Blogs > Cliopatria > In that way only he can

Jul 10, 2006 6:42 pm


In that way only he can



IN THAT WAY ONLY HE CAN:Hitchens critiques Vietnam-Iraq analogies in a manner that plainly demonstrates why his is a polemical voice to be cherished.

While his argument is fragmented and dangerously absolute (as it often is) and in the form of a response piece (likely scribbled in a mid-night fit of anger), the combination of a ruthless and unabashed critique of the Vietnam war along side a vigorous defence of the Iraq war is, delightfully, enough to make any reader squeamish – whichever end of the political spectrum.

The scope of the typically eclectic argument defies summary, however, some morsels of his pastiche are worth highlighting.First, he argues, as if undisputed, that there never should have been a war in Vietnam to begin with, that by:

1945 the successive French and Japanese occupations had been discredited and defeated, and if Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived it is unlikely the US would have supported the disastrous restoration of French rule in Indochina.

He cites the war’s atrocities, including “ecocide by chemical weaponry to the indiscriminate bombardment of civilians.”The latter of which I have worked extensively on in Cambodia and will discuss in a post this week.

He holds no punches at contrasting the two in the starkest of ways:

In Vietnam, even president Dwight Eisenhower conceded that Ho would have won any national election. But the US then proceeded to impose a dictator who was so hateful that Kennedy had to have him killed.

In Iraq, the coalition has removed an almost uniquely ghastly dictator and mass murderer, and sponsored the only elections Iraq has had. The only real people's army in Iraq, the Kurdish freedom fighters, enter combat on our side.

And again:

The tussle in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, on the other hand (compared with 911), was a minor squabble, distorted and magnified for purposes that were warmongering and imperialistic.

Of course, saying that there are no similarities between Iraq and Vietnam is equally as fallacious as drawing deterministic parallels.Issues of domestic and international, public and political support, and some aspects of fighting the insurgency are certainly similar.The latter is actually much more pronounced in Cambodia, where the shift to air-power in fighting a fragmented rebellion had disastrous strategic and human consequences.Military planners look regularly to Vietnam to frame aspects of Iraq strategy for, obviously, while some are more useful that others, we ignore past lessons to our peril.

As should be no surprise, his support for Iraq remains steadfast:

Gruesome as it is, the Iraq war has justice on its side and pits us against a truly wicked enemy; the confrontation was inevitable and long in the making. It is a pity Saddam was not removed in 1991. None of these things can be said about the war in Vietnam, which no revisionist will be able to remove from the annals of disgrace.
Who else could write that paragraph?

Like his line of the day or not, there are very few people who have both ruthlessly critiqued the Vietnam war and unabashedly supported and advocated for the war in Iraq.For this, if nothing else, I am glad he is as extraordinarily prolific as he is.

cross posted on Oxblog

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