Iraq

The Winter Soldier Returns

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Breitbart.tv provides a clip of John Kerry on C-Span's "Washington Edition" discussing the effects of a potential Iraq pullout. When a caller worries that there might be a massive bloodbath following a withdrawal, like in Vietnam, Kerry offers a correction:

"Let me just sat to the first part of your question with respect to boat people and killing, everybody predicted a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There was not a massive bloodbath in Vietnam. There were reeducation camps and they weren't pretty and, you know, nobody likes that kind of outcome. But on the other hand, I have met a lot of people today who were in those education (sic) camps and are thriving in the Vietnam of today."

While Kerry is right that the "bloodbath" predicted by Richard Nixon didn't materialize in a Khmer Rouge way, his characterization of the communist takeover—a few years in "education camps" (a slip of the tongue that makes it sound as if the "counterrevolutionaries" entered job training programs), followed by a successful existence working in a Nike factory—is, shall we say, a bit too rosy. For the record, approximately 1,000,000 people were sent to camps after the fall of Saigon, where they were pumped full of Leninist "education" and subject to routine beatings and torture. Low estimates put the number of people executed in the immediate aftermath in the tens of thousands.

New York Times correspondent Tom Wicker, who protested the President's use of the word "bloodbath," wrote in 1979 that while there while Nixon's warning was technically wrong, conditions in Vietnam were, nevertheless, pretty grim:

"For instead of bloodbath, there is a vast tide of human misery in Southeast Asia—hundreds of thousands of homeless persons in United Nations camps, perhaps as many more dead in flight, tens of thousands of the most pitiable forcibly repatriated to Cambodia, no one knows how many adrift on the high seas or wandering on the roads."

Kerry probably has met former gulag inmates who've done rather well during Vietnam's period of economic liberalization. But he might have informed his caller of prisoners like Doan Van Toai, a former communist official arrested after the war for refusing to confiscate private property:

When I was arrested, I was thrown into a three-foot-by-six-foot cell with my left hand chained to my right foot and my right hand chained to my left foot. My food was rice mixed with sand. When I complained about the sand, the guards explained that sand is added to the rice to remind prisoners of their crimes…After two months in solitary confinement, I was transferred to a collective cell, a room 15 feet wide and 25 feet long, where at different times anywhere from 40 to 100 prisoners were crushed together. Here we had to take turns lying down to sleep, and most of the younger, stronger prisoners slept sitting up. In the sweltering heat, we also took turns snatching a few breaths of fresh air in front of the narrow opening that was the cell's only window. Every day I watched my friends die at my feet.

(From Doan's 1981 article "A Lament for Vietnam," in The New York Times)

When war-supporters used a facile World War II analogy to assure skeptics that occupation can lead to democratization, it was rightfully dismissed as an absurd, ahistorical comparison. "Bloodbath in Iraq" concerns should not be dismissed with an equally imprecise comparison.

(Hat tip: Steven M.)

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  1. But on the other hand, I have met a lot of people today who were in those education (sic) camps and are thriving in the Vietnam of today.

    Oh, fer cryin’ out loud. Does he think he would have been allowed to meet the ones who wouldn’t spout the party line? Get serious.

    The problem in Iraq is that staying only postpones what appears inevitable, while wasting lives and money trying to do so.

  2. The Gov. of South Vietnam fell because we cut off supplies of arms and air power which held the north in check.The south was not a democracy but neither was South Korea in 1953.I think that worked out OK.

  3. I agree that pulling out of Iraq will likely lead to massive violence. On the other hand, though, the reasons for that violence pre-date our presence there, there’s nothing we can do to fix the problems in the long-term, and it’s not our job to solve the internal dynamics of the Iraqis for them. For all the bad things that happened in Vietnam, both during and after the war, the country is doing remarkably well now…mainly because they resolved most of their issues with the North’s victory in the war. The communists won, they took their stab at creating the “workers’ paradise”, then they moved towards the global economy like everyone else because communism failed there like everywhere else. They didn’t need us to point the way for them.

    Same thing will eventually happen with the Iraqis if we get out of their internal affairs and let them sort their problems out on their own. It’s likely to be bloody for awhile, but in the long-term it will be the best thing for them. And staying there now doesn’t actually help our interests at all, the arguments for our presence are all based around pity for and condescension towards the Iraqis (for their supposed inability to act in their own best interests)…which is the best argument of all for withdrawal.

  4. It’s nice to be reminded every once in a while that, if Kerry had won in 2004, we’d still be stuck with a dolt for president.

  5. Choosing between Bush and Kerry was like trying to figure out which solo album from the Spice Girls you’d want to listen to. Just no good options there.

  6. I’m all for leaving Iraq but I really don’t believe,other than the Kurds.they will join the 21st century anytime soon.Name one Arab country that has a market ecomomy,has any industy of note,or exports anything of value other than the oil the happened to be born over.On the other hand Israel has the silicon valley of the middle east and has a modern economy with many advances an few resources.

  7. I have no brief for the Vietnamese government, but surely it’s disingenuous to blame them for all of the “vast tide of human misery in Southeast Asia” after the war? There were several decades of war and civil war leading up to that point, after all, including some really impressive bombing campaigns in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Even if an army of saints and angels had captured Saigon, the country would still have been a mess.

  8. Iraq and Vietnam are totally different. If we pull out now, there are three possibilities, the situation gets worse, it stays about the same, or it gets better. If, as one CIA analyst says, most of the Iraqis blowing themselves up are POI’s (pissed off at the occupation Iraqis), they will be demotivated as soon as we leave, and the level of violence might go down. The problem is that Bush will lose face if he admits this. Right or wrong, a certain percentage of Iraqis consider the current Govt to be a puppet of the occupying power, and so continue to fight it. If this government had widespread support, it would easily be able to quash the opposition with the help of our military. The problem is, it doesn’t.

  9. Choosing between Bush and Kerry was like trying to figure out which solo album from the Spice Girls you’d want to listen to. Just no good options there.

    Must be why I voted for Badnarik.

  10. We had a choice between the barbaric thug who lied his ass off to start a war, or the stupid and cowardly Senator who didn’t even try to stop it.

    Hence I voted for Badnarik, who’s insane.

    Yep, the 2004 election sucked. But at least I didn’t vote for the bloodthirsty barbarian.

  11. Name one Arab country that has a market ecomomy

    United Arab Emirates

  12. The description sounds like Gitmo. I knew this is what would happen if the British pulled out.

  13. I tend to agree with UCrawford. Iraq is only a nation in the most artificial sense of the term. Keeping it as one unified country would take either massive, centralized power (which we destroyed), or a cooperative effort on the part of the people living there (dream on).

    Let the Sunnis and Shi’ites fight it out, let the Kurds defend their territory, and eventually they’ll either come to terms, balkanize, or run out of people to kill. Either way, they’ll always be able to agree that the source of all their problems is the US.

  14. For Christ’s sake, man, yes things will be bad when we leave. But we will not be able to maintain these troop levels (which are too low already) indefinitely unless we institute a draft. Period. So anyone who thinks this is the most important battle of our generation and we need to win, whatever that means, must start raising support to reinstitute the draft. What? Not gonna happen? Okay then.

  15. UAE isn’t a real market economy. The only thing UAE produces is tourism, banking and investments, which like all Islamic banks are laundromats for terror financing. It has no industry to speak of, produces or assembles no finished goods, patents nothing, and does just about zero medical or scientific research. The only real driver of national income is oil, which they couldn’t exploit without Western expertise and whose infrastructure would fall apart if Arabs had to maintain it themselves. All in all, just like every other Islamic country.

  16. “”””I was transferred to a collective cell, a room 15 feet wide and 25 feet long, where at different times anywhere from 40 to 100 prisoners were crushed together. Here we had to take turns lying down to sleep, and most of the younger, stronger prisoners slept sitting up. In the sweltering heat, we also took turns snatching a few breaths of fresh air in front of the narrow opening that was the cell’s only window.””””

    I doubt the Justice Department would call this torture.

  17. So anyone who thinks this is the most important battle of our generation and we need to win, whatever that means, must start raising support to reinstitute the draft. What? Not gonna happen? Okay then.

    Do you really believe a draft would make our military better at stabilizing Iraq?

  18. Kerry’s argument is not only factually-challenged, it’s also irrelevant and counterproductive.

    There’s no point to trying to argue that things won’t be that bad in Iraq if we leave. It might indeed be bad. The argument that has to be presented over and over is that if it IS bad in Iraq after we leave, the moral responsibility belongs to Bush and to no one else.

    The alternative is to believe that an idiot like Bush can blunder into any ambush or loll about in any quagmire he chooses, and if he can just contrive the situation so that someone somewhere will suffer if we correct his error, we’re stuck with his bad decisions. That would create a moral situation where the WORSE Bush does in Iraq, the more we’re stuck with it and the less morally able we are to bail on his failed policy. And that’s asinine and offensive. It’s Bush’s fuck up and will remain Bush’s fuck up and if after we leave the Iraqis exterminate each other all it does is add to the butcher’s bill Bush is already due.

  19. I just want to know why I haven’t seen Kerry introduce legislation in the Senate to do all the wonderful things he said he would do once elected president.

  20. Excellent piece Mr Moynihan.

    Acknowledging reality is important.

    I doubt if most of the anti-war faction honestly believes that if we just go home and leave these guys alone that all will be well. However, they are willing to put that face on it to sell their point of view. That’s wrong.

    Far better to say, as Tim did, that …..yes things will be bad when we leave. But we will not be able to maintain these troop levels (which are too low already) indefinitely….

    We’ve got to make the best of a bad situation and since nobody in DC knows how to deal with this, we need to systematically pull back in an orderly fashion and then, well, the chips will fall where they may.

  21. Fluffy, I’d agree with you if it wasn’t for the fact Bush’s Iraq policies were validated by more than half of the voting public in 2004. Rush O’Hannity and crew were beating the marching drums the whole way. So I really don’t think the morality belongs only with Bush.

  22. jf, Kerry is Al Gore with a bolt through his head. Wait. Neck. Wait, are those guys ever seen in the same room together?

  23. Have to agree with TrickyVic (he’s Vegas Vic’s cousin, BTW).

    The entire DC establishment from Madeline HalfBright to Uncle Billy to GWB was sold on Sodom’s WMD program (going back twenty years at least).

    Aside from that, those people been at each other for a thousand years or better.

    To be sure, GWB has to carry a pretty full bucket of blood,

  24. Sorry, I didn’t complete that thought because I’m beating my boy for arguing over getting started with his homework. Polly wasn’t much else to say.

  25. Oh, for the record, I’m not really beating my kid, but, we were having a boisterous discussion involving how long he was going to sit in his room if he didn’t get busy. Sucks that I’d even have to say that, but hey, this is America, and everybody can have their very own social worker if they ain’t careful.

  26. TWC, our preferred method of inspiring homework is to wave a hammer over the Xbox. One of these days Andy will actually clue that we don’t mean it, but by then he’ll have discovered that doing homework has other rewards — like better games.

    Oh, and the topic? “Politician makes stupid remark” is only a little less newsworthy than “dog bites rawhide chew toy,” although Kerry’s statement was rather unusually boneheaded. I agree with everyone upthread who said the better argument is that Iraq is going to be horrible whatever happens, but at least if we withdraw we’re not contributing to the mayhem. Also agree with whoever said that to the extent that our presence inspires insurgents, at least they’ll calm down when we’re gone.

    Now, can we please have a Harry Potter thread? Pretty please?

  27. It’s Bush’s fuck up and will remain Bush’s fuck up and if after we leave the Iraqis exterminate each other all it does is add to the butcher’s bill Bush is already due.

    wow….hey joe you remember all those mean things you said to me about my myrmidon like willingness to sacrifice anything and everything to win….

    What do you say about this fucking lunatic?

  28. Do you really believe a draft would make our military better at stabilizing Iraq?

    No, I think it’s futile, but war proponents need to be honest about what is needed to maintain the current troop levels indefinitely, and the only way to do that is through the draft.

    Look, fwiw, I was against this war from the beginning and those who gave support for this disaster have a lot of blood on their hands for the death and destruction that has already occurred. Yes it will be bad when we leave. Very bad. But I’m sick and fucking tired of the people who started this bloodbath trying to lay guilt on me for the situation they created, when I argued and called my representatives and was mocked and labeled a traitor for hitting the streets in protest to prevent this from happening in the first fucking place. Don’t lay blame on me, because they’re the motherfuckers who should feel guilty about the deaths of thousands of US troops, and the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens. They can go fuck themselves.

  29. The Vietnam War and the Iraq intervention have much in common, especially the fact that both interventions were undertaken in the belief that everything would be under control in a short time.

    It appears that LBJ thought a few bombing runs would bring North Vietnam to the table to agree to leave the South alone. We know that Bush supporters promised a short war to “liberate” Iraq.

    Long term interventions always end with a bad result. But by then, everyone wants an end.

  30. Tim, though not eloquent, has a good point. If you supported this war, there is blood on your hands. I am one of those people who can’t see too far past that.

    And I take Mr. Moynihan’s point, that we can expect a blood bath when we leave. But how does he characterize what is going on now? And does anyone think there is a success story in the future that does not involve a blood bath?

    But we didn’t learn from Vietnam, and we won’t learn from this. We’re going to do it again. And again. And fool after fool will line up to justify every incursion. The human species has no shortage of blood thirsty folks.

    So, in that context, what the fuck is Moynihan’s point? That it is too rosy a picture to say there won’t be a blood bath? Thanks, Mr. Obvious. Is there a point to that? That we should stay and “stabilize” the situation? Yeah, that’s going to happen. The Great White West will set those oil-rich heathens straight! Oooo-ahhh!

    I mean Kerry is an idiot, but let’s not help Bill Kristol write his next state-worshiping jingoistic essay just to point out what an idiot Kerry is. He’s doing a good enough job of that himself.

  31. We’re going to do it again. And again. And fool after fool will line up to justify every incursion.

    And many of those fools will use fancy language to paint themselves as the Serious People who understand what it takes to defend this country.

  32. If you supported this war, there is blood on your hands.

    hmm

    *looks at hands

    I don’t see any red…isn’t blood red?

    Or wet even?

  33. Not eloquent? Hey, fuck you too then!;)

  34. I don’t see any statement Kerry made that was incorrect; nor do any of the “refutations” Moynihan provides actually contradict or refute what Kerry said.

  35. I have no brief for the Vietnamese government, but surely it’s disingenuous to blame them for all of the “vast tide of human misery in Southeast Asia” after the war? There were several decades of war and civil war leading up to that point, after all, including some really impressive bombing campaigns in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Even if an army of saints and angels had captured Saigon, the country would still have been a mess.

    Except: Hordes of “boat people” did not flee Vietnam during the wars; they fled in numbers after the Communists won.

    Clearly many Vietnamese — voting with their lives — felt that even war against the American imperialists was not as bad as peace under the Vietnamese Communists.

    I’m sure there was plenty of misery before the fall of Saigon, but there seems to be abundant evidence that the victors made things even worse.

    Truong Nhu Tan tells the story of his conversion from Vietcong member (who endured being in the path of some really horrorific, groundshaking, literally pants-wetting bombings by American B-52s, by the way) to Communist-fearing boat person in Vietcong Memoir.

    (What all this might say about Iraq, I don’t know.)

  36. “Truong Nhu Tan” should be “Truong Nhu Tang”

    (also sometimes rendered as “Nhu Tang Truong”)

  37. It’s an expression, Joshua. This has been senseless misadventure, many lives have been lost, much treasure has been expended, and a lot of Americans supported this war. Few can even say why they did anymore. So, no, there is not literally blood on your hands.

    And, to say citizen supporters are partially responsible is not a stretch. It would have been tough for the hawks to push the war through if public sentiment had been loudly opposed.

    I think even now, most who once supported the war, but don’t now, will say it is because the war was badly managed. What a fresh sentiment, that this or that was screwed up by the state only because we didn’t entrust it to the right central managers. Right.

    Few want to admit it was a very bad idea from the start. Which is why we’ll do it again.

  38. But the post-withdrawal bloodbath has a bright side, people: the media and their cameras will be long gone from Iraq, just like in Vietnam, so we can safely ignore it! Meanwhile, Michael Moore and his ilk can go back to pretending that all the kids are back out flying their kites. Happiness will reign in America.

  39. The question of what will happen in Iraq when we leave isn’t entirely out of our control. An announced, gradual de-escalation coupled with a serious diplomatic/political push involving the Iraqi factions, its neighbors, and the UN has the potential to create quite a different outcome than if we pull a “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”

    If you don’t want us flying helicopters off the roof of the embassy, and all that goes with it, then come up with a plan for different ending. If we don’t plan for the withdrawal, we’re just going to end up with an unplanned withdrawal.

  40. Stevo Darkly,

    Three million Vietnamese died during the period when we were prosecuting a war there. Two millinon in the north, and a million in the south.

    It’s terrible that the Communists executed tens of thousands of people after the fall of Saigon, but it would be tough to argue that violence did anything but decrease after the war ended.

  41. Joe makes a good point, we don’t have to just walk out and say “good luck, suckers.” But, let’s be honest with ourselves. “gradual de-escalation” and “serious diplomatic/political push” are effectively going to amount to “good luck, suckers” for all the good it will do. The situation is just fubar, for lack of a better word.

    To save face, I’m sure we will dump a lot of time and money into the immediate future of Iraq. Well, actually we still have tripwire forces in Korea, so maybe longer than immediate – like indefinitely. But the hornet’s nest that got kicked in Mesopotamia is not going to be too fazed by diplomacy, even serious diplomacy. We’ll just be doing it to save what face we can.

  42. So, in that context, what the fuck is Moynihan’s point? That it is too rosy a picture to say there won’t be a blood bath? Thanks, Mr. Obvious.

    Well, there has been no shortage of folks willing to say that all we have to do is waltz back home and all will be just slicker than cat shit in Iraq, including plenty of that kind of talk here.

    The tone appears to be changing here, but that, in essence appears to be Mike’s point. That it won’t be rosy.

  43. Corning, you stupid fuck –

    Come up with an argument rebutting my contention that there is no event that can occur in the aftermath of an Iraq withdrawal that will be morally my fault and not George Bush’s.

    That’s all that’s important to discuss here – moral responsibility. You might think we are obligated to stop carnage in Iraq, even if we throw Bush out and replace him with leadership committed to overturning his policies. If you think that, you’re dead wrong. You’re also at the wrong website, because if you believe that we are morally obligated to sacrifice men’s lives and tax dollars to stop evils for which we aren’t morally responsible, you don’t belong at a libertarian website.

  44. Karen, Hammer to the X-Box? A brilliant stradgedy!

    We don’t have an X-Box but we do have a Wii.

  45. Clearly many Vietnamese — voting with their lives — felt that even war against the American imperialists was not as bad as peace under the Vietnamese Communists.

    Perhaps it bears mentioning that many Iraqis have fled “liberated” Iraq, apparently finding its terrors less tolerable than Saddam’s terror. In particular, Iraqi Christians are pretty clearly worse off.

  46. Trea,

    What gives me hope is the fact that the civil war was sparked by a deliberate campaign of atrocities by al Qaeda. For two years after the fall of Baghdad, there was very little in the way of sectarian violence. Even as Shittes were being slaughtered by the dozens, Sistani was able to hold the country together by his fingertips, for a good long time.

    Al Qaeda can only operate in the country so long as there is a Sunni insurgency which turns Sunni communities into the “water” in which the “fish” can swim. If we leave, the Sunni insurgency will peter out or split, and the majority of Sunnis will turn against al Qaeda.

    In other words, all by itself, our withdrawal will tend to calm the internal fissues in Iraqi politics. This is an arrow in our quiver, and we need to use it as an instrument of our foreign policy.

  47. An announced, gradual de-escalation coupled with a serious diplomatic/political push involving the Iraqi factions, its neighbors, and the UN has the potential to create quite a different outcome than if we pull a “Screw you guys, I’m going home.”

    I get your point, joe, but I’m pretty sure that most Iraqis have been saying to the US for some time now “Screw you guys, and go home!”

    The sooner we’re out, the better. If holding some meetings with all sorts of officials who nod politely makes getting out more politically palatable, then fine. But I’m pretty sure that once we’re out a lot of scores will be settled no matter how many summits we hold and how many more police units we train and arm.

    Indeed, some of the police units that we train and arm might even put that training to use for tasks that weren’t on the agenda at the summits…

  48. Also to joe, none of the things you suggest are likely to happen under this administration. I haven’t heard anyone say “international cooperation” since the 2004 election.

  49. All good points, Joe. Can’t say I disagree with any of them. I just think our diplomacy is not good currency there, and will not go too far. My point is that we will still have to go through the motions, but it is largely a face-saving position we’ll be in. At least the Decider will have to keep that stupid flight suit of his in the closet. No victory parades this time around.

  50. The way I see it, if we bring the troops home, then the majority Shiites will be free to use methods against Al Qaeda in Iraq that the right wing wants to use. It’d be a real LGF wet dream.

    But I wouldn’t have my taxes going to pay for death squads and torture.

    Bush won’t go for that, though, because that would mean giving up access to the oil, and giving Iran a ‘win’ which was actually foreordained once we took Hussein out. (It’s not like Chalabi wouldn’t have been an Iranian puppet.)

  51. “If we leave, the Sunni insurgency will peter out or split, and the majority of Sunnis will turn against al Qaeda.”

    Actually, the Sunnis and Al Qaeda will probably team up against the Shiites, who will most likely be attacking the Sunnis and al Qaeda. (Or targeting al Qaeda and hitting Sunnis in the process.)

  52. ” No victory parades this time around.”

    I bet 5 quatloos that the 2008 GOP convention will be, essentially, a Bush victory parade for Iraq.

    And would be even if our casualty rate tripled between now and then and the Green Zone were burned to the ground.

    Bush’s self-delusion and massive ego demands it.

  53. if we bring the troops home, then the majority Shiites will be free to use methods against Al Qaeda in Iraq that the right wing wants to use. It’d be a real LGF wet dream.

    Ah, but if a brown-skinned Muslim does it then it’s torture. If we do it it’s just coercive interrogation.

  54. Hate to threadjack, but…

    So, on the radio, I caught some mention of a Fairness Doctrine-style bill being voted upon in the Senate today.

    Anyone hear of this?

  55. Moynihan wrote: “a few years in “education camps””

    Yeah! Kerry’s trying to diminish how bad they were!

    Er, no.

    This would be a rather more effective slam if Kerry hadn’t actually said ‘reeducation camps’ just a few sentences earlier.

    As it is it just looks desperate.

  56. P.S. Yes, I am dependant upon H&R for news. Meh…

  57. Yes, I am dependant upon H&R for news.

    Me too, and Mrs TWC, of course. Sad commentary, eh?

  58. I mean, I am dependant upon Mrs TWC for my news.

  59. Few want to admit it was a very bad idea from the start. Which is why we’ll do it again.

    This is a good point, Trea. I can only think of one Congressperson-cum-presidential hopeful who used the opportunity to vote against the invasion of Iraq.

    The myth of good management is a delusion which strikes most people who seek public office in this country. It applies equally to foreign policy, economics, and any other aspect of life that the goverment has its sticky little fingers on.

  60. “The argument that has to be presented over and over is that if it IS bad in Iraq after we leave, the moral responsibility belongs to Bush and to no one else.”

    Ummm, I believe a few Congresspeople were involved in authorizing the war. You’re gonna give them a pass? Oh, and then there’s the current congress, which knew that the only realistic way to get enough votes to end this, given the 60 vote cloture rule in the Senate, was to cut off funding — which they were too cowardly to do.

    Plenty of blame to go around. Vote against anybody who was complicit, as defined above, or you share the moral responsibility too.

  61. While Kerry is right that the “bloodbath” predicted by Richard Nixon didn’t materialize in a Khmer Rouge way, his characterization of the communist takeover-a few years in “education camps”

    I am a bit confused as to why the Khmer Rouge is not part of the results of US withdrawal from southeast Asia.

  62. In other words, all by itself, our withdrawal will tend to calm the internal fissues in Iraqi politics.

    joe care to also explain what Iran will do once we leave?

    Or perhaps how Turkey will react?

    Or what Al Sader will do?

    Your fantasy does not reflect the composition of the characters involved.

    Nor does it reflect any consistency on your part. First there is a civil war because Iraq is a fractured nation that was only held together by a dictator yet now it a nation of solidarity broken apart by a war between Al Qaeda and the US.

    Personally I think a better argument for you would be that, with the exception of Suddam, Muslims tend not to commit genocide.

  63. Three million Vietnamese died during the period when we were prosecuting a war there. Two millinon in the north, and a million in the south.

    It’s terrible that the Communists executed tens of thousands of people after the fall of Saigon, but it would be tough to argue that violence did anything but decrease after the war ended.

    Well, it’s hard to say how we should comparatively measure the level of violence. Would it be the total number of people killed during the 10 or so years of the American war? Or the “intensity” of it — say, the number of people killed per year? Were the 3 million Vietnamese killed during, say 1964-1973? That’s about 33,000 per year. How many years did it take the Vietnamese Communists to rack up their own “tens of thousands”?

    The answer is probably not that important, actually. I don’t think it stacks up as simply as a comparison of body counts. Notwithstanding those killed in the war, it was the Communist victory, not the war, that sparked the large-scale fleeing of the boat people. Which suggests that somehow — to the Vietnamese people –living under Communism was even more worse to them than the deaths of the war.

  64. My apologies for my first paragraph, joe — I am an idiot who can’t do math this late at night. The yearly war toll (given the assumptions above) would be 300,000 a year, not 30,000.

    But like I said, it’s probably the wrong answer to the question of “which was worse?” Please just read my last paragraph above and ignore the first one.

  65. “I doubt if most of the anti-war faction honestly believes that if we just go home and leave these guys alone that all will be well. However, they are willing to put that face on it to sell their point of view.”

    I’d like to see some links or direct quotations. To whom are you referring when you invoke “most of the antiwar faction”? The Nation and its readers? The chastened liberal hawks of The New Republic? Maybe those flower children at Cato?

    The vast majority of the opponents of the war don’t say “that if we just go home and leave these guys alone that all will be well.” In fact, I can’t think of a single person who thinks this. What opponents of the war DO often say is that if we leave Iraq (or perhaps the Middle East altogether) we will see a sharp reduction in the number of terrorist attacks directed against American soldiers and civilians worldwide. There is good empirical evidence to support this.

    http://www.amconmag.com/2005_07_18/article.html

    “I can only think of one Congressperson-cum-presidential hopeful who used the opportunity to vote against the invasion of Iraq.”

    Well then you’re not thinking very hard. Two Congressmen-cum-presidential hopefuls voted against the war: Kucinich and Paul.

  66. “There’s no point to trying to argue that things won’t be that bad in Iraq if we leave. It might indeed be bad. The argument that has to be presented over and over is that if it IS bad in Iraq after we leave, the moral responsibility belongs to Bush and to no one else.”

    Wow. I had always thought there were those who think this way, but here’s an admission of it. “We don’t need to have any better ideas or plan, the important thing is that we just need to blame Bush forever”. I can’t wait to put someone with this viewpoint into office. Don’t worry about actually tackling the Middle East and terrorist problem, do nothing and then blame Bush when there are repercussions. Awesome. That’s just beautiful. Congrats on finally coming out and admitting that you’ve got nothing and aren’t even trying.

  67. “Three million Vietnamese died during the period when we were prosecuting a war there. Two millinon in the north, and a million in the south.

    It’s terrible that the Communists executed tens of thousands of people after the fall of Saigon, but it would be tough to argue that violence did anything but decrease after the war ended.”

    So, the commie NVC were good guys. If the serfs would just have the good sense to bend over when ordered all would be well with the world. If the South Koreans had just passively welcomed their northern brothers in ’50 then they would have been spared all of that unpleasantness. If the Europeans had the good sense to recognize the vision of the Third Reich, then quite a few million Europeans would have been spared.

    Thanks Joe, now I get it.

  68. Fuck you too, Dave.

    Again, the shameless way you fuckers have created a humanitarian crisis in Iraq and now want to make it MY problem to think of a solution takes my breath away.

    You can’t trap me with “You broke it, you bought it,” because I didn’t fucking break it.

    In addition, we aren’t talking about “tackling the Middle East and the terrorism problem” – we’re talking about whether or not to continue occupying Iraq. If we abandoned Iraq, but simultaneously stopped supporting Israel and entered into a diplomatic rapprochment with Iran, we would no longer face a significant terrorist threat from the Middle East, whether Iraq goes Pol-Pot or not.

    The only question relevant to deciding whether or not to continue to occupy Iraq is: Are we getting a measurable benefit from doing so that outweighs the human and material costs to the United States? If we aren’t, then we should not continue to occupy Iraq. The topic of the thread is whether the humanitarian cost to Iraqis of our departure trumps the question of the costs and benefits of occupation to the United States, and it simply does not.

    You’re trying to switch the argument from the humanitarian issue to a geopolitical one, because you’re still convinced that the occupation is beneficial to our national interest in some way. I’m not. Because I’m not, I don’t have to find a way to ground the merits of the withdrawal in the context of a wider policy you want to pursue. I don’t want to pursue your policies, because they’ve been a complete fuck up so far and will never improve.

  69. Cut military spending.

    Starve the beast.

  70. Trea, Tim, thoreau,

    I agree about our diplomatic capacity being at an all-time low (what kind of a sick joke was sending John Bolton to the UN?), along with our credibility. We would definitely need to bring in some outside party that had such credibility to lead the effort. But I think that just demonstrating our willingness to do so would give the process momentum.

    Anyway, get used to thinking in terms of how to clean up Bush’s mistakes. We’re going to be stuck with that task for years.

  71. Jon H,

    Actually, the Sunnis and Al Qaeda will probably team up against the Shiites, who will most likely be attacking the Sunnis and al Qaeda. (Or targeting al Qaeda and hitting Sunnis in the process.)

    I disagree, for two reasons. The first is that Sunni Iraqis are already turning against al Qaeda – see Anbar – and it is only the American presence that is holding the two together. The second is that there were two solid years without significant sectarian violence in Iraq, until al Qaeda’s campaign of provocations and atrocities brought about the Shiite revenge killings.

    I don’t believe that Arab Sunnis and Arab Shiites are doomed to eternal warfare. The sectarian violence we’re seeing in Iraq isn’t organic, but was deliberately and carefully cultivated by committed cadres with a political agenda.

  72. joshua corning,

    I am a bit confused as to why people continue to speak as if our withdrawal was the only thing we did that had an effect on Southeast Asian politics. There was no Khmer Rouge worth speaking of before we went in, took the fighting into Cambodia, bombed that country, and undermined its government. BTW, since we’re doing math here, please remind me who put an end to the Khmer Rouge’s atrocities, and how they achieved the level of power necessary to do so.

    joe care to also explain what Iran will do once we leave?

    Or perhaps how Turkey will react?

    Or what Al Sader will do?

    We don’t know. Hence, my comments about a diplomatic effort involving Iraqi factions and neighbors. BTW, the absence of Saudi Arabia on your list of potential bad actors is as glaring as it is in Bush’s speeches.

    there is a civil war because Iraq is a fractured nation that was only held together by a dictator I have never argued this position. In fact, I have been arguing vehemently against it for years. I do not believe that the “those people have been killing each other for centuries” line that has become so popular among disenchanted hawks (the ones who used to tell us how urbane and educated and modern the Iraqi populace was) describes the situation at all.

    Please, leave me out of the arguments you have with the liberal in your head.

  73. Stevo,

    Maybe more people were able to escape Vietnam because they weren’t being killed?

    Let’s just agree that our withdrawal did not result in an increase in violence.

  74. My God, wayne, the straw! Please, have mercy on the poor, innocent straw. What did it ever do to you?

    Whether you are as dumb as your words suggest, or just playing dumb because you realize you have no actual counter-arguments, you’re not worth conversing with.

  75. As the PNAC telegraphed our course of action should there be an attack (a new Pearl Harbor) we might consider that bin Laden, et al, obliged in anticipation of our military response. Engaging with guerillas is likely to always be a frustrating and expensive endeavor. The question is whether continued military action against a guerilla insurgency will exhaust our us and it will be sufficient for Islamis leaders hopes that we will eventually just leave the middle-east.

    It will always be bad in Islamic countries until they have some kind of reformation and abolish polygamy (which will alleviate a lot of reproductive frustration) and drop the absurd promise of 72 virgins for martyrs.

  76. “”””joe care to also explain what Iran will do once we leave?

    Or perhaps how Turkey will react?

    Or what Al Sader will do?

    Your fantasy does not reflect the composition of the characters involved.””””

    I think someone has a fantasy that Joe has a crystal ball that the people we pay to understand these things doesn’t have.

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