By Garrett Downing
As the war in Iraq rages on, it has become apparent that the current conflict is beginning to look more like Vietnam. Recently, the Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean has ratcheted up his rhetoric toward the war. Dean maintains that Iraq is another Vietnam and we should begin pulling troops out. There are several reasons why he might be right.
When the U.S. began its “war on terror,” our military troops should have fought with Al Qaeda in the hills of Afghanistan and not in the cities of Iraq. Because the current Administration manipulated intelligence information, we are now embroiled in a situation that has no win in sight.
As the U.S. body count climbs every week, it is easy to see the similarities to Vietnam. Much like the claims made in Vietnam about “having the enemy on the ropes” or “winning the hearts and minds,” these statements just hide what is really going on in Iraq the tremendous loss of human life. Today the current U.S. casualty count is at about 2,130 deaths. Some apologists may dismiss this number as low, but considering what we have accomplished there so far, this figure is extremely high. Just ask Cindy Sheehan, a political activist who lost her son in the war.
Innocent Iraqi civilians have also perished by the thousands. Under the appearance of fighting the “war on terror,” the U.S. has managed to kill thousands of Iraqi civilians, which is possibly between 27,368 and 30,877. How does a country that preaches about human rights violations to China or North Korea turn a blind eye to the thousands that have been killed from stray bombs are trigger happy soldiers and commanders?
Moreover, the War in Iraq has also economic implications. The U.S. is spending five billion dollars a month on the “war on terror,” adjusted for inflation this figure is the same dollar amount spent fighting in Vietnam.
The parallels to the Vietnam War don’t just end with the loss of life and the money being spent. Like Vietnam, Iraq is unnecessary and has destroyed U.S credibility in the international community. Right after September 11, most countries in the world, including the European Union and some Middle Eastern countries, were willing to accept our leadership on issues related to terrorism. However, after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, these same countries have turned their backs upon us. In fact, many European countries consider the U.S. as a major threat to world peace, more so than Al Qaeda.
Unfortunately, most Americans weren’t able to analyze the complexity of the war prior to the invasion. This inability to question the President and his administration has resulted in attacks upon our democracy by labeling dissent as “un-American.” These tactics simply eroded the fabric of our democracy, which is what we are proclaiming to be in pursuit of in Iraq.
Also, what I find so appalling in the President, his administration and many right-wing iconoclasts is their level of hypocrisy. They usually preach about sacrifice, duty and fighting for freedom, but their commitment to war doesn’t extend to themselves or their immediate family. Dick Cheney, for instance, flatly avoided military service, and President Bush used his family ties to stay away from military engagement in Vietnam. I haven’t heard anybody from the Bush family fighting in Iraq today.
In any event, had the war in Iraq drafted men and women from a cross-section of America rather than burdening primarily those from the inner city and the heartland, the true burden of the costs of war would be shared by all.
Our policy in Iraq should find a different direction. We have already suffered too many casualties, and we don’t know yet the real impact of the war on our economy. Maybe, as Dean said, it’s time to pull our troops.
Garrett Downing is a student at California State University, San Marcos