View From Lodi, CA: Memorial Day Musings On Vietnam And Iraq


Last Sunday, I watched the HBO
documentary

Baghdad, E.R
.,
filmed on location at the 86th
Combat Support Hospital in Iraq.

I watched it for about twenty
minutes, that is. And I wish I hadn`t.

Director Matt O`Neil said he wanted
to show the "true cost of war."

And co-director Jon Alpert added:

"I`ve
seen a lot of people die, I`ve seen a lot of suffering,
but I never saw anybody get their arm cut off before.
And in the first two days we were there we probably
witnessed four or five amputations. You`ve got to be
made out of bricks and cement not to be effected when
you see them taking out a saw and hacking somebody`s
just-smithereened arm up like they`re cutting the limb
off of a tree."
[HBO:
Baghdad ER – Interviews
]

Memorial Day 2006 is a sad day for
me. I think back to that painful period during the
early-1970s when the nation knew that the futile Vietnam
War would grind on for several more years.

Only one thing is clear about

Iraq
.

George W. Bush
will

keep troops
there until he leaves office. And
depending on who the next president is and just how bad
things are in Iraq in January 2009, U.S. soldiers may
stay well into the next decade.

The British government, more honest
than its American equivalent, admitted that troops will
be in

Iraq
until 2010, at least.

The United Kingdom`s daily
Telegraph
reporter Thomas Harding notes that by 2010
British soldiers will have "almost double the amount
of time their forefathers stayed in the trenches of the
Western Front
." [Home
By Christmas? Make That 2010, At Least
, Thomas
Harding, Telegraph, May 23, 2006]

And if the British are in Iraq
until the next decade, you can be sure the U.S. will be
there too.

And for what reason other than to
satisfy the whim of the arrogant and misguided Bush?

On May 20, the Baghdad parliament approved Iraq`s new
unity government.

Underlining how far security has declined since the
Iraqi parliament was elected five months ago, a series
of attacks earlier this week killed 38 people and
wounded dozens. Police also found the bodies of 21
Iraqis who had been kidnapped and tortured by death
squads in and around Baghdad.

Total U.S.

dead and wounded
as of May 25th are 2,459
and 17,867 respectively

Iraq`s new Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, said his
priority is to establish "stability and security."
That will be quite a trick if he can pull it
off—especially without ministers of defense and
interior, two of Iraq`s most important, yet unfilled,
positions.

Bush presses on against all logic. In an address to
the National Restaurant Association convention in

Chicago
earlier this week, Bush again predicted
victory.

And as for the new Iraqi government,

Bush said
, "Its formation marks a victory for the
cause of freedom in the Middle East."

Despite huge differences between Iraq and

Vietnam
, eerie similarities exist.

When Bush,

Vice President Dick Cheney
and

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
insisted that
the Iraqi insurgents are in their "last gasp," "on
the ropes
," and "breathing their last breaths,"
I heard the echo of

General William Westmoreland
who boasted as early as
1968 that he saw the "light
at the end of the tunnel
" in Vietnam.

The war continued for seven years.

Even more frightening are the parallels in the
staggering incompetence of the two administrations:
compare the bull-headedness of President Lyndon Johnson
and his

Defense Secretary Robert McNamara
to Bush and
Rumsfeld.

But Iraq is not Vietnam…we are fighting with an
all-volunteer army and the casualty rate, so far, is
lower.

I have written critically about Bush and the

Iraq War
since it began in 2003.

During those three years, I have made two central
points: wars against insurgents cannot be won and it is
not possible to restructure political, social and
economic institutions in non-democratic countries.

We didn`t do it in Vietnam and we will not do it in

Iraq
.

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the


Lodi News-Sentinel
.