In late April, 1975, Vietnam veterans stared in horror at their TVs as the army of North Vietnam swept toward Saigon. The “peace with honor” that former President Richard M. Nixon had claimed to fashion had lasted no more than two years.
American news media captured the appalling sight of United States military and Intelligence personnel being frantically airlifted by helicopter from the roof of the American embassy.
Americans’ scrambling to evacuate Vietnam
The eight-year war had cost $600 billion and the lives of more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen. Suddenly, before the eyes of American TV viewers, the longest and most divisive war in United States history was ending in shame.
And now, it’s deja vu all over again.
From 2003 to 2011, the war in Iraq cost the United States $2 trillion and the lives of 4,484 servicemen.
America completed its military withdrawal from Iraq in December, 2011. And now, less than two years later, Iraq seems about to self-destruct in religious civil war.
But there is far more to the United States’ tortured intervention in Iraq than most Americans know. Or than Republicans want to admit.
There is, in fact, a dark historical parallel to the events leading up to the Iraq war. A parallel that has its roots in Nazi Germany.
When Germany’s Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler, decided to invade Poland in 1939, he refused to consider any efforts to avert a conflict: “I want war. I am the one who will wage war.”
Despite frantic efforts by the French and British governments to resolve the crisis that Hitler had deliberately provoked, he refused all offers of compromise.
“I am only afraid,” Hitler told his generals at a military conference on August 22, 1939, “that some Schweinehund [pig dog] will make a proposal for mediation.”
GEORGE W. BUSH
Similarly, Bush made it clear to his closest aides that he sought a pretext for invading Iraq.
On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush held a private meeting with Richard Clarke, the counter-terrorism advisor to the National Security Council.
“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything,” said Bush. “See if Saddam did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”
Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al Qaeda did this.”
“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”
On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.
“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.
Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.
Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”-–not Iraq.
On September 22, 2001, Bush received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.
The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda.
Yet on November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.
Adolf Hitler knew that Poland’s government could never accept his demands for the Polish city of Danzig.
GEORGE W. BUSH
So, too, did George W. Bush make a demand he knew could never be accepted. On the eve of launching war on Iraq, Bush issued a humiliating ultimatum to Saddam Hussein:
“Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours. Their refusal to do so will result in military conflict, commenced at a time of our choosing.”
Hitler never regretted his decision to invade Poland. Only hours before committing suicide in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945, he asserted in his “final political testatment”: “It is untrue that I or anyone else in Germany wanted war in 1939.”
GEORGE W. BUSH
Similarly, Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq, which occurred on March 19, 2003. In his 2010 memoirs, Decision Points, he wrote:
“For all the difficulties that followed, America is safer without a homicidal dictator pursuing WMD and supporting terror at the heart of the Middle East.”
And in an interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer on November 8, 2010, Bush again sought to justify his decision to go to war:
LAUER: Was there ever any consideration of apologizing to the American people?
BUSH: I mean, apologizing would basically say the decision was a wrong decision, and I don’t believe it was a wrong decision.
On September 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler announced his attack on Poland before Germany’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Reichstag.
Hitler–a decorated World War I veteran–said: “I am from now on just first soldier of the German Reich. I have once more put on that coat that was the most sacred and dear to me.”
GEORGE W. BUSH
On May 1, 2003, Bush–who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard-–donned a flight suit and landed a Navy jet aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.
A banner titled “Mission Accomplished” was displayed on the aircraft carrier as Bush announced–wrongly–that the war was over.
The effect–and intent–was to portray Bush as the triumphant warrior-chieftan he never was.