According to President Bush, leaving Iraq now would provoke the kind of horrendous bloodbath that followed U.S. withdrawals from Vietnam and Cambodia.
"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like boat people, reeducation camps and killing fields," Bush told the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Kansas City, adding that exiting Vietnam in 1975 provided fodder for future terrorists like Osama bin Laden to cite the U.S. as losers who cut and run.
Predictably Bush's opponents went nuts over his view of history. Even David Gergen, while recognizing Vietnamese atrocities, notes that Vietnam eventually turned into a vibrant country which is what we supposedly hope for Iraq.
The Vietnam comparison is something Bush has avoided -- until now. But, since he's opened that door, let's go there.
We started in Vietnam small. Our military presence increased. So did our casualty count. We found ourselves quagmired in a country where many didn't want us there and opposition to the war at home increased. We didn't know how to fight an enemy that often couldn't be seen and whose agenda didn't fit what we typically understood. Further, we sacraficed American lives by fighting a war with our troops having one hand tied behind their backs.
Over 58,000 Americans lost their lives in Vietnam fighting a war that we entered for a noble reason but stayed in far too long. Our death count in Iraq is still a fraction of the Vietnam total but it's mounting.
We took Saddam Hussein out. But we can't stop the Iraqi civil war nor should we. It's a no-win situation. Meanwhile, we are undercommitted elsewhere and still haven't found Osama Bin Laden.
Many people have said that Iraq will be Bush's Vietnam. They're not far from the mark.
So, when our president wants to start comparing Iraq to Vietnam, I say "bring it on" because, as the old saying goes, if you fail to heed the lessons of history, you are indeed condemned to repeat them.