The great folksinger Pete Seeger sang in 1967 of the U.S. sinking deeper and deeper into "the Big Muddy" that was Vietnam, while "the big fool," President Lyndon Johnson, said, "Push on."
For those of us who remember Vietnam, Iraq seems more and more like "the Big Muddy," as U.S. troops are targeted for assassination and Iraqis are killed indiscriminately in retaliation.
It is not that the circumstances involving the two U.S. military interventions are the same. In the Vietnam case, the U.S. engaged in a long and escalating neocolonial intervention from 1950 until the war was finally lost in 1975.
In Iraq, the intervention that began with the Gulf War in 1991 did not involve growing troop commitments until the quick and brutal strikes by land and air against Iraqi targets this past March.
What is similar, however, is the colossal ideologically driven miscalculation that the growing guerrilla opposition today is the result primarily of malcontents from the Baath Party, who lost power and wealth with the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and extremist Iraqis who relish engaging in acts of terrorism against U.S. and British troops.
As in Vietnam, the explanation for growing violent opposition to U.S. military occupation is that a tiny and malevolent minority supported by foreign enemies is bent on undermining the "democratization" of Iraq.
U.S. leaders just never seem to get it. When the U.S. engages in brutal economic strangulation, sends covert operatives to terrorize populations and launches air and land war on targeted populations, the victims of these actions do not regard the aggressors as liberators.
The interests of the Iraqi people and the increasingly vulnerable young men and women of the U.S. military occupation would best be served if the United States negotiates the complete withdrawal of coalition troops and allows them to be replaced with a true international peace force under the aegis of the United Nations.
Nothing less will stop the bloodshed.
Harry Targ teaches U.S. foreign policy and international relations at Purdue University. He is the author of 11 books and 50 articles on these subjects.
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