How Do Iraq and Vietnam Compare?

History Q & A

Mr. Stirrett is an HNN intern.

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How do the troop levels and casualties compare?

American involvement in Vietnam began in 1950 under President Harry Truman, and “ended” five administrations later with Gerald Ford in 1975. It began with the deployment of five hundred military advisors to the country in Southeast Asia. At the start of 1965 American forces in Vietnam stood at 27,000. By the end of that same year the American fighting force had reached approximately 200,000. By 1969 that figure reached beyond 500,000. In terms of casualties nearly 58,000 Americans were killed, while another 153,000 were wounded.

With regard to Iraq, American involvement has extended over a decade and three presidencies and seems likely to include the next presidency. In terms of figures we see a difference in terms of deployed combatants. In 1991 during the Gulf War, 500,000 allied troops were arrayed against the Iraqi forces. The number of casualties during the engagement was 149 allied soldiers killed, with just over 500 wounded. The number of military personnel was greatly reduced following the cease-fire and during the containment period. In 2003, at the outbreak of the most recent conflict, American forces numbered 150,000. That number did increase to 175,000 at the beginning of 2005. The number of soldiers killed recently exceeded 2,000.

How do the polls compare?

Initially the American public supported involvement in Vietnam. However, by late 1967 a plurality agreed with the statement that it was a mistake to have gotten involved in the war. Regarding Iraq, there was support domestically and internationally for UN intervention in 1991 after Saddam invaded Kuwait. In 2003 President Bush succeeded in rallying public support for the second war against Iraq. However, recently that support has greatly declined. According to a CNN/USAToday/Gallup poll conducted just prior to the Libby indictment, public opinion is evenly split between those who think the current war was (49%) or was not (49%) a mistake.

Are there parallels in the ways Presidents Johnson and Bush sold their wars?

In January of 1967 President Lyndon Johnson issued his annual message to Congress regarding the State of the Union. Johnson cited the “very costly war” in Vietnam as necessary and justifiable on the grounds that “the people of South Vietnam have as much right to remain non-Communist—if that is what they choose—as North Vietnam has to remain Communist.” Further, the “ United States and [its] allies are committed by SEATO Treaty to ‘act to meet the common danger’ of aggression in Southeast Asia.” Repeatedly he warned that if South Vietnam fell, other free countries would fall as well--like dominoes.

In his State of the Union Address in 1968, President Johnson stated, “He [the enemy] continues to hope that America’s will to persevere can be broken.” Johnson continued, "he is wrong. America will persevere. Our patience and our perseverance will match our power. Aggression will never prevail.”

In a speech made in October of 2005, President Bush said freedom has been “assaulted by enemies determined to roll back generations of democratic progress.” He hinted that freedom in the region is dependent on success in Iraq, reminding some of the domino analogy used during Vietnam. The enemy, he said, “wants to gain control of a country, a base from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against non-radical Muslim governments.” Bush continued, “the militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia.” Bush claimed that a radical Islamic empire seeks a foothold that would allow militants to spread their beliefs across Asia and Europe.

How have President Bush and President Johnson characterized their respective enemies?

In his 1967 State of the Union Address, President Johnson quoted Thomas Jefferson: “It is the melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater.” He described the enemy as “a stubborn adversary who is committed to the use of force and terror to settle political questions.”

Like LBJ, President Bush has condemned our new enemy for using terror tactics. In an October speech he stated, “The terrorists’ goal is to overthrow rising democracy.” He continued, “The enemy considers every retreat of the civilized world as an invitation to greater violence.” 

How would the Vietnam War end? How would the Iraq War end?

President Johnson stated that he could not say when the war would end. In 1967 he said: “I wish I could report to you that the conflict is almost over. This I cannot do. We face more cost, more loss, and more agony. For the end is not yet. I cannot promise you that it will come this year—or come next year. Our adversary still believes, I think, tonight that he can go on fighting longer than we can, and longer than we and our allies will be prepared to stand up and resist.” (The war went on another eight long years.)

However, Johnson reminded the American people that the United States was not alone in its mission. He cited the South Vietnamese allies who provided security while “reducing the terrorism and armed attacks…to levels where they can be successfully controlled by the regular South Vietnamese security forces.” He held out the hope that the South Vietnamese finally had a civilian government that people could "respect and rely upon and that they can participate in, and that they can have a personal stake in.” Johnson hoped “that government is now beginning to emerge.”

In a recent speech, President Bush stated, “Because of the steady progress, the enemy is wounded. But the enemy is still capable of global operations.” He continued on, “The progress has reduced the danger to free nations, but it has not removed it…. Wars are not won without sacrifice, and this war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve.” As he has said repeatedly, we would remain in Iraq as long as we were needed. He indicated he did not know how long that might be. Like LBJ, President Bush sought to provide a glimpse of hope: “he elected leaders of Iraq are proving to be strong and steadfast…. Iraq has made incredible political progress…. With our help, the Iraqi military is gaining new capabilities and new confidence with every passing month.”

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More Comments:

Alyssa May Runge - 7/24/2010

Okay, all your comments have been enlightening, you've brought to my attention that... ARE we supposed to be in Iraq? Or Afganistan?
or both?
is it like that "Dominoe" effect that might have happened or... idk I'm not confused, just curious.
umm... and another thing i learned in a history class another definition for war was that two different groups, parties, governments etc. whatever, fight over a piece of land.

But we were talking about the Civil war, i think.

in anyways i'd both terrorism and war and there were so many definitions its all just about the contex in which the situation is i guess...

but thanks for all your add on's about the comparisons between the two wars, even though it kinda turned into a debate about war in iraq--or afganistan, whatever.

I am still kinda curious about how they compare, i mean the actual reasons why we went to both places and how some americans reacting/ed to it, and what some soliders are/were saying about it.

all in all i kinda realized there's no real legitimate answer for any of my questions..
everyone has their resources and information and opinions...

sometimes i wish things were a bit more straight foreward

but at least i know we all care enough to debate it all out and try to weed out the truth and the lies...

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. T:

1. Read the memo. It was all over the newspaper and the web when it came out. I am not a lawyer, but I doubt that Rummy commited a felony by deliberately "leaking" it.

2. Look up "mass murder". It is also not the same as war. Neither is genocide, violence, or anarchy. By your feeble (two wars make a peace type)"logic" we should have "opposed" McVeigh's blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma City by responding with another "act of war"... like...sending in the marines to occupy his home town ?

3. When taking a break from learning how to use the dictionary, may I recommend to you "1984" by Orwell ?

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. Sweetnam,

I presume the first syllable is not pronounced swee-it as in Viet. But, re the substance of your comment:

1. The credibility of the figures would be enhanced if you were to cite sources more fully (i.e. at least give web addresses). 24% sounds a bit on the low side, for example. Let us assume, however, that this and the other numbers are accurate. Three issues arise then:

2. Is the 2,700,000 figure number of people or number of tours of duty ? If the latter, then 24% is most probably too low as a measure of draftees as a percent of "Americans who served in Vietnam", since it is doubtful that draftees volunteered for second rounds at a rate as high as the overall 20% proportion.

3. I wonder what the percentage of draftees was among those in military service during World Wars I and II and Korea.

4. If you were to compare number of draftees to draft evaders, conscientious objectors, and those jailed for refusing induction, I expect that Vietnam would still stand out as having a low rate of draft compliance versus other 20th century wars. Myth-laden or not, the draft may well be a reason we are not still in Vietnam today, "Vietnamizing", defoliating, and pouring billions down a rat hole. No disrespect intended towards those military personnel who sacrificed for a country who wasted their efforts, but the waste cannot be denied. Vietnam was costly to America. We gained nothing by it. And no realistically conceivable alternative approach could have altered that outcome. It was, in essence, a colossal and disastrous error. Iraq, by contrast, was a deliberate squandering of American power and security for the disgraceful purpose of repackaging a joke of a presidency for the then upcoming national election.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

I am not au courant on 14 year old goddesses, so thanks for the update.

If you don't have or want to locate a historical set of figures on draftees then your original comment is rather off topic in a discussion launched in order to COMPARE wars over time.

If your preference, however, is to have a discussion on the history of name-calling in connection with either Berkeley or Daniel Pipes, the count me out please. Life is too short to waste years of it on such nonsense. I would, however, still like to see any evidence in newspaper articles to back your recollection of the particular set of insults used in this instance. I'll eat my hat if there is any such evidence.

I agree that deposing of the oppressive dictator of a vicious terror state is a good thing to do.

But, it is a matter of historical fact and current global reality that most of the time America has not and is not going to do this. WHEN to force regime change in other countries and HOW to go about doing it are thus matters of considerable importance. Overthrowing dictators on a spur of the moment whim, using lamely concocted "evidence", arrogantly ticking off most of the rest of the world , and blundering the operation to high hell, are ways of proceeding that are neither American nor wise. See my prior posts on this page for background on these points -it does not come from "left-wing" sources whatever you might mean by that worn-out, obsolete and lazy cliche. Berkeley is not now what it was in the 1960s. Not by a long shot.

The best opportunities for getting Saddam out of power were in the mid 1980s (when the Iranians were on the verge of doing so) and in 1991 when the U.S. forces had Baghdad surrounded a full U.N. mandate, and all the fresh evidence of mass murder and war crimes any prosecutor could have wished for. Check your history books, Mr. Sweetnam (or those of your niece, if she has time for school): Democrats were not running the White House in either 1985 or 1991.

I have nothing against Republicans per se. Prior to Newt Gingrinch and the politics of hypocritical arrogance, I even used to vote for them. But even my Republican friends now know a fraud, a coward and hypocrite when they see him smirking on TV these days while violating almost every conservative principle worth defending - from prudence overseas to balanced budgets at home.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

9/11/01 was an act of terrorism. Like what happened in Oklahoma City and to London numerous times in the '70s and '80s at the hands of the IRA. America did not wage "war" on "McVeighism" in the mid 1990s. Nor did Britain bomb Dublin a decade or two earlier. Terrorism is not the same as war. Read the posts above or a good English language dictionary for further details.

Democracy out of the barrel of a gun is an uncertain matter. It can lead to progress (i.e. Germany after 1945) or disaster (i.e. Germany after 1918).

If World War II had begun by America unilaterally and agressively invading Germany circa 1930 (when Hitler was not in power) because of its "repeated violations" of reparation commitments, or because of X number of crimes committed by German-Americans (along with Sicilian-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Calvinist-Americans and every other conceivable ethnic or religious minority) in the 1920s, had pitifully miscalculated the diplomacy and the military strategy, bungled the occupation, run needless torture prisons, made up ludicrous fables about Germany's imminent vast arsenal of awesome weaponry, and tried to rouse patriotic support for the whole ineptly-run endeavor by exhorting them to go shopping, then it is doubtful whether post 1945 Germany would have become a shining example of what Mr. Sweetnam might call "conservative" democracy, or what historians of all political persuasions would call "liberal" democracy.

Those small matters aside, I agree with his latest posting.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

So you can cut and paste a highly selective, biased and unrepresentative set of quotes. So what ? You want me to believe you actually found these on your own ? If you want to try to argue that Democrats are hypocritical cowards, no disagreement here. That does not prove that Republicans are not worse.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Still more amazing and appalling are those who side with terrorists by pretending, in their arrogant, bigoted, and unAmerican prejudice, that those terrorists' murderous acts can be classified as mere acts of war.
As if all American vets are terrorists.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

The comparisons are interesting but are only a beginning. Here are few more to add:

1. In 1950, America had recently won an overwhelming victory in the greatest war of all time. Even 15 years later yet, in 1965, it was still reasonable for people to assume that the U.S. could militarily prop up the government of South Vietnam, the way it had the government of South Korea.

In 2002-03, it was NOT reasonable to believe that America could be any more successful and occupying and transforming Iraq than the Brits had been 80 years before them.

2. In 1965, when the big build-up of U.S. forces in Vietnam really began, LBJ had just won a landslide election
(by a margin many times that of the 2004 election for instance).
He had no incentive to get involved in a war simply in order to be able to ride a wave of patriotic BS to re-election. With his many years of prior experience in the U.S. Congress, it was also reasonable for the American public to think that he knew what he was doing.

By contrast, at the stage of his life where LBJ was rising through the ranks of Congress to become the youngest ever Senate majority leader, GW Bush was recovering from alcohol and drug abuse and learning how to run a business on taxpayer handouts. He was selected president on a fluke in the tied race of 2000, and was obviously desperate for a foreign distraction after the disaster (on his watch) of Sept, 2001, preferably a "war" which where he could put on a flight suit and look like the soldier he never was. It was NOT reasonable for Americans to think that he could be trusted in 2003-03, to (a) know what the right thing to do was and (b) to not put his interests in a close upcoming bid presidential campaign ahead his country's interest.

3. Humphrey was not a crooked and corrupt oil services executive.

4. McNamara never shook hands after trying to wheel and deal with Ho Chi Minh.

5. LBJ was at least willing to admit mistakes

6. LBJ gets historical credit domestically (for Civil Rights legislation) as an offset to his foreign policy disasters.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

...and then degenerated into the most pitiful Bush apologia. Mr. Thomas, you are often quite sensible when you stop to think before writing.

I don't know what you think you mean by using dubious and unhistorical jargon such as "Islamofascist" but it is a historical fact denied only by the most ignorant elements of the American populace that the U.S. was attacked on Sept 11, 2001, by (a) terrorists, not an invading army who (b) were mainly from Saudi Arabia, and ultimately directed primarily out of Afghanistan. They were not from Iraq or directed by Saddam Hussein. Using the wholly discredited bit of to-high-hell-stinking Cheney-Rove-PNAC horse manure argument that Saddam and Osama were somehow in league should be an embarrassment to someone of your intelligence. You might as well try to pretend that America should have attacked Cuba in 1964 because some shots may have been fired on U.S. forces by North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin.

Some of your other points are useful contributions, but not 5 and 6. See the recent book review excerpted below. Whatever pejoratives Republican Dimwit sources might have dredged up and have on offer, neither Economist nor Packer qualify, by any stretch, as "leftists" (whatever you think you mean by that obsolete and fossilized phrase) nor (as I think you might actually realize), do I. Although that certainly does not make me a "rightist". It IS indeed possible to disagree fundamentally with jerking of both the right and the left knees.
Even if one is not a billionaire.

Wake up and face reality, Mr. T.. You have been conned by Bush, Cheney and Rove.

Book Review excerpt:

(full text for subscribers at

Economist, Oct 15th 2005:

A once-hopeful reporter turns to painful questions about the war

NO ONE who reads this book, however fervent a supporter of the war to topple Saddam Hussein, can avoid concluding that the campaign to make Iraq a better place has been one of the worst planned and executed in American history.

George Packer's brutal analyses and trenchant on-the-spot reportage for the New Yorker magazine over the past two years provide the core of this devastating critique. It re-confirms the now familiar but appalling facts: that once the Americans' high-tech military superiority had rapidly overwhelmed Mr Hussein's force in the conventional phase of war, there was, amazingly, no plan whatsoever for the future, beyond a sublime belief in the assurances of a coterie of Iraqi exiles that harmony (“sweets and flowers”) would magically replace the dictatorship. It is a tale of arrogance and ignorance, made worse by a blind refusal of those who drove the idea to admit that things were going awry until it was too late.

But this is no partisan rant. Mr Packer is a friend and admirer (perhaps, today, a more qualified one) of Kanan Makiya, a courageous long-time Iraqi exile now often in Baghdad, who alerted many people in the West to the full horror of Mr Hussein's regime with his 1989 book, “Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq”....

One of the first of many tragic mistakes was the success of the Pentagon and Donald Rumsfeld in excluding virtually anyone who actually knew Iraq and the Arab world or spoke Arabic. None of the leading figures in the administration, then or now, emerges with any credit, including Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Mr Rumsfeld or Condoleezza Rice; by implication, the president was entirely led by an inner circle of tunnel-visioned ideologues and weak-kneed sycophants.

The administration was paralysed by what Mr Packer calls an attitude of “groupthink”, whereby no one dared to question the basic assumptions that the war would be over quickly and that Iraq would soon recover, once the Baathist monstrosity had been destroyed. For one thing, nation-building, in Mr Rumsfeld's earlier view, was unnecessary; American forces would be in and out in a matter of months. Consistency was another casualty of war. Four months after it began, Mr Rumsfeld said there was “no guerrilla war”. He might not say so now.

A particularly telling example of unpalatable advice ignored was when General Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff, said that an occupying army of several hundred thousand would be needed to pacify the country, rather than the 100,000 or so at first deemed likely to be needed for a short time and then rapidly wound down. He was scoffed out of court. “This controversy [over troop numbers] didn't survive your first contact with Iraqi reality,” writes the intrepid Mr Packer, who covered thousands of miles of Iraq in his trips in and out of the country and managed to talk to hundreds of Iraqis from all walks of life....

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Points well taken, Mr. Kislock, albeit not always well spelled.

Re Mr. T's point 9

"9. In Iraq the objective was to win. In the Vietnam conflict it was not to win."

This is just about 1/4 correct.

In invading Iraq, the objectiveS were to overthrow Saddam AND "to win" (the 2004 presidential election. (1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4). Both objectives have now been met.

The millions of Iraqis who have lost family members and relatives in the process do not appear to be overwhemlingly grateful for these efforts by the U.S. administration. Partly because the BS used to justify the (utterly predicted, including by PAPA BUSH in 1991 !) messy aftermath of the regime change to topple the ex ally of the Reagan administration keeps shifting. At any rate, America will likely pay the price in terms of reduced international security for decades to come.

The next major development will mostly probably be America cutting and running (no matter who wins the 2006 and 2008 elections). In that sense, finally, a rare similarity to Vietnam.

In Vietnam the objective was NOT "not to win" (0 x 1/2 = 0). The objective -stated repeatedly by Richard Nixon- was to preserve the independence of the unpopular and rather artificial state of South Vietnam. This objective failed utterly and Colin Powell learned the lesson, until he forgot it, until maybe he is now remembering it again. John Kerry made many famous flip flops, but none quite this glaring. And Powell at least meant well, unlike some of his crooked counterparts in the Dry Drunk Cabinet.

Peter K. Clarke - 10/9/2007

Mr. T, Your latest post is an improvement albeit from a low ebb. You do, however, clearly suffer -as do millions of other Americans- from a confusion between terrorism and war. Get hold of a good dictionary and look up the difference. The doublespeak "fraud" here is the Big Lie of Bush and Rove that tries to deny the distinction which any good English language dictionary will make.

If you don't want to take my word for it re the futility of trying to fight terrorism by using an army designed to stop a Soviet invasion of West Europe, read Rummy's own memo from two years ago (he is an arrogant hypocrite but not stupid):

The following is the full text of the Rumsfeld memo to senior staff re: Global War on Terrorism:

TO: Gen. Dick Myers, Paul Wolfowitz, Gen. Pete Pace, Doug Feith

FROM: Donald Rumsfeld

SUBJECT: Global War on Terrorism

The questions I posed to combatant commanders this week were: Are we winning or losing the Global War on Terror? Is DoD changing fast enough to deal with the new 21st century security environment? Can a big institution change fast enough? Is the USG changing fast enough?

DoD has been organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies, navies and air forces. It is not possible to change DoD fast enough to successfully fight the global war on terror; an alternative might be to try to fashion a new institution, either within DoD or elsewhere - one that seamlessly focuses the capabilities of several departments and agencies on this key problem.

With respect to global terrorism, the record since Septermber 11th seems to be: We are having mixed results with Al Qaeda, although we have put considerable pressure on them - nonetheless, a great many remain at large.

USG has made reasonable progress in capturing or killing the top 55 Iraqis. USG has made somewhat slower progress tracking down the Taliban - Omar, Hekmatyar, etc. With respect to the Ansar Al-Islam, we are just getting started. Have we fashioned the right mix of rewards, amnesty, protection and confidence in the U.S.? Does DoD need to think through new ways to organize, train, equip and focus to deal with the global war on terror? Are the changes we have and are making too modest and incremental?

My impression is that we have not yet made truly bold moves, although we have have made many sensible, logical moves in the right direction, but are they enough?

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us? Does the U.S. need to fashion a broad, integrated plan to stop the next generation of terrorists?

The U.S. is putting relatively little effort into a long-range plan, but we are putting a great deal of effort into trying to stop terrorists. The cost-benefit ratio is against us! Our cost is billions against the terrorists' costs of millions. Do we need a new organization? How do we stop those who are financing the radical madrassa schools? Is our current situation such that "the harder we work, the behinder we get"?

It is pretty clear that the coalition can win in Afghanistan and Iraq in one way or another, but it will be a long, hard slog. Does CIA need a new finding? Should we create a private foundation to entice radical madradssas to a more moderate course? What else should we be considering?

Please be prepared to discuss this at our meeting on Saturday or Monday. Thanks.

Tavaris McHenry - 7/25/2007

First let me say that I am against this war but I am completely in awe of VETS of any conflict. I feel that my opposition to this war is born solely of my inability understand why we are in Iraq and not fully committed in Afghanistan? I would love to read what Mr. Thomas has to say about why the troops are in Iraq. I would also like to know if our mission in Iraq would be considered a failure if after liberating the people from Saddam they choose to live under a government that was something other than "Democratic"? If Iraq became stable as a second Iran, by choice, would it still be considered a US victory?

Getting back to the Vietnam comparison...I fail to see how the creation of communist Vietnam turned the world into a cold and evil place. I feel all the troops who fought there did their duty and served their country when it called and are heroes for that alone. But in the end Vietnam choose its own path and the world kept spinning with the exception of our losing 50,000+ soldiers. The explanation for this massive loss of life in a fail military endeavor usually is that the war could not be won. The only way to win was for Democratic South Vietnam to survive on its own and that was not going to happen. In light of all that has happened in Iraq, the insurgency, the sectarian violence, the possible interference of Iran does the possibility of a Democratic Republic of Iraq seem any more plausible?

To Peter Clarke:

andy mahan - 9/18/2006

i am continually amazed at the ignorance of those that would effectively side with terrorists as a result of their simple failure to define them through the prism of conventional warfare.

Liam Michael Anderson - 5/17/2006

You are completley correct on every level of that argument. Thank you.

Liam Michael Anderson - 5/17/2006

Hm, I see your point, but you don't realize that saddam was a qsycho, he was dropping BIOLOGICAL weapons on the Kurds, I honestly don't know them personally, but I have a dear friend of mine, who is indeed in Iraq. By taking out Saddam, we were showing these terrorists that no matter where they go, no matter where they hide, we will find them. So, in all realism. The logic is fine. And maybe we could get some allied countries to fight with us... But it seems like they don't. Considering they aren't already. Obviously you haven't researched your foreign policy. I have. and I'm only a sixteen year-old sophmore in High School.

Tom Sweetnam - 12/12/2005

I pulled these figures from archived files on our unit's web site. The source is a Veterans of Foreign Wars statistical abstract from the late 70's.

648,500 of the 2,700,000 Americans who served in Vietnam were draftees. That's about 24%.

The percentage of draftees amongst marine Corps units and elite army units (Rangers, airborne units etc.) was far lower than 24%. In the I Corps Ranger company where I did my first tour, only 1 of the 104 men on our roster was a draftee.

Only 1 in 4 Americans who served in Vietnam ever experienced threats to their lives by enemy fire. In other words, 75% of the draftees who served in Vietnam never heard a shot fired in anger.

More than 20% of Vietnam veterans (including myself), volunteered to do a second tour of duty. Late in the war, that figure actually rose a point or two.

79% of African-Americans joined the military specifically to go to Vietnam, or volunteered to go to Vietnam after they got in. That's actually higher than the 75% of whites and Hispanics who volunteered for military service. As is the case in Iraq however, per-capita casualties were slightly higher amongst whites than with any other demographic.

Skeptics can peruse any of the several Vietnam KIA databases online listing names on the Wall. Draftees will have a "US" prefix to their serial numbers, while volunteers have an "RA" prefix in front of theirs.

Tom Sweetnam - 12/12/2005

"I presume the first syllable is not pronounced swee-it as in Viet."

No. It's pronounced "Sweet". If you have a 14 year-old daughter or granddaughter ask them, they'll know how to pronounce Sweetnam. I have a niece who's a pop goddess these days.

As to draftees, all of this nation's big wars were fought primarily by draftees. Isn't that the way it should be? I mean, isn't it a striving for some unobtainable utopian egalitarianism that serves as the left's holiest tenet? Or is it cowardice, reticence, and denial that serve as the left's sacred trinity? I keep getting confused on that point.

As to Iraq, I'm still waiting for the first left-wing mouthpiece in this country to go public in stating the world would be a better place if we hadn't deposed the only genocidal dictator since Hitler to gas to death tens of thousands (some sources say 400,000) of his minority Kurdish population, as well as Iranians and even members of his own army. When he wasn’t busy doing that he stayed occupied murdering at least another million and a half potential power rivals while running one of the most oppressive terror states in modern history. Thank God we've got a man in the White House with some balls. Had the Democrats been in power since 9/11, no invasion of Afghanistan would have transpired, nor of Iraq, and I imagine by now the American Association of Scholars would have adopted Islam as the official campus religion for the lower 48 states.

In fact, when I traveled south to my alma mater (Berkeley) for a Daniel Pipes lecture last year, I could have sworn it'd already happened there. The Muslim students in attendance interrupted the lecture for 15 minutes with hooting, catcalls, and shouts of "Kill the Jew", "Kill the Jew bastard", "death to all Jews", etc., etc., ad nauseam. None of these students was censured, nor did Berkeley apologize to its Jewish student body nor to its Jewish faculty for the loathsome conduct of people who are in this country as guests on student visas. Only unmitigated cowardice can explain that away.

“Any nation that allows too wide a gulf between its scholars and its soldiers will soon have cowards doing its thinking and fools doing its fighting.”—Thucydides

Tom Sweetnam - 12/12/2005

The only legitimate analogy between the Vietnam War and Iraq would have to be limited to the first Gulf War. In each case, America's involvement was predicated on the fact that a belligerent foreign power conducted an armed invasion across its own borders into the territory of a sovereign, independent state. Since you bring up the subject of UN mandates, I might remind you that the DMZ between North and South Vietnam was also mandated by the United Nations. In each war we conducted air campaigns into the belligerent nation, but our ground war stopped at their borders. Right or wrong, our governments during each conflict (Democratic & Republican alike) felt it important that the US not be perceived on the international stage as an aggressor nation, but rather as a force battling against aggressor nations.

Our current invasion of Iraq is a completely different ball of wax. 9/11 was an act of war, PERIOD. Thereafter, any Muslim nation (which means nearly all of them) supporting international Islamic terrorism, became fair game for US retaliation. Saddam Hussein was the only Muslim leader to go public (on his nation's television network) within a week of the 9/11 attacks, voicing not only his support of the attacks, but his encouragement for even more and bloodier acts of terrorism against the US. That was not only an act of war by Hussein, it was a declaration of war against the United States. Meanwhile, the first democratic constitution in Arab history is about to be ratified by the first DEMOCRACY in Arab history, whose constituents, in spite of being blown to bits, threatened, and otherwise intimidated by their detractors (insurgent terrorists and American Democrats) still turn up at the polls to the tune of 83% of eligible voters.

Little wonder the American left, who collectively would never put themselves in harm's way to protect any ideal, so loathe what this President and our armed forces have accomplished in Iraq.

Tom Sweetnam - 12/12/2005

"One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
-President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998

"If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
-President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998

"Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
-Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998

"He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
-Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998

"[W]e urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs." Letter to President Clinton, signed by:
-Sens. Carl Levin, Tom Daschle, John Kerry, and others Oct. 9, 1998

"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
-Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.,CA), Dec. 16, 1998

"Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
-Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999

"There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has reinvigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
Letter to President Bush, Signed by:
-Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, Dec 5, 2001

"We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and a threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and th! e means of delivering them."
-Sen. Carl Levin (d, MI), Sept. 19, 2002

"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
-Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
-Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002

"We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
-Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002

"The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
-Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002

"I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
-Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002

"There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
-Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002

"He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do"
-Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002

"In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members ... It is clear, however, that if left unchecked, Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002

"We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
-Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002

"[W]ithout question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime ... He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation ... And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction ... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real ..."
-Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003

Paul Mocker - 11/28/2005

Thank God we've got a man in the White House with some balls.

Mr. Sweetnam,
I stopped reading your post after seeing this sentence for fear of reading your high opinion of the smell of Mr. Bush's underarms.

Paul Mocker - 11/28/2005

WHEN to force regime change in other countries and HOW to go about doing it are thus matters of considerable importance.

Those problems you cite are merely inconveniences. Saddam was evil and ridding him very much outweighs those things. What do you think, Mr. Clarke?

Thereafter, any Muslim nation (which means nearly all of them) supporting international Islamic terrorism, became fair game for US retaliation.

Mr. Sweetnam,
This shows your idea of fairness. What logical argument can you make for attacking Iraq, and not any or all other of these nations, using your idea of fair retaliation?

Frederick Thomas - 11/23/2005

Mr. Mocker:

Any of the definitions of war described above fit our involvement in Iraq. Thanks for supporting my point.

Your assertion that the 9-11 attack was not an act of war is tantamount to saying that the rape of Nanking was not an act of war. Your argument is ludicrous. Why not argue that to the families?

By the way, the objective in Iraq was to defeat the Iraqi army and establish a stable representative government, both do-able for soldiers. In Vietnam, the objective started with hearts and minds, wondered over to conduct counterinsurgency operations, got into support the SVN army, considered not provoking China, not invading Cambodia or Laos, bombing jungles but not Haiphong, and blah blah blah. If you cannot state it clearly and simply, you cannot accomplish it. Those are the military facts. Vietnam was a pure Democratic war: costly and unwinnable. Iraq is the polar opposite. Deal with it.

John Edward Philips - 11/23/2005

"The mission in Iraq can be stated in one sentence"

Yes, I was going to ask about that one sentence myself. I've heard several different explanations of why we are in Iraq from the administration (they keep changing their line like Stalin in the '30s) and several more from other people. I've even thought of a few myself. Which does Mr. Thomas believe?

Paul Mocker - 11/23/2005

By the definitions posted below, this is not a war because:

a. There is no organization fighting the U.S. as Al-qaeda is a loose collection of cells operating without coordinated multinational command;

b. The military tactics used against the U.S. are terrorist tactics;

c. Unlawful violence, as stated by the U.S. Governement, is the sole means of conflict used by Al-qaeda;

c. Al-qaeda wishes to destroy the fundamental political and economic structures of the U.S. which it feels serve the suppression of Islam.

Paul Mocker - 11/23/2005

Iraq was, by all accounts I read, quietly supporting al-Quaida.

Supporting documentation on this point would be appreciated.

if there is a good way to assemble the terrorists so they can be decisively eliminated as a threat to the US, it is to defeat the central power in the region, and wait for them to attack you in response.

Why, then, Iraq? Why not Iran - a sponsor of terrorism? Or Saudi Arabia - where many of the 9/11 terrorists came from? Or simply arrange to fight on a neutral site? Or Israel - wouldn't the terrorists just love to fight two opponents at once?

Your logic is absurd.

Paul Mocker - 11/23/2005

Terrorism: The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons. (American Heritage Dictionary)

War: A state of open, armed, often prolonged conflict carried on between nations, states, or parties. (American Heritage)

War: War is a state of widespread conflict between states, organisations, or relatively large groups of people, which is characterised by the use of lethal violence between combatants or upon civilians. (wikipedia)

Terrorism: "the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological." (Dept. of Defense)

Terrorism: The European Union includes in its 2004 definition of "terrorism" the aim of "destabilising or destroying the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country." (wikipedia)

Frederick Thomas - 11/22/2005

Mr. Clark:

"You do suffer as do millions of other Americans-from a confusion between terrorism and war."

Mr. Clark, I have been there-right there-for both terrorism and war, and I was very good at fighting one and waging the other and you, sir, were not. I know the difference, and the similarities quite intimately.

9-11 was an act of war, which you refute because it was done by an international cabal rather than a government per se, though most Islamic middle eastern governments have supported al Quaida.

As an act of war it can be opposed only by another act of war. That was what was done, in Iraq, and a very likely government was closen as the target, out of the many available. It was overthrown and the current game is suppression of the infiltrators and turning over the new country to its people. You are against this?

You are flatly wrong when you try to wiggle out of the definition of an act of war. When over three thousand Americans are deliberately killed by any group, governmental or not, it is an act of war by that group. Americans are not confused about this definition. You are.

By the way, the published Rumsfelt memo, if authentic, may constitute a felony for both obtaining it and for publishing it. If I were you I would be a little cautious.

By the other way, a billion moslems are not the problem, just a few of them. If you think al Zawkarwi (?) is a hero in the arab world after murdering 80 of his cousins in Amman, you are wrong. They hate him and his days are numbered, if he is not already dead.

Paul Mocker - 11/22/2005

Have we ever talked to our enemies about their grievances?

Would anything good come from a discussion with those terrorists who wish to attack us?

I may sound naive in asking these questions. Perhaps that is true and I won't be offended with such a characterization. But, in all seriousness, might the act of offering a hearing be fruitful in some small way?

If I recall correctly, there were discussions with North Vietname during the war but obviously neither side would capitulate.

The tragedy of that war is now evident. Vietnam, although still communist, didn't become the ogre we thought. And the Vietnamese people are so friendly to Americans. When I was there in 1997 I was warmly welcomed by those I met. It could have been avoided.

Frederick Thomas - 11/22/2005

As Mr. Kislock's contribution is a banal stream of logical fallacies, I respond to your more substantial piece. Some of this is what I meant by "brilliant," and worthy of engagement.

You alone understood that my list had about 2/3 real points, and 1/3 little zingers to offset your zingers. That went right over the head of Mr. Kislock, I'me afraid, proving that subtlety is lost on the strident. I do stand firmly on the non-zinger items I included.

I would like to take up your point on who attacked whom in this case, the causus belli issue.

The concept of Arab nations capable of declaring war is a much weaker one than that of European or Asian nations, since the Mongols obliterated the nations of that region 750 years ago. The Mongols did that job far more thoroughly than the Crusaders ever conceived.

Most of the countries there are still either wobbly kingdoms or dictatorships of one kind or another, with the point of commonality and shared experience being fundamentalist Islam, not national tradition, loyalty, or law.

It is not to be expected that an attack from this region will come from a government. Rather it will come from a multinational accretion of Islamic terrorists whose last successful martial tradition goes back to the Hashishinni, who were purely terrorists and assassins. To attack a government, you have to relate it to the terrorist control issue.

You are correct that most of the foot soldiers of international terrorism are from Arabia. Wahabism welcomes suicide and murder more than any other sect. But the current al-Quaida leader is Egyptian and the biggest pain in our bottom in Iraq is a Jordonian. How do you fight that on a country-to-country basis? Yet you must fight it as long as the threat exists to the US.

I agree that it is difficult to wage war on nations when the real enemy is a secretive international group of religious murderers. But 9-11 is an act of war if ever there was one, and Iraq was, by all accounts I read, quietly supporting al-Quaida, and acting as a anti US agent, in everything from trying to kill GB I to all of Clinton's problems with no-fly zones, and the mass murder of Kurds and Shi'a.

Iraq had in the recent past a big WMD program, with lots of European help in chemistry (Germany) and nukes (France). And there is no doubt that those weapons went somewhere - he did not just destroy them, which is something for any statesman to consider.

Perhaps they went to terrorists who are looking for a way to deploy them in the NY subways-a la Tokyo. How does one judge such a risk? Sarin in the subways at rush hour could kill many thousands.

Is this a reason to fight a small efficient war against the second worst government in the region? Perhaps, perhaps not, though wars have been fought for much less.

And recall that Afghanistan was a total success from our standpoint, proving that the folks there are capable of reasonable self-government, as will Iraq be when the terrorists are killed or captured.

I have also heard without being able to prove it that Sharon offered the Gaza and West Bank concessions in return for the US taking out Iraq, Israel's fear of WMD being more than our own, and this seems plausible.

From Sharon's standpoint, his risk in cooperating with the US without a big concession is huge-he could very easily end up as did Rabin. So one could consider peace in Palestine to be another reason for going forward with war in Iraq.

Finally, if there is a good way to assemble the terrorists so they can be decisively eliminated as a threat to the US, it is to defeat the central power in the region, and wait for them to attack you in response.

You will agree that terrorists being fought in Mosul is better than in Washington. I believe that our Congress will persevere there until these guys are dead or give up, and that we will be safer as a country as a result.

I am trying to weave together the probable elements of this decision, which I believe was complex beyond the ability of the average voter to understand fully.

I do not find an intent to defraud a part of this, as you do. At least there is no evidence of such an intent, as there surely is in our entry into the two world wars, when our government actively sought to have Americans killed as causus belli. Neither do I see Bush's decision, or Congress's as an easily-made decision. It was probably as complex as I have surmised here.

I hope that the cause of engagement has been moved forward a little.

Stephen Kislock - 11/21/2005

Mr. Thomas,
I am going thruogh the paragraphs 1 to 11. Please bear with me.
1. Are you Mr. Thomas, saying a volunteer's Life is worth less that a Draftee?
2. Our population can not be mature if it's gets it's news from Fox News.
3. If the 2000 and 2004 "were two relative fair elections", Al Gore would of been President.
4. Please read bin Laden's "Letter to American", I hope you can find it at this url ""
5. Last night I revisited "TIME Magazine and read the story and the picture of Rumsfeld and Saddam shaking hands. This is where Your Government gave and sold Saddam WMD.
6. Iraq will glow for a Thousand Years from all the Depleted Uranium Munitions used.
7.Mr. Thomas, "The mission in Iraq can be stated in one sentence", whta is the Sentence?
8.Mr. Thomas, you are Free to Express your Opinion, because of those "Stupid Legalities".
9. You president said it was all over, what do you want, Blood?
10. Hell A Burton, praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, please.
11.You Sir, are Frothing at all openings.

Frederick Thomas - 11/21/2005

...then degenerated into the most extreme Bush bashing. Mr. Clark, you are often quite brilliant when you do not froth so much.

I would, as a former participant in the Vietnam conflict, like to note some other distinctions:

1. Vietnam was fought by draftees, and Iraq by volunteers. Exacerbating the unfairness, college kids were permitted to avoid service in Vietnam, likewise teachers, etc.

2. The average US age in 1965 was at its lowest of the previous hundred years, with lots of youthful drugs and social irresponsibility. Almost the opposite is true today. Our population is mature. Then, it was extremely immature.

3. The US president in 1965 was placed there by a coup-de-etat of his predecessor, followed by maybe the crookedest election ever, the current president by two relatively fair elections.

4. North Vietnam did not attack us in the Tonkin Gulf, its resolution notwithstanding, whereas Islamo-fascism did do so on 9/11, causing about the same damage as Pearl Harbor.

5. The Sec of Defense in 1965 was one of the biggest blunderers ever to hold that job. The current one is the best qualified and most brilliant we have ever had.

6. The startegy in 1965 was horrific from the start. It provided a huge sanctuary to the enemy and minimized our great military strengths. The strategy in Iraq was almost perfect, in that it maximized our strengths in technology and resulted in minimal casualties and damage to both sides.

7. The mission in Vietnam could not be stated in terms comprensible to the soldier. The mission in Iraq can be stated in one sentence, which all the soldiers understand.

8. Vietnam followed a period of strong anti-communist military readiness, thanks to McCarthy, Nixon and others. Iraq followed an 8 year period of Clintonian laxness, in which bin Laden could have been captured, but wasn't, defense was chopped, Mogadishu happened (to bin Laden's delight,) Haiti happened, and stupid legalities took precedence over protecting Americans from acts of war.

9. In Iraq the objective was to win. In the Vietnam conflict it was not to win.

10. In Vietnam the veep was a lifelong politician, who had never had any executive or leadership experience in any form. In Iraq, the Veep had extensive experience in and out of Government at the highest levels, and had performed many executive functions successfully.

11. The Vietnam war was opposed mainly by the draft age part of the population. The Iraq war is opposed by plutocratic billionaire leftists, the leftist propaganda press, and their academic camp followers. The wealth of todays opponents means that the opposition is extremely undemocratic today, compared to the '60s.

The conflict most like Iraq today probably was the subjugation of the Islamic Moros in the Phillipines, which was fast in its initial military phase, and slow in its nation building phase, with much guerrilla warfare. I note that we prevailed there, despite the same suicide attacks we see in Iraq.