Throw into this mix the first rumors of the return of the draft (see, e.g., Toronto Star, 11/5/03), add in the controversy over the President’s avoidance of those coffins and funerals (an issue whose origins lie in the Vietnam era) and you have the makings of quite a potent brew — Vietnam’s revenge, you might call it. In addition, I see some other familiar Vietnam words just beginning to rear their heads on the political landscape — “withdrawal” obviously (McCain: “I was heartened to hear the President say that we cannot cut and run in Iraq”), but also expect “bloodbath” to appear soon along with a snarling demand to those of us who never wanted to get into this war from those who still don’t want us out for a detailed “plan” to extricate us.
We don’t know what will follow the present destabilization or what exactly would happen after an American withdrawal (or even the circumstances under which that withdrawal would take place). We can’t know the future, but we can know the present, and it’s important not to let bloodcurdling predictions of the future keep us from dealing with the dangers and disasters of this moment.
There are already all sorts of odd withdrawals underway in
Then there are other kinds of withdrawals underway: Despite the show of force around Tikrit, the Washington Post reports (Daniel Williams,
“American troops patrol less frequently, townspeople openly threaten Iraqi security personnel who cooperate with
On the other hand, while announcing a further call up of reserves and the National Guard, and the sending of the Marines, the administration in a Nixonian moment claimed that this represented a “drawdown” of American forces because, by their calculations, in the late spring when the troops now in Iraq have largely been replaced, we will have perhaps 25,000 less troops there. What’s not mentioned is that when these troops flood in early in 2004, we will have additional troops in country. Another
This week democratic candidate General Wesley Clark suggested that “the
In the meantime, while the Iraq war seems to have become an all-Vietnam-all-the time event here, it’s Vietnam only as reconceived in history’s funhouse, a kind of mad jigsaw puzzle into which familiar pieces — and only some of them — are being jammed in whatever order. Vietnamization (now, Iraqification), for instance, was a Nixon withdrawal maneuver late in the war, when antiwar pressures were rising to remarkable heights. It was meant to keep the war going by transferring most of the ground war responsibilities to South Vietnamese allies, while ratcheting up the American air war. We’ve now arrived at its supposed equivalent in a panic after only six months.
A recent message from a friend — meant comically, of course — nonetheless indicates something of the mad “
“First, recall units of the old Iraqi army. Second, recall Saddam Hussein. Third, ‘take 3,’ or as the administration might say, ‘Re-shoot.’”
The other side, whomever they may be, are not about to leave our leaders to tell our story unopposed. There is, in fact, a struggle going on over who will define the narrative of this occupation/war. Michael Vlahos in a most interesting essay (recommended by the War in Context website) suggests that the Bush administration has already lost the ability to offer a coherent story about the war and occupation, that “through its occupation of Iraq the US is actually making the radical Islamist case — that we are invading Islam — encouraging the Muslim World to unite against us.” (“The Story of This War“)
“The ambassador said he remains optimistic about efforts to build a stable
The fact is the Iraqis are obviously not living in
“The more appropriate historical analogy for what the
“A superpower, in defiance of most world opinion, invades an Islamic Middle Eastern nation. The superpower is hoping to effect regime change and, citing an ‘imminent threat,’ declares the invasion ‘an international duty.’ Initially, the invasion goes well. Within weeks, all organized military opposition in the invaded nation appears to evaporate, and the invading superpower basks in its success, praised by its domestic media for its military prowess. The superpower imposes its own government on the invaded nation and settles in to oversee a comfortable, presumably temporary occupation.
“But almost immediately, resistance forces begin to coalesce, and the guerrilla war begins. The superpower’s convoys are attacked. It’s soldiers are killed one, two, ten at a time. Galvanized by religious zeal and nationalist pride, the guerrillas begin to attract other fighters sympathetic to their cause, from other lands. (One of these is named Osama bin Ladenâ€¦)”
Weathers points out that American military analysts have carefully examined and copiously written about what went wrong for the Soviets in
William S. Lind, Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism, suggests in a recent piece that the guerrillas in
“Three events last week may actually provide more in the way of indicators as to where the
“One other indicator: a friend recently noted to me that the rapidly improving techniques we see from the Iraqi guerrillas bear a striking resemblance to those used by the Chechen guerrillas against the Russians. Might it be that we are not the only ones to have a coalition in
So we are either fighting, or struggling not to fight in Vietnam, while the guerrillas may be in some combination of Afghanistan/the occupied territories/Lebanon/Chechnya — not only two different styles, but two different analog worlds.
In the Guardian recently (
“Some weeks ago, Pentagon inmates were invited to a special in-house showing of an old movie. It was the
“â€¦[The] old colonial notion that the Arabs are lost without a headman is being contested in
Or put it another way, in his most recent speech explaining his vote against the $87 billion Iraq and Afghanistan appropriation bill (filled with White House and Pentagon slush funds), Senator Robert Byrd concluded, “It is the American people who will ultimately decide how long we will stay in Iraq.”
This is a fact, though most pundits and politicians — see John McCain above — treat it as something horrific, a kind of looming defilement. What if, as it’s said, the American people don’t have “the stomach” to stay the course — as if we were watching some gory horror flick and part way through had to leave the theater? But the real horror in this film is that “we the people” and our elected representatives now play such a modest role in determining the nature of our world and the shape of our lives. Let’s only hope that we turn out to have the sort of “stomach” that will lead us one day to return our country to the path that might have been taken in the post-9/11 world, one that would remove global domination from the map, replacing it with understanding and the kind of international police work that might actually put the Osama bin Ladens and Saddam Husseins of the world in jail where they belong.
[This article first appeared on Tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute, which offers a steady flow of alternate sources, news, and opinion from Tom Engelhardt, long time editor in publishing and author of The End of Victory Culture and The Last Days of Publishing.]