By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
President Johnson was really trying to sneak the war past the American people as best he could, and that certainly has not been the aim this time. This time, if anything, there’s been true bellicosity, right from the beginning.
Johnson was not particularly interested in foreign affairs. He was somewhat more conversant than the current president because Johnson served on appropriation committees and was the leader of the Senate — he had to be involved. Johnson wanted America to be strong, but mostly he wanted to get his very admirable social and civil rights programs through Congress. And he felt if you started a debate over Vietnam, you would give the conservative Southern Democrats an excuse to oppose his program in the way that the Northern Democrats are opposing Bush’s tax cuts now: by saying that, with a war going on, these programs are too expensive.
Johnson always intentionally underestimated the war expenses. He counted on getting special appropriations, and he didn’t want to alarm people with the actual cost of Vietnam. We’ve certainly seen that now, where the Bush administration was adamant about not being drawn into speculation about the cost of the war.But what a difference in the domestic agendas. Johnson didn’t want the war to short-circuit his programs to help the poor and people of color. Bush is trying to salvage tax cuts that offer the greatest benefit to the wealthiest of Americans.
You tell people that we can’t afford medical care and we can’t afford education and we can’t afford fixing the infrastructure of our nation. But we can spend $100 billion on going to war in Iraq. If you put it that way, it’s a lot harder to sell.At this point, Bush has asked for $75 billion.
Everybody who seems to know anything about it argues that Bush’s estimate of $75 billion is billions of dollars lower than the actual cost is going to be.Unless Iraqi oil ends up paying for it.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it? As the president put it, "We’re going to return all that resource to the Iraqi people, to whom it belongs." Whereas nobody has ever said the offshore oil from Texas or California or Alaska should be returned from the oil companies to the American people to whom it belongs. We seem to be suggesting that socialism for oil is good for Iraq but not for the United States.
The main question about the Bush administration’s actions is why. Why now? Why the hatred toward sanctions and the impatience with them? What’s the motive? It’s very hard to know.To what extent is this dishonesty and to what extent self-deception?
You can’t rule out self-deception. It’s a big part of our foreign policy.That was certainly true in Vietnam, was it not?
The fact is that nobody really knew much about Vietnam. In the early days, the young officers I dealt with, just out of West Point, were really dedicated. Exactly the kind of young officers you’d want. They were full of pumped-up wisdom, American idealism. And after a year in Vietnam, all of the ones I spoke with were saying variations of "I’m going to get out of the Army. I see now that it’s a bureaucracy, hopeless, and everything they’re telling the people at home isn’t true. We’re not winning this war." They were very disillusioned.There’s still a chance, isn’t there, that Iraq could prove to be a quagmire even after a successful military campaign?
The thing that led me to do a book on the American Revolution was my experience in Vietnam, watching these farmers in black pajamas ambushing and flummoxing the world’s greatest military power, just as we had done against the British. With the background of Vietnam, why are we still counting on American might — sheer might — to shock and awe? Everybody I talked to in North Vietnam said, "We were never more unified than when the bombs started to drop."
This isn’t very complicated. We had a lesson in the lifetime.And yet Saddam Hussein was not the same sort of opponent as Ho Chi Minh, the leader of North Vietnam.
There won’t ever be that same warm feeling for Saddam among his people that there was for Ho Chi Minh. And Ho was a tyrant, too. But there were huge numbers of people — I saw them when I went back for my book — who really did love him. They believed that he was the George Washington of their country, the person who would free them from the yoke of the foreigners and deliver a unified country at long last.
And who’s going to say anything good about Hussein? Except, of course, you see the same stories I see, that people in Arab nations nearby are saying that it’s kind of good to see the Americans get their eyes bloodied a little.Did you expect weapons of mass destruction to turn up?