Opinion and Editorial

From Vietnam to Iraq

Filed on October 20, 2006

AT LAST, President Bush has come to acknowledge what many in and outside US have been arguing for some time. That Iraq is increasingly looking like Vietnam. In a rare confession during his interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, the president admitted that as in Vietnam, America faces ‘a stepped-up level of violence’ in Iraq.

Stepped-up level of violence, Mr President? This is an all-out and free-for-all bloody civil war, which has already claimed 655,000 Iraqi lives, as medical journal Lancet disclosed last week. In fact, even as Bush was chatting with Stephanopoulos, ten US soldiers died taking the US casualties to nearly 3,000. On an average, three US soldiers are dying daily. And we are not even counting the losses of Iraqi security forces. No, Mr President, this is no stepped-up violence. This is war and easily the worst in recent history.

In fact, when the Americans finally go home and history of this war is written, Iraq will go down as a campaign far worse than Vietnam. Of course, the US casualties in Iraq are nowhere near what America suffered in Vietnam —at least not yet.

Washington’s Vietnam adventure took a long time to unravel. It took almost a decade and the vision of many military and political veterans to mess up Vietnam. It didn’t take the neocons in the Bush administration long —less than a year —to squander the enormous goodwill the occupation forces initially enjoyed.

More importantly, the US soldiers knew who their enemy was in Vietnam. In Iraq, Bush’s coalition of the willing still doesn’t seem to have a clue who it is fighting.

Initially, it saw Saddam Hussein’s Baathist supporters behind the attacks. But now that Saddam is behind bars, everyone from Sunni insurgents to Shia militias and Al Qaeda terrorists to jihadi groups is blamed for the continuing bloodshed in the country. In his ABC interview, Bush again obsessed over Al Qaeda: "Al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. They are dangerous."

Of course, Al Qaeda is dangerous and all those attacks targeting innocent civilians, be they Sunnis or Shias, are unacceptable. But who invited Al Qaeda to Iraq? Not Saddam Hussein, surely. It was the 2003 invasion and its disastrous effects that beckoned militant groups of all hues to Iraq.

But Washington would add insult to injury if it claims all those attacks are carried out by extremist groups like Al Qaeda. A huge chunk of Iraqi population hasn’t still accepted the foreign occupation and continues to resist it. Besides, Iraq continues to attract fighters from near and far. In fact, it is, coupled with the war on terror, radicalising young people in the Muslim world. As the UK Army chief, General Danatt has rightly pointed out, the coalition forces are not part of the solution in Iraq but part of the problem. The sooner Washington realises this, the better for it and the rest of the world.

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