by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - November 21, 2005) The many deceits and blunders of Bush and his neocon cohorts have turned the public against them and their policies. They regularly receive bleaker and bleaker tidings as poll after poll reports that their support keeps dropping and dropping. With the Iraq war going badly, many establishment critics -- Brent Scowcroft, Melvin Laird, Zbigniew Brzezinski, General William Odom (ret.), to name just a few -- are making their voices heard as anti-war sentiment keeps building. Although no active campaign or publicity has proposed impeachment, according to a Zogby poll, a majority of the public favors such an action. To reverse their declining prospects will they wind the war down?
The Vietnam experience might provide some insight to the current situation. The Tet offensive, like Cindy Sheehan's quest for an explanation of Bush's "noble cause," turned the tables against that war. No longer would the public buy "light at the end of the tunnel."
Many establishment figures came out against the war. The media and even the business community began expressing doubts. A crestfallen Lyndon Johnson agreed to a peace conference and decided to bow out of politics. A quick end to the war was expected.
But many powerful elite forces were not quite ready. The military-industrial complex had to grab every last buck before they were willing to call it quits. Eugene McCarthy, a real threat to pull the plug, was too dangerous to be given the reins of power so his primary campaign ran out of gas. The remaining contenders, obedient patsies, could be relied on to stretch it out.
Tricky Dick's campaign featured a secret plan to end the war. To insure that the pending peace talks would fail, he secretly persuaded General Thieu of South Vietnam to reject any proposed treaty. How? By promising him a better deal if he, Nixon, was elected president. His wily tactics corralled just enough votes to squeak through.
He had no secret deal for ending the war but to make continuation more palatable, "Vietnamization" -- a scheme to reduce the monthly American casualty numbers and to slowly withdraw the troops from combat -- was launched. The Vietcong body counts, still at a high level, were produced by the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) and the US Air Force. The secret plan lasted through Nixon's four years of his first administration. During that time the war expanded beyond the borders of Vietnam to Laos and Cambodia. The number of innocent civilian casualties of all three countries soared. And although American casualties were kept down the cumulative total for the four years was over fifteen thousand deaths. Anti-war protests continued, expanded, and frequently turned violent but the administration was determined to stay and the war raged on.
It finally ended when Nixon planned his reelection strategy. The U.S. accepted a peace treaty not much different than what had been sabotaged four years previously. Did the war end so Nixon could insure his reelection? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Polls showed him well ahead of his rival, George McGovern. I suspect the real reason was the complete deterioration of the fighting forces. Wholesale desertions, drug addiction, fraggings, and mutiny incapacitated the military! Continuation of the war became impossible. Like many government screw ups and deceptions this intolerable predicament has been effectively covered up.
Like Vietnam, a surging anti-war movement will not deter the power elite from maintaining the war in Iraq. There are more incentives in the Middle East than there were in Vietnam. In addition to the everlasting desire of the military-industrial complex to keep wars going and their profits soaring there is the prospect of controlling substantial reserves of black gold -- an asset becoming extremely precious with peak oil now imminent.
Bush, who has served the elite so well might have to be sacrificed. His effectiveness has been lost. A new cast of characters will be brought in. Like Nixon, who took over after Johnson, the new puppet might profess opposition to war for public consumption but he will find excuses to remain. The Democrats, the supposedly opposition party, has no national figure who asserts that the war should end promptly.
Today's gullibles will be convinced that the benevolent U.S. must remain to prevent a civil war. The U.S. is obligated to stay. Our presence caused some problems. We have to correct them. We can't leave until conditions have stabilized.
This is just more craparoo. The U.S. hurriedly hustled out of Vietnam and abandoned its obligations to its erstwhile allies the South Vietnamese when the ARVN collapsed. The distressing consequences, which were predicted if America did not prevail, did not occur. Dominoes did not fall in Southeast Asia. San Francisco was not invaded.
The merciless actions of the US war left poor Vietnam in miserable condition. More ordnance pulverized that little country than was dropped over Europe and the South Pacific in WWII; millions were killed and wounded; Agent Orange defoliated 40 percent of South Vietnamese soil; yet the Vietnamese survived without assistance from the U.S. and they wanted none. They fought Japan, they fought France, and they fought the U.S. They wanted all of them out, OUT, OUT! They were able to solve their own problems.
Vietnam was promised reparations under the Paris peace treaty but none were ever paid. Today, over thirty years since the war's end, the horrendous effects of Agent Orange are still being felt. The toxic chemical is still present in soil, water, animals, and parents; the soil in South Vietnam remains barren; children of the third generation, if they survive, live with ghastly birth defects. Yet the Vietnamese, although still poor and struggling, have overcome this disaster and today their economy is one of the fastest growing in the world.
The people of Iraq are intelligent. Their civilization predates most in the world. They were the most educated and advanced in the Middle East prior to Saddam's wartime debacles. They are certainly as capable as the Vietnamese at resolving their problems. The various ethnic groups lived harmoniously until the U.S., with the ulterior motive of an imperial power to divide and conquer, occupied their country. So long as the occupation continues friction will increase.
If the military-industrial complex can keep raking in the dough, and Halliburton and other favorites can get contracts, the war and occupation will continue. More GIs and innocent Iraqis will die or be maimed.
Bizarre as it may seem, deceitful justifications for a Syrian and an Iranian war are emerging. Only when the military finds it impossible to accomplish its mission will the war end. What happened in Vietnam may, and if the fighting lasts long enough will, happen again. The symptoms of an ineffective military already exist. The military is extremely short handed. Reservists and the National Guard must be activated. Their tours of duty are being extended. Troops whose enlistment is up are held over (stop loss). Reenlistment numbers are falling. Recruiters are unable to meet diminished quotas. Morale of the troops is low.
The growing peace movement at home is being reflected by the GIs as the home culture permeates the military as well. Disgusted veterans of the Iraq war have formed an organization, Iraq Veterans Against the War, whose members disclose the horrors of the war and the dissatisfactions of the GIs. Claims for Conscientious Objector status, suicides, desertions, AWOLs, sufferers of post traumatic stress disorder, are all signs of what is undermining the US military.
Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, alluded to this problem in his recent well-reported speech. He said:
. . . my army right now is truly in bad shape - truly in bad shape. . . when you have officers who have to hedge the truth, NCOs who have to hedge the truth. They start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam, my war. They come home and they tell their wife they've got to go back for the third tour and the fourth tour and the wife says, uh-uh, or the husband says, uh-uh, and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel. And the signs are very concrete right now that the Army and the Marine Corps -- to a lesser extent the other services because they're not quite as involved in the deployments that we're talking about here and the frequency thereof, the op tempo as we say it -- problems are brewing. Problems are brewing.
With the problems that are indeed brewing, both within the military and within the administration, how much longer will this war last? We must continue to do all we can to hasten its demise.