President Bush's speech before a gathering of Veterans of Foreign Wars drew attention with his provocative comparison to Vietnam, in which he reminded Americans that the U.S. pullout from Vietnam led to millions being killed in Asia. The media jumped on Bush for alleged hypocrisy in comparing the situation in Iraq with Vietnam, even though the liberal press itself has long invoked the failure of Vietnam when discussing Iraq.
Pentagon reporter Thom Shanker's "News Analysis," "Historians Question Bush's Read of Lessons of Vietnam War for Iraq," continued in that slanted vein, finding sources to criticize Bush's outlook in his speech at the VFW convention in Kansas City, but none to defend it, and again wondering why America hasn't seen any big tax increases as a show of "national sacrifice" for the war effort.
"The American withdrawal from Vietnam is widely remembered as an ignominious end to a misguided war - but one with few negative repercussions for the United States and its allies.
"Now, in urging Americans to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush is challenging that historical memory.
"In reminding Americans that the pullout in 1975 was followed by years of bloody upheaval in Southeast Asia, Mr. Bush argued in a speech on Wednesday that Vietnam's lessons provide a reason for persevering in Iraq, rather than for leaving any time soon. Mr. Bush in essence accused his war critics of amnesia over the exodus of Vietnamese 'boat people' refugees and the mass killings in Cambodia that upended the lives of millions of people.
"President Bush is right on the factual record, according to historians. But many of them also quarreled with his drawing analogies from the causes of that turmoil to predict what might happen in Iraq should the United States withdraw."
Shanker found three sources to criticize Bush (no one was quoted in support) and concluded with a hoary argument he's made before, that somehow the American people aren't truly making sacrifices since there's been no tax increase or reinstatement of the draft since the war began.
"Senior American military officers speaking privately also say that the essential elements that brought victory in World War II - a total commitment by the American people and the government, and a staggering economic commitment to rebuild defeated adversaries - do not exist for the Iraq war. The wars in Korea and Vietnam also involved considerable national sacrifice, including tax increases and conscription."
Back in July 2005 Shanker lamented:
"From bases in Iraq and across the United States to the Pentagon and the military's war colleges, officers and enlisted personnel quietly raise a question for political leaders: if America is truly on a war footing, why is so little sacrifice asked of the nation at large? There is no serious talk of a draft to share the burden of fighting across the broad citizenry, and neither Republicans nor Democrats are pressing for a tax increase to force Americans to cover the $5 billion a month in costs from Iraq, Afghanistan and new counterterrorism missions. There are not even concerted efforts like the savings-bond drives or gasoline rationing that helped to unite the country behind its fighting forces in wars past."