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The Analogy Quagmire

Gerstenzang and Reynolds also spoke to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who "criticized Bush's speech, saying the president 'continues to play the American people for fools.'

"'The only relevant analogy of Vietnam to Iraq is this: In Iraq, just as we did in Vietnam, we are clinging to a central government that does not and will not enjoy the support of the people,' he said."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement: "President Bush's attempt to compare the war in Iraq to past military conflicts in East Asia ignores the fundamental difference between the two. Our nation was misled by the Bush Administration in an effort to gain support for the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses, leading to one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our history. While the President continues to stay-the-course with his failed strategy in Iraq, paid for by the taxpayers, American lives are being lost and there is still no political solution within the Iraqi government. It is time to change direction in Iraq, and Congress will again work to do so in the fall."

David Jackson and Matt Kelley write in USA Today: "Vietnam historian Stanley Karnow said Bush is reaching for historical analogies that don't track. 'Vietnam was not a bunch of sectarian groups fighting each other,' as in Iraq, Karnow said. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge toppled a U.S.-backed government.

"'Does he think we should have stayed in Vietnam?' Karnow asked."

Talking Points memo blogger Josh Marshall asks: "[I]sn't this quite possibly the worst argument for his Iraq policy? . . .

"[V]irtually none of the predicted negative repercussions of our departure from Vietnam ever came to pass.

"Asia didn't go Communist. Our Asian allies didn't abandon us. Rather, the Vietnamese began to fall out with her Communist allies. With the Cold War over, in strategic terms at least, it's almost hard to remember what the whole fight was about. If anything, the clearest lesson of Vietnam would seem to be that there can be a vast hue and cry about the catastrophic effects of disengagement from a failed policy and it can turn out that none of them are true."

After one of the few other times Bush used a Vietnam analogy -- during his official visit to Vietnam last November -- Robert Scheer wrote in The Nation: "The lesson of Vietnam is not to keep pouring lives and treasure down a dark and poisonous well, but to patiently use a pragmatic mix of diplomacy and trade with even our ideological competitors.

"The United States dropped more bombs on tiny Vietnam than it unloaded on all of Europe in World War II, only hardening Vietnamese nationalist resolve. Hundreds of thousands of troops, massive defoliation of the countryside, 'free fire zones,' South Vietnamese allies, bombing the harbors . . . none of it worked. Yet, never admitting that our blundering military presence fueled the native nationalist militancy we supposedly sought to eradicate, three US Presidents -- two of them Democrats -- lied themselves into believing victory was around some mythical corner.

"While difficult for inveterate hawks to admit, the victory for normalcy in Vietnam, celebrated by Bush last week, came about not despite the US withdrawal but because of it."

What Else Bush Said

Listening to Bush today, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the war in Iraq is entirely a battle against al-Qaeda. But you'd be wrong.

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