President Bush's pledge that the war with Iraq "will not be another Vietnam" has brought sad satisfaction to some of the estimated 40,000 Vietnamese in the Washington area who say the United States apparently has learned from the mistakes it made in their homeland.

"If Vietnam served any kind of good purpose . . . it presents a mirror by which future things can be judged," said Nguyen Ngoc Bich, a Vietnamese community activist from Springfield.

"I support Bush. He learned the lesson from my war," said Thomas Truong, 50, who served as an interpreter with the United States Special Forces in Vietnam for more than five years.

Many in the Vietnamese community fled for their lives when the United States pulled out of South Vietnam in 1975, leaving it to the communists. As recent events in the Middle East have unfolded, interviews with Vietnamese businesspeople, academics, students and community leaders show almost unanimous support for the massive allied assault on Iraq and the president's resolve to use American force, and scorn for anti-war demonstrators.

"Fight hard. Fight forceably. We should be able to fight to win and ignore world opinion," said Do Tuan Duc, 41, the vice president of the Vietnamese Community of Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, an umbrella group of 37 service organizations.

Duc added that he was not surprised by the start of the war with Iraq. "We accept war as part of our lives," he said.

"When we go to war, we have to go all out to win. You shouldn't do what the Americans did in Vietnam years before," said Nguyen Dien, publisher of a Vietnamese-language newspaper based in Alexandria. Dien was referring to the American policy of gradual military escalation in Vietnam.

There was praise for Bush's political handling of the situation, especially in gaining congressional support for the use of force against Iraq. "The Bush administration understands clearly there is no way to fight a war without the support of the Congress and public opinion," said Bui Diem, who was South Vietnam's ambassador to the United States from 1966 to 1973.

He added, "Americans should understand the points of view of all people, even those of people they are fighting against."

During the Vietnam War, a lack of political agreement placed restraints on the military, said Nguyen Manh Hung, a political science professor at George Mason University and director of its Indochina Institute.

The United States "learned this is going to be all out," Hung said. "Americans don't have long staying power to fight other countries in foreign lands."

Nguyen Chieu, a 15-year-old freshman at Wakefield High School in Arlington, is not old enough to have experienced the Vietnam War. But she must cope with its aftermath, from her family's difficult adjustment to a new life in the United States to the racist taunts and beatings she said she suffered at her public school in Boston, where her family lived before moving to Northern Virginia.

"These things haunt me. They left us fighting a war we couldn't win," she said. "If Vietnam wasn't communist, {our family} would be free. We wouldn't be rich, but we'd be okay. We'd be a country everyone would respect."

For adults, war memories are never far from the surface, and the Iraqi conflict has prompted a torrent of bitter reminiscences.

"We had to flee our country. Now there's a gulag in Vietnam. We suffered. Our friends died. The anti-war movement tried to hinder the efforts of Americans and the South Vietnamese. Now you see boat people, reeducation camps," Dien said.

Businessman Truong, who owns fabric stores in Arlington and Hyattsville, has strong views of war protesters. "They want to tie up the government," he said. Remembering the Vietnam anti-war movement, he added, "Jane Fonda, I hate her. She was a betrayer of this country."

Among some, the gulf war has brought a wistfulness, a sense of what might have been had the United States used the same aggressiveness in Vietnam it apparently was prepared to use in Iraq and Kuwait.

"We wished these lessons were learned in the 1960s. I feel very, very sad," said Nguyen Tien Hung, an economics professor at Howard University and a critic of the conduct of U.S. diplomacy during the Vietnam War.

Others said they are trying to be emotionally detached.

"People, when they make decisions, they are under the constraints of the times," said Nguyen Manh Hung, the George Mason professor. "People make mistakes. But it was the Vietnamese people who suffered," he said.