I’ve written before about our president’s poor understanding of history. I’ve noted repeatedly that he will often use a historical reference that not only doesn’t actually support the point he thinks he’s making, but makes the opposite point instead.
But today he’s just gone too far. It actually hurts my brain. It’s not merely egoistic grandiosity anymore, it’s frankly aggressive, abusive treatment. It’s like he is actually trying to damage the minds of anyone who knows their 20th Century American history, or is old enough to have lived through it themselves.
How is it possible to withstand such an elemental force of bizarre rhetoric? How are we, who are limited by a lingering memory of sanity, a habit of believing in consensual reality, and an inability to wake each day and accept that everything we knew previously is wrong, to confront such an assault?
For years, Vietnam has served as the icon of American military failure. In fact, as long as Bush has been talking about invading Iraq, critics have been comparing it to Vietnam as an example of a misguided, strategically questionable, poorly planned, expensive military misadventure, where thousands of lives were lost and billions wasted for no apparent long-term value. So, what did Mr. Bush do today?
He alluded to Vietnam to support his war in Iraq.
No. Really. He did.
Sit down, it’ll begin to pass in a few moments.
Sputtering? Good, good. That’s a sign. You’re recovering. (Some can’t get over the initial catatonic shock and just dissociate.)
‘How?’ ‘Wha?’ Indeed.
It’s a frontal assault on the rational mind.
The collision of the concepts ‘George W. Bush’ and ‘Vietnam’ might lure you into recalling that Bush avoided service in Vietnam, choosing to defend the skies and bars of Alabama when his generation was called to war. Some particle of an obsolete sense of decency might make you wonder how he could dare to stand before the Veterans of Foreign Wars and make a reference to his own cowardice, and Deferment Dick’s, that way.
But before your mind can fully process that conundrum, it gets buffeted by other absurdities.
Starting at the beginning of his speech, the pummeling begins. Did he really draw an equivalence between the militarists of WWII Japan, the Communists in Korea, the Communists in Vietnam, and “the terrorists who wage war in Iraq and Afhanistan”? Yes, yes he did. Did he actually say that the “lesson of Asia’s development is that the heart’s desire for liberty will not be denied?” Yes. (He does know that North Korea is still in Asia, right? And China? Are you sure?)
Wait, what? He’s seriously suggesting the experiences of two culturally and ethnically homogeneous nations like Japan and Korea, both of whom experienced American troops in completely different contexts, hold an example for what we can expect in diverse Iraq after an unprovoked invasion? Ow. Ow. Ow. Headache!
No. He didn’t just refer to the culturally-sensitive actions of the post-war occupation forces in Japan as an example. He did. He really did. He’s going for it: he’s actually suggesting that the way the US handled Japan and Korea are comparable to the way we handled and are handling Iraq.
Wait, our sticking by South Korea taught the Communists that aggression didn’t pay? (Then what the hell was Vietnam about?)
The mind reels. He is skillful, this Bush. All this about Japan and Korea, how American involvement spread the seeds of liberty and led to the growth of vibrant Asian economies (like China? no. shut up.), it’s just a warm-up, softening the mind for the coup de grace: Vietnam.
— See, there were doubters about Vietnam, just like there are now about Iraq. You know, there were even people way back when who said we should never get involved there in the first place? And there were even people saying we were making things worse, not better. —
Then, just as reasonable minds are about to proceed to the next rational thought “And they were right”, comes the bomb: The “one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like “boat people,” “re-education camps,” and “killing fields.””
Yup. That’s right. The big mistake in Vietnam wasn’t getting into a stupid, pointless war, and staying in it until the American people had finally had all they could stand. The big mistake in Vietnam was ending it. (Just like Iraq presumably. It wasn’t a mistake going in, it hasn’t been a long string of mistakes since, the mistake would be leaving.)
Brilliant. Vietnam, the war he himself wouldn’t fight, is the very war we should have continued to fight, but didn’t. We must not make that mistake again, huh?
Just before you have a moment to think things like “Wait, weren’t the killing fields in Cambodia, which was thrown into chaos by our bombing and incursions before the Khmer Rouge took power?”, there comes yet another blow, perhaps the most brutal, to the very fabric of a rational universe.
There was another price to our withdrawal from Vietnam, and we can hear it in the words of the enemy we face in today’s struggle — those who came to our soil and killed thousands of citizens on September the 11th, 2001. In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper after the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden declared that “the American people had risen against their government’s war in Vietnam. And they must do the same today.”
His number two man, Zawahiri, has also invoked Vietnam. In a letter to al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Iraq, Zawahiri pointed to “the aftermath of the collapse of the American power in Vietnam and how they ran and left their agents.”
Ai-yiii! There it is, our great failure as a nation.
If only our leaders in the 70s had understood that decades later, very bad men would take the lesson that the American people will not continue to support expensive, pointless wars for vague objectives indefinitely! And that they would taunt us after we’d gotten ourselves involved in just such a war!
Then we might have been spared our current fate, doomed to remain engaged in said expensive and pointless war, just to spite them and prove the taunts of the terrorists wrong. The American people will SO support expensive, pointless wars indefinitely! We’ll show YOU, Osama. So there!
— See, if we were to leave Iraq, the terrorists would be emboldened and gain new recruits. (Whereas, if we stay, they are emboldened and gain … oh, never mind.)
So, there you have it.
The lesson of our military involvements in Asia is that the seeds of liberty spread by American military forces grow into thriving economies. And the lesson of Vietnam is that the big mistake is to pull out of the killing too soon, because then lots of local people kill each other instead, and only after is there a thriving economy. And, just as importantly, you get a reputation as a country that’s not really up for years of pointless violence and killing in foreign lands.
Which I guess is a really bad thing, if you want the US to be involved in decades of pointless violence and killing in foreign lands.
Something like that. But he must know, since he’s like, a Vietnam veteran and all, right? Oh, yeah. Hmm.
Just to show he wasn’t at all tired, Bush wrapped up his speech with a claim that we’ve captured more al Qaeda guys in Iraq than there are al Qaeda guys in Iraq, a passage about how people across the Middle East are longing for freedom and to be treated with dignity and respect (which I guess, is why we are supporting a military ruler, several monarchies and ‘democracies’ like Egypt), and a reference to how the Japanese war machine was brought down by men who’d been ordinary folks just months before, (in case you’d forgotten that Japan attacked us, we have no draft and the Iraq war has dragged on longer than the entire war in the Pacific.)
It’s at times like this that I get most demoralized. How can such a raving loon be allowed not just to wander about his ranch in Texas, but to actually hold the reins of power in our country? I can’t take too much more of this. He’s only getting worse.
Well, he must be confused because all these countries we go into, cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians, create a refugee population of millions and force their women to have to sell their bodies to survive all kinda look the same, don’t they?
We should just follow his example in Vietnam and re-deploy all the troops to Alabama.
The amount of your pain is proportional to your knowledge of history. The more you know, the more you suffer. And there is truth in the aphorism that ignorance is bliss.
Most Americans don’t know about the “killing fields” of Vietnam… 🙂
I saw an expression on DailyKos today that describes so much of what I, and I think others feel: Madness Fatigue.
Think of how outraged we were in the early years, versus how numb we are today. The good news is that we’ve only grown in understanding of what is going on, and in our skill at prying these idiots away from the controls.
I take heart in Still Think 2006 Meant NOTHING? Read This.. Excerpt:
“The chart essentially shows the exodus of officials from the Bush administration since November, 2006. I argue the chart shows some progress…because it has shown the absolute decimation of key members of the Bush cabal:
– Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense: GONE. Resigned November 8, 2006.
– John R. Bolton, Ambassador to the United Nations: GONE. Resigned December 5, 2006.
– Harriet E. Miers, White House Counsel: GONE. Resigned January 4, 2007.
– Peter Wehner, White House Director of Strategic Initiatives: GONE. Resigned March 29, 2007.
– Meghan O’Sullivan, Deputy National Security Adviser: GONE. Resigned April 2, 2007.
– J.D. Crouch II, Deputy National Security Adviser: GONE. Resigned May 4, 2007.
– Sara M. Taylor, White House Director of Political Affairs: GONE. Resigned Late May, 2007.
– Dan Bartlett, White House Counselor: GONE. Resigned June 2, 2007.
– Rob Portman, OMB Director: GONE. Resigned June 19, 2007.
– KARL FREAKIN’ ROVE, Prince of Darkness: GONE. Resignation effective August 31, 2007.
“Look over that list closely, and ask yourself a simple question:
“Had we not won in 2006, would any of these people resigned?”
So yeah, let President Dimwit mangle history. The dwindling numbers of people who still listen to him are so reality impaired it doesn’t matter to them, nor really to us either. There comes a point when the grifter knows the game is up. Like his inner circle, the rest of the country is moving on.
Someone should ask Bush if Vietnam was so winnable, why didn’t he go fight? If Iraq is the same, why aren’t his daughters and nephews fighting? God, what a stupid coward and the most embarassing POTUS is US history.
And of course we all remember how the Vietnamese followed us home…
i am in tears, this is not funny, the current resident is insane and i will NOT give my children to this insanity. Democratic pushes of the logic oh gee if the armed forces were drafted and forced then the entire coutnry would rise up in revolt stop please 50,000 died in Vietnam. No, I will not give my children to this interprise.
o.k. so i am a wee bit messed up but my point is the same and why really did rove resign?
You know the corporate media will totally downplay all of this. Bush can say whatever he wants, the corporate media will NOT challenge him on it. He can say pigs have wings & the corporate media will just nod their heads & parrot what he said with no meaningful commentary.
Bush is stupid, but he ain’t THAT stupid. He KNOWS what he can get away with. And he is getting away with it. Again.
Don’t forget, for many of the 25percenters this nonsense is completely true – we should’ve stayed in Vietnam, we were winning, we only turned tail and ran because of the hippies and the media, etc., etc.
This is, of course, setting up for, as mattbastard mentions in the trackback above, some good ol’ stab-in-the-back mythmongering.
The point remains that Republicans are abandoning the Republican party over crap like this. My own father, life long Republican and Republican fund raiser and donor, who fought in WWII and (more or less) supported the war in VietNam has stripped the Bush/Cheney sticker off of his car. He knows that Bush is full of shit and his revisionist history is an embarassment. He is a VFW and probably would have walked out of a speech like that. He is ashamed of Bush as his party’s president. The media republicans love pushing the talking points because most of them are PAID to do so. It makes it seem so widespread, so accepted, so inevitable. But it isn’t so. Go ahead Bush. Go down with the friggin’ ship, pledging undying support for YOUR war and brand it your forever. I’m telling you, the craven media apologists sucking up to Bush just guarantee themselves crap ratings from here on out. People do not believe it any more. He is scaring people who once supported him.
That was pretty brutal; and, as I read through Maha’s pain, I kept thinking of another blog I hang out at. It’s called Hoffmania and he has following up every day:
It’s Wednesday August 22, 2007, and Bush is still president. Stupid God
He changes the date, of course. But, that just kept running through my mind while reading. I noticed that he didn’t mention that 58,000+ Americans were killed in Vietnam.
Listening to W always stubbs my head. Wait’ll you hear how they justify bombing Iran!
Notice that the rhetorical strategy follows the Karl Rove method: attack ’em on their strongest point. Vietnam is the anti Iraq war’s strongest point. By definition, to attack somebody on their strongest point means you have to use total bullshit to do it. Its he swiftboat model. Black is white and white is black. However — here’s the beautiful thing. It ain’t workin any more. Even it becomes the new media meme, the only one’s who are listening are the 25%-ers, It has the power to nauseate rational beings, so we tend to think that it’s actually effective, but all it does is sicken rational beings, who, fortunately, are still in the considerable majority. At this point the media, along with the weakness or wariness of the Democrats, is about all the Bushies really have going for them.
Everybody please note that this is biggerbox’s post, although I share his pain. 🙂
I stopped listening to Republican Presidents on the TV with Reagan in about 1981. I highly recommend it as a course of action; it saves time and political lies are generally much more transparent on the printed page.
Oh, yes, by the way, the killing fields were in Cambodia and, although done by the Khemer Rouge, were a direct result of the coup against Prince Norodom Sihanouk by Lon Nol in 1970, which the US Government supported, and only were stopped when the Communist Vietnamese invaded Cambodia in 1978, which invasion the US Government opposed.
Our record in Viet Nam may be mixed, but our record in Cambodia is little short of pure evil. About the best thing you can say is that Nixon and Kissinger didn’t actually intend the resulting disaster, but it’s hard to see how things could have gone worse if they had.
Good Post, biggerbox. Very well conveyed message. As a matter of fact, as I was reading it I was admiring Maha’s wonderful writing abilites..seems I didn’t catch the author until Maha pointed you out.
We will always lose wars fought against other people on other people’s territory, because the other people will always outlast us. They have to. They live there, they can’t leave. They have nowhere else to go, so they will always stay and keep fighting. What else could they do? The Iraqi insurgents are accused of “slipping back into the general population.” They *are* the general population. Eventually our troops will have to come home. The Iraqis already are home. That’s why we will lose. It doesn’t take patience or even skill on their part to win. It just takes continuing to be who they are. We will never learn their language, and we will never understand their thinking. The only other possibility is to do what we did in Japan–kill hundreds of thousands of civilians and destroy the entire infrastructure, at a cost of tens of thousands of American lives. I don’t see that happening in Iraq or anywhere else. American kids aren’t that desperate for work anymore that they will march off to war in droves to die in foreign lands. American moms and dads only have 1 or 2 kids. They don’t have enough extra kids to lay on the altar of patria.This war is over. Somebody inform the generals. Never mind informing Bush. He’s out of his fucking mind.
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This depresses me so much, that the only way they can justify hanging onto this war till Jan 2009 is by invoking the most divisive issue–in fact, the mother of all divisive issues–Vietnam. This is the ultimate in inflammatory and divisive political strategies, and it makes me sad for the country. I’m feeling defeated and discouraged, the assholes—and the terrorists—have won.
Relax everybody. Think about this. About 4,000 Americans killed (Iraqis don’t count) in Iraq. About 55,000 Americans killed (Vietnamese don’t count) in Vietnam. We’ve got what, 51,000 more Americans who have to be killed in Iraq before we can leave? Hey, it’s historical!
He knows that there are still people gritting their teeth about the loss…the humiliation they feel on behalf of their country after the Viet Nam war.
Bush isn’t trying to appeal to the rational. He is blowing a malevolent, silent dog whistle of sorts, except one that is heard only by extremists of his ilk, with his particular dysfunction, or a symbiotic dysfunction of their own that spells support for him.
He truly believes that if he is ruthless enough and rallies 25% into a vicious frenzy with unquestioning support for HIM, that he can do whatever he wants. That has been some sociologists estimates for the % of authoritarians in the world population.
Dangerous…this guy Bush. It’s time to reclaim reason.
Revisionism, in particular, runs amok when it comes to the Cambodia. Bush twists this around, using it as proof of how wrong leaving was. It was our presence in Southeast Asia that pushed their population to the point that made Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot possible.
Viet Nam started for dubious reasons…the Pueblo incident was the crystal around which other reasons gelled…the domino theory, oppression of the people. It rapidly evolved into a nationalistic conflict.
Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it? Now even the duly elected president of Iraq thumbs his fingers at us.