Dubya was on the tube Sunday night, talking about the need for more time and more money in Iraq, saying “we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East.”
God, that sounded awfully familiar.
“This will take time and require sacrifice,” he said. “Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure.”
So I dug out some 38-year-old newspaper clips. Damn, I had heard this before.
Flash back to 1965. Lyndon Baines Johnson is speaking: one of those long, lumbering speeches that always began with “My fellow Americans.” He is asking Congress and the American people for more time and more money for the effort in Vietnam.
“We are helping the long suffering people of Vietnam enjoy the freedoms of democracy,” Johnson said. “To do so, we must do what is necessary, at a cost that is necessary, to promote freedom throughout the world.”
Jesus. Deja vu all over again. Johnson wanted to increase U.S. support for the war in Vietnam. He got what he wanted and 58,178 U.S. military personnel died before that “defense of freedom” ended with Americans scrambling onto helicopters on rooftops to get the hell out of Saigon as the Viet Cong closed in.
Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say. Vietnam was different. The Viet Cong never crashed American airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing more than 3,000 Americans on U.S. soil.
Got a news flash for ya’. Neither did the Iraqis. Dubya and his denizens have tried their damnest to prove a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda madman Osama bin Laden but that proof has been as elusive as the so-called weapons of mass destruction that we were supposed to have found in Iraq months ago.
Yet the Bush administration has so blurred the lines between Iraq and those really responsible for the 9-11 attacks that a recent Washington Post poll showed 69 percent of Americans believe Saddam Hussein had a role in the attacks even though the combined efforts of intelligence services in both England and the United States have yet to produce one shred of evidence of such a link.
Bush has exploited this unproven link as part of a calculated misinformation campaign to justify the war in Iraq. He claims victory in Iraq is key to his war on terror even though the principal architect of the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large and the Taliban is reasserting itself in Afghanistan, which has been largely ignored while the U.S. concentrated on Iraq.
Cynics have long claimed the Vietnam war existed solely to protect certain American business interests and to promote a military-industrial complex that wanted war. While I don’t subscribe to all of Oliver Stone’s conspiratorial fantasies about why 58,178 Americans had to die in those God-forsaken jungles, I’ve never thought we sent our young men and women into harm’s way for anything even remotely resembling the protection of the democratic way of life.
Likewise, George W. Bush used the terrorist attacks of 9-11 as an excuse, not a valid reason, for invading Iraq. During the 2000 Presidential campaign, more than a year before the terrorist attacks, Bush talked of the need get rid of Saddam Hussein.
“Tyrants like Saddam Hussein must be removed,” he said at a campaign stop in Florida in 2000.
And, of course, Iraq has oil that America could use — if U.S. troops can ever put out the fires and stop the sabotage that keeps it from flowing.
Lyndon Johnson depended on a nation not fully recovered from the shock of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. His call for more money and time in Vietnam came just short of the second anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
Bush’s call for more time and money for Iraq comes just short of the second anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and at a time when America has not fully recovered.
History has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
Let’s hope it doesn’t this time around.