Thursday, April 08, 2004

It's Official; Viet Nam II

Ted Kennedy thinks so, plenty of people on the web have asked the question; but I think it's official now. Iraq is becoming Viet Nam II. It's not just the rise in recycled rhetoric from that never forgotten conflict like "hearts and minds" and "body counts." Two things caught my attention this morning and as I listened to the news I knew that Iraq had morphed into a new thing: a quagmire, to be sure; a new Viet Nam.

The first thing I heard was a report that thousands of troops have been told they are not going home for a while. Our military is in the midst of a huge troop rotation right now, tired soldiers training and briefing their replacements (who themselves were probably in Iraq of Afghanistan less than a year ago), so there are lots of them there. By holding those ready to go home a little longer, BushCo. has effectively increased the troop level without any kind of public announcement of intent to do so. It sounds hauntingly like the way troops were built up in Southeast Asia as we transitioned from "advising" the South Vietnamese to making it an American war.

The second thing that really made my heart sink came while listening to some ex-colonel or general practicing at being a news talking-head. He spoke about the tactics that Marines and soldiers would likely use in Fallujah. Soldiers, he said, would cut off an area of operation inside the city, move in and "neutralize the target," then exit the city. The whole time he spoke all I could hear was the phrase "pacify the village." It was a basic lesson from Viet Nam that was taught at West Point and at all the Army training courses: you can't control territory you don't occupy. It wouldn't surprise me at all to begin hearing stories of "free fire zones." In the jungles of Viet Nam, American forces would move in, engage the VC, then move back to their fire bases; at night, the VC would move right back in and take up operations where they left off.

I think not only can we now say that Iraq is becoming Viet Nam, we can also say that as you'd expect from past actions, nobody in this administration has learned the lessons of history.

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