Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel (R), a Vietnam veteran, said in an interview that the war in Iraq is looking more like the war in Vietnam and that “stay the course” is not a policy. “By any standard, when you analyze 2 ½ years in Iraq … we’re not winning,” he said. Senator Hagel also said on This Week on ABC, “We should start figuring out how we get out of there.” “But with this understanding, we cannot leave a vacuum that further destabilizes the Middle East. I think our involvement there has destabilized the Middle East. And the longer we stay there; I think the further destabilization will occur.”
Incredible analogy! It is incredible because it comes from a second term Republican Senator and a former U.S. Army Squad Leader who served in Vietnam in the late sixties, not from an ignorant Joe Blow! Being an American of Vietnamese descent, I was born, grew up in Vietnam and fought the war against North Vietnamese communist since 1953 from Hanoi, North Vietnam to Saigon in the South; I believe I do have some knowledge about the Vietnam War. As a concerned American citizen living in the US over 30 years, I have been following the political and military development in the Middle East, from Desert Storm to Iraqi Freedom, with great interest. Based upon what I could gather, and with all due respect, I must disagree with Senator Hagel’s ludicrous analogy and his irresponsible public statement regarding Iraq-Vietnam.
Even a cursory analysis of the two wars would reveal fundamental similarities and superficial differences as follow:
1 – Fundamentally, we went to Vietnam in the sixties because of the threat of communism. We sent our military to Afghanistan because of the brutal terrorist attack in New York on September 11, 2001. We sent our troops to Iraq to liberate over 20 million Iraqis from an oppressive regime of Saddam Hussain, and also because Saddam supports world terrorism. We would not have gone to Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq if it was not for our own security, interest and freedom.
2 – Anti-war movement stemmed from political dissidents, special interests and partisanships is not new in America. During the Vietnam War, Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden and many other Americans went to Hanoi to denounce our cause and gave aids and comforts to our enemy. Domestic anti-war movement destroyed our will and patience. In the current war on terror, Cindy Sheehan and her followers are starting the same sequence of events on the street.
3 – Another parallel is biased and lopsided reports by the press. During Vietnam, communist saboteurs blew up civilian buildings in Saigon killings Americans and Vietnamese civilians and massive massacre at Hue by North Vietnamese soldiers received minimal coverage. But the My Lai incident was huge headlines news. In Iraq, all cruel, barbaric acts committed by terrorists were given token coverage but Abu Ghraib event was blown out of proportion. When the North Vietnamese communist blatantly violated the Paris Peace Accord and invaded South Vietnam in April 1975, the US news media labeled the invasion as “Liberation” of the South. But our “Liberation” of Iraq from Saddam Hussein was consistently termed by our news media as “US Invasion of Iraq”. What else is new?
Aside from the above, there are other superficial differences:
Politically and geographically, Vietnam was a divided country because of opposing ideology. The North was supported by the communist bloc and the South was supported by the United States and the free world. In reality, Vietnam was two different countries. Iraq is not.
Militarily and topographically, Vietnam and Iraq are contrastingly different. North Vietnam had no potential of producing weapons of mass destruction. Iraq did. Both North and South Vietnam had their own Armed Forces including regular Army, heavy artillery and tanks, Air Force and Navy.
In Vietnam we fought the North Vietnamese communist and the National Liberation Front on various battlefields as well as in guerrilla warfare. In Iraq, there are no uniformed soldiers, no tanks, no artillery, no Navy and/or no Air Force. Our troops fighting in Iraq have been facing only unpredictable fanatical suicide bombers armed only with improvised explosive devices (IED). Vietnam terrain is mostly mountainous and heavily vegetated, while Iraq is vastly open desert.
Vietnamese Communist and Iraqi insurgents are sentimentally and religiously different. Communist doctrine was dialectical materialistic and, by and large, their cadres and soldiers are irreligious, while our enemies in Iraq are religious extremists. Additionally, times have changed and technology has changed. Our military has jumped a quantum leap since the war in the sixties. As a consequence, tactical operation planning and long term strategy must change accordingly. It is absolutely fatuous to compare the war in Iraq to the war in Vietnam.
The most noticeable similarity about the current situation regarding the war in Iraq and Vietnam is defeatist, wimpy statements made by individuals, celebrities and elected-officials. Some for their political gain, some for personal agenda and other are probably delusional or misguided. And the biased media wastes no time to sensationalize their reports. During the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese communist benefited immensely from our domestic political division, from anti-war activities and biased news media reports. Most certainly, the Iraqi insurgents would exploit our division, our shaky rear base to their advantage. Recently, Ms. Cindy Sheehan initiated a campaign against the war and openly denounces her country, “this country is not worth dying for”. Senator Hagel publicly faults our policy toward Iraq and calls for U.S withdrawal. All these would undoubtedly serve to encourage the terrorists to persevere and wait for American political dissidents to use freedom of speech to destroy their own will.
But that is what America is all about. This country is known as “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.” Under the First Amendment, Americans are free to speak their mind. President Harry S. Truman once said: “There is no more fundamental axiom of American freedom than the familiar statement: In a free country we punish men for crimes they commit but never for the opinions they have.” It is sad to see people exploit freedom of speech irresponsibly and shamelessly for their own agenda. The pride of a great nation, national security all seem unimportant to them.