EXPRESS CHECKOUT

Iraq vs Vietnam

Posted in History + Culture, Politics + Diplomacy by expresscheckout on 21 October, 2006

left Anti-Vietnam War Protest Washington 1969 right Anti-Iraq Protest Washington 15 March 2003 

Bush accepts Iraq-Vietnam echoes 
BBC NEWS
October 19, 2006

President George W Bush has accepted that the surge in violence in Iraq may be equivalent to America’s traumatic experience in the Vietnam War.

Mr Bush told ABC News that it could be right to compare Iraq’s situation to the 1968 Tet offensive, widely seen as a key turning point in the conflict. But he denied that the rising number of Iraqi and US military deaths meant the Iraq campaign was failing.

October is on course to be one of the bloodiest months for US forces in Iraq. So far about 70 troops have died, and with an average of three Americans dying every day this is one of the highest casualty rates sustained by the US military since January 2005.

Psychological blow

In an interview with ABC News, Mr Bush was asked if he agreed with a newspaper columnist who had written that the current fighting in Iraq may be compared to the Tet offensive in Vietnam. “He could be right,” Mr Bush said. “There’s certainly a stepped up level of violence and we’re heading into an election.”

During the Tet offensive, the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese armies launched a combined assault on US positions. Militarily, the assault failed but it was a huge psychological blow for the Americans and their allies, and eroded political support for the then president, Lyndon Johnson.

Mr Bush appeared to suggest that steadiness of nerve could avoid a repeat of history, says the BBC’s Justin Webb in Washington, although any comparison with Vietnam raises eyebrows in the US. The White House later sought to clarify Mr Bush’s comments. “The full context was that the comparison was about the propaganda waged in the Tet Offensive…and the president was reiterating something he’s said before – that the enemy is trying to shake our will,” spokeswoman Dana Perino said in a statement.

In the interview, Mr Bush reiterated that US troops would stay despite the casualties. “Al-Qaeda is still very active in Iraq…They are trying not only to kill American troops but they’re trying to foment sectarian violence. They believe that if they can create enough chaos, the American people will grow sick and tired of the Iraqi effort and will cause (the) government to withdraw.”

Difficult task

With the latest opinion polls suggesting that Mr Bush’s Republican Party faces defeat in next month’s mid-term congressional elections, the president is doing his best to fight his corner, our correspondent says. The enemy defined success or failure by the number of casualties, Mr Bush said. His definition was whether Iraqis could defend themselves, whether schools were being built, hospitals being opened.

“I define success or failure as whether we’re seeing a democracy grow in the heart of the Middle East.” Pulling out troops from Iraq would be the equivalent of surrender, he said.

“I’m patient. I’m not patient forever…But I recognise the degree of difficulty of the task, and therefore say to the American people we won’t cut and run.”

left Chinook Helicopter in Iraq Dec 2003 right Helicopters in South Vietnam 1966

TET OFFENSIVE
 
▪ Launched on 31 January 1968 – Tet holiday – by North Vietnamese Army and Vietcong

▪ Five major cities and 36 provincial capitals attacked simultaneously

▪ Onslaught surprises US troops, is quickly repelled

▪ US public opinion turns against the war

▪ President Johnson’s popularity falls

▪ He withdraws as candidate for re-election in March

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