society. Once in the capital, what I saw was like nothing I'd expected. The streets were glutted with traffic, mostly bicycles and motor scooters. And military vehicles. People here wear pointed grass hats, shaped like little umbrellas, not exactly traditional Arab headdress. (Incidentally, at the river on our way towards Baghdad, I even saw black-pajama wearing combat guerrillas.) The sidewalks teemed with merchants. If Saffron's your bag, you'll dig this place. Everywhere you go, somebody tries to sell you Saffron. Nearby was a place called the Rex Hotel, C.I.A. headquarters here. Buddhist Temples, not Mosques, were aplenty. Bet you didn't expect that, eh? People here (who, by the way, look oriental, not Arab) carry baskets of rice or buckets of water on bamboo shoulder poles.
Well, getting back to the main question, is Iraq Vietnam? In a word, Yes -- everything I've seen in my brief visit here seems to indicate that it is. Resistance is growing, from the jungles of Baghdad, to the foggy rice paddy fields of Basra, to the rubber plantations of Najah, to the swampland of Tikrit, across the glaring Iraqi green deltas, resistance is growing. Even along Iraq's infinite coastline, its coastal resort towns with its white sand beaches, inland to the Mekong River Delta in the south to the mountains of Mosul in the north, to the submerged Forrest of Falluja, resistance is growing. The "growing" resistance is "provoking" "growing" "concern among some" as a "growing number of military specialists" voice "growing" "concern" and "grow" "quietly worry" while "growing" guerrilla "activity in Iraq" grows "very unsettling," provoking even more "growing" "worry!" In short, the Washington Post, The AP, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Reuters, UPI, ABC/NBC/CBS/CNN/MSNBC -- they're right! We're doomed! Doomed, I tell ya! Quagmire! Quagmire! Pockets of resistance in Baghdad! Let's give up now! Pull out! Pull out!
Reported by Jayson Blair, John Kerry, Howard Dean and Baghdad Bob deep in the tall rain Forrests of Karbala while time-traveling back to war-time Saigon.
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