Jewish World Review April 8, 2004 / 17 Nissan, 5764
The "V" word
"Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam." US Senator Ted Kennedy.
OK, now I'm mad.
I've ignored the hand-wringing of the spoiled-brat-pack media, the incessant proclamations that every death in Iraq is a sign of certain doom. I put up with the self-serving declarations of pseudo-facts from the media's new darling Richard Clarke, even his wince-inducing claim that President Clinton who let Osama get away three times did a better job fighting terror than President Bush. I've even found a way to listen to John Kerry talk about Iraq and come away with only a mild case of whiplash.
But when Senator Kennedy, favorite son of the US Distilled Spirits Council, declared Iraq to be George Bush's Vietnam, that cracked it, buddy, right there. I've never in my life been a resident of Massachusetts, or voted for a Kennedy, or misplaced an overly-friendly stenographer at the bottom of a local waterway, but I have to get it on the record that this guy doesn't speak for me.
And if he speaks for you, you should be ashamed of yourself.
"Iraq is George Bush's Vietnam." Who is the first person you think of when you hear this slur? If you're a member of the Kerry campaign, it's John Kerry, who is doing his best to turn "Kerry" into a synonym for "Didn't I mention that I served in 'Nam?"
If you're like me, however, the first person you think of is a soldier serving in Iraq, right now, today. A soldier getting shot at in some Baghdad back alley, doing a dangerous job for an ungrateful populace mired in Arabist ignorance, and who gets back to his embattled barracks just in time to flip on CNN International and hear a prominent American politician tell him he's in another Vietnam.
On that soldier's behalf, I'd like to tell Senator Kennedy "Thanks, pal," and it is only the FCC's recent crackdown on obscenity that keeps me from spelling it with an "F."
For a liberal like Ted Kennedy, the word "Vietnam" means "an immoral military action with no hope of success." To a conservative like me, the name "Kennedy" means "If you actually used the word 'moral,' America would laugh until we snorted milk out of our nose."
And yet, despite the utter lack of credibility of the source, this accusation still stings. Badly. It is the military equivalent of the "N" bomb, a devastating, angering, attack designed to hurt, not illuminate.
I can't think of an accusation with more power to undermine a soldier's belief in himself, his mission or our nation's support for him than the smear of "Vietnam." While soldiers still fight, the "V" word should only be used with absolute certainty.
Which is why I am mad. Because I don't believe that Sen. Kennedy or the Bush-haters he speaks for even believe it themselves.
Overthrowing Saddam was "immoral?" It might have been a geo-political mistake, there's some question about it's legality in the eyes of the U.N., but does Sen. Kennedy really believe that shutting down rape rooms, freeing children from prison, uncovering mass graves and ending the reign of a weapons-hungry madman is immoral? If so, then Ted Kennedy believes virtually any use of force is inherently immoral.
Does Sen. Kennedy believe that the war in Iraq is unwinnable? Does he really doubt whether our soldiers are up to the threat presented by a few thousand thugs, criminals and Islamist terrorists? That our Marines should cut and run in the face of screaming rioters and bomb-throwing street gangs?
If so, then Senator Kennedy knows nothing about American soldiers.
From Tripoli in 1804 until Afghanistan in 2002, small groups of well-trained, well-armed American men have captured cities, overthrown governments and won wars. The Vietcong with China as a sponsor, North Vietnam as a stronghold and the American media as an unwitting (Jane Fonda notwithstanding) ally were the exception.
Again and again, American soldiers have fought small wars in distant lands to great effect. Most of those effects have been positive. Even in Vietnam, the goal was noble, though critics like Kerry and Kennedy see the effort as inherently unjust.
There are no other soldiers in the world who can match the American soldier. Which is why the story of Iraq has been, thus far, a story of successes: A lighting blitz, a quick fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam and a population that by every measure wants the American military to stay. The lawyers and doctors and farmers and construction workers of Iraq want us to succeed, they know they desperately need us to.
The war in Iraq, the second major battle in the war on state-sponsored terrorism, is not unwinnable. It's just hard. Of course we can win it, as long as we have the will to keep fighting. And that's the real question raised by Kennedy's dropping of the "V: bomb.
The only way for us to lose in Iraq is to declare "defeat" and go home. There are only two options: Surrender, or victory. Why would Sen. Kennedy be urging us to choose defeat?
If we keep fighting, and fight smart, we are almost certain to win this war. Bush understands that, which is why Iraq won't be his Vietnam.
But if the Democrats continue to push defeat as an American foreign policy, it will surely be theirs.
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