Saturday, August 25, 2007

Editorial: Bush opens old wounds for new Iraq push

Above: A wounded paratrooper of the 101st Airborne guides a medical evacuation helicopter to pick up casualties during a five-day patrol of Hue in 1968.

The president’s decision this week to compare the wars in Iraq and Vietnam isn’t about the lessons of history, or the danger of insurrection and guerilla tactics. It is about feeding red meat to a political base grown anemic on a diet of bad news from the Middle East.

There are few episodes in our national narrative more divisive than the war in Vietnam. It defined a generation and divided the others. Despite being settled some 30 years ago, the conflict remains the source of agonizing political memories. There was a curious precision in the president’s enunciation when the time came to complete the analogy between Iraq and Vietnam, as if he wanted to make absolutely sure everyone got the message.

“Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There’s no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. Whatever your position is on that debate, 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.’”

In other words, the blood of millions of people in southeast Asia belongs to an America unwilling to fight there forever.

Read the rest at the Virginia Pilot