Saturday, November 20, 2004

Op-Ed, Today/
November 22, 2004

Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, Winston Churchill once said. Most times he will pick himself up and carry on.

"The more forces United States imperialism throws into Asia," the Chinese government paper People's Daily wrote in 1966," the more will it be bogged down there and the deeper will be the grave it digs for itself."

What's another name for Asia? Hmmm. The Middle East? Close. Use 'bog' in a sentence: "While we'll try to find every snake in the swamp," said US Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz on September 27, 2001, "the essence of the strategy is draining the swamp." Aha!

Contestant Sheikh Abdullah Janabi, use "swamp" in a sentence. Janabi: "It is only the beginning, from a military point of view . . . We have succeeded in drawing [the Americans] into the quagmire of Fallujah."[1] The Iraqi Sunni cleric's a show-off.

The enemy "cannot drive us out of Indochina," said Sen. J. William Fulbright, Chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on April 2, 1970. "But they can force on us the choice of either plunging in altogether or getting out altogether."[2] Aha.

What's another word for Iraq? Shiites in the Baghdad slum of Sadr City were writing it on their walls last June: "Vietnam Street." "This is called Vietnam Street," the Shiites explained, "because this is where we kill Americans."[3]

No, no, no! said Bush the Elder, who exulted at the time of the first American Gulf War: "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome!" Really, Daddykins.

"We're certainly encountering very similar insurgency practices, methods, techniques, tactics, a mind-set that we did see in Indochina," said Michael Ware, the Baghdad bureau chief of Time Magazine. "Something that resonates with me to this day is interviews I've done with senior insurgent leaders, the upper echelons. And they talk to me about reading Vo Nguyen Giap, the Vietnamese general. They talk to me about reading Che Guevara, Mao Zedong . . . They're bringing it straight from the Vietnam and the broader insurgency playbook."[4]

Jim Krane of the Associated Press: "The ominous thumping of American helicopters roaring over Baghdad's rooftops is becoming as emblematic of this war as it was of Vietnam."[5]

But it isn't all verbatim Indochina; nothing is always exactly the same.

"In Vietnam, the Americans destroyed the village to save it. In Iraq we destroy the city to save it," wrote Simon Jenkins of the British Sunday Times in reference to America's second assault on Fallujah.[6] "The occupying force is entombed in bases it can barely defend or supply. Occasional patrols are target practice for terrorists. Iraq is a desert in which the Americans and British rule nothing but their forts, like the French Foreign Legion in the Sahara."

Here's Hannah Allam of Knight Ridder Newspapers writing from Iraq: "The hotel has become a prison, and every foray outside its fortified gates is tinged with anxiety about returning in one piece. Baghdad has never been tougher for journalists . . . Even a jaunt to the grocery store is a meticulously planned affair. Do you have a radio? A flak vest? A second car to watch for kidnappers?"[7]

"The United States is bringing 'democracy' to Iraq on the same terms that the Russians imposed its federal mandate on Chechnya, a region which has Iraq's future written in its rubble," wrote US intellectual Alexander Cockburn.[8] Accurate words, as far as US Capt. Joe Jasper, a spokesman for the 1st Marine Brigade, is concerned. "The only way to stomp out the insurgency of the mind," said Capt. Jasper after America's failed attack on Fallujah in April, "would be to kill the entire population."[9]

And the outcome of the second Fallujah assault? The Iraqi Red Crescent Society, which is supported by the Red Cross and UNICEF, called the situation in Fallujah "a big disaster."

"No one can say how many of the 1,200 'rebels' U.S. forces claim to have killed inside Fallujah are civilians, or whether the death toll is higher," reported Dahr Jamail from Iraq on November 15.[10] The next day, Jamail wrote: "The [US] military stopped the Red Crescent at the gates of the city and are not allowing them in. They allowed some bodies to be buried, but others are being eaten by dogs and cats in the streets."[11]

All this for what? The attack on Fallujah, wrote Jim Hoagland of the Washington Post, will "clear the way" for elections to take place in Iraq. Great.

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant, said Tacitus once upon a time. They made a wasteland and called it peace. In Iraq, the esteemed author Jonathan Schell reminds us, "it was left to the United States to update the formula: They made a wasteland and called it democracy."[12]

[1] "Troops move to quell insurgency in Mosul," Anthony Shadid, Washington Post, November 16, 2004. Many thanks again to Tom Engelhardt for the recent series of pieces on Iraq in that said more and bled more. Tom's site remains a top go-to site for the latest news and keen analysis.
[2] From "The war spreads," Harry Magdoff and Paul Sweezy, Monthly Review, May 1970, quoted in "Is Iraq another Vietnam?" The Editors, Monthly Review, Vol. 56, No. 2, June 2004.
[3] "Draining the swamp," Tom Engelhardt,, November 19, 2004.
[4] Transcript of Michael Ware interview, in Hardball with Chris Matthews, MSNBC TV, November 16, 2004.
[5] Tomgram: Dilip Hiro, on the eve of the invasion of Falluja, Tom Engelhardt,, November 7, 2004.
[6] "A wrecked nation, a desert, a ghost town. And this will be called victory," Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times-UK, November 17, 2004.
[7] "Draining the swamp," Tom Engelhardt.
[8] "Let them drink sand," Alexander Cockburn,, November 13/14, 2004.
"Sovereignty: 'If they want it that bad, they can have it!'" Tom Engelhardt,, July 25, 2004.
[10] "The other face of U.S. 'success' in Fallujah," Dahr Jamail, Znet, November 15, 2004.
[11] "Dogs eating bodies in Fallujah," Dahr Jamail, November 16, 2004, ZNet.
[12] "What Happened to hearts?" Jonathan Schell,, November 17, 2004.

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