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Old 09-23-2003, 07:31 PM   #1
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"Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President"

"Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President"

In a scathing critique of the Iraq war, former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland compares President Bush to Lyndon Johnson -- and blasts his lack of service in Vietnam.

Editor's note: Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland lost both legs and and an arm during active duty in the Vietnam War, and in 1968 was awarded both the Bronze Star and a Silver Star for his service.

The following Op-Ed was first published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sept. 18.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Max Cleland

Sept. 22, 2003 | The president of the United States decides to go to war against a nation led by a brutal dictator supported by one-party rule. That dictator has made war on his neighbors. The president decides this is a threat to the United States.

In his campaign for president he gives no indication of wanting to go to war. In fact, he decries the overextension of American military might and says other nations must do more. However, unbeknownst to the American public, the president's own Pentagon advisers have already cooked up a plan to go to war. All they are looking for is an excuse.

Based on faulty intelligence, cherry-picked information is fed to Congress and the American people. The president goes on national television to make the case for war, using as part of the rationale an incident that never happened. Congress buys the bait -- hook, line and sinker -- and passes a resolution giving the president the authority to use "all necessary means" to prosecute the war.

The war is started with an air and ground attack. Initially there is optimism. The president says we are winning. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense says we are winning. As a matter of fact, the secretary of defense promises the troops will be home soon.

However, the truth on the ground that the soldiers face in the war is different than the political policy that sent them there. They face increased opposition from a determined enemy. They are surprised by terrorist attacks, village assassinations, increasing casualties and growing anti-American sentiment. They find themselves bogged down in a guerrilla land war, unable to move forward and unable to disengage because there are no allies to turn the war over to.

There is no plan B. There is no exit strategy. Military morale declines. The president's popularity sinks and the American people are increasingly frustrated by the cost of blood and treasure poured into a never-ending war.

Sound familiar? It does to me.

The president was Lyndon Johnson. The cocky, self-assured secretary of defense was Robert McNamara. The congressional resolution was the Gulf of Tonkin resolution. The war was the war that I, U.S. Sens. John Kerry, Chuck Hagel and John McCain and 3 1/2 million other Americans of our generation were caught up in. It was the scene of America's longest war. It was also the locale of the most frustrating outcome of any war this nation has ever fought.

Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense. Too bad. They could have learned some lessons:

-- Don't underestimate the enemy. The enemy always has one option you cannot control. He always has the option to die. This is especially true if you are dealing with true believers and guerrillas fighting for their version of reality, whether political or religious. They are what Tom Friedman of The New York Times calls the "non-deterrables." If those non-deterrables are already in their country, they will be able to wait you out until you go home.

-- If the enemy adopts a "hit-and-run" strategy designed to inflict maximum casualties on you, you may win every battle, but (as Walter Lippman once said about Vietnam) you can't win the war.

-- If you adopt a strategy of not just pre-emptive strike but also pre-emptive war, you own the aftermath. You better plan for it. You better have an exit strategy because you cannot stay there indefinitely unless you make it the 51st state.

If you do stay an extended period of time, you then become an occupier, not a liberator. That feeds the enemy against you.

-- If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just "darn good," as the president has said; it must be "bulletproof," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the administration's was against Saddam Hussein. Anything short of that saps credibility.

-- If you want to know what is really going on in the war, ask the troops on the ground, not the policy-makers in Washington.

-- In a democracy, instead of truth being the first casualty in war, it should be the first cause of war. It is the only way the Congress and the American people can cope with getting through it. As credibility is strained, support for the war and support for the troops go downhill. Continued loss of credibility drains troop morale, the media become more suspicious, the public becomes more incredulous and Congress is reduced to hearings and investigations.

Instead of learning the lessons of Vietnam, where all of the above happened, the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of defense have gotten this country into a disaster in the desert.

They attacked a country that had not attacked us. They did so on intelligence that was faulty, misrepresented and highly questionable.

A key piece of that intelligence was an outright lie that the White House put into the president's State of the Union speech. These officials have overextended the American military, including the National Guard and the Reserve, and have expanded the U.S. Army to the breaking point.

A quarter of a million troops are committed to the Iraq war theater, most of them bogged down in Baghdad. Morale is declining and casualties continue to increase.

In addition to the human cost, the war in dollars costs $1 billion a week, adding to the additional burden of an already depressed economy.

The president has declared "major combat over" and sent a message to every terrorist, "Bring them on." As a result, he has lost more people in his war than his father did in his and there is no end in sight.

Military commanders are left with extended tours of duty for servicemen and women who were told long ago they were going home. We are keeping American forces on the ground, where they have become sitting ducks in a shooting gallery for every terrorist in the Middle East.

Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance.

Melon
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Old 09-23-2003, 07:36 PM   #2
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Excellent.
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Old 09-23-2003, 08:06 PM   #3
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Although certain people want it to be, Iraq is not Vietnam. I could go into detail, but suggesting such a thing is the most gross generalization I've ever seen. The writer here forgets the person that most influences US Foreign Policy is the Secretary of State. His name is Colin Powell.

While President Bush may not of served in Vietnam, Bill Clinton never did either. Nor did 8 of 10 Democratic Candidates. Its unfortunate to see views that only view any event on the planet through the prisim of Vietnam.
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Old 09-23-2003, 08:12 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2
Although certain people want it to be, Iraq is not Vietnam. I could go into detail, but suggesting such a thing is the most gross generalization I've ever seen. The writer here forgets the person that most influences US Foreign Policy is the Secretary of State. His name is Colin Powell.
I've read plenty, however, to suggest that the Secretary of State has been undermined by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, because Rumsfeld relies on his own policy advisers, not the Secretary of State, which is a departure from the past precedent of using the Secretary of State.

Quite honestly, as much as I want to like Colin Powell, I think he is more of a passive tool of the administration, not a player, and I sincerely doubt that influences the U.S. foreign policy much at all in this administration.

Melon
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Old 09-23-2003, 08:20 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by melon


Quite honestly, as much as I want to like Colin Powell, I think he is more of a passive tool of the administration, not a player, and I sincerely doubt that influences the U.S. foreign policy much at all in this administration.

Melon
I agree. He often looks like he's just being used in a good cop/bad cop routine with Rumsfeld & Co.
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Old 09-23-2003, 08:33 PM   #6
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Quote:
While President Bush may not of served in Vietnam, Bill Clinton never did either.

and we never heard the end of it.

until the GOP nominated W.

with a military record that any self respecting person would be embarrassed to have others call him Commander in Chief.
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Old 09-23-2003, 08:37 PM   #7
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Quite honestly, as much as I want to like Colin Powell, I think he is more of a passive tool of the administration, not a player, and I sincerely doubt that influences the U.S. foreign policy much at all in this administration.

The best thing Colin could do is go grab Michaels hand and say,

"Son, let's get the Hell out of here while we still have a bit of dignity left.
We don't have to carry their water any more."
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Old 09-23-2003, 09:24 PM   #8
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Originally posted by melon


I've read plenty, however, to suggest that the Secretary of State has been undermined by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, because Rumsfeld relies on his own policy advisers, not the Secretary of State, which is a departure from the past precedent of using the Secretary of State.

Quite honestly, as much as I want to like Colin Powell, I think he is more of a passive tool of the administration, not a player, and I sincerely doubt that influences the U.S. foreign policy much at all in this administration.

Melon

It's Rumsfeld's game, and to be perfectly honest my opinion of Rumsfeld is alot like Scarletwine's. Sorry, I'm not signing up for his fan club.
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Old 09-24-2003, 01:59 AM   #9
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Melon,

"I've read plenty, however, to suggest that the Secretary of State has been undermined by the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, because Rumsfeld relies on his own policy advisers, not the Secretary of State, which is a departure from the past precedent of using the Secretary of State."

Colin Powell easily defeats the Democrats fantasy's about the evils of Rumsfeld and Cheney so naturally they just say he is just a one person Robot. Anyone who knows anything about Powell knows that is rubbish.

"Quite honestly, as much as I want to like Colin Powell, I think he is more of a passive tool of the administration, not a player, and I sincerely doubt that influences the U.S. foreign policy much at all in this administration."

I don't think so. Cheney did not want to go to the United Nations at all last year. It was Powell that insisted this and got President Bush to go through the process of the United Nations. Powell succeeded in getting a UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq(one of several already on the books as Cheney would point out) regardless of the fantasy's of the French and others on what they were voting for.

It was Powell that presented the final case for War against Iraq to the UN. On the Contrary, Bush has been tied to Powell on virtually all of the major foreign Policy issues of this administration.

But it does not fit into the Democrats soundbite that the President is surounded by neo-conservitives bent on evil destruction, so Powell is reduced to being a robot of the President.

Colin Powell is a great man and no robot at all. He is the one that is primarily responsible for US Foreign Policy regardless of the Democrats unproven fantasy's about who is doing what.
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Old 09-24-2003, 02:19 AM   #10
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That wasn't just Powell (going to the UN) the only two other countries who were willing to put military in there from the beginning, the UK and Australia, both pushed the US to go through the UN. I think it was the combination that made them do it.

It does often look like a good cop/bad cop routine though. Rumsfeld/Cheney will do the "We're gonna kick your ass" routine, then Powell will step in with the "Now you don't want that, maybe we can work something out" routine.
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Old 09-24-2003, 03:55 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally posted by STING2
While President Bush may not of served in Vietnam, Bill Clinton never did either. Nor did 8 of 10 Democratic Candidates. Its unfortunate to see views that only view any event on the planet through the prisim of Vietnam.
No, Bill Clinton didn't serve either. But Bill Clinton did not start this war, he did not pre-emptively attack Iraq. Nor did 8 of 10 Democratic candidates. Bush did. And that's a big difference (to me).

And the point is not to view any event through the prism of Vietnam. It is the point of having people in command who have no hands-on experience and them overruling the opinions of those who do have the experience.

C ya!

Marty
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Old 09-24-2003, 10:41 AM   #12
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The comparison to Vietnam is more of an effort to evoke an emotional response that a thoughtful historical analysis between the two conflicts.
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Old 09-24-2003, 03:21 PM   #13
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I think it's an accurate comparison to say soldiers are dying needlessly every day without an end in sight.



This administration makes me sick.
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Old 09-24-2003, 03:44 PM   #14
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I think the comparison had been made years ago as to the consequences.

"Trying to eliminate Saddam would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. Appredhending him was probably impossible ... We would have been forced to occupy Bagdad and, in effect rule Iraq....there was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another one of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in post-Cold War world. Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land."

"A WORLD TRANSFORMED" President George H. W. Bush (&Brent Sowcroft) 1998

Dubyah let the neocons overcome his fathers own advice. Unfortunately for us, the men & women of the military, and the Iraqis.
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Old 09-24-2003, 04:27 PM   #15
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Damn. The first President Bush's policies were so much better than his son's ever will be!!
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