By Daniel Patrick Welch <http://danielpwelch.com/0309wcw.htm>
Sept. 4, 2003
We Can Win the War in Vietnam And
other Chestnuts from a Not-So-Bygone Era
I love the smell of quagmire in the morning. My, but it takes
you back, doesn't it? The only thing left to say is that there is "light
at the end of the tunnel." But everything else has already begun to
play itself out. We have even seen the resurrection of that Orwellian mantra
"winning the peace." If I had been just a few years older in the
Vietnam era, the deja-vu might kill me.
As it is, I have to rely on crazy resources, like history,
to feel the eerie similarities coming into focus. No real sense carpet-bombing
the desert, so that's out-no trees to hide in. Napalm made a surprising
rebound, though. They lied about it for months (gasp!) of course, but its
comeback was all but assured given the recycled cast of characters. I'm
beginning to think the only reason we haven't heard more about "Iraqization
(Iraqicization… Iraqation…?) is that it's so much harder to
spell than Vietnamization. The hubris of the Best and the Brightest is back
with a vengeance, though-recast as The Most Dangerous Men on Earth.
Of course we can win the war in [enter name of hopeless imperial
adventure in which the U.S. is currently involved here]. These colors don't
run! I wonder if remorse is even a quality even remotely familiar to these
Men of War. Having whipped up a war fever among the gullible with a pack
of lies wrapped in jingoistic slogans, they are sending other people's children
to die in yet another far-off place. Do they care? Has the ice in their
veins warmed at all since the days of Civil War impressments, the hireling
campaigns of the British Empire, the thousands of boys sacrificed at Gallipoli
on the altar of nation building? Ahhh, that's how you work your way up from
the stockroom…if your boys get wiped out in a war, now that's how
you become a country!
Obviously, the relation of rulers to fighters is one thing
that hasn't changed since Vietnam, nor for ages before. One of the most
troubling aspects of the draft, after deferments and exemptions and the
like, was the age. A huge outcry arose over the unseemly fact that young
adults qualified to fight and die for the goals of their government were
not, alas, eligible to vote to shape those goals. Today still, the number
of offspring of members of Congress in the military barely registers. Yet
almost 40% of those on the front lines are not eligible for citizenship
(and thus voting)-what one British MP has called America's "Green Card
Back then, this outrage sparked a constitutional amendment
to insure that never again would America's youth be sent off to die without
having a say in the matter. But of course, the ruling elites have ways of
dealing with such insolence, and devised an even more ingenious end run:
pick from those who can't vote in any event. Great show, guv'nors! The thing
about The People having a say was even easier to dispense with. A spineless
Congress having been hoodwinked and bullied into ceding its constitutional
power, the people were easy dominoes. Actually, the people put up more of
a fight than the "opposition," but in the end the Big Lie held
sway enough to drown out the voices of reason.
The neocons and their Fellow Travelers will screech about
how this or that is completely different. Well, duh! The only true analogies
are in math: 2 is to 4 as 3 is to 6, and so on. Every historical period
has its social and cultural characteristics. Nobody expects today's Antichrist
to be a short, goofy looking character who is adopted by big business because
they think they can play him for the buffoon he is…oh, wait a minute.
The one thing that is different is the speed and intensity with which the
ill-fated project in question seems to be imploding. Unless we start with
Reagan's Morning in America, this sunset appears to have come awful quick
compared to Vietnam.
True to form, then as now, the Cold War [or enter current
global nemesis-of-the-month here] knows no party loyalty. But this, sadly,
is indeed a bit different. When things started going this badly in Vietnam,
there was a sizeable antiwar bloc within the party claiming to be the Tribune
of the People. Now, of course, as we know all too well, the "opposition"
which cut its teeth on caving with the 2000 election apparently liked the
flavor. Having voted for the war (or having even if was a bad idea, or that
it was insufficiently macho, or that the planets weren't aligned quite right,
or whatever), it has decided that the real problem is one of management.
A well-managed occupation might succeed just fine: more troops, more electricity…better
slogans? Most Democrats, all too like their truly frightening counterparts,
are all for continuing the occupation, bless their incorrigible little imperialist
You see, the right wing has always blamed Democrats for being
spineless. Their version of the Vietnam syndrome was akin to a geopolitical
Rorschach test: no matter what the little blob looked like, Democrats always
saw Vietnam. In their smug, arrogant way, the right has lobbied for another
Vietnam since April 1975, and tried to bully the opposition with silly analogies
like this one. Little did they know that they simply chose the wrong psychiatrist.
The real bogeyman here is the fictional Dr. Zilkov, the Russian
scientist who programmed the killing machine in the classic Manchurian Candidate.
Angela Landsbury, in one of her greatest roles, acts as the Russian agent
who controls Laurence Harvey's character. Coaxed to "pass the time
by playing a little solitaire," the brainwashed Sgt. Raymond Shaw dutifully
turns cards until the Queen of Hearts turns up. Once this trigger is revealed,
he is doomed to follow the murderous plan of his trainers, in a trance,
through to its bloody end.
The Democrats don't seem to realize that the Queen of Hearts
has already been turned, and by staying in Iraq we only prolong the time
until we are driven out, the treasury looted in the process. The only "obligation"
the US can be serious about is to undo the war crimes committed in the name
of our people by the Dark Knights in Washington. Arresting them and turning
them over to the International Criminal Court would be a start-except that
we don't belong to it. The right wing is obviously off its rocker-no sense
wasting ink there. The rest of us should be careful not to be deceived into
thinking that the Iraqis need us, except to pay damages for ruining their
country. Think about it, does the oldest city on earth really need Paul
Bremer's "expertise" to get back on its feet? The UN, having allowed
itself to be used as an arm of US policy, is unfortunately equally tarnished.
Iraqis hate the UN as much as they do the US, in part for their failure
to stop the invasion, in part for their obsequious role in the murderous
decade-long sanctions regime that throttled the country.
The Republicans, having destroyed an entire country-not including
the US (and cutting them some slack here if we concede that Afghanistan
was already mostly rubble), are lost. Ironically, they not only seem doomed
to see the US commit the same mistakes as in Vietnam, but to play out the
rest of the deck by blaming the same people. They have even begun griping
about the press-the press (!) who so dutifully jumpstarted their little
exercise in imperial lunacy to begin with, is now somehow hindering the
flowering of their neocon fantasies. Denial, it seems, another stubborn
hallmark of the Vietnam quagmire, has also come back for a second run.
Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA, with
his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School.
A writer, singer, linguist and activist, he has appeared on radio [interview
available here] and can be available for further interviews. Past articles,
translations are available at danielpwelch.com.
Links to the website appreciated.
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