Readers Respond on the Vietnam-Iraq Link

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By: Greg Mitchell

My previous column, written on the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, took issue with a Jonah Goldberg Op-Ed in USA Today, in which he attempted to debunk ongoing attempts to compare the current Iraq conflict with the Vietnam war. My column produced a lot of mail, pro and con, of course. Here is a cross-section selection, edited for space. And here is the original column.

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James Nevler: “There is one main difference between what happened to those of us who went to Vietnam to fight John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s war and what is happening to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan now. Unlike Walter Cronkite, journalists like you are no longer able to lie with impunity about U.S soldiers and what is actually happening in the war against terror. You can no longer hide the truth from your readers–if you still have any–because we can and are bypassing your anti-American propaganda.”

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Richard Einhorn, New York, N.Y.: “If Jonah Goldberg thinks liberal baby-boomers are filled with nostalgia for the glory days of the Vietnam protests, he should have his head examined. I was obligated, by every moral value I hold dear, to protest the U.S role in the illegal and pointless Vietnam war. I have no nostalgia for that time at all. It wasn’t fun: it was frightening and we thought we could get hurt. And as the killings at Kent State proved, our fears were real.

“That Goldberg mistakes a war protest for a party merely highlights the depth of his cynicism both about the protesters and his ignorance of the true nature of war. Also, he needs to find a real party to get invited to someday.”

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Steven Schroder, Sarah, Miss.: “Pretty good bait and switch. You lie to the public to convince them the war is wrong, then you use the consensus you created with your lies to justify your position. You bastards defeated the U.S in the ’70s, and in the process murdered about 3 million Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians. Now you stand with Saddam and his rape rooms and plastic chippers and mass graves.

“So you are absolutely correct; Goldberg is wrong. Iraq is Vietnam. Just as then, the war has nothing to do with what is happening in Asia. It is just a war between the scum Stalinists in the American press and the decent people of the world. Last time you lied and won. Hang in there. You might get your way twice.”

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John McAuliff: “Add to the list of similarities the dangerous mix of arrogance and ignorance of U.S. policy makers. The neocons remind me of no group more than the Cold War liberals in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. The illusion that we can remake a country to meet our political desires, and have the right to do so, combined with the discounting of nationalist reaction to our presumptions, is eerily familiar.”

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H. Michael Sarkisian, Sacramento, Calif.: “You compare Fallujah to the destruction of a village to save it. Far from it. Was Fallujah destroyed?”

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Ben Gibbons: “No, Bush did not lie, but there’s no point arguing that with those whose entire psyche evidently depends on clinging to such propaganda. But as the polls you cited indicate, the media has done an excellent job of spreading the disease. Congratulations. Next, maybe you can work on promoting the idea that up is down, or that black is white.

“As for your list of Vietnam-Iraq comparisons, I must say that you made some good points … about pretty much every foreign war ever fought. Using your criteria, Iraq also compares quite nicely to WWII.”

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Rob Crawford: “On one point — the casualties — I feel obliged to point out that early casualties were light in Vietnam, too. In 1963 and 1964 combined, ‘only’ 324 died, before the numbers ballooned to 1,863 for the 1965 killing year. From there the numbers multiplied. Interestingly, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan produced a similar pattern — 1,570 casualties, combat and non-combat, in the first two years.

“You can’t compare the overall casualties of a 12-year engagement to those of an ongoing two-year engagement. Not yet, anyway. For now, you can only compare those first two years — which makes it look as if Iraq is actually worse for openers.”

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Patrick Casey, Warwick, R.I.: “Sir, you are wrong, on so many different levels. When I read something like you wrote here, I am thankful for two things. First, for the existence of the Internet and other forms of fact checking, so that people like you cannot continue to get away writing this bile. And second, that the country has finally grown up and realized that the damage that writers like you caused us in previous conflicts can no longer be tolerated — we have important work to do while you whine, and so you will tend to be ignored more and more.”

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Russ Harris, Overland, Mo.: “Just curious, are you also an employee of The New York Times? I would expect this sort of weird analysis by someone with a less than tenuous grip on reality from a New York Times employee.”

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David Broatch: “The biggest similarity is both are an occupation by alien troops. Another similarity is the U.S has used WMD: in Indochina it was chemical agents, in Iraq, DU, both killing indiscrimately.”

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