“Iraq” Is Still Arabic for “Vietnam”

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/17

by Ira Chernus

When George W. Bush and the neocons launched their war in Iraq, critics coined the slogan, “‘Iraq’ is Arabic for ‘Vietnam.'” The point was obvious: Another long quagmire of a war in an inhospitable foreign land would lead once again to nothing but death, suffering, and defeat for America.

That was back in 2003 and 2004, when the parallel was to the Vietnam war of 1965 – 1973.

To see why “Iraq” is still Arabic for “Vietnam” we have to turn the historical memory dial back just a few more years, to 1962 and 1963. That was when John F. Kennedy struggled with the same dilemma now facing Barack Obama: How much, if it all, should we get involved militarily to help a corrupt leader who stays in power by terrorizing his political enemies?

Here’s what JFK told interviewers in September, 1963, about South Vietnam under President Ngo Dinh Diem: “I don’t think … unless a greater effort is made by the  Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there.”

Here’s what Barack Obama told reporters on June 13, 2014: “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together. … and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.”

JFK: “In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it.”

Obama: “We can’t do it for them. …  The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.”

JFK balanced his calls for Diem to reform with what sounded like a promise that the South Vietnamese government would get U.S. aid no matter what it did or failed to do: “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw…. This is a very important struggle even though it is far away. … We also have to participate — we may not like it — in the defense of Asia.”

Obama sounded a similar note: “Given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well. Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. …  They will have the support of the United States. …  We have enormous interests there.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/17

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