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Thursday, August 23, 2007

burn the bush!

Bush compares Iraq to Vietnam

US President George W Bush has adopted the risky strategy of invoking the Vietnam war to bolster his case for why American forces need to stay in Iraq.

Mr Bush claims there was a catastrophe in south-east Asia after US forces left Vietnam and something similar could happen in the Middle East.

He says Vietnam and other US involvements in Asia were not popular at the time and critics labelled them futile, but they eventually led to lasting peace.

Mr Bush often uses historical comparisons when urging patience about Iraq, but this focus on Asia is an attempt to get sceptics to rethink their positions.

Mr Bush has addressed the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, a group which represents two million veterans.

"Three decades later, there is a legitimate debate about how we got into the Vietnam War and how we left," he said.

"Whatever your position in 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'."

'Another quagmire'

But a former adviser to four presidents and a professor at Harbord's John F Kennedy School of Government, David Gergen, says Mr Bush is on dangerous territory.

"By invoking Vietnam you raise the automatic question, 'Well if you've learned so much from history, Mr President, how did you ever get us involved in another quagmire?'," he said.

"Why didn't you learn up front about the perils of Vietnam and what we faced there?

"And Vietnam and Korea of course were not victories for America - Korea ended in a draw and Vietnam ended in a loss."

The top US commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker are to report to Congress before September 15 on the effects of the troop surge Mr Bush ordered in January.

The report will serve as the basis for Mr Bush's decisions about the way forward in Iraq and he is insisting the security crackdown led by the US troop surge is paying off.

"Our troops are seeing the progress that is being made on the ground," he said.

"As they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question - will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?"

Meanwhile Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari says Iraq would fall apart and regional wars would develop if US-led coalition forces were to suddenly withdraw from his country.

"The sudden withdrawal of American troops in Iraq would cause the collapse of Iraq and will lead to the disintegration of and division within Iraq," he said.

"Sudden withdrawal would also mean regional interventions and conflicts. These conflicts will drag the region into regional wars."

American influence

Mr Bush is also arguing American sacrifices on the Korean peninsula helped to preserve a democratic South Korea, and helping Japan become a democracy has produced an invaluable American ally.

He referred to Japan as a model of Iraq, in that militarist Japan, after its surrender in World War II, became a democracy on the back of US support.

"In the aftermath of Japan's surrender, many thought it naive to help the Japanese transform themselves into a democracy," he said.

"Then, as now, the critics argued that some people were simply not fit for freedom. Today, in defiance of the critics, Japan ... stands as one of the world's great free societies."

Mr Bush is planning another speech on the Iraq war for next week, this time on its implications for the broader Middle East.

- ABC/AFP/Kyodo

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