Good Mourning, Vietnam: Pew, AP Probe Iraq Link

By: E&P Staff

A new Pew survey finds that nearly 4 in 10 Americans now think Iraq will turn into another Vietnam. Continuing this theme, The Associated Press has distributed an article revealing close parallels between President Bush’s recent statements on Iraq with President Lyndon B. Johnson’s quotes on Vietnam.

The survey for Pew, by Princeton Survey Research Associates, found that 39% of respondents think Iraq will turn out to be another Vietnam. It also showed that nearly 6 in 10 now want the U.S. to set a timetable for a pullout, up 8 points since July. Other polls have showed that a majority of American back withdrawals to begin immediately.

Last month in an appearance on ABC, a prospective Republican presidential hopeful discussed his views on the coalition effort. Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel declared, “We are locked into a bogged-down problem not dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam. The longer we stay, the more problems we are going to have.”

The AP story today opened this way: “Bush officials bristle at the suggestion the war in Iraq might look anything like Vietnam. Yet just as today’s anti-war protests recall memories of yesteryear, President Bush’s own words echo those of President Johnson in 1967, a pivotal year for the U.S. in Vietnam.”

It then offered side-by-side quotes from presidents Bush and Johnson, among them:

* Johnson, March 15, 1967: “America is committed to the defense of South Vietnam until an honorable peace can be negotiated.” Despite the obstacles to victory, the president said, “We shall stay the course.”

Bush on Aug. 3, 2005: “We will stay the course, we will complete the job in Iraq. And the job is this: We’ll help the Iraqis develop a democracy.”

* Johnson on Aug. 16, 1967, on South Vietnam’s government: “Our nation was not born easily. There were times in those years of the 18th century when it seemed as if we might not be born at all. Given that background, we ought not to be astonished that this struggle in Vietnam continues.”

Bush, on Aug. 27, 2005: “Like our own nation’s founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion — not at the barrel of a gun.”

* Johnson, April 6, 1967: “Be assured that the death of your son will have meaning,” he Johnson told the parents of a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor. “For I give you also my solemn pledge that our country will persist — and will prevail — in the cause for which your boy died.”

Bush on Aug. 24: “These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country, and now we will honor their sacrifice by completing their mission.”

NOTE: In a column at E&P in June, Editor Greg Mitchell reprinted a speech by President Johnson from April 7, 1965, under the heading “President Urges Patience on War — but it’s LBJ, in 1965.” Here is the text:

Tonight Americans and Asians are dying for a world where each people may choose its own path to change. This is the principle for which our ancestors fought in the valleys of Pennsylvania. It is the principle for which our sons fight tonight in the jungles of Viet-Nam.

Viet-Nam is far away from this quiet campus. We have no territory there, nor do we seek any. The war is dirty and brutal and difficult. And some 400 young men, born into an America that is bursting with opportunity and promise, have ended their lives on Viet-Nam?s steaming soil.

Why must we take this painful road? Why must this nation hazard its ease, its interest, and its power for the sake of a people so far away?

We fight because we must fight if we are to live in a world where every country can shape its own destiny, and only in such a world will our own freedom be finally secure.

This kind of world will never be built by bombs or bullets. Yet the infirmities of man are such that force must often precede reason and the waste of war, the works of peace.

We wish this were not so. But we must deal with the world as it is, if it is ever to be as we wish.

The world as it is in Asia is not a serene or peaceful place.

Of course, some of the people of South Viet-Nam are participating in attack on their own government. But trained men and supplies, orders and arms, flow in a constant stream from North to South. This support is the heartbeat of the war.

And it is a war of unparalleled brutality. Simple farmers are the targets of assassination and kidnapping. Women and children are strangled in the night because their men are loyal to the government. And helpless villagers are ravaged by sneak attacks. Large-scale raids are conducted on towns, and terror strikes in the heart of cities.

The confused nature of this conflict cannot mask the fact that it is the new face of an old enemy. The contest in Viet-Nam is part of a wider pattern of aggressive purposes.

Why are these realities our concern? Why are we in South Viet-Nam?

We are there because we have a promise to keep. Over many years, we have made a national pledge to help South Viet-Nam defend its independence. And I intend to keep that promise.

To dishonour that pledge, to abandon this small and brave nation to its enemies, and to the terror that must follow, would be an unforgivable wrong.

We are also there to strengthen world order. Around the globe from Berlin to Thailand are people whose well being rests in part on the belief that they can count on us if they are attacked. To leave Viet-Nam to its fate would shake the confidence of all these people in the value of an American commitment and in the value of America?s word. The result would be increased unrest and instability, even wide war.

We are also there because there are great stakes in the balance. Let no one think for a minute that retreat from Viet-Nam would bring an end to the conflict. The battle would be renewed in one country and then another. The central lesson of our time is that the appetite of aggression is never satisfied. To withdraw from one battlefield means only to prepare for the next. We must say in Southeast Asia — as we did in Europe — in the words of the Bible: “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further.”

Our objective is the independence of South Viet-Nam, and its freedom from attack. We want nothing for ourselves-only that the people of South Viet-Nam be allowed to guide their own country in their own way.

We will do everything necessary to reach that objective. And we will do only what is absolutely necessary.

We do this in order to slow down aggression.

We do this to increase the confidence of the brave people of South Viet-Nam who have bravely borne this brutal battle for so many years with so many casualties.

We will not be defeated. We will not grow tired.

We will not withdraw, either openly or under the cloak of a meaningless agreement.

We hope that peace will come swiftly. But that is in the hands of others besides ourselves. And we must be prepared for a long continued conflict. It will require patience as well as bravery, the will to endure as well as the will to resist.

I wish it were possible to convince others with words of what we now find it necessary to say with guns and planes: Armed hostility is futile. Our resources are equal to the challenge.

Because we fight for values and we fight for principles, rather than territory or colonies, our patience and our determination are unending.

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