Iraq & Vietnam...

[COMMENT: I suppose the Vietnam war will be debated as will the role of FDR and many other issues.  But this appears to me to be accurate.  The fellow who wrote the final article certainly has the credentials.  (See at end.) 

The capacity for the pseudo-liberals to betray America is equaled only by the capacity of pseudo-conservatives for fall for their betrayal.  Neither side has its roots in the Biblical tradition -- or much honest interest in the truth.  E. Fox]


From a retired foreign service officer
Subject: Fw: Zarqawi's bombs hit their target in Washington---A mini-Tet offensive in Iraq AND USEFUL IDIOTS
During the Japanese occupation of Vietnam my wife Hai's uncle disappeared. He was about 20 years old at the time and the family never saw or heard of him again, this was about a year before Hai was born. Everyone thought that he had been killed in the war as many were. Any Japanese soldier could shoot any Vietnamese with impunity and many did.
When Saigon fell in 1975, those of Hai's family who were still in Vietnam were astounded when the missing uncle turned up as a Colonel and head of the North Vietnamese secret police in charge of Saigon. When Hai saw him in 1993 he was retired and literally on his death bed, but he confirmed many of the things that are covered in the article following this one. In particular about the fact that after TET of 68 the North had been so badly beaten that they were discussing some type of cease fire and settlement but abandoned that idea because of the anti war activities that were taking place in the United States. He said that the head politicians and the general staff would meet every morning to listen to the BBC to see what the anti war protesters were doing and then plan their strategy from there. Colonel Bui who now lives in Paris has given a similar account of events in various interviews he has given.
If memory serves me right, I believe that in 1968 there had been about 42 or 44 thousand Americans killed in the Vietnam War. Had the war ended shortly after TET of 68 there would have been far fewer American casualties than the 55 thousand plus that we wound up with. However the law of unintended consequences ruled and thousands more Americans were killed as the result of the anti war movement and the effect that they had on the enemy's strategy and the boost in moral they gave to the enemy that encouraged them to keep fighting for a military victory rather than a political solution.
B/rgds,   Fred
The Iraq Panic
Zarqawi's bombs hit their target in Washington.

Monday, June 27, 2005 12:01 a.m.


"It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."--Senator Chuck Hagel (R., Neb.), June 27, 2005, U.S. News & World Report.

"And we are now in a seemingly intractable quagmire. Our troops are dying and there really is no end in sight."--Senator Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.), June 23, 2005, Armed Services Committee hearing.

The polls show the American people are growing pessimistic about Iraq, and no wonder. They are being rallied against the cause by such statesmen as the two above. Six months after they repudiated the insurgency in a historic election, free Iraqis are continuing to make slow but steady political and military gains. Where the terrorists are gaining ground is in Washington, D.C.



This is despite tangible, albeit underreported, progress in Iraq. In the political arena, an Iraqi transition government has formed that includes representatives from all ethnic and religious groups. Leading Sunnis who boycotted January's election are now participating both in the parliament and in drafting a new constitution. The Shiite uprising of a year ago has been defeated. The government now has three deadlines to meet: drafting a constitution by August, a referendum on that constitution in October and elections for a permanent government in December.

This political momentum vindicates the decision to hold the January election, despite warnings that it was "going to be ugly" (in Joe Biden's phrase). Some of those who predicted the worst because the Sunnis refused to participate--Mr. Biden, the Hoover Institution's Larry Diamond--are the same people who now say again that disaster looms. Clearly the smart strategy was to move ahead with the vote and show the Sunnis they had to participate if they wanted a role in building the new Iraq. So why should we believe these pessimists now?

As for security, the daily violence is terrible and dispiriting, but it is not a sign of an expanding insurgency. As U.S. and Iraqi military targets have hardened their defenses, the terrorists have turned to larger bombs delivered by suicidal jihadists aimed at softer targets. This drives up the casualty figures, especially against Iraqi civilians, but it does not win more political converts.

Insurgencies that have prevailed in history--Algeria, China, Cuba--have all had a large base of popular support. That more of the bombers seem to be coming from outside Iraq is cause for worry, since it means there will be a continuing supply of suicide bombers. But it also means that the insurgency is becoming an invasion force against Iraq itself, which means it lacks the native roots to sustain it.

The trend is in fact toward more civilian cooperation with Iraqi and U.S. security forces. Calls to the military hotline have climbed to 1,700 from 50 in January, according to U.S. commanders, and better intelligence has led to the recent capture of key insurgent leaders, including a top deputy to Musab al-Zarqawi. An Iraqi TV show profiling captured jihadists--"Terrorism in the Hands of Justice"--is a popular hit.

Everyone wishes that Iraqi security forces could be trained faster to replace U.S. troops, and to secure areas from which terrorists have been ousted. But here, too, there has been progress. About 100 Iraqi units are now able to conduct special operations on their own. General George Casey, the Iraq theater commander, says there has not been a single failure of an Iraqi military unit since the election. And new recruits continue to volunteer, even though this makes them terrorist targets.

Regarding Mr. Kennedy's "quagmire" claim, General Casey had this response: "I thought I was fairly clear in what I laid out in my testimony about what's going on in Iraq, that you have an insurgency with no vision, no base, limited popular support, an elected government, committed Iraqis to the democratic process, and you have Iraqi security forces that are fighting and dying for their country every day. Senator, that is not a quagmire."

So why the Washington panic? A large part of it is political. As Democrats see support for the war falling in the polls, the most cynical smell an opening for election gains in 2006. The Republican Hagels, who voted for the war only reluctantly, see another opening to assail the "neo-cons" and get Donald Rumsfeld fired. Still others are merely looking for political cover. Rather than fret (for the TV cameras) about "the "public going south" on the war, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham could do more for the cause by trying to educate Americans and rally their support.

It isn't as if the critics are offering any better strategy for victory. At last week's Senate hearing, Carl Levin's (D., Mich.) brainstorm was that the U.S. set a withdrawal schedule if Iraqis miss their deadline in writing a constitution. But U.S. officials have all stressed to Iraqis how important that deadline is. Mr. Biden delivered a lecture last week that boiled down to letting France train 1,500 Iraqi "gendarmes" and pressing for 5,000 NATO troops to patrol the Syrian border. Both are fine with us, assuming Mr. Biden gets to negotiate with the French, but neither is going to turn the tide of war.

The proposal to fix a date certain for U.S. withdrawal is especially destructive, inviting the terrorists to wait us out and Iraqi ethnic groups to start arming themselves. The only important idea we've heard from Congress is John McCain's suggestion that if Damascus keeps abetting the insurgency, the U.S. is under no obligation to honor Syria's territorial integrity when pursuing terrorists seeking sanctuary in that country.



President Bush plans to speak about Iraq tomorrow, and we hope he points out that this Beltway panic is hurting the war effort. General John Abizaid of the U.S. Central Command stressed this point last week. Troop morale, he said, has never been better. But "when I look back here at what I see is happening in Washington, within the Beltway, I've never seen the lack of confidence greater."

He added that, "When my soldiers say to me and ask me the question whether or not they've got support from the American people or not, that worries me. And they're starting to do that." Mr. Bush will no doubt remind Americans of the stakes in Iraq, but he also needs to point out that defeatism can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Copyright 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Analysis: A mini-Tet offensive in Iraq?

By Arnaud de Borchgrave
UPI Editor at Large
Published 4/6/2004 4:12 PM

WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- Any seasoned reporter covering the Tet offensive in Vietnam 36 years ago is well over 60 and presumably retired or teaching journalism is one of America's 4,200 colleges and universities. Before plunging into an orgy of erroneous and invidious historical parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, a reminder about what led to the U.S. defeat in Southeast Asia is timely.

Iraq will only be another Vietnam if the home front collapses, as it did following the Tet offensive, which began on the eve of the Chinese New Year, Jan. 31, 1968. The surprise attack was designed to overwhelm some 70 cities and towns, and 30 other strategic objectives simultaneously. By breaking a previously agreed truce for Tet festivities, master strategist Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap in Hanoi calculated that South Vietnamese troops would be caught with defenses down.

After the first few hours of panic, the South Vietnamese troops reacted fiercely. They did the bulk of the fighting and took some 6,000 casualties. Vietcong units not only did not reach a single one of their objectives -- except when they arrived by taxi at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, blew their way through the wall into the compound and guns blazing made it into the lobby before they were wiped out by U.S. Marines -- but they lost some 50,000 killed and at least that many wounded. Giap had thrown some 70,000 troops into a strategic gamble that was also designed to overwhelm 13 of the 16 provincial capitals and trigger a popular uprising. But Tet was an unmitigated military disaster for Hanoi and its Vietcong troops in South Vietnam. Yet that was not the way it was reported in U.S. and other media around the world. It was television's first war. And some 50 million Americans at home saw the carnage of dead bodies in the rubble, and dazed Americans running around.

As the late veteran war reporter Peter Braestrup documented in "Big Story" -- a massive, two-volume study of how Tet was covered by American reporters -- the Vietcong offensive was depicted as a military disaster for the United States. By the time the facts emerged a week or two later from RAND Corp. interrogations of prisoners and defectors, the damage had been done. Conventional media wisdom had been set in concrete. Public opinion perceptions in the United States changed accordingly.

RAND made copies of these POW interrogations available. But few reporters seemed interested. In fact, the room where they were on display was almost always empty. Many Vietnamese civilians who were fence sitters or leaning toward the Vietcong, especially in the region around Hue City, joined government ranks after they witnessed Vietcong atrocities. Several mass graves were found with some 4,000 unarmed civil servants and other civilians, stabbed or with skulls smashed by clubs. The number of communist defectors, known as "chieu hoi," increased fourfold. And the "popular uprising" anticipated by Giap, failed to materialize. The Tet offensive also neutralized much of the clandestine communist infrastructure.

As South Vietnamese troops fought Vietcong remnants in Cholon, the predominantly Chinese twin city of Saigon, reporters, sipping drinks in the rooftop bar of the Caravelle Hotel, watched the fireworks 2 miles away. America's most trusted newsman, CBS' Walter Cronkite, appeared for a standup piece with distant fires as a backdrop. Donning helmet, Cronkite declared the war lost. It was this now famous television news piece that persuaded President Johnson six weeks later, on March 31, not to run. His ratings had plummeted from 80 percent when he assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death to 30 percent after Tet. His handling of the war dropped to 20 percent, his credibility shot to pieces.

Until Tet, a majority of Americans agreed with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson that failure was not an option. It was Kennedy who changed the status of U.S. military personnel from advisers to South Vietnamese troops to full-fledged fighting men. By the time of Kennedy's assassination in Nov. 22, 1963, 16,500 U.S. troops had been committed to the war. Johnson escalated all the way to 542,000. But defeat became an option when Johnson decided the war was unwinnable and that he would lose his bid for the presidency in November 1968. Hanoi thus turned military defeat into a priceless geopolitical victory.

With the Vietcong wiped out in the Tet offensive, North Vietnamese regulars moved south down the Ho Chi Minh trails through Laos and Cambodia to continue the war. Even Giap admitted in his memoirs that news media reporting of the war and the anti-war demonstrations that ensued in America surprised him. Instead of negotiating what he called a conditional surrender, Giap said they would now go the limit because America's resolve was weakening and the possibility of complete victory was within Hanoi's grasp.

Hanoi's Easter offensive in March 1972 was another disaster for the communists. Some 70,000 North Vietnamese troops were wiped out -- by the South Vietnamese who did all the fighting. The last American soldier left Vietnam in March 1973. And the chances of the South Vietnamese army being able to hack it on its own were reasonably good. With one proviso: Continued U.S. military assistance with weapons and hardware, including helicopters. But Congress balked, first by cutting off military assistance to Cambodia, which enabled Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge communists to take over, which, in turn, was followed by a similar Congressional rug pulling from under the South Vietnamese, that led to rapid collapse of morale in Saigon.

The unraveling, with Congress pulling the string, was so rapid that even Giap was caught by surprise. As he recounts in his memoirs, Hanoi had to improvise a general offensive -- and then rolled into Saigon two years before they had reckoned it might become possible.

That is the real lesson for the U.S. commitment to Iraq. Whatever one thought about the advisability of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the United States is there with 100,000 troops and a solid commitment to endow Iraq with a democratic system of government. While failure is not an option for Bush, it clearly is for Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who called Iraq the president's Vietnam. It is, of course, no such animal. But it could become so if Congressional resolve dissolves.

Bui Tin, who served on the general staff of the North Vietnamese army, received South Vietnam's unconditional surrender on April 30, 1975. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after his retirement, he made clear the anti-war movement in the United States, which led to the collapse of political will in Washington, was "essential to our strategy."

Visits to Hanoi by Jane Fonda and former Attorney General Ramsey Clark and various church ministers "gave us confidence that we should hold on in the face of battlefield reverses."

America lost the war, concluded Bui Tin, "because of its democracy. Through dissent and protest it lost the ability to mobilize a will to win." Kennedy should remember that Vietnam was the war of his brother who saw the conflict in the larger framework of the Cold War and Nikita Khrushchev's threats against West Berlin. It would behoove Kennedy to see Iraq in the larger context of the struggle to bring democracy, not only to Iraq, but the entire Middle East.

(Arnaud de Borchgrave covered Tet as Newsweek's chief foreign correspondent and had seven tours in Vietnam between 1951 under the French and 1972.)  

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