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August 23, 2007


I agree with almost all of this. One caveat: I think you may be misreading what Bush said about The Quiet American; I understood him to be saying
a) Graham Greene argued that idealistic intervention abroad is naive and destructive
b) Many people agreed with him as to Vietnam
c) That was a mistake
d) It would be a mistake now.

I.e., he's not agreeing with Greene and comparing opponents of war to Pyle, he's disagreeing with Greene and comparing himself to Pyle as Pyle would have been had Greene been a real patriot.

I think.

The wonder of it is that he's making the literary argument at all. It's like watching a bear try to waltz.

I'll add one further criticism of the speech: Bush continues to conflate all Ay-rabs, or all Moslems, together. The speech begins with invoking holy 9-11, later Bush quotes Osama bin Laden as his authority on what Iraq means to his movement (because our enemies never, ever lie about what matters to them in order to divert our attention, heavens, no), and Bush talks several times about "the Enemy," making it clear that he means a single entity that both (a) attacked us on 9-11, and (b) is fighting us now in Iraq. You and others here have gone into depth about why this is a remarkably stupid or mendacious way of viewing our two conflicts, so I won't repeat it here, I'll just point out that, several years in, he's still up to the same dumb trick.

I don't think you can call it a dumb trick, since it's served him so well for so long. Whatever he says, no matter how detached from reality, instantly becomes the default frame for debate, not least because the news media report the speeches with straight faces. Only a few commentators point out that what Bush says runs a narrow gamut between "factually incorrect" and "total fantasy."

Small case in point: the Bush Administration, and the MSM, trumpet military victories over AQI, and what a great step forward it is that AQI is losing support among Iraqis. I don't think anyone in the MSM has pointed out that AQI wasn't in Iraq at all before the war; or, indeed, that the only reason AQI gained a foothold in Iraq was because of the war (turning Iraq into "terrorist flypaper" was, recall, one of the stated goals of the war). But we will be told that beating back AQI is one proof that the escalation has "worked."

NPR played a part of his speech the next day, and a bit from a new astroturf group called "Freedom's Watch". In both Bush's speech and the ad, they linked Iraq and Saddam and Al Queda. Even though that's completely and totally false.

And none of the people on NPR mentioned that the President or this new multi-million dollar ad campaign that was being run were completely false.

I believe it was mid-2003 when we were first told that we had "turned a corner" in Iraq.

Four years later, the message is the same: how dare you talk about withdrawal now, just as we're starting to make progress?

It's so sickening to me. People are dying as we keep going through this routine, over and over again. I don't understand how no one who matters seems to be able to call an end to this revolting game.

Of all the Bush gang's stupid rhetorical devices, the most annoying is "the troops". These mythical beings do not bleed, as soldiers do, they merely "take casualties". Anyone who opposes sending them off to be shot at does not "support" them, because of course "the troops" are all in favor of "the mission". In Dubya's mythology, "our men and women in uniform" are gung-ho to "win" in Iraq, and we must indulge their youthful exuberance. They would practically mutiny, if ordered to come home.

Of anyone who employs (or falls for)this barely-subliminal crap I would ask:

"What support do I owe to the troops if this war (or any war) is _their_ idea?"

Can I just say here and now that I DON'T support the troops' politics? I wish our soldiers all the best, I hope they succeed, I don't want them dead, but I don't think any of that obliges me to agree with them. Most of them DO support the war, AFAICT. Most of them are also Protestant, and I hear tell that a lot of them think well of rap music. I don't think I have to agree with them on any of this.

Nice to learn that North Korea is a propsperous democracy as a result of US actions. I guess it is also a model that the US should follow. [/snark]
Japan may be prosperous but the "democracy" has more in common with what the GOP has in mind for the US, an one-party state in all but name and real problems to honestly deal with its own history (I think the US had a hand in both but is not solely responsible).
And concerning the "lack of will", that theory has been discredited at least since WW1. But I guess [snark]Rummy would welcome the old Russian economical tactic of arming only a third of the infantrymen because 2/3 would be dead before reaching the enemy line anyway and the others could pick up the weapons of the fallen.[/snark].

There's no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America.

That this man, of all men, would dare to utter this sentence at any point in time after Nov. 2004 makes me literally furious.

Crooks and Liars and John Cole take on the aforementioned Freedom's Watch ad. I believe that, even more than Cheney, Ari Fleischer might actually be a sociopath.

I always get a kick out of Bush comparing this to Korea, even to the point of saying he looked at our long term involvement in Iraq to be based upon the Korea model.

Actually, that's what we had before he invaded Iraq. It is basically what happened with the first Gulf War.

Better people than I have ripped apart his other comparisons and his revisionism of history.

The fact is, though, that this is not for current consumption. This is all preparation for the inevitable. When we leave there will be a bloodbath, of what propoartions no one knows. It may be greater than the most pessimistic forecasts or it may less than the mot optimistic. We don't know.

But the groundwork is being set for the demonization and blaming of all that happens on those of us that think we should leave, such as that unpatriotic troop hater, Republican Senator John Warner.

Thanks for a great post, hilzoy.

I do not think Bush rises to the level of having had any clear intentions at all.

This is true as written, but the tense is important.

Bush has had the happy and self-exculpatory experience of discovering his noble intentions after the act. How frustrating for him that so many refuse to join him on the bandwagon.

So long as we remain true to our ideals, we will defeat the extremists

The name for this is magical thinking.

It's like watching a bear try to waltz.

I've seen a bear waltz. The bear was far more graceful.

Thanks -

sure, it's all nonsense. but it's only nonsensical if you know history.

nobody who's under 40 now was politically aware during the Vietnam era, and i doubt much of the history it taught in schools (it certainly wasn't when i was in HS, in the mid 80s). honestly, i've learned more about Vietnam here on ObWi (from the innumerable off-topic Vietnam threads that have appeared here) than i did from 37 years of osmosis from the MSM and Hollywood.

in other words, Bush is talking about Iraq in relation to things most people don't know much about.

yes, he's lying, exaggerating and demagoguing, but nobody is going to call him on it - at least not in a forum that will reach all the people that a presidential speech will. it's just too much work for the average AP article or TV news segment to explain the Vietnam history and then line it up with Bush's fabulous analogies. Bush's speechwriters obviously know this, since he does it every time he gives one of these things.

it's yet another Big Lie.

and he'll get away with it. and we're (well, you guys, not me) all going to spend the next 10 days trying to explain Vietnam to people who think Bush was being truthful.


John: But the groundwork is being set for the demonization and blaming of all that happens on those of us that think we should leave

Unfortunately, I think that this is exactly right. I don’t know anyone personally (Republicans included) who expect anything but a sweep by the Democrats next year. Maybe Huey Hewitt is still holding out hope, but I don’t know anyone.

So I think it is a given, even within the GOP, that Democrats are going to be left holding the bag on this. They are going to control both Congress and the WH and have the responsibility to clean up the mess.

The GOP has given up on ’08. This is framing and setting the stage for 2010 and beyond.

i doubt much of the history it taught in schools (it certainly wasn't when i was in HS, in the mid 80s)

We're about the same age. My US History class stopped at WWII. Ditto on learning about Vietnam. I was too busy spinning curves in my mind and thinking about exponents in college to take any history classes.

for the demonization and blaming of all that happens on those of us that think we should leave, such as that unpatriotic troop hater, Republican Senator John Warner.

Oh, puh-leeze. John Warner doesn't think we should leave, he thinks we should appear to be beginning to leave to save the Republican candidates' rear ends in the 2008 election.

Andrew Sullivan has certainly flirted with the idea that Arabs are incapable of democracy, and I've heard the same though from some supporters of Israel.

There's a tiny little grain of not-crazy in the idea, since democracy requires a set of cultural attitudes that aren't very common in the Arab world. What is crazy is the notion that Arabs won't make the necessary adjustments given the right set of circumstances.

in other words, Bush is talking about Iraq in relation to things most people don't know much about.

Great point. I never learned about Vietnam in HS and was a science/engineering major in college, so never bothered with any history. I've acquired my knowledge on the subject mostly through blogs, both left and right, and the right has put forth a version (millions died in Vietnam, Cambodia, etc because of our withdrawal) that probably has some basis in truth and plays strongly on people's guilt. But of course what they never acknowledge is the point that Dallek makes above, namely: "But the disaster is the consequence of going in, not getting out."

That was the lesson that Vietnam was supposed to teach the baby boomers (my parents' generation). Hopefully my generation retains this lesson when the next war comes along.

sean nyc/aa: David Halberstam's The Best and the Brightest is a really good read -- I mean, the kinds of novels they sell in airports would kill to be so readable and so impossible to put down -- and good history to boot.

Nice essay hilzoy. It's a good thing that, while historical education in this country is somewhat patchy, the American population isn't as dumb as Bush thinks. Despite his dissembling, and despite the large media's compliance in permitting him to set the terms of the debate (however fanciful), the overwhelming majority of Americans disapprove of Bush (his approval ratings have been at 30% for longer than I can remember) and favor withdrawal of the troops in some form. So while Bush continues to tell the Big Lie, his credibility is shot, and speeches such as this one will be politically ineffective (but will be extremely valuable to historians trying to understand the folly of this Administration).

Great post. But I agree with the first commenter: I think you are misreading his reference to "The Quiet American." Bush thinks Pyle is a hero, despite the fact that Greene was skewering Pyle -- that is the point of the entire novel. Apparently, Bush is not alone in his amazing power to misread an entire novel:

Bill O'Reilly lists "The Quiet American" as one of his favorite books. I was shocked to happen upon that list a year ago when I first read "The Quiet American," considering that Greene was accused of writing an "anti-American" screed when the novel first came out. It only makes sense when you realize that they are completely misreading the book. I guess they would read "War and Peace" as a tract detailing why you should start land wars in Asia.

adam: the American population isn't as dumb as Bush thinks

Not dumb, but ignorant of history? The narrative is pretty well set on this depending on your age and party. Close to 50% of the country believes that Vietnam was lost because of the media and because Democrats cut funding to S.V. So Bush is not telling them something new that they may think more about or check for themselves – he is just reminding them of something that they already know.

Close to 50% of the country believes that Vietnam was lost because of the media and because Democrats cut funding to S.V.

Is this really true? Close to 50%?

Steve: I don’t have a cite or an accurate figure. It’s based on my opinion that most Republicans don’t question this.

I don't disagree with the content of this post, but it does seem to answer its own criticisms:

The fact that growing popular support for withdrawal has not resulted in said withdrawal seems to indicate that more about how much the public and its representatives really care about seeing results in that department.

What would happen if President Bush had sent the troops in to be slaughtered? Would the ability to command the armed forces give him enough authority to carry out that plan for 4 years?

On another note, the Vietnam comparison he made is bunk and I realize that many, many more resources went into occupying Japan, but arguably the plan there was even more implausible and arrogantly run than Iraq. Even John Dower's Embracing Defeat can't point out why everything worked.

Ultimately, anyone who opposed the war in Iraq before we started can honestly say that they were making an informed decision, but people who say that they can really point to the factors (any) that led to an unsuccessful occupation are claiming knowledge beyond their possession. Bush's plea for us to rethink these old wars should make that abundantly clear -and push us to drop this failed expedition.

Another way to put Bush's agrument re Pyle: "Greene was wrong about Pyle. Pyle is the real hero, even though people like Greene (the 'Greene argument') think Pyle was dangerously naive. I am like Pyle. I am a symbol of American purpose and patriotism. History proved that Pyle was right and Greene was wrong, just as History will prove that I am right and my critics are wrong."

I think Graham Greene must be breakdancing in his grave right now.

Is Bush perhaps thinking of Gomer Pyle?

It is worth stressing that the historical illiteracy of the speech is an irrelevancy. The people who wrote it are all intelligent and know they are selling crap. So what is the point?

This is a speech designed to give war supporters cover, and to demonize war opponents. It is a primer in hate speech and demagoguery. It is the type of speech that gives rhetoric a bad name -- the use of language as emotional symbols devoid of logical meaning.

We have reached the point where to oppose hateful tactics, you must call it what it is and not shy from the ugliness of the language necessary to respond. This speech is a lie intended to foment hate and purposely intended to avoid a reasoned discussion of the subject. The people who write it and adopt its language are liars and seek to rely on hate speech over reason to get what they want.

Yes, it is important to point out the logical fallacies of the speech, but doing so is not primarily what it takes to push back. Like John Kerry in 2004, the mistake in responding to hate tactics is not making a strong counterattack condemning the principles of the people who utter such filth.

I agree with the points made above that people are not so mindless that they are duped by this. But they do feel at the core what is being said, and need leadership on how to push back. You do not push back against demagoguery by saying someone is a demagogue and logically pointing out the proof of that (since most people only vaguely know what that word means) -- you say they are liars and unprincipled deceivers, and then point out why that is so.

I completely accept with you. It is became very usual thing that, Bush giving misleading facts and false promises. Most of his speeches are very sentimental and emotional which is enough to touch the people's heart, but certainly doesn't carry any truth...
Silica Gel Desiccant

I completely accept with you. It is became very usual thing that, Bush giving misleading facts and false promises. Most of his speeches are very sentimental and emotional which is enough to touch the people's heart, but certainly doesn't carry any truth...
Silica Gel Desiccant

"However, I also think that success was not impossible. That it is impossible now is largely this administration's doing. They never, ever appreciated the magnitude of the task they had taken upon themselves, the care and concentration and resources that it would require, or the consequences of getting it wrong."
It is not logically possible to go from an intrinsically bad idea to an intrinsically good result.
Getting to the 'success not impossible' envisioned leaps over the merits of the practice of preemptive invasion. It endorses preemptive invasion as a means to an end that should be endorsed so as long as it is done right.
In the case of Iraq, buying into stay or leave errors in at least two ways. First,it begs the criminality of the initial act. Secondly, it buys into the fog of diversion constantly put out to involve discussion about the fog, not what it conceals.
The invasion had nothing to do with security or democracy or counting deaths. Arguing over the success or failure of those subjects is successfully keeping the real agenda fog bound and moving forward.
That is why the speech was magnificent in its effectiveness. The fool portraying is more clever than the perceivers perceive.

mmm desiccant. i like it on my eggs.

Mark might be funnier than John Thullen.

Fantastic post, Hilzoy. Best I've read on Bush's speech.

It is maddending that such a speech is greeted with anything but derision. Instead, Bush is credited with beginning a discussion...

Any resultant "discussion" should have began with his getting booed off-stage by an audience that should know better, followed by a media that derides him out of office for being either that fucking stupid, or that fucking much of an asshole.

Instead, he's treated like a serious thinker, and any Iraq "withdrawal" must be carefully considered against the lessons Bush learned* about the Far East.

*on Monday. From his speechwriter.

I think the point about people not remembering Vietnam and American ignorance of history is a pretty good one. In defense of High school history teachers everywhere, though, I just wanted to quote a professor i had recently. The class was "American History since 1960", and the professor, over the course of one of the final discussions, was talking about how perspective is a powerful thing in rendering historical judgments.

"Most of my colleagues [referring to other history professors and scholars], when they hear about this class, start making fun of me. They say, 'That's not history, that's NEWS!'"

I mention this only to reiterate the point that history has rendered very few final judgments on the war in Vietnam. I would imagine that there are probably some historians out there that might be able to voice the opinions Bush does and not come off so completely addled. Overall, I find President Bush's pronouncements ridiculous in the extreme, for many of the reasons listed in the main article (great job, Hilzoy).

One of the possible similarities between Vietnam and Iraq that I have not seen get any play anywhere is this: in the entire Vietnam war, the US military did not "lose" one single large scale military engagement. It was the enemies' tactics of engaging in smaller guerilla and terrorist type attacks that was ultimately difficult for the US military, with its complete dominance in terms of technology, firepower, and traditional military tactics, to cope with.

Does this remind anyone else of what is going on right now? Especially with all of the talk about how "the Surge®" is "working?"

In A Prayer for Owen Meany, Owen spends a lot of time talking to the television during the nightly news reports from Vietnam. At one point, the newscasts start talking about Westmoreland's pronouncement that we are winning a "War of Attrition." Owen (whose voice throughout the book is always capitalized to accentuate its strange quality) responds to the TV: "THAT'S NOT THE KIND OF WAR WE CAN WIN."

I am starting to feel a kind of deja vu for something that never happened - almost any day now, I expect to find myself in a towering Gothic Mansion in Gravesend NH, listening to Joe Lieberman talk about how we are now winning the War of Attrition with Al Qaeda in Iraq, while a small boy with a ruined voice that can make you believe in God, watching the nightly newscasts with my grandmother dead lo these many years, responds by saying "THAT'S NOT THE KIND OF WAR WE CAN WIN."

Bush may be thinking of the first movie version of The Quiet American, which was the exact opposite of "the Graham Greene argument" and made Pyle the hero in the end.

Mark peddles more useful products, too.

"by comparing his critics to Captain Kurtz (Mr.?) from 'Heart of Darkness'; or like a pedophile defending himself by comparing his critics to Humbert Humbert."

I have more if I can get it through the spam filter.

Or, like Madame Bovary being named public spokesadulterer for a very large mutual fund company with the word "fidelity" in its title.

nick: That's not history, that's NEWS!

Exactly. Americans over the age of 50 may have been directly involved, either in the war or protesting it. Those of us 40 – 50 may have been in school while it was still going on using a history textbook published in the 50’s. For everyone 40+ it qualifies more as “current events” than “history”. I can’t tell you what today’s 18 – 40 crowd may have been taught about it in high school, but my inclination is to think it was very little.

As many folks have mentioned, history isn’t something a lot of us pursued in collage.

Other than those who developed an interest and pursued it on their own, many of us have had our “history” on this passed down by politicians and talking heads over the years.

I did a relly cool history collage in 5th grade. It had pictures of Betsy Ross and Daniel Boone and stuff. Awesome.

Like Dracula blaming the local bloodmobile for serum shortages.

Like Gollum chastising Ringo Starr, Sammy Davis Jr. and Elizabeth Taylor for hogging all of the ring/bling

Oh, yeah - forgot to mention a Vietnam book I thought was excellent - A Bright and Shining Lie, by Neil Sheehan.

For reference, by the way, I am 38 years old this month, and consider myself reasonably well educated about Vietnam through mostly my own efforts.

Like Humbert Humbert being awarded an abstinence-only grant from HHS to counsel the Lolitas of the world to ignore planned parenthood and maintain their virginal idealism because birth control destroys that innocent come-hither look, don't you know.

Like placing Anna Karenina in charge of AMTRAK privatization because the government is to blame for not removing severed heads from the tracks in a timely and cost-effective manner.

Well, I have one about a peg-legged sailor and a big pesky fish, but the spam filter doesn't like it.

I'm done

i'm too lazy to search to see if anyone else made this point, but it's also worth noting that Bush is also probably trying to insulate himself from the obvious Iraq/Vietnam comparisons by attacking the public's common wisdom about Vietnam history. in other words: this isn't only an attempt to rewrite the Vietnam history to make it seem like we could've won then so we should stick it out now; in addition to that, critics who want to use Vietnam comparisons now have the doubly-difficult job of needing to swat away all this confusing pseudo-information about Vietnam that's going to be buzzing around before they can get to the real history. and you can't do that in a 90 second debate on TV - especially while some GOP flack is constantly throwing handfuls of New History at you.

Bush trying to use The Quiet American reminds me of A Fish Called Wanda:

Otto: Don't call me stupid!
Wanda: Oh, right. To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people. You think you're brilliant...right? Ape!
Otto: (smugly) Apes don't read philosophy.
Wanda: Yes they do...they just don't understand it.

OCSteve is onto something important about the big segment of the population that does not have enough first-hand experience/memory of the war to grasp how distorted Bush's "history" is.

The grim reality is that in the late 1970s Democratic politicians allowed the right to push the 'stabbed in the back' meme unchallenged. To avoid piercing the anticommunism-at-all-costs consensus, politicians would at most acknowledge that the invasion was a "mistake", not that it was wrong.

The internal military opposition to and doubts about the war, both at the grunt and the generals' level, has been erased from history. As a cure, I recommend respectively the 2005 documentary Sir, No Sir about the GI resistance and Robert Buzzanco's book Masters of War.

Jimmy Carter refused to normalize relations with Viet Nam, claiming that "the destruction was mutual," as if both sides in the war had caused equal amounts of damage and suffering and were equally responsible.

The damage was almost incomparably unequal, and the U.S. government's intervention was entirely its own doing. Another war of choice based on lies and gross strategic misreadings.

It was wrong, unwinnable, and we stayed there for years, killing hundreds of thousands of people after the point at which everyone in the government and military knew that it was unwinnable. (Frank Snepp's A Decent Interval is the canonic source for that.)

I would not be surprised, if the Dem president inheriting the Bush mess will do a Friedrich Ebert (trying to comfort the troops and acquitting them from the charge of failure) when the troops come home and give the GOP extra ammunition for the "stab-in-the-back" narrative.

"Your sacrifices and deeds are without precedent. No enemy has conquered you. Only after the superiority of the adversaries in men and materiel became superincumbent did we give up the fight."

(translation mine)

John T: oh, don't stop now. AMTRAK privatization. I will be giggling about that for weeks.

Wow, hilzoy's taking over at Sullivan's place for a bit. Plus he uses her real name.

Yikes, so he does. Another nail in the already pretty massive coffin in which my pseudonymity lies buried. Oh well.

John Thullen: Im in yur meme, mezzin with your spam filtr.

So nice to have you back sir.

Hilzoy: Say it ain’t so!!!!

(Naw, you deserve the audience.)

What’s up with him using your real name though? Coming out? ;)

Oh man, stand by the barricades to defend against trolls…

Re: "turning the corner" in Iraq. In the comic strip "Get Your War On" by David Rees, he said something like "Iraq has seen more corners turned than a two-hundred year old streetwalker made out of Rubik's cubes."

A truly excellent post. At first I thought it was marred by a slight typographical error. You wrote "premiss" when you meant "premise". Then I decided that "premiss" is exactly what that speech had. It missed the mark before it was spoken.

Hairshirthedonist: I did a relly cool history collage in 5th grade

I missed that, but Ha. I blame it on public schools and Bill Gates replacing words he thinks I misspelled. Good thing I didn’t have to take a typing test to get into collage…

I’ll assume you misspelled “relly” on purpose. ;)

"Premiss" is just the fancy philosophical spelling.

And I think "relly" is faux-valley-girl.

Or faux-fancy-posh.

"Premiss" is just the fancy philosophical spelling.

or the Gollum spelling.

must accept the premiss before we proceedses to the conclusionsess!

Like exterminator Tom Delay naming Gregor Samsa as his press spokesman.

Have a good weekend all.

Yikes, so he does. Another nail in the already pretty massive coffin in which my pseudonymity lies buried. Oh well.

Erk. Well, it was probably the worst kept open secret in the history of blogdom, anyway :-P Hopefully no negative repercussions will result. Any reason for you to be concerned, besides the prospect of students Googling your posts @ teh ObWings?

Mattt: Any reason for you to be concerned

Really Hilzoy – as much as I don’t agree with Andrew (S) these days, I have no doubt that he would bury/delete that if asked. I’m sure it is an oversight.

I really do think you have more reason to maintain some anonymity than many of us (certainly me). There really is a nasty faction out there, on both sides. And they aren’t just trolls – they go after people’s livelihood…

With this exposure I will actually be worried about you. No kidding.

Bush is talking to "the base", which I think of as "my father". I'm from Indiana (and yes, I'm 40 and didn't hear anything about Vietnam in school -- but yes, the Germans call this Zeitgeschichte, which is anything that has happened in living memory. It's not history per se because there is still somebody alive who lived through it, thus all the votes aren't in from the precincts. Heaven help us when life extension starts to kick in -- that really will be an end to history.)

Anyway, my Dad is the quintessential Indiana Republican. (Actually, my grandmother is -- her TV is welded on Fox News, she thinks Oliver North would make a good President, she likes that nice young Bill O'Reilly, etc.)

Dad thought we had to attack Iraq because there was a clear and present danger. He thinks that Nixon was one of the best presidents America ever had and only suffered in the (liberal) media because of his daring politics.

And he thinks that Vietnam could have been won if liberals and Congress hadn't prevented the military from finishing the job.

He's not a stupid man, as much as I'd like to believe that the dead-enders are all morons. Quite intelligent, in fact. He ... just doesn't get out much.

So when Bush is saying this stuff, he's talking to my Dad. And my Dad is happy that the President of the United States is finally daring to tell the truth. This is a Big Lie which is an attempt to revitalize the base and to make them believe that All Is Not Lost in their culture war.

I find it utterly fascinating that Bush has done this politically very perspicacious thing after the departure of Karl Rove. I think Rove was canned because he'd become a one-trick pony and lost effectiveness. Somebody smarter is talking into the microphone now.

best arlicle !

Yeah, it's a good topic.

Did someone open a spam floodgate? At least the silica gel guy was slightly smarter, not just the old "Great post!" comment.

For those looking to educate yourself or deal with the b.s. "history" newly implanted in friends' minds, Rick Perlstein's posts are a great resource.

As a political historian of the Viet Nam era, Perlstein anticipated the repetition of the right-wing Big Lies, and posted about them months ago. He's collected the links to them here.

I’ll assume you misspelled “relly” on purpose. ;)

Wrong assumption. Luckily for me, "relly" isn't a word, so it's hard to riff on my misspelling. The history collage was just too hard to resist.

P.S. I like beer.

Excellent post.

I for one said that the Iraqis were incapable of creating a functioning democracy—mostly due to circumstance and history. My argument was that democracy needs a social infrastructure that did not exist at all in Iraq. Iraq lacked virtually every possible precondition for democracy—there was no large, entrepreneurial middle class; no free media; no experience with free elections; illiteracy among adults was estimated at more than 40%; almost half of the Iraqi population was under age 15; joblessness was pervasive—there had not been a single day of democracy in Iraq in its history. It's still a tribal and clan-oriented society. All those problems have now been compounded and multiplied by our invasion and hamhanded occupation, and it will be a very long time before the conditions exist for Iraq to become a fully-functioning western-style democracy, if ever.

Of course, I'm not saying that Iraqis are INHERENTLY incapable of democracy, but JUST that at this point in time, the conditions simply do not exist for a flourishing democracy to take hold—certainly not by being imposed from the top down.

Michael: find it utterly fascinating that Bush has done this politically very perspicacious thing after the departure of Karl Rove.

Rove is still there until the end of the month. Doubt very seriously that he hadn't read and approved of this speech. The twin memes of stabbed-in-the-back and liberals-are-responsible-for-post-withdrawal-bloodshed will be used by Republican candidates across this great country for the next fourteen months. At least.

Guav, when the english created the Magna Carta they didn't have any of your preconditions for democracy either. And it took them a very long time to evolve into a modern western-style democracy.

But they did make those first steps.

It would be very good for iraq to get a parliament of militia leaders, who have votes in proportion to the size of their militias, just as england did. That would be a fine start.

You don't have to go into a bomb-cratered field and plant a bunch of acorns and expect an oak forest right away. Instead start an ecological succession. First grass, then scrub, then maybe pines, and the oaks spread when the ground is ready for them.

I am glad that President Bush finally dared to speak the truth (however gingerly) about the massive treachery committed by Congressional Democrats, which was the sole cause of our defeat and humiliation in Vietnam. By 1972 General Creighton Abrams, a brilliant military strategist like General Petraeus, had achieved a stunning victory over the North Vietnamese armies in the south and turned over control to the South Vietnamese army, which he had capably trained into a formidable force more than capable of handling their Communist foes. The American people rewarded President Nixon with a crushing reelection victory in 1972. Congressional Democrats could not stand their humiliation and putting party politics ahead of the welfare of the nation, staged a coup d'etat and forced President Nixon to resign on trumped up charges of no consequence and then proceeded to pull the rug from under our valiant Vietnamese allies and handed victory to the Communists on a silver platter. President Bush should speak more forcefully and make it clear to the American people that he will use whatever means are necessary to prevent a treacherous opposition from having their way and sabotaging our hard victory in Iraq.

oh nabalzbbfr, you're the spoofiest!

Yes, I have heard about the proposal of making Bush president for life in order to keep the Demonrats from gnawing the holy American tree.
Messengers from the celestial court have informed us that HE will be on the campaign trail to help HIs anointed's cause and that HE will give him the smiting rod to ferule the liberal scum that tarnishes and maculates the land given by HIm to be the GOP's forever.
Oh what a gnashing of teeth there will be (dentures will be provided in case of lack)

confirmation bias + neocon = truthJI

The black-is-white and up-is-down Vietnam revisionism doesn't surprise me too much, not when Holocaust denial is treated as 'worth debating' when the Nazis themselves proudly documented everything, never mind the fact that many Holocaust survivors are still alive.

I'm just waiting for Bush et al. to take the next logical step and say that the wrong side won WWII - oh, wait: Ronald Reagan already said that, didn't he?

Vietnam revisionism does depress me, though. Nixon won in '68 with a "secret plan to end the war" - a lie, of course (his "secret plan" apparently was to expand the war to Laos and Cambodia), but one he thought worth telling. I doubt he would have thought campaigning on ending the war was a good idea if we'd been winning.

But Nixon did expand the war. That didn't work, either, though it did destabilize Cambodia enough for Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to take power. (Thanks, Dick!)

I used to wonder what the Vietnam denialists thought would have been a winning strategy; what stones were left unturned. Half a million troops in theater for 8 years didn't win the war; nor the carpet bombing; nor the wholesale napalming and defoliating. What was left? Nuking the whole region?

J Thomas, yes, the English made those first steps—and it was an organic process, it was not imposed on them by another culture overnight with bombs.

Iraq is capable of achieving democracy, certainly, but only by coming into of it's own accord, slowly, step by step over time—decades. Not because we overthrew the government and said "Ok, everyone can vote now."

what's really distressing about this speech (and others he's made before) is the easy way he played the veterans for suckers and how they lapped it up. its almost as if none of them were familiar with w's personal history, which is shared by his most trusted (and belligerent)advisors. a veteran myself, i've come to the conclusion that the v.f.w. has become to non-partisan politics what the n.r.a. has become to responsible gun owners, and the southern baptist convention has become to literate christians, the captive of the looneys.

Millions died in Vietnam because we killed them. We bombed Laos so heavily whole areas are still unusable for agriculture; our actions also destabilized Cambodia preparing the ground for their Khmer Rouge nightmare. Agent Orange is still affecting populations in Vietnam today -- birth defects, blindness, not to mention deforestation where nothing will live. There is no excuse for American high school students to not know about the Vietnam War, except that education has never been the priority of power. Our collective ignorance has produced an inability to see how historically close we are to completely and irrevocably losing our country to forces who do not honor our constitutional framework for freedom and liberty. George W. Bush may be the problem we see but only when we are not looking in the mirror. Deconstructing his speeches may teach us something we didn't know - however we know enough already to act. Some 70% of us do not agree with the policies of this administration. What can possibly be the reason that we do not demand political accountabilty NOW through the completely reasonable and vital tool of impeachment? There is no good reason, except that our elected represntatiaves lack the will to make it happen. They are afraid of so many things in connection with this option. Instad of writing on blogs, we should be writing to them and be the cause of aiding our battered ship of state, instead of suffering the unending negative and dire effects of this presidency. I will now follow my own advice.

Bush is of course not trying to win a logical argument. Nor is he trying to be logically correct. He is trying to connect memes and emotions in peoples brains. That was what they did with Saddam & 9-11. Say them over and over in close (temporal) proximity. Our brains wire a connection between them, i.e. we hear one, and immediately think of the other. For people who don't make a serious effort to let logic and facts check their gut instincts, it works.

"what's really distressing about this speech ... is the easy way he played the veterans for suckers and how they lapped it up."

The audience, I have no doubt, was carefully pre-selected, to weed out any pair of hands that might fail to applaud on cue. This is standard procedure for any of Dubya's "public" speeches.

Definition of "premiss". That's a correctly spelled word.

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