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Seeing Iraq through the prism of Vietnam « Previous | |Next »
July 2, 2003

In an earlier post on Iraq I had suggested that things were not going too well for the Americans. From my lefty perspective the events there looked more like a case of an occupation and guerilla resistance, rather than a sowing the seeds of liberal democracy. Even pro-war Americans are concerned about what is beginning to increasingly appear like a deeply bitter and unstable peace.

Without thinking too much about it I tacitly worked with the historical image of Vietnam to try and make sense of what was happening on the ground. It was a counter image to the US claim currently circulating through the media that there were only “little local difficulties” facing US troops in the context of an occupation. Otherwise all was going very well. Paul Rogers describes this position:

"In military terms, the problem was presented as one of isolated and uncoordinated remnants coupled with small numbers of terrorists moving into the country from elsewhere in the Arab world. In no way were these representative of the mood of Iraqis as a whole; and even the Sunni people of central Iraq were said to be, for the most part, neutral about the US presence."

I supect otherwise when I heard about extensive US military campaigns in the Sunni heartlands north of Baghdad and various excursions into Syrian territory.

David Adesnik over at Oxblog questions this Vietnam mindset. He quite rightly points out the key differences:

"In Vietnam, the United States was supporting a brutal regime that showed total disregard for its citizens' lives, economic welfare, and political rights. In contrast, the Viet Cong demonstrated an impressive concern for the people of Vietnam despite committing some appalling atrocities.

In Iraq, the United States has brought down a regime that strongly resembles the one its supported in Saigon. The occupation forces are also doing far more for the people of Iraq than even the Viet Cong did for the people of Vietnam."

It is a good point.

But is it just the Ba'athist remnants---meaning Saddam diehards----that are resisting through the guerrilla attacks? Or is the resistance more widespread? What are the religious groups doing? What are the Shi'ite fundamentalists up to? Is there a groundswell of opposition to US occupation?

If Vietnam is the wrong historical image maybe the situation in Iraq overlaps with Afghanistan. Consider this Debkafile report that says:

"...American troops hold the centers of main Iraqi towns – or more realistically their military headquarter compounds and quarters as well as Iraq’s few main highways - but not the interior."

It sounds awfully like Afghanistan to me.

But do go and read the excellent discussion over at Tacitus. It is very good----a working through the issues.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:44 AM | | Comments (0)