Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Opinion (Tom Englehardt): An escalation by any other name...

Some day, we will undoubtedly discover that, in the term "surge" - as in US President George W Bush's "surge" plan (or "new way forward") announced to his nation in January - was the urge to avoid the language (and experience) of the Vietnam War era. As there were to be no "body bags" (or cameras to film them as the dead came home), as there were to be no "body counts" ("We have made a conscious effort not to be a body-count team" was the way Bush put it), as there were to be no "quagmires", nor the need to search for that "light at the end of the tunnel", so, surely, there were to be no "escalations".

The escalations of the Vietnam War era, which left more than 500,000 American soldiers and vast bases and massive air and naval power in and around Vietnam (and Laos and Cambodia), had been thoroughly discredited. Each intensification in the delivery of troops, or simply in ever widening bombing campaigns, led only to more misery and death for the Vietnamese and disaster for the United States. And yet, not surprisingly, the US experience in Iraq - another attempted occupation of a foreign country and culture - has been like a heat-seeking missile heading for the still-burning US memories of Vietnam.

As historian Marilyn Young noted in early April 2003 with the invasion of Iraq barely under way: "In less than two weeks, a 30-year-old vocabulary is back: credibility gap, seek and destroy, hard to tell friend from foe, civilian interference in military affairs, the dominance of domestic politics, winning or, more often, losing hearts and minds." By August 2003, the Bush administration, of course, expected that only perhaps 30,000 US troops would be left in Iraq, garrisoned on vast "enduring" bases in a pacified country. So, in a sense, it has been a surge-athon ever since. By now, it's beyond time to call Bush's "new way forward" by its Vietnam War equivalent.

Read the rest at Asia Times