The Bush Administration promised a quick and easy victory in Iraq, it didn't happen; now Americans are beginning to smell "Vietnam".
By Stewart Nusbaumer
At Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, the U.S. military?s primary air cargo port for the east coast, a new and larger morgue is about to open. Just in time.
The news from Iraq is roadside bombings, guerrilla hit-and-run attacks, small-arms ambushes, mortar assaults, all followed by announcements of U.S. war dead. We do not know how many have been killed and wounded, but we do know there have been many more than what the Administration predicted. Many, many more.
The Bush Administration arrogantly said this war would be quick and easy. What it has become is bloody and what it is becoming is a brutal quagmire. The Administration warlords failed by starting this war and it is failing in conducting the war.
But it?s not all bad for the Administration, according to Paul Bremer. The civilian administrator in Iraq informed the U.S. Senate last month that history is on our side. Unfortunately, Mr. Bremer does not appear to know anything about history.
When a weaker but determined enemy utilizes an asymmetrical war strategy -- fighting a war other than what the more powerful force is prepared to fight -- then the weaker power may very well defeat the stronger one. Mr. Bremer spoke to the Senators about Germany and Italy as historical references, yet he carefully avoided more recent historical examples, specifically, Vietnam and Afghanistan. That is, the United States? humiliating defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet Union?s ruinous defeat in Afghanistan. In both cases, it was the weaker power that defeated the stronger power by engaging the superpowers in long, costly wars of attrition.
In Iraq today, guerrilla forces, armed with simple weapons and stealth and personal fervor (from resisting a foreign occupying power), are exploiting the U.S. military?s sluggishness, negating its superior firepower, and undermining its political programs. Iraq looks like another long war of attrition. This does not place history on the side of the United States, but on the side of Iraqi opposition.
Unfortunately, much of America seems to have forgotten that being a superpower does not mean we actually possess super power. There are limits to U.S. power; every nation has limits when imposing its will on other people. Our restraints may be less, but they still exist. A costly guerrilla war in a far-off country for a goal not critically important to America's security is one such limit on the effective use of U.S. power. We learned this in Vietnam.
But Americans have been fooled, again, duped by another generation of zealots who rewrote history and insisted U.S. potential was nearly limitless and the future was America?s to carve. With full determination and confidence, the Republican leadership said we could and we must remake the Middle East, and much of the nation followed, reluctantly.
Last time our fervent believers swore that Vietnam was a falling communist domino that would knock down all of Southeast Asia, then India, sending destabilizing shocks throughout the world. This time they swore that Iraq was a reverse domino that could spread democracy and prosperity throughout the Middle East and then the world. Instead of stopping the communist domino in Southeast Asia, today's neo-imperialists insisted America needed to push the Southwest Asian domino of democracy and save the world. In both cases, the preachers of war declared the security of the United States was at stake. In both cases, they lied terribly.
But Americans are beginning to wake up and to remember, at least some are. They are beginning to smell something familiar in the war in Iraq. It?s not only the dead Americans that are stirring their memory, but also the loss of American jobs. Americans are remembering that wars of attrition bleed both soldiers and economies, which together destroy domestic budgets, divide and polarize people, increase crime, reduce welfare, undermine the ?good life? -- their American Dreams!
Wars seldom have serious impact on the wealthy, but they are devastating to working people.
And Americans are remembering that Presidents exaggerate national security threats, whether from communists in Southeast Asia or an Arab dictator in Southwest Asia. They are beginning to remember Vietnam. Not necessarily consciously, but it's growing in the national mind.
Numerous recent polls show that white males, the group most supportive of George Bush, are deserting the President, his handling of the war and his management of the economy. Americans are throwing George Bush's empire building into the dustbin of the unimportant, along with his silly Great Domino Theory For Democracy, as they refocus on the threats to their personal lives. A failed war built on untrue premises has a way of snapping people back to realizing what is really important in their lives.
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz clique rewrote ?history,? but they cannot reorder reality. They deployed the strongest military in the world, yet they cannot stop Americans from dying on the battlefield. They committed America to an unnecessary war, but they are unable win an unwinnable war. And these men of business and wealth are now powerless to stop a deteriorating economy, one that is chipping away at what they desire most: the reelection of George Bush, their man in the White House.
And they cannot eradicate the historical mistake of Vietnam from the collective mind of America. They thought they did, but that is also beyond their power.
Lyndon Johnson and then Richard Nixon tried to rewrite history and committed America to an unwinnable war that became a quagmire that drained not only American soldiers but also the American economy. George Bush has taken the same arrogant road and committed America to a similarly hopeless war that is spawning American dead and a ruinous economy.
Hopefully this history will read differently than Vietnam, will say that Americans quickly ended the bloodshed and suffering in Iraq by retiring another President who imagined personal glory in death and destruction. Let's work for a better history than what Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon gave America in the form of the Vietnam War. Let's stop another Vietnam.
Stewart Nusbaumer is editor of Intervention. Stewart was in Vietnam in 1967, serving with the 3rd Marine Division.
Posted Tuesday, October 21, 2003
U.S. Reports Increase in Daily Attacks in Iraq
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS - Published: October 22, 2003
Filed at 10:05 p.m. ET
FALLUJAH, Iraq (AP) -- Iraqi insurgents have stepped up attacks on U.S. troops in recent weeks, the commander of American forces said Wednesday, as ambush bombers struck again in this tense Sunni Muslim area west of Baghdad, in the northern city of Mosul and in the heart of the capital.
The U.S. commander, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, said some of the attacks may be carried out by people with links to al-Qaida, but he added ``we don't have any confirmed al-Qaida operatives in custody at this point.''
Elsewhere, U.S. troops of the 4th Infantry Division arrested more than a dozen suspects, including a former major general, in pre-dawn raids Wednesday north of Baghdad.
The Baghdad bombing, which occurred as a convoy passed through a tunnel in the center of the capital, slightly injured two U.S. soldiers, who were returned to duty after treatment, a U.S. officer at the scene reported.
In Fallujah, witnesses said four Americans were carried away on stretchers after a roadside bomb exploded beside a three-vehicle convoy. The U.S. military in Baghdad had no report on the incident.
After the attack, residents cheered and swarmed over one disabled vehicle, looting its contents and setting it afire. It was the third attack against American troops in the Fallujah area in as many days.
Elsewhere, one soldier from the 101st Airborne Division was slightly injured when a bomb exploded in front of his convoy in Mosul, 225 miles north of Baghdad, the military said.
Sanchez, the American commander, acknowledged that attacks against his troops have increased in the last three weeks, especially in Anbar province which includes Fallujah.
``The number of wounded and the number of engagements in last three weeks have been a little bit higher than we've seen before,'' Sanchez said. ``We've had an average number of engagements from 20 to 25 (daily). We've seen a spike up to 35 in last three weeks.''
Sanchez said he believed operates of the extremist Ansar al-Islam, a group linked to al-Qaida, as well as members of Osama bin Laden's organization are operating inside Iraq.
``We have arrested members of Ansar al-Islam,'' he said. ``We know there are organizations that have links back to al-Qaida but we don't have any confirmed al-Qaida operatives in custody at this point. We do have some al-Qaida-linked personnel in our custody. They continue to operate. We know that they're here. We know where they're operating, what areas they're operating in.''
He did not elaborate.
Sanchez also attributed the increase in part to combat activity here in Anbar province, which extends from the Euphrates River valley to the Jordanian, Syrian and Saudi borders. The most populated part of the province is the responsibility of the 82nd Airborne Division.
``Before the 82nd came in, we very clearly stated we were going out to the west,'' Sanchez said. ``We've been in combat force posture out in Anbar province. We knew this was an area that was a challenge for us. And we clearly stated back then there was still a lot of fighting to be done. And there would be an increase in engagements.''
The raids by the 4th Infantry Division were centered around Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit and in Baqouba, about 30 miles northeast Baghdad. U.S. officers said an Iraqi major general, who was not identified, was seized in the Baqouba operation.
In Tikrit, 10 suspects, including six people believed linked to the Iraqi resistance, were taken into custody, the military said.
Despite an escalation of military operations, Sanchez said the coalition planned to lift the nighttime curfew in Baghdad during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting which begins this weekend. Muslims must abstain from food, drink and sex during daylight hours, and Ramadan festivities last far into the night.
The continuing attacks on the U.S. occupation army came as Washington prepared for a conference in Madrid on Thursday and Friday to win international aid to rebuild Iraq -- help the Americans hope will eventually be accompanied by foreign troop reinforcements.
Sanchez insisted the U.S.-led coalition was making progress in restoring order six months after the collapse of Saddam's rule ``but we need to accelerate it and accomplish it across all lines of operation -- economic, political, security.''
He said that restoring order and getting more Iraqis back to work ``will contribute to eliminating some of the anti-coalition forces throughout the country.'' Iraqi officials estimate unemployment nationwide at more than 70 percent.
In the southern city of Najaf, a small band of gunmen staged a midnight attack on the headquarters of a leading Shiite Muslim political organization, but no casualties were reported, said a spokesman for the group, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The spokesman, who identified himself as Abu Ahmed, said four of six attackers were captured and admitted they were loyalists of Saddam's Baath Party. During years of Shiite repression under Saddam, the group fueled opposition to his government from exile. Since Saddam's fall in April, it has taken a prominent role in the political transition in Iraq.
Associated Press writers Mariam Fam in Mosul and Katarina Kratovac in Tikrit contributed to this story.