Ortega 1 Liz Ortega American Foreign Policy 7 Jun 2004 The Similarities Between the Vietnam War and

the War in Iraq It has become almost normal to compare the Vietnam War to President George W. Bush's current War in Iraq. There are of course difference when the two wars are compared--still, similarities do exist. However, do the similarities outweigh the differences? Whether there are differences or similarities both prevail not only on the battlefields but within the administrations too. Some of the similarities on the battlefield are Vietnam's Tet Offensive to Iraq's Fallujah, from the My Lai massacre to the Abu Ghraib tortures and even the jungle to the desert. And some of the similarities within the administration would be the Gulf of Tonkin to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction and maybe even a bit of "wishful thinking" is occurring within Bush's administration as it did within Lyndon B. Johnson's administration. Many say that Iraq cannot be compared to Vietnam because Vietnam was a war that dragged on for years. But it is ironic that such similarities have been found within a war that has only been alive for a little over a year to a war that dragged on for a decade. How many more similarities could be found if Iraq were to drag on for years as did Vietnam? What happened in the Gulf of Tonkin was more than President Johnson's ticket into Vietnam--it was a lie. The USS Maddox was deployed to the shores of North Vietnam to obtain information on North Vietnam's intelligence. According to James A. Nathan's article, "Robert McNamara's Vietnam Deception," "Part of the process involved agitation--activating the North Vietnamese military monitors to see how their communications and codes functioned. American ships operated close in, around five miles from the North Vietnamese shores" (32). Though not

Ortega 2 completely connected, American 34A boats were launched to perform hit and run attacks on North Vietnam's shores. What did the United States expect North Vietnam to do? Allow such agitation to occur within their waters? Nathan continues to state, "[T]he U.S. Director of Naval Intelligence had anticipated in a memorandum a year earlier that the North Vietnamese would embrace what was normal in the communist world--an exclusive claim out to 12 miles in waters contiguous to its coasts and offshore islands" (33). It is quite interesting that the United States did not expect the North Vietnamese to retaliate since they were within five miles of North Vietnam's shores instead of the twelve miles they were given. In the end, the USS Maddox was attacked in international waters about 25 miles off North Vietnam's coast--at least that is what Robert McNamara claimed at the time. Yes, the USS Maddox was indeed attacked (luckily, no injuries occurred) but the United States' agenda of collecting information indeed agitated North Vietnam--possibly, what it was hoping to do. Two days later another attack upon the USS Maddox was claimed to have occurred. The captain of the USS Maddox states, "Review of action makes . . . reported contacts and torpedo fire appear doubtful. Freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonar men . . . account for many of the reports . . . Suggest complete evaluation before any further actions" (Nathan 33). Though McNamara and others were aware of the weather and the possibility that the second attack might not have actually occurred they still chose to drag the United States into Vietnam. What "occurred" in the Gulf of Tonkin is similar to a recent claim that America's current president, George W. Bush, has made. After September 11th occurred many wanted justice for the unfortunate loss of life. Later, claims were made that Al Qaeda, the terrorist group that was overjoyed at the news of September 11th, had ties to Iraq's Saddam Hussein. Eventually it came to be known that Al Qaeda and its leader, Osama Bin Laden, had no actual ties to Saddam Hussein. According to the

Ortega 3 article, "Thirteen Myths About the Case for the War in Iraq," "[B]in Laden called Hussein a 'Muslim apostate,' i.e., a turncoat against Islam [ . . . ] And Gen. Hamid Gul states, 'Bin Laden and his men considered Saddam the killer of hundreds of Islamic militants'" (1). According to the CIA's "Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction Programs" page: During the 1980s Saddam had a formidable CW [chemical warfare] capability that he used against Iranians and against Iraq's Kurdish population. Iraqi forces killed or injured more than 20,000 people in multiple attacks [ . . . ] Before the 1991 Gulf War, Baghdad had a large stockpile of chemical munitions and a robust indigenous production capacity. (10). Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction before the Gulf War (which ironically was under the command of George W. Bush's father, President George H.W. Bush) was what led President George W. Bush to push for the entrance into Iraq. When Bush and his administration made claims to the weapons most of the facts sounded as if they had occurred recently instead of during the 1980s. When in reality, the weapons they spoke of were used in such past incidents as the one mentioned above against the Iranians and the Kurds. When the claim was made inspections of Iraq and its possible weapons program occurred. Deadlines, which were used to tell Iraq how much longer they had to disarm, were given and then constantly changed. But why were those deadlines change? Did Bush possibly believe a hint of truth behind Saddam's claim of no longer possessing any weapons of mass destruction? The American public may have scoffed at the time but Saddam had given a Christmas Eve message to reporters to be read to his people during December of 2002. The article, "U.N. Inspections Continue on Christmas," states, "In a Christmas Eve message, Saddam said the outcome of the ongoing inspections would be 'a great shock' to the United States because if they were fair, they would expose Washington's 'lies'

Ortega 4 and prove Iraq was free of weapons of mass destruction" (1). In the end, Bush received his support and entered Iraq. The deceitful lie Bush used to gain support for the entrance into Iraq is similar to the lie Johnson used to gain support for entrance into Vietnam. Yet, the lies to gain support for both wars were not the only similarities between the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq. The jungle and the desert are two different places that life inhabits yet, they are the same in the sense that America has no idea how either function. When United States soldiers touched down in Vietnam they entered into a jungle that belonged to the North Vietnamese. It was a place unknown to them at the time. In the end, the soldiers would realized they had been up against guerrillas and had to fight their type of warfare. This time, many believe that Iraq is another front for guerrilla warfare but instead, for urban guerrilla warfare. While the United States was in Vietnam search and destroy missions occurred. In his article, "Calley's Ghost," Philip Beidler states, "[O]n the morning of March 16, 1968, [William L. Calley, Jr.] entered the village of My Lai 4 with a platoon of infantry and initiated the slaughter of between 400 and 500 Vietnamese civilians" (30). In the fall of 2003, photos of abused Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison by U.S. troops were brought to the attention of the administration--the American public did not find out about the photos until early May of 2004. Edward T. Pound states in his article, "Living With the 'Ghosts of Abu Ghraib'," "[Several troops of the 372nd Military Police Company are being] accused of abusing Iraqi prisoners, including 'punching, slapping, and kicking detainees' and photographing them naked in sexually explicit positions" (24). This time around those involved were "smart" enough to actually photograph one another smiling and giving the thumbs up while next to naked Iraqi prisoners. A photograph of a dead Iraqi prisoner with two soldiers smiling and again, giving the thumbs up, next to his ice

Ortega 5 packed body eventually surfaced. Both instances do not define how United States troops really are and it cannot even be claimed that a majority of troops were murderers or torturers during the Vietnam War and the same cannot be said during our current War in Iraq. Unfortunately, both instances have put a stain on both wars. Yet, another comparison the Tet Offensive, can be compared to Iraq's Fallujah and other major attacks on U.S. forces. During the Vietnamese new Year holiday in 1968, North Vietnamese guerrillas launched extensive attacks on U.S. forces. The Tet Offensive was considered a major win for U.S. troops even though the North Vietnamese were able to infiltrate into South Vietnam's cities. Though it was considered a win that is not the similarity between it and Fallujah. Just before U.S. troops began major fighting in Fallujah, it was the place where four contractors were attacked in their vehicles by Iraqis, burned, dragged out and two were then hanged from a bridge as if the bodies were trophies. But aside from Fallujah U.S. helicopters have been shot down that included casualties and now, kidnappings have become more prevalent. Thomas Hamill, a truck driver for Haliburton, was kidnapped but eventually escaped and safely returned to the United States, however, that was not the story for Nicholas Berg. Nicholas Berg was in Iraq in hopes of helping to restore transmission towers, unfortunately, during May 2004, a video emerged of his tragic beheading by Iraqi extremists and the persons responsible for Berg's murder claimed it was in retaliation for the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. These Iraqis and guerrilla-like attacks are very much similar to the attacks conducted by North Vietnamese during the Tet Offensive. The only difference is that after the Tet Offensive U.S. troops began to withdraw from Vietnam, yet, our troops still remain in Iraq. Aside from similarities on the battlefield are similarities within both administrations.

Ortega 6 Irving L. Janis brings to his reader's attention the possibility that "wishful thinking" occurred within the Johnson administration during the Vietnam War. In his article, "Escalation of the Vietnam War: How Could It Happen?," Janis states, "The Department of Defense study [ . . . ] asserts: 'The idea that destroying, or threatening to destroy, North Vietnam's industry would pressure Hanoi into calling it quits, seems, in retrospect, a colossal misjudgment'" (Ikenberry 550). For President Johnson and his administration to actually believe constant bombings would bring Hanoi to peace talks really was wishful thinking. But right along with Johnson and his administration's wishful thinking are Bush and his administration's wishful thinking. Does Bush actually believe that he can "fix" Iraq and turn it into a democracy? The people in Iraq are different from the people in the United States. Just as we hold near and dear to our hearts our rights, freedoms and patriotism as Americans the Iraqis hold close to them their way of life, beliefs and ideologies. Their ideologies are definitely different than the ideologies of Americans but does that mean America has the right to change those beliefs? Again, the hijackers were mainly Saudi nationals and Al Qaeda and its leader have been known to live in Afghanistan so what is so wrong with the Iraqis? Another claim Bush has made as to why he chose to enter Iraq was because Iraq has been known to harbor terrorists, however, t seems that the Iraqis did not become terrorists until the United States entered their country. The "domino theory" is an interesting concept to compare to Iraq. The "domino theory" was a belief that if communism spread from North Vietnam into South Vietnam it could spread into other Asian countries. James C. Thomson, Jr. states in his article, "How Could Vietnam Happen? An Autopsy," "The new administration inherited and to some extent shared the 'domino theory' about Asia [ . . . ] It may have [ . . . ] resulted from a subconscious sense that since 'all Asians look alike,' all Asian nations will act alike" (Ikenberry

Ortega 7 455). Does Bush possibly think that all individuals of Middle Eastern descent are the same and therefore, Middle Eastern countries harbor only terrorists? Again, how do Iraqis fit into the puzzle of September 11th and terrorists? Unfortunately, Bush has misconstrued his reasons for his choices to the point that it has turned into a fiasco. No matter what people say, there are similarities between the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq. Thomson makes another interesting comment on Vietnam: I do not mean to imply any conscious contempt for Asian loss of life on the part of Washington officials. But I do mean to imply that bureaucratic detachment may well be compounded by a traditional Western sense that there are so many Asians, after all; that Asians have a fatalism about life and a disregard for its loss; that they are cruel and barbaric to their own people; and that they are very different from us [ . . . ] To put the matter another way: would we have pursued quite such policies--and quite such military tactics--if the Vietnamese were white? (460). To apply this to our current war all you have to do is replace the words "Asian" and "Vietnamese" with the words "Middle Eastern" and "Iraqis." Seriously, ask yourself that question: would the United States do what they are doing if the Iraqis were white? In the end, it is not believable that Bush's agenda in Iraq was really war on terrorism. It has been proven that most of the terrorists that carried out the awful attacks were mainly from Saudi Arabia--actually, it has never really came out that any of the hijackers were even from Iraq. The article, "Thirteen Myths About the Case for the War in Iraq" continues to state, "None of the hijackers came from Iraq; 15 of the hijackers came from the same country as Osama Bin Laden: Saudi Arabia" (1). Many of Al Qaeda's followers and even its leader have been known to be located in Afghanistan and are the individuals behind the attacks of September 11th.

Ortega 8 Afghanistan is where the United States took its first steps into the war on terrorism--why did they just not say there and finish the job? Instead, United States troops have been stretched thin and are located in both Afghanistan and Iraq--but most of the attention (and money) have been put forth towards Iraq. Sure, Saddam's regime was toppled in only a matter of weeks and eventually Saddam himself was caught but what does that mean? Instead of Saddam murdering his own people they have become murderers themselves because Iraqis are fighting to regain their country back. The reason why Bush entered Iraq (i.e. weapons of mass destruction) has yet to be proven true and Bush's claim that Saddam was a threat seems to be incorrect. Maybe Saddam Hussein was telling the truth after all when he made the comment that U.N. inspectors would be surprised when they inspected Iraq. Many claim that the reasons Bush stepped foot into Iraq was to finish his father's job or even just for the oil. And what about Bush's "Axis of Evil"? His Axis of Evil includes Iran, Iraq and North Korea. Do you recall September 11th hijackers or any current terrorist problems coming from North Korea? And do not forget Iran and Iraq, were there any problems? No, in fact, the only problems Bush has with any of those countries is the fact that he just does not like them. And did Bush forget that Iran and Iraq were involved in their own war? And if so why would Iran and Iraq be a part of the Axis of Evil? They are in no way allies to one another. As for Johnson, all he did was fear communism. What president of the United States does not want to be elected for a second term? It was obvious that that was what Johnson wanted but the only way he could possibly win a second term was if he did not appear soft on communism and win the war on communism and it is obvious that Bush wants a second term in the White House so maybe his reasons for Iraq was not to appear soft on terrorism and win the war on terrorism.

Ortega 9 Some believe that the Vietnam War and the War in Iraq cannot be compared to one another because the casualty toll was much higher during Vietnam than the death toll currently in Iraq. That is definitely true but it has been speculated that the draft may be implicated once again to help the current troops in Iraq. And if this speculation turns out to be true then possibly the death toll could rise to the amount of American lives that were lost in Vietnam. If supporters of the War in Iraq are tired of hearing about the supposed "similarities" then maybe Bush should reconsider the possibility of a draft because that would certainly be another similarity between the two wars. And that is one more issue that Bush cannot afford to have occur for he has been asked many questions for each of the issues--but has failed to clearly answer any of them.