No, Iraq Is Not At All Like Vietnam

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - October 19, 2005
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In a recent daily newspaper article, “In Iraq, echoes of Vietnam” Stephen O’Harrow draws “10 points of comparison” between the current war against the Islamic jihadists in Iraq and the war against Communist aggression in Vietnam. O’Harrow’s political orientation is obvious by his choice of rhetoric in describing our effort in Iraq: “foolish enterprise ... precipitously invaded ... foolish beyond belief ... naive, solipsistic, and arrogant ... uninformed and incompetent ... hawkish ... conceit of the Bush administration ... greatest single blunder in our national history.”

You get the idea. Unfortunately, like most anti-Bushees, he lets his emotion - and frustration with impending success in Iraq - get the best of his logic.


As the “coordinator of the Program in Vietnamese at UH Manoa, O’Harrow should have a better grasp of the Vietnam conflict, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Everyone of his 10 “comparisons” are arguable on reasonable grounds both from the perspective of Vietnam and that of Iraq. Just a couple of examples:

* Both Vietnam and Iraq were/are civil wars. North Vietnam and South Vietnam were separate countries with distinctly separate governments and militaries based upon distinctly separate ideologies. They were made so by the Geneva Convention of 1954, and were recognized as such by the international community - just like North and South Korea, and East and West Germany. The Communists in the North infiltrated the Viet Cong into the South and ultimately invaded with regular troops; a clear act of aggression upon a sovereign, democratic nation, and not a civil war. In Iraq there has always been conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, and probably always will be at some level. But the situation in Iraq today is being driven primarily by outside forces enlisted by alQaida and abetted by Iran and Syria. A nation at “civil war” does not come together to draft a constitution governing all sides.

* O’Harrow naively cites the fact that so many people in Saigon had NLF (Viet Cong) flags to fly as the Communists marched into the city, citing this as evidence of popular support for the Communists. Well, duh! The Saigonese knew their bread was about to be buttered on the other side, and a VC flag on hand was good insurance from landing in a “re-education” camp. In Iraq there is no popular support for the jihadists. Even though the Iraqis are understandably eager for the U.S. to withdraw, poll after poll indicate they support our presence until they can defend themselves.

I could go on, but so go O’Harrow’s “comparisons.”

But the most glaring deficiency in O’Harrow’s analysis is his disregard for the 800-pound gorilla in the living room - the chasmic difference between Vietnam and Iraq. Vietnam was an elective war. The ultimate loss of Vietnam to the Communists, although devastating to our national psyche at the time, did not cause the demise of the United States of America. Iraq is a necessary war, a war thrust upon us by 25 years of fanatical Islamic fundamentalist attacks on Americans all over the globe, and culminating in the attacks on our own soil on Sept. 11, 2001. This time we are fighting for our national survival. Victory is imperative.


Although not totally obvious upon our initial invasion of Iraq, it is now clear it was the right thing to do, not only morally - to overthrow an evil tyrant - but also strategically, to dictate to our enemy the time and place of battle. From recent intercepts of alQaida’s Ayman al-Zawahri to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, we know they have taken the bait, making Iraq the centerpiece for the conquest of the entire Middle East, culminating in the irradication of Israel and a continued assault on the non-Islamic West.

And here’s the most significant comparison between Vietnam and Iraq - totally ignored by Mr. O’Harrow: They are counting on us to cut and run from Iraq just as we did from Vietnam. Every suicidal murder and every IED is directed not only at the Iraqis and American troops, but just as importantly at you and me here in America. It is our faith, and determination to see it through to victory, that the jihadists seek to destroy. They really believe that just as the Communists won Vietnam “in the streets of America,” they can win Iraq the same way.

I have no doubt that Stephen O’Harrow is a good man, concerned - as he points out - about the future of his children and grandchildren, just as I am.

And although I have fought for his freedom to think and write as he pleases, he must accept responsibility for the comfort and encouragement his defeatist rhetoric provides to all who would have us simply go belly up at Armageddon, especially to the al-Zawahris and al-Zarqawis of the nether world.

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