Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Next Campaign Heats Up

Almost five years ago to the day, then-White House chief-of-staff Andrew Card noted that, "From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August."

The Iraq War is not a 'new product', but it clear that a new campaign has begun to try and continue the Administration's efforts there. Yesterday, after months of denying a parallel between Iraq and Vietnam, the President in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, embraced the connection:
Finally, there’s Vietnam. This is a complex and painful subject for many Americans...Then as now, people argued the real problem was America’s presence and that if we would just withdraw, the killing would end.

The argument that America’s presence in Indochina was dangerous had a long pedigree. In 1955, long before the United States had entered the war, Graham Greene wrote a novel called, "The Quiet American." It was set in Saigon, and the main character was a young government agent named Alden Pyle. He was a symbol of American purpose and patriotism -- and dangerous naivete. Another character describes Alden this way: "I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused."

After America entered the Vietnam War, the Graham Greene argument gathered some steam. As a matter of fact, many argued that if we pulled out there would be no consequences for the Vietnamese people...

Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left. There’s no debate in my mind that the veterans from Vietnam deserve the high praise of the United States of America. (Applause.) Whatever your position is on that debate, one unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America’s withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like "boat people," "re-education camps," and "killing fields."
The President's personal relationship with Vietnam -- and for that matter, that of VP Cheney -- makes the parallel with Vietnam a remarkable one. And he seems to be implying that the killing at the end of the Vietnam conflict could have been avoided if the US had committed to a permanent and on-going presence there, as we did in Korea. Gen. David Patraeus is scheduled to speak, on September 11th no less, to Congress on the status of Iraq. The next (marketing) campaign for Iraq has begun.

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