The relationship between the United States and Iraq has become dangerously similar to the one that existed between America and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.
From 1955 to 1963, the United States backed Ngo Dinh Diem as the “president” of South Vietnam. During those eight years:
- Diem was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
- The Shiite-dominated government of Iraq refuses to grant political concessions to alienated Sunnis.
- Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
- The Iraqi government controls little outside of Baghdad.
- Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
- Neither does the government in Baghdad.
Ngo Dinh Diem
- Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
- Ditto for the leaders of the Iraqi government.
- American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
- American soldiers have were sent to Iraq because America fears Islamic terrorism.
- American troops were ordered to train the South Vietnamese army to defend themselves against Communism.
- American troops were ordered to train the Iraqi army to defend themselves against terrorism.
- Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
- Americans–such as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter–have determined that the Iraqi army is worthless. Yet many Americans on the Right believe the United States should commit American ground troops to fight ISIS in its place.
American soldiers in Vietnam
- The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fought to unify their country–and posed no threat to the United States.
- ISIS is warring on Shiite Muslims–and poses no direct threat to the United States.
- The far Right embraced the Vietnam war to assert American power in Asia.
- The far Right embraces the Iraqi war to assert American power in the Middle East.
- Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
- Americans entered Iraq without an exit strategy.
American soldiers in Iraq
The United States’ relationship with Diem ended on November 1, 1963. A coup led by generals of the South Vietnamese army ousted–and murdered–Diem.
But America continued to support successive and incompetent South Vietnamese dictatorships up to the end of the war in 1973.
Americans have been at war with Islamic expansionists since 2001. But Republicans and their Rightist supporters want more of the same.
Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, has stated: “We face a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists, and we are in the early stages of this struggle.”
And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared: “No wonder we’re not intimidating our adversaries and they’re running around wild in the world, because they know we’re not investing in our defense anymore.”
As political commentator Mark Shields said on the May 22 edition of The PBS Newshour:
“Rick Perry has said–wants boots on the ground. Other Republicans have said they want boots on the ground, but they don’t necessarily have to be American boots. They should be Arab boots.
“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….
“[Republicans are saying] Get tough, get tough, swagger; 10,000 troops….
“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.”
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Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their South Vietnamese “allies” as American troops now feel about their Iraqi “allies.”
Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed it up as follows:
American surgical team in Vietnam
“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.
“The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.
“The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].
“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].
“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.
When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.
President Obama should recognize this–and start shipping those troops home. And he should explain to Americans that a war among Islamics is actually in America’s best interests:
- While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.
- Every dead Hezbollah, ISIS and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.
- The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them. In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.
- This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.
When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”
That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other. Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.