Opinion | Columnists

Bush knows no history

Last Wednesday, speaking before a Veterans of Foreign Wars audience, President George W. Bush did something he had previously tried to avoid: He compared the Iraq war with the Vietnam War.

  • By Manal Alafrangi, Staff Writer
  • Published: 23:06 August 27, 2007
  • Gulf News

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Last Wednesday, speaking before a Veterans of Foreign Wars audience, President George W. Bush did something he had previously tried to avoid: He compared the Iraq war with the Vietnam War.

Bush alleged, "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,' 're-education camps' and 'killing fields'."

As a side note, these "killing fields" Bush speaks of were facilitated by his own government. It was their illegal "accidental" bombings in Cambodia which facilitated the Khmer Rouge's rise to power. In fact, it was the Vietnamese who eventually brought peace to Cambodia by toppling prime minister Pol Pot.

I question Bush's understanding of historical causation. He attributes innocent civilian's suffering to the US withdrawal but what about their suffering as a direct result of the US war or even the prolongation of the war itself?

Even by his standards, Bush's speech was barely credible. Yes there were millions of deaths in South East Asia, but they were largely caused by the US. The US did not withdraw prematurely from Vietnam. Anyone who took history 101 can recall that the US military was defeated.

For most Americans, and the rest of civilisation, the lessons of Vietnam were obvious prior to Iraq's invasion and if anything, they have been reinforced, albeit painfully, by the ongoing occupation of Iraq. Was Bush suggesting that the US should have remained in Vietnam for another decade or so? Would that have guaranteed a US friendly government left behind?

The reality is, Bush's analogies do not stand the test of logic and truth. Here are some lessons Bush, who escaped serving his country in the war, should have learned from the Vietnam experience: fighting needless wars is wrong, fighting wars based on lies will never be acceptable, nationalism is a strong force, and most importantly, military might does not guarantee winning.

Rudimentary knowledge

On the other hand, one can't help but wonder, how is a nation of Americans who have a rudimentary knowledge of history supposed to make intelligent judgments when it comes to Bush's grand claims? This is a direct consequence of the US's flawed educational system whereby history is a subject often ignored. I experienced this first hand when my history teacher actually skipped the chapter on Vietnam - saying there was not enough time to cover it. As students, we thought otherwise.

But back to Bush. In a way, he is seeking to corner the American people by shaming them into supporting a continuation of the war using Japan, Korea and Vietnam as references - until a Democrat occupies the White House and takes the blame. Bush is meddling with American patriotism and using mechanisms of pride and fear to strengthen the waning support for the war on Iraq.

The conclusion he should have drawn from Vietnam is that the US's involvement actually extended the conflict and most alarmingly increased the number of casualties. And lest we forget, the US was directly responsible for the region's destablisation. Iraq will suffer a similar fate in terms of an increasing death toll should American occupation continue.

Moreover, Bush should have learned that civil disputes are best settled by the people in those countries and not by a foreign hegemonic superpower.

Bush's speech on Iraq was obviously aimed at sceptics ahead of next month's report on progress in Iraq which will be provided by their US commander General David Petraeus. The US should rethink its approach in Iraq not because of what is happening on the American landscape (White House vs Congress) but because of what is happening inside Iraq.

The sad reality is, the catastrophic consequences of the Iraq invasion will continue to roll out for some time. One only has to look at the impact this has had on Western-Arab relations to see how poisonous this invasion and ongoing occupation has been.

Finally, it seems prudent to point out that without a reasonable grasp of history and its paramount impact on shaping people's perspective, it will always be easy for politicians such as Bush (with the right team of speech writers) to turn fiction into seemingly thoughtful reflections. Bush's references are enough to make any history teacher rage with anger.



Your comments


Bottom Line. G.W. Bush is a shameless unfit person occupying the chair and the world is made to suffer. Judgement: He should be not only thrown out but kicked out
Sulaiman
Dubai,UAE
Posted: August 28, 2007, 14:24

Well, honestly I totally agree with you on the above points. Mr. Bush was always known to make 'stupid' comments in the past also. It never made sense to me how the seemingly intelligent people re-elected him considering the fact that he proved to be incapable of such a position the first time around. And as for Iraq, it's an open secret that the oil fields were the first aim of the Iraq invasion and now the billions of dollars that America is lending to Iraq for rebuilding the infrastructure.
Riju
Dubai,UAE
Posted: August 28, 2007, 14:10

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