No, the war in Iraq, at least at ground level, is not another Vietnam.
But watching George W. Bushs third-ever prime-time news conference felt like revisiting the golden days of American upheaval when a blustering LBJ or a sweating, squinting Dick Nixon would dissemble, distort and distract while struggling to explain the steadily sinking American enterprise in Indochina.
The similarities were striking as Bush seemed firmly planted somewhere in 1968, lost in a fog of arrogance, denial and self-delusion. Our soldiers would stay as long as necessary. Escalation in blood, treasure and troops was now a certainty. Our unshakeable resolve no longer had anything to do with WMDs but now, as in the battle for Hue, was all about American credibility. The transparent fiction of an allied democratic (and feminist!) indigenous Iraqi government to whom full sovereignty, no less, would be transmitted a few weeks from now was boldly resurrected from the shattered legacies of Marshal Ky and President Thieu. Just as Vietnam, as we were told, was the intransigent frontline of the life and death struggle against World Communism, Iraq was once again deemed the key battle in the overall War on Terror.
And Tricky Dick no doubt cracked a grin from his too-shallow grave as Bush said he would prevail in November because Ive got a plan to win the war on terror. The only question left hanging is if its the same secret plan Nixon had to end the Vietnam War. Till now, it certainly looks like it.
Offered a chance to reassess, to change or alter strategy, to draw any lessons learned, to admit any mistakes, errors or miscalculations, Bush hesitated and fumbled and said he wasnt sure what would pop into his head under the pressure of a press conference, but regaining his shaky verbal footing, he ultimately vowed no regrets, nary a second thought. Were staying the course, he said. Were going to plow ahead with a lot more of the same. Something to look forward to . . . a phrase he used eight or nine times.
What Bush said this week will, alas, be quickly forgotten and will matter little, precisely because in an election year voters always look forward, not back. But Bush, apparently, is not immune from the same strategic errors that many of his Democratic opponents are making. In their zeal to retake the White House, too many liberals as I have written in these pages are spending way too much time playing an ultimately useless game of gotcha. Trying to pin responsibility for 9/11 on Bush they forget the one central truth the president proffered this week: The blame for 9/11 goes to bin Laden.
Bush, likewise, put far too much emphasis on defending his motives, real or imagined, to intervene in Iraq. That question was settled some time ago when a majority of Americans, perhaps for all the wrong reasons, ratified that decision. The war might be wrong, but ridding the world of Saddam can only be right.
What Americans want to hear now is not what the president says about going into Iraq but rather what hes going to do to get us out. What exactly is that plan that Bush alluded to? Other than re-titling the current mini-detachment of Polish troops as a NATO force?
Indeed, when pushed by one of the reporters to be specific about just to whom we were going to hand over sovereignty on June 30, the bold leader of the Free World smiled and said: Youll find out soon. Just as soon as he finds out, because last time we looked even the deeply compromised and American handpicked Iraqi Governing Council was unraveling at the seams as dissent swelled over the horrific pictures from Fallujah.
Fifteen or 16 questions were asked of Bush. They were all about foreign policy, and they were all hostile. The news flow is not exactly running with the president.
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P.S. You know that guy, the Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Husaini Sistani? Our principal moderate ally on whom we have seemingly banked the whole future of a Democratic Iraq? Turns out our Brother has got one helluva rocking Web site. Whod have thunk! Its in five languages, laden with techno-bells and whistles but most of all brimming with the Ayatollahs sage counsel on just about everything from anal sex to taxation of camels to acceptable forms of masturbation. Hell even take your personal questions by e-mail. No, Im not making this up. Its all on my new Web site and blog at www.marccooper.com. Heres a taste, so to speak.
Question from a reader: Brother, my question is, can we have an oral sex before or after the sexual intercourse or can we have oral sex at all?
Ayatollah Sistanis reply: Oral sex act is permissible with the consent of both husband and wife provided that no liquid gets into the mouth.
I guess thats why they call him the moderate.