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Iraq — A Second Vietnam?

With Iraq’s occupation not going smoothly, is it becoming another Vietnam? We offer the most compelling opinions.

April 5, 2004

With Iraq's occupation not going smoothly, is it becoming another Vietnam? We offer the most compelling opinions.

It seems that every sizable U.S. military campaign evokes the question whether it will turn into another Vietnam. With U.S.-led forces in Iraq battling insurgents on a daily basis — and mounting casualties and war costs — can the Iraq of 2004 be compared to the Vietnam of the 1960s? We present the most important quotes on whether Iraq is turning into a Vietnam redux.

“Vietnam was a very different war from Iraq — but it too was an invasion. It too suppressed all intelligence warnings that local people might want a change of government — but not one imposed by the West.”
(Simon Jenkins, London Times columnist, April 2003)

“Vietnam will be a children’s toy, a children’s game.”
(Salah Al-Mukhtar, Iraq’s former ambassador to Vietnam, March 2003)

“Unlike LBJ in Vietnam, Bush won’t quit. He’s a different kind of Texan.”
(Richard C. Holbrooke, former U.S. ambassador to the UN, March 2003)

“Not since Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War has an American politician’s ouster been wished for so openly abroad.”
(Jim Hoagland, Washington Post columnist, March 2004)

“There is every reason to believe that the United States will eventually defeat this Baathist-terror counterattack. The guerillas lack the kind of foreign sanctuary or great power patron that the North Vietnamese had.”
(Wall Street Journal editorial, July 2003)

“In its approach to the Muslim world, the United States is repeating the terrible errors that helped to drag it into the debacle of Vietnam: lumping a range of mutually hostile states and forces into one category of enemy — and completely underestimating the importance of nationalism.”
(Anatol Lieven, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, December 2003)

“There are so many cartoons where press people are saying ‘Is it Vietnam yet?’ hoping it is — and wondering if it is. And it isn’t.”
(U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, July 2003)

“Does the United States have the long-term stomach for keeping troops in Iraq, quite possibly in large, even Vietnam-size numbers, for what could easily be a generation, while democracy takes root in a country that has no experience of it whatever?”
(Salman Rushdie, author, November 2002)

“I am sorry for America. You are stuck. You have become a country of the Middle East.”
(Raja Sidawi, Syrian journalist, July 2003)

“The danger now is not that the United States will be drawn into some quagmire à la Vietnam — but that we will show a desire to leave too soon.”
(Wall Street Journal Editorial, September 2003)

“How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”
(U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), 1971)

“We’ve got to get over that rhetoric that we will be in just as long as we need to — and not a day more. It is rubbish. We are going to be there a long time. We must reorganize our military to be there a long time.”
(U.S. Senator Richard G. Lugar (R-IN), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, July 2003)

“If we are to avoid a debate over who “lost” Iraq, as we debated who lost Vietnam a generation ago, we must act urgently to transform our early military success into lasting political victory.”
(U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), November 2003)

“As the general staff gets older, the men with Vietnam experience are fading away.”
(Brian Williams, CNBC News anchor, July 2003)

“The war in Vietnam was sold to a skeptical American public as another battle for freedom — and it led the republic into defeat and disgrace.”
(Michael Ignatieff, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, January 2003)

“This was exactly what happened during the Vietnam war days when we were labeled as anti-American — and we don’t want that to be repeated.”
(Medea Benjamin, founding director of the San Francisco-based advocacy group Global Exchange, April 2003)

“Especially as casualties mount, as they very well may, Mr. Bush has to explain why Americans are still fighting and dying in Iraq.”
(Wall Street Journal editorial, July 2003)

“Vietnam taught that Rule 1 of getting involved in foreign civil wars is famously and simply: Don’t.”
(Jim Hoagland, Washington Post columnist, March 2004)