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Week In Review, April 11, 2004

Is Iraq Another Vietnam?
Whether Iraq is another Vietnam has become a hot topic on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. (While that long war still seems fresh in my mind I have to remind myself that those under the age of fifty have little or no personal recollection.) In my view the analogy may be flawed—but that doesn’t mean that there are no relevant lessons to be drawn from that experience.

The National Liberation Front (usually called, even in the New York Times, the racist pejorative "Viet Cong") in south Vietnam was huge, well trained and disciplined in a decades long tradition of resistance against earlier French and Japanese occupiers. They had the support of the majority of the population, reaching into virtually every neighborhood and hamlet.

As a result of a partial victory against the French in 1954 north Vietnam was an independent state, closely allied with, and receiving substantial material assistance from, the Soviet Union.

U.S. forces had to tread more lightly than they would have liked in attacks on the north because of the Soviet presence. In the south the attempt to defeat the majority turned into a war of attrition that eventually exacted unacceptable political costs to the U.S. government. A mass antiwar movement in the U.S. helped make that price too dear for America’s rulers.

There is nothing comparable to the National Liberation Front in Iraq today. Nor is there a Soviet Union; the USA is the sole superpower. Those factors emboldened the right wing ideologues of the present administration to pursue a thinly disguised project of Empire. Iraq was to be the showcase of a new, modestly named, Bush Doctrine.

The peoples of Iraq may not yet have a force like the NLF. But I do have to agree with many observers that the insurrectionary events of the past week are eerily reminiscent of the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

The U.S. eventually retook the positions lost to the NLF during that campaign. But Tet was a great turning point in the Vietnam war. That’s when it became clear to sections of the U.S. Establishment, as well as millions of Americans back home, that there was no chance of any kind of acceptable "victory" in Vietnam. U.S. participation on the ground dragged on another five years but never recovered from their nominal defeat of the enemy during Tet.

Help Wanted: An Opposition
We have not yet seen signs of serious rifts over Iraq in ruling circles. Nor has a mass antiwar movement resembling the Tet era yet emerged in the U.S. We haven’t even seen much success for self-proclaimed "peace candidates," such as Robert Kennedy and Eugene McCarthy in 1968.

This morning’s Los Angeles Times provides a fair assessment of the presumptive Democrat challenger to Bush,

"John F. Kerry is assembling a network of foreign policy advisors more hawkish than most Democrats but more skeptical of military solutions in the struggle against terrorism than the team surrounding President Bush...

"...insiders believe those with the most influence on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee tend to be advisors who support the forceful use of military power, including in Iraq, yet place a much higher priority than Bush and his team on maintaining support among allies.

"Early speculation about who might serve as Kerry's secretary of State centers mostly on candidates who fit that description: Richard C. Holbrooke and Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, former top officials in the Clinton administration; Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.), the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee; and, more distantly, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.)

"‘I think the mantra of the Democratic thinkers is, 'Together if possible, alone if absolutely necessary,'’ said James P. Rubin, a former senior Clinton official who is joining the Kerry campaign as a top foreign policy advisor."

This explains why the main "opposition" candidate tried to talk mostly about jobs and budget deficits during this week of comparisons to Tet.

The choice is clear:

If you favor the sole superpower going it alone to build an empire subjugating other nations, vote for Bush.

If you favor a U.S. policy giving a piece of the action to junior partners in imperialism while carrying out joint operations to subjugate other nations, vote for Kerry.

If you are like me and don’t feel like supporting either of these options then I urge you to ignore this farce. Instead let’s concentrate on building a labor component of a needed antiwar movement. Let’s start building a future genuine opposition through the Labor Party.

Feel Good Of the Week—Wal-Mart Loses Vote
While unions have had little success in organizing Wal-Mart operations they have been a thorn in the side to America’s biggest employer expanding into some communities. In Inglewood, California Wal-Mart decided to not accept no from city officials to development plans. Using the state’s "democratic" ballot initiative laws they took their case to the voters. The Walton gang spent big bucks during the campaign. Unions lined up support from not only four of the five members of the city council; they also brought in big names such as Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters. In the end voters decided to pass up "where America shops," by a 2-1 margin.