Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vietnam. Let's remember history correctly.

William Kristol has an excellent article on the real history lesson of Vietnam. The lesson Bush was referring to in his speech before the VFW. All this braying of the left on how Iraq is like Vietnam, just not in the way Bush meant it, is hogwash.

"Like a pig in muck, the left loves to wallow in Vietnam. But only in their "Vietnam." Not in the real Vietnam war.

Not in the Vietnam war of 1963-68, the disastrous years where policy was shaped by the best and brightest of American liberalism. Not in the Vietnam war of 1969-73, when Richard Nixon and General Creighton Abrams managed to adjust our strategy, defeat the enemy, and draw down American troops all at once--an achievement affirmed and rewarded by the American electorate in November 1972. Not in the Vietnam of early 1975, when the Democratic Congress insisted on cutting off assistance to our allies in South Vietnam and Cambodia, thereby inviting the armies of the North and the Khmer Rouge to attack."

But what really brings home our biggest mistake to me in Vietnam is this letter that Kristol reprints from Phnom Penh former Cambodian prime minister Sirik Matak that he wrote to John Gunther Dean, the American ambassador, turning down his offer of evacuation: (emphasis mine)

"Dear Excellency and Friend:

I thank you very sincerely for your letter and for your offer to transport me towards freedom. I cannot, alas, leave in such a cowardly fashion. As for you, and in particular for your great country, I never believed for a moment that you would have this sentiment of abandoning a people which has chosen liberty. You have refused us your protection, and we can do nothing about it. You leave, and my wish is that you and your country will find happiness under this sky. But, mark it well, that if I shall die here on the spot and in my country that I love, it is no matter, because we all are born and must die. I have only committed this mistake of believing in you [the Americans].

Please accept, Excellency and dear friend, my faithful and friendly sentiments.

S/Sirik Matak"

As Kristol writes, Matak was executed by Khmer Rouge soon after, shot in the stomach and left to die. It took three days for him to do so. He was one of between 1 and 2 million Cambodians slaughtered and one of thousands of Vietnamese. His final words to us break my heart.

The old saying that if we do not learn from the mistakes of our history, then we are bound to repeat them, certainly rings true here.

Many could make the legitimate argument that our mistake of ever going into Vietnam in the first place is the mistake that we are repeating. But the time for that argument is past. We are in Iraq. And now we can choose to abandon them as we did Vietnam.

I promise you, the result will not be any prettier.

Related and must read from TimesOnline: "Why Democrats dread hearing the V-word
Vietnam: a lesson in fouling up the endgame

h/t BigDog