The CIA's Last Man in Vietnam Looks at the Endgame in Iraq

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No matter President Bush’s assurances of an “enduring relationship” with Iraq, it’s not soon to plan for a swift evacuation of Baghdad, says the CIA man at the center of the chaos when the Vietnam War ended three decades ago.

The swift retreat of the South Vietnamese Army in the face of an enemy offensive was as much of a surprise to American commanders in Saigon as a complete Iraq government collapse is unimaginable to U.S. leaders today, says Frank Snepp, who was the CIA’s top analyst on communist strategy in Saigon in 1975.

“Wishful thinking is a narcotic, and it doomed us, and a lot of our friends, in Vietnam in the last days,” Snepp said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles, where he now works as an investigative producer for KNBC-TV.

“If we want to go through that humiliation again, then we should proceed along with our blinkers intact. That should be one cautionary lesson from the last moments of that war,” he said. “There are others, but that is an overriding one.”

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